Goodbye Bella

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Having the “Fourth” holiday happen in the middle of a week always throws me off.  For example I got up yesterday and never once considered sitting down to blog…  until about 10:30 my wife asked me something about it and if I was going to call it “the weekend”.  In truth I have felt a little out of it for the last week or so, mostly because a whole bunch of things have happened.  Firstly we had the whole “dog adopted us” thing, which caused us to completely screw up our sleep patterns.  For months now our Eldest ferret has not been doing very good, so there has been a daily routine of cleaning up after her.  Monday evening when I got home from work, I went to check on her and found that she had passed peacefully during the day.  We sort of knew it would be soon because we had been feeding her this nutrient soup, and Sunday night she refused to eat any…  and also refused to drink much in the way of water.  In some ways finding she passed peacefully curled in a little ball in one of the warm beds is a relief…  because its like she drifted off to sleep and just never woke up.  Whatever relief I am feeling however is outmatched by the general sadness of knowing she is gone… so it is a truly mixed bag of emotions.  At the same time we have been trying to double our attention on her cage mate who had been watching after her as the signs of aging got worse.  The challenge with ferrets is that they are extremely wiggly creatures… and as a result I have tons of blurry photos of them scampering and playing…  but not a whole lot that are nice and relatively still.  The above image is of a much much younger Bella and I managed to snap a few shots where we can actually see her face.  She was my girl, and would follow me around while I was doing whatever…  until I would finally go pick her up from the play pen.  Feeling more than a little broken at the moment.

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You aren’t going to get much in the way of a traditional post out of me today.  I just don’t feel like talking about gaming and such.  So I will just leave you with another photo, this one shows Shiloh as well and is one of the few “scamper” shots that actually has Bella in focus.  In my four decades of life I have had to say goodbye to a lot of animal friends…  and it never really gets any easier.  In fact finding these photos this morning meant scrolling through a bunch of shots of Little Shit and Chloe as well…  and that sorta tore open its own old wounds.  I guess that is the challenge of the digital age…  you have a mountain of available photos available at a moments notice…  even if those photos are sometimes hard to look through.  Bella came to us with her name… and she was a rescue from someone who could no longer take care of her.  The original owner said it was short for Bellatrix as in Bellatrix Lestrange from the Harry Potter novels…  but I sort of think it was the worst possible name for her.  Firstly she was a blondish/white ferret…  which might have fit Narcissa but not Bellatrix.  Secondly she was one of the most loving and cheerful ferrets… and not at all similar to her cruel namesake.  We kept it because she seemed to respond to it, though I imagine she was responding more to our voices than a specific name.  She was our little escape artist, and I am sure at some point during my blog I have written about the fact that she figured out how to leap out of a marshall farms play pen…  leading us to zip tie plastic cardboard signs to the top to keep her from gaining traction and flopping over to the other side.  She had not been much of an escape risk for awhile though, and mostly just wanted to snuggle at all possible times.  She loved being carried around… and often helped me go fetch this or that around the house.  I am trying really hard to pour extra attention on Shiloh because I am sure she misses Bella…  but also because it helps me as well.  Bye baby girl.

 

Surprise Doggo

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Yesterday did not go exactly as intended.  Each morning during the summer two events happen… firstly I wander upstairs and start blogging or at least attempt to blog.  Secondly my wife goes out on a morning walk in our neighborhood.  It was on the second part of this equation that things started going off the rails.  Something you have to understand is that my wife and I are not dog people in general.  I mean I won’t refuse petting any dog, and the neighbors dogs are my buds…  but when it comes to actually cohabiting with one that has never been a thing for us.  The problem I have is that to a dog… you are the center of their universe which is a lot of fucking responsibility.  To a cat…  you barely inhabit their universe so you just sorta exist together in the same space, which is much more friendly to my personality.  My wife walks what is in truth a couple of miles around the neighborhood and early on this pair of dogs started following her.  This little boy has a female litter mate and at some point they both ran off to chase a rabbit and only the male dog returned to my wife’s side.  However he proceeded to follow her for another mile and a half…  and during one portion of the journey decided that running off into traffic was a good idea.  He wandered around with her until she finally made it home, where at which point she went through our back gate into the backyard and this little guy hung out at her side all day long.

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We have a handful of websites that are for the bedroom community we live in, and she has blanketed them all with “dog found” posts.  The thing is… this is someones baby and he very obviously has a human…  and probably a female one at that.  He is super skittish around me…  but that could be the beard, or the fact that he has tiny stubby legs and I am 6’4″.  Last night we wandered the neighborhood asking anyone that happened to be out and about if they recognized the pupper and none said they had ever seen him.  We also loaded him up into my vehicle and took him to the vet so they could see if he had a micro chip…  and he rode like a champ happily pushing his face between my wife and I and looking out.  The thing is… he just does not seem like an outdoor dog he is in really immaculate shape.  His coat is soft and clean, and his mouth looks to be in excellent shape…  essentially someone has looked after him and loved on him and we just want to make sure we can find his home.  We are just not the sort of people that could ever call animal control or a shelter… so for the moment we seem to have a guest which is causing all sorts of problems.  Firstly he does not like being outside alone… because at about 11 pm last night when we went to bed he started barking and whining on the patio outside the bedroom.  We thought it might be a light thing but turning on some lights out there didn’t seem to help it at all.  My wife opted to take one for the team and rigged a make shift bed outside and slept for a good chunk of the night with him laying on the patio beside her.  Today it started raining… and he is now chilling in our garage because he was not really a fan of the thunder or the rain.  This is just not an outside animal…  and I hope that our wide net ends up finding his family.  The positive however is that if we do not find his home, we had a friend contact us last night that recently lost their dog…  and would be more than happy to adopt him.  I had to make a mad dash to the store last night and attempt to gather some rudimentary dog things…  food, collar, leash, ball, bone and a cheapo food dish.  Here is hoping that within a few days he has been reunited…  but in the meantime my wife seems to have a doggo.

Slow Day

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This morning I am struggling a bit to find something worth writing about.  Last night instead of throwing myself against Trial 3 in FFXIV, I opted to play some more Necromancer in Diablo 3.  Necromancer the class is extremely good, and probably what I will be playing during the next season which should be starting sometime in mid July.  The biggest problem I am running into with Diablo is that I am going to start needing to do the seasonal reboot of characters thing, given that my slots are starting to run out.  As of last night around 11 pm I got Necromancer to 70, but literally dinged…  watched the cutscenes and went to bed.  That leaves the only classes in D3 that I have never taken to 70 being the Wizard and Witch Doctor…. something I probably need to remedy at some point.  I think my little break from Final Fantasy XIV did some good, because right now I am ready to get in…. and bash my face against the trial until I get through it.  More than anything I want to get to the other side of that trial because it is currently locking me from doing a bunch of end game content.  I’ve hear that my friend Morenhai has already defeated one of the extreme primal fights, which only serves to make me feel way further behind.  I will say thought that hanging out and milling around in Diablo 3 was just about the maximum amount of social interaction that I was capable of supporting the last few days.  I’ve been going through a bit of a rough patch, and I probably need to hang out again with people to push through it.

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I really do not have a whole lot to talk about this morning other than the fact that I am going to make more attempts on Trial 3 tonight, and here is hoping I don’t end up needing another break from Stormblood as a result.

 

E3 2017: Bethesda, PC Gaming, Devolver

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Bethesdaland

I am lagging behind a bit in my posts since I am still limiting myself to one of these a day… and whatever I happen to be able to write during my normal morning writing period.  Bethesda is traditionally the gaming showcase that I look forward to the most during E3.  In the past they have announced a lot of really awesome stuff like Fallout 4… and then turned around and announced that they were going to release said game within six months.  Bethesda traditionally is the master of the hype cycle, and while there might be rumors swirling around a game… it won’t actually be confirmed until it is nearly ready to launch and there is a clearly defined pathway to release.  This year however it feels like a lot of the amazing announcements were lacking.  There were several items that were mentioned at other shows…  for example they talked about Elder Scrolls Online Morrowind… that was just literally released on the 6th so it doesn’t feel like that really counts.  Similarly Quake Champions was one of their big reveals for last year, and it has been in some state of beta for awhile now so it also feels very “been there done that”.  Some of their big announcements this year…  were also things we already knew about  Doom VFR and Fallout 4 VR.  The problem with both is…  I don’t have a VR setup nor am I really planning on getting one in the near future so that doesn’t terribly interest me.  If I was getting something in the VR space it would probably be the PS4 VR option given that it is a hell of a lot more plug and play and seems to have a wealthy of interesting titles developed for it.  Similarly Skyrim Switch was announced… more or less during the Switch reveal, but we finally got some real details and confirmation I guess.  Here is a run down of the things that I did think were worth mentioning from the show.

The Evil Within 2

If you have ever wanted to be afraid of milk…  watch this trailer.  I own copies of Evil Within but I have never actually gotten around to playing it.  It is on that long list of things that I want to play but never seem to find time to actually do.  In theory I should have been using this time when my wife is travelling to play a whole slow of immersive single player games.  Whatever the case this game looks really awesome, even though I had hell actually following what was happening.  It seems like this is a continuation of the events from the first game.  If you are into that sort of thing it seems like this might be right down your alley.

Dishonored Death of the Outsider

At first we thought this was a DLC sort of like the previous two that were released for Dishonored, however this is apparently an entire stand alone game.  Once again it follows the Daud side of the story, and apparently brings back Billie Lurk.  I am thinking maybe we will see the same sort of options that you have with Dishonored 2 where you can focus on playing either of the characters, but I might be wrong.  Not a whole lot of information is actually out yet about the game, but what we were treated to was a really awesome teaser trailer.  It seems like we are going to go Outsider hunting, since they blame that entity for all the chaos that has happened.  I know I will be playing it, because I loved Dishonored…  but I have also found that I don’t get into the non-Corvo games nearly as much as the mainline series.  It is kinda cool though that we are functionally taking two paths at all times to this story…  the Story of Corvo and the Story of Daud.

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

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This title release has been a hotbed of conversation among the AggroChat crew… namely in that I am amped as can be and Kodra and Tam are disappointed.  Me getting into the reasons here is going to be super spoilery about the first game… and since I still think everyone should play the first game…  I am largely going to refrain.  Suffice to say I am pumped in every possible way about the release of this game and it pretty much gave me everything I could ever hope for going going into it.  The thing about New Order that I enjoyed the most was seeing this jacked up re-imagining of the world.  I am a sucker for alternative history novels, and this game fed right into it…  especially given the what would have happened if we lost World War II thing has been played so many times in fiction.  On the other side… I have been playing Wolfenstein since 1992 and have played through every iteration of the game including all of the parts of the actual chronology leading up to this game.  For those who are curious… and want to start at the beginning…  best as I can piece it together you have Return to Castle Wolfenstein > Wolfenstein (2009) > The Old Blood > New Order > New Colossus.  The only one I really have hell placing in that order is Old Blood… and it could fit directly before New Order or could even be before RtCW.  Anyways the whole point is I am deeply invested in this franchise and have been for years.  New Order was a strict departure from the largely mindless kill all the Nazis gameplay, but definitely in a good way.  It introduced a compelling story to wrap around the core of the game…  but in the end I was still largely there for that core gameplay of leave no one standing.  Generally speaking all I am looking for out of a sequel is a chance to dust off the characters I have bonded with… and take them out on another adventure.  If New Colossus provides me with this… it is going to be everything I could have hoped for.

Creation Club

I am supremely uncertain of how I feel about this announcement.  Bethesda has been working on a way to sell mods for awhile now, and even though they claim this is not paid mod support…  it is definitely paid something.  Time will tell what this actually looks like in the final version, and what the economy is like.  However immediately it is reminding me of the paid creator system in the SOE games.  That actually produced some really awesome stuff that allowed talented 3D artists to sell new and interesting weapons.  The prime difference there is… that was a previously closed game that was opened up through their creator system.  Bethesda games however traditionally are open to mods and if you have the will you can find pretty much anything already for the games.  You want to run around Fallout in Warhammer 40,000 Space Marine armor?  Sure there is a mod for that.  Things like that however cannot officially exist in either the in game mod support or the creation club, because no one has consulted with the license holder to pay for offering that.  It seems like Bethesda is damned determined to make this system happen regardless, so I suppose we have to take a wait and see approach on it.  I do think it would be nice of the mod creators themselves have a way to actually get paid for their work.  In World of Warcraft there are lots of addons that I have chipped in a few dollars to support the author in creating it, because their work greatly improved my game play.  Similarly I have no problem chipping in some money to support a Fallout or Skyrim mod…  but I would prefer that the money go to the creator and Bethesda not get to take a cut.

PC Gaming Show

The PC Gaming show since its inception has been this really awkward show that never really felt like it could hang with the big kids.  That is not to say that Sean ‘Day[9]’ Plott does not try super hard to steer the train and keep it from completely falling off the tracks.  This year however… felt almost like a proper show.  There were a lot of changes that happened this year that maybe lead to that.  Firstly it happened during the middle of the day instead of being something happening relatively late in the evening.  Secondly they swapped the primary sponsor from AMD to Intel.. and potentially Intel cares way more about a polished presentation.  Thirdly the number of support as far as medium to big reveals went up significantly.  Now for me personally… there was not a lot about the show that I cared deeply, however there were definitely some reveals that I could see going over well.  Firstly the release of a remaster of Age of Empires seemed to get a bunch of notice, but for me personally I never played the games in that series that much.  Similarly there was the reveal of a new Xcom 2 expansion… but that also is not really my style of game.  A whole bunch of people seemed to be really happy with the reveal of Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlord…  but again not exactly my type of game.  I have never wanted to be a single soldier in the middle of an otherwise RTS style battle.  The trailer that did stand out to me that I was the most interested in… was Ooblets which seemed to be this weird amalgam of Pokemon and Harvest Moon and adorable as hell.  The Last Night seems awesome…  but I won’t be buying it because I don’t want to support anything that creator does after the bullshit he has caused in the past.  Ylands also looked kinda cool.. but I feel like I have an overabundance of good sandbox games.  It is going to have to do a hell of a lot to stand out from the pack for me.  Battletech… I was a backer and am purposefully trying not to play it until it officially releases.

Devolver Digital

This show… was like the parody anti-show of E3.   They didn’t actually announce anything… or in truth show anything.  It was sort of the Tim and Eric of E3 Shows and while I personally found it funny there are a lot of people who did not seem to be in on the joke.  Among the AggroChat crew it was less in on the joke but instead that they simply didn’t appreciate the style of humor.  Buckets of fake blood are not their thing.  For me I found it entertaining and watched the entire thing…. but they were trying super hard to be edgy.  I wouldn’t suggest actually tracking down the video and watching it since it really ads no value other than an attempt at shock.

 

E3 2017: EA and Microsoft

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First up, you might notice that I have an awesome new masthead featuring my traditional Final Fantasy XIV “Bunny Samurai Warrior” appearance.  I commissioned the always amazing @AmmosArt to get this ready for me in time for the Stormblood launch.  However instead of waiting and sitting on it…  and then revealing it this coming Friday when head start begins…  I simply could not hold off my excitement and spent a chunk of yesterday morning switching it out.  While the form factor does not exactly fit my blog I am posting the full version regardless.  The amount of work that she put into getting everything just right, and even accounting for the fact that I have a blue color scheme to get the reflections in there just fight, along with those coming off of my Palace of the Dead axe… is just phenomenal.  Over the years she has sort of become the official un-official artist of whatever the hell I happen to be doing.  While I still adore the Chibi work that Rae did all those years ago, Ammo’s art style really speaks to me and has thus-far been pretty malleable to make work with literally anything I want to have her create for me.  For example… the Tam commissioned Twitter Warrior Bel, or the extremely amazing Destiny themed Sunbreaker Bel.  Other than that… this weekend was largely about the beginning of E3 when they cram a whole slew of not officially part of E3 shows into the days before the doors open.  So far I have seen Electronics Arts, Microsoft, and I stayed up for the silly late Bethesda show.  It has been a truly mixed bag of experiences.

Electronic Arts Show

Firstly on AggroChat I gave the analogy of Electronic Arts being the Dursleys from Harry Potter fame… and Bioware being the boy kept under the stairs.  Bioware is the only reason why I care about Electronic Arts in the least, and all we saw from the studio during the show was a 52 second teaser video for the new IP Anthem.  There was a follow up of course during the Microsoft event with more footage, but never have I felt like Bioware was more of a red headed stepchild.  It feels like EA is trying to them of their Biowareyness, but I will talk about that a little later when I talk about anthem.  As far as games…  we had plenty of sports..  now with a focus on roleplaying elements and campaign storyline.  This was so much the case that I literally thought for a second that they had dropped the madden name and instead decided to call this years football offering “Longshot”.  As far as games I was interested in…  Battlefront II seemed really cool and they talked about how they plan on having this cinematic campaign experience.  However when it came time to show a demo… they instead showed us more Star Wars Battlefield game play on and over the planet of Naboo…  which was cool but didn’t exactly show off any of the promised new features.

There was an extremely interesting prison break game called A Way Out by the folks that created Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons.  The gotcha here is that the game must be played in multiplayer either couch co-op or networked.  I am not super keen on needing to complete a game with another person in tow, nor do I really have a ready “player two”.  They also showed off Need For Speed Payback, which is cool… but literally should have been branded a Fast and the Furious game because it feels like those movies feel.  Don’t get me wrong, Need For Speed is a really fun experience but they are also not pre-order or even day one games for me, but instead something I pick up when prices drop.  Battlefield 1 moves to the Russian front, which I would probably care about a lot were I actually playing Battlefield…  or if I even owned it.  The Russian front at least in World War II games is always the awesome front… so I imagine that will probably be the case for Battlefield 1 as well.  All in all it was a pretty disappointed show filled with a few truly awkward moments as people not used to using a teleprompter had to suddenly use one.  At least one of these moments served as our reminder that YouTube content is highly scripted, and doesn’t exactly translate to extemporaneous speaking.  The highlight of the night was twitter errupting with a bunch of people asking how the hell this “iJustine” person was.

Microsoft Show

Leading into E3… Microsoft needed to come out swinging.  This has been an entire console generation where they have been lagging far behind Sony and it all started with a poor reveal of the Xbox that focused on its multimedia capabilities.  This years E3 started with the announcement of the Xbox One X… or XBoneX the Edgelord from now on.  Its a horrible name…  if they simply dropped the one part and went with Xbox X it would make a lot more sense.  I think part of this is cognitive dissonance from the fact that Xbox One is still a really stupid name for the third Xbox in the product cycle.  All of this aside however it does look like a good platform, and the $499 price point seems reasonable…  for folks who actually care about what it is offering.  My problem with this and the Playstation Pro (which is also a stupid name) is the fact that I don’t own anything 4k for this to take advantage of.  Honestly nor do I have any real plans in the near future to shell out the money to purchase something 4k, and if I did… it wouldn’t likely be in my office but instead in the living room where I wouldn’t hook up a console anyways.  Basically I am not the target demographic but of those who are… they seemed okay with the announcements.  The games however…  that was where the story was for me given that they announced something like 42 games…  albeit a lot of those were in a lengthy montage that always seems to say “we wanted to name drop but didn’t care enough to really show it”.

 

Metro Exodus

This game looked so damned amazing, but also seemed extremely scripted.  I am interested to see what the moment to moment gameplay is like.  Functionally it just proved that the new Metro cranks up the already pretty high quality bar.

Assassin’s Creed Origins

This game looks really interesting… but unfortunately as I have learned while attempting to play 2, 3 and 4…  I really don’t like Assassin’s Creed games.  The sneaking about is exactly the opposite way that I want to play.  If there were more stand up fights, and if I could simply go from one end of town to the other systematically exterminating the enemy faction… I would probably like the game a lot better.

State of Decay 2

My criticism here is the fact that nothing about the trailer that they showed…  revealed anything about the game or at least did not explain why State of Decay is not “just another zombie game”.  I loved the first game and purchased it when it first launched on Xbox Live Arcade…  and then again on PC…  and then again when the Year One Survivor bundle came out…   and again for a handful of people when it went on sale.  I am a huge supporter of Undead Labs and what they bring to the Zombie genre, but I am always disheartened when the take away on twitter is that we really don’t need any more zombie games.  We need good games regardless of genre, and if this is anything like the original… it is going to be an amazing game.  My hope is that this game will allow them to go beyond the scope limitations they had with the first.  My other hope is that we finally get multiplayer, because the first one would have been such an amazing experience if I could have drug a few friends into the world to scavenge with me.  While I am writing this I am getting the severe itch to fire back up State of Decay.

Anthem

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I am really not sure how I feel about this game.  On one hand every possible nerd nob was turned well past 11 in the demo, and if you had told me that this was Destiny with the storytelling that Bioware is traditionally famous for…  I would be throwing money at the screen.  However there isn’t a lot in the demo that covers what the story will even be like other than a brief mission that was given to you as you wandered through town.  The suits themselves… remind me of this amalgam between Pacific Rim and Fallout 4 Power Armor.  I love the Jet packs…  and I really hope you start out with those.  Jet Packs felt amazing in Mass Effect Andromeda, and more than anything I wanted to use them as a means to traverse the areas…  even though the Nomad was freaking amazing.  The first strike the game gets for me though is the fact that it is a third person shooter.  I really prefer first person, however when scoping it felt like maybe the perspective is going to be a reasonable one.  I have old eyes and I just found it hard sometimes to sight in head shots in Division when they were at the actual ranges you would want to use a sniper rifle for.  The other big strike against the demo is just how much it feels like the initial Division demo did.  The same sort of bullshit fake voice chat, and the same sort of “we can do anything” open world game-play showcasing a bunch of stuff without really zeroing in that deep on any of them.

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I was burnt by The Division, because what they showed at E3 never really seemed to materialize in the full version.  The final game was fun enough but was definitely the sort of game you needed to have a squad with you in order to progress at reasonable levels.  I still have yet to hit the level cap because there is this weird doldrum where my gear isn’t really good enough to make the harder content easier…  but I am also not getting enough cash to be able to fix that problem.  With Anthem I am cautiously optimistic, but also concerned  that this is a steep departure for Bioware.  Mass Effect was never really known for its combat prowess… and what made Destiny work and the Division not for me at least was the moment to moment feel of the gunplay.  For Anthem to ultimately be my game they are going to need to make it feel unique each time I pick up a different kind of weapon, and be more than just a mech suit fantasy.  There is a huge part of me though that wants to throw abandon to the wind and join this hype train.  However there is that other part that is just cautious before I give my heart away to another game.

At this point I am just running out of time… but if you have the couple hours at some point you just watch the full press conference.  I will talk about my general disappointment in the Bethesda conference at another time.

 

E3 2017 Anticipation

Next week is e3 and as is usually the case the first glimmers of what is going to be talked about have started leaking their way onto YouTube.  There are several sites out there with pretty legitimate looking lists of what games have an have not been confirmed to be appearing.  Functionally the show tends to revolve around several large press events, with a smattering of other news trickling out around them.  The big shows tend to happen before the actual event starts, which means this weekend.  For those interested here is the schedule I have been able to scrape together…  most of which will be available through a stream of some sort.

  • Electronic Arts – Saturday June 10th – 12 pm PDT
  • Microsoft – Sunday June 11th – 2 pm PDT
  • Bethesda – Sunday June 11th – 9 pm PDT
  • Devolver Digital – Sunday June 11th – 10 pm PDT
  • PC Gaming Show – Monday June 12th – 10 am PDT
  • Ubisoft – Monday June 12th – 1 pm PDT
  • Sony – Monday June 12th – 6 pm PDT
  • Nintendo – Tuesday June 13th – 9 am PDT

The last several years the PC Gaming show has been an awkward cringefest to watch…  but it sort of fit its late night time slot.  With them moving it to a morning slot, I am wondering if that is a ploy to get more folks to show up and peddle their pc gaming wares.  Whatever the case I can pretty much guarantee that I am going to be watching most if not all of this over the next few days…  or at least the ones that are not happening during work hours.  The show I am traditionally the most excited for is Bethesda, because in years past they have absolutely nailed giving gamers exactly the sort of things they wanted to be hearing about.  With the Fallout 4 story arc finished, and a new Elder Scrolls outing still supposedly years away… I am not terribly certain what we might be seeing.  It is almost certain that we will be seeing some Quake Champions news… but a twitchy competitive reflex shooter doesn’t exactly excite the 40 year old version of myself the same way it might have the 17 year old me.  I mean I can always hope beyond hope that they will drop the mic this year with the reveal of Elder Scrolls VI but I won’t exactly be holding my breath either.  Instead here are the few titles I am really looking forward to hearing more about.

State of Decay 2

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State of Decay is one of those games that I loved… but never really played as much of it as I would have liked.  At the time of release it was an Xbox 360 title and I just didn’t spend that much time playing my 360.  When it released on PC I had a furious few weekends of playing it again… and have wound up purchasing it as a gift for several people.  However I never really gave the game as much time as I would have liked because it was missing one core feature…  multiplayer.  This was the sort of world that I really wanted to go out and explore with my friends, and the absence of that option tarnished the experience for me.  What I am wanting from E3 is just more of everything and a firm release date on when we can expect the game.

Destiny 2

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I am just so damned ready for this game to release if we are being honest.  Right now I just want more.  I want more information, more game play footage…  and I am hoping their mic drop is that we can download and start playing the beta now.  I am not holding my breath, but that ultimately is what I want out of the experience.  I am already sold and have already pre-ordered the PS4 copy…  since the PC pre-orders are not open yet.  I want to know a firm date of when the PC is going to launch, because even if it is delayed I want to know how long of a wait.

Farcry 5

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This is probably the first Farcry game since the first that I am really excited about.  America as a whole has a really hard time confronting our own lunatic fringe or religious extremists.  Everything about this game seems like we are going to be fighting back against the madness of a weird religious cult of sorts.  I am ready to roam around the backwoods of Montana and take out bad people doing bad things.

Super Mario Odyssey

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They had me at “new mario game for switch” but what I am wanting is more details.  I want to know when exactly this is going to release because up until now we have only had some wild speculations as a “christmas season” launch.  I also want to know more about this real world/mario world fusion, and I am wondering if it is going to have tie ins to Super Mario Land in Universal Studios Japan.  Nintendo is generally the least forthcoming with the conferences as far as hard data goes…  but I really just want to know when this is going to launch.

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

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We have not heard much from “Not-Castlevania” in awhile and I am hoping they have something to show off at E3.  Once again there is the common theme of me knowing a game is coming out… and just wanting some hard data on it.  I am a backer and have already played through the Demo game they released as a proof of concept several times… and now I am just ready for the full meal.  Everything I experienced to date was spot on with exactly how I wanted this game to feel…  they just need to push it across the finish line and not end up botching it in the process.

 

Like Its The End

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I am going through this really odd period with World of Warcraft.  My friend Grace and I had a conversation last night… and it feels like it is the end of an expansion.  I guess at this point in the last several expansions the game has been thoroughly in maintenance mode, and we were waiting with baited breath to see if someone announced anything about the expansion.  However in this case there is apparently still a good deal of content left to be released.  We’ve been told that we would be going to Argus, and the Tomb of Sargeras raid has not even opened…  so there are still big things looming on the horizon.  However the way I am approaching the game right now very much feels like what I do at the end of an expansion.  I am doing all manner of superfluous things that bring my pleasure.  For example during the Warlords of Draenor expansion you could not get me into Tanaan Jungle on a regular basis.  Once I got my flight… I disappeared from the zone almost entirely.  However lately I have been roaming around out there doing all manner of random stuff and attempting to farm Apexis Crystals.  Its like I suddenly decided that I really would like to get that Fel Raven mount that is available from there.  I’ve also started doing a bunch of achievements…  which is odd because generally speaking I am not an achievement driven person… at least not unless there is a mount or pet associated with it.

While I was roaming around Tanaan Jungle I suddenly decided that I wanted to kill the rares that I somehow missed along the way.  That lead to me getting the Jungle Hunter achievement for killing 25 different rares.  Then something inside of me was like…  why stop there…  and I looked up what the achievement was for killing everything.  Last night I sorted out how to get the last couple I was missing and wound up completing the Jungle Stalker achievement for killing all 60 different named rare mobs in Tanaan Jungle.  What is so weird about this is the fact that there is absolutely nothing in it for me…  no title, no mount, no pet…  none of the things I normally chase after.  I just suddenly decided I wanted to do it… and then did it because it was something that existed.  Now part of me wants to go around killing all of the named rare mobs in all of the different zones of Warlords…   and then maybe Pandaria as well.  Ultimately I have zero clue why this is suddenly compelling to me… because there are lots more productive uses of my time.  However World of Warcraft, especially running around older content is sort of the pinnacle of “comfort gaming”.  I have also been running a lot of older raids attempting to complete various cosmetic sets… that I will honestly probably never wear.  There is just something enjoyable at this very moment about checking things off of a list.

I often times have some of the most fun in World of Warcraft when the game is in the lull state at the end of an expansion.  I am in no rush to complete anything and not attempting to keep up with anyone else that happens to be progressing faster than I am.  I only casually care about raiding, or I have already completed the raid content and shift into a sort of permanently piddling mode of play.  Whatever the case it feels like I have generated this artificial bubble of lull, to where things really are not effecting me in any serious way.  Sure I am actually raiding again…  but doing so in a super casual manner and largely doing content that folks have on farm just for the sake of hanging out with my raider friends. Even though I know in the back of my head that we are going to continue getting a drip of content for awhile now…  I am largely okay pretending it is the end.  I seem to be able to play more freely and pull random goals out of the air and work towards them.  While it would be awesome to get some dungeoning in every now and then… I am happy with not feeling like I am letting someone down by not grinding seriously towards some long term objective.  I realize that as soon as Stormblood launches… I will be back in the rat race and trying to make sure I am as well geared as possible to be able to tackle all of the new content.  However for the moment I am enjoying this enhanced state of chill.

Destiny 2 Feels

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So yesterday was the big reveal of Destiny 2 gameplay and I have to say I am not disappointed in the least.  In fact at this very moment I am feeling inordinate amounts of Destiny love.  There were a few things that were released that gave me all the feels.  The first is the “Story of Zavala” trailer of sorts that tells the tale of how he came from being a corpse somewhere in the cosmodrome to being the leader of the Vanguard.  Unfortunately I have not seen this trailer released separately so you have to catch it about 14 mins into the video that I linked… which is the entire Destiny 2 reveal stream dumped to YouTube.  In that trailer you see a young Amanda Holliday getting her first look at a starship, so that in itself was completely priceless.  The second cavalcade of feels comes from the gameplay reveal trailer…  which appears to be cut from what is going to be one of the intro cinematics showing how the tower falls.  There is a moment in the trailer for each class where they get to shine…  and I absolutely got all the feels when I saw Zavala call everyone to him and raise a Titan bubble.  There are similar badass moments where Ikora Rey Nova Bombs a Cabal transport, and Cayde-6 Golden Gun’s three Cabal troopers.

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Destiny 2 is a tale of starting over after a monumental fall from grace, which in itself is probably the best way of dealing with a power reset scenario.  Having spent the last week playing through the Fallen Empire storyline in Star Wars the Old Republic… I absolute approve of the notion that sometimes you need to shuffle the deck to freshen up the game.  What I like the most about what I saw though is that everything looked and felt like it was still Destiny…  just with the Destiny-ness sliders moved all the way to eleven.  They reveal that we are going to four new places…  but in part I am hoping that given time we will also revisit areas that we have been to before.  The maps themselves are supposedly more open world style, or at least the one that was showed reminded me of something on the scale of the Hinterlands from Dragon Age: Inquisition with lots of active hotspots to go explore and find adventures.  This is definitely playing to my core desires as a player, but I am also hoping that it still has directed story missions for the folks like Tamrielo who tend to bounce super hard from “now go explore” setups in games.

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It sounds like all of the things that made Destiny awesome are coming back, but that they are adding a whole layer of new stuff on top.  To be truthful if you look at my characters stats… I have spent a significant number more hours doing patrol missions than literally anything else in the game.  Just as a reference according to my Profile on Bungie.net… on my Titan I have played a grand total of 14 days 15 hours… and of that time 7 days 4 hours was in Patrol mode.  So giving me a big open world to roam in is absolutely going to serve my interests.  However it sounds like the strikes and raids and crucible modes are all coming back with a vengeance with brand new concepts being introduced.  It also seems like some of the specs are being tweaked… and I am not sure if each class is getting a wholly new sub class or if we are just losing one and gaining one.  Titans for example I know have a Void class that revolves around wielding a shield like Captain America.  Warlocks have a new sub class that gives them flaming angel wings and lets them wield a giant flaming sword.  So I am not sure if those are in additional to the subs we already have… or if those are now replacing the Defender Titan and Sunsinger Warlock.  I mean I am hoping we get something new… but Defender was absolutely one of those sub classes that was super niche and extremely hard to complete “kill with elemental abilities” sort of bounties.

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The biggest news from yesterday is that the PC client would be going through Battle.net…  which is curiously being referred to as Battle.net and not the Blizzard Launcher.  I said before that I would likely never stop calling it Battle.net, and I am guessing maybe they have rethought that branding decision…  now that a non-Blizzard game is going to be using that infrastructure.  This decision has a lot of positives and as far as I am concerned fairly few negatives.  I’ve spent over a decade now cultivating a community inside of the Blizzard franchise games, and knowing that I can carry that ready made community into Destiny is going to be a huge bonus for me.  What Bungie is getting from PSN and XBL is an account system that takes care of all of the day to day friend maintenance and messaging functionality and lets them just connect up a game to it.  I mean the option  that we all probably through they would be taking was to integrate this game with Steam completely, and rely on steam users for profiles.  However to be honest, Blizzard does a far better job of policing its own network than Steam does, because quite frankly it is not in the interest of Valve to clamp down too harshly.  The only negative here about any of this is that it sounds like the PC client will not be available on day one… and will instead be a console launch only.  Ultimately I was going to buy  this on PS4 and PC anyways… so this is not a huge deal for me…  however it is going to suck for anyone who wants to hold out for the PC.

My dream that is likely to go unrealized is that I could have a single set of character spread across all of the platforms.  I am perfectly okay with purchasing a PC client, PS4 client, and Xbox One client…  and not necessarily being able to cross play between them.  However I would love if my characters which are attached to my Bungie account carried over and worked on each platform.  Let me play with my PC friends, PS4 friends and Xbox friends with the characters I have spent so much time building.  I mean I managed to get my Xbox One character up to 370 light…  but that feels pittiful compared to my stable of three 400 light characters on the PS4 side, each with access to a vault full of awesome stuff.  Compared to the 14 days on PSN… I have only played 21 hours of the Xbox One gameplay because not having all of my toys was always a major set back.  Since the characters are bound to the Bungie account… they could absolutely make this thing happen.  They just need the will to do so.  So I have hopes and dreams… but I am fully expecting them to get dashed in the long run.  At this point however I am just riding the hype train and so freaking ready for this game to come out.

Level Scaling Tech

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I am in this place with SWTOR Knights of the Fallen Empire where I am honestly not sure what more I can say without my blog turning into a massive spoiler fest.  There are a lot of events going on and many of them have surprised me.  This is a little shocking given that I consume a lot of gaming media and that KotFE has been technically out since October 2015.  I am not sure if I purposefully ignored SWTOR articles… or if I just didn’t come across that many.  Whatever the case essentially everything from Shadows of Revan onward has been a completely new story experience for me without me knowing any of the elements ahead of time.  So while I recognized characters like Theron Shan or Lana Beniko…  I knew nothing about them going into this recent binge of playing the game.  We’ve talked about this on the podcast before, but returning to an MMO and seeing years worth of content laid out in front of you is a pretty great thing.  Especially in a situation like SWTOR where they have a reasonable level scaling system.

Yesterday Syp posted something over on his personal blog Bio Break talking about level scaling systems.  His specific discussion centered around whether or not level scaling systems were good for games, which was brought on by his recent journeys in LOTRO.  Over time my own feelings about the systems have changed.  You can scan through the backlog of this blog and find me talking about Mentoring systems, where games allow high level player A to drop down to the level of player B and run content with them.  This seemed to me like the most elegant solution to the problem of being able to run content with your friends.  That was until I encountered Guild Wars 2, and the fact that no matter where you go your character is scaled down to the level of the world.  The concept of evergreen content is a big one for me… because I like when a game expands over time rather than contracts.  While Guild Wars 2 is not the best example of this… because of the fact that there is plenty of content that you will never be able to play again in that game…  it did make me appreciate level scaling as a replacement for mentoring.

The only problem there is that when the world is constantly the same level as you, it robs you of one of the quintessential MMO experiences of leveling up and becoming more powerful.  The world always feels the same to you, because you are functionally always the same relative ability levels to it as you level.  In situations like that the levels themselves feel like a completely extraneous concept.  Why even have a number that goes up if the world is always going to be functionally the same difficulty.  When we started playing Final Fantasy XIV they had an extremely elegant solution for this in the form of their dungeon finder.  Each dungeon had a functional level range from the moment you first were able to zone in… to the moment that it considered was the upper bound of levels.  So if the average mob level in an area was 35, then functionally the maximum level the game would allow you to be was 40, scaling everyone over that level down to that point.  The only negative here is that this ONLY applies to dungeons, and in truth it would have been interesting to see this same sort of system just work out in the world as a whole.

That I guess is functionally what is going on in Star Wars the Old Republic, and I am loving it.  Each piece of content be it planet, flashpoint, or something else… has a functional level range attached to it.  Once again it is functionally along the lines of being five or so levels over whatever the maximum level of encounter for that area.  Then the game rewards you as though you were fighting something your own level in terms of both experience and loot drops.  This means that you can go anywhere and do anything without feeling like you are getting nothing from it.  At launch this was absolutely a problem with SWTOR and it was extremely easy to out level an area, and reach a point where the experience gain was no longer worth the time you spent on a planet.  This was especially true as I remember on Tatooine which in itself was a huge planet with lots of side content.  By the time I “did everything” I ended up several levels ahead of the curve and functionally kept getting more and more over-leveled as I went through the rest of the planets.

Now there is a certain measure of freedom in being able to just go and do the content without having to worry about level… and in many cases gear.  While leveling my Imperial Agent, there were a few points where I went 10 levels without upgrading any of my gear… and really did not notice a significant amount of power drop off.  Then again I did exit the class storyline at level 58… so there was some significant over-leveling going on there that might have been easing the transition.  The thing with this system is however that while you are gaining power and you FEEL powerful… there is never a point where you are just waltzing through  field of enemies gently tapping them and watching them explode.  When you run someone through a low level dungeon in World of Warcraft for example on your level capped main… you can functionally breathe on mobs and they impale themselves in a shower of loot.  SWTOR feels like a happy medium, of letting your power level increase without completely trivializing the game.  Sure most of the time I am not actually afraid of death, but I still feel heroic doing content…  because I am having to use my abilities to take things down rather than a single auto swing.  As a result I have somewhat shifted my focus from user driven mentoring systems…  to seeing more games adopt this sort of level scaling.  The best part about Legion honestly was the way that content has scaled to the player while leveling through it, and if only Blizzard had applied this tech to the world as a whole… it would be a much more enjoyable experience.  I like knowing that I can revisit those areas that I enjoyed so much in the past, and still having an interesting time.

 

Netflix and Turtle

Yesterday when I wrote my post I was deeply looking forward to the Tuesday night FFXIV shenanigans.  However as the day went on things went sideways.  Its not so much that a sequence of bad events happened…  but more a sequence of events that robbed me of every single “spoon” I had to give.  I am very much a person who recharges my batteries by milling around by myself doing piddly things.  Each social engagement, even if it is just saying good morning to the security guard on my way in the building…  consumes a bit of energy that I have stored up in reserve.  Now that I am in management… it feels like those batteries deplete all too quickly flitting between meetings and making sure my team is taken care of.  One might question if management is really a great choice, but in truth it is one of those things that just sort of happened over time. I never set out to lead a guild, it just was something that I did because it needed to happen.  Similarly I fell into my current position because it just needed to happened, and the alternative was to hope someone else did it.

As a result I came home last night, cooked some dinner… and by the time I had cleaned and sat down on the couch I completely lost sync with time as a construct.  So at 8:30 I found myself apologizing to the FFXIV crew for needing some “turtle time” where I pull my head into my shell and pretend the world doesn’t exist.  I feel like this has to suck to experience from the other side of the equation, because I don’t always know when it is going to hit or what the ramifications are going to be.  All I know is when it does I just cannot deal with communicating with other people.  I have friends who experience the same sort of thing, and it is at least comforting that I am not the only person who goes through it every so often.  The only problem is the more I do it… the harder it is to break out of the cycle.  It reminds me in the days of this blog before I went on the whole crusade of regular posting.  The longer I went between posts… the harder it was to make the next one because it felt like this invisible audience was somehow expecting me to poop sheer brilliance out on the page every time I posted anything.  Similarly it feels like each time I withdraw, I have to psyche myself up to be some sort of rockstar version of myself to make up for the fact that I was in hiding.  I mean I know that is not actually the case, but it is super hard to explain that to anxiety brain.

What did I do instead last night?  Well I spent some quality time with Netflix… and tried to chill out and remember that everything is okay.  Over the last couple days I have watched the first episode of American Gods…  which makes me realize how damned long it has been since I read that book.  Things felt familiar in a fuzzy melange of the details I sort of remember about the book, so I guess that is a good thing.  I also watched Maria Bamford’s Old Baby…  which was delightfully bizarre.  I mean I suggest it, but you need to go in expecting it to not really be like any other comedy special you have ever seen.  I watched a handful of episodes of Dear White People, which I really enjoyed on a bunch of different levels.  Finally I finished the night watching the three available episodes of Handmaid’s Tale that were on Hulu.  The last one I am not sure if you can actually enjoy… because it is fucking disturbing.  I am hooked but on a stomach turning level…  I mean for whatever reason I never read the novel, and I think I probably should.  Probably not the best thing for an anxiety riddled mind, but I am glad that I watched it.