Resolutions

The last few days have sorta whirred past as we did not do much of anything.  The cold temperatures and the desire to eat up some of the many things we have in our cabinets and freezer meant that we largely just stayed inside.  This mean’t fuzzy blankets and pants and sheets and cats…  while chilling out and playing lots and lots of World of Warcraft and Destiny 2.  I mostly made it to midnight on New Years Eve but crashed shortly thereafter.  In the grand scheme of things 2017 was not a bad calendar year for me personally…  but for the world as a whole it had a rather soul draining visage.  It is my hope that 2018 will bring forth new and interesting things for us…  while neglecting from finding ways to crush our spirits.  On a personal level I want 2018 to the unbridled goodness that seemed to be 2013-2015.  What I mean by that is 2013 was a year in which I did a ton of interesting things…  not the least of which was beginning the whole blog post a day madness.  In 2014 I founded AggroChat podcast and with it a bunch of interesting discussions have been had.  In 2015 I started going to Pax South and also writing some for MMOGames.com.  Not saying I really want to return to writing for other people because I frankly don’t have the time on my hands for that…  but just saying those three years were pretty great for various reasons.  I am not normally the resolution making type, but I figured I would do it just this once.

Sort out my Blog Feed

One of the casualties of trying to write on someone elses dime was my blog reading habits.  Prior to that I had been a rabid consumer of so many home grown gaming blogs, and while I never commented as often as I should have…  I mercilessly lurked in the background.  It was part of my daily routine to sift through the latest posts and they often times served as fertile ground to come up with something that I wanted to say in response.  During the brief time where I attempted to write a column on the blogging community… I felt like I had to expand my horizons by a large bit and with it my blogroll ballooned up into the 600-700 blog range and became unmanageable.  One of the side projects for this year is to sort all of this out and begin reading on a daily basis again.

Organize my Magic the Gathering Cards

Towards the tail end of 2017 I purchased a bunch of stuff from BCW card supplies with the intent of organizing my Magic the Gathering collection.  This has yet to happen in part because the upstairs is sweltering at the moment due to the cold snap.  That said I want to make sure this actually happens.  I have been playing since 1994 and I have a mishmash of cards spanning through the decades as I picked up a pack here or there for nostalgia purposes.  I want to organize all of these and get these sorted not only by set, but also by card color and rarity.  I got dividers to denote sets and colors, but this is going to be a long process given just how damned many cards I have.  I also have some hard cases for the cards that are more valuable and really should be better protected than a sleeve.

Sort out my Humble Bundle

I have a bad habit of snapping up Humble Bundles when they come out and often times not doing much with them.  One of the goals for the new year is to sort this shit out… consume the keys for the games I do not currently have in steam and try and find homes for the games that are duplicates.  I know there are gamers out there that would love to be playing these games…  I just need to find them a new home.  I did this once upon a time…  and need to spend some time getting my lists up to date.  In theory there might be giveaways or something…  or me just going through steam and looking to see if certain games are owned by my friends.  Whatever the case this is on the list.

Get Back on the Wagon

During 2013 and 2014 I lost a lot of weight and during 2015 it started sneaking its way back on.  Now at this point I have gained back every last bit of it and probably then some.  In truth I have never quite made it back up to my highest weight, but I am up there.  Essentially I need to do something about it for quality of life reasons as much as anything else.  I’m an aging fat man and I need to at least fix some of the things that I can.   I know this involves doing regular exercise and also is going to involve monitoring what I am actually eating as well.  I had a lot of luck with the Lose It app in the past and I will likely return to using it religiously again.  Probably also going to go back to having oatmeal for breakfast…  though I failed completely at that one this morning.  Basically the reality is that I need to do something because I am tired of being as big as I am.  I will never be a small person, nor do I really want to be…  but I want to be a smaller person.  I am not going to set parameters here because I am not even sure what the reality of it is going to look like yet, but I do want to make some changes because I am tired of feeling tired and sore all the time.

 

Games Played 2017 Edition

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Year End Review

One of the weird things that I do is that I attempt to keep track of the games I have played during a given calendar year.  I started this madness I believe in 2015 and then have slowly been back populating that list based on a few methods.  Essentially I am tracking things on a month by month basis and if I have written about a game or taken screenshots of a game…  I log it as having been played during that month.  The end result is this weird history of the games I have played over the course of a given calendar year.  Seeing as this is the last “weekday” that I will be making a post until the beginning of 2018…  I figured it was the perfect time to break out my post talking about the various things I played this year.  Without further stalling…  here is the data.gamesof2017

Click on the image or here to see the full google sheet.

During the course of the year I played a grand total of 41 different games, which is from 57 last year and 67 the year before that.  Basically the key difference is that I mostly played MMOs which tend to hold my attention for larger periods of time than burning through a bunch of single player titles.  Lets take a swath of the top ten titles and look at them a little closer.

  • World of Warcraft – 10 months
  • Destiny – 8 months
  • Diablo 3 – 7 months
  • Final Fantasy XIV – 7 months
  • Horizon Zero Dawn – 7 months
  • Destiny 2 – 6 months
  • Pokemon Go – 6 months
  • Fallout 4 – 5 months
  • Guild Wars 2 – 4 months
  • Zelda: Breath of the Wild – 4 months

At first glance the clear king is World of Warcraft with 10 months of play, but if you look back at past years this tends to be the one game that I am almost always at least playing a few days a month.  However you notice that I largely took a complete break from the game in March and April and I feel like it is largely due to a few games coming out around the same time…  Mass Effect Andromeda, Horizon Zero Dawn and Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.  I feel like the true winner is Destiny and Destiny 2 because if you include those as one game… then I played them every month of the year with some overlap between of two months when I was technically playing both.  Granted I am including the time I spent playing various betas of the game but still…  I feel like this was the year of Destiny for me personally.  I spent significantly less time playing Final Fantasy XIV as I played rabidly during the launch of Stormblood and sorta bounced off otherwise.  Another anomaly this year is that Rift did not make the top 10, and similarly odd is how much of a return Pokemon Go has had…. but I largely chock this up to getting a new phone that handles it better.  The weirdest part about this years top ten list is that it includes several single player titles:  Fallout 4, Horizon Zero Dawn and Zelda: Breath of the Wild.  All three of these are games that I keep being able to return to and play again and again in short bursts.

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Click on the image or here to see the full google sheet.

Multi-Year View

Now if we expand out even further…  here is the list of everything I have played since 2012.  Things get a little spottier the further you go back.  Essentially I have back populated this last by going through all of my old blog posts and jotting down which games I talked about playing.  Additionally I have scanned all of the screenshots that I happen to have and divided them up by the month the file was created as an attempt to create a somewhat accurate picture of what I had been playing.  Generally speaking if I am playing a game I am taking screenshots because I always need images for my blog.  I may or may not have almost 30,000 screenshots sitting on network attached storage…  and a stack of every hard drive from every machine I have owned waiting for a day when I feel like going spelunking for more screenshots.  I am not even sure why I started down this path but now that I am on it… it has become another obsession of mine.  Basically from here on we are going to largely talk about the top fifteen games I have played since 2012.

  • World of Warcraft – 47 months
  • Final Fantasy XIV – 42 months
  • Rift – 37 months
  • Destiny – 27 months (including D2 31 months)
  • Elder Scrolls Online – 26 months
  • Diablo 3 – 23 months
  • ArcheAge – 13 months
  • Guild Wars 2 – 13 months
  • Wildstar – 13 months
  • Everquest II – 11 months
  • Fallout 4 – 10 months
  • Star Wars the Old Republic – 10 months
  • Trove – 9 months
  • Pokemon Go – 8 months
  • The Secret World – 8 months

First interesting pattern is that there is only one non-mmo on this list and that is Fallout 4.  I am not entirely certain why I keep returning to that game but there are so many nights I will fire it up on the laptop while doing other things and just roam around.  Once again Rift has fallen a bit in the rankings as this time last year it was tied with Final Fantasy XIV for the second place slot.  Destiny slides up into number three eclipsing Elder Scrolls Online, especially if you include Destiny 2 playtime which I denoted in quotes.  Guild Wars 2 and my resurgence into that game caused it to leapfrog Wildstar a bit, and then the tail end of the list is either new because I expanded things out to top 15 or in a similar position.  There are some games on this list that are likely to eventually fall out of the ranking.  I am not really playing Everquest II anymore in part because the management since the swap to Daybreak has just been pitiful.  Its a torn community and just not the environment I remember loving.  Trove may or may not see me returning to it, because I have a friend who is super into that game right now…  but also playing on the PS4 and not PC which makes the return to play with him more unlikely.  Additionally that game has changed so much since I last played it that I would almost need to start fresh to really get back into it.  Similarly I am not sure how much more time I will be devoting to ArcheAge because I just don’t find the game nearly as compelling as I once did.  As I leveled in the game it felt like the things I wanted to be doing narrowed rather than broadened given that I have no interest in PVP nonsense.  I left shortly before they split the servers into veteran and new player experiences, and I am not even sure what the game looks like right now.

Looking Forward

As far as the calendar year of 2018…  I am not really sure what I will be playing.  It is a forgone conclusion that I will be playing World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth.  In spite of me not really liking the more PVP centric focus, I would be lying if I said I would not be playing it at launch.  I predict that I will be playing some more SWTOR in the near future because the release of a Star Wars movie always brings out the nostalgia for all things Star Wars.  On top of that with Disney pulling the license for Marvel Heroes…  I want to make sure I experience the story content in SWTOR just in case they for some reason decide to do the same thing they did with SWG.  I know at some point I will make a return to Final Fantasy XIV and more than likely when they patch in the next step of the Palace of the Dead.  As far as new games go…  there really isn’t much on the horizon that really interests me.  I am not enthralled by Crowfall or Camelot Unchained, because they seem to be creating games that don’t really stoke my interests.

Brad McQuaid will likely bring us some sort of version of Pantheon: Rise and Repeat as I heard someone call it the other day (I believe Wilhelm but not 100% sure).  I played Everquest, and Vanguard…  and Pantheon seems like more of the same just yet another slightly higher fidelity version of the same game Brad has kept trying to create since the 90s.  I don’t have near as much nostalgia as some do for the “you must have a group with you at all times and death must be frustrating and painful” genre.  Ashes of Creation looks mildly interesting…  but what I have seen of the community tells me it is going to be a game I am not going to enjoy much in the same way that I didn’t enjoy ArcheAge at launch.  Monster Hunter World is definitely something I am looking forward to giving a shot, in spite of the fact that I am horrible at Monster Hunter games.  Anthem also seems really interesting, but the gameplay footage we have seen reminded me a bit too much of the promises Division made but never quite delivered on.  In truth in the 2018 calendar year… I expect to keep playing a lot of the same games I played during the past several years because those MMOs just keep getting better with age.

Radiolarian Paradox

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The world is a really weird place and I sometimes have trouble reconciling just how random it is.  Yesterday after legitimate decades of not being in contact… I had a friend I grew up with reach out via the email address on this blog.  As the day went on we chatted and for the most part found out that we are still drift compatible.  We fell out of contact for reasons that quite honestly I have probably talked about on this blog at some point without assigning names or faces to the situation.  However I always sorta hoped at some point he would find his way back into my monkeysphere and that seems to have actually occurred.  It is super weird to get back in touch with someone who hasn’t been around for the last two decades.  Like for example he knows my wife, but at the time we were last in regular contact we were dating and not married.  In that time I have shifted through many jobs and titles and positions…  and had the birth of the blog and podcast and my attempts at writing for a gaming site and then determining that wasn’t really for me.  So much life has happened for both of us and it is weird trying to slip back into a friendship from so many years ago.  Regardless it was a really cool happening to close out 2017, a year that has been generally crummy in so many other ways.

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Lately I have fallen into a pattern with my evenings where I spend a little time in World of Warcraft knocking out the daily emissary chest and doing any world quests that have interesting rewards.  Then I usually end up swapping over to Destiny 2 and doing whatever package schematic is available that day to get more Dawning rewards for free.  I’ve talked about it at length in another post, but the Dawning being a largely cash shop holiday has been immensely frustrating for me.  This was an event that I was so into when it happened in Destiny 1 in part because it brought back the sparrow racing league and ushered in the beginning of strike scoring.  As it stands now I cannot seem to bring myself to run strikes of any form because they largely feel pointless.  The bane of my existence at the moment is the Advanced Paradox Amplifier needed to get several of the prophecy weapon unlocks.  These come from Strikes, Heroic Adventures and Crucible matches…  and come extremely sparingly at that.  I have been mostly grinding them out by chaining the new mayhem mode crucible matches and unfortunately most of the time you wind up with a single Paradox Amplifier per match…  that you then need to turn in ten of to get the advanced variety.  Unfortunately both the Strikes and Heroic Adventures award with the same frequency meaning that you can either do two things that take a significant amount of time…  or grind your face off in PVP.  I feel like part of me is completely dead inside from all of the crucible I have done lately, because I really don’t enjoy it…  but I want the items that I can potentially get from doing it.

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What makes this so painful is that Radiolarian Cultures seem to drop like candy from every public event or chest you open.  I can spend 30 minutes and roam around opening chests on a planet and get more than enough to do several weapons, and then I am stuck grinding for legitimately hours to get a single blue quality advanced Paradox Amplifier.  Throwing another thing into the mix I apparently need Fossilized Hermaion Blossoms which drop in Nightfalls.  I need two of these so does this mean I will have to complete two Nightfalls in order to get this step done, or does this simply mean that they drop two at a time?  The prophecy weapon grinds are largely frustrating because there is no real casual activity on the Paradox side of the equation.  Had they said…  you could do strikes, crucible matches or lost sectors…  that would have been something that I could piddle around on my own happily doing for hours.  Instead strikes feel too long and unrewarding, crucible matches are mind numbing, and the heroic adventure mechanism is just generally unfun especially since they included another god forsaken timer.  At this point I have completed Hand Cannon, Pulse Rifle, SMG, and Sword…  and now seemingly am working on the Saint-14 shotgun.  I need to chain run a bunch of strikes over the next few days so I can get the currency to purchase Curtain Call from Zavala before the weapons swap again next Wednesday.  I am in this weird place with Destiny 2, where I keep playing because I love the moment to moment gunplay…  but keep getting frustrated by the myopic design.

Cursed Images

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I don’t have a whole lot to say this morning.  It is my first day back to work…  and that is hard enough without having to suddenly have things to talk about on my blog.  I figured I would reshare these photos because I clearly did not creep out enough people over twitter.  One of the things my wife and I enjoy doing is what we call “going junking”.  Now technically we tend to be visiting a bunch of “antique malls” but in truth we are not looking for the high class ones.  Instead we want the ones with weird stuff in them and they rarely disappoint.  First up on the left is a doll that I am absolutely certain has killed someone at some point.  It looks like it is probably possessed and if you take it home will let you star in your own Blumhouse film.  Next up is something that I am guessing someone created while in the deconstructionist phase of a meth high?  I am sure it sounded like a good idea to take apart the lamp and the doll…  but when they came down and tried to put things back together they maybe got something wrong in the process.  The thing is it wouldn’t be anywhere near as creepy if they just left the doll head out of the equation.  It might have even been slightly funny to see a doll with a lampshade for a head… but instead they created a plasticine dullahan.  Lastly is a legitimate product of the 1980s where someone thought it was a good idea to create a bear lamp out.  I am guessing that this is one of those weird castings that pottery stores used to keep around for people to come in, purchase, glaze and then walk out with a pseudo finished product.  My aunt was super into that sort of thing and my family has a lot of porcelain Christmas trees and puffy precious-moments-esc native american dolls as a result.  This however just went south at some point during that process and apparently no one actually realized that punching holes in the doll for light to come through looked like a teddy bear roadkill carcass?  Apologies to everyone with trypophobia that I am apparently going to trigger again, but I figured everyone needed to see this madness.

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Occasionally my trips however yield things that are actually rather cool.  Like these two glass skulls that I found in a junk store in Muskogee.  I would legitimately love to have them, but have no clue what I would actually do with them.  It isn’t like I really have a proper place to display glass skulls and everything in my house is moments away from being knocked off by a bored cat.  Granted my glass mannequin head that I have in my office has survived a tumble from bookcase onto the carpeted floor and I am certain these are equally of sturdy make.  Had I come across them in college I likely would have snapped them up in a heartbeat, but I have reached the point where I realize that 99% of the things that I see in the world that I think are cool…  are probably things I can live without.  Largely it isn’t about denying myself cool stuff, but more that I already have a ton of cool stuff that takes up too much space.  As a result when I snap a photo of something at one of these junk stores, it is me collecting its image rather than having to lug home the actual item.  The trip and the discovery and the memory are the parts that really matter.  Sure we occasionally drag things home, like we stumbled across an amazing pixel art plastic canvas booth at the same place the cursed bear came from.  I walked away with a tiny tardis keyfob that I have on my badge lanyard, and an adorable Ewok and Nintendo controller magnet that I will put up in the cube at work.  Those are small bits of awesome that I can easily fit into my life, but these bigger objects are just harder for find a proper place for.  Half of the fun of these trips is sitting back and trying to figure out what the hell the person who purchased the item in the first place was thinking.  Every object has a story and it is interesting to try and sort out how the thing in front of you ended up where it is now.

Adventures in 4k Panels

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I am getting a super late start this morning because I am still in holiday mode at least until I go back to work tomorrow morning.  Then thankfully I have a short two day week before I get back into holiday mode for a four day weekend.  One of the things that I did over the break was obsess over 4k televisions and drive my wife insane.  We both do this thing when we are researching a purchase, where we slowly shift into a mode where we cannot seem to talk about anything other than the thing we are delving into.  Then at some point the other one is like “just buy the fucking thing already” so we don’t have to think or hear about it anymore.  For me this tends to be technology… and for my wife this tends to be things like cars but regardless we have both had to go through this cycle for the other one.  This time around it was my desire for a better monitor for my PC upstairs.  For the last several years I have used a pair of 23 inch mismatched monitors and a separate television in another area of my office for all of my gaming consoles.  The idea that got planted in my head is…  what if I could use the same “monitor” for both purposes.

What lead me down the path of using a television as a monitor is the pricetag.  Most of the televisions that I looked at were in the 300-400 price range for a 43 inch 4k panel, and the equivalent monitors are 700-1000 with a 200 dollar premium added on if you want G-Sync for your Nvidia video card.  At this point most televisions and monitors are both IPS LCD panels, often times manufactured in the same plants so I wondered how much difference could there possibly be.  The reality is that a Television and a Monitor are serving different purposes and as a result they have mutated into very different beasts.  For the most part a Monitor focuses on precision of making sure that everything on the screen is pixel perfect and has an extremely high refresh rate.  Televisions however are focused on trying to provide a smooth viewing experience and as a result have a bunch of software hacks to try and make the picture look better than it actually is.  All of these things however get in the way of what we want from a gaming display, so as a result I focused on some very specific things.

The first problem with a television is that it has a significant amount of input lag as compared to a monitor.  While this is a stat that is just part of the default specifications block on a monitor, it is nowhere to be seen on a television.  As a result you have to rely on third party sites that have done the testing to determine what the input lag is for a given television.  This will end up producing some really unexpected results.  You would think that all of the televisions in a specific product family would be very similar, but there are a lot of cases where the 40 or 43 inch television in the range has double the input lag of the 50 or 55 inch television.  There are lots of sites out there if you just google “television input lag” but an example of one is RTings.com.  It will take some digging to narrow down which specific site has the test data for the television you are looking at.  Ultimately this narrowed my search down to a few television models.

When you look up the refresh rates for these you see that the LG is 12.7-12 ms depending on mode, the TCL is 14.6-15 ms depending on mode, and the Samsung rounds out the pack as the slowest with 19.8-20 ms input lag.  Now if you compare this to a monitor…  those generally have 5 ms or less input lag.  Basically I wanted to get this as low as possible so immediately I started leaning towards the LG panel.  When you compare price wise…  this fluctuated significantly over the course of the weeks I spent researching this.  At the time of writing this…  you can find very similar prices on each of them…

The Samsung 43 has a MSRP of $379.99 but I could not actually find it being sold anywhere for that.  Best Buy has it for $499.99 currently and Amazon only has it available through third party sellers.   As you can see already…  the deck was sorta stacked in the favor of the LG panel and this only became more so when Target last week was running a deal on Cartwheel that gave an additional 10% off on all televisions which took the pre-tax price down to $297.  We have a bad habit of letting gift cards just sit around unused and we happened to have a stack of smallish target cards like the $5 ones you get from using the cartwheel app.  All total this took the final price that I had to pay out of my pocket down to around $250 post tax.

The next gotcha with these televisions is that they state they can run at 120hz, but the reality is that this is a psuedo “motion rate” that requires you to use some of the interpolation technology while viewing television and movies to actually achieve it.  If you are going to run this as a monitor however you are going to be turning all of this off and running in “Game Mode”.  The reality there is that you can run 4k at 60hz and 1080p at 120hz…  but only if you use the right cable set up, which was my next big challenge.  With a monitor you would be relying on display port cables to get your best picture quality, however none of these televisions have that option.  They instead have HDMI 2.0 which is in theory good enough, but you need to make sure you are using a 4k rated high speed HDMI cable.  I happened to have a display port to HDMI cable laying around, but as it turned out it was not 4k rated.  What ended up happening is that I got a washed out picture and Windows was only able to run the display at 30hz, making it a completely unacceptable experience.

After trying a few cables I had laying around I found a Amazon basics high speed cable that I had ordered some time ago when I hooked up my 8 way HDMI switcher.  This allowed me to get the full 60hz but cased a lot of display issues.  I could have lived with it but all of the text on screen had for lack of a better term… a red glow of about one pixel beyond the text.  After a lot more research the suggestions all pointed to the problem being that the HDMI ports on the back of my Geforce GTX 980 were not capable of pushing that much data without artifacts.  The solution appeared to be getting a highly rated Display Port to HDMI adapter to get the clearest possible signal out of my video card and then again relying on the high speed HDMI cable to finish the transit to the television.  I hooked this all up last night and the results were immediate and breathtaking.  Now I legitimately cannot tell a difference between the 23 inch secondary monitor and the 4k television serving the role of monitor.  For those wanting to go down this same path…  I highly suggest checking out the following parts.

 

 

 

Airing of Grievances

Yesterday I talked a bit about my feelings after watching Last Jedi and how they have actually soured further as time has gone on.  One of the things to know about me and this blog is that I often use it to work through things.  My hope is by getting all of my complaints out of the printed page…  or pixel page in this case I will be able to move past them and reach a point where I start to remember the good more than the bad.  Yesterday I mentioned that today I would be focusing on individual complaints so without further ado…  here comes a bunch of rambling commentary about various points in the movie.  Be warned this is full of spoilers and you should not in any universe read this before you actually watch the movie.  The following are going to be a bunch of loosely connected thoughts I’ve had in thinking about the movie.

  • One of the core themes of the movie is that each of the characters needs to learn something or change in some way.  However the Poe change just falls flat for me.  He is supposed to learn that he shouldn’t be a hot head and his actions end up leading ot the downfall of the resistance.  The problem there is without his actions in the opening scenes of the movie that are looked down on…  the OJ Simpson White Bronco car chase across the galaxy never would have actually started.  He sacrificed forces to bomb the dreadnaught and this was looked down upon by Leia and lead to him getting demoted.  However had they jumped to hyperspace…  the First Order tracked them…  the Dreadnaught would have opened fire and destroyed the capital ship within minutes.  It had a range capable of hitting the planet surface and bombarding it…  and our ship could have not outrun it.  All it needed was one hit for the rebellion to be completely over.  It was his brash actions that ultimately saved the resistance instead of doomed it.  Were there a moment in the movie where a squadron of bombers would have saved the day then maybe just maybe this wouldn’t have come across so hollow and misguided.
  • The timeline of the movie is incomprehensible.  We know that from the moment the slow as hell chase across the galaxy begins they have 18 hours worth of fuel, meaning that almost all of the movie had to be crammed into that 18 hour window.  If you start the clock with the first moment where Poe stalls Hux with the brilliantly extended Yo Mamma joke…  at best you have 19 hours total.  Now if you scan ahead to Rey no time has passed since the closing of Force Awakens.  In that non-existent gap of time we are to believe that both Kylo and Finn are completely healed from near fatal wounds.  Additionally they do this run to Canto Bite and all of the time spent on Acho-To.  All of the interaction with Kylo and Rey, the battle with Snoke…  all happens within 19-20 hours if you are being generous.  That was one fucking busy day and just seems like total nonsense.
  • Admiral Holdo… this character we have never heard of fails to communicate any of her plans and chastises Poe for dooming the resistance essentially.  However her actions and the fact that she failed to communicate them at all…  ended up taking the 400 as Leia states made it out of the base down to enough people to comfortably fit into the Millenium Falcon.  Additionally it is a slap in the face that Admiral Akbar one of the best Republic strategists ends up dying with almost no mention…  and this Admiral Holdo that only exists to be a plot device instead gets to go out like a hero.  Even more frustrating is the fact that from the moment she decided she was going down with the ship I thought surely she was going to ram snokes ship.  Yet instead she waits until almost everyone is dead before she makes her heroic act.  I guess she was told in the script to wait long enough until they were down to only the key characters.
  • Maz Kanata is one of my favorite new characters, but she only exists in this film to be a brief plot device that our characters completely fucking ignore in the long run.  Additionally she apparently has a camera crew with her while she is doing whatever the hell she is doing?  We still don’t know how the hell she got Anakin’s lightsaber from Cloud City and probably never will.  Yet another plot point that the movie does nothing with, but at least in this case Rian thankfully doesn’t prevent someone else from maybe just maybe filling in these details later.
  • Canto Bite is this mission to go in, get the best cracker in the world and get out.  Yet our heros cannot apparently park their ship like any normal person would do at the starport.  They land the ship on the beach, and think this is a good idea.  From this moment onwards everything that happens in Canto Bite could have been avoided were they not complete morons.  Even worse they apparently decide that they trust this random dude that is also in Jail with them that he too is the greatest cracker in the galaxy?  They had a known good player that came with the pedigree of Maz Kanata someone we generally trust, but instead they decided to just casually ignore that.  Of course he is going to fucking betray them…  you met him in a holding cell.  Of course he won’t have any allegiance outside of money…  because you don’t even know him.  Even worse this entire subplot of the movie goes to shit because apparently Evil BB8 can read fucking minds and knows exactly what they are here to do?  At this point the hyperspace tracking tech is barely known…. So at what point does the empire even know that the resistance has a clue?  This is just sloppy as shit and even more annoying that we spend a bunch of time in the movie jumping through hoops to have it not actually make a difference in the end.
  • I grew up with two friends that had pretty horrific stuttering problems and while we are on this Canto Bite shit…  DJ just didn’t work for me.  The moments he was stuttering didn’t seem to be actual moments of anxiety or stress.  I am by no means an expert just after spending years growing up with two friends who did stutter, I knew when they were going to do it before they actually did based on the situation and based on their demeanor beforehand.  Mostly it just annoyed me and felt fake.
  • Luke on the Island – Mostly I am not a fan of watching one of my childhood heroes turned into a grumpy old man who is just wrong all the time.  I hated the whole tossing of the lightsaber but I can get over that.  It just annoys me that he isn’t even testing Reys patience like Yoda did his…  he is simply trying to run away from someone who obviously went a long ways to find him.  The moment he heard the words “Leia needs you” that should have triggered something in him, that never really did until it was too late.  This is not the same Luke we knew before apart from the fact that he is still a whiny assed farmboy.
  • Mary Poppins Leia – For the most part I am okay with this.  I’ve always wanted to see Leia use the force, but I just think this scene was a lame one.  It looked goofy to see her flying across space.  One of the things I wanted from this film was to watch Leia do something badass with the force and this didn’t really feel badass.  I would have loved for her to break out Bastila Shan style force meditation…  even if it was a lesser version and be actively protecting the forces from the command ship while they were in battle.  I would have loved to have seen her use what seemed like a force ring in any way.  Maybe that was what allowed her to pull herself to the ship?  I am not a huge fan of the scene but overall I can be okay with it because it did at least make good on the promise of her using her force abilities just once.
  • While on the topic of Leia…  she should have died.  We knew going into this movie that we no longer have Carrie Fisher, and because I loved her…  she needed a proper ending.  They have already stated that they do not have any footage with her for episode nine and that they do not plan on doing a CGI version of her like they did for Rogue One.  So what is ultimately going to happen is that she is going to die in the opening crawl of the next movie… off screen in a pretty shitty manner.  I fully expect her death to be one of the catalysts of events leading into that movie.  I just keep thinking that they could have done some editing chicanery and given her a proper send off on screen like she deserves rather than forcing the next set of writers to shim her into the margins as an event that happened in the time between.
  • While we are on the topic of deaths…  Finn should have died as well.  We have this character arc with Finn where he is always trying to run away even if he is running to something.  He is never in the moment, never willing to double down for a cause.  Instead he does exactly this in the movie…  as he refuses to break off the attack on the battering ram canon.  It would have been such an amazing moment if he would have driven that speeder up into the canon and it exploded buying the resistance more time.  Instead Rose who I absolutely love and is a great character…  decides to swerve into him and knock his speeder off course.  Then apparently Finn casually drags her to safety while there is a whole army of troops waiting outside?  This is another one of those plot twists for the sake of making a plot twist and it just plays as shitty.  Finn had a nice clean arc and would have gone out in an amazing way…  but apparently surprise bullshit was more important.
  • Snoke…  who the fuck is Snoke?  You have set up this Villian only to sloppily throw him away in the same manner you did Darth Maul.  Thankfully Darth Maul got his comeuppance with the Star Wars Rebels series… but that isn’t going to happen with Snoke because we saw his dead decaying complexion ass laying there on the floor with his tongue out to even drill the point in harder.  This just feels like a slap in the face to everyone who spend the last two years trying to figure out how he fits into the larger tapestry of the galaxy.  He has to have some connection to the emperor and empire, but this is another thing that Rian decided wasn’t important and just lazily discarded.  I am hoping we at least get a Snoke series of comics or something like that to fill in the pieces.
  • Who the fuck are the Knights of Ren?  We know they exist… we saw them in a flashback in Force Awakens.  We can surmise that these are the students that left with Kylo when he burnt down the temple.  We know jack and shit about them.  Were they the Praetorian Guard?  Did they wash out and get killed off by Kylo as Snoke pitted disciples against each other trying to force breed the strongest force user?  We know nothing and apparently it isn’t important because reasons.  This is frustrating beyond words that not only do we not know anything, but after the events of Last Jedi I am completely disillusioned that we ever will.  Apparently burning down Star Wars from orbit is the hip and trendy thing to do.  
  • Rey’s Parents – I’ve mostly come to terms with this one and can be okay with Rey just being a spontaneous upwelling in the force.  This only feels horrible because the movie took a giant shat on anything else anyone had ever theorycrafted since Force Awakens.  The thing is there were thousands of Jedi at one point, and very few of them actually came from fable lineages, so it makes perfect sense for Rey to be like she is.  Only addressing this because its a point a lot of people have in frustration with this film, but I am largely cool with it.
  • Everything is worse and no progress is made.  Basically this movie is two and a half hours of spinning wheels and doing things that end up not mattering at all in the end.  Sure Empire Strikes back ended on a massive down note, but at least there was a clear call to action for what was going to have to happen in Return of the Jedi.  Rescue Han, Complete Luke’s Training and Defeat Vader.  After this two plus hour long slog…  I have nothing to go on.  You could tell me that the FIrst Order is just about to build a new Starkiller base and I would believe you because I have nothing to go on.  You could tell me that Rey is going to fight Kylo over a volcano and leave him charred on the beach like an idiot to only return as a space robot man…  and I would have no cause to not believe you.  This movie nuked everything from orbit like I said yesterday… and gives us absolutely nothing in return.  Fuck you could tell me that they find some clone tubes in a rebel base and decide to clone that Millenium Falcon’s worth of rebels to make an army of scrappy would be heroes and at this point I still have nothing to really prove you against that.  Rian Johnson is a 80s mom who decided to throw out their kids kenner Star Wars figures collection because they were inconvenient and gathering dust and it feels just that shitty.  I love the new cast of characters, and I feel like they deserved a better movie.  I love the original characters and they sure as fucking shit deserved a better movie.  There should have been a happy medium that honored the past and let the future shine, but instead I got this and now have to come to terms with how much it feels like a betrayal of my hopes and dreams.

 

Squandered Lore

This morning I am getting a little bit of a late start to doing the whole morning thing, because I am in full vacation mode starting today.  Sometimes I just skip blogging altogether, but given how many days in a row I will be on vacation I figured I probably needed to at least make an effort.  Sometimes in the course of this blog I have to post something more for my own sake rather than actually informing or entertaining.  This is one of those mornings.  Last week the Last Jedi was released and it signaled the next chapter in the Star Wars storyline.  You have to understand I have a very special bond with this franchise.  I was roughly two years old when I saw the first one and left the theater talking about “Darfa Bader” and wanting everything in my life to be Star Wars themed.  

The Kenner action figures only served to cement this franchise even harder in my brain and at this point I find it very difficult to unravel the movies, the comics, the expanded universe novels, and eventual animated shows and the video games.  They all combine together in my head into this amalgam I know as Star Wars.  So it was a completely foregone conclusion that I would see Last Jedi.  The prequels taxed my love of the franchise but my devotion was rewarded as Force Awakens and Rogue One brought back that passion with a burning fury.  I felt extremely confident that Star Wars was in good hands as we entered this new era and new set of characters.  The legacy of Star Wars seemed safe and good…  so when I stumbled out of the theater at midnight on opening Thursday I was somewhat shocked and confused that I wasn’t feeling the same rush of elation that I did with the first two “modern” movies.

As time passed little frustrations started to worm their way into my brain, and when I watched it again last Saturday with my wife…  those frustrations reached a crescendo.  She turned to me as we were walking out of the theater and asked if it was just her… or if I also didn’t think it was as good as Force Awakens or Rogue One.  I remember feeling like the movie dragged a bit on opening night, but I mostly equated that to the fact that I was up past my normal bed time.  However watching it as a Saturday afternoon matinee, it seemed even longer.  Basically the frustrations had settled into distaste…  which only became compounded as I realized…  I was not feeling the same love and passion that a lot of my friends seemed to be.  I’ve had two kinds of conversations over the last several days, the first is real life friends coming to me with a concerned look on their face and asking if I took didn’t think the movie was that good.  The second are mostly online friends trying to somehow make me understand just how precious and magical the movie is by constantly linking me articles that they thought were a “good read”.

The thing is…  I get why the people that love this movie think that it is such a liberating and “brave” experiment.  The problem is I just simply disagree with all of the points that these friends and articles and youtube videos and thought pieces seem to think are so perfect.  What they watched was a life changing experience, and what I watched was a movie that squandered everything that could have been for the sake of being purposefully contrarian.  What I watched was a movie that nuked everything from orbit to create a blank slate, and in doing so washed away everything that kept me going from movie to movie.  Star Wars for me has always been this rich tapestry of mythology and religion and fable.  The thing that always kept me engaged was trying to solve the puzzles left in the universe and figure out how they would ultimately change the future of the franchise.  This movie grabbed a bullhorn and screamed at me that those puzzles and bits of lore that I had been hanging onto no longer matter.

This morning’s post took a very different turn than I had intended.  I originally had planned on doing a full on spoilery discussion about each and every thing that bugs the hell out of me about this movie, and instead this ended up as a fairly non-spoiler narrative about my feelings.  Tomorrow more than likely I will do the Festivus style airing of grievances…  this is hilarious considering Saturday actually is Festivus.  I’ve spent the week listening to folks as they tried desperately to explain to me why I should love this movie, and quite frankly each time someone sets off on another well intentioned attempt to educate me…  it just makes me dislike the movie even more.  In truth I don’t hate the Last Jedi, I just don’t think it is anywhere near as good of a movie as it could have been.  There are moments I love in that movie that I would never trade for the world, but there are so many little details that just overwhelm that good will.  Tomorrow I will get into it, but for today I just needed to do a little blog therapy and get this post out of my brain.

Dawning Sorta

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Yesterday the new and revised Dawning Holiday started in Destiny 2, but I feel like in order to understand the rest of this post we need to talk a bit about what Dawning was in Destiny 1.  This holiday originally ran from December 13th 2016 to January 3rd 2017 and was lumped in with a major update to the game.  As a result it is a little hard to separate what is the Dawning and what is the content, but I am going to talk about it anyways.  In Destiny 1 we had these things called record books that included a bunch of achievements and completing them unlocked loot.  There was one of these specific to the dawning event and featured achievements that involved either the brand new strike scoring system also included with the patch or the triumphant return of the Sparrow Racing League (SRL).  SRL is legitimately my favorite part of Destiny 1 and when it came back over the holidays last year…  I ground my little face off running endless Sparrow Racing League matches.  With this it also introduced a ton of new SRL themed gear and sparrows including these really awesome class items that left a neon streak behind you as you raced on your sparrow.  In addition to that three exotics were introduced into the game, as well as a series of presents that were in the tower allowing you to open one each day and get a mixture of good items and complete junk.  Needless to say there was a lot of stuff included in the holiday and a good deal of it like Strike Scoring became a permanent part of the game after that.

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This year around The Dawning is running from December 19th through January 9th and as much as I hate to be one of those folks…  seems to be largely a bunch of new Eververse Trading Company items.  You are given one Dawning Engram by logging in and then there are milestones that allow you to earn one each week.  When you XP up it appears that you still get a Season Two Engram rather than one of the special event ones, so your ability to actually get items from this event without spending some money seems to be at least somewhat limited.  Instead of presents that give you stuff for free…  you get to loot a quest item each day that requires you to do some stuff and then turns in at one of the tower NPCs for some dawning loot.  The first one is a pattern that goes in your ghost shell slot and requires you to collect 10 phase glass on Io and kill 15 servitors…  which largely meant hanging out and farming the Servitor events as they spawned in the EDZ.  I turned in and got an exotic ship and a shader, but based on what I am seeing this appears to be essentially the equivalent of opening one of those Dawning Engrams… so wide loot table including full sets of class armor, 4 unique emotes, 10 unique ghost shells including 1 exotic, 10 unique ships including 2 exotics, 11 unique sparrows including 2 exotic, 4 unique shaders, and 6 unique transmat effects.  At any given time there are seven of that assortment of forty five items available for purchase with bright dust on the Eververse vendor…  pending my math is correct.  Essentially this is an Eververse holiday with Eververse rewards…  and a minimal method of earning them through normal game play rather than swiping your card.

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The biggest problem I have with the event is the complete and total lack of the Sparrow Racing League.  Instead we get Mayhem Crucible modes…  which admittedly are amazingly fun, but no crazy swoop bike racing action.  For the uninitiated Mayhem is a mode of the Crucible where your super regenerates at an insane rate…  and grenade and melee are slightly increased as well.  It means that it takes what feels like a minute to get your full super bar, and as a result you are running around doing really silly things the entire match.  I played quite a bit of it last night and it was enjoyable to run around the map trying to out super all of the other supers.  Oddly enough I got plenty of normal weapon kills also as I sat back and picked off weakened targets when two different super saiyans clashed in battle.  As fun as Mayhem mode is…  unless it sticks around as a new permanent fixture it is going to feel super hollow.  The original Dawning added so much new permanent content to the game, that this version feels extremely lacking.  Strike scoring is one of those systems that is desperately needed in Destiny 2 and with the bulk of the dawning items coming from cash shop purchases rather than a book of achievements…  it just feels cheap.  I am as big a backer of Destiny 2 as they come, but even I have to stop and think that this seems more cash grab than content.

The Visionary

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I don’t have a whole lot to say this morning given that by the time I got home I pretty much crashed on the sofa and wound up officially asleep about 9:30.  Last week I had several nights where I was not asleep until after 1 am and I think they are catching up with me.  I played a little WoW and a little Destiny 2 but nothing really of sufficient effort to talk about it at length.  The bulk of my evening was an hour long call with my folks where we talked through christmas plans or the potential lack thereof considering we are expecting an ice storm.  We mostly agreed that if the weather was dicey…  Christmas could be any day given we can get together.  My mom used to be super big on doing things on the official day but seems to have mellowed out over the years.  Mostly this morning I wanted to make sure my readers knew about something…  namely the Fall of Osiris comic book over on Bungie.net.  Personally I would have rather they just released it in one of the comic book e-reader formats for us to download and enjoy on our reader of choice…  but the step through the panels format works well enough.  I mean in theory we could recreate it in PDF or CBZ format considering you can easily open the images in another window and snag them that way.  That might be a side project…  but anyways it is 10 pages worth of story and well worth the read.

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Buried in the middle of the comic is a panel showing the written Prophecies of Osiris.  Of course Redditors immediately noticed that at the top of the text was a broken line that looked a lot like morse code, and then another one quickly decoded it.  The end result is a code that when input into the Destiny redemption page rewards you with an emblem. Simply input the following text in the code redemption box…

XFV-KHP-N97

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As a result you end up with “The Visionary” emblem shown above.

 

Conflicted Feels

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This weekend we ended up recording a full on spoilers Last Jedi show because it seemed to be a reasonable thing to do.  Functionally all of the AggroChat crew had already seen the movie and were ready to start talking about it.  In this discussion however I seemed to be the odd man out in the way I feel about the movie.  In truth I wasn’t really sure how I felt about it on Thursday night when I saw it, and as I saw it Saturday with my wife I started to get more critical of it.  When we walked out of the theater my wife was similarly not sure how she felt about the movie, and then as we were walking to the car said she was a little disappointed.  The problem is that seed grows over time and there are certain things in the movie that really bother me.  It has a film with a lot of really awesome moments, knitted together by a bunch of other stuff that I am not really sure how to think about it.  Essentially I am at a place where I feel like this is the weakest of the modern Star Wars movies and I place it firmly behind Empire Strikes Back, Force Awakens, Rogue One and A New Hope.  There are individual moments however that could easily elevate the movie above all of those…  were the rest of the film that strong as well.  I remember thinking Thursday night…  that the movie seemed really long but I mostly chocked that up to being after midnight when we got out of the theater.  When we watched it as a matinee on Saturday morning however…  it felt somehow longer.  My biggest frustration is that the movie really answers none of the questions I had in a satisfying manner, but I won’t go further than that.  If you want to hear the whole spoilery conversation check out the podcast episode because I elaborate on a lot of things there…  and end up being the single person who seems to feel this way out of the crew.  I want so bad to love this movie…  but I am just struggling with it much the same way as I did the prequels.  I was born and bred with Star Wars in my veins…  seeing the first movie as a toddler in the theater…  but I am struggling hard to maintain that hype and love.

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While sitting around questioning how I felt about the direction of the Star Wars franchise…  I spent a significant amount of time playing World of Warcraft.  The irony here is that Warcraft is another franchise I often have deep problems with but keep returning because there is a nostalgic core there that I still love.  Belghast the Female Orc Warrior on Scryers dinged 110 last weekend and since then I have been focusing on gearing up.  This largely has meant a lot of running world quests and more specifically unlocking a good deal of the content on Argus.  In the last week and some change I have managed to raise my item level to 896 which means that I can run the LFR version of Antorus.  In addition to this I have mostly just been focusing on slowly raising my level by knocking out the world quests that give me things that are useful.  Additionally I am trying to burn through all of the Argus quests that I come across in the hopes of gathering enough of <insert newest currency name here> to be able to purchase 910 items.  Luckily the world quest drops seem to be scaling quite a bit as I ratchet my level up there and as a result I am creeping closer and closer to 900.  The biggest challenge right now is the fact that I have yet to see any Legendary items in spite of doing a bunch of stuff that could in theory get me one.  Either they have greatly nerfed the drop rate…  or I am just super unlucky.  In truth what I need to focus on is finishing my Order Hall campaign, because the fact that I have not done so is starting to hold me back in a bunch of ways.  I think tonight pending I feel like doing group content… I will sit down and force my way through it because I know there are still a bunch of missions that I need to run.  Essentially I need to finish Valsharah and do some dungeons before I can get to the next set of order hall quests.