Game Changer

Wow-64 2016-08-16 06-12-27-60

In Another Castle

Wow-64 2016-08-16 06-12-27-60

Last night was my raid night in Final Fantasy XIV, but before hand my key focus was trying to get my Mage to 100.  I am not exactly sure what has lit a fire under me, but I am on this mission to have at least one server full with level 100 characters.  As you can see in the above image, I am actually extremely close to getting there.  Now granted I have the OTHER side of my linked server to start working on…  but Belgaoh my Monk remains the only sub-100 character I have on Argent Dawn.  The only problem there is he is SIGNIFICANTLY behind the curve sitting at only level 53 right now.  I keep thinking that if I can get on at the right time, and have at least one easy to get to invasion event I will be able to push him through to 60 so that he can fly, which is going to be the key to getting more events on him.  As of yesterday I thought I was nearing the end of the gear grind and even created a spreadsheet as an attempt to track progress in outfitting my characters in level 700 gear.  The take away from that process seemed like I was going to spend the next several days working on my leather wearers to catch them up in progression.

gamechanger

Then this happened.  I opened I believe 34 chests that I had gathered up on the mage in leveling from 90 to 100, and out of those chests seven different items came up as warforged.  Apparently yesterday during the day at some point they patched in the ability for chests to spawn warforged gear, meaning that all of those characters I thought I had finished with really have only scratched the surface.  I still think however my core mission is to get all of my characters outfitted in at least 700 gear, and if some of them get more trips to the candy shop in the hopes of finding warforged… then that is fine too.  Ultimately I realize that all of this gear is going to be replaced within the first few minutes of questing in the Broken Isles.  However for the time being I think this is probably a brilliant idea.  The longer they can keep players actively participating in this event the better, because for the time being it is an amazing source of leveling and gear for everyone involved.  I somehow doubt I will be able to get my monk all of the way to 100 in the short time available without focusing ENTIRELY on the monk, but I am definitely going to ride the elevator for as long as I can.

End of Expansion

One of the things I am realizing is that I apparently love the end of expansions.  Cataclysm was the expansion that broke me and my desire to be playing World of Warcraft, causing me to fade away and go play other games.  However I remember clearly that towards the end of the expansion I came back and really enjoyed myself.  There was so much to be doing, and everyone had a great casual attitude about it all.  For me personally I knew that nothing I was doing really mattered in the grand scheme of things, because as soon as Pandaria was released every last piece of gear I gathered would be replaced with greens.  So in this low pressure environment I allowed myself to piddle around without purpose and had a complete blast.  Similarly I remember coming back at the end of Pandaria and having the same fun experience, running around aimlessly on the timeless isle and doing all the little things that were fun but served no major purpose.  Here I find myself once again in a similar pattern with Draenor, and I feel completely in my zone.  The problem is that I wish I knew how to bottle this feeling and keep it alive during the rest of the expansion.

I am not sure how to take the joy that I feel at the end of an expansion when I am unfettered by expectations and pressures…. and keep that alive during the rest of the game.  There is a switch that flips in my brain when an expansion launches that says “okay Bel, you need to be useful… go grind your face off”.  I wish I knew how to turn that switch off completely because I think that is the thing that keeps getting in my way when it comes to enjoying an MMO for the long haul.  I essentially burn myself out, over and over… game after game… by focusing on some lofty goal that I cannot accomplish without significant help from others.  I end up ignoring the goals that are entirely up to me to complete, and those are probably the things that I technically enjoy more.  I have had a blast alting my way to 100 over the last few weeks and bringing my own personal army up to snuff.  As I look towards Legion, and Starfall Prophecy and whatever the Final Fantasy XIV expansion ends up being… I need to figure out how to keep this magic from the end of an expansion alive every single day I play the game.

 

Elevator to Top

Wow-64 2016-08-15 06-28-24-85

Wow-64 2016-08-15 06-28-24-85

This weekend was a weekend for many things, not the least of which was some interstellar exploration in No Man’s Sky.  However an even larger portion of the weekend was spent with the Legion invasion event in World of Warcraft.  I am not exactly sure why Warcraft is so sticky for me right now… but whatever the case it absolutely is.  I am probably having more fun playing this game than I have since long before Cataclysm… and potentially even before the launch of Wrath.  I am actually looking forward to coming home and playing, and this event is a large part of that.  At face value the event is an easy way to get characters decked out in item level 700 gear, and additionally a source of a new pet.  However the way this invasion works makes it so much more enjoyable for me than the previous ones.  I’ve already talked about this in previous posts but two zones open up around the world and every four hours these swap.  The only somewhat negative part of this is that I have apparently swapped logging into all of my characters to fiddle with the garrison, to logging in all of my characters to try and get both invasions in before the zone timer runs own.  There however was an eventual end to this madness and that was collecting a full set of gear on every character.  Friday however the game was patched and it all changed.

LegionEventBags

Now in addition to getting two chests worth of gear…  you also get a significant experience boost every time a phase completes.  In the high 90s each zone invasion is worth roughly half of a level, so each set of two invasions is a little more than a full level of experience.  As a result I have been using and abusing this event to level up those characters that I was never likely going to level on my own.  In this case that is my Priest and my Mage, both classes I have not had a whole lot of interest in playing, but would still like to add to my stable of 100s.  When I started this process my priest had seen enough leveling in Draenor to unlock the Garrison, and then from that point onwards was nothing more than a profession character.  I managed to get to level 92 through doing the various XP missions that came available as part of the daily Garrison queue.  Over the course of the event it took 14 full events to go from 92 to 100, and I literally dinged moments before sitting down to write this post.  Now as I ran this event I held onto every chest, apart from one I opened just to see if my theory was going to be correct.

LegionEventLoot

The chest loot is assigned at the moment you open it.  That means by holding my chests I was able to open them as soon as I dinged 100 and get a fast infusion of item level 700 gear.  In the bags I had 3 weapons, 5 chests, 3 boots, 4 gloves, 4 helms, 2 pants, 2 shoulders, 1 belt, and 4 bracers… as well as two of the weapon infusion items and 657 Nethershards.  So I was able to level up without worrying about my gear at all… and then go to instant reasonable levels upon dinging.  I am absolutely going to use this elevator for as far as I can take it to push up some of the character that I never really got around to leveling.  Once I finish off the Mage I am probably going to try and see where I can get with my sub level 60 monk, and at least push it levels out of the old world.  If you have some of those characters that are sitting in the 90s that you never really got around to leveling in Draenor I highly suggest you take advantage of this.  If nothing else this has been an amazing way to pull up those gear levels for the various characters that I leveled to 100 but never really raided much on.

Regularly Playing: July/August Edition

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I just realized the other day that it had been a long while since I had done one of my regularly playing posts.  The general idea is to true up my sidebar list of games and bring it into alignment with the games that I am actually playing on a fairly regular basis.  Some of these might not be every day occurrences but they represent the regular rotation of games you are likely to see me talking about.  At some point however I fell off the wagon and went the entire month of July without any form of an update.  As a result I am doing this to cover both July and August and get me up to date.

To Those Remaining

World of Warcraft

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I am legitimately playing World of Warcraft more actively than I have in years.  More than likely this is the most seriously I have played since before the launch of Cataclysm.  I am really enjoying the game, and the changes to the various specs… and even enjoying the Legion launch event more.  Over the last few days I have been using this event as a bit of a springboard to help level up some of my sub 100 characters because every two events you participate in seems to be roughly a levels worth of experience, even in the 90s.  So I took my Shadowpriest last night for example from 92 to 94 in two full rounds of the event.  As far as the rest of the game there is still a ton of stuff I want to do, that mostly centers around running older content and collecting appearances.  To say I am looking forward to the Legion Launch is a bit of an understatement.

Final Fantasy XIV

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Final Fantasy XIV on the other hand has fallen a little bit by the wayside.  It is that game that I am logging into only to raid… which ironically is traditionally my stance with World of Warcraft.  I am loving the Monday night raid team, and we are now starting to do more serious content.  I still have little to no drive however to level or gear, at least until the content we are doing requires it.  That might be a thing that happens soon because we have pretty much defeated all of the “easy” end game content and are now starting down the path of the more difficult stuff.  However it feels amazing to have “the band back together” and doing raids together  as a team.

Rift

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At the very least right now I am logging in every day to participate in the Starfall Prophecy launch event, which is namely collecting prophecies that I can then later turn in for rewards.  The pre-order bonus means that we will get access to some awesome stuff like the artifact finding mount, and I want to make sure I don’t miss out on any of that.  Otherwise I need to really hunt for a group of players that are more active.  I don’t want to disband the House Stalwart guild or anything, but I might consider moving Belghast off to another guild, because I would like to see Comet of Ahnket before the expansion lands since the lore seems like it will give me a headstart into understanding what is going on.  Additionally I want to spend a sleepy afternoon at some point doing more Intrepid Adventures.  Those things are just absolutely fun as hell and it is a style of “LFR” that I wish more games would look into implementing.

To The Returning and New

Diablo 3

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As stated when I originally removed it from the list, I knew that it would be a limited time thing.  With the beginning of this month came the launch of Season 7 of Diablo 3, and a return of several of us to actively playing again.  This time around we do not have nearly the throng of players that we did with season six, but myself, Grace and Thalen are all fairly active.  This time feels a little cheap though because we all seemed to opted for the fastest possible clearing class…  or at least our view on that.  The Demon Hunter is a powerhouse and one that you can get up and running insanely quickly.  By the time we dinged 70 we were already pushing content hard and fast, and after roughly a weeks time I am now clearing greater rifts in the 50s like they are a cakewalk.  The only question now is just how serious I am going to be on trying to get that extra stash slot.  Right now there is so much going on, that I am afraid Diablo 3 is going to fall by the wayside.

Pokemon Go

AWildZubat

Pokemon Go is something that did not even exist on my radar when I did the last “Recently Playing” and has been something that has dominated my life since.  I have gone through the stages of grief with this game, and have reached a point where I continue to play it without really understanding why.  I wrote the other day about some of my frustrations, and they are very real.  However still… anytime I leave the house I check for nearby Pokemon each time I stop and get out of the car.  As the heat starts to chill the hell out… and we no longer have 100 degree days I will probably start resuming my evening pokestrolls.  However when it is 100 degrees at 9pm at night… it is just too damned hot to go out roaming too far.  I hope this game gets some much needed changes, because the ones thusfar feel like they are taking it in the wrong direction.  Niantic Labs still does not seem to understand that they made a MMO.

No Man’s Sky

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This one is seriously brand new… but I have a feeling that over the coming weeks it is going to be a new obsession for me.  I called it Interstellar Skyrim, and it invokes the same sort of feelings in me.  The problem being… all of this is pending you can actually get it running on your machine.  There are lots of problems ahead of this title before it reaches serious mass adoption, and I hope that in the coming weeks they can push through them.  To say it has performance issues is the understatement of the century right now, and I am questioning my original plan to get this on the PC.  That said I am committed at this point and still very much enjoying the experience.

To Those Parting

Destiny

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I have so much love for Destiny, but for whatever reason I have drifted away from it in the last few weeks.  In both the month of July and August I have not really played much, so I am temporarily removing it from the list.  I know without a doubt in Mid-September when Rise of Iron hits, that I will be back and actively playing it again.  In the meantime however I feel like I have gotten it out of my system for the moment.  However if my friend Grace suddenly decides to start playing again, I will likely be right back there with guns a blazing.  I think a huge part of it is that I really have not been spending all that much time up in my office where my Playstation 4 is, and instead hanging out on the sofa playing on my laptop.  Much like when I remove Diablo 3 from the list… this is absolutely going to change in the coming months and I am sure I will have yet another resurgence.

ArcheAge

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I feel like ArcheAge is a casualty of simply too much other stuff going on right now.  At the beginning of July I had a bit of a renaissance with this game and managed to push through to fourty six… and then the content seemed to dry up a bit.  The quests are still there, but they seem to be generally less plentiful, and the progress I was making felt a bit bogged down.  As a result this sort of just fell by the wayside, and I am sure at some point I will reignite my fires for this game because at the end of the day I still very much like it.  The biggest thing that came from this last journey is that I realized that PVP isn’t as big of a hurdle as I was expecting.  I have technically spent the last dozen or so levels in pvp enabled areas… and really did not run into a single issue.  Flagged players avoided me, and I avoided them and we continued questing along happily.  At some point I am sure I will return, but for the time being I am removing it from my list of “active” games.

No Man’s Sky Thoughts

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This morning was an absolutely glorious morning, in part because of a massive cold front that blew through over night.  It is suddenly 70 degrees outside with a lovely breeze, rather than the usual over 100 degree madness that has been happening for weeks.  As a result we decided to get up and walk over to daylight donuts for breakfast and then take it into the backyard and eat it on the patio.  After the generally shit week that I had, I needed this little bit of respite to maybe start to recover.  It is not that anything really went wrong… just the stress of entirely too much maximum level adulting.  The week was one with several adulting raid bosses, and the progress made on them were mixed.  However I am now happy to chill out on the sofa with a cat precariously balanced between my arms trying to find a way to snuggle while I type.  So far it is working but I have a feeling at some point she will wander off because my hands are engaged in something other than serious petting action.  Other than all of this… yesterday a game was released that I had been waiting anxiously for since it was first announced at E3 during the Sony PS4 reveal show, or at least I think that was when I first saw it.  No Man’s Sky promised to be the space exploration game for me.  Elite Dangerous looks awesome, but it is entirely too fiddly for my tastes.  I don’t want to have to care about learning to pilot a ship through the vast expanses of space, or learning how to dogfight when there is no “up”.  I just want a Star Trek away mission simulator that lets me wander around the cosmos and land on interesting new planets to explore.  No Man’s Sky seems to be exactly that, but before I get into the good parts I need to talk about the bad.

NMS 2016-08-12 19-04-03-56

Lots of folks are having trouble playing this game on the PC now that it has been released.  I am not sure what happened during the process of the launch but the “minimum” listed specs seem to have been thrown completely out the window.  I know Tamrielo has already returned his copy through steam because on his pretty hoss machine it simply would not give him more than 10 fps.  First lets go over the minimum specs that were released for the game.

  • OS: Windows 7/8.1/10 (64-bit versions)
  • Processor: Intel Core i3
  • Memory: 8 GB RAM
  • Graphics: nVidia GTX 480, AMD Radeon 7870
  • Storage: 10 GB available space

I’ve played it on two of my machines… first on my Laptop

  • OS:  Windows 10 64-bit
  • Processor: 4th Gen Intel Core i7
  • Memory:  16 GB RAM
  • Graphics:  nVidia GTX 960m

On this machine I had to bump it down to 720p/medium to get stable framerates in the range of 30 fps, with the occasional dip into 15 territory.  However nVidia experience claims that this machine does not meet the minimum requirements to play the game, whereas instead every single category above technically outstrips what the suggested minimums are.

My upstairs gaming machine has the following specs…

  • OS:  Windows 10 64-bit
  • Processor:  AMD fx-6300 3.5 ghz
  • Memory:  16 GB RAM
  • Graphics:  nVidia GTX 980

As one would expect the beefier graphics card means that I am getting significantly better performance, but not massively so.  I am running the game at 1080p/medium and I get severe dips from the 60fps to 30fps and it is extremely erratic.  What this feels like to me… is a game that was rushed to make last minute changes and is extremely poorly optimized for the PC.  From the sound of it… everyone that chose to get the PS4 copy seems to be just happily playing away.  Those of us on the PC are trying to find that precarious line where the performance to pretty balance is reasonable.  The biggest confusion point that I am seeing thought is having a big badass system doesn’t necessarily make a difference.  It is almost totally random who can and cannot run this game.  As a result I highly suggest you purchase the game through steam, that way if for whatever reason it does not work for you… you can return it to get a full refund.  I believe GOG does the same thing, but I have never actually returned a game there so I am not sure how fast or easy that process is.  Essentially this is definitely a “buyer beware” title… and if you simply want to play it without much fussing then I suggest you check out the PlayStation 4 copy.

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Now that all of that is out of the way…. the game is really pretty and feels like you are exploring alien worlds.  It has this feeling of minecraft, starbound and elite all throw together in the a mixer and some weird hybrid came out of the process.  The key thing that stood in the way of me playing Elite or Star Citizen… is that my player fantasy has nothing to do with flying a ship.  I could give a shit about actually flying anything… and would be perfectly happy just taking “taxis” between planets.  What I want is the exploration of new and interesting places, and that is the fantasy that NMS hones in on.  There are going to be folks that complain that this title is entirely too “walking sim” for them, but the couple of planets have all been filled with rich and interesting environments for me to explore.  Right now my biggest problem is the lack of inventory, and lack of understanding how to increase said inventory.  There is just so much I don’t know how to do, and so many items I pick up that I don’t have a clue what they are even for.  What is the most interesting to me is the fact that when you encounter an alien race, you don’t know how to communicate.  You learn language through finding these knowledge stones, and each of them teaches you a single word in another language.  Now I have yet to see what actually happens when you know some words… because I absolutely lost faction with a race by patting them on the head.

NMS 2016-08-12 19-05-35-84

The coolest moment so far has to be when I finally repaired my ship, and decided to lift off of the planet and out into space.  I watched as the horizon got darker and darker until all of the sudden I broke through the atmosphere and could see the stars around me.  Similarly awesome was the moment when I realized that landing on this planet… I had to be super careful about my angle of entry.  If you come in too straight you absolutely start to burn up in the atmosphere damaging your shields in the process.  So that mean’t I had to skim along carefully descending slowly enough to avoid taking damage, but that also meant that this was no means a quick process.  There are consequences of pushing off planet, and I burned through all of my fuel on the first planet using my ship to explore.  Each time you thrust off the surface it takes resources, ones that you cannot easily replenish without significant time spent exploring… which in itself costs resources because the environments are usually hostile and stress your life support systems to where they need recharging as well.  There however is a central loop that I find enjoyable of exploring and gathering and exploring and gathering.  In fact last night I absolutely lost two hours of time playing this game.  Not that I was aware that I spent time… but I thought I had maybe spent fifteen minutes playing, until I looked up and realized that two hours had passed.  So if the issues of the launch can get ironed out, I have a feeling that this is going to go down as one of those Minecraft like experiences that just keeps building upon itself.

So final advice is… pick it up definitely. However if you have a Playstation 4, you might lean towards that for your purchase.  Otherwise definitely purchase it through a provider that is going to allow you to return the game on PC if for whatever reason it does not like your machine.

Pokemon Go Frustrations

Bad Polling

A few days ago I did yet another one of my super-non-scientific polls about Pokemon Go.  I got far fewer results than I had hoped but in the end got 38 total votes… and you can see the results here.  Ultimately I was curious to see just how well Pokemon Go is doing among my twitter timeline a little over a month after the initial release.  I knew my usage of the app had morphed a bit, and I was curious to see if everyone else had as well.  The slight unfair comparison here however is that with the staggered launch, some folks like most of South America just literally got access to the application.  As always I tried to create a bunch of categories that summed up what I thought of as the possible endpoints… but ultimately missed a few.  The results look something like this.

  • Actively “Catching Them All” Every Day – 11 Votes (29%)
  • Only Playing When You Go Someplace New – 5 Votes (13%)
  • Playing Rarely if you Remember – 10 Votes (26%)
  • Still Installed but not Active – 6 Votes (16%)
  • Uninstalled:  May Check Later – 2 Votes (5%)
  • Uninstalled: Got It Out of System – 1 Vote (3%)
  • Never Tried It: Not For Me – 3 Votes (8%)
  • Never Tried It: Still Interested – 0 Votes (0%)

Now I have no baseline here, because I should have taken a poll like this shortly after the launch, but it feels like that rarely playing number is probably higher than it would have been early on.   For me personally I am in this awkward place of still playing, but not nearly with the same gusto that I once did.  The attraction of Pokemon in the first place is the collection of new and interesting “mon”.  So when I play the actual game I spend most of my time capturing critters either to keep in my own collection or to wonder trade them off just to see what I might get in return.  The first few days of playing Pokemon Go felt like this, with me constantly finding something new and interesting around every corner.  However at this point I have caught 85 of the 150 Pokemon available in Pokemon Go and of that list…  Ditto, Mew, Mewtoo, Zapdos, Articuno, and Moltres are largely just myths at the moment.  That means I have roughly 60% of the 144 that are reasonably available right now.  Even then you have to discount the fact that Mr Mime, Khangaskhan and Farfetch’d are not available to me in the United States, which drops the total of available Pokemon down to 141.  Then you factor in the fact that I am in a Grass Type dominated area and pretty much every Rock and Fire type Pokemon is rare as shit here… and can pretty much only be summoned with a Lure or Incense my total reasonable list of available Pokemon shrinks further.

I Choose You Venonat #257!

What this means in practice is that I end up going weeks without seeing anything new.  Since finding new things is my core reward cycle in Pokemon, it really drags down my desire to keep playing.  There also seems to be a huge gulf that you fall off into after level 20.  I am just shy of dinging 21, but it has taken roughly a month of casual capturing to get me through the level.  I wish the app kept general stats of how many of each Pokemon you have caught because I am absolutely certain that if you added up the number of Pidgey and Zubat caught… they would together be around one thousand… with Zubat making up the lions share of those.  That is the core problem I am having is that I would say at least 60% of the Pokemon that I see on a daily basis… I cannot really muster the care to even try and catch.  This means I still get vaguely excited when I see my hundredth Venonat or Doduo because they aren’t yet another Rattata.  Even then I have caught enough of each to evolve four into Venomoth and three into Dodrio.  The other big challenge that I am having is the extreme heat going on right now, which severely limits the amount of time I am willing to go out hunting for critters.  The heat index the last few weeks has been hovering in the 110s, and that really is not conducive to going out and catching them all.  So instead I am mostly limited to checking my phone quickly when I pull into a parking lot, or on my way walking into work.

There is also still the problem that a lot of the world is a complete and total wasteland with nothing interesting in it.  We talked about this a bit on the podcast, but the game only seems to reward you for going to places literally everyone else is going.  So that means once a hot spot is found, then that becomes the prime real estate that EVERYONE goes to… which only cause the problem to snowball.  There is an open air mall here, and a handful of parks… that are sheer madness over lunch with people hanging out in the cars idling with the AC on near the pokestops that have lures running on them.  The game favors high cellular activity so much, that most of the rest of my area is completely devoid of anything of interest apart from random basepop trashmon.   The other main issue with this is that the game fails to capture the exploration aspect of the original source material.  In Pokemon I knew that going out into new areas, meant that I would be getting a new mix of the available critters.  So simply going over a zone, meant that while I might have 40% of the Pokemon be something I recognize, there would be 60% that were new and interesting.  That simply does not relate to the real world version with Go, because no matter any amount of reasonable movement around my area provides me a significantly different assortment of “mon”.  I can and have traveled an hour in roughly every direction from my home base… and still see exactly the same mix.  This tells me that their “regions” are just too large and generic, and there are not that many valuable sub region feature sets identified.  Oklahoma is a grassy wasteland to Niantic, so for the most part we get exactly the same assortment regardless if we are hanging out at a lake, or in the rocky canyon maze of Chandler Park.

High Pop Zones

I feel like at some level they decided that the games works well in San Francisco and New York… so it must work great everywhere else.  The problem there is the bulk of this country has nothing in common with San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, etc.  Most of the country is not a high population center, but instead a tapestry of smaller cities and wide swaths of countryside.  In those places the experience is miserable.  I have it far better than so many of my friends, but still it is maddening to roam around and see three things on the new “sightings” radar, and none of them are actually interesting.  There are so many reports that Pokemon Go usage is declining… and I can absolutely see it.  The game is extremely fun for the first few weeks, but once the new wears off… if you are not one of those players motivated to go out and capture gyms…  then there really is a constantly shrinking pool of interesting game play.  Right now as it stands they need to seriously adjust the reward systems in this game, and tweak it so that if you happen to go someplace that literally no one has ever gone before…  you should be rewarded with something awesome at the end of that journey.  The game itself is about getting out, exploring and more than anything moving.  Right now I feel like it does an extremely poor job of incentivizing me to leave my house, because if in my walk I only encounter two Pokemon it feels like a waste of my time when I could simply be chilling out and playing some other game.  They need to find a way to reward players for going to big social hubs, but also find ways to make it rewarding for players to get off the beaten path.  As always I am curious to hear your own thoughts.  I didn’t include any screenshots because I always hate trying to integrate in cellular format vertical screenshots into a blog that tends to favor landscape mode.

 

Bumbling Around

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Yeti Power

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After a Tuesday night spent chasing Legion Invasions and being an Illidari, I felt like last night I needed a nice relaxing night of being a completely different sort of Demon Hunter.  By nice and relaxing I mean a night spent pushing rifts and causing anime style rocket explosions as I cleared entire rooms at the same time.  It is strange how Diablo has morphed over the years for me.  Originally it was that game that I wished I could play with friends… but didn’t have stable enough internet to be able to play it.  Then it when the second game was released it absolutely become a game I played almost exclusively with friends.  When three was released, I was in a place where I was largely soloing and found it a less than amazing experience.  Now several years later each time a new season is launched it becomes this focusing force that brings a bunch of us back together for another trip happily through the paragon and gear grind.  For most of the night last night I was joined by my fairly regular demon slaying buddy Grace, and we also managed to snag Thalen and bring him along for the fun.  The night as a whole was pretty great because on our first tag team attempt at bounties… a Menagerist Goblin spawned dropping this extremely awesome Yeti pet named “The Bumble” for me to go wandering with.  Additionally I was able to knock out several pieces of gear off of my list, and I finally managed to get the last of the three legendary gems needed for this build.  The highlight of the night however was getting an Ancient Yang’s Recurve to drop…  which admittedly made Grace super jealous.  However because of this it is now my duty to tag along in any D3 madness to push hard for folks so they too can get their sweet ancient drops.

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The other thing that happened last night is that I attempted the “Numlock Trick”.  One of the more annoying things in Diablo 3 is that most builds have some sort of buff that they want to cast essentially anytime it is available.  The goal of the build is usually to get enough cooldown reduction so that you can keep it up 100% of the time.  For the Multishot build I am using for my Demon Hunter, it is focused largely around getting keeping Vengeance up 100% of the time… and right now I have it close enough that I maybe have a second without it up at any given time.  The other day I heard something mentioned in a build video talking about “using the numlock trick” on one of these buffs… and I had to investigate to satiate my curiosity.  There is apparently a strange glitch in the game that allows you to essentially constantly be spamming a button press.  I mean in theory you could do the same thing with hardware macros on a keyboard, but this just sort of “works”.  The idea is to bind the 1-4 hotkeys to have a secondary key which relates to Numpad 1-4.  To toggle on autocast for any of the abilities you turn your Numlock key on, hold down the keys you want to autocast and then turn off your Numlock.  Just like that the key keeps repeating over and over… which causes some weird behavior.  Firstly if you are holding any key the cast will not fire… so if you are holding force move or the left mouse button down… just ease up on it to let the next cast go off.  Secondly… it has the strange behavior of interrupt abilities like identification or teleport.  What I do to get past those is to start the channeled cast, and then hold any key.  In my binding I have S set as an alternate bind for Shift… which is to stop moving and hold still.  Holding this down while channeling works well to keep my auto casts from interrupting whatever ability I want to do.

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The other “strangeness” that happens is that any time you shift games, and sometimes when you just downgrade difficulty it can turn the autocasting off completely.  In this case you just flip back on numlock, hold your keys down, and turn it back off to set the glitch back up.  Now that I know this exists…  I am wondering what other uses can be had for it.  Supposedly folks use this regularly for Taeguk builds on the monk side to keep the stacks.  In theory I could do the same trick to make sure I am evasive fire shots in with my hunter, to build hatred and keep up the damage shield.  For the time being however I am keeping it simple and only using this to try and keep Vengeance up as often as possible as well as my Companion ability.  I was always horrible at using these cooldowns, and tended to save them until I reached a point where I had a lot of elites to attack rather than just constantly using them knowing that I had another cooldown just around the corner.  I need to spend some time working on achievements so I can catch up to the point Grace is currently in the seasonal journey.  I am still not sure if I am going to go for the stash slot this time around…  but for the moment I am going to keep playing so long as the game feels fun and fresh.  Tonight however I have earmarked to go do Broken Shores scenario on my various alts… because I have yet to actually see the new cinematics.

We Are Prepared

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Unplanned Plans

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Last night did not go as I actually thought it would.  Yesterday was the patch that allowed folks like me who purchased the digital pre-order of Legion to roll Demon Hunters.  Firstly I want to take a step back and acknowledge just how damned brilliant this idea is.  Sure there were demon hunters everywhere yesterday, but the total number running through the intro quests felt reasonable.  I realize they have gotten much better at instancing since the days of the Death Knight and Wrath of the Lich King… but still it seems rather smart to forcibly split up the population into waves.  There are still lots of folks who prefer to do physical copies of games, especially one with a long tradition of having awesome physical copies.  I guess the hope is that by letting some folks into the content early, that will mean that there won’t be quite the launch day crush on this single zone.  Now stepping forward again, I had planned on playing a completely different Demon Hunter last night…  as I continued working on my seasonal character in Diablo 3.  This was largely due to the fact that I fully expected the servers to be burning down around me, and the game to be essentially in an unplayable state with Demon Hunters, Broken Shore and the Legion Zone Invasions all starting last night.  I got home relatively early, and while waiting on pizza to arrive I thought I would pop in and at least create a character. For whatever reason when I boosted the Mage I just picked a name from the stable of names I have used in other games.  Even though it made zero sense… I named said mage Belglaive… a name that would later be ideal for my Demon Hunter.  As a result I also did a little renaming yesterday to shift my Mage to be Belglacial since I highly favor frost spec…  which freed up the name for my demonic Night Elf.  The other name in the running of course was the one I used on the beta server “Belblight”.

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What happened in reality is that both myself and Grace spent the rest of the night playing World of Warcraft and participating in the zone invasions.  I casually quested my way through the Demon Hunter starter content while eating dinner and then after getting dumped into Stormwind I was given the quest to do a Legion event.  For those who have not done them yet, it seems like Blizzard has learned a lot from the past events.  The ones that stick out in my mind the most is the Undead Invasion event that happened just ahead of the launch of the original Naxxramas and the release of Wrath of the Lich King.  In those events items spawned in a handful of zones, and it was a mad dash for players to scramble over to the area to get enough completion on it to be able to qualify for loot.  I ground these hard enough to get a set of gear for pretty much all of the armor types…  sadly the leather set is stranded forever on another battle.net account but I still regularly wear the plate set that largely looks like a blue and brown judgement recolor.  The problem with the event however was the fact that you were in constant competition with other players for spawns, and that it also caused you to camp zones until you got everything you needed.  I spent so many hours out in Azshara…  the good version not the one the version the Goblins later wrecked.

Maybe Space Goats Weren’t Unreasonable

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What happens in the Legion Invasion event however is that at any given time there will be two “hot zones” in the world where invasions are happening.  When I started playing last night those were Tanaris around Gadgetzan and Northern Barrens around The Crossroads.  The part that I did not quite catch onto however is that each character can complete both of the active zones, and does not need to wait for the event to “start”.  What happens instead is the moment you cross the zone boundary, you are stuck in an instanced version that is currently in phase one of the event.  It seems as though all you really need to do is to be in zone as each of the phases shifts, and I am uncertain how much actual participation you need to do.  There have been many times I was still flying to my destination when the event transitioned into Phase 2 and I have still managed to get full credit every time.  Upon completing Phase Two you receive a Small Legion Chest and upon completing the Final Phase you receive a Large Legion Chest.  From each of these a handful of things can drop, but the bulk are item level 700 weapons and armor, as well as some of the currency of the event Nethershards.  It also seems like any time you take one of the “bosses” of the event that spawn and are marked with a Skull, you receive somewhere between 5 and 10 Nethershards per kill.  In theory if you are wanting to maximize your earning, you would probably want to roll around as a team and focus entirely on killing the skulls as soon as they spawn.  The only problem there is that they have mechanics… one of which was an version of old school Kazzak that essentially becomes invulnerable when he kills ten players.  All of these Shards can be turned in for goodies including a Pet, full appearance sets, and individual weapons at the Captive Wyrmtongue <Reluctant ‘Quartermaster’>  that can be found in Stormwind, Orgrimmar and occasionally out in the field as well.  I know for example he spawns in Tanaris near Gadgetzan during that invasion.

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Now quite possibly the coolest part of this event is that it appears to be level agnostic.  To test this theory Grace grabbed her level sixty mage and brought it over to Tanaris where she was able to complete the event, with every mob appearing to her as though it were around her level range.  When she opened the chests instead of rewarding item level 700 gear, it gave her gear appropriate for her level.  That means players who are not even at the current level cap are going to be able to participate in this invasion, unlike the pre-launch events in the past.  The best part is that it seemed to “just work” and if this is an example of how well their new tech works to auto level players to the content…  I am pretty impressed.  I know all of the zones in Legion function in this manner, and that you can start in pretty much any place while leveling through and complete the content in your own order.  It is my ultimate hope that maybe just maybe this tech eventually trickles down to the older zones.  Now the possible negative here is that I still love being able to solo raid content…  so the hope is that maybe they can come up with some version of the “unsynched” style of play that we can do in Final Fantasy XIV.  In any case it was a fun night of swapping alts and then flying across great stretches of the contents trying to reach where the legion invasions were happening.  The two “hot zones” swap out every four hours, and largely right now I am looking at them as a good way of playing catch up on the gear for my characters.  Only one of my characters is in the 700s item level wise, so pretty much everything I pick up from this event is an upgrade.  Right now I am largely focused on getting the Warlock and the Demon Hunter geared out… because I have this feeling that they are rapidly going to become my alts of choice.

Long Time Coming

Bug Squish

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At the launch of Heavensward we absolutely wrecked us a Sky Whale, but struggled a bit with Ravana.  It was a combination of insane amounts of incoming damage, mixed with the fact that we consistently failed at Final Liberation.  As we all faded away and off into other games, the one big regret many of us had was that we never actually managed to take down a bug.  Last night we finally set that record straight, and defeated Ravana.  In true fashion for our group however, the kill was a complete mess.  In fact I managed to get knocked off right before we finished the fight, because some random roofer was knocking on my door.  In Oklahoma our version of ambulance chasers are fly by night roofers looking to repair “hail damage”, and this guy had an equally questionable name to go with it.  So in my somewhat distracted state I was just a bit too close to one of the attacks that knocks you off the edge.  Ashgar somehow managed to survive alone until we finally pushed him over the edge at the last possible moment.  There is a final final liberation… and we probably killed him as the bar passed the O and was creeping up on the N…  aka seriously the last moment before we all died a horrible death for our hubris.  Of course like is usually the case no axe was dropped… but instead we did manage to pick up a pretty spiffy looking book that reminds me of a strange armored butterfly.

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After downing a bug, we set our sights on Final Coil since a few of our modern assemblage were not with us when we managed to take this down the first time.  We started off with Turn 10… and honestly had to relearn fights as we went.  So much of this happened so long ago… that we maybe partially remembered a mechanic here or there but had largely forgotten the bulk of them.  We outgeared a good deal of the mechanics, but in truth what this really meant is that we could simply chain resurrect players when they died instead of dealing with the proper mechanics.  Ashgar and I attempted to think on our feet and deal with this as best we remembered them…  the primary example of this being the giant metal clad hydra that serves as the boss of Turn 11 who happens to have an attack that will straight up oneshot the current tank if it is not taunted off.  Traditionally we have a firm cut off time of 10pm CST but we went over a little bit.  Tam called our final attempt on Bahamut for the evening, and that happened to be the attempt we pushed across the finish line and got the win.  I am so happy to have been able to come back and take on these fights for the folks who had never seen them.  While I want to keep progressing into content that I have not seen, it is always good to go back and do the stuff we have, just to remember how far we have come.

Legion Lock

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In other news I managed to push across the finish line in a completely different sort of fight.  For whatever reason I have had a fire lit under me to level a bunch of my stragglers up to level 100.  I pushed the Rogue from 92 to 100, Druid from 95 to 100… and then started on my Warlock that happened to be sitting at level 75.  As of last night I managed to nudge him across the line to 100 and even got in a quick LFR before the FFXIV raid.  I was honestly shocked to find out that you could queue for Highmaul LFR at item level 615, and I absolutely did just this.  I am not sure why I am enjoying my warlock so much.  It is just a style of game play that I have never really spent much time doing… and this represents the first “finger wiggler” I have ever legitimately leveled to the current cap.  I’ve had a Priest and Mage temporarily at “cap” but in both of those cases it was a boosted character so it really does not count.  I think part of it as well is that I really want a proper character to start farming transmog items for all of my cloth wearers.  I also want a tailor that I don’t mind grinding cloth on, because the Shadow Priest is absolutely not that character.  Now with the launch of Demon Hunters tonight, I fully expect to be attempting to do that madness…  however in the meantime I am really looking forward to exploring the world with my army of demon buddies.

Palladium Find

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Unsorted Madness

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After sitting at home due to the outside generally being rainy and icky Saturday, we ventured forth yesterday out into the extremely muggy world left behind.  I managed to wrap up the podcast and get a blog post made all well before my wife made it home from church.  By the time she got home I was essentially ready to go do whatever she might need to do.  When she told me that she wanted to go to Gardener’s I admittedly had some mixed emotions.  For the uninitiated Gardner’s Used Books is this massive place here in Tulsa  It takes up the entirety of an extremely deep strip mall and almost every inch of it is covered in bookcases and or collectibles.  The problem being that they are also notorious for reorganizing trying to fit new stuff in the store, which means that often times you have to spend thirty minutes roaming the store trying to find it again.  The biggest problem I have had recently with Gardner’s is that their stock seems to be aging horribly.  When I go to a book store I almost always make a beeline to the pen and paper gaming section, and then from there I wander out into other things.  This section at Gardner’s had been shrinking and it felt like slowly, bit by bit we were just picking through the bones of a carcass that had been there since the early 90s.  The thing you have to understand about this store is that it is essentially designed to be run at a loss.  The Gardener’s “real” business is a Tax Service, and a really damned good one.  It has been rumored for years that the family owns several buildings just like this one full of books, that were bought in bulk to dilute the profits to whatever level they needed for tax benefits.  Over the last year or so they have been opening up one of these buildings located behind the main store on the weekends, and letting folks sift through the new arrivals.  The above image is a single quadrant of this second building… and what you are looking at is completely unsorted books.

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So you might see a Chilton manual to a 85 Chevy Pickup, next to a Danielle Steel, sitting beside an oddity like the book in the photo above.  “The Ewoks Join the Fight” was part of a series of books that included a record that went with them.  The idea was for you to read along with the narration, but the narration itself was this amazing radio play style thing.  I loved these as a kid and had them for several different franchises… and I think I even remember there being a set for the Gremlins movie.  Now the part I am not remembering is if they came from a restaurant as a limited time giveaway, or if this was something that I ended up getting from the scholastic books catalog.  Regardless they were cool and it was a trip down memory lane to see one half buried in a pile of unrelated books.  We came with a purpose in mind of trying to find pre-calc books for my wife, who now has that as a prep this year.  So as I started going through the piles I started pulling books out because you could walk past the same table three times and see slightly different things each time.  Unfortunately nothing I pulled really interested her, but she did find a seemingly nice book on forensics.  The challenge of this Gardner’s Annex is the fact that there did not appear to be any air conditioning.  We went extremely early in the morning, and it was already getting a little muggy in there.  I would hate to go there in the full on Oklahoma summer heat, considering it is basically a giant metal building.  The coolest thing in the annex however was this really neat full sized Han Solo in Carbonite sculpture that was hanging on one of the walls.  I am not sure exactly where it came from, or if it was an official prop for maybe the re-releases of the original movies back during the mid 90s.  Whatever the case I wanted to take it home with me, but like so many of the bigger things they have…  like the life sized Hulk statue… it didn’t have a price tag on it.

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When we made it over to the main building, I have to say I got more than a little excited.  One of the things that I “collect” for lack of a better word to describe it… are Palladium games books.  I have talked about this a bit in the past, and it seems like folks tend to either gravitate towards GURPS or Palladium when it comes to a “universal” system for gaming.  Later Wizards tried to do this with the d20 system, but the idea is that you have one set of rules that cover lots and lots of different genres.  As someone who used to love genre bending in gaming… it would allow you to give players the leeway to play quite literally anything they wanted to in almost any setting.  The downside is there are only so many character backstories that can make this work apart from a “band of adventurers” or “mercenaries”.  For a period of time Palladium books released a quarterly “magazine” for lack of a better term, filled with various bits of information related to all of the different systems called Rifter.  They originally sold for between $10 and $15 in game stores, but over the years I have picked them up whenever I happened to find them cheaply.  Sometimes they have really good stuff in them, other times not so much.  It seems as though someone had just unloaded a stack of them on Gardner’s sixteen in total.  The negative being that they were mostly priced around $6 a piece, which is fine if I only found them one at a time… but more than I would want to pay for a large bulk lot of them.  After my wife didn’t find much of anything she wanted from the main store, I decided to see if they could make me a deal on the entire bundle.  I had it in my head that I would be willing to pay around $50 for them all… and when the guy said he would sell them to me for $45 I had to stifle the excitement.  There are some huge gaping holes in the numbering… and apparently they released physical copies of this up through the 40s so it is far from a complete set.  However I have a lot more of them than I did before hand so life is pretty good.  I’ve not really done much more than thumb through them, but if nothing else they always have really cool artwork.

 

Who You Gonna Call

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Ghostbusters Reboot

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This morning I am sitting down to write that immediately feels like a dangerous post.  The internet has been charged with drama over the release of the Ghostbusters movie this summer.  From the moment I saw the trailer I knew that for better or worse I was going to see it.  The Ghostbusters franchise was a significant part of my childhood, and I even had a poorly recorded bootleg copy of the movie that I wore out from watching it over and over as a child.  I was just the right age for the phenomena and it was only multiplied by the fact that my cousins were also extremely into the movie franchise.  We had so many quotes from the movie memorized, and even today when delivering bad news I sometimes say “tell them about the twinkie” and this past week I absolutely said “cats and dogs living together, mass hysteria” when describing a catastrophe at work.  To say this movie has left its imprint on me is a bit of an understatement.  All of this said, please do not expect me to devolve into a post about how Paul Feig has stolen my childhood.  My childhood is perfectly fine and intact… and the reason why I know this is that Hollywood keeps mining it to make a quick buck.  My childhood was so damned awesome that even today I can walk down the toy aisle and damned near every toy I encounter has its roots in said childhood.  My childhood is safely guarded by the warm memories that made me a geek in the first place, and continue to interest me in new and quirky movies, games and comics.

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Friday was my wife’s Birthday and at the suggestion of my boss I took the afternoon off, and we wound up eating a late lunch and then going to a matinee of new Ghostbusters movie with a friend of ours.  Then as fate would have it, yesterday was this nasty rainy day that caused us to hibernate on the couch… and while there VH1 happened to be playing both of the original Ghostbusters movies.  So as a result I feel like I have both franchises fresh in my memory, and less cluttered by the detail changing dusts of time.  The problem I am having personally is that the new Ghostbusters reboot was in essence two different experiences for me.  The first experience is the phenomenal comedic performances of Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones and Chris Hemsworth.  The second experience was an otherwise forgettable plot line and a more annoying than sister primary villain.  Because of the first part it feels like the movie works well enough and becomes a fun romp through ghost filled New York.  The second part however annoys me because the cast deserved a much better movie than the one that they got.  So when asked if I like the movie I am torn…  I have to say yes because it was well worth watching, but there is always going to be a bit of an asterisk behind that yes because the plot structure and story were not that great.

The primary point of frustration is that this is a movie without a build up.  What I mean by that is we know immediately who the bad guy is and what he is ultimately doing.  His little mantra of”Charge the lines, create the vortex, break the barriers.” pretty much explains the entire plot of the movie and we hear it extremely early.  There is no suspense or real explanation of what the hell his trash sculptures were or how exactly they worked other than that they emitted pretty purple light and exploded.  The other problem I had with Rowan is that essentially he was every cruel nerd throwback pulled straight from a subreddit.  He was picked on so now he just wants to watch the world burn… that is the entire motivation for his character.  In contrast the whole plot of the original Ghostbusters involved this creepy as fuck Ivo Shandor that we know next to nothing about other than the fact that he build a weird structure designed entirely to act as a conduit for the spiritual world.  So when the movie uncovers this it feels like they are digging down and uncovering a secret truth that has been hidden under our noses, rather than just following the trail of a mad bomber.  Even the second Ghostbusters in spite of all of its problems, provides a sufficiently steeped in history antagonist for us to learn more about as the movie goes along.  Rowan on the other hand feels like a sort of shorthand for generic internet bad guy, almost the emoji version of a proper antagonist.

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All of this said Kate McKinnon makes the movie.  Jillian Holtzmann is phenomenal and I cannot wait to see all of the amazing cosplay she is going to inspire at Pax South this year.  Her character was nothing like what I expected, and I was extremely pleasantly surprised.  The only frustration that my wife had was the fact that it seemed like she pulled gadgets out of thin air.  The movie did a really poor job of showing that time was passing, and it felt like every time we made it back to base she had a half dozen new toys for the team to play with.  I would like to think that maybe all of these devices already existed and simply lacked the final polish to hand out…  much like the shotgun that Gilbert tried to use but Holtzmann told her it was not quite ready.  Essentially the thing with this movie is that regardless of the shortcomings of the story itself… the cast of characters makes up for it and keeps it an interesting experience.  I don’t necessarily think this is movie greatness in the making, but the cast saves what is an otherwise forgettable movie.  Having watched all three movies in a forty eight hour period… it unfortunately does nothing to dethrone the original Ghostbusters for me.  However I would say that I like the 2016 reboot considerably more than I like Ghostbusters 2… and that is not to say that I don’t actually enjoy the second Ghostbusters outing.  I mean after all I break out the line “Everything you are doing is bad. I want you to know this.” on a regular basis at work, even if no one has a damned clue where that line comes from.

I guess my big frustration with the reboot is that it didn’t actually need to be one.  What I mean by that is that the cast of characters are of the appropriate age to have been children when the original adventures of the Ghostbusters happened.  In those movies… the relationship between the Ghostbusters and public was tentative at best.  The movies see them jailed and committed to a mental institution for trying to save the city.  There is absolutely nothing unrealistic in thinking that after saving the city and causing the statute of liberty to walk through downtown… that they once again would be swept under the rug by a government that really does not want them to exist.  There are so many ways that they could have set up the new team of Ghostbusters to carry on the torch of the original team without making them part of the original team.  So I would have liked to see this movie be Ghostbusters III or at least directly connected to the original franchise other than the fact that it includes the actors in cameos.  One of the things I love about the Star Trek reboot universe is that it is deeply connected to the original Star Trek universe, and is treated as an alternate reality where certain key events happened differently.  I would have been perfectly okay with that happening as well, but it will always bother me that the movie could have been so much cooler than it ended up being.  Part of me really hopes that the movie does well enough in the box office, especially in the foreign box office that it will warrant a sequel.  This cast deserves a much better movie than this one, because they shine like diamonds in the mess that is the rest of the movie.  So while I have complaints, it still is well worth seeing while it is still available in theaters.  I fully expect to pick up a copy of the movie when it officially releases because I think it will be one of those “better on repeated viewings” experiences as you are allowed to soak in the comedic genius of some of the interactions.