Two Years Behind

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Yesterday I had zero intent to sit down in the morning and start writing about level scaling systems.  Sometimes posts just happen.  However after writing it one of my friends mentioned a key point.  There should functionally be a way to flip off level scaling if you absolutely positively want to just go wreck things.  The prime example of this would be if you just want to farm up a bunch of low level materials quickly.  I remember when I was leveling any of my various tailors up in World of Warcraft, I would simply find a dungeon in the level range and mercilessly wreck it for the sole purpose of getting as much cloth in as short of a time as I could.  This would have been completely maddening were I not greatly over leveling the content.  Once again I think we can look to Final Fantasy XIV as a good example here because some time ago they added in the ability to queue for content “undersized”, which functionally turns off the level synchronization process allowing you to just wreck the content if you so choose.  However I still think I would prefer it if MMO worlds scaled by default, and then simply allowed folks to disable that option if they so choose.

I’ve said recently that I really love returning to an MMO after some time has passed and be confronted with potentially years of content to go off and experience.  The thing is this also has an extremely negative side to it.  Right now I am in this weird place where I am super into content that happened two years ago.  There is something to be said about experiencing things at the same time as your friends, because it allows you to have conversations about what is going on.  This has been one of the best parts of Final Fantasy XIV is that each time they give us a slow drip of story content we all consume it then can talk about the revelations that are contained within.  This allows us to have moments of theory crafting and speculation…  knowing that at some point in the future we will be able to resolve what is actually going on.  With Star Wars the Old Republic and the Knights of the Fallen Empire content… generally speaking either folks played through this content two years ago when it released…  or will likely never play through it.

That puts me in such a weird places because I have all these thoughts and feelings about the game and what it is doing…  but I don’t exactly feel right talking about them on my blog.  Knights of the Fallen Empire has some pretty big revelations that would be better experienced than told about.  This is one of those times when everything about it is extremely heavy on the spoiler front.  Each time new revelations come to light…  I wish there was a group of people that I could talk through them with.  Basically this is one of those times when I wish I had played through the chapter based content as it was being released rather than this current Netflix style binge sequence that I am going through.  I have a feeling that Guild Wars 2 and its living story content is much the same…  likely best experienced as it is being released a little bit at a time.  This also makes me really want to get caught up so that I can at least join the discussion happening with the Eternal Throne content.  However I am also extremely cautious of looking up too much information for fear of getting these plot twists completely ruined for me.

On the positive front I have stumbled across a really awesome YouTube channel that has helped me get back into the game and the modern concepts.  Swtorista has this awesome Star Wars the Academy series that breaks down a bunch of topics like “What to do at Level 70” or how the Galactic Command system works.  The best videos though are a sequence on the best looking craftable armors for each class, since we all know the true end game of an MMO is looking awesome.  Through her videos thought I have been able to catch up pretty easily without risking spoilers too badly.  Side note… there is a special place in hell for folks who put obvious spoilers in YouTube video titles… as I already have apparently one of the Iokath revelations spoiled because of this.  For those interested I am largely playing Belghast my Jedi Knight on Ebon Hawk at least while I do all of the chapter based content.  I have a large stable of character spread between the two factions and they are either in House Stalwart on Sith side, or Einherjar on Republic side.  If you are also playing feel free to ping me and say hi.

Level Scaling Tech

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

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

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

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

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

 

Empires Fall

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This is going to be one of those “Bel is very late to the party” sort of posts but bear with me.  Additional upfront warnings…  I am entering a territory with this post that might have some minor spoilers.  For a long while I have avoided Knights of the Fallen Empire because I knew it made some significant changes that you simply could not step back.  As a result in my best Mass Effect fashion… I attempted to wring as much joy from the “old world” as I could and made sure that I saw all of the story content before moving forward.  Last night however I finally reached that point where I was at least reasonably comfortable taking the plunge and moving forward into the modern era of SWTOR.  Having said that…  there are a bunch of things I am extremely glad that I completed before doing so.  Firstly I am happy that I managed to see the main story arc for each of the classes.  Secondly I am happy that I took the time to progress every single companion and see all of their personal story before moving forward.  Additionally as far as I am concerned it is extremely important to do both Shadows of Revan and Rise of the Emperor (Ziost) before starting the Fallen Empire content.  I mean in theory you can just jump ahead to the modern era at any point you like, but if you want to have completed all of your story elements…  you need to do class story to completion, Revan and Ziost.

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Functionally Shadows of Revan and Rise of the Emperor are the unlabeled opening acts of the Fallen Empire campaign, and as a result I am extremely glad that I completed both of them.  Now the other big piece of warning that I had been given was that anything you want to do with your companions… you need to do before entering “chapters” mode.  This is because in truth you may or may not ever see them again.  I personally don’t have a list of which companions are findable in the game, and which are just gone indefinitely… but I have heard that some fan favorites are absolutely missing in action.  Once you enter Chapters the game is functionally changed, and you are sort of along for the ride.  It was that point that really concerned me and kept me from taking the leap for a very long time.  I had built up this comfortable stable of characters that I liked using, and enjoyed my jetting around the galaxy life style.  Once I started Chapter 1… literally all of that changed and I began playing a very different game.  That said…  I think it might be a better game.

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If Star Wars the Old Republic was functionally World of Warcraft in space…  then Fallen Empire is Knights of the Old Republic 3.  The game feels like it shifts from being a traditional check all of the boxes MMORPG… to being a much more story focused RPG that just happens to have other people playing it at the same time.  At this point I am still wrapping things up in Chapter VI and hope to keep moving forward tonight, but I’ve found myself in a situation that feels very familiar to anyone who has played KOTOR 1 or 2.  In that fashion I think its best to think of Fallen Empire and I assumed Eternal Throne as a sequel to Star Wars the Old Republic.  You are playing the same character, and you have all of the items you have built up along your first journey, but you are functionally playing a completely different game.  Maybe it is more of a new game plus mode than anything, as you shift your focus from the traditional tropes of an MMO, to starting over again.  It feels much the same as Mass Effect 2 did after the original, where you are set down in a world that is familiar, but the cast of characters has changed slightly… and you have to rebuild your legacy.

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I will likely continue to report in as I travel through the new content, but so far I have to say I am hooked.  There are a lot of events that happen in rapid succession, but functionally when you regain full control of your character five years have passed and the future is uncertain.  You are presented with a new cast of characters… some of which are familiar and others brand new.  That said the cast of characters are interesting and I immediately felt right at home…  in spite of no longer having my original team of companions.  I can see the potential for setting forth in a matter that cuts across the various class stories and potentially introduces me to characters from them all.  The other weird thing about this setting is that I am finding myself turning from pure Jedi…  to more of a balanced user.  I am giving myself permission to take more dark side choices when I feel like it suits my purpose better.  I am going to save the people that need saving… and I am absolutely going to take a lightsaber to the folks who deserve killing.  I am no longer the Jedi Battlemaster and am now instead known as the Outlander, and with that comes a change in focus.  Belghast is going to be a lot darker than before… and that is going to be okay.  I feel like this character is the vanguard of all of the characters I have played, and as a result sort of adopting my favorite traits from each of the class storylines.  In wild space, Sith and Jedi don’t matter anymore… but instead what matters is freeing the galaxy of this new threat.

Mixed Feelings

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This morning like so many mornings I have been feeling largely uninspired in my attempt to find something to write about.  In Star Wars the Old Republic I am in an odd space of doing some miscellaneous clean up before moving on to the Knights of the Fallen Empire content.  This is enjoyable but not exactly the sort of thing that makes a good blog post because it doesn’t necessarily reveal anything worth mentioning.  As a result I have spent way too much time looking at twitter, and almost like a miracle a tweet came across my timeline.  It seems that Secret World Legends is releasing on June 26th, which is admittedly way sooner than I was expecting.  It seems like it literally just went into beta about a month ago, which means one of two things.  One either the beta has gone so amazingly well that they are moving up their time tables… or two that they were always going to launch on the 26th regardless of what happened in testing.  Admittedly I have a lot of mixed feelings about this game relaunching.

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I have a lot of love for The Secret World…  but much in the same way as you might love that one movie you saw back in your childhood that you through was really damned cool and remember fondly as a sequence of memories.  It will probably always be one of the best story driven MMO experiences I have had.  They also did some interesting things with the deck building style ability system that let you mix and match actives and passives until you crafted a character that fit your specific play style.  For example I fell in love with Blades/Shotgun which was this amazingly fun build with a mix of ranged and melee abilities that let me adapt to pretty much any open world situation.  The problem being that these extremely custom builds all fell completely apart when you entered the end game.  The game saw every single one of my circle of friends, having to abandon whatever path they were on to choose something new and group friendly to be able to even start to make a dent in the nightmare content.  This is the point where most of us checked out, because we loved being whatever character fantasy we had built for ourselves…  and having to abandon that just ruined the game experience.

All of that said… my twitter time line is full of moments when I broadcast the game out to my friends in an effort to get everyone to experience it.  Each time it went on sale I talked about how good of a deal it was.  I love the setting and I love the challenge of some of the quests that force you to figure out how to do silly things like decode things from base 64 encoding.  In the trailer above they talk about switching the game from an MMO to a shared world action RPG…  which largely sounds like marketing nonsense.  They are switching the game to be reticle targeting, which can be a positive if all of the movement and interaction keys work nicely with it.  In many ways this could be an attempt to make it a more console friendly design, because that sort of a control scheme seems to simply work better with a controller than it does with mouse and keyboard.  All of the individual weapons seem to have a mini game aspect.  About a month ago Elemental was shown off on the dev stream to have a “heat” mechanic that you are trying to keep in check.  This makes me wonder however how well custom builds like my beloved Blades and Shotgun will work in this scenario.  Will we have to choose a single weapon and stick to that?

Mostly I think I am going to have to fall into the “wait and see” camp at least until I get my hands on the game.  I want it to work well, because I would really love to see a game like The Secret World succeeding.  It did a lot of interesting things that no one else is still doing, and presented a game setting that is unique and interesting.  The big problem however is all of that interesting bits came in a package that never quite worked as well as I thought it should.  The user interface was always a bit of a disaster that you learned out to work around, rather than something that really reinforced the enjoyment of the game.  Similarly the combat was scattered with a bunch of really great ideas that never quite coalesced into something that felt really good to play.  There were elements of sheer brilliance, but those were what helped you get past all of the things that you found yourself barely tolerating.  My ultimately hope is that with Secret World Legends they can go back and fix all the bits that never quite worked right, and then arrange the copious amounts of story they already have into a cohesive narrative.  If they can do that and give me fun moment to moment play…  then without a doubt I will be playing a lot more Secret World in the near future.  They are however launching during a super tight window following ESO Morrowind on the 6th and FFXIV Stormblood on the 20th.  That fact means without a doubt that while I might be playing this game… it is not going to even come close to being a primary game for me.

Legacy Complete

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This weekend was yet another almost entirely devoted to playing Star Wars the Old Republic.  I tend to exist in one of two modes, either I am playing a bunch of different games casually or in “maintenance mode” or I imprint super hard on a single game and I clamp down on it until I run out of stuff that I want to be doing.  SWTOR seems to be in one of those clamp down modes, because I am playing it with an almost single minded focus.  I set out with a goal of finishing off the eight original storylines, and this weekend I managed to push the agent across the finish line.  As you can see I now have all eight icons lit up on the left side of the character select screen.  What is interesting is just how much overlap there are between the different classes.  You might hear a name mentioned in one class briefly that ends up being a central focus character in another.  With the Agent especially it felt like we were getting the secret story of the world being played out through our actions, and it was all the more real when I slid from that story into Shadows of Revan.  This is a minor spoiler but functionally the events foretold in the Agent sequence are coming to fruition by the Revanites…  which makes me feel like the Star Cabal was just one of so many other puppets in the setting.

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Makeb was largely interesting content, but it also felt like content added in a minor story patch in other games.  It was this side mission that didn’t really move the overall story forward by much.  Sure it was another chance to dust off your team mates and go on one more adventure… but it largely felt like one completely disconnected to everything else in the game.  While enjoyable I stalled out in part because I had the other goal to worry about and lots of class storylines to play before that twelve times bonus went away.  I wish however two years ago I had stuck around long enough to play through the Shadow of Revan campaign because I think the game as a whole would have had a good deal more traction for me.  Shadow of Revan and now Ziost feels more like what I had been wanting.  While it is taking part in a corner of the Galaxy and involves a brand new cast of characters…  there is continuity happening and all of my actions seem to actually matter once again.  Again you can absolutely see that it was design in a way so that it is stand alone DLC, but it feels like it integrates into the theme considerably better.

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I am wondering if I might be attached to Star Wars the Old Republic until the release of Stormblood at this point.  I have all of Ziost, which I am assuming is a fairly small addendum to the Revanite story.  Then I have the entire Fallen Empire campaign and finally the Eternal Throne campaign to keep me tied up for awhile.  I am figuring one of two things is going to happen when I start Fallen Empire, and in part that is why I have been avoiding actually starting it.  Either I am going to love it and tear through it hungrily until I catch up completely.  The other option is that I am going to bounce hard in Galaxy 2.0.  Either case I can only delay the inevitably so long, but I will be doing like I did in Mass Effect Andromeda… and trying to finish everything up completely before flipping the switch.  Side note… while staring at the above image I never noticed that my starship looks like it has a bubble level on the front.  Mostly I want to experience the world as it exists… before changing it completely.

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Some other side notes from the weekend.  The experience boost is absolutely insane because I was roughly 1/3rd of the way through Shadows of Revan when I hit the modern level cap of 70.  That means I have been getting functionally end game gear as I level through the content.  With Knights of the Eternal Throne they added in a new Galactic Command system… that in truth I don’t fully understand.  However it appears to be an alternate leveling system, and each time you kill something or complete a quest… you earn command points.  Every so often you go up a level, and this process includes earning a command chest.  These so far have been an excellent source of orange mod gear, and also occasionally a blue or purple item that blows away anything I have been capable of getting thusfar.  Another thing that I am digging heavily is that it seems like I can enter every flashpoint in “story mode” which allows me to complete the flashpoint solo with the help of an extremely overpowered robot buddy.  These flashpoints however also seem to drop current gear instead of the level of the encounter which surprised me just a little bit.  Whatever the case it feels like I am getting to chase down all these story bits, and at the same time be rewarded with lots and lots of gear.  Thusfar I am pretty happy with the way the systems all seem to be working.

Destiny 2 Hopes

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Even though I am playing playing much of it this very moment…  Destiny holds an extremely special place in my heart.  I love this game and I love what it has become over the course of the two expansions… and multiple content patches.  They promised a setting as deep and rich and Star Wars, and while a lot of people will disagree with me…  I feel that they ultimately delivered on that.  The problem however is that they did not deliver in a contiguous story that was easy to learn.  Instead they sprinkled the game with environmental storytelling and nuggets of information that the faithful had to gather up and piece together to learn what was happening in the world.  Personally this made me want to know more about the world because each time I uncovered a truth it was like discovering another piece that fit into a giant puzzle I was trying to assemble in my head.  For many others however… including the vast majority of my friends…  they bounced hard.  For them it was of the utmost importance to have a clear narrative that they could follow, and not be forced to do some admittedly silly nonsense in the form of the grimoire cards.

Fix the Narrative

The first hope with Destiny 2 is to do just that… give us this big bold epic space opera that you originally promised.  Like I said it is absolutely there.. . but buried deep under the surface and in places that only the most lore hungry can find.  There is an epic tale in the game, but you have to piece it together through doing things…  and it never actually gives you any sort of threaded tale that you can then experience as a whole when you do finish gathering the pieces.  I’ve linked the Book of Sorrow as read by Myelin games… one of the best Destiny Lore channels available.  For those who are unfamiliar with it, each time you collected a Calcified Fragment on the Dreadnaught or one of the Taken related raids/missions in the Taken King expansion you unlocked a piece of the Book of Sorrow.  Combined together they make a five part tale explaining who the Hive are and where they came from… and how exactly the Taken came to be.  The problem is… were it not for lore videos like this one…  this is an epic tale that would stay submerged and largely unknown.  Bungie, you can craft amazing tales…  just present them in a manner that the common player can grasp them.

A Larger Sense of Presence

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Destiny is a game that constantly teases us with vistas we will never be able to explore.  A prime example of this is that we as Guardians inhabit a Tower overlooking the last city on earth.  We are told this time and time again… and if you look off the balcony you can see what appears to be a thriving city below in the shadow of the traveler.  However we can never actually go down there and explore the area where all the lights seem to be bright.  When we travel to a planet, instead of being able to explore its surface freely we are given a single path that loops around and connects to itself.  The hallmark of MMOs is that you can go walking in a direction and more often than not reach whatever it is that you can see in the distance.  To some extent I want to see this happening in Destiny 2.  I want to find neat hidden areas of the world with interesting spawns or treasures.  I want exploration to be a factor in the game, rather than just being somewhere at the right time when the right event fires off.  With the Dead Ghosts, Calcified Fragments, and SIVA Clusters…  you can tell they want to give us this sort of exploration already.  However I just want to see this done on a much larger scale with hidden lairs, that are a challenge to get to… but also extremely rewarding for completing with your friends.

Item Drops

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I think everyone at least on some level likes looking out and surveying the scene and seeing a bunch of green, blue, purple and sometimes orange engrams laying there on the ground.  The novelty however wears off quickly, and when I am in an area like the Archon’s Forge I know that every so often I am going to have to return to the tower and do some inventory maintenance since you can only have twenty items in your mailbox…  before you start losing loot.  What ends up happening as a result is that players just straight up delete engrams, so that they can stay out longer.  Later patches in the game even implemented a system so that when you pick up a green engram it automatically disassembles into the respective parts.  This tells me that they release that the engram system is deeply inconvenient, and since later items like hoard chests drop actual items…  I think they see the error of their ways.  What I want from Destiny 2 is the ability for actual gear drops like they do in the raids and from item chests.  That way I know if the item is useful instantly without having to go back to base and get a decryption.  This serves a bunch of purposes…  namely that you can then start using gear if it is an upgrade or something interesting.  Secondly you can keep clearing your inventory without having to worry about getting that rare chance of something good dropping from a blue engram.

All Infusion All The Time

One of the things that Destiny eventually nailed is the item system.  The funny thing about it is that I sort of wish all games had the item infusion system that we have now.  So my hope is that Destiny 2 just manages not to fuck this up.  Leave it alone… keep things exactly as they are now.  Let us infuse gear into items we already have in our inventory, and keep upgrading the weapons we like using.  That is the big thing that separates Destiny from other games for me… is that I become emotionally attached to my gear.  Folks have talked about the feeling of when they get that first exotic, or the one that they have been chasing for months.  For me…  I get the same thing when I get that perfect roll on a weapon and know that from that point on I can just use that instead of using some crappy version of it that I had been holding on.  The prime example is the Year 2 Haakon’s Hatchet that I use now as my primary weapon.  I love this thing and the ability to keep using it into Year 3 had been a huge thing for me.  Sure I try out lots of other weapons as they come across my path… but at the same time I know I have this old reliable friend sitting waiting on me whenever I want to return.  Let me keep bringing my “companions” along with me in my journey in Destiny 2.

Platform Agnostic Account

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This is one of those situations where I think Bungie had an intention but then for whatever reason could not get it to work as intended.  When you play Destiny you have a Bungie account, and then those accounts are associated with either your Playstation Network or Xbox Live account.  I’ve played Destiny on my original platform of Playstation 4, but I’ve also owned a copy for Xbox 360 that I then upgraded when I got my Xbox One.  When I go to the Bungie website I can see both accounts worth of characters, but they are separated by this invisible barrier.  What I want to see is for that barrier to fall.  My <Tequila Mockingbird> Clan tag extends between the platforms so that even when I am playing on the Xbox I am representing my solely Playstation based group.  So that tells me there is already connective tissue, but that things are just not working as they should be.  With Destiny 2 there will be three possible platforms at launch:  PC, Playstation 4, and Xbox One.  Right now I plan on shifting my focus to PC because there is a whole group of players that wanted to play… but just were not console folks that I have been waiting to play with.  However if I knew that I could rush out and pick up a copy for PS4 and Xbox One that then take the same characters and play with them?  I would do so in a heartbeat.  I understand the challenge of making Xbox Live and PSN talk to each other… and the weirdness that happens when an account crosses those boundaries.  However the data is just data… and since it is dialing home to Bungie servers to retrieve that data that I can then see through the web interface…  it would make sense just to let people have a single batch of characters and inventory spread across all of the platforms.  If this expansion I could have taken my Titan main from PS4 and play it with my friends that are Xbox folks… I would have done that a whole lot more rather than trying to level an entirely different set of characters.  Granted I did manage to get my Xbox One Titan up to 370 light… but I am also mildly insane.

These are just my hopes and suggestions for things that would improve my Destiny 2 experience.  I am curious what exactly my readers would want in the new game?

 

Secret Story of the Galaxy

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This morning is one of those days.  I just literally got out of the bathroom where I held my hands under the tap to wash them… and then could not figure out why the tap was not turning on automatically.  Moments later I realized I was in fact at home… and that we don’t have the same sort of magical faucets that the rest of the world does.  This week has been a bit of a challenge because I am just straight up exhausted all of the time.  No amount of caffeine seems to be able to break me out of whatever haze I seem to be in.  It does not help that it has been cold and rainy…  in May.  By this time last year we already had the pool open and I had a yard full of flowers.  This year however it just hasn’t been warm enough for either, and the yard is so water logged that before long I will have a grand primal swamp.  My evenings have been spent watching various things on Netflix and working my way through the Agent storyline in Star Wars the Old Republic.

In a way I am glad that I left this storyline for the last, because it seems to be making a bunch of callbacks to the other stories that I never would have gotten had I not already played the other seven classes.  There are constantly folks being mentioned…. and I am like “I know that person” or in some cases “I killed that person in another life”.  For years I have thought that the Jedi Knight main story arc ultimately was the most “canon” of them all…  but in truth I feel like maybe Imperial Agent is also deeply canon because it shows the underside of the world and all of the pieces shifting slowly into place.  While Jedi Knight is the “big damned hero” tale, Agent seems to be the “truth” that happened while the hero tale was playing out.  The story behind the story is always interesting, and I continue to be intrigued at just how much I am getting into this.  I think it is a testament to just how good the game really is that it can plop me down in a role I would never actually play…. and make me love it.  I also deeply dig Kaliyo and my dark side murdery nature seems to play well to her brand of violent sarcasm.

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However after all of this skulking about and subterfuge… I am really looking forward to switching back to my Jedi Knight main and continuing through the rest of the story that I never got around to playing the last time.  When we played December 2015, I got caught up in the 12 times story bonus that allowed me to play through all of the classic stories without having to worry about any additional questing.  Once I finish the Agent that particular mission is complete, and it will allow me to pick back up where I left off… which is the beginning of the Shadow of Revan content.  I really want to see how that storyline goes, and I also want to see how exactly the transition to being “The Outlander” happens as well.  I love the original game, and in part I am wanting to see just how the game changes once it shifts to the Fallen Empire model.  I mean I realize I have plenty of boosts available and could just catapult a character to near maximum level.  However most of my enjoyment in SWTOR comes from actually playing through the content, much like the same is true with Elder Scrolls Online.  So while it feels like both games are taking forever…  I don’t really want to rob myself of the experience.

 

Netflix and Turtle

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

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

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

 

Taris is Horrible

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This weekend we went through some insane weather.  Namely just torrential amounts of rain and constant wind.  Thankfully the only “damage” is the fact that our outdoor furniture got strewn about mercilessly.  Last week we had a leak in the living room, on one of the days we were getting some horizontal rain.  Thankfully the roofer was able to come out Wednesday, and while he didn’t see any smoking guns…  he did notice that our flashing was raised.  After tamping back down and re-caulking everything, it seems to have worked because we more or less made it through the weekend without any more water slowly dripping down from the beam running across the room.  So far so good…  and while I am joking with the image above I am thankful that nothing bad really happened.  I know within an hour and a half of the house there was some massive flooding that for the most part caused houses to disappear in the rising waters.  Even within my own town while I drove around on Saturday and Sunday there was a significant amount of flood happening in small pockets.  The only thing that really seemed to take on water was a little bit seeping into the garage underneath the garage door.  Our front lawn however looked like an archipelago…  with lots and lots of standing water.

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As far as gaming went I spent a significant amount of time snuggled up on the sofa in a fuzzy blanket playing Star Wars the Old Republic on my laptop.  I am going through what always feels like the rough patch empire side, which is Taris to Hoth.  No matter what game you play it…  Taris is a shithole.  I mean it is less horrible when you are visiting it at night like you do during the empire campaign…  but it is still horrible.  Similarly Hoth is this giant bluewhite wasteland with music that seems to put me to sleep in a way that only snowcloak can.  As a result I am just trying to stay focused on the end goal, which is finishing up this class and getting on to other things.  The positive however is that the Imperial Agent storyline just keeps getting more interesting, which is shockingly not something I expected.  I don’t really go for the whole espionage thing, and while I found bond movies interesting as a child…  it was never really a life goal.  Whatever the case however I am finding myself drawn into the story, at the very least enough to keep moving forward.  I am however looking forward to taking a break tonight to get some Final Fantasy XIV friendtime in before returning once more to the story grind.

Regularly Playing: May Edition

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I had a realization over the weekend as I stared at my sidebar…  that it has been a significant amount of time since I last did the regularly playing thing.  The last one I was able to find was on October 3rd of 2016…  some 210 days ago.  I may or may not have completely fallen off the wagon on this concept.  The original intent was to take a moment once a month to “true up” the side bar and shift out what I was no longer playing for what I was currently playing.  As a result we are going to see some significant moving and shaking in the list as a result.

To Those Remaining

Final Fantasy XIV

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I am still going fairly strongly in Final Fantasy XIV, and while I might not log in every night I am logging in multiple times a week.  I am definitely still making the Tuesday night raid thing, and while we don’t always make progress each week we get together to do something.  Thanks to the wonder of cross server grouping we have been able to pull in our friend Kelesti into some stuff as well.  Largely we are all in a big holding pattern until the release of Stormblood which comes in July, and as a result I am still in the middle of my “level everything” binge.  Right now my Machinist is just shy of 40, and that leaves Astrologian the only thing that has yet to be touched.  The whole purpose behind all of this madness is so that I can purge my vault of anything at minimum sub 30… and the grand hope is to sort through anything sub 50 and be extremely judicious in what I choose to keep.  Still having a lot of fun in Palace of the Dead, just have had other distractions of late.

To the Returning and New

Skyforge

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This is one of those games that has not graced my sidebar in a very very long time.  In July of 2015 I played quite a bit of the game around the time that it launched, and while I enjoyed it… it always felt like it was missing something.  Apparently October of last year an expansion released that added in pretty much all of the features that I am finding myself enjoying now.  Additionally the game just works better with a controller than it ever did with a keyboard and mouse and while I returned primarily on the PS4… I am also dipping my toes back into the PC experience as well.  Both are extremely fun and I am not entirely sure how long I will be splitting time before I officially pick one platform.  Whatever the case if you have ever played this game I highly suggest checking it out.  It has some issues… namely you are limited to three classes at the start with no clear path to add new ones.  However each of the classes is doing something somewhat unique which makes them more enjoyable than the standard Tank, Mage and Healer that they represent.

Star Wars the Old Republic

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There are two things that are shocking about this game gracing my list.  Firstly that apparently I never actually made a “now playing” widget for it, and secondly… that I am back playing it again.  I blame a sequence of nostalgic events happening at exactly the same time…  all of the hype about the next Star Wars movie, the love of Rogue One, and my deep enjoyment of Mass Effect Andromeda has lead to an upwelling of love for both Bioware and Star Wars.  As a result I have returned to an old mission, which is trying to level through all of the class stories.  I managed to finish off the Sith Sorcerer and am now through Hoth so far in the Imperial Agent.  It seems as though I picked one of the best storylines for last, and even though I am not traditionally a stealthy/shooty type class…  there is something extremely awesome about this one.  I largely went Sniper because my Smuggler on the other side of the fence is Sawbones/Healer.  I am having a blast right now, so I am going to ride the enjoyment until it lasts.  The goal is to push forward into the story I have not touched on my Jedi Knight main after finishing the Agent story…  which involves Shadow of Revan, Fallen Empire and Eternal Throne.

Horizon Zero Dawn

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I do not normally put many single player games on the regularly playing list, but we have this sequence of amazing ones being released in short order.  One of those is Horizon Zero Dawn, which is a game that I hit hard at launch… and then for whatever release lost momentum to Mass Effect Andromeda.  As a result I have been slowly playing it here and there as time and desire allows.  I could force myself through the story, but I want to play it when I want to play it… and that is right now involving the occasional hour long session of hunting giant robot dinosaurs rather than pushing forward the main story.  I am still very much enjoying the game, but I need to find some catalyst that really gets me back into it and dying to play the next chapter.  In the mean time however I am still enjoying the “bowplay” if I can coin that term.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

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This is very much another “as desire hits me” sort of experience.  When the game came out I picked it up on the Wii U and in the time between then and now I have managed to pick up a switch effecting starting back at square one.  This stalled my progress a little bit but for the most part I have returned to where I left in the Wii U and am once again moving forward.  I have designs on starting to take this to work and playing a little over lunch and on break times.  While I have the switch I really have not done a lot of handheld play with it remaining largely docked upstairs so I can play it with the pro controller.  It is a great game and in spite of having a lot of things that frustrate me about the game… is yet another in a long list of titles contending for my game of the year bid.

To Those Departing

World of Warcraft

While I still have an active account, I am just not really playing at all.  I logged in shortly after the last patch and got bored and logged out again.  I fell off the raiding bandwagon about halfway through Nighthold, and honestly just sort of reached the point I have in so many other expansions.  I think in theory I could come back and play casually and enjoy the experience but there are just simply too many other things I would rather be playing right now.  So as a result this is going to find its way off my side bar, but I did have the forethought to simply comment it out rather than remove it because I am sure at some point around Blizzcon time I will get hit by the bug once more.

Rift

Much like with Nightmare Tide… I just failed to gain traction with the latest expansion the Starfall Prophecy.  A large part of my struggle with Rift is that I can never seem to find a warrior spec that I really like anymore.  What I ultimately want is a juggernaut for doing PVE/Leveling content that can burn through the mobs with nonexistent downtime.  If I ever find that spec again I will return to the game and happily finish up leveling.  The other huge struggle is that the game lacks a reliable current font of knowledge.  The forums in theory have a lot of the information but it is this blend of current information and ancient and no longer reliable, and I just lack the mental fortitude to sift through it.  I am hoping that after writing this… Muspel or PK will come to the rescue once again with a viable Warrior build like they have in the past.  The other huge challenge with Rift is the fact that none of my gaming infrastructure is playing the game, nor do any of my regular suspects have any interest in the game at this point.

Destiny

It hurts more than a little bit to be adding this game to this space on my list.  The truth is I am just not playing it right now and I don’t see that changing for the foreseeable future.  I have too many other games fighting for my attention, and while I absolutely know I will be returning with Destiny 2…  the amount of stuff that I can do solo or want to so solo is pretty limited.  At this point it feels like I would be working towards something that is ultimately going to disappear.  I also have a lot of questions because as it is right now… I am looking at making the leap to PC from PS4 for the second game… and I am not sure what if anything might transfer.

Guild Wars 2

Adding this one to the list really doesn’t take a lot of effort.  I was only into this game so long as some of my friends were actively playing it.  Once Tam and Ash and Kodra faded away… so did I.  It is still not my favorite game but I have developed a certain appreciation for it.  Most of what it is doing however isn’t really all that interesting to me.  I largely got to play along with my friends only because I had maxed out my Warrior soloing for ages without them.  He was geared and ready to go… and will still be there if it ever has a resurgence.  Much like Warframe this is a game that was not ultimately for me…  but somewhat enjoyable so long as I was playing with friends.