Smash Royale

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Sometimes I get something stuck in my head and I cannot dislodge it no matter how hard I try.  You as my readers occasionally are forced to indulge in whatever this nonsense is…  so that by hopefully sharing it I can move on with my life.  This mornings post is one of those cases.  Yesterday I talked about Radical Heights and how it would have been much more interesting were it to change the Battle Royale genre in some way rather than just attempt to hit all of the high points.  This is when I went down a path leading to… Smash TV would be interesting to reboot as a Battle Royale game.  What I mean by this actually is the concept of Smash TV which was a room based dungeon crawl with randomly spawning nonsense, big bullet sponge monsters and showers of cash and prizes.  After finishing yesterdays post this idea clung onto the brain and I started piecing together what something like this would look like.

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As a result you have the above nonsense which is my attempt at sketching out what the setup of the game would look like.  In this configuration 48 players spawn into the game in little rooms off of a grid of battle chambers.  There are four color based cohorts of players that are ultimately fighting to arrive at the purple central region.  The sequence of play looks a little something like this….

  1. Exit Starting Room
  2. Make your Way to the Key Room
  3. Collect Key
  4. Make your Way to the Mini Boss Chamber for your Color
  5. Defeat Mini Boss
  6. Make your Way to the Final Boss Chamber
  7. Defeat Final Boss
  8. Profit

Key Room and Grouping

The Key is a shared resource in that the first person who unlocks the Mini Boss Chamber unlocks it for their entire cohort.  Where things get weird is that each cohort has the option of either grouping together or competing against each other.  When a new player enters a room where an existing player is already at both are giving 5 seconds of invulnerability and are prompted to make a choice “Friend or Enemy”.  If both players choose friend they are dynamically grouped together and from that point the victory condition is shared.  If one player chooses Enemy both are flagged as targets to each other when the invulnerability shield drops and now they are officially competing.  This continues as players move through their own cohort with the option to set a match default of either a sort of Carebear mode or Ganker mode.  Important note… there is no way to group up after this flagging period so it is a fast decision that sets the fate of the rest of the match.

Battle Chambers

Now we move on to the battle chambers themselves…  each of them spawns a semi-randomized encounter.  It could be a spawner full of small easy to kill, but also easy to overwhelm you trash mobs.  It could spawn in a single champion and with a couple of minions that requires some measure of tactics to take out.  It could also be an agility room where you have to avoid a pattern of damage for a certain amount of time before the doors open again.  Regardless of what type of room it is… it enters a lock down within 10 seconds of the first player arriving there and then prevents any new players from entering or exiting.  After defeating the encounter you have 30 seconds to clear out before the room resets and signals that it has “reloaded” and will begin the cycle of a 10 second lockout and encounter spawn.  As you move away from the starter rooms towards the key room the encounters increase in difficulty, and similarly as you move towards the final boss room in the central area.

Mini  Bosses

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The Mini Boss rooms are some sort of large bullet sponge juggernaut that requires you to hit some sort of a weak area to deal damage to it, all the while avoiding its attacks.  I linked in an image of one of the Smash TV Bosses for reference but I wouldn’t necessarily say that these juggernauts look anything like this.  Basically the idea is to have an encounter hard enough that it rewards players choosing to group up together to try and take it down.  Similarly it needs to be largely avoiding a pattern so with enough skill and execution prowess you could solo the encounter if someone is feeling super murdery and decides to go it alone.  That is a constant tug of war… incentivizing both solo and group play in different ways.  After the mini boss room has been cleared the way to the central area opens for everyone in that cohort… with one caveat.  There can only be one group alive…  it is a dual condition of both boss down and only one active group…  before moving into the central zone.

Boss Rush or Buffs

Once you enter the central purple area you have two main choices to make.  Do you rush the boss and try and get it down before the other teams…  or do you go collect one of the buffs scattered in the four corner rooms of this area.  Each individual buff can be collected only once so there is a high likelihood that two teams may be going after the same buff given that there is no clear buff for each cohort to collect.  You can only collect one buff and it is an aura applied to your entire team from that point forward.  It scales based on the number of players you currently still have in the game…  so the fewer players you have it attempts to give you a buffer to compete against larger teams by making each player a little more bullet-spongey.  So if you clear your cohort with only five players alive… then chances are you are going to want to go for a buff.  If you instead have all sixteen players alive and well… then you are probably going to want to rush the central chamber and attempt to take down the boss.

Essentially there are two possible win conditions…  either every other player is eliminated or your cohort has taken down the Final Boss.  The only way the elimination condition can be triggered is if you are playing in solo play…  literally you have to be the last player standing and if you are grouped you are not the last player standing.

The Drops

So you are immediately thinking now…  sure there is one central path that you need to take to cross the least number of rooms possible to get to each objective and that is obviously the golden path.  Well that gets complicated in the fact that every time you take down a battle chamber you are getting loot and that loot is ultimately what is going to make you strong.  Each player enters the arena with a single six shot sidearm with unlimited reserve, giving them a fairly low damage but always available option.  As you traverse the map you start picking up weapon drops and buffs that make you stronger as you zero in on the objectives.  Since the rooms get harder as you go… there may be some benefit in farming a few of those early rooms to get kitted out before trying the harder encounters.  Loot starts as instanced to a specific player, but if for some reason they discard an item it becomes essentially free for all… showing up for all players regardless of cohort.  Here is a quick rundown of the sorts of things I thought would be drops.

  • Weapons – very obviously different types of weapons that have different damage to rate of fire mixtures.  There are no ammo drops but picking up the same weapon twice will refresh its ammunition back to full.  Players can carry three weapons at once and have to discard a weapon if they choose to pick something new up.
  • Auras – these items when picked up apply a short term buff to the entire cohort.  You can have three auras at a time and attempting to pick up a fourth aura item will simply fail and leave the drop on the ground.
  • Consumables – these are items that can be held in reserve and used on demand.  Each player can hold three of these and they range from granting auras to med packs to providing some additional effect to your weapon.
  • Cold Hard Cash – Since this is a game show when you kill anything it erupts in a shower of cash upon death, and this serves as both a scoring mechanism and a spendable resource.  Occasionally when a room clears a vending machine will appear allowing you to spend a bit of your cash to buy some of the things you could get as drops.  Each machine has six items for sale…  three weapons and three consumables… which are randomly pulled from the total number of those available in the game.  At the end of the game any cash you have still in your inventory gets converted to a sort of savings bond currency that can then be spent outside of game….  but there is a pretty hefty tax at the conversion.
  • Favor Chests – if you do particularly well in a specific encounter there is a chance of the viewers watching you fight… providing a favor chest showing how much they appreciate your prowess.  These are by nature fairly rare but directly reward some of the cosmetic nonsense that you can collect like outfits and weapon skins.

Changing the Genre

Ultimately this is all I was talking about with Radical Heights… is that they could have taken that Battle Royale formula and changed it significantly.  This concept of “Smash Royale” still feels like Smash TV, but is also still very much a Battle Royale genre game in that the playing field slowly funnels players towards a central showdown.  This one however throws in a heavy PVE encounter focus in that killing things rewards loot… which then makes you stronger as you make your way to the final boss showdown.  Once opened that Final Boss chamber remains open with no lockdown period…  so as you start the fight you could have the other cohorts showing up in the middle of it sniping you as you attempt to finish off the boss and collect the loot.  I also feel like maybe I have not given enough concrete reasons why you might want to go that final boss encounter solo…  ultimately it is greed.  The final boss might drop 2 items per player in a maximum sized cohort and this is a fixed point….  so the final boss will always drop 32 items in this scenario.

That means if you go into that final encounter with fewer players…  then each individual player serves to benefit significantly more from the win condition.  It becomes a balancing act…  how many players do you really need in your group in order to be effective in the final encounter.  Only one group can emerge from the cohort area… but while in that area you could for example form 8 individual 2 player teams…  or 3 4 player teams.  Ultimately you as a player need to determine what your best course is when it comes to the Friend/Enemy decisions and how many additional players you need to make the final push.  There is no betrayal, but also no second chances…  from the moment you make that first binary decision you are locked into a specific path.  This is my idea for a Battle Royale game…  and I think it would ultimately play extremely well given that there are a bunch of points where a meta could develop.

I think to add pressure… there would be global callouts when an event has happened…  for example Red Mini Boss Down would tell every other cohort how much progress that they had made, or if Green picks up the buff.  I think even something like a “Blue Team Finalized” might be interesting because it could be one of two things…  either all of blue team decided to band together or one group managed to eliminate all of the other players in their cohort.  Since monetization is so damned important in a game like this right now…  I think the best option is a mix of limited time direct purchase cosmetics along with the ability to purchase directly the savings bond currency allowing players to buy anything currently “not on sale”.  The savings bond currency also serves as something that players can gradually save up over a large number of matches and be able to purchase the same “cash shop” cosmetics through copious amounts of grinding in game.

Those are my thoughts on how to tweak the genre and make it more interesting while also wallowing heavily in nostalgia in the process.  If you have actually made it this far down in the post… I thank you.  Mostly I just needed to get this out of my head and onto paper.

 

Its Too Late

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I don’t really have a ton to talk about this morning.  I played some Gorgon last night but was in truth mostly out of it.  I feel like maybe I am coming down with something, either that or it is simply just allergies going nuts with the start of spring.  Whatever the case I have been sitting around in large part numb and hazy.  None of these make for great writing fodder.  Instead I am going to talk a bit about Boss Key productions and the track record they are starting to develop for creating uninspired “also ran” titles.  Lawbreakers was not a great game…  it wasn’t horrible but it also really didn’t add much in the way of unique and interesting game play that made it stand out among the already large pack of “Arena Shooters” or whatever you want to call the “Overwatchian” genre that seemed to evolve rapidly and then quickly devolve into Overwatch and everyone else.

The above is a clip that my friend Ashgar loves to link when we start talking about derivative games in a genre… and it is bookmarked to the important part.  For those without YouTube access when you are reading this I will do my best to quote Graham Stark from Loading Ready Run.

The Following is a public service announcement for any game publishers trying to get in on the Battle Royale craze now…  you are too late.  If you’re already in progress you might be okay if your game has a compelling hook like the team at automaton promising a cloud-based server structure that could support up to a thousand players on a map larger than Skyrim…  but if you’re just starting it will be too late and we need only look to the multiplayer online battle arena genre for proof.

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Why this is all coming up this week is that Boss Key after failing to gain traction with Lawbreakers…  set its sights on the next big thing the “Battle Royale” genre and cranked out a game show based 80s inspired game called Radical Heights.  The problem I see however is that it doesn’t really seem to offer something new that Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds or Fortnite are currently offering.  Fortnite became popular for two reasons… it added a Minecraft aspect to the already popular Battle Royale genre and was free to play allowing players to hop in quickly and start playing with zero cash outlay.  Radical Heights is free to play and available through steam…  but seems to lack the “building stuff” hook.  The 80s/90s hybrid theme feels lazy as well…  because there are ways to do genre nostalgia that are amazing…  Blood Dragon for example…  and then there are ways that feel like cheap neon colored pandering.

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The most frustrating thing about the “Gameshow” trappings that the game seems to be draped in is the fact that it is a giant missed opportunity.  1990 had an amazing battle game that was inspired by the moving The Running Man, and pitting players against waves of oncoming enemies for cash and prizes.  Smash TV seems like a game that is just begging to be converted to the Battle Royale genre, and could also serve to change it significantly in the process.  Imagine that each player or group of players starts in their own room and are slowly working their way to the center of the maze.  The rooms all start off as PVE encounters as you have to face waves of encounters and varying obstacles, then as you get further you may or may not start encountering other players where you have the choice to group up and split the loot or take each other out.  In both of those scenarios to make it interesting you need to present palpable reasons why you might want to group up, and other reasons why you might want to go it alone and try and take out the interlopers.

Not all of the rooms need to be mindless waves from a spawner… some of them could be puzzles that need to be solved or crazy environmental effects that are going on that you need to survive a certain amount of time before the door opens.  All of which happening in a behind the back/over the shoulder third person shooter interface with the rooms being large enough to make that not feel completely claustrophobic.  In the end you wind up creating something that is a riff on the battle royale genre that comes at from a different direction…  rather than just cranking out another game going after all of the same beats.  The best thing about this specific formula is it would allow for massive boss battles similar to how the original Smash TV did… and tweak the “map gets smaller” thing into something infinitely more interesting.  Additionally it could hit all of the 80s/90s nostalgia beats without feeling like a costume that your game happens to be wearing.

Regardless of all of this…  I think the core of my frustration comes from having a lot of hope in Boss Key when it was initially founded.  Unfortunately it feels like the Cliffy B brand doesn’t mean anywhere near what it used to.

 

Wandering Aimlessly

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Right now I find myself struggling a bit to gain purchase in most of my MMO options right now.  World of Warcraft I am back and active in because of the Wednesday night Mythical Nonsense thing we are doing.  I was logging in every night to try and eek out the last bits of experience needed to unlock the Void Elves and Lightforged Draenei but even then…  I have faltered considerably.  I really do not enjoy Argus, so logging in every night and grinding every single quest available just seems grossly unpalatable.  Final Fantasy XIV failed to catch my attention with Eureka, and I lost momentum catching up on the main story quest patched in with the latest expansion.  Destiny 2 is sitting there largely untouched because when I log in…  there is really nothing that I want to be doing which is ultimately where that game falls short of the original..  there are no long running breadcrumbs for me to follow when I spin out and lose purpose.  Monster Hunter World is always easy to get back into…  but there are nights that I just don’t want to spend my evening upstairs and the fact that my PS4 is there limits my play time.

In the end I keep coming back to Project Gorgon and its weirdly charming neostalgic experience.  On the podcast Tam talked about the game feeling like the way we remember playing Everquest.  While this might sound confusing at first… this is exactly what this game feels like.  We have incorrect rose tinted feelings about how Everquest and Dark Age of Camelot for that matter felt to play.  If you go back today you end up with a cludgy mess of a game that feels ancient and quite honestly not that enjoyable.  However our in our memories the Everquest experience is still vibrant because we have edited out the rough spots and filled in the way those actions made us feel in place of the hard facts of just how limited that game actually was.  Project Gorgon remembers those things that were lacking in Everquest and has supplied the spackle and paint needed to make those memories feel true and vibrant.

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Sure I am doing the same kill ten rats quests I have been doing my entire MMO gaming career, but the fact that I seem to have a relatively limitless quest log…  and the fact that I can complete the quests by killing ANY ten rats…  not just the ones five feet away from the quest giver makes the experience feel more open ended.  If I have a quest to kill wolves…  Sickly Wolves, Mangy Wolves, Supporting Wolves, just plain wolves…  specific named character wolves…  all count towards a quest that says “kill wolves”.  This means you can do the quests while roaming around the world and exploring… rather than feeling tethered to a specific location to be able to clear out your log.  There are quests I picked up on my first day that I just managed to finish two weeks later because I had not actually encountered the thing I was needing to find yet.  I dig the long tail that this cycle has and the fact that it feels like you are “questing” for something more than just completing a task list.

I am sure some of this is just my inherent lack of familiarity with the world or the fact that the maps don’t really have locations marked on them, or my habit of running the opposite direction I need to go.  Whatever the case the specific combination of broad objectives and happy accidents along the way lead to a very immersive experience in spite of the fact that you spend a good deal of time running along and encountering nothing at all.  The only real complaint I have so far is the fact that most of the gear that I use looks like complete nonsense…  like right now it feels like I am wearing thermal long-johns…  but they were unfortunately the best item I had and finally got rid of that horrible yellow bandage appearance.

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At this point I have managed to hook two more people on this game, in part because I knew it would be down their alley.  For the most part I am limiting myself to just Sword and Psychology…  but I am contemplating trying out a few other secondary skills.  I spent the 2000 councils aka gold to learn beast taming so it might be interesting to try a pet secondary for awhile.  Similarly I now have the ability to learn fire magic, so that might also be interesting to shim in over top of Psychology.  The one thing that I am finding weird… and cannot quite reconcile is that our hotbars have six abilities on them…  but right now I have seven in both psychology and swords.  I cannot however seem to be able to replace the spells from my bar…  so how exactly do we use that last one?  I might try dragging it to the optional bar and see if it becomes usable that way.  Among all of the other games that I have access to at this very moment…  this one feels the most comfortable and suited to whatever I am needing at this very moment.  I’ve not really streamed much because nothing I am doing right now seems interesting enough for someone to watch.  Grinding factions in WoW is boring as hell… and I am afraid me wandering around aimlessly in Gorgon will also be boring to watch.

Half Priced Books Sale

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This weekend was a bit of a crazy one, but also extremely fun.  So for those who know my wife is a Teacher, and has been at the State Capitol building every single day this past week protesting.  Originally the legislature was supposed to be out on Friday so I decided to take that day off myself so we could go do something to relax from the madness.  Unfortunately the situation at the state house is a very fluid one and they opted to have a very short session on Friday morning.  This left my wife in a bit of a dilemma wanting to go and be there for all of her coworkers…  and also not wanting to cancel our weekend.  In the end we compromised because Oklahoma City can in fact be on the way to Dallas if you go the Highway 35 route.  So around 1 pm…  much later than I had intended on doing so…  I found my way through the nonsense that is 30,000+ educators inhabiting the Capitol grounds and picked my rain soaked wife up and we went about our weekend trip.

The drive up to OKC was a bit of a nightmare in itself and took significantly longer than I had originally expected.  There were several times where I was just driving based on the lights of the vehicle in front of me because we had white out rain conditions where so much was being blown up into the air by the big trucks that I could not see the route.  In fact I accidentally turned into the midway area of the turnpike…  just because I followed the semi in front of me and I had no clue that it wasn’t the way the road was naturally turning.  However once we cleared OKC the weather improved greatly and by the time we got down to the DFW area… it was 84.  We however apparently brought the cold front with us because by the time we checked into the hotel and prepped to go out for the evening… it had dropped down into the 40s.

The other thing that I feel like I should talk about… is that apparently we brought a Tornado with us…  or at least that is what the DFW area thought.  We need to talk about the difference between the National Weather Service in Oklahoma… and the National Weather Service in Texas.  For us a Tornado Warning is not called until there has been a funnel cloud spotted….  and shortly after checking into our hotel a Tornado Warning flashed across our phones and the sirens started blowing.  After flipping on the local news and listening to a weatherman…  he kept stating that conditions were favorable for a Tornado…  which should have been a Watch not a Warning.  Whatever the case the storm had passed where we were and being Oklahomans very used to Tornado time…  we went on about our business and headed to IKEA to hopefully get that in while the store was less busy.  The folks at the hotel however seemed fairly rattled.

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The real focus of the weekend however was a big Half Priced Books sale happening at the Arlington Convention Center, which is another tale…  when you tell me something is happening at a convention center I look for the largest building in an area.  The Arlington Convention Center however is probably the smallest building in the surrounding area flanked by the Texas Rangers and AT&T Stadiums.  After passing the building the first time… we looped back around and found that quite a line has formed of folks trying to get into the parking lot.  After paying our $5 for parking we walked through the wind and rain to find ourselves in a giant Half Priced Books clearance sale.  The photo does not really give it justice as to how much was there laid out crudely on tables garage sale style.  Everything there was priced between $0.50 and $2 meaning that there were a ton of folks loading up entire shopping carts full of stuff.  On either side of the main area there were boxes of books that had yet to be put out on the tables, so in theory you probably needed to come all three days of the dale to really feel like you saw everything.

Now one of the reasons why we love Half Priced Books so much is how amazingly organized it is.  For the purposes of this sale…  that largely went out the window as things were lumped into giant categories like Fiction, Non-Fiction, Coffee Table books, etc.  One of the things I tend to focus on are the pen and paper gaming books…  which were occasionally sprinkled in with art books, music tour folios, and other large format coffee table style books.  My wife was looking for educational resources…  which were in this large heap called Non-Fiction and a few in the Science section… that turned out to mostly be computer books.  Now something of note…  another great thing about HPB is that they seem to shift their inventory around quite a bit.  In each store there is a Clearance section that we often make a beeline to as soon as we get inside the door.  This sale appears to be the dregs of whatever didn’t sell on potentially multiple last chance clearance aisles.

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We spent about an hour and a half in the sale and this is the only thing that I personally walked away with.  Even then I only made the purchase out of sheer nostalgia for Dark Age of Camelot…  because this was a far bigger compendium than I had ever seen for that game.  The book is about three inches thick and covers Darkness Falls as well as the core of the three realms.  I have a handful of these MMO guide books that I never actually used, but have kept because they are little snapshots in time when the game existed in that form.  I find them interesting to flip back through and remember just how things were before later patches changed them.  My wife however walked away with a half dozen books meaning the trip was largely worth it.  It was one of those things that I am glad we did so we know what to expect, but maybe wouldn’t make a special trip for in the future.  It felt a lot like a book sale that a local prep school has every year, which is fine but if you go to it looking for a specific thing you are likely going to walk away disappointed.  I kept asking myself “do I actually need this” and if I do get it “what exactly will I do with it” which kept me from picking up many things.

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From there we plotted a course out of Dallas hitting up several of the Half Priced Books on the  way out…  first going over to the flagship store and then to Richardson and McKinney before finally getting back on Highway 75 and heading home.  I feel like most people won’t understand our attachment to this store chain, but whatever.  They have lots of interesting stuff and you never quite know what you are going to find when you go to one.  Each and every store has a vastly different flavor to it, and tends to be really good at carrying one or more specific things.  The other part of the equation is that we have none of these in the Tulsa area.  There are three in Oklahoma City which gives us hope that maybe just maybe they will make their way to our neck of the woods…  but even then a few times a year we make a trek to OKC just to hit the ones there.  This is literally the first thing we look for when we travel to a new area…  have have visited most of the HPB locations in Dallas Fort Worth Metro, Kansas City Metro, St Louis Metro, Austin Metro, and Madison Wisconsin area.

The reason in part why we are so attached is because they carry a wealth of educational resources.  Even though my wife has spent the entire week protesting at the State Capitol for more educational funding…  she is still always thinking about her classroom.  She is one of those teachers that never recycles her curriculum.  Each summer she essentially tears down every single prep she has and builds up a new structure based on the best ways she knows how to teach each of the concepts.  This year she knows she is going to be teaching Geometry again, and as a result is on the hunt for new resources to help explain concepts.  Granted in her office at home we have five massive bookshelves full of materials…  but she is constantly looking for new and novel ways to explain things.  So as a result we keep hitting bookstores looking for the next great concept she can glean.

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While it was a lot of driving condensed into a very short amount of time…  there are always interesting things to be seen along the way…  like a graveyard of past editions of Warhammer 40k for example.  I have both of these in my bookshelf here at home but it is always cool to see them in the wild… or in this case several of them.  It was a fun weekend and I was glad we managed to get back in time on Saturday night to record aggrochat.  However the whole having multiple people able to record thing meant that the show could in fact go on without me.  We have also started time boxing our shows trying to shoot for 90 minutes of recording time…. which after editing comes down to roughly an hour.  I think this week might be one of the better shows we have recorded yet because compressing things into that time frame seems to help the conversation and keep us from zoning out during the second hour of recording.  I highly suggest you check out this weeks show and let me know what you think about the shorter format.

Rocket-Swords and Pig-Bees

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Last night I spent some time in Monster Hunter World because the Spring Blossom festival launched about halfway through my evening offering up a ton of things to do.  It is this weird blended festival that includes a ton of repeat chances to get items that were offered before as well as several new items including the Greatsword I am rocking in this image and the Megaman/Rockman Pallico Armor that I will ultimately have to get my hands on.  I will talk more about the Greatsword a little further down the list…  but first I want to talk about how generally happy I am with the pacing of events in this game.  It feels like every single week there is a reason for me to log in and do content,  and while I am largely stalled out at 49 behind Tempered Kirin there seems to still be a constant deluge of things to do.  Granted I have pulled back my playtime a bit given my recent infatuation with Project Gorgon and the return to doing stuff with people in World of Warcraft…  but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I am completely disconnected.

I really love the flow of this game because it feels like I can log in any night and feel like I have interesting options to do.  There are also things on the horizon that I have to look forward to, like the Devil May Cry collaboration that brings a brand new Charge Blade into the mix.  This week however was all about the new fan designed Greatsword and helping me to fill in a weapon slot that I really had not put any effort into.  While I don’t think they necessarily have the intention of giving us an event weapon for every slot… so far I have gotten a really nice Bow and a really nice Greatsword with what felt like minimal effort when it comes to farming all of the missing bits I need to get from point a to point b in the crafting tree.  Sure the Greatsword and Bow both require a Wyvern Gem which is annoying to farm… but that is one part out of a whole list of parts that might be a pain to get.  I wound up using the Gold Wyverian print I had laying around to craft the Greatsword last night.

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Like I said before I was ultimately missing a decent Greatsword from my weapon lineup, and while it is an extremely cumbersome weapon…  it is one I want to learn how to use because it seems very much a “me” weapon.  In order to get this weapon you need to start running the low rank 5 star quest… Every Hunter’s Dream.  This involves taking down a Paolumu and a Rathalos…  which enter the fight staggered a bit so you can get a significant amount of damage in on the Lumu before having to deal with the poison and fire asshole.  I ran the first one of these solo and then grouped up with Thalen who also happened to be on to get the last few kills.  I think in total it took us four attempts to get the five Master Craftsman’s Blueprints needed to craft both steps of the weapon.  As far as the other items needed…  here is a list form breakout even though I crudely photo-shopped it all together above.

  • Master Craftsman’s Blueprint – 5 – Event Only Item
  • Dragonite Ore – 7 – I believe any zone after Low Rank Coral Highlands but not 100% sure
  • Paolumu Webbing – 2 – Low Rank Paolumu
  • Rathalos Marrow – 2 – Low Rank Rathalos – Green First Wyverian Print
  • Elder Dragon Blood – 2 – Kill an Elder Dragon – Nergigante, Vaal Hazak, Kushala Daora, Teostra, Xeno’jiiva
  • Firecell Stone – 2 – Found in Elder’s Recess
  • Wyvern Gem – 1 – Most High Rank Paolumu, Tobi-Kadachi, Lavasioth, Jyuratodus, Barroth, Radobaan, Diablos
  • 40,000 Zenny – yeah…. you are going to want to farm some cash

I have not really done anything serious with this weapon…  but in theory were I to use it regularly I would wear my fire longsword set of gear…  make sure I have some Handicraft and figure out a decent item to wear that gives me the hidden elemental damage.  510 is a lot of fire damage to leave sitting on the table with this weapon, so I need to sort out a decent item to slot to give me that back since I am no longer regularly wearing the Zorah Magdaros gloves.  I did a few minor quests last night with the weapon and really dig it…  even though it is just about the slowest thing in the world.  I had already started getting into the practice of sheathing my longsword anytime I was going to be moving for awhile just because the draw attack is really nice.  This training has served me pretty well for the greatsword given that you cannot move at more than a snails pace with it drawn.

If you are interested in the timing of everything going on you can check out the official Capcom PDF of events…  or better yet check out this site called 28 Games Later that has a really nice full breakout of everything.

Nonsense Managed

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Last night was the first occurrence of our mythical nonsense group and it almost didn’t happen.  We had planned on running from 7 pm to 9 pm Central time…  so that it wasn’t too ungodly late for our East Coast contingency.  However the entire thing almost failed to happen.  At go time we had two of our players that were unable to get in due to some bug that seemed to be only effecting certain servers.  Grace and I were both logging in characters from Eonar and Byx on Chromaggus also managed to get in just fine.  However Maryalee on Wyrmrest Accord and Nayukhuut on Moonguard both were encountering the issue shown in the above screenshot with their server showing us as “Incompatible”.

The funny thing is that when this first started happening I was able to log into my characters on those servers just fine.  However after closing WoW and relaunching…  the Battle.net patcher updated the game and then suddenly I also got the issue.  Since Blizzard CS said they were working on it… we decided to push ahead and attempt a Mythic 0 with three players.  We originally were planning on doing Maw of the Souls…  which I keep wanting to call Maw of the Damned because Death Knight weapon.  I swapped over to Blood Tanking spec and we gave it an attempt that honestly went pretty smoothly especially considering I have not actually tanked a dungeon this expansion as Death Knight.

About halfway through our Maw run the other two players managed to get into the game and after we finished up the run we had some options on how to proceed with our madness.  We sat down and assessed the keys we had available to us…

  • Mythic 2 – Seat of the Triumvirate
  • Mythic 2 – Cathedral of Eternal Night
  • Mythic 2 – Blackrook Hold

Quite honestly I am not that familiar with Cathedral having only run it a few times…  and I am not sure if I have ever run Seat of the Triumvirate at all.  While Blackrook Hold is not exactly my favorite dungeon it seemed like the more realistic choice and quite honestly the easier one.  However that also set us down the path of only getting one of the keys upgraded each time.  We pushed forward and knocked out the Dungeon in completely reasonable time.

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My key upgraded to Mythic 5 Upper Karazhan…  which made me immediately think…  “why the fuck is this a mythic dungeon?”.  However we managed to largely steamroll the entire dungeon other than the final boss who is just an asshole.  Thankfully in spite of my death we moved forward and the remaining folks managed to get the kill moving us forward again.  I remember Karazhan being a boar to get through when we were trying to run it to get to the bonus boss…  but now it seems like it is probably a completely reasonable thing to do in a timely manner.  I think the fact that everyone has Concordance now…  pushes up the gear levels to the point where you can just take a lot of abuse making all of the mechanics easier.

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The next key target was Mythic 7 Neltharion’s Lair… which generally speaking is a fairly easy dungeon to run.  The problem we encountered however is the pair of affixes we were dealing with… and the fact that we are all used to trying to skip content in the dungeon…  meant we struggled quite a bit.  Firstly we had the Teeming Affix meaning that several of the packs are larger…  which in this dungeon means a pack of three mobs normally sometimes becomes a pack of six mobs.  This also screws with the aggro radius of packs and things we used to be able to sneak around we had to on directly.  Secondly we had the Quake Affix meaning that every so often every member of the party was dealt a radius of quake damage…  which if stacked means you take damage from everyone.

Considering we had a party with three melee characters and a fourth in the form of our healer that occasionally would go hit things…  Quake damage became a problem.  We almost made the timer…  like had everything gone perfectly on the final fight we would have.  However we wound up being about a minute short after the run back from a death on the final boss.  I am not sure if this means we will all start with Mythic 6 keys next week or if the fact that we completed a Mythic 7 dungeon means we start there.  Whatever the case we should have five new options for next Wednesday night to keep moving forward.  We are entering the territory where we can no longer faceroll the mythics so we will have to start getting some strategy on…  and maybe flasking.

Whatever the case I had a heck of a lot of fun running around with this team and look forward to next week.  Having been out of the mythic game for so long… we made way more progress than I originally thought we would in a single night so I am super happy about that.

Mythical Nonsense Tonight

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I don’t have a whole hell of a lot to talk about this morning, but in theory mythical nonsense begins tonight.  We’ve gathered up a group of players who are willing to join in this madness and set our sights on getting our first key through the easiest and coolest of the mythics…  Maw of the Damned.  From there we will shift around and try and determine what our next target is based on the keys that we get.  In theory we are going to run until 10 pm central or wherever there is a breaking off point somewhere close to that.  The idea being that we run for a few hours and see how many we can knock out…  and keep upgrading keys until we get to at least Mythic +15 so that we can walk away with shiny artifact appearances or something like that.  I have no clue how far we will get tonight, and I have no clue how long this journey is actually going to take…  however we have a list of adventurers ready to go.

In theory I need to try and get an Argus kill in tonight before go time since I failed miserably at playing WoW last night.  With the teacher strike going on the evenings have been weird for lack of a better term.  I didn’t want to get into anything serious until my wife got home… and yes while LFR is LFR…  the Argus section of that raid is a serious time commitment at the least.  Then after my wife got home we largely talked about the nonsense the State Legislators did during the day…  like shutting off the water to give themselves an excuse to go home early for the day and avoid the teachers.  My hope is tonight I can pop in for a bit, get an Argus kill so I can walk into Mythical Nonsense ™ with a second legendary and slightly higher item level.

I would totally stream this…  but a few of the folks I am running with have already objected to that notion when someone brought it up on twitter.  So I will just have to report in on our progress tomorrow.  It should be a lot of fun, especially since two of the people I will be running with… I have never run with before.  Byx and Grace however…  have gone through many iterations of my nonsense over the years so they are largely immune to it.  So I will ultimately have to break Maryalee and Nayakhuut into the fact that I have no clue what I am doing 99.9% of the time and that tanks make the most annoying DPS.  It should be hilarious… or at least entertaining for all.

Unintentional Spiderman

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I had every intent of doing some World of Warcraft faction farming last night, but I ultimately did not really follow up on those plans.  When I got home we wound up running a couple of errands and going out to eat, and by the time we made it home I largely planted myself on the sofa and roamed around Project Gorgon some more.  Yesterday I looked like I was wearing some urine soaked bandages…  and today I am essentially the stuff of nightmare as some sort of living web creature.  The armor designs in this game are “interesting” but I have seen some completely reasonable options that give me hope that maybe just maybe I won’t look like an experiment for the entire time playing.

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A couple of things have transpired since last playing.  Firstly I realized that psychology is a combat skill, and apparently pairs extremely nicely with swords…  also freeing up my second hand for a shield while using it instead of needing to hold a bow.  I kept getting gear with both swords and psychology on it… and never could figure out how to level it.  I thought that it would involve talking to people since everything in this game seems to have a skill but after a trip to the wiki I realized that I needed to be assigning it to my secondary attack.  After doing so…  I started questioning the parentage of my enemies and applying damaging taunts that seem to debuff them making the sword hits a little easier.

The other thing that transpired is that I took a trip back to the starter island after figuring out which sequence of prompts would get me to that location.  This allowed me to do the hangout I missed…  get my louse comb and finally remove the lice debuff that I picked up by fighting a mangy wolf somewhere along the lines.  This also allowed me to venture down into the starter dungeon, defeat the monster that the game gives you tons of warning about…  and find a back way out of the dungeon because apparently previously I didn’t go down anywhere near deep enough.  It turns out there are two ways off the starter island…  one of which is through a series of spider infested tunnels that ultimately leads to a place called Serbule Hills.

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Of course this zone connects directly with Serbule proper which allowed me to get back to town and do some turn ins…  all without needing to take the return trip from the island.  The only problem with this concept is that the route does not go the other way quite so easily because there is a wall in the dungeon that requires someone from the Anagoge Island side to open it.  However while sitting there inside the dungeon the door was opening constantly so in practice you should be able to use this route to get back to the island if you ever need to.  As far as Serbule Hills… I personally found it way greener pastures than Serbule proper with a seemingly higher mob density and way more interesting camps to hunt.

I was introduced to the games version of the Froglok…  the Ranalon.  They are a race of fish creatures that don’t necessarily want open war… but absolutely have no interest in peace as they attempt to displace all of the other races.  They have these one eyed flying manta ray looking creatures called the Scray that they treat like guard dogs, and I now have quests to kill plenty of both.  Over in Serbule Hills I was also able to finish a bunch of quests that I picked up in Serbule Keep but struggled to find the appropriate spawns for like Deer and Tigers that actually drop eyeballs.  I see in my near future a bunch of time exploring this zone which is honestly a short jaunt away from the Keep and my normal hunting grounds.

Project Gorgon

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I am not entirely sure why, but this weekend I decided to buy into Project Gorgon on Steam.  Now in theory I could have been playing it for free all of this time given that based on the titles I have…  I played both in Pre-Alpha and Alpha.  I remember picking up the game in the past and finding it undeniably charming… but also very raw and unpolished…  which was not something I was looking for at that time.  However with several games either out or on the horizon that seem to be vying for the “Everquest Nostalgia” demographic…  I thought I should probably give it another shot.  Knowing how shoestring of a budget the game has been lead me to just go ahead and purchase it on Steam even though in theory I could have still logged in via my original account that I linked to while setting the game up.

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Part of the charm of this game is that it plops you into the game with no real warning or advisement about what you should be doing.  This can be a bit maddening if you are not in the right mindset, but in doing so the “newbie island” helps to set your focus on how this game works.  There are clues and directions out there…  but you need to spend time pouring over quest text and scribbling down notes as you go.  Which is handy because they do in fact give you an in game notepad to do so with.  One of the sequences on the island involves going around and scribbling down coordinates that you will ultimately need later on, and not writing down the correct coordinates could have dire consequences.

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I am extremely late to the game, because I know that some of my friends have been playing for ages.  However I still felt like I needed to talk a bit about it this morning to try and explain why it is so damned charming.  Compared to modern MMORPGs this is going to feel extremely spartan but I believe that is in large part the point.  This is a game where everything has an equivalent skill that can be raised, including death…  and a game where you have no classes or true levels to speak of.  You go out into the world and do things, and those things ultimately give you skills…  which you then blend together into something resembling your own personal “class”.

For example everyone can have a primary and a secondary combat skill.  I’ve chosen sword for my primary and bow for my secondary allowing me to play a EQ ranger sort of flavored character starting combat off with ranged attacks and finishing it up close and person with sword slashes.  I could have gone with other options which would have had their own leveling system and their own sets of attacks.  I’ve not actually encountered anything that would come across as traditional magic in the game, but I am certain it is in there…  just has to be discovered and unlocked like everything else seems to be.

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I am currently in a mode where I am just not sure what is useful and what is not.  It seems like everything that drops can in theory have a use…  but I may not be able to discover it yet because I lack the skill to do anything with it.  I spent a large amount of time yesterday learning how to cook and garden so that I could ultimately create some hashbrowns…   to gain favor with an NPC to be able to do something else.  Similarly there are half a dozen combat quests that I am slowly chipping away at as I go out into the world and take down mobs.  There is a significant amount of learning the lay of the land going on…  which of course has its own skill associated with it called Cartography… that increases as you clear the fog from various areas of the map.

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Like I said literally everything seems to have a skill associated with it that can be raised and that will ultimately unlock abilities if you get them high enough.  Combat right now can be extremely challenging because there is no formal “con” system like Everquest or DAoC had to guide you.  In theory you need to fight something… before you can really determine if you are strong enough to be able to hunt them regularly.  Since Death is its own skill…  dying over and over to something eventually makes you heartier and raises your maximum health and in theory doesn’t seem to have much in the way of negative effects.  There is some sort of a hardcore mode that acts more like Everquest or a similar game…  but that is not a thing I will ever be enabling.  What makes it even more entertaining is that you gain “Bonus Death Experience” for dying in new and interesting ways…  turning it into a bit of a mini-game to see if you can figure out new ways that you can shed the mortal coil.

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Anyone who played Everquest during the Shadows of Luclin expansion will recognize this scene…  with lots of vendors lined up in an area that looks very reminiscent of The Nexus.  The positive here is that each of these stalls is an NPC that can be rented by the players allowing for a much better shopping experience than players having to AFK all day to sell their wares.  One of the things you are going to need to get used to in playing Project Gorgon… is that it is a much slower paced game hearkening back to an era where there was plenty of time to throw out chat messages in between attacks in combat.  As a result from what I hear there is an amazing community that has grown up in the game and based on the forums at least… I would say they are more than willing to help new players get started.

There are certain aspects of the game that really lend to this…  for example it uses an EQ item drop system allowing players to just throw something on the ground that anyone else can pick up.  As a result there are often tons of viable items just laying around in town that high progressed players have discarded because they are not actually worth trying to sell.  One of the concepts that is hard to get used to is the fact that vendors have a limited amount of gold on them, and each of them will only buy certain items.  There is one vendor in town that will buy pretty much anything…  but you are going to run her out of gold very quickly and have to wait seven days real world time for her funds to regenerate.  This means that you need to get to know which vendors are the best options for buying which items…  either that or just drop it on the ground for someone else to use.

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Another really interesting system in the game is that you can “Hang out” with certain NPCs while offline, allowing you to do some measure of progression while not logged into the game.  You can only have one of these activities selected at a time and as far as I can tell you don’t need to be anywhere near the actual NPC when you log out to make it happen.  For example in the first image of this post there is a little note at the bottom the screen saying that I finished hunting Myconids with Mushroom Jack, which was a 4 hour long Hangout I chose before logging out for the evening.  Generally speaking you need to get to a certain faction level before these start opening up with NPCs, but doing so gives you an interesting way to push up their favor and also potentially gain items.

It took me awhile to figure this out, and in my sluggishness at arriving at this conclusion…  it lead me to miss out in a very important item on the newbie island that I am deeply wishing I had.  In fact I am starting a second character just to try and get said item…  and in theory will swap it over via the extremely expensive shared account storage.  The only problem I see with the game right now is that since I seem to be able to eventually learn how to do everything…  I question the need for alts.  At some point during my play through I decided to drop unarmed combat as my secondary attack and pick up a bow…  and even though it was grossly behind in skill I seemed to be able to catch it up quickly.  If you have the time and money… you seem to be able to do every possible tradeskill…  so I question what the hook is for running up additional characters?

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Over the course of the weekend I played eight hours of the game, and in doing so have become hooked.  While doing this Tam was apparently playing Shroud of the Avatar, which I myself booted up last night to see how the two compared.  They are both vying for that 90s era early MMO nostalgia… and quite honestly Project Gorgon scratches the right itches for me personally.  Shroud was extremely well funded and had a relatively large development crew to create…  but comes off as this extremely janky product.  Project Gorgon however has at its core a husband and wife development team, and a composer…  and a relatively low funded kickstarter…. and comes off as this completely charming and competent version of that Everquest era game that ultimately FEELS better to play.

Sure it needs more work, for example the game consumes a ton of system resources… far more than it should for the level of graphical fidelity.  However client optimization will come in time, and based on the little note you see before logging in the team realizes that is a problem.  However what is there is extremely sticky, and extremely impressive for such a small development team.  I feel like I have barely scratched the surface of the game because each time I play I figure out something new.  Hell there are entire areas of the first major zone that I have not explored…  and with it likely NPCs that I have not talked to or encountered.  Ultimately this game is not going to be for everyone…  but if you ever wanted to see what playing Everquest felt like back during the early days Project Gorgon is a great starting place.

Generations Revisited

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One of the things that you learn about me pretty early on is that I am prone to doing nonsense things.  One of those recent things has been trying to get the Citra 3DS emulator up and running to see how well Monster Hunter games work on it.  One of the things that I have wanted for awhile is for the ability to play the older handheld monster hunter games with a proper controller and on a larger non-handheld screen.  Yes I realize this literally goes against everything about the 3DS as a console platform, but I secretly wish that Nintendo would release something similar to the PSTV that is essentially a 2DS that hooks up to your television.  Similarly…  I pretty much exclusively play the switch in docked mode with a pro controller so maybe the whole handheld experience is lost on me.

Citra is an emulator that tries really hard to skirt that line between legal and illegal by forcing users to dump significant amounts of base information from a 3DS unit running a custom firmware.  I am not going to talk about this process, nor am I going to talk about the other ways around this process, but suffice to say that installing Citra is just the first step in many along this path that most assuredly leads to madness.  I’ve seen some stuff…  that is all I can say about that.  Which is made even more insane when you realize that I have a 2DS XL and a 3DS XL with the Monster Hunter Generations Cartridge that I can play easily any time I want to boot it up.

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Emulation has always intrigued me…  especially once you enter the realm of 3D games because generally speaking if you have enough horsepower you can run the games in a way nicer state than you can on the original device.  For example I am running Citra at 3 times the resolution of a native 3DS at 1200×720 which graphically still looks a little dated by way sharper than things do on the handheld itself.  This also allows me to do things like take screenshots…  which is something I find myself sorely missing when I am playing on the actual proper handheld systems.  There was in theory a way to do this through MiiVerse that has now been shuttered, and the only other way I believe is through a capture card that generally costs about $200 to get installed.  In theory there is a custom firmware option as well, but I am sorta afraid to do that on my primary system.

The trickiest bit of the configuration that I had was getting Citra to recognize my Xbox One controller inputs.  There is a standard push key to configure button type interface, but for whatever reason it was not actually recognizing input.  After some googling I found a work around which was to take someone else’s direct-input controller config and paste it into my configuration file.  For the curious this file lives in “C:\Users\[YourUserName]\AppData\Roaming\Citra” or more quickly you can just type %appdata% into the run prompt to get at least to the roaming directory.  Inside of the Config directory there should be a file labelled “qt-config.ini” and at the top of that is a controls block.

[Controls]
pad_a=65
pad_b=83
pad_x=90
pad_y=88
pad_l=81
pad_r=87
pad_zl=49
pad_zr=50
pad_start=77
pad_select=78
pad_home=66
pad_dup=84
pad_ddown=71
pad_dleft=70
pad_dright=72
pad_cup=73
pad_cdown=75
pad_cleft=74
pad_cright=76
pad_circle_up=16777235
pad_circle_down=16777237
pad_circle_left=16777234
pad_circle_right=16777236
pad_circle_modifier=68
pad_circle_modifier_scale=0.4000000059604645
button_a=”button:1,engine:sdl,joystick:0″
button_b=”button:0,engine:sdl,joystick:0″
button_x=”button:3,engine:sdl,joystick:0″
button_y=”button:2,engine:sdl,joystick:0″
button_up=”joystick:0,engine:sdl,direction:up,hat:0″
button_down=”joystick:0,engine:sdl,direction:down,hat:0″
button_left=”joystick:0,engine:sdl,direction:left,hat:0″
button_right=”joystick:0,engine:sdl,direction:right,hat:0″
button_l=”button:4,engine:sdl,joystick:0″
button_r=”button:5,engine:sdl,joystick:0″
button_start=”button:7,engine:sdl,joystick:0″
button_select=”button:6,engine:sdl,joystick:0″
button_zl=”engine:keyboard,code:49″
button_zr=”engine:keyboard,code:50″
button_home=”engine:keyboard,code:66″
circle_pad=”engine:sdl,axis_y:1,joystick:0,axis_x:0″
c_stick=”engine:sdl,axis_y:4,joystick:0,axis_x:3″
motion_device=”engine:motion_emu,update_period:100,sensitivity:0.01,tilt_clamp:90.0″
touch_device=engine:emu_window

Simply paste over this configuration and you should be good to go.  You might want to tweak the sensitivities in game a bit because right now my Xbox One controller is way the hell more responsible than a stock 3DS.

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All in all I am pretty happy with the results and while sure… I could be playing Monster Hunter World on the PS4 instead of messing around with Citra and Monster Hunter Generations…  that is not the way my brain works.  Sure the menus are all very pixelated and sure the textures look wonky at times…  but the base 3D models look so much smoother than they do on the console.  I have no clue why I suddenly feel the desire to play all the things when it comes to Monster Hunter…  but I am likely going to try and get the PSP game running on my PSTV to see how that one handles as well.  The risk of a post like this is that I am likely going to start getting a bunch of comments asking me how I did this and if I can send them files…  the answer is a big nope.  I am existing in a weird grey area in that I have all of the components needed to make this work naturally.

You know how all of those videos will say “this is for educational purposes only”, in truth that is sorta why I think I mess around with stuff like this.  I know soon I will get bored and wander off as the next shiny thing attracts my attention, because I am no longer playing Monster Hunter Online or Phantasy Star Online 2…  things I had to go through a bunch of work to make functional.  I think I like doing these silly ventures because it feels like I accomplished something interesting.  Its the core part of my brain that used to always keep changing Linux Distros on a second machine here at the house, because ultimately I guess I have a strong tinkerer instinct.