Nomad Valet Service

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This weekend was a fun one, and not because I did anything special…  but more for the absence of anything planned.  Saturday we got up fairly early, and ran errands.  I had been putting off going to the eye glasses place since getting my prescription, and I guess I was doing so for good reason.  Bifocals are extremely expensive.  I priced out a set of daily wear and a set of sunglasses and it was going to be almost $800.  That is just straight up ludicrous for eyewear…  but it is a carnival of errors that adds up in a final price.  I have an insanely strong prescription which generally means I need some of those double super bonus lenses with all of the bells and whistles to keep the thickness down.  Then when you combine that with the fact that this time around they were going to be adding bifocals and a prism…  shit got crazy really fast.  Instead I opted to wait… since my Optometrist said I was really on the borderline as to whether or not they would actually benefit me.  So I opted to think about it… and wound up just ordering more single vision glasses for the moment from Zenni optical.  I have a feeling that I am going to have enough trouble getting adjusted to the prism…  that I am not sure if I want to further complicate things with bifocal lenses this time.  However I guess when it comes time to renew I will be going for the vision insurance since that at least will hopefully dent that blow.

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As far as the rest of the weekend… we cleaned the house like mad when we got home from errands and this largely freed me up to be able to just chill the hell out upstairs with a cat on either side playing some Andromeda.  I have to say I love that I ultimately have two cats on my desk most of the time…  I have blankets on either side of the keyboard and it isn’t super long before I have attract both Allie our eldest cat, and Kenzie our middle cat.  Hell right now as I am writing this post at 6 in the morning… I already have Allie crashed out on the blanket to the right of my keyboard.  She will probably sit there in that state for a bit longer until she decides it is time for food and starts prancing back and forth in front of my keyboard.  As far as gaming went…  I am so deep into Andromeda at this point.  All told I am nearly 70 hours into the game and I have been stalling moving the main story forward until I can complete all of the side stuff.  As I learn more about the universe…  I am starting to feel like maybe this is a better game than the original trilogy.  I know that is going to be a controversial statement.  I will however add the qualifier of “for me” to the statement, because personally the original trilogy hit a high point with the second game and Andromeda is really structured in a similar fashion.  It involves going off on small missions with your team to effect the world in subtle ways.  The game play itself feels like this amalgam of Knights of the Old Republic and Mass Effect, namely the way that KOTOR used to let you roam around planets in what felt like at the time a free manner.

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This free roaming nature is for good and bad…  like the fact that I never seem to park my Nomad in a reasonable way as I hurriedly hit the E button as I roll up on the next combat vignette.  In this case I literally had to jump and try and hit E to re-enter in order to get back in after finishing the remnant site.  Side note the N7 armor is still probably the coolest design in Mass Effect, and  the Andromeda logo especially will never be quite as cool as it.  At this point I am I believe level 43, and I think in truth the game probably expected me to be done with it ages ago.  There is a lot of sadness about to happen however, because with the deluxe edition I got a set of really awesome Pathfinder weapons.  I’ve become very close with my Pathfinder Auto Rifle, and every time I leveled into a new bracket the next pattern was magically available for development.  This has been the biggest resource sink for me as I made one of these each time it was possible.  However it seems like you stop getting patterns at Tier 5…  and I am not really looking forward to the prospect of trying to find a new auto rifle crush.  I am hoping that one of these patches fixes this and lets me keep making my little Pathfinder auto rifle friends.  For the moment I am going to be getting my hands on other types of rifles and trying out which seems to fit best for that archetype.  In a way it reminded me of the way that Red Death feels in Destiny… and while this game calls it an auto rifle…  by Destiny terms it would be a pulse rifle.  Whatever the case I am slowing wrapping up some of the loyalty missions because before I start moving the priority ops again I want to make sure I have access to all of the toys.

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The weirdest part about this play through is that I am playing in a fashion that I never really thought I would.  For the most part I have maxed out a number of the weapon abilities and all of the passive benefit traits.  From there I am largely playing a “pet class” for lack of a better term.  I am using the turret which I find insanely handy, and my common MO is to open the door to a base… chunk a turret in and then back out to safety as I let it soften the defenses before ducking back in and mopping up.  In addition to the turret I am regularly using the hacked observer that PeeBee gives you access to, and letting it loose to run amok.  These two things often times distract the enemy and I can pick them off with headshots from either the auto rifle if medium range, or sniper rifle if extreme ranges.  For up close and personal action… I have shockwave with the knock back that can clear out a bunch of things rushing at me.  In truth it is more of a jack of all trades build than any deep synergy between abilities… but it is also tailored to some of the things that I like from other games.  In the Borderlands series I have almost exclusively played whatever character could use auto rifles and turrets.  While I like getting up close and personal in most games…  in shooters I tend to relish hanging out in that medium range with the ability to duck behind cover.  Lately however I have gotten into using my Asari sword to slice and dice Kett in close quarters… so maybe that medium range thing is shifting.  Whatever the case…  I spent so much time with Andromeda this weekend and the game just keeps getting better as I get further into it.  While the game might have started out awkwardly… it really feels like it is going to finish in style.

Boosts and Buffs

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I’ve officially reached the point in the Diablo 3 season where I can straight up wreck at least early torment content, which means…  I can boost my friends.  Last night I snagged Byx, Ammo and Sol and drug them through a few Nephilim rifts until they came out level 70s on the other side.  In truth I am rather horrible at boosting people…  I tend to overclear because my tank instincts kick in and I desperately want to protect my fledgling charges.  So that means that the individual Rifts probably take way longer than they should.  However it also means if you are being boosted by me…  you are not only walking away with levels but also with a sizable amount of cash and gems.  Sadly the loot is functionally meaningless until you hit 70.  However since Byx was way ahead of the rest of the crew I am pretty certain she walked with some decent loot as well.  The funny thing with writing about how much I was not feeling this season…  is that it actually made me really want to play.  The moment I posted the blog post I logged in and did a solo greater rift before heading into work that day, and each night since I have at least spent a little bit of time playing.  After the boostery, I connected with Grace and we did a couple of rounds of bounties since we were both in desperate need of the crafting materials.  I technically have everything that I need gear wise apart from one legendary gem, and a single ring….  but everything could be improved by getting some ancients which have been in short supply thus far.

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After playing some Diablo 3 on the laptop, I decided to go upstairs and check out the latest patch for Mass Effect Andromeda.  All in all there have been a lot of subtle improvements to the way that the character models look.  In truth I think there are a bunch of improvements to the game in general because the worlds just feel better looking.  This might of course be the placebo effect, and because they said they patched…. it is making my brain desperately want to see the improvements.  However at the very least my Ryder and all of the characters I am interacting with seem more normal looking.  The Botox face is largely gone… and the fully open surprise eyes seems to be gone as well.  I am pretty pleased with the results because this little bit of window dressing has fixed a lot of my gripes about the game.  On the other side of the equation on non-cosmetic changes… the general inventory increases are also amazing.  I feel like I am no longer needing to deconstruct items in the middle of a planet rather than waiting for me to be back on my ship.  Similarly the ability to tab out of the flight animations while in a solar system makes that just work better, and I am wondering if there is some option I can check in the settings to default to disabled so I don’t need to hit tab.

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I put a few hours in last night and in truth probably played about thirty minutes longer than I should have… for my sanity… and my sleep patterns.  I really like this game and It definitely is up in the game of the year territory for me.  The problem there is…  so is Zelda Breath of the Wild and Horizon Zero Dawn…  and all of those were released in the first quarter of the year.  I guess in a way I am extremely thankful for all of these games, because with the way the real world is turning out…  this seems to be the golden age of escapism.  It is comforting to be able to lose yourself in a deep and rich game, and completely forget that the world is apparently on fire and someone replaced the fire extinguisher with a can of easy cheese.  There are just so damned many quests that I have picked up and that are littering my inventory that I need to spend one entire night trying to burn those down before I move forward.  I will probably always be grossly over-leveled for the content as a result… but whatever I have my trust Rank V Pioneer Gun.  I just gotta say that once I stumbled onto the weapons provided by the DLC…  or more so I stumbled onto how to GET the DLC items…  I fell in love with the Auto Rifle.  Yes I keep giving mine bizarre names because I’ve had to craft each after the first one…. but whatever it is a freaking awesome gun.  More importantly… Ashgar can be happy that I have finally moved on past the Avenger.

Thoughts on Switch

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It has been a week or so since I got my Switch and I felt like I wanted to talk a bit about it this morning.  Firstly I really like this console and apart from the relatively low hardware specs and currently small games library, I have to say I think they are on to something.  There are a lot of reasons why I have bounced off handheld consoles, but primarily they never really fit the way that I wanted to be playing games.  In those brief moments where I needed the ability to play a portable gaming system…  they have always been great.  The problem being that does not match up with my default mode of play.  Generally speaking, if I am somewhere I can be playing games…  I am at home with my laptop, desktop and a slew of traditional consoles.  Playing games on a larger screen just feels better than playing on the tiny screen in your hands that you ultimately hunch your shoulders and crane down your neck to be able to play comfortably.  I have commented for some time that I wish I could play various mobile games on the television with an external controller hooked up to them.  Now functionally you can do this with the Vita via the PSTV box…  which is essentially a Vita for your television.  However this is not exactly a great solution since you are not actually playing on the same system you are using portable… and unless your game supports cloud sync there really is no keeping progress between the vastly different platforms.

Nintendo is known for creating gimmick based systems and there are so many times that I wished they would abandon this and just create a true console generation killer.  However they seem to be hung up on different ways of interacting with their games, but for me at least…  I always wish I was simply using a traditional controller playing a traditional game.  There are a whole slew of games that are functionally dead to me… because I hate the Wiimote and Nunchuck control scheme of the Wii.  The Switch is still a gimmick console, but this time the gimmick actually works in its favor by letting the console be whatever I happen to need it to be at the very moment.  Right now I am playing a significant amount of the time with the Switch docked into my console gaming set up in my office.  This lets me kick back and play with either the pro controller or the detached joycons and get into a comfortable long haul position for gaming.  However there are times when I would rather go lay down in the bedroom, because I am starting to wind down and really should probably be asleep already.  The Switch allows me to undock and take it downstairs… and the fact that it is chargeable by USB type C lets me also charge it down there without the expensive of a second dock.  If I would rather be downstairs because there is something on Television that I want to at least be in the same room with… I can either play it in handheld mode or prop the console up on my lap and play with detached joycons or even the pro controller once again.

Functionally the Switch is at least in part what I had hoped the Wii U would be.  Before owning one, I envisioned being able to play games on a big screen and when I wanted to head to bed grab the gamepad and use that instead.  The big problem there is that the short range of the gamepad made it impossible to really do this.  For awhile I had a compromise of having the Wii U hooked up in the bedroom, but when I wanted to play the thing in “console” mode that left me from a really comfortable way to play.  Sitting up with one leg hanging off the bed and zero back support does not exactly make for a comfortable gaming experience for long periods of time.  Nor did any combination of propping pillows up against the backboard and instead I found myself either laying down completely and playing with the gamepad or playing in short bursts with constant switching of positions trying to get comfortable.  What was sad about this is the fact that I really wanted to keep enjoying Nintendo games…  but the systems they were providing me to play them on really never matched up with the way I wanted to play anymore.  The Switch while it has its quirks really does being Nintendo gaming back into an era where I care about it again on anything other than a theoretical and cursory level.  The only problem is…  right now my Switch is a Zelda Breath of the Wild machine… and occasionally a Shovel Knight machine, and there just are not a lot of the games that I wish I could be playing on it.

What I am hoping is that we start seeing a bunch of titles ported to it, and I am hoping that Nintendo can somehow cross the Blue versus Green barrier and pull some titles from both camps.  I personally would love to see Persona 4 Golden released on the Switch given how hard I bounced off that on the Vita.  I think in theory I might be able to hook up the PSTV upstairs in my console configuration and be able to enjoy the experience, because the truth is I just never liked using my Vita enough to be playing it for extended periods of time.  I largely bought it as a remote screen for playing Destiny in bed, which is sad to say but true.  Thankfully I got it for less than $100 from one of my Craigslist deals, so I don’t necessarily feel super bad about that either.  The other thing that I am absolutely dying for is the Virtual Console…  sure I imagine Nintendo is going to make us repurchase things, but in truth I don’t much care.  The Switch really is the ideal system for playing classic games on because of its extreme convertibility.  I also really want to see the Pokemon titles get ported to the platform, given that more or less I have bounced pretty hard off of each of those at some point… because I simply didn’t want to play a handheld for long periods of time.  I also really want Castlevania Symphony of the Night on the platform… which is something admittedly that probably won’t happen but I sorta buy it on every platform it comes out on.  More than that though the Virtual Console is going to hopefully bring a whole slew of other Castlevania games to the platform which might be good enough for me.  Basically I see so much promise for this system… and now it is just a waiting game for companies to figure out how to port games to it… and hoping that Nintendo largely doesn’t get in the way of its success and fuck this up.

Mechanics: The Fight

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In our continued trend of being months behind the curve and happy about it…  last night we worked again on Thordan Ex.  We jokingly refer to this fight as “Mechanics: The Fight” because it this weird amalgam of every mechanic from binding coil and a mix of new ones.  This is a prime example of what I think of as the archetypal Final Fantasy XIV fight… where it relies on you memorizing a DDR like pattern and then everyone in the party completing that pattern flawlessly.  That however is not exactly the sort of fight our group excels at.  When we go up against a “managing sheer chaos” style fight, we tend to be able to pull those out as one shots.  However when you ask us to memorize and execute a specific pattern…  it takes forever for us to memorize the dance.  I am especially bad at pattern matching and memorization…  and as one of the primary tanks this is not exactly a great thing.  We did however get to the point last night where we were getting everyone through the dive bomb phase and through the meteor phase.  There is a whole lot of bullshit that happens at the tail end of the fight and we were noticing that things started to completely fall apart during the pillars phase…. so I feel like if we can get through that… we can get through the rest of the fight.  I also feel like this is the sort of fight that once the pattern is learned and beat into our brains… we will be able to execute it pretty flawlessly from that part out.  Which is a good thing… because there are a lot of us that would like to farm birbs.

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Speaking of Birbs…. I can now poop chocobos.  Right now the Hatching-Tide event is going on in Eorzea, which sort of serves as the Easter celebration.  Lets be fair… that like so many Eorzean Holidays…  Hatching-Tide is mostly nonsense.  The yearly event usually revolves around eggs and spriggans…  that often times steal the eggs or somehow interact with the eggs.  None of this really matters however because the important part is the fact that this year there is a mount.  You can ride around on a giant floating egg… and ejects a baby Chocobo on command.  So I think most of us that completed the event spent a good deal of the evening riding around on eggs and hurling chocobos at people.  This is a prime example of why I love this game so much at times, because it is just down right absurd.  There are so many “why not” moments that the game has where they put silly things in the hands of the players… who then do things like create Fat Chocobo parades.  In Idyllshire last night there were a whole slew of people trying to synchronize the ejecting of Chocobos…  which is an extremely aptly named place now that I think of it since so many people go there to Idle.  For now I have fallen off the “get every class to 50” wagon but I hope to hop back on shortly.  I just have too many games I want to be playing… and as a result am sort of playing all of them poorly.

Seasons End

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Last Friday was the beginning of the tenth season of Diablo 3.  In the lead up I had just about convinced myself simply to skip this one, because I really was not feeling it this go around.  Generally speaking I chase the pet that is being offered as part of the seasons journey… and this time around there was no pet.  Instead they offered the weird lamp post back piece thing you can see me wearing in the above image.  However as time got closer to the launch I opted in given that I at least knew that Grace would be playing.  While I do not at all regret doing this…  I lacked the proper amount of steam that I normally have going into this sort of thing.  Firstly I got home a little later than intended and by the time I had nommed some dinner I was about fifteen to twenty minutes behind Grace and Noreek.  I think as a whole everyone pretty much either forgot that the season start was a thing… or they themselves had petered out as well.  Normally on season launch night my friends list is completely chock full of little green leaves…  aka the icon that represents a seasonal character.  Instead of the usual twenty plus… there were five and two of them were in my party.  I went Demon Hunter largely because they seem to be extremely easy to push through the seasonal journey content.  Generally speaking I greatly prefer the Crusader, but they are not exactly known for their clear speeds.

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Now it is not to say that I did not enjoy myself like I often do.  Noreek was attempting to follow some best practices and for whatever reason, our luck did not hold out.  In theory one of the first patterns you are supposed to get is the Cain set, which allows you to have a significant experience boost.  However after doing a couple of rounds of bounties and none of us getting the book…  we finally gave up and returned to Nephilim Rift grinding.  However you could audibly tell that we were losing steam when about 8:30 or 9 pm voice chat started to get completely silent.  I myself was just sort of barely hanging in there and I think I wound up tagging out around 10 pm and heading to bed to play a little switch before nodding off completely.  It sounds like the rest of the group did not make it terribly further, with me leaving somewhere in my 50s and Grace only making it to I believe 59 before calling it a night.  Each season it seems like we make it a shorter distance in the initial push before finally calling it.  That first season for me I think I made it to 65 before calling it a night and by the time I logged in the next morning Grace was already paragon 150 or so.

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I am super thankful to Noreek for giving me the much needed boost on Sunday to get to 70 and start unlocking the first few pieces of gear from Haedrig’s Gift.  I turned that into a season finish Sunday night during the Walking Dead season finale.  So now I am technically finished with the cosmetic portion of the season and trying to sort out how much further I am going to go.  The set this season for Demon Hunters is Maurader’s which seems pretty easy to push content in.  I just need to get to get the drive to do so… because last night I had ample opportunity to play because I knew Grace was going to be playing.  However for whatever reason I just lacked the desire to log in… so instead I did something that was completely fruitless and ground random Hive mobs on the Dreadnaught for hours trying to get my Husk of the Pit for Necrochasm.  I knocked out a few things on the Slayer list, and in doing so knocked out a few things it seems on the lists after that.  I could in theory probably get an extra bank tab rather easily this season… if I can just muster the desire to do so.  Right now it feels like I have this wealth of other things to be playing, so buckling down and playing Diablo 3…  a game that is more than well trodden at this point just seems difficult.  In all of this I am sort of saddened by the fact that it seems the magic of the seasonal journey is diminished.  I’ve written several posts in the past talking about how much fun it is to push with your friends in an atmosphere like the launch of a new MMO…  and that seems to be lacking this time around.

The Switch and Zelda

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I have officially now joined the cult of the switch.  For a brief period of time…  probably fifteen minutes if we are going to be honest about it…  Amazon had switch units in stock for prime members only.  Now that sounds like an exclusive club or something… but quite literally everyone I know that shops Amazon regularly….  is a prime member.  I had said for awhile that if I ever stumbled across one I would pick it up immediately, and I guess in my mind limited availability over Amazon was the same thing.  What is even more shocking however is that I ordered it at 2pm on a Thursday and by some quirk or time travel it was waiting for me when I got home Friday afternoon.  As a result I got to spend a good chunk of the weekend playing with it and fiddling with the various console modes.  So far the honestly most comfortable mode for me to play is with the joycons detached and the little bumper things that it comes with attached.  This allows me to just chill with each arm resting on whatever is comfortable be it leg, lap or the arm of a chair.  All in all I am really damned happy with the unit, and it feels extremely good especially in “handheld” mode.  I spent some time Saturday afternoon hanging out in the back yard playing Zelda Breath of the Wild and it was glorious.  The switch is essentially everything that I assumed the Wii U would be for me…  and probably was if not the for the fact that the gamepad has such an insanely short range from the base unit.

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The thing I want to talk about this morning however is Zelda itself.  There was a side conversation that happened over the weekend, of all places on facebook about switch ownership and the limited number of games.  One friend mentioned that if there was ever a game worth spending $400 to play that it was Breath of the Wild.  Then another friend chimed in that folks have said this a lot, but that no one has really been able to put into words why this game is special given the extremely stiff competition.

I keep hearing comments like this but still don’t understand what is so special about it. No one seems able to capture that in words. My skeptical self thinks it has a lot to do with Nintendo nostalgia, but that is just based on a lack of understanding of what is so compelling about it.

So as a result I think I am going to attempt this morning to put it into words why I feel this game is so special.  For me at least it is not really a nostalgia thing given that in truth I have never been that big of a fan of the 3D Zelda games.  I’ve beaten Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask, and Windwaker and while they were okay…  they were not even close to dethroning A Link to the Past as my favorite Zelda series game.  I never really could put my finger on it, but something always felt off about them.  For me a huge factor of what made Zelda fun was that I had this huge world to explore, and barring that I had the right items at the right time…  it felt like I could pretty much go anywhere.  Granted in the 2D era this meant a bunch of tiles stacked side by side… which in truth was pretty limited…  but in my mind it absolutely Felt open.  When it comes to the 3D Zeldas… they have always felt like I was much more limited on my range of motion and where I could actually go based on how far I had progressed in the game.

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With Breath of the Wild, the sense of exploration I felt in the original games is there in full.  While I am similarly limited by my stamina meter, or weather effects like cold or rain… the game feels completely open to me to go wherever I think I can survive.  There is a certain thrill of discovery when you find a new shrine and figure out the puzzle that exists within.  That was the part I liked of the 3D Zelda “temples” is the fact that each one of them had some gimmick that had to be learned in order to progress through them… and in Breath of the Wild this same idea is contained with 120 of them.  That is so much more of that element that I really enjoyed in past games, and is only improved by the fact that no one in games is going to explain to you where all of them are.  Sure there are easy ones to find, that are right off the path or that serve as the teleport for a given town.  However most of them involve getting out and roaming around, to try and find where they have been hidden into the landscape.

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Similarly there is the Korok Seed mini game, and from what I understand there are 900 of them scattered throughout the world.  Most of them involve noticing something going on in the landscape and then interacting with the elements in a certain way to reveal the Korok that is hiding.  For example one of the very early ones involves diving off of a cliff into a ring of lily pads that are sitting in the water below.  It is the sort of thing that as you walk by you notice…  “that looks odd” and then when you start to investigate you try different things until you ultimately reveal another Korok.  There is a challenge with Open World games to both allow open space to exist… but make that open space be meaningful and that is one of the things that Breath of the Wild really succeeds at.  Not to mention that the Korok mini game is charming as hell as you keep bringing more seeds to Hestu for his Maracas.  There are honestly an awful lot of elements of this game that just come across as charming.  Once you leave the “starter zone” for lack of a better term you find out that the world is not really as “post apoc” as it seems at the start.  Folks have learned how to survive and often times thrive in a world where destruction is looming over it, and each of the people scattered has a story to tell and hints to be given about other things happening in the world.

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It is extremely hard to put into words what it is about this game that is so damned appealing.  Even as I sit down with the purpose to do just that, I am finding myself lacking the necessary vocabulary to really make it make sense.  I have plenty of problems with the game, namely the way the weapon durability system worlds.  However that said I like it enough to have just purchased a second copy and completely restarted the game after getting a decent ways into it on the Wii U.  There really are not a lot of games that you could say the same for, with the big two that are standing out in my head that I own multiple copies of being Destiny and Castlevania Symphony of the Night.  There is an awful lot going on in the game… but I have this constant feeling that I have only barely scratched the surface of its complexity.  I think that more than anything is what keeps drawing me to it.  Its like this grand puzzle that, as I solve one little bit of it… keeps exposing new areas for me to explore and then ultimately solve as well.  Its not just that I need to go to a new land and vanquish a new evil… but as I wander across that land I am constantly finding myself needing to learn a brand new mechanical vocabulary to survive its trials.  In some ways the puzzles in this game remind me of the way the ones from Thomas Was Alone felt… where each time it increments on the information you already have but keeps pushing the boundary to incorporate new elements and challenges.

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Unfortunately I am not entirely certain I have even begun to scratch the surface of the job I set out to do.  Which of course was the put into words what made this game worth spending so much time and effort on playing.  There are so many great games out there right now like Horizon Zero Dawn and Mass Effect Andromeda…  both of which I am playing quite a bit of.  However I still find myself drawn to keep venturing into Hyrule on a regular basis and keep figuring out how the world ticks.  I can’t really say if this game is better than that game… because so far I have been enjoying all of them.  I also feel like my attention isn’t a zero sum game, and that all of these games are worthy of it.  I will say that Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild is doing something different.  It feels different from the previous 3D Zelda offerings, but at the same time very different from the traditional Open World model.  Some of these differences are frustrating, but at the same time the quirks are also what makes the game itself feel extremely fresh.  I will say having played it on both the Switch and Wii U now…  that there is just something about the Switch that makes it all feel better.  Its like playing a game on the platform it was designed for…. and playing it when it got ported to another system.  Some of the things that felt awkward on the Wii U just seem to work beautifully on the Switch.  So if you have not already ventured forth into Hyrule… I would probably suggest just waiting until you ultimately get your hands on a Switch.  Is this game worth buying a console for?  I obviously thought so, but in part I also bought the console knowing that there are always a high number of Nintendo games that I want to play on every platform they create.  I’ve thought my purchase of the Wii U was well worth it, in spite of the fact that it never quite worked the way I wanted it to.  All of that said… I don’t think the Switch is worth the markups or crazy “bundle” deals that places are trying to direct users towards.  Just wait for the base unit to come back in stock, and I am hoping with the release of Mario Kart in a few weeks that there are going to be a whole lot more units available.

Archon of the Tiers

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This morning I am flailing quite a bit when it comes down actually sitting here and composing a blog post.  Its been one thing or the other… like a cat that decided she had to be held before she would relinquish the keyboard to me to actually type.  Or the fact that I spilled coffee on my shirt and needed to go change it.  Now that I actually sit down at the keyboard I am not entirely certain what I have to talk about.  Last night was a night devoted to Tyranny because Saturday we are recording our March AggroChat Game Club game show and I wanted to be able to participate in the conversation fully.  I like the idea of the Game Club, but I am a poor member.  I am highly susceptible to whims, and tend to get focused in on a game… or number of games at a time.  I am also super bad at forcing myself to finish some thing when I am really not that into it.  This is evidenced by the fact that my night stand is filled with partially finished books discarded when the mood left me.  There was a time when I was actually rather good at finishing games… in fact I spent one entire summer competing with a friend of mine trying to see how many Nintendo games we could finish.  The difference there however was that I had very limited options….  and now thanks to the commodity that games have become…  I have all of the options in the world to distract me from actually focusing on a game once the going gets less than enjoyable.  As a result I tend to bounce back and forth between the games that excite me the most and when any one of those games slows down…  I tend to stall and eventually stop playing it.

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Playing games for the game club often times feels like homework, and I either avoid it entirely… or put it off until the point where I cannot reasonably finish the game before the show.  There is a big reasons why I don’t really do reviews, because I never really have that drive to finish games.  In fact I have the opposite drive.  When I get sucked into a story and a world, there is a part of me that never wants the journey to end.  So I have found myself constantly reaching points in games where I am a few hours from the end… and then I simply never make that finish push.  It is like so long as I do not cross that hill then the adventure never has to end.  All of that said… I didn’t want this to be the case with Tyranny because I had a really amazing first weekend playing the game…  but stalled out at some point during the middle section.  However over the last few weeks I have tried to put in a few hours, every few nights hoping to pull through on the other side and get to a place in the game where the pace quickened once more.  Last night I seemed to hit that stride and found myself completely unable to stop playing as I circled the ending and finally finished around 11:30 last night.  I was not going to sleep without completing this… or at least what I hoped and apparently guessed right was going to be the ending.  All of this said…  I absolutely crave a continuation.  I want dlc or a sequel that lets me continue on from the point I reached in the main games arc.

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I don’t really want to go into a lot of details because I am largely saving them up for the podcast, but I have to say…  this was a really great game.  More shockingly it goes on the pile of games that I want to play through a second or third time because along the journey you have to make so many choices.  There are things that I did that I might have done differently.  The game is absolutely brutal in forcing you down a path based on your actions, and not letting you wriggle out from under those actions without consequences.  In many ways it reminds me of the way Undertale did this, with the exception that at least here you can reload a save file and try again.  However usually by the time you reach one of these branching points… it is too late because a series of tiny decisions will ultimately make or break your choices when it comes to a larger one.  The game flips so many conventions on its head, as you play through as the functional “bad guy” in the story…  but one that is entirely capable of making fair and just choices in spite of this fact.  In many ways there are chunks of my play through that remind me of what it was like trying to play a Light Side Sith in Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic.  I did not succeed entirely but in the grand scheme I thought I was doing a good job of walking the line…  until I reached the end and was forced to account for all of my past decisions.  This game remembers… and winds up rubbing your nose in them…  forcing you to confront the ramifications of each minor choice.  All told start to finish I spent 14 hours… and could have probably easily spent another 10 hours were I not rushing towards a fixed goal.  I highly suggest checking out this game if you are into classic Baldur’s Gate era PC RPGs.

Hair Elemental Gone

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Yesterday was a bit of a mixed day for me, given that I was sick and staying home.  I spent the majority of it watching Iron Fist on the sofa while attempting to do other things…. and sorta fading in and out of sleep.  Throughout the course of the day I played a little Tyranny, working my way closer and closer to the end.  I also worked my way through the new Final Fantasy XIV patch content, that represents the last bit of story we will see before the launch of Stormblood this summer.  That said I feel like it is just too soon to really talk about the patch or any of the ramifications of it.  In the evening I poked my head around in Destiny attempting to get a husk to drop for the new necrochasm exotic quest.  I had zero luck and instead just completed a few bounties, when I wandered away from the game to do something else.  I found out that apparently Skyforge is available not on the PS4, in its pre-launch patron pack sort of scheme like they did on the PC.  Now there have been a number of times in the past where I have talked about liking this game, but feeling it would play considerably better on a console.  As a result I absolutely jumped on the bandwagon last night and gave it a shot.  You functionally have three options that you can go with if you feel like buying your way into what is essentially console based early access.  Each of the prices listed is with the PS+ discount… because really I consider plus a cost of owning a PS4.

  • Early Adopter Pack – $11.99 – Access to 3 Base Classes
  • Rage of the Beserker – $39.99 – 3 Base + Berserker Class
  • Wrath of the Gods – $55.99 – 3 Base + Berserker + Gunner + Mount

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I jumped in with both feet and went ahead and went for the pack that includes the Gunner class and mount, because in truth I already know I like this game.  One of the things about this game that I wish others would notice… is all the damned beard options.  It wasn’t just a choice of full mountain man vs stubble beard…  but instead I had this complex set of styling options for facial hair that seriously put every other game to shame.  The end result allowed me to create a “Belghast” I am extremely happy with…  the lack of the whole eye scar thing made me go with an eyepatch instead even though it is on the wrong eye.  Traditionally when given the option I give my “Bel” characters some sort of a scar around their left eye… and if given the choice I do the damaged white eye thing as well.  All of that said I was able to create a character that I really like…  instead of a character that wound up being the lesser of evils like is always the case with South Korean MMOs.  The UI took a little getting used to because it varies slightly depending on the screen, but is generally navigated by a combination of bumpers, triggers and the d-pad.  The square to show and hide hints piece is something super important that I took a bit to grasp, because the game inexplicably pops windows up over other windows… and the only way to remove them is to click the button.

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Something important to note is that it has been a really long time since I have played Skyforge.  I played quite a bit during July of 2015, and have poked my head in occasionally since but never for terribly long.  The mouse and keyboard control scheme worked, but it always felt artificial.  So as a result I have not seen the intro to this game in a very long time… and back then it felt somewhat random.  They seem to have fixed some things narratively, to give you a better explanation of the world you inhabit and why your character happens to be immortal.  The end result still feels extremely thin, but it at least flows better than I remember it doing in the past.  Similarly I noticed that they fixed some of the problems I had with a few of the character models.  Herida for example the NPC that you talk to as part of the tutorial had a weird design in the past of teal hair wearing a turquoise hood that flows down into a dress.  The problem is the hair was not distinct enough of a color and it make it look like she was a lady with turquoise hair that somehow connected to her boobs.  In the console version however she has blonde hair, and the hood itself has been moved back a bit so that you can clearly see the haircut below.  As a result you have some contrast and it no longer looks like she is some sort of hair elemental.

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As far as the gameplay itself… the game feels excellent but it has a complex enough control scheme that I am still getting used to it.  It is following in the footsteps of console MMOs like FFXIV and using the face buttons for most of the attacks with bumpers and triggers acting as either modifiers or quick time event buttons for finishers and power attacks.  It was a little awkward at first but after completing the first few missions it started to feel extremely solid.  All in all I feel like this game is so much more suited for the console, with its pseudo lobby system and little bite sized missions.  Another tweak that I noticed is that we now apparently have a pet that follows us around, and over time can be trained to do functions like automagically picking up loot Diablo 3 style.  At some point I want to go through all of the tutorials for sub classes, because if I remember correctly each one of them unlocked a new outfit.  I never really made much progress in the PC version of the game, so abandoning it completely for the console is not really that big of a decision for me.  That said if you are happy with the PC, then in truth there probably isn’t enough new in the console release to really tempt you.  I think the game just feels better in this form factor, but that is a deeply personal preference.  Its not like I needed another game to be playing, but whatever the case it seems like I am going to be poking my head more into the PS4 Skyforge.

[Edit]

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These are not exact comparison shots, since I failed to take a screenshot during the tutorial.  However this at least shows the slight difference between the two models.  Column A…  weird hair elemental, Column B – someone just wearing a shawl.

Content Creator

This is probably not the best subject to talk about on a day when I am feeling lousy. However there is something that bugs the shit out of me, and I feel like I want to get it off my chest…  or at the very least use my frustration for a blog post.  I hate the term “Content Creator”.  Over the last few years it has gone from something you would hear every now and then to something that is constantly used.  At face value it seems like a term that places all sorts of incoming content on an even playing field.  Do you write a blog?  Awesome you are a “Content Creator”.  Do you post amazing artwork on Deviant Art?  Awesome you too are a “Content Creator”.  Do you create a Podcast, upload songs to SoundCloud, stream “let’s plays”, post creative photos on Instagram, carefully curate a Reddit, or create amazing videos…  then awesome by all reason you should all be “Content Creators”.  The only problem is that this new unifying term…  isn’t really that unifying at all.  Functionally it should by definition mean anyone who produces content for others to consume.  In my experience however that really is not the case.

When you see someone talking about “Content Creators” the majority of the time they exclusively mean Youtubers and Streamers.  Please don’t think this is a rant against Youtube or Streaming, because while I fail miserably at doing either I greatly respect both platforms.  This is a rant against the creating this theoretically inclusive term but instead applying it to a very narrow margin of items that are “content”.  Functionally the frustration comes when someone says they are looking for content creators to work with a product, but in truth really meaning they want eyeballs on YouTube.  For years I have struggled with the definition of “Media” as concerned with conventions and such.  While I can qualify as such, it always feels wrong.  I am not the news and I don’t produce content designed necessarily to inform purchase decisions or report breaking stories.  I am the editorial page in the newspaper and spend my time talking about the things I want to talk about.  More importantly however is the distinction that I do not do it for monetary gain.  That last part often knocks me out of the traditional Media category completely.  However having that special “media” pass sort of grants you an instant layer of legitimacy that cuts through some of the awkwardness that comes from introducing yourself and trying to get detailed information out of them about their product.  Side note… having a business card also does this but it still ends up being wierd as you shove a crisp card with your logo on it into someone else’s hand.

Now I have gone to PAX three times and I have found ways to do this without the vaunted badge each time.  However it would have made things easier, and acted as a sort of social lubricant to make the conversations flow a little more smoothly.  I’ve been able to set up press appointments on my own without the benefit of the designation, so the truth is it isn’t a hard barrier.  This year around however I saw that they had “Content Creator” badges for the first time, and then was instantly saddened when I saw that they were almost exclusively targeting Youtubers and Streamers with them.  Maybe everyone just assumes this and I am the last one to the show.  When you say “Content” to me that is a super universal term for literally anything that a user can consume.  Hell if you are creating xeroxed “Zines” and handing them out to random people passing by…  that is still Content to me because someone devoted time and effort and more importantly mental cycles in to creating something that they thought another human being would enjoy consuming.  So all thing are largely equal to me…  but it feels like some animals are more equal than others.  Were it just PAX it would be no big deal… they maybe used the wrong term for the wrong thing.  The problem is I have seen the same sort of stacked deck against non-video creatives in a lot of different “creator” programs in the gaming industry.

Maybe this is a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing, and maybe this is just a sign that I am old.  Hell this past week I got my very first prescription for multi-focal lenses, which is sort of the gold standard of “signs that you are old”.  However this is not me yelling at those damned kids to get off my lawn.  In truth I just want all of the people standing on the lawn to be treated equally.  While I might have preferences towards this or that sort of medium for consuming information…  I am still actively consuming pretty much all of them.  While I largely still think of myself as a blogger and a podcaster, that doesn’t mean I only get information from blogs or podcasts.  I have a pretty steady diet of YouTube channel that I follow, and a handful of streamers that I watch “as time allows”.  To branch out there are even a bunch of artists that I follow on a regular basis, and a few people that I keep tabs on just because they make really amazing craftables.  In my mind each and every one of these people that I have identified… is a Content Creator.  It should be this unifying term, not something that narrows the focus.  I mean labels are bizarre in the first place, and there are a lot of them that I struggle with.  Content Creator is just another in a long line of titles that I used to think seemed like a great idea…  until I saw the way it was being used.

Dangerous Water

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I am pretty sure I am coming down with something because I have felt fairly lousy since the weekend.  It is the sort of indiscriminate miserable that just makes doing anything a complete trudge.  It also feels like I have spent more time searching for something to play than actually playing anything.  Then things happen like the fact that for some reason I booted up Bioshock Remastered?  I got the game free for owning all of the other Bioshock content, and I installed it some time ago thinking it might be nice to play back through this game.  Then the election happened…  and the character of Andrew Ryan felt a little too on the nose for me personally.  So as a result it has sat unloved as a desktop icon…  waiting on someone to give it the time of day and click on it.  For whatever reason last night I did just that…  and apparently the game defaults to running at 4k.  Did you know that 4k PNG screenshots are almost 15 mb a piece?  I didn’t but now do…  I have lots of them that I will ultimately need to drop down if I ever hope to use them.  Something else that I did not know is that if you have a USB Controller connected to your system…  the game doesn’t seem to be willing to give you a mouse and keyboard option.  So as a result I played through on the Xbox 360 controller I leave hooked up to my gaming machine.  I didn’t get super far before the whim changed, but enough to remember how much I really love this game.  I do find it extremely odd that you can’t really sight any of the weapons though….  that is not something I remembered but I guess it makes sense given that your alternate fire is whatever plasmid you happen to have equipped.  Personally I still think the game looks gorgeous, and artistically it has some of the most memorable visual sequences and staging.

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When I bounced I ultimately did so in the direction of Mass Effect Andromeda, and opted to finish up Hvarl.  The weird part about this is that I thought I had not actually really scratched the surface of this planet.  However it seems like in the grand scheme of things is is maybe half the length of Voeld.  The weird part about this is it seems like the last thing that I waited to do was actually go vault hunting.  I am not exactly sure if you can do this early however since  the actual access to the vault and the second half of the map only work if you happen to be on specific quests.  So far this seems like the most “on rails” planet given that things need to happen in a specific sequence to end up leading to the end of it.  The planet itself reminds me an awful lot of Dromund Kaas from SWTOR, with a much more wild jungle area.  In the grand scheme I did not like this planet nearly as much as I did Voeld…  and also it doesn’t feel nearly as satisfying to move on past it either.  I think the biggest part of this for me is the complete and total lack of Nomad action, which makes sense given how dense the foliage is.  That said I did not really realize how much of my enjoyment planet side is related to driving my Nomad around until I hit this planet.  We talked about it on twitter yesterday… but want to buy a Nomad racing DLC for this game.

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Towards the end of the night I moved forward in the story and started the world of Kadara, which happens to be populated by a bunch of the Exiles off the Nexus.  Functionally you can think of it as Omega by any other name…  except instead of a slew of interesting Aliens…  you have a bunch of asshole humans instead.  After Desert World, Ice World and Night World…  I was happy to move on to something that looked relatively normal.  You know other than the whole acid water thing going on…  and toxic regions that damage your suit similar to the last few worlds we have been on.  Something tells me that I am ultimately going to work on terraforming the shit out of this world first thing so that I can enjoy the ride more freely.  I’ve barely just scratched the surface but I gotta say… fighting Nexus outlaws is way more enjoyable than any of the enemy types I have encountered to date in this game.  I mean I love the Remnant and it is always fun to kill Kett, but the outlaws here feel much more varied.  Especially when you factor in that apparently there is a turf war going on, and the two factions are gunning for each other as well as you.  I am sort of longing for a “kill everyone and settle the planet” option but I am not likely going to see that.