Raubhangeddon Over

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Having a birthday on the internet is a really weird thing.  By the time I woke up yesterday morning in our hotel room I already had a flood of messages from folks.  I cannot put into words the warm fuzzies I got seeing that.  I attempted to keep up with thanking everyone individually but as we started roaming around Kansas City yesterday I completely lost track of where I was in the mix.  By the end of the day it was just a daunting task to try and sort out who I had thanked and who I had not.  By the time we made it home I was completely drained and crashed pretty hard.  So if I did not manage to thank you individually I apologize and please know that every single person meant the world to me.  As far as our trip… it was really enjoyable.  Once again we did our thing which is to hit every single Half Priced Books store in the metro, along with a few other stops like Micro Center and IKEA… all things we don’t have in Tulsa.  This is the second year in a row we have done this, and it was largely born out of the fact that getting my wife home after the AP reading turned into a very unpredictable experience.  Functionally when the shindig lets out they are trying to fly a surge of 4000 or so people out of a tiny little airport.  It is roughly a four hour drive from Tulsa to Kansas City with a bunch of variables that could speed it up or slow it down.  The first year she was doing the AP grading there, she ended up getting flown to Dallas and then having a long layover there so that it took roughly 8 hours for her to get home.  Admittedly…  me driving up to get her and driving back home is still 8 hours….  but at least by spending the night it is chopped up in a few segments and lets us go do some stuff in this case Saturday night and Sunday morning.  I always hate it when my birthday lands on Father’s Day because it also means everything is madness.  Micro Center is normally a fun experience, but in this case there were workers stationed every few feet and just walking around the store I wound up getting asked 8 times if they could help me.  I am not exactly sure why I find this so offensive…  but I wish there was a system where you could get a sticker from the first person you meet that says “leave me the fuck alone”.

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The other big happening of the weekend was the Stormblood launch, and in some ways it went really smoothly…  and in other ways it went tragically wrong.  Please note that I love Square Enix and the Final Fantasy XIV team… but you are going to get some salt from me on this post.  On Friday the head start began, which is an event only available to folks who had pre-ordered the game prior to a certain point.  This is really key because it is a fixed group of people, pulled from a known quantity of folks who plunked down money and purchased your game ahead of time.  In order to get into Headstart it means that you needed to register a code that was sent to you by Square Enix via email with the Mogstation.  Over the years there have been a number of events where the team has says that they just did not expect the numbers…  namely at the relaunch of A Realm Reborn and I at least partially gave them the benefit of the doubt in this statement.  However with the launch of a brand new expansion for a game with a known set of players… and a known set of preorders…  that should have given them a head start on trying to figure out how much server throughput they needed for the launch.  They failed this miserably and for all of Friday and all of Saturday…  everyone was stuck on the same quest that required the creation of a solo instance.  That means every player in a given Data Center is fighting for what is apparently a very limited number of slots available for running this quest.  The result was a mixture of reactions from the players…  and the creation of lines as folks attempted to go about this quest in an orderly fashion.  Final Fantasy XIV is literally the only place you would ever see this solution… and it didn’t take long even here before it broke down.  Granted the line concept was some superstitious nonsense given that you were not just competing against your fellow servermates…  but also everyone else in the Aether data center in my case.  So while Cactuar isn’t a massive server… it is large enough, but becomes completely drowned out by the size of the player base of Balmung and Gilgamesh which share the same server cluster.

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Yesterday during the day however at some point they put in a fix and remedied the situation, so last night in my sleepy state I attempted to move forward only to be claimed by sleep and a server disconnect in the middle of a lengthy cut scene.  This morning I popped in with every intent of taking a few screenshots and wound up playing for about an hour popping around and doing quests.  I am hoping we are through the worst of the launch, but I expect another influx of players on Tuesday when the game releases in stores.  Hopefully they have learned their lessons and have spare resources ready to stand up if they run into more problems.  In the era of virtualized servers, leased datacenter space, and all manner of licensing options…  it feels like there is little excuse not to have some resources waiting in the wings to stand up at the first sign of trouble.  I have a feeling there were a lot of design decisions on the infrastructure side that maybe don’t scale terribly well in modern computing terms.  The game is doing some odd things, like it came out during one of the E3 discussions that every time you move in the server… your entire player object is passed around including your inventory and armory chest as part of one huge object.  This came up when they talked about not wanting to expand out inventory space too much because it might crash the server in passing around too big of an object.  This just seems like a weird way of going about things, and one susceptible to memory hacks or at least rollbacks from crashes.  At this point I just need to play catch up because I have Free Company members that are already 66 or higher.

Tiny Wings

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This is likely going to be a super short post because reasons.  Last night was an interesting shift from my personal status quo because I guest hosted on the For the Lore podcast.  They were recording their yearly E3 multi-episode and for also reasons… @Samodean was forced to miss.  So as a result @ZenBuddhist pinged me over twitter to see if I was willing to join him and @LodurZJ as an alternate.  In the past I have always really enjoyed guesting on other podcasts in part because it lets me see how exactly everyone else is doing this recording thing.  AggroChat as a whole is largely done almost by accident, and it is sometimes nice to see how those who have a clear purpose actually piece together things.  It had also been entirely too long since I had done this sort of thing.  The only gotcha was their normal recording time is about 1 hour sooner than I could realistically get to the screen and settled in for the night.  Thankfully they pushed it back a little bit and I was able to join in.  Hopefully once again I did not make too much of an ass of myself.  I am not exactly sure what their release schedule is, because in truth the only release schedule I know is our own.  However in the near future you should be able to catch me on the first of a two part episode covering E3 2017 on the For the Lore site.

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In other news… Stormblood has officially begun…  or at least the head start for those who pre-purchased the game.  This expansion had some fairly sweeping changes, and when I first logged in it felt like my hotbars were on fire.  Many of the buttons that I had slotted were replaced by a shared pool of role specific abilities.  So that mean’t things like provoke and stun now exist in that shared tree from which I was able to slot 5 abilities in total.  This is ultimately going to lead to some interesting choices because unlike before with cross class abilities…  there were way more than five choices from that pool that I wanted access to.  I have a feeling we are going to be swapping up to attempt to tailor for specific fights.  For example I now seem to have an AOE taunt… which isn’t that important for leveling… but I could absolutely see needing that on specific fights or if you were taking over the add tank on a specific encounter.  For the most part Warrior feels the same with the big change being that we lost the 5 stack resource… that I never can remember the name of and instead get the beast gauge.  This swap has a bunch of positive benefits to the class as a whole.  For example there were many fights where I would need to hold back using Inner Beast for specific mechanics… but this meant there was the opportunity cost of being capped out at 5 stacks of the buff.  Now I have a gauge that goes from 10-100…  or functionally 10 stacks of my resource meaning that even while holding back an Inner Beast I can also keep building up at least one more attack in reserve.  The other amazing quality of life change is I am not sure if this meter actually decays over time…  I have been able to hold onto beast charges for way longer than I could have the equivalent stacks before.

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The negative of the launch so far is that the Duty instance system seems to be toast.  That means there is a point in the main story quest where you simply cannot proceed past.  The folks that habitually skip cut scenes seem to be far worse off because it seems to keep them in a bit of a locked state where they can’t interact with NPCs at all.  As a pretty rabid cut scene watcher… I did not have this problem but I did absolutely hit the wall already.  There are some that are raging against the machine in chat, and others that keep telling them to calm down.  There are of course new Jobs to work on and other things to occupy time until this gets fixed.  I am absolutely certain someone somewhere is having a really bad day and working as hard as they can to remedy this.  In truth we don’t even know if this is a development thing, but could instead be an infrastructure issue with the hosting environment.  Whatever the case…  folks are getting stalled out but that sort of goes hand in hand with the release of anything.  All in all I am happy that my character largely is going to make the transition without massive horrible feeling changes, and that we get to explore a new part of the world.  For the moment I am not bothering to glamour back my helm… and apparently have tiny floppy wings instead of bunny ears.

Readyish

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Some time ago I started a thing.  The first piece of information you need to understand this… is to know that Final Fantasy XIV for whatever reasons does not have an idle kick.  I remember this causing so much issue during the launch during, and them finally having to implement one.  However at some point they turned it back off and sometimes we abuse the hell out of it.  Kodra is notorious for staying logged into things… and Final Fantasy XIV is not exception.  I remember there have been times when he has stayed logged in in some hub like Mor Dhona for literal days.  One night he happened to be AFKing and I decided it would be funny to update the guild MOTD to say something to the effect of finding Free Company members AFK and taking awkward photos with them.  This was something that regularly happened in World of Warcraft, and most of the photos were questionable to say the least.  Sita however has decided to turn this into an art form and the photos just keep getting better.  As you can see..  I made the mistake of going afk right out in front of our guild house.  I had been alt tabbed doing other things and it wasn’t long before a number of photos of me and other people showed up on Sita’s twitter feed.

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You have to admit they are pretty great.  Sita has caught a bunch of Ashgar, Sol, and Kodra as well over time.  As far as Final Fantasy XIV goes…  we are now in the great outage that is preparing everything for the headstart launch of Stormblood.  In theory at 2 am PDT or 4 am my time on Friday the servers come back up… and we officially transition into 4.0.  Am I completely ready for this?  Truthfully no.  I feel like I have done very little to prepare for the launch of an expansion, but I did manage to mostly clear out my bags and also put a dent in some of the stuff that had been clogging my retainer.  The biggest problem right now is I don’t remember at all where the MSQ last left off.  If I had to guess… the Rising Stones in Mor Dhona since everything seems to take place there.  I am not nearly as pumped for this launch as I was for Heavensward, only because I have so many other things to distract me.  I am still spending a significant amount of time in World of Warcraft doing random stuff and enjoying myself.  I think part of my trepidation is that I know the moment I log in Friday, my character will have changed.  Warrior from all accounts is one of the least changed classes, but with Heavensward I knew that more or less I was only going to be adding tools to my kit rather than swapping for a slightly different kit.  Functionally those first few levels are largely going to be me getting accustomed to driving a new character, and I am hoping I pick it up quickly.

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I think the part I am looking forward to the most however is seeing all the faces show up and seeing the Free Company be a thriving hub once again.  That is the part of an MMO cycle that is the hardest to really put into words, is how awesome the launch of a new batch of content is.  Folks you might not have seen in months suddenly show up and are interested in doing stuff.  I’ve been in one of those cycles where I have simply not been around, and I am looking forward to digging in and getting involved in shenanigans.  That said I don’t really want to launch of Stormblood to stall any of the other things I have going on.  For example I still want to keep moving the whole RoboSquid thing forward and continuing to take down dungeons with minimal gear and level.  I am probably going to take a few weeks off of the Friday night thing in World of Warcraft, but ultimately I want to return to that as well because I still enjoy hanging out with that group of friends.  Then there is the huge backlist of things that I really need to play that are not MMO based. E3 had this weird effect of making me want to play games that are already out, more so than making me long for the games on the horizon.  Well that is other than Destiny 2…  I kinda want access to that now.  That said it will have released before I realize it.  The older you get the faster time seems to move and right now entire months evaporate before I realize it.  Stormblood seems like it was still off in the distance… and now instead it is launching tomorrow.

RoboSquids Vs Stockade

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I am taking a break from my regular E3 regurgitation and commentary…  to talk about what might be the last ride of the RoboSquids for awhile.  This coming Friday is the launch of Stormblood and with it a lot of us will be working on leveling and get settled into that game.  As a result our time for screwing around on low level characters in World of Warcraft is going to be limited.  As a result we decided to tackle the one that we had all been dreading…  the Stormwind Stockades.  Now normally folks just queue up for this dungeon and ignore the fact that like Ragefire… the dungeon entrance is embedded in a faction capitol.  To recap our rules…

  • Level lock at the minimum level for each dungeon
  • Use whatever means necessary in-between levels
  • Attempt all raids even if we superfail
  • Must compete all dungeons at level before moving on
  • No heirlooms in dungeons
  • Must get to the dungeon naturally and zone in
  • Gear cannot be solved by money
  • Blue quality or higher gear can only come from questing, robo-squid group random drops, or bosses at or below our level lock

I emphasized the rule that is the problem here.  At level 20 we had to make our way into Stormwind and get to the zone in for the stockades on our own.  There were four of us… myself, Grace, Mor and Ashgar.  Like with the Deadmines we ultimately chose to enter through the Grom’gol airship and then run up to Stormwind from there.  Two of us chose to take the land route of… Stranglethorn > Duskwood > Westfall > Elwynn and then go through the front door.  Myself and Grace chose to hop on our water striders and try and make it up the coast and then enter through the docks… thinking that might end up missing some of the guard density.  My ultimate goal was to get to Lions Rest which is the shrine that was erected to replace the big empty area that was formerly the park.  My thought was that potentially this had fewer guards and I could then get closer to the dungeon entrance and potentially rez hop my way in.

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The funny thing about this entire trip is that I had no clue that the graveyard assigned to horde players…  is the Eastvale Logging Camp.  I posted a screenshot for reference, each time we died we had to run where my arrow is currently all the way to wherever the hell we died in Stormwind.  Simply running across Elwynn forest each time ate a bunch of time.  While we were doing this run I decided to start streaming it… and looking back it took roughly 50 minutes for all four of us to make our way into the instance area.  We started a race of sorts as we tried to rez our way across Stormwind… and without really meaning to I won.  I had an absolute lucky break in that I could rez up on a significantly higher vertical surface and bypass a lot of the dock area.  Similarly I also had a lucky rez around the Lion’s Rest area and was able to get into the instance area in about 35 minutes.  Grace who also took the dock route joined me at about 44 minutes and then Mor not that long after… and Ashgar having the roughest time getting inside.  Ash however took one for the team early on as he attempted to use the spirit healer at the instance hoping to hop back up right there.  However whatever faction code is in place caused him to resurrect back at the Eastvale Logging Camp.  The funniest part of the night however was the fact that it took us 50 minutes to run there… and 10 minutes to actually do the instance.

After finishing up the Stockades we decided to go ahead and make the push to Blackfathom Deeps.  The ultimate goal would have been to go ahead and finish up the level 20 dungeons and allow us to start leveling towards the next cap of 24.  However moments after all four of us zoned into the instance…  we got disconnected.  Last night the servers as a whole had a significant issue, where folks either could not log in, could not see their characters…  or simply could not finish loading into the game.  Just about when we were going to give up I managed to log into the dungeon…  and shortly after Grace and Mor were as well.  Ash unfortunately was stuck in a disconnect loop, so we opted to start clearing trash hoping he could eventually make it in.  We had cleared to the first boss and were starting to clear the way to the second boss…  when Grace disconnected.  What was worrisome was the fact that she no longer was responding on Discord as well, meaning whatever issue was happening was on her end… not the server.  At this we finally decided that the world was trying to tell us something, and that we should just call it for the night.  The frustrating part however is by the time Grace got back in moments later…  it seems like the servers as a whole had stabilized.  We are not really sure how we are going to do the RoboSquid content going forward, but we might need to set up an almost raid night happening once a week or something.  At this point we have run…

  • Ragefire Chasm
  • The Deadmines
  • Wailing Caverns
  • Shadowfang Keep
  • Stormwind Stockade

Five dungeons down… only One Hundred Fifty Nine instances left to go…

E3 2017: Bethesda, PC Gaming, Devolver

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Bethesdaland

I am lagging behind a bit in my posts since I am still limiting myself to one of these a day… and whatever I happen to be able to write during my normal morning writing period.  Bethesda is traditionally the gaming showcase that I look forward to the most during E3.  In the past they have announced a lot of really awesome stuff like Fallout 4… and then turned around and announced that they were going to release said game within six months.  Bethesda traditionally is the master of the hype cycle, and while there might be rumors swirling around a game… it won’t actually be confirmed until it is nearly ready to launch and there is a clearly defined pathway to release.  This year however it feels like a lot of the amazing announcements were lacking.  There were several items that were mentioned at other shows…  for example they talked about Elder Scrolls Online Morrowind… that was just literally released on the 6th so it doesn’t feel like that really counts.  Similarly Quake Champions was one of their big reveals for last year, and it has been in some state of beta for awhile now so it also feels very “been there done that”.  Some of their big announcements this year…  were also things we already knew about  Doom VFR and Fallout 4 VR.  The problem with both is…  I don’t have a VR setup nor am I really planning on getting one in the near future so that doesn’t terribly interest me.  If I was getting something in the VR space it would probably be the PS4 VR option given that it is a hell of a lot more plug and play and seems to have a wealthy of interesting titles developed for it.  Similarly Skyrim Switch was announced… more or less during the Switch reveal, but we finally got some real details and confirmation I guess.  Here is a run down of the things that I did think were worth mentioning from the show.

The Evil Within 2

If you have ever wanted to be afraid of milk…  watch this trailer.  I own copies of Evil Within but I have never actually gotten around to playing it.  It is on that long list of things that I want to play but never seem to find time to actually do.  In theory I should have been using this time when my wife is travelling to play a whole slow of immersive single player games.  Whatever the case this game looks really awesome, even though I had hell actually following what was happening.  It seems like this is a continuation of the events from the first game.  If you are into that sort of thing it seems like this might be right down your alley.

Dishonored Death of the Outsider

At first we thought this was a DLC sort of like the previous two that were released for Dishonored, however this is apparently an entire stand alone game.  Once again it follows the Daud side of the story, and apparently brings back Billie Lurk.  I am thinking maybe we will see the same sort of options that you have with Dishonored 2 where you can focus on playing either of the characters, but I might be wrong.  Not a whole lot of information is actually out yet about the game, but what we were treated to was a really awesome teaser trailer.  It seems like we are going to go Outsider hunting, since they blame that entity for all the chaos that has happened.  I know I will be playing it, because I loved Dishonored…  but I have also found that I don’t get into the non-Corvo games nearly as much as the mainline series.  It is kinda cool though that we are functionally taking two paths at all times to this story…  the Story of Corvo and the Story of Daud.

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

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This title release has been a hotbed of conversation among the AggroChat crew… namely in that I am amped as can be and Kodra and Tam are disappointed.  Me getting into the reasons here is going to be super spoilery about the first game… and since I still think everyone should play the first game…  I am largely going to refrain.  Suffice to say I am pumped in every possible way about the release of this game and it pretty much gave me everything I could ever hope for going going into it.  The thing about New Order that I enjoyed the most was seeing this jacked up re-imagining of the world.  I am a sucker for alternative history novels, and this game fed right into it…  especially given the what would have happened if we lost World War II thing has been played so many times in fiction.  On the other side… I have been playing Wolfenstein since 1992 and have played through every iteration of the game including all of the parts of the actual chronology leading up to this game.  For those who are curious… and want to start at the beginning…  best as I can piece it together you have Return to Castle Wolfenstein > Wolfenstein (2009) > The Old Blood > New Order > New Colossus.  The only one I really have hell placing in that order is Old Blood… and it could fit directly before New Order or could even be before RtCW.  Anyways the whole point is I am deeply invested in this franchise and have been for years.  New Order was a strict departure from the largely mindless kill all the Nazis gameplay, but definitely in a good way.  It introduced a compelling story to wrap around the core of the game…  but in the end I was still largely there for that core gameplay of leave no one standing.  Generally speaking all I am looking for out of a sequel is a chance to dust off the characters I have bonded with… and take them out on another adventure.  If New Colossus provides me with this… it is going to be everything I could have hoped for.

Creation Club

I am supremely uncertain of how I feel about this announcement.  Bethesda has been working on a way to sell mods for awhile now, and even though they claim this is not paid mod support…  it is definitely paid something.  Time will tell what this actually looks like in the final version, and what the economy is like.  However immediately it is reminding me of the paid creator system in the SOE games.  That actually produced some really awesome stuff that allowed talented 3D artists to sell new and interesting weapons.  The prime difference there is… that was a previously closed game that was opened up through their creator system.  Bethesda games however traditionally are open to mods and if you have the will you can find pretty much anything already for the games.  You want to run around Fallout in Warhammer 40,000 Space Marine armor?  Sure there is a mod for that.  Things like that however cannot officially exist in either the in game mod support or the creation club, because no one has consulted with the license holder to pay for offering that.  It seems like Bethesda is damned determined to make this system happen regardless, so I suppose we have to take a wait and see approach on it.  I do think it would be nice of the mod creators themselves have a way to actually get paid for their work.  In World of Warcraft there are lots of addons that I have chipped in a few dollars to support the author in creating it, because their work greatly improved my game play.  Similarly I have no problem chipping in some money to support a Fallout or Skyrim mod…  but I would prefer that the money go to the creator and Bethesda not get to take a cut.

PC Gaming Show

The PC Gaming show since its inception has been this really awkward show that never really felt like it could hang with the big kids.  That is not to say that Sean ‘Day[9]’ Plott does not try super hard to steer the train and keep it from completely falling off the tracks.  This year however… felt almost like a proper show.  There were a lot of changes that happened this year that maybe lead to that.  Firstly it happened during the middle of the day instead of being something happening relatively late in the evening.  Secondly they swapped the primary sponsor from AMD to Intel.. and potentially Intel cares way more about a polished presentation.  Thirdly the number of support as far as medium to big reveals went up significantly.  Now for me personally… there was not a lot about the show that I cared deeply, however there were definitely some reveals that I could see going over well.  Firstly the release of a remaster of Age of Empires seemed to get a bunch of notice, but for me personally I never played the games in that series that much.  Similarly there was the reveal of a new Xcom 2 expansion… but that also is not really my style of game.  A whole bunch of people seemed to be really happy with the reveal of Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlord…  but again not exactly my type of game.  I have never wanted to be a single soldier in the middle of an otherwise RTS style battle.  The trailer that did stand out to me that I was the most interested in… was Ooblets which seemed to be this weird amalgam of Pokemon and Harvest Moon and adorable as hell.  The Last Night seems awesome…  but I won’t be buying it because I don’t want to support anything that creator does after the bullshit he has caused in the past.  Ylands also looked kinda cool.. but I feel like I have an overabundance of good sandbox games.  It is going to have to do a hell of a lot to stand out from the pack for me.  Battletech… I was a backer and am purposefully trying not to play it until it officially releases.

Devolver Digital

This show… was like the parody anti-show of E3.   They didn’t actually announce anything… or in truth show anything.  It was sort of the Tim and Eric of E3 Shows and while I personally found it funny there are a lot of people who did not seem to be in on the joke.  Among the AggroChat crew it was less in on the joke but instead that they simply didn’t appreciate the style of humor.  Buckets of fake blood are not their thing.  For me I found it entertaining and watched the entire thing…. but they were trying super hard to be edgy.  I wouldn’t suggest actually tracking down the video and watching it since it really ads no value other than an attempt at shock.

 

E3 2017: EA and Microsoft

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First up, you might notice that I have an awesome new masthead featuring my traditional Final Fantasy XIV “Bunny Samurai Warrior” appearance.  I commissioned the always amazing @AmmosArt to get this ready for me in time for the Stormblood launch.  However instead of waiting and sitting on it…  and then revealing it this coming Friday when head start begins…  I simply could not hold off my excitement and spent a chunk of yesterday morning switching it out.  While the form factor does not exactly fit my blog I am posting the full version regardless.  The amount of work that she put into getting everything just right, and even accounting for the fact that I have a blue color scheme to get the reflections in there just fight, along with those coming off of my Palace of the Dead axe… is just phenomenal.  Over the years she has sort of become the official un-official artist of whatever the hell I happen to be doing.  While I still adore the Chibi work that Rae did all those years ago, Ammo’s art style really speaks to me and has thus-far been pretty malleable to make work with literally anything I want to have her create for me.  For example… the Tam commissioned Twitter Warrior Bel, or the extremely amazing Destiny themed Sunbreaker Bel.  Other than that… this weekend was largely about the beginning of E3 when they cram a whole slew of not officially part of E3 shows into the days before the doors open.  So far I have seen Electronics Arts, Microsoft, and I stayed up for the silly late Bethesda show.  It has been a truly mixed bag of experiences.

Electronic Arts Show

Firstly on AggroChat I gave the analogy of Electronic Arts being the Dursleys from Harry Potter fame… and Bioware being the boy kept under the stairs.  Bioware is the only reason why I care about Electronic Arts in the least, and all we saw from the studio during the show was a 52 second teaser video for the new IP Anthem.  There was a follow up of course during the Microsoft event with more footage, but never have I felt like Bioware was more of a red headed stepchild.  It feels like EA is trying to them of their Biowareyness, but I will talk about that a little later when I talk about anthem.  As far as games…  we had plenty of sports..  now with a focus on roleplaying elements and campaign storyline.  This was so much the case that I literally thought for a second that they had dropped the madden name and instead decided to call this years football offering “Longshot”.  As far as games I was interested in…  Battlefront II seemed really cool and they talked about how they plan on having this cinematic campaign experience.  However when it came time to show a demo… they instead showed us more Star Wars Battlefield game play on and over the planet of Naboo…  which was cool but didn’t exactly show off any of the promised new features.

There was an extremely interesting prison break game called A Way Out by the folks that created Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons.  The gotcha here is that the game must be played in multiplayer either couch co-op or networked.  I am not super keen on needing to complete a game with another person in tow, nor do I really have a ready “player two”.  They also showed off Need For Speed Payback, which is cool… but literally should have been branded a Fast and the Furious game because it feels like those movies feel.  Don’t get me wrong, Need For Speed is a really fun experience but they are also not pre-order or even day one games for me, but instead something I pick up when prices drop.  Battlefield 1 moves to the Russian front, which I would probably care about a lot were I actually playing Battlefield…  or if I even owned it.  The Russian front at least in World War II games is always the awesome front… so I imagine that will probably be the case for Battlefield 1 as well.  All in all it was a pretty disappointed show filled with a few truly awkward moments as people not used to using a teleprompter had to suddenly use one.  At least one of these moments served as our reminder that YouTube content is highly scripted, and doesn’t exactly translate to extemporaneous speaking.  The highlight of the night was twitter errupting with a bunch of people asking how the hell this “iJustine” person was.

Microsoft Show

Leading into E3… Microsoft needed to come out swinging.  This has been an entire console generation where they have been lagging far behind Sony and it all started with a poor reveal of the Xbox that focused on its multimedia capabilities.  This years E3 started with the announcement of the Xbox One X… or XBoneX the Edgelord from now on.  Its a horrible name…  if they simply dropped the one part and went with Xbox X it would make a lot more sense.  I think part of this is cognitive dissonance from the fact that Xbox One is still a really stupid name for the third Xbox in the product cycle.  All of this aside however it does look like a good platform, and the $499 price point seems reasonable…  for folks who actually care about what it is offering.  My problem with this and the Playstation Pro (which is also a stupid name) is the fact that I don’t own anything 4k for this to take advantage of.  Honestly nor do I have any real plans in the near future to shell out the money to purchase something 4k, and if I did… it wouldn’t likely be in my office but instead in the living room where I wouldn’t hook up a console anyways.  Basically I am not the target demographic but of those who are… they seemed okay with the announcements.  The games however…  that was where the story was for me given that they announced something like 42 games…  albeit a lot of those were in a lengthy montage that always seems to say “we wanted to name drop but didn’t care enough to really show it”.

 

Metro Exodus

This game looked so damned amazing, but also seemed extremely scripted.  I am interested to see what the moment to moment gameplay is like.  Functionally it just proved that the new Metro cranks up the already pretty high quality bar.

Assassin’s Creed Origins

This game looks really interesting… but unfortunately as I have learned while attempting to play 2, 3 and 4…  I really don’t like Assassin’s Creed games.  The sneaking about is exactly the opposite way that I want to play.  If there were more stand up fights, and if I could simply go from one end of town to the other systematically exterminating the enemy faction… I would probably like the game a lot better.

State of Decay 2

My criticism here is the fact that nothing about the trailer that they showed…  revealed anything about the game or at least did not explain why State of Decay is not “just another zombie game”.  I loved the first game and purchased it when it first launched on Xbox Live Arcade…  and then again on PC…  and then again when the Year One Survivor bundle came out…   and again for a handful of people when it went on sale.  I am a huge supporter of Undead Labs and what they bring to the Zombie genre, but I am always disheartened when the take away on twitter is that we really don’t need any more zombie games.  We need good games regardless of genre, and if this is anything like the original… it is going to be an amazing game.  My hope is that this game will allow them to go beyond the scope limitations they had with the first.  My other hope is that we finally get multiplayer, because the first one would have been such an amazing experience if I could have drug a few friends into the world to scavenge with me.  While I am writing this I am getting the severe itch to fire back up State of Decay.

Anthem

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I am really not sure how I feel about this game.  On one hand every possible nerd nob was turned well past 11 in the demo, and if you had told me that this was Destiny with the storytelling that Bioware is traditionally famous for…  I would be throwing money at the screen.  However there isn’t a lot in the demo that covers what the story will even be like other than a brief mission that was given to you as you wandered through town.  The suits themselves… remind me of this amalgam between Pacific Rim and Fallout 4 Power Armor.  I love the Jet packs…  and I really hope you start out with those.  Jet Packs felt amazing in Mass Effect Andromeda, and more than anything I wanted to use them as a means to traverse the areas…  even though the Nomad was freaking amazing.  The first strike the game gets for me though is the fact that it is a third person shooter.  I really prefer first person, however when scoping it felt like maybe the perspective is going to be a reasonable one.  I have old eyes and I just found it hard sometimes to sight in head shots in Division when they were at the actual ranges you would want to use a sniper rifle for.  The other big strike against the demo is just how much it feels like the initial Division demo did.  The same sort of bullshit fake voice chat, and the same sort of “we can do anything” open world game-play showcasing a bunch of stuff without really zeroing in that deep on any of them.

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I was burnt by The Division, because what they showed at E3 never really seemed to materialize in the full version.  The final game was fun enough but was definitely the sort of game you needed to have a squad with you in order to progress at reasonable levels.  I still have yet to hit the level cap because there is this weird doldrum where my gear isn’t really good enough to make the harder content easier…  but I am also not getting enough cash to be able to fix that problem.  With Anthem I am cautiously optimistic, but also concerned  that this is a steep departure for Bioware.  Mass Effect was never really known for its combat prowess… and what made Destiny work and the Division not for me at least was the moment to moment feel of the gunplay.  For Anthem to ultimately be my game they are going to need to make it feel unique each time I pick up a different kind of weapon, and be more than just a mech suit fantasy.  There is a huge part of me though that wants to throw abandon to the wind and join this hype train.  However there is that other part that is just cautious before I give my heart away to another game.

At this point I am just running out of time… but if you have the couple hours at some point you just watch the full press conference.  I will talk about my general disappointment in the Bethesda conference at another time.

 

E3 2017 Anticipation

Next week is e3 and as is usually the case the first glimmers of what is going to be talked about have started leaking their way onto YouTube.  There are several sites out there with pretty legitimate looking lists of what games have an have not been confirmed to be appearing.  Functionally the show tends to revolve around several large press events, with a smattering of other news trickling out around them.  The big shows tend to happen before the actual event starts, which means this weekend.  For those interested here is the schedule I have been able to scrape together…  most of which will be available through a stream of some sort.

  • Electronic Arts – Saturday June 10th – 12 pm PDT
  • Microsoft – Sunday June 11th – 2 pm PDT
  • Bethesda – Sunday June 11th – 9 pm PDT
  • Devolver Digital – Sunday June 11th – 10 pm PDT
  • PC Gaming Show – Monday June 12th – 10 am PDT
  • Ubisoft – Monday June 12th – 1 pm PDT
  • Sony – Monday June 12th – 6 pm PDT
  • Nintendo – Tuesday June 13th – 9 am PDT

The last several years the PC Gaming show has been an awkward cringefest to watch…  but it sort of fit its late night time slot.  With them moving it to a morning slot, I am wondering if that is a ploy to get more folks to show up and peddle their pc gaming wares.  Whatever the case I can pretty much guarantee that I am going to be watching most if not all of this over the next few days…  or at least the ones that are not happening during work hours.  The show I am traditionally the most excited for is Bethesda, because in years past they have absolutely nailed giving gamers exactly the sort of things they wanted to be hearing about.  With the Fallout 4 story arc finished, and a new Elder Scrolls outing still supposedly years away… I am not terribly certain what we might be seeing.  It is almost certain that we will be seeing some Quake Champions news… but a twitchy competitive reflex shooter doesn’t exactly excite the 40 year old version of myself the same way it might have the 17 year old me.  I mean I can always hope beyond hope that they will drop the mic this year with the reveal of Elder Scrolls VI but I won’t exactly be holding my breath either.  Instead here are the few titles I am really looking forward to hearing more about.

State of Decay 2

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State of Decay is one of those games that I loved… but never really played as much of it as I would have liked.  At the time of release it was an Xbox 360 title and I just didn’t spend that much time playing my 360.  When it released on PC I had a furious few weekends of playing it again… and have wound up purchasing it as a gift for several people.  However I never really gave the game as much time as I would have liked because it was missing one core feature…  multiplayer.  This was the sort of world that I really wanted to go out and explore with my friends, and the absence of that option tarnished the experience for me.  What I am wanting from E3 is just more of everything and a firm release date on when we can expect the game.

Destiny 2

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I am just so damned ready for this game to release if we are being honest.  Right now I just want more.  I want more information, more game play footage…  and I am hoping their mic drop is that we can download and start playing the beta now.  I am not holding my breath, but that ultimately is what I want out of the experience.  I am already sold and have already pre-ordered the PS4 copy…  since the PC pre-orders are not open yet.  I want to know a firm date of when the PC is going to launch, because even if it is delayed I want to know how long of a wait.

Farcry 5

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This is probably the first Farcry game since the first that I am really excited about.  America as a whole has a really hard time confronting our own lunatic fringe or religious extremists.  Everything about this game seems like we are going to be fighting back against the madness of a weird religious cult of sorts.  I am ready to roam around the backwoods of Montana and take out bad people doing bad things.

Super Mario Odyssey

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They had me at “new mario game for switch” but what I am wanting is more details.  I want to know when exactly this is going to release because up until now we have only had some wild speculations as a “christmas season” launch.  I also want to know more about this real world/mario world fusion, and I am wondering if it is going to have tie ins to Super Mario Land in Universal Studios Japan.  Nintendo is generally the least forthcoming with the conferences as far as hard data goes…  but I really just want to know when this is going to launch.

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

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We have not heard much from “Not-Castlevania” in awhile and I am hoping they have something to show off at E3.  Once again there is the common theme of me knowing a game is coming out… and just wanting some hard data on it.  I am a backer and have already played through the Demo game they released as a proof of concept several times… and now I am just ready for the full meal.  Everything I experienced to date was spot on with exactly how I wanted this game to feel…  they just need to push it across the finish line and not end up botching it in the process.

 

Mixed Results

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Yesterday I spoke about an idea we had of trying to level lock and run dungeons “legitimately” and as a result slowly work our way through the content as a trio.  I personally went with a Brewmaster Monk, a class I have never really devoted much time to playing.  Grace similarly fell into a familiar role of healing, rolling a Mistweaver Monk.  That left Mor with rolling an Assassination Rogue to be our damage dealer.  We went into this experiment quite honestly expecting to largely face roll Ragefire Chasm.  What happened instead was absolutely not anything even vaguely close to facerolling.  From the first pull we knew we were in for some work, given that firstly…  we were in an assemblage of whatever gear we happened to scrape together making our way to 15.  Secondly we were going in as a trio instead of a full five player group.  All in all given how much we underestimated the content…  I feel largely okay about the evening.  We struggled our way through the dungeon, boss after boss until we sat stalled at the final encounter.  Lava Guard Gordoth has this ability called Seismic Slam, that deals damage to all players within 25 yards of the boss.  There is no cast bar or from what I can tell any real way to mitigate this.  The challenge simply put is the fact that this ability was a oneshot, and we could see no real way of avoiding it.

The problem here is that we are quickly realizing that the content is seemingly scaled for players in Heirlooms… and not necessarily gear that you happen to get organically.  When I am in my full heirloom set of gear like pictured above I am sitting somewhere in the vicinity of 1600 health.  When wearing completely legit questing gear…  I am sitting somewhere around 500 health.  Quite simply put we were running into a hard gear wall that we need to scale somehow.  Because we are insane however…  we are planning on attempting to throw a rope over the ramparts and scale that wall anyways.  The first challenge is to decide what the actual firm guidelines are for this project.  Right now we have a handful of rules written in a spreadsheet where we are attempting to keep track of the item levels for each dungeon.  The rules to date look a little something like this.

  • Level lock at the minimum level for each dungeon
  • Use whatever means necessary during the in-between levels
  • Must complete all dungeons at level before moving on
  • No heirlooms in dungeons
  • Must get to the dungeon naturally and zone in
  • Attempt all raids even if we super fail

What we failed to address however is what exactly is fair game for gearing ourselves to be able to complete the content.  There are a bunch of options that I see and they all sorta have their own pluses and minuses.

Continue Questing While Level Locked

This one is pretty straight forward.  Stay level locked and just keep working on quests, with the thought process that eventually you would get good enough gear to be able to complete the content.  The positive here is that it is entirely organic… at least in a fashion, the the negative is you are functionally making the next level grind a bit harder given that you will need to do more grinding and have fewer quests to rely on.  That said we have already agreed that leveling between dungeon locks in heirlooms is completely fair game.

Auction House

Another thing we need to identify is if we are willing to allow purchasing items from the Auction House.  My gut feeling here is no, especially given that we are currently in the twink PVP bracket and some of the decent options are going for as much as 300,000 gold.  It always just feels wrong to buy our way to success in the dungeons.

Pre-Farming Gear

Another option is to simply run our alts through the dungeon and farm up a bunch of greens then trade them around.  If I remember correctly Deadmines drops greens like candy and they should in theory be in the appropriate level range.  I am mostly torn on this one because this is my gut reaction on how to solve a gearing problem… just throw a bunch of greens at it.  However this also maybe tarnishes the legitimacy of the runs.  Similarly we could simply take turns running each others characters through a zone… but that actually feels significantly worse to me given that you are able to pick up boss loot as well as an assortment of random greens that could have dropped anywhere in that level range.

Battlegrounds

Grace and I actually tested this one out and in the grand scheme of things this seems like a reasonable option to get an assortment of greens.  The one match we played we both got really nice at level cap greens that were sizable upgrades over our questing look.  The negative is that for Grace at least it did not seem to respect her loot spec choice and she continued to get agility gear instead of intellect gear.  Additionally as stated this is the twink bracket which means it isn’t exactly the fairest fights in the world.  However wearing heirlooms seemed to put us on a fairly even footing with the twinklords.

Crafted Gear

The potentially best option is to get a bunch of gear crafted that the characters can wear and start with that as a baseline.  The challenge and frustration here is that Blizzard is generally lousy at crafted gear.  It is nearly impossible to create a full set of gear at any given level, so you still wind up wearing a mishmash of items level 5 to 15 in order to finish enough pieces to get a reasonable set of anything.

Random Dungeon Bags

We have all but agreed this one is out of the picture because the gear that comes from the random bags you get at the end of dungeon finder dungeons…  is scaled pretty similar to heirlooms.  That means we will once again gear way past what our ultimately target goal is.  We are looking to make the dungeons a challenge, but somehow find a happy medium where they are also not impossible like Ragefire appeared to be tonight.  We’ve just reached the point where we need to hash out these ideas and potentially come up with others, and lay down some additional ground rules on how we want to gear these characters.  Best to decide it now because we are going to have a lot of gearing in our future.  The awesome thing about this however is that it is making us appreciate greens that we have been thoughtlessly vendoring for years.

RoboSquid Armada

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Myself and a few friends may be deciding to engage in some madness.  The idea spawned out of a discussion about how World of Warcraft would be a more enjoyable leveling experience if it featured the same style of instance level scaling that Final Fantasy XIV does.  For those not familiar, in FFXIV you have a set of levels for a given dungeon much the same as you do in World of Warcraft.  For example Deadmines is generally thought of as a level 15-16 dungeon…  so in this case if it were FFXIV you would zone in and be downscaled to the level of the zone regardless if you are level 25 or level 60.  The other feature of the level scaling is that you are limited to using abilities that exist within that level range… which in itself can be slightly annoying because you might need to do some hotbar swapping.  The experience feels good however and you get to run the dungeons with your friends without necessarily feeling like you are powering them through the content.  For years I have beat the drum of the need for “mentoring” in World of Warcraft, where you can voluntarily drop your level to that of a friend.  While we absolutely know that the level scaling tech could do this… thanks to the Legion zones and Invasion event…  it seems like the Blizz crew simply doesn’t want to add this feature.  So we decided to take things into our own hands.

Years ago they put in a functionality of being able to lock your level and effectively turn off experience gain.  For the most part this was entirely intended to be used by the thriving “twink” PVP scene that flourished during Vanilla and the Burning Crusade expansions.  However some time ago we also used this for the purpose of raiding and I was a tank in a guild called “Years Behind” that attempted to raid all of the vanilla content with level locked 60s.  That derailed a small bit because there was a significant amount of gear that you could equip at 60…  but effectively came from the BC expansion, meaning some of those greens straight up wrecked hard fought purples from the raid content.  Regardless it was a lot of fun to experience the raid content the way it was meant to be experienced, rather than steamrolling it with a bunch of wildly overleveled characters.  The only negative with level locking is that it is a bit cost prohibitive… in that it costs 10 gold every time you want to lock your level… and another 10 gold every time you want to unlock it.  As a result in order to complete this project we decided that we would need a benefactor…  namely the already well geared characters of myself and Grace.  With all of this in mind…  last night we set forth to create a brand new set of low level horde characters.  I myself am playing Belgwyb… a Female Orc Monk with the bluish skintone…  in a slantwise honorific of the best Grand Company leader ever… Meylwyb Bloefhiswyn.  Grace created another Monk but I believe she is going healy, whereas I am of course intending to go tanky.  Finally Mor rolled an undead rogue, which gives us some semblance of proper dps.

The idea is a simple but also probably a slightly insane one.  We level to 15… then lock our level and attempt to run Ragefire Chasm and Deadmines.  If we cannot for some reason complete a dungeon during a fixed level range… we unlock and begin leveling again only to lock later and try again.  The goal being to get through all of the dungeons in the game… especially the vanilla era ones with appropriately leveled and geared characters.  The catch is that we are not using heirlooms at all.  That is for a few reasons… firstly the xp gain boost would make like madness in trying to control our levels and secondly…  using heirlooms is the equivalent of using blue or purple gear all of the time while leveling greatly reducing the difficulty of all encounters.  The other constraint we are placing upon ourselves is that we must run to the dungeon and be able to zone in naturally.  This means for Deadmines we are in fact going to have to do the Gromgol run up to Westfall through a bunch of really nasty stuff that can and probably will straight up wreck us.  I am going to try and convince my companions to let me stream these adventures because I have a feeling they are going to be memorable.  The fact that we are trying things at the right level is increased in difficulty by the fact that there are just three of us doing this, and not a full team of five.  Our first step is to hit 15 however we want… and then we begin the dungeon crawl.  I of course will be sharing our adventures…  good or bad here on the blog.  We formed a guild last night for this process… and named it the RoboSquid Armada because that is apparently what happens when you get the three of us together and tell us to name something.

Invasion Frustrations

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Most of the time I attempt to remain positive about the games I am playing… and at least a good deal of the time it works.  World of Warcraft is one of those titles that I just have too deep a history with to not at any given time be carrying a lot of baggage.  This generally builds up to the point where I write a big long piece complaining about a myriad of things in the game and tend to be super depressing for a bit until I finally cancel my account.  This is in fact a cycle that has played out numerous times in the history of this blog…  initially around Cataclysm and repeating with every expansion to date.  With the launch of Legion I tried something different…  just fading away quietly whenever the time came that I needed to have a break from the game.  For the most part this has worked extremely well, but there are still some residual frustrations.  The thing is…  I get frustrated with World of Warcraft not because it is a horrible gaming experience, but instead for quite the opposite.  There are so many things that the game does right… that I can see the potential of what it could be with a little tweaking here or there.  So when I ultimately write a frustration piece, it comes from a place of love rather than a place of hate.  But in the past this hasn’t felt that different for any of my readers so in large part I have attempted to avoid them entirely.

There is however something that really frustrates me right now happening in game.  With the 7.2 patch it introduced the Broken Shore questing area, and with it started the Legion Invasions.  Now if you have been with this blog for awhile, you will know that I loved the Invasion feature during the lead up to the Legion launch.  I used and abused this feature to level my army of alts to 100…  but in truth also had a really damned good time doing it.  The concept was simple… every 4 hours some new part of the world would be invaded and as a result you could guarantee that any time you logged in, you would have access to an invasion to go run.  I think this “always on” aspect of the event was one of the things I liked most about it.  My personal time schedule didn’t matter so much, but instead I could simply log in whenever it fit me and go do some invasion content.  Unfortunately the reboot does not work this way but instead is limited to two events per day with widely varying start times.  The above image is a cut and paste job from the WoWhead invasion tracker on their front page… and the in game interface.  The invasion that is going on right now started at 2 in the morning CST and the next one will be tonight at 8:30 pm CST.  These invasions are starting every 18 1/2 hours which means if you just happen to hit them at the wrong time… it might be a few days before you see another one.

Why this is frustrating is that it seems arbitrary and unnecessary given there is already a perfectly reasonable solution in place.  Each morning at roughly 10 am there is the daily reset, that clears all of your heroic locks and resets your access to daily quests and such.  The better solution to me would have simply been to leave a given zone hot for 24 hours and each time the daily reset happens switch zones.  So instead of 18 1/2 hours… you end up with 24 hours…  which sure in the grand scheme of things means that fewer invasions are happening but it also guarantees that regardless of your time constraints you are able to get one in every day.  The only reason why I care I guess…  is just like the pre-launch invasions…  I actually like doing them.  Sure there is a shot at gear on the line, but I find the whole process of doing the quests enjoyable because it feels like I am retaking a zone.  Now I imagine the chief problem with this idea is the fact that the invasions themselves were designed to be limited content with each one providing a limited set of World Quests that cause the normal ones in that zone to de-spawn.  That might be an issue were it not for the fact that I know Blizzard has a reasonable instancing technology as exhibited by the fact that the pre-launch invasions all worked in that they zoned you into a fresh instance of the zone that was in the early phases of the quest.  The Broken Shore invasions honestly should have worked similar, in that you zone into whatever the “hot zone” happens to be and get access to the handful of invasion specific world quests… and then get zoned right back out after you have completed the scenario.

The frustration again is that this almost works perfectly, were it not for the frustrating arbitrary gauge of 18 1/2 hours between invasions and the fact that they expire after 6 hours.  I get that they were trying to spread the times around so that they would at least line up once a week for most players with their normal play window.  The end result however feels like the worst possible solution, because unless you happen to be playing 24/7 or setting alarms just to get up for invasion events…  you are going to miss out on a lot of the fun.  There are honestly a whole lot of design options that would have been better.  I know there are technical constraints at work here, but the version we got just doesn’t feel like the best that blizzard could have done.  The problem with this rant is the fact that it is too late to be relevant…  but I still feel like making it regardless.  The 7.2 patch landed back in March and it is now June when I am finally really experiencing it.  The likelihood that any tweaks are made to the way invasions work is also extremely minimal.  The likelihood that anyone from Blizzard reads my blog… is also extremely minimal.  Legion as a whole has been a very unfriendly expansion for playing alts… and the Invasion system is this weird amazing thing for helping push up your alts and gear them.  I personally would probably end up running every single one of my alts through the invasion, but in order to do that right now I have to either play at really strange hours or hope to hit the start at exactly the right time.  I realize this is not a big deal either way, but just spending time this morning pointing out that it could feel so much better.