The Good Grind

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Over the last few days I have been thinking about where Monster Hunter World has succeeded and Destiny 2 has failed.  I know this is probably a strange way to start off a post, but I am playing MHW the way that I fully expected to still be playing Destiny 2.  If you add up the total time I have spent with the Destiny franchise across different platforms you wind up with 741 hours.  Given that sort of track record I fully expected to be playing that game currently.  That said I have missed two faction rallies, two iron banners and have not really even logged in during the current crimson doubles event.  Sure I could be getting all manner of cosmetic gear from them…  but the weapon and gear system just feels hollow given that I have collected most everything I am interested in using.

While I love the token loot system, Destiny 2 has a problem with not giving us a meaningful grind to be focused on.  Doing event after event hoping to get a Masterwork Weapon or Piece of armor doesn’t really count.  When I say meaningful grind I mean something that I can do on a nightly basis that is fun, but also feels like I am making progress towards some larger objective.  In many ways the fickle nature of loot in Destiny 1 and the existence of things like the Court of Oryx and Archon’s Forge gave me something I could do… that felt like I was potentially moving in the direction of something that I wanted from the game.  As it stands there are too few interesting weapon options and the watered down version of exotics no longer really make them worth chasing in the way we used to before.

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It may simply be because I am playing on the PS4 with friends that I am drawing the conclusion…  but as I play Monster Hunter World I think about the ways that it has given me this path to madness paved with little incremental rewards.  When you kill or trap a Monster you are hunting you are showered with a bunch of monster parts…  some of which are useful and some of which are not as useful.  The thing is, regardless if I have 50 of an item… I am still sorta excited to see them because I know that eventually I might need to use them to craft some new weapon that I then have to upgrade up to the final version.  I might suddenly decide that Hammer is awesome and then have to start building up my collection of weapons much the same as I do for my beloved Longsword.

I know that every thing I kill, and every object in the world that I loot is taking me towards some bigger goal.  The number of times that I have had to go out lately and farm herbs…  one of literally the first items you encounter in the game…  is shocking given that I am dealing with a completely different set of monsters than I did back then.  However it doesn’t seem like tedium because they have placed value on almost everything you can encounter out in the wilds and while you may not need it today… there is likely going to be a time at some point in the future where you will be wishing you had more of it.  While literally every moment I am not hunting a big epic monster is busywork…  none of it feels like it because it feels valuable to the larger mission of the game.

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While Destiny has never really had something close to this grind, I am thinking maybe it should.  The central focus of all of this for me personally is the Smithy, which is a menu driven crafting system that allows me to turn all of these bits and pieces of critters I have taken down…  and meld them into usable gear with interesting stat combinations.  I’ve spent a good deal of time farming up Odogoron, which is a giant hairless blind hell hound looking thing.  I personally really like its armor set and I want to be able to wield the full thing a a potential replacement for my mishmash of gear I am currently wearing.  This gives me a goal, and the grind itself is slow enough that each kill feels like meaningful progress without ever giving me that landfall moment of getting everything I possibly need in a single round.

Imagine for a second if you had gear and weapons in Destiny based on a similar concept.  Each time you took down the Fallen example, there was a chance of getting an item that could be used in the crafting of Fallen themed weapons or armor.  The common items would drop from Dregs, medium rarity items from Vandals and the rare bits from Servitors and Walkers.  Then say you wanted to craft the Vex Mythoclast you would need to maybe take down a Gate Lord to get the focusing lens, and a bunch of Minotaurs to get the armored housing.  All of this is more meaningful than collect 40 of token Z and hope the RNG gods smile upon your en devour as you may or may not get the item you want from a relatively deep loot table.  It also turns Banshee-44 into more than the Gachapon machine that he currently is, by giving him the actual ability to craft specific items for you.

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What Monster Hunter World does better than almost anything is that it gives me a target for my nightly nonsense.  Granted right now I cannot craft the Chrome Slicer I because I lack the zenny to do so….  but I know where every single piece that it requires drops from.  I know that I can run loops around High Rank Wildspire Wastes for most if it, but to get the Fucium Ore I am going to have to make my way down into the Elder’s Recess.  If I notice a weapon requires parts off of a specific monster I am given a bunch of different ways to target that one specific encounter and run it over and over if I so choose.  In my case what I personally tend to do is answer SOS beacons for that specific encounter, feeling like I am actually helping out someone else in the community take down that critter for fun and profit as well.

More than anything what I think Monster Hunter World does so well is that it eases you into all of this.  You quickly learn the value of the items you can grab out in the world as new patterns start showing up that you can craft.  You notice that items have ??? beside some of the materials and it drives you to go out and explore until you find them.  All of this creates a feedback loop of take down epic feeling monsters, get items, craft interesting gear…  so you can take down even bigger monsters.  Sure a lot of the gear is not strictly required…  but for someone who is very gear focused it certainly makes the journey feel a lot more meaningful.  The monster battle portion being fun enough that while I am actively engaged in fighting…  I am not even thinking about what might drop which is not the case in most MMORPGs.

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When they first started talking about Destiny 2 being a much more open world and quest driven game…  this is honestly the sort of experience I had been envisioning.  What if you could fight a Destiny boss the same way you do a Monster in Monster Hunter World?  What if getting every player to focus on taking out a Gatelord’s weapon arm caused it to no longer be able to fire that weapon… and instead forced it to change up tactics and start engaging in melee attacks.  What if the way you fought a boss mattered just as much as the weapons you took into the fight?  When we got Destiny 2 and it was a stripped down version of what we had in Destiny 1…  I was disappointed, but the mechanical loop of the game kept me engaged for way longer than the game itself probably deserved.  I had enough hype built up to carry me through the console launch and restarting with the PC launch…  but now I just don’t ever feel like even logging in.

What I want is a good grind.  That doesn’t necessarily mean running Omnigul hundreds of times hoping that maybe just maybe you will get that one in a million perfectly stated Grasp of Malok.  What that means for me personally is something that I can do on a nightly basis that feels like I am eventually heading towards some goal down the road.  Maybe at some point in the near future I will feel like I am out of grinds in Monster Hunter World, but I can at least see a road map in front of me that seems like it is going to be an interesting ride.  Right now I am almost overwhelmed by the sheer number of objectives that I could be chasing, and as I move up… it feels like the world keeps expanding out rather than narrowing down to a pin point like the raid cycle does in an MMORPG.  Monster Hunter World is a really great grind, that is attached to a really fun experience of taking down giant monsters that fight in a fluid and believably organic manner.  Maybe Bungie will find its footing at some point, but for the moment I am enjoying discovering the Monster Hunter franchise.

Wolcen Alpha Thoughts

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This weekend was a largely chill en devour that focused on lots of gaming while either upstairs in my warm warm office, or downstairs snuggled into a blanket on the sofa. It was my original intent to spend lots of time hunting monsters with friends, and I did in fact manage that for a bit Sunday afternoon. I also managed another goal which was to craft the Horizon Zero Dawn set of Palico gear which Kenzie is currently wearing. It admittedly feels a little weird at times to talk about Kenzie in game versus Kenzie the real life cat, but I still feel like if you didn’t name your Palico friend after an actual cat you are a monster. The other big happening of the weekend is that I dove head first into a game that I had been wanting to try for a bit.

Wolcen Lords of Mayhem is an Action Roleplaying Game that draws its inspiration from Diablo 2, Path of Exile and to some extent Diablo 3.  It’s funny how a genre that largely spawned from a single came can branch and wind up fairly divisive.  There is an entire community that feels like Diablo 2 was the ideal version of the game, another that feels like Path of Exile is the true successor to the throne…  and a whole other group of people that care nothing about that noise and happily play Diablo 3.  Wolcen is this weird amalgam in which I can see some of the best traits of each of those camps, as well as pulling in some other games in the genre like Titans Quest and its eventual successor Grim Dawn.  Essentially it is a good start at trying to build a brand new modern ARPG.

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The game itself is completely gorgeous, which admittedly was the first thing that I noticed about it.  I stumbled onto this game when D3 community YouTuber Rhykker did a video talking about it.  I have been trying very hard to avoid playing alpha/beta/early access games because they tend to sour my impression and excitement when the final product is released.  However when I saw the game play I promptly threw that rule out the window and slammed my $19.95 on the table to join the testing.  Firstly please note the game is very much an alpha build and in my short time playing it I have encountered all sorts of bugs including being hit by a monster a few times and having it teleport me back to base without actually dying.

This is absolutely a buyer beware sort of experience, but for me at least I felt like I wanted to help fund the games development because they have some pretty big plans.  They are even brave enough to post their long term roadmap in the form of a Trello board for the backers to look at and comment on.  Similarly there is a community Discord available as well so folks can leave bug reports, comment on game play and leave feature requests.  The little bit of time I have spent roaming around the chat channels have made me realize that the game already has a super devoted following.  As far as the lineage of this game goes… it is my understanding that it originally started out as a mod for the game Crysis designed to allow folks to create an ARPG on the CryEngine.  From there it turned into a Kickstarter project called Umbra, and then at some point the name shifted to Wolcen which I find insanely awkward to pronounce.

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What makes the game extremely interesting to me is the fact that there are no classes.  You start as either a Male or a Female character with pretty robust sliders and character creation options.  From there your character becomes whatever you want it to be in the form that everything is treated like a spell…  be it a melee attack or an orb of lighting being hurled at the target.  How you begin to spec out your character determines how effective you are going to be in your goals.  Not surprisingly I have largely focused on melee with a sword and shield build designed to get in… dish out a bunch of damage then use the games active dodge system represented by the green pips above the skill bar to get out safely.

Admittedly it does not always work because the monsters in this game hit super hard and involve a lot of movement to be able to take them down successfully.  I spent some time streaming Sunday morning and died over and over to all sorts of silly situations, and with no difficulty slider currently…  it could get frustrating if you are not willing to keep throwing your face against this game.  As far as speccing your character you are given a combination of the traditional stat based system that allows you to allocate points each level into the core areas that you want to be improving.  On top of that each individual skill has its own tree of sorts that largely involves you choosing one of two options…  with one focused on efficiency and another focused on either dealing more damage or increasing the effect of your attacks.

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Lastly you have the “Gate of Fates” or what I tend to call it the Sphere Grid, which is a sequence of thematic choices you make as a character in how you want to build it out.  Now when I said there were no classes in this game… in theory that is probably a lie because you could think of the skill trees presented on this grid as classes.  On the inner ring you have Arcanist, Guardian, Legionary, Thief and Hunter.  On the second ring you have Elementalist, Warden, Maleficent, Gladiator and Trickster.  Then on the third ring they have a single tree so far called Assassin, but I fully expect that their goal is to keep expanding outwards.  What makes this interesting is there is an NPC in town that allows you to rotate the rings connecting up any first tier tree to any second tier tree.  So as a result right now my Legionary tree is rotated to meet up with Gladiator and in theory your “Class” becomes the combination of which trees you choose to mash together.

Admittedly it was in the sphere grid that Path of Exile largely lost me as a player because it kept expanding…  and keep seeming more and more like nonsense.  However with Wolcen it feels more manageable because essentially I am making one of five choices… each time I move outwards on the grid and can feel pretty happy to just stay within those lines.  There are a lot of things not messaged well in the game… including this sphere grid.  So for example I did not realize I could rotate it until I had already started putting some points into Guardian.  That said it doesn’t necessarily feel like those points were wasted either because I am getting the blended effect of both trees at the same time.  I would imagine late in the game you would have more than one tree fleshed out on each of the rings…  and as such keep tweaking the subtle nuance of your character design.

Essentially I broke my no alphas rule… because I really want to see this game come to fruition.  What is there right now… has an awful lot of potential and I can see how it could be turned into serious competition for the Diablo 4 throne.  I will always love Diablo and the action rpgs that have spawned out of it.  I’ve spent many an hour playing games like Titans Quest or even the MMO variants like Devilian.  Already Wolcen has managed to capture the essence of what makes a Diablo style game good… all the while taking this raw material and blending it into something fresh feeling.  They are taking the genre into an interesting direction that combines the accessibility of Diablo 3 with the madness of Path of Exile to produce something that I think will have staying power.  I fully expect that this is going to be one of those games that I keep popping back into as new features are added.  I am sure it is still a few years away from exiting early access, but the product that is there already feels good to play.  If you are so inclined and are willing to deal with a slightly buggy product… I highly suggest checking it out.

Four Necros

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Last night was the beginning of a brand new season in Diablo 3, and once again Grace and myself did our hang out and level new characters thing.  Traditionally these season opens happen on a Friday night, so there is always the ability to stay up until we hit the level cap.  Granted that has not actually happened in awhile with us usually crashing somewhere in range of 60.  Yesterday was a bit of a weird situation with the season open happening on a “School Night” as it were, which curbed our play session around 10 pm my time.  I finally called it because I was starting to drift off at the keyboard and when I did none of the other three players seemed to complain much about it.  I’ve been on this odd kick of going to bed around 10/10:30 which is significantly earlier than my traditional midnight.  Maybe my age is finally catching up with me?  Whatever the case… we managed to hit somewhere in the range of 47 before calling it a night.

Considering this is the first season post Rise of the Necromancer…  you can probably already imagine that we were a party of four…  and an army of dozens and dozens of undead following us around.  Can I just tell you how glorious it is to see four Necros doing their Necro thing?  We ran a bunch of Neph Rifts as is the traditional best leveling practice… and we got some insane spawns out of the gate that wound up boosting our characters significantly in the few hours we actually played.  There was one relatively small rift map that literally had almost nothing but yellow and blue packs which mean’t we had summoned the guardian well before we were actually prepared for it.  Necromancers have a really weird power curve in that they still start out a little weak, at least when it comes to raw damage output.  That Rift Guardian took forever for us to whittle down with our undergeared level 5 selves…  but within a few levels we were easily breaking apart and churning through a full round of bounties solo style.  At the point I left the seasonal content last night, I had reached effectively the same build of abilities that I was using on my level 70 necromancer.

  • Left Click – Bone Spike (Path of Bones)
  • Right Click – Blood Rush (Transfusion)
  • 1 – Revive (Purgatory)
  • 2 – Command Skeletons (Frenzy)
  • 3 – Command Golem (Bone Golem)
  • 4 – Skeletal Mage (Skeleton Archer)
  • Fueled By Death Passive
  • Commander of the Risen Dead Passive
  • Extended Servitude Passive

Path of Bones is my favorite builder in part because I can sit back a long ways from the targets and still be gaining essense while my bone army chews stuff apart.  Transfuion is largely as a reasonable way of getting back some health while also providing an escape mechanism.  There is rarely a time when I would need to use it… that I am not going to at least pass through a few enemies during the travel time.  Bone Golem just makes for a really nice AOE damage dealer… and it was hilarious when the four of us needed to do a boss and unleashed that all at the same time. Revive becomes the bread and butter way of getting extra attackers and quickly becomes more useful than the meat firework option that is corpse explosion.  What I like about purgatory is that it means I can keep recycling targets because when your revives die they turn back into corpses.  Functionally what I do is play with Flesh Golem up until the point I get this ability and then thankfully you can switch over to Bone Golem without losing a source of corpses.  The necromancer is insanely fun and if you have not played it yet, I highly suggest checking it out.

Army of Bone

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As I said yesterday morning I took a break from Final Fantasy XIV and the trial that has a good number of us completely high center on finishing the game.  For those unaware Diablo 3 released its first in what I hope is a series of smaller addon packs that infuse the game with a little new blood…  or skeletons in this case.  While not really an expansion pack, Rise of the Necromancer adds the much wanted class to Diablo 3 and it is implemented in a way so that it blends seamlessly with the rest of the game.  I will talk a bit more about that later, but here is functionally what you get for your $14.99…  which is amusingly easily within the bounds of converting a single WoW Token to Blizzard Balance.

  • Non-Combat Pet – disgusting half baked flesh golem thing
  • A Pair of Cosmetic Wings – you can see me rocking them in the above screenshot
  • Necromancer Themed Banner Shape, Sigil and Accent
  • Necromancer Portrait Frame
  • Pennant – looks similarly Necromancery
  • Two additional character slots – which I was apparently close to being out of
  • Two additional bank stash tabs

Lets be honest… I probably would have paid $15 for two more bank tabs but as far as I am concerned that is plenty of goodness for the price.  The Necromancer itself is insanely fun and most of last night I went around being followed by an army of undead minions.  I cheated a bit in that I crafted a full set of Cain set gear and hung on to my Leoric’s Crown which had a 95% multiplier on it…  for the Flawless Royal Ruby that I slotted in it…  giving me 130% bonus experience and 112 bonus experience per kill.  Now in my travels I have never leveled a Gem of Ease, which was the route that my friend Grace took to leveling significantly faster than me.  Regardless the experience is flying and last night I managed to make it to level 56.

The key difference this time as compared to my normal seasonal characters is that I opted to play through the original game story as is to try and catch any changes that were put in place for the necromancer.  I have been pleasantly surprised at just how well this new class blends with the original experience because they have shimmed in Necromancer specific responses from NPCs and Companions alike.  This is the first time I have actually run the game with the scoundrel as my companion and he regularly makes comments about not needing any more empty skulls following us around.  There was an event in Act II where I encountered a Necromancer out in the desert… which I greeted as a long lost friend rather than a strange traveler.  Sure it feels a little weird to have the Paladin accept you as a friend… when you functionally defile the dead and bind them into your service…  but whatever if you can manage a minor bit of hand waving what is left is a really enjoyable experience.  The other thing that was awesome… is that it has been years since I last saw these cinematic and I was impressed with just how well they still hold up.  I have so much love for Diablo 3 and it is the game that I am always rooting for good things to happen to… and small content packs like this one definitely seem like a viable way to continue growing the game.  I am more than willing to keep plunking down this $15 price point to get new classes and assorted stuff to go with it.

I am really hoping this means we might see the Druid or Amazon as a result.  Even more than rehashing characters from Diablo’s past… I would love to see them branch out and start giving us brand new concepts for characters.  What about giving us a redeemed demon, or a fallen angel to control for ourselves.  I just feel like there is a lot of life left in this game and I want to see them keep moving forward with expanding it.  What I think is cool is that functionally this expansion pack was split into two halves… the first being the content listed above… and the rest being simply patch 2.6.0 which adds three new areas to the game for everyone regardless if they purchase the pack or not.  Something called Challenge Rifts also went into the game as well as the usual number of tweaks and balances preparing us for the next season.  I like this idea of expanding both the free content at the same time as giving us an additional way to keep spending money with the game and supporting its development.  This is a weird balancing act that all of these “buy once, play forever” type of games seems to struggle with…  as in what is content that should just be free because you bought the game, and what is content that is reasonable to charge an extra fee for.  I feel like this balance with Diablo 3 seems about right and I think at this stage in the game it probably works far better than releasing a full expansion with a complete new act and 10 more levels to grind through each time you start a new character.  I would love to hear my readers thoughts on this one.  I for one am a happy camper, but I would be curious to hear some dissenting opinions.

 

Mixed Feelings

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

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

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

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

Diablo 3 Season Start and Anniversary Event

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My weekend was largely dominated by the launch of Diablo 3 Season 9, and the Darkening of Tristram event.  Up until this point I had not really touched any of the anniversary content, and to be honest the season beginning had completely slipped my mind until Grace asked me if we were doing our usual push.  It has become a bit of a tradition to hang out Friday night and push as far as we can.  While I rarely actually make it to 70 that first night, we both end up with a good head start into the season.  This time around however we opted to do the Darkening of Tristram content… which is essentially a 16 plus level Greater Rift.  I say plus because there are a number of offshoots that grant access to boss battles like the Skeleton King and other side areas.  The interesting thing is that as much as I was not feeling Diablo 2…  I absolutely enjoyed the weird nostalgic romp that is the darkening content.  Basically glorious retrovision was cute… but did not destroy the fact that the underlying game is one that I still greatly enjoy.  However for Diablo 2… I had simply moved on past that style of gameplay and the sort of character decisions that game asked you to make…  permanently or at least relatively permanently.

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As far as Season 9 goes I opted to play a Crusader once again… which is honestly my favorite of the Diablo 3 options.  Primarily my decision this time around was due to the fact that the Invoker set was one again the freebie, allowing me to play quite possibly my favorite build… the one I loving refer to as “stop hitting yourself”.  It is all about maximizing your thorns damage and then watching the mobs grind themselves to death on your armor.  Essentially it plays into my ultimately player fantasy… and that is being this immovable object that survives being swarmed and walks out unscathed.  The unscathed part however is a little open to interpretation since there are a handful of mob types that can just eat my lunch, but overall I am extremely happy with the progress so far this season.  So far I have soloed up to a 42 greater rift, and had more than enough breathing room to probably be able to bump that up to 45 without issue.  The most interesting thing is… I am already doing the equivalent of Torment 8 while still missing most of the items I need to do my proper build.  I am following the traditional Thorns/Invoker build and am still missing: Traveler’s Pledge, Compass Rose, Heart of Iron, Justice Lantern, Akarat’s Awakening and Convention of Elements…  and in truth I could probably use a better Hack than the one I managed to pick up.

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I managed to complete through step 5 (Slayer) in the Seasons journey and am just now starting to slowly work on the Champion aka step 6.  However the bulk of my time has been spent working on finishing the various Anniversary events.  There is an excellent guide up on Icy Veins that I have been working on, and to the best of my knowledge I have completed them all.  The one that took the longest however was “Protector of Tristram” which I included a screenshot of the completion above.  Essentially as you go through the Darkening of Tristram Rift each floor has specific mobs that can spawn.  You are usually only going to see a single spawn per floor, but in at least one rare case I didn’t see any rares up.  Similarly in other rare cases you have a shot at seeing all three mobs up on a given floor… because that happened to me for certain on the fourth floor of the dungeon.  Where the guide comes in handy is after a few runs of the event you are going to get your list of 40 whittled down to something more manageable.  Towards the end of my grind I realized that I needed mobs on floors 5, 6, 7, and 12… so I began focusing those specific floors and simply rushing to the exit on any floors that I didn’t need.  Finally both myself and Grace wound up needing the same mob… which feels like a rare spawn on floor five Foulwing.

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The other item that took a long time to finally complete was the collection of Cultists pages which can be found off special Temporal Priests that spawn in amongst existing cultists out in the world.  In theory there will only be a single Temporal Priest in a given spawn location, so once you have found it it is probably safe to move on to the next area.  The Icy Veins guide has the zones that are likely to have them up at a given time.  That said we did manage to find quite a few of them while doing normal rifts, and it seems like the “one per area” bit is unique to a given floor because we wound up with multiple pages in the same run a few times.  For those curious about drop rates of pages… by the time I finished I managed to obtain:

  • Page 1: 1 copy
  • Page 2: 4 copies
  • Page 3:  3 copies
  • Page 4:  1 copy
  • Page 5:  3 copies
  • Page 6:  1 copy
  • Page 7:  3 copies

I doubt any of the pages are intentionally rarer than others, but for me I spent a lot of time grinding away still needing the very first page to drop.  At this point I am extremely happy to have finished up all of the anniversary event and can now just start pushing towards that stash tab.  This feels like a good season so far, and I am hoping that my drive maintains itself as I get into the harder content.

Literal Ankle Biter

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LET IT DIE_20161211164207

This was a bit of an odd weekend.  Lets get the bad out of the way.  For several months we have been trying to figure out how to get Luna to a point where she does not attack the other two cats on sight.  We’ve kept her sequestered in my wife’s office and each night I grab her and we hang out in my office while I play games.  She almost always ends up snuggled on my desk, and in truth is just about the sweetest cat ever…  when not around our other two.  This is an important distinction before I tell you this next bit… because she is adorable and cuddly…  when she is by herself.  In my infinite lack of wisdom I decided that I wanted to make one last attempt to socialize them since she had seemingly bonded with me so tightly after our many many weeks of chilling in my office.  We locked our eldest cat up in the bedroom and brought Luna out, at first carrying her and holding her on the sofa.  Before long thought she wanted to explore… and for the most part our youngest and her were not interacting at all.  However there came a point where we were moments away from a cat fight, and I tried to gather Luna up and carry her off to my office.  She struggled to try and get away but I got her up to the office without much issue.  I turned to shut the door and I felt this searing pain on my leg around my lower calf.  She had bit me… and now I was left with the decision of how the hell to get out of my office without letting her out so she could go after Kenzie.

I snuck out and by the time I got downstairs I was bleeding pretty badly.  There are five marks…  so I am guessing one is maybe a claw mark or she drug off of me and raked me with her fang again.  Two of them are about a half inch in length and pretty deep… and two others are deep puncture wounds where she chomped down hard on my leg.  It hurts quite a bit to walk and just generally exist in the world right now, but I don’t think there is any real damage.  After going through the crap with my wife when she got bitten we are being extra cautious, and using the super duper antibiotic creme that they gave us back then.  Walking is not comfortable and today is going to be interesting.  I had to venture out to get more extra large band-aids, because in theory you can hit all of the spots with two of the largest size.  After getting bandaged up I went back upstairs where she seemed as freaked as I was by the event.  She sat on the floor in the back of my office up against the accordion closet door for a long while looking freaked.  Eventually I peeked down underneath the desk towards where she was at and said “it’s okay, I’m not mad” and almost instantly her demeanor changed and she bounded over and hopped up on the desk laying down beside me.  The thing that is breaking my heart is that I now know that this is probably never going to get any better, and we really do need to find her a new home.  Unfortunately the friend that we thought was going to take her… had her landlord say no.  It was in their contract that they could have pets if landlord approved… but I am guessing the asshole is biased against cats, because he assumed they were talking a dog.

Other than the cat thing…. and hurting…  I streamed a lot of Iron Banner.  I think it was Friday night at some point that I managed to hit Rank 5 with the Banana, and from that point on it was just gravy as far as loot went.  I guess in theory I should have been swapping to the Warlock or Hunter to get them to Rank 5 but instead I simply made a poor attempt at farming some more gear to increase my light levels.  This last 10 points is going to be slow as hell, but I entered the weekend at 390 and exit at 392 which I guess is reasonable.  According to beam I have now streamed seven hours of game play, which I guess isn’t a bad start for my first week.  Now a good chunk of that on Sunday at least was to an empty audience, but I entertained myself and have a bunch of footage to sift through.  There was one Iron Banner match where for whatever reason I started humming the Super Mario Brothers theme song inserting “Nope” instead of some of the notes.  All in all I think I like Rift for an Iron Banner match type, but like I said before I struggled a bit at first because the game play feels so vastly different from anything I had been used to.  The best item I got all weekend is still the above Branded Lord with Hammer Forged, Enhanced Battery and Range Finder… which I now have fully leveled and am almost using exclusively.

LET IT DIE_20161211162544
LET IT DIE_20161211162544

Lastly I played some “Let It Die” as evidenced by the first screenshot in the post today, and streamed it as well…  except for whatever reason my audio was being overpowered completely by the game audio.  I will have to fiddle with that and adjust it some.  This game is just strange as hell, and I guess in many ways it feels a little Dark Soulsian, in that the mobs that you encounter are somewhat brutally powerful at times.  There will be times that you get stunlocked to the point where you simply cannot do anything to deal with the encounters other than die.  The strangest part so far is the types of weapons you encounter…  hot irons, router drills, hammers…  firework launchers.  As you ascend the Tower of Barbs you encounter all sorts of monsters that should be in a silent hill game with bizarre implements that are trying to kill you, all the while you are using a zombie corpse thing as your avatar.  You start out buck naked each time and have to scrounge up armor and weapons to be able to survive for terribly long in the tower.  This is of course a “free to play” game and where the money aspect comes in is that in order to resurrect yourself using “death insurance” you need to spend a rainbow skull currency, that the game gives you a handful of to start out.  However in the brief period of time I played yesterday I wound up using two of them before realizing… that in truth I had not really made any actual progress and should stop doing that.  I’ve not quite figured out what the point is yet…  as far as how you actually improve your character.  I thought after I cleared a level I would be taken back to the lobby… but apparently I have to do that manually so I essentially lost all progress on that character and had to grab a fresh corpse to start the climb all over again.  It has some deep rogue like elements, all the while mixing in bizarre Neo Tokyo and Silent Hill tropes…. with a dash of Dark Soulsian difficulty.  Given that several of those checkboxes are things that Kodra likes, I think he maybe should try this game out.  What I am wanting to know is if you can play it multiplayer, because this would probably be super enjoyable with friends.

 

Journey Completed

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This weekend represents quite possibly the quickest I have “finished” the Diablo 3 seasonal journey.  I say finished with quotes because there is still a lot more that I could be doing, but I think I am ultimately as far as I intend to go.  Of note… when I logged in this morning I got an anniversary achievement and  the above Diablo pet so if you are interested you might check it out and make sure you log in within the next few days.  For lack of a better word…  Season 8 completely caught me off guard.  Unfortunately the rotating three month schedule means that this is going to happen more often than not these days.  Season 7 released during the Legion pre-launch event… so it too was a fairly truncated effort.  I know my friend Grace managed to make it in on the day before Season 7 ended and push hard enough to get her extra bank tab.  It would have been a great season to do that for, given just how good the hunter set was for pushing content.  I however just let my attempt at getting that bank slot slip away because I couldn’t bring myself to push any further.  This time around… we have a new set and a new optimal build.  We started the season once again on a Friday night, logging in and beginning the push within moments of the season going live.  Generally speaking we make it pretty close to 70 on that first night… but this time both Grace and I lost our “oomph” at around 54.

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I managed to pick up the next day with another group and we ground together from the 50s through to 70 making it to roughly paragon 20 before needing to bail and get some dinner.  Yesterday afternoon I focused on getting the various achievement bits needed to get the first four chapters of the seasons journey and unlock the cosmetic options, and finished gear set.  This time around with the Demon Hunter it was Natalya’s set, which is a bit of an odd one given that it focuses on dealing damage with rain of vengeance.  This is the basic build that I followed, substituting a few abilities for ones I prefer, namely I found Stampede way harder to control than Shade for Rain of Vengeance.  I played a little of both but given how much I was in constant motion having the stampede actually pointed in the right direction was always a thing.  Towards evening yesterday though I finally started to feel like I was getting a handle on the play style and soloing my GR20 was actually far easier than I had expected.  The biggest problem is that this build just clears so much more slowly than the equivalent Multishot build did last season.  If I were to actually push for the full compliment of seasonal achievements… I would more than likely try and farm up a full set of Unhallowed Essence again and just go back to the tried and true multishot.

However it is highly unlikely that I will spend much more time on this season.  There was just something lackluster about it, given that nothing had changed since the previous season.  All of the same builds worked as we left them in the previous patch.  I was one of the people cheering on the three month seasonal cycle, but having been through it a few times now…  I am thinking that maybe it is just too short a time period between them.  Previously enough time had passed for me to start to miss the seasonal grind… enough to be truly excited for another opportunity to hang out and push to 70 together.  This time… it just felt like we were doing it to get shiny cosmetic baubles instead of to really enjoy the experience.  This makes me a little sad given just how pumped I have been in the past for the season to roll around and start anew.  This time around I literally had no clue it was happening until Grace told me.  In the past I almost marked the date on my calendar and started to get excited for the whole process.  Who knows maybe in a weeks time I will feel differently and want to pick up where I left off… grinding out more seasonal achievements.  That said I am perfectly happy leaving Season 8 as is, because I feel like I did what I set forth to do…  collect another batch of exclusive cosmetic appearances.

 

Breaking Routine

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This weekend was a bit of an odd one, namely when it came to Sunday morning.  Generally speaking I have the process of finishing up an AggroChat episode down to a fairly regimented process.  Saturday night before I crash I try to do what I call the initial edit, which is most of the actual edit work.  Then Sunday morning I write the small bit of copy, and upload and syndicate the podcast to the various sources where it gets put.  However this week was the first week doing all of this on the new machine… and I was not prepared.  For starters we recorded a really long show mostly about the Final Fantasy XIV 3.4 main story quest.  We did not unfortunately ONLY talk about that, and that meant we had almost three hours of recorded audio to process… and didn’t actually finish things up until around midnight my time.  Instead of staying up further, I decided to crash and deal with it in the morning.  Then Sunday it was a carnival of errors, as the version of audacity on my new machine was apparently slightly newer than the version I had been using which means a lot of the filters had different options… or at least were arranged in different ways.  Additionally there was the process of trying to find all of my source files off of the old machine, which is thankfully still accessible over the network.

The worst part of it however was the changes to the Truncate Silence filter…. which is a crutch we lean on heavily for AggroChat.  We are fairly pensive folk, and as a result there are a lot of lengthy pauses in conversation.  With truncate silence that 3 hours of audio becomes 2 hours…  but on my first attempt it maybe clipped a little more than actual silence.  For whatever reason it was clipping the hell out of anytime Kodra talked, giving his speech a record skipping characteristic.  However this is not something I realized until I was just about to upload the files to our host.  Thankfully I caught it in time and was able to redo that portion, lowering the granularity of the filter.  This mean’t what is normally a couple hour process… ate up I think four hours in total.  Admittedly I was piddling around in Guild Wars 2 during much of it, so there were probably moments when I didn’t notice a filter had finished here or there.  The positive however is that every filter applied went massively faster than on the previous AMD FX-6300 based processor.  That was really my hope with the new i7 based system, is that it would be able to chew through rendering tasks far more successfully.  As with any system there is going to be an adjustment and moving in period, and I am hoping that now that I have finished a single podcast on this machine additional ones will be much quicker.

gw2-64-2016-10-15-23-35-46-61

As far as the weekend itself went, I was all over the place.  I played a significant amount of Destiny, completing a bunch of bounties and discovering the Archon’s Forge… or more so how easy it was to get a pick up group.  Much the same way as the court of Oryx, you seem to be able to just show up and folks will either be doing it… or quickly swarm when they think anyone else is.  I also played a lot of World of Warcraft, completely a few mythic dungeons as well as successfully completing my first Mythic+ keystone.  I’m looking forward to seeing that upgraded loot in the weekly order hall chest.  In addition to that I completed the five time-walking dungeons on both Belghast and Exeter, and on the later I used it as a way to gear him up.  I am now sitting over the 825 cap needed to get into LFR so my hope is tonight I will be able to run the two parts available and potentially get more upgrades that way.  Generally speaking on Belghast the 835 rewards are not super enticing, but I still ran it this week for the purpose of getting some rune stones.  I also need to do a bunch of fishing, as I now have the pattern to turn the 300 versatility food that I spent a chunk of the weekend crafting… into a 375 version.  I am only using this stuff for raiding and mythic+ attempts, as I keep a bank full of Faronar Fizz for other stuff.

The biggest take away from the weekend is that I am actually finding myself legitimately enjoying Guild Wars 2.  Recently it had been a game that I was dipping my toes into for the sake of my friends that were also playing it.  However before the podcast we ran several of the story mode dungeons and they were pretty enjoyable.  Enough so that when I sat down to decide which game I would play during the podcast, I decided to go ahead and stay with Guild Wars 2.  That means that I spent the next three hours roaming aimlessly completing little objectives here and there, and mostly finding my way to the next story mode dungeon.  The post 80/ Heart of Thorns mastery leveling is pretty slow.  In all of that time I only managed to get about half of a mastery level…  and then I ended up wasting a bunch of experience because I didn’t notice I needed to click through and train it.  I am pretty not sure what my purpose in game is, but I am still fairly dead set on the warrior… and more importantly hammer warrior.  That makes me the make shift tank for the group, and I have been using rifle lately as my dps weapon because it allows me to have something that I can hit things with at range.  At some point I want to pick back up where I left off in attempting to level armor smithing, but right now my craft window looks somewhat like madness to me.  All in all I feel like I have come to terms with the game in accepting what it is… and more importantly what it is not.

Bumbling Around

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Yeti Power

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

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

Diablo III 2016-08-10 23-10-49-41

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