A few days ago I said I had more or less “beat” the Destiny 2 beta in part because there is so little to actually do in it. That said for whatever reason I keep returning and playing. Since writing my initial post I have done the strike several times and spend a bit more time in the Crucible. Some of my initial comments about not really liking the 4 vs 4 format and the small map sizes, is in part me likely just getting adjusted to changes and not really having a weapon load-out that I would have preferred. Traditionally my crucible build has been an Auto Rifle in the primary slot… usually my extreme stability Haakon’s Hatchet or if I am feeling squirrely… my Genesis Chain. From there I generally have either a Shotgun in the secondary slot Invective or Party Crasher +1 or I go for one of my Fusion Rifles… traditionally Saladin’s Vigil. The heavy slot varies greatly because in truth… I am not really expecting to get heavy ammo in Crucible matches so I am not super concerned. If I have an exotic slot available I go with Gjallarhorn and if not probably my Silvered Dread machine gun. The problem with the Destiny 2 weapon loadouts is that on my preferred class… the Titan there was nothing that I could really replicate this feel with so I in part had to feel out what worked for me in the new scheme.
What finally ended up feeling good and seeming usable is to run a Submachine Gun in my primary slot, namely The Showrunner seen above. However in truth I was using this weapon much in the same way as I would have used a secondary in Destiny 1 only swapping to it at certain times. For my main weapon I relied heavily on the Minuet Hand Cannon sitting in my energy weapon slot, because it had some significant stopping power and actually allowed me to win non-teamshot firefight engagements. Where the sub machinegun was handy is any time that someone ran up on me, I could hang out just outside of melee range and grind them down with a rapid fire hail of bullets. In theory I think this is more or less what folks who loved the sidearm used to do… but I never could make sidearms work for me in this fashion. As far as the heavy/power weapon slot… once again I didn’t care too terribly much about this given that I was similarly not expecting to ever get ammunition for it… so instead just relied on the grenade launcher in case I ever did. I am by no means “good” at the new Crucible, but I managed to find a setup and style that worked for me and I managed to keep climbing higher in my efficiency number as the night went on.
The thing that I find the most impressive about the Destiny 2 demo experience… is the fact that it is so damned short yet I kept returning day after day to keep experiencing it in any way that I could. In part it has made me want to actually dig in and try and finish some of the book achievements that are sitting there unfinished, and bask in the glory of the Destiny 1 experience before it is gone. All in all I am anxiously awaiting the release of this game and even more so the upcoming PC beta that we are getting at some point in August. I have a lot of concerns relating to the PC version, namely how it is going to feel and how well it plays in my various systems. I am really hoping that I can figure out a set of tweaks to get it to play with passable performance on my i7 Geforce 960m laptop. I am not expecting the world and would be completely fine with running 720p on it… pending that the performance is at a minimum 30 fps. One moment of sadness last night however is that the left thumb stick on beloved Hori FPS Plus controller started tearing. I am seemingly particularly hard on left thumb sticks, and as Squirrel pointed out last night… since it is not our aiming stick we are way less gentle with it. I ordered a set of cheapo aftermarket thumb stick caps, hoping that maybe just maybe it will fit. I tried one of the Kontrol Freaks PS4 caps that I had laying around and it kept popping off because the slightly smaller than normal size. All in all though I am going to be really sad to see Destiny 2 beta ending tonight, but will be looking forward to actually getting to play the game at launch.
Yesterday around noon was the official launch of Destiny 2 Beta on the PS4. I personally got my hands on it around 6 pm after doing various things that needed to be done and taking my wife out to eat. To call this a Beta however feels like a little bit of a misnomer because in truth we are getting out hands on essentially the same demo that was available to press at e3. With that comes a greatly limited subset of options that you can take part in. Functionally right now there are three things available to players: The first story mission, the Inverted Spire strike, and one play mode of the crucible. I didn’t get a ton of screenshots because I was actively playing, but I did decide to stream and ultimately record me in game from the moment I started up Destiny 2 to the moment I logged out feeling like I had “beat” the demo. If you are really curious you can check out my Mixer VOD that runs for a little over an hour. I opted to go for a silent stream because I was largely just recording this for my own benefit.
This game is going to catch so much flak for being “Destiny 1.5” and I can see that. In every meaningful way this is Destiny. The characters perform as smoothly as the original, and the gunplay feels just as good. Those who played a significant amount of time with the first game… might have a little bit of an adjustment period because there are subtle differences everywhere. This is not simply a “HD Remaster” of the original game… but you can feel that it is in fact a brand new game that has tried extremely hard to capture everything that was great about the first one. The titan jump feels slightly different, and everything from the pulse rifle to the hand canon are recognizable… but feel different enough to know at a base level that you are playing something different. The first story mission is excellent and does an amazing job of providing you a feel for the game and its play… as well as giving you a rich narrative ride through parts of the tower you have never seen before. It takes everything that was learned through the Taken King and Rise of Iron and distills it down into the purest form. You are killing Cabal but you are doing it with a constant purpose of trying to save those you can… with enough nostalgic elements to make it feel like your home is falling apart… not just some random structure being blown to pieces. The mission also does a great job of weaving in single player and multi player elements… with the central section being a sort of defend the tower mode as you and lots of other players fight back against the Cabal along side Zavala. That is another huge part of this experience… you are interacting with characters that you already know like Zavala, Cayde-6 and Ikora Rey. They have personality and treat you in a manner befitting someone who has been leading all of these strike missions for all of these years. Hell you even get some interesting interactions with Lord Shax and Amanda Holliday.
The Strike is similarly awesome, and I can see myself running it over and over as part of the strike list. There were a few annoying jumping puzzle style elements… namely that giant grinder that we have seen multiple times in trailers and such. You find yourself trying to navigate through an area while avoiding the spinning wheels of doom. There is a similar mechanic in the first story mission where you have to avoid certain death while destroying objectives, and made me question my choice of the control jump instead of the height jump. The only weirdness about all of this is… it felt like grenade and super both charged super slow. Maybe I am just used to running around with my Armamentarium and rocking two grenade charges… but it always felt like when I needed a grenade the most it was still on cooldown. The super when available however was glorious. Last night I focused on the Sentinel Titan… and I got to run around bashing things with my shield. I never figured out how to throw it… but doing the equivalent of the old striker titan shoulder charge with a void shield was amazingly fun. While sunbreaker is supposedly back for Destiny 2… I can absolutely see me maining Sentinel. The thing that surprised me the most is the fact that I didn’t really seem to use the portable shield capability that often. It was useful for setting up essentially a gun nest, but for the most part I just ducked in and out of cover like I always did.
The only negative of the night was the crucible. I am just not a fan of the changes they made. For starters they have reduced the number of people in standard crucible matches from 6 vs 6 to 4 vs 4. As a result they have created a series of much smaller maps with much tighter choke points. What this does is make it feel much more frenetic in a style of game-play that I equate with Call of Duty. Crucible always felt like a thinking mans game… where it was as much about how you moved and when you chose to fire or not fire… rather than just charging forward into the fray every few seconds. It could be my experiences were deeply colored by the fact that in both occasions I ended up on a team of randoms fighting against a team of people sharing the same clan tag. Functionally all I know is that the changes did not feel as good as the original crucible does, and as a very casual player of the crucible it is not really something I look forward to participating in. Which leads us to the other problem of the night… I am more or less a Patrol player. If you believe Destiny Tracker I spend something like 70% of my time playing Patrol missions where I wander around aimlessly and kill things in the open world. As such with this demo “my Destiny” was not open for business yet and after doing the story mission, the strike, and a few round of crucible I considered myself largely done for the night. That is not to say that I didn’t enjoy myself… it just felt like a very shallow experience without the open world content and without character progression. I am sure I will boot it up a few more times… but this did nothing to really satiate my desire for the actual game.
This week on “the twitters” I said something to the effect of Legion might be the first World of Warcraft expansion that I never managed to get into either Alpha or Beta. Then almost like queue on July 15th I found an email in my inbox notifying that my account had been flagged for Beta access. As a result I installed it on both my Desktop upstairs and my Laptop downstairs, and spent a good deal of the weekend poking about around the fringes of the new expansion. The truth is I was not all that excited about Legion prior to this weekend, namely because I am stuck in another down cycle with this game. There are plenty of things I could be doing, but just nothing I felt terribly compelled to do other than log in a few times a week to collect “free gold” from the garrison chore masters. Even more maddening in a way is the fact that I desperately need the transmog system changes yesterday. I think a huge part of why I stopped playing so frequently is because one of the activities that I absolutely love is farming old content for interesting bits. The challenge there is that I have my entire bank, void storage and all but a half dozen slots in my inventory taken up with appearance gear. So I just really have no more place to store anything and with transmog changes so damned close… there is no way I am going to get rid of anything that might be cool looking. So as a result I think I just largely stopped playing, thinking that eventually Legion would arrive and I would be able to have a massive spring cleaning… or in this case late summer. Well that time has arrived almost and tomorrow the patch lands that is going to see me spending my entire evening sifting through shit trying to figure out what I can pitch and what I should actually keep.
A huge part of the reason why I wanted into Beta was to fiddle with the class changes. Yes I realize that at any point in the last several weeks I could have installed the PTR client, but without having access to more than just those changes it didn’t really feel worthy of the 28 gig install. Throughout late Wrath of the Lich King up until Warlords of Draenor I was a huge fan of the Blood tanking spec. Then in Warlords alpha a whole bunch of that changed, because the feel of the class changed. Sure the rotation was similar, but the inclusion of Blood Boil as part of the standard rotation made the class start feeling too casterly for my tastes. It is funny how class fantasy can really effect the way you feel about a set of changes, and at least in this case it was a bridge to far. On the other hand the Warrior changes for Warlords were amazing, and I loved being able to indulge in a different player fantasy… which was dpsing with a sword and shield thanks to the Gladiator spec. While I mourn the loss of that option, I completely get why they had to make the change for balance reasons, because quite frankly Gladiator was just too much of a one off special snowflake. It was my hope that Blood on the other hand would be appealing again, and for the most part I think I like the changes. That said something is still off with the class and I am struggling to put my finger on it. Deathknights in general have undergone some pretty shattering changes, and while the feel of the class is right… there are a bunch of empty spots in the rotation where you are waiting on either runic power or rune regeneration. That is not to say that there is absolutely the chance that I might be playing it wrong. However in my experience so far there seem to be some pretty significant lulls in the action, and at the same time the class feels like it has lost a whole lot of survival. On my fresh 100 test character I struggled to get through the quest that ultimately earns you the artifact weapon, because I kept dying with no real way of keeping myself alive.
After a bit of a false step by accidentally choosing a talent that turned my resource builder into an auto attack key… I’ve decided that I really love Havoc Demon Hunters. Much like Deathknight was the Belle of the Ball in Wrath of the Lich King… it feels like Demon Hunters are the class that has the most new toys to show off. For starters… any class with a double jump is something that I am going to pay attention to. Better than that they have a built in wing glide, which is similar to using the goblin glider… but just as an intrinsic ability. Then there is the movement… this class has the ability to dart around the battle field like crazy… and those same abilities have allowed me to explore maps in ways that you really could not in previous expansions without copious amounts of wall hacking. The only negative so far is that I hear by creating a level 100, I somehow am missing a huge batch of abilities that you pick up from quest chains in the starting mission. The only negative of the class… is that you have to be an elf. I kinda hate elves, and will likely always hate elves… however ironically I have always loved Illidan and the concept of the Demon Hunter. I am seriously contemplating making Demon Hunter my new main for the expansion, even though I realize that will make me yet another member of the Legion of players doing that… pun only partially intended. The gameplay however feels fun and fresh and like this strange amalgam of Combat Rogue and Fury Warrior. Ultimately I need to spend some time with the tanky variety of the class to see if I like that as well, because if so you might be looking at a newly minted Demon Hunter.
The class that I spent the least amount of time playing this weekend was Warrior, but everything I saw made me feel like tanking as a warrior was going to be just as stable and reliable as it always was. Unlike Blood Deathknight, I had zero issue completing the quest chain to get my artifact weapon, the only problem being… that the protection warrior artifact is boring as hell. I have a vault full of amazing one hander and shield combinations… and for the most part all of them are cooler than the artifact weapon. It seriously looks like leveling trash, and I am hoping that some of the mutations later will at least give me something I am not embarrassed to be using. With the absence of Gladiator though, it is going to be hard for me to really consider being a Warrior main this time around. I have to say however that some of the changes in animation for Fury looked amazing, so at some point over the next few days I want to give that a proper whirl… once again pun only partially intended.
Generally speaking I tend to gravitate towards tanking, and if you plunk me down in a brand new game that is almost certainly what I will roll. That said I think Final Fantasy XIV has spoiled me when it comes to tanking. Their version is just head and shoulders more enjoyable than pretty much any other form I have played since then. As a result I think I might be hanging up my tanking hat when it comes to World of Warcraft at least. I tried to tank for some of my friends late in Warlords, and I just didn’t like the way it felt in the least. Now I am sure I will still play things that have a tank spec… and be able to swap in for specific encounters or for copious dungeon runs, but more than anything I just don’t think I want to be a raid tank anymore in this game. So knowing that, I am trying to find the class I enjoy dpsing the most or hell I might even try out some healing. Mostly I have a feeling that I will never again be completely stable and reliable as a player when it comes to World of Warcraft, so I am trying to make sure I pick classes that are useful when I feel like attending something, and not a burden when I don’t. For all I know I might really love Demon Hunter tanking, and that ends up changing my mind… but I am prepping myself to no longer be a go to tank at least when it comes to this game.
This weekend is another beta test of The Division, and from the sounds of it… this is a much larger pool of testers than the weekend of Pax South. That Sunday and Monday after Pax South I managed to play quite a bit of Division on the PS4, so this time around I decided ahead of time that I would be trying it out on the PC just to get the broad feel of how the game performs on multiple platforms. When it comes to PC gaming… a lot of your experience rides upon your hardware. For the purpose of this test I decided to try playing it on both my gaming desktop upstairs, and my older gaming laptop. I knew pretty much that the laptop would not perform well at all, but I was still curious to see if the game could reach a playable state on it. So as a result I thought it was probably best to start by listing the important stats of my two gaming systems… so you can use that hopefully as a judge of how the game will perform on your own systems. Since this is also an online game… I opted to take a quick speed test this morning just to use that for reference as well.
AMD FX-6300 3.5 ghz 6 cores
16 GB Ram
MSI GTX 960 4G Gaming Edition Video
Intel i7-3630QM 2.4 ghz 8 cores
16 GB Ram
2X Nvidia Geforce GT 650M in SLI Video
The Gaming Desktop
When I first booted up this game, I have to say I had an inordinate amount of difficulty getting it to run. The problem is the fact that you cannot get to the video and graphics quality settings until you wade through the character creation step. This is unfortunate, since as an MMO gamer primarily… the character creation process is super important to me. Initially the game launched in such a way that I thought it was trying to split the image between my two monitors. I did the Alt+Enter trick to drop it to windowed mode, and then Alt+Enter again to attempt to fix the resolution. However this time I had no mouse input, and could not really touch anything on the screen. After exiting the game and reloading I was finally able to get in and through the character creation process, which is locked down and pretty minimal at the moment. However if you hit randomize enough times you can get a character that you can live with at least for the purpose of this test. Upon entering the video settings…. I realized that for some godawful reason the game was trying to by default run in 4K. I simply do not have a machine capable for 4K gaming, and I think it was just freaking the hell out on my machine and monitors. After dialing back the game to 1080p I started getting a fairly reliable 50-60 fps with dips into the high 40s as you can see in the first screenshot of this post. At least on paper that seems like a really playable framerate, and I give them credit for making the game look gorgeous even on the Medium settings I was running.
The problem being that the game was not really playable even though I was getting roughly 60 fps. It suffered horribly from some bad hitching anytime I moved into a new area, or often times in the middle of combat. I can’t really call it rubber-banding, because there was no time rollback component but it felt quite a bit like rubber banding in MMOs where you hit this hard wall of lag… and things lock up before the world unfreezes and catches up. This is not too horrible when you are simply running around the city and you enter what I can only assume is a new “zone”, but this is deadly when it comes to combat and encountering mobs that are causing your screen to freeze. Now my friend Jabberant said that he played all last test on the PC and did not experience any of this… so it makes me wonder if this is simply a case of network congestion or some sort of bottle-necking happening on the server farm. In any case it does not bode well for the enjoy-ability and stability of this game at launch. Another friend suggested that I turn off VSync and this to some extent lessened the severity of the freezes…. but they were still very much there anytime I moved into a new area, or encountered hostiles on screen.
The Gaming Laptop
Now just a bit of a foreword… I did not expect this game to be playable on my laptop. My laptop is a Lenovo y500 and at this point that model range is over three years old. At the time it was hot shit, featuring one of the only laptops I knew with available SLI. Instead of an optical drive, it features a second hot swappable video card that fits in the multi-bay, and as a result I can still run a lot of games that I should not theoretically be able to run on a GT 650M video card. I have had decent luck by ratcheting games down to 720p instead of the native 1080p resolution, and I can play things like Dragon Age Inquisition that way… that otherwise choke on this machine. As a result I thought this would be a good test of just how well this game might run on an aging system. Firstly I was not shocked that initially I was getting 10-15 fps at 1080p but upon dropping the graphical settings to low and the resolution to 720p I was able to achieve fairly reliable 25-40 fps even in combat. The problem being that at 6:30 am on a Saturday morning… the servers should be under as little load as they will ever be during this weekend test…. and I was still seeing significant stalling and freezing anytime I moved into a new area of town… or entered combat. So this seems to be a general problem with the game, and not necessarily limited to my desktop upstairs. All of which tells me… the PC client needs some serious tuning before it is ready for prime time. Given that “prime time” in this case is Seventeen days away on March 8th… this is a little worrisome.
All of this said… the game was shockingly playable on this old hardware. It felt pretty much like playing Destiny on an XBox 360. Sure the world looks like a blurry mess, but the core gameplay itself was pretty solid… apart from the whole freezing thing. I could in theory see myself playing this on the laptop without much issue, and even games like Warframe cause me to make resolution concessions to be able to run them downstairs from the comfort of my couch. I also have to say that as far as controlling the game… I am MUCH better at playing it with a mouse and keyboard, largely because even after all the time spent with Destiny… I am MUCH more accurate with a mouse than I will probably ever be with a controller. So given that Laptop graphics cards generally run an entire generation behind as far as performance goes… that would mean my laptop is the equivalent of an SLI GTX 550 setup…. so a 660/670/680 range video card in a desktop should be able to give equivalent performance. Basically meaning that if you have an old machine, it won’t look pretty but the game should at least still be playable.
PC versus PS4
There are positives and negatives about both systems. You can read my original thoughts about last beta test, where I talk more about the game-play than the nuts and bolts. A lot of those statements still apply for either version. Largely where I stand at the moment is… the concept of being able to play from my laptop is really nice… but even then I was consistently plagued by problems. The Division on PC will be a viable game at some point, but my fear is it will be months after release and a couple of patches later, which is honestly what I have come to expect from the MMO gaming launch cycle. These sort of games are rarely if ever 100% on the PC at day one, and I fear that The Division is going to be another case of that. The Playstation client however just worked flawlessly. I didn’t need to get in and fiddle with resolutions or slowly and painstakingly ratchet things down until they reached a level of performance I was happy with. Instead I just booted up the client and played the damn game. As someone who has always favored PC as the platform of choice… I have to say it sounds really damned odd to hear myself saying that. Sure there are problems with PSN and such, and I fully expect it to be flaky a bit around launch day to. However once you get into the game it just works, and works well. Sure there are issues with some muddy textures on the PS4, but the game runs without hitching in combat or movement or anything of the sort. So right now I am still very much up in the air about purchasing this game, however if I do… I will more than likely be picking it up on the Playstation 4. The ability to simply turn it on and play without having to worry about framerates and resolutions… is extremely appealing. Additionally there is the problem of this being a heavily PVP game… and at least on a console I know all of us players are on even footing. With the PC… this is absolutely going to be a game where your system will control how well you can play. On low settings…. aiming on encounters is really difficult because the further away from you the mob is… the more it just sort of blends into the background. Running on high resolution and sharp textures is going to give an advantage to anyone who can afford the system to run it. So largely for my impressions… I am a bit disappointed in The Division as PC gaming experience…. but I know that I can always fall back on the PS4 and still be happy as a clam.
Traditionally I do this Friday thing where I talk about one of the many “MMOs Worth Playing” but honestly…. today I am just not feeling it. I am feeling more annoyed and frustrated about MMOs than I am feeling the love right now, and in this current mindset it is probably best that I simply don’t talk about a game. The purpose of the column is to highlight a game and talk about the things I love about it, in the hopes that it might nudge people into giving it a try. In order to really do that I have to be feeling happy and enjoying the world around me… and right now I am kinda grumpy. Granted I am grumpy over a stupid reason. Right now I feel like I am one of a handful of people who didn’t get into the Overwatch beta weekend. I am largely annoyed by this, because I am in fact one of the people who went ahead and pre-ordered the game knowing eventually that I would want to play it. You would think… that if you have a bit single weekend only stress test that you might want to include the people who are already signed up to spend money on your game.
Maybe that is screwed up in my logic, but it seems to me that they should have pulled from the pool of sign ups first for this one in particular. I am not saying that about the normal always on Beta process… that one is completely luck of the draw. This one however… when you are testing a game for a short period of time… it might be cool to thank the folks who have already pressed that button and said “Yes, I want your game”. Frustrations aside, I am hoping all of my friends who are going to be playing it this weekend will enjoy themselves and have lots of things to talk about. Honestly this test will give me a better feeling of how I am going to like the game, since a lot of the AggroChat folks seemed to have gotten in. This is the hardest part about Betas is standing on the outside watching your friends have fun… and then trying really damned hard to be happy for them… and not sad that you got left out.
People Behind The Thing
It's okay to be sad/frustrated/upset with a thing, but never okay to attack the human being who's job is to represent that thing
So even though I am frustrated, I am directing my frustrations at an entity… the game Overwatch and or the company Blizzard behind it. I realize that that company is made up of people, and it has to be super tiring to hear people raging at them constantly. I realize over the years I have said some pretty caustic and even pyroclastic things about video games and or the companies behind them. At no point however did I aim that criticism at the people themselves. I never joined the chorus of “I Hate Ghostcrawler” nor will I join any other personally targeted witch hunt in the future. I can dislike a thing… but still have the utmost respect for the people for whom it is their job. Much of this week has felt like I have been attempting to give lessons in how to treat people with simple human dignity… and yesterday continued that trend. These companies have people working there, that go to work every single day hoping to do something cool… and often times get met with this constant wall of negativity. It is no wonder when someone reads one too many “fuck you” posts targeted at them that occasionally community staff snaps. Ultimately how good of a job, and how much satisfaction in it… would you have if someone stood over your desk heckling you the entire day?
Now you can take the path of “they willfully accepted the job”, but that too is utter bullshit. They probably took the job for the same reason that any one of us who are gaming addicts would jump at the chance to do the same thing. The folks that work at games companies do so because they love games with every fiber of their being, so much so that they are willing to sacrifice basic things like stability, and normal working hours… for the chance of being part of something they at least once felt was awesome. So if this week I happen to be complaining about Overwatch… I know that behind the scenes there is a crew of people who are working insane hours right now, and trying their damnedest to please as many people as they can… while at the same time desperately fighting to roll out the best possible product that they can make. I’ve been lucky to know enough people that work at enough companies to know that all of these fine people are grinding themselves into the ground all in the hopes of making each of us happy. So the next time you level an attack at a thing… please make sure it is targeted at the thing… and not the voice of the person hanging out in front of it for whom it is their job to represent said thing. I most definitely don’t believe that games should be above criticism… but I do believe that we shouldn’t be targeting our bile at a human being.
Hoping For a Great Friday
My hope is that I can go into this Friday and not see anything else that makes me sad about humanity. For those of you in the Overwatch beta weekend… have a blast, take lots of screenshots, record lots of video… because I expect some really amazing content as a result. For those of us watching from the sidelines… there are dozens of other things we should be doing. I personally am now 55 hours into Fallout 4… and have yet to make it to Diamond City. I’m also in a strange place when it comes to Final Fantasy XIV where I am logging in each day to do Beast Tribe dailies, but not finding much drive to do anything else. I am in that strange place where I took a long enough break from the game to where I am completely out of touch with what I was doing before I left, but have not been away long enough to make me super nostalgic enough to dive back in with vigor. I am also still fighting the urge to play World of Warcraft, and I am scared that sooner or later I will be giving into it… if for no reason other than to get it out of my system again. I am in a place where I want into the Legion beta more than any other beta in a long while, mostly because I hope beyond hope that Deathknights are fun again. The fact that I had to switch back to my warrior during Warlords honestly was a bit of bummer, and I would love to be a Worgen DK once more. Anyways… that was a long “outro” but hopefully you have a great weekend, and stay safe and happy and warm.
Over the last few days I have felt run down, and I am grasping at straws to figure out exactly why. There seems to be something going around the office, but so far I am not really showing any signs of whatever it is other than simply being exhausted. Last night I largely struggled with a Migraine that kept me in a pseudo hibernation state, but this morning as I sit down to the keyboard and attempt to drink my coffee I am just feeling generally lousy. One of my co-workers has been out for three days with something, so I am hoping I am not coming down with whatever that was. Last night was the night of restless gaming. I attempted to log in and be present in Final Fantasy XIV but only wound up AFKing outside the guild hall. It made me appreciate just how much I love our free company house. It really is in just about the perfect location that seems to be close to just about everything in The Mists neighborhood. The only problem is… it is small. We have talked for a bit about potentially trying to pool our resources and getting a bigger house, but the problem there is we would have to move and likely out of our neighborhood.
One of the things that I like the most about where we are situated is that we actually know a large chunk of the neighbors surrounding us. While it has not been nearly as busy since the launch of Heavensward as everyone has fallen into this pre 3.1 lull… it is still nice feeling like you are part of something larger. While idling in FFXIV I attempted to play some Destiny and managed to complete a few bounties. However my aim was constantly wonky, and I knew I should not be attempting anything serious. As the night wore on the headache got worse and ultimately I ended up retiring to bed for awhile… the finally ending up on the Sofa. I hate those days where you have the will to play something… but cannot struggle through the “bad feels” in order to actually make any headway.
NDAs are Back
I am using Trove as the screenshot for this little section because it was one of the first “who needs an NDA” alpha games that I can remember playing. Everything about that game process was so out in the open that development discussions were openly happening on Reddit. For a period of time it seemed like every new game coming down the pipe was sans NDA so that folks could stream it freely and generate buzz. I was shocked when I managed to get into the Warlords of Draenor friends and family alpha for example… and was told that I could talk about it freely. The problem being… this open transparency bit more than a few games in the ass. Development is a messy time and as things are changing… you end up with features in “partially finished” states that look like a finished product to the gamer. The big problem with open and “pay to join” Alphas is that they no longer feel like testing. Instead you have simply released a broken game.
As a result lately I’ve noticed a significant number of games bringing back the NDA. Hell some of them seem to be almost unwilling to let the NDA go, as they have been in fairly prolific testing for a couple of years. As of right now I am in a handful of NDA bound alpha processes, and each of them seems to be trying to return to the era when Alphas were actually that. The problem with this is, I am finding myself far less interested in playing something that I can’t actually talk about on my blog. So generally speaking I install the Alpha client and play every now and then, but I am not actually playing enough to be a proper tester. I feel bad for this because I have always been the type to bug note the hell out of things as I see them. While I think it is probably a good thing for Alpha processes to regain some of their previous closed nature, I also feel far less invested in a game until it is actually hatched and ready for public consumption. So many things over the last years have blurred the lines between finished product and testing, and the current era of incessant and constant “early access” games just makes me leery to invest too much of myself in a game until I know that it is nearing its finished state.
Yesterday something pretty awesome happened… Trove Beta launched and overall everything went pretty smoothly. I have been a fan of the game since I got into the very first Alpha wave. You can check out my first video from November of last year and see just how much the game has changed. This is one of those titles that has changed at an almost staggering pace. I would pop my head in about once a month… only to find that the framework of the game was in a massively different place than when I last left it. I have to say during the Alpha this became a bit of an impediment to me playing it. I would want to just pop in and do something interesting and essentially have to relearn how to do anything at all. That said my friend Rae showed interest in the game early this week, and oddly enough we happened to both log in together on the very last night of Closed Alpha.
We had such a good time running around and smashing things, that we decided last night when the Beta launched to skip playing Final Fantasy XIV at least for a bit and dive straight into leveling up in Trove. The above mounts we found during the final hours of closed alpha, and they are essentially rainbow piñatas that shoot rainbows and confetti out of their butts as you ride along. Basically it is my goal to manage to get this mount again during beta. Nothing says Trove quite like leaving a trail of sprinkles everywhere you go. Unfortunately the mount comes from their version of a lootbox. I have no clue what the drop rate is for one of the piñata mounts but I know I purchased 10 of them last night and Rae purchased 5 with the points we were given going into the beta… and all we managed to get were a few crafting recipes.
Neon Ninjas and Knights
One of the brand new things for Beta was the introduction of the Neon Knight class. For most of the night this is what Rae ran around as while I played my Knight. The class is a bit of a stealthy melee in that your right mouse click causes you to drop a decoy and shift into stealth. From there you can throw shuriken at your target for a fairly devastating effect. The purple rings around you seem to be some sort of a charging up mechanic that indicates when you are ready to throw shuriken. Other than that if you attack from stealth you do a significant amount more damage. I personally found the class a little frustrating, since I like to rush headlong into combat and bash all the things in the face. For someone who wants more tactical game play however this might be the ideal option.
Fortunately or unfortunately I feel like the most “Bel” class in existence is still the Knight, which is essentially your default. For starters it is a melee class with pretty high survival in up close confrontations. The secondary attack is this impressive weapon slam that can knock back enemies and deal a cone of damage. The first ability you get is a charge and god knows I love charge attacks, but this one also doubles as a movement ability and a way to dash across gaps to get to places more easily. Finally the last attack is this shield that you can put up that causes you to take no damage for a period of time. The last one is on a long cooldown, but it serves nicely as an “oh shit” button for doing some of the harder content.
One of the coolest things about late Alpha and now Beta is just how diverse and dense the content is. Early on in the game each biome section would have a single objective be it a castle or a tower or something of the sort. This time around you would be hard pressed to go for very long before discovering something that has a boss or a challenge or something of the sort. Granted by the time I came back later in the night, the world was getting more than a bit picked over… so I am hoping that the world reset happens pretty frequently. In any case we were able to roll around the map going to areas that had not been touched and doing the challenges we encountered along the way. The above shot is from this insane rainbow dungeon in the clouds that you get to by climbing up through the hollowed out tree pictured in the back. Each biome has its own challenges with is own mob types which make the gameplay feel fairly fresh.
Essentially the challenges that I have encountered break down into a few themes. The first involves triggering an event. These tend to say that there is something dangerous inside in the upper right hand corner of the screen. When you trigger the event you have to survive a few waves of enemies, and if you do so a chest appears. The negative is that both you and the mobs you are fighting have to stay inside a blue ring that spawns when the event starts. We had issues when fighting mobs up in the air, that they would fall off the edges. The positive is you can retry the event over and over by simply moving out of the ring and waiting for it to reset. The part that makes these challenging is that generally the area with the totem that triggers the event is covered in spikes or surrounded by these pillars that shoot fireballs in a Castlevania fashion. So while the half dozen mobs really isn’t a huge problem… keeping them from knocking you back into environment obstacles totally is.
Something Minecraft Doesn’t Give Me
At it’s core the gameplay of Trove is similar enough to Minecraft that you cannot talk about it without at least mentioning that game. You could call Trove Minecraft with more meaningful combat and MMO style loot, but the game itself feels richer than that might denote. One of the aspects of the game that I like the most is the existence of my Cornerstone. This is basically a plot of land that I control and can build permanent structures upon… but that also moves with me around the world. I can walk up to any plot that is presently unclaimed and the game will rebuild my cornerstone before my eyes. So I can have crafting machines travel around with me, and each time I do this it resets my spawn point. This gives me some permanence that I crave in an otherwise very flexible world. This however does not make for a great community, as folks are constantly picking up their home like a hermit crab and moving it with them.
What is more interesting is the fact that players can create clubs, which in essence give you guild like functionality. I’ve created a Club for the Alliance of Awesome, and as such we have a “Club World”. This is a fully instanced biome where we can control everything in it. This means you can build super intricate guild houses and give other players the ability to teleport into them. This is the more permanent structure from the looks of it, and gives folks a way to link up and meet in user created worlds. While ours does not really do much of anything at the moment, I have plunked down a few machines and will likely keep adding to it as we go along. You are given only the smallest of islands to start building on, but it looks like more or less you can freely build out over the ocean for quite some ways. There are a number of websites giving away beta keys right now, so I highly suggest you track one down and give this game a shot.