Iron Banner Issues

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This past week for me at least has been all about the Iron Banner 2.0 event happening in Destiny 2.  If Destiny Tracker is to be believed, I have played fifty Iron Banner matches over the last four days.  That was enough to turn in 24 Iron Banner packages so far… aka the equivalent of 480 tokens.  At this point I managed to pull a complete set of gear for my Titan and have collected all but one of the weapons available.  The Hand Cannon is eluding me but I still have faith that I might manage to get it when I run through my daily milestones for Iron Banner today.  To say I have a high tolerance for grinding is an understatement, and the more impressive stat is that every single bit of this has been solo.  I will get into more about that later but suffice to say I feel like I experienced everything that is to be seen in the new Iron Banner.  This month the game mode of choice was Control…  which used to be my favorite mode for Iron Banner but in the 4 player crucible I seem to now favor Supremacy.

What Changed?

Traditionally the Crucible is an event that does some level synchronization to make sure every player is on a level field.  Iron Banner however in Destiny 1 was one of the un-synced events that took into consideration what your gear level was.  In truth however this didn’t really play a heavy role other than maybe dealing a few extra points of damage to someone significantly under your gear level.  The entire event functioned based on the Iron Banner reputation that would reset to zero before the start of a new event.  The ultimate goal was to level from 1 to rank 5, which then allowed you to purchase gear that was available from Lord Saladin.  This generally consisted of two armor slots and two weapons, and then the same items were available as rewards at the end of matches.  In my experience one in five to ten matches rewarded gear at the end.

Now Iron Banner is governed by a token based system much as is the case with all factions in Destiny 2.  Additionally it relies on the same level synchronization that occurs in the Crucible so no more gear level advantages.  Previously the only way to gain progress was to either complete a bounty or win the match.  This meant if you had some really bad luck you could have a long streak of loses where you did not move your reputation forward at all.  This time around you get 2 tokens for a loss and 5 tokens for a win, and it takes 20 tokens in total to get a package.  The packages themselves contain 1 Iron Banner specific item, and on item from a long list of other miscellaneous weapons and armor.  I should have taken much better care in opening my packages and tracked the items I got in each, but I will just say there were a significant number of duplicates.

The Problems

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The issue with Iron Banner is a very nuanced one, that requires you to understand some of the base states of the game to understand how we got here.  In Destiny 1 there was a constant refrain from players lashing out against skill based match making, and complaining about the number of “red bar” players with poor connections that they kept encountering.  With Destiny 2 it feels like they stepped away from a lot of the intelligence that attempted to make decent matches for players.  One of these is that the game no longer attempts to match teams of players against other teams, which is where the issue happens.  Most of the weekend I spent time matched against partial or complete teams of players, and as a result had to fight a very uphill battle to get my wins.

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The games seemed to be really hit or miss, I could go from being steamrolled one moment to being the odd man out on a team of three players that queued and in turn rolling over another team.  In the rare instance when I got matched with a bunch of other random players…  I did good.  Like for example the above screenshot is one I think I will never be able to duplicate where I somehow ended up with a 6.4 efficiency rating…. which is their version of Kda.  This is an issue because it ends up giving players a very uneven feeling experience, to go from ruling the world to succumbing to it…  within the course of a single matching.  The folks that managed to gather up a team, and were on voice chat however seemed to completely decimate all comers.

Problems With The Grind

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Iron Banner was one of those events that I looked forward to each month, not necessarily because I loved the PVP but because it was an opportunity to move up in the world.  What I mean by that is that in Destiny 1 there were a limited number of events that you could participate that scaled all the way to the level cap, Iron Banner was one of them.  As a result I spent my weekends grinding away at Iron Banner incrementally improving my light level so that I could hang with the big dogs…  but keep my relatively solitary play style.  With Destiny 2 this concept is toast.  Gear drops at the same item level that any other Legendary drop does, which means there is no real way to advance your power level through Iron Banner drops.  Sure there is the random chance of getting an exotic to drop, but that is a once a night sort of event and even then you need some serious luck to get anything that will move the bar forward.

Now the meaningful grind is about the collection of available loot, but I fear this is going to be a very short lived process.  I said earlier in the post that I have collected all but one weapon at this point, and a full set of gear for my titan.  Additionally I have a few items for my hunter now, so currently there are ten items that I have not seen.  Given that it is highly unlikely that we see an influx of new items before the next Iron Banner, then it means that my drive to keep participating is going to be less each time as I whittle down that list of needed items.  Now were I able to keep using Iron Banner as a means to incrementally increase my power level, then more than likely I would continue to participate and even look forward to the event.

The Future

I’ve tried to remain largely positive about Destiny 2 because in a few weeks we will be starting the process all over again with the launch of the PC version.  There are however issues here and there that sort of stick out as annoyances.  The core problem with Destiny 2 is that more than anything it is a direct sequel to Destiny 1.  What I mean by that is in some ways it feels like we took a step backwards to a world where everything that happened in Taken King and Rise of Iron never existed.  It makes me wonder if this project was launched before the release of Taken King, and they simply never applied the good parts of years two and three before launch.  I was a die-hard Destiny 1 player, and I watched that game improve in so many ways over the three years since release.  Similarly I have all the faith in the world that a lot of these rough spots will get ironed out as we move forward.  Destiny 2 is a much better starting point than Destiny 1 ever could have been, but much like I feel sometimes with World of Warcraft…  I get a little wistful when I think about what could have been had we taken all of the good from TTK and ROI into the new game.

 

Beyond the Light

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For the last few weeks I have been making contact with a lot of players in preparation for the launch of Destiny 2 on the PC platform.  One of the patterns that I have noticed is that while there will be a ton of us playing, there are a significant number of different clans in the works.  Even among my own guild-mates it has been decided to go with a Greysky Armada clan rather than joining another, so I will end up splitting time between that on the PC and Tequila Mockingbird on the PS4.  Basically the common theme that I kept seeing was that we were going to be a pretty fragmented bunch going forward.  Ages ago I created the Beyond the Light discord, and then never really did anything with it.  The theory behind it was to have a clan agnostic place for folks to come together and get help doing stuff in Destiny.  Since the early marketing material for Destiny 2 talked about us losing our connection with the light… it seemed like a really fitting name.  The idea is to create a sort of hub for our little corner of the gaming verse, and facilitate cross clan activities.  The channel names themselves are pretty general purpose and I decided to follow a pattern of the various weapon foundries for voice channels.  The idea being that anyone can use any channel for any purpose that is needed at the moment.

The reason why I chose a discord rather than a slack or even a new Blizzard Social area… is the fact that Destiny 2 PC based voice chat is horrible.  I am not sure how many of you actually tried using this during the PC beta, but it was horrific.  Currently we only have about fourteen members, but I figure the discord will grow as we get closer and closer to the PC launch.  There are break out channels for the various classes and we’ve already gotten into some discussions on Warlocks and Titans thus far.  I’ve largely treated the PS4 launch as a sort of extended paid beta process for the eventual PC launch, and I have attempted to gather up as much information as I could along the way.  If nothing else it should be a good place to find people to go do heroic public quests with and maybe even eventually pick up raids.  There are already Destiny themed discords out there, but honestly they felt huge and impersonal…  or in the case of the one associated with the reddit…  fairly toxic at times.  I wanted to create a happy place to hang and enjoy this game with all of the people who may or may not share the same banner as me.  Effectively everyone is welcome pending they behave themselves.  There isn’t a lot of formal structure right now but I figure that will come with time.

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The other big news of the week is that Iron Banner is back and its reset day!  Like every other activity this one is going to be based on a token system, and I have to say I really like this.  There are a lot of complaints from players who like seeing weapons drop, and technically they still do in modes like the Crucible.  However I would far rather have a predictable path to get rewards that I can work my way towards than to rely entirely on luck.  The other aspect of this that I absolutely love is the fact that tokens go into the shared account inventory, meaning you can grind out the rewards on one character and then swap over to another character to consume them.  I personally plan on holding all of my Iron Banner tokens until I have completed the powerful rewards milestones for the week so that I can potentially get items at a higher light level than where I am currently standing.  Right now I see a handful of weapons that look really interesting, including an Iron Banner themed version of my beloved Origin Story.  Additionally I think the gear set this time is amazing for Titans at least, so I hope to gather up most of a set there as well.  This evening my goal is to eat some Tikka Masala that I have going in the crock pot…  and play a bunch of Iron Banner.  Side note you should be able to double dip the Call to Arms weekly milestone while doing Iron Banner so if you have not unlocked that… I highly suggest you do Lord Shaxx’s two early crucible milestones so you can start working towards yet another luminous engram.

When A Beta Isn’t

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Last night I managed to run the Inverted Spire strike with a few friends…  Grace and Ammo.  For Grace it was her first time running the strike and while she was not as rabid…  was also a veteran of Destiny 1.  Ammo on the other hand…  the closest she had ever been to Destiny was drawing my Sunbreaker themed avatar.  If you know me very well… or are in that core group of people that I hang out regularly with…  you have had to listen to countless hours of me retelling things that happened in Destiny.  All of that apparently made her curious enough to try it out now that it was coming to the PC and available for download through the already very familiar Battle.net client.  Ammo while completely new to Destiny was by no means an FPS rookie because over the last year or so she has played a significant amount of Overwatch and is way the hell better than I am at it.  One of the things that I like about Destiny on the PC is how largely ubiquitous basic controls are if you have ever played a modern shooter.  Sure there are all manner of extraneous “super power” keys but the core gameplay of shoot shoot reload fall into the standard control scheme we are all used to.  The only real adjustment period of me was figuring out which key binds near WASD did which “power moves”.  Grace took to the game rather quickly and got to play big kid at several moments as she was able to get over and rez the rookie well before I could.  All in all it was a really fun experience and I am super glad that I wound up running the strike in this manner, since during the PS4 beta I largely just random queued for it.

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Last nights experience got me thinking that maybe just maybe releasing through the Battle.net client was more than just a way of having to skip the infrastructure development costs of going to a brand new platform.  Overwatch is a weird game because while it is at its core a competitive shooter… it is also one wrapped in so much story that it is impossible to not at least know some of it even if you are not actively playing the game.  This is a game that I saw be adopted at frightening rates by gamers who were well versed in the Blizzard ecosystem but never really considered themselves fans of the first person shooter genre.  As a result many have had their horizons broadened to realize that yes they could do this shooter thing and with practice get rather damned good at it.  Now we have this Destiny thing coming along and poking its head into their already familiar gaming environment…  so why not take a peek.  I’ve already seen a lot of posts on my twitter feed talking about how individuals are enjoying the Destiny experience but only ever downloaded it because it was available for free through the Battle.net client.  Cross pollination is really beautiful thing… and I have found myself in this same boat several times in the past.  I am not the biggest fan of League of Legends…  but I immediately tried Heroes of the Storm because I wanted to see the Blizzard take on it.  I am not really a huge fan of RTS games anymore…  but I occasionally play Starcraft II because it has amazing storytelling.  I think the Battle.net coup for Destiny… will be bringing a whole bunch of new eyes into the franchise.

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Here is where we get to the problem.  The “Beta” that we are getting to experience isn’t actually Destiny.  It is a bit of a hollow shell that should have been clearly labelled as a demo, because it lacks so many of the reasons why I spent so many hours playing the first game.  If you look at my time played on the tracker sites… something like 77% of my time was spent doing random stuff on Patrol missions.  I liked roaming around, doing events… unlocking secrets on the dreadnaught…  all the while enjoying the really amazing gunplay.  Where are the events like Archon’s Forge or Court of Oryx…  that I could literally spend hours running over and over.  Don’t get me wrong… the Inverted Spire strike is a hell of a lot of fun, and even the 4 player Crucible is starting to grow on me.  The problem being however is that we really are not putting the best foot forward for a bunch of players that may or may not have ever experienced the franchise.  The other problem is that we are not exactly doing a great job of giving players that bounced hard off of Destiny 1 a great reason to feel positive about coming back.  Sure the Homecoming mission has more story elements in it than the entire vanilla game…  but I am questioning if that is enough.  I am bought in for the long haul because I have loved Destiny as a concept and an experience since the moment I got into the original Alpha of the game on the PS4.  Taken King proved to me that the game was worth my devotion and I have been back and at least peripherally active ever since.  I am a member of their core demographic… but had they maybe given us something other than a demo…  it might be enough to gain new followers rather than just galvanize their existing player base.  I hope people can see through the cracks and see the game that is ultimately going to be there behind the walled gardens.  I feel like I can and since I am also rabidly gobbling up all of the news that is leaking out about the content that is waiting on the console players September 6th…  I am so sold that I am planning on playing once again on two different platforms.  I am just not sure that we sold Ammo on the experience other than giving her a fun night of running a space shooter dungeon.

 

Minuet 42

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

Enjoyment and PVP

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Last week there was a tweet that came across my feed that jarred something loose in my brain.  I am wishing I had thought to save it because I honestly don’t know at this point who tweeted or at least on what specific day.  It was one of those things that filtered into my subconscious and stuck there as it scrolled past.  The general gist was asking what exactly a game would have to do to make PVP palatable for you personally.  I was rushing between meetings when I checked Fenix on my phone, and never actually got around to replying.  However it is something that I have been mulling over for days now.  Why this was so sticky is the fact that I am a walking paradox it seems.  I will claim not to like PVP at all, and will actively go out of my way to avoid it if it is happening in the world.  If a game has one of those settings that prevents you from being accidentally flagged… I run with that on all of the time.  If it is raid time… and one of our PVP centric members runs into the instance flagged and in doing so gets jumped by the Horde.  I will sit there and watch them die, because in my mind they made a poor life choice for coming to a raid flagged in the first place.

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All of that said… I also look forward to the Iron Banner in Destiny which is a monthly PVP event, and if I am bored I often times pop into the crucible which is their version of a battleground match making system.  What I have never been able to reconcile is why player versus player activity in one game feels good and in others not great at all.  All I have been able to sort out in my head is that in Destiny there is no negative side effect, and the rewards for participation are balanced in a way that it feels like no matter what there is a chance that I get something really cool in the process.  Now Crucible hardcores in Destiny will tell you that the things that I love about it… are the things that frustrate them.  Functionally loot is not tied to performance, but instead participation.  Sure if you win a match you get more faction with Lord Shax the Crucible reputation vendor…  but regardless of success or failure it feels like my time spent is leading towards the goal of something interesting.  I am either going to get a faction package that gives me weapons or armor…  or I am going to have the chance of getting interesting gear rewarded to me at random at the end of a match.

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The other thing that has stuck out in my head is that in Destiny the total time of the match is relatively short ranging from 6 to 8 minutes… to at the maximum 15 minutes.  Even more than that the time to engagement is also short, with the lack of long runs back to where the objective fighting is happening.  I spent some time this weekend in World of Warcraft doing battlegrounds, since that system as a whole feels like a reasonable counter point to Destiny.  I knew I was in for something when about 5 minutes into an Arathi basin map…  I saw a pop up through DBM timers informing me that my team would win in 21 minutes.  The length of that match just felt prohibitive to my enjoyment, and the risk of that time spent…  had no real payoff waiting for me at the end.  Sure there is the chance of random loot, but the loot seems to be based on my current PVP rank… and not relative to my gear level which is a huge positive for the way that Destiny handles things.  So since I am late to the game, that means I would have to suffer through a lot of bad experiences in order to maybe have a chance of getting something that is going to be useful to me in the long run.  The risk versus reward equation is just not good enough for me to keep throwing myself at the gristmill.  So instead after a handful of maps I went back to grinding World Quests because they at least felt like they had tangible rewards associated with them.

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Basically my take away is that in order for me to find PVP interesting… there has to be one hell of a lot of carrot waiting on me and very little stick.  The truth is that PVP in general be it Crucible or Battlegrounds is the sort of thing that I might do if I have literally nothing else to do.  I participate in Iron Banner so often because it is a limited time event… and it also is a loot bonanza.  While I was working my way to the current 400 light cap in Destiny, a good chunk of that progress was gained through Iron Banner drops…  which tend to be one every third or fourth match.  In World of Warcraft I played a half dozen battlegrounds this weekend and got a single piece of gear that was 50 item levels lower than the rest of the gear that I was wearing, so another enchanting shard just doesn’t feel that exciting.  I think the shortness of the match also helps my enjoyment, because even if we are losing horribly…  it is a short term predicament and one that might be remedied in the next match.  Additionally battlegrounds that focus on huge scale siege objectives tend to be soul sucking for me, and each time I have to mount up and run to the opposite end of the map it just feels bad.  I guess I prefer quick skirmishes rather than protracted battles, especially for randomly queuing with strangers.  The other huge negative about PVP in games like World of Warcraft is the fact that I am lumped into chat with a bunch of horrible people.  Simply disabling the chat and making the maps clear enough not to need communication to complete objectives would greatly improve my experience.  A good chunk of my joy in Destiny is the fact that no one can spout off racist slurs in global chat.

 

Shaders and Eyasluna

We have one week down officially for the Sparrow Racing League… and I have to say I am still having a blast.  There is just something about this game mode that makes me happy… and the bounty of rewards available only serves to sweeten the pot.  It seems that when SRL goes away officially… it will still be available through the private match list so there is even talk of organizing an unofficial league of sorts to race during the off time.  There is just so much to like about this event that it hard to place my finger on what exactly makes it special.  You have entire sets of gear up for grabs, with light levels up to 400.  I have to admit a lot of my drive to keep on racing is for the glimmer of a chance at finding some light 400 items.  So far I have gotten one, that I ultimately infused into my best fusion rifle that I am not pretty partial to.  A good amount of my gear is sitting at 399 light with my two severe hold outs being my artifact at 393 and ghost shell at 394.  There are technically ghosts available through the SRL but I have not personally seen one.  As far as the Artifact I guess my option there is probably doing some Court of Oryx because I have heard they drop there up to light 400.

Probably my personal favorite thing about the event is the availability of all of these interesting shaders.  You can check my twitter feed for a shot of one I found last night called “Ghast” which given my name seems a little fitting.  The above shader is my current favorite called Krokos which is mostly white with purple accents… that just happens to look really cool with the PS4 exclusive Jovian armor set.  There are fourteen shaders up for grabs… and I have managed go get thirteen of them with the last one tied to the record book achievements.  According to Destiny Tracker I have raced 68 times and played a total of 7 hours 38 minutes of the Sparrow Racing League…  which is pretty much entirely this year given that for whatever reason I only raced last year on my Hunter and Warlock.  Generally speaking I do a few runs to clear up the bounties and then retire downstairs to racing through the remote client, because really…  me winning or losing doesn’t much matter when I am largely in it for the possibility of maybe just maybe hitting 400 light level.  The goofy part is that even with the input lag caused by remote play… I still generally end up finishing in the top three and have even managed to win a few maps in this fashion.

The other huge perk of the SRL is that it levels your crucible rep while at the same time giving you access to some older legacy crucible weapons.  Of these the one I have been wanting since initially coming back to Destiny during Taken King is the Eyasluna.  This weapon is essentially a legendary version of the Hawkmoon, a personal favorite of mine in the exotic hand cannon category.  Over time I strayed away from Hand Cannons due to the ammo issues, but have recently started getting used to them again and even bought the vendor Palindrome last time I was capped on Legendary Marks.  When I saw this weapon was on the list of available items…  it has been my hope to see it show up on my end of match rewards list and finally last night it did.  I am not really sure what a god roll looks like on this weapon, but I can make the one I got work with Triple Tap, Braced Frame and Grenadier.  While this is going to drop me down to 9 instead of 10 shots in the magazine… it gives me 5 points from maxed stability which should make it insanely easy to headshot with.  The range of 38 is pretty solid for a Hand Cannon as well and the 81 impact is nothing to complain about.  I spent some time running around with it last night… and I think I am going to like it.

If you were not around for the Sparrow Racing League last year, I highly suggest you get in on the Dawning event while it is available.  We still have two more full weeks of racing…  but at some point soon I am going to have to care about the other side of this event… which is the strike list scoring if I hope to complete my record book.  Playing SRL really has made me realize how much I miss games like Wipeout, and the fact that we will at least get to play this game type in private matches going forward gives me some solace.  The only thing that worries me is that a lot of my enjoyment right now absolutely comes from the fact that I have a shot at interesting rewards at the end of the match.  With this carrot removed… will I care about it nearly as much?  As a final side note….  I have to thank Playstation support for taking care of my issues yesterday quickly.  It took some doing… but I finally managed to find the correct link to get some resolution with.  Within a few minutes and a few questions answered… they reset my compromised account back to the original email address and I was able to get in and take control once more.  Additionally when I got home I added the two factor authentication…  which I did not even know they offered until yesterday.  I guess when they introduced it they didn’t make much of an announcement.  In any case… after talking to some folks who got compromised there was a pattern to these attacks.

  • They transferred 50 of whatever the local currency was to the wallet… for me it was Dollars for others it was Pounds Sterling or Euros.
  • They changed the Sign-In email for the account…  which frustratingly invalidates the links being sent out in email that allows you to quickly contest these actions
  • They created a sub account and set it up with unlimited purchasing rights.

What they were planning on doing from there is unknown because I think I maybe got things stopped in time to be able to find out.  I had already put in a Paypal dispute, and Sony asked me to cancel that and they refunded the $50 taken from within their system.  They were quick to point out that they had no legal requirement to do this… since all sales are final…  and that they were doing it out of the goodness of their hearts as a one time exception.  Whatever makes me feel better at the end of the night, because in the end I got my money back without having to claw it back through paypal.  The gotcha however is that instead of refunding it to the bank…  they just placed it in my PSN wallet, which in truth I guess is fine given that I was going to pre-purchase Horizon Zero Dawn at some point anyways.  It was a frustrating start to the morning, but in the grand scheme of things everything seems to be restored to normal.  The only thing that I am going to do as a follow up is to get them to completely remove the sub account.  For now I have changed its password and decimated it through parental controls so it really can’t do anything.

Death and Taxes

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A Very Bad Day

Tuesday night I slept fairly horribly, and spent most of it tossing and turning and unable to regulate my body temperature between too hot and too cold.  So yesterday I went into the day on a low point, with being extremely groggy and fumbling through activities.  Unfortunately this also seems to be the sort of day when something horribly goes wrong.  About 10 am yesterday morning we had a freak incident occur where a publish went wrong in the content management we use at work, that caused the entire xml cache to jettison itself and our main public facing website started throwing a “no nodes” error instead of serving content.  I proceeded to spend the next five hours trying to fix the problem by republishing every single piece of content on the site…  which is roughly 20,000 nodes worth.  We got the bulk restored really quickly, and then spent the next three hours fighting with a handful of tricky node trees, that seemed to be super picky about the order in which things were published.  By the time I exited work… all I really wanted was a drink…  or four.

When I got home however we decided to get the monkey off our backs of our taxes.  We itemize, and we also have them prepared…  not that I think we can’t do our own taxes but I will happily throw money at someone for the piece of mind that come an audit we can point the finger at someone else’s legal team to sort it out for us.  There is a level of stress that taxes invoke in me that is far higher than just about anything…  so doing them on the day I was already having a shitty day was maybe not a great idea.  Then again it wasn’t like the day could get much worse.  The problem being that as we were flailing about the house trying to gather the last two or three bits of information before going…  my wife and I were fussing with each other in a way that never really happens when money isn’t on the line.  All of the stress and anxiety, is generally for naught as we get our taxes done… and generally get back a decent refund.  The bigger stress last night was that I felt bad for missing the WoW raid… but thankfully it sounded like they had enough people to pull together without me.  I hear they even managed to down Iskar which is a brand new boss for our group.

Today however seems like it is starting off much the same way as yesterday.  I got to bed at a decent hour and it felt like I was getting good sleep… that is until about 2 am when I woke up thinking the alarm had gone off.  For whatever reason it seems like we fell asleep with the television on, and that noise made me think the alarm was going off.  In the middle of my trying to get ready, I noticed the smell of smoke.  Like enough to make me start freaking out about if the house was on fire.  So I started roaming the house to see if the smell that permeated got worse anywhere to indicate where it was coming from.  I woke my wife when I decided to leave the house and go wandering outside to see if it was something from a nearby house.  The smell was far worse outside, but once again it seemed to be diffuse without any real direction that it was coming from.  I finally hopped in the car and drove the neighborhood, and when the smell was the same up the hill from us…  I finally reached a point of solace that it was very much “not our house” and was able to attempt going back to sleep.  This morning on the news we found out that apparently there is a massive grass fire burning north of us, but still about a thirty minute drive… so that has to be one hell of a fire to generate that thick of smoke as far away as we were.

Hilt Punch

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Ultimately I ended up getting settled in after taxes and getting some food in me, roughly an hour after the start of the raid.  I could have of course logged into World of Warcraft, and gotten pulled into the raid as a late comer.  After the day I had however I was not exactly fit to be around other human beings, so instead I opted to chill out upstairs with the PS4 and some Destiny.  One of the missions that has been eluding me for awhile has been the continuation of the quest that upgrades my legendary quality sword to exotic.  There is a step early on where you need to get 50 “yellow bar” kills with the sword in PVE and 25 kills of players in the crucible.  While I occasionally poke my head into the Crucible… I am not exactly a regular PVP player.  That said last night I felt as combative as I was ever going to be… and my clan had suggested doing it on a week when Mayhem Clash was one of the highlighted modes.  Supposedly “heavy ammo drops like candy” or so someone said and in truth… sure it is more common than other modes but not exactly easy either.  There were so many times I picked up heavy ammo and instantly got gibbed by another player coming up right behind me before I could even get my sword out.  So instead more often than not I simply punched players with the empty hilt of my sword, which counts as a sword kill nonetheless.  Ironically in a lot of cases… the hilt without any ammo… still one shot players.

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Spending an hour or two doing Clash had a few awesome side effects.  Firstly I gained a fat stack of glimmer, more than enough to purchase the ship above from Petra in the Reef since I had recently reached rank 3 there.  It also meant that after bashing my face against it for a bit… I managed to get all 25 of my kills…  strangely enough the last six were gained in a single match, and single ammo pickup.  I just got lucky and managed to time my jumps just right as to slash folks as they came at me in the air.  This allowed me to knock out the next step pretty quickly, which was a special boss on the Dreadnaught.  I remember when I read up on the quest folks talking about how challenging that encounter was and that how they really needed to use sword block effectively.  In truth I would start out each foray by blocking an attack and then landing a succession of quick hits… but then would jump away and wait for my shields to recharge before repeating.  Doing that it took roughly three engagements before I had that boss down.  Now I am on a step that seems considerably more time consuming than any yet… where I need to collect special materials from the moon that supposedly occasionally drop from helium filament canisters and chests.  At the same time I need to use my solar abilities, which is pretty easy given that I am rocking the Armamentarium for double the grenades and some item that allows me to pretty much do nonstop solar punches.  Supposedly this means I need to kill 500 mobs with solar abilities and farm at minimum 100 helium fragment containers to get the drops.  My goal is to finish that part so that the next Armsday I can pick up the final piece which is the Sunless Cell strike… and convince Squirrel and Jex to help me get through that.  It feels good to get the crucible step out of the way… but I also know that next up is working on First Curse.  That said I actually really enjoyed playing the Crucible and managed to get a couple of legendary engrams out of the process and a handful of exotics including a 310 Twilight Garrison.

Iron Banner

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Modem Death Cry

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Better than Xur

Last night was a bit of a strange night in that I once again flipped between games like mad.  I started off in doing my daily love rocket frustration grind… and once again I have nothing to show for it.  Then I popped into Dragon Age Inquisition for a bit, but I am having a hard time remembering just what the hell I was doing when I last played.  So I wandered around a bit aimlessly and almost accidentally completed a quest.  Finally at the end of the session I realized that I apparently have one of those major quests waiting in the queue where I go off to seal some breach somewhere… and have apparently been just avoiding completing it each time I have played lately.  Once again I logged out sufficiently avoiding it, but at some point over the weekend I really need to finish it so that hopefully I can get back on stable ground once more with this game.  Throughout all of this my wife and I were trying to catch up on iZombie because at this point we are about five episodes behind.  It was around this point when the hulu stream stopped and I started having some issues staying connected to the network.  I get upstairs and once again my modem is insanely hot, and my internet connection that normally tests out around 200 Mbps is testing 5 Mbps.  I unplugged everything and did the “throw it in the fridge for a few minutes to cool it down” trick once more.

When I finally got everything back up and running… I decided to just hang out upstairs and play some Destiny.  So I set forth on a sequence of events that wound up keeping me awake until midnight.  Destiny is still that game that I can just play happily without much forethought.  Since I had not done so in awhile I opted to do a heroic, and I have to say… it was pretty miserable.  For whatever reason I almost always get the restorative mind when it comes to heroics….  which is essentially the destiny equivalent of the Oculus.  No one that I know of likes it…  because for starters it is a huge mission and involves the damned “move the orb” mechanic to keep pushing forward.  Additionally there is a segment with a bunch of Vex Cyclops that are just annoying to deal with.  Finally you have this horrible segment at the end, where you have to keep running the ball while trying to avoid the beam of death from the restorative mind… and at the same time avoiding waves of goblins and hobgoblins that spawn in.  This is pretty easy to deal with in normal, but in heroic the stupid beam of death is quite literally that.  I made it though and ended up with a few purples…. that wound up being disenchant fodder.  I continued running 36 strikes from that point on until I finally got an Exotic to drop…  which is ironically Truth, the weapon Xur is selling this week… but in a much better 290 version.

Player Versus

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I Want a Strike on This Map

It is round about here that my night starts to get a little strange.  I don’t hate the crucible but it is one of those activities that I never actually participate in.  Similarly I have never done Iron Banner or Trials of Osiris…  and I completely missed doing any of the Crimson Doubles.  Essentially I am a no show for the player versus player activities, and I have no clue why… but on a whim last night I decided to start doing Iron Banner.  Firstly I absolutely expected to be horrible, since Iron Banner is in theory worse for new players than Crucible.  In the Crucible all players are scaled down gear wise to a happy medium allowing all players of all levels and gearings to be viable and on somewhat even ground.  Iron Banner on the other hand does not scale the players down…  and my lackluster 298 ass is nothing compared to the 330 folks that are running around in the zone.  The funny thing is however that I seemed to do mostly okay.  Sure there were occasions where I just got wrecked from out of nowhere, but there were lots of other occasions where I gunned down my target and even so much managed to get a three streak of kills before finally getting wrecked in return.

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Actually Won Some Matches

I think what makes this feel more enjoyable than a lot of the player versus player combat I have experiences is that it quite literally feels like there is no negative.  You play a match, you shoot some people, and at the end of it there is a chance of loot.  There are no repair bills, there are no lasting consequences… and even when you die you pretty much instantly respawn.  This feels more like the old school Doom deathmatch gameplay that I originally cut my teeth on.  Maybe I have shunned PVP all of this time without good reason.  Sure I rarely broke 1.0 KDR but as the night went on I got significantly better.  I even managed to pull a legendary from the place, and am pretty close to ranking up with the Iron Banner.  I have to say I am shocked at just how much I enjoyed myself, and in truth I really need to do more crucible as a result.  All of this kinda makes me look forward to the Dark Zone in The Division, because hopefully I can get a team together and we can roll around as a group exploring.  Maybe I am not as carebear as I always thought I was.