Regularly Playing: August Edition

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It has been most of the summer since I last updated my sidebar, and a lot of things have changed.  I figured it was high time that I true things up since we are just about to go into the school year, and starting to enter a pretty tightly packed release schedule for the rest of the year.  For those unfamiliar with this feature, I functionally talk about the things that I have added… the things that are remaining… and the things that I am ultimately removing from regular rotation.  I play a lot of games at any given time… and generally speaking the moment I update my sidebar…  I have a wild mood swing game wise that leads me somewhere completely differently.  So here goes nothing!

To Those Remaining

Final Fantasy XIV

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Since I last posted there has been a lot of movement in this game, namely the release of a new expansion called Stormblood.  As a result I swapped my Heavensward icon out for a Stormblood one.  As far as my time in the game…  I’ve reached 70 and 310+ gear on both my Warrior and my Samurai and have fallen off significantly in the amount of time I am actually playing.  There is still plenty to be done, and I want to get back in the swing of playing on a regular basis, however lately I am deep within my own turtle session which means I tend to be favoring games where I don’t have much of a crowd.  Still well within the realm of active games, just only logging in once or twice a day instead of devoting all of my time to it.

To The Returning and New

Guild Wars 2

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This is the first time since picking up the game at launch that I can legitimately say that I am really enjoying myself while playing this game.  For whatever reason it took five years to actually click with me, and now it is like discovering hidden treasure.  I am attempting to do all the things and it is fitting the bill really well because I don’t have much infrastructure in the game currently.  My current goal is reaching 100% in all of the old world zones, which I believe is one of the requirements for starting down the Legendary weapon rabbit hole.  Another huge boon for my enjoyment of the game is the fact that there are now proper beards for non-norn characters.

Rift

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To be honest since its release in 2011 it has never really been far off my radar.  Crawling back into Rift is like wrapping myself in a warm blanket, because it is so familiar.  In the past six years I’ve had highs and lows with the game, but I know that regardless I will always return and always be interested in whatever happens to be going on.  Recently during my turtle mode game play in general, I have been spending a bit of time trying to catch up and hit the Prophecy of Ahnket level cap.  I am also digging the tweaks I made to my default outfit.  Rift in many ways feels like this snapshot of what everyone wanted in a game around its release, and in some ways it is still ahead of its time.  In other ways though it feels like a time capsule to a time when MMO games were slower paced and more methodical.  I still find it enjoyable and am always proud to feature it on my sidebar when I am playing.

Diablo 3

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Another game that is never far off my radar is Diablo 3, and with us currently being in the thrall of another season…  it is obviously occupying some sidebar territory.  This is the first season to feature Necromancers and it has been hilarious to see literally bone spikes for days.  I really don’t have a whole lot to talk about the game because if by now you don’t get my attraction you probably never will.

World of Warcraft

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I have honestly all but stopped playing World of Warcraft, but I am keeping a space on my sidebar for it because of the RoboSquid Armada.  This is effectively our weird brain chain of trying to run every dungeon and raid in World of Warcraft at level in minimal gear.  Prior to the launch of Stormblood we had left off at Blackfathom Deeps and it seems like everyone is coalescing towards starting this up again.  I am more than happy to do some madness with my baby monk.

To Those Departing

Star Wars the Old Republic

If I am being completely honest… I have to say I love what this game has become.  I had this awesome time playing through the Shadows of Revan, Ziost and Fallen Empire content and then I sort of needed a break from deeply story driven gaming.  It was also around about this time that we were ramping up for the release of Stormblood.  At some point in the future when I need to completely dive into something wholly immersive… I will pick this back up and run through the Eternal Throne story line.  I still poke my head in from time to time, but not enough to keep it on the sidebar.

Horizon Zero Dawn

This is one of those games that I really need to finish, but I have a feeling by the time I ultimately get back around to it…  I will functionally need to restart the experience.  This game is a casualty of too many other games coming out at the same time… and ultimately its playtime got eaten up by Mass Effect Andromeda that for whatever reason clicked way harder with me than Horizon did.  I really enjoyed the game but I feel like I am going to have to be in the right frame of mind to actually return to it.

Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild

Another game that has fallen off the radar that I want to start back up at some point is Breath of the Wild.  Two things happened to harm this experience… firstly a bunch of other stuff got released.  Secondly… I picked up the switch and decided to restart the game.  I still play this occasionally but not enough to really keep it hanging out on the right side of the screen.

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.

 

Flawless Royal Warlock

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Last night I had every intent of attempting to get a Nightfall going.  As a result when I first got home from work I grabbed some food and popped upstairs to fiddle about on my warlock.  It is odd how my order of enjoyment has shifted when it comes to my alts.  Nothing is ever going to dislodge Titan as my primary class in Destiny, but the other two appear to be in a state of flux.  Originally speaking my secondary character was always my Hunter, and my Warlock generally sat in this realm of just one or two steps removed from “afterthought”.  However with Rise of Iron and even some of the late Taken King content…  that sort of shifted around and I tend to enjoy my time spent on the Warlock far more than the Hunter.  I think part of it is that the movement options for the Hunter seem awesome at face value…  but double jump just feels more limited than either the Titan or Warlock jumps.  Admittedly I have constant issues with the Warlock jump because it essentially works backwards of that of the Titan.  However in both cases it feels like I can get where I am needing to go more easily than trying to time a bunch of jumps in order to get up to anyplace high.  On the Hunter I feel like there is never a situation where I do not want to be using the Bones of Eao…  so much so that I question if it would not simply be better for the class if that Exotic were phased out and that function just defaulted.  I still wish there were artifacts that allowed you to switch which jump your class had… because in truth I would still give everyone the Titan jump if given the chance.

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Now I said I had every intent of running a Nightfall last night, but instead when my wife managed to make it home I popped back downstairs to fix her some dinner.  After doing so however instead of filtering back up to my office, I decided to chill downstairs on the sofa with her…  which mean’t no PS4.  I realize I am one of the only people on the planet for which “sofa gaming” does not mean a console, but I have all of my consoles hooked up next to my gaming PC in my office so I can capture from them easily… and also that is where the Television that I can dominate lives.  Before long I was on the laptop and playing some more Diablo, and eventually connected with some friends chain running Rifts for fun and profit.  All in all it was a really good night for me and progression, because firstly… managed to get all of my gems to “Flawless Royal” level.  Additionally I managed to knock out a few more items from my set build namely that I now have the right armor and “weapon” in my cube.  I am now down to a place where the only things I am missing are my jewelry…  but these are also some of the more expensive items to buy from Kadala.  There is a more powerful Legacy of Nightmares build that I am working towards, largely because I have never actually tried doing a build using that pair of rings.  The game apparently wants me to try it however since I wound up with an Ancient version of one of the rings last night.  However I am in the very awkward place of needing Justice Lantern, both pieces of the Endless Walk jewelry set, and the ever present Convention of Elements in the cube.  On a positive note last night I managed to pick up a pair of Nemesis Bracers which I can swap with my Heart of Iron in the cube to make farming runs go more smoothly.  Additionally I managed to get all three of my primary build gems over level 25 so they finally start doing interesting things.  All of these things combined seem to now allow me to pretty easily farm Torment X content, which means that 7/10 of the next Seasonal step is knocked out…  with the only truly heinous thing left being mastering the set dungeon.  For that I am largely going to need to tweak my build because I don’t actually use consecrate anymore, although it is definitely worth trying given how bed of nails works with it.

Tonight however… will most definitely be a night for Destiny because in theory it should be easier to get two characters through Nightmares on reset day 🙂

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.

Social Structure and MMOs

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I’ve talked off and on about Imzy, and how it is filling a niche for me at least that Google+ used to in that it allows for a sort of long winded discussion that twitter just simply doesn’t.  Yesterday I read a post there that made me realize something I had been trying to sort out in my head for awhile.  The vast majority of my gaming time is spent playing MMOs and I tend to have several that I am in various states of active in at the same time.  However I rarely if ever gain any sort of permanent traction in them, and after a few weeks of play tend to fade away again until the whim hits me to fire it back up.  I go through a cycle of curiosity that leads to excitement…  that leads to confusion and disillusionment that ultimately ends with me leaving once more.  I will pick up a game and for a few days to weeks it is going to be the most interesting thing in the world as I get adjusted to the systems and mechanics again.  However I always reach this point where an overwhelming sense of “what now” hits me.  When that happens I wind out going right back to whatever it is happens to be my core game…  which if we are being honest with me is an alternation of World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV.  I have been working on my games played during 2016… and decided to extend that out to all of the games that are easy to track thanks to my blog.  There is a clear pattern of when I start getting super excited about WoW I shift away from FFXIV and versa vicea.  There is of course some overlap, but you can see a back and forth pattern that emerges.

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So the question is then…. what do these two games seem to have that so many others don’t.  The answer was sitting there waiting for me to notice. I often talk about games having great communities…  but generally speaking this is in broad terms and extremely non-specific.  Most games have some excellent niches in them, but in the grand scheme of things that doesn’t really do much to add core enjoyment for me.  I keep returning to World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV… because those are the games that I have established communities in.  There was a time when I was willing to branch out and meet new people…  plunk myself down in a brand new game and start growing an entirely different infrastructure.  The community that I have right now… is in large part the result of me doing this over and over.  Each new game I go into I meet a whole new cast of people…  but at some point that began to change.  As I gathered a larger and larger core of players… I stopped looking outside to the community nearly as much and instead looking to my guild.  While I am still meeting a lot of new people… they are coming with the pedigree of knowing someone I already know and am familiar with…  which of course speeds up the social footnotes that come from meeting anyone new.

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Last night was a prime example of this happening, because we were raiding in World of Warcraft and had someone pop by and join….  that I had not personally played with in several years.  My personal community in House Stalwart within World of Warcraft seems to have this ability to stay evergreen… and always have a certain chunk of the population that is active and always happy to be there.  House Stalwart my guild has existed for twelve years…  in spite of my actions.  When I left WoW to start playing Rift I tried my best to burn down everything about the game… actively recruiting people away to play this new an exciting game.  I did the same thing for Final Fantasy XIV and Elder Scrolls Online… and countless other games.  However at its core… the guild still remains and not only that… but has remained viable for the purpose of doing interesting end game content the entire time. Similarly the Final Fantasy XIV guild… while considerably younger just seems to endure whatever boom and bust cycles we go through population wise, and in both cases….  I know that I can return at any point and will be welcomed back with open arms.  In truth I think pretty much everyone who has touched either guild feels the same way…  which is why folks are constantly showing up from out of the woodwork and reintegrating back into the core at least for a little while.

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So the problem that exists with nearly every other game…  is I just don’t have anything close to this infrastructure…  nor do I really have the emotional or intellectual strength to try and forge it.  There have been House Stalwart offshoots in damned near every MMO that has existed… or at least as a guild community we have chosen a specific server and faction to all roll on.  However for most… these interludes serve as a vacation from the game they were already playing… and after a break most folks wind up going right back to the familiar.  In a traditional MMO I need to have something that I am building towards, and that object on the horizon is usually doing interesting things with my friends.  So while it is absolutely fun to pop in and play Rift or ArcheAge for a weekend…  I find hard keeping motivated when I know I have no real facilities to do any of the big interesting things… other than pugging.  I am spoiled to be honest, and so many years of not having to PUG has soured my experience as a whole.  Any random person I encounter is somehow tarnished by the memory of all of the good times I have had with my guild throughout the years.  After generations of MMOs… this has lead me to be rather insular in my gaming habits and tending to return to the folks I already know and respect rather than trying to create something new.

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So now days I tend to operate in two modes.  I have the games that I am active in and have deep social connections… and the games that I slink off to when I need to limit my social connectivity and turtle for awhile.  I tend to gobble up whatever new content is available, and then happy drop that game by the wayside as I return to active duty again.  Games like Star Wars the Old Republic, The Secret World and Elder Scrolls Online are great for this role, given that they all have deeply engaging stories that you can find yourself completely lost in…  so much so that you forget that you are essentially alone in a crowd of strangers.  There are a lot of games that I think I would enjoy… if I had a similar stable infrastructure.  However at this point… to be honest… folks are pretty stratified in their gaming habits.  I can no longer really make an impassioned argument as to why they should abandon X game that they know and love for Y game that is new and different.  I know this boom and bust cycle all too well at this point… and while it is a hell of a fun ride, to some extent I am getting that fix elsewhere.  For me personally… the Diablo 3 season mechanism perfectly emulates the feeling of “unwrapping” a brand new MMO and rushing with your friends to level as quickly as you can.  This time however we all know it is perfectly fine to fade away once you have achieved your  goals…  because its a game we will all return to again and again as new seasons happen.  I have been the cause of so much frustration and disappointment in my gaming career…  that I guess in some part I would rather slink off alone… than get folks excited about yet another game that I am sure we will all abandon within three months time.  However that same instinct…  is what keeps any of these games from actually gaining traction.  What I realized this week when reading the post on Imzy is just how desperately I need that social infrastructure for me to be able to enjoy a MMO.

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.

 

Raining With Friends

Good Morning 4 am

At this point it is actually 5 am, but who is counting?  My body decided it had enough sleep at roughly 4:40.  I had planned on getting up at 5 anyways to get up and around early so I would have to deal with less traffic on the drive in.  The greater Tulsa area is still very much under a blanket of ice and snow, and we really did not manage to get too much melt yesterday.  I am hoping that once I get out of my immediate neighborhood that the roads will be clear, otherwise this is going to be an extremely frustrating trip into work.  I wanted to give myself as much time as I could to get in, before the madhouse that is winter driving starts.  As a result this mornings blog post is likely going to be somewhat abbreviated.

Raining With Friends

Risk of Rain 2014-03-03 20-32-07-42 When I started down the road with Risk of Rain last Sunday, my feelings about the game have evolved into something much more nuanced.  The friend that originally suggested that I play the game, had told me for some time that it was a much different experience multiplayer.  Once again Ashgar was not wrong.  We planned on meeting up last night and getting in on some epic tiny pixel multiplayer action.  Firstly with two people and attempting to follow each other around somewhat, the various encounters become easier.  There are many types of mobs that you can burn down well before it actually reaches you.  Additionally when you get power-ups you can filter them towards the person who can most benefit from each type.

Risk of Rain 2014-03-03 20-08-01-15One of the things the game does that is pretty cool is show you an indicator of where your friend is at all times.  So if they are up and to the left of you, you see their character moving along the very top left edge of the screen.  We got split up often, but having this indicator allowed me to find my way back to Ashgar.  I think on our first playing, with me as the default character we managed to get three worlds in before destructing horribly.  On the second play through I changed things up to one of the characters I had just unlocked… the Enforcer.  At face value he seems like I character I would like, with his shotgun and its pushback ability.  However playing as him felt extremely sluggish, and once a mob managed to get right up on me… there was really no way to get out of there.  Poor Ashgar carried me through at least two levels where I died and he finished up the map without me.

Risk of Rain 2014-03-03 20-53-40-85 Finally on play three I think I found “my” character.  The bandit has a super long rifle shot with a small amount of pushback, a sniper rifle shot, a dynamite throw and the ability to fire a smoke bomb and go invulnerable for a short period of time… just long enough to get the hell out of a bad fight.  During this play through we each focused on our strengths, with me building everything ranged combat and Ash building everything melee combat.  We managed to get through to world five, which involves staying alive for 40 minutes as everything tries to destroy you.  At this point I had an absolutely insane drone army of 5 machine gun drones and a flamethrower drone.  Stuff attacking us would just disintegrate as it got near.  With 60 seconds to go… something catastrophic happened.

There seemed to be a hiccup in Cox communications the local cable provider, because at exactly the same time I disconnected from the Risk of Rain co-op session and Rae disconnected from Diablo 3.  I think the game was just pissed at me, because Ash and I had managed to accumulate enough power-ups during that play through that we would have had the 40 minute timer without any issue at all.  I think that is what makes this game so enjoyable, the absolute silly number of power-ups you can get.  In a way it reminds me of R-Type or Gradius…. without a cap on the total number of abilities you can get.  So towards the end I had 6 drones, the ability to fire anime sidewinder missles, the ability to proc mortar fire, as well as the occasional grenade.  On top of all of this every shot slowed the enemies, I had insanely boosted crit damage… and a short term usage jet pack.  I can now say without a doubt, that I love this game.

Whirlwind of Doom

In addition to all the Risk of Rain, I am still playing a silly amount of Diablo 3.  It is funny how one patch can completely change my perspective on the game.  Previously there were things I liked about it, but it felt extremely tedious to level through… knowing there was not much of a chance of getting something truly nice.  However I think the change for me goes deeper than that.  I love having a Clan.  I love seeing across /clan when someone gets something cool, and the obligatory chorus of gratz when someone gets a really interesting legendary drop.  I also love not feeling completely alone in the game.  Granted right now I am mostly playing solo to catch up my Barbarian, but I like feeling that while I am doing my own thing… I am not completely alone in doing it.  This is the problem I tend to have with most single player games… I just don’t feel connected to anyone else while experiencing them.

As of last night I have managed to catch my Barbarian up to level 45, and have grown into the really nice axe my monk used for awhile that summons the ghostly protector.  At this point I am still using cleave as my main attack, but as of last night I switched it up a bit from a rend that heals, to the whirlwind that sucks mobs in.  So far I am really liking the change as it lets me set mobs up for my freezequake attack.  As of last night I was up to the realm of shadows step in the Zultan Kulle quest chain.  We have decided that “Hard” is the new “Normal” mode since pretty much none of us play anything less than that when we are soloing.  Normal just seems too easy now, and the xp and drops seem much better on Hard.  Even at that, Hard is not all that Hard… in that I have to be not paying attention at all to actually die.

Diablo III 2014-03-03 16-37-20-32 Granted I have done than more than a few times, but with my paladin healbot I can pretty much run around doing bad things.  Right now through the release of Reaver of Souls, there is a “community event” going on that buffs experience gained by 50%.  So my hope is to soak up as much of this goodness as I can.  Once I finish pushing my Barbarian to 60 I plan on shifting back to the monk for a bit and working on paragon levels.  We have quite a few people playing right now, so it is pretty easy to get a torment game going.  I am not sure how amped I am with the key farming madness, but right now my key priority is getting the last two items to make a Whimsyshire staff.  I want to go kill rainbows and ponies… for science.  I am sad that I was not on mumble when Warenwolf took Rae to Whimsy for the first time.  I am not sure if she recoiled in horror, from having to kill her beloved ponies… or if she squealed in glee.  Diablo 3 seems to do the same thing League of Legends does…  bring out her murderous side.

Snow Day Project

The very last cool thing I did yesterday while snowed in, was take a moment to organize my video game screenshots.  For most people this is not a big deal, but since my blog very much relies on access to decent screenshots…  it is slightly more important.  For some time I had standardized on using a “GameShots” directory and using Fraps to take them so that everything dumped into one directory per machine.  The problem is that each directory was getting unwieldy quickly.  So as I tried to look a picture up, it would take forever for livewriter to list the newest files.  What I opted for is a directory on my 4 terabyte network attached storage, with sub directories for each game.  After setting up that structure I proceeded to sift through three different machines worth of screenshot directories and file them away in the right places.

That in itself would have been a huge positive, but I decided to go one step further.  I installed Picasa on my secondary machine and am now synchronizing each of these game directories with google plus photos.  Now if I am away from my machine, I still have access to my screenshots if I feel like I need to cobble together a quick post on something.  My hope is this will make blogging from the lake this summer a bit easier, as there is no way I could have access to my entire archive of screenshots remotely otherwise.  So far it seems to be working well, the only negative is that each time I add a new game directory I have to manually log into the machine running Picasa and configure it to sync.  The next project will likely to to merge in a bunch of the screenshot directories I already have on google plus into the newly created ones.

What About Wildstar?

4.4.14

 

It as been roughly ten days since Zenimax announced the official PC/Mac release date of Elder Scrolls Online.  In doing so they either knowingly or unknowingly threw down the gauntlet to the other developers with their own tentative release dates.  The success and fail of an MMO has become so much more than whether or not it is a good game, but instead how distracted the gaming populous is at any given moment.  I remember a time in the not too distant past where major PC releases were truly few and far between.  However it currently seems like there is always something bigger looming on the near horizon.  Like it or not every single one of these releases is competing for the same relatively small pool of players, subscribers, and even money in general.

Yesterday Massively voted The Elder Scrolls Online… the MMO most likely to flop in the coming year.  While I personally think this is deeply cynical and maybe even more than a tiny bit inflammatory, I think more than anything it is short sighted.  Quite frankly the success and failure of Elder Scrolls Online has nothing to do with the PC gamer, and that is more than a tiny bit humbling.  We will no longer be the king makers for these online games.  With ESO and games like it, that torch is being passed from PC Gaming to the much larger pool of console gamers.  I have to say the console market is rabidly waiting for a new Elder Scrolls Experience, and especially a multiplayer one at that .  I think it might be a bitter pill to swallow to realize that the success and failure of these titles may very well be out of the hands of the “PC Gaming Master Race”.

3.25.14

 

Being the master tacticians that they are, yesterday Blizzard announced the release date for the Diablo 3 Reaper of Souls expansion.  With this they are releasing roughly four weeks ahead of Elder Scrolls Online, and as a result giving themselves plenty of time with the sole attention of the PC Gaming market.  Similarly however they are also hungrily eyeing the console market, and you can bet that they will be timing the release of the PS3/PS4/Xbox360/XBone release against the June release of Elder Scrolls Online to the next gen consoles.  I feel like a four week buffer is more than safe and should play well to the gamers that may not have the ability to purchase every title they want.  I know I am personally amped about this version of the game, because it fixes a lot of the loot problems I had with the initial release.  Additionally I am holding out hope beyond hope that they manage to roll in the console “controller” features as well.

There is no way to look at this release date as anything other than business strategy.  Elder Scrolls started this ball in motion, and now each game company will have to decide when the most opportune time is to deploy their own “forces” on the game board.  While the Diablo 3 demographic is not exactly the same as the Elder Scrolls demographic… there is more than enough overlap to have caused issues for either game.  As a result two major juggernauts have been placed on the “game board” and as a result the new year is less open than it was.  Now the launches of so many titles will have be strategized to figure out when the most opportune time to release will be.

Warlords of Draenor

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Since the title Blizzard announced was the release of Diablo 3 for the tail end of the first quarter, my assumption is that Warlord of Draenor was simply not close enough to ready to be able to launch against Elder Scrolls Online.  As a result I am guessing this means that WoD will be another last quarter of 2014 release much like a few other World of Warcraft expansion launches.  If this is the case that bookends the year up pretty nicely.  Diablo 3 first quarter, Elder Scrolls Online second quarter and Warlords of Draenor closing out the year.  You can already see the 2014 release calendar starting to tighten a bit and this will make it increasingly difficult for game companies to find a “clear window” to release against.  I personally thought I had written off the WoW franchise completely, but nostalgic can be a pain sometimes.

As a result I imagine there will be a lot of players that either intentionally or un-intentionally come back for the release of Warlords.  The lifespan of a WoW expansion rush seems to be roughly three months, so an end of the year release will also make the 2015 schedule some what slippery as well.  The problem is there are lots more pieces to be placed on the board.  Games like Titanfall and Destiny will also be chipping away at the pool of players that would h

ave normally played an MMO.  Additionally we still have EQ Landmark and EQ Next that have not committed to any release schedule and will likely be just as large of a force on the Calendar as the games that have already been confirmed.

What About Wildstar?

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I will be the first to admit… I am actually not that excited about Wildstar at all.  By all rights I should be, but for whatever reason there I have not followed it.  I do however have a lot of friends who have, and as a result I want it to be a success for their sake as much as anything else.  Up until this point we have heard a tentative “spring 2014” release.  As I have just outlined however the “spring” timeframe is extremely packed as it is.  Wildstar is in a really precarious place right now, and I do not envy them.  They are launching a new MMO, with a subscription model into a world that seems to have fallen out of love with subscriptions.  Additionally it is an unproven IP, and there are additional issues on selling a new player on “the vision” for this world.  Finally it is releasing against some really powerful forces.

The safe bet will be to release Wildstar in the July/August timeframe.  As much as I myself hate it, the players who are likely to leave a game will have done so by the time three months have passed.  July would be the beginning of a window where generally the “locusts”, a group I have been a member of so many times in the past… will have consumed what there is to consume with ESO and be looking for a new target to move to.  Plotting a course for this opening in the schedule seems like the safe choice for them.  However all it would take to make this more treacherous, is for the other pieces that are unplaced to fall into this window.  Releasing against EQ Landmark would be enough to make the fate of Wildstar uncertain, and we have yet to even discuss the potential for the upcoming and as of yet unnamed Rift expansion. 

My money is still on Wildstar penciling in a July release date, and EQ Next as a game being a spring of 2015 release.  I just don’t see Carbine being confident enough to release Wildstar without a good opening in the schedule.  They are in a much more tentative position than Zenimax, since the entirety of their fate rests upon the shoulders of the PC Gaming market.  Elder Scrolls Online could realistically release against another big game, since they will be gaining a bunch of “new to genre” players coming in from the console market.  Additionally they have a well established and well loved IP… and even if folks are not completely sold on the game… they are likely to at least dip their toes in the water for awhile.  I find myself caring far more about the people at the companies… than the companies and games themselves.  With several friends in the “industry” I honestly hope that they can stack the schedule in a way so that all of these titles fine at least limited success.  If we see another crop of relative failures, I think this year might be the last hurrah of the triple A MMO market.