Week Three Thoughts

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Yesterday was if I am counting correctly the third reset we have experienced on the PC version of Destiny 2, and as a result that seems like an interesting time to take a sort of postmortem of my experiences so far.  In fact I apparently also made a similar post three weeks after the PS4 launch, that could serve as an interesting comparison.  At that point I was sitting at 291 light with the rest of my characters sitting in the 285ish range, and now I am knocking on the door of 305 with my Titan sitting at 304 without completing any of his weekly milestones, and the rest of my characters in the 300-302 range.  In fact it was not until October 18th if I am looking at my posts correctly that I could hit 304 which I believe was somewhere in week six after release.  There are a bunch of variables at work here, namely that I am trying to get a Nightfall every week and I did not do that before.  Similarly I am dabbling in the raid and did not do that before…  however the raid itself is not providing much in the way of gear yet other than a higher than normal level engram every week.  What I am missing however is that after the second or third week I had access to a raid engram every week on the console side and we have yet to finish the raid on PC side but are getting close.  I think when you balance everything out I have had access to roughly the same amount of gear so it isn’t simply that I am getting more of it more frequently.  According to WastedOnDestiny.com I’ve spent 126 hours playing the PS4 version and 84 hours so far playing PC…  so all things considered I have maybe been playing a little bit more on the PC than I was on the PS4 at this point.

Now the piece that is much harder to account for is ancestral knowledge.  By playing Destiny 2 on the PS4 I essentially gave myself an extended beta test period with the game and by playing it as hard as I did I gleaned a bunch of knowledge that I then attempted to share on my blog.  I know how things work and more than that I know how to best spend my time at least in the early game when I probably wasted some potential power gains on doing certain things too soon.  In the console I was in a rush to see and do everything and now I more or less know what I like playing with and what it takes to get those things again.  As a result I am now sitting on stockpiles of tokens that I can then use later as leverage when playing the 300 engram game trying for max level loot.  I for example am sitting on 131 EDZ tokens largely because I know there isn’t much on that loot table that I don’t already have.  On the converse I burn down my stock of Crucible and Vanguard tokens as soon as I get them because I am still looking for weapon drops from those activities.  I could also be doing a lot more, like for example I don’t think I have touched Ikora’s memories at all during the PC launch and they are an additional draw at Vanguard loot that I should potentially be tapping.  Essentially I progressed so much faster than I was expecting to…  and I would chock that up to experience were it not for the fact that a lot of the Aggrochat crew are also progressing at similar levels.  Are they simply getting the benefit of my experience as well, or did the PC game loosen the throttle a bit and let everyone’s item levels drift a little higher than was the case on the console?

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The Achilles heel of the PC launch seems to be something that was almost completely overlooked.  Destiny 2 added this fairly detailed clan system that allows players to benefit from the actions of other clan members…  but does absolutely nothing for helping them communicate.  What I mean by that is that while we have a weird text chat system on the Bungie website… that does not exist anywhere in game.  The only options for chat in game are /fireteam, /team, and /whisper leaving out the very critical /clan.  I mean I realize Bungie is still in denial that they made an MMO but this is the most basic functionality that PC MMO gamers expect from a game.  Blizzard introduced this whole “social” section of the battle.net client…  but that doesn’t work in game either leaving this huge gap for now to glue people together.  Prior to launch I shared out the Beyond the Light Discord as a sort of multi-clan hangout and several weeks in I am still thinking that is going to be the best option to help people connect up for groups.  I feel like they largely did not consider how vastly different the PC community would be and what sort of cultural norms we would expect going into the game.  The end result however seems to be “use voicechat” as the way to connect up with folks…  and there are just times where I don’t want to be talking on voice chat.  My dream for Blizzard games is to have some sort of guild chat that spans across all of their games and allows me to talk to people playing Diablo 3 or World of Warcraft while I am playing Destiny 2.  However that dream is seemingly still a long time coming, but in the mean time…  Bungie please put in /clan.

 

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.

Gamer Social Media

AnookForTheWin

Love for Anook

AnookForTheWin

So anyone who follows me probably knows of my love of twitter.  Over the years it has become the only major social media network that I really interact with on a regular basis.  Technically I have Facebook, and G+ and essentially an account on every single social media network because I am always curious about the next big thing…. but rarely do they actually make an impact.  What has happened instead is that I seem to have become more and more entrenched in niche social media.  Firstly I have to talk about my love of Anook.  When this site first launched it confused the hell out of me.  In fact I was shooting off my mouth like I often do on twitter, complaining about me not really understanding its purpose….  when the Anook account started messaging me trying to explain it.  My attachment to this network is entirely thanks to one man, Lonrem the social and community manager for the site.  The site itself does a lot of things…  but it also has so far to go before it “grows up” into the site that it could be.

I have a long list of things that I would love to see on it, but I continue to use it as it is in the hope that someday the rest of the world will realize just how special this network really is.  It is built on a strange dynamic of forcing actual interaction with the site, rather than allowing folks to just auto post content.  This is cool because it means that folks are actually there and posting and commenting… but the negative is for content providers like myself it is frustrating to have to do extra work just to support them.  Each week when I publish AggroChat I go out and manually syndicate the content to our AggroChat Nook.  The first change I would love to see is for them to integrate with RSS feeds the same way they do with YouTube and auto format a post in a way as to showcase blog content.  The other big one for me is that their system only allows you to tag one game per post… and you all know I cannot seem to make single game posts like ever unless it is an impressions piece. In any case…. the community on Anook is amazing because Lonrem works his ass off to keep it that way.  Spammers, Bots and Trolls do not last long because the network is curated by hand.  I just hope that they get the funding to expand features and integrate with more things.

Slack: Private IRC Thingy

MyLoveForSlack

The next social thing that has taken me even further away from traditional social media… is Slack.  It is kinda hard to explain just what Slack is, but I tend to think of it as a private social network.  On one hand it is almost like having a private IRC server, and on other hands it is like having a private version of google drive or dropbox.  I was originally introduced to the tool through the MMOGames.com staff who uses it for coordination of articles and such.  I then started using it at work with my own development team, and we have pretty much switched to communicating exclusively through it so that if someone tags into a discussion late they can use the channel backlog to catch up on what is going on.  Finally I convinced the AggroChat crew to start using it to discuss and coordinate things during the week, and from there it kinda grew into me being in a huge number of private slack groups each of them with their own dedicated focus.  The end result is that I use other media less and tend to use slack as my key focus.  It has a bunch of benefits, like the fact that this site is largely used for business purposes around the world, and as such happily passes though most corporate web filters.

What slack does extremely well is text chat, and while they can integrate with a dozen other things and are even starting to move down the voice chat path…  they are the king of text allowing you more options than pretty much any other service.  For programmers this is amazing because it allows you to post snippets of code and then have it formatted and color coded for the language you posted it as.  This is huge when collaborating on development, and we even end up using this from time to time among the AggroChat crew.  You can also see in the above image that we have it integrated with twitter so that anytime someone sends a message directed at our AggroChat account it shows up in a specific channel.  The feature we have really gotten addicted to is the custom emoticons and I am not sure what I will do without my Vault Boy Thumbs Up icon to use as a reaction.  The piece of the equation that most people don’t know is that the team behind Slack… is Tiny Speck the company that built the amazing 2D MMO Glitch.  They essentially took the robust chat infrastructure behind that game… and turned it into a business product that honestly makes me feel a little good inside to be using.

Discord: New Voice Contender

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Over the years we have shifted back and forth between the three major voice providers for gaming purposes:  Teamspeak, Ventrilo, and Mumble.  Each of them has their own positives and negatives.  They all share a big negative however in that it requires you to either find someone willing to host a server for you, or pony up for server hosting costs.  For years during World of Warcraft raiding, I just ate the cost of a voice server because it was something like $45 a quarter.  However that still adds up over time, so when we were offered the Alliance of Awesome Teamspeak server I jumped at the chance to jump to no longer having to pay this fee.  That server has been awesome and we record AggroChat from it every Saturday night.  However deep down inside… I know that someone out there is having to foot the bill for our fun… and it kinda bothers me.  Recently a new app called Discord has somewhat taken the gaming world by storm.  In so many ways Slack and Discord seem to spawn from the same desire… to have server less communication for their users.  Slack went in the direction of replacing IRC, Instant Messenger and Email…. and Discord went down the path of trying to replace Teamspeak, Ventrilo and Mumble.  There is a huge bit of overlap between the two technologies but for the most part Slack is my daytime network, and Discord is rapidly becoming my night time network.

What is extremely awesome about this is that each game community seems to be adopting Discord, and I now have large communities in Destiny, ESO, Rift, and The Division that are focused that one game.  We recently shifted to using this as a World of Warcraft raid for the Stalwart casual Wednesday night raid and it works wonderfully.  The stability of Teamspeak has been a little questionable of late, and we went through a night where everyone sounded like robots.  This lead us to fire up a discord, and in a few minutes we were all able to chat happily with little to no lag.  There are some caveats here that I feel like I should talk about.  The web client is awesome for text based chat, but if you intend to use it long… I highly suggest downloading the client for your desktop or mobile platform.  The web client push to talk only works if you have focus on the web page…. meaning as soon as you alt tab into your game you can no longer speak.  A side note… if you are not using push to talk…  please god use push to talk.  I raided for years with folks who didn’t and really… we can hear every sneeze, fart, and kid yelling in the background.  I would absolutely jump from Teamspeak to Discord entirely… but as of right now there is no good means of recording a channel.  I’ve bumped the feature up on the request list, so hopefully maybe someday someone will see fit to do that.  Mostly I hate Skype with a passion and would love for Discord to really take over the podcast recording world.

Other Stuff

The thing is… these are the three services that I have now become extremely comfortable with and have integrated into my life.  There are so many others out there like Player.me that I have yet to really see the personal benefit of.  Then of course there are all of the services like Steam that we all use… but don’t really use like social networks.  Recently I have somewhat been forced to use Band because it is what my Destiny Clan switched to using.  It seems to have really great scheduling options, but pretty shitty chat or at least it is shitty if you are not using a mobile client.  I try and do everything I can through desktop or web based clients because nothing makes me a sad panda like typing on my phone. I am horrible at responding to non-critical text messages because I really hate the process of typing even with swype on a mobile device.  I know my wife uses the Google speech to text functionality a lot, but nothing makes me feel more of an idiot than talking to my phone.  So in the end… I put off responding to as much as I can until I am sitting back down at a keyboard again.  So I’ve showed you mine… what services do you now use that you cannot give up?  I am curious how these niche media sites are reshaping the way we interact with social media in general.

 

 

Wilderqueen

Contemplating Forge

Last night was another night that was all over the place.  Firstly I decided to reinstall Forge.gg and give it another chance.  I have so many mixed emotions about this service, I like the concept that I can grab short clips at the end of my gaming session.  I dislike the fact that I can ONLY grab short clips, which are generally too short to show a boss fight for example.  I like the always on nature, and that it can just run in the background without me feeling like I need to be entertaining.  However I ran into some issues last night where apparently even though I had push to talk set… it was still actively picking up my microphone the entire time as you can see in the above clip.  So you get a snippet of a conversation between my wife and I about something I don’t even remember.  I like the idea of streaming but I don’t always want to be actively interacting, and forge is this great middle ground.  Ultimately I wound up muting my microphone at a system level just to make sure that it was not picking up.  I am hoping this is just a bug in the current client, and I will crawl the site to see if I can find out why this was happening.

The other gotcha it seems is that it did not pick up and start recording Elder Scrolls Online.  I spent the first part of the evening doing garrison dailies and doing at least one Tanaan objective in World of Warcraft and it recorded all of that perfectly.  However as soon as I swapped into ESO, it never came up with the forge icon in the upper right hand corner of the screen letting me know it is recording.  I will say that the really really nice thing about the client is sometime in between my last attempt at using the service and this one… it seems to work nicer with Fraps because there is no way I am giving up that just to use the service.  I am too used to having a common and centralized screenshot tool for all of the games I play.  It is an absolute necessity that I have a fresh source of new screenshots for this blog, and I hate having to try and find the screenshot directory for each individual game.  So instead I tend to unbind the screenshot key if it is allowed and just use Fraps for everything.  It was awesome last night that I was able to use fraps just fine while still recording on forge….  at least when it came to World of Warcraft.  I am going to be a sad panda if that ends up being the issue with it recording Elder Scrolls Online.

Return to Greenshade

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The bulk of my time last night was spent wandering around Greenshade in the Elder Scrolls Online.  Generally speaking I tend to play this game by wandering aimlessly from objective to objective, but last night I actually seemed to move through the zone with a purpose.  That purpose being ingratiating myself to the Court of the Wilderking, a forest spirit that controls the Valenwood and that the local Bosmer worship as a God King.  As part of trying to quell the rebellion and steal forces away from the Veiled Heritance, my mission was simple…  get the support of the Wilderking to get the support of the local forces…. thus ending the  rebellion.  I of course did a bunch of other stuff along the way, and I am not entirely complete with the main story sequence…  but I am having a blast.  I got sidetracked in helping a friend level in World of Warcraft, and then again by the Love is in the Air event…. and finally I am settling back into Elder Scrolls Online for a bit.  Granted currently I will probably continue to hop games like mad because there is just so damned much stuff that I want to be playing.  In Elder Scrolls I have yet to see any of the Imperial City content, or Orsinium… and they are just about to release the Thieves Guild as well.  So much catching up to do… but at the same time I feel like I have all the time in the world to do it because I am not playing the game at a serious end game focused level.

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The other big happening of the night is that I finally dinged Veteran Rank 4, allowing me access to the next tier of crafted gear.  I was doing awesome….  until I screwed up and rushed to get my shield made and forgot to go to the set crafting area.  Originally I was planning on having 5 piece Alessia’s Bulwark, and 4 piece Ashen Grip…  except I am now sitting at 3 pieces in that set because I got sidetracked and ended up making a non-set shield.  Unfortunately I am completely out of the right kind of wood so I will need to do some more adventuring before I can finish things out.  For the time being I have opted to abandon my costume and go with the actual armor look because I dig the Imperial armor look.  I will probably always favor the Dunmer sword type, though recently I did enjoy using an axe for a bit.  The game looks amazing on the laptop, and I am so damned happy with how well everything is performing to be honest.  It does get a little hot but then again what gaming laptop doesn’t.  My previous one had a SLI graphics card configuration so had insanely hot air venting out of both sides of the laptop.  At least this setup isn’t continuously baking my mouse hand.  I just need to sort out why exactly Forge was not recording the game.

The Division

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Also looming on the near horizon is the launch of The Division.  At this point it is absolutely certain that I will be playing it on the PC, at least at first.  When the price comes down a little I will probably also pick it up for the PS4 so that I have access to it for any of the friends that happen to be playing there.  For the last few days since the end of the beta I have trying to sort out how best to organize folks for the upcoming launch.  The game itself does not really have guilds or clans or any structure like that….  at least that I saw in the two betas I have been part of.  So as a result this is going to make getting stuff going a little more difficult than in other games.  However my friend Sigtric, the man who coined the hashtag #BelEffect is firing up a Discord group and attempting to get it to be the official/unofficial chat server for the game.  If you are going to be playing I highly suggest you pop by and join the “Gone Rogue” community.  There is a shared general chat and breakout channels for PC, PS4, and Xbox One to make organizing things a little easier.  I honestly wish I had something like this for Destiny.  Discord is one of those things that is growing on me, and while I still find Slack easier to use…  there is a point in the near future where I could see abandoning traditional voice servers and moving to Discord entirely.