Wandering Skyrim

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Last night was a bit of a strange night for me.  Originally I had plans to get together with some of my friends and work on Karazhan attunements…  of which I have not even started running the dungeons.  However I had apparently forgotten that last night was the RiffTrax live show.  By “live” I mean streamed to theaters around the country as the original show is going on in Nashville.  This time around we got to see two shorts and the really bizarre feature film “Carnival of Souls”(which is apparently up on youtube in its entirety).  The film is apparently by the same guy that did another RiffTrax classic… the “Shake Hands with Danger” PSA from Caterpillar.  This literally is probably one of the more bizarre movies I have watched because really from the entire moment it started… it felt like this strange meandering film about nothing.  The RiffTrax send-up however was great, the movie itself just ended with what was supposed to be a shocking reveal…  but largely felt like maybe the director was the only one not in on the secret?  In any case by the time I got out of there, and drove home I was a little out of it.  I existed in that state of too tired to do anything serious, but not tired enough to actually head on to bed.

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Instead I decided to install the Skyrim Special Edition and check it out.  I have to give Bethesda a lot of credit for giving it out for free to anyone who already owned the original game and all of the expansions.  The install was roughly 9 gig so I am guessing that the improvements were more or on the processing side of the equation rather than just pushing a lot of upgraded textures.  Whatever the case the game looks gorgeous, if I had been thinking I would have installed the base game on this newer machine and done some side by side comparisons.  It is enough of an upgrade to make me happy, and I am always willing to have a new excuse to roam around Skyrim being a murder hobo.  Once again however I am torn between sword and shield and bow… ending up mixing between the two quite a bit based on the fight.  As is always the case I had trouble staying to the actual missing and instead have already cleared out the first barrow while retrieving the golden claw.  In theory I think I probably should have gone to Whiterun, but whatever the case I am wandering down my own path once again.  The game doesn’t really feel that changed, more like you installed a graphical upgrade mod.  Whatever the case it looks pretty, and runs well so that pretty much ticks off the boxes I needed.  At some point I might check out the mods available, but for the time being I am largely running vanilla.

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Relearning to Fight

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Nostalgia vs Reality

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I feel like I grew up at exactly the right time to be a fan of fighting games.  For the most part these were what consumed my High School game playing years, well apart from a healthy dose of pen and paper role-playing and miniatures.  I remember when the local Circle K got in the original Street Fighter back in middle school, my friend and I were completely enamored with it.  Sure we had played fighting games before, but there was just something different about this one.  Then when Street Fighter II started showing up in Arcades during early 1991… it was quite literally all we could talk about.  Electronic Gaming Monthly had become our bible, and when it released full move sheets for each character, my friend Wade and I practically memorized them.  We were set on course for a wild ride over the next several years, as a new game would come along and dethrone the previous king.  I spent so much money in the arcades playing Street Fighter II derivatives, Art of Fighting, Fatal Fury, Samurai Showdown, Mortal Kombat 1 and 2….  and finally culminating for me at least with Killer Instinct.  I went off to college…. got poor…  so I missed a whole generation of the early Tekken games, finally re-entering the fighting game world with Soul Edge in the basement of the university center.  I stayed engaged for most of the original Playstation and for the first bit of the Playstation 2…  and then thanks to my addiction to MMOs…  checked out of the scene once more.

From that point onwards I have tried to poke my head in, every now and then…  even purchasing the original release of Street Fighter IV on my fairly new Xbox 360.  There is still very much a will in me to play these games… but I have had to realize that I am not nearly as good as my nostalgia believes me to be.  Generally speaking I get my ass kicked and get it kicked extremely hard when I try and play anyone with much skill.  I also have completely killed any of those key callouses that we used to need to keep from getting a nasty case of “raw thumb”.  There is something about Street Fighter V however that has reinvigorated my desire to try and learn to play Fighting games once more.  At almost 40… I simply don’t have the reflexes to ever really be “great”, not that I ever was in the first place.  I could dominate an arcade cabinet for a few hours on a single quarter during my prime, but that part of me is just no longer around.  Gone is most of that competitive spirit, and instead I just want to have some fun playing a fighting game.  So much has been added to the genre since I last played, that it feels like I will be simply starting from scratch again.  We will have to see how long the drive stays with me, but as of right now I have every intent of sitting at home tonight and trying to remember how to play a Street Fighter game.  I ended up picking it up on PS4, so my PSN id is Belghast as is my Capcom fighter tag, though I don’t expect to play against anyone for a long while.  I wish I had ordered that Hori Fight Commander in preparation of this…. because I am not sure if I can get used to hitting shoulder buttons for heavy attacks.

Goodbye Grahtwood

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In other news… I have now finished the bulk of the quests in Grahtwood and am moving forward to Greenshade.  There are I am certain a few points of interest that I did not take care of while I was in Grahtwood, but a lot of them are simply going to wait for another level… and a fresh infusion of gear.  So many of the world bosses that I encountered were actually two separate boss mobs that interacted with each other.  I can absolutely whittle down one world boss, by simply out surviving it and self healing….  but when it comes to two at the same time my damage output is lacking.  So my hope is that when I hit Veteran 4 and can craft a whole new set of gear… that I will be able to return and kick their ass.  Right now I am largely wearing a crafted set of Veteran 1 gear… and at this point it is starting to feel a bit dated.  In other news I got this installed once again on my upstairs gaming rig, so my hope is to maybe start streaming some of my evening shenanigans.  I am not sure what it is about playing Elder Scrolls Online, but it very much feels like returning home.  Its like the world waited there quietly for me to return, and has thus far welcomed me back with open arms.  If you ever played this game in the past… you might take the bit to patch up your client and give it a shot.  I know a few people recently have restarted after not enjoying the beta testing at all… and are enjoying themselves.  The game certainly feels more polished now than it was at launch.

 

Old-Lady Suit

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Best Intentions

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I had psyched myself up yesterday to go off and do some raiding last night.  Some friends of friends had graciously offered to drag me along with them for the first part of Heroic Hellfire Citadel.  I thought to myself that this was an excellent opportunity, that could lead to gear and maybe even a moose at some point, so even though they raid PST, I figured I would make the good college try.  The problem being my body is still conspiring against me.  This is officially the sickest I have been in years, as we are now going on thirteen days for this crud.  Admittedly my wife had something super similar weeks before we went to PAX and while she got over the bulk of it… almost a month later she still has the constant cough.  The thing that is killing me at the moment is the sore throat, only exacerbated by the constant body shaking coughing fits and drainage.  So by the time the raid was starting around 9:30 my time…. I was already taking NyQuil and planning to slip into bed.  I politely begged off as best I could and if any of them are reading today… I sincerely thank them for the opportunity.  One which I kinda hope will still be available when I am not feeling like shit.

The problem I am in with Belghast is the fact that my item level is artificially low, because there are four pieces of gear that I simply cannot afford to get rid of.  I have the four piece normal Blackrock Foundry set, and every time I try and sim out swapping out of it for higher item level gear… it is a major dps loss.  The problem being that I am playing a special snowflake class that will be going away in Legion.  Gladiator just works strangely, and it feels like Blizzard inadvertently gave use the most perfect class set ever.  The two piece bonus is “Shield Slam has a 8% Chance to Automatically Cast Shield Charge” which is massive, and helps fill in those spots where I could not normally have Shield Charge up for the damage bonuses.  The four piece is essentially “Shield Charge increases the damage of Heroic Strike, Slam, and Revenge by an Additional 20%” which is the single best damage booster that I can get right now.  So I simply cannot abandon this set bonus, and the only real option right now would be to try and find a Mythic Blackrock group so I could get the Mythic four piece set.  Because of the way the Hellfire Dungeon set works… I can also squeeze in the two piece of that set giving me “Bonus Armor Increased by 145” which while not insane… is a decent dps boost since every point of armor translates to 2 attack power for Gladiator spec.  So needless to say I am stuck in a corner where my 686 gear score does not exactly equate to my performance…  but I don’t really have access to the upgrades that would actually help.  I mean as much as I hate to see it go, I totally see why Blizzard is getting rid of this special snowflake spec.  It is extremely hard to itemize for and gear for.

Madness and Cheese

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So after getting frustrated that there was very little I could do to improve my lot in life on my Warrior, I ended up logging over into Elder Scrolls Online for some nice and peaceful questing.  I actually managed to catch Solaria on at the same time, and I spent a little bit of time attempting to help her get started in crafting.  The only problem being that during prime time it seems like all of the ore is heavily farmed down.  Since I have the insane “see it from a distance” glow effect, I am wondering about dropping down to Betnikh and helping farm up a bunch of ore for her.  She decided to go with a Heavy Armor Two-Handed Templar…. which was one of my favorite paths from alpha testing.  It feels a little bit like a WoW Retribution Paladin in the burst damage department, and has some really high survival when running around questing.  It also greatly simplifies the crafting, since Blacksmith can literally make everything they would need to use from the weapon to the armor.  The problem there is Blacksmithing honestly seems to be the most useful profession, and as a result ore is always in high demand.  I could in theory just pass over a bunch of bars, but she really needs the skill-ups from refining the bars right now, so I would be better served just going out and farming ore for her.

One of the things I had forgotten about Elder Scrolls Online was just how well written the quests are.  I completed a sequence in Grahtwood where I ended up encountering my favorite of all Daedra… Sheogorath the Prince of Madness.  You never know if he is going to attack you… or offer you cheese…  and then attack you.  What makes this sequence so great is the fact that I have tangled with Sheogorath in the past of this game.  He remembers my interactions and even seems to comment based on my decisions….  in this completely unrelated quest line.  The amount of time that they put into making sure that the dialog trees had little gems like this, is just awesome… and I am still really impressed by them when I find them.  All of the content was designed knowing that your single character might be completing all three factions worth of it.  There is just something warm and fuzzy about playing this game…  and while at one point I was disappointed in it…  I think most of that was really just me trying to make it into something that it was not.  As a largely solo experience the game is exemplary, and honestly I look forward to trying to scramble enough people together to do a dungeon or two and see if that experience improved as well.  Cheese for everyone!

 

 

 

 

Witcher 3 Impressions

Losing Time

witcher3 2015-05-20 19-43-32-94 Last night I had these plans of coming home, and hopping into Final Fantasy XIV and working on crafting once again while chatting away with my Free Company folk.  However when I got home absolutely none of that actually happened.  I had left the GOG Galaxy client up on my screen during the day, and when I sat down at my machine it was the first thing I saw.  I had fixed myself a sandwich and chips and I thought to myself…  I will just play Witcher for a bit while I eat dinner, and before my wife gets home.  It seems like moments later she had gotten home and was hollering up at me.  When I say it seems like moments, it quite literally feels like I had just sat down at the screen.  In reality about an hour passed between starting Witcher and taking a quick pause to see my wife off to church before returning to playing again.  Then next thing I know it…  my wife is back home and heading to bed and I have managed to lose another several hours.

To say the game is immersive is a bit of an understatement.  The last game that I can remember losing entire nights to was probably Skyim, and that is a fairly apt comparison at least on a few levels.    The funny thing is I have just now moved to the “second” area of the game.  I say area because while the game has open world aspects it is not exactly completely open world.  The first “zone” is called White Orchard and it is made up of this huge sprawling seamless area with lots of villages and locations to explore.  This gives it a traditional open world Elder Scrolls feel, the problem being that the entire location has a bounding border drawn around it.  While I have not pushed my luck when the game starts telling me to turn around…  I am imagining that there is some sort of “slaughterfish” like mechanic that you encounter.

Gorgeous Environment

witcher3 2015-05-20 19-07-30-38 The real triumph of the game is the environment, and just how real it feels to be roaming through.  What makes the game world so compelling is the fact that everywhere you look there is action going on.  Nothing is static, and the weather patterns effect every last blade of grass it feels.  The only problem with this is at times you feel like you are suffering from a bit of sensory overload.  Like I said yesterday once I started playing I pretty much hopped off the path immediately and this is very easy to do, and at the same time rewarding.  When they were pitching this game I remember them saying that it would take either 20 hours or 200 hours depending on your gameplay style and after finishing White Orchard I can see why this is.  The main storyline in the zone was relatively straight forward and only actually required me to complete a few quests to get through it.  However I spent the next four hours working on various treasure hunts and exploring the world.

The map system works very similar to Skyrim except that you have missions of interest that you have yet to explore marked as question marks.  Now these are not ALL the locations in the world, and there are a number of other “hidden” things that you can find wandering the countryside, however if you explore each question mark it seems like you will get most of the content you would care about.  That is ultimately what I spent my night doing was wandering around completing these question marks.  The game has a waypoint travel system that allows you to pop from road sign to road sign, and I used the hell out of this functionality allowing me to get close to the destination that I was looking for and either taking my horse the rest of the way or just wandering of foot.  Pretty much anytime I saw monsters on my minimap hud I dismounted and took them on.  After some gear and some levels things like the Drowners and packs of Wolves became trivial, but the big monsters were still insane especially anything that spawned near a “guarded treasure”.

The Story Is Good

witcher3 2015-05-20 21-52-48-37 The thing that I find most interesting is that the game manages to make the narrative just as interesting as the free form exploration.  There is some crazy shit going on in the world of the Witcher, and as this game is my first experience of that world I am trying to soak it all in.  The game does an awesome job of giving you just enough of a primer in the setting for things to make sense, but also is unapologetic at times for talking about things that you have NO clue what is going on.  There was a point in the game where I had to answer a series of questions, each of which I think represent choices that were made in earlier games.  Knowing nothing about the setting I made my choices and it was interesting to see just how they played out in that discussion.  I have a feeling that those choices will ultimately color what the final results of the game end up being.

There was talk at one point of them rebooting the earlier Witcher games using the Witcher 3 engine… and I really hope this happens.  The engine itself is extremely robust and I can see the modder community is going to have a ball with this game.  This might dethrone Skyrim in that department, pending the game itself is that extensible.  The best review that I can give the game is the fact that I had to pry myself away from it last night to go to sleep.  I alt tabbed and noticed it was 10:30 and realized that if I did not stop then… I would likely end up playing until after one in the morning.  The funny thing about this game is that it literally came out of left field for me.  I had no intent to purchase it, and am only now playing it because I got a free copy with my video card.  Now I am looking forward to playing through everything the game has to offer and will more than likely purchase the season pass so that I can play the DLC as it releases.  I keep harkening back to this, but I think if the game keeps up at this pace and level of quality that it might very well be that go to game like Skyrim for losing myself in the world.  The only fear I have is that since this is so narrative focused, I am not sure if it will have the same sort of universal replay-ability that the Elder Scrolls games have had for me.

Guar Wrangler

Horrible Night

1685929-797522_xo_manowar___bws_super Last night was supposed to be our guild attempt on Turn 9 again in Final Fantasy XIV.  I logged in ready to go, and then all hell broke loose.  We had two servers go down at work, and I spent my night working with a coworker trying to bring them back online.  While all this was happening, the guild rightfully filled my spot and the show went on without me.  It sounds like maybe they got through another phase but I was not paying that close of attention to what was going on in Teamspeak.  I spent most of the night watching those servers, trying to make sure that they were not going to go down again.  I got a 9:30 pm call from my boss which freaked me out, because my mind immediately jumped to the conclusion that something had happened again.  Turns out he was just returning my call from earlier in the evening that apparently he missed.

The problem is as stressful as my actual evening went… it apparently spilled over into my dreams.  In my dream I was interviewing Robert Downey Jr. and he was extremely agitated.  He was pacing around the room, and I kept trying to the bottom of why.  Suddenly he got mad with me and transformed into the Ironman suit from his briefcase.  He fired a shot at me, and I responded by turning into the X-O Manowar suit.  We battled back and forth in this conference room.  One of his repulsor beams blew a hole in the wall and outside I could see the Ultramarines fighting some sort of giant Kaiju.  Finally they defeated it and stormed into the building to assist me.  Moments from capturing Robert Downey Jr. turned Ironman…  I apparently woke up.  It was a strange night.

Capping Poetics

ffxiv 2015-03-16 19-51-15-65 While semi-afk and working on servers I happened to notice movement in my game screen.  It turns out the entire guild was swarmed around me trying to lure me back from wherever I happened to be.  Unfortunately it didn’t work and it took another thirty minutes or so before things were finally restored.  Since I missed the boat for raid time… and quite honestly I didn’t feel like I should get involved in something that serious I opted to run hardmodes for poetics.  I went into the night sitting around 200 poetics of the 450 cap.  Through a series of hard modes, trials and a random expert with guildies when the raid was over I managed to get within a single point of capping.  This meant I was within a single trial of cap, so I stayed up and did just that… managing to get the most frustrating Ifrit Hard mode I have ever experienced.  The tank failed to have shield oath up, which meant that the white mage quite literally tanked Ifrit for most of the kill.

If nothing else capping poetics was a bit of a silver lining to an otherwise shitty night.  Right now I am very much in this mode of trying to cap every week so I can finish gearing out my main the Warrior.  As far as pieces to purchase, I need a couple of pieces of jewelry, the belt and the chest piece… and then a bunch of weeks to past to get the necessary carboncoat and carbontwine to upgrade them to 130.  In any case there is still a lot of upgrades ahead of me, and my hope is to get to as much 130 gear as I can before the release of the 2.55 patch which is supposedly March 31st.  That seems really damned soon considering we just recently had the Golden Saucer patch, but I guess they are wanting to give players time with that patch to finish things up before June 19th and the Heavensward headstart.  I guess now that I think about that, it is only giving players a month with 2.55 which makes sense as something that they would want to do.

Guar Wrangler

eso 2015-03-16 23-59-44-25 After the night that I had I should have just gone straight to bed.  The problem is I was still very much still “worked up” over the events.  I likely could not have slept if I had tried, so throughout the night I had been patching up Elder Scrolls Online, and decided to pop my head in.  It turns out that they flipped the switch for Tamriel Unlimited a bit early, and folks were able to log in and play last night.  Overall the transition seemed smooth enough, and all of my pets and such got sucked into the new collections system.  Similarly I was granted 4500 crowns to spend on the in game shop, and with that I picked up the stealth armor pack that had this very cool covenant armor set, and the guar that I am riding on.  I also picked up the Wildhelm dog pet, because he looked adorable.

As far as the game itself, I had been popping my head in Tamriel once or twice a week for awhile now.  After the change I didn’t really detect anything to strange other than the fact that I now had a champion point to spend, and had to respec my character completely.  That was the hardest part, trying to decide and remember what I had before.  I feel like I probably ended up with a similar build to before… but I can’t be too certain.  I am still heavily sword and shield dragon knight, and that seems effective.  I wandered around and managed to take out a world mini-boss at some ghost pirate camp without much issue, so I am happy with the results.  I look forward to getting more time to explore the Aldmeri Dominion now that the champion system feels like I am actually making forward momentum again.  Now I just have to live with the consequences of having limited sleep.

SweetFX and ESO

Fallout and HDR

Fallout3 2014-07-14 18-24-13-252 Last night when I got home I continued down the dark journey of messing about with Fallout 3 mods and trying to achieve that look I had seen in many screenshots.  As of last night I had gotten a “better” looking experience but I wasn’t quite there.  It seems like the thing I was missing was one of the many post processing shader injection tools out there.  Apparently to get the best possible appearance you need to actually tag team them and use both SweetFX that seems to work with damned near any game, and one called ENB that seems to work with a much smaller subset of games.  The above shot was pretty much my first test after turning both on and going with pretty much the stock settings.  It is okay but feels a little technicolor, and the sky still seems to be a grey mess.

Fallout3 2014-07-14 18-37-47-443 After trying a few more presets I settled on this one because it feels far more realistic.  It is insane to see this game in action with all the shaders running.  I am not sure if I can actually record footage and have it capture it in full glory since the screenshots come out a bit darker than it feels on screen.  I might do some tests tonight with streaming some gameplay to see if it translates well.  For those who are curious I am going to attempt to rattle off the mods that I am using to achieve the look and feel.  It is pretty damned impressive that a game from 2008 feels so cool to play.  Granted I need to do all the same things to see if I can get a version of Fallout New Vegas that runs this cool, because that game has far more bells and whistles available than Fallout 3.

The Mods Used

Fallout3 2014-07-14 18-41-36-142 When someone posts their spiffy pictures of a modded up Fallout or Skyrim… they never seem to post the absolute list of what they used to get there.  It is almost like the special sauce at your favorite restaurant that no one quite wants to give away the trade secret to.  It annoys the hell out of me so as I dabbled into modded games I plan to do a complete list with links if they are available to exactly what I am using to get the effects.  Here is the total rundown of everything I am using… and compared to a lot of the listings I have seen… this one is fairly spartan.  Namely because I am only using graphical mods and none of the various game enhancement ones other than the unofficial patch which ultimately just fixes a bunch of bugs left in the final release of the game.

Fallout3 2014-07-14 18-43-01-697 The only puzzle that still has yet to be solved is that I cannot figure out why I am not seeing the brilliant skies that I have seen in some screenshots.  I feel like maybe this is just a problem with the area surrounding Megaton, and as I have not really ventured out further I am not sure if the sky clears up significantly out there.  I am pretty happy with the results of this combination of mods and post filtering however.  While I enjoy my consoles, this is the reason why PC gaming will always ultimately be superior in the long run.  I’ve taken one of my favorite games that just happens to be over six years old… and brought it up to something modern feeling.  You just can’t do that with a console game, ultimately because you have to wait for the company to do it… and not the army of dedicated fans.

SweetFX and ESO

eso 2014-07-14 21-46-45-167 The cool thing about SweetFX is like I said before it works with damned near any piece of software.  Since you can use a third party software called Radeon Pro to “Inject” it into your video drivers… you can make it work without any actual modification to the original game files.  In spite of the name, Radeon Pro works perfectly well with Nvidia cards and I am running it with my 750 ti 2 gig card without issue.  This is awesome because it means you can apply it to things like MMOs with some fairly anti-modding terms of service.  All you are doing is basically wedging some extra shader work into the rendering pipeline between the game itself and your video drivers.  So after some fiddling I found a preset that I liked and am up and running with SweetFX in Elder Scrolls Online.  There is talk that you can use one of the versions of ENB designed to work with Skyrim to process the graphics even further, but I have not had the chance to test that out.

eso 2014-07-14 21-29-00-615 So far I am pretty happy with the results… there are times when especially where flame is concerned that some of the lighting gets a bit trippy.  But overall I am enjoying running around in a post processing world.  The big thing that changes is that the world feels more realistic to me, with far better lighting and shading.  The impressive thing is that I really see no noticeable hit to my framerate.  In fact it might actually have improved it since I have completely turned off all anti-aliasing because SweetFX is ultimately taking care of that now.  I am guessing their processing routines are a bit more efficient than the standard ones that the games seem to use.  One of these days I am going to try the trick of running at 1440p and scaling the viewport down to 1080p instead of actually using post processing, but I have not gotten around to trying it yet.

Depths of Madness

eso 2014-07-14 21-27-34-289 When I was not fiddling with graphical settings… which in truth ended up to be most of the night.  You can ask PKdude, but I was popping on and offline for damned near all of the night trying out various settings.  When I finally got around to questing I completed one of my favorite Auridon quest chains called Depths of Madness.  What is cool about it is that you are essentially trying to free three people that are trapped in dimensional sub pockets that have them bound by fear, rage, lust etc.  Each one is a little mini adventure that you complete to free the spirit so they can move on.  I guess to some extent the quest sequence reminds me quite a bit of the whole madness of king pellagius quest chain from Skyrim.  It happens in a super secluded are of the map called Glister Vale and the first few times I played the Auridon content I didn’t actually find it.

eso 2014-07-14 21-27-57-107 I feel like maybe the time away from the game has helped my enjoyment, because the last few nights I have been running around in Elder Scrolls Online I have really enjoyed myself.  I am not sure if I am ready to return to group content again, but I am definitely enjoying the slow pace of poking my way through the veteran levels.  They still feel super grindy mind you, but so long as I focus on completing quests and not leveling I seem to be doing just fine.  As silly as it sounds, I am really enjoying seeing the game with the SweetFX shaders.  There are times where Elder Scrolls Online felt a little technicolor for my tastes and this version feels a bit more realistic and gritty.  Fallout and Elder Scrolls in general have both been very gritty games… and while I don’t think everything needs the “quake palette”  I do think the game feels more realistic with darker tones.

#ElderScrollsOnline #Fallout3

Happy Strain Day

I’m a Dargon!

home-headerLast night I had every intent of playing World of Warcraft, but that didn’t actually happen.  One of my good friends decided to re-up WoW for a bit, and since we had not played in ages we made tentative plans to hang out on horde lowbies over on Scryers.  July 3rd The Scryers is merging with Argent Dawn the server that I have 11 Alliance characters on, and this will give me 11 Horde characters as well.  I’ve always had friends on both side of the fence, but had trouble choosing to roll a character over there and give up a potential character on the alliance side.  The merger of the two servers solves all of this.  However last night didn’t actually happen and while I logged in a few alts and loaded them up with the few heirlooms I had laying around, I didn’t actually play them much.

Instead I fired up Divinity II again and continued questing my way through their extremely interesting world.  Apparently none of the screenshots that I took actually recorded, which is a problem I am noticing more and more with Dxtory.  If it has been open for any period of time, it seems to forget how to work.  So as a result I am pretty much going to have to start shutting it down and reopening it every night before I sit down to play.  I thought I had recorded quite a few nifty things, but in reality it is probably best that they didn’t record given that they probably were spoilerific.  A lot of interesting stuff happened last night and I am not entirely certain how I feel about some of the choices the game made me choose.  When a game makes me feel like that, it is probably doing a good job.

Happy Strain Day

home-header This morning the first “Ultra Drop” as they call it is now available for Wildstar.  This big patch weighs in at well over 3 gig and includes two new max level zones, a slew of new housing options and various cosmetic customization.  While I am nowhere near high enough level to appreciate any of this I am amped to see it happening.  Basically I am always happy when a game releases content for free to its players that expands the footprint of the game.  So many companies have promised a progressive patching schedule but to date very few of them have actually manages to keep up the promised pace.  The holy grail seems to be a patch a month, but the problem is that real life gets in the way, and things often don’t work out quite like they intended.  So far the only company that has come close to this sort of schedule is Guild Wars 2, with its bi-monthly story updates.  The problem there is that it didn’t actually expand the game, and was just a sequence of self expiring quest content.

The funny thing is that apparently some of the player base considers this too soon.  I was floored to read on twitter when a friend of mine lamented that she was not even close to finished with the current content, and was frustrated that she already felt “behind”.  Me personally I want to be flooded with content, so I can pick and choose what I want to complete without feeling the need to actually play every little morsel that comes out.  Now my tune will change completely if I find out that this is some sort of limited time or expiring content.  For the longest time Rift had done an amazing job of pushing out little content patches, but over the last year they have put in a number of limited time events that have caused me to really want to stop playing entirely.  We talked about this a few weeks back on Aggrochat, but when a company tries to force me to log in every day for a period of time…  I ultimately get frustrated and just stop playing entirely.

Day One DLC

WildStar64 2014-06-25 21-18-34-634 The early patch like this is really designed to give the player base confidence at the end of the 30 day trial period.  It essentially is a way of stringing the player on and making them want to renew their subscription that should be expiring around the time the patch lands.  The thing is… this is so commonplace now that it is literally meaningless.  The patch landing at almost exactly the one month mark, is really the equivalent to a brand new game shipping with day one DLC on the CD.  This is content that was in the works and ready to go at the time of launch, that was essentially held in reserve to land right at the one month mark and reinforce player loyalty.  That is not to say that it is actually content that COULD have shipped in the game, generally speaking it is done but not stable or untested, and requires a month or so to incubate and get ready for prime time.

Even games as notoriously slow at patching as Star Wars the Old Republic, had their one month in patch that introduced a brand new dungeon “Kaon Under Siege”.  The real test is going to be if we see a similar “Ultra Drop” timed for August 1st and September 1st as well.  No company has really proven that they can continue to expand their game content on a month by month basis, thereby justifying the expense of a subscription fee.  I would love to think that Wildstar is going to be the exception here, but when no one has actually managed to accomplish it once the subscriptions start slipping…  I just don’t have much confidence.  That is the unfortunate reality is that a number of players are already “done” with this game, as evidenced by a string of tweets saying as such.  Will be interesting to see how the numbers shake out once all of these people flake off.

I’m Around Awhile

I personally am subbed for at least another six months, but I am hoping that this will be my new MMO for a long while.  There are a number of players that are showing extreme commitment and subbing for an entire year at a time.  Right now I want to be playing, I just can’t handle the large scale social interaction at the moment.  Coming home and crawling into my own private single player world is just too comfortable at the moment.  However within a few weeks I will get tired of being alone and will happily return to Wildstar.  Here is hoping that there are still a large number of people playing it then.  If not I might end up switching factions to Exile.  I feel as though we probably picked the wrong side to play on Evindra since every person on my twitter feed seems to be playing Exile there, and since they are locked to only 6 character slots are not wanting to play Dominion as well.

I don’t feel like Wildstar is going to be a game that I stop playing just because my current circle of friends stops playing it.  I played Rift for most of a year successfully by relying on the good graces of other circles of friends with their established guilds, and I figure I can do the same with Wildstar if it comes down to it.  The sad truth is that unless the game is World of Warcraft, House Stalwart and the Alliance of Awesome so far don’t have the best track record of actually staying in any game for any period of time.  I think this is mostly a multi-gaming thing, and I am just as guilty of it as anyone.  Right now I want to play Elder Scrolls Online as well… but I just don’t end up logging in and doing it on a regular basis.  So I feel bad for the folks that are over there and playing in relative silence.  Once my current crush on Divinity 2 wears off a bit, I will likely return to ESO and try playing that since it is a much less frenetic game.

#Wildstar #DivinityII #Evindra #ElderScrollsOnline

Packaged Chaos

Best Laid Plans

eso 2014-06-25 06-08-35-784 Last night I had every intent of coming home and playing Elder Scrolls Online all night long.  It felt like it had been ages since I had done so, and since I won’t likely be around tonight I thought it would be cool to play last night.  My wife is coming back into town from her second conference and I have to pick her up this evening around 7ish when she gets into town.  So that is going to minimize what time I have to do anything tonight.  Last night I technically logged into Elder Scrolls Online, but only managed to play for about thirty minutes before my mind wandered elsewhere.  To be honest the game looks even more beautiful than I remember it being, but I just was not in the right frame of mind to play it.

The pace of ESO is extremely slow compared to the games I have been playing lately, and I didn’t really want to force myself into playing it just for the sake of doing so.  So I did a bit of crafting and queued up more research since I had long since completed what I was working on for all of the slots in Blacksmithing, Woodworking and Outfitting.  I think mostly last night I was feeling overwhelmed by not remembering what the hell I was actually doing last time I had played the game.  The last several times I had logged in, it was just to do some Cyrodil with the guild.  As far as where I was in the actual completion of Auridon I had no real clue, and to make matters worse…  apparently the recent patch broke every single mod I had installed.  So more than anything, I didn’t feel like playing the game with the stock interface.

Packaged Chaos

SaintsRowIV 2014-06-25 06-02-34-557 I have to admit, somehow I completely missed playing Saints Row 3.  Now I have seen video of my friends doing completely batshit insane things…  and have it on multiple platforms, but for whatever reason I never actually played it.  I did however play Saints Row 2, and while I enjoyed myself it just felt like a “better” version of Grand Theft Auto 3.  It was charming, but for all of the same reasons why I never really cared for GTA, it didn’t just inspire me to go out and play Saints Row: The Third when it came out.  That said everything I have heard about the franchise has been amazing, so when Saints Row 4 went on an extreme sale yesterday I opted to pick it up and give it a shot.  So while I was playing Elder Scrolls last night, my mind was wandering to giving this game a shot as I had it remotely install to my main gaming machine.  That still is a great feature, I just wish that you could stay logged into steam on all of your computers and remote install to one or many.

SaintsRowIV 2014-06-24 22-49-07-500 For starters… where has this game been all my life, and why did I not do this sooner.  Basically Saints Row 4 scratches so many itches all at once it is silly.  Some of my favorite games are open world non-linear titles like the Elder Scrolls series, Fallout series, Just Cause 2 and this game is firmly in that wheelhouse.  You play through a rather long intro sequence, but it is so silly that it is wildly entertaining to me.  This sequence of events might somehow connect to the events at the end of Saints Row 3, but I have no real clue having not actually played it.  Essentially through a series of illogical leaps… you end up the president of the united states.  Then like a sequence out of Duke Nukem, these very familiar looking aliens invade the planet capturing all your friends from the previous game.  All of this is just enough plot to set up for the fact that you become trapped in a matrix like simulation and have to work to escape it.

I Know Kung Fu

SaintsRowIV 2014-06-24 22-53-21-358 Remember the crazy shit that Neo did in the Matrix where he “pushed” off the ground to leap insanely high up into the air… well gratz we get to do that here.  So on some level it feels a bit like running around City of Heroes at times as I have both Super Jump and Super Speed.  The system is familiar to anyone who has played GTA, that the more mayhem you cause the more attention you get from the police… and in this case eventually the alien invaders.  The escalation is pretty slow actually, but the it becomes extremely hard to “get away” long enough to let the system reset and for the police to stop chasing you.  I reached a point last night where every few minutes there were more aliens arriving on the scene and eventually they called in this insane gunship that I just simply could not take down as I did not have access to a rocket launcher yet.

SaintsRowIV 2014-06-24 22-55-39-996 Another cornerstone of the series is the insane options to dress up your characters.  While I did not purchase the above outfit… I came really close to doing so.  The only thing I wish is that I had the ability to change outfits on the fly, but that might be in there that I just haven’t figured out.  I seem to alternate between various steampunk and futuristic fusion looks.  I am really thankful that overall the costumes seem to be really cheap.  You tend to be rewarded several thousand “cache” each time you complete a mission, and I have yet to find a costume more than a few hundred.  The ability to play “dress-up” definitely helps out with the enjoyment of the game.  As is the ability to customize your base weapons to look insane.  Right now I am wielding Deckard’s pistol from Blade Runner, the heavy bolter from Aliens, and a Thompson machine gun…  all of which make me extremely happy.

Driving Funtime

SaintsRowIV 2014-06-24 22-52-50-195 So my Grand Theft Auto experience pretty much is limited to GTA 3, Vice City and San Andreas.  But in all of those games a major detractor for me was that when you boosted a vehicle that it performed like crap.  It was a struggle to get the vehicle to do what you want it to do.  Saints Row 4 does an amazing job at making the different vehicles feel awesome.  Above is a picture of me zipping through the city streets, and it feels like I am really hauling ass thanks to a really good use of motion blur.  I was able to zip around the city at max speed and still be able to make my turns when I needed to.  I also really like the variety of vehicles I have found so far.  I’ve even hijacked a garbage truck and it was equally fun to control, albeit a bit more unwieldy to maneuver.

SaintsRowIV 2014-06-25 06-47-32-833 I think one of the problems I have had with the Grand Theft Auto universe is that increasingly it has seemed like a felony simulator.  The game seems to favor a more realistic depiction of crime, while still maintaining a sense of gallows humor about it.  This makes me feel like a complete and total asshole while playing the game, and generally speaking I feel like the characters I am playing have little to know redeeming human values.  Saints Row goes in a completely different direction, making absolutely everything about the game over the top cartoony violence.  So playing it makes me feel like I am watching a Tom and Jerry cartoon from my youth.  This game goes one step further by telling you that you are just trapped in a simulation.  So when you blow away a pedestrian… they were just polygons in a simulation right?  The game lets me run amok without feeling horrible about it, and that works for me.  At this point I have just scratched the surface of the game, but I can see this becoming something I play quite regularly for awhile.

#SaintsRow4

Super Grape Stomper

Silent Observers

So far the issue of Wildstar Attunements has been a fairly polarizing one in the community as a whole.  So when I posted my write-up yesterday about why I didn’t think they were a horrible thing… I expected it also to be polarizing.  If you look at my statistics for the day, that single post got more unique viewers than anything else by a large margin.  However surprisingly even though it got forwarded quite a bit, I really didn’t end up with much commentary.  I expected someone out there to tell me how wrong I am, but that surprisingly didn’t happen.  I had a friend send me a private message about it however, thanking me for keeping my post “fair” and not adding to the vitriol.

So is it because I approached the post from a calm place talking about my own experiences with bad attunement systems that folks didn’t have the knee jerk reaction to tell me how horrible I was?  I am not so deluded to think that the majority of folks actually agreed with me.  One of the things I see sometimes in the blogosphere is when one blogger posts about another, telling them just how wrong they are.  I’ve done a few of these during my early days of blogging, but it really is not the type of thing I am interested in any more.  There is more than enough negativity out there, that I really don’t need to add my own.  I really hope that I can be a positive voice and talk about the good in things more than dwell upon the bad.  Ultimately I appreciate every voice, even the ones I don’t agree with.

Super Grape Stomper

WildStar64 2014-06-11 06-13-44-239 One of my favorite things in Wildstar is one that has surprised me.  I normally have this odd relationship with mini-games in MMOs, and generally try to avoid them.  However when I put the Moonshiners Cabin in my skyplot, I found the “This Aint No Bathtub Hooch” challenge to be insanely fun.  Most of the housing challenges can be completed every 30 minutes, and often times I will stomp grapes to make moonshine four for five times a night.  In part it is the rewards, or at least my attempt to collect all of them.  The high end reward is the purple quality bed I wrote about the other day, which is cool but I already have one.  The common rewards are either a neon beer sign or 150 reknown, and the rewards I am currently going after is the dye chest.  It contains within it one of five random dyes, and I believe I only have three of the five currently.  As a result I complete this quest over and over trying to get the last ones.

WildStar64 2014-06-11 06-15-09-102 As a side effect I have a truly silly number of beer signs, and I am basically covering the side of my ship in them.  I am not sure if they are tradeable, but if you need beer signs… I am your man.  The funny thing about it is there is zero market for them, because the Moonshiners Cabin is pretty much constructable by anyone who chooses to plunk down the gold it takes to build it.  The question is… will I still care about it once I have collected all of the dyes available.  It is a fairly easy and fun way to farm reknown, but I am just not sure if it is worth paying the weekly upkeep.  That is the dirty secret that no one really talks about in the housing system.  These cool things we can place, have to be repaired weekly to keep functioning.  So far all of the ones I have placed have had a 1 gold repair cost, which at this point is still a fairly significant amount of money.  So I have a feeling many of my things… including the crystal jumping puzzle will go away at the end of this week.  My mission however is to find the upgrade to my mining plot, because that is one of those things I have found massively useful.

Return to Cyrodil

eso 2014-05-14 22-15-30-478

As much as I have loved my time spent in Wildstar, I do feel bad that I have been horribly neglecting Elder Scrolls Online.  Wildstar is the new shiny, and as a result is getting my attention as I have a strong desire to level and get all the shiny baubles that come with it.  However this really doesn’t diminish my enjoyment of Elder Scrolls Online, because the games literally could not be any more different.  Things is I enjoy both immensely and hope to continue playing them both for some time.  As a result I am really looking forward to tonight.  For some time we have had these semi-regular “Faff about in Cyrodil” nights, and after taking last week off I am ready to get back into the swing of things.  The event should give me the focus to sit down and really enjoy Elder Scrolls for an evening.  I am not sure exactly what we will do yet, but I had a ton of fun at that Nord town we stumbled across with the Dark Anchor, so if nothing else I would love to head back out there.

Playing Wildstar and Elder Scrolls at the same time is an odd contrast.  The one failing of ESO, is that it is extremely hard to group with other players.  I really hope this is something they address in future updates because the game is in desperate need of better social systems to allow players to do content other than Cyrodil together.  Ultimately we do it…  only because that is what we CAN do as a large group.  Without a mentoring system, we are pretty much limited to PVP content because it allows multiple levels to blend together and get bolstered up to level 50.  I am mostly a soloist when it comes to questing, but the various folks who have tried to quest as a pair have found it extremely difficult to stay in sync while leveling.  It has mostly worked for the folks that are always on at the same time, but for those who are not…  if the partner gets even the slightest bit ahead it becomes extremely difficult for the other player to catch up.

After seeing how cleanly a game can manage disparate levels grouping together, my hope is that Elder Scrolls adds in some functionality for this.  The game is awesome, but other than PVP it is a largely single player experience.  That said the game does have some of the most enjoyable dungeons I have experienced, but I wish they had taken a queue from Final Fantasy XIV and simply scaled players down to the dungeons level.  After seeing this work in Wildstar I am shifting to the opinion that this is the way all dungeons should work.  A dungeon should have a fixed level and it scales the player to that level for the purpose of the content.  Sure give the players rewards for their own level…  but scaling down blows away some of the problem with “out leveling” content, and makes it easier to help guildies out when the content has “grayed out” for you.

Elder Scrolls Online

As stated above I will be playing Elder Scrolls Online and if you are Daggerfall Covenant I invite you to join in the fun regardless if you are in the guild or not.  The plan is we will meet up at Northern High Rock Gate in Cyrodil around 8:30 CST.  The guild is aligned to Wabbajack, and if we can manage to get people through the queue, it would be awesome to actually do this event on that campaign.  The fallback to this point has been Volendrung, and I hope to be online early to try and assess the feasibility of Wabbajack for the evening.  From there we will pick an objective for the night and wander off into the Cyrodil countryside in search of mayhem.  If you are not a member of the guild, just add @Belghast and we can get you into the fray.

#Wildstar #ElderScrollsOnline

Ramble About Content

Story Content

I was having a discussion yesterday with some friends about whether or not the MMO player actually wants carefully crafted story driven content.  When you look at the lackluster support that Elder Scrolls Online, Star Wars: The Old Republic and The Secret World have gotten overall, you could easily come to this conclusion… since each of them are deeply story driven and carefully constructed experiences.  I think we are maybe seeing something else at work.  If you look at a game like World of Warcraft, some of its deep story arcs have long been heralded as some of players favorite content.  However the vast majority of the content is nothing like this, and I think it is simply a case of not everything has to be “art”.

It is in essence the filler content, that is just good enough to keep you from throwing up your hands in frustration, that make you appreciate that gem in the rough of a quest.  Games like ESO, SWTOR and TSW attempted to infuse deep story and meaning into almost everything you do, therefore shifting story driven content to the status of a commodity.  I suggest that games need busy work, to make you appreciate the transcendent content when it is placed in front of you.   The “kill ten rats” quests are there to cleanse the palates so to speak, so that when a deeply engaging story arc is put in front of you… you actually take notice and don’t resign it to more content to grind through.

Epic Crafted Content

When I think about epic custom crafted experiences I think of the Mass Effect series.  I have gushed on this game so much, and watched friends play it over and over.  As much as I enjoyed the entire trip through the series… it is not the type of game that I would want to play every night.  That ultimately is the problem with MMOs, you are asking players to come in and inhabit your space… hopefully making it a nightly traditional to log in and play with their friends.  As much as I might like a Mass Effect or a Transistor… I wouldn’t want to play these games on a nightly basis.  I want a space that is much more malleable, and doesn’t require so much of myself to play it.  Essentially one friends assessment that MMO content “needs to be exactly good enough to be passable” is really not too far off the mark.

One thing that the busy work tasks excel at is helping drive your own personal narrative forward.  The players who inhabit an MMO and really live there on a night by night basis, whether they realize it or not, are crafting a custom narrative about their character based on their own actions.  Each time you kill some baddies, save a villager, or deliver a package to some far away mountain… these actions are complementary to whatever narrative you have in your head about your own character.  When you ask a player to participate in something longer, more story driven… the end results are predetermined and may or may not be complimentary with this personal narrative.  When you have a few of these long epics scattered throughout the game, they are welcome interludes.  However when everything you do is based on some narrative that you don’t necessarily fully control… it can be jarring.

Grouped Content

While I would not want to play Mass Effect every single night, I still want to play it often… so there sets up the paradox.  Right now I find myself compartmentalizing games as either “fun to play with other people” and “fun to play by myself”.  Elder Scrolls Online is very much fun to play by myself, with brief flurries of playing with friends when it comes to dungeon and pvp content.  This is part the game and part me.  Firstly I hate questing as a group, and it has been something I have tried to avoid like the plague since the early days of World of Warcraft.  I’ve always found the experience to be generally frustrating since someone is always a step behind or a step ahead of where you happen to be.  Trying to keep people in sync is madness…  but Wildstar and its focus on leveling the guild through grouped content is trying to change this.

They’ve given me a hook, a reason to group up that so many other games haven’t.  I greatly prefer to experience “content” by myself and then group up to do “group content” whenever I can.  But the fact that the only real way to level your guild is through players grouping up together and doing content, makes the entire concept of group questing much more friendly.  They’ve given me a shiny bauble for my troubles, and also given me tools to make the entire grouping experience more meaningful in the way the various “paths” interact with one another.  So this construct is making me re-evaluate the way I think about content in general, and start looking for ways to group up to accomplish things rather than solo everything.

In part my reluctance to group comes from my Everquest roots where your ONLY option was to group for everything.  When MMOs gave me the option to be self sufficient, I took it and ran with it and have simply never looked back.  So in a game like Elder Scrolls Online, I greatly prefer to be wandering around by myself.  I go AFK frequently, often have to take my headset off to respond to my wife, and am generally not always super engaged with what I am doing.  In short I feel like I am a liability for grouping, and in those cases I try and solo the entire night.  The problem is this becomes a pattern with me, and I simply NEVER group unless it is content that I can’t do by myself.  I find it interesting that Wildstar is somewhat successfully making me re-evaluate that point, and seeing that grouping is something that is beneficial to me, the guild, and the players I am grouped with.

Room For Both

Another thing I have learned about myself is that I seem to always need a “WoW”.  I am talking about this in super generic terms because the game has shifted at various times… but I always seem to be playing one.  Traditionally this has been me shifting back and forth between playing World of Warcraft and Rift… while at the same time playing a game like The Secret World or Elder Scrolls Online.  Wildstar seems to be my new “WoW” game in this equation, and it speaks to my desire to play that type of themepark/themebox type experience.  The thing is there is always going to be room for an Elder Scrolls Online as well.  I find myself right now wanting to pair down to just those two games, even though I have a ton of other games that I somewhat want to play.  It is like I have various itches that need scratching on a regular basis, and no one game ever quite covers them all.  However between a combination of those two games it might get close to covering all the bases.

The more I play Wildstar and enjoy it because it is new and shiny and exciting… the more I want to spend my weekend delving into Elder Scrolls Online and exploring Auridon and more of the Veteran level Aldmeri content.  I functionally need both experiences, because so far I have not been able to get both from the same game.  However after seeing the lackluster reception that Elder Scrolls has received versus the glowing recommendation of players for Wildstar, it is pretty clear that most players just want a better “WoW”.  There is no shame in this, because to some extent that has been what I have been looking for as well.  I want to visit these worlds with rich story, but I want to “live” on a nightly basis in one that is more of a “choose your own adventure” novel.  Wildstar inundates me with choices of things to do… and there is a never ending list of achievements and things to explore, giving me a constant stream of adventures to be had.

League Beginner Night

I realize this mornings post has been an odd rambling one…  without much of a firm point.  I blame a clear lack of sleep on my part, and a measure of exhaustion on another.  Hopefully there is something worth reading up there in that big mess.  Tonight is the Alliance of Awesome League Beginner night again, and if you are a member of the AofA community I highly suggest you check it out.  The start time is 9pm CST, but if we have a critical mass of players on mumble beforehand we might start a little early.  Last week we had enough time to play a 3v3 Twisted Treeline and a 5v4+bot Summoners Rift.  We had a ton of fun in the process.

If you have never played League of Legends before, and have been interested in getting into it… now is the ideal time to try it out.  Last week we had several first timers, and to make things easier we broke apart into separate mumble channels to help tutor the new folks in what they should build and where they should be focusing their efforts.  This in part involved me barking orders to Maric quite a bit, but he seems to have survived just fine and is signed up for this week again.  I am still very much a newbie myself, but as a whole it is a really fun time to be had and presents a wild divergence from the types of games I normally play.  I wish we had enough people in Heroes of the Storm to be able to have a similar night for that game.