Chateau Belghast

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This weekend was a bizarre one.  We are still very much under the gun of a release date, and I attempted to do whatever I could to further that goal.  However for all of Saturday our building was without power, and I was instead on call just in case something went wrong.  The building power went down at 6:30 in the morning, and by the time we started recording AggroChat we had not yet gotten the all clear.  I was just hoping that things would cycle off of the generators as successfully as they did cycling onto them, and that I would not end up getting interrupted during the podcast.  Sunday was a mixed bag of work and doing all of the other things that we ultimately put off until Sunday like laundry and various errands.  The weekend as a whole wound up being a very random mix of games as I played whatever I could during the brief moments of downtime.  As you can see by the Chateau Belghast image above, I started fiddling around with Fallout 4 once again, and scrapped my old house and built this one instead.  The inside is largely unfurnished but I am digging the outside quite a bit.  It took me far longer than it should have to sort out how best to attempt centering the neon text, but in the grand scheme it seems to look okay.  The frustrating bit with their neon font is that is is in no way monospaced with the characters all varying pretty wildly in width.

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In Final Fantasy XIV I am still very much getting back in the swing of things, and have fallen into the pattern of doing Beast Tribe dailies.  In theory I started down this path because I wanted a reliable source of ventures for my retainers, so that I could keep sending out my gatherers on field exploration.  However I also really like mounts, and over the course of the last week or so I have been pushing up the Sahagin, not necessarily because I love the mount, but more because it was the next closest faction.  For a long period of time, it was the faction I was spending the rest of my daily allowance on while working on the Sylph.  Yesterday however I managed to push Sahagin across the finish line and now have my truly bizarre Sapsa mount to ride around on.  I figured what better place to take a picture of it than in the waters of The Mists, where the Free Company house is located.  Next up should be the Kobolds as once again…  they are the next closest given that I had been spending my extra ventures on them while working on the Sahagin.  I mean I know there are lots of other things I SHOULD be doing… but I just can’t bring myself to pug dungeons yet.  After a string of bad experiences with Palace of the Dead… I don’t much feel like pugging that one either.  The problem there is as we talked about on the podcast, is that if you fail…  you lose all progress gained which seems deeply punitive for a random group activity.

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Finally I spent a good amount of time this weekend playing Elder Scrolls online.  I failed to take any screenshots so instead you get an interior shot of my home.  I pushed forward the story line in Malabal Tor a bit, but the big problem with ESO is that I tend to wander wildly.  I find it extremely hard to stay focused and instead I wind up going after the next object on the horizon that looks interesting, and as a result never seem to end up getting my objectives accomplished.  There is always a fallen log to harvest, or an outcropping of ore to mine.  Whatever the case I find myself continuing to move steadily towards 160 champion levels, which is the current item cap.  Unfortunately I have a feeling this is probably going to change with Morrowind, but for the time being getting there.. and being able to craft a set of gear that will last me for a bit tends to be my focus.  The other thing that I am realizing is that 160 champion levels is just a drop in the bucket given that quite literally every build I find expects you to have at least four or five times that amount.  There is a part of me that wishes I had never actually faded away from this game, because at this very moment I am so impossibly behind the curve.  Then again I think that overwhelming amount of content is what has been drawing me there much in the same way as it did for A Realm Reborn until we caught up.  I know there is more to do than I have time to do it… and in some way that is insurance from ever really getting bored.

Bel’s 2015 Game Awards

Year in Review

 

First off let me start this post by wishing all of you my readers a Happy New Year.  During the course of this past year nearly 70,000 of you have visited my blog, and I am still scratching my head as to why.  Whatever I am doing, I guess I will keep doing that in the next year.  I do have some cool ideas for things to keep me moving forward, but I don’t really want to go into those right now….  mostly because it will involve some programming on my part to make it function.  The thing I have learned over the years of blogging and this coming year will make seven…  is that I am really really bad at columns.  I will start a feature and then after a few weeks to months it peters out.  The MMOs Worth Playing feature was one of my favorite so far, but it was also one of the more time consuming.  That said in the  coming year I would really like to bring it back, and maybe change its focus to be a little big more manageable….  sort of a MMO of the Month Club type thing.  Each week during the MWP thing I was trying to log into that game, play it a bit to remember the things I liked about it… take fresh screenshots and get up a post every single Friday.  As we got into the pre-Holiday crunch time it failed miserably.  Maybe an MMO of the Month will work better because it gives me more time…. though honestly if the AggroChat Game Club is any evidence I will probably just end up waiting until the week before we record the show before attempting to play the game.

This morning the idea is to do my Awards for the year, since we have officially wrapped up a year now.  These are not exactly your normal awards and more like the back of a high school year book…  most likely to succeed etc.  Though from what I understand…. there are a lot of schools who are no longer doing that for sake of potentially damaging students self esteem.  More than anything I want to thank all of you for joining me on this continued journey.  The last few months of the year were pretty rough on this side of the equation, but you all kept with me and kept supporting me, and for that I am immensely appreciative.  Without further rambling…  here is the inaugural edition of “Bel’s Game Awards”.

Biggest Surprise

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Hatoful Boyfriend – Feel the Birblove!

I absolutely did not expect to like this game, and in truth I probably never would have played it were not for the fact that my good friend Grace chose this as her aggrochat game of the month.  I expected it to be largely played on a goof, and even went to the extreme of recording my first game play session because I expected it would be a maddening experience for me.  The end result however was something I did not expect, I really enjoyed it.  I laughed more while playing this game than I have laughed in a long time while playing any game…. maybe since initially playing Sam and Max Hit the Road.  What is even more shocking is that I continued on after the initial play through and ended up getting six or seven different endings by the time we had recorded the AggroChat show.  There has been a whole side discussion since about whether or not Hatoful Boyfriend is actually representative of Otome and Visual Novels in general…. or if it just lampoons the genre.  I think more than anything it opened my eyes to the fact that this sort of “non-action” game can be extremely fun, and would make me at least try some other games.  So kinda like WoW is an ice breaker for MMOs… this might be that sort of Icebreaker for Otome.

Biggest Disappointment

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Citizens of Earth

I remember when I first saw this game… it seemed like this amazing callback to the Super Nintendo era of RPGs where you had such oddball genre bending hits like Mario RPG and Earthbound.  The problem is that in application…  the game ended up as this soulless hull that simply was not fun to play.  This was our very first AggroChat game club game… and none of us really liked it.  This was the game that essentially we all unanimously voted that we wanted to play… and was also the game that  caused us to change gears and start letting individual members pick a game for us to play, rather than trying to all decided together what the next game we would play might be.  The game was frustrating from a technical level, but the level of grind needed to get very far just made the experience simply not enjoyable.  The idea of being able to recruit hundreds of potential party members was amazing…  until you realized that not a single one of them was interesting at all.  The part that ruined it for most people was the fact that the main character, the mayor was so completely unlikable.  I think it was Kodra that said that the game would have been salvageable if you could simply leave him at home and go off adventuring without him.  The stereotypes were caricatures were humorous for the first fifteen minutes, and then quickly became painful to keep playing.

Most Improved

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Destiny – The Taken King

What can I say about Destiny the Taken King that I have not already said.  I had no real hopes for this expansion because for the most part I had abandoned all hope for Destiny before the time the first expansion patch landed.  Year one was a grindy mess whose light leveling system left me scratching my head and simply not caring anymore about trying to progress.  I believe I managed to get to Light 26 before hitting a wall of resource gathering, that I simply lacked the desire to keep pushing through.  In year one engrams in general felt few and far between, and you were constantly having to judge whether or not an item provided enough light to make it worth swapping it in, even if in other ways the item might be superior.  Year two fixed a lot of this in the same way that the Diablo 3 2.0 patch just magically fixed that game, or at least made it FEEL better.  That is the thing with me and games, the moment to moment game play has to feel good and also feel like I am getting something for my time spent.  While I could say that technically there is way more grind in Year 2, it feels like you are at least getting something for your time…. even if it is just weapon and armor parts.  I would rather see things drop… and all of those things be crap rather than never seeing a drop… and when you finally do it decodes into a lower level than the face value of the engram.  The biggest change however is the fact that the Taken King has a story… and it is actually a cool one.  Through both the quest narrative and the item descriptions that can be found on the website for each of the items you pick up… the game has started to tell this epic tale of both the Traveller and the Darkness, and how the two have battled through countless races and star systems since time began.  For me, I patched up my game and tried the year 2 experience long before picking up the expansion….  and I highly suggest anyone who has not given it another shot do the same.

Game I Still Can’t Get Into

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Dragon Age: Inquisition

I love the Dragon Age franchise…. or at least I did.  I’ve been a fan since Dragon Age: Origins… and I have beaten at least six different endings of that game.  Which as a person who rarely if ever finishes video games… that should tell you something.  I even managed to play through Dragon Age 2 a few different times, and largely enjoyed my experience.  However when confronted with Dragon Age: Inquisition it feels like this insurmountable wall.  Firstly I think the game just looks ugly out of the gate with its overuse of object shine and its strange playdough hair.  The other big problem I have is that generally speaking I play roleplaying games on the sofa, where it is nice and comfy… and none of the laptops that I own are capable of playing this game with decent settings, or at least good enough settings to make it look not like shit.  Recently I have picked it up for the Playstation 4 over the recent sales and it is my hope to maybe try playing it on the vita.  The first statement anyone ever seems to make to me when I talk about my problems with the game… is that I need to leave the hinterlands.  I promise I have left the Hinterlands… but the main storyline is just boring to me.  It is nothing as awesome as Dragon Age Origins was….  and I think that’s because I just don’t like the Inquisition.  I could get 100% behind the Grey Wardens… I believed in their cause and was ready to go into battle for them.  I could give a flying fuck about being the Herald of Andraste.  I hate this green shit that comes out of my hand… and I hate the feeling that I am constantly fiddling with the magic of the world… and my key goal in life seems to be to close rifts full of annoying demons.  I like some of the characters that I interact with, but some of my favorite characters so far are characters you can’t take with you on missions like Scout Harding.  My party of choice would be Cassandra, Sera, and Harding….  but instead I tend to go with Cassandra, Sera and Dorian.  I wish I knew why this game is just so not enjoyable for me…. but I want to play it… I really do.

Lived Up to the Hype

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Fallout 4

The game this year that I was the most hyped about has to be Fallout 4, and that hype cycle started from the moment it was officially announced at E3.  This game did so many things right, and really it was starting with the way it was announced.  They held off to show any information on the game until it was already pretty damned polished, and then they hit it out of the part by saying that it would be in our grubby little hands only a few months later.  In the meantime they gave us a pretty fun mobile game to keep us interested…. which I will talk about later.  Fallout is one of those franchises that I place up on a pedestal for always giving me exactly what I wanted out of the game.  A big open world with lots of little things to keep me interested, and a complete inability to ever truly “finish” the game.  There is more content in Fallout 3, Fallout New Vegas and now Fallout 4 than I will ever have time to see.  Hell in the few days ahead of the launch… I played some more Fallout New Vegas and was still finding things that I had never seen before… and I considered that game pretty damned well trodden.  As far as Fallout 4…  everything about the game makes me happy… apart from maybe the main storyline.  The thing is… I don’t play Fallout games for the story… I play them to go off and inhabit the wasteland and weave my own storyline around me as I go.  I thought the voiced protagonist would annoy me…  but for the most part I have been able to ignore it.  I really like some of the companions this time as well…. namely Piper and Nick.  I wish so much that I could adventure together with Piper, Nick and Dogmeat at the same time because I love them all.  The biggest moment for me though was when I realized that in this game through the  settlement system I could finally make the world a better place.  I have a dozen or so different settlements at this point, and I have spent time building on each of them.  I feel like I am making things work….  and improving live as I go.  As far as the Storyline…  I find parts of it frustrating namely that I did not see a good option to broker peace between the three main factions.  I would have loved a “Can’t We All Just Get Along” ending option… and maybe it is there but I just have not found it.

Hype That Didn’t Last

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Final Fantasy XIV – Heavensward

If I had to pick a game of the year based on sheer amount of time I played it during this year…. the award would go to Final Fantasy XIV.  It has been my constant companion… that is until the last quarter of the year when I started to lose interest.  I can’t say I am disappointed in the game, because the content leading up to Heavensward… and the launch content was really amazing.  The problem I have had is like after the launch of A Realm Reborn there just doesn’t seem to be that much to do to keep me engaged.  I guess in truth the game has always been this way… because I remember us running into the same wall a few months after the launch of 2.0, that ended up leading us to un-subscribe shortly after.  Coming back when we did July of 2014 meant we had roughly a year worth of content waiting for us to progress through.  This content kept us busy up until the point of the Heavensward launch, with us not actually defeating Bahamut until we did it unsynchronized.  With Heavensward we lack that backlog of fun older content to work through, and our casual gameplay style just does not really fit with the Final Fantasy XIV bleeding edge.  So we managed to down Bismarck Extreme, Alexander normal, and made some pretty good progress on Ravana Extreme before we petered out and started to lose interest.  What is making it extra hard is the fact that there are only two max level dungeons at a time this go around.  Previous expansion each content patch came with three new dungeons…. and having to run experts by only alternating between the same two dungeons gets old really really fast.  I am sure at some time I will get the bug and go back to playing this as my primary game…. but for now I am just basically only playing the new story and holiday content as it arrives and the rest of the time…. simply not logging in.

Shocked I am Playing

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World of Warcraft – Warlords of Draenor

At the beginning of the year, I had quite a bit of fun raiding in World of Warcraft, but as Blackrock Foundry drug on…. and the launch of Heavensward loomed I simply lacked the care to keep playing like I have done so many times.  In June I quit playing as the chart at the end of this post shows and focused solely upon Final Fantasy XIV, and I think maybe it is this single minded focus that caused me to burn out of that game so quickly.  Blizzcon is a primal force of nature that no one can avoid… and I have to say it got me started down this nostalgia trip that ended with me playing the free version of the game on my sub 20 horde characters on The Scryers server.  This ultimately ended up with me resubbing to the game and I have to say I am really enjoying myself.  I am playing the game in a much more casual fashion than I am used to, and while I am raiding every single week…. I am doing so with a group that only raids on Sunday nights, and during a time slot when I am normally downstairs watching television anyways.  I know there is technically no new content, but what can I say… I am having fun.  Playing Horde has breathed new life into the game because it is allowing me to not only play with friends I never really got the chance to play with… but also see the world from a slightly different perspective.  No clue how long this will hold out but I think so long as I am playing it and OTHER games at the same time… it might just hold for awhile.  I think the key for me not getting burnt out is to allow myself the freedom to play whatever I feel like playing in a given moment and not really forcing myself to keep playing something that feels stale.

Made Me Almost Care About Mobile

Fallout Shelter
Fallout Shelter

As I said above, one of the things that Bethesda did right with the launch of Fallout 4, is that they gave us a fun app to play with in the meantime.  Fallout Shelter is essentially Sim Tower or the later Tiny Tower mobile game….  set in a Fallout Vault.  This was actually a lot of fun for a few weeks and gave me a reason to play games on my phone.  The problem is I eventually got bored with it the same way I seem to get bored with all mobile apps.  There were a lot of times I thought that I would keep playing it, were it for the ability to play on my desktop while doing something else.  But for a brief period of time I found myself caring about a mobile game, and that deserves some recognition.  My lifestyle just doesn’t really support mobile gaming, in that if I am going somewhere… I tend to be the one driving.  Then when I am at work… I should be you know… working and not playing games.  When I am out shopping…  most games simple require too much to get into them and do a few moves before you need to move on to the next area.  Then when I am home…. I would far rather be using my laptop, gaming desktop, or one of several different consoles than spending time on a mobile device.  The one thing that might change this is the fact that I have started spending some time on my new Kindle Fire before going to sleep.  Right now that time is mostly occupied with reading comic books… but I could see eventually playing a game like Fallout Shelter while trying to fall soundly asleep.

Game I Wish I Enjoyed More

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Rift – Nightmare Tides

If you were to write out every single feature that I would want in an MMO on paper… you would pretty much get the feature set of Rift.  That said for whatever reason I have struggled to get into this game since the launch of the first expansion.  I will come back and play for a bit but find it far too easy to walk away from.  I love Trion, and I love the awesome people that work there.  I love some of the awesome folks engaged in that community like Kiwi.  All of this said… I just struggle to get into the game itself.  I think it is several problems, namely that I just don’t have a large friendly and active community to be part of.  I mean I have the House Stalwart guild but it has been dead since the last resurgence several years ago that lead me to go found it.  For a long time my hope was Machiavelli’s Cat community, but during Storm Legion the Rift contingency pretty much died, and it lead us to merge into Alea Iacta Est…. who then also seemed to die out.  During this awkward period I tried a few other guilds, and never found a home… eventually creating House Stalwart on Faeblight.  The big problem that Rift has that WoW does not… is the fact that there is no cross account id system that you can use for communicating with friends regardless of what character they happen to be playing.  However with the recent “Glyph ID” that is now showing up in the launcher… I am wondering if they are crafting that infrastructure.  I feel like I simply have not put in the necessary legwork to find a new home, because it seems like so much effort.  That combined with the fact that finding a workable spec itself is a challenge, has left me in this phase of logging in… playing for a bit and then fading out again.  I want to love this game, but it has been a struggle.

Most Emotional Experience

The Beginner's Guide
The Beginner’s Guide

This is a strange one for me… because I’ve technically never played this game.  The game itself is more of an experience… a visual novel of sorts… than a true game.  Sure there are gameplay elements and mechanics… but those remind me of the video game equivalent of one of those pop up books that has levers and such that allow you to move the characters or animate a specific story element.  I watched a let’s play video on this game, and in that I pretty much experienced all of it.   The end result evoked some of the strangest emotions in me.. and actually lead me to cry at a few points.  I think any creative type can understand the emotions that you go through in the experience, and I know for myself…. who tends to suffer from a fairly unhealthy amount of imposter syndrome… it hit incredibly close to home.  I am not sure if it was a positive experience, and for all I know given the timing… it might have been the start of my recent funk.  The rollercoaster I went through…  was not exactly healthy.  That said I feel like I have to give the game credit, because it made me feel things… like deeply feel things.  Very few video games can do that, and ultimately I ended up purchasing the game as a thank you for the experience…. even though I doubt I will ever actually install it or play it.

Game of the Year

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The only thing I can really give you… is a hearty shrug.  I don’t know what my game of the year would be.  If you judged it on sheer excitement and the eventual execution… it would probably be Fallout 4.  If you judged it based on the amount of time I spent playing it through the course of the year, then it would be Final Fantasy XIV.  If you based it on the sheer shock that someone got me to play the game in the first place… then Hatoful Boyfriend.  Basically every game on my list deserves its recognition, and for the most part that recognition is positive with the exception of Citizens of Earth.  I played a lot of games this year… and I hope to play even more next year.  Game of the Year is honestly a silly concept… and just like I can’t really give you a firm answer for “Favorite Movie” or “Favorite Song” I could never tell you my absolute favorite Video Game.  My mood plays such of a huge role in what I want to play at a given moment…. and if I want mindless destruction right now Destiny is giving me everything that I could ever want.  But as soon as my mood changes… so does my preference in games… and I often times fall back on sheer comfort gaming like whatever MMO I happen to be into.  So yeah…  all of the games on this list… I mentioned because they were important to me, so they are all my Games of the Year.

 

The Institute

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Riding the RF

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This coming Saturday it is the intention to record the Fallout 4 show for AggroChat since we ultimately put it off until after the Holidays.  As a result I am back on the mission of trying to finish up the main storyline so that I can discuss it.  I have to tell you…  focusing on the storyline has killed a lot of my enjoyment of this game, and even then I find myself having a hard time of not following my instincts and letting myself get lost in the rabbit holes that are the weird side events going on around the commonwealth.  However I really really need to focus so I can finish up and be read to discuss the path I took.  Tam, Kodra and probably a few others will have likely beaten the game multiple times by the show happens…  but so much of my enjoyment has nothing to do with the storyline that I am going to be hard pressed to finish this game once.  I’ve logged hundreds upon hundreds of hours in the other Fallout and Elder Scrolls games…  and started playing each of them numerous times…  and to be honest… I think I have maybe beat the main story exactly once per game.  Beating them is just not part of what I find crucial to the enjoyment, but instead roaming around and inhabiting the world is what makes them special.  That said I am going to talk a bit about the storyline so if you don’t want to have any plot details spoiled…  please just skip the rest of this post.

Firstly…  I love the Railroad.  I’ve loved everything about the quest sequence so far, from the having to follow the freedom trail to find their base, to the extracting and guarding of runaway synths.  One of my favorite missions was when I had to pick up a synth and guard him while waiting on someone else to help ferry him along to his new home.  I realized by following the path of the Railroad I would ultimately come into conflict with both the Brotherhood of Steel and the Institute, and more or less I am perfectly fine with both of these choices.  The Minutemen however, I am hoping I can retain my position with them, because I really like the concept of them as the unsung heroes of the commonwealth.  The only frustration so far has been that working on the main story, and also the railroad story… has forced me to follow at least to a point the institute story.  Everything about the institute creeps me the fuck out.  They keep trying to tell me that they are no where near the bogeymen that they are acclaimed to be….  but then they want me to go abduct a scientist, and act like they weren’t going to give him a choice in the matter.  They also really wanted me to create a radio broadcast threatening the commonwealth that if they messed with the institute they would destroy them.  Again there is the whole Synth thing as well…  if you create life you have to respect it… and they very much seem to treat synths the same way we would treat a toaster.

Double Agent

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You would think that by working with the Institute I would come to respect and understand them, but instead it has only served to make me more creeped out by their actions.  The only real positive of the institute is the fact that the Courser outfit looks amazing, and I am more than happy to wear it around everywhere.  Basically the Institute reminds me of the Vault, magnified to the extreme.  Everything is cold and sterile, and I believe you are supposed to sympathize with your son….  aka “Father” but he seems just as twisted and misguided as the Overseers from the various vaults.  There is a point where you have this conversation with him, where he basically writes off everything that is happening in the commonwealth as nothing worth salvaging, but instead I feel like I’ve seen so much good already in the people of the commonwealth.  What is killing me is how long it is taking for me to get to the point where I can stop playing nice… and help the synths escape from the Institute.  There are a few of the scientists that I like, but it feels very much like running around in a creepy 1980s police state science fiction film.  Having every single item in the Institute look like 1970s era “high tech” concepts isn’t helping either.  I keep having flashbacks in my mind to movies like Logan’s Run or books like Brave New World.  Basically the whole experience with the Institute is a whole lot of nope.

So much of me wants to just open fire and take out everyone down there….  then give the tech they have to people who will actually put it to use for the benefit of everyone.  They claim that they are the last hope of humanity…. but they seem to be doing nothing at all to benefit anyone other than themselves.  They are a bunch of scientists high on the act of doing science…. and seem go give zero shits about the practical application of the tech they are building when it comes to actually improving the world for anyone other than their cloistered society.  Basically the Institute is against everything that makes me really love Fallout 4, the feeling of honestly saving the world a little bit at a time.  Both the Insititute and The Brotherhood of Steel are these paternal forces, trying to gather power and resources for themselves at the cost of the common folk.  So all of that said… I am going to be damned happy when I can finally open fire and leave the Institute behind me.  Tam kept alluding to the Railroad not being what they seem…. but I just have not seen it yet.  I don’t see the Institute as the noble force worth committing myself to… instead I see a group that causes a lot of harm and ends up thinking of it as “minor collateral damage”.  The hubris is strong with them…  and I am really hoping I am getting close to ending the story arc and leaving them behind.

 

 

 

A Matched Set

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Holiday Goals

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270 After Sifting Through Bank

There are a lot of folks that have goals going into the holiday season, for me… these tend to involve some gaming feat that would normally take a silly amount of time to do.  One Christmas break I played through Mass Effect 3, and then started over from scratch and played from 1 to 3 again trying to control the outcome.  The Christmas break that SWTOR was released I leveled as part of a duo from level 1 to 50.  Other years my mission has been to level a character from start to finish in World of Warcraft, and I made a decent dent in that with pushing the druid from 1 to 40 so I could use that Yeti mount.  This year one of the things on my list has been to finish leveling my Warlock who before this week was sitting at level 30 from the last time I got the urge to level.  I am not exactly sure why but I have wanted to have a matched set of level capped characters in Destiny for awhile now.  I think largely it is because when I am farming exotics, I hate the concept of items going to waste… and I pretty regularly got exotics for Warlocks in spite of not having one.  So sitting in my bank I had 3 exotic helms and 1 exotic chest that were warlock only, as well as a few legendary warlock only items as well.

Throughout the course of yesterday afternoon, while the ice was falling outside… I was sitting upstairs in the warmth of my office plugging away at my warlock.  Originally I started doing the House of Wolves content, since I tend to like it better than the Dark Below.  However I quickly noticed that I was leveling way faster while simply working my way through the back log of bounties I had accumulated.  As a result I spent most of my afternoon meticulously narrowing down the number of bounties I had until finally I was a sliver away from 40.  I hopped down to Mars and completed a few missions and dinged.  After sifting through my bank and spending a few legendary marks, I managed to push my overall light level up to 270 which is not too shabby for a fresh 40.  The only negative is… some of my exotics are really specific to sub class and the only one I have made ANY movement in thusfar is Voidwalker.  I really like jumping up into the air and throwing down three bombs at people…  but at some point I need to push up sunsinger because for group activity that seems to be the best option.  Self resurrection is slightly overpowered, but I figure it is something you save in reserve for when it looks like your group is going to wipe.  However it should do well to feed Tlaloc whenever I get one.

Matched Set

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One of Each

It feels nice to have a matched set, and the funniest thing is…. every single one of my characters is an Exo.  Mostly I had issues with not liking the other races character creation options.  The humans were out because they lacked a beard…. because seriously…  I cannot ever bring myself to play a human that doesn’t have a decent beard.  The Awoken were out because well…   space elves…. and I have a pretty deep hatred of most things elven.  I am fine if other people want to play them… but they are very much not my thing.  The best elves ever… were both from the Elder Scrolls setting… because Cannibal Wood Elves and Nasty Vile Dark Elves…  are the only ones I can embrace fully.  That left me with one race left to play… and since Destiny ultimately reminds me of playing Phantasy Star Online… and Exo is about as close as I can get to my Cast it was the clear winner.  The awesome thing is though that each of my classes has a very fitting look and feel for their class, even though they are all technically just big robots.

I’ve not dwelled on it too much, but I really think that Phantasy Star Online being my first MMO… has greatly shaped how I feel about Destiny.  The games have a very similar feel, with a lobby system of sorts being the tower…  which equates pretty similar to the tower like area you ran around in PSO.  Then you go out on missions that involve you going to planets and often times retracing the same areas over and over with slightly different features and creatures dependent upon your mission.  I played the hell out of that game, up until the point when I got hooked on Everquest.  The funny thing about it is, that as melee heavy as I was in other games… in PSO I always played a Cast Ranger.  So the fact that I really enjoy Destiny doesn’t seem that shocking.  It feels very much like the spiritual successor, minus the anime skin.  At some point I really want to get into the raid in Destiny, but similarly to WoW….  I mostly just want to do it for the gear.  Downing new content is cool and all, but the force that always drives me forward in these types of games… is the acquisition of new and cool things.  When you take loot out of the equation, like in Final Fantasy XIV it is a serious hit to my enjoyment.  Most of my dungeon running in FFXIV was in an attempt to complete cosmetic sets, and ultimately was still gear driven…  just gear as an appearance not necessarily as function.

Next Mission

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At this point I really need to buckle down and finish Fallout 4 main storyline, because this coming weekend we need to record the review show.  I am not sure what exactly has happened but I have simply not been playing Fallout much over the last few weeks.  I think we can blame most of it, on my re-entry into World of Warcraft and my desire to play “catch up”.  Then this week has been a bit of a resurgence in Destiny, this combined with the only machine I have that plays Fallout 4 well enough is my upstairs computer.  Over the course of our movie and television marathons I have largely been downstairs on the sofa in my comfy blanket cocoon.  This has meant that Fallout sadly has been abandoned for the moment.  I tried last night to play it some over steam in home streaming, and once I sorted out the many technically difficulties, I finally got it up and running.  The only problem there was that the video stream would artifact out anytime I encountered much action, making it questionable if it is really worth playing it on my desktop… or if I would simply be better playing it on my laptop with greatly reduced graphical fidelity.  My laptop will run it after all, but with a somewhat potato quality.  In any case… I need to pick up where I left off and make some forward movement.

Week In Gaming 12/5/2015

Sunday Madness

Today my posts and the AggroChat podcast are coming out a little late, because reasons.  My wife has this thing at church this morning, and stuff was not going very much as planned.  So instead of wrapping up the podcast when I got up, I went into the mode of attempting to support my wife as she flailed around the house trying to get everything ready.  I don’t really do the religion thing, but it is important to my wife so I’ve always attempted to support her in whatever way she needs.  Normally speaking I would have been further along in the podcast creation process by the time I slept last night, but instead I decided to have a knock down drag out fight with Amazon.  There is an item that starting last Tuesday, has been updating daily to tell me it would be there by 8pm the next day.  This has drug on for several days… and the FedEx tracking that I finally received shows that there is no way it is going to be here until sometime at the end of next week.  Needless to say I was more than a little perturbed, and ended up trying to get to the bottom of it.

Where I feel bad however is that I know I took out some of my frustrations on the agents that were working the case.  I realize why companies hide their chat functionality, but overall it is a horrible practice, that only leads customers to be pissed as hell by the time they FINALLY get a hold of a person to talk to about their issues.  I know I probably came off as a mad man, but seriously…  I’ve been an Amazon customer since around 2000, and been a prime member for I think as long as the program has existed.  I keep that active so that I can have items here in two days… and there have been a lot of times in the past where they actually have it here next day.  Since the swap to using the US Postal Service however, I have had several delayed orders… and this one just seems to be another in that line of problems.  The worst part about it is.. that after spending over an hour last night trying to get someone to tell me where the ball was dropped…  no one seemed to have any answers.  I did however get two months of prime added to my account apparently to appease me, so I guess that makes up for some of the frustration.  I have no doubt that the item will arrive and be just fine… but man this situation has been annoying.  It is nothing nearly as bad as Tam and Amazon quite literally losing his shipment.

The Week of Warcraft

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For the most part this was in fact the Week of Warcraft as I am attempting to play both characters on Argent Dawn Alliance side… and the joined The Scryers server Horde side.  This means  there are two different communities that I am trying to be an active part of, and as a result pretty much everything else I am doing has fallen by the wayside.  Part of my Sunday ritual is to go downstairs and watch a sequence of television shows until ultimately it is time for bed.  However during this sequence I got pulled into the Horde side guild raid with my friends in the awesomely named Facepull.  Between some gear upgrades from drops and some crafted gear by the amazing Brerhoof it took me to around the 670 range.  Now after some LFR this week I am sitting at 679 so a stones throw away from 680.  I have two parts left to do of LFR and my hope is at some point before this evening I can actually get them knocked out and will hopefully see some more upgrades.  My lowest piece on the Paladin is his necklace which is still the level 640 boosted green gear.  In theory if I get lucky I could get a baleful item to drop while I am doing dailies… which I also need to do at some point.  I have everything enchanted and gemmed… at least with cheap enchants and gems so my performance as a whole should be better tonight… that is if they still want me to come and pewpewpew things.

Then Wednesday night I was invited to raid with some twitter folk that I have known for ages.  There I brought my Alliance Warrior Belghast, and similarly have made some jumps in gearing as the week went out.  I started the week at 680 and have bumped it a little bit up to 684.  This is still a long ways off from the 705-710 range that I need to be in order to really function in Heroic for the Friendship Moose fun, but whatever I am enjoying the process.  In both cases I was mostly a fly on the wall as the raid went about their business, but I could see myself enjoying both situations greatly.  It is my hope that in both scenarios are am invited back for future weeks, and in spite of my crummy gear I still managed to end up I think 3rd in total damage done for the raid.  My burst dps is still on the weak range, but I am throwing out a lot of total damage which still is nice.  Gladiator is such a fun spec that I am really going to hate losing once the expansion ships.  I guess there is hope at a later date that they might revive the spec, but I seriously imagine it was just too hard to balance when it essentially took all of the same gear that tanks did… which means that my overall survival is among the highest of the dps classes.  In any case I am having fun… and that is what really matters right?

Reaching Diamond City

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The original plan for this week was to record our final Fallout 4 show last night, and because of that I felt this overwhelming need to have completed the storyline.  This means that a good chunk of this week I was pushing hard to get through the main story, and I have to say… it was some of the most miserable I have been playing Fallout ever.  My play style is very much a “forget the story exists” method, where I wander aimlessly and go explore whatever happens to suit my fancy.  This means there is a lot of ADD induced gaming as I see what that building over there in the distance is, or go explore that wrecked vehicle there because it looks interesting.  The result is that I spend a lot of time playing, but not a lot of time getting anywhere specific.  With the severe content density that is the Commonwealth, it means I had at 70 hours not gotten anywhere vaguely close to Diamond City.  I knew where it was, but I was busy wandering around the Cambridge area and exploring lots of little nooks and crannies.

Instead this week I forced myself to follow the storyline, and while it is really awesome… and there are lots of interesting characters… the entire process feels forced.  I mean it IS forced, because I am trying hard to play in a style that is not natural to me.  I talked about this for quite a bit on the podcast last night, but essentially most of the time I don’t like it when games end.  In Mass Effect 2, I enjoyed every moment of the side missions… but it felt like all of my fun was being sucked down a drain the moment I started that sequence of events that lead to the end of the game.  I want these worlds and settings.. and characters that I have created to essentially live on forever… and the sooner I “beat” a game… the sooner that fun for me is over.  I think in part this is why I like the MMO so much, because my characters never have to go away… they just keep going on and changing and adapting as new content is released.  So as it looks like we are pushing off the Fallout 4 show a bit…  I am going to try and find a happy medium where I alternate between following story… and also spending some time following my heart.

Launch Hype Cycle

The Perfect Amount

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One of the subjects I have thinking about quite a bit this week is the video game hype cycle… namely the time from when a video game is announced to the time you can have it in your grubby little hands.  There are a lot of times that a game is announced with great fanfare and then when it actually releases two years later… the excitement has died down to a point where I rarely realize it has launched.  This is especially true with games that have an early access system, because quite literally in my mind they have been “out” from the moment they started taking money for the game.  I’ve come to a line of thinking that Fallout 4 pretty much represents the perfect amount of hype leading into a game launch.  While all manner of information was leaked about this game for a few years… there was no official acknowledgement of the game, nor any media floating around about it until June 2015 at E3.  At which point they announced that the game would be available in November of that same year.  This gave the game a focused four months to hype it up and get people read for it.

The truth is that most of the hype was fan created.  Bethesda themselves continued to release a slow trickle of information and trailers… large parts of which were simply recompiled from the demos given at E3.  But this constant trickle served to keep the fires ignited long enough that by the time the game actually launched a few months later… folks were still very much at the peak of excitement, rushing out into the store and buying damned near anything even vaguely related to the game.  As an example of this fever pitch I give to you exhibit A… the fact that the extremely limited edition Nuka Cola Quantum cases are going for over $1200 on Ebay.  They announced a game with lots of new features, and then delivered it a short period of time later as promised.  This sort of brevity is refreshing when it comes to video games, because we are simply used to it dragging on over the course of several years including extended alpha and beta phases which only serve to get the players bored with the title before they even lay their hands on it.

Beta is Not Beta

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Another huge problem that plagues the industry is the fact that Beta testing really doesn’t mean what it says it means.  What is ultimately spurring on this post is the launch of the World of Warcraft Legion Alpha yesterday to the press, streamers and a few fan sites.  While Fallout 4 had this nice clean short cycle, Legion is already setting up to have a considerably longer one.  We first got the official announcement of the rumored expansion at Gamescom in August, and post Blizzcon in early November we received our potential launch window of September 2016.  Now that we have an alpha circulating, we will now have plenty of hype inducing articles and videos circulating…  with ten months to go until the potential launch window.  While this is awesome to stoke the fires, the flames will have died down significantly by the time the game actually releases.  Right now I myself am riding this nostalgia buzz that has lead me to resubscribe to the game, but there is likely no way that the game can sustain my excitement until next year to keep the love going.

What I meant by the Beta not meaning what it used to, is the fact that we no longer have these cloistered NDA protected testing environments.  So in essence Beta becomes this time to allow streamers and the press to hype up the game for Blizzard, rather than the period of deeply focused testing.  Sure it is frustrating to be in something that is under NDA, and not be able to talk about it…  but games need an incubation period before the world gets to see them.  When I was testing Elder Scrolls Online I was quite literally in the closed testing process for a little bit over a year before the launch of that game.  I tested the hell out of it, and myself and Ashgar apparently developed a reputation for our prolific bug noting.  There were lots of things that I saw that would have freaked the hell out of the press and public if they saw them, but I simply calmly noted it and described as many details as I could and moved on.  As the builds changed we saw many of those bugs disappear… and often times other ones arise that we continued to note.  For me at least it was not about getting to play the game free or having something to fill my site with articles…  but instead about trying extremely hard to make sure the best possible game launched.

A Challenge

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So now is the point where I present a challenge to anyone with access to the World of Warcraft Legion alpha client.  Test the hell out of that game and submit bug notes for anything that even seems vaguely out of place.  I want each of you to be so prolific in your bug notes… that the developers behind the scenes know you by name and immediately start predicting what you might say.  The Warlords of Draenor testing process was not taken seriously by the developers or by the players… and most of us just used it as a way of showcasing what was coming out from the game.  What we ended up with was an expansion that did not quite feel right on so many levels, all of which were things that could have been addressed during the Alpha testing process.  By the time a game makes it into Beta… it is essentially in a polish phase, where the content gets the spelling errors ironed out, and cosmetic blemishes are fixed.  Alpha is the time when you can actually effect the way a game will play like at launch, and now that you have access to this client I expect each of you to do your job.  After all testing is a job, not a perk… or something that elevates you above other players.

Quite literally if Legion is not the best expansion that World of Warcraft has ever seen… we are in a lot of trouble.  You can have a single bad expansion and still turn around…  namely I am looking at Dark Age of Camelot and the horrible Trials of Atlantis expansion here.  They continued on to do a lot of really interesting things, but they absolutely had a misstep.  I feel like Warlords was without a doubt Blizzard’s misstep when it comes to the Warcraft franchise, and Legion is their chance to redeem themselves.  The problem being they need you the players to give honest and sometimes brutal feedback on what is working and what is not working.  There is a huge difference between the live client and the alpha client… and the alpha forums are this magical place where people actually talk about the serious issues of the game without resorting to hyperbole.  I expect each and every one of you that have access to this alpha to put that time to good use, and find every single bug in the game.  Sure you only have access to the Demon Hunter starting experience, but I expect you to help make that starting experience the best “newbie zone” in the game.  Now what are you doing reading my post… get to making bug notes people!

Week in Gaming 11/22/2015

Missing Breakers

During this segment I generally run down the gaming I have done during the previous week, however this week I am going to regale you with a story from last night.  As I have talked about a bit on my blog we are currently going through some minor home renovations.  We seem to be nearing the end however, and other than a few minor problems that they are working on…  things seem to largely be done.  During part of this process we had a big extension cord coming out through the garage door so they could do work on the front of the house, and as part of their wrapping things up they asked me to go inside and raise the garage door so they could unplug it.  When I got out to the garage however…  the door would not open, and around about this same time I noticed that our freezer was off.  Thus began the mission to try and sort out what breaker was flipped.

The breakers are in a horrible location in our house, which is on the garage wall…  but someone in their infinite wisdom decided to build a table and attach it to the wall in front of the breaker box.  When I say table… I mean it is a 4 foot deep and 8 foot across shelving unit made out of full sheets of plywood.  Sure it is sturdy as hell but it is super awkward and fiddling with the breakers means I have to essentially crawl up onto the table.  The problem being… none of the breakers were flipped which began a hunt through the house because the contractors were convinced that this could not be the ONLY breaker box on the house.  Please note that at this point we have lived in the house going on eighteen years….  we were absolutely certain this was the only breaker box.  Finally after running around and flipping the damned house main in the back yard…  someone noticed that the outlet in the garage that the opener was plugged into… had a ground fault switch.  We flipped that and magically everything started working again.  So yeah…  that was a fun way to spend a good chunk of my night.

Final Fantasy XIV

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This week finally saw my return to Final Fantasy XIV as it also announced the release of the 3.1 content.  I talked about this a bit during the week, but it feels a little bittersweet.  The content was really good, but also really really short.  Usually we have some big boss fight as the pinnacle of the content patches, and this time around….  nothing.  Sure there was a big fight but it wasn’t on the same level as a new Primal or an encounter like Gilgamesh.  Also there is the fact that we still don’t have a new segment in the Hildebrand chain…  or nothing to really replace the hole it has created in the content.  I feel like they spent a lot of time on the Lords of Verminion minigame and as a result a bunch of other stuff slipped to the 3.15 patch later.  I still have yet to do any of the dungeons, but hopefully I can get that going soonish.

The bulk of my final fantasy time consists of me logging in, and doing my Beast Tribe dailies for the new Vanu Vanu tribe along with some of the old world quests.  What makes this pretty great is the fact that at the current level cap… all of the old world quests are super easy to do.  So essentially my daily pecking order is… Vanu Vanu > Slyphs > Sahagin.  Mostly I just want to be a tiny lalafell riding along on a giant goobue.  Last night we also revived the tradition of doing stuff on Saturday nights as we ran bits of First and Second coil with the guild.  I was not there for Turn 5 but I got pulled in on the second coil fun.  We managed to get all the way up to turn 9, and put in a few attempts before Ashgar and I had to leave to prep for the podcast.  My hope is we can get people in the habit of showing up on Saturday nights to do stuff like this and pony farming.  That would go a long way towards revitalizing the Final Fantasy experience for me.

Destiny

I am continuing to play Destiny but a significantly reduced pace.  Each Sunday afternoon we do a Star Wars pen and paper game, and right now Destiny seems to be my game of choice to play while doing that.  It is something I can play on a machine that is not my main computer, and still be able to pay attention to what is going on in the roleplaying.  Destiny is for the most part muscle reflexes at this point, so I am spending the time doing bounties and missions and such.  I did however play quite a bit on Wednesday, or at least long enough to do my various weapon missions.  I still very much love this game, but Fallout 4 has largely taken the place it held of the game I am spending most of my time playing.  There are still a lot of things I want, but more than likely I am going to mostly do the Armsday/Xursday thing each week and then focus if there are objectives and goals that I really want to accomplish.  There are a few interesting looking weapons this week that I am hoping turn out to be pretty awesome from the Gunsmith.

Fallout 4

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I am still slowly wandering my way through the commonwealth.  I am roughly sixty hours into the game and have yet to go to Diamond City.  That said I have done a whole slew of side quests, but more often than not when I get one… I have already been to that location and cleared it out.  When I went to help the Brotherhood of Steel for example… I had already completely cleared that location other than the areas that the Brotherhood ends up unlocking for you to go explore.  As far as the Minutemen, I am tasked with taking back the castle, but the castle is a long ways off from where I am.  Right now I am largely exploring the Cambridge area and delving into the ruined buildings that you find there.  The hospital at Cambridge was one of the more interesting areas, so if you have not been there I highly suggest checking it out.  There has been some crazy shit happening there… but I don’t want to spoil it for anyone.  At this point I am still largely using my crappy pipe gun, that has been upgraded as much as possible…. but that is largely because I have a truly silly amount of ammunition for it.

World of Warcraft

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I am weak…. and nostalgia is strong.  Over the last few weeks I knew deep down inside that I was fighting a losing battle.  Finally yesterday I gave in and started playing my sub level 20 horde characters since I could do that for free.  When Scryers and Argent Dawn merged, I ended up creating an entire accounts worth of Horde alts with the thought of playing with some of my Horde friends on the Argent Dawn server.  I tried to create one of every race and class… and some of them I am probably going to simply re-roll.  For my Warrior… I ended up going  Blood Elf because I remember at launch Warrior was not an option for them.  Also I have gotten kinda sick of playing Orcs, and my Deathknight is an Orc, and my Paladin is a Tauren.  Maybe I am mellowing in my old age, but the whole “elf” thing is annoying me far less right now.  Maybe it is the nostalgia of him wearing what is essentially a set of Wrath armor from Molten Core.  In any case I am poking my head around World of Warcraft, and we will see how well that takes.

Be Nice to the People

Bad Luck

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This looks totally legit right?

Traditionally I do this Friday thing where I talk about one of the many “MMOs Worth Playing” but honestly…. today I am just not feeling it.  I am feeling more annoyed and frustrated about MMOs than I am feeling the love right now, and in this current mindset it is probably best that I simply don’t talk about a game.  The purpose of the column is to highlight a game and talk about the things I love about it, in the hopes that it might nudge people into giving it a try.  In order to really do that I have to be feeling happy and enjoying the world around me… and right now I am kinda grumpy.  Granted I am grumpy over a stupid reason.  Right now I feel like I am one of a handful of people who didn’t get into the Overwatch beta weekend.  I am largely annoyed by this, because I am in fact one of the people who went ahead and pre-ordered the game knowing eventually that I would want to play it.  You would think… that if you have a bit single weekend only stress test that you might want to include the people who are already signed up to spend money on your game.

Maybe that is screwed up in my logic, but it seems to me that they should have pulled from the pool of sign ups first for this one in particular.  I am not saying that about the normal always on Beta process… that one is completely luck of the draw.  This one however… when you are testing a game for a short period of time… it might be cool to thank the folks who have already pressed that button and said “Yes, I want your game”.  Frustrations aside, I am hoping all of my friends who are going to be playing it this weekend will enjoy themselves and have lots of things to talk about.  Honestly this test will give me a better feeling of how I am going to like the game, since a lot of the AggroChat folks seemed to have gotten in.  This is the hardest part about Betas is standing on the outside watching your friends have fun…  and then trying really damned hard to be happy for them… and not sad that you got left out.

People Behind The Thing

So even though I am frustrated, I am directing my frustrations at an entity…  the game Overwatch and or the company Blizzard behind it.  I realize that that company is made up of people, and it has to be super tiring to hear people raging at them constantly.  I realize over the years I have said some pretty caustic and even pyroclastic things about video games and or the companies behind them.  At no point however did I aim that criticism at the people themselves.  I never joined the chorus of “I Hate Ghostcrawler” nor will I join any other personally targeted witch hunt in the future.  I can dislike a thing… but still have the utmost respect for the people for whom it is their job.  Much of this week has felt like I have been attempting to give lessons in how to treat people with simple human dignity… and yesterday continued that trend.  These companies have people working there, that go to work every single day hoping to do something cool… and often times get met with this constant wall of negativity.  It is no wonder when someone reads one too many “fuck you” posts targeted at them that occasionally community staff snaps.  Ultimately how good of a job, and how much satisfaction in it… would you have if someone stood over your desk heckling you the entire day?

Now you can take the path of “they willfully accepted the job”, but that too is utter bullshit.  They probably took the job for the same reason that any one of us who are gaming addicts would jump at the chance to do the same thing.  The folks that work at games companies do so because they love games with every fiber of their being, so much so that they are willing to sacrifice basic things like stability, and normal working hours…  for the chance of being part of something they at least once felt was awesome.  So if this week I happen to be complaining about Overwatch… I know that behind the scenes there is a crew of people who are working insane hours right now, and trying their damnedest to please as many people as they can… while at the same time desperately fighting to roll out the best possible product that they can make.  I’ve been lucky to know enough people that work at enough companies to know that all of these fine people are grinding themselves into the ground all in the hopes of making each of us happy.  So the next time you level an attack at a thing… please make sure it is targeted at the thing… and not the voice of the person hanging out in front of it for whom it is their job to represent said thing.  I most definitely don’t believe that games should be above criticism… but I do believe that we shouldn’t be targeting our bile at a human being.

Hoping For a Great Friday

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My hope is that I can go into this Friday and not see anything else that makes me sad about humanity.  For those of you in the Overwatch beta weekend…  have a blast, take lots of screenshots, record lots of video… because I expect some really amazing content as a result.    For those of us watching from the sidelines… there are dozens of other things we should be doing.  I personally am now 55 hours into Fallout 4… and have yet to make it to Diamond City.  I’m also in a strange place when it comes to Final Fantasy XIV where I am logging in each day to do Beast Tribe dailies, but not finding much drive to do anything else.  I am in that strange place where I took a long enough break from the game to where I am completely out of touch with what I was doing before I left, but have not been away long enough to make me super nostalgic enough to dive back in with vigor.  I am also still fighting the urge to play World of Warcraft, and I am scared that sooner or later I will be giving into it… if for no reason other than to get it out of my system again.  I am in a place where I want into the Legion beta more than any other beta in a long while, mostly because I hope beyond hope that Deathknights are fun again.  The fact that I had to switch back to my warrior during Warlords honestly was a bit of bummer, and I would love to be a Worgen DK once more.  Anyways…  that was a long “outro” but hopefully you have a great weekend, and stay safe and happy and warm.

 

 

Joys of Exploration

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Hole in the Bedroom

Yesterday was a strange day, largely because it felt like I was having to be part of something that I had no control over.  Wednesday was of course Veterans Day, and as is usually the case I get it off work.  Which I immediately thought would be amazing… since I had Fallout 4 to keep me company.  The problem being that they did not in fact install the door in the bedroom Saturday like we thought they would.  As a result they needed a new target date, and since I was going to be home anyways… we ended up with Wednesday.  So I spent most of the day trying to play Fallout 4, without allowing myself to get too engaged in the game play as to miss the extremely subtle knocks that they needed my help with something.  The problem is… when there is constant hammering… it is impossible to get a knock from just more hammering.  We gave them my text for this reason… or at least for the reason of contacting me directly, but alas that didn’t actually do much.

The scariest moment of the day was when I went down to check on progress and there was a huge gaping hole in the side of our house.  It looked like they had to take a lot more than they originally planned and I am sitting there trying to sort out how it is all going to go back together.  However by evening they had a door installed and we had moved all of our stuff back in place around it.  The awesome thing is it works beautifully and we had this cabinet next to the door that we were concerned might impede it.  However it seems to swing open just fine with the cabinet in place, which means…  we are going to now have to do something major to our back yard to also make it more inhabitable.  I have a feeling that my wife at least is going to want to build some sort of a proper patio just outside the bedroom for sipping coffee in her rocking chair or similar activities.  We are hoping there will be enough of a gap between them finishing their project and the waste company picking up the dumpster that we can maybe throw a bunch of crap away from the back yard.  At the very least I can almost see the end in this project in sight… and maybe just maybe there will be a point on the near horizon where I can park in my own damned driveway.

Meandering

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According to Steam I am now 18 hours into the game… and at this point I have done next to nothing.  My quest driven friends are talking about this thing they did or that thing they did…  but me…  I am building a town.  I’ve always played Fallout with a base builder mentality even though it was never really terribly supported.  Being the horrific pack rat that I am, I largely played in a pretty predictable manner.  I would roam around the wastes until something caught my eye, and then go explore it.  During the course of exploring it… I would end up filling up my own inventory and that of my companion…  in this case Dogmeat.  Then I would fast travel back to base… dump the items I found into a series of containers that I used for sorting such things, rest up if I was low on hit points… and then venture out again.  For the Walking Dead fans…  I play the game much like Morgan was living his life…  making sure to clear everything before moving on.  There is a sense of accomplishment at knowing that you took down every raider in a camp, or got every drop of good out of a complex you just explored.

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What makes this all so much better this time around is that for the very first time…  it feels like I am making the wasteland a better place.  In the past becoming the “Savior of the Wasteland” largely involved killing everyone that did not believe like you did.  Which I am sure helped the fledgling towns, but it didn’t feel like I was doing more than being a gun for hire.  This time around I can build up settlements, and recruit new settlers giving them a nice place to live and the safety of decent protections.  I feel like town by town I am actually fixing the problems that were there, and setting up a better way of life as I blaze through the map.  “Blaze” might be the wrong word… because realistically at this point I have seen next to nothing.  I am largely just fiddling in the same corner of the map that I started in.  There are still a bunch of things that I have quite yet to figure out…  like how magazines and bobbleheads work this time.  So far I have found a single bobblehead, and a handful of magazines.  I am also not 100% sure how much I like the talent system which seems a bit more arcane than simply slotting points in skills.  Regardless… I am hooked beyond reason and look forward to little else than coming back home tonight after work and exploring some more.  This game so far… is exactly what I hoped it would be and more.

 

Fallout First Impressions

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Non-Spoiler First Thoughts

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War Never Changes…. and neither does Fallout, and that is a statement I mean in the best possible way.  When a sequel to a beloved franchise is released, you never quite know if you are going to get absolute greatness like Skyrim… or if you are going to be stuck with a Master of Orion 3.  For those who loved MOO3 I apologize… but that game was horrible and broke from far too many of the tenets of the original franchise.  Fallout 4 however… keeps all of the best features from Fallout 3 and New Vegas… and applies a next generation coat of paint and features to it.  If you have been an aficionado of Bethesda games for very long you will notice that several of the really nice features of Skyrim have been implemented into this engine.  Everything from the loading screen item previews…  to the ability to favorite weapons and swap between them quickly in combat… are direct lineage to Skyrim.  What you also get is some genuine evolution of the engine, in the form of just how content dense the world is and how much of it can be fiddled with.

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At this point according to Steam I am roughly four hours into the game, and I have to say… that was the fastest four hours of my life.  I mentioned yesterday that I did not stay up Tuesday night to play the game, but instead had to wait until after work yesterday.  Additionally we have contractors coming to the house to put a door in our bedroom today…  so we had to do a lightning round of cleaning before I finally got to sit down and play with my precious.  From the moment I set down… every time I was aware that time had passed…  it was an hour and not fifteen minutes like I had thought.  Most of that time was spent not actively doing any quests or following the story line really.  The first handful of events happen to play out in a pretty organic fashion, and I apparently followed the story line to a point… without really meaning to.  I remember watching the demo footage from E3, and I have for the most part made it through the sequence that they showed… which happens pretty early in the game.  It gives you a neatly framed vignette that allows you to understand some of the forces in the world that you are contending with.

Packrat Friendly

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For me at least the best part of this game is that they have taken things to essentially their logical conclusions.  If you are living in a world with limited resources, then essentially everything you come across could be useful.  In the past I was a horrible packrat and constantly on the brink over being overburdened.  Why was I carrying fifty coffee mugs…. who knew… but I might need them someday.  Those tendencies are absolutely paid off in full in this game because quite literally every piece of crap you find in the world is useful either to modify your weapons and armor… or to construct things for the new base building side game.  Pretty early on, you end up in the neighborhood you once lived in.  This then becomes your base of operations allowing you to scrap materials there, and build new structures.  As you venture out into the world you find survivors that you can invite back to your little sanctuary, and in a fashion very reminiscent to State of Decay you have to watch after their well being and their defenses.  I am assuming as your settlement gets bigger you will become the target of raiders and the like trying to take your hard earned resources.

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The other big noticeable change in this game is that everything seems more dangerous.  Radiation is a real problem this time, because instead of causing you to lose health over time… it reduces your maximum health pool.  All of the old baddies are also more deadly…  Bloat Flies move more erratically, Mole Rats can burrow under ground and pop up when you least expect them…. and move insanely fast…  and there are new dangerous like giant mutated mosquitoes.  All of this and more I have encountered within a short radius of where you actually start the game.  Everything I am talking about is within visual distance of the Vault 111 entrance.  Essentially this is a game that is going to eat every waking moment for a long while…  because right now I feel like I have not even begun to unwrap the wrapping of the game… let alone actually dip below the surface.  The big takeaway is that it is the Fallout game play that you either love or hate… with more advanced systems and more fluidity of character movement and actions.  Everything “feels better” and I know this largely because I played quite a bit of New Vegas Tuesday night as a sort of placebo for Fallout 4 while waiting on it to unlock.  The changes are extremely noticeable, even from the level the engine was at during Skyrim.  I’m now going to shut up about my impressions… and launch the game and lose myself in it again.