Crazy Axe

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As of last night I am now officially at the Stormblood level cap.  That said I still have a bunch of content left to run because I know my MSQ is stalled behind at dungeon at the moment…. and then I also know from hearing folks talk about it that there is another trial of some sort after that.  I was feeling a little too out of it to go seeking a dungeon group, so instead I focused on finishing the warrior quest line, which gave me a set of gear that I will probably never wear at least cosmetically… and this bizarre axe.  As a whole though Stormblood provided me with lots of glamour fodder, including this chest piece that I have become rather fond of.  I actually dinged 70 while running the second primal.  I decided to do a trials roulette, and next thing I know I am zoning into that fight.  The first pull went about as well as you would expect that a modern era primal fight would go.  On the second pull however I took a moment to ask folks if there was anything about the fight that they didn’t understand, and answered a bunch of questions.  As I was able to do I also hollered out when a few key mechanics were coming up to remind folks about them.  Things went off the rails a bit during that second attempt but we managed to hold on and ultimately finished the fight.

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The story as a whole has continued to be amazing, but I am finding myself at a loss for screenshots to put in my blog posts that are not insanely spoilery.  I find myself trying to snap moments where nothing much is going on that won’t give away any major story beats.  I find it interesting how generally speaking I am not that beholden to a story in other games…  but in Final Fantasy XIV I am anxious to find out what is going on.  I guess part of it is that in a single player story… the experience doesn’t feel real.  What I mean by that is it is something that I experience and then once the story has reached its conclusion it is functionally over…  at least for another several years until they release a sequel.  In an MMO…  story sets the stage for what is to come and gives us a glimpse in what we will be doing a few months down the road.  The story feels more alive to me because I am going to be living it, and I am going to be adjusting to whatever changes it happens to bring to the stage for a long while.  My friends and I are going to be fighting our way through the epic battles that are proposed each time the story leads us some place new.  I guess this is why I get into the lore of Destiny as well, because even though the grimoire cards are a crummy system… they give us a glimpse at the future to come and let me start day dreaming about epic adventures that are just over the horizon.

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Another thing that happened this weekend was the “launch” of Secret World Legends.  Sure they are calling it a head start, but if you are letting in everyone who played the previous game…  you are effectively launching it.  More than anything I wanted to get in and make sure that all of my stuff transferred just fine, and more importantly that my lifetime subscription did in fact transfer over into lifetime patron status.  For those who played the first game… I highly suggest you check out the page on the transfer system so you can claim anything that might be eligible for transfer.  I’ve heard that this system is only going to be available through August 31st and there are a bunch of guidelines and fine print to follow to make sure everything copies just fine.  I probably need to do some more fiddling to make sure that everything does in fact copy.  I had a character of each faction so in theory it should have…  but I probably need to go ahead and create those other faction characters so I can double check.  The most important item was of course the Csicon alien smiley t-shirt…  which I am rocking in the image above.  So far I am digging the game changes, but unfortunately it just happened to launch at a really horrible time for me since I am so heavily engaged in Stormblood.  I will continue to piddle around and experience the content, and it serves as an awesome “taking a break” game for me right now.  We talk a bit about but Secret World Legends and Stormblood on this weekends podcast, which I am embedding below.

Quiet Night

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Last night was a bit of a chill night for me, compared to the last several nights at least.  I purposefully stayed off voice chat because my wife and I were catching up on various shows that we had missed while she was travelling.  As a result I watched a bunch of episodes of Fear the Walking Dead and iZombie in a row.  I am still really not feeling “Fear” mostly because I still don’t care about the characters.  This is going to be a point of reference that is lost on some folks…  since blockbuster has been gone for awhile.  Once upon a time when a big movie was out in the theater…  a bunch of sound similar movies would show up at the local blockbuster video on the rack.  I admit there were a couple of times I rented one of these for the fun of it…  and they are just bad…  like sharknado levels of bad.  Fear the Walking Dead feels like one of those movies…  but instead trying to pass itself off as its sibling… The Walking Dead.  I am seriously not sure why I am even watching it, apart from the fact that most of us at work are using this as sort of our Walking Dead methadone.  As far as iZombie… I love everything about that series because I still hold a massive candle for Veronica Mars…  and it sort of feels like that with zombies.

As far as gaming goes….  I had a quiet night of trying to hit 67 so I could continue the MSQ.  About 10 pm I managed to get to the point where I am finally ready to run dungeon four and opted to call it for the night.  I am so amped about the events that are happening right now… and so looking forward to getting a group together tonight and running it.  I also love how the community generally refers to things as Dungeon Number or the X level MSQ dungeon…  as not to give away any spoilers.  The names of the dungeons themselves…  could in fact be spoilery…  this one probably more than any so far.  That is one of the things I love the most about FFXIV and its players is overall there is a fair bit of consideration for the feelings of others that is lacking a lot of the times in online gaming.  Sure there are jerkfaces out there, but your average person has a sense of caring about others.  I think all of the forced dungeon running and the constant need to group with other players eventually beats this sensibility into you as you go.  I’ve always been a “World Tank” where I roll up on people in need and tank the mobs for them…  but Final Fantasy XIV is the only time I actually get tanked for it.  There have been so many times I did this… and then wound up in a conversation for the next fifteen minutes with the player that I just helped out.  Happened last night…  I wound up hopping into a FATE that someone was attempting to solo…  and just on the edge of dying and before I knew it I was running through a bunch of other FATEs with this player.  Those are the moments that I really appreciate gaming with other people in the world.

Leaving the Steppes

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The pool guys did in fact come out and power wash the pool yesterday and now we are playing babysit the water hose.  It takes an excessively long time to fill up a pool with a single water hose.  In truth I am questioning if it will be done by this evening… and then we have that awkward problem of do we leave it running tonight with the fear that it might overflow?  As far as gaming time went I very obviously spent some more time in Stormblood.  First I have to tell you that I unequivocally love this expansion.  I can’t really get into all the reasons why without a whole bucket load of spoilers but suffice to say I am super impressed with what they have done and where they are going.  Heavensward was this deep dive into the culture of the Ishgardians… and for the most part except for a few notable exceptions they were assholes.  This expansion before launch seemed like it would be a similar exploration of Doma and Ala Mhigo…  but was I was not expecting was this wonderful journey through the culture of the Raen and Xaela Au’Ra.  This is really making me hope that in future expansions they might explore the culture of the Roegadyn or the Lalafel…  because really I want to know why the Lala are like the most prolific race in Eorzea.  If there is someone pulling the strings… 99.9% of the time it is going to be a Lalafel.

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As far as my further journeys in Stormblood, I have now made it through the third dungeon which we ran as soon as we could get enough people around to do it last night.  I also ran the second dungeon again for Neph and the first trial, which the more I am exposed to it the more I like it.  There are so many cool elements and mechanics going on there that I am really looking forward to learning the fight on Extreme mode.  I have no clue how far away the fourth dungeon is, but I have more or less finished up in the Steppes and am returning to Yanxia for what I am assuming is going to uncover the back half of that zone.  Every single bit of the story has been good, and it is making me bummed that I am currently story locked until I figure out a way to ding 67.  I am roughly a quarter of a level from dinging so I have a handful of options… but the one I am probably going to take is to run back and start doing side quests in the Steppes until I can push on through.  Whatever lead on the content I did have has now evaporated once I went back to following the MSQ only.  In theory tonight I will spend some time collecting Aether Currents so I can fly in a third zone, and doing side quests for probably the Mol.

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The Steppes of Azim might be my favorite zone in all of Final Fantasy XIV.  I always seem to go for the Nagrand like zones in games, the big flowing grasslands perforated by rocky outcroppings.  I thought the Heavensward zones were physically imposing, but the Stormblood zones overall feel much larger in size and scope.  I am still behind as the highest progressed finished dungeon four last night, and I am just barely on the other side of the third dungeon.  I have however passed a lot of other players like Neph and Ash, but still feel like I am lagging from where I would like to be.  I figure this is going to be a week and a half in total to get to 70 and start gearing up for the end game proper, or in my case…  start leveling the Samurai.  I have what I think are several Warrior quests to do so I might simply focus on doing those at the beginning of the night and see where that gets me level wise.

Underwater Adventures

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I feel like I have always been a bit weird when it comes to MMOs.  I like underwater content… pending I don’t have to care about breathing.  I took the Vashjir path in World of Warcraft and I enjoyed for the most part the underwater sections of the Nightmare Tide expansion in Rift.  So it is little surprise that I am really enjoying the underwater sections of Final Fantasy XIV Stormblood.  I feel like they made a strong decision not to force us to screw with breath bars, and I love that they implemented surface swimming in lots of old world areas like Costa Del Sol.  The real part that I loving is the fact that there are cities in giant bubbles on the ocean floor, and while sure they couldn’t help but make a slight Gungan reference during one of the quests about speeding us on our way…  overall I am loving it.  More than anything I feel really happy to be in love again with Final Fantasy.  The rough few days at the start of this expansion really made me second guess whether or not I would actually get that magic back.  For awhile now FFXIV has been a game I felt like I should play…  but just wasn’t into.  I would log in and go over to the Gold Saucer to play my daily scratch off cards… but then quickly log right back out.  I has this hope that when the headstart began we would all get enthralled in the game once more and start playing it as our primary MMO.  However in those first few days when it seemed like everything was shit, and we couldn’t move forward the MSQ…  I was starting to doubt myself.  I am thankful that I was not in fact wrong and I am setting dozens of happy people gobbling up content in the free company every night.

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The only negative is however… that I am functionally one full day behind everyone else.  That would not seem like much but it feels like I am habitually one full zone behind the rest of the crowd… or at least the folks I traditionally run dungeons with.  Now because of the first timers bonus everyone is more than happy to help someone through a dungeon.  Last night Void needed Xelphatol one of the 3.4 dungeons and I managed to get a sizable chunk of experience at level 63, so doing any dungeon content with the bonus is really worth it.  The biggest problem I have is that I see all of the (!) icons and feel like I need to do them all.  I remember going through the same problem with Heavensward and it taking one full zone before I finally realized that I should probably not do all of them and instead just focus down on the main story quest line.  Now that I have shifted to a MSQ and unlock only approach I am starting to gain ground once more.  At this very moment my MSQ is gated by the first Primal encounter, but I hit it at around 10:30 last night… and just didn’t have it in me to attempt to pull together a group to get it done.  Today however once I get time I will probably do just that and get rolling again.  All in all I am loving the expansion, and in truth it feels more “Final Fantasy” than FFXIV has at any point because we finally have a real danger in the form of the Garlean Empire.  We had a few spats with them in A Realm Reborn, but that was functionally finished the moment we cleared the launch content… and while there has been a flirtation that more was to come we had not really seen it until the precursors leading up to Stormblood.  Fighting against an Evil Empire is the core of the best Final Fantasy experiences for me, and I am super happy to finally have that feeling back in FFXIV.

Raubhangeddon Over

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Having a birthday on the internet is a really weird thing.  By the time I woke up yesterday morning in our hotel room I already had a flood of messages from folks.  I cannot put into words the warm fuzzies I got seeing that.  I attempted to keep up with thanking everyone individually but as we started roaming around Kansas City yesterday I completely lost track of where I was in the mix.  By the end of the day it was just a daunting task to try and sort out who I had thanked and who I had not.  By the time we made it home I was completely drained and crashed pretty hard.  So if I did not manage to thank you individually I apologize and please know that every single person meant the world to me.  As far as our trip… it was really enjoyable.  Once again we did our thing which is to hit every single Half Priced Books store in the metro, along with a few other stops like Micro Center and IKEA… all things we don’t have in Tulsa.  This is the second year in a row we have done this, and it was largely born out of the fact that getting my wife home after the AP reading turned into a very unpredictable experience.  Functionally when the shindig lets out they are trying to fly a surge of 4000 or so people out of a tiny little airport.  It is roughly a four hour drive from Tulsa to Kansas City with a bunch of variables that could speed it up or slow it down.  The first year she was doing the AP grading there, she ended up getting flown to Dallas and then having a long layover there so that it took roughly 8 hours for her to get home.  Admittedly…  me driving up to get her and driving back home is still 8 hours….  but at least by spending the night it is chopped up in a few segments and lets us go do some stuff in this case Saturday night and Sunday morning.  I always hate it when my birthday lands on Father’s Day because it also means everything is madness.  Micro Center is normally a fun experience, but in this case there were workers stationed every few feet and just walking around the store I wound up getting asked 8 times if they could help me.  I am not exactly sure why I find this so offensive…  but I wish there was a system where you could get a sticker from the first person you meet that says “leave me the fuck alone”.

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The other big happening of the weekend was the Stormblood launch, and in some ways it went really smoothly…  and in other ways it went tragically wrong.  Please note that I love Square Enix and the Final Fantasy XIV team… but you are going to get some salt from me on this post.  On Friday the head start began, which is an event only available to folks who had pre-ordered the game prior to a certain point.  This is really key because it is a fixed group of people, pulled from a known quantity of folks who plunked down money and purchased your game ahead of time.  In order to get into Headstart it means that you needed to register a code that was sent to you by Square Enix via email with the Mogstation.  Over the years there have been a number of events where the team has says that they just did not expect the numbers…  namely at the relaunch of A Realm Reborn and I at least partially gave them the benefit of the doubt in this statement.  However with the launch of a brand new expansion for a game with a known set of players… and a known set of preorders…  that should have given them a head start on trying to figure out how much server throughput they needed for the launch.  They failed this miserably and for all of Friday and all of Saturday…  everyone was stuck on the same quest that required the creation of a solo instance.  That means every player in a given Data Center is fighting for what is apparently a very limited number of slots available for running this quest.  The result was a mixture of reactions from the players…  and the creation of lines as folks attempted to go about this quest in an orderly fashion.  Final Fantasy XIV is literally the only place you would ever see this solution… and it didn’t take long even here before it broke down.  Granted the line concept was some superstitious nonsense given that you were not just competing against your fellow servermates…  but also everyone else in the Aether data center in my case.  So while Cactuar isn’t a massive server… it is large enough, but becomes completely drowned out by the size of the player base of Balmung and Gilgamesh which share the same server cluster.

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Yesterday during the day however at some point they put in a fix and remedied the situation, so last night in my sleepy state I attempted to move forward only to be claimed by sleep and a server disconnect in the middle of a lengthy cut scene.  This morning I popped in with every intent of taking a few screenshots and wound up playing for about an hour popping around and doing quests.  I am hoping we are through the worst of the launch, but I expect another influx of players on Tuesday when the game releases in stores.  Hopefully they have learned their lessons and have spare resources ready to stand up if they run into more problems.  In the era of virtualized servers, leased datacenter space, and all manner of licensing options…  it feels like there is little excuse not to have some resources waiting in the wings to stand up at the first sign of trouble.  I have a feeling there were a lot of design decisions on the infrastructure side that maybe don’t scale terribly well in modern computing terms.  The game is doing some odd things, like it came out during one of the E3 discussions that every time you move in the server… your entire player object is passed around including your inventory and armory chest as part of one huge object.  This came up when they talked about not wanting to expand out inventory space too much because it might crash the server in passing around too big of an object.  This just seems like a weird way of going about things, and one susceptible to memory hacks or at least rollbacks from crashes.  At this point I just need to play catch up because I have Free Company members that are already 66 or higher.

Tiny Wings

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This is likely going to be a super short post because reasons.  Last night was an interesting shift from my personal status quo because I guest hosted on the For the Lore podcast.  They were recording their yearly E3 multi-episode and for also reasons… @Samodean was forced to miss.  So as a result @ZenBuddhist pinged me over twitter to see if I was willing to join him and @LodurZJ as an alternate.  In the past I have always really enjoyed guesting on other podcasts in part because it lets me see how exactly everyone else is doing this recording thing.  AggroChat as a whole is largely done almost by accident, and it is sometimes nice to see how those who have a clear purpose actually piece together things.  It had also been entirely too long since I had done this sort of thing.  The only gotcha was their normal recording time is about 1 hour sooner than I could realistically get to the screen and settled in for the night.  Thankfully they pushed it back a little bit and I was able to join in.  Hopefully once again I did not make too much of an ass of myself.  I am not exactly sure what their release schedule is, because in truth the only release schedule I know is our own.  However in the near future you should be able to catch me on the first of a two part episode covering E3 2017 on the For the Lore site.

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In other news… Stormblood has officially begun…  or at least the head start for those who pre-purchased the game.  This expansion had some fairly sweeping changes, and when I first logged in it felt like my hotbars were on fire.  Many of the buttons that I had slotted were replaced by a shared pool of role specific abilities.  So that mean’t things like provoke and stun now exist in that shared tree from which I was able to slot 5 abilities in total.  This is ultimately going to lead to some interesting choices because unlike before with cross class abilities…  there were way more than five choices from that pool that I wanted access to.  I have a feeling we are going to be swapping up to attempt to tailor for specific fights.  For example I now seem to have an AOE taunt… which isn’t that important for leveling… but I could absolutely see needing that on specific fights or if you were taking over the add tank on a specific encounter.  For the most part Warrior feels the same with the big change being that we lost the 5 stack resource… that I never can remember the name of and instead get the beast gauge.  This swap has a bunch of positive benefits to the class as a whole.  For example there were many fights where I would need to hold back using Inner Beast for specific mechanics… but this meant there was the opportunity cost of being capped out at 5 stacks of the buff.  Now I have a gauge that goes from 10-100…  or functionally 10 stacks of my resource meaning that even while holding back an Inner Beast I can also keep building up at least one more attack in reserve.  The other amazing quality of life change is I am not sure if this meter actually decays over time…  I have been able to hold onto beast charges for way longer than I could have the equivalent stacks before.

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The negative of the launch so far is that the Duty instance system seems to be toast.  That means there is a point in the main story quest where you simply cannot proceed past.  The folks that habitually skip cut scenes seem to be far worse off because it seems to keep them in a bit of a locked state where they can’t interact with NPCs at all.  As a pretty rabid cut scene watcher… I did not have this problem but I did absolutely hit the wall already.  There are some that are raging against the machine in chat, and others that keep telling them to calm down.  There are of course new Jobs to work on and other things to occupy time until this gets fixed.  I am absolutely certain someone somewhere is having a really bad day and working as hard as they can to remedy this.  In truth we don’t even know if this is a development thing, but could instead be an infrastructure issue with the hosting environment.  Whatever the case…  folks are getting stalled out but that sort of goes hand in hand with the release of anything.  All in all I am happy that my character largely is going to make the transition without massive horrible feeling changes, and that we get to explore a new part of the world.  For the moment I am not bothering to glamour back my helm… and apparently have tiny floppy wings instead of bunny ears.

Leave the Game Better

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Last night as I was winding down for the evening I ended up getting pulled into a discussion about positivity and the Warcraft community.  I’ve long been a proponent of doing whatever I can to try and make MMO gaming environments better for other players.  I am what I would  call a “world tank” meaning that I permanently run around in tanky stance while questing and often times go out of my way to “tank” things that don’t even matter to me.  If I am riding through a zone and I see a squishy player fighting a boss mob… then nine times out of ten I am going to hop off my mount and charge over to help out.  I don’t even care about factional boundaries here, and I am one of those players that is just as likely to help out the Horde as I am the Alliance when it comes to taking the threat onto myself and letting people kill their monsters in peace.  I’ve been graced with a class that simply cannot die under most circumstances… and I sort of feel like it is my duty to help other people out whenever I can.  I cannot count the number of times I have been doing a quest and had someone roll up late…  and then continued to pull packs of elites just to make sure they finished their quest.  They always seem sorta surprised when I send them a tell asking them “how many more” they need for the quest.  Growing up I was in scouting, and even managed to get my Eagle… and there was a rule of camping that went a little something like “leave the campsite in as good of condition if not better”.  I sort of have this same view towards MMOs or the world in general honestly…  if I can improve the world by my presence I am going to shoot for that.

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Prior to the launch of Legion, I had gotten used to some of the cultural norms in Final Fantasy XIV.  Namely people talk during dungeon runs… at least enough to give a friendly introduction at the beginning and at the end. In part this is because there is a system in place over there that allows you to give a single commendation each run, to whatever player for whatever criteria you feel fit the situation.  I give them out for all sorts of reasons…  glorious outfits, extremely competent dps, or just someone being jovial and friendly.  In part this friendly atmosphere exists… because they reward you being nice to other players, and will straight up ban you for talking about damage meters in game.  It creates this weird bubble where things don’t work there the way they work in any other MMO community.  Knowing this… with the launch of Legion and as we started queuing up for content… I started trying to apply the same logic the World of Warcraft and shockingly more often than not it worked.  Just breaking the ice at the beginning of a run with a “Hey Folks!” seemed to go an awfully long way in improving the experience as a whole.  I noticed my usual silent runs become perforated with discussion, as it was like one person saying something broke down whatever dam was there preventing conversation.

Another thing I have done this expansion cycle that seems to have helped my own attitude is that I am just not dissecting the game and tearing it apart like I used to.  I am trying really hard to just take things at face value, and more often than not completely ignore the patch note cycle until I am ready for something.  Sure this means I have not exactly been on top of the ball on a lot of things…  like Broken Shore, and have been doing things in a grossly inefficient manner.  However it also means that I am not exposing myself to a lot of external stimuli until I am actually ready to consume it.  More than this however…  I just haven’t shared my doubts publicly because I haven’t felt the need to.  A few weeks into the Nighthold raid cycle I disappeared from the game, and faded away quietly.  I just felt like I wasn’t enjoying myself nearly as much as I was when doing other things.  So I simply walked away and did other things for awhile.  There was a moment where I could make a clean break, and my raid had a tank to step in and take over for me.  In the past I would have felt the need to explain to my readers why I did this.  Instead I just left and eventually put some thoughts together in my big “regularly playing” post, but even that probably wasn’t needed other than I was catching up my sidebar…  which is already completely out of date again.  However because I didn’t really make a big deal about it… it was so much easier to just slide back into the game a few months later when the mood hit me again.

While it might sound odd, I think for me not writing about World of Warcraft and its failings…  helped me to feel better about the game for the long term.  It also kept some negative vibes out of the community.  Sure I currently have a laundry list of things that bug me about the game, but I have come to a point of acceptance that World of Warcraft will never actually be the “one true game” for me.  I know that I will keep venturing off to play other games because it is in my nature, and that it will still feel enjoyable to keep coming back and revisiting all of my friends in the WoW.  In part this is why I am so excited that Destiny 2 is now going to be entering this same realm.  For well over a decade I have cultivated a community in the Blizzard games, and it seems like it is going to be awesome to be able to take all of these people with me into another love of mine when it launches on the PC.  While I would love to see Blizzard as a company make an attempt to instill a positive attitude in its players by introducing systems that reward the good apples…  more than systems that punish the bad, I largely accept that it is going to be up to me and players like me to be the agent of change in the world.  I know we all keep returning to the MMO space to decompress from our days out in the real world… but there is nothing keeping us from being a little nicer to one another in our adopted second home.  Games tend to develop a culture of support or toxicity… and maybe I am naive but I feel like a game can change.  I feel like we can slowly erase the toxic nature that has developed over the years and put back in its place one that is largely supporting of others.  Now this doesn’t just apply to WoW, but is I think an admirable goal in any game you play.

Level Scaling Tech

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I am in this place with SWTOR Knights of the Fallen Empire where I am honestly not sure what more I can say without my blog turning into a massive spoiler fest.  There are a lot of events going on and many of them have surprised me.  This is a little shocking given that I consume a lot of gaming media and that KotFE has been technically out since October 2015.  I am not sure if I purposefully ignored SWTOR articles… or if I just didn’t come across that many.  Whatever the case essentially everything from Shadows of Revan onward has been a completely new story experience for me without me knowing any of the elements ahead of time.  So while I recognized characters like Theron Shan or Lana Beniko…  I knew nothing about them going into this recent binge of playing the game.  We’ve talked about this on the podcast before, but returning to an MMO and seeing years worth of content laid out in front of you is a pretty great thing.  Especially in a situation like SWTOR where they have a reasonable level scaling system.

Yesterday Syp posted something over on his personal blog Bio Break talking about level scaling systems.  His specific discussion centered around whether or not level scaling systems were good for games, which was brought on by his recent journeys in LOTRO.  Over time my own feelings about the systems have changed.  You can scan through the backlog of this blog and find me talking about Mentoring systems, where games allow high level player A to drop down to the level of player B and run content with them.  This seemed to me like the most elegant solution to the problem of being able to run content with your friends.  That was until I encountered Guild Wars 2, and the fact that no matter where you go your character is scaled down to the level of the world.  The concept of evergreen content is a big one for me… because I like when a game expands over time rather than contracts.  While Guild Wars 2 is not the best example of this… because of the fact that there is plenty of content that you will never be able to play again in that game…  it did make me appreciate level scaling as a replacement for mentoring.

The only problem there is that when the world is constantly the same level as you, it robs you of one of the quintessential MMO experiences of leveling up and becoming more powerful.  The world always feels the same to you, because you are functionally always the same relative ability levels to it as you level.  In situations like that the levels themselves feel like a completely extraneous concept.  Why even have a number that goes up if the world is always going to be functionally the same difficulty.  When we started playing Final Fantasy XIV they had an extremely elegant solution for this in the form of their dungeon finder.  Each dungeon had a functional level range from the moment you first were able to zone in… to the moment that it considered was the upper bound of levels.  So if the average mob level in an area was 35, then functionally the maximum level the game would allow you to be was 40, scaling everyone over that level down to that point.  The only negative here is that this ONLY applies to dungeons, and in truth it would have been interesting to see this same sort of system just work out in the world as a whole.

That I guess is functionally what is going on in Star Wars the Old Republic, and I am loving it.  Each piece of content be it planet, flashpoint, or something else… has a functional level range attached to it.  Once again it is functionally along the lines of being five or so levels over whatever the maximum level of encounter for that area.  Then the game rewards you as though you were fighting something your own level in terms of both experience and loot drops.  This means that you can go anywhere and do anything without feeling like you are getting nothing from it.  At launch this was absolutely a problem with SWTOR and it was extremely easy to out level an area, and reach a point where the experience gain was no longer worth the time you spent on a planet.  This was especially true as I remember on Tatooine which in itself was a huge planet with lots of side content.  By the time I “did everything” I ended up several levels ahead of the curve and functionally kept getting more and more over-leveled as I went through the rest of the planets.

Now there is a certain measure of freedom in being able to just go and do the content without having to worry about level… and in many cases gear.  While leveling my Imperial Agent, there were a few points where I went 10 levels without upgrading any of my gear… and really did not notice a significant amount of power drop off.  Then again I did exit the class storyline at level 58… so there was some significant over-leveling going on there that might have been easing the transition.  The thing with this system is however that while you are gaining power and you FEEL powerful… there is never a point where you are just waltzing through  field of enemies gently tapping them and watching them explode.  When you run someone through a low level dungeon in World of Warcraft for example on your level capped main… you can functionally breathe on mobs and they impale themselves in a shower of loot.  SWTOR feels like a happy medium, of letting your power level increase without completely trivializing the game.  Sure most of the time I am not actually afraid of death, but I still feel heroic doing content…  because I am having to use my abilities to take things down rather than a single auto swing.  As a result I have somewhat shifted my focus from user driven mentoring systems…  to seeing more games adopt this sort of level scaling.  The best part about Legion honestly was the way that content has scaled to the player while leveling through it, and if only Blizzard had applied this tech to the world as a whole… it would be a much more enjoyable experience.  I like knowing that I can revisit those areas that I enjoyed so much in the past, and still having an interesting time.

 

Regularly Playing: May Edition

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I had a realization over the weekend as I stared at my sidebar…  that it has been a significant amount of time since I last did the regularly playing thing.  The last one I was able to find was on October 3rd of 2016…  some 210 days ago.  I may or may not have completely fallen off the wagon on this concept.  The original intent was to take a moment once a month to “true up” the side bar and shift out what I was no longer playing for what I was currently playing.  As a result we are going to see some significant moving and shaking in the list as a result.

To Those Remaining

Final Fantasy XIV

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I am still going fairly strongly in Final Fantasy XIV, and while I might not log in every night I am logging in multiple times a week.  I am definitely still making the Tuesday night raid thing, and while we don’t always make progress each week we get together to do something.  Thanks to the wonder of cross server grouping we have been able to pull in our friend Kelesti into some stuff as well.  Largely we are all in a big holding pattern until the release of Stormblood which comes in July, and as a result I am still in the middle of my “level everything” binge.  Right now my Machinist is just shy of 40, and that leaves Astrologian the only thing that has yet to be touched.  The whole purpose behind all of this madness is so that I can purge my vault of anything at minimum sub 30… and the grand hope is to sort through anything sub 50 and be extremely judicious in what I choose to keep.  Still having a lot of fun in Palace of the Dead, just have had other distractions of late.

To the Returning and New

Skyforge

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This is one of those games that has not graced my sidebar in a very very long time.  In July of 2015 I played quite a bit of the game around the time that it launched, and while I enjoyed it… it always felt like it was missing something.  Apparently October of last year an expansion released that added in pretty much all of the features that I am finding myself enjoying now.  Additionally the game just works better with a controller than it ever did with a keyboard and mouse and while I returned primarily on the PS4… I am also dipping my toes back into the PC experience as well.  Both are extremely fun and I am not entirely sure how long I will be splitting time before I officially pick one platform.  Whatever the case if you have ever played this game I highly suggest checking it out.  It has some issues… namely you are limited to three classes at the start with no clear path to add new ones.  However each of the classes is doing something somewhat unique which makes them more enjoyable than the standard Tank, Mage and Healer that they represent.

Star Wars the Old Republic

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There are two things that are shocking about this game gracing my list.  Firstly that apparently I never actually made a “now playing” widget for it, and secondly… that I am back playing it again.  I blame a sequence of nostalgic events happening at exactly the same time…  all of the hype about the next Star Wars movie, the love of Rogue One, and my deep enjoyment of Mass Effect Andromeda has lead to an upwelling of love for both Bioware and Star Wars.  As a result I have returned to an old mission, which is trying to level through all of the class stories.  I managed to finish off the Sith Sorcerer and am now through Hoth so far in the Imperial Agent.  It seems as though I picked one of the best storylines for last, and even though I am not traditionally a stealthy/shooty type class…  there is something extremely awesome about this one.  I largely went Sniper because my Smuggler on the other side of the fence is Sawbones/Healer.  I am having a blast right now, so I am going to ride the enjoyment until it lasts.  The goal is to push forward into the story I have not touched on my Jedi Knight main after finishing the Agent story…  which involves Shadow of Revan, Fallen Empire and Eternal Throne.

Horizon Zero Dawn

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I do not normally put many single player games on the regularly playing list, but we have this sequence of amazing ones being released in short order.  One of those is Horizon Zero Dawn, which is a game that I hit hard at launch… and then for whatever release lost momentum to Mass Effect Andromeda.  As a result I have been slowly playing it here and there as time and desire allows.  I could force myself through the story, but I want to play it when I want to play it… and that is right now involving the occasional hour long session of hunting giant robot dinosaurs rather than pushing forward the main story.  I am still very much enjoying the game, but I need to find some catalyst that really gets me back into it and dying to play the next chapter.  In the mean time however I am still enjoying the “bowplay” if I can coin that term.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

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This is very much another “as desire hits me” sort of experience.  When the game came out I picked it up on the Wii U and in the time between then and now I have managed to pick up a switch effecting starting back at square one.  This stalled my progress a little bit but for the most part I have returned to where I left in the Wii U and am once again moving forward.  I have designs on starting to take this to work and playing a little over lunch and on break times.  While I have the switch I really have not done a lot of handheld play with it remaining largely docked upstairs so I can play it with the pro controller.  It is a great game and in spite of having a lot of things that frustrate me about the game… is yet another in a long list of titles contending for my game of the year bid.

To Those Departing

World of Warcraft

While I still have an active account, I am just not really playing at all.  I logged in shortly after the last patch and got bored and logged out again.  I fell off the raiding bandwagon about halfway through Nighthold, and honestly just sort of reached the point I have in so many other expansions.  I think in theory I could come back and play casually and enjoy the experience but there are just simply too many other things I would rather be playing right now.  So as a result this is going to find its way off my side bar, but I did have the forethought to simply comment it out rather than remove it because I am sure at some point around Blizzcon time I will get hit by the bug once more.

Rift

Much like with Nightmare Tide… I just failed to gain traction with the latest expansion the Starfall Prophecy.  A large part of my struggle with Rift is that I can never seem to find a warrior spec that I really like anymore.  What I ultimately want is a juggernaut for doing PVE/Leveling content that can burn through the mobs with nonexistent downtime.  If I ever find that spec again I will return to the game and happily finish up leveling.  The other huge struggle is that the game lacks a reliable current font of knowledge.  The forums in theory have a lot of the information but it is this blend of current information and ancient and no longer reliable, and I just lack the mental fortitude to sift through it.  I am hoping that after writing this… Muspel or PK will come to the rescue once again with a viable Warrior build like they have in the past.  The other huge challenge with Rift is the fact that none of my gaming infrastructure is playing the game, nor do any of my regular suspects have any interest in the game at this point.

Destiny

It hurts more than a little bit to be adding this game to this space on my list.  The truth is I am just not playing it right now and I don’t see that changing for the foreseeable future.  I have too many other games fighting for my attention, and while I absolutely know I will be returning with Destiny 2…  the amount of stuff that I can do solo or want to so solo is pretty limited.  At this point it feels like I would be working towards something that is ultimately going to disappear.  I also have a lot of questions because as it is right now… I am looking at making the leap to PC from PS4 for the second game… and I am not sure what if anything might transfer.

Guild Wars 2

Adding this one to the list really doesn’t take a lot of effort.  I was only into this game so long as some of my friends were actively playing it.  Once Tam and Ash and Kodra faded away… so did I.  It is still not my favorite game but I have developed a certain appreciation for it.  Most of what it is doing however isn’t really all that interesting to me.  I largely got to play along with my friends only because I had maxed out my Warrior soloing for ages without them.  He was geared and ready to go… and will still be there if it ever has a resurgence.  Much like Warframe this is a game that was not ultimately for me…  but somewhat enjoyable so long as I was playing with friends.

 

 

 

 

Twitter GOTY “Poll”

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Last night was a bit of a rough night, because we had a massive storm blow through.  A side effect of the storm was the fact that about 11:30 my wife woke up on the couch because something dripped on her foot.  In the middle of our living room, dripping from one of the beams was a slow trickle of water.  At that point there really isn’t much to do other than put down a towel and a bucket and hope it stops.  However that sort of ruined any thoughts of a really solid nights sleep.  This morning I had originally intended on writing about a rather hamfisted absurdist article that is making its way through my twitter circle, but in truth I am simply going to not deal with that today.  It reminded me of conversations that myself and Tamrielo have on a regular basis… but I also wanted to approach the topic with more grace than I probably have in me right now.  So instead I am going to answer a twitter poll in blog form.

While technically not a poll, it is definitely a thing that I thought looked interesting so this morning instead of tearing into discussions that I don’t really want to get into…  I started thinking back upon various years and trying to determine the games that mattered the most to me during that time.  Also I may or may not be applying a little “in retrospect” to a few of these choices, but that is also ultimately my prerogative.  I limited myself to only picking games released during a specific calendar year, but in many cases the true impact the game had happened much later.

2012:  The Secret World

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I really cannot say enough good about this game… from the perspective of someone just starting out playing it.  I’ve said an awful lot about this game over the years in three pages worth of blog posts… and probably some others that I failed to categorize correctly.  This often makes my “best games I am not playing” list whenever I compile one.  Functionally there are two vastly different game experiences…  the leveling game when you are digging through the story and trying to solve the mysteries of the world…  and the end game where you lose all creative freedom that you had while leveling.  The first game is phenomenal and something that I feel everyone should experience at least once.  The later…  is ultimately what caused us to quit and keeps me from reattaching to the game for any length of time.  However that said the ride is well worth it, and the game has some of the more interesting dungeons in MMOdom…  until you reach nightmare levels where everything sort of falls apart.  I am really looking forward to the re-release of the game under the Secret World Legends name… and hoping beyond hope that they can give me an experience to latch onto with both hands.

2013:  Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

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The impact this game has had on me and my friends is immeasurable.  Largely because it gave us a common ground in the form of an MMO experience that we all care about.  More than anything however it knows how to tell story in and interesting and serialized fashion, where the story arc from one expansion sets up the key players for the next.  This is also the only MMO that has ever sufficiently pulled off a surprise plot twist, and has done so many times…. and been willing to assault structures that I assumed were fixed and sacred to the game itself.  From August onwards in 2013…  my life pretty much belonged to Final Fantasy XIV until we slowly petered out when we ran out of things we were capable of doing.  However we came back and had a renaissance with the game that has continued to the present times with this still being the game we can all sort of agree on.

2014: Destiny

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This is another game that realized its ultimate impact on me long after the year it actually released in.  Destiny is a really important game to me for a whole lot of reasons.  Firstly it has amazing moment to moment gameplay and it is hands down the best feeling shooter I have ever played.  From the moment I heard about the world and the setting I was completely sold… and in truth this is the game that pushed me to buy my way into the current console generation.  I got my PS4 console the week the first PlayStation exclusive alpha was happening, and the little I played of it hooked me extremely hard on the concept.  Year one had a lot of problems, and I sort of picked at it like you might pick at the remains of a meal you know you are done with…  but just keep nibbling on.  I did return to paying regularly towards the tail end of the first year, so that I was primed and ready for the launch of The Taken King.  From Year Two on however I have been a dedicated acolyte of the world, and own it for both PS4 and Xbox One…  and am contemplating making the leap to PC version with the launch of Destiny 2.  The game still has some narrative problems, but it does not stop me one bit from enjoying it.

2015: Fallout 4

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I love Fallout as a franchise.  I still remember saving up the cash to buy the first one when we were in college, and I was completely hooked.  I am not old school enough to remember Wasteland fondly, but I have always been a fan of the whole post apocalyptic nukepunk genre.  So while I am listing this as my game for 2015…  it is a hype cycle that began long before and continues long after.  This is still the game I boot up when I am in a specific mood.  Similarly I have played Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas countless times, and Fallout 4 simply replaces those in succession.  This game is proof to me at least that I care far more about systems, and gameplay…  than I really do about the main narrative in a game.  In fact the only reason why I probably beat this game is because we chose this as our November/December AggroChat game club game for the tail end of 2015.  I would probably still be avoiding the main story… and still off on my own having adventures in my head….  which is in truth my preferred method of playing a game.  Just talking about the game has given me this huge urge to boot it up…  right now…  which would be a horrible idea considering I have to go to work.

2016: World of Warcraft: Legion

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I have to give a lot of credit here to World of Warcraft and the rebirth of the game that happened with the launch of the Legion expansion.  They took a game I thought I no longer really cared about, and was legitimately done caring about…. and turned it into an experience that I rabidly played.  I even managed to return to raiding and didn’t check out this time until we were a few bosses into Nighthold…  which is in truth way longer than I lasted in Draenor.  I’ve reached this point where I am not really playing the game or following it now… but the transformation that took place should nonetheless be honored.  They tried a whole bunch of new ideas that they admittedly borrowed from other games… but wove it together in a fashion that felt new and fresh.  Similarly I feel like it has to be said that they have done and continue to do a great job of managing patch cycles.  They finally broke the “three and done” mold that had happened with Pandaria and Draenor and by all accounts are still releasing interesting content.  I know at some point I will return and at the very least finish out the Legion flight meta achievement, but for the time being I am simply not forcing myself to play a game I am not super into.  Legion however is probably going to go down in history for me as their best expansion…  toppling what was previously my current favorite Wrath of the Lich King.

 

So now that I have given you mine… what are yours?  Feel free to post them in the comments section here… or join in the twitter poll.  I am curious to hear everyone’s thoughts.