Lowering the Banner

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The first Iron Banner of Destiny 2 is officially over, and in spite of my comments yesterday…  I did legitimately enjoy myself for a good part of it.  It was only towards the end when things started to really grate on my nerves.  Last night for example was a really bad night where a combination of my general fatigue, my left index finger being sliced, and the fact that somehow I had gotten into what Destiny Tracker calls the platinum bracket…  served to lead to a series of not so fun matches.  I had every intent to grind out the daily milestone on each of the three characters, but in the end only managed to complete it on the hunter.  I am a little disappointed that I never got the Hand Cannon, but from what I am seeing my luck was considerably better than most players.  Here is my final haul for the 60 matches of Iron Banner I played over the course of last week…

  • 7 or 8 Unique Weapons – lots of dupes dropped
  • 5 piece set of Titan armor – lots of dupes dropped
  • 2 of 5 pieces of the Hunter armor set

All in all that really isn’t too bad of a haul for the very first running of Iron Banner.  This ultimately gives me the entire set of Warlock gear and most of a set of Hunter gear to get next go round.  Additionally there is still the chase for the Hand Cannon.  That is way more useful loot than I tended to get from several months worth of Iron Banner during Destiny 1.  Sure it was interesting to get a bunch of different weapon rolls…  but ultimately most of those wound up being trash.  The likelihood of me getting that god roll weapon was pretty limited, and in truth I think I like having a fixed point to focus on rather than not only hoping to get an item… but hoping it isn’t a garbage fire stat wise.  There are still a significant number of legendary drops that I have never seen.  For example I am still chasing the Jiangshi AR4 from the Gunsmith, and its not just a collector thing…  I really want to play with it because I loved the green version I got while leveling.

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As far as the weapons go… I am not sure if I really have it in me to do a review of them all.  I spent some time last night while grinding out Io tokens playing with them all… and most of them are completely reasonable.  I realize that is not exactly a glowing review, but in many cases I already have a weapon I just like better in that slot.  The Time-Worn Spire is a really solid pulse rifle, in an era when that entire class of weapons seems to be outclassed by practically anything else.  I’ve become a huge fan of the Forward Path auto rifle as well, but it has some pretty stiff competition for my time with the Origin Story and Ghost Primus.  The real breakout weapon for me shockingly is the Wizened Rebuke, if for no reason other than the fact that you can hit 100 impact with it if you so choose.  That said I feel like the weapon performs better if you are outfitting it for 95 impact…  which still makes it significantly harder hitting than all but the Shock and Awe in my vault.  Sure it has insanely slow recharge rate, but if I am going to use a Fusion it is likely going to be in a PVE situation where the charge time isn’t that big of a problem.  Essentially this just became my legendary fusion of choice when I cannot for whatever reason use Merciless as my exotic.

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The other weapon that I found myself shocked to actually enjoy is Guiding Sight the Scout Rifle.  This lives in the same archetype group as Does Not Compute, Song of Justice VI and Haunted Earth…  and in truth it felt better to use than any of those.  When I use a scout rifle, I want something with really good impact and range because I am effectively using it as a surrogate sniper rifle.  This fits that bill nicely because it will one shot a Vandal and has armor-piercing rounds to help with shields a bit…  though I feel like that perk needs a buff significantly.  Sure it will drop a shield faster than a normal kinetic weapon, but it still feels horrible as compared to even an unmatched elemental type energy weapon.  I’ve said this over and over… that I am not really a fan of scout rifles as a whole, however when I do use one I want something along the lines of this weapon.  Between Guiding Sight and Manannan SR4… I feel like I am set as far as scout rifles go.  Basically at the beginning of the week I had a good deal of time collecting loot in the Iron Banner, but as we wound down…   it started to feel like a house guest that overstayed its welcome.  I opened around thirty packages in total and in the future I really need to tag out significantly earlier when I am still enjoying myself rather than trying to force a grind I was no longer enjoying.

Iron Banner Issues

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This past week for me at least has been all about the Iron Banner 2.0 event happening in Destiny 2.  If Destiny Tracker is to be believed, I have played fifty Iron Banner matches over the last four days.  That was enough to turn in 24 Iron Banner packages so far… aka the equivalent of 480 tokens.  At this point I managed to pull a complete set of gear for my Titan and have collected all but one of the weapons available.  The Hand Cannon is eluding me but I still have faith that I might manage to get it when I run through my daily milestones for Iron Banner today.  To say I have a high tolerance for grinding is an understatement, and the more impressive stat is that every single bit of this has been solo.  I will get into more about that later but suffice to say I feel like I experienced everything that is to be seen in the new Iron Banner.  This month the game mode of choice was Control…  which used to be my favorite mode for Iron Banner but in the 4 player crucible I seem to now favor Supremacy.

What Changed?

Traditionally the Crucible is an event that does some level synchronization to make sure every player is on a level field.  Iron Banner however in Destiny 1 was one of the un-synced events that took into consideration what your gear level was.  In truth however this didn’t really play a heavy role other than maybe dealing a few extra points of damage to someone significantly under your gear level.  The entire event functioned based on the Iron Banner reputation that would reset to zero before the start of a new event.  The ultimate goal was to level from 1 to rank 5, which then allowed you to purchase gear that was available from Lord Saladin.  This generally consisted of two armor slots and two weapons, and then the same items were available as rewards at the end of matches.  In my experience one in five to ten matches rewarded gear at the end.

Now Iron Banner is governed by a token based system much as is the case with all factions in Destiny 2.  Additionally it relies on the same level synchronization that occurs in the Crucible so no more gear level advantages.  Previously the only way to gain progress was to either complete a bounty or win the match.  This meant if you had some really bad luck you could have a long streak of loses where you did not move your reputation forward at all.  This time around you get 2 tokens for a loss and 5 tokens for a win, and it takes 20 tokens in total to get a package.  The packages themselves contain 1 Iron Banner specific item, and on item from a long list of other miscellaneous weapons and armor.  I should have taken much better care in opening my packages and tracked the items I got in each, but I will just say there were a significant number of duplicates.

The Problems

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The issue with Iron Banner is a very nuanced one, that requires you to understand some of the base states of the game to understand how we got here.  In Destiny 1 there was a constant refrain from players lashing out against skill based match making, and complaining about the number of “red bar” players with poor connections that they kept encountering.  With Destiny 2 it feels like they stepped away from a lot of the intelligence that attempted to make decent matches for players.  One of these is that the game no longer attempts to match teams of players against other teams, which is where the issue happens.  Most of the weekend I spent time matched against partial or complete teams of players, and as a result had to fight a very uphill battle to get my wins.

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The games seemed to be really hit or miss, I could go from being steamrolled one moment to being the odd man out on a team of three players that queued and in turn rolling over another team.  In the rare instance when I got matched with a bunch of other random players…  I did good.  Like for example the above screenshot is one I think I will never be able to duplicate where I somehow ended up with a 6.4 efficiency rating…. which is their version of Kda.  This is an issue because it ends up giving players a very uneven feeling experience, to go from ruling the world to succumbing to it…  within the course of a single matching.  The folks that managed to gather up a team, and were on voice chat however seemed to completely decimate all comers.

Problems With The Grind

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Iron Banner was one of those events that I looked forward to each month, not necessarily because I loved the PVP but because it was an opportunity to move up in the world.  What I mean by that is that in Destiny 1 there were a limited number of events that you could participate that scaled all the way to the level cap, Iron Banner was one of them.  As a result I spent my weekends grinding away at Iron Banner incrementally improving my light level so that I could hang with the big dogs…  but keep my relatively solitary play style.  With Destiny 2 this concept is toast.  Gear drops at the same item level that any other Legendary drop does, which means there is no real way to advance your power level through Iron Banner drops.  Sure there is the random chance of getting an exotic to drop, but that is a once a night sort of event and even then you need some serious luck to get anything that will move the bar forward.

Now the meaningful grind is about the collection of available loot, but I fear this is going to be a very short lived process.  I said earlier in the post that I have collected all but one weapon at this point, and a full set of gear for my titan.  Additionally I have a few items for my hunter now, so currently there are ten items that I have not seen.  Given that it is highly unlikely that we see an influx of new items before the next Iron Banner, then it means that my drive to keep participating is going to be less each time as I whittle down that list of needed items.  Now were I able to keep using Iron Banner as a means to incrementally increase my power level, then more than likely I would continue to participate and even look forward to the event.

The Future

I’ve tried to remain largely positive about Destiny 2 because in a few weeks we will be starting the process all over again with the launch of the PC version.  There are however issues here and there that sort of stick out as annoyances.  The core problem with Destiny 2 is that more than anything it is a direct sequel to Destiny 1.  What I mean by that is in some ways it feels like we took a step backwards to a world where everything that happened in Taken King and Rise of Iron never existed.  It makes me wonder if this project was launched before the release of Taken King, and they simply never applied the good parts of years two and three before launch.  I was a die-hard Destiny 1 player, and I watched that game improve in so many ways over the three years since release.  Similarly I have all the faith in the world that a lot of these rough spots will get ironed out as we move forward.  Destiny 2 is a much better starting point than Destiny 1 ever could have been, but much like I feel sometimes with World of Warcraft…  I get a little wistful when I think about what could have been had we taken all of the good from TTK and ROI into the new game.

 

Autos and Grenades

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Apart from the recent jaunts back into Final Fantasy XIV brought on by our amazing Free Company house…  I have been spending most of my time this week with the Iron Banner.  There are a whole lot of things that have changed from Destiny 1…  most of which for the better.  For me at least in D1 Iron Banner was this holiday event in part because I knew that I could get gear that would help bump my light level up.  Unfortunately that is not the case with D2, and this is all part of a larger discussion I want to have at some point about the general problems with the way progression feels.  In D1 the only way you made progress through the ranks of the Iron Banner reputation was by winning, which meant that if you hit a frustrating unlucky streak you could stall out complete.  Gear drops were rewarded as part of bounties that you could get on each character, and as random drops at the end of matches.  On average I seemed to get a new piece of gear every three or four matches… but you also had dry spells where you could go upwards of ten games without seeing anything.  In D2 this situation is largely resolved by shifting everything to token based loot.  It takes 20 tokens to get a package with one iron banner exclusive item and then the potential of getting a random filler legendary and/or some shaders.  You gain 2 tokens for a loss and 5 tokens for a win, so if you can manage to get on a streak you can rack up several packages in a row.  Additionally there are challenges that can be completed each day and turning those back in to Lord Saladin rewards 15 faction tokens.

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My goal so far has been to earn at least 2 packages a day, and in part this is only because I cannot really handle a bunch of crucible in a row.  So far in Destiny 2 the length of time I can reasonably play crucible matches back to back lines up almost perfectly with the amount required to get the Call to Arms engram.  My biggest problem is that I need a breather every so many matches because I notice that my own abilities start to wain greatly as the stress and anxiety sort of catch up with me.  As a result I notice that I am completely all over the map when it comes to my ability.  I also have certain maps that I am just not good at, or do not fit whatever it is that my play style actually is and as a result my Destiny tracker profile is a mess.   The biggest problem for me is that the core reason why I spent so much time playing Iron Banner was the overarching goal of increasing my viability in the game by getting more powerful gear and infusing it into stuff.  With this gone…  some of my drive to keep playing is largely toast and at this point my goal is to get 10 packages so I can unlock whatever it is that I earn by doing so.  Right now I have opened five packages and gotten the same auto rifle twice…  which admittedly was the primary weapon I was interested in… as well as helm, chest and a grenade launcher.  I thought I would take a moment this morning and talk about the two weapons I have seen so far.

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The Forward Path looks like the Origin Story which is ultimately what initially got me excited about the weapon, but winds up being a vastly different weapon archetype.  It lives in the 600 rpm bracket which means its most direct competitors are Scathelocke, Ghost Primus and Martyr’s Make…  at least of the rifles you see in regular rotation.  All of these weapons are really closely grouped on most of the stats but The Forward Path has significantly more handling than most of the other weapons in this class.  The big take away from me after using this a good deal is that it feels really reliable and easy to hold on target… especially with a moving target.  It benefits significantly from the Tap the Trigger perk which grants increased accuracy and stability the few moments after pulling the trigger.  When I am taking down targets at max range I tend to habitually pump the trigger firing off short bursts… a habit that I picked up from playing the early FPS titles and this weapon plays directly into that instinct.  The only negative is… this feels like a PVE weapon… that is being rewarded by a PVP event.  There is just not a case where you would not choose to take Scathelocke or Origin Story in your kinetic slot because High-Caliber Rounds and Rampage are just that good.  However Armor-Piercing rounds makes this thing a beast for strikes and other PVE content where the mobs are shielded because this gives you the ability to easily break shields with both Kinetic and Energy weapons.  I am super glad to add this weapon to my arsenal, but it is right now a weird mixed bag for me… and in truth I am probably going to rock Ghost Primus/Scathelocke in a lot of the situations I would normally use it.

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Grenade Launchers need a great deal of work.  As it stands this is my least favorite weapon type and is voted most likely to get sharded on sight when one drops into my inventory.  I’ve found exactly one Grenade Launcher that I actually like using and that is the one from the crucible/packages Play of the Game.  The reason why this weapon shines above all others is because of a single perk…  Proximity Grenades causing the payload to detonate when it gets close to a target rather than hitting it.  Grenades are insanely unwieldy and bounce like mad… making them completely unreliable other than being used “for funsies”.  The Day’s Fury suffers from all of these problems with grenade launchers in general… but is increased by having a fairly small blast radius and perks that don’t really help make up for the weaknesses of the genre.  You have Mini Frags which increases reload speed and magazine size at the cost of blast radius, or Spike Grenade that inexplicably increases stability.  When I think Spike Grenades I think some sort of a claymore mine action where it hurls shrapnel into nearby enemies when it explodes…  which would have been awesome and maybe would have made this weapon reasonable to use.  As it stands this just ends up being vault clutter that I will end up holding onto because it was hard to get… hoping maybe they will turn Grenade Launchers into something useful in the future.

Have you gotten anything cool from the Iron Banner?  What are your thoughts of the event so far?  Drop a line in the comments and let me know.

Beyond the Light

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For the last few weeks I have been making contact with a lot of players in preparation for the launch of Destiny 2 on the PC platform.  One of the patterns that I have noticed is that while there will be a ton of us playing, there are a significant number of different clans in the works.  Even among my own guild-mates it has been decided to go with a Greysky Armada clan rather than joining another, so I will end up splitting time between that on the PC and Tequila Mockingbird on the PS4.  Basically the common theme that I kept seeing was that we were going to be a pretty fragmented bunch going forward.  Ages ago I created the Beyond the Light discord, and then never really did anything with it.  The theory behind it was to have a clan agnostic place for folks to come together and get help doing stuff in Destiny.  Since the early marketing material for Destiny 2 talked about us losing our connection with the light… it seemed like a really fitting name.  The idea is to create a sort of hub for our little corner of the gaming verse, and facilitate cross clan activities.  The channel names themselves are pretty general purpose and I decided to follow a pattern of the various weapon foundries for voice channels.  The idea being that anyone can use any channel for any purpose that is needed at the moment.

The reason why I chose a discord rather than a slack or even a new Blizzard Social area… is the fact that Destiny 2 PC based voice chat is horrible.  I am not sure how many of you actually tried using this during the PC beta, but it was horrific.  Currently we only have about fourteen members, but I figure the discord will grow as we get closer and closer to the PC launch.  There are break out channels for the various classes and we’ve already gotten into some discussions on Warlocks and Titans thus far.  I’ve largely treated the PS4 launch as a sort of extended paid beta process for the eventual PC launch, and I have attempted to gather up as much information as I could along the way.  If nothing else it should be a good place to find people to go do heroic public quests with and maybe even eventually pick up raids.  There are already Destiny themed discords out there, but honestly they felt huge and impersonal…  or in the case of the one associated with the reddit…  fairly toxic at times.  I wanted to create a happy place to hang and enjoy this game with all of the people who may or may not share the same banner as me.  Effectively everyone is welcome pending they behave themselves.  There isn’t a lot of formal structure right now but I figure that will come with time.

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The other big news of the week is that Iron Banner is back and its reset day!  Like every other activity this one is going to be based on a token system, and I have to say I really like this.  There are a lot of complaints from players who like seeing weapons drop, and technically they still do in modes like the Crucible.  However I would far rather have a predictable path to get rewards that I can work my way towards than to rely entirely on luck.  The other aspect of this that I absolutely love is the fact that tokens go into the shared account inventory, meaning you can grind out the rewards on one character and then swap over to another character to consume them.  I personally plan on holding all of my Iron Banner tokens until I have completed the powerful rewards milestones for the week so that I can potentially get items at a higher light level than where I am currently standing.  Right now I see a handful of weapons that look really interesting, including an Iron Banner themed version of my beloved Origin Story.  Additionally I think the gear set this time is amazing for Titans at least, so I hope to gather up most of a set there as well.  This evening my goal is to eat some Tikka Masala that I have going in the crock pot…  and play a bunch of Iron Banner.  Side note you should be able to double dip the Call to Arms weekly milestone while doing Iron Banner so if you have not unlocked that… I highly suggest you do Lord Shaxx’s two early crucible milestones so you can start working towards yet another luminous engram.

Last Banana

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It has been a very gaming light week for me, and I wound up heading to bed something like 8:30 or 9 ish which is very much not normal for me.  Functionally I am coming off of a few really rough weeks at work where I have been in firestomper mode 24/7.  As a result I get home and I am just too drained to deal with human beings… or in truth the possibility of human beings.  This is where my “I” streak comes out with a vengence, and it has lead me to play a lot of games in a very low key and solo manner.  Last night however I decided to go ahead and play some Destiny.  Right now the very last Iron Banner before the release of Destiny 2 is going on… and with it the chance to get the sniper rifle and hand canon…  neither of which I have a decent roll for.  Additionally with the thought about going into Destiny 2…  I am finding myself more than a little nostalgic for Destiny 1 at the moment.  I’ve never been one to really work on the book achievements, but I am finding myself doing so at least in a limited fashion.  September 6th begins a new adventure into the Destiny universe… and with it we are leaving behind all of the trappings of the last.  As flawed at times as the original might be… it still very much feels like home.

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The match type for this last Iron  Banner is Control, which is also in part what is pushing me back to play some.  Control is my favorite game mode because it gives me a reason beyond killing other players to be engaged.  Deathmatching was something that I was a fan of when I was in High School… but once I have gotten older I find myself craving some larger objective to be working towards.  While I would love to have role based gameplay along the lines of Enemy Territory…  holding points on a map at least gives me some measure of that core focus.  What ends up happening in truth is that players form what I call a “muderball” and then ping ping back and forth across the map capturing points.  In Destiny 1 this game play is actually to some extent rewarded because the more people you have standing on a point… the faster it shifts to neutral and then to captured.  In Destiny 2 however…  points capture at a fixed rate so it is going to be interesting to see if players actually spend some effort focusing on defense rather than just constantly retaking points.  I saved the above screenshot largely because this was as good as it got last night as far as kill to death ratio.

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As far as a load out…  it just feels like the special weapon slot doesn’t mean much of anything anymore.  The limited amounts of ammunition you get, and the fact that it seems like Invective no longer recharges at a reasonable rate meant that for the most part I was using nothing but primary.  I tried a few things as the evening went on.  At first I had some early success with Oversoul Edict, but as the night went on I wound up breaking out my friend the Genesis Chain.  I’ve never been a huge fan of the Suros aesthetic but I absolutely love this weapon…  especially if you get head shots and trigger the firefly explosion effect.  I love the way that sounds… its like a tiny “fuck yes” as you are running away to find the next engagement.  What cracks me up about me and Destiny… is that I tend to bond with whatever weapon everyone else says that you should just shard.  This lives in an archetype that no one seems to like and is functionally just a better version of “An Answering Chord” that is a available on the Vanguard Quartermaster.  However it just feels better and seems to work better for me than that weapon ever did.  I mean I also love the Fabian Strategy… which is a weapon everyone else seems to hate so my particular tastes seem to consistently go against the meta.  Last night I managed to finish all of my quests from Lady Efrideet, but I have yet to get any weapon drops so I am thinking I might want to go ahead and try and make rank 5 during this final Iron Banner in the hopes of maybe seeing some decent versions of the Hand Cannon along the way.

Enjoyment and PVP

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Last week there was a tweet that came across my feed that jarred something loose in my brain.  I am wishing I had thought to save it because I honestly don’t know at this point who tweeted or at least on what specific day.  It was one of those things that filtered into my subconscious and stuck there as it scrolled past.  The general gist was asking what exactly a game would have to do to make PVP palatable for you personally.  I was rushing between meetings when I checked Fenix on my phone, and never actually got around to replying.  However it is something that I have been mulling over for days now.  Why this was so sticky is the fact that I am a walking paradox it seems.  I will claim not to like PVP at all, and will actively go out of my way to avoid it if it is happening in the world.  If a game has one of those settings that prevents you from being accidentally flagged… I run with that on all of the time.  If it is raid time… and one of our PVP centric members runs into the instance flagged and in doing so gets jumped by the Horde.  I will sit there and watch them die, because in my mind they made a poor life choice for coming to a raid flagged in the first place.

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All of that said… I also look forward to the Iron Banner in Destiny which is a monthly PVP event, and if I am bored I often times pop into the crucible which is their version of a battleground match making system.  What I have never been able to reconcile is why player versus player activity in one game feels good and in others not great at all.  All I have been able to sort out in my head is that in Destiny there is no negative side effect, and the rewards for participation are balanced in a way that it feels like no matter what there is a chance that I get something really cool in the process.  Now Crucible hardcores in Destiny will tell you that the things that I love about it… are the things that frustrate them.  Functionally loot is not tied to performance, but instead participation.  Sure if you win a match you get more faction with Lord Shax the Crucible reputation vendor…  but regardless of success or failure it feels like my time spent is leading towards the goal of something interesting.  I am either going to get a faction package that gives me weapons or armor…  or I am going to have the chance of getting interesting gear rewarded to me at random at the end of a match.

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The other thing that has stuck out in my head is that in Destiny the total time of the match is relatively short ranging from 6 to 8 minutes… to at the maximum 15 minutes.  Even more than that the time to engagement is also short, with the lack of long runs back to where the objective fighting is happening.  I spent some time this weekend in World of Warcraft doing battlegrounds, since that system as a whole feels like a reasonable counter point to Destiny.  I knew I was in for something when about 5 minutes into an Arathi basin map…  I saw a pop up through DBM timers informing me that my team would win in 21 minutes.  The length of that match just felt prohibitive to my enjoyment, and the risk of that time spent…  had no real payoff waiting for me at the end.  Sure there is the chance of random loot, but the loot seems to be based on my current PVP rank… and not relative to my gear level which is a huge positive for the way that Destiny handles things.  So since I am late to the game, that means I would have to suffer through a lot of bad experiences in order to maybe have a chance of getting something that is going to be useful to me in the long run.  The risk versus reward equation is just not good enough for me to keep throwing myself at the gristmill.  So instead after a handful of maps I went back to grinding World Quests because they at least felt like they had tangible rewards associated with them.

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Basically my take away is that in order for me to find PVP interesting… there has to be one hell of a lot of carrot waiting on me and very little stick.  The truth is that PVP in general be it Crucible or Battlegrounds is the sort of thing that I might do if I have literally nothing else to do.  I participate in Iron Banner so often because it is a limited time event… and it also is a loot bonanza.  While I was working my way to the current 400 light cap in Destiny, a good chunk of that progress was gained through Iron Banner drops…  which tend to be one every third or fourth match.  In World of Warcraft I played a half dozen battlegrounds this weekend and got a single piece of gear that was 50 item levels lower than the rest of the gear that I was wearing, so another enchanting shard just doesn’t feel that exciting.  I think the shortness of the match also helps my enjoyment, because even if we are losing horribly…  it is a short term predicament and one that might be remedied in the next match.  Additionally battlegrounds that focus on huge scale siege objectives tend to be soul sucking for me, and each time I have to mount up and run to the opposite end of the map it just feels bad.  I guess I prefer quick skirmishes rather than protracted battles, especially for randomly queuing with strangers.  The other huge negative about PVP in games like World of Warcraft is the fact that I am lumped into chat with a bunch of horrible people.  Simply disabling the chat and making the maps clear enough not to need communication to complete objectives would greatly improve my experience.  A good chunk of my joy in Destiny is the fact that no one can spout off racist slurs in global chat.

 

Warlock Banana

Last night did not go exactly as expected, but I am pretty pleased with the results anyways.  Last night was a good night, and it started from the moment I got home and got a bunch of things accomplished while waiting on the rice cooker.  After a furious round of chores, my wife and I sat down to eat and then I was off to play some PS4.  With my leg in its current mauled state it hurts to sit on the couch given that in order to use my laptop I need to use the recliner.  This ends up putting pressure on the four wounds and while I can take it for a few minutes… it doesn’t exactly make for comfortable gaming.  As a result I am largely upstairs right now, and other than being isolated from my wife it does give me access to my gaming consoles and my legit gaming desktop. The original goal for last night was going to involve running around and doing stuff  with some friends in Destiny, but while waiting for that to happen I decided to start doing Iron Banner on my Warlock.  I had not actually touched the Banner on either the Warlock or the Hunter during Year 3, and as a result I had the Lady Efrideet quests to complete which also reward some gear.  I managed to exit the week long even with my Titan main at 393, Warlock caught up to 391 and my Hunter lagging a bit out of disuse at 389.

I’ve tried a whole slew of weapons and honestly nothing makes me nearly as happy as my Year 2 Iron Banner Auto Rifle… the Haakon’s Hatchet.  So for the most part playing on my Warlock meant swapping this over via Destiny Item Manager.  For those who are not using this I highly suggest installing the chrome plugin, because it greatly improves the utility of being able to swap gear while playing the game.  Essentially I swapped my Auto Rifle and my Gjallarhorn over and was off to the races.  There is a part of me that is sad that this Auto Rifle just simply doesn’t exist any more.  I wish there was something you could do, like a weekly bounty for Lord Saladin that rewarded the year two weapons… just a random draw at the huge vat of available options.  Range Finder is one of those perks on a weapon that I feel like gets overlooked a lot, but given the normal crap range on this weapon… with that perk it allows me to melt targets an entire map away it seems.  Counter Balance and Perfect Balance on the same weapon always makes it feel great and I think a huge part of why I keep favoring this weapon… is that I have used it so much that I can predict exactly how it is going to behave in pretty much every situation.

Throughout the course of the evening I managed to go from Rank 0 to Rank 5 and complete all four of the bounties on my Warlock along with the three one time Lady Efrideet quests.  That meant I saw an awful lot of gear as a result.  Most of it was largely “more of the same” but I am picking out a few items to talk about.  Firstly I am not a huge fan of Sidearms, but I am trying to learn how to use them.  They play this interesting role of operating somewhere just outside of shotgun range but largely something you swap to when you empty your primary.  Normally speaking I would just infuse this into a weapon I am more familiar with but for the moment I am holding onto it largely because I think the perk package looks interesting.  With Hand Loaded and Range Finder… this means my side arm is going to have a massive operating range, and with Quickdraw I will be able to swap to it extremely quickly.  Combine this with the already insane Stability and Rate of Fire on the weapon… and it might be useful if I can learn to use it well.

One of the strange things about Iron Banner is that your drops seem to be extremely character dependent.  For example this time around the drops that were available were Class Items, Helms, Artifacts, Ghost Shells, Scout Rifles, and Fusion Rifles.  On my Titan I got Fusion Rifles almost exclusively, save for a single Distant Star Scout Rifle drop.  On my Warlock…  the Scout Rifles were raining down upon me.  I still think that more than likely I am going to be using the vendor roll which includes Full Auto… giving me a crazy high power auto rifle hybrid thing.  However I did manage to get a few other interesting rolls, including the one above that I thought were worth talking about.  Firstly to spec this out I would end up taking Braced Frame… which I really don’t like doing because it reduces the magazine size.  For the second pick I would ultimately take High Caliber Rounds to give some stagger and a bit more impact, and lastly would probably go for Firefly…  just because right now I don’t have a decent scout rifle with that on it.  For the un-initiated Firefly makes it so that when you kill a with a headshot… it causes it to explode dealing damage to all other mobs around it.  Firefly does a really great job at helping with wave clear and it is just fun to watch all of these things explode.  All in all it was a pretty great week in the Banana, and I am hoping the next time it comes around I can maybe push my army of characters up to 400ish.

Literal Ankle Biter

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LET IT DIE_20161211164207

This was a bit of an odd weekend.  Lets get the bad out of the way.  For several months we have been trying to figure out how to get Luna to a point where she does not attack the other two cats on sight.  We’ve kept her sequestered in my wife’s office and each night I grab her and we hang out in my office while I play games.  She almost always ends up snuggled on my desk, and in truth is just about the sweetest cat ever…  when not around our other two.  This is an important distinction before I tell you this next bit… because she is adorable and cuddly…  when she is by herself.  In my infinite lack of wisdom I decided that I wanted to make one last attempt to socialize them since she had seemingly bonded with me so tightly after our many many weeks of chilling in my office.  We locked our eldest cat up in the bedroom and brought Luna out, at first carrying her and holding her on the sofa.  Before long thought she wanted to explore… and for the most part our youngest and her were not interacting at all.  However there came a point where we were moments away from a cat fight, and I tried to gather Luna up and carry her off to my office.  She struggled to try and get away but I got her up to the office without much issue.  I turned to shut the door and I felt this searing pain on my leg around my lower calf.  She had bit me… and now I was left with the decision of how the hell to get out of my office without letting her out so she could go after Kenzie.

I snuck out and by the time I got downstairs I was bleeding pretty badly.  There are five marks…  so I am guessing one is maybe a claw mark or she drug off of me and raked me with her fang again.  Two of them are about a half inch in length and pretty deep… and two others are deep puncture wounds where she chomped down hard on my leg.  It hurts quite a bit to walk and just generally exist in the world right now, but I don’t think there is any real damage.  After going through the crap with my wife when she got bitten we are being extra cautious, and using the super duper antibiotic creme that they gave us back then.  Walking is not comfortable and today is going to be interesting.  I had to venture out to get more extra large band-aids, because in theory you can hit all of the spots with two of the largest size.  After getting bandaged up I went back upstairs where she seemed as freaked as I was by the event.  She sat on the floor in the back of my office up against the accordion closet door for a long while looking freaked.  Eventually I peeked down underneath the desk towards where she was at and said “it’s okay, I’m not mad” and almost instantly her demeanor changed and she bounded over and hopped up on the desk laying down beside me.  The thing that is breaking my heart is that I now know that this is probably never going to get any better, and we really do need to find her a new home.  Unfortunately the friend that we thought was going to take her… had her landlord say no.  It was in their contract that they could have pets if landlord approved… but I am guessing the asshole is biased against cats, because he assumed they were talking a dog.

Other than the cat thing…. and hurting…  I streamed a lot of Iron Banner.  I think it was Friday night at some point that I managed to hit Rank 5 with the Banana, and from that point on it was just gravy as far as loot went.  I guess in theory I should have been swapping to the Warlock or Hunter to get them to Rank 5 but instead I simply made a poor attempt at farming some more gear to increase my light levels.  This last 10 points is going to be slow as hell, but I entered the weekend at 390 and exit at 392 which I guess is reasonable.  According to beam I have now streamed seven hours of game play, which I guess isn’t a bad start for my first week.  Now a good chunk of that on Sunday at least was to an empty audience, but I entertained myself and have a bunch of footage to sift through.  There was one Iron Banner match where for whatever reason I started humming the Super Mario Brothers theme song inserting “Nope” instead of some of the notes.  All in all I think I like Rift for an Iron Banner match type, but like I said before I struggled a bit at first because the game play feels so vastly different from anything I had been used to.  The best item I got all weekend is still the above Branded Lord with Hammer Forged, Enhanced Battery and Range Finder… which I now have fully leveled and am almost using exclusively.

LET IT DIE_20161211162544
LET IT DIE_20161211162544

Lastly I played some “Let It Die” as evidenced by the first screenshot in the post today, and streamed it as well…  except for whatever reason my audio was being overpowered completely by the game audio.  I will have to fiddle with that and adjust it some.  This game is just strange as hell, and I guess in many ways it feels a little Dark Soulsian, in that the mobs that you encounter are somewhat brutally powerful at times.  There will be times that you get stunlocked to the point where you simply cannot do anything to deal with the encounters other than die.  The strangest part so far is the types of weapons you encounter…  hot irons, router drills, hammers…  firework launchers.  As you ascend the Tower of Barbs you encounter all sorts of monsters that should be in a silent hill game with bizarre implements that are trying to kill you, all the while you are using a zombie corpse thing as your avatar.  You start out buck naked each time and have to scrounge up armor and weapons to be able to survive for terribly long in the tower.  This is of course a “free to play” game and where the money aspect comes in is that in order to resurrect yourself using “death insurance” you need to spend a rainbow skull currency, that the game gives you a handful of to start out.  However in the brief period of time I played yesterday I wound up using two of them before realizing… that in truth I had not really made any actual progress and should stop doing that.  I’ve not quite figured out what the point is yet…  as far as how you actually improve your character.  I thought after I cleared a level I would be taken back to the lobby… but apparently I have to do that manually so I essentially lost all progress on that character and had to grab a fresh corpse to start the climb all over again.  It has some deep rogue like elements, all the while mixing in bizarre Neo Tokyo and Silent Hill tropes…. with a dash of Dark Soulsian difficulty.  Given that several of those checkboxes are things that Kodra likes, I think he maybe should try this game out.  What I am wanting to know is if you can play it multiplayer, because this would probably be super enjoyable with friends.

 

Derpy Banana

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mpc-hc64-2016-12-07-06-37-19-46

Last night I moved a little bit out of my comfort zone and decided to do what I had hoped to do some time ago… and test Beam.pro.  Firstly you have to understand that I have gone around and around with streaming services because none of them really seemed to fit me.  Twitch is the ten ton juggernaut in the room, and in a way that generally makes all other services irrelevant.  That said… I feel like it is a generally inferior experience for both the viewer and the streamer.  The lag delay between video stream and chat is horrendous and it pretty much makes any attempt at having a conversation with someone watching you impossible.  Hitbox seemed really cool other than some weird issues I had regularly with stream quality.  It however had little to no lag between video stream and chat and made it super easy to have conversations over.  They also seemed to have way better back end tools to support the day to day management of your stream and syndicating it to various social media platforms when you go live.  Beam however entered the ring some time ago, or at least came into my general consciousness when my friend Maeka decided to switch over to streaming on it exclusively.

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Braced Frame – Snapshot – Range Finder

So Beam represents a more twitch like experience in quality, but with far better chat delay and an interesting reward model for viewers and streamers.  Watching streams earns folks sparks, that can then be spent on either unlocking features for your own channel… or spending those sparks on other streamers who often offer weird things like sound boards for you to play with.  I admit the gamification aspect of the streaming interested me, and I find myself way more connected to the concept of letting a stream run while I am doing other things because I know that eventually it is going to benefit me.  For example… something I have always wanted was the ability to create an AggroChat team, and that functionality apparently unlocks when I hit 5000 sparks… to which I am sitting at roughly 2000 currently after a few days of usage.  Over the weekend I got my setup rearranged and organized so that things were going through the appropriate devices, thinking that sometime in the future I might maybe start streaming again.  However a thread on the That Gaming Forum Imzy was the catalyst needed to go ahead and push me across the line to trying to stream something properly.  When I got home last night I quickly assembled a fresh OBS install and pulled in the artwork I had from the previous attempts and before long I was up and running.

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Perfect Balance – Snapshot – Headseeker

The end result is me playing some of the absolute worst Iron Banner ever, but you can check out the VOD here on Beam.  I spent way more time turning my head to the left and checking chat than I did actually playing the game.  This is compounded by the fact that before last night I had played a half dozen Rift matches period, and it is a vastly different style of gameplay than I am used to in the Crucible.  Generally speaking I am used to the “rush to the choke point” style of game play that comes from Control or Supremacy, and in trying to play Rift that way… I died a lot.  Later on in the night after I chilled the hell out and started taking things more slowly… I started doing better but unfortunately this was LONG after I ended my stream.  I was still recording, however when I configured OBS I ended up accepting the default flv format… which Adobe Premiere seems not to know what to do with.  So I am either going to have to find a plugin that lets me import them… or find something to convert that to a format so I can actually properly edit it.  I did get one really solid match recorded, and I would like to edit that up and post it on my youtube channel at some point.

Perfect Balance - Extended Mag - Zen Moment
Perfect Balance – Extended Mag – Zen Moment

One of the big positives about Beam is that they are now owned by Microsoft which in theory means they are going to get more support.  The negative there is that Microsoft has a long and storied history of abandoning products…  zune anyone?  However the killer feature seems to be that it integrates perfectly with the Xbox One… which also adds to a little platform bias.  Most of the streams I have watched were streamed from an Xbone… so it confused my viewers when I said I was playing Destiny on the PS4.  Ultimately I have a pretty cool setup that I am happy with in that in my office I have my desktop beside what is essentially a console gaming area.  In a storage cabinet beneath my 48 inch television I have a PS4, PS3, Xbox 360 and now Xbox One all connected through an HDMI switch that then goes through a splitter before going into an Elgato HD that I picked up off craigslist for around $35 used.  That then feeds into my PC and is served up by OBS using the Elgato streaming tools.  So that means quite literally anything I can connect to my television through HDMI can then end up getting streamed out.  At one point I had my WiiU connected here, but I took that downstairs so I could hang out in bed and play on the weird remote device.  Also Nintendo has some pretty draconian practices surrounding streaming and youtube videos so I figured it was probably a good idea NOT to do that.

consolestreamingsetup

At one point I drew up this diagram quickly to show how my set up works.  The key element there is the splitter and you can read more about that in a previous post I made back in June 2014 when I got the setup running.  As far as Iron Banner itself… I have interspersed some of my best rolls from the night in amongst the paragraphs.  In total I am sitting 3/4 of the way through Rank 3 and have picked up 3 fusion rifles, 1 scout rifle, 1 pulse rifle, 2 legs, and a helm… that I then bought the 100% roll from Lady Efrideet and infused that into it.  I feel like I made a decent start to getting to Rank 5 and I finally grasped the unique rhythm of the game mode as I went through the night.  I suddenly stopped being the lowest person on the team to vying for the top spot once again.  I am not terribly great at crucible but I am generally not as bad as I am in the stream test.  However that wasn’t really the purpose of the stream… it was to test out Beam.pro and I think so far I am saying it passes with flying colors.  I accepted the absolute default settings and it performed admirably.  Now is the time for me to actually set my channel up properly and try and sort out how precisely is the best way to use the service.

Clever Dragons

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Destiny_20161115060312

Iron Banner just concluded yesterday, and I spent a good deal of time playing it this go round.  I’ve never had any luck in trying to get a decent Grasp of Malok, so when the rank five roll of Clever Dragon featured Counter Balance, Perfect Balance and Snapshot…  I knew I was ultimately going to grind until I got there.  With the Rise of Iron it brought a number of changes to “Iron Banana”, namely since Lord Saladin is nor our “faction leader” of a sort…  the reigns of the tournament were passed to Lady Efrideet.  The primary change that happened is the fact that instead of three weekly bounties, and three daily bounties…  we are given four weekly bounties.  Previously you got a crappy blue item at Rank 3 with Iron Banner and an item package at Rank 5.  This time around two of these new bounties reward armor packages, and the other two reward weapons…  and you still get some sort of a big package upon hitting Rank 5.  So the total loot payout of participating in the event is significantly more than it used to be.  That said I find it MUCH harder to get to Rank 5, given that I don’t have something I can be working on every day to give me a much needed boost.  In Iron Banner you only gain ranks if you are winning, and especially trying to queue during the day on Friday… I hit some significant losing streaks.  Now there is a built in system that gives you a sort of consolation prize coin upon a loss… and these stack to five, with a boost to your rank granted when you finally turn around and win.  However there was at least one point on Friday that I lost eight games in a row…  so it just become frustrating as I kept getting thrown up against premades.

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Now the positive of the event is that I got tons of loot, and also managed to complete both the void damage portion of the thorn quest, and the crucible kills portion of my Future War Cult exotic class item quest.  I spent a significant amount of time running around shooting people into the face with the above Shotgun.  I’ve had the Party Crasher +1 for awhile now and I consider it to be as close to a god roll as I will ever likely see with Full Auto, Final Round and Rifled Barrel to help boost the range a bit.  Traditionally I use my Invective when doing crucible, but at the moment I am simply not willing to waste an exotic shard on anything until I get significantly closer to the item cap.  I went on a mission to try and get a decent legendary shotgun during Taken King and in my very first round of attempting to grind the Crucible I managed to pull this guy in the end of match rewards and have been loving it ever since.  I am sure a god roll Matador could pry it from my hands but for the moment I am super happy with it.

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The other weapon that I used a significant amount of the time especially to get those void kills is Saladin’s Vigil.  Now this is something I picked up last Iron Banner from one of the loot bounties, and I felt like I got a completely reasonable roll on it.  I am not even sure what a “god roll” would look like, but mine has Hammer Forged, Enhanced Battery, and Performance Bonus….  with that last perk actually extending the usefulness of the weapon as it materializes ammo out of thin air.  With a really low charge rate and almost maxed impact and reasonable range… this is essentially the first fusion rifle that is not Sleeper Simulant that I really find myself enjoying using.  I got many a kill by this one and leading the charge as I expected something to duck around the corner.  Fusion Rifles can be extremely frustrating in the crucible because they are very much a “whelp I’m dead” weapon when you intercept a bolt.

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Lastly the weapon I cannot stop using… literally ever is this Haakon’s Hatchet that was a vendor roll during the Taken King.  I realize that the “doctrine of spamming” archetype is still pretty potent in the meta, but no matter how many versions of that archetype I get… I never can seem to do shit with them.  I currently have a potentially viable Hex Caster ARC and an Unbent Tree… but I cannot ever bring myself to level them and have not deemed them worthy of motes of light.  The weapon I continue to go back to however is this Hatchet with Ranger Finder, Counter Balance and Perfect Balance.  This is as close to my perfect weapon as I will likely ever find, because not only do I love the appearance… but I can also draw a bead on enemy players with in and chew them up.  What I love the most about the weapon is the fact that it is just as viable for me in Crucible situations as it is doing literally anything PVE… namely the Archon’s Forge.  The magazine is big enough that I can often take down an entire wave of mobs in the forge without a reload.

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I’ve tried so many different primary weapons… for example I managed to pull the above Shadow Price that while it does not have the perfect roll has something I can work with.  With Rodeo and Perfect Balance it becomes usable… and while Icarus is generally a worthless perk I can make it work since I jump around a lot.  This gun works well in any PVE situation, but it is completely useless in the Crucible, at least with the roll package that I wound up getting.  I have a copy of The Continental that seems similarly reasonable, but nothing can quite match up to the “perfect for me” stat package of the Hatchet.  I still want to try and find one of the Doctrine archetype weapons with Counterbalance and Perfect Balance to see if it suddenly becomes this magical weapon that folks talk about.  However for the time being I will keep using Hatchet and be happy to have it.  I am hoping however that after all the time I spent trying to get it… that I find that sweet spot with the Clever Dragon and it becomes my new favorite Pulse Rifle.