Luck and Mini Bosses

eso64-2018-07-15-18-52-32-77

At this point we are up to 41 blogs signed up for Blaugust in one form or another, with a significant number of folks hanging out in the Discord just for the sake of fun that we may be able to sway one way or another.  I am super happy with this early participation, and in side conversations there are a bunch of folks on the fence trying to determine just how much they can afford to participate themselves this year.  In that always be plugging style of conversation…  if you are at all interested in starting up a blog now is the time to do it.  Pop on by the sign up form and let us know your information and we will do our best to support you through that early blogging experience.  This is of course also an open offer as well to folks who are currently blogging and just want to up their frequency of posting…  or really want to help mentor the next crew of bloggers.

Since I last posted updates there have been a few new entries and you can see the entire list in an easy to use google sheet that I have been maintaining.

New Mentors

New Participants

The official pre-week starts on July 25th so there is still plenty of time to get a blog up and running before the official August 1st start.

dij-0m6vaaulj-p

There are times where I have the sort of luck that pisses my friends off.  For example I have pulled a couple of those ultra rare chase cards from Battle for Zenndikar and Kaladesh, just buying random single packs here and there.  Magic the Gathering just released its return to core sets with M19 and there are a bunch of interesting cards in it… namely a much needed reprint of Crucible of Worlds and brand new version of the classic legends era dragons.  Ultimately I would like to have a copy of each for eventual EDH brewing purposes, and as a result I picked up a fat pack on Friday in my post funeral travels.  Now a fat pack has 10 packs and seems to be for lack of a better term a partial piece of what would have normally been a full box.

They tend to be feast or famine, either you get the good end of the rare/mythic sheet or you don’t.  In this case I managed to pull 4 mythics out of those ten packs.  I took the above photo to show off everything that came out of that box, with the last two on the left side being just a couple of cool looking common foils.  I found it weird that I got a duplicate rare out of the batch so maybe they are doing the fat packs different than they have done before.  I was extremely excited that I managed to pull a Crucible of Worlds and at least two of the three color dragons.  Unfortunately I did not pull the big daddy of them all…  Nicol Bolas, the Ravager.  I still consider this an insanely lucky box, and walked away mighty happy with it.

eso64-2018-07-15-18-52-32-77

As far as the rest of the weekend… it was largely spent hanging out and playing some Elder Scrolls Online.  I have now officially finished the Orsinium content and wow… I am exceedingly impressed with the quality.  If that is at all representative of what I have to expect from the follow up releases, then I am going to be a very happy boy.  I’ve since started on the Thieves Guild which is the next content release in order…  having largely skipped Imperial City due to its PvEvP nature.  I did however spent a chunk of last night running around and collecting Skyshards out in Cyrodil..  I am sure frustrating someone who was there to try and take keeps and mile forts.  The only actual PVP I got into was being found by a roaming murderball of Ebonheart Pact players…  at which point my screen froze and I crashed out of the game only to come back very dead.

The most fun however was prior to that when I was roaming around in Coldharbor with Ashgar and Tamrielo doing the public dungeon there.  It all started simple enough…  the three of us on Voice Chat when Ash mentioned mostly to himself that he was going to ignore the Public Dungeon for now until he could come back with a group.  I said that I had not done the public dungeon there for the same reason and Tam chimed in that he had largely been avoiding any group content.  Before long the three of us were converging upon Ash’s location and doing the public dungeon which had two quests inside of it.  Additionally we realized that there were a bunch of optional bosses in various corners of the place and we set forth to take each and every one down earning us a conqueror achievement.

I kinda love that this game does not care at all about where a player is in the progression, and that you can pretty much just group in for whatever happens to be going on.  I abused this power to help Void get some crafting materials by porting myself to Windhelm and then letting him piggy back in on that to get the shrine there.  I love that this game has decided that horizontal progression is the way to go because it has allowed me to invest resources in a really nice set of gear knowing I won’t be upgrading it anytime soon.  I love that I can just do whatever happens to cross my path and still feel like I am moving towards a goal in the form of Champion points…  knowing that I am also adding progression to every single character as I go.  I am very happy with the current state of Elder Scrolls Online.

A Four Year Mission

eso64-2018-07-04-22-15-30-20

eso64-2018-07-04-22-15-30-20

I realize this is a lot of images to link at the beginning of a blog post… but there is a good reason.  For the last four years playing Elder Scrolls Online I had a singular goal…  to see something in the live game that I have not seen since one of the last days of alpha.  I’ve talked about this before but I have been playing Elder Scrolls Online since February of 2013 when the first Friends and Family alphas began.  How I got in is because my good friend Tamrielo was one of the creators of a not insignificant amount of the quest content.  Every so often in Alpha we would be lead by him to go see something… that was a reference to one of us or one of our friends.  One of the final things I remember is running all of the way across the Ebonheart Pact area to The Rift….  and Nimalten to be specific to see an arrangement of NPCs in that town.  The date specifically was October 13th of 2013 as I have a stack of screenshots that I took at that time have have hoarded since.

Last night I managed to push my way through the Eastmarch storyline and upon zoning into the The Rift for the first time…  I couldn’t wait any longer and made a jaunt across zone to Nimalten to find what I had been waiting to see all of this time.  Granted every one of the NPCs made their way through a bit of a “Nordification” pass by the lore team, but enough survived that it is pretty obvious who they are if you know what you are looking at.  First up is my namesake aka Belgrod Sternblade (technically one of two namesakes that I know of) who has a throwaway line about his Stalwart Band of Mercenaries which is a reference to House Stalwart the guild I started in World of Warcraft back in 2004.  Next up is Waren the Wolf aka Warenwolf a long time friend of ours from the vanilla World of Warcraft days, phenomenal hunter and the target of my attempts to heal him with arrows in alpha.  Then we have Ashvorn Bear-Walker which is the slantwise namesake of Ashgar our perennial bear tank and general friend of anything that transforms into animal form.  Lastly we have Autrae Snow-Wing who is playing with her cat Dimi… that represent former AggroChat host Audrae and her then cat Dimitri.

eso64-2018-07-04-22-15-17-59

This might seem silly but for me personally…  being able to see these characters legitimately in the final release of the game means a lot to me.  It also allows me to take stupid photos like the one above with the two Belghast-kin together.  Of course the moment I finished doing this nonsense I ported back to the start of the zone because I want to experience it through the natural flow instead of just jumping ahead to this one town.  I’ve been having a complete blast playing Elder Scrolls Online over the last couple of weeks and really the game has evolved to a state where it pretty much has all of the things that I think I once complained about it not having.  It has a really excellent housing system that I have been collecting patterns for…  and still what I would consider the single best crafting system in any MMORPG.  While a little costly I am a fan of their cosmetic system implementation as well as the various costumes available through either crown crates or direct purchase on the store.  The fact that subscribing to the game gets me access to all of the Expansion and DLC content, a stack of crowns each time it renews, and a magical crafting bag that lets me loot everything and not worry about bag space…  is all a “plus” in my book.  The full list of features for a subscription goes a little something like this…

  • Access to all DLC game packs in the in-game Crown Store
  • Free crowns for the in-game Crown Store
  • Access to the Craft Bag
  • Double bank space
  • Bonuses to progression
  • Extra furniture space
  • Costume dyeing
  • Double Transmutation Crystals

eso64-2018-07-04-21-58-26-72

I am very much in my MMO happy place at the moment, and completely oblivious to pretty much anything else apart from the occasional game of Diablo 3.  I am super excited that soon…  in one zones time I will be starting the first of the DLC content for Elder Scrolls Online.  I have purposefully delayed starting literally anything that came out past the original game… because I wanted to have beaten all 150 levels worth of content that the original game had to offer.  For the uninitiated that starts with the 50 levels worth of content in your starting faction and works its way through Silver and Gold… the new game plus, and new game plus plus that sees you travelling via Cadwell to the other two factions.  Sure it is a little weird to be helping the Ebonheart Pact fight off the Covenant while rocking the Covenant Hero title…  but whatever I can hand wave that away.

The thing that makes me the happiest about Elder Scrolls Online is how indistinguishable it is for me personally from playing any other Elder Scrolls game at this point.  I love the story arcs for each of the zones that evolve as you work your way around and help the other people…  and the little payoffs when you meet up with a character you have already helped out once before.  The amount of scripting work that went into making sure that each NPC recognizes you from every time you have interacted with that NPC before has to be staggering.  The fact that the final main story quest usually involves weaving in a bunch of characters that you met in the zone and each of them commenting on how you helped them in the past, is just so damned great.  The only thing that would push it over the top is if they introduced some Bioware style companions with romance story arcs…  because seriously the core story itself is as good as anything I have seen in a Mass Effect or Dragon Age game.

eso64-2018-07-03-13-05-06-36

I have an extreme amount of emotional investment in this game, not just for the fact that there are characters named after me roaming its world…  but also for the fact that I feel like I helped shape it.  I was a very active member of the alpha community and supposedly one of the more active bug reporters.  I love that there is still a core of players out there in an alpha-only guild that I am part of that has been playing off and on since the days we first got into the servers and kept reporting bugged doors.  I love the fact that there is still a hidden area on the official forums that only those first few testers have access to, and while it isn’t terribly active… feels like a little secret clubhouse that a handful of us have access to.  Every time I step foot into Tamrielo in Elder Scrolls Online it feels like coming back home, and each time I forget why I left in the first place.  The truth is…  I am an easily distracted toddler and I am sure at some point some shiny object with cause me to shift my gaze elsewhere…  but for the moment I am loving every moment of roaming this place that is both so familiar to me but still so fresh to explore.

Exploring Deshaan

eso64-2018-06-26-06-16-50-84

eso64-2018-06-26-06-16-50-84

This is going to be a bit of a weird week for me personally, and as a result probably a weird week for the blog.  My wife has a friend in town for a conference and as a result it is causing us to vary our normal patterns…  and also as a result there is probably going to be significantly less gaming to talk about.  Now one major exception is that said friend is a Magic the Gathering player and tentatively Wednesday night we have plans to get together and play some casual decks for fun.  That will of course be probably something that I write about and I am going to attempt to take some “board state” photos as the matches go.  I have built up a box of four battle decks from card kingdom that are all themed and roughly the same power level thinking it would be a quick and easy drop in and play magic option.  The grand idea was to bring it up to work for some lunch time gaming, but it hasn’t actually happened yet.

Last night when we got home from Joe Momma’s one of our favorite downtown pizza places, I crashed on the sofa and played some Elder Scrolls Online.  I am essentially doing what I always do which is push into the corners of the map that I have yet to explore and complete whatever quests I happen across there.  I remember this game had a rather frosty reception… but in truth the longer it lives the less I can distinguish it from a normal numbered Elder Scrolls game.  I realize some players approached those games in vastly different ways than I did… but for me it was always about killing monsters, collecting loot, running quests…  and ABOVE ALL ELSE…  wandering around aimlessly and exploring the nooks and crannies of the map.  All of those game play styles are supported in ESO and as a result whenever I pick it back up it sorta feels like returning to an old friend.

One of my favorite parts about returning to the game is something that dates back to alpha.  The original alpha players were referred to as the Psijic Order, and on the official game forums there is still a hidden forum area that never got closed out from that area where we occasionally chat back and forth.  Similarly there was a guild formed on launch day made up of players from this same alpha pool and in truth it is one of the more active guilds that I have access to.  I am super thankful that after all of this time and all of my wandering away and back again that no one punted me from it.  I am deeply connected to this title because of my experiences testing it for so long, and I am happy to for some remnant of that early community that I still have access to.

I am cutting off the post short this morning as it is election day here in Oklahoma.  I am going to attempt to vote before work, and if you too are having a primary I highly suggest you drag your butt to the polls as well.

Backyard and Banana

img_20180522_194944

img_20180522_194944

Last night was a pretty chill night and was spent either gaming or hanging out on the patio off our bedroom.  Here is a photo from my chair as I waited to top off the pool and played Monster Hunter Generations.  There was a nice breeze and it was making the wind chimes do all sorts of happy sounds.  My wife was hanging beside me doing school work…  because unfortunately it is both hobby and job rolled all in one.  I love our backyard even though I don’t spend anywhere near as much time as she does out in it.  Last night however was a perfect storm of overcast and cool which is about my sweet spot for outdoors.  My eyes are super sensitive to light and there are times where while I am sitting in the shade… the world itself is just too bright for my tastes.  The flowerbabies of course are doing okay still, and I need to wrap up this post soon so I can go out and give them all a drink.

As far as Monster Hunter Generations…  I am largely playing it over 4 Ultimate because of the impending release of Generations Ultimate for the Switch.  Monster Hunter is way too complicated a game for me to really enjoy playing it on a tiny screen with a thinkpad trackpoint nub serving as my second thumbstick.  That said I do know that whatever effort I make is going to transfer over to the Switch so it feels like it is allowing me to have a bit of a headstart as it were.  There are still three months until the release of Generations Ultimate and that gives me some time to casually work on leveling my Palicos and progressing through the quests to a point where I might not be completely on ground one at launch on August 28th.  I am super looking forward to having a newish to me Monster Hunter experience to sink my teeth into…  that I will be able to play on my 43 inch monitor upstairs.

desktop-screenshot-2018-05-23-06-11-14-17

The tail end of the evening I settled into playing some Iron Banner in Destiny 2 as I had not honestly played much of that since Curse of Osiris.  I am nowhere near as good at Crucible as I once was because I am simply out of practice, but then again I never was terribly good in the first place.  I did manage to turn in a couple of packages, one of which getting me the Auto Rifle that looks like Scathelocke.  I am super pumped about it because firstly I love Auto Rifles and secondly…  I had really wanted to try that weapon out and was afraid that I lost my chance when the season changed.  There is another auto rifle available as faction rewards so I am wondering if I want to try grinding out 30 packages…  and I pretty much figure the answer is no.  I do however want the super high rate of fire weapon because it has auto loading holster and high impact rounds and seems like a much better version of Perseverance/Valakadyn…  which are both weapons that I hated on the console but have come to enjoy with a mouse and keyboard.

I have significant problems with Destiny 2… but damn does that mechanical loop still feel fun.

Elves I Don’t Hate

wowscrnshot_051618_061210

wowscrnshot_051618_061210

Yesterday I pulled an example from World of Warcraft and after doing so I realized that I never actually talked about the character that was hiding underneath the fold of the Destiny 2 image.  I am extremely late to the party when it comes to Allied races, the Horde races were super easy to unlock but the Alliance ones required a level of commitment that I was simply not willing to offer them.  They were one of those things that I worked on off and on as I had time or wanted something mindless to do while watching television or a movie.  It was a few weeks back when I realized that I was actually getting pretty close to exalted with both of the factions required to unlock them.  Even then I largely failed at doing the quests on a daily basis because I really am not a huge fan of Argus.

Nevertheless I managed to push across the finish line and unlock them both a few weekends back and as a result I have been poking around on a brand new Void Elf hunter during the AggroChat podcasts.  I’ve found it super relaxing to just roam around and take things down at low levels and for whatever reason Void Elves don’t trigger that “I hate elves” instinct that I have built up over all of these years.  In part I think they mostly register as Drow to me, which is something I occasionally played in D&D or the games like Everquest that had decent implementations of them.  Honestly it weirdly makes me want to go back and farm the single piece of Dragonstalker that I am missing, because in all of my years of running Blackwing Lair…  I never got the boots to drop off Broodlord Lashlayer.  The only thing keeping me from soloing it each week is the fact that I really hate doing the Razorgore event.

wowscrnshot_051618_061441

I realize that I recently started a Tauren Hunter, but the whole being assigned a pet at the start of the game thing still seems a little weird.  On the Tauren your start with a Plainstrider which isn’t really my sort of pet, but even then I kept using it for a significant amount of time before taming anything else to replace it.  As Void Elf though you start with Voidstalker… that is both my kind of pet and also extremely cool looking.  I’ve found myself with zero drive to go out and tame something else, but that might change as I am now interesting Stranglethorn Vale.  I might grab something rare if I happen across it but for now I am more than happy to run around with my void pal…  even though I have yet to give her a proper name.

It is weird to me that I have lost any forward momentum in World of Warcraft thanks to Battle For Azeroth and the direction they are taking the game.  However I still enjoy dinking around on low level characters because to me that is the purest version of the “WoW Experience”.  BfA really has been a let down as far as the information coming out about it.  Additionally my time playing beta…  hasn’t really done anything to hook me on the direction the game is going.  For years I thought that maybe Metzen was what was holding the game back…  but now I wonder if he was a force of stability keeping the game from dropping off a cliff.  Note I loved Legion “for the most part” but the one bit that I could push right into the sea was the factional nonsense that happens in Stormheim.  Battle For Azeroth feels like an entire game made out of those factional nonsense moments and I am not really looking forward to it.

Chat Goes On Left

destiny2chatboxproblem

desktop-screenshot-2018-05-15-06-04-58-42

One of the things I am realizing is just how bad I am at responding to messages some nights.  Last night for example I was mindlessly grinding away in Destiny 2 while watching video full-screen on my second monitor.  All the while various folks were messaging me on lots of different platforms including battle.net, slack, discord, and even some resorted to twitter.  All of which I was largely oblivious to as I happily ground public events and took down high value targets pushing the warlock up in level so that I can start doing the weeklies on that character as well.  The problem is really two fold, firstly that I am so used to soloing at this point that I am not really watching messages like I used to for the sign of someone else popping online.  The second issue I will get into shortly.

At this point my Warlock is level 28 so nearing 30 but apparently completely capable of wearing gear of decent level because I am now rocking an energy weapon that is 350.  It is super hard going back to the warlock after only really playing the Titan for a good deal of time.  Hunter is simple…  multi jump will always be multi jump.  Warlock on the other hand has the wrong version of Titan jump and no matter how long I play it I never can quite get used to it responding the opposite way that I am expecting.  I feel like folks either bond with Titan or Warlock jumps…  and from that point on the other one just doesn’t feel like a jump should feel.  Hunter on the other hand always feels like you are riding around on a midair pogo stick.

destiny2chatboxproblem

Now the other problem I was talking about earlier is that Destiny 2 UI design is designed wrong.  What I mean by that is in literally every MMO I play the chat box location is on the left hand side of the screen as illustrated above by my UI in World of Warcraft.  The chat you care about appears on the left hand screen, and in this ElvUI layout the chat I don’t care about at all ever…  appears on the right hand side of the screen.  This is pretty much how I lay out every MMO that allows me to shift around the UI, but I cannot remember a game off the top of my head that does not default to having the chat left justified for lack of a better term.  Destiny 2 on the other hand creates a super spammy loot window that you cannot remove on the left hand side of the screen and gives you the chat you actually care about on the right hand side of the screen…  that will constantly minimize to just a tiny notepad document looking icon.  When you receive a message it does not de-cloak and show you said message…  however any time some jackass loots some random item the game takes every opportunity to make sure you know about it.

This is a broken design and causes me to simply ignore that chat exists because it does not conform to the cultural standards I am used to.  By culture I mean the general cultural design of MMO games, of which Destiny 2 is a part of regardless of how Bungie feels about that label.  To make things worse…  Bungie themselves taught us that the only place that matters for text was the left hand side of the screen in Destiny 1 as they placed all of that spammy nonsense there.   There is in theory a sound that is supposed to play when someone messages you, but whatever sound that is is either inaudible to me personally…  or just blends into the din of everything else happening in game because I never notice it.  \

Ultimately what my inability to notice chat cost me last night was a run through the raid as my friends over in TQMB were trying to reach out because they needed one more to get started.  I am hoping when they put in the clan chat they also give us the option to swap the locations of the two chat panes so that the spammy nonsense goes on the right and the important chat goes on the left.  Otherwise I am honestly not sure if I can ever fully train myself to look for chat in a weird location.  After over two decades of online gaming… I am just too indoctrinated into a “chat on the left” mentality.

More Warmind Impressions

desktop-screenshot-2018-05-10-19-53-02-77

desktop-screenshot-2018-05-11-06-06-11-41Last night I managed to hit the first soft cap of 345 through doing some of the content that happens immediately following the completion of the main story.  I am still a bit dismayed at how short it ended up being.  The core problem with the experience is there was a disconnect between how the NPCs were acting and the events that were actually occurring.  What I mean by that is when we took down Ghaul…  he had done enough to interfere with our lives to make us really hate him by the time we reached the point of final confrontation.  With Warmind…  they end up treating the Worm God we are fighting with similar contempt…  even though we only found out one exists on Mars a few minutes earlier.  Sure I get the fact that the Worm Gods are one of the galaxies great sources of evil and they were key in creating the Hive in the first place.  I’ve read the Book of Sorrows and understand that all…  but the average player has not.

The average player would be going into that scene wondering what in the hell a Worm God is and why these two NPCs seem so freaked about it.  The problem being that the game didn’t really give us enough run up to reach this supposedly epic conclusion.  It feels a lot like the campaign in Rise of Iron where you have some epic things going on…  but nowhere enough lead up to make them feel like that epic nature is earned.  Sure taking down a giant SIVA enfused Iron Lord was a slick final fight just like taking down a Worm God was a slick final fight…  but in both cases it felt like we lacked significant reason for what we were doing.  I mean the “Guardian” is the Deus Ex Machina to fix all problems much like the Warrior of Light is in Final Fantasy XIV.  The problem is it feels like that role is earned in FFXIV whereas we sorta just magically are able to best everything in Destiny without really knowing why we are so much better than apparently every other Guardian out there.

desktop-screenshot-2018-05-10-19-53-02-77

Tam and I get into these discussions a lot and he is usually the one raising these points.  The funny thing is they generally revolve on why he quit playing a game, and for me this is an annoyance but by no means a game breaker.  I feel like there is a magic formula that keeps me engaged in a game.  First you have to have a core mechanical loop that I enjoy, for example in Destiny I love the gun play and the movement which makes me feel awesome as I traverse this beautifully rendered world.  The second point of that magical formula is that there has to be something in the game that I want to do.  There needs to be some objective out there that drives me forward and keeps me engaged with the game when the shiny newness of the mechanical loop wears off.

Please note what I said there…  something I want to do.  For example in a game like World of Warcraft there can never be a possible way that I would ever run out of things to do and content I have not actually seen.  Similarly in Final Fantasy XIV there is just too much content to ever find a true end to it.  The problem is in both of those games I have rather regularly reached a point where there is simply nothing left that I care to do.  Either the content left involves something I don’t much enjoy like Player versus Player interactions or it feels like it has more stick than carrot attached to it.  I reached this point after Trials of Osiris in Destiny 2 where the mechanical loop simply was not enough and the repetitive and unrewarding nature of the Infinite Forest made it so that I just didn’t feel like logging in anymore.

desktop-screenshot-2018-05-10-19-47-21-05

While Warmind is an extremely short expansion… it feels like it might be a fairly intricate one.  What I mean by that is there are already a bunch of post credits items that the game is asking me to do that spawn new opportunities to go off on adventures.  I am sure there will be an end to this, but in some ways it reminds me of the style of interaction that happened on the Dreadnaught in The Taken King.  There are puzzles to be solved and items to interact with in ways that I have not quite figured out.  There were weapons to collect that are associated with questing, and others that folks don’t even know how they work as of yet.  There are drops that can be used to improve most of the exotic weapons, and in it a bunch of interesting ways to feel like I keep moving forward.

On the other end however the new grind is real.  After hitting 345 and finally accepting my Milestones for the week…  each one of those rewarded a 351 item…  6 levels of movement off the base whereas before we were regularly getting upwards of 15 levels of movement from the same milestones.  This means that journey to 385 is going to be an extremely long one when you have a very finite number of weekly options to give any sense of movement.  This means that if I find myself engaged in this game again I will by nature need to push the Hunter and the Warlock through Curse of Osiris so that I can have three sets of weekly upgrade options instead of one.  Sure the armor won’t swap over but those weapons can keep pushing up slowly over the course of multiple characters.

desktop-screenshot-2018-05-10-19-54-42-47

The game needed something and in truth at this point I am not sure if this is what that need was.  The problem with Destiny 2 is that on paper it looks like the sequel I wanted for Destiny.  However in practice it has always felt lacking in part because it felt like we sacrificed so much cool stuff from the first one to get this as a result.  Nothing I have seen from this game justifies the reasons why we had to reset back to ground zero.  I know they felt like they wanted a fresh start, to shed any bad blood from the first title.  However I feel like that plan backfired horribly.  I’m interested to see where they can go with Warmind and if they can give us justification going forward to buy the “Comet” expansion that has been looming on the horizon and leaked via the Canadian Walmart website.  The one act that would go a long ways to building good will for me personally…  would be to port the old patrol zones to Destiny 2 and make it feel like we didn’t abandon half the world to get this game.

Mirrorball

destiny-2-screenshot-2018-05-08-21-45-26-58

destiny-2-screenshot-2018-05-08-22-26-56-09

Last night I spent a not insignificant amount of time playing Destiny 2 Warmind.  You will have to excuse the garbage screenshots but I was largely chilling on the sofa with my laptop and it runs the game at the potato resolution of 1366 x 768.  I say potato because scaling down to that from the 4K display I have upstairs is quite the adjustment.  It however allows me to be flexible where I am gaming, and last night allowed me to hang out with the mrs while still getting to do the thing I wanted to do.  I’ve had a bit of a falling out with Destiny 2 over the last few months and I am not entirely certain why.  It is just like after the release of Curse of Osiris I lost my forward momentum and stopped caring that I was no longer getting those engrams every day.  Based on the fact that I was the only person online in my clan for most of the night…  I am guessing everyone has had this same thing happen to them.

That said I was extremely interested in this expansion because it is the return of three things that I love in the Destiny universe…  The Hive, Rasputin, and Clovis Bray lore.  The last bit takes the form of our companion during this expansion Ana Bray…  a heir to House Bray and former golden age scientist turned guardian.  There is a rule among the guardians that they are not supposed to go digging into their past life before they died and were resurrected with the light, but when you are a Bray… this gets a lot harder knowing that so much golden age tech that remains was potentially created by your hands.  As a result you get the impression that Ana Bray is no longer a Vanguard member…  and not even a real guardian in the eyes of Zavala…  because she broke the rule and started digging into Bray tech when she first realized it recognized her and would respond to her commands.

destiny-2-screenshot-2018-05-08-22-09-44-79

I am not far enough into the story to fully understand the other parts of the equation that I love…  The Hive and Rasputin.  The polar ice caps of Mars seem to hide a group of frozen hive that include several new troop types and modifications to the others as well.  There are now Knights that wield a shield making it extremely difficult to attack them, and versions of the Acolyte called Adherants that seem to snipe you with long beams of energy.  In addition there are more heavily armored versions of the Ogre, but this might just be one of the boss models for this expansion that gets used on ultra units.  The map area itself is a little bit bigger than Titan in scope…  which is somewhat disappointing but a significant step up from the tiny and repetitive Mercury.

What I enjoy the most so far is that it feels like this is as tightly packed with secrets as the Dreadnought was in The Taken King expansion.  I’ve already encountered a bunch of objects that say I need to have a specific item or buff to be able to interact with them, meaning there are secrets to be unlocked hidden out there much like the Skyburner Deployment Codes.  On the director map there is a note out to the side saying that I have found 0 or 45 Latent Memory locations, so this feels like something along the lines of the Calcified Fragments or SIVA Clusters of old.  This is the sort of stuff that Destiny 2 desperately needed, to give us a downtime activity to strive for in getting out and exploring the world.

destiny-2-screenshot-2018-05-08-21-45-26-58

There are of course a bunch of cool items that came in with this expansion.  At one point I got to choose from three weapons…  one of which was essentially Uriel’s Gift minus high impact rounds but with Dragonfly…  so I had to take it.  I’ve not finished the main campaign and not hit level 30 yet so I am not super focused on gear at the moment.  That said I have picked up a bunch of cool items through the eververse doodads you get while leveling up.  My Ghost is now a floating mirror ball that I eventually colored neon green via a shader.  I’ve similarly picked up an exotic ship and an exotic speeder as well.  They seem to have tweaked these exotic shells a bit so that they have the same two perks….  the first being summons your mount faster and the second being universal elemental telemetry.  The last perk seems to now be some sort of a cache based perk for a given planet.  This mirror ball for example works on Nessus, which is handy since that happens to be the weekly zone.

destiny-2-screenshot-2018-05-08-22-27-02-70

I have to say I really like the set of gear that you get through turning in tokens with Ana Bray, and I can already tell this is going to be something I try and collect in its entirety.  So far the story has been interesting, but I have a feeling that I am nearing the end of it…  and if that is the case it is also very very short.  Maybe there is more going on than I think there is… and maybe the boss I am just about to face is only the midpoint.  However it certain feels like it is pushing me towards a supposedly epic conclusion…  and the way the NPCs speak sounds in terms like we are doing this massive struggle…  when it feels like I only just arrived on the planet.  Reading a little blurb on Reddit just now confirms that I am in fact on the final quest…  so essentially there are five quests in a chain that had I not been dawdling probably could have completed in an hour and a half.

Granted I like the other parts of the game more than I do the story…  but it feels like a bit of a let down.  During Destiny 1 the justification they gave for the need to reboot the game and create Destiny 2…  was that the way D1 was build was particularly difficult to build content for.  They blamed the tools for the fact that we kept getting recycled areas instead of completely new maps and raids.  The problem is…  neither Curse of Osiris with its rampant recycling of the Infinite Forest and its tiny planetary area…   nor Warmind so far really prove that the sacrifice the players made was worth it.  I say sacrifice…  because in coming to Destiny 2 we gave up a lot of things that we still have not gotten back.  We were promised a better gaming experience and on some levels it is… but on other levels it is just a less interesting game.

destiny-2-screenshot-2018-05-08-20-40-05-58

Ultimately I will be around for awhile because it did feel good last night to shoot things.  The new event type that they touted however was a bit of a let down as well…  given that it is mostly just another planetary event that involves hunting wave after wave of hive and doing some stuff to destroy crystals.  Sure it was fun but also I can see it will get pretty repetitive.  However it does fill that Archon’s Forge/Court of Oryx niche in giving something repeatable that can give decent rewards.  The protect the Warsat event type is back and I had missed it greatly.  I am not exactly sure how you can push that one into heroic mode, but I am sure it will involve something silly like blowing up one of the hive ships.  There is an open world version of the Hive Ritual event that seems really cool because I was so used to doing that in the one space it appeared on Titan.  All in all I was happy to be playing again…  but still a bit grumbly about how cool this game could have been.

Red and Gold

dcg5copuqaezwgx

dcg5hn8uqaacok0

One of my favorite aspects of Monster Hunter World has been the constant revolving door of limited time events.  It seems like at some point we will run out of brand new ones, and that they will begin cycling through the past happenings…  but for right now it seems like every time I turn around there is something brand new and shiny to interact with.  Starting on April 27th we got the Code Red event which involves fighting four “red” monsters in the standard arena, one after another.  So you have to work your way through Anjanath, Odogoron, Rathalos and then finally the Elder Dragon Teostra.  Doing this gives you a special currency that looks like a monster gem called a Red Orb.  Collecting seven of these and a slew of parts from all of the monsters included in the quest allows you to craft a set of rank 8 gear patterned off of Dante from Devil May Cry.

What makes this set really interesting is unlike past offerings…  this is not a complete suit but instead individual pieces allowing for some interesting Mixed Build options.  For the unindoctrinated…  armor pieces have specific stats on them and by mixing and matching them you can often times come up with really interesting builds that benefit specific weapons.  The boots for example have two levels of weakness exploit which I can see very easily mixing into other sets to achieve the desired affinity boost while hitting weak areas.  The other special thing about this event is the fact that we get a brand new Charge Blade that is themed after Devil May Cry as well and starts out Rank 8 without any need to do a follow on upgrade quest.  Instead of a sword and shield… it is a short sword with a run that serves as the shield…  that then turns into a giant two handed sword giving it a very unique appearance and feel while using.  A good chunk of my last week and some change has been spent collecting bits for this set and weapon… and last night I finally managed to craft the final piece when Teostra dropped that last piece of webbing.

dcg5kavvaaaeg5w

The other big thing I have been participating in is the Kulve Taroth “raid” quest that drops materials to create a really awesome set of armor that you can see me wearing in the above image.  Other than that it is also a chance for a lot of really interesting semi-random weapon drops.  During the course of the runs that I have participated in I have managed to get a purple or better weapon for every slot other than bow…  which seem to be extremely stingy for some reason.  I had enough blue weapons that when I sold them all last night I jumped from 10,000 zenny to just shy of 300,000 zenny.  The keepers have been 9 orange rank 8 weapons and 23 purple rank 7 weapons.  Like I have talked about before the real benefit of this quest is it gives you a stable of usable weapons that allows you to branch out a bit.  Like I have a decent Hunting Horn now…  why not try it out and learn to use it?

db_mteauqaah_hr

Among the weapon drops I have gotten one of the more interesting ones is this Rank 8 longsword with 330 paralysis on it.  If a monster is at all susceptible to this status effect… it seems to proc quite often.  I was clearing out some of my quests last night and took out a Lavasioth and during the short time it took me to lower it to skull territory and trap it… I managed to proc paralysis four times.  While these weapons won’t likely ever outdo a truly tuned weapon… because they are spending some item budget on defense…  I like them as well rounded general use options that I didn’t have to spend a lot of materials to create.  The Kulve Taroth quest goes away May 5th and the Dante quest goes away on May 10th.  I am curious to see what replaces each of them which I guess we will start to see late in the evening on Wednesday?  The content release schedule is odd and ends up with some things releasing Wednesday night and others releasing Thursday night.  I want to get some more farming in of Kulve tonight for more attempts at shiny gold weapons, but in the grand scheme of things I am pretty happy with the progress I managed to make.

 

 

Monster Hunter and Destiny

dbomtogvaaamrhs

While I am not quite ready to throw out a complete post about it…  I am swirling around in my head the notion of rebooting Blaugust this year.  If I did so it would be a slightly different affair and I am sorting out in my head exactly what that might entail.  There was a period of time when we had a bunch of events happening at the same time…  Developer Appreciation Week, Newbie Blogger Initiative and Blaugust.  None of which really exist today in their current form and have not properly for a few years.  So in remixing Blaugust I would be also attempting to fill some of the niches that the others provided as well by laying out a series of themed weeks.  The rough idea is it would start with the last full week in July as a sort of “Prep Week” where the remaining elder bloggers would sorta throw out “how to get started” posts from an inspirational, logistical or technical manner.  It is still an idea that is incubating however so I will do some sort of a larger post once it has solidified completely in my head.

Destiny_20160308221525

The other general thought that has been going around in my head is that Monster Hunter World has become my new Destiny: The Taken King.  That sounds counter intuitive I know since Destiny 2 is a much closer simulacrum to the original game than Monster Hunter World given that they are two completely different genres.  However what I am talking about is more the way I engage with the game rather than the way the game actually plays.  Destiny 1… especially during the Taken King era was this game I was completely obsessed with and wanted to know every tiny bit of lore I could find for it.  It was this giant box of content that allowed me to engage with it in whatever method I chose to, and also always gave me one more goal to complete once I had finished the previous one.  It was this title that I could just log in and play any given night without needing to bring into it a predetermined purpose because there were so many layered purposes available that I could easily latch onto one of them and proceed happily for an evening.

I had a small group of friends playing it, that allowed me to do bigger activities if I so choose like the various raids I completed with Axioma and later Tequila Mockingbird.  That said most of my time playing the game was just me roaming around and doing stuff that suited whatever mood I happened to be in.  There was always one more obstacle to overcome and one more piece of loot that I was chasing and never quite obtaining.  It was a perfect storm of hooks for me personally and kept me entertained right up until the point when my head was filled with daydreams of Destiny 2 and what might be.  I realize I can still log in at any point I want and play the game again…  but it almost feels tarnished due to the greatly diminished community surrounding it.

destiny-2-screenshot-2017-12-19-20-42-04-77

Destiny 2 for reasons I cannot fully explain does not contain the same hooks for me that the original did.  I tried very hard to stay focused on it, and for some time I have blamed my eventual malaise towards the game on the fact that I tried to play it twice.  What I mean by that is that I played the game hard and heavy when it released on Playstation 4 and then immediately turned around and went through the same manic leveling process on the PC one month later.  Effectively I ran up six characters to high gear levels back to back, and I had managed to hit 305 the then cap on PS4 before swapping over to PC and grinding up to that point again.  That is a lot to ask of any game to sustain interested during that sort of nonsense and I largely explained my fading away from the title as simple burnout.

The problem is there was so much more that I have yet to completely unpack.  The moment to moment game play in Destiny 2 feels amazing…  but there is a problem with its feedback loop.  What was missing was my drive to keep doing more of it once I had obtained whatever shiny baubles I wanted to obtain weapon wise.  What was missing was some larger overarching pull that kept me going off and doing individual tasks that ultimately felt like they were adding up to some big payoff.  In part the problem is a lot of those items that I used to grind for…  now exist as Eververse cash shop exclusives.  The other problem is that when they have put in longer grinds like the weapons of osiris…  they feel extremely hollow because they are so horribly repetitive and involve you doing the same limited number of activities over and over.  I realize they are still trying to fix this broken loop and some of the upcoming changes might help it…  but I feel like their over reliance on timed mechanics is going to be a bridge I just cannot cross given now much anxiety they inflict.

dbomtogvaaamrhs

On the flip side you have the game Monster Hunter World that I honestly did not expect to get into, given my lousy track record with the handheld versions.  However I am engaging with it much the way as I engaged with Destiny during the Taken King era.  I find myself looking up lore for the monsters if they have existed in the series before, and if not speculations about their origins and such that are floating around on Reddit.  I find myself researching bits and parts for armor and what interesting builds surround them that exploit their specific attributes.  I find myself able to log into the game any given night and just find something to do because I have this massive laundry list of things I want to go acquire.  I can always use more elder dragon parts….  but similarly can use the gemstones that are rare drops off of almost any creature you can hunt.  I became completely ecstatic last night when I got a double gem drop off Zorah Magdaros…  that I cannot fully explain why I was bothering to do in the first place.

This is the feedback loop that used to drive me while playing Destiny 1 and it is the feedback loop that keeps me doing nonsense.  I have an addiction to SOS Roulette which isn’t even really a thing…  just something I made up in my head to relate it to the various roulette’s in Final Fantasy XIV.  I like dropping into the middle of an assortment of random events happening that people need help on and trying to push the scenario to a win condition by my interaction with it.  Sure there are times we fail miserably like Monday night…  but then there are nights like Last night where we somehow managed to win every single boss fight I attempted including Val Hazaak and Nergigante.  There will likely NEVER be a time when I cannot use at least one or two things off the elder dragons.

dyuizgsu0aaepnx

What makes Monster Hunter World so sticky is that eat time I get the parts to craft a new piece of gear, it ends up opening a whole bunch of possibilities to solve other problems…  and often times leads me down a path of wanting something else to try some new build out.  The way the gear sets interact in interesting ways means I am constantly searching for another piece of gear to complete a specific stat packages that I have decided in my head that I need.  This was the same sort of nonsense that happened for me in Destiny 1 where I was constantly seeking out a slightly better stat package that interacted more perfect with the gear I had.  I had a vault full of items that I didn’t want to shard because they were useful under certain circumstances and led me to want to keep them.  I am having this same problem in Monster Hunter World where I am afraid I will legitimately hit the 1000 item hard  cap on equipment.

Effectively what I have realized is that Monster Hunter World is my new Destiny, and hopefully I have explained a bit this morning what that actually means.  It is that game that I can pick up and play without any real reason… and find a constant stream of activities that I want to be doing…  that also feel like they are working towards some larger objective.  Capcom is doing an excellent job of keeping a constantly flow of events and activities happening almost every week to keep us engaged and wanting to do new an interesting things.  Kulve Taroth is phenomenal and might go down as some of my favorite content in any game…  but the fact that they sprung it on us completely unannounced makes it all the more exciting.  While I have had friends who have bounced off of this game… I still maintain an active enough community to be able to do things together if need be.  The only problem is that right now I seem to be a couple of hours off what would be prime monster hunting time…  given that I tend to wind down around 9:30 my time and that is when folks are getting online.

Ultimately while this might seem counter-intuitive…  if you loved the original Destiny but largely have bounced off Destiny 2…  you might give Monster Hunter World a try.