Cruel Grey Button

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I honestly don’t have a whole hell of a lot to talk about this morning.  The world has been crazy between me and my work and juggling managing four different initiatives…  and my wife and her normal back to school frantic rush.  In theory at least in my world I am hoping that in the near future one of those initiatives wraps up and I can at least drop one team from my radar temporarily.  On the school front tomorrow is the first day back with kids, but my wife has been in “back to normal” mode since Monday.  The new normal however is extra stressful this year because there were some fairly severe last minute changes.  I know I have talked in the deep past on this blog about the forensics class she tag team teaches with a science teacher.  On Monday, the first day teachers reported back… that other teacher that she relies on…  decided to quit.  This of course throws everything into a state of immediate turmoil because moment now is about preparing to have a completely different teacher doing the co-teach thing with her.  Thankfully someone she is pretty close with ended up getting the position, but yesterday abruptly turned into a full day of helping this other teacher move classrooms and set up.  Today in theory is going to be about trying to discuss what the hell they are going to do…  when the kids arrive tomorrow.

The only thing I really have to talk about is the fact that yesterday I fired up the Battle.net launcher… and got super excited when I noticed that they have added a new Activision section to the side bar of games.  This is starting to feel super real at this point and I now have a greyed out install button that should in theory become available at some point before the August 29th beta date.  It has been a really long time since I longed for access to a beta… but holy shit do I wish I could play Destiny 2 right now.  I mean don’t get me wrong I am loving my rediscovery of Guild Wars 2…  but I need some Destiny in my life.  The problem that I keep running into each time I boot up Destiny 1 is the fact that it feels like I am playing a game that is ultimately going away.  I mean I fully expect that the game will remain active for a period of time after the launch of Destiny 2…  but it feels like I am not really devoting time to anything meaningful.  I have a hard time getting excited about the concept of completing the achievement books.  The fact that they tied gear and rewards to them this time made it a little bit better, but it still feels like I am spending my limited time playing what is ultimately a disposable experience.  I admit this is a little ironic considering that I wish I could be playing Destiny 2 beta which is in itself a completely 100% disposable experience.

I am really excited about the prospects of playing the game on the PC and having access to my battle.net friends list.  I am really hoping that cross chat with other blizzard games is a thing that exists and that I can keep tabs on my WoW playing friends while I am off shooting Cabal for shiny loots.  I do however need to have a bit of a “come to jesus” with my friends list and prune it in preparation of the launch.  Not saying that there are people from my past that I really am happy that are in my past…  but also not saying that.  I am sure there are a handful of those people still hanging out somewhere in the bowels of my battle.net friends list.  I am also really hoping that with the launch of Destiny they introduce some sort of appear offline mode that they have been talking about.  There are nights when I just cannot deal with other human beings.  Counter intuitively the feature that I want the most from BNet is cross server chat channels.  My social connections have evolved to this state where I sort of have a guild without actually having a game.  What I mean by that is I have this stable group of people that I interact with on a daily basis… and slacks and discords that have become the new “guild chat” as it were…  but that it isn’t necessarily completely encompassed by a single game.  Having a social channel that spanned World of Warcraft, Diablo 3, Starcraft 2, Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, Overwatch, Starcraft Remake and now Destiny 2…  would be pretty great.  Sure one on one conversation is a thing that exists across game but it would be cool to have that extended guild chat feel to it.

Active World

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As you know from the last several posts I have made on the subject…  I have been playing a shocking amount of Guild Wars 2.  I am still a little surprised myself considering how many years I just did not like this game at all.  Something clicked in my brain and I am honestly happy that I stuck around long enough for that moment to happen.  It’s weird just how much of what we like and dislike happens is related to the experiences we are ultimately comparing it to, and our present frame of mind.  One of the things that I am finding shocking right now is just how damned active the game actually is.  My frame of reference there has been mostly World of Warcraft, where not too long ago I spent some time on low level characters namely in the Ashenvale area.  When pushing up my Orc Warrior I could go the entire night without seeing another single player.  It legitimately felt like I was the only person in zone most of the time, and even if I made a trip to the Crossroads…  it was a bit of a rarity that I actually encountered anyone there either.  The weird part about this is the fact that I play on Argent Dawn and for the most part have every other role-playing server blended together…  including the extremely high horde population Emerald Dawn server thanks to Alea Iacta Est and their presence.

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Conversely while running around in Guild Wars 2 there is rarely a moment when I don’t have another player on screen.  Last night I spent a good deal of time in Snowden Drifts which is a third tier zone in the Norn area, so not exactly a hub of the game.  However each and every time I started to engage with an event or a hero challenge… moments after starting there were a slew of other players hanging out and doing the content as well.  Now I gave the WoW reference not to somehow prove that game is dead…  but just to highlight how vastly different the two games feel right now.  Admittedly with World of Warcraft…  the vast majority of the players are simply not leveling characters because if they are like me they have a stable full of post 100 characters in various states of completion.  Guild Wars 2 has something else going for it though in that it serves to make every bit of content relevant by allowing the world to scale.  Why this becomes interesting is the fact that if you do any major event…  you have droves of players that show up to participate.  The above event screenshot is from a random Ley-Line Anomaly from Gendarran Fields a level 25-35 area.  By the time I saw the server message… and ported over there were already hundreds of players fighting the Anomaly.  What makes this encounter so interesting is the fact that every so often it straight up kills a handful of players, and like clockwork there is always a chunk of players that stick around and rez the fallen before catching up.  Thankfully in the case of this fight the mob drops these beacons that will allow you to leap ahead significant distances to try and keep from penalizing those community minded players.

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One of the cool parts about Guild Wars 2 as well is the fact that at some point in the recent past they decided to open up the base game to everyone.  Now you can pick up the “Standard Collection” for $49.99 which includes the base game, Heart of Thorns expansion and the as yet to be released Path of Fire expansion as well as 2 level 80 character boosts.  That is pretty cool but if you are just wanting to dip your toes in to test the water, you can play the game for free with this registration link.  In truth I suggest that option first given that it has legitimately taken me five years to reach a point where I am finding that I really truly do love this game.  Now that free account has a bunch of restrictions on it, which thankfully they outline in a support article.  Namely it seems like this is the standard protecting the environment MMO fare of limiting communication options.  However there are a couple that are going to be annoying…  namely the limit of 2 character slots and only 3 bag slots given that the game I feel has too small of bags in the first place.  You are also limited to only the starter zones until level 10…  but given you were probably going to stay there regardless that is not a big deal.  Unlocking of Lion’s Arch around 35 is I believe about when you would normally go there through the story quests.  Regardless if you decide you like the game you are probably going to at least pay the $50 to unlock the two expansions.  The biggest annoyance to me would be Living Story Season 2 and 3 which are treated as separate purchases if you were not around to unlock the content when it was initially available.  Now they go on sale periodically, however to purchase them outright would be around $16 per season.  That said I have yet to complete Season 2 or in truth really get started in earnest on it, so that isn’t that big of a deal.  The seasonal content helps you understand the lore of the world and the events that are going on around you.  If you just want to smash things in the face with a hammer like I often do…  this becomes optional content.

Regularly Playing: August Edition

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It has been most of the summer since I last updated my sidebar, and a lot of things have changed.  I figured it was high time that I true things up since we are just about to go into the school year, and starting to enter a pretty tightly packed release schedule for the rest of the year.  For those unfamiliar with this feature, I functionally talk about the things that I have added… the things that are remaining… and the things that I am ultimately removing from regular rotation.  I play a lot of games at any given time… and generally speaking the moment I update my sidebar…  I have a wild mood swing game wise that leads me somewhere completely differently.  So here goes nothing!

To Those Remaining

Final Fantasy XIV

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Since I last posted there has been a lot of movement in this game, namely the release of a new expansion called Stormblood.  As a result I swapped my Heavensward icon out for a Stormblood one.  As far as my time in the game…  I’ve reached 70 and 310+ gear on both my Warrior and my Samurai and have fallen off significantly in the amount of time I am actually playing.  There is still plenty to be done, and I want to get back in the swing of playing on a regular basis, however lately I am deep within my own turtle session which means I tend to be favoring games where I don’t have much of a crowd.  Still well within the realm of active games, just only logging in once or twice a day instead of devoting all of my time to it.

To The Returning and New

Guild Wars 2

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This is the first time since picking up the game at launch that I can legitimately say that I am really enjoying myself while playing this game.  For whatever reason it took five years to actually click with me, and now it is like discovering hidden treasure.  I am attempting to do all the things and it is fitting the bill really well because I don’t have much infrastructure in the game currently.  My current goal is reaching 100% in all of the old world zones, which I believe is one of the requirements for starting down the Legendary weapon rabbit hole.  Another huge boon for my enjoyment of the game is the fact that there are now proper beards for non-norn characters.

Rift

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To be honest since its release in 2011 it has never really been far off my radar.  Crawling back into Rift is like wrapping myself in a warm blanket, because it is so familiar.  In the past six years I’ve had highs and lows with the game, but I know that regardless I will always return and always be interested in whatever happens to be going on.  Recently during my turtle mode game play in general, I have been spending a bit of time trying to catch up and hit the Prophecy of Ahnket level cap.  I am also digging the tweaks I made to my default outfit.  Rift in many ways feels like this snapshot of what everyone wanted in a game around its release, and in some ways it is still ahead of its time.  In other ways though it feels like a time capsule to a time when MMO games were slower paced and more methodical.  I still find it enjoyable and am always proud to feature it on my sidebar when I am playing.

Diablo 3

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Another game that is never far off my radar is Diablo 3, and with us currently being in the thrall of another season…  it is obviously occupying some sidebar territory.  This is the first season to feature Necromancers and it has been hilarious to see literally bone spikes for days.  I really don’t have a whole lot to talk about the game because if by now you don’t get my attraction you probably never will.

World of Warcraft

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I have honestly all but stopped playing World of Warcraft, but I am keeping a space on my sidebar for it because of the RoboSquid Armada.  This is effectively our weird brain chain of trying to run every dungeon and raid in World of Warcraft at level in minimal gear.  Prior to the launch of Stormblood we had left off at Blackfathom Deeps and it seems like everyone is coalescing towards starting this up again.  I am more than happy to do some madness with my baby monk.

To Those Departing

Star Wars the Old Republic

If I am being completely honest… I have to say I love what this game has become.  I had this awesome time playing through the Shadows of Revan, Ziost and Fallen Empire content and then I sort of needed a break from deeply story driven gaming.  It was also around about this time that we were ramping up for the release of Stormblood.  At some point in the future when I need to completely dive into something wholly immersive… I will pick this back up and run through the Eternal Throne story line.  I still poke my head in from time to time, but not enough to keep it on the sidebar.

Horizon Zero Dawn

This is one of those games that I really need to finish, but I have a feeling by the time I ultimately get back around to it…  I will functionally need to restart the experience.  This game is a casualty of too many other games coming out at the same time… and ultimately its playtime got eaten up by Mass Effect Andromeda that for whatever reason clicked way harder with me than Horizon did.  I really enjoyed the game but I feel like I am going to have to be in the right frame of mind to actually return to it.

Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild

Another game that has fallen off the radar that I want to start back up at some point is Breath of the Wild.  Two things happened to harm this experience… firstly a bunch of other stuff got released.  Secondly… I picked up the switch and decided to restart the game.  I still play this occasionally but not enough to really keep it hanging out on the right side of the screen.

Finally Invested

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Sometimes I do not understand my own gaming whims.  In theory I should be logging into Final Fantasy XIV every single night and working on collecting the last bits of stuff I need from Omega, or at the very least trying to cap the latest limited tier of bookrocks.  However instead I am finding myself wandering around in a bunch of different games where I have little to no online gaming community.  I’ve been in pretty deep turtle mode, and as a result I have been dodging other human beings left and right.  I’ve talked about the “spoons” concept in the past, but right now it feels like every last spoon I have is getting used up before I hit the house in the evening.  So what this means is a much higher percentage of passive activities like watching stuff from netflix, and a lower percentage of things like gaming that requires active participation.  Effectively at this very moment I am managing two different teams at work…  one of which my normal crew of developers and the second being a sort of response team to an issue that has been going on.  This is eating up every last drop of my time and attention.  There was one day last week where out of what turned into a 10 hour work day… I had 7 hours worth of meetings…  followed by furious periods of attempting to get anything done.  The glorious lie of being salaried is that in theory you get the same amount of money if you work 4 hours as if you work 40 hours…  but what that means in reality is I have never worked less than 40 hours anywhere I have ever been.  Most weeks I work significantly over because I wind up working through lunch.  Needless to say all of this sustained madness leaves me pretty drained when it comes to interactions with other human beings.  To make matters worse in a short amount of time we will be going through the upheaval that comes when my wife starts back to school for a new semester, and having to double down on my support infrastructure as she adjusts to having to leave the house every day.

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I am not sure if it is due to my current state of mind… or if I have just slowly warmed to the game over time…  but at some point I decided that Guild Wars 2 was apparently something awesome to be playing.  I have a really tenuous past with this game that I won’t go into now because I have talked about it at length in the past on this blog.  At some point however it started to feel decent to run around in this world and have all of these little micro objectives that I could be doing…  without feeling like I was terribly tied to completing any of them.  This week however I for some reason started working on the main story quest yet again… and almost five years after the launch of the game I managed to beat it and have officially entered the “living story” content proper.  I cannot tell you how initially turned off I was on the concept of living story being this limited time thing.  The fact that all I can see from Season 1 is a short montage of the events that happened in it still frustrates the shit out of me.  However the fact that Season 2 and Season 3 are sitting there waiting on me actually gives me some reason to keep moving forward in the game.  There is just a deluge of content available spread across a whole ton of games that I enjoy playing…  and in order for me to keep being interested in a game it needs to sit there waiting on me.  In truth I juggle a bunch of games at once, flipping to whatever game happens to feel good at that very moment.  Recently I have been playing a sizable amount of Rift as well because it similarly is devoid of a social community that I have to worry about interacting with.  I have a feeling that if this turtle keeps up…  I will be revisiting SWTOR and Elder Scrolls Online as well… and in all of those cases I know there will be fresh content patiently waiting on me to return and enjoy it.

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What has kept me engaged thus far in Guild Wars 2 was that the story picked up.  For a long time I thought the main arc was a little nonsense, and it involved a lot of characters that I was not that deeply endeared to largely because they were all dicks to each other.  However at some point the tide turned and I got engaged in the race to discover Orr and uncover its mysteries.  This process kept pushing me into zones I had never seen before, which lead to me wandering around and exploring…  which lead to me doing little side missions and objectives.  What used to feel like an unsatisfying loop…  suddenly felt extremely sticky as I slowly became invested in the game world.  Now I legitimately can say I love this game, and it took a really long time to get there.  For years I didn’t understand why people enjoyed it.  There was a point last year where the AggroChat crew and I did some Fractals… at which point I thought I had understood where the core fun of the game was.  However after spending some more time wandering around it feels like the core fun of the game…  is that there is just so damned much stuff to be doing at any given time.  All of it feels equally rewarding and equally likely to give you something that might be useful.  The difference here is that I am effectively in the same gear I have been wearing for the last few years…  but that the game has given me all sorts of horizontal leveling paths that do everything from increase my mobility…  to simply increasing my luck chance.  The best part of all of this is that a good deal is unlocked at an account level so regardless of which alt I decide to be playing…  I am getting a good deal of the benefit.  How I got around the old world without gliding is beyond me… and I have a feeling with the upcoming expansion once I get the ability to ride mounts I will have a similar feeling.  Another major change is the fact that with the expansion character models…  I can now have a proper beard as you can see me sporting in the first image…  as well as a nifty eye scar.  I am not exactly sure when the turtle will end, but in the meantime I am finding interesting ways to enjoy new worlds.

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.

Top Five Lists Are Hard

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I failed miserably at attempting to do a daily creative thing.  Yesterday was an extremely crappy day on the work front, or at least one that drained every little bit of sanity out of me.  By the time I got home I just wanted to vegetate on the sofa and play some games.  With the announcement of the Guild Wars 2 Path of Fire expansion coming in September, this I am sure rekindled the fires for a lot of folks.  For me personally… its particular un-directed style of roaming aimlessly yet still feeling like you accomplished something was a reasonable fit for the state of mind I happened to be in last night.  It’s funny how my opinions of this game have changed significantly over the years.  While I was in Alpha I was not a fan at all… and this is still the only Alpha program I purposefully resigned from.  In Beta however I started to see some of the merits and played a little bit at launch, however that did not last extremely long.  For years afterwards I was a bit at odds with the game and not really getting what everyone else was seeing in it.  However about a year ago the AggroChat crew all returned and started doing some of the group content and more or less I began to see the merit.  More recently I just find it an excellent source of bite sized entertainment…  which is I think the intended goal all along.  Of the original Guild Wars content, Nightfall was probably my favorite “expansion” that of course wasn’t actually an expansion.  So since Path of Fire is going to be in that same area I am looking forward to this expansion way more than I did Heart of Thorns.  I also find it extremely interesting that they are continuing to give horizontal progression…  which on some level has traditionally bothered me…  but also allows me to not feel left behind each time the game moves forward.  The primary problem there is that I feel so far behind in  the alternate progression paths that I will likely never actually catch up without a serious time investment.

Yesterday a tweet was making its way across my twitterverse and it was interesting seeing everyone’s responses.  The problem however is that I personally have a really hard time narrowing it down to a list of 50…  let alone a list of 5.  I made an effort to do so… then as soon as I posted it came up with half a dozen other alternates that potentially could have bounced the titles I listed from contention.  When I look at an “of all time” list I tend to think of things in terms of long term replay-ability as well as the overall experience I had playing the game.  Namely can I pick this title up today and still play it with the same level of joy that I had when I originally played the game.  This means there is a significant number of titles from the PS1 and PS2 eras that are just dead to me without the introduction of a remaster or remake.  We’ve experienced this several times in the AggroChat game club as we attempted to relive a title from the past only to find it doesn’t live up to our modern expectations for how a game should behave.  So here is the list of games that I managed to whittle down to on impulse yesterday.

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

This is the only game that is pretty much universally always going to be my number one slot…  until something dethrones it.  I love everything about this game from the art style to the music to the level design.  I have this title in the original PS1 release, Sega Saturn, PSP, PS3, PS Vita, and Xbox 360 versions.  To the best of my knowledge this means I own it on pretty much every platform it has been released on… and truthfully I can happily keep playing this over and over.  About once a year I seem to boot it up and play through it… and I am secretly hoping that the Switch gets a release at some point.

Fallout New Vegas

I waffled on this one a bit because I like ALL of the modern Fallout games… but personally I feel like New Vegas is the best version so far.  It has everything I liked about Fallout 3 but includes a much better overarching storyline.  At release this was rife with all manner of bugs… but over time through official and unofficial patches it has reached an extremely solid state and is one of those games I can still boot up at any time and return to happily.

Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

This for me is always likely going to be the pinnacle of the Legend of Zelda franchise.  Its Zelda at its most Zeldaish, and again this is one of those games that I can keep playing over and over.  I remember this also being one of the first times I was completely shocked by a World 2 transition, in thinking I had almost beat the game…  and then finding out that maybe I had finished a fifth of it.  What I love the most is just how much stuff lies just slightly off the path and is not really required to beat the game.

Dragon Age: Origins

There are times I would like to say that I love the Dragon Age franchise…  but in truth I really just love Dragon Age: Origins.  I have significant problems with Dragon Age 2 and Inquisition, and I just can’t ever seem to get anywhere near as engaged as I did the first time.  The thing is… it isn’t actually the first time because I have continued to successfully return to this world and play it over and over.  The Grey Warden storyline beats every storyline they have come up with to date in every possible way… and I just want to keep reliving that character and experience.  Additionally this was my Gateway drug into Mass Effect because if I did not love this game… I probably never would have given that franchise a second shot.

Mass Effect 2

Linked to the one above…  Mass Effect 2 is the pinnacle of the series for me personally.  It does the most things I want from Mass Effect which is honestly the “away mission” feel that you have in this game.  In part I think Andromeda does a good job of recapturing this feeling, but the second game in the series will always hold a special place in my heart because it is the game that made me fall in love with this setting.  I bounced pretty hard off of the PC port of Mass Effect because of the fairly cludgy interface, but after absolutely loving Dragon Age… and finding out that ME2 was going to be using that engine I gave the game a second shot.  What I found was this rich world that ultimately caused me to go back and suffer through the first game so I could experience more of it.  I love everything about this game from the recruitment of interesting characters, to ominous baddies… and even more ominous allies.

More Games

The moment I hit send I had a flood of other titles that really should have been included, and as a result I am just going to run through a few of these without delving into them.  Regardless this is an extremely difficult exercise, because how do you condense over thirty five years of gaming into a single list of five.

  • Destiny
  • Diablo 3
  • Final Fantasy VI
  • Super Mario World
  • Knights of the Old Republic
  • Planescape Torment
  • Super Metroid
  • Phantasy Star IV
  • Guardian Heroes
  • Rivercity Ransom
  • Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo
  • Mortal Kombat II
  • World of Warcraft
  • Hellgate London
  • Wolfenstein New Order
  • Doom II
  • Minecraft
  • Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2
  • Thomas Was Alone

and honestly…  the moment I hit post I will think of several dozen more than deserve to be on the list.  Basically this is a really hard thing to do for me.

A Warm Blanket

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Today marks the beginning of the whole “Daily Creative Thing” business and while you might have been expecting something from me…  unfortunately you can’t really expect me to get up and do creativity by six in the morning.  Sitting down and writing out a blog post is challenging enough.  I am however planning on making something happen today or tonight depending upon when the muse hits me.  The other big thing going on today is that it is my Nineteenth wedding anniversary, and while I am not entirely certain what we are doing to mark the occasion yet I am sure we will come up with something.  In truth what it will probably mean is that my wife and I go out to dinner, and then wander around hitting the various stores and checking to see if they have started marking down their back to school stuff yet.  “School Supply Season” is like Christmas for my wife, and while this is not exactly the normal thing for people to get excited about…  it is for a teacher.  I’ve spent many an hour over the years scrounging for one last folder or ruler or package of gluesticks for her classroom.

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Work is still madness and I am still finding myself deep in the throes of turtle mode.  Honestly more than anything what happens during these times is I resort to comfort gaming.  I end up dusting off a game that I had not been playing that much and spend a significant chunk of time roaming around its world.  Lately that has meant an awful lot of Rift because much like Phantasy Star Online yesterday… I carry a significant torch for this game as well.  In honor of the occasion I decided to vary up my default wardrobe a bit from what I had been running around in the first screenshot… to what I am now running around in…  which is honestly mostly just some dye and swapping a few pieces.  I never managed to hit the “Prophecy of” level cap and I’ve just been working my way through any of the content that I had left to do in various zones.  So far the thing that I am liking the most about the content is the way that each zone has this major event that takes place at the very end of the zone that ties up a bunch of loose threads from various quests and packages it neatly in this really epic fight.  In many ways Rift feels like a game from a different time, and this has both good and bad aspects to it.  The bad is it feels much slower than other MMOs and the time to kill and time to level can feel a little grating at times.  However on the good side this is also this same thing that makes it feel familiar and lived in…  and something that I can return to over and over to wear it like a blanket.  The main problem that I have with Rift that ultimately causes me to wander away is that I don’t have my social infrastructure here.  My circle of friends that I record the podcast and game on a nightly basis with…  have moved on past this game and will likely never return.  At this point I think I am just too set in my ways to branch out and build new communities, and I also know that I will soon return to the fold and wander away from the game myself.

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Another game I have been playing a not insignificant amount of is Fallout 4.  This runs pretty damned smoothly on the laptop and it has been a recent go to for when I want to wander around a world and explore a bit.  In the theme of carrying torches for games… I have loved Fallout since I saved up my pennies to buy the first game when it released back in 1997.  I was going to college at the time and not really buying many games, but still made a beeline to Walmart to pick it up once I knew they had it in stock.  Side note… that was literally the only place in town that sold PC games and was before the mass expansion of Game Stop.  At that point Software Etc and Babbages still existed as separate entities as well as Comp USA and the unrelated Circuit City and Computer City.  When the games made the tradition to the open world format I was skeptical but quickly got on board thanks to my love of the Elder Scrolls games.  Now the modern Fallout games serve as this familiar touchstone that I can keep returning to anytime I need solace.  I’ve started countless games of Fallout 3 and New Vegas and it seems like now I am carrying that tradition over into Fallout 4 as well.  My default play mode tends to be to wander towards a corner of the map and do whatever happens to be there.  I am not really big for following larger quests in this game, and I likely would have never actually beaten it were it not for the fact that we chose this as a game club game… and I felt obligated to do so.  Gaming in general for me is not ever really about beating the game… but more about existing in that game world for a period of time.  The game world of choice is determined by whatever mood I happen to be in.  Fallout for me tends to be for when I am in a slower paced mood and want to wander around aimlessly dispensing frontier justice on the raiders.

 

Assorted Turtling

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Yesterday was an exceedingly stressful day, and that combined with the fact that my wife is out of town…  lead to a sudden bout of turtling.  For those unfamiliar with the nomenclature…  I go through these periods where I feel like I need to pull my head into my shell to attempt to remain sane.  I’m thankful that I have a few friends that get it, and don’t give me too much hassle about it, but every so often I just reach this point where I need to disconnect from humanity.  Last night was one of those nights and I cycled restlessly through a whole bunch of games to see if I could find something that would fit well enough to pass the evening in.  The negative is that in theory this should have been a night I was tanking in Final Fantasy XIV, but I just could not handle communicating with others…  or having anyone I cared about relying on me.  The irony is that I wound up for a bit early in the evening in Destiny…  and absolutely wound up carrying two other players hard through a random strike.  I took a screenshot not because it is impressive…  but because it shows the massive difference between my participation and that of the other two.  This was on the Wretched Eye strike… and I wound up kiting the Ogre… and DPSing most things down…  and resurrecting the other two people constantly.  Now I know what Squirrel and Jex feel like when I run with them.

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From there I wound up back downstairs and watched the last episode of Handmaid’s Tale…  which is maybe not the best idea to watch when you are already feeling depressed.  While doing so I ended booting up Rift and playing around some there.  I am still level 67 and working on the Gedlo Badlands, which is not exactly my favorite zone so far.  Moonshade Highlands is my jam, and I have never been that big of a fan of desolate desert landscapes…  especially not ones where everything is on fire.  That said I did make a lot of progress knocking out various quests and while it still feels like my experience bar isn’t really moving…  the constant ding of planar levels seems to help the feeling of being mired.  I have been running around with a heavy Warlord hybrid build, and while I have been absent it seems to have been buffed significantly.  Previously I had a lot of problems with struggling to kill a given mob in time before it killed me.  Now I seem to be able to run around and wreck things pretty safely.  My biggest complaint with Starfall Prophecy now Prophecy of Ahnket… are the legendary morphs of abilities.  Each of them seems to read like it is going to be universally better than the original…  but after taking a few of them they seem to FEEL worse.  The biggest problem here is that you cannot undo them without paying for a respec…and then you have to remember what the hell you chose as a spec down to the point where you screwed up and chose the wrong legendary morph.  Personally I think the system should just be a toggle, and that you can have X number of legendaries toggled on equal to the number you have earned.

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I also played a little Secret World Legends, which is something I seem to do just about every day… or at the very least I am logging in to get the rewards.  I am not completely sold on the game but I am enjoying it enough to keep showing up and experiencing it.  The combat feels fresh enough to make going through a bunch of quests I did long long ago feel worth it.  My key complaint however is the game still does a piss poor job of clearly identifying which quests you have completed and which ones you have not.  That was one of my biggest problems with the game is to log in and roam around through a sea of cutely named quests… that all sort of blend together in my head making it impossible to sort out if I have or have not completed them.  This was even worse when it came to expansion content going into the game, and blending in among all of those other quests that I did a year ago.  So far blade and elemental is fun enough, but I find myself really missing the shotgun… and with the way gear levels up in this game I feel like I am really not in a great place to switch gears at any point soon.  I do have an extremely low level shotgun sitting in my inventory and I might try swapping it out at some point soon just to see if it is viable.  I’ve moved on to the Savage Coast but there is honestly still a lot in Kingsmouth that I have never really gotten around to completing.  My biggest complaint overall is as compared to the original… the drop rates of anything meaningful in the world is nonexistent.  All of your gear seems to come from lootbags gained through doing quests… so I have a feeling that a big part of the “endgame” is going to be repeating quests on the daily reset to get more stuff to fuse into your gear.  That doesn’t really bode well for those players that are not a big fan of grindy mechanics.

 

Minuet 42

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A few days ago I said I had more or less “beat” the Destiny 2 beta in part because there is so little to actually do in it.  That said for whatever reason I keep returning and playing.  Since writing my initial post I have done the strike several times and spend a bit more time in the Crucible.  Some of my initial comments about not really liking the 4 vs 4 format and the small map sizes, is in part me likely just getting adjusted to changes and not really having a weapon load-out that I would have preferred.  Traditionally my crucible build has been an Auto Rifle in the primary slot… usually my extreme stability Haakon’s Hatchet or if I am feeling squirrely…  my Genesis Chain.  From there I generally have either a Shotgun in the secondary slot Invective or Party Crasher +1 or I go for one of my Fusion Rifles…  traditionally Saladin’s Vigil.  The heavy slot varies greatly because in truth… I am not really expecting to get heavy ammo in Crucible matches so I am not super concerned.  If I have an exotic slot available I go with Gjallarhorn and if not probably my Silvered Dread machine gun.  The problem with the Destiny 2 weapon loadouts is that on my preferred class… the Titan there was nothing that I could really replicate this feel with so I in part had to feel out what worked for me in the new scheme.

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What finally ended up feeling good and seeming usable is to run a Submachine Gun in my primary slot, namely The Showrunner seen above.  However in truth I was using this weapon much in the same way as I would have used a secondary in Destiny 1 only swapping to it at certain times.  For my main weapon I relied heavily on the Minuet Hand Cannon sitting in my energy weapon slot, because it had some significant stopping power and actually allowed me to win non-teamshot firefight engagements.  Where the sub machinegun was handy is any time that someone ran up on me, I could hang out just outside of melee range and grind them down with a rapid fire hail of bullets.  In theory I think this is more or less what folks who loved the sidearm used to do…  but I never could make sidearms work for me in this fashion.  As far as the heavy/power weapon slot…  once again I didn’t care too terribly much about this given that I was similarly not expecting to ever get ammunition for it…  so instead just relied on the grenade launcher in case I ever did.  I am by no means “good” at the new Crucible, but I managed to find a setup and style that worked for me and I managed to keep climbing higher in my efficiency number as the night went on.

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The thing that I find the most impressive about the Destiny 2 demo experience… is the fact that it is so damned short yet I kept returning day after day to keep experiencing it in any way that I could.  In part it has made me want to actually dig in and try and finish some of the book achievements that are sitting there unfinished, and bask in the glory of the Destiny 1 experience before it is gone.  All in all I am anxiously awaiting the release of this game and even more so the upcoming PC beta that we are getting at some point in August.  I have a lot of concerns relating to the PC version, namely how it is going to feel and how well it plays in my various systems.  I am really hoping that I can figure out a set of tweaks to get it to play with passable performance on my i7 Geforce 960m laptop.  I am not expecting the world and would be completely fine with running 720p on it…  pending that the performance is at a minimum 30 fps.  One moment of sadness last night however is that the left thumb stick on  beloved Hori FPS Plus controller started tearing.  I am seemingly particularly hard on left thumb sticks, and as Squirrel pointed out last night…  since it is not our aiming stick we are way less gentle with it.  I ordered a set of cheapo aftermarket thumb stick caps, hoping that maybe just maybe it will fit.  I tried one of the Kontrol Freaks PS4 caps that I had laying around and it kept popping off because the slightly smaller than normal size.  All in all though I am going to be really sad to see Destiny 2 beta ending tonight, but will be looking forward to actually getting to play  the game at launch.

 

Four Necros

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Last night was the beginning of a brand new season in Diablo 3, and once again Grace and myself did our hang out and level new characters thing.  Traditionally these season opens happen on a Friday night, so there is always the ability to stay up until we hit the level cap.  Granted that has not actually happened in awhile with us usually crashing somewhere in range of 60.  Yesterday was a bit of a weird situation with the season open happening on a “School Night” as it were, which curbed our play session around 10 pm my time.  I finally called it because I was starting to drift off at the keyboard and when I did none of the other three players seemed to complain much about it.  I’ve been on this odd kick of going to bed around 10/10:30 which is significantly earlier than my traditional midnight.  Maybe my age is finally catching up with me?  Whatever the case… we managed to hit somewhere in the range of 47 before calling it a night.

Considering this is the first season post Rise of the Necromancer…  you can probably already imagine that we were a party of four…  and an army of dozens and dozens of undead following us around.  Can I just tell you how glorious it is to see four Necros doing their Necro thing?  We ran a bunch of Neph Rifts as is the traditional best leveling practice… and we got some insane spawns out of the gate that wound up boosting our characters significantly in the few hours we actually played.  There was one relatively small rift map that literally had almost nothing but yellow and blue packs which mean’t we had summoned the guardian well before we were actually prepared for it.  Necromancers have a really weird power curve in that they still start out a little weak, at least when it comes to raw damage output.  That Rift Guardian took forever for us to whittle down with our undergeared level 5 selves…  but within a few levels we were easily breaking apart and churning through a full round of bounties solo style.  At the point I left the seasonal content last night, I had reached effectively the same build of abilities that I was using on my level 70 necromancer.

  • Left Click – Bone Spike (Path of Bones)
  • Right Click – Blood Rush (Transfusion)
  • 1 – Revive (Purgatory)
  • 2 – Command Skeletons (Frenzy)
  • 3 – Command Golem (Bone Golem)
  • 4 – Skeletal Mage (Skeleton Archer)
  • Fueled By Death Passive
  • Commander of the Risen Dead Passive
  • Extended Servitude Passive

Path of Bones is my favorite builder in part because I can sit back a long ways from the targets and still be gaining essense while my bone army chews stuff apart.  Transfuion is largely as a reasonable way of getting back some health while also providing an escape mechanism.  There is rarely a time when I would need to use it… that I am not going to at least pass through a few enemies during the travel time.  Bone Golem just makes for a really nice AOE damage dealer… and it was hilarious when the four of us needed to do a boss and unleashed that all at the same time. Revive becomes the bread and butter way of getting extra attackers and quickly becomes more useful than the meat firework option that is corpse explosion.  What I like about purgatory is that it means I can keep recycling targets because when your revives die they turn back into corpses.  Functionally what I do is play with Flesh Golem up until the point I get this ability and then thankfully you can switch over to Bone Golem without losing a source of corpses.  The necromancer is insanely fun and if you have not played it yet, I highly suggest checking it out.