Anthem Demo Weekend Two

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Outdoor cat has officially been fed so I can now sit down and start trying to compose my feelings about Anthem Demo weekend number two.  The first “VIP Demo” weekend was for folks who had pre-ordered the game and I will assume a certain batch of influencers that were brought to that special EA event to record footage.  You can scroll through my thoughts about that weekend in a post I made last week, but for me and most of the AggroChat crew it was a buggy and often times unplayable mess.  However there was enough good there laying just underneath the covers to make me interested and quite honestly miss playing the game.  So while I was not on nearly as much as I could have been… I played a significant amount of Anthem this weekend.  I managed to get in a Stronghold…  this games version of a Strike and spent a significant amount of time just roaming around and doing World Events and the little mini-dungeons that are available off the segment of the map we had open to us.  It galvanized my desire to play this game… and largely reinforced my decision to keep playing the “shootymans” class the Ranger…  who appears to be a really amazing single target dps class.

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What I want to talk about the most however is what a difference there was between the first and second weekends.  During the first weekend it was a constant struggle to be able to play this game…  and in the second….  everything just sorta worked flawlessly.  Sure there were some minor glitches like for some reason our javelins would not load on the “reward” screen.  Additionally I have never actually seen the full suit prep sequence because the game kicks me over to a loading screen when I assume that sequence is designed to make us ignore how generally long loading into an area takes.  However what was gone was the need to keep closing the game with task manager and loading back in to successful get into a mission.  I could just play the game as it was intended to play and this made me way more open to grouping up with friends given that it was a predictable sequence rather than a struggle to get all four players into the same instance.

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I’m very impressed with how communicative Bioware has been during this whole sequence…  and more than that I feel heard.  We all for the most part universally complained about how bad Mouse and Keyboard Flight/Swimming felt….  and they acknowledged that yeah… it feels less than optimal.  These changes are apparently already in the “live” build of the game, but what is even better is that they have started giving us a run down of things that will be fixed before the initial EA Premier launch on the 15th and what will be in place by the 22nd.

  • UI Clicking on visible options in menus fixed for 15th Feb (except social which is 22nd Feb)
  • Navigating Menu tabs with Q and E instead of old keybindings fixed for 15th Feb
  • Forge rotation speed with mouse improved – 15th Feb
  • Scrolling with mouse wheel wont zoom your javelin AND scroll the menu (will be contextual based on where your mouse is) – 15th Feb
  • D-Pad will show as keyboard bindings – 15th Feb
  • Turning off Motion Blur in settings now works (decoupled from post processing) – 22nd Feb
  • HDR toggle available – 22nd Feb
  • Camera Shake slider added – 22nd Feb

I’ve said it before but I believe that Bioware feels the pressure that this launch has to go fairly flawlessly, given the perceived failing that Andromeda was.  The whole multiple launch dates thing does not do it any favors, especially considering that a lot of the issues that plagued Andromeda were fixed by the end of that first week.  EA has a bad habit of shredding game studios, and the whole teasing a Dragon Age game…  I think is more insurance than anything else to try and keep delaying that decision.  If launch goes like last weekend however I think we are going to be just fine, and what I really want is the same level of communication that they are giving the community to continue into the first year of the game.

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I really do think that Anthem might be the game that can finally blended the different looty shooty genre players together.  There is enough here to intrigue the Destiny players with a rich and interesting lore and the Ranger class being essentially a “Destiny” class where it is mostly gun play with a few abilities.  There is also something here for the Warframe players that want move movement and ability spam…  and the Storm and the Interceptor fill those roles nicely.  Then there is a class for the player who just wants to be a big freaking mech in the form of the Colossus.  What is better is that gameplay feels more enjoyable when you are running with a pretty decent mix of the four classes.  Ranger as far as we can tell is going to be the class that has the highest single target damage…  so great for boss killing.  Storm is the battle tactician that takes an overwatch position over the battlefield and can effect large swaths of it with its abilities.  Interceptor is the fact melee shredder that is probably going to be excellent at grabbing objectives and avoiding taking damage.  Then you have the colossus which is the king of staying alive…  as was seen this weekend when Ashgar absolutely saved the day by surviving long enough to start bringing us all back up during a stronghold.  They all have their key niche and all feel great when played together.

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Ultimately I progressed my character as far as it probably could have been during the Demo.  I managed to upgrade every slot to a level 19 rare item and my final build was an Light Machine Gun for my main weapon… a Marksman Rifle for my secondary to melt anything at a distance like snipers.  Then I would run poison darts to act as my primer… that also doubles as a debuff that causes me to just deal extra damage to that target.  Frag Grenades after trying a bunch of different options seems to be my detonator of choice, and also a decent crowd sweeper.  Then muster point is what I was running as a damage boost for helping to burn down those big mobs.  As far as components I was running one to increase Frag damage and another to increase LMG Ammunition, and it was a build I was pretty damned happy with.  I could in theory go for a max damage build by picking up the devastator sniper rifle, but I never got one of those to drop for me and did not see it in the crafting tables.  I also settled in on the above paint scheme which is pretty much the colors I tend to choose in any game that gives me the options.

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Towards the end of the weekend they started an event that caused Primals to spawn in large numbers and frequency… so I managed to get in and take down a few of the bigger ones.  In fact I was fighting one of the big primals when the servers went down, so no clue what loot might have dropped.  Weirdly the game let me keep fighting, so I am guessing part of the world is cached on the client itself?  This gives me concerns when it comes to what hackers are going to be able to do to the game…  but without a PVP element I am not entirely certain how much it will effect me.  I am a little saddened that it sounds like while my weekend was smooth and flawless…  others that had a flawless previous weekend…  started encountering disconnect problems during this test.  I’ve now played 16 hours worth of the Anthem demo and can say that I am looking forward to starting on the 15th.  If you have not already picked up the game…  you can pony up for a month of Premier…  which gives you a discount that you can then apply to your preorder…  and will also give you access to the full game on the 15th instead of the 22nd.

So my awesome readers…  are you picking up the game?  Will you be joining me on the 15th or are you waiting on the 22nd…  or are you just going to take a hard pass?

Chat Goes On Left

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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.

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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.

Moms and Minor Gaming

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This weekend was largely not about gaming, as is often the case when a major holiday is occurring.  In past years we have done the divide and conquer thing when it comes to Mother’s Day festivities, with me getting up super early to go to Mass with my mother and then my wife sleeping in and going to lunch with her mom.  However with the amount of work that my wife has been having to do lately trying to prep her kids for the impending AP Exam…  after missing two weeks of instruction time due to the walkout…  she is more than a little sleep deprived.  I was legitimately concerned about her making it home safely if she was on the road for long periods of time alone.

As a result we crammed everything into one day and left the house around 6 am…  getting home around 6 pm.  However in the middle of all of that I believe there were sufficient moms day festivities for all involved.  It did however lead to a really tiring Sunday experience given that we had lots of driving perforated by various other awkward moments like my wife’s sister referring to the litter box as a “poop bed” or her inviting an aunt that neither my wife or I can stand to lunch with us.  Later in the evening there was plenty of awkwardness as my wife’s brother and father got into some political diatribe that was just flat out factually incorrect and also highly racist.  We made it home in one piece and still have most of our sanity intact…  but I did have a rather fitful night of sleep.

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As far as gaming goes I spent some of my time Saturday working on the weekly quests in Monster Hunter World.  I am down to just needing three arena challenges and I am hoping I can connect with someone before the reset happens to do some.  I can technically solo them, but I really really do not like soloing them.  I solo’d the Pink Rathian arena challenge with longsword and that one in particular is really annoying because you do not have the full compliment of healing items.  I pulled out a victory, but it took a long time and I wound up taking three of my eight deaths in the process.  I am one item away from having enough of the event only Sakura items…  but am nowhere near able to craft the set because of general lack of coins.

I wish you could roulette your way into the Arena Challenges because I really am not a huge fan of playing solo in Monster Hunter World.  Now that PizzaMaid is easing her way back into the game I might try and snag her for some shenanigans, because most everyone else I know that is still active gets online way later than I do.  Grace unfortunately bounced off the game as did Mor and while Thalen and I share a timezone… he is always around significantly later because baby happens.  If it does not look like I will have folks to do this with I will ultimately try and solo my way through it, because I know without a doubt I can do it…  I just won’t really enjoy it.  I also ran quite a few tempered roulettes just for the sake of fun and managed to get a couple of decent decorations from it.

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Over in Destiny 2 I am still roaming around but have made all of the movement I can essentially before the reset.  I am still too low level to get into heroic strikes which is unfortunate given that I need to run several of them to move forward a quest line that I am currently on…  that I am assuming is related to the sleeper simulant.  The highlight of the weekend however was getting the Armamentarium again, which allows me to run around with dual grenades in both void and solar specs.  Unfortunately however it does not give me THREE grenades in arc striker spec.  This would have been a completely awesome item if it were able to do that…  now I am wondering if it is as good as my auto-rifle reloading chest but largely running around with it for sheer nostalgia sake.

I am still largely on the fence with this expansion and am contemplating taking Squirrel up on the offer to get the raid in.  I still have yet to defeat Gaul in the raid even though I have a stack of tokens from our attempts.  Folks bounced faster than we had time to progress our way through it, and while I would love to resurrect a Greysky raid I somehow doubt that will ever really be a thing again.  There just are not enough people active and playing, and part of me is contemplating just pushing the Greysky leadership off on my secondary PS4 account and moving my main back to Tequila Mockingbird so I at least have an active clan of folks to play with.  My main PS4 account never left and has always been in TQMB…  that is unless they punted me for inactivity.

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I am still enjoying the mechanical loop of Destiny 2 again…  but I am also feeling somewhat listless as I don’t have a major goal apart from making my light higher.  I managed to level the Hunter to 30 this weekend but have yet to really touch any of the story content.  I like that Warmind seems to not be connected to having finished Curse of Osiris or versa vicea.  I need to push the Warlock up via event quests so I can at least start doing the milestones on each of them each week to slowly push up my weapon light level that way.

More Warmind Impressions

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Monster Hunter and Destiny

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

The Good Grind

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Over the last few days I have been thinking about where Monster Hunter World has succeeded and Destiny 2 has failed.  I know this is probably a strange way to start off a post, but I am playing MHW the way that I fully expected to still be playing Destiny 2.  If you add up the total time I have spent with the Destiny franchise across different platforms you wind up with 741 hours.  Given that sort of track record I fully expected to be playing that game currently.  That said I have missed two faction rallies, two iron banners and have not really even logged in during the current crimson doubles event.  Sure I could be getting all manner of cosmetic gear from them…  but the weapon and gear system just feels hollow given that I have collected most everything I am interested in using.

While I love the token loot system, Destiny 2 has a problem with not giving us a meaningful grind to be focused on.  Doing event after event hoping to get a Masterwork Weapon or Piece of armor doesn’t really count.  When I say meaningful grind I mean something that I can do on a nightly basis that is fun, but also feels like I am making progress towards some larger objective.  In many ways the fickle nature of loot in Destiny 1 and the existence of things like the Court of Oryx and Archon’s Forge gave me something I could do… that felt like I was potentially moving in the direction of something that I wanted from the game.  As it stands there are too few interesting weapon options and the watered down version of exotics no longer really make them worth chasing in the way we used to before.

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It may simply be because I am playing on the PS4 with friends that I am drawing the conclusion…  but as I play Monster Hunter World I think about the ways that it has given me this path to madness paved with little incremental rewards.  When you kill or trap a Monster you are hunting you are showered with a bunch of monster parts…  some of which are useful and some of which are not as useful.  The thing is, regardless if I have 50 of an item… I am still sorta excited to see them because I know that eventually I might need to use them to craft some new weapon that I then have to upgrade up to the final version.  I might suddenly decide that Hammer is awesome and then have to start building up my collection of weapons much the same as I do for my beloved Longsword.

I know that every thing I kill, and every object in the world that I loot is taking me towards some bigger goal.  The number of times that I have had to go out lately and farm herbs…  one of literally the first items you encounter in the game…  is shocking given that I am dealing with a completely different set of monsters than I did back then.  However it doesn’t seem like tedium because they have placed value on almost everything you can encounter out in the wilds and while you may not need it today… there is likely going to be a time at some point in the future where you will be wishing you had more of it.  While literally every moment I am not hunting a big epic monster is busywork…  none of it feels like it because it feels valuable to the larger mission of the game.

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While Destiny has never really had something close to this grind, I am thinking maybe it should.  The central focus of all of this for me personally is the Smithy, which is a menu driven crafting system that allows me to turn all of these bits and pieces of critters I have taken down…  and meld them into usable gear with interesting stat combinations.  I’ve spent a good deal of time farming up Odogoron, which is a giant hairless blind hell hound looking thing.  I personally really like its armor set and I want to be able to wield the full thing a a potential replacement for my mishmash of gear I am currently wearing.  This gives me a goal, and the grind itself is slow enough that each kill feels like meaningful progress without ever giving me that landfall moment of getting everything I possibly need in a single round.

Imagine for a second if you had gear and weapons in Destiny based on a similar concept.  Each time you took down the Fallen example, there was a chance of getting an item that could be used in the crafting of Fallen themed weapons or armor.  The common items would drop from Dregs, medium rarity items from Vandals and the rare bits from Servitors and Walkers.  Then say you wanted to craft the Vex Mythoclast you would need to maybe take down a Gate Lord to get the focusing lens, and a bunch of Minotaurs to get the armored housing.  All of this is more meaningful than collect 40 of token Z and hope the RNG gods smile upon your en devour as you may or may not get the item you want from a relatively deep loot table.  It also turns Banshee-44 into more than the Gachapon machine that he currently is, by giving him the actual ability to craft specific items for you.

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What Monster Hunter World does better than almost anything is that it gives me a target for my nightly nonsense.  Granted right now I cannot craft the Chrome Slicer I because I lack the zenny to do so….  but I know where every single piece that it requires drops from.  I know that I can run loops around High Rank Wildspire Wastes for most if it, but to get the Fucium Ore I am going to have to make my way down into the Elder’s Recess.  If I notice a weapon requires parts off of a specific monster I am given a bunch of different ways to target that one specific encounter and run it over and over if I so choose.  In my case what I personally tend to do is answer SOS beacons for that specific encounter, feeling like I am actually helping out someone else in the community take down that critter for fun and profit as well.

More than anything what I think Monster Hunter World does so well is that it eases you into all of this.  You quickly learn the value of the items you can grab out in the world as new patterns start showing up that you can craft.  You notice that items have ??? beside some of the materials and it drives you to go out and explore until you find them.  All of this creates a feedback loop of take down epic feeling monsters, get items, craft interesting gear…  so you can take down even bigger monsters.  Sure a lot of the gear is not strictly required…  but for someone who is very gear focused it certainly makes the journey feel a lot more meaningful.  The monster battle portion being fun enough that while I am actively engaged in fighting…  I am not even thinking about what might drop which is not the case in most MMORPGs.

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When they first started talking about Destiny 2 being a much more open world and quest driven game…  this is honestly the sort of experience I had been envisioning.  What if you could fight a Destiny boss the same way you do a Monster in Monster Hunter World?  What if getting every player to focus on taking out a Gatelord’s weapon arm caused it to no longer be able to fire that weapon… and instead forced it to change up tactics and start engaging in melee attacks.  What if the way you fought a boss mattered just as much as the weapons you took into the fight?  When we got Destiny 2 and it was a stripped down version of what we had in Destiny 1…  I was disappointed, but the mechanical loop of the game kept me engaged for way longer than the game itself probably deserved.  I had enough hype built up to carry me through the console launch and restarting with the PC launch…  but now I just don’t ever feel like even logging in.

What I want is a good grind.  That doesn’t necessarily mean running Omnigul hundreds of times hoping that maybe just maybe you will get that one in a million perfectly stated Grasp of Malok.  What that means for me personally is something that I can do on a nightly basis that feels like I am eventually heading towards some goal down the road.  Maybe at some point in the near future I will feel like I am out of grinds in Monster Hunter World, but I can at least see a road map in front of me that seems like it is going to be an interesting ride.  Right now I am almost overwhelmed by the sheer number of objectives that I could be chasing, and as I move up… it feels like the world keeps expanding out rather than narrowing down to a pin point like the raid cycle does in an MMORPG.  Monster Hunter World is a really great grind, that is attached to a really fun experience of taking down giant monsters that fight in a fluid and believably organic manner.  Maybe Bungie will find its footing at some point, but for the moment I am enjoying discovering the Monster Hunter franchise.

The Visionary

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I don’t have a whole lot to say this morning given that by the time I got home I pretty much crashed on the sofa and wound up officially asleep about 9:30.  Last week I had several nights where I was not asleep until after 1 am and I think they are catching up with me.  I played a little WoW and a little Destiny 2 but nothing really of sufficient effort to talk about it at length.  The bulk of my evening was an hour long call with my folks where we talked through christmas plans or the potential lack thereof considering we are expecting an ice storm.  We mostly agreed that if the weather was dicey…  Christmas could be any day given we can get together.  My mom used to be super big on doing things on the official day but seems to have mellowed out over the years.  Mostly this morning I wanted to make sure my readers knew about something…  namely the Fall of Osiris comic book over on Bungie.net.  Personally I would have rather they just released it in one of the comic book e-reader formats for us to download and enjoy on our reader of choice…  but the step through the panels format works well enough.  I mean in theory we could recreate it in PDF or CBZ format considering you can easily open the images in another window and snag them that way.  That might be a side project…  but anyways it is 10 pages worth of story and well worth the read.

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Buried in the middle of the comic is a panel showing the written Prophecies of Osiris.  Of course Redditors immediately noticed that at the top of the text was a broken line that looked a lot like morse code, and then another one quickly decoded it.  The end result is a code that when input into the Destiny redemption page rewards you with an emblem. Simply input the following text in the code redemption box…

XFV-KHP-N97

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As a result you end up with “The Visionary” emblem shown above.

 

Clipped Wings

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Last night I had every intent of coming home and playing some Destiny 2…  but instead I logged into World of Warcraft to “check what gear was up on world quests” and never really logged back out.  I’m still very much stuck in “must complete the emissary caches” mode and as a result I had one in Argus for the Argussian Reach faction that I lacked enough quests to complete.  As a result I started unlocking more of the planet until I finally got enough to finish it out.  This however was super time consuming because doing anything on Argus feels needlessly tedious due to the packed base pop and terrain that goes out of its way to keep you from going from point a to b.  For my troubles I got a big fat nothing… or in truth a little bit of gold that feels insanely lackluster given the amount of effort I went through to be able to complete it.  So the real question I ask to you more seasoned players that did not take a massive break after Nighthold…  did they just fucking nerf emissary caches into the ground?  In the past these used to be a significant source of gear upgrades, and also used to drop legendaries like candy.  At this point I have no legendaries and have not seen a single piece of gear from the six caches I have turned in since starting up playing again.  Is this just a bad streak or did they simply remove any reasonable rewards from these things?

I’ve managed to move the needle a little further forward and am sitting at 884 and I think 15 concordance on my two primary weapons.  I still have Tomb of Sargeras LFR to do this week but in truth it seems like grinding Argus is going to be my best bet for gear level movement.  The only problem there is that I hate Argus and want to nuke the planet from orbit.  I mean in all reality it isn’t that bad but it just feels shitty to return to land mounts again after being able to fly literally everywhere else.  The base pop reminds me of a lot of what it feels like to roam around in a Rift zone where everything is super aggro and ready to reach out and thump you if you get too close.  The main difference is that at least in World of Warcraft it is completely reasonable for me to round up 30 mobs and grind them down….  because I did this thing today out of laziness and not wanting to stop.  The only really works if you can keep healing yourself like the protection warrior can, but nonetheless it is a viable option.  In Rift if I had more than a couple of mobs I would have fallen over, which makes the game feel super tedious to play.  If I apply myself and gobble up every quest I can do on Argus each day… I may be able to purchase a single piece of 910 gear which is a slow way to upgrade but potentially preferable to hoping for lucky double platnium bonus warforged gear from LFR.

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Towards the end of the evening while rewatching Force Awakens I did wind up grinding a bit in Destiny 2 and managed to complete the Mercury Flashpoint.  When I turned in with Cayde-6 I managed to get my very first Masterwork item…  and I maybe just almost accidentally called it Warforged.  The positive it is at least an Auto Rifle which is something I will use.  Grace said last night that when she got her first… it was a sidearm…  which is something that no sane and rational person would ever want to use.  I was absolutely certain that the game would give me a sniper rifle or something else that I generally loathe.  Then again if that were the case the decision to shard it and get crafting materials would have been simple…  in this case I have the strong desire to start using it even though Solemn Hymn isn’t exactly one of my favorite weapons.  As far as the perk on mine, it gives a small range boost which is reasonable enough for the moment.  Were it a warforged Better Devils I might work on trying to get the best possible roll, but for now I am okay with a ranged boost.  I have a late night tonight because Star Wars…  but I might be able to hop on when I get home and give it a proper testing.

Many Osiris Handle It

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Yesterday was of course the release of the first expansion content to Destiny 2 in the form of the Curse of Osiris DLC.  I was sick yesterday so completely out of it and did not realize until that evening that I could have been playing around in the expansion during the day.  I did however have time to finish the main story line and am now in the after game that involves going around and doing a bunch of adventures on Mercury.  I am not entirely certain what I was expecting but I enjoyed myself and found a lot of the new areas really cool to roam around.  The level cap is bumping up from 20 to 25 and the light cap is bumping from 305 to 335.  This means we all need to spend time pushing up that number once again, and have a whole slew of new weapons to help us with that process.  Based on what I am seeing blues seem to still be bound to the 5 below your base light level as I am seeing 303 drops with a base light of 308.8.  Legendary engrams which seem to be dropping like candy for me are dropping at my base light level and as a result seem to be providing a decent way of bumping up my overall power level.  Unlike before I am not quite as rabidly focused on trying to squeeze the last bit of light out of each week as I have in the past.  I am sure this will change but for the moment I am trying to take things easy as I may or may not have burnt myself out a bit.

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In Destiny 1 we spent a good deal of time exploring the Fallen and the Hive and with Destiny 2 we have spent the bulk of our time dealing with the Cabal.  This expansion sees us taking on the Vex in ways that we have not seen before.  You get a decent idea over the course of the content we have seen to this point that the Vex that essentially hacks time to create the most favorable outcomes for themselves.  However we have not actually really seen this in progress other than the tiny unexplained bits of the Black Garden.  With Curse of Osiris we get to roam around in the massive simulation worlds that the Vex are constantly using to collect data to update their models.  What is really cool about this is that we see simulated versions of all of the other races, that are very similar…  but not quite exactly the same.  Pay close attention to the way that the “Axis” versions of various troop types look because they appear to be almost Vex hybrid versions.  As far as the length of the expansion… I would say it is probably about the same number of missions as the base game.  You spend a lot of time roaming around and trying to sort out how to stop this one Vex simulated future from coming true.

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As far as characters…  Sagira is great and I like the fact that even after completing the main game we occasionally get to hang out with her again.  Osiris was honestly not much of a character, and still remains this madman prophet that we are really no closer to fully understanding than we were going into the expansion.  Brother Vance still has a fanatical devotion to Osiris even though he could not be bothered to pop out to the Lighthouse long enough to even see his acolytes.  There is a nice passing of the Torch of sorts to Ikora, because really she is the Warlock we care about.  Its not so much that the student has surpassed the master… its just that the student is done being a student.  If nothing else this expansion brought with it one of the most badass final boss fights I have seen in awhile, and while it isn’t exactly technically complex it is fun as hell and makes the player feel awesome…  even though it is really Osiris hacking reality to make it happen.  It reminds me a lot of the way the Oryx fight in the Kings Fall raid felt… with this massive imposing figure that you are able to bring down by doing some stuff with some things.  Unlike the main campaign I am actually looking forward to finishing it on each of my alts, as I attempt to get them ready to start pushing up power level once again.

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As part of the main story we get another choice of a vanguard legendary, and I not shockingly went with the auto rifle that looks and feels a lot like the Jiangshi AR4 that I cannot seem to get the Gunsmith to give me.  The bulk of the really interesting system changes go into effect next week with the December 12th patch, but we did get a fresh assortment of weapons to find and an armor ornament system.  I’m looking forward to the next Iron Banner so that I can unlock the requirements to use those with my Iron Banner set.  Additionally there was a refresh of the eververse store and with it a new set of fluff engrams, this time including a set of armor that I think actually looks cool.  I was not a big fan of the weird formal armor set that came from the last batch, and even though I have collected a set of it on my Titan I doubt I will ever wear it.  This time around however it is Vex inspired and looks pretty badass…  but it has some hefty competition with both my New Monarchy and Iron Banner armor sets.  All in all I think I am going to like the influx of content, but I am also not extremely focused on grinding to get everything instantly either.

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Honestly the thing that has most soured me on Destiny 2…  may or may not have anything to do with Destiny 2.  A few weeks ago on patch day I started having issues running the game.  Ultimately this thing would occur where the game would freeze for anywhere from 30 seconds to two minutes in the worst cases…  all the while the audio would continue playing in the background.  If I happened to be watching a YouTube video on the second monitor its video would freeze as well, as would my ability to alt tab or interact with anything.  Everything would recover itself and return me back to whatever I happened to be doing…  and if I was in a group activity the game would rapidly catch me up to the same time frame as the other players…  often resulting in my death.  As a result I had been avoiding doing anything serious and anything that forced players to require on me not fucking up.  I’ve searched the forums and crawled through the bowels of Reddit attempting various fixes, until this morning when I found something that is a possible culprit.  Around about this same time I got forced upon me the heaping pile that is yet another windows 10 update.  As a result it force reset a bunch of my settings, one of which flipped my system into power save mode for some ungodly reason.  Before sitting down to write this post I played a bit of crucible because that seemed to always make it happen…  and seemed to be doing just fine.  I need to run around on Mercury a bit to do some further testing but I am hopeful that maybe this was the mystery sauce that was causing all of my problems.  I would love to be able to return to doing group content without fearing that I would be a liability.