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.

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.

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.

 

Destiny 2 Beta Impressions

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Yesterday around noon was the official launch of Destiny 2 Beta on the PS4.  I personally got my hands on it around 6 pm after doing various things that needed to be done and taking my wife out to eat.  To call this a Beta however feels like a little bit of a misnomer because in truth we are getting out hands on essentially the same demo that was available to press at e3.  With that comes a greatly limited subset of options that you can take part in.  Functionally right now there are three things available to players:  The first story mission, the Inverted Spire strike, and one play mode of the crucible.  I didn’t get a ton of screenshots because I was actively playing, but I did decide to stream and ultimately record me in game from the moment I started up Destiny 2 to the moment I logged out feeling like I had “beat” the demo.  If you are really curious you can check out my Mixer VOD that runs for a little over an hour.  I opted to go for a silent stream because I was largely just recording this for my own benefit.

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This game is going to catch so much flak for being “Destiny 1.5” and I can see that.  In every meaningful way this is Destiny.  The characters perform as smoothly as the original, and the gunplay feels just as good.  Those who played a significant amount of time with the first game…  might have a little bit of an adjustment period because there are subtle differences everywhere.  This is not simply a “HD Remaster” of the original game… but you can feel that it is in fact a brand new game that has tried extremely hard to capture everything that was great about the first one.  The titan jump feels slightly different, and everything from the pulse rifle to the hand canon are recognizable…  but feel different enough to know at a base level that you are playing something different.  The first story mission is excellent and does an amazing job of providing you a feel for the game and its play… as well as giving you a rich narrative ride through parts of the tower you have never seen before.  It takes everything that was learned through the Taken King and Rise of Iron and distills it down into the purest form.  You are killing Cabal but you are doing it with a constant purpose of trying to save those you can…  with enough nostalgic elements to make it feel like your home is falling apart…  not just some random structure being blown to pieces.  The mission also does a great job of weaving in single player and multi player elements…  with the central section being a sort of defend the tower mode as you and lots of other players fight back against the Cabal along side Zavala.  That is another huge part of this experience…  you are interacting with characters that you already know like Zavala, Cayde-6 and Ikora Rey.  They have personality and treat you in a manner befitting someone who has been leading all of these strike missions for all of these years.  Hell you even get some interesting interactions with Lord Shax and Amanda Holliday.

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The Strike is similarly awesome, and I can see myself running it over and over as part of the strike list.  There were a few annoying jumping puzzle style elements…  namely that giant grinder that we have seen multiple times in trailers and such.  You find yourself trying to navigate through an area while avoiding the spinning wheels of doom.  There is a similar mechanic in the first story mission where you have to avoid certain death while destroying objectives, and made me question my choice of the control jump instead of the height jump.  The only weirdness about all of this is… it felt like grenade and super both charged super slow.  Maybe I am just used to running around with my Armamentarium and rocking two grenade charges…  but it always felt like when I needed a grenade the most it was still on cooldown.  The super when available however was glorious.  Last night I focused on the Sentinel Titan… and I got to run around bashing things with my shield.  I never figured out how to throw it…  but doing the equivalent of the old striker titan shoulder charge with a void shield was amazingly fun.  While sunbreaker is supposedly back for Destiny 2… I can absolutely see me maining Sentinel.  The thing that surprised me the most is the fact that I didn’t really seem to use the portable shield capability that often.  It was useful for setting up essentially a gun nest, but for the most part I just ducked in and out of cover like I always did.

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The only negative of the night was the crucible.  I am just not a fan of the changes they made.  For starters they have reduced the number of people in standard crucible matches from 6 vs 6 to 4 vs 4.  As a result they have created a series of much smaller maps with much tighter choke points.  What this does is make it feel much more frenetic in a style of game-play that I equate with Call of Duty.  Crucible always felt like a thinking mans game… where it was as much about how you moved and when you chose to fire or not fire…  rather than just charging forward into the fray every few seconds.  It could be my experiences were deeply colored by the fact that in both occasions I ended up on a team of randoms fighting against a team of people sharing the same clan tag.  Functionally all I know is that the changes did not feel as good as the original crucible does, and as a very casual player of the crucible it is not really something I look forward to participating in.  Which leads us to the other problem of the night…  I am more or less a Patrol player.  If you believe Destiny Tracker I spend something like 70% of my time playing Patrol missions where I wander around aimlessly and kill things in the open world.  As such with this demo “my Destiny” was not open for business yet and after doing the story mission, the strike, and a few round of crucible I considered myself largely done for the night.  That is not to say that I didn’t enjoy myself… it just felt like a very shallow experience without the open world content and without character progression.  I am sure I will boot it up a few more times…  but this did nothing to really satiate my desire for the actual game.

 

 

No Time To Explain

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Once upon a time in Destiny year one, there was a weapon called The Strangers Rifle.  It was funky looking, had a unique feel and sound to it… and you got it whenever you finished the primary storyline of Destiny…  then spent forever collecting stuff to level it up completely.  It was also gained from someone that we really know little to nothing about…  other than the fact that she doesn’t have time to explain why she doesn’t have time to explain.  However this weapon got left behind in the past largely because The Taken King introduced the ability to upgrade weapons through infusion.  However they did introduce a hidden quest that involved a bunch of madness that I mentioned at least briefly back in April of 2016 in a post.  Apparently they have changed it up a little bit… but once upon a time you had to wait for the Paradox mission to appear as the daily heroic.  Then during the course of the mission you had to collect three ghost fragments and return the Future War Cult Ghost to Lakshmi-2 in the tower.  From there you had to pledge the Future War Cult and gain 1000 reputation to unlock the next part, which involved killing Taken Minotaur until a Simulation Core dropped.  Then we reach the part I was stalled on for over a year for various reasons…  killing Atheon in the Vault of Glass on any difficulty.

Last night the awesome folks in Tequila Mockingbird…  but more importantly Squirrel and Jex helped pull together a raid for the purpose of getting me my Atheon kill.  We did it on old school difficulty, largely for the purpose of trying to steamroll through it and then move on to getting in a Crota kill.  After the raiding I lucked out during the next part, which is to find a chest that spawns in a weird version of the Twilight Gap crucible map.  Thankfully I knew my way around the map and I decided to head over to B first…  and sure enough sitting right beside what would normally be the capture point was a chest containing the piece I needed.  From there I went on to do the Blood of the Garden quest, which did not exactly work how I was expecting it.  Firstly I did not realize I was not in the final area of the map…  and I knew there was an anger mechanic that was supposed to spawn the Taken Ultra that I needed to kill to get the final component.  However I didn’t remember how high I needed to get my anger and I wound up slaughtering wave after wave of Minotaur until I somehow managed to get the anger to over 200%…  and when nothing still spawned I noticed the arrow on my mini map pointing to the next area.  Sure enough the big Minotaur was up and way easier to take down than attempting to survive that constant deluge of a dozen regular Minotaur at a time.  Finally I went back to the tower and claimed my No Time to Explain exotic pulse rifle…  to which I had to sacrifice both an exotic that I was no longer using… and a 400 primary to bring it up to modern standards.

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That was the part of the evening that went amazingly well…  the other part of the evening was struggling to do Crota.  First off I had only actually been into the raid once before… and back during the “we overpower this so much, what are mechanics even” phase.  As a result we struggled more than a bit, because we were doing it on heroic where resurrections are not a thing that happens.  Additionally we lost a member of our fire team a little bit into the raid, and wound up replacing him with an unknown quantity.  Said new person was moody as hell while we were actually failing to mechanic, and then when we called it a night made sure we knew how mad he was.  Before he left chat he said something along the lines of that he bailed on his normal raid to come get an easy Crota kill, and now he screwed up and missed the raid invite.  No one promised him an easy kill, and even though we were failing a lot… we were laughing and having fun while doing it.  That is ultimately the important part, and sure I didn’t manage to finish my Necrochasm quest…  but I had a lot of fun learning bits and pieces of the modern version of the Crota raid.  In truth I think if I went back in again I be more prepared for what I needed to get through on the other side.  All told however I managed to pick up a couple of cool weapons in the process including a spiffy new Oversoul Edict…  so I think in the grand scheme of things the night was a complete win far as I am concerned.  Once again huge thanks to Tequila Mockingbird for hanging out and making stuff happen, and Squirrel for prodding them into doing so.

Treadblades and Grenades

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A good chunk of this weekend was about me riding the high that was the Destiny 2 gameplay reveal panel.  I wrote about my feelings Friday, but I am still extremely hyped.  What I find interesting is that there are some hardcore Destiny players that walked away disillusioned by the announcement.  For me I largely wanted them to take the same Destiny mechanics that I love and apply them to a much more open world.  From the sounds of it that is precisely what we are getting.  However it seems like the competitive PVP scene walked away frustrated, because they were expecting ladder brackets and things like that to support their specific play style.  While I love the Crucible, I am anything but serious when I play it…  and as a result I largely am okay with a more casual PVP focus.  What is funny about this is that it is the same community that got super frustrated when they were only being matched against similarly skilled players, and have been the biggest proponents of moving away from skill based matchmaking.  I can at least see one of their complaints, which is largely that they were expecting the game to move to a server/client structure rather than the peer to peer setup that we have today.  I feel like the currently crucible matchmaking algorithm does a decent job of weeding out the “redbars”, and it has been a really long time since I have been in a match with more than one of them.  That could however be based on the fact that I am living in the center of the United States and have solid pings to either coast though.

What all the Destiny love created however is a strong desire to play the game I currently have my hands on.  Over the weekend I spent a good deal of time upstairs playing around, and picked back up my Xbox One character since it allowed me to experience the full circuit of Destiny emotions.  All of my PSN characters are comfortably at 400 light, and all I am really doing there is upgrading additional gear to that level.  So there is a missing chunk of the experience… the brief joy of seeing a higher light level item that you can then use to infuse into your gear.  So as a result I opted to spend most of the weekend playing my now 378 Titan.  On PSN however I did spend a bit of time working on achievements, and that meant a lot of chain running of SIVA Crisis Strikes for the purpose of trying to get super kills.  This also meant rocking my Bad Juju, because for me at least it seems to be a much better super energy magnet than the Zhalo Supercell.  I think right now I am 5 super streaks away from finishing up one book, and then I can start in earnest on the modern Age of Triumph book.  I am still a little bummed that they came out and dashed my hopes of “cross save” functionality between the various client versions.  I would have happily purchased Destiny 2 for all available platforms if this actually happened.

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On the World of Warcraft front, I indulged in something I had been wanting to for awhile.  With the recent spike in token prices I opted to purchase one and it sold for roughly 130,000 gold.  I then took that gold and purchased the Champion’s Treadblade… which I always thought was a way cooler design than the Warlord’s Deathwheel.  This also jarred me off center in being less of a lazy engineer.  I never actually got around to crafting the original Mekgineer’s Chopper.  It was one of those things I always intended to do… but never wanted to spend the money on.  functionally no matter how much faction discount you have the end result is always going to be 12,000 gold worth of parts.  I used this influx of cash from the token however to serve as a reason to go ahead and finish this off.  I happened to have pretty much everything else needed to craft it laying around on various alts, so it was simply a matter of flying out to Storm Peaks and buying the few vendor items.

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The last major event of the weekend is that I finally decided what to use my character boost on.  I have not really touched much of anything this expansion on the Horde side.  My friend Grace has reverted back to her Horde ways, and as a result I figured I should probably have at least one character that I like to be able to play with her.  As a result I took the Deathknight that I rolled on her server and boosted it to 100, and started leveling it last night.  The thing that I didn’t realize about the 100 boost… is just how lousy the gear is that they give you.  I remember I started Legion sitting in mostly 710 gear on my characters from the pre-launch invasion events.  My newly boosted Unholy Deathknight was equipped in a full set of 640 gear…  which if I remember correctly was the required level to queue for heroics in Warlords of Draenor.  As a result this is the first character I have taken to the Broken Shores invasion scenario that I actually had trouble surviving.  I died about four times during this invasion…  but that also could simply be because this late in the expansion there was only one other player actually doing it.  Whatever the case I clawed my way up from the frustrating gear level and am making progress in Azsuna.

Destiny 2 Feels

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So yesterday was the big reveal of Destiny 2 gameplay and I have to say I am not disappointed in the least.  In fact at this very moment I am feeling inordinate amounts of Destiny love.  There were a few things that were released that gave me all the feels.  The first is the “Story of Zavala” trailer of sorts that tells the tale of how he came from being a corpse somewhere in the cosmodrome to being the leader of the Vanguard.  Unfortunately I have not seen this trailer released separately so you have to catch it about 14 mins into the video that I linked… which is the entire Destiny 2 reveal stream dumped to YouTube.  In that trailer you see a young Amanda Holliday getting her first look at a starship, so that in itself was completely priceless.  The second cavalcade of feels comes from the gameplay reveal trailer…  which appears to be cut from what is going to be one of the intro cinematics showing how the tower falls.  There is a moment in the trailer for each class where they get to shine…  and I absolutely got all the feels when I saw Zavala call everyone to him and raise a Titan bubble.  There are similar badass moments where Ikora Rey Nova Bombs a Cabal transport, and Cayde-6 Golden Gun’s three Cabal troopers.

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Destiny 2 is a tale of starting over after a monumental fall from grace, which in itself is probably the best way of dealing with a power reset scenario.  Having spent the last week playing through the Fallen Empire storyline in Star Wars the Old Republic… I absolute approve of the notion that sometimes you need to shuffle the deck to freshen up the game.  What I like the most about what I saw though is that everything looked and felt like it was still Destiny…  just with the Destiny-ness sliders moved all the way to eleven.  They reveal that we are going to four new places…  but in part I am hoping that given time we will also revisit areas that we have been to before.  The maps themselves are supposedly more open world style, or at least the one that was showed reminded me of something on the scale of the Hinterlands from Dragon Age: Inquisition with lots of active hotspots to go explore and find adventures.  This is definitely playing to my core desires as a player, but I am also hoping that it still has directed story missions for the folks like Tamrielo who tend to bounce super hard from “now go explore” setups in games.

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It sounds like all of the things that made Destiny awesome are coming back, but that they are adding a whole layer of new stuff on top.  To be truthful if you look at my characters stats… I have spent a significant number more hours doing patrol missions than literally anything else in the game.  Just as a reference according to my Profile on Bungie.net… on my Titan I have played a grand total of 14 days 15 hours… and of that time 7 days 4 hours was in Patrol mode.  So giving me a big open world to roam in is absolutely going to serve my interests.  However it sounds like the strikes and raids and crucible modes are all coming back with a vengeance with brand new concepts being introduced.  It also seems like some of the specs are being tweaked… and I am not sure if each class is getting a wholly new sub class or if we are just losing one and gaining one.  Titans for example I know have a Void class that revolves around wielding a shield like Captain America.  Warlocks have a new sub class that gives them flaming angel wings and lets them wield a giant flaming sword.  So I am not sure if those are in additional to the subs we already have… or if those are now replacing the Defender Titan and Sunsinger Warlock.  I mean I am hoping we get something new… but Defender was absolutely one of those sub classes that was super niche and extremely hard to complete “kill with elemental abilities” sort of bounties.

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The biggest news from yesterday is that the PC client would be going through Battle.net…  which is curiously being referred to as Battle.net and not the Blizzard Launcher.  I said before that I would likely never stop calling it Battle.net, and I am guessing maybe they have rethought that branding decision…  now that a non-Blizzard game is going to be using that infrastructure.  This decision has a lot of positives and as far as I am concerned fairly few negatives.  I’ve spent over a decade now cultivating a community inside of the Blizzard franchise games, and knowing that I can carry that ready made community into Destiny is going to be a huge bonus for me.  What Bungie is getting from PSN and XBL is an account system that takes care of all of the day to day friend maintenance and messaging functionality and lets them just connect up a game to it.  I mean the option  that we all probably through they would be taking was to integrate this game with Steam completely, and rely on steam users for profiles.  However to be honest, Blizzard does a far better job of policing its own network than Steam does, because quite frankly it is not in the interest of Valve to clamp down too harshly.  The only negative here about any of this is that it sounds like the PC client will not be available on day one… and will instead be a console launch only.  Ultimately I was going to buy  this on PS4 and PC anyways… so this is not a huge deal for me…  however it is going to suck for anyone who wants to hold out for the PC.

My dream that is likely to go unrealized is that I could have a single set of character spread across all of the platforms.  I am perfectly okay with purchasing a PC client, PS4 client, and Xbox One client…  and not necessarily being able to cross play between them.  However I would love if my characters which are attached to my Bungie account carried over and worked on each platform.  Let me play with my PC friends, PS4 friends and Xbox friends with the characters I have spent so much time building.  I mean I managed to get my Xbox One character up to 370 light…  but that feels pittiful compared to my stable of three 400 light characters on the PS4 side, each with access to a vault full of awesome stuff.  Compared to the 14 days on PSN… I have only played 21 hours of the Xbox One gameplay because not having all of my toys was always a major set back.  Since the characters are bound to the Bungie account… they could absolutely make this thing happen.  They just need the will to do so.  So I have hopes and dreams… but I am fully expecting them to get dashed in the long run.  At this point however I am just riding the hype train and so freaking ready for this game to come out.

Enjoyment and PVP

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

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

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

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

 

Destiny 2 Hopes

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Even though I am playing playing much of it this very moment…  Destiny holds an extremely special place in my heart.  I love this game and I love what it has become over the course of the two expansions… and multiple content patches.  They promised a setting as deep and rich and Star Wars, and while a lot of people will disagree with me…  I feel that they ultimately delivered on that.  The problem however is that they did not deliver in a contiguous story that was easy to learn.  Instead they sprinkled the game with environmental storytelling and nuggets of information that the faithful had to gather up and piece together to learn what was happening in the world.  Personally this made me want to know more about the world because each time I uncovered a truth it was like discovering another piece that fit into a giant puzzle I was trying to assemble in my head.  For many others however… including the vast majority of my friends…  they bounced hard.  For them it was of the utmost importance to have a clear narrative that they could follow, and not be forced to do some admittedly silly nonsense in the form of the grimoire cards.

Fix the Narrative

The first hope with Destiny 2 is to do just that… give us this big bold epic space opera that you originally promised.  Like I said it is absolutely there.. . but buried deep under the surface and in places that only the most lore hungry can find.  There is an epic tale in the game, but you have to piece it together through doing things…  and it never actually gives you any sort of threaded tale that you can then experience as a whole when you do finish gathering the pieces.  I’ve linked the Book of Sorrow as read by Myelin games… one of the best Destiny Lore channels available.  For those who are unfamiliar with it, each time you collected a Calcified Fragment on the Dreadnaught or one of the Taken related raids/missions in the Taken King expansion you unlocked a piece of the Book of Sorrow.  Combined together they make a five part tale explaining who the Hive are and where they came from… and how exactly the Taken came to be.  The problem is… were it not for lore videos like this one…  this is an epic tale that would stay submerged and largely unknown.  Bungie, you can craft amazing tales…  just present them in a manner that the common player can grasp them.

A Larger Sense of Presence

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Destiny is a game that constantly teases us with vistas we will never be able to explore.  A prime example of this is that we as Guardians inhabit a Tower overlooking the last city on earth.  We are told this time and time again… and if you look off the balcony you can see what appears to be a thriving city below in the shadow of the traveler.  However we can never actually go down there and explore the area where all the lights seem to be bright.  When we travel to a planet, instead of being able to explore its surface freely we are given a single path that loops around and connects to itself.  The hallmark of MMOs is that you can go walking in a direction and more often than not reach whatever it is that you can see in the distance.  To some extent I want to see this happening in Destiny 2.  I want to find neat hidden areas of the world with interesting spawns or treasures.  I want exploration to be a factor in the game, rather than just being somewhere at the right time when the right event fires off.  With the Dead Ghosts, Calcified Fragments, and SIVA Clusters…  you can tell they want to give us this sort of exploration already.  However I just want to see this done on a much larger scale with hidden lairs, that are a challenge to get to… but also extremely rewarding for completing with your friends.

Item Drops

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I think everyone at least on some level likes looking out and surveying the scene and seeing a bunch of green, blue, purple and sometimes orange engrams laying there on the ground.  The novelty however wears off quickly, and when I am in an area like the Archon’s Forge I know that every so often I am going to have to return to the tower and do some inventory maintenance since you can only have twenty items in your mailbox…  before you start losing loot.  What ends up happening as a result is that players just straight up delete engrams, so that they can stay out longer.  Later patches in the game even implemented a system so that when you pick up a green engram it automatically disassembles into the respective parts.  This tells me that they release that the engram system is deeply inconvenient, and since later items like hoard chests drop actual items…  I think they see the error of their ways.  What I want from Destiny 2 is the ability for actual gear drops like they do in the raids and from item chests.  That way I know if the item is useful instantly without having to go back to base and get a decryption.  This serves a bunch of purposes…  namely that you can then start using gear if it is an upgrade or something interesting.  Secondly you can keep clearing your inventory without having to worry about getting that rare chance of something good dropping from a blue engram.

All Infusion All The Time

One of the things that Destiny eventually nailed is the item system.  The funny thing about it is that I sort of wish all games had the item infusion system that we have now.  So my hope is that Destiny 2 just manages not to fuck this up.  Leave it alone… keep things exactly as they are now.  Let us infuse gear into items we already have in our inventory, and keep upgrading the weapons we like using.  That is the big thing that separates Destiny from other games for me… is that I become emotionally attached to my gear.  Folks have talked about the feeling of when they get that first exotic, or the one that they have been chasing for months.  For me…  I get the same thing when I get that perfect roll on a weapon and know that from that point on I can just use that instead of using some crappy version of it that I had been holding on.  The prime example is the Year 2 Haakon’s Hatchet that I use now as my primary weapon.  I love this thing and the ability to keep using it into Year 3 had been a huge thing for me.  Sure I try out lots of other weapons as they come across my path… but at the same time I know I have this old reliable friend sitting waiting on me whenever I want to return.  Let me keep bringing my “companions” along with me in my journey in Destiny 2.

Platform Agnostic Account

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This is one of those situations where I think Bungie had an intention but then for whatever reason could not get it to work as intended.  When you play Destiny you have a Bungie account, and then those accounts are associated with either your Playstation Network or Xbox Live account.  I’ve played Destiny on my original platform of Playstation 4, but I’ve also owned a copy for Xbox 360 that I then upgraded when I got my Xbox One.  When I go to the Bungie website I can see both accounts worth of characters, but they are separated by this invisible barrier.  What I want to see is for that barrier to fall.  My <Tequila Mockingbird> Clan tag extends between the platforms so that even when I am playing on the Xbox I am representing my solely Playstation based group.  So that tells me there is already connective tissue, but that things are just not working as they should be.  With Destiny 2 there will be three possible platforms at launch:  PC, Playstation 4, and Xbox One.  Right now I plan on shifting my focus to PC because there is a whole group of players that wanted to play… but just were not console folks that I have been waiting to play with.  However if I knew that I could rush out and pick up a copy for PS4 and Xbox One that then take the same characters and play with them?  I would do so in a heartbeat.  I understand the challenge of making Xbox Live and PSN talk to each other… and the weirdness that happens when an account crosses those boundaries.  However the data is just data… and since it is dialing home to Bungie servers to retrieve that data that I can then see through the web interface…  it would make sense just to let people have a single batch of characters and inventory spread across all of the platforms.  If this expansion I could have taken my Titan main from PS4 and play it with my friends that are Xbox folks… I would have done that a whole lot more rather than trying to level an entirely different set of characters.  Granted I did manage to get my Xbox One Titan up to 370 light… but I am also mildly insane.

These are just my hopes and suggestions for things that would improve my Destiny 2 experience.  I am curious what exactly my readers would want in the new game?

 

Lobbing SIVA Charges

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Last night did not go entirely as planned, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a pretty amazing night.  The original plan that I had in my head was an attempt at completing the Nightfall bounty on as many characters as I could for shots at the Icebreaker.  However as the day went on that plan slowly morphed into going to my very first Wrath of the Machine raid.  So around 8pm last night we managed to pull together the six players needed for the raid and I shifted into full on learner mode.  Destiny is one of those games where I am constantly amazed at the level of dedication the community has.  A raid in Destiny is this complex sequence of events that have to be completed in a specific way…  and the first time I step into one of the encounters it is full on information overload.  I find it interesting how fast the community as a whole crowd sources the solution to the fights, sharing tidbits of information and ultimately mapping strategies for how to complete them.  I say this because the fights themselves are actually messaged somewhat poorly as to what you should be doing at any given time.  Since I am very much a “learn by doing” player, it means for the first few raids I ultimately feel completely lost.

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What is extremely interesting about Wrath of the Machine versus Kings Fall is that the “roles” are not necessarily fixed.  In Kings Fall you could essentially put your most seasoned player on the job of doing whatever was the most important task on a given fight.  While there was a certain measure of randomness, like who got chosen to run the spark on the invisible platforms…  others like the person getting Golgoroth’s Gaze were very much something you had in your control.  As a result to some extent it was much easier to carry a new player through and allow them to see the fights in motion, before they were ever expected to take up a key roll in the fight.  That is very much NOT the case in Wrath of the Machine given the game shifts the roles around quickly and while you might be dpsing one moment, the next you might be needing to toss SIVA charges at fixed markers.  The hardest of these fights for me to grok was the Aksis encounter where the raid divided up into three sides, and the game randomly empowered three players at a time…  sometimes requiring you to shift around quickly to cover a side if it did not have an empowered player.  The end result is that new players ultimately have to learn quickly because you never know exactly when that key role is going to fall on your shoulders.

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There were several points during the night where I absolutely know I failed at various mechanics, but while moving through the content I started to get a feel for what I was doing wrong and how to correct it.  Now with Kings Fall, most of the encounters were fairly easy…  but it was the jumping sequences that were the bane of my existence.  With Wrath of the Machine, the encounters themselves seem to be the challenge, and while I died a few times during the much shorter jumping sequences they didn’t see anywhere near as nerve wracking as disappearing ships over of a giant open chasm.  Last night was also important because it marked the first time I had really done large group content with Tequila Mockingbird my clan.  It has been over six months since Axioma clan was dissolved in a fit, and [TQMB] was formed out of the ashes.  It definitely feels like we wound up with the absolutely best natured of folks for the reboot.  Within minutes I felt right back at home, which I guess is a strange statement considering I have been proudly sporting the clan tag since the moment the reboot happened.

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So while I had no real intent of raiding last night, I am super happy to have seen the content now and to have gotten some of the really awesome stuff that drops there.  There seems to be a massive problem with duplicates from the SIVA key caches.  On the first boss encounter I got the Ether Nova fusion rifle… and then turned around and got the same thing from the cache.  From the second encounter I managed to pick up Arms, that I am extremely happy about given that they have the crazy heavy ammo trait.  From the third encounter, I picked up an Artifact which is decent but it is really hard to get excited over an artifact when I am apparently now swimming in 400 light ones.  From the final phase of the Aksis encounter I walked away with the Genesis Chain auto rifle, and then spent a key and got an exact duplicate.  Past that I wound up with three exotics from the run:  4th Horseman, Hereafter, and Crest of Alpha Lupi.  The first two turning into shards since I don’t really like either weapon, and the last from an engram serving as infusion fodder for the Twilight Garrison I had yet to upgrade.

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I spent a bit of time after the raid running around in the Plaguelands patrol zone to play with both the Auto Rifle and the Fusion Rifle and I like both.  The Genesis Chain feels really awesome when you get headshots and cause the firefly to proc since it has a unique sound effect that goes with it.  The Fusion Rifle… largely just feels like a competent Fusion Rifle.  I sincerely doubt I will be giving up either The Branded Lord or Saladins Vigil for it, but it is nonetheless a reasonable weapon that is probably going to get ferried off to one of my alts.  I have heard it works really amazingly in Crucible, so I will have to give it a shot there.  It is bizarre how I have gone from being someone that NEVER used Fusion Rifles, to being someone who largely now favors them over Shotguns for close to medium range engagement.  The other really awesome thing that happened is that I am now flagged to do the Outbreak Prime quest, which honestly could be an entire post in itself.  It turns out that Lexy is also stalled on this quest, so that gives us Hunter and Titan… and we just need to find a Warlock to ride along with us since that quest requires you to group up all three classes to progress.  Wondering if maybe some point this weekend we can knock out the required pieces so that by the time the reset rolls around we are working on the final step which is the run the raid again.