Regularly Playing: June Edition

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Back in May I decided to make a monthly ritual of “truing up” my “Regularly Playing” widget on the sidebar to more closely represent the games I quite literally was playing on regular rotation.  Given that it is that time again… here is the list of things for June.  I added a few new games into the mix and also removed a few more… even if one is really only temporary.  Doing the thing where I write a blurb about what I happened to be doing in each of them.

Rift

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In a weird bit of nostalgia, I decided to come back to Rift and give it another push.  There has never really been a period of time when I have not actually at least dabbled in this game, but so many times I failed to gain traction.  This time around I somehow managed to push from 61 to 65 and have started on  this mad mission to raise all of my tradeskills.  Now having almost accomplished that I will be pushing into the Planetouched Wilds and giving it a real amount of effort.  On top of this I am focused heavily on my crafting dailies, which often times means I need to venture out into the world in search of Sarleaf and Thalasite.  With the shift of WoW to the Garrison for most of your farming needs… I had forgotten just how much I really did love going off and ore farming.  There is just something relaxing about wandering around a zone with a purpose, looking for the next ore pop and trying to get to it before anyone else notices.  It is this weird game within a game that actually seems to work well for me.  I spent many an hour flying circles around Icecrown or Sholazar Basin in Wrath… and now am loving doing the same thing for Gelboro Reef.  Largely I am focused on that zone since, firstly I know it pretty well… and secondly the mobs are low enough level that I can go afk as needed and make it back to the keyboard before something actually kills me.  I am certain that I could be farming ore while wandering around the Planetouched Wilds, but the mobs out there are truly brutal.  Whatever the reason… I am deeply invested in Rift and its community once more and loving it.

Destiny: The Taken King

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While I have slowed down considerably in this game, there are still regularly sessions of it… namely because I have been trying to get fellow AggroChat member and good friend  of mine Grace settled in game.  Monday night we managed to get her to level 40, and pushed through the Taken King quest content… which means that there is an entirely new world waiting for her of endgame stuff.  With Iron Banner going on this weekend, I highly expect that the two of us will be working on that or at least attempting to show her the ropes of the event.  We also have several more steps in the recruit a friend process, but as we get her gear level up there it should get easier to do cooler stuff.  Other than that other games have taken priority over the last few weeks, namely with my return to active duty in FFXIV and running stuff in Rift.  Hopefully the Iron Banner will be a good event to get me back into focus and moving forward in Destiny once more.  I feel pretty disconnected, and I miss the Thursday night Challenge of Elders stuff horribly, I just had a few crazy weeks with the St Louis trip, and Kansas City trip… and a bunch of other random occurrences that knocked me out of my schedule.  Hopefully I can start to rebuild said schedule and get moving forward once more.

ArcheAge

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In a similar fashion to Rift, I have suddenly become involved and attached to the ArcheAge community as well.  Right now I am largely focused on leveling, but at some point I plan on doing all the tradeskilly things in this game as well.  Last year the AggroChat crew made a serious push into this game, and while we faded into the background… I still found it extremely enjoyable.  Additionally like I said yesterday, many of the early toxic aspects of the community as a whole seem to be gone.  Right now I am trying to get back in tune with the game and try and remember how the hell to do half of the things.  On the positive as I grind away at questing I seem to keep getting really nice drops for weapons and armor…  however I remember that most of the best stuff I had was crafted.  I just happened to time my return to coincide with some welcome back campaign, and I keep accruing rewards into my inventory that at some point I will figure out how to use.  Mostly I would like to hit the level cap before worrying too much with them, but I believe some of them are xp bonuses that I might as well use now.  If you are actively playing I am Belglaive on the Tahyang server, but I am not sure what all it requires to actually friend someone in game.  I am not sure if cross server friends lists are a thing there like they are in Rift.

Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward

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I spent most of the month deeply frustrated with this game, namely because I was sitting at what felt like an artificial gear cap and being prevented from progressing in the story.  Since then however I managed to get a Void Ark run with some friends and got over whatever anxiety I happened to have about tanking it.  As a result I am now sitting at 205 gear score, and bumping up against the Nidhogg trial in the story.  It is my hope that at some point this week I can get a few friends together and run this and hopefully complete the 3.3 patch story.  I am still enjoying the game, but I lack the drive to play it… that I have in say Rift or ArcheAge right now.  For at least the foreseeable future my activity in game is probably going to be limited to our Tuesday night activities, or the occasional expert or other event that I organize with friends.  I love playing this game… but right now I only seem to love playing it with a group of friends logged in at the same time.  It is still an amazing game, but it has shifted into the sort of role that World of Warcraft has been in the past… that game that I only played when there was an organized activity.

World of Warcraft

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This one admittedly is barely making the list, and keeping its space on my sidebar.  Right now I am occasionally logging in to run Garrisons and get my free gold, but not doing much more other than that.  There has been talk of myself, grace and a few others doing random old world content for transmoggy bits and honestly…  that right now is about all I am interesting in World of Warcraft as a whole.  I feel like I am in a “desperately waiting for the Legion pre-patch” mode.  Largely because I am tired of not having any bank space, and removing any of my outfits is simply not an option.  I am not joking when I say that right now the only important thing to me in this game… is looking cool with my collection of old raid gear littering my bank vault.  If the new transmog system were actually patched in… I would more than likely go through a flurry of activity as I once again do awesome old world content for cool threads.  However I quite literally have hit a point where I maybe have 15 bag slots total between inventory, bank and void storage…. so I simply cannot play Belghast anymore without risking removing something.  So instead… I run the occasional garrison mission as I alternate through my army of alts… and then log out once again.

Things Removed From List

Overwatch

Zero clue why on this one… but the game released and I just have had no desire to really play it.  I am amped about just how excited everyone else seems to be about this game, but honestly it feels like I am more interested in talking about the world and the characters… than actually playing it.  If the player versus bots game were more compelling I would likely play it more often, but right now it feels like to enjoy it I need a group of friend to play it.  Ironically I have a huge group of friends playing it… but I think I am going through a “quiet time” phase where I just want to piddle around on my own in games rather than do a lot of organized play.  The few nights I rode along with people… I lasted 3 to 4 games before feeling the need to run and hide again.  I am certain at some point I will once again get the Overwatch bug, but the truth is I am just not that into competitive games.

Diablo 3

Removing this one again temporarily because well…. the season is over.  I have accomplished everything I could ever hope to accomplish, and now is the quiet time until the next patch.  This will be returning once again as another season starts and we all go through the crazy happy madness that is a season launch.  For a bit I was still farming for pets and such, but with the addition of several games this got removed from the docket.  I still very much love this game and look forward to adding it back to the list, but for the moment we are in the off season and the game for me at least is dormant.

 

Regularly Playing

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Yesterday I decided to start “truing up” my “Regularly Playing” section of my hot bar.  This area has been through many changes throughout the years and the whole idea was just to let readers know what I am actually playing right now.  It originally started as me simply i-framing in the information from Raptr… but since I don’t actually use that server or any other equivalent games tracker that isn’t going to work.  I shift games quite often, and I wanted a way to indicate what games are currently “on tap”.  So this shifted from “Now Playing” to “Frequently Playing” and eventually wound up with the verbiage of “Regularly Playing”.  The goal now is to evaluate the list once a month and make adjustments to keep it “mostly true”.  I realize I am finger quoting a lot of shit in this post, but the truth is I come home and log into whatever seems enjoyable unless I have a specific activity planned that night.  Over time some stuff fades away and other games get added, so I thought as part of this process I would talk a bit about where I am currently in each game on the list, as well as a bit about any that I might have removed or didn’t quite make the cut.

Destiny: The Taken King

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I am still just irrationally enthralled by this game, though over the last week I have not played quite so much because I am starting to get back into MMOs once more.  This week has been all about Iron Banner, because I am trying my best to get my Hunter to Rank 5…  in spite of not being here for the weekend due to travel plans.  The major goal of the month was to hit 335 light and I have managed to do just that on the Titan, however I am still lagging on the Warlock and Hunter with the primary slot that they need the worst being literally any legendary quality artifact.  I need to sort out what I can do to get one of those because I have plenty of infusion fodder to feed into an artifact… they just have 320 blues currently equipped.  The only real frustration that I have with Destiny right now is that Bungie is apparently shit at math.  We were told that several activities would drop an item equal to your current light level of better.  However now sitting at 335, there are still a truly silly number of activities that drop 334 items.  From Challenge of Elders turn-ins last night I got both a 334 weapon and 334 arms, and from an exotic engram I got a 334 secondary…  all while showing up in game as 335 light.  This is pretty maddening since 334 is useful for infusion if you are desperate but what you want to see is 335s so you can bring up ALL of your gear to that light level.  Regardless I am still loving the game and I am hoping that the next big patch will address this problem.  Also hoping that when I get back from my trip I can finish the push to Rank 5 because I am roughly halfway to Rank 4 at the moment.

Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward

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This marks the second week of me being “back” at least as far as doing the Tuesday night raid content is involved.  I am still very much in “catch up” mode, but I am enjoying myself.  As far as downtime activities I have started the grind to get elemental crystals for the first Anima weapon, aka the Relic 2.0 or 3.0 depending upon how you are counting.  I am loving being Lala-Bel once more and I guess whatever funk I was going through that was keeping me from playing MMOs has passed because I am enjoying myself again.  I very much need to be doing a nightly Expert but that has yet to happen quite yet.  After yesterdays post however I found a whole slew of people willing to be tagged and pulled in for expert running.  Now I just need to get back from this weekend and get started on this proper.  Also apologies ahead of time for the nightmares that will be induced by the creepy-assed Calcabrina dolls.

Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls

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Season Six is very much winding down to a close, and I have managed to accomplish pretty much everything that I could have hoped for… at the very least I got my additional stash tab.  I have friends who still have things to knock out to get theirs so I am very much in a help as needed mode.  That said I am still poking my head into the game on a regular basis to farm for Menagerist Goblins…. something I have yet to actually see.  The highlight of the season was something that I did not even realize was a thing until it dropped.  I guess the cosmic wings are among the rarest item this time around.. because it is RNG on top of RNG on top of RNG.  You have to get one of the rainbow goblins to show up… and then have to get it to drop the Whimsydale portal… and then have to get a specific mob to show up in there to get them.  In any case pretty much any time I get a Whimsydale portal I holler at anyone who happens to be on to come along with me now just in case they drop again.  I’ve made it way further this season than at any other time… the only thing I am not looking forward to is trying to merge my current seasonal bank into my non-seasonal bank once more.

Overwatch

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This is the newest addition to the list and also the one I have spent the least time playing.  This week was the official launch of Overwatch, and my friends list has been completely on fire about this game.  I played it enough in beta to know that I liked it, and then ceased to play it any further waiting for launch.  Now that launch is here however… I have all of these competing priorities.  The game is really good and so far I have yet to find a champion that I don’t like… pending I give them a serious chance.  I was largely diametrically opposed to D.Va largely because the mech looked like a killer whale mixed with a guardian mode veritech.  However after getting the carbon fiber skin from a loot box… and giving her a proper try I found out that I really enjoyed it.  The game is probably the best designed shooter I have played in a very long time.  The thing that is going to keep me from really sinking my teeth in however… is it has no PVE/Exploration gameplay like Destiny.  If I could have Destiny set in this universe with character progression and collecting awesome weapons…  I would be completely hooked.  This will likely always be a game relegated to the “once or twice a week” column for me largely because I am just not that competitive.  Earning loot boxes is a cool reason to keep playing, but eventually there will come a point where I run out of things I care about that came come from lootboxes.

World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor

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This is the backburneryist of backburner games for me right now.  I’ve gotten in the habit of logging in daily and collecting my free money from the garrison… especially now that I put a massive dent in my finances and bought the Grand Expedition Yak.  That said every now and then I do play one of the characters that I am still in the process of leveling.  I have this grand idea that it would be fun to roll into Legion with a full list of level 100 characters, however I somehow doubt that is going to happen… much the way as it has never actually happened during any of the other expansions.  However that said the alt of choice right now is my druid that I am slowly pushing up.  In truth I am in a holding pattern until Legion and largely not paying a ton of attention to the game in the meantime.

Things Removed From List

Elder Scrolls Online

The truth is the MMO Funk hit and I never really returned to playing this regularly.  I still very much want to, but it is going to need another lag in some other game for me to really sink my teeth into it.  The game that exists today is amazing and they have done a really good job of keeping the content fresh.  The biggest problem is I really don’t have anyone to play with over there on the North American server cluster.  Now if I were playing on the EU side… I know lots of active and happy guilds.  I would absolutely play with the Whitestar folks were that really a viable option.

Warframe

While initially interesting to me, this game just did not sink its teeth into me the way it did the rest of the AggroChat crew.  There is just something that I don’t like about it… and I have tried to reason out what exactly it was.  I still have an account and still have some cool stuff on it, so I might at a future date return to it, but it never really replaced my love for Destiny.

The Division

While technically it was never actually on the sidebar… it probably should have been.  I was all about The Division at launch and that excitement did not even manage to carry me through to the level cap.  I am sitting around level 26 and I am just not sure what is holding me back.  Largely the content at that level doesn’t feel nearly as interesting or rewarding as it did at lower levels.  The packs of mobs out in the world seem to be scaled for group play, and when you down folks… they don’t seem to be dropping anything interesting.  In theory I could hold my nose and grind through it… but what would  I be grinding for?  I am so far behind the curve in gear and it doesn’t feel like the game really gives you a lot of great options to catch up.  There has been a sequence of changes that I really didn’t feel like had me in mind.  At first I liked that it felt like you could progress through the game on many different vectors and end up at the same loot goal.  However the crafting material nerf really hurt that feel for me.  This is something I might return to later, once they offer some Destiny like catch up mechanisms to give players a hand up.

Blizzard: WoW and Overwatch

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Puppy Love

This is admittedly going to be a bit of a bummer of a post, but I feel like I want to get it out of me and onto paper.  I started this discussion yesterday on twitter but the 140 character limit of that medium kept me from really expressing any sense of nuance.  What happened is as the day wound down I ended up watching a really great video from Curse talking about the road to Overwatch, and the first video was talking about the failure of Titan.  It really is a great video because while Blizzard refuses to really talk about what happened with Titan, they do a pretty good job of trying to interpret and read between the lines, and managed to get an awful lot of candid commentary from the Overwatch team.  However while watching this video I was struck by something.  As you watch folks like Metzen and Kaplan talk about Overwatch you see this unbridled love and excitement in the way they express everything.  You can tell just how much they are enjoying this game and how excited about the future of Overwatch they feel.  This is just something I have not really seen from Blizzard in years in pretty much ANY game.  Sure there are standouts like Terran Gregory that are amazing, and every time he talks you can tell he quite literally is living his dream each and every day.  However the bulk of the World of Warcraft folks at Blizzard tend to come across with almost a sense of resentment that they are working on that product.

To go even further if you watch some of the Blizzcon Q/A sessions, there is almost a sense of condescension towards the players from the folks up on stage.  It goes beyond the “we know better” thing that every IT professional is guilty of doing.  It seems at times that they simply are not having fun with World of Warcraft anymore, and when you watch the same folks like Chris Metzen talking about Overwatch it is just such a stark difference.  On some level I absolutely get it.  There are things that I wrote a decade ago that I am still forced to maintain… and every single time I open them all I can see are the mistakes I made in the past.  After a point I began to resent that code, and it is almost painful every single time I have to work in it.  I am figuring that in many ways the folks who work on World of Warcraft, and have for a very long time…  feel that same way about that game.  They see this Weasley House of a game that is knitted together out of several different generations development, and just want to start over.  I think this attitude is evidenced in the vast number of game system uproots that have happened during the course of its lifespan.  Instead of just fixing the problems of the past, they nuke from orbit things like the talent system and try and rebuild something completely different on the rubble of the past system.

Nostalgia Not Hope

Now when I started down this path yesterday, a friend of mine brought up the Looking For Group documentary.  The problem is I see something completely different there when folks talk about the origins of World of Warcraft than I do in the current Overwatch videos.  I see a nostalgia for the way things used to be.  I see a reminiscing of folks who remember the good times the game had and how excited they used to be about everything relating to the game.  Ultimately I see a lot of living off of the whiffs of former glory, and what I see missing is the unbridled hope about what could be and is just over the horizon.  In Overwatch the sky is the limit and everything is magical still, because they have yet to actually ship the product.  In World of Warcraft, every single turn is dictated by a past decision and often times colored by past mistakes.  As a player I want to know that the best days of the franchise are still ahead of me, and not something to be remembered fondly from the past.  The development team has not made me feel that way since Wrath of the Lich King, and I realize that is entirely my fault as well.  What the game needs now however is exuberance to turn back the tide of negativity and get the ship moving in the right direction, and I see that sort of positive spirit working through the Overwatch team and wish I could somehow bottle it and force feed it to the folks working on Warcraft.

It just makes me wonder if at this point the current team working on World of Warcraft is too tired of the game to really take it to the places it needs to go.  The funny thing is… there is a team at Blizzard that is doing precisely the sort of job that the WoW team should be doing.  Diablo 3 feels like the property that is largely ignored and was even left out of the “things going on at blizzard” video from Blizzcon 2015.  However they are doing this amazing job of slowly and quietly improving the way Diablo 3 feels to play it.  The whole seasonal concept has revolutionized the way I play the game and has created this moment that happens every few months where me and my friends get extremely excited to be playing the game again.  We need that sort of an approach at World of Warcraft, rather than the slash and burn experience that keeps happening with every expansion.  We need someone to take an approach that is constantly refining and moving the franchise forward rather than trying to re-invent itself and often floundering.  SOE was the master of this methodoloy, and each Everquest and Everquest II expansion felt like it was pushing the boundaries of what the old tech could do, and the team seemed genuinely excited to be doing each new batch of content.  Ultimately the truth is… how are we the players supposed to be excited about a product when the folks creating it seem to be going through the motions.  I want Blizzard to love World of Warcraft the way that they seem to love Overwatch right now, and I wish I knew how to make that happen.

Old School New School

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Doomed

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Firstly if you didn’t check it out I highly suggest you read yesterday’s blog post if for no reason other than the amazing custom artwork by my friend @Ammosart.  As far as this weekend went, it was a bit of an odd one.  I once again played a lot of Destiny, but this morning that is not one of the shooter experiences I am going to be talking about.  I really hate it when game companies gang up on each other, because this weekend there were “special” beta tests going on for Overwatch, Battleborn and Doom.  While at first they might not seem all that related, they are each chasing a multiplayer experience that they would really love you to care about.  Battleborn is not even on the list of games I was interested in, thanks to a really bad alpha experience causing me to pitch it to the curb.  Doom however…  I really want to like and keep giving it ample attempts to sell me on its regressive notion of what first person shooter multiplayer should be.  Now please note…  I’ve had access to the alpha for quite awhile now thanks to a strange presell deal that they had for Wolfenstein The New Order.  I have not really talked about it before now however due to the NDA it has been wrapped in, but with this weekends big beta event… that has been dropped.

Doom Multiplayer is a game that really hopes that you remember Quake 3 Arena fondly, and have been craving that sort of gameplay with marginally better graphics.  The gameplay honestly gives flash backs to playing Rocket Arena… during a time when even then I thought the Quake Arena experience was far inferior to Unreal Tournament that I tended to play more often.  If you miss the days of being shot across the map from someone you can’t even see as you spawn in… then this is going to be the game you have been hankering for.  The big problem I had was in all of the matches that I have played… I never really found myself having fun.  I mean I did okayish, but it very much felt like wandering around the same claustrophobic hallways that we used to in Quake.  The worst sin however is the movement… it feels completely unrealistic and the same sort of stiff speedy running that those original Quake games had.  What it is trying to be is fast paced run and gun action, but in an era when we can do that without sacrificing animation and design aesthetics.  I’ve now played several different PC alpha tests, and installed it on the PS4 to give it a go there… and no matter what I keep coming up with the same impression.  This is not a fun multiplayer experience.

Molten Core!

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The general “unfun” nature of Doom was only drilled home thanks to also being in Overwatch this weekend.  It feels like both games are trying really hard to deliver something similar, at least in the department of a faced paced shooter department.  Also both games really want you to want to watch them as some sort of an e-sports extravaganza.  However Doom is a world that traded the drab green and brown nothingness of Quake for various shades of orange and blood red… whereas Overwatch is almost more game world than it actually needs to support the combat.  As you wander around the world there is a constant barrage of tiny details.  Posters on the wall, images up on computer screens… advertisements for murloc themed restaurants.  The world is vibrant and feels alive, and almost begs you to inhabit it, and what makes it even better is that every single character is just as vibrant and well designed.  Playing Torbjorn feels unique and completely different from playing Pharah or Reaper or Reinhardt.  The only negative here is that at times they almost feel too unique, in that the control scheme of one champion doesn’t begin to map up to playing another one.  It is fairly normal for “league” style champion design to differ wildly, but at least in League you are always going to be using QWE, but for Overwatch champions there is essentially an array of hotkeys that get used… and not all champions use all hotkeys.  The most confusing aspect of this is how some champions have a movement key and others don’t…  and even among the ones that do they don’t always sync up to exactly the same key.

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So what ended up having to happen is that I started to compartmentalize “this is how I play this champion” from “this is how I play overwatch”.  The only unfortunate thing about this game is that you can see how much effort they put into building the world, and personally I get a little nostalgic about “what might have been”.  Titan was supposed to be Overwatch the MMO, and I would have loved that.  Even if they had given me a game along the lines of Destiny or Division I would have eaten it up completely.  So as you are playing through the levels you see signs of what might have been.  As far as the game play itself it centers around running multiplayer matches, to rank up… to unlock loot crates… to get sweet skins and other cosmetic stuff…  that improve your game play experience for those champions that you really love.  At its core this game is a really tight multiplayer team based shooter, and if that is not the experience you have been looking for… this probably isn’t the game for you.  It plays like a modern version of Team Fortress 2 and feels tighter than that game ever did.  Every aspect of the experience seems like it has been painstakingly planned and the awesome thing about it is that for once Blizzard is probably being more forthcoming with information than any other multiplayer game has been.  For example they went into more detail about the netcode behind the game play than any company I have ever seen.  The only unfortunate thing is that I am going to have to likely wait until May 3rd to get to play the game again, given that is when the pre-launch open beta period begins.  The game lived up to all of my expectations, and I am amped to get to play it with friends.

FPS Evolved Genre

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Thoughts for Motiga

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One of the aspects of Pax South 2016 that felt strange for me, was the complete and total lack of Motiga and Gigantic.  I cannot fully express how much of my experience this game was in 2015.  I had a great time hanging out with the Motiga crew thanks to Lonrem brokering a connection, and then kept dragging people to the booth to play Gigantic.  It felt like the sort of MOBA experience I had been looking for.  When I played a tanky character, it felt like playing an MMO tank.  When I played a ranged character, it felt like playing a really good ranged shooter.  I feel like hands down they were the belle of the ball last year, and when I heard about their layoffs in december, and the fact that they were not on the roster for 2016… I started to get concerned.  Since coming back from Pax last year I have been lucky enough to have access to all of the alpha and beta events, but I have to admit I didn’t really play much of it.  For the longest time it just played lousy on my then Geforce 750ti video card…. and now that I have at least upgraded to a 960 I am wondering if maybe it would perform a little better.  As of yesterday however I am really starting to worry for the folks at the company, because according to a Gamasutra article the just underwent some pretty significant staff reduction in a last ditch attempt to get more funding to finish the game.

Now that the NDA has lifted I don’t have to worry quite so much about how I talk about Gigantic.  I really need to reinstall the game and see what its current state happens to be.  The biggest problem  that the game had was that its back end systems were not quite as polished as the front end game play.  Matchmaking was a big issue, and the fact that in order to get valuable feeling matches… you realistically needed to hang out on testing ventrilo and and form some sort of a custom game.  The last time I attempted to boot up the game I sat in a matchmaking queue for thirty minutes and then finally gave up.  My friend Rae apparently has played it more recently, but ran into a pretty elitist player base… with her catching shit for not doing the right thing at the right time.  This is one of those games that is so damned close to really good…. but I worry that maybe they missed their window by a year.  I’ve always said that in order for this game to be really popular it needed to be first to market, since it is essentially launching an untested IP.  The awesome thing is though, that the characters…. well… for lack of a better term have character.  They are interesting and are animated in a way that they spring to life.  This game has what League of Legends has… but so many other games in the MOBA genre have lacked…  personality.  I really hope that they can pull this off, but as always I worry about the folks that were just let go.  This game deserves its time in the sun, and I think it will flourish on consoles….  quite possibly more so than on the PC that already has a fairly entrenched first person MOBA genre.  The critical date however is that they HAVE to beat Overwatch to launch, or they are pretty much toast.  Even thought those two games are vastly different in feel… players are still mentally lumping them all together in this “fps evolved” genre of folks taking the FPS template and doing new things with it.

Overwatch Beta Returns

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Speaking of the 500 lb gorilla that Gigantic has to beat to market…  as of yesterday the Overwatch Beta is back on, and with it has also returned much gnashing of teeth as more folks failed to get in.  At this point I am pretty much resigned that I will not likely get to play until open beta testing at some point.  For a brief period of time I thought that maybe I had access, because in the launcher the install button suddenly started showing up for me.  The only problem being that it was grayed out, and not clickable.  I am guessing this was a temporary glitch because later that evening when I popped into WoW to do my garrison gold farming… it was back to hiding the install button again.  The truth is…  even if I had beta access I probably would not be playing it much.  My recent return to Elder Scrolls Online has taught me that… maybe I am just not a good beta candidate these days.  I absolutely blame the almost two years of regularly ESO testing for my diminished desire to play after getting to the veteran ranks.  I quite literally had burned myself out on all of the newbie content, so that the thought of alting my way through it again just felt painful.  I poured my heart and soul into that testing experience, because I wanted that game to be the best damned game it could be… and honestly judging it today through very clear eyes…  I think it turned out pretty great.

I want to be able to walk into Overwatch and have the game feel free and exciting, and be able to experience the new player rush along with everyone else.  Sure I would love to be able to play the game when the whim hits me right now, but I am not going to be the sort of hard core tester and bug reporter that they really need right now.  In this sort of game, balance and gameplay statistics are key… and they need a sheer volume of data to sift through to be able to shape their design decisions.  So for me… who is going to maybe play the game once a month…  I am not exactly a great resource and if you replaced me with someone who is going to stream the game every night… you would be far better off in the end.  I’ve developed this aversion to playing games before they are officially released.  Now granted… I still do regularly…. but I have begun to learn my lesson.  Torment: Tides of Numenera for example is absolutely available to me to test because I backed the project…. but I have zero desire right now to do so.  I want to play the finished version of the game, when it is “ready for primetime” and not have to sift through crippling bugs.  Maybe my tolerance for “broken games” is less than it used to be… or maybe there are just so damned many things that I want to be playing that spending my time on an unfinished product feels like a waste.  In any case… I am a bad beta tester, and will continue to be super happy for those who are getting invited and enjoying their time playing games like Overwatch.

 

Be Nice to the People

Bad Luck

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Traditionally I do this Friday thing where I talk about one of the many “MMOs Worth Playing” but honestly…. today I am just not feeling it.  I am feeling more annoyed and frustrated about MMOs than I am feeling the love right now, and in this current mindset it is probably best that I simply don’t talk about a game.  The purpose of the column is to highlight a game and talk about the things I love about it, in the hopes that it might nudge people into giving it a try.  In order to really do that I have to be feeling happy and enjoying the world around me… and right now I am kinda grumpy.  Granted I am grumpy over a stupid reason.  Right now I feel like I am one of a handful of people who didn’t get into the Overwatch beta weekend.  I am largely annoyed by this, because I am in fact one of the people who went ahead and pre-ordered the game knowing eventually that I would want to play it.  You would think… that if you have a bit single weekend only stress test that you might want to include the people who are already signed up to spend money on your game.

Maybe that is screwed up in my logic, but it seems to me that they should have pulled from the pool of sign ups first for this one in particular.  I am not saying that about the normal always on Beta process… that one is completely luck of the draw.  This one however… when you are testing a game for a short period of time… it might be cool to thank the folks who have already pressed that button and said “Yes, I want your game”.  Frustrations aside, I am hoping all of my friends who are going to be playing it this weekend will enjoy themselves and have lots of things to talk about.  Honestly this test will give me a better feeling of how I am going to like the game, since a lot of the AggroChat folks seemed to have gotten in.  This is the hardest part about Betas is standing on the outside watching your friends have fun…  and then trying really damned hard to be happy for them… and not sad that you got left out.

People Behind The Thing

So even though I am frustrated, I am directing my frustrations at an entity…  the game Overwatch and or the company Blizzard behind it.  I realize that that company is made up of people, and it has to be super tiring to hear people raging at them constantly.  I realize over the years I have said some pretty caustic and even pyroclastic things about video games and or the companies behind them.  At no point however did I aim that criticism at the people themselves.  I never joined the chorus of “I Hate Ghostcrawler” nor will I join any other personally targeted witch hunt in the future.  I can dislike a thing… but still have the utmost respect for the people for whom it is their job.  Much of this week has felt like I have been attempting to give lessons in how to treat people with simple human dignity… and yesterday continued that trend.  These companies have people working there, that go to work every single day hoping to do something cool… and often times get met with this constant wall of negativity.  It is no wonder when someone reads one too many “fuck you” posts targeted at them that occasionally community staff snaps.  Ultimately how good of a job, and how much satisfaction in it… would you have if someone stood over your desk heckling you the entire day?

Now you can take the path of “they willfully accepted the job”, but that too is utter bullshit.  They probably took the job for the same reason that any one of us who are gaming addicts would jump at the chance to do the same thing.  The folks that work at games companies do so because they love games with every fiber of their being, so much so that they are willing to sacrifice basic things like stability, and normal working hours…  for the chance of being part of something they at least once felt was awesome.  So if this week I happen to be complaining about Overwatch… I know that behind the scenes there is a crew of people who are working insane hours right now, and trying their damnedest to please as many people as they can… while at the same time desperately fighting to roll out the best possible product that they can make.  I’ve been lucky to know enough people that work at enough companies to know that all of these fine people are grinding themselves into the ground all in the hopes of making each of us happy.  So the next time you level an attack at a thing… please make sure it is targeted at the thing… and not the voice of the person hanging out in front of it for whom it is their job to represent said thing.  I most definitely don’t believe that games should be above criticism… but I do believe that we shouldn’t be targeting our bile at a human being.

Hoping For a Great Friday

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My hope is that I can go into this Friday and not see anything else that makes me sad about humanity.  For those of you in the Overwatch beta weekend…  have a blast, take lots of screenshots, record lots of video… because I expect some really amazing content as a result.    For those of us watching from the sidelines… there are dozens of other things we should be doing.  I personally am now 55 hours into Fallout 4… and have yet to make it to Diamond City.  I’m also in a strange place when it comes to Final Fantasy XIV where I am logging in each day to do Beast Tribe dailies, but not finding much drive to do anything else.  I am in that strange place where I took a long enough break from the game to where I am completely out of touch with what I was doing before I left, but have not been away long enough to make me super nostalgic enough to dive back in with vigor.  I am also still fighting the urge to play World of Warcraft, and I am scared that sooner or later I will be giving into it… if for no reason other than to get it out of my system again.  I am in a place where I want into the Legion beta more than any other beta in a long while, mostly because I hope beyond hope that Deathknights are fun again.  The fact that I had to switch back to my warrior during Warlords honestly was a bit of bummer, and I would love to be a Worgen DK once more.  Anyways…  that was a long “outro” but hopefully you have a great weekend, and stay safe and happy and warm.

 

 

Media Consumption – Blizzcon 2015 Edition

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Interesting Day

MediaConsumptionLast week I had this grand plan of hanging out at home and watching BlizzCon 2015, so I took the day off work.  Then as we got closer to the day, it suddenly filled up with other things I needed to do.  Our house looked like madness yesterday with three vehicles of the contractors working on the siding and minor renovations, and another truck for the heating and air company.  All of this while my wife and I were being forced to park in the next door neighbors driveway.  Thankfully they were not here the last few days, otherwise I have no clue what we would be doing for parking.  I am sure the neighbors are wondering what manner of insanity we are up to… as at one point yesterday we had a guy stop and gawk for a few minutes without asking anything.  I guess that is the benefit of not actually knowing half of your neighbors is that you don’t have to make the same small talk over and over when something like this happens.  This morning in honor of BlizzCon however I am going to talk about the things that interested me.

Diablo 3

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I am leading off what was I originally thought going to be the big disappointment of the day.  Blizzard did what they always do and rolled out everything that was new and shiny in their opening ceremony.  The problem being… they said absolutely nothing about Diablo 3 which has turned out to be probably the game in their lineup that I care the most about.  I had hoped they would announce another expansion this year, but alas that didn’t happen.  However I am completely fine with this because the Diablo 3 panel later in the evening pretty much showed me that the team is quietly doing awesome stuff, in spite of apparently being ignored by Blizzard as a whole.  The presentation was essentially a rapid fire series of announcements of new features.  The one nearest and dearest to my heart surrounds the season play functionality.  They have essentially sorted out that they are going to make seasons three months long, meaning at the end of that three months there will be new content leading into the next season.  They said this gives players enough time to really deeply experience it… and also fits players like myself that swoop in… play enough to get the easy rewards and stop playing for a bit.

The biggest announcement as far as I am concerned is the “Rebirth” feature, which will allow you to essentially reboot a previous character and turn it into a new seasonal character.  All of the gear that was on the character gets mailed to the account, and that character gets dialed back to level 1… but keeps achievements, hours played etc.  It sounded like maybe there would be a special set of achievements for reboots, but essentially it solves the problem I always have of feeling like I have to create something brand new to be able to play along in the season again.  They are also adding additional stash space… and the ability to earn slots by completing the seasonal journey on a character, up to 10 slots total.  This all honestly would have been enough for me, but they are revising the buff system, changing the way damage is shown…  adding a whole item set dungeon functionality where specific dungeons will require you have an item set equipped and then have challenges based on the strength of that set.  On top of all of this… new zone and some expanded areas which makes 2.4 pretty damned awesome and it apparently goes up on the PTR next week.

Heroes of the Storm

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The highlight of the Heroes discussion is the fact that we are getting Genn Greymane as a playable champion.  This is absolutely hands down my favorite Alliance leader… that isn’t given the respect of having his own damned town to govern.  I am still a little sore that Gilneas never became someplace we could actually use as a capitol city.  I would seriously bank in that town all of the damned time if they allowed me to.  All the same however it is awesome to have him as a champion and it looks like the gameplay is going to be based around changing in and out of Worgen form.  The other interesting tidbit is that it seems like they are introducing ARAM for Heroes of the Storm.  The details were pretty scant and I have not watched any of the panels for Heroes yet… but from the sounds of it, the mode seemed to put a random group of champions against another random group of champions just like “All Random All Middle” mode in League of Legends.

I am honestly all about that because ARAM is probably my favorite mode to play in League.  Mostly because it takes all of the pressure off in that if you are getting randomly assigned a champion… no one can complain too much about you not being able to play it terribly well.  I’ve found it a great way to get my feet wet and get used to how a champion performs under actual combat situations.  The other interesting thing from the show was the introduction of Cho’Gall the two headed ogre.  This is a champion that is literally played by two different players.  I am assuming that one controls the movement and the other controls the combat at least to some extent.  Everyone with a BlizzCon virtual ticket will be getting it added to their account… and then they can play matches with other players to pass the character on.  After two matches a player will earn their own copy of Cho’gall and after I think they said four matches the original player gets a sack of gold for spreading the madness.  It sounds cool and it is awesome to see this game thriving.

Hearthstone

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The highlight of this announcement was awesome new Brann Bronzebeard artwork.  Hearthstone is one of those games that I like, but rarely actually boot up to play.  I am not sure what it is about the game, but essentially I keep playing the same deck over and over without changing it up much.  It is like this game requires too much of me to actually get in and sort out the decks I might want to build.  I am happy that it seems to be doing well, and I am happy that it has a meta that is very much alive.  That said I felt generally meh when listening to them talk about the gameplay.  I feel like maybe if it ran for shit on my iPad I would play it more, but I struggle with this game in the same way that I struggle with so many mobile games.  It requires too much of me to pop into it while waiting on something…  but it just isn’t sticky enough to make me choose to play it over literally any other game I have installed on my computer or consoles.  There just is rarely ever a situation where I am going to pick this over an MMO or a single player game experience.  I have so many other games to play… and honestly most of the time too damned many.  The hearthstone fans seemed to be really happy, so I am never going to rain on their parade with my own “meh”.

Overwatch

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I won’t lie the highlight of the Overwatch presentation for me was seeing just how awesome the Mercy Wings are in Diablo 3.  Other than that I loved the Mei reveal, because she was freaking adorable… and also looked like a really fun zone control champion to play.  Similarly I thought D.Va was a pretty cool concept, but I doubt I could ever see myself playing her.  The boot up sequence of her HUD was awesome, in that it showed a cute bunny icon while it was loading.  I really don’t care for the design of her Mech, which is my main problem with her as a champion.  There is just something wrong looking about it… I get they were going for a jet with legs after the reboot that allows her to fly…  but a Guardian Mode Veritech is a better version of what they were trying to accomplish.  Though I think the design they came up with was largely a compromise to save space on the screen.

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I have to admit I was largely tempted when they announced this would be coming to PS4.  The problem there is that the Xbox and PS4 Blizard games are disconnected from Battle.net.  That is my biggest problem with playing Diablo 3 on the PS4 is that I am stuck with only having access to my PSN friends… which are in no way as long of a list of Blizzard fans as the Battle.net account.  So even though I am going through a bit of a renaissance of console gaming… I am ultimately going to go with the mouse and keyboard of the PC and essentially have to reacquaint myself with that sort of game play.  I agree with Kodra in his belief that playing with a controller on a PC is a trap when it comes to a competitive FPS.  There are times I have even considered picking up a XIM4 for my PS4 so I have the option of playing with a keyboard and mouse there as well.  The PS4 natively supports USB and Bluetooth keyboards and mice… but very few games actually support that.  Mostly right now I just want to get into the Overwatch beta… and I am hoping that will be a thing that happens soon.

Warcraft Movie

I have to admit on this one that before this trailer I had not really given much of a shit about the Warcraft movie.  But man…  those feels while I watched this.  I have just been burned in the past when a franchise that I love was turned into a movie… at least from the gaming side of things.  Does anyone remember how horrible the Dungeons and Dragons movie was?  or Doom?  This however…. looks like it is going to be a really good movie and revitalize the Warcraft franchise for a whole new generation.  Maybe it is just the hype I am feeling about Star Wars spilling over into Warcraft… but I am feeling like now is the time to set aside old grudges and just embrace any fandom wholeheartedly.  Both Durotar and Lothar were awesome in the trailer, and I think they were probably right to make this a Warcraft movie… and not a World of Warcraft movie.  My hope is that along with this we maybe see a rebooted version of the original Warcraft RTS franchise.  In any case regardless I know what I will be doing next June… sitting in the theater and watching this movie.

Legion Expansion

Now we finally get to the low point of Blizzcon… which I guess tells you how far my tastes have changed.  I was completely amped about most of the above announcements other than maybe Hearthstone.  I wholeheartedly love Blizzard games… but I have just reached the point where World of Warcraft is my least favorite of them.  The cinematic trailer was nice… but I honestly had hoped that maybe we would have seen Varian die during it…  or at least I thought that was what we were going to see for a bit.  For years Varian was supposed to be “our thrall” but he has always been this paper thin super one dimensional character.  His son on the other hand… Anduin has gone through some actually interesting changes especially during Pandaria.  So my hope was that we would see Varian dying during this siege and passing the banner to his son who is more than likely far more capable a leader.  The trailer also gave me hope that maybe just maybe they would finally be retiring the tired old shtick of Alliance versus Horde and giving us the ability to play with friends from both factions.  Look… it is a dream that I am not going to let go of ever… I hate faction bullshit.

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For the most part there is a lot of interesting things at work here… but I lack the faith that they are going to be carried out in a fashion I am going to like.  It is my honest hope that I get into the beta testing process so I can see if I like it or not.  I big nail in the coffin for Warlords was how badly they made the Deathknights feel…  so I guess there are a lot of things that sound good on paper but never quite work right when you put them into practice.  I am absolutely willing to give this game a shot, but I want to know that I will actually like it before I plunk down that pre-order.  The new zones do look absoultely amazing however.  They are pushing this aging engine for every ounce of oomph that it can muster, and I love that.  The way WoW looks right now, reminds me of the way late in a generation console games look… when they have really figured out how to make the most of the resources they have to work with.  This expansion is a bunch of really good ideas, that just don’t seem to be connected by enough tissue to hold them together.  My disappointment largely was that the game didn’t really give me that moment of “fuck yeah!” that I have had in previous expansions.  It did however give me a lot of moments of “that sounds cool”, especially when it comes to the non-linear leveling process for the new content.  Unfortunately that same level scaling won’t apply to the rest of the world… so we are again creating this walled garden of “good” content and everything older will feel like crap as a result.

 

 

 

 

Instant Relevance

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King of Match Three

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Yesterday morning was the Activision Blizzard earnings call for investors, and much of the focus has been on one particular tidbit of information.  They announced that they are acquiring Candy Crush maker King Digital for the sum of $5.9 Billion dollars.  The reaction to this announcement has been pretty varied, because in truth…  many “core” gamers loath the concept of games like Candy Crush.  First off there is some confusion to clear up.  Activision Blizzard is not the same thing as Blizzard Entertainment, so early reports I saw talked about Blizzard buying King Digital…  which caused some outrage.  Activision Blizzard is the big parent company that pulls all the strings of the various products from Call of Duty to Skylanders to of course the Blizzard franchises.  At first I have to admit I was taken by surprise by the announcement but that pretty much went away immediately when I thought about it.  In doing this deal ActiBlizz is essentially buying instant relevance in the traditional mobile gaming market.

Now you might be saying to yourself… But Bel, Activision and Blizzard already doing mobile gaming.  Sure they do… but they do it in a way that attempts to appeal to “core” gamers that are wanting something on their phone to play when they don’t have access to their normal gaming platforms.  This is a vastly different market than the one that King Digital generally focuses on which are for lack of a better term “casual” and “mobile exclusive” users that would never in a million years… consider themselves gamers.  Essentially King Digital targets people like my wife, that spends plenty of time playing games on her iPad but does not in any fashion think of herself as a gamer.  So in essence with this one… albeit expensive acquisition, they now cover a market that they did not serve in any fashion.  Sure Hearthstone is a great mobile game… but it really only draws in people who already are in the fold of “gamers”.  The big thing is all of these “non-gamers” have prove time and time again that they are in fact willing to spend money on micro-transactions.

What This Means

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In truth I doubt for the short term it really means anything.  Activision will continue releasing big budget shooters like Call of Duty and Destiny… and Blizzard will continue flirting with e-sports while still not quite certain what to do with World of Warcraft.  Another big chunk of this earnings report was a note that the WoW subscription numbers have more or less stabilized from their post Warlords of Draenor free fall.  I feel like there is some fuzzy math at work here, but according to the official figures they have dropped from 5.6 Million to 5.5 Million.  There was a strange little definition that was released to explain what they determined a subscriber.

Subscriber Definition: World of Warcraft subscribers include individuals who have paid a subscription fee or have an active prepaid card to play World of Warcraft, as well as those who have purchased the game and are within their free month of access. Internet Game Room players who have accessed the game over the last thirty days are also counted as subscribers. The above definition excludes all players under free promotional subscriptions, expired or cancelled subscriptions, and expired prepaid cards. Subscribers in licensees’ territories are defined along the same rules.

This makes me think that these subscription numbers are in fact counting WoW Token players… seeing as how that would count as “prepaid” access.  So the actual month to month subscription numbers would be a bit lower.  To some extent I wish they would have broken those numbers out separately… since a monthly sub is semi-guaranteed income, and a token is a one time purchase.  The other big news however is that they plan on this being the last month they actually announce subscription numbers.  Instead they have a new sort of engagement number formula that they are working on to determine the health of the game.

At first glance this sounds a bit odd… and maybe like they are trying to hide losses within the cloak of mathematics.  However… we are just days away from Blizzcon and it makes me wonder.  Will this finally be the year that they announce World of Warcraft going to a free to play model?  Cutting the ties of relying on subscriptions to convey the health of the game… would at least be one step in that direction.  If I were Blizzard I would be seriously considering it… because honestly Free to Play seems to work.  With the recent high publicity relaunch of Wildstar… that game is doing significantly better now than it was, and the same was essentially true with Star Wars the Old Republic went to the model.  Free to Play has been the salvation of otherwise dying games… and even though World of Warcraft is far from dying…  I still think they would benefit from the switch.  It would be a massive shift in methodology and would probably change the way content is delivered, but it would also bring back a bunch of players that want to dip their toes in the game every now and then… but not feel like they are chained to a subscription.  Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone are both wildly success as Free to Play experiences… and with Overwatch starting to ramp up and following that same model…  it just seems like Blizzard has wrestled with how to make it work.

What I Hope Happens

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So while I don’t think anything will change for a bit… my hope is that through this deal there is some cross pollination of skillsets.  I would love to see better integration of mobile platforms and traditional games.  As you know I have been playing a lot of Destiny… and quite honestly the way that game works is just not as clean as it should.  There are a lot of things that you can do through the website…  slightly different things that you can do through the mobile app… and even a different set of things through the game itself.  The entire process feels cludgy as hell… but an attempt to move in the direction of giving players access to tools outside of the game.  Now if you take that basic desire and match it with a company that has proven that they can spin the same old match three schlock into infectious gold…  you can maybe create really interesting experiences that span traditional platforms and mobile gaming ones.

What I would love to see is a better mobile app for World of Warcraft.  Why can’t we fish on our mobile phones and have it grant skill-ups and materials for our characters in game?  Why can’t we do the normally tedious action of Archaeology in a mobile mini-game?  Garrisons themselves were essentially the same sort of thing as a tiny tower like mobile game…  why didn’t exist on mobile platforms allowing people to do the upkeep and maintenance activities when they couldn’t otherwise play the game?  Why can’t we have a significantly better auction house integration system?  Essentially…  give players a reason to stay in the game by making them feel more connected to it.. on their own terms.  A big part of my frustration with Garrisons is that I knew I had a one to two hour ritual waiting on me every time I logged into the game, before I could feel like I was free to do interesting things…  like slay internet dragons.  If I could do Garrisons while walking to my car at night, or on my lunch break… it would take some of that burden away so that I knew once I got home… I could do the fun stuff without having to worry about the “paperwork”.  Essentially we live our lives on our phones…  and the games that integrate better with how we live our lives are going to feel more “real” to us.

 

 

Overwatch Frustrations

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Overwatch Hype
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On Tuesday October 27th Blizzard opened the doors of Closed Beta for it’s highly anticipated shooter called Overwatch.  As you might expect, the internet as a whole quickly lost their shit and reverted to a state of chain refreshing the battle.net account page to see if they were among the lucky few to get granted access.  What I did not expect however was all of the infighting this process called as folks essentially called down a pox on the house of those who did manage to get in.  It is one thing to be frustrated that you did not get into whatever the hot new Beta happens to be, but it is an entirely different to wish harm upon those who did.  There were even a few folks who decided to flail about declaring that their not getting into Beta shows how little Blizzard cares.  Others talk about how they should have earned access with this or that deed.  At first I thought to myself…  are we really this entitled?  Because seriously… there have been some serious entitlement issues going on over the last few days.

Then I noticed something else happening that disturbs me even more.  For those mere mortals like myself that do not make a living off gaming…  then absolutely it would be entitlement.  However for the folks that make a living through creating content related to Blizzard games…  I started to read this impotently lashing out…  as cold hard fear.  When you make your money by presenting the freshest content on your Stream or your YouTube channel… you are in essence relying on being able to play whatever everyone else is playing.  Not having access means you are missing out on all of these eyeballs that are now suddenly flocking to the internet to gaze into the window at those chosen few who get to play whatever game they want to play.  Right or wrong…  Blizzard is essentially saying who is really important to the future of their product and who is not.

The Hunt for Eyeballs

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I am a shitty Streamer and an even worse YouTuber…  but the most eyeballs I have ever had on my collective “stuff” is when I happened to get into the first wave of Alpha invites to Trove.  I got to be one of a handful of people playing around with that game, and broadcasting it to the world and it was really noticeable.  It is 6:30 in the morning right now… and one of the Overwatch streamers has over 10,000 viewers at this hour.  During prime time… Overwatch has consistently been the highest watched game on the network.  When you tune into one of these streams, especially the ones going on during the day… you will see a who’s who of internet celebrities fighting each other.  Whether or not they intended it… Blizzard did essentially judge who was important to them and who was not by determining who got into that first wave of invites.  That can be a pretty harsh reality check, especially if you have essentially devoted your career to supporting Blizzard products.

What worries me more however is what this says about the current state of video games in general.  I remember how I felt the first time I got into a Friends and Family Alpha program… or FFA.  I remember the excitement, and the desire to tell the entire world…  but the reality that was I was bound behind a very serious Non Disclosure Agreement.  I remember for one of these FFA programs I had to fax in a signed copy of a thirty page document back to the studio before being granted access.  What made this work is that the company could literally focus on testing the game… rather than having to showcase it to the public 24/7.  Sure it is frustrating to be in a thing that you cannot share… and sure it sucks for streamers especially to need to play something that they cannot show off to their viewers.  However I think the model worked pretty damned well because up until these last few years it has been the model that almost all of the games you can think about nostalgically have been released under.  It lets testing happen beyond the prying eyes of the public and bugs get fixed before it is ready for people to see it.  The problem is… we the gamers have started to feel that there is something dishonest about this process… and that if a company isn’t completely transparent in every single minute action that they take…  that it must be the sign of something horrible going on behind the scenes.

Marketing Cycle

 

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The big problem is…   we bore of games before they are released.  There are games out there that seem to have permanent alpha and beta cycles, and as we go through seeing them displayed on our screens for two years…  then the final release just seems lacking.  There have been numerous times on AggroChat for example when someone brings up a title… and I have to ask “wait that actually released?”.  There is this constant battle to control the hype cycle about a game, and make sure that your product is getting enough spin among the social media influencers.  So when a game like Overwatch goes into one of these lengthy beta cycles…  the company needs these streamers just as much as the streamers need the game to showcase to their viewers.  They need those all important eyeballs peeping their wares… and getting excited enough to plunk down their hard earned money to purchase goods in it.  The frustrating thing about it… is it feels like we are always in a hype cycle for something.  It becomes much like the American Political system… where the candidates… or games in this case are always running for the next election.  The market at this point is simply saturated with new titles that all sound interchangeable.  MOBA with FPS roots…  FPS with MOBA Character Styling…  FPS gameplay MOBA spirit…  the marketing spin that gets applied to games just seems meaningless after awhile.

Where I really start to get frustrated however is when this hype machine starts hurting people.  Sure watching someone have an internet meltdown is entertaining while it goes on… but behind the screen is someone obviously in pain.  I am not coming out to support those tantrums… but I am coming out to say that for all that is good and right in the world…  lets stop hurting each other over a game.  I have been just like you among those people frantically checking my battle.net account each time a new wave of invites comes out.  So I get it… I get the desire to play that new shiny game.  I’ve done this cycle over and over, and will continue doing this cycle until the games industry changes the way it works.  Even if I want something really badly…  I make it a goal in life to be excited for the people who are having good things happen to them…  rather than being that selfish person who is lashing out at others because they got left out.  I get the frustration and fear especially if you make your living from this sort of thing…. but having a meltdown in front of your followers isn’t going to help either.  The truth is… we are eventually all going to get in… and the additional truth is…  most of us will play a handful of games and then move on to the next shiny thing.  This is not as important as we happen to be making it out right now… and within a years time…  this will feel like another silly incident in the gaming community.  What will stick around however… is how people feel about you and the way you have treated them.  So lets just be awesome to each other while we wait for the next hype cycle to spin up.

 

Pax Prime Hopes

The Big Show

It feels like we live in this world where there is always another big games show around the corner.  I remember when quite literally all that existed was the Consumer Electronics show, at least for the United States.  Now we have dozens of shows sprinkled throughout the year, all of which vying for exclusive announcements.  As a result companies have to trickle information out so that everyone that attends one of the shows feels like they are getting to see something unique or special.  This weekend of course is Pax Prime, and I had hoped this year I would be attending.  The truth is however that Pax Prime will likely never be in the cards, as the husband of a teacher…  August is a HORRIBLE time for me to be travelling.  During this month my wife is in full on panic mode as she gets adjusted to another school year, and while for a bit I was bummed at not being able to attend, I am realizing it was ultimately for the best.  As a result I will be a loyal yearly Pax South attendee and pretty much brush aside the thoughts of doing the Pax Prime thing.  Instead at some point I will just go out to Seattle to meet my friends that seem to be pooling there, instead of trying to make one big combo trip.  Having been to a Pax, I have to say in truth the folks at home have a much better view of what is going on there through the live stream.  As a result I am looking forward to spending much of the weekend watching as much as I can.  Which gets to the point of this mornings post.  I thought I would talk a bit about the various things I am hoping to get out of Pax Prime 2015.

Final Fantasy XIV

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The thing that I want this weekend… is a release date for 3.1.  I know we are getting close, but I want to know a firm release date so I know just how long I am going to have to wait.  Right now Final Fantasy XIV is going through a bit of a content lull much like it did after the release of A Realm Reborn.  Quite frankly at this point I am tired of running Neverreap…  since that seems to be the dungeon I get most often.  Two dungeons in a roulette rotation simply is not enough, and I am honestly a bit concerned with the news that 3.1 is only going to add two more as well.  My hope is that they create a four dungeon expert roulette instead of moving Neverreap and Fractal to Hard Roulette and making expert just be the two new dungeons.  The other piece I am really looking forward to is the next 24 player dungeon the Void Ark, aka the creepy airship you sometimes seem flying around in the Sea of Clouds.  The game needs a shot in the arm of content, because folks are starting to slow down… myself included.  More so than this… I would like to see some future vision type stuff for 3.2 and beyond.  In the past we have usually had this list of things that Yoshi P had promised for “future” patches and we are a bit low on that right now.

Wildstar

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Similar to FFXIV…  and honestly a lot of the things I am going to talk about this morning….  I just want a date for when the Free to Play conversion will happen.  They keep putting new patches on the test server and it is starting to feel like maybe they are close, but what I need from them is a date.  I am enjoying Wildstar so much more than I have at any point in the past, and a lot of the changes that are coming in with the free to play conversion are going to be generally good for the game as well.  Past the free to play conversion… I would like to see some information about what their long range plans are.  I don’t even know if they have a presence at Pax Prime this weekend, but even if folks don’t they tend to time announcements around major shows as well.

Guild Wars 2: Heart of Thorns

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Since the expansion announcement at Pax South, I have had a strange connection with this title.  Traditionally speaking I do not really enjoy Guild Wars 2 that much.  That said I have to say the revenant looks more interesting than any of the previous classes. I fully expect that I will be picking this title up when it launches if for no reason other than the fact that it is once again “buy to play” and I have gotten my original purchase out of the game.  This has been the year of announcements completely unfettered by timelines, and it is starting to get frustrating.  Once again we have a big title looming on the horizon with zero date announced for when we will be expecting to play it.  I am expecting that this one is going to be a lot like Heavensward was, where they announce the launch date and it is only a few months away.  My hope is that Pax Prime finally is going to be the show where they talk about this at.  Give your fans some firm dates.

Blizzard Titles

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I am honestly not expecting anything new to come out of this conference from Blizzard.  They did their big reveal of the World of Warcraft expansion at Gamescom, and I fully expect that with Blizzcon coming up in November that they will be holding everything else closely waiting on their big show to reveal it.  I fully expect that they might announce a new Overwatch champion at Pax Prime, and potentially some more Heroes of the Storm champions or maps.  What I am really wanting from them is an announcement for when Overwatch testing will begin and a beta key delivered in my mailbox.  Everytime I launch the patcher and see that Overwatch button at the bottom of it…  I get a little sad in side.  I really want to play this game, and I sincerely doubt I will be doing so anytime soon.  Over the last few weeks I have come to the realization that I still very much love Blizzard games… it is apparently only World of Warcraft that I am on tentative terms with.  I would love beyond love them to announce something for Diablo 3…  like maybe another expansion?  They have already hinted that they might be doing a Warcraft RTS after they wrap up with Starcraft II… so that alone has me pretty pumped.

No Man’s Sky

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I am so irrationally hopeful about this title, even though I keep telling myself that there is no way it can deliver on everything it has been promising.  I love exploring new areas, and I love killing strange and interesting creatures.  No Man’s Sky promises to give me a procedural generated world where I can do this… over and over again throughout the galaxy.  On top of that the graphics are kinda cool as well with their hyper saturated version of reality.  Again…  all I really want from Hello Games is a release date.  I have a feeling that we will have an announcement for some sort of beta testing to begin soon.  Supposedly Amazon UK is already taking pre-orders so hopefully we will get a date this weekend.

Horizon: Zero Dawn

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At this point I just want more information on this title.  We saw a short trailer from E3 and I have been wanting more information since.  Once again I have no clue if there will be a presence at Pax Prime, but I am hoping!  I want to know more about the nuts and bolts of how this title is actually going to work.  I want to know if there is going to be a multiplayer aspect, or if this is just one big single player skyrim-esc sandbox.  I also want to know more about the world that surrounds the game.

Devilian

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With my recent foray back into Diablo 3, it has made me extremely interested in Devilian a Diablo like Korean game that Trion is going to be publishing.  I know Trion is going to have a good presence at the show so I am hoping we find out when the beta process is going to begin.  I ended up with a key from Gamescom and I keep checking my Glyph launcher expecting it to show up in the list of games that are playable at some point soon.  While on the topic of Trion Games, it is too soon to hope for a Rift expansion but I would still like to get more information about where that game is heading, and some more detail on the future plans for ArcheAge.  The folks at Trion Worlds are awesome so I am always interested in what they have to say.