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.

Chasing Unicorns

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Random Number Generators

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For a bit now I have been trying to sort out why Destiny as a game is so damned appealing to me, and more so why it isn’t appealing to a lot of the AggroChat folks.  While I am still very much enthralled by the game, the rest of the crew seems to be having that same experience with Warframe.  While there are absolutely aspects of that game that I enjoy, as a whole I just find the experience less interesting.  So while trying to reason out one day what the difference was… other than he design aspect and third person view.  Then it finally hit me… that I really find the whole modding system in that game far less interesting than the random item rolls in Destiny.  In theory Warframe is predictable and you can build each weapon to function exactly like you want it to, through the application of very specific mods.  Once you have those mods and have leveled them you can then apply them to any weapon you can equip, allowing you to have a very predictable experience.  The problem is I think it is that predictability that I find boring.

I’ve come to realize that I really do love chasing unicorns.  What I mean by that is that for as long as I have played MMOs I have been enthralled by the random number generator aspect of loot.  From the early days of Everquest, to Dark Age of Camelot and their completely random drops that came with Shrouded Isles…  to even modern World of Warcraft with its chance of dropping Warforged items… I love the possibility of getting something truly amazing to drop for me.  I think in many ways this is why I am so susceptible to grinding, because I know every single thing that I kill has an admittedly slim chance of dropping something truly magical like a BOE world epic.  So when I play a game like Destiny I love knowing that the weapon I just got to drop for me, is a fairly unique package of stats…  with randomized perks.  I also love knowing that somewhere out there is a “God Roll” just perfect for my playstyle.

Imperfect Items

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However the thing I appreciate the most is how I honestly enjoy using “imperfect” drops.  Because while they may not work exactly the way I want them to work, there is always a way to make them function, and in doing so they give me a window into different play styles.  Like I love the Rodeo perk on almost anything, but there are lots of weapons that I use without it and in each of them it has just made that gun feel more unique in the way it handles and the ways I can use it.  So I love seeing what some might call a bad roll, and then trying to make it work for me.  This keeps the game fresh and keeps me constantly falling in love with new weapons until I find something else that catches my attention.  Through the course of playing Destiny I have played with so many different guns, and each of them had their own unique style and feel… and often times I get nostalgic when I dust them off in the bank and take them out to do bounties again.  The Zarinaea-D for example I have used so many times, and each time I pick it up I get warm fuzzies over the way it handles and the way the gun sounds and looks.

The problem is I just don’t feel that in Warframe.  Weapons have stats and then those stats are augmented by mods…  that themselves are always going to be the same as they level up.  Tam and I talked about this at length one day, and for him that is the perfect scenario… because it makes him feel like he is never using something inferior.  For me however I actually kinda like knowing that there is always a slightly better version out there somewhere.  I am admittedly focused on loot when I play any game, and when I reach a point of having the “best in slot” I get bored and the game starts to stagnate for me.  I like situations where there are lots of “potentially right” answers to a problem, and that I can choose whichever option feels the best.  Right now this is one of the problems I am having with The Division is that while I enjoy the game… the loot feels realy boring, or at least it doesn’t seem to be doing anything interesting to my game play.   I’ve not picked up a weapon that completely changed how I approach combat, and that forces me to focus on this aspect or that rather than continuing to do the same thing I always seem to be doing.  In the meantime however I will keep chasing those unicorns and looking for that really awesome item to drop just around the corner.

Scattered Gaming

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This weekend was an odd one.  After a string of relatively nice weekends, we ended up getting one that was either cold and windy… or cold and rainy, both of which drove my instinct to stay inside and hibernate.  The only problem is… with all this play time I largely squandered it and spent more time staring without purpose at games… than actually playing them.  It feels like I am starting to go through another one of my “funks” because nothing seemed to fit “just right” as far as games go.  I flitted between lots of different titles, playing them for a bit before shifting to something else…  often times ending right back up in the game I started in.  For a good chunk of the weekend I had the desire to play Destiny…  but wanted to instead be hanging out downstairs which only left me the unofficial remote play app as a solution.  Then there were games that I felt like I needed to make progress in like Division where I am still not at the level cap.  Friday was largely devoted to Undertale, and I think after forcing myself to play that game… it maybe soured the rest of my weekend.  So this morning I thought I would run down some of the progress I made in various games.

Undertale

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I wrote about this at length but after hanging up my controller as it were… I opted to instead watch several of the different endings.  I still feel fine in my decision to just abandon this game in an undefeated state.  I guess I don’t have a primal urge to finish games, and more often than not I get to the ending and just don’t finish.  I reach this point where I have gotten out of the game what I wanted, and I don’t see the point in expending that effort to push it across the finish line.  In the case of Undertale the thing that was driving me forward was to understand the story, and now between the podcast and the various youtube ending videos… I feel like I do.  Once that carrot was gone, the game play itself doesn’t make me want to ever touch this game again.  On the podcast folks talked about ways to lower the impact of the mechanics, like the Temmie armor…  but that isn’t even really an interesting option to me.

Destiny

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I really did not do much in Destiny other than a little bit of Crucible.  I am constantly amazed at how much I actually enjoy player versus player content in this game, when traditionally that is just not my thing.  I think a lot of it is that in this game it feels like there is zero negative impact on the rest of the game.  It is just another option I have to play, and gives me the same sort of PVE rewards that I expect to receive elsewhere.  Other than specialty modes like Trials of Osiris it feels like I am rewarded equally for just doing whatever I happen to want to do at the time.  I started down the path of the crucible simply as a way to get more Legendary marks, and then recently when I was grinding out sword kills I came to realize…  I was actually legitimately enjoying myself.  What is great about the crucible is that I get the central game play loop that I enjoy of shooting awesome weapons and charging around… without zero downtime.  It seems like it is easier to get Three of Coins to proc on Crucible than it is while doing strikes… or it might simply be that Crucible itself is just about the perfect amount of time per coin use.  While I have not actually gotten any of the really cool PVP drops…  I do get a fair amount of strange coins, motes and random pieces of armor that end up getting deconstructed.  Tonight I will hopefully be finishing up the rest of the Kings Fall raid that we had to abandon on Oryx last Tuesday, and beforehand it is my goal to hang out upstairs and run some more Crucible.

The Division

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This weekend I managed to push Division a little harder than the rest of the games and caught up with my friend Tamrielo at least.  At the start of the weekend I was sitting at roughly level 20, and as of this morning I am just about a third into 22.  While I absolutely could play this and only give it partial attention at lower levels, as I have gotten into the twenties this is not really the case.  As a result this weekend I managed to die probably more than I actually managed to accomplish anything.  There are two missions that I know I attempted at least a half dozen times before finally giving it my full attention and pushing through.  My standard operating procedure while hanging out with my wife downstairs is that I essentially have one eye on the game and one eye on whatever we happen to be watching…  not literally but you know what I mean.  The problem with this is that in doing so I am not exactly paying attention to the best possible tactical spot that I could be in while shooting incoming mobs.  The addition of snipers really changed how the game works, and now that I have guys that rush me with shotguns as well..  I am having to be way more careful about how I take on content.  That said I feel like I made some decent progress, but most of it was in short bursts of me playing for thirty minutes to an hour… and then logging out and doing something else.  Thankfully much like Destiny… short batches of play time feel just as rewarding to me as multiple hour long sessions.

World of Warcraft

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The other major happening of the weekend was me poking around on my Forsaken Hunter in World of Warcraft.  Recently Blizzard added an achievement that you could unlock by leveling a character in WoW to 20, aka the free mode level cap.  For doing this you end up getting Lady Liadrin as an alternate Paladin hero in Hearthstone.  Not that I really play Hearthstone… and even more so… not that I really like playing Paladins in Hearthstone…  I have this drive to get the achievement and unlock the extra shiny bits.  The negative of this achievement is that it only counts if you have recently leveled to twenty after the launch of the achievement, that means my army of level 100s are doing me zero good for this goal.  As a result I opted to level something on The Scryers Horde side since that is where the bulk of my lower leveled characters are these days.  I largely played during the podcast on Saturday night, and as a result managed to get to I believe 18 before giving it up for the night.  The goal is to spend some time this week pushing it over the line, so that I at least can feel like I got this out of the way.  I honestly think this whole promotion is a brilliant idea to try and cross pollinate some of the players actively playing Hearthstone and get them to try World of Warcraft.  I know Hearthstone is a major nostalgia bomb for me… but I wonder if it is the same for a player who has ONLY played Hearthstone, now being able to see where those cards they love are actually from.

 

 

Light and Poms

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Losing Light

This marks the second weekend of attempts to get a black spindle, and I am quickly reaching a point where I no longer want it.  The first weekend was a tale of me largely spending the entire day either waiting to get a group or making attempts on it.  For whatever reason Bungie seems to keep choosing Sunday as the day for Spindle runs… which is not exactly prime time for people playing the game.  On top of that… Sunday is normally a day that I have stuff that needs to get done, and instead for two different weekends my world has focused around trying to get a Black Spindle.  I reached a point yesterday where I wanted to reach through the internet and punch whoever it was that designed this mission.  The individual parts aren’t all that bad… but combined together is just maddening.  If you could simply respawn at a checkpoint before the 10 minute timer starts on the Ketch it wouldn’t be so bad.  I would happily grind that until we finally got it… but instead it is the frustration of having to clear to a boss… then do the run across the temple… then unlock the various chambers… then FINALLY go up into the ketch and do the “real” mission.  So you have 10-15 minutes of bullshit before you reach the point at which it is omg serious mode.

We tried several different methods of attempting to down the boss, the main one being that we jump to the middle and burn him down with swords.  Towards the end we started trying to just whittle his ass down while keeping the adds under control, and honestly neither really worked well.  Anytime we ducked outside of the entrance tunnel we would get wrecked, and almost one shot.  I guess that is the biggest frustration is that the room has no place where you can really set up OTHER than the entrance tunnel and clean out the adds.  The geometry of the room means that someone is always getting hung on something and stuck awkwardly out in the open… which means they are essentially dead.  I am not sure what is up with the mission but it felt like we did significantly worse than the last time…  and this time around I am 304 and decked out in raid weapons that deal extra damage to taken.  I know I am the albatross around the neck of the group, but I am not exactly sure what I am doing wrong there.  At this point I am not likely to spend another weekend of attempts on this stupid weapon… when I have two sniper rifles that I enjoy using already.  Sure this is the best sniper in the game, but if it quite literally makes one of my party members slam their controller down against the desk breaking it…  it is not worth the hassle or frustration.

Pom Pom Squad

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The highlight of the weekend however for me was getting a Pom Pom Beanie on Friday evening while playing Division.  Strangely enough this seems to be the chase item for most people because they are actually rather rare.  I have given food and water to every single person that I meet along the street asking for it… and have a huge amount of clothing options… and have gotten exactly one pom pom beanie.  Now these also can apparently appear on the appearance vendor that unlocks with the security tier, but I have yet to see any there.  What is awesome about mine is the fact that it fits so perfectly with the colors that I already choose…  black and green.  Other than that last night I got a string of awesome weapon drops…  and I finally abandoned my beloved LSW for a couple of ACR variants and eventually a P416…  which all seem to feel the same when firing them.  I also found an upgrade for my SRS marksman rifle but unfortunately the upgrade was only a green so it won’t last nearly as long.  That seems to be my combo of weapons of choice… a fairly accurate assault rifle that fires well in single shot/bursts and a marksman rifle for headshots.  This allows me to either spray and play, for random two mob encounters on the street… or get more strategic for larger groups.

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I am consistently amazed at the wide variety of feelings this game can make me feel.  There are moments when I feel stirrings of patriotism and sentimentality like when I come across a memorial like the one above, or improvised banners hanging out of windows that say slogans like “Can’t Keep NY Down”.  Then other times the game gut punches you with feels when it comes to finding a phone message from before the infection, or as society was crumbling.  Like last night I picked up a message from two parents that were coming into town to see their child because they missed them… and it feels all the more tense knowing that they had no clue what they were walking into.  We had a lengthy AggroChat show talking about the morality of this game… and for whatever reason it stirs something completely different in me.  I absolutely feel like the good guy, the one trying hard to bring some sort of order to a fallen city.  Sure the only thing that separates me from the looters is the badge I am wearing… but I am also saving countless random people from executions or muggings as I roam the city streets.  I might be more vigilante than righteous crusader, but I am okay with that.  I think you miss some of the nuance of the game if you are constantly focused on this objective or the next, and aren’t really participating in the events that happen on the street.  I cannot count the number of times I have rolled up on a group of Rikers with their guns drawn on a civilian, and even though it is a nameless faceless NPC…  I saved them from certain death.  Had I been a little slower on the trigger finger they would be dead on the ground, and those are the moments I feel heroic.  Those are the moments when I don’t question what I am doing in this game.

Contagion and Chill

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Sofa Time

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It’s been a shockingly busy week for me, and most of it was completely unexpected.  Monday through Wednesday I had my boss out, which means I get to not only be myself…  but also him for all purposes.  Which means my “general and administrative” time goes through the roof while attending meetings, and juggling things from the other managers in our department that need resources for this or that.  On the gaming front I was equally busy, with Monday and Tuesday largely being either prep time for the raid or actually raiding.  Then Wednesday night we had the World of Warcraft raid, and while it didn’t actually make I was ended up getting pulled into tank some Mythic Dungeons for Valor.  So when I got home last night, that was the first night of the week when I didn’t already have something planned.  After doing a round of exercises in our newly reclaimed home gym in the garage…  I plunked down on the sofa and spent the rest of the evening playing The Division.  A whole bunch of stuff happened that has greatly improved my outlook on the coming levels.

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Firstly I did in fact move on towards the higher level areas, and there I started getting either upgrades for just green drops like crazy.  The other big change is that I have started vendoring most of the stuff I get because I am simply not getting enough blueprints fast enough to be able to keep myself outfitted in crafted gear, namely not the weapons.  Because of this influx of cash I managed to pick up a nice new marksman rifle, and a brand new LSW that have greatly improved my ability to kill things.  The biggest splurge of the night was a purple chest piece I found on one of the vendors that has over 250 armor.  At the end of last night I was just shy of level 17 and have been cleaning up on the higher level stuff.  I unlocked a security tree perk that allows me to see all of the intel that I missed along the way once I complete all of the side missions for an area.  As such tonight I will likely be poking around and picking these up for quick and easy experience boosts, and start cleaning out the low level zones again.  I had been concerned about how roaming the low level areas meant I was only going up against lower level mobs… but then I quickly did the math and realized that the bulk of my experience is coming from quests and objectives… and grinding mobs is next to meaningless.  I kinda miss the days when grinding lots and lots of mobs was a viable means of leveling…  since that is ultimately my instinct anyways.

Focusing In

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Right now I think my best path is to try my best to push through to level thirty.  I want to run around and spend time in the Dark Zone, but I feel like that is largely useless until I get somewhere near the cap since the items dropping won’t be staying with me all that long.  I also noticed that before I upgraded to the 15+ DZ area the mobs were dropping level 11ish gear which really wasn’t that useful.  Now that I have moved up to the next tier, everything is way over my level and simply not doable without a group.  The fact that you get zero leveling experience while in the Dark Zone really makes me want to avoid it at least until I have capped out my character.  So as we go through the weekend I plan on slowly prodding along and picking up as many levels as I can.  Now that I am almost 17… 30 seems significantly closer and given that I went from 15 to 17 in essentially a single night.  Tonight I plan on picking up the rest of the intel that I missed, and then focusing on going back to higher zone questing.  I’ve completely most of Central Park, and then will move on the higher tier zones after that.  The side missions and encounters all seem to go pretty quickly, it is the missions that are ultimately the ones that I end up having to rez multiple times while doing.

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The game is honestly much more difficult than I expected it to be, especially as a largely solo player.  The gear really matters, and when I got the two new weapons I am using… I saw a massive increase in how successful I was in completing encounters.  The thing I struggle with right now is how much I like to snipe and how hard it is to remain in cover when there are a bunch of mobs gunning for me.  I’ve never tried the turret but I am contemplating using that as a way to draw fire away from me so I can get off a round of head shots to whittle down the opponents quickly.  In truth there are simply a lot of time with the Rikers folks that I have better luck just bobbing and weaving in and out of cover while firing my light machine gun.  Really it is the other snipers that are the bane of my existence, and the folks who fire off a heavy machine gun.  Though the last is largely due to my impatience and not wanting to always wait for them to need to reload.  I am still very much enjoying the game, I just wish I had more time to play it.  I hope this weekend I will have some more time to just hang out and chill out on Sunday and can maybe get into some grouping time with friends also playing.

 

 

Of Immersion

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That Word

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One of the things that I have come to realize over the last few days is that apparently immersion in a video game is not really that important to me.  What I mean by that is that sense of “losing yourself in a game” and for lack of better verbiage start thinking like your character.  This is one of those things that role players do amazingly well, and something that I have honestly always struggled with.  So what ends up happening when I play a pen and paper game for example… is that I ultimately always play a version of myself.  The same is true for MMOs that I create this “super me” where I change my features to match what I guess internally I consider the idealized version of myself.  I created the above imagine some time ago to illustrate that point, that essentially I keep creating the same character over and over… and the games that refuse to allow me to create that character…  I quickly lose interest in.  The reason why this has reared its head once more is the fact that I keep reading Division reviews that say the same thing.  There are a host of critics that find it jarring that they are having to fight people in essentially heavily armored hoodies.  There are so many that state that it “breaks their immersion” to fight something that takes so many bullets to make it fall over, even though they are not terribly well armored.  This is not the first time something like this has come up, and each time it makes me question… am I ever really immersed in a game?

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The thing is… I geek out about the lore and world-building that happens behind the scenes of the worlds that I am inhabiting.  I use the world inhabit because there are times I feel like I am wandering around through a realistic looking setting.  I remember the sheer awe I felt the first time I left Kaladim in Everquest and turned around to see just how massive the entrance really was.  I am a screenshot junkie and I am constantly snapping photos of the various vistas in the games I am playing.  I get thoroughly impressed when I am wandering a game like The Division that makes me feel like I am actually wandering Manhattan.  The thing is… there is never a point for me where I don’t realize I am playing a video game.  I’ve yet to really experience that transcendent moment that some folks talk about, where they blend into the story and get swept away as though it were really happening.  I mean a game can tug on my emotions, and make me feel all sorts of things…  but it is always a game, and I am always me experiencing it not some other character.  I got to thinking about the reason why this might be… and I finally landed on a possible answer.  When I am playing games… there is never a moment when I am not also doing something else.  If I am downstairs, the television is almost always on in the background, or I am carrying on a conversation with my wife at the same time.  If I am upstairs I am monitoring slack, discord or instant messenger conversations on my second monitor (or at least making an attempt at doing so) and while playing PS4 I am constantly waking my PC up when the screen goes to sleep so I can do the same.  Even back in the day when I would play a Nintendo or Super Nintendo game in my childhood bedroom… I would be listening to music or trying to jot down notes about where I found this or that.  I guess I have always been a habitual multi-tasker with one foot always in the next activity, or the one after that…  and because my mind is always thinking about other things and other possibilities it is very hard to get all that engaged in the one I am currently doing.  So when I play a game… I want a really awesome world with really fun game mechanics…  but a lot of the sticking points that seem to bother other people just simply don’t even register until I read it from someone else’s perspective.

Going Dark

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A good chunk of last night was spent doing Mythic Dungeons in World of Warcraft.  The normal Wednesday night raid group did not meet this week because we were down four or five people.  When I got home I popped into Discord and ultimately wound up logging in and tanking a couple of Mythic dungeons, something that for whatever reason I had never actually done.  Of note…  unless it is late in the evening there is never a time when I am going to turn tanking for a full guild group.  Now if we are having to pug people…  you are likely going to see me check out completely, but I really do enjoy tanking for friends and friends of friends.  After a couple of runs however I had my fill and ultimately logged from WoW for the evening.  I popped into The Division and did a cleaners mission that was super stressful and wound up with me rezzing at the check point a number of times.  The problem I have been having is that I am starting to feel severely under geared for my level, so after having watched so many dark zone videos where the loot seems to drop like candy, I decided to make my way over there even though I have heard so many times that “solo dark zone” is a bad idea.  Within a few minutes of wandering around, I was absolutely slaughtered by a rogue agent…  but the thing is it didn’t really bother me that much because I had yet to actually pick up anything decent.  Instead I opted to simply hunt right around the nearest Extraction point, where I noticed there were lots of people who seemed completely happy not to shoot me in the back.

I wandered around for a little bit and in that time managed to successfully extract a couple of loads of stuff.  A few of the items were blue upgrades… but the bulk was simply just stuff that I could sell and push me closer to my goal of a nice weapon available on the main base weapons vendor.  I had quite a bit of fun, and I can absolutely see how exploring this super dangerous area would be amazing with friends.  My schedule has been pretty damned wonky over the last few weeks so I am kinda hoping that I can connect with some of my other friends playing this game over the weekend and do some dark zone fun.  I realize that I am in an awkward level not being 30 yet, but I still think it could be a lot of fun to wander around out there and see what we can take down.  Last night I finally dinged 15, which again makes me so far behind the pack it isn’t even funny level wise.  Lately I had been pushing my way around the lower zones trying to finish them, when in truth I probably should just skip ahead to the 15ish areas and do whatever is available out there.  I poked my head into Flatiron and immediately started seeing greens that were massive upgrades over what I happened to be wearing, so I am guessing that is precisely what I should be doing.  The problem is… I have spent so much time wandering aimlessly that I have out leveled the areas I still have some quests in.  I figure I can always go at a later date and mop those up after I have hit the cap.

 

 

Savior of New York

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Mostly Done

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Yesterday we continued on out in the garage and did a much more prodding and tedious detail pass.  This meant sitting down and sorting through old boxes that we had not seen in nearly a decade.  Among the treasures I uncovered was my Gameboy SP as well as pretty much all of my Gameboy Advance cartridges.  I literally had no clue where that was, and the last time I remembered having it was in a car that we traded off long ago.  I had feared that I simply forgot to remove it from under the drivers seat…  because for a long while it was my “waiting on my wife to finish at school” from a time when we regularly drove in together.  Apparently we did in fact pull it out of the car, and it sat in this trash bag filled with lots of other stuff we hurriedly pulled from that car before we traded it off.  This is apparently a tradition of ours because not only did we find a bag for when we traded off the Pontiac Grand Am…  but also a bag from when we traded off like two other vehicles as well.  I also found entire boxes of stuff that I apparently packed up when leaving previous jobs and never bothered to go through.  These boxes were full of countless pay stubs and health plan documents…  so a good chunk of my yesterday was sitting down listening to podcasts and shredding all the documents.

One of the gems of the day was the above image…  a box of essentially all of our ancient cell phones.  These pretty much represented our pre-smartphone era and those Nokia 5160s were our very first phones that we used for ages.  We also found a bunch of extra face plates…  since you could swap them out so easily.  The positive about these ancient phones is the fact that we didn’t even really have texting plans on any of them, so there isn’t really data worth harvesting so we can dispose of them pretty easily.  My friend Squirrel suggested that he would love to have them, for target practice.  Unfortunately by the time he posted that I had already disposed of the entire box.  Probably my favorite of that era was the weird white LG flip phone, largely because it had a clock visible on its face without actually opening it.  Another interesting find was my “art box” which is a big wooden box that was crammed with all of my watercolor and pen and ink stuff from college.  Another strange thing was the truly insane number of World of Warcraft trading game cards that I found stuffed pretty much everywhere.  For awhile it was habit to pick up a pack anytime I needed to go to the store… and apparently they just sat around everywhere.  At some point I will sift through them all and gather up all of the leftover in game codes to give away to readers or something.  They are mostly the “toy” variety, like Path of Cenarus or Illidan or maybe some Pet Biscuits.  Still the sort of thing is fun to have if you don’t otherwise have access to them.  The strangest thing about the weekend… is I think because we were so tired anyways from the cleaning, I can’t say that losing an hour has really had much effect on me.

Don’t Panic

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I spent essentially the rest of the weekend playing The Division.  At this point I have logged about thirty four hours since launch, and am sitting just a little past level fourteen.  The game still feels very fresh, and it is funny how much my play style has changed as I have moved into the game.  Early on I thought I would be super tanky and focus on things that let me survive in an open firefight, but in truth the longer I play the more sniper I become.  Right now I am running around with a Covert SRS for sniping purposes and generally dealing lots of damage quickly to targets that are far away from me, and then when they get into closer range I swap to a Police M4 which can whittle down enemies with focused bursts.  This works amazingly well against pretty much every enemy type but snipers.  Those guys… are pretty much the bane of my existence because they are trying to play the same game I am, and generally the computer is better at it.  So I spend a lot of my time trying to get out of line of sight from the snipers while mopping everything else up…  and then play this game of chicken popping in and out of cover and trying to quick scope them before popping back down like a prairie dog.  The worst snipers so far are the Rikers because they just seem more brutal in every possible way.  That said it might simply be that they are the highest level enemies I can encounter currently.

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On the podcast Saturday night we got into this long discussion about the morality of The Division, and how it made the other AggroChat folks feel uneasy.  I can’t say that I am experiencing this at all, because like always I am writing my own narrative of my character as I go… and the fact that this is a silent protagonist game really helps that for me.  So as i move around the city, I am the big damned hero cleaning up the city and saving people.  I am absolutely the good guys in my tale, but then again as they said Saturday so are the Cleaners, who absolutely think they are doing what is right for the city.  I guess for me I just love how rich this setting is… all of the little details like the graffiti that I am showcasing in the photos for today’s post is just amazing.  I think the key difference is… that I never really fully immerse myself into a game setting.  It is always a game that I am playing, and always a story where I am the hero.  Even if I am not supposed to be… I am building a narrative compatible with my notion that in spite of whatever actions I am taking, I am doing it for some greater good.  In the Division I absolutely rush to save hostages, or citizens being held up by looters, because it makes me feel like the hero I am trying to be.  When you do a random encounter on the street you are given bonuses for various things… and when I see that survivor bonus it always makes me happy.  I also spend a lot of my time going through abandoned buildings so I can make sure I always have whatever item citizens ask for when I come across one in need.  I am the one making the city a better place, and I am comfortable with that stance.  I guess that might be why I like the post apocalyptic genre so much, is because the world is in such a screwed up state… that there are so many ways for me to help fix it.  Even if fixing means simply hunting down the biggest baddest warlord… and putting a bullet in his skull.

 

Sleeper Awakens

Real World Rifts

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Yesterday I took the day off to manage getting a dumpster delivered.  This was one of those odd situations where they would not really give us a time of day for it to be delivered, but instead wanted to call on their way.  As a result I felt like I was pretty much in a holding pattern until that event happened, largely because we wanted it dropped off in the yard… not in the drive way.  So I treated yesterday like a normal work day, except instead of shuffling off to work after posting a blog post…  I booted up and played The Division for a bit.  I had been months since I attempted to stream anything, and I was also kicking the tires of the new OBS Studio…  which seems to obfuscate a bunch of the settings.  So the first few minutes of the stream were apparently a slide show narrated by my voice.  After that I fiddled with some settings until I finally landed on a combination of levers that seemed to produce a nice watchable streaming experience.  The thing about The Division is that I feel like I am constantly doing something… even if it is not the thing I intended.  One of the aspects of Rift that I loved was the fact that the world was constantly spawning rifts and invasions that I had to deal with.  It felt new and fresh…  up until the point that it didn’t anymore.  The happenings in The Division are varied enough that I hope they remain fresh, but I worry that there will be a time where I start avoiding the little things going on around me… just so I can complete the thing I am actually trying to focus on.

The other potential issue due to the dynamic interactions is that most of the time I feel like I am not actually making any progress.  I might set off in search of this or that… and get distracted by six things that happen along the way.  For example last night I was trying to do one of those missing agent location quests, where you pick up on their trail and follow them to what unfortunately usually ends up being a log book.  While on the final step of one of those chains… I also got the shout over the radio that looters were attacking a supply drop.  Instead of going over and defending I tried so hard to keep following the trail of clues.  All the while I was actually feeling like a horrible person for not helping those NPCs.  The game makes me feel the weight of my decisions in a way that most games don’t, and I think it is because this game bridges the uncanny valley gap so damned well.  The world I am wandering around feels so real to me…  that I could step out of the screen and into the real Manhattan and not really notice the difference.  It also makes me wonder how amazing a game like City of Heroes would have been… if it were rendered with this level of detail.  Right now I am feeling so completely behind in everything I am doing, but I am currently knocking on the door of level 10, whereas lots of other folks are hitting the level cap.  I am not really going to worry about grinding my way up, because really…  I don’t want to burn out on this title.

Completing Quests

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The strange thing about yesterday was that I had the entire day to play The Division, but instead I largely focused on working on stuff in Destiny.  I have been a slacker when it comes to completing any of the end game content, especially if it requires tedium.  For example one of the big goals is collecting Calcified Fragments, and they are hidden damned near everywhere on the Dreadnaught.  Most of them can be obtained “in the open” while doing patrol missions, but a handful of them are only exposed during strikes or story missions.  Even others involve doing events like Skyburners Deployment Code or Wormsinger Rune.  The other night while doing the Kings Fall raid, the nice folks made sure that I got all of my fragments from there, which took a big obstacle out of the way.  There is a long drawn out quest called “Hunger Pangs” that involves doing a bunch of silly stuff for Eris Morn.  Several of the steps are gated by the number of Calcified Fragments you happen to have collected at that point.  To do the final part of the quest you have to have found 45 of the 50 total fragments that currently exist in the game.  So yesterday during the day I managed to solo most of the quest line, including a rather tough version of the Undying Mind strike.  I was however stuck on the final quest, which is a pretty insane version of the Phobos quest that starts the Taken King.  Thankfully Squirrel and Jex helped me out last night, and I now have a shiny new Touch of Malice which will come in handy during the raid.

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Since they were looking for something else to do… I coerced them into also helping me out with my Sleeper Stimulant quest.  I had been on the final stage of this quest since I believe last October, but didn’t have a ready group of people to talk into helping me with it… and had zero luck pugging it.  The quest requires you to run a Nightfall level version of the Saber strike, which is somewhat insane to survive given that you get bombarded by Fallen ships at the start.  I had always heard that if you could simply manage to make it through the first sequence… that the rest of the strike was really not that bad.  I agree at least in part, that is until you reach the final boss.  That encounter was absolutely insane…  but we managed to take it down pretty easily.  Then feeling our Wheaties turned around and attempted the exact same strike as the weekly Nightfall.  The combination of Match Game and Fresh Troops made it so much worse.  Towards the end we were ping ponging around the room trying to stay alive long enough to resurrect the next fire team member, usually only ending up getting wrecked ourselves in the process.  Through a bit of dumb luck and perseverance we managed to pull out the victory on our third attempt at the final encounter.  After that I was needing to log, because in truth I only really intended to do the Malice event but ended up staying upstairs on the PlayStation for like three hours.  Was a pretty great night and I feel better having knocked a couple of big goals off of my list in the game.

 

Not First Rodeo

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The Waiting Game

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Yesterday marked the official release of The Division… or at least it did in some parts of the country.  Most of the evening was a simple case of me waiting around for the servers to unlock.  My friend Lonrem apparently purchased his CD Key from a UK reseller, and as a result he was able to get in and play significantly earlier than the rest of us.  It was completely unintentional as he was simply shopping around for the best deal, but I guess that is a neat trick for games like this that have a somewhat staggered launch cycle.  The rest of us however had to wait for midnight eastern to pop in and attempt to play.  I say attempt to play, because as the saying goes… this is not my first rodeo.  To the best of my knowledge UbiSoft has never launched an MMO, so as a result I expected the first night to be extremely choppy.  My only real complaint is the fact that I had to wait until around 11:50 to begin extracting the game from steam…  which was a process that took over twenty minutes.  I mean I get why they limit folks, but it seems like they could have flipped that switch about 11pm and let folks get through that step so they were quite literally ready to go when the final switch was thrown at midnight.  The bulk of last night was me playing other things while waiting on access to The Division.  My goal was simple… stay up long enough to create a character and then head to bed.

I played a little Destiny, and then ultimately retired to the sofa to piddle around.  After doing my Garrison chores in World of Warcraft, I ultimately landed in How to Survive 2, which is a game that is really growing on me.  It is not going to win any rewards for graphical fidelity, but there is something about it that I find appealing.  Sunday I managed to get the first mission that straight up wrecked me, so last night I attempted it again but this time dialing down the difficulty a little bit.  That is one of the things that I failed to notice at first is that you can repeat the missions, but each time you can adjust up or down the difficulty.  This creates some interesting ways to get easy experience, as the very first mission objective is simply kill 5 undead…  which you can do really quickly and if you crank up the slider to maximum difficulty you soak up lots of xp.  The mission I struggled with was the very first night mission, which means I had to see everything by either spotty moonlight or by shining my flashlight around.  This made exploring buildings as anxiety ridden for me as I imagine it would be for real in this situation.  I found myself playing vastly differently… shutting doors after me to buy myself some time just like I used to board up windows in State of Decay.  If that mission signals more of the game to come I am looking forward to seeing it, because I expect to repeat that mission a bunch just because it was extremely enjoyable trying to stay alive in a much more infected city at night.

Desert Parkour

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I guess I was simply in a zombie mood because after playing a few missions in How to Survive 2, I moved over and booted up Dying Light.  Now I have had a copy of this game for quite a while but never wound up playing it.  I am not exactly sure why, because at least aspects of this game are right down my alley.  The whole parkour thing… not so much, but their particular implementation is pretty great.  At base level the game reminds me a lot of the fun I had running around the rooftops in Assassins Creed II, but this time… the citizens were out to kill me and I couldn’t really blend in among them.  I feel like I am late to the party, but I had quite a bit of fun running the first several missions.  I managed to make it through the tutorial and into the “real” game where I chose to remain offline, because I absolutely did not want some player showing up in my game and hunting me down as the “Night Hunter”.  While I didn’t actually make it terribly far before feeling like I needed to log out and watch the clock again…  I want to definitely pick this back up the next time I want a single player game.  It seems like an amalgam of a bunch of other games that I enjoyed, and it looked gorgeous on my laptop and performed extremely well.

Crash and Burn

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I already talked a bit about the frustrations of having to wait for the game to unpack, and while I had not intended to… I popped on voice chat to hang out with Tam, Kodra and Ashgar who were all waiting as well.  Ash purchased through Uplay so he was up and running well before the rest of us.  Tam, Kodra and I all seemed to get in around the same time and I apparently took significantly longer on the character creator than the other two.  I was just about to finalize my appearance when I hit a server connection error.  As expected the UPlay servers crashed and crashed hard.  It was at this point that I decided to go to bed, because I doubted they would be playable for awhile.  My key complaint with this game is that you are not sent to a menu first, so that means you have no access to the graphical settings until after you wade through the introduction.  In the multiple betas I have played in and on multiple machines…  this game has never once auto selected a viable graphics option.  During beta it kept trying to tell me I could run the game on 4k… and this time around it seems to favor running the game in a postage stamp sized window.  It is only after logging in and changing the settings that things became usable.  Dear UbiSoft… never do this again…  in a PC game the first screen you see should ALWAYS be the Graphics/Audio/Whatsit menu.  I mean I get what they are going for…  wrapping the player in story from the second they launch the game…  but this could have been just as easily done from hitting the play button from a menu.

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I managed to get into the game this morning, created my character and poked my way around the Brooklyn starter zone that we did not get to see during the beta.  So far I am liking it, it feels like a less hectic version of Manhattan.  I am not sure if I am simply better at the game than I was when I first played beta, or if the AI is really dumb… but I am mowing down the mobs in the Brooklyn area without issue.  I like how often gear upgrades are dropping and at this point in the few minutes I have played I have already essentially swapped out my entire gear set other than weapon.  The only frustration is that I really want to get to the rewards vendor so I can make sure all of the items that I supposedly unlocked are really available.  I have an 8pm raid tonight in Destiny but it is my hope to pop in and play some Division tonight to maybe get out of tutorial land.  If the servers stay stable…  like will be golden.  I don’t think there was anyone who has ever experiences an MMO launch that did not expect the servers to crash and burn last night.  However in talking to my friend Ravener, it seems like they recovered pretty quickly and within an hour the game was completely playable for the rest of the night.

Wilderqueen

Contemplating Forge

Last night was another night that was all over the place.  Firstly I decided to reinstall Forge.gg and give it another chance.  I have so many mixed emotions about this service, I like the concept that I can grab short clips at the end of my gaming session.  I dislike the fact that I can ONLY grab short clips, which are generally too short to show a boss fight for example.  I like the always on nature, and that it can just run in the background without me feeling like I need to be entertaining.  However I ran into some issues last night where apparently even though I had push to talk set… it was still actively picking up my microphone the entire time as you can see in the above clip.  So you get a snippet of a conversation between my wife and I about something I don’t even remember.  I like the idea of streaming but I don’t always want to be actively interacting, and forge is this great middle ground.  Ultimately I wound up muting my microphone at a system level just to make sure that it was not picking up.  I am hoping this is just a bug in the current client, and I will crawl the site to see if I can find out why this was happening.

The other gotcha it seems is that it did not pick up and start recording Elder Scrolls Online.  I spent the first part of the evening doing garrison dailies and doing at least one Tanaan objective in World of Warcraft and it recorded all of that perfectly.  However as soon as I swapped into ESO, it never came up with the forge icon in the upper right hand corner of the screen letting me know it is recording.  I will say that the really really nice thing about the client is sometime in between my last attempt at using the service and this one… it seems to work nicer with Fraps because there is no way I am giving up that just to use the service.  I am too used to having a common and centralized screenshot tool for all of the games I play.  It is an absolute necessity that I have a fresh source of new screenshots for this blog, and I hate having to try and find the screenshot directory for each individual game.  So instead I tend to unbind the screenshot key if it is allowed and just use Fraps for everything.  It was awesome last night that I was able to use fraps just fine while still recording on forge….  at least when it came to World of Warcraft.  I am going to be a sad panda if that ends up being the issue with it recording Elder Scrolls Online.

Return to Greenshade

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The bulk of my time last night was spent wandering around Greenshade in the Elder Scrolls Online.  Generally speaking I tend to play this game by wandering aimlessly from objective to objective, but last night I actually seemed to move through the zone with a purpose.  That purpose being ingratiating myself to the Court of the Wilderking, a forest spirit that controls the Valenwood and that the local Bosmer worship as a God King.  As part of trying to quell the rebellion and steal forces away from the Veiled Heritance, my mission was simple…  get the support of the Wilderking to get the support of the local forces…. thus ending the  rebellion.  I of course did a bunch of other stuff along the way, and I am not entirely complete with the main story sequence…  but I am having a blast.  I got sidetracked in helping a friend level in World of Warcraft, and then again by the Love is in the Air event…. and finally I am settling back into Elder Scrolls Online for a bit.  Granted currently I will probably continue to hop games like mad because there is just so damned much stuff that I want to be playing.  In Elder Scrolls I have yet to see any of the Imperial City content, or Orsinium… and they are just about to release the Thieves Guild as well.  So much catching up to do… but at the same time I feel like I have all the time in the world to do it because I am not playing the game at a serious end game focused level.

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The other big happening of the night is that I finally dinged Veteran Rank 4, allowing me access to the next tier of crafted gear.  I was doing awesome….  until I screwed up and rushed to get my shield made and forgot to go to the set crafting area.  Originally I was planning on having 5 piece Alessia’s Bulwark, and 4 piece Ashen Grip…  except I am now sitting at 3 pieces in that set because I got sidetracked and ended up making a non-set shield.  Unfortunately I am completely out of the right kind of wood so I will need to do some more adventuring before I can finish things out.  For the time being I have opted to abandon my costume and go with the actual armor look because I dig the Imperial armor look.  I will probably always favor the Dunmer sword type, though recently I did enjoy using an axe for a bit.  The game looks amazing on the laptop, and I am so damned happy with how well everything is performing to be honest.  It does get a little hot but then again what gaming laptop doesn’t.  My previous one had a SLI graphics card configuration so had insanely hot air venting out of both sides of the laptop.  At least this setup isn’t continuously baking my mouse hand.  I just need to sort out why exactly Forge was not recording the game.

The Division

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Also looming on the near horizon is the launch of The Division.  At this point it is absolutely certain that I will be playing it on the PC, at least at first.  When the price comes down a little I will probably also pick it up for the PS4 so that I have access to it for any of the friends that happen to be playing there.  For the last few days since the end of the beta I have trying to sort out how best to organize folks for the upcoming launch.  The game itself does not really have guilds or clans or any structure like that….  at least that I saw in the two betas I have been part of.  So as a result this is going to make getting stuff going a little more difficult than in other games.  However my friend Sigtric, the man who coined the hashtag #BelEffect is firing up a Discord group and attempting to get it to be the official/unofficial chat server for the game.  If you are going to be playing I highly suggest you pop by and join the “Gone Rogue” community.  There is a shared general chat and breakout channels for PC, PS4, and Xbox One to make organizing things a little easier.  I honestly wish I had something like this for Destiny.  Discord is one of those things that is growing on me, and while I still find Slack easier to use…  there is a point in the near future where I could see abandoning traditional voice servers and moving to Discord entirely.