Addon Trolling

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I am having one of those mornings that I am simply struggling to find any inspiration to write.  It’s been one of those weeks, namely because I am juggling a huge meeting load and feeling like I am accomplishing nothing in the process.  When you have a few 30 minute blocks between the rest of your schedule being in meetings, it becomes really hard to make any headway in anything.  However I guess that is what happens when you move up to management.  The problem being that when I finally do get home I sort of revert to a gelatinous state and struggle to find any forward momentum in games either.  As predicted my forward momentum in World of Warcraft has stalled quite a bit upon getting the flight unlock.  I could in theory alt all the things…  but instead I am largely just logging in each day and doing whatever faction based world quest there is for a shot at fury friendly legendary items.

A few days ago I had installed an addon called Leatrix Plus, which adds a bunch of quality of life improvements for World of Warcraft.  Among the tweaks were a few settings that I figured were largely good ideas.  The first being to accept invites to groups from the guild/friends, and the second being to accept summons from the guild/friends.  Last night however I learned that maybe this is not the best idea to run with enabled.  Now in my head I had completely forgotten that Wednesday was raid night.  I mean it was one of those things that I was aware of, but not completely cognizant of.  So I found myself after eating dinner logging in to do my daily run at legendaries, and like I often do alt tabbed to do something else while the game finished loading in.  When I finally tabbed back I found myself in a raid and sitting at the Nighthold summoning stone.  While afk I had apparently been invited to the raid group and summoned… and my handy little addon absolutely allowed myself to get trolled.  I bowed out once I realized what had happened because honestly I am not ready for “serious mode” raiding.

After doing my nightly bombing run on a legendary, I wound up logging and digging into Star Wars the Old Republic.  When I started the night I was sitting on Chapter XIII and managed to play my way through to a good ways into Chapter XVI.  The whole chapter thing feels odd considering I am functionally doing the same thing as Netflix binge watching.  Its hard for me to see where the seams normally would have been between chapters, but I guess the content is naturally released in a format that feels akin to how Final Fantasy XIV does.  Looking at the Wiki page it seems like originally the content was released roughly a chapter a month between February and August of 2016, with the initial content providing the first nine chapters at release.  The only negative about binging the content like this is that I am not really spending much time with any of my newly acquired companions, since for the most part each mission requires me to use a specific combination.  Also the reveals are probably less dramatic than they would have been if I was being drip fed the content.  Whatever the case I am still very much enjoying it, and some of the shit is getting weird.  Going to be interesting to see what it is like to roll into the Eternal Throne content.

 

Two Years Behind

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Yesterday I had zero intent to sit down in the morning and start writing about level scaling systems.  Sometimes posts just happen.  However after writing it one of my friends mentioned a key point.  There should functionally be a way to flip off level scaling if you absolutely positively want to just go wreck things.  The prime example of this would be if you just want to farm up a bunch of low level materials quickly.  I remember when I was leveling any of my various tailors up in World of Warcraft, I would simply find a dungeon in the level range and mercilessly wreck it for the sole purpose of getting as much cloth in as short of a time as I could.  This would have been completely maddening were I not greatly over leveling the content.  Once again I think we can look to Final Fantasy XIV as a good example here because some time ago they added in the ability to queue for content “undersized”, which functionally turns off the level synchronization process allowing you to just wreck the content if you so choose.  However I still think I would prefer it if MMO worlds scaled by default, and then simply allowed folks to disable that option if they so choose.

I’ve said recently that I really love returning to an MMO after some time has passed and be confronted with potentially years of content to go off and experience.  The thing is this also has an extremely negative side to it.  Right now I am in this weird place where I am super into content that happened two years ago.  There is something to be said about experiencing things at the same time as your friends, because it allows you to have conversations about what is going on.  This has been one of the best parts of Final Fantasy XIV is that each time they give us a slow drip of story content we all consume it then can talk about the revelations that are contained within.  This allows us to have moments of theory crafting and speculation…  knowing that at some point in the future we will be able to resolve what is actually going on.  With Star Wars the Old Republic and the Knights of the Fallen Empire content… generally speaking either folks played through this content two years ago when it released…  or will likely never play through it.

That puts me in such a weird places because I have all these thoughts and feelings about the game and what it is doing…  but I don’t exactly feel right talking about them on my blog.  Knights of the Fallen Empire has some pretty big revelations that would be better experienced than told about.  This is one of those times when everything about it is extremely heavy on the spoiler front.  Each time new revelations come to light…  I wish there was a group of people that I could talk through them with.  Basically this is one of those times when I wish I had played through the chapter based content as it was being released rather than this current Netflix style binge sequence that I am going through.  I have a feeling that Guild Wars 2 and its living story content is much the same…  likely best experienced as it is being released a little bit at a time.  This also makes me really want to get caught up so that I can at least join the discussion happening with the Eternal Throne content.  However I am also extremely cautious of looking up too much information for fear of getting these plot twists completely ruined for me.

On the positive front I have stumbled across a really awesome YouTube channel that has helped me get back into the game and the modern concepts.  Swtorista has this awesome Star Wars the Academy series that breaks down a bunch of topics like “What to do at Level 70” or how the Galactic Command system works.  The best videos though are a sequence on the best looking craftable armors for each class, since we all know the true end game of an MMO is looking awesome.  Through her videos thought I have been able to catch up pretty easily without risking spoilers too badly.  Side note… there is a special place in hell for folks who put obvious spoilers in YouTube video titles… as I already have apparently one of the Iokath revelations spoiled because of this.  For those interested I am largely playing Belghast my Jedi Knight on Ebon Hawk at least while I do all of the chapter based content.  I have a large stable of character spread between the two factions and they are either in House Stalwart on Sith side, or Einherjar on Republic side.  If you are also playing feel free to ping me and say hi.

Level Scaling Tech

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I am in this place with SWTOR Knights of the Fallen Empire where I am honestly not sure what more I can say without my blog turning into a massive spoiler fest.  There are a lot of events going on and many of them have surprised me.  This is a little shocking given that I consume a lot of gaming media and that KotFE has been technically out since October 2015.  I am not sure if I purposefully ignored SWTOR articles… or if I just didn’t come across that many.  Whatever the case essentially everything from Shadows of Revan onward has been a completely new story experience for me without me knowing any of the elements ahead of time.  So while I recognized characters like Theron Shan or Lana Beniko…  I knew nothing about them going into this recent binge of playing the game.  We’ve talked about this on the podcast before, but returning to an MMO and seeing years worth of content laid out in front of you is a pretty great thing.  Especially in a situation like SWTOR where they have a reasonable level scaling system.

Yesterday Syp posted something over on his personal blog Bio Break talking about level scaling systems.  His specific discussion centered around whether or not level scaling systems were good for games, which was brought on by his recent journeys in LOTRO.  Over time my own feelings about the systems have changed.  You can scan through the backlog of this blog and find me talking about Mentoring systems, where games allow high level player A to drop down to the level of player B and run content with them.  This seemed to me like the most elegant solution to the problem of being able to run content with your friends.  That was until I encountered Guild Wars 2, and the fact that no matter where you go your character is scaled down to the level of the world.  The concept of evergreen content is a big one for me… because I like when a game expands over time rather than contracts.  While Guild Wars 2 is not the best example of this… because of the fact that there is plenty of content that you will never be able to play again in that game…  it did make me appreciate level scaling as a replacement for mentoring.

The only problem there is that when the world is constantly the same level as you, it robs you of one of the quintessential MMO experiences of leveling up and becoming more powerful.  The world always feels the same to you, because you are functionally always the same relative ability levels to it as you level.  In situations like that the levels themselves feel like a completely extraneous concept.  Why even have a number that goes up if the world is always going to be functionally the same difficulty.  When we started playing Final Fantasy XIV they had an extremely elegant solution for this in the form of their dungeon finder.  Each dungeon had a functional level range from the moment you first were able to zone in… to the moment that it considered was the upper bound of levels.  So if the average mob level in an area was 35, then functionally the maximum level the game would allow you to be was 40, scaling everyone over that level down to that point.  The only negative here is that this ONLY applies to dungeons, and in truth it would have been interesting to see this same sort of system just work out in the world as a whole.

That I guess is functionally what is going on in Star Wars the Old Republic, and I am loving it.  Each piece of content be it planet, flashpoint, or something else… has a functional level range attached to it.  Once again it is functionally along the lines of being five or so levels over whatever the maximum level of encounter for that area.  Then the game rewards you as though you were fighting something your own level in terms of both experience and loot drops.  This means that you can go anywhere and do anything without feeling like you are getting nothing from it.  At launch this was absolutely a problem with SWTOR and it was extremely easy to out level an area, and reach a point where the experience gain was no longer worth the time you spent on a planet.  This was especially true as I remember on Tatooine which in itself was a huge planet with lots of side content.  By the time I “did everything” I ended up several levels ahead of the curve and functionally kept getting more and more over-leveled as I went through the rest of the planets.

Now there is a certain measure of freedom in being able to just go and do the content without having to worry about level… and in many cases gear.  While leveling my Imperial Agent, there were a few points where I went 10 levels without upgrading any of my gear… and really did not notice a significant amount of power drop off.  Then again I did exit the class storyline at level 58… so there was some significant over-leveling going on there that might have been easing the transition.  The thing with this system is however that while you are gaining power and you FEEL powerful… there is never a point where you are just waltzing through  field of enemies gently tapping them and watching them explode.  When you run someone through a low level dungeon in World of Warcraft for example on your level capped main… you can functionally breathe on mobs and they impale themselves in a shower of loot.  SWTOR feels like a happy medium, of letting your power level increase without completely trivializing the game.  Sure most of the time I am not actually afraid of death, but I still feel heroic doing content…  because I am having to use my abilities to take things down rather than a single auto swing.  As a result I have somewhat shifted my focus from user driven mentoring systems…  to seeing more games adopt this sort of level scaling.  The best part about Legion honestly was the way that content has scaled to the player while leveling through it, and if only Blizzard had applied this tech to the world as a whole… it would be a much more enjoyable experience.  I like knowing that I can revisit those areas that I enjoyed so much in the past, and still having an interesting time.

 

Empires Fall

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This is going to be one of those “Bel is very late to the party” sort of posts but bear with me.  Additional upfront warnings…  I am entering a territory with this post that might have some minor spoilers.  For a long while I have avoided Knights of the Fallen Empire because I knew it made some significant changes that you simply could not step back.  As a result in my best Mass Effect fashion… I attempted to wring as much joy from the “old world” as I could and made sure that I saw all of the story content before moving forward.  Last night however I finally reached that point where I was at least reasonably comfortable taking the plunge and moving forward into the modern era of SWTOR.  Having said that…  there are a bunch of things I am extremely glad that I completed before doing so.  Firstly I am happy that I managed to see the main story arc for each of the classes.  Secondly I am happy that I took the time to progress every single companion and see all of their personal story before moving forward.  Additionally as far as I am concerned it is extremely important to do both Shadows of Revan and Rise of the Emperor (Ziost) before starting the Fallen Empire content.  I mean in theory you can just jump ahead to the modern era at any point you like, but if you want to have completed all of your story elements…  you need to do class story to completion, Revan and Ziost.

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Functionally Shadows of Revan and Rise of the Emperor are the unlabeled opening acts of the Fallen Empire campaign, and as a result I am extremely glad that I completed both of them.  Now the other big piece of warning that I had been given was that anything you want to do with your companions… you need to do before entering “chapters” mode.  This is because in truth you may or may not ever see them again.  I personally don’t have a list of which companions are findable in the game, and which are just gone indefinitely… but I have heard that some fan favorites are absolutely missing in action.  Once you enter Chapters the game is functionally changed, and you are sort of along for the ride.  It was that point that really concerned me and kept me from taking the leap for a very long time.  I had built up this comfortable stable of characters that I liked using, and enjoyed my jetting around the galaxy life style.  Once I started Chapter 1… literally all of that changed and I began playing a very different game.  That said…  I think it might be a better game.

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If Star Wars the Old Republic was functionally World of Warcraft in space…  then Fallen Empire is Knights of the Old Republic 3.  The game feels like it shifts from being a traditional check all of the boxes MMORPG… to being a much more story focused RPG that just happens to have other people playing it at the same time.  At this point I am still wrapping things up in Chapter VI and hope to keep moving forward tonight, but I’ve found myself in a situation that feels very familiar to anyone who has played KOTOR 1 or 2.  In that fashion I think its best to think of Fallen Empire and I assumed Eternal Throne as a sequel to Star Wars the Old Republic.  You are playing the same character, and you have all of the items you have built up along your first journey, but you are functionally playing a completely different game.  Maybe it is more of a new game plus mode than anything, as you shift your focus from the traditional tropes of an MMO, to starting over again.  It feels much the same as Mass Effect 2 did after the original, where you are set down in a world that is familiar, but the cast of characters has changed slightly… and you have to rebuild your legacy.

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I will likely continue to report in as I travel through the new content, but so far I have to say I am hooked.  There are a lot of events that happen in rapid succession, but functionally when you regain full control of your character five years have passed and the future is uncertain.  You are presented with a new cast of characters… some of which are familiar and others brand new.  That said the cast of characters are interesting and I immediately felt right at home…  in spite of no longer having my original team of companions.  I can see the potential for setting forth in a matter that cuts across the various class stories and potentially introduces me to characters from them all.  The other weird thing about this setting is that I am finding myself turning from pure Jedi…  to more of a balanced user.  I am giving myself permission to take more dark side choices when I feel like it suits my purpose better.  I am going to save the people that need saving… and I am absolutely going to take a lightsaber to the folks who deserve killing.  I am no longer the Jedi Battlemaster and am now instead known as the Outlander, and with that comes a change in focus.  Belghast is going to be a lot darker than before… and that is going to be okay.  I feel like this character is the vanguard of all of the characters I have played, and as a result sort of adopting my favorite traits from each of the class storylines.  In wild space, Sith and Jedi don’t matter anymore… but instead what matters is freeing the galaxy of this new threat.

Legacy Complete

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This weekend was yet another almost entirely devoted to playing Star Wars the Old Republic.  I tend to exist in one of two modes, either I am playing a bunch of different games casually or in “maintenance mode” or I imprint super hard on a single game and I clamp down on it until I run out of stuff that I want to be doing.  SWTOR seems to be in one of those clamp down modes, because I am playing it with an almost single minded focus.  I set out with a goal of finishing off the eight original storylines, and this weekend I managed to push the agent across the finish line.  As you can see I now have all eight icons lit up on the left side of the character select screen.  What is interesting is just how much overlap there are between the different classes.  You might hear a name mentioned in one class briefly that ends up being a central focus character in another.  With the Agent especially it felt like we were getting the secret story of the world being played out through our actions, and it was all the more real when I slid from that story into Shadows of Revan.  This is a minor spoiler but functionally the events foretold in the Agent sequence are coming to fruition by the Revanites…  which makes me feel like the Star Cabal was just one of so many other puppets in the setting.

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Makeb was largely interesting content, but it also felt like content added in a minor story patch in other games.  It was this side mission that didn’t really move the overall story forward by much.  Sure it was another chance to dust off your team mates and go on one more adventure… but it largely felt like one completely disconnected to everything else in the game.  While enjoyable I stalled out in part because I had the other goal to worry about and lots of class storylines to play before that twelve times bonus went away.  I wish however two years ago I had stuck around long enough to play through the Shadow of Revan campaign because I think the game as a whole would have had a good deal more traction for me.  Shadow of Revan and now Ziost feels more like what I had been wanting.  While it is taking part in a corner of the Galaxy and involves a brand new cast of characters…  there is continuity happening and all of my actions seem to actually matter once again.  Again you can absolutely see that it was design in a way so that it is stand alone DLC, but it feels like it integrates into the theme considerably better.

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I am wondering if I might be attached to Star Wars the Old Republic until the release of Stormblood at this point.  I have all of Ziost, which I am assuming is a fairly small addendum to the Revanite story.  Then I have the entire Fallen Empire campaign and finally the Eternal Throne campaign to keep me tied up for awhile.  I am figuring one of two things is going to happen when I start Fallen Empire, and in part that is why I have been avoiding actually starting it.  Either I am going to love it and tear through it hungrily until I catch up completely.  The other option is that I am going to bounce hard in Galaxy 2.0.  Either case I can only delay the inevitably so long, but I will be doing like I did in Mass Effect Andromeda… and trying to finish everything up completely before flipping the switch.  Side note… while staring at the above image I never noticed that my starship looks like it has a bubble level on the front.  Mostly I want to experience the world as it exists… before changing it completely.

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Some other side notes from the weekend.  The experience boost is absolutely insane because I was roughly 1/3rd of the way through Shadows of Revan when I hit the modern level cap of 70.  That means I have been getting functionally end game gear as I level through the content.  With Knights of the Eternal Throne they added in a new Galactic Command system… that in truth I don’t fully understand.  However it appears to be an alternate leveling system, and each time you kill something or complete a quest… you earn command points.  Every so often you go up a level, and this process includes earning a command chest.  These so far have been an excellent source of orange mod gear, and also occasionally a blue or purple item that blows away anything I have been capable of getting thusfar.  Another thing that I am digging heavily is that it seems like I can enter every flashpoint in “story mode” which allows me to complete the flashpoint solo with the help of an extremely overpowered robot buddy.  These flashpoints however also seem to drop current gear instead of the level of the encounter which surprised me just a little bit.  Whatever the case it feels like I am getting to chase down all these story bits, and at the same time be rewarded with lots and lots of gear.  Thusfar I am pretty happy with the way the systems all seem to be working.

Unlikely Agent

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This is absolutely one of those mornings where I am staring blankly at WordPress sort of hoping that a blog post materializes in front of my eyes.  I have this fitful relationship with sleep.  It is something I crave but something I can never quite get at normal levels.  I mean I have my own normal, which is four to six hours of sleep a night.  If I get over that I tend to get groggy…  which is what happens to be going on this morning.  Sunday night I had a horrid bout of insomnia, which when combined with the fact that our middle cat was being insane…  meant I probably got two hours of real sleep.  So by the time I hit 9 pm last night I was conking out at the keyboard, and decided to put the house to bed and crash.  That means I managed to get roughly eight hours of sleep… and my body is confused as hell.  Its like… what was this thing, I think I like it…  lets do nothing but that from now on!  Hence the sitting in my office chair in a dark room, with a cat laying on the desk beside me…  staring blankly into oblivion.

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Before the impending crash however I spent a good deal more time with Star Wars the Old Republic working through the Imperial Agent story.  I mean there is a good reason why I saved this one for last… because in truth this has always been the class that I had zero interest in.  I am not a stealthy person…  nor am I necessarily a normally deceitful person.  So the idea of flying around the galaxy and crushing rebellions through unsavory means did not exactly sound that fun to me.  In true Bioware style however…  it is allowing me to play a fairly atypical Agent that regularly talks back to his handlers.  In truth I am trying to play it much like a smuggler that somehow got drafted into imperial service, and and for this reason I am not using any of the traditional imperial garb, but instead decided it was a great time to break out the Nico Okarr duster.

I am occasionally breaking out the HK-55 helm when I want to feel more bounty hunter than smuggler.  I did most of Hutta in this fashion because I felt like anyone called the “Red Blade” simply would not do to be wearing Imperial Garb.  All of these mental adjustments are helping me to enjoy the story as I am sort of re-purposing what is happening into the narrative that I would rather be playing.  The positive is that apparently Kaliyo is eating it all up, given that she apparently likes violence against those who deserve it… and general smartassery the rest of the time.  Because of my general stance of only harming the wicked…  I am playing a fairly “grey” character, sitting on straight up neutral currently.  This is an interesting departure from the “did you say force lightning” options of the Sith Inquisitor.  At the point I crashed for the night I had just started Imperial Balmorra, which is probably my least favorite planet.  However just focusing on the class and planetary stories means I tend to get off the various planets pretty quickly, but at the same time feel like I see the entire place through the new classes eyes.

Week In Gaming 10/25/2015

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The Sickly Bel

weekingamingThis week was an odd one in that I managed to catch some flu-like chest crud.  I felt pretty awful most of last weekend, and then struggled to exist Monday and ended up coming home halfway through Tuesday.  I chained Wednesday as well, and found myself in that place where I wanted to play something…  but anything seemed to require too much concentration.  This was after all the week I had early access to Star Wars Fallen Empire, and I did exactly none of the content.  I poked my head in a few times to attempt to play my Sith Sorcerer and failed miserably at it.  I have a few comments to make about my experiences, but the majority of my gaming time was spent playing Destiny.  Apparently that game is largely muscle memory, and I can play it without having to think too much about it.

SWTOR: Fallen Empire

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As I said in the intro, this week was the early launch of Fallen Empire the massively game changing expansion for Star Wars the Old Republic… and I barely touched it.  I did pop in enough to get sorted out how some of the new systems work.  Namely the way companions now exist as being independent of the abilities they use.  This means if you no longer have to deal with companions you cannot stand just because they fill the role you want.  As a result I swapped to using Andronikos Revel on my Sorcerer, because he loves it when I shock the shit out of NPCs that are not giving me my way.  Similarly I would probably never run with a companion that is not Vette on my Sith Warrior, or always run with Kira Carsen on my Jedi Guardian.  There is seriously nothing cooler than running around with Kira and feeling like a Jedi strike force, and having her also be a healer…  just icing on the cake.  As you can tell this is a super important change for me, and I am damned happy to see it go in.

Other than that the other big change for me is the fact that the NPCs are actually labelled as to what type of quest they give you.  For example in the above image you can clearly see that this NPC is going to give you the Belsavis planetary quest.  This makes it easy to ignore things like the non-soloable heroic quests or flashpoint quests you are not quite ready for… to keep them from cluttering your logs.  The other big thing that I noticed was the way that the level scaling works.  It seems like when you land on a planet you are scaled to the maximum level for that area, somewhat like Final Fantasy XIV scales dungeons.  This means you can overlevel content… but just barely making it a bit easier if you wait for awhile to do a quest rather than doing it when it is on level.  However there is never a point where content ever becomes useless to you, which means you can easily go back and farm early content if you are struggling a bit to progress forward.  The loss of 12x class experience however means that pretty much to stay current you are always going to have to do your class quests as well as the main planetary story arc.  In any case I think the expansion content is going to be enjoyable… if I ever actually play it.

All-Saints Wake

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I don’t have a lot to talk about when it comes to Final Fantasy XIV this week, but I did poke my head back in for a few hours.  This week was the release of the All-Saints Wake event that serves as Halloween for the game.  As we talked about last night, holidays in Final Fantasy XIV are largely the tale of incompetent villains and in this case it is a repeat appearance of the Impresario the mastermind behind the Continental Circus.  Over the years we have learned that this is really a group of voidsent that are trying to cause mayhem each year, and we the player finds new ways to thwart them.  As cute as the story line is… the reason why you do holidays in games is to get stuff.  This year we get the purple outfit that my character is showing off above, a new Pumpkin Butler minion, and for the first time this year an actual mount.  We get to ride around Eorzea on a flying broom… that actually does fly if you have unlocked flight in a given zone.  The thing I love about Final Fantasy XIV holiday events is that they are adorable, provide awesome rewards… and end up taking only a few minutes to complete rather than being a grindy mess that brings out the worst in players.  If you are subbed you should definitely check it out, because while the quest is more enjoyable if you have done the previous years… it is still fairly easy to follow without that ancestral knowledge.

Devilian

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I have some issues with this game, but since I am now in alpha/beta/whatever phase it is and the NDA has dropped I thought I would talk a bit about it this morning.  My number one issue is the gender locked classes and the fact that they have very specific styles to them.  The Berserker is a guts clone, the Shadow Hunter is a bare chested Bishi-elven alucard like character, the Evoker is spilling out of her dress, and the Cannoneer is a Loli.  Out of those options… there is exactly one I can stomach playing as, which is the Berserker.  The thing is…. all of these design decisions unfortunately have nothing to do with Trion Worlds which is the company bringing the game to non-Korean markets.  As fraught as the classes are… the game is actually rather enjoyable once you get past its slightly odd control scheme.  By all looks it is a Diablo clone, but it controls vastly different… and honestly reminds me a bit more of the way skill shots in League of Legends feel.  You use your mouse for character facing and then use your number keys to fire off abilities.  You can bind an attack to your left mouse button, and I am probably going to do that with my basic attack to make it feel more Diablo-like.  What I have seen of the combat is kinda interesting, and the dungeons are really enjoyable.  I am just struggling to get past the art direction decisions, because honestly…  they make me really sad.  This could be a really great game, if it didn’t have gender locked classes and the art design did not seem to be from a thirteen year olds “tee hee hee boobs” mindset.  It will be interesting to see if I am still piddling with it by the time the next beta comes around or if I have decided that the game is simply “not for me”.

Destiny

Magical glow of an Exotic Engram… only to be dashed moments later when you find out its a damned helmet.

This week has been almost entirely devoted to Destiny.  As I said before this was the game that I could play without having to apply much thought to it.  A good chunk of the week was spent working on my Hunter who is now I believe 270ish light level, and all of the way through the TKK content.  I cheated a bit and jump started the character to level 25 using the item I got from purchasing the Taken King.  I have to say if they want to sell something on the cash shop… I would absolutely buy a second one of these.  Going from 25 to 40 was not that bad, but I am just not looking forward to taking my Warlock from 1-25 to get there.  This week has also been the resurgence of my appreciation of Auto Rifles.  I completely the third Gunsmith faction quest and it ended up giving me an exotic rifle called the Fabian Strategy.  This thing is just a blast to use and I love the way it sounds and feels as I rip through mobs.  This has also caused me to dust off the auto rifles I had in my vault and I found a few others that I really like, one of which my hunter is currently using.

The other key activity for this week has been running level 36 strikes in an effort to get exotic engrams with three of coins.  I found out today that I could be just doing level 20s, but honestly I kinda enjoy the slight effort the 36s provide.  They go so much quicker than the heroics, but don’t feel like I am simply steamrolling them in quite the way that the level 20s do.  Essentially my pattern has been to run strikes using coins until I get an exotic, then take a break for a bit and do something else.  I am also attempting to keep both characters up to date on bounties each day, and my regular farming runs on the dreadnought manage to pay off big time… as I had more than enough Hadium Flakes to get my Hunter his sword almost immediately.  The big chore is still trying to increase my light levels, and the most 290 grind is extremely slow.  That said it still feels enjoyable because I am seeing a ton of drops in the process.  Even though half of the things are going to turn out to be something I cannot use… it still feels good to see drops.  Its like the game is giving me hope… even though moments later it is just going to dash them once again when I find out the exotic is another damned helmet.

 

Week in Gaming 10/18/2015

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One Track Mind

This week was quite literally… all about Destiny.  We have a trio of myself, Damai, and Saldonas aka Carthuun that have been running around together quite a bit.  Alternately I have been spending some time with Euron as well when we can manage to meet up, and both “actually” be on at the same time instead of afking for long periods of time and leaving our Playstation 4 on while connected to Destiny.  Of note… if you do not exit out of Destiny before walking away, your PS4 will not fully go to sleep.  I know I have frustrated many people on my friends list who tried to invite me to parties at all hours of the day… when I am not actually at my console.  I have really been so into the PS4 this week that last night when we recorded the podcast, it was my first time on voice chat and really my PC since last Sunday.  Anyways… on with the games!

 

Rift – Primal Urges

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This week on a whim I decided to try and win one of the Wilds Packs being given away by Trion on their Twitter account.  I just happened to be in the right place at the right time… and apparently choosing the right code to try.  I opened the image that had six codes in it, and keyed it in quickly into my account and BAM… it gave me the Wilds Pack.  I did not at first realize it but this was the big $100 pack of goodies, but the only negative so far is that it did not seem to give me ANY of the loyalty.  Otherwise it would have pushed me from the Orange tier that I am currently on into the the Red.  I put in a support ticket to ask, but my working theory is… that you get the loyalty for purchasing the pack, not for redeeming it.  In any case I am more than happy to have a slew of free stuff including the new Primalist calling.

I have to say that mechanically it is really interesting.  Instead of an energy or mana based mechanic, you have this push/pull mechanic that shifts your character between Fury and Cunning.  Abilities that are scaled based on Fury push your bar closer to Cunning… and Cunning abilities push towards Fury.  So you are constantly switching back and forth between the two stances and the gameplay feel reminds me quite a bit of the solar/lunar cycle of the old Boomkin.  I say old Boomkin because I honestly have no clue if this push/pull thing is still in that class or not since I have not played one since Cataclysm.  The calling itself is a leather wearing heavy weapon wielder, and so far I am digging it.  As you can tell I shunned the tribal feel of the class and ended up making mine a steampunk dwarf.  I’ve not really made it terribly far, but I have enjoyed the little bit I have played.  I hope at some point soon I will devote a few days to getting really up close and personal with the calling.

Star Wars the Old Republic – Sith Happens

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Last night during the podcast I returned to my Sith Inquisitor and am working on trying to finish it.  I realize there is no way now that I will finish ALL of my classes before Tuesday, but I am at the end of Alderaan now and it seems like maybe if I can focus attention on it today I will be able to wrap this one up.  I am still having a very love/hate relationship with the Sith Sorcerer.  Namely I love that I can burn things down quickly with lightning, but hate how horrible of a healer I am if my companion ever seems to get into trouble.  I switched from Khem Val to Treek and am enjoying that decision so far.  Namely the big problem I run into is that my instinct is to burn harder as our health gets lower… and unlike my Scoundrel I cannot pull us out of quite the health deficit.  So that means I really need to watch the companion health more closely and start healing sooner.  As a result I end up dying quite a lot on this class, which just slows down the process.  The storyline isn’t really “catching” me either…  and I think largely the problem is I ended up choosing the finger-wiggler path instead of the melee path.  Were I slashing things with my dual saber I would probably be enjoying this class significantly more.  It does however give me a healing option Sith side… so I am just going to go with it for now and struggle through.

Destiny – Struggling for Exotics

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I have reached the point in Destiny where those upgrades are no longer coming as quickly.  I am now in the 290 light range and the engrams are being assholes to me.  Right now the best source of gear seems to be doing Heroic Strikes, but our trio still struggles a bit with them.  I realize that through running copious amounts of them that problem will solve itself.  I also am frustrated by three of coins, which seem to be far less effective for me than others.  It took me eight coins before I got my first exotic drop, and I am continuing to feed the beast and have not seen a second so far.  I will say that the exotic that I did get was pretty sweet…  Invective.  I like shotguns, but my frustration has always been their relatively small ammo pool and clip size.  Invective seems to take care of that for me, in that it regenerates ammunition at a fixed rate… which is actually pretty damned quick.  I am finding it useful in strikes for when mobs get too close and personal.. and the fact that you can fire off the four rounds in full auto style… means you can absolutely shred a heroic minotaur for example.  Then I shift back to my pulse rifle and by the time I need my shotgun again, the ammunition is back and ready to go.  The only thing that could be better about it is if the chamber reloaded….  but that would probably be asking too much.

The funny thing is… I am in this place where I am really happy with my assortment of weapons.  I just wish I had more high level blue fodder to feed to them to level them up.  Right now I tend to mostly use…  Hawksaw, Hung Jury, 1000 Yard Stare, Invective, and Sol Edge.  I would love to have the exotic shards and fodder to power up my Hawkmoon… but I don’t have the steady income of exotics yet.  I love that gun… but at 280 it is just too low right now to keep up with my other weapons.  For the most part I am happy shifting back and forth between Hawksaw and Hung Jury… both of which are weapons that feel great and can precision shot pretty easily.  The other big thing that happened this week is that I dug deep into the lore of Destiny, and if you ready yesterdays blog post you will see a bit write up about a series of videos.  Last night I also ended up going on at length about this factor on AggroChat and probably bored the pants off of my co-hosts.  What can I say… I am loving this universe and as I still continue to work my way through the missions I keep seeing more interesting parts of it.  Destiny is one of those games that has grabbed hold of me and does not show signs of letting go.  My hope is that I will be able to get it mostly out of my system by the time Fallout 4 launches….  because I want to spend some close and personal time with the wasteland.

 

 

 

Week in Gaming 10/11/2015

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A Good Week

I am sitting here this morning with my writing buddy beside me.  I’ve shown pictures of Allie in the past as she sits on the blanket that I have folded beside my keyboard, and once again this morning she is there purring quietly.  She really is the mascot of the week I have had, because honestly other than a bit of an emotional roller coaster surrounding The Beginner’s Guide, I would say that the week as a whole has been one of contentment.  I managed to accomplish quite a bit in my quest to push through all of the stories I had not seen in SWTOR, as well as made small bits of progress in Destiny.  At work things seem to be largely calmed down, or at least to a manageable madness.  More than anything I think it was taking Tuesday off that helped reorient my world to a much better state of mind.

Star Wars the Old Republic

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This week was an insanely productive one when it came to Star Wars the Old Republic.  As of last Saturday night during the podcast I managed to wrap up the Smuggler storyline, and picked up work on the Sith Warrior.  With Tuesday essentially being a day where I did nothing but play SWTOR, I managed to finish up the Sith Warrior.  I’ve talked about this already but I have to say at the time the Sith Warrior was one of the most gratifying experiences when it comes to giving you the control to settle all of your vendettas in one ending.  Every person that you want to seek your revenge on is laid out in such a way as that you can, and the final events are so damned satisfying.  Having played both Sith Warrior and Jedi Guardian…  I have to say I am a bigger fan of the Warrior experience namely because it is deeply personal… and not simply the overarching events of the game as a whole.

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From there I picked up on my Bounty Hunter, largely because I needed a palate cleanser from playing a force user… and having just wrapped up Smuggler I was not quite ready for another cunning class.  I fully expected to not be terribly into the Bounty Hunter experience, largely because I didn’t really enjoy Trooper that much.  However I am coming to realize most of my problems with the trooper was the fact that it was my third class within a few months of the launch of games to push to 50… and at that point I was simply bored to tears of all the repeated planet story content.  The Bounty Hunter is quite literally the most reasonable person on the imperial side.  The game gives you the ability to play the consummate business man, and that is absolutely the path I took.  I killed no one for free, and kept my collateral damage to a minimum.  As a result people were constantly surprised that no, I was not in fact going to kill them.  Generally speaking I almost always took the option to freeze them in carbonite and return them to the client fully intact.  I am guessing that quite honestly, Bounty Hunter is probably going to go down as my favorite game play experience in SWTOR.

Destiny

My progression in Destiny has slowed down considerably, with the bulk of my forward movement coming from Armsday packages and any time I level up a faction like the Gunsmith or the Cryptarch.  While I am playing the game of equipping my best gear before I decrypt any engrams, I am still ending up with low level blues most of the time that I turn into crafting materials.  I’ve developed the nasty habit of buying shaders, emblems, and ships…. and as a result I am generally running low on Glimmer most of the time.  I really need to try using some of those glimmer items that increase the drop rates while I work on bounties.  My latest toy that I am enjoying playing with is the scout rifle above that came from a package when I leveled up Dead Orbit faction.  I had not really played with a scout rifle much since coming back and had forgotten that it was essentially a high payload sniper rifle.  Realistically I am to the point where if I want to progress I need to be running Heroic Strikes, and I simply have not messed with getting friends together yet in order to do that.  Still having a lot of fun, but trying to keep it super casual so I don’t burn myself out and get bored with it.

Battlefront

Another game this week that I have spent some time with is Star Wars Battlefront.  I pre-ordered this game through PlayStation network the moment it was announced because I am super nostalgic about the lineage of Star Wars shooters.  This weekend they allowed players to download and play for free in the beta, and I have to say my feelings about it are extremely mixed.  The game does an excellent job of giving you the fantasy fulfillment of playing a soldier in the Star Wars universe.  Past that however… I think it suffers from the fact that I have been playing so much Destiny lately.  The game handles significantly worse in the moment to moment gameplay that Destiny does.  The guns feel worse, the movement feels worse, the cover mechanics… feel worse.  I think if I spent enough time I could get used to it and even come to like it, but right now I am struggling with the feeling of “I would rather just play destiny”.

The Beginner’s Guide

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I’ve said everything I could really ever want to say in my deeply personal post on the game from last week.  Last night on AggroChat I to some extent reprised those thoughts in a much more condensed manner.  The take away for me is really this.  If you are not in an extremely stable position in your life, and if you are at all struggling with your own emotions…  don’t play this game.  Essentially there are two possible reactions… either you are going to think it is complete bullshit and it won’t effect you in any way.  Or it is going to act as a mirror to show you all of your fears and anxieties about yourself.  It quite literally took me a few days to recover from the experience of just watching a play through of this game, and not actually playing it myself.  I am not unhappy that I went through it, but it is also not the sort of experience that I would suggest lightly to anyone.  I know that sounds weird and arcane… but this game does strange things to you.  This is honestly the closest thing I have seen to a real life “The Ring”, in that this game will ultimately leave you slightly changed as a result… and not always in a good way.

 

Sithmas Time Is Here

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Merry Sithmas

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It has been so surreal since the launch of the Force Awakens toy line.  Everywhere I go the world seems to be teeming with Star Wars enthusiasm and with that… comes a bunch of priced to own kitch.  While we have yet to reach anything close to the hype bubble we experienced before the release of Phantom Menace, it is still extremely noticeable.  A few weeks ago I wrote about re-watching the prequels and how I had wondered if maybe I was just too harsh on them at the time.  After re-watching I decided that no… they really were horrible films.  The problem is that for years I let them have control over my enjoyment of the Star Wars universe as a whole, and that frustrates me.  If you were to completely ignore their existence, then honestly the rest of the Universe is still pretty great.  Sure there was some strange stuff on the fridges of the Expanded Universe, but I cannot discount just how phenomenal the Old Republic Era has been.  I remember picking up one of the first Tales of the Jedi comics and being completely blown away at this concept of a universe set essentially 4000 years before the time of Skywalker.  Then as that universe blossomed over the course of sever comic series, and then came to life in the form of the Knights of the Old Republic game, I was absolutely hooked.  Now that I am back roaming around SWTOR, I am realizing I care about this universe far more than I ever realized.

When the game mentions Freedon Nadd or Exar Kun… I remember who they are and what they did in this worlds history.  I remember awesome characters like Nomi Sunrider from the comics, or Jolee Bindo from KOTOR.  When I see a reference to Casus Fett or Mandalore the Ultimate in game… I know who those characters are and can remember reading about them in the comics.  The thing is… it is not just the Old Republic era that is amazing.  Essentially each time another creative force has been given free reign in the fertile Star Wars universe… really awesome things have happened.  For example while the official Prequels are pretty horrible, the Clone Wars cartoon series is amazing.  No one can deny just how awesome Ahsoka Tano as is a character, and just how much more interesting the interaction is between her and Anakin…  than pretty much ANYTHING in the Prequels.  Now if we scan forward we have Star Wars Rebels… also being allowed free reign in the universe, this time within the constraints of the more well known modern era.  Similar to Shadows of the Empire it is weaving its way in and out of events we already know, and doing a great job of making us care about this new cast of characters.

Excitement Grows

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Which leads me to realize…  the times I have really loved Star Wars lately is when someone has been able to wriggle out front under the grasp of George Lucas and run freely creating their own plot lines and characters.  Essentially this is exactly what is happening with Force Awakens… it is all the goodness of the Star Wars universe with none of the harmful effects that Lucas has forced upon it in recent years.  In fact Lucas has been more than a little bit salty when talking about Episode VII and the fact that for the most part Disney ignored his plans to create a movie focused around teenagers.  What is happening is that Disney has become the most powerful marketing juggernaut on the planet, and at the core of their methodology is protecting the bottom line, and with it the long term profitability of the franchises they own.  I am sure there is some computer program somewhere that knows precisely what fans will like, and just how far they are willing to allow the themes to be stretched.  While at some point down the line this might be a bad thing for innovation…  I sincerely doubt they will allow anything even vaguely close to midichlorians to ever happen again.

The only frustration I have with the Disney approach however is that so much of the Universe became ruled “non-canon”.  There were characters like Mara Jade and Grand Admiral Thrawn that were absolutely amazing…  in fact I have action figures for both of them hanging on my wall as well as Clone Emperor Palpatine, Dark Jedi Luke, and Jedi Leia.  Those stories meant a lot to me, and while there were parts of the Expanded Universe that were completely unfollowable… most of it made a certain logical sense at least at one time.  The problem being like most fan centered fiction, it iterated on itself causing the characters to become more distorted and unbelievably heroic as time went on.  It is my hope that they will figure out how to work some of the best characters into the new tales.  There has been rumors that Mara Jade will be introduced as an Inquisitor instead of the Emperors Hand for example, which is fine with me…  so long as she is introduced at all.  Basically I find myself in a strange place, of having hope for Star Wars… when for so many years I lacked it almost entirely.  I imagine as we get closer to the December release of the movie, the cross promotions and Star Wars branded soup cans will start to get annoying.  However in the meantime…  I am reveling in Sithmas.

The Professional

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As of last night I have finished Balmorra and Nar Shadda on the Bounty Hunter and just went through the “intermission” that generally occurs there.  I didn’t really expect to be all that into this storyline, because essentially it was one of the ones that I never intended to actually complete.  While I enjoyed the Trooper storyline, the class itself was not that compelling to me.  Largely I think this was the reason why I ultimately fell out of love with SWTOR after pushing three characters to the then level cap of 50.  Bounty Hunter however feels completely different, and much more action packed.  There are little things like rocket punch and the jet pack charge that make it feel more brutal…  even if the attacks are essentially the same as my trooper vanguard.   The funny thing about the storyline is just how much of myself I can pour into it.  I am playing a very grey bounty hunter, who does not kill anyone for free.  Also as the story goes on I am becoming a bit of a softy, and I am wondering exactly when that will bite me in the ass.  Essentially it does not seem like a very “sith side” storyline so far other than the fact that essentially I am doing everything for the sake of payback… and for a girl.

I imagine over the next few days I will rip through the content quickly and before the end of the weekend start work on the last of two classes.  Not sure what I will be doing next, if it will be the Inquisitor and its constant shock treatment… or if I will go for the Imperial Agent.  As it stands now… I am starting to lean towards Agent.  Whatever the case playing all of these stories is making me fall in love with the Bioware writing all over again.  It is also making me look forward to Fallen Empire and its more story driven focus.  When you ONLY play the class quests, SWTOR becomes a much better game because it has a nice clean story arc that does not get muddied by repeating the same planetary quests over and over again.  At some point I will go back and play some of the quests I missed Sith side, but for the time being I want to push through the classes because each one feels like it adds another piece of a puzzle to the central story arc of this game world.  This is also making me want to go back and get KOTOR 2 working, and actually attempt to beat it this time.  It feels like there is a chunk of storyline that I am missing there, and with it several characters that I really only know by name.  Essentially I am saying by all of this… that once again I am proud to be a Star Wars junkie.