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TheSecretWorld 2016-02-10 21-38-42-80

Honey Coated Goodness

TheSecretWorld 2016-02-10 21-38-42-80

Yesterday the topic of Secret World came up on twitter, and as always I give my normal response of that I need to go back and play some more.  This will forever be one of those games that I remember very fondly…. so long as I don’t really focus on the end game content and frustrations we felt there.  As far as narrative storytelling… I have to say this game probably provided the best experiences I have ever seen in any MMO to date.  The mixture of real world and game world puzzles, that required me to look things up in the provided in game browser….  which often lead to “fake” websites about in game companies…  was just a level of integration I had not experienced and honestly have not since.  The storyline itself was this wonderful blending of so much real world lore, that quite honestly… it blends so well into almost any modern fantasy genre.  I remember thinking that this fertile ground should provide for plenty of additional adventures, and in truth it has.  Since June of 2012 the game has released 13 major content updates called “Issues” and a handful of smaller packs, which is a far cry from the original goal of “monthly” content releases… but not horrible by any stretch of the imagination.

The problem is… the game has struggled to find an audience that is also willing to pay for the game.  One of the best purchases I ever made was the original “Lifetime Subscription” that was available back at launch, that honestly was still available until recently.  According to MMOWatcher this officially went off the market on February 5th, meaning that there will be no more new Grandmasters.  The problem is…. the Grandmaster system is so amazingly good, that after my initial one time purchase…  I have never NEEDED to give them any more money.  I have this feeling that a lot of the folks who are actively playing are in this same boat.  Now they cranked up the benefits of a monthly membership, because quite honestly….  Funcom has been hurting for a long while.  Once again however as a Grandmaster I am “grandfathered” into this system… but the perks are pretty insane.

  • A 30% increase to all Experience earned.  (This replaces the Time Accelerator)
  • A 50% boost to all Black Bullions gained.
  • 20% extra capacity for Black Bullions and Marks of the Pantheon.
  • 8-hour Mission Cooldowns.
  • 18-hour Raid Lockout Timers.
  • 2 Lockout Timer Resets every 30 days.  This item resets all active Cooldowns (Missions/Raids/Scenarios).
  • A 10% storewide discount for everything in the item shop (20% for Grand Masters).
  • 1200 Bonus Points every 30 days.
  • Free Anima Leaps!

Then in addition to this there is a reward system that you get various really cool items available to you at fixed points in your subscription much like the Final Fantasy XIV or Everquest II veteran reward systems.  This is also on top of getting the monthly items, that have been acrueing on my account since launch.  Once again as a Grandmaster… I just get all of them unlocked at once.  Some of the rewards available are.

  • 30 Days: Anima effect on sprint and faction jackets
  • 60 Days: Hoverboard and Panoptic Core in faction colors
  • 90 Days: Ur-Draug pet and an additional Agartha Conduit
  • 180 Days: Portable bank and a baller costume
  • 360 Days: Weapon skins and a scooter mount

The Challenge

The problem with being away from a game like The Secret World this long however is that I quite honestly have no idea where to start.  I know I completed Issues 1-4, and 6…  but all of the ones I missed I have no idea where they even start.  Normally speaking in a traditional wow-style MMO you can simply run around until you see exclamations over the top of NPC heads.  However in TSW almost every quest can be repeated as many times as you like, so as a result you end up with a sea of possibilities, and several years later I have no clue where to even start.  I’ve talked about this before, but games really need a better “welcome back” system, that presents the players with a guess at what they were doing last, and also presents them with five or so items that they should consider doing.  Initially I had this idea of starting a new character, like I do in so many other games when trying to ease back into them.  The problem being…. that I am already capped on the number of characters I have access to.  During the 2014 Extra Life I created the horribly named “Belstream” to stream the Secret World newbie experience, and even then… I have no clue where I left off with him.

The challenge is that I don’t really WANT to play an Alt… I would prefer to just keep trucking along on my Templar main.  However the level of investment that I will have to make to get into the game… sort out what I did and where to start doing again…. is ultimately want keeps me logging in and then after futzing with my wardrobe a bit, logging right back out.  Similar to Everquest II, the other big challenge for me is sorting through my inventory… which is full of so much crap that I can no longer recognize if it is even useful.  All of these candy colored icons mean nothing to me right now, and the fact that I am wearing epic gear in most of my slots makes me doubt if they are even useful to upgrade anything with.  I would break stuff down… but honestly I would even have to look up how you did that again.  I have the desire to play, but right now there is entirely too much “friction” standing in the way of me doing that.  I realize Funcom more than likely lacks the funds to devote to new systems, but this at least is a huge challenge for me.  I guess I could simply start by looking up the patch notes for Issue 5 and then going forward from there, trying to go find the quest chain starter for each additional Issue that I missed.  But this is the point where I ask myself…. do I care enough to devote a few hours of research, or do I just want to spend my limited evening hours playing something else that I remember how to play?

 

 

 

FPS Evolved Genre

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Thoughts for Motiga

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

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

Overwatch Beta Returns

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

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

 

Maybe I Don’t Hate Elves?

The Thalmor

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Today I am feeling a bit more stable, and as a result going to attempt work.  I think I could probably use another day of rest, but in truth… yesterday I rescheduled meetings for today… and I don’t want to go through the hassle of trying to go in and reschedule them again.  My throat is still insanely sore from all of the coughing, and my eyes were matted shut this morning…  but in truth other than these things I am doing considerably better.  My eyes are actually clear again instead of the red irritated mess that they have been recently.  I also noticed that during the day yesterday apart from a bit of a nap… I actually felt like playing games again.  During most of the weekend… I honestly spent more time staring at the screen than I actually did doing anything.  I continued my journey into the Aldmeri Dominion campaign on my now Veteran Rank 2 character….  roughly half of the way to rank 3.  Throughout the course of the day I managed to work my way around the map unlocking pretty much everything but the handful of Dolmen like the one pictured above.  The problem with playing during what is normally work hours… is that there simply aren’t that many people around able to help you out.  While I can struggle through most world boss encounters thanks to the hax of Green Dragon Blood.  I have heard that it has technically been nerfed several times… but it is still enough of a self heal that I can struggle through most fights on my own.

The harsh realization I had while playing Aldmeri content is that maybe I don’t actually hate the High Elves or Aldmer as much as I though I did?  In past games I honestly went out of my way to kill the High Evles when I saw them… but I am coming to realize that these were the Thalmor, and not necessarily representative of the High Elves as a whole.  So pretty much all I was seeing was this extremist wing of the elves, that are just as horrible to their own people as they are to anyone else.  I mean I have always liked the Bosmer and their Green Pact…  I mean who doesn’t think Cannibal elves are awesome?  Then there are the Khajiit, and you have to be a horrible ass to not like them.  It is awesome seeing them in a light that is not as constant comic relief, even though they are absolutely right up there with the Argonians for most oppressed race of Tamriel.  So while I expected to like the occasional merchant and small folk in this campaign… I did not expect to really like the leaders.  The Canonreeves and Battlereeves have for the most part been awesome…. as has Queen Aywren herself.  I am actually enjoying helping them turn the tide in the battle against the Maormer and the Veiled Heritance.

Epic Battles

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Hands down the best part of the zone was the final fight for Firsthold.  During this sequence you have to actually breach a number of Oblivion gates, as you push into the Refuge of Dread and try and sever the ties of Mehrunes Dagon to our plane.  The irony is… were it any OTHER Elder Scrolls game… I would probably be completing the quests to HELP out Mehrunes Dagon because I would almost certainly be rewarded with a spiffy weapon.  Sadly I took zero screenshots while in the Refuge of Dread, so instead you are getting a random dungeon screenshot.  That is just how enthralled I was by that sequence of quests, that I kept wanting to move the story forward and get to the final culmination of the zone…. which itself was an equally epic battle.  What makes it even cooler is that immediately following the conclusion of Auridon… we are thrust into yet another epic sequence as we try and win back the town of Haven in Grahtwood from the Jackdaw Pirates who have taken it over.  I know it is going to shock Tam that I am saying that I actually kinda like the High Elves…  but I have to admit it.  Sure I like working for the Khajiit or Bosmer slightly better…. but the sad part is that we apparently only get to see the assholes in the form of the Thalmor when we are outside of the Summerset Isles.

All of this said… I still feel a much greater pull to the Daggerfall or Ebonheart Pact.  I do have to say I really am enjoying questing through the Aldmeri areas however, in part because this was the last content to go into the game… and also the content I spent the least amount of time playing.  I feel though that once I finish leveling through it… enough time might have passed for me to be able to enjoy the Ebonheart areas again.  Largely it is just the Stonefalls area that tends to drag on… and if I can ever make it through that area I will be perfectly fine because then I am mostly into undiscovered territory again.  I have to admit I am having a lot of fun, but I am mostly playing as a solo player.  If you too are playing ESO on the PC, feel free to throw a friend invite to @Belghast my root account.  It would be nice to at least have some folks to chat back and forth with while I am playing.  Since I still don’t have much of a voice, and it is actually somewhat painful to talk… I am avoiding voice chat like the plague.  Otherwise I would be sitting on our teamspeak server, and at least listening to the others as they are playing Warframe.  At some point soon I need to poke my head back into that game, but the mood just hasn’t hit me.  I also similarly need to play some more Destiny, but I have been spending most of my time downstairs on the couch and not near the PS4.  I have to say… it feels pretty good to have things to talk about… other than just how horrible it is to be sick.

 

Missing Adventure

Running its Course

I am sure at this point that you my wonderful readers are getting sick of reading about the adventures of Sick Bel.  I promise I am also getting tired of writing about them, because at this point I keep thinking that surely today is going to be that magically day where I start to feel amazingly better.  Pretty much the longest a virus will run is seven days, and at this point I started coming down with it last Sunday…. which would in theory make today the day things just start to improve drastically.  I am still fairly miserable, and last night I had another night of constantly interrupted sleep.  Around 7pm I went to bed, after taking some evening meds that knocked me out.  From there I ended up sleeping pretty solidly until around 11pm.  Well my wife woke me up twice about the stupid printer upstairs, but those little blips really didn’t effect my overall sleep.  After 11pm I wound up waking up every hour on the hour to adjust or get a drink.  So in theory I got more sleep than I am used to, but it was super fitful.

This morning I got ready like I was going to work, however I could quickly tell that it just was not going to happen.  I didn’t have a lot on my schedule today, so I felt like it would be better served to spend the day chilling out and napping as much as I could, with the hope that come tonight I will start to just be doing better all around.  I am taking what feels like a smorgasbord of over the counter meds to try and help with the symptoms.  The first line of defense is Mucinex Fast Max, followed up with an antihistamine, and huge doses of vitamin C.  This morning I am just worn out… but something already feels slightly different.  So here is hoping that by tonight I will be able to get a normal nights sleep.  The problem has been that honestly no position seemed comfortable at all, so I just ended up alternating through the bad choices.

Lapse in Gaming

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You can always tell how sick I am based on how well I can game.  That is always my happy place, and the activity I retreat to when I need to recuperate.  The problem is that yesterday and quite honestly the last several days….  I spent a lot of time booting games up but not really playing them much.  I mean I got this or that quest done in Elder Scrolls Online, or would pop into Diablo 3 and do a Greater Rift…. but each of those activities would wear me out to the point where I just needed to log out for awhile and do nothing.  So over the last few days I have spent an inordinate amount of time staring blankly at my laptop, and television at the same time…. not really paying full attention to either.  When in this state…. I really am not functional at all.  Which kinda sucks for the whole, writing a daily gaming blog thing.  I am hoping that today or tomorrow I will start to get back to normal so I can once again have adventures worth writing about.  Thanks to all of you for bearing with me while going through this mess.

 

Modding Tamriel

Struggling to Record

Last night was one of the worst ideas I have had in awhile.  I am still extremely sick, and for the most part don’t really have a proper speaking voice.  The problem being, that Saturday night is the night we record AggroChat.  This seemed to be an off week for most people.  Grace was busy, and Ashgar was being worked to death in the “on call” rotation.  The smart and adult thing to do would have been to simply apologize to our listeners and take a week off.  However I am hopelessly chained to this notion of not missing an episode… either in my daily blog posts or weekly podacsts.  I guess there is a part of me that is afraid that if I ever go by without making a post, that all of this will fall apart.   That people will go their own separate ways and whatever thing we have called AggroChat will just cease to exist.  I mean I am deathly afraid that if I miss a day of posting on this blog… that day will turn into six months before I start posting again.  So there was what I should have done…. and then what I did.  The end result is me today not really being able to talk, and afraid that I won’t be magically better by tomorrow morning for work.

The show itself went pretty well, I just felt like I struggled to try and maintain a voice that could actually be heard and understood.  Quite literally I sound like I am going through puberty, where my voice cracks and squeaks at uncontrollable times.  My vocal cords I guess have been ravaged by the congestion and the constant coughing.  To make matters worse yesterday my eyes started watering uncontrollably and are all bloodshot.  Basically I feel horrible, and will probably end up taking a sick day Monday as a result.  The worst part has been trying to get any rest in this state.  I’m taking NyQuil but it doesn’t seem to actually do much.  My night felt like it was perforated by getting up every hour on the hour to readjust myself.  I am hoping after staying up all day today I will be tired enough that I just simply collapse tonight and don’t much care what position happens to be comfortable.  I realize this is just a cold…. but my god is it one of the worst ones I have had.  I swear I have had the honest to god Flu and it has effected me less annoyingly.

Questing Auridon

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It wouldn’t be me if I went too terribly long without adding some interface addons into Elder Scrolls Online.  Right now I have Dustman, a mod that auto sells junk items and allows you to auto sell other items that you don’t really want, which is one of those things that I end up trying to find in any game I play.  I also have Lore Books and Skyshards that simply mark the location of any books or shards that you have yet to collect.  I also found a really cool mod called Undiscovered which marks areas that have some sort of a POI that you have yet to visit, which makes completing maps much easier.  The best of the mods however is the Minimap I am using which is ultimately something I complained about not having back in early testing.  I love the compass rose, but it doesn’t really replace the minimap… and I found myself spending too much time with my map open when I lacked the minimap.  Having this makes the overall experience of moving around the world so much more enjoyable for me, because quite frankly….  I have gotten used to always being able to see that top down view.  The only negatives are that most of the really awesome interface mods that I ran during the first days of the game…. seem to be long gone.  I guess I should probably check the non-curse sites just to make sure that they might not be still lurking out there.  I realize that I am essentially “Wow-ifying”  Elder Scrolls by adding these mods in…. but quite frankly I don’t care.  It makes my experience more enjoyable.

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The biggest improvement so far is that the Veteran system was replaced by the Champion system, and it finally feels like I am making forward momentum again.  I like that doing a few things here and there ends up earning me a point that I can spend on improving my character.  It also feels like they have put some serious polish in place, because in playing Friday night and most of the day yesterday… I really didn’t encounter any bugs.  All of the deeply scripted events went off without a hitch, and while I had gotten used to having to log in and out to get things to trigger during those first days of the game…. all of that seems to be a thing of the past.  The other really positive thing is that the community seems to be pretty cool.  I’ve gotten a lot of impromptu help, or folks asking if I wanted to join in for this world boss or that anchor.  I’ve not really seen anything that made me cringe, which is a huge plus given that there were plenty of cringe worthy happenings during those first months.  I am not sure how long I will remain playing the game, but I gotta say I am enjoying myself….  which is huge given the funk I have been in lately of not really knowing what to play.

 

 

 

Tamriel Revisted

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Point Click

Yesterday I kept being reminded by co-workers of just how horrible I sounded, so after I finished with my critical meetings I took off and headed home around 12:30.  After eating a hastily grabbed lunch of convenience store pizza…  I collapsed on the sofa trying to force fluids while finding something comforting to watch.  I guess my version of comforting is a little different than most people, because I wound up watching the entire first season run of Rick and Morty.  Granted I have watched a lot of this show, but it turns out there were a handful of episodes that I missed when they originally aired.  Whatever this thing is that I caught down south, it is very much kicking my ass.  Blogging has been a real struggle because it is very difficult to string thoughts together into enough of a cohesive mass to make into a blog post.  It is my will along that I am committing fingers to keyboard and producing words… because I simply do not want the streak to stop.  I am a couple of months away from my official three year anniversary on the whole daily blogging thing, and the seventh anniversary of my blog.  So until I hit that at the very least, I will keep up doing the daily thing even if I have to struggle to make words happen.

Lately my crutch while sick has been Diablo 3, but I feel like I am running out of things I care to do right now.  I’ve gotten the seasonal rewards, but more than anything I am farming content in the hopes of getting the last few items I need to drop for the build I am working towards.  Clearing regular rifts and doing bounties is the sort of mindless interaction that works well when I am sick, but I am quickly reaching the point where I am questioning why I am bothering?  The other side mission has been to gear my monk, but once I found out from several folks that you only get one set of gear per season…. a lot of my gusto was lost.  I thought I would be able to go kill the bosses I needed to get my first set of gear, on my second character and be up and running and clearing content pretty quickly.  Alas that is very much not the case, and my best option is to ride along with Rae who is regularly clearing TX stuff… but honestly after being able to participate, going back to just having to pray to stay alive…  makes it pretty uninteresting.  Yesterday my big problem was the fact that I had a very needy game install going on in the background, that kept slowing down my teleportation to the point that the battle.net would disconnect me before actually ending up in zone with Rae.

Worst Install

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On a whim yesterday afternoon around 1 pm, I started installing The Elder Scrolls Online.  I guess I had forgotten just how painful the install process was, because it took until roughly 8 pm for it to finally complete.  During the last hour of that time I was pretty much unable to play anything else on my laptop.  The thing is… I have installed much larger games in far less time…. so I have to fault the launcher for just how painfully slow it was going.  I mean I say this as someone who was installing to a laptop that is using a AC Wireless card capable of 650 MB connection on a total internet connection that generally runs around 150 MB down.  I should have been able to completely saturate my pipe and had this game down in short order… but it took quite literally 7 hours to finally get installed.  Now for a good chunk of that time I was still playing Diablo 3 so that could have been slowing things down…  but the total download was tortuously slow.  The last hour or so it was thrashing my hard drive badly enough that I really could not do anything else functional on the machine, so I wound up mostly fiddling around on my phone while watching television.  The problem with ESO was that I honestly can’t remember why we stopped playing, other than the fact that one by one we just stopped until I was one of the last four or so people still active.  For me I guess the Veteran game system was so bloody boring because it felt like I was no longer making reasonable process.  I made it roughly two zones into the Aldmeri campaign, when finally my desire to keep playing petered out.

I guess recently I had been curious about what was going on in game, and they have done a few high profile DLC releases.  So around 8:30 last night I finally was able to log in and poke around.  Firstly I have to say I guess playing this game for roughly two years in testing…  means that I have some serious muscle memory going on.  While I had to reset all of my talent points, I can still for the most part remember exactly how I played it.  All of the little things like dodging, and blocking attacks…  came back without any effort and before long I was up and running and questing again.  I feel like maybe this is the speed of game that I need right now.  What I am struggling the most with in my current state is interacting with other human beings.  I have been pretty much oblivious to twitter and slack since coming back from Pax South, and as a result I am kinda cocooning in my own little world again.  Much like SWTOR…. ESO was a great single player game…  and as a result I found myself really enjoying questing around last night.  That is of course until the nyquil kicked in and I simply couldn’t hold my eyes open any longer.  I figure I will put in some more time today playing and maybe talk a bit about my experiences on AggroChat tonight.  That is of course if I have any voice left.  Right now my voice is pretty damned squeaky so I am thinking we might have to rely on someone else to do the bulk of the talking this evening.

 

 

Golden Tickets

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Ultimate Movie Edition

It seems that last night while I was in my own little world of coughing and clicking the mouse button aimlessly…  some more information came out about a promotion that will be landing along with the Warcraft movie.  Over on reddit there is a thread with a screenshot taken from a supposed survey that was being passed around.  Basically this is them giving away a free copy of the game, because now when you buy the base game you get through Mists of Pandaria for free.  In theory once they release Legion it has been their standard to give everyone playing the game everything but the latest expansion, which is also the method that SOE chose to end up with on Everquest and Everquest II.  So I guess the only real question is…  will this work?  There are most certainly going to be former players of the game that go to the theaters and see this movie out of a sense of fond nostalgia.  Even if I was not currently playing Warcraft, I would be going to see it because it is a world I have deeply cared about.  This would be the case for pretty much any other world I have loved in the past… and no matter how much of a debacle the Dresden television series was…  if they made a movie I would be there on opening night.

So for former players this is basically a ticket to play the game for free for a month, and I have a feeling that pretty much every single one of them will at least poke their head in for a few days.  Nostalgia is a very strong motivator, and is absolutely the reason why I keep ending up subscribed to this game.  Now for the folks that are going to the theaters because they like big fantasy action movies…  I think that is a potentially bigger prospect for new players.  World of Warcraft has always had this ability to convert non-gamers into WoW players, in a way that no other game than Pokemon has seemed to be able to do.  This movie, if it ends up like I think it will… seems like it is going to be the perfect primer course in the “history of the world” and give watchers enough of a taste for the setting that they might just check it out further.  It does not hurt at all that some of the movie stars like Robert Kazinksky are being extremely public about their own experiences with the game and painting it in a very positive light.  This feels very much like… “you watched the movie, now you can go home and live in the world”.  I think it is going to work better than they might have even imagined, because the barriers between gamer and non-gamer keep slowly breaking down.  It is not a far stretch for someone who is already playing Candy Crush, to go home and play Warcraft instead.  After all the only way this genre is going to grow… is by converting a brand new generation of players.

Second Seasonal

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I have to admit that my spigot of post ideas has pretty much been closed down to a trickle.  It is really hard to think when you go into a coughing fit and would swear that you just felt your brain rattling.  In this state I am just not doing much gaming other than logging in each night and playing the garrison game, and ending up over in Diablo 3.  The simple fact that it is pretty lightweight on interaction, other than your mouse hand makes it something I can stand to do.  Yesterday I had managed to get to within four levels of 70 when I finally caved and pestered my friend Rae for a boost.  We ran around doing Torment VI for a bit, because I believe that was the highest that a sub 70 could go do.  I managed to ding 70 in very short order, but when I sat down to craft something…. I realized I was almost completely out of the white parts.  So I am guessing I will roll something new again if for no reason other than to run around and collect white weapons to turn into parts.

The next goal is to do the steps required to unlock the armor set, and then try and sort out exactly what I want for a spec to go with it.  The irony is this is actually my first monk to hit 70, which reminds me that at some point I should really push up my non-seasonal monk so I at least feel like less of a slacker.  I am sitting in this place where pretty much every game I think of playing leaves me uninspired.  I am not entirely sure what can pull me out of this rut, or if it is simply a side effect of being sick.  We have a clinic at work that employees can go to for free, and I went down there and got checked out.  Turns out this “pox” is simply a virus, and there isn’t much that they can do rather than simply let it run its course.  In theory over the weekend I should start to feel significantly better, and I am pretty much assuming that whatever the maximum recovery time will be the case for me.  I have a largely broken immune system, and not only do I seem to catch everything… but I seem to get over them extremely slowly.  My plan is to chill out, and get lots of rest this weekend, and hopefully by Monday I am a new person.  My biggest concern right now is whether or not I will actually have a voice come Saturday when we record AggroChat.

 

Streaming Goodness

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RWBY

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Rooster Teeth is one of those groups that I have known has existed forever… but never really watched much of.  I was not a Halo player, but I do admit to watching quite a bit of the first few seasons of Red vs Blue.  Similarly RWBY is one of those products that I have known was available, but for whatever reason never actually watched.  There was a certain bit of fitting tribute the other day that I started watching the show, on the Anniversary of its creator Monty Oum’s death.  Over the course of several hours of watching I went from knowing absolutely nothing about this show, to becoming a huge fan.  I had always heard it described as “An American Anime” but didn’t really know what to expect from that.  I mean Avatar: The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra are pretty much what I think of when I think of American Anime.  I love both of those shows and a lot of other continuous narrative cartoons like Steven Universe, Adventure Time, and Bravest Warriors.  So as to why I never started this one in particular, is as big of a guess as any.

I guess what I like about it so much right now is that it has pretty much everything I loved about Bleach, without all of the stuff I didn’t love about it.  What attracted me to Bleach was this premise that created a universe full of really interesting characters.  Sure while Ichigo is the “main character” there are a bunch of other extremely interesting good guys and bad guys that make up the tapestry.  RWBY does this through the creation of teams that fight together, and can either be positive or negative influences on the story setting.  Also there are shades of post apocalyptic, in that the characters exist in this world that is being plagued by a bunch of supernatural creatures known as the Grimm.  The only way mankind has managed to survive is by harnessing the power of dust, refined elemental essence to power up their abilities and be able to fight back.  The show itself takes place in a sort of Hogwarts for demon hunters, a school known as Beacon that trains individuals to become either Huntsmen or Huntresses.  So all of those elements like Bleach and Naruto are there, to keep churning out interesting people to encounter in the world.

What makes the show better for me… is the fact that thus far at least over the course of the three seasons I chain watched… there isn’t a lot of repetition.  The frustration with Bleach is when you have the realization that every single season is the same.  Ichigo gets his ass kicked by some new bad guy > Ichigo trains to unlock some previously undiscovered ability > Ichigo wins… but just barely… but still enough to save his friends.  While RWBY borrows heavily from Anime tropes, the way it puts things together feels more fresh to me… because it is based in a culture I already understand.  The problem with Anime in general is that there are so many cultural experiences that I lack, and I simply cannot understand without having to research why the hell “this thing” was funny or important.  When I watch most Anime, there are certain points where I feel I need footnotes to understand the subtle nuance of what is happening.  RWBY however makes sense out of the box, with nothing lost in translation… because it quite truly IS “American Anime”.  So I have to say… I am now hooked and will join the folks waiting every week for the next show to release.  I’ve even gone so far as to hook others on the show, which I guess is the truest sign of enjoyment.

Heroes Reborn

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When I am sick I seem to ratchet down my game playing and increase my television watching.  So over the last few days I have been hunting for things to watch, and over the last two nights have picked back up on Heroes Reborn.  I started the first episode of the show some time ago, but it either failed to grab me… or I got distracted.  I’ve now chain watched my way through the entire first season and I have to say… I really enjoyed it.  Heroes is one of those shows that I have both extremely fond and extremely negative memories of.  The first season was among the best single television seasons I have seen…  and then that second season…. I would probably rank among the worst.  The third season came along and fixed some of the problems with season two… but by that time the audience was gone and the show was doomed.  I don’t think I actually watched any of that fourth season… which honestly after watching Heroes Reborn, makes me want to go back and chain through the originals again.

Reborn is the perfect example of a show that stands on the shoulders of the original, but doesn’t actually require you to have watched any of it.  Sure there are plot points that you will get earlier if you know who certain characters are from the original, but you learn soon enough what powers they have.  The entire show takes place in a very “Days of Future Past” storyline, where the heroes… now called Evos are being forced to register their powers.  There is very much a “humans” vs “evos” undercurrent that runs through the show, along with the expected “no evos allowed” signs.  What makes this season work however is the same thing that makes me question if they are setting themselves up for a crappy second season again.  Much like the “Save the Cheerleader, Save the World” plot of the first season of the original, there is a clear narrative path that ends up being concluded in a massive event.  The problem is… I am not really sure how they top this.  I mean you can only quite literally save all of humanity so many times during a television show.  All of this said… I really enjoyed myself and I guess I am along for the ride when the second season releases.

 

 

 

Pax Pox

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The Convention Crud

So this weekend obviously was Pax South, and I am not sure how you could read my blog and not know this… but whatever.  It went pretty well overall, but on the drive home Sunday my throat kept getting more and more sore.  At first I was thinking that maybe I was getting closer to Oklahoma, and as a result my allergies were just going haywire.  The entire time I was in the San Antonio area, I honestly did not have much issue with my allergies.  It was just like they magically went away, so in theory driving back home…  could feel like I was coming down with something.  However yesterday I heard from Damai that he too is in the sore throat phase, so I am guessing we quite literally did walk away with whatever crap happened to be going around down south.  PAX is this universal incubator for illness, and last year I somehow escaped catching whatever Ashgar and Rae ended up bringing home.  This year however I was not quite so lucky, and in spite of using the hand sanitizer every single time I passed one…  I still caught something.

I’ve been in hibernation pretty much the last two days.  Originally I had requested off both Monday and Tuesday to recover, but had not planned on actually taking Tuesday.  However it seems like I apparently was clairvoyant in knowing that I would need that extra day.  This morning… I still feel like crap, but my fever broke sometime between going to bed Monday night and getting up Tuesday morning.  My lungs are getting consistently clearer, and my throat while feeling sore still is getting consistently less sore as time goes on.  While it felt flu-like at first, I am guessing it is just a run of the mill virus or cold, because I seem to be getting over it pretty quickly.  The irony is… that I completely resisted catching whatever my wife had prior to the convention… but I am guessing that probably taxed my immune system to the point of catching something while there.  In any case I think I am more or less on the mend, but going out and grabbing some groceries last night left me completely exhausted, so I can only imagine what state I might be in tonight when I finally get home.

Lady Monk

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The great irony of a gaming convention is the fact that during those few days… I end up playing far fewer games than I usually do.  The other strange side effect has been, that now that I am back at home…. I am not quite sure what to play.  As a result I have been poking my head into Diablo 3, even though I have seemed to lack much purpose.  Monday night I spent a good chunk of it running around with Grace and completing various stuff like greater rifts.  Then when she logged to go take care of something, I ended up starting a brand new character.  I realize that I could have probably gotten one of my friends to boost it to 70 within a few minutes… but instead I have been leveling a monk through doing bounties.  The funny thing about this is that with all of my paragon levels, Master is the new Normal.  I could probably ratchet up my difficulty some more, but I like how fast everything seems to be going right now.  I’ve needed to run bounties for a bit, and doing so on a fresh character feels like I am gaining more than doing it on my crusader.

The truth is, I’ve never managed to get a monk to 70.  My original non-seasonal one is 68 and I realize that I could very easily push it over the line.  The problem being that I just haven’t had any desire to play non-seasonal characters.  I have been in this mindset that “seasonal” are the “real” characters… and that the normal characters are almost like playing on some test server somewhere.  I realize that it is backwards from the truth, but I have shifted to this point of view as looking at the season as the only thing that really matters.  As a result I just can’t seem to bring myself to play any characters that aren’t in the current season, which I guess works out nicely since that seems to be what most people are playing.  The only thing that worries me is how I am going to function when I need to merge this season into my existing already overloaded bank.  At some point I need to spend some time eating some legendaries and unlocking abilities, because half of the junk that is clogging my non-seasonal vault is never actually going to get used.  In any case as of last night I hit level 43 , and I plan on working it up some more tonight.  I should be able to hit 70 in no time as I am gaining at least one level per bounty step on average.

 

The Division Impressions

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Black Friday Ends in Tears

I have to say I was pretty sad when I found out that The Division beta would be going on the same weekend I would be in San Antonio at Pax South.  So when I heard that they planned on extending the deadlines, I have to say I was pretty pumped.  The Division is one of those games that has looked good on paper up, but I have been really questioning as to whether or not I will like it.  Call of Duty for example, is one of those series that I enjoyed when it first came out, but as it has evolved I have become less and less interested in the continued military operator fantasy.  I think a lot of it has come from the fact that every game seems to use exactly the same guns.  I mean I get why this is the case, since these guns are real world guns… that they are just trying to replicate in a game.  So when I started thinking about The Division versus Destiny…. I have to say I lean heavily towards crazy space guns over things that can actually exist in the world I happen to live in.  However I am also a huge fan of post apocalyptic settings…. and The Division seems like it might deliver on a near future version of that.  So to say I was fraught is an understatement, then over the weekend I ended up talking with a couple that told me who much they liked it, coming from a heavy Destiny background.  So when I got home Sunday night, I went upstairs started the hefty download.

Glad to see Television Still Works
Glad to see Television Still Works

So when I got up yesterday morning I finally got the chance to play the game.  I really was not sure what to expect, and I guess in all of the screenshots and video I had not really gotten it through my head that it was a third person shooter.  This has honestly been the biggest challenge for me when playing Warframe recently, because I am generally bad at playing a shooter from a third person perspective.  Third person definitely makes things easier to move around, but when it comes to aiming a gun…. I just find it awkward.  The fact that this is a game that relies heavily on ducking behind the next patch of cover, it almost HAS to be third person to make that work.  In many ways it reminds me of Gears of War, in that you are constantly rolling forward trying to move up on mobs while at the same time staying in safety.  The problem with that is… I am just not that kind of a player.  I tend to be very run and gun… and sure I use the hell out of cover but I am constantly zipping in and out of it.  This game feels more like a tactical RPG at times than it does a pure shooter, and I am not quite sure how I feel about that.  You have to understand… that I have never played any of the other Tom Clancy branded games, because that player fantasy never really appealed to me.  The fact that this game is an MMO Shooter of sorts… is really the part that places it in my wheelhouse rather than the content matter.

The Systems

Amazing Mapping System
Amazing Mapping System

The thing that I really want to talk about is just how damned good this games mapping system is.  When you pull it up it brings up a holographic representation of the area you are in, and it has various objectives marked.  You can go talk to an NPC inside each of the bases that gives you a situation report on the area, and as a result creates these little highlighted markers.  As you are running through the world, you can see every single blip on the map… but you get special visualization for whichever objective you happen to have highlighted.  In the various screenshots I am posting today, there will be these orange lines running down the street, and these serve to show you the best route to the location you are trying to reach.  This makes movement through the very dense sections of New York city pretty manageable.  What it does not take into account is that in many cases you can actually cut through buildings to get to your destiny and in doing so find all sorts of hidden resources.  As you are roaming around there are lots of caches that you can find, and these have everything from resources to weapons, and it feels like looting structures in a zombie survival game.  I am still not 100% certain what some of the resources are used for, but the obsessive side of me cannot leave a single bag sitting un-looted.

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Ramshackle Bases

The gameplay for the most part resolves around expanding your reach and setting up these bases of operation in new areas.  At first you start out on the banks of the Hudson River, and you push into the city with the first mission based around driving away the hostiles and reclaiming a base.  From there you start retrieving people from the impromptu medical center set up in Madison Square garden.  So you rescue a virologist to take back to your base, and then that launches a sequence of quests that involve collecting additional resources to help set up your medical facilities.  The problem is for me at least that I cannot seem to stay on track, and that even though I have a giant orange line leading me to the objective…. I keep ending up going off the rails and looting every building that I happen to come across.  The other issue that I am having is that I struggle how to identify who is just a harmless bum roaming down the street…. and who is someone that will actually kill me.  I ended up wandering down this alleyway, without much options for cover… and next thing I know a patch of what I think are harmless survivors… ended up opening fire on me.  In the middle of the batch was apparently a major boss that straight up killed me.  So while the mapping system is amazing, the threat assessment portion seems to be kinda confusing at least for me… since everyone including me… dresses like they just came from a shelter.

Still on the Fence

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Right now I am not sure if I am on board or not.  I played enough to decide that I mostly liked it…  but I still struggle with whole third person thing.  The big boss fights are pretty hectic, but I have learned that for the most part… I simply need to find a hidey hole and kill mobs until the boss finally comes to me.  It isn’t nearly as heroic as rushing in and dodging bullets…. but it seems to be more consistent than trying to run around and stay alive at the same time.  The other big take away…. is that gear is really damned expensive.  I am used to being able to buy upgrades pretty quickly in games… but I have sold a lot of random crap that I have found out in the world, but have been able to afford absolutely nothing.  One of the things that I love about Destiny is that I am constantly getting new weapons to play with… and if this game ends up keeping the same set of weapons around too long I am going to get bored.  What makes MMOs interesting for me… is the whole aspect of constantly upgrading gear.  I have learned over the years that characters get stale for me, when I stop getting upgrades.  So while I am getting drops that are upgrades are mostly armor, but I have yet to get a single interesting weapon drop.  So I think in the long run that might be an issue if the beta test is relevant to how the rest of the game is going to feel.  The other big problem for me is that I have a feeling that if folks get this…. we are going to be spread out between PC, PS4 and Xbox One… and I am certain that there will not be cross platform play.  Right now I am leaning towards the PS4 version… but I have a feeling that most of the AggroChat folks if they got this… would be playing it on the PC.  So now I just have to decide…. do I pick this up or do I wait, and while making this decision I should probably see how nice the pre-order bonuses are.