Bunny Returns

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Samurai For Hire

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Another happening over the weekend is that I appear to have fallen back into the habit of logging into Final Fantasy XIV on a regular basis.  It had been roughly six months since I was last regularly playing the game, and in that time I went from being just about as well geared as you could be… to being woefully and insanely behind the curve.  So much so that the gear coming out of the expert roulette is often times an upgrade over the piece I was wearing.  The positive however is that the game does a pretty damned good job of helping you catch up, and I now have a huge amount of content I could be running.  I’ve been trying to do an expert a day to get back into the swing of things, but I still greatly prefer to wait and do said expert with friends.  The other interesting sequence events is something that I talked about on the AggroChat podcast this weekend.  Not long ago I had returned to World of Warcraft and was attempting to be part of a raid group run by some friends of mine.  So much so that I even managed to recruit a bunch of other friends who were not actively raiding.  All of this sounded amazing on paper, until we actually sat down and started raiding.  From the first outing… I kept wondering what I was doing wrong because it just didn’t feel all that fun.

What was happening was this was my first time tanking in Warlords of Draenor other than a times where I had to fill in without notice.  It just didn’t feel the way I remembered tanking in World of Warcraft to feel.  Even more so I had started wondering if I just wasn’t really a tank at heart anymore.  I spent the majority of Warlords as a DPS, and I really enjoyed doing that…  even though I never really hard the drive to put up big numbers.  In fact while we were raiding Blackhand, I even went so far as to uninstall my DPS meters because I didn’t want to be bothered with the guilt of not topping the meters.  Ironically not having meters made my performance go up significantly.  All of this said I started to wonder if I just was not a tank main at heart anymore.  I developed this mental block against tanking, and started looking for ways to avoid it.  Then last Tuesday I participated in the Pony farm night, and the only gear set I was certain of happened to be my tank set.  My hope was that muscle memory would take over and it did… and ultimately I had a blast tanking again.

The Feel Matters

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The reality is that I still very much like tanking… its just that I don’t enjoy taking in World of Warcraft.  In part I think it is because I have gotten used to a game where the fights are messaged extremely clearly.  In Final Fantasy XIV there is never a question of “did I move far enough out” of this or that effect because there is a clear line on the ground showing you the effected radius.  In World of Warcraft there is never really this line because the areas of effect generally extend out quite a bit further than the graphic being drawn, meaning that as a tank you are constantly second guessing.  WoW also still feels very “mash a bunch of buttons and pray” at least while playing a Warrior, whereas FFXIV feels more deliberate and purposeful.  Maybe its just that I fell into bad habits over the years, and cannot seem to break myself of them.  Whatever the case I have been having a blast tanking in FFXIV and am thinking that while I will probably level tanks in WoW… I won’t return to actively filling that roll in group content anytime soon.  It just doesn’t feel right anymore, however if you need an Expert tank in FFXIV I am your man!

Also as you can see from the above image… I have started down the path of madness that is the relic 2.0 weapon… or 3.0 depending on how you want to count it.  As a result I spent a good deal of my weekend running FATEs and have suddenly remembered…. that I actually LOVE doing FATEs.  I checked and I am actually dangerously close to the 3000 FATEs achievement, which should tell you something.  This step in the weapon is reminiscent of the Atma step in the previous weapon, but it feels a lot less egregious.  You need to get three of each elemental drop… however the drop rate of each individual crystal seems significantly higher than Atmas.  At this point I have 3 earth, 3 ice, and 1 fire…  and have been spending time out in Churning Mists as of last night not having any luck getting a single one yet.  I did however decide this was a perfect opportunity to do something I had been considering for a long while.  As of last night I am not longer an Immortal Flame but now a proud member of the Maelstrom.  I’ve made decent progress already in pushing up my rank and I believe I am currently sitting at the 5000 seal step.  However doing doing these FATEs for the weapon the grand company seals seem to be coming insanely fast.  Hopefully before long I will be sitting at max rank yet again.  The only negative is… all of that awesome Immortal Flames gear is now essentially dead to my alts… until I repurchase the Maelstrom equivalents.

Questionable Tolerances

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Incomplete Saturday

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Morning Folks… it’s been a bit since we talked.  Well in truth its been two days… but it feels like it has been much longer.  Now is the time for me to see if I remember how to write a blog post.  In truth this was an odd weekend for me, and in ways that I didn’t quite expect.  For three plus years now my mornings have centered around writing a blog post.  So when I suddenly removed it from the equation…  the morning felt somehow without meaning.  What I mean by that is all of Saturday it felt like something was missing, and in a way that I find it hard to articulate.  You know that feeling in the back of your head when you know that you forgot something… but can’t quite figure it out.  It was something along those lines, with the key difference being I knew precisely what was different.  However I survived and managed not to write a single word… though I did find myself significantly more active on twitter, slack and discord than I normally am on the weekends.  I guess if I am not dumping out things in long post form, they ultimately make their way out regardless into tweets and such?

Sunday however was delightful, and I felt zero remorse for not making a blog post.  I think a huge part of this comes from the fact that I already scurry around like mad on Sunday mornings making sure that everything is done for the latest AggroChat episode.  After waging that battle I found myself struggling to try and find the desire to write a blog post.  Honestly had I done nothing but cut out Sundays… I think in the grand scheme of things my quality of life would have improved massively.  As far as the streak… it is not good and broken and I no longer have it looming over my head.  That said…  I do feel a minor bit of lament over having done it.  Once a streak is over… it is over.  Now I could start anew and begin working to beat three years… but I doubt that is going to happen.  I also doubt that I am going to permanently take off weekends from this point on.  In the back of my head how, weekends are optional time… and if I happen to have a post I want to make awesome, but I won’t necessarily feel pressured either way.

Table Saga

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One of the constant topics of discussion for the last few weeks has been the backyard and whether or not we wanted to replace the table and chairs we had back there.  I know it is heady stuff and of extreme interest to you all.  The set that we currently have was handed down to us by some of our neighbors and while perfectly cromulent…  it is not exactly the easiest thing to sit at for long periods of time.  At the beginning of the season we picked up a set of Adirondack chairs that sit up straight rather than being permanently stuck in an awkward partially reclining position.  The idea was that we would get some sort of new table to go with these chairs that would work at their height level.  Further idea being that we could eat at the table or at the very least comfortably use a laptop or something while hanging out in the backyard.  Something you should know at this point is that we do the majority of our grocery shopping at ALDI these days.  Another thing you should know is that ALDI has some truly bizarre shit at times… not the least of which last week was a garden table that fit pretty much the dimensions we were looking for.  Even better is that it was just shy of $50, which moved it into serious contention.

With our neighbors out of town this weekend, we borrowed their pickup truck and used it to go pick up a table and haul it back home.  There was of course going to be “some assembly required” but after having seen IKEA directions we figured “how bad could it be”?  Now I love ALDI, but apparently there are some minor issues with construction tolerances when you are only paying $50 for a large garden table.  The first challenge was the fact that some of the screws seemed too large for the holes that they were supposed to go into.  The end result involved me essentially using the screw and truly silly amounts of torque to try and “drill” the hole larger with little metal shavings coming off of the metal piece I was screwing into.  I had to torque hard enough that apparently I ripped a chunk out of my finger in the process and had to take a quick break to apply a band-aid to stop said bleeding.  That hurdle solved we moved onto the problem of one of the six holes that the metal braces went into was not lining up… and not even vaguely close.  The end result there was to use a screwdriver to sort of bend the holes until we managed to get them to line up enough to slide the bolt through.  The resulting table seems nice and sturdy but what we originally thought was going to be fifteen minutes of our time… wound up taking close to two hours.

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Another quick note… the photos attached to this post were taken while sitting on the back patio and watching birds come visit the bush across from where we sit.  This whole bird watching thing has turned into a bit of a thing for me while we are back there.  I don’t really know what any of the birds are other than the obvious Bluejay, Cardinal or Robin.  They are adorable however as they hop around the branches looking for nom noms.  They can completely decimate a full feeder worth of bird seed in no time flat, and as a result I have started limiting myself to feeding every other day.  When I do this they tend to do a pretty damned good job of cleaning up anything that happened to fall on the ground between feedings.  The other interesting thing that I have learned is that sunflower seed hulls break down into compost extremely quickly for some reason.  I realize this is not exactly the most exciting post to make as my return from the weekend break, but screw it… its my blog and my birbs!

Combo Breaker

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Ending the Streak

The other day I talked about how the three plus year streak has been looming over my head like this impassable object.  After long thought I’ve decided that the sooner I break it the better, and as a result I will not be making posts this weekend.  I mean that is in part a lie since I will be posting over on AggroChat Sunday morning in the form of our weekly episode.  However tomorrow morning I am going to chill out, and eat my breakfast in peace with zero thought of what the hell I am going to post that morning.  That is at least the theory… I have a feeling that in practice it is going to be a lot harder to NOT post than it is to post.  The end goal is basically to reach a point where I am posting a new post every workday morning, so I can continue the routine of drink coffee and write about stuff.  That means weekends and holidays I get to myself, or more than likely it just means I start gaming a little earlier on those days.  My hope is that some time off is actually going to present topics that I want to talk about, rather than trying to wrack my brain for a new post.

I have to tell you I am a little nervous about this “new experiment” following up the previous “grand experiment”.  It makes solid sense to just post week days since those are the days that folks generally read on.  However at this point I am just used to the comfortable routine.  So in theory the next time you will hear from me is Monday morning.  As far as my weekend plans…  I think I have a pretty chill one ahead of me.  Tonight may or may not be a thoroughly awkward family dinner, largely because I have not decided if I am actually going or not.  We just had one of these a few weeks back, but there is a family member in town that folks have not seen in some cases years…  so folks are pulling together an impromptu dinner.  Past that I am hoping the report of non-stop rain is exaggerated and I get to spend a little time out on the back porch.  I have bubbles that need blowing.  Last weekend I went to a birthday/adoption party and they had bubbles for the kids…  and it made me remember just how damned much I love blowing bubbles.  So I bought myself a small bottle of the soapy mess for hanging out on the back porch.  Viva adulthood and the ability to buy your own damned toys!

Light Level Cap

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It has been a little over a month since I last set foot in the Kings Fall raid, or at least it seems like it.  There was a bit of a change around that ended up with Squirrel trying to start an earlier raid team beginning at 8 pm which is more sane and rational for those of us who get up at 5 in the morning for work.  However that never really took off in the fashion that we had hoped, and it also lead for the official “rookie” raid night to get moved to Wednesdays.  As a result of this switcheroo I simply didn’t raid for several weeks, and this week was my first time signing up again largely on the promise of a “guaranteed” 335 artifact from the War Priest Challenge Mode.  Unfortunately that Guarantee like oh so many things in Destiny, was not really set in stone and I wound up getting yet another damned 334 item.  I did however have a lot of fun running the raid, and after some time away from it all of the jumping puzzles that stress me out so much didn’t seem quite so bad.  I even managed to run the orb on sisters without screwing up too badly.

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Last night Squirrel, Jex and I had what has become somewhat of a tradition… a night of Challenge of Elders and whatever the hell else any of us happened to need.  So on paper this should have been one of the easiest weeks, with precision shot bonus experience.  However in many cases we struggled to survive and I think it was largely the inclusion of “fresh troops” into the mix.  I died so damned many times last night, and we were just shy of being able to get to the 90,000 bonus in two rounds.  I would have felt bad about my performance were it not for the fact that both Jex and Squirrel died quite a bit as well.  The frustrating thing about CoE is it has become one of those “unskippable” activities each week because it is one of the few reliable means of getting 335 loot.  I say that… however almost every single item I got this week was a damned 334, which is completely maddening.  There seems to be some bug that hits where instead of giving you upgrades it starts giving you side grades.  That said I did manage to get a Titan Mark as end of match loot, and then after CoE we went to the Dreadnaught for some Court of Oryx.  After summing three Tier 3 events… the final one dropped my 335 Artifact taking me to the current light level cap.  This is extremely exciting for me, because this represents the first time in my history playing this game that I have EVER been capped on light.  Special thanks to Squirrel, Jex, Wet and the entire Axioma Clan for helping me get here.

Digital or Physical

Fun with Polls

A few days ago I posted a poll on my twitter feed asking a simple question about my followers gaming habits.  In the end 88 folks responded to the poll which is honestly more than I thought there would be… but far less than needed to really make it scientific and such.  Essentially I was thinking about how I have shifted from only purchasing games in physical retail stores… to almost never doing so.  In fact not counting the land-run for copies of Wildstar to redeem for bonus loot, the last game I likely purchased in a store was TERA back in January of 2011 (yes I had to look up the release date).  Even then the only reason why I purchased a physical copy was that it was not available through any of the online retailers I trusted, and I didn’t realize it was a game I would be interested in playing.  This was another case where I was following the great internet zeitgeist and getting in on the rush of yet another game…  that I would ultimately walk away from quickly.  This is also the last game other than the Wildstar land-run that I purchased from a GameStop… but that is an entirely different thing for a different day.

For Those Who Can’t See the Embedded Tweet

  • 65% – Mostly Digital
  • 16% – Mostly Physical
  • 19% – Fairly Equal Mix of Both

There are so many times that in my mind I think I represent the new normal, when in truth I am probably an outlier.  So with digital purchases I wanted to take the temperature of my gamer friends about the subject.  As it turns out I am in fact in the majority with 65% of you stating that you mostly purchase digital games.  Now the weirdity with twitter polls is that if you are using a third party client, you don’t actually see them.  As a result I had a large number of people comment directly but in those cases I am uncertain if they are also represented by a vote.  As a result I am only going to be looking at the poll numbers for percentages, but using the folks that responded to indicate trends.  Here are a few of the interesting trends that emerged.

Import Troubles

There were a few people that indicated that they purchase almost 100% digital other than when they are importing a game from another region.  This makes complete sense as the payment methods that are widely available in English speaking regions, are totally not the case in other regions.  Then there are problems for example with South Korean games where you have to have some sort of national id to be able to purchase the game in the first place.  I know from past experiences trying to play Phantasy Star Online that figuring out how to pay for a Japanese game can be maddening and there are entire guides out there that are the equivalent of showing a screenshot and showing where to click to get through the sequence of screens to make a payment.  Especially now that Amazon allows folks to order from the .JP website with non-Japanese payment methods, sometimes just buying that physical copy can skirt a whole slew of frustration.

Console VS PC Divide

Another group of folks commented that they are 100% digital on the PC, but almost exclusively purchase physical copies for their consoles.  This again makes sense, because digital purchases on consoles are often times more expensive than purchasing through a retailer that is offering a discount to get your business.  There is also the case that consoles have a finite amount of storage space.  I know personally I have gone through the trouble of upgrading the hard drive in my PS3, PS4, and Xbox 360 to keep from running into the wall where I am constantly having to uninstall one thing to be able to play the next.  However in this case I know I am very much not in the majority.  Even with my Wii U I have an external hard drive connected so I simply won’t have to worry about storage space.  Buying that physical copy for the most part lets you insert disc and play… even though there is a modern trend of having to wait for a lengthy install process before playing it.  Also having that physical copy allows you to trade it off after you are done with it… which is apparently a much wider practice than I would have thought.  I tend to hold onto a game forever even in a case when it was a bit of a bomb.

Physical Exclusives

Another case that came up several times is that I had a group of folks that indicated that they buy digital unless there is a physical collectors edition… and then they go with the cool boxed edition.  I think this is a combination of a bunch of things, not the least being that the physical collectors editions have statues and mock-ups of in game items that you can’t get in any other form.  Then there is also the cool factor of seeing a wall of games.  I used to have a dedicated gaming space and a huge bookcase full of games similar to the one you see behind Jasyla in most of her videos.  Then problem being after several decades you end up with so much clutter that something in me snapped and just started giving it all away.  I mean that said I have a closet packed to the brim with older console stuff, but I’ve only started holding onto the things that were particularly rare.  It can be amazingly cool however to gaze upon your collection of rare physical collectors editions of games, so I absolutely see the appeal.

Concerns about Long-term Play-ability

This one came up a few times and I was not honestly expecting it.  There is a concern that while the console might work for decades… the game companies and the digital delivery methods might be long gone.  As a result we would be unable to play digital games.  This one also makes quite a bit of sense as I have lived through both the downfall of game consoles…  as well as the downfall of digital stores.  While the Dreamcast went the way of the dodo, I can still freely play the games that I have on their goofy gigabit pseudo dvd system.  Similarly I can talk about the disappearance of the Games with Windows store that Microsoft ran…  however in that case I think they simply rolled those purchases over to the Xbox store.  There is a certain amount of liability for digital purchases, so long as the main game company is in business.  This is the reason why you still see PSP titles available through the PSN store… even though that platform has long been shuttered.  I guess my line of thought has long been that if Sony and Microsoft are gone… there are going to be wider problems with their consoles given the amount of connectivity that is interwoven.   I know when my internet went out a few weeks back, it was kinda hell to find a game on the PS4 that I could play without it needing to “dial home” for something.  All of that said… I absolutely get this concern because the only way I can play Hellgate London is because I held onto my physical copy.

Wrapping Up

I really appreciated the wide number of responses that I got from folks on this question.  Actually it turned out pretty cool, and I have considered doing something like this again in the future.  I liked seeing all of the different points of view in a question I had thought about quite a bit myself… but one that wasn’t necessarily a hot button topic.  The other big scenario that I purchase physical copies of games… are when I happen to find a deal that is too insanely good to pass up.  Even then I take that serial number… and input it into steam because the last thing that I want to do is remember where the hell my physical copy is.  I love being able to have a console or a gaming machine loaded full of options, and be able to keep them “on tap” as it were.  I guess for me that was always my dream of having some sort of a gaming system where I could simply hit play and select one of any of the games I owned.  There was a period of time where I had sixteen consoles hooked up in my loft, but the complicated system of “A/B” switches that were required to make that work is maddening.  I love that I can just flip on my PS4 or Wii U pick a game and go, and this is also a big reason why I have zero qualms about repurchasing a game on a newer system.  In the end we all have different habits and different norms, and I thought it was awesome just how free you all were with your thoughts.

Musical Steeds

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Muscle Memory

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The tale of our run in Final Fantasy XIV has been interesting, namely we played for roughly two years straight… and then after the launch of Heavensward that original group more or less faded away from the game.  When we played the game at launch, I was towards the end of the pack when it came to leaving, and this time it seems like I was among the first.  I had split priorities when it came to FFXIV and WoW raiding… and to be truthful I was burning out intensely in both.  I last played regularly in December of 2015, and for whatever reason I’ve just not had much drive to dip my toes back in.  As additional story content was released, I made a college try to come back and consume it.  Unfortunately however I never actually made it all of the way through the 3.2 content.  As a result I admit I had more than a little trepidation upon returning, because I wondered how much skill I would have lost.  It turns out “muscle memory” is ungodly strong, and for the most part I was able to sit down and begin rotating through abilities and hitting hotkeys by reflex.

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What also helped however was the content we were doing.  Now our raid group met on Tuesday nights for two years, and it seems as though the current batch of Greysky folks have kept up that tradition.  This time instead however it has been turned in to a pony farm night.  Now back when we were doing the Extreme Primals legitimately, I had managed to get the whistle for the Leviathan pony, and counted myself damned lucky.  In the meantime however it appears that Square has increased the drop rate, and getting those musical horses seems to be a pretty regular occurrence.  What shocked me was just how quickly the boss fights came back, even in their currently abbreviated state.  For example I instinctively followed the normal tank queues for Titan… even though I initially stood on the wrong slice of cheese.  I was happy to know that I could in fact still apparently tank in this game, and I think I will feel significantly better actually doing some duty finder for gear currency.

A Good Night

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It felt really great to be back, and equally great to be playing Lala-Bel again.  There is just something about this character that makes me happy, and maybe some of the funk I have been in has been due to the fact that I haven’t been playing him lately.  After the raid my friends Tzi, Rylacus and Nyte helped run me through The Antitower, the first of the 3.2 dungeons.  I poked around a bit afterwards trying to figure out where all the other dungeon quests started, but sleep claimed me pretty quickly.  I know I will be doing Destiny raid tonight, but the hope is to return to FFXIV in the coming days.  I mean maybe the answer is to simply play all the things.  Right now I am getting enjoyment out of WoW and FFXIV again… so maybe the idea is to simply ration them both.  I know I have a lot of catching up to do in FFXIV so it serves as an excellent game to grind away while downstairs.  When I left in December I was one of the better geared characters in the Free Company… and now I am probably one of the worst geared.  I know this… because in running the Antitower I managed to pick up no less than two upgrades, which is generally a good sign that you are way behind the curve.

I managed to get the Garuda pony which was an easy drop since everyone else in the raid had one, and was quite literally just farming it to get me one.  Then I rolled on Nightmare that dropped from Titan, and managed to get the lucky roll.  The only thing there is… I guess I didn’t fully realize that this was a rare drop from any of the first three primals… even thought Ashgar said as much.  I didn’t quite grok it at the time, or I would have probably passed on the roll.  We did not however see any of the ACTUAL pony that is supposed to come from Titan.  We did however manage to get at least one person a Leviathan mount, and I believe one other mount…  but I am drawing a blank.  All in all it was a really fun night and I am going to try and juggle my schedule so I can start making this a weekly thing.  Hopefully I didn’t do anything that pissed anyone off too terribly.  I felt a little bad falling right back into my overbearing tank mode… but like I said I was largely relying on instincts to get through the evening and that comes with the tendency to pull.  Ashgar however pulled for me a few times expecting that I would provoke it back from him, and I did like a good lalatank.  It was kinda great getting to hang with Tzi and Rylacus again, even thought poor Tzi had no voice at all.  Maybe I am over my mental block against MMOs, or maybe I just happened to choose the right nights to play again.

Three of Coins Problem

The Ultra Knight

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Last night while making yet another trip to the Dreadnaught just to kill the Ultra Knight, I started thinking about what a glorious debacle the situation of exotic drop rates are in Destiny.  Don’t get me wrong, I love this game… and they have made so many great strides over the last year into truly making it an amazing place to be.  The problem is… they are seemingly inches away from landing on the target but nonetheless not quite there.  The problem currently centers around making doing content feel rewarding.  I completely blame the recent Iron Banner for giving me more hope than I probably should have had.  During that weekend I had a single activity that I wanted to be doing, as often as I could… and that was queuing for more Iron Banner.  During the weekend I managed to make it to Rank 5 on all three of my characters, and the primary motivation was the acquisition of loot.  Sitting in queue and playing a match felt like quite literally the best use of my time because I knew that every four or five matches I would be rewarded with some shiny bauble that either would replace my current item in that slot or serve as infusion fodder.

Once that weekend ended however it feels like I simply don’t have an activity like that that is equally rewarding.  There is of course Challenge of Elders, but the Challenge requires you to gather together a fireteam to really have a chance at completing it.  We have absolutely made a date on Thursday nights to try and get our various characters through CoE but the problem is… what do I do with the rest of my time in game.  I am largely a soloist, and it feels like I don’t have a similarly valuable activity that feels like I am spending my time wisely.  So as a result that activity ends up being heading to the Dreadnaught every 10-15 minutes to kill the Ultra Knight, so that I can consume yet another Three of Coins buff… and every fifth kill or so get an Exotic Engram, which may or may not decode to 335 light and help me push the goal forward.  In fact there are so many times that I will be playing another game like Diablo or last night World of Warcraft… where I take a break every 15 minutes or so and log into my PS4 via the Remote Play app with the sole purpose of rushing to the Ultra Knight and attempting to get that exotic engram.

 

Lies of Xur

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The problem is that this isn’t really an enjoyable feedback loop and feels like a hacked workaround to solve core problems in the actual gameplay.  In theory that default thing I could be doing with my time should be either the Crucible or Vanguard play lists.  Those are activities that need players doing them to keep the game thriving.  However instead of getting interesting things while doing these activities, it feels like they solely serve the purpose of being a vehicle for me to spend Three of Coins buffs.  Then there is the problem of strikes like Dust Palace and Omnigul not actually removing the buff and triggering the potential of an exotic drop.   Then there is also the problem of Xur, where he is supposed to be this trader that sometimes brings us amazing things.  However for most of us, Friday is simply the occasional that finally allows us to restock our Three of Coins and nothing he has to offer is actually interesting.  This is because it feels like if you are doing any activity in this game, and you don’t have the Three of Coins buff active, you are playing the game completely wrong.

There is a lot of talk about Bungie summoning the Diablo developers to talk about the lessons they learned with the “Loot 2.0” patch.  One of the key lessons seems to have been lost in translation.  Diablo currently has a Three of Coins like effect when it comes to Legendary drops, but the difference is… it is always active.  In theory if you are actively playing the game you should be seeing a Legendary drop at least every 10-15 minutes with the chance going up significantly based on the difficulty of the activity you are tackling.  This means that doing literally anything from killing a level 1 mob to killing a boss has a chance of summoning a Legendary drop.  This is how things should ultimately work inside of Destiny, because going out into the world and doing activities should feel like the most rewarding activity.  You remember every time you get a drop from a boss, but no one remembers that one time the Cryptarch happened to give them something interesting.  It feels like Destiny needs to reconsider the way loot works in the game, and make it so that Strikes, Crucible, Nightfall, Prison of Elders, and Raids are the default thing that players want to go and do, rather than simply finding any vehicle for flipping that Ultra kill switch.  I also think there should be that random snowballs chance in hell of quite literally ANY mob out in the world dropping a super rare Exotic Engram, or even one of the good Legendaries at a decent light level.  Bungie needs to drive players into the feedback loop of doing group activities, because the activities are fun but also the best possible way for them to get rewards.

 

Flowers for Garou

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More Flora

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It feels really strange to follow up yesterdays post.  Those were a bunch of things that I felt like I needed to get out there, and to be honest about the doubt that I had been struggling with.  As it stands right now I am for certain taking a break over Memorial Day weekend rather than either pre-writing posts or arranging for guest posts.  I am also contemplating starting to make weekends optional.  Sunday is really the day that becomes madness for me because I am also scurrying around that morning trying to wrap up the various stuff required for posting an episode of aggrochat.  As far as this weekend, it was honestly one without a ton of gaming.  Instead I spent a large amount of time hanging out in the backyard.  Scope creep is a term we use in development when a project has gone beyond its boundaries in the number of features the user is requesting.  Our backyard has long since entered scope creep territory and that’s okay.  The original goal was just to make it more livable, and this has involved a whole sequence of smaller steps leading up to where we are today.  Once again I took a panorama of the progress, and you can see the larger version here.

We have now kept the original batch of flowers alive and actually thriving for two weeks now… so of course we doubled down on the proposition.  We spent a bit of Saturday afternoon tracking down more of the shepherds hooks so that we could have matching ones to the ones we had picked up at ALDI a few weeks back.  The other night while walking with a friend, my wife saw a hanging basket at a near by pop up nursery that she really liked.  We also happened to have a coupon from that same pop-up that if we spent $20 we could get a free hanging basket, so the end result is us adopting the purple, yellow and white hanging baskets and adding them to my “flower babies” as I have taken to calling them.  The only big things left are to wait on the grass to finish filling in where the weed treatments left barren patches… and so far it has started.  Then there is of course the idea kicking around about replacing the table we have with something that sits a little lower to the ground and that we could use our pseudo-Adirondack chairs with.  Then I am contemplating getting another of the umbrellas we found on sale to go in a post on the far deck side of the pool to add a little shade there from within the pool.  Like I said…. scope creep abounds.

The most interesting piece of scope creep over the last week however is the fact that we have entered the realm of bird stewardship.  I’ve not been able to take a great shot of them but we have soooo many birds.  In the panoramic shot you can see on the right side that I have a feeder hanging in among the tree that is really an overgrown hedge.  I’ve begun feeding fairly regularly, a first a blend from the Audubon soceity and later a bulk blend we got from Sam’s that fairly closely matched the nutritional mix of the first one.  Sunday morning while watering the flowers I filled the feeder up to roughly the halfway mark because it was ultimately what was left in the 40 pound bag after dumping the rest into a tightly sealed container.  This was at roughly 9 am… by the time we were out in the yard after my wife got home from church around 11 am… the feeder was completely empty again.  There have been times I have counted a dozen tiny sparrows feeding at the same time, with a bunch of cardinals, bluejays, and various sundry other birds that I cannot yet identify roaming around.  We have a couple that look like doves of some sort, and another couple that look like pidgeons.  Basically the entire time we have lived here I have wanted birds to hang out in the backyard and in the evenings I have been able to watch the baby sparrows hop and play around on the deck.  Unfortunately they are all pretty skittish at the moment, except for the Robins… they seem more than happy to roam within close distance of us looking for worms.  In any case… this is the non-gaming activity that is taking up a good chunk of my time.  On the weekends and evenings we tend to eat outdoors hanging out in our rockers watching the flora and fauna.  Yup… I am officially old, but not minding a minute of it.

Surprising Whim

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Most of my weekend gaming was spent in Diablo 3, doing various things…  and largely without purpose.  I managed to get my stash tab on Friday, and from this point on everything else is gravy in Season 6.  For awhile now even before the season, Diablo was the game I played when I didn’t know what else to play… and I spent a huge chunk of the weekend not knowing what else to play.  Normally Destiny would fill this niche but I didn’t really want to hang out upstairs when the couch was so damned comfy.  During the weekend I found out that my good friends Chestnut and Chaide from Wildstar have decided to re-up World of Warcraft, and the glory that is our collective community managed to recruit them to hang out on Argent Dawn Alliance with us.  I ended up logging in to do some invites last night and wound up sticking around and playing my Druid.  There was a part of me that thought… wouldn’t it be glorious if I could somehow ride into Legion with a full army of level 100 characters.  The actual leveling game of World of Warcraft is something that I have enjoyed greatly… it is just the Garrison busywork that ends up getting me down and making me no longer want to play.

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So the idea is simple… if I can focus heavily on leveling and or gearing my characters I might be able to get back into the game for a bit.  While watching my Sunday night shows, I managed to push from 91 to 93 and make a big dent in Shadowmoon Valley.  Normally speaking I take this abbreviated path around Draenor, jumping each time a new zone opens up to me.  This time around however I think I am going to just focus on the questing, because that is the thing that seems to be able to hold my focus even when the rush to end game doesn’t.  I mean with this character I am not pushing to get anywhere, and Hellfire Citadel feels stifling at the moment so I am in no rush to get back there with LFR.  As it stands I have my Druid, Priest, Rogue, Mage, Warlock and Monk to level… and I am sure that this current burst of interest in World of Warcraft won’t probably sustain my way through all of them, but I might be able to at least springboard this into a renewed interest in MMOs as a whole.  The absolute hardest for me is going to be the Mage because… really I could care less about finger wigglers and the least is always the pure finger wigglers.  I can pretend the Discipline Priest is a cloth tank, and I can focus on the awesome demon pets on the Warlock.  However with that mage… all I am left with is the fact that I am slinging spells which never really feels amazing.  Anyways who knows how long I will be around for, but I enjoyed myself last night.

Cycles

Something in the Water

Yesterday the very amazing Aywren posted a bit on her blog to serve as a bit of inspiration and support for bloggers out there, and a bit of it was directed at me.  There is something going on and it is bigger than me or this blog, but seemingly effecting a lot of other bloggers out there.  Its like this growing dissatisfaction with whatever we have been doing, and trying to find a way to tweak and change it to make our lives better.  IronWeakness for example has been frustrated lately with the lack of attention to his family and faith, and as a result is quitting cold turkey.  Liore has reached a point where she just doesn’t really want to write about games because of a lot of reasons… not the least of which is how toxic gaming has become.  As far as me, I have written about my frustrating inability to get into MMOs lately.  I guess the thing is… this feels different from your average lack of creativity.  I can sit down at the keyboard and summon a post at will every single day and I have done so for the last three years.  More than anything I have started to question why and if I actually want to do it.

In part I have felt this massive amount of pressure to keep moving the ball forward.  It is like I have all of the plates spinning in the air and I am desperately trying to make sure that none of them stop and come crashing to the ground.  The past year has not been amazingly well for me when it came to gaming, and more importantly writing about gaming.  I made an attempt to do the whole writing for a paycheck thing when it came to MMOGames.com.  The problem is… turning it into a job… no matter how sporadic and supplemental it was… drained all of the fun out of the experience for me.  Similarly I used to love to write code on the weekends… until I became a programmer for a living…  and now the last thing I want to see once I exit work is code of any form.  This was only compounded by Blaugust which took a significant toll on me, and my ability to enjoy reading blog posts.  During that month, the insane number of people we had signed up… meant that every morning I was getting up and religiously checking this long list of post and tabulating data in a spreadsheet.  Nothing drains the fun out of anything like a spreadsheet.

Backing Away

So I have slowly backed away from MMOGames and the thought of taking any assignments there, thinking that distance would make the enjoyment come back.  I also took a long break from reading blogs, because I thought with time the desire to read them would come back.  In both cases things regenerated over time, but I feel like a part of me died in both cases that can never come back.  Right now I just feel somehow out of phase with the world.  There are days when I am mostly okay, and can hold normal conversations… but the rest of the time it feels like everything is washing over me in a manner that is just impossible to grasp.  There are so many times I contemplate interacting, but it is so damned hard to take that first step.  Most of the time I am this bundle of anxiety and awkwardness that I am trying desperately to make seem normal.  The worst is that I have turtled for a very long time… and what I mean by that is that I have this tendency to tuck my head into my shell and just stop interacting other than when forced to do so.  In part I think a lot of the games I have been playing like Diablo 3 or Destiny… I am doing so because I can play them in a completely solo way with brief intermissions of group activity.

I am not sure exactly when I stopped logging into voice chat on a nightly basis, but this has caused this wall of stress surrounding my interacting with the folks I podcast with each week.  I still love them and feel the same way about them… but I struggle to interact with them outside of our weekly recording session.  I can handle one or two people at a time… but the possibility of logging in to a whole room of people… no matter how familiar I am with them just makes me want to run screaming.  Always in the past I have come out of one of these periods within a month or so… but this one feels like it has lasted the better part of this year and might have started last year.  I know that I need to force myself to interact… but all I want to do is pull the covers over my head and forget the world exists.  It is really hard to be any form of myself when I am like this… because I am known as being this gregarious sort that is kind and happy to see new people.  There are just times when I can’t be that version of myself, and I am not sure how to knock myself free of this current slump.

Expectations

I guess I felt like I needed to be open about these struggles I am dealing with, because maybe it explains a bit why I am the way I am sometimes.  All of this is in part why I have seriously contemplated just hanging up my spurs and stopping the blog for awhile.  The truth is though… that I don’t really want to.  I’ve built this dialog between you the readers and myself… and I enjoy it.  I can rattle off a post and it is blissfully one sided.  Sure folks comment, but I can deal with responding to those as I am ready.  I don’t have to be prepared to have a bidirectional exchange immediately… I can sit down write what I feel like writing and then walk away feeling like I have gotten whatever it was out of my system.  The only problem there is this giant looming pressure that I need to post something every day.  I think the whole daily thing has been good for me as a whole, but now it just serves as this point of failure that is waiting to happen.  I know at some point I will not write a post, and the streak will be over… and it honestly scares me a little bit.  Part of me is wondering if I should just plan to have an outage and get it over with to remove a chunk of the pressure.

The truth is my readership on the weekend has always been limited, so I have been kicking around the notion of posting weekdays, but then making the weekends optional.  I know coming up for Memorial Day weekend I will be out of town… so that might be the moment I just let the ball drop.  My blog can survive without three days worth of posts, or at least I keep telling myself that.  Part of me is afraid that if I stop the pattern, I will fall back into my old habits of being the least reliable blogger out there.  I would love to be able to say that I would only blog when I have something really important to say… but then that barrier of what is important versus not important would throw me into paralysis.  As it stands… I think at the end of this month I will be taking a break, and hoping that this lull with no gaming and no blogging will help to repair whatever schism has formed inside of me.  I don’t really want to quit blogging, but I feel like I need to at least take a break, and a planned break is better than just getting up one day and being unable to do it anymore.  So anyways… that has been what is going around in my head and I hope now that I got it all out on paper… it makes a little more sense.

Thanks as always for being there and reading.

 

E1M1

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Doomed

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Awhile back I wrote about my feelings regarding the Doom multiplayer tests on both the PC and PS4.  It felt so much like they had missed the mark, and it seemed very much like someone trying to recreate the experience of the original Doom… without realizing that certain parts of that experience were due to a limit in the ability of the technology at the time.  The experience just was not fun, and that is the most scathing indictment you can honestly give any game.  So as a result I had for the most part decided to ignore that there was ever a Doom 4… or in this case a weird reboot.  Then yesterday I started seeing the first impressions of the single player campaign come in, and they were positive enough that I thought I would take a look for myself.  Even though at this point I have only really played an hour and a half of the game, I am glad I wound up grabbing it.  The impressions I had of the multiplayer were correct, in that this is an attempt to boil the game down to its original roots.  While this doesn’t really work for a multiplayer experience, it does work really well for single player.  The game functions in a way that you don’t really see games function in recent years, in that the game is not open world.  It is a series of closed loop levels that are designed to be approached as a single map.  The first one is quite literally E1M1 as the title of this blog post suggests, borrowing the same naming as the original Doom.  They are a closed puzzle that needs to be solved and involves opening a familiar series of Blue, Yellow and Red key card areas to progress through.

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The combat itself is also really interested and reminds me of the way these games used to play, where you would have a truly frenetic amount of enemies spawn in on you and have to deal with them rapidly.  However once you dealt with that room you were granted time to roam around the area freely before moving ahead and engaging the next set.  In many ways it reminds me of the way that the Painkiller games felt, where each room is this challenge to survive and then you restock your ammunition and health in an attempt to prepare for the next such room.  What helps make this manageable is the games “Glory Kill” system.  When mob is near death it will glow slightly and stagger around letting you know that you can sweep in and with the F key engage a sequence where you do an almost Mortal Kombat like fatality.  Sometimes you rip the head off of the monster, other times you rip the arm off and beat it with it.  Other than just being a carnal ballet, they serve the purpose of giving you life or ammunition back allowing you to keep up the killing streak a little longer.  I found it very needed for getting through some of the later rooms.  Often times the mobs will spawn in with such number that you have to keep running around the room to avoid getting wrecked.  The imps are also more frustrating than they have ever been with their ability to hang off the edge of things and gun you down with their fireballs.

Nothing Will Save You

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Unlike the original Doom, there is no “save game” that you can rely on.  Instead there are a sequence of Checkpoints that unlock as you go through the level.  When you die you either fall back to the last check point or restart the level in its entirety.  These checkpoints generally coincide with the various lulls in the action that I talked about.  The only frustrating thing is that they sometimes encompass several rooms worth of encounters.  I ultimately stopped last night playing because I died and rolled back to a check point a few rooms back… and simply didn’t have the strength to deal with the shit storm I had just waded though to get there.  Even on normal difficulty that game is really tough at times, and you find yourself having to keep glory killing just to maintain your health long enough to push through to the next room.  Ammunition also feels like a constant problem with both the 20 round shotgun and the 50 round or so Heavy Machinegun.  Similarly the Chainsaw this time around relies upon gas tanks that you find scattered throughout the levels.  What was surprising is just how fast you get into the action, similar to the original doom you are planted in a room with mobs that you have to chew your way through with only a pistol.  The secret areas that can be found feel every bit as meaningful as they used to in Doom, with them often granting access to a weapon before you would find it in the normal flow of the game.

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One of the more interesting aspects of the gameplay is the weapon modification system.  Each gun has an Unreal Tournament style alternate fire system but these are unlocked by finding weapon kiosks scattered through the levels.  Each mod package changes the way your right mouse button interacts, and once you have unlocked multiple modes you can change between them with your R key.  For example with the shotgun its two alternate fire modes allow you to choose from what is ultimately a grenade launcher and a three round burst that can both be accessed by holding the right button for a charged shot.  I personally tend to favor the grenade launcher because it allows me to bounce a grenade between several different mobs taking out the entire pack.  However for boss fights or tougher enemies I could see how the three round burst would be extremely beneficial.  The problem there however is that when you only have 20 rounds in the weapon, chewing those up 3 rounds at a time means you empty the gun quickly.  The big takeaway is that the game is very much a 90s shooter, with 90s shooter sensibilities…  remastered for the 1080p and beyond world.  Some of these work amazingly well in single player, but not in multiplayer.  However I might change my tune once I see how the snap map system works.  In any case I am definitely enjoying the single player campaign, and it has just enough story and intrigue to keep the game moving forward…. but not so much that you get bogged down in character development.  This is in no way the rich narrative environment that Doom 3 was for me at least, but it has enough atmosphere to keep my interested.  If you want a good shooter, give it a shot… but if you are looking for a deep storyline…  this is not the game for you.

Stolen Will

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Challenging Elders

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Over the last few weeks my friends Squirrel, Jex and myself have started what is turning out to be a little bit of a tradition.  Generally by the time Thursday night rolls around we have done Challenge of Elders on our mains, and since there is traditionally nothing going on Thursday night on the Axioma raid calendar we’ve opted to make it a sort of “Alt Challenge” night.  In the first week we managed to get two sets of alts nearly complete with the challenge.  This week however I had not actually run Challenge on Tuesday as is usually the case, and as a result I ended up running my Titan main with Squirrel and Jex alts.  That said we did extremely well and managed to get the requisite 90,000 cumulative score in only two matches.  The one thing I am certain of however is that I am sick of the melee objectives.  Last week the Challenge was Melee Bonus damage with Super bonus score, and this week it was Bonus Damage from Airborne kills and Bonus Score from Melee.  So basically for the last two weeks of Challenge of Elders we have been running around and punching mobs until they are dead.  Essentially it is time for something else, and I could definitely go for a modifier like secondary kills or something like that, but also have an increased ammo drop rate.  I could also go for another precision kill week with small arms, because it would allow me to farm all of the exotic weapons that I wish I had farmed the first time around.

After doing a round of Challenge of Elders, instead of starting another set of alts we opted to do the Nightfall which Bungie had the grace to give players something they had been wanting anyways.  For weeks since the launch of the April patch players have been figuring out ways to somehow farm the Taken variants of the Winter’s Run strike.  The reason is that this is the only place that will drop the Stolen Will “Taken” appearance shotgun.  Even folks in my own clan have sorted out all sorts of methods to try and dictate that you are getting this strike versus some other strike.  This is also what is causing the Heroic Strike playlist to be pure shit, given that very rarely is someone actually going to run a strike to completion that isn’t Winter’s Run.  By setting this up as the weekly Nightfall it is allowing all of the folks who are desperately farming for the shotgun to get it out of their system.  Sadly of the three of us… the one who seemed to want it the most was Jex…  however Squirrel and I both walked away with one.  Mine has usable stats so I am definitely keeping it… I think for Squirrel his is already infused into his 1000 Yard Stare.  As far as the loot haul for the evening… I got a 335 Lethe Noblesse that I have already infused into my Hakkon’s Hatchet because one… I don’t really like Scout Rifles and two…  the roll on the one I got was pretty crappy.  I ended up getting a 335 Cruirass of the Witness that is more than likely also going to serve as infusion fuel.  As far as the exciting bits… I picked up the 335 Stolen Will, 335 Exotic Lord of Wolves Shotgun, somewhere along the way a 335 Zhalo Supercell that will probably be infusion fodder…  and finally a modern light level version of the Helm of Saint-14 also at 335.  It was a really great night in both the hanging out and doing various stuff… and the walking away with lots of shiny baubles department.  At this point I just need a Titans Mark and a Titan Artifact to push me over the barrier and hit 335 light cap.

Agent Carter

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I just wanted to write a quick blurb about this to finish off this mornings post.  Yesterday afternoon it was officially announced that the ABC series Agent Carter had been cancelled and would not be brought back for Season 3.  This of course is causing a lot of frustration among the general geekdom community that I am plugged into.  I personally think it is a show because the bit of it I have watched… it was really good.  The problem with that statement however is the “bit of it I have watched”.  I am part of the problem.  This show is absolutely in my wheelhouse, but I am not watching it… because I am not watching Television.  I do however watch a lot of Television through streaming, and as a result I am completely not used to the concept of watching something on a specific schedule anymore.  As a result I am woefully behind in so many shows because I ultimately wait for them to show up on Hulu, Netflix or Amazon Prime.  I feel like Agent Carter is a victim of a disconnect between how Televisions really want us to watch, and how people are actually watching.  What I mean by that is that Agent Carter the only place I could find to stream Agent Carter was on Amazon… and by that I mean purchase each episode for $2.99 and that is not going to happen.  Hulu offered the show but in their ultra shitty 5 episode window, which means that if I for some reason get behind in a show… as was the case with this one… I can never actually catch up because those first episodes are gone to the sands of time.

So the truth is this is absolutely a show I would have watched, had they simply put it in the format I consume broadcast media.  The problem is much like was the case with the music industry…  Television is desperately clawing, kicking and screaming… trying to hold onto the power base that they built over the decades.  Shows like Agent Carter that resonate with the generation that has already moved past the “TV Guide” era are unfortunately going to be the casualty until they sort out how to make this function.  I feel some guilt here, because if folks like me were watching then maybe it would be getting that third season.  However I am just not willing to watch television on someone else’s schedule, and even the DVR concept seems foreign to me these days.  I don’t have the number of tuners to be able to record all of the shows I am vaguely interested in, and I certainly don’t have the hard drive space on said DVR to keep them until I am ready to watch them.  I am perfectly fine with watching commercials in my stream…  just let me stream it… and from the platforms we already use.  This is not permission for yet another proprietary video network that requires a login and a bunch of hoops to jump through.  Sit down and cut a deal with Hulu or Netflix… and get over this shit.  Unfortunately if networks don’t get with the program soon they are going to continue to watch their market share slip through their fingers as a generation finds other ways to entertain themselves.