DAW2016: Final Day

DAW2016_logo

Developer Appreciation Week is here!  For the uninitiated the concept of Developer Appreciation week dates back to 2010 and was started by Couture Gaming the Blogger formerly known as Scarybooster.  The idea was simple, spend a week talking about all of the things you love about various game development companies and studios.  As a blogger we spend plenty of time pointing out what is wrong in the games we love, and talking about ways that they could be better.  That said it is important to understand that for most of us this critique comes from being a huge fan of the games and genres as a whole.  So during this week we point out the things that are going right and make a point of mentioning all the things we really appreciate out there.  If you too are a blogger please feel free to join in by posting your own Developer Appreciation Week ideas.

The Roundup

Today draws to a close this years Developer Appreciation Week and there are always more things that need to be talked about than there was time to do so.  During the week I wrote about five different studios.  Some of them were pretty pointed discussions, and others were just nostalgic romps.  What is always left at the end of the week however are a bunch more than I COULD have talked about. So the purpose of today’s post is to recap where I have been this week and do a few shorter blurbs.  Here is the rundown of studios discussed this week.

Now here are some topics that ultimately got left on the cutting room floor for lack of time.

Bethesda Softworks / Zenimax Media

Ultimately had I not taken a break for a day this would have been the missing topic.  I have this huge love for Bethesda games in their own right, but over the years they also snatched up iD software and became a third party publisher for amazing studios like Arkane.  The root of my love however comes from the modern Fallout and Elder Scrolls Franchises.  These are games that I can lose myself in for hundreds of hours and still feel like I have not even begun to scratch the surface on what there is to see.  There are so many times in the past where I have lost entire weekends to exploring Tamriel or the burnt out husk of the Capitol Wasteland.  I will also always have a soft spot in my heart for Elder Scrolls Online, since it feels like I have a closer connection to that title than most.  It has made me pretty happy to see that the game is now thriving after a pretty rough start.

Larian Studios

I love this company, in spite of the fact that they have seemed horribly confused as to what sort of game company they actually wanted to be.  They have this world that is amazing, and each game they have released has told a piece of the story of its background.  The only confusing part is that each game for the most part has been in a vastly different genre.  You have Divine Divinity which was originally a Diablo style game… and then the follow up Divinity II which has a very Elder Scrolls/Dragon Age type feel to it.  Then there is Dragon Commander which is this strange 4X mixed with RTS elements.  Finally you have Divinity: Original Sin that feels like the game they always had been meaning to create.  The title is so insanely content dense that I have trouble actually making any progress because I keep finding something else that is interesting to check out.  In the very first town it felt like every single NPC had some interesting backstory to delve into.  I just love that a game company is out there trying to create all of these different game types, and for the most part succeeding at it.  I have thoroughly enjoyed every single Larian game that I have set my hands on, and look forward to playing more in the future.

Supergiant Games

This company makes some really amazingly detailed and well crafted games.  Bastion had so much going on, from the physical mechanics of gameplay… to the amazing running narration.  I was also a huge fan of the soundtrack and have spent many an hour with it running in the background.  When Transistor came out, I was shocked that I loved everything about that game even more.  We have devoted at least three podcasts where we have gushed about Transistor, and how well written the story was…  which combined amazingly with the soundtrack and gameplay.  Now Supergiant has a brand new game that they showed at Pax East called Pyre.  At first look it doesn’t exactly seem to be my sort of game, but I know from past experience that if they have crafted it…  then chances are I will ultimately love it too.  I am amazed how they can seem to do it every time… build this completely unique experience that I still love just as much as their others.

Gearbox

This company comes with some baggage.  I unequivocally love the Borderlands series of games.  It has such amazing characters and writing, and manages to pull off a sort of self aware comedy that is extremely hard to do in a game.  Most “comedic games” fall short, and end up not quite translating into actual humor.  Borderlands has mastered the art of telling a real story while making me go into full on belly laughs at times. This in itself wouldn’t been all that amazing, but it is on top of a really damned solid shooter.  When I first heard the concept of “Diablo with Guns” I was not 100% sure I would be sold.  However playing the first Borderlands I was completely bought into the concept, and then Borderlands 2 came after improving quite literally everything.  Now I am not sure if I am sold on the notion of Battleborn, but I am giving it a shot because of the pedigree and some of the single player videos remind me a lot of the things I loved from Battleborn.  Now when I say the company has some baggage…. this is also the studio that released Duke Nukem Forever and Aliens: Colonial Marines.  I am just hoping that Battleborn ends up feeling more Borderlands… and doesn’t add to the detractor column.

Bungie

I feel like I have to write about Bungie, but I also didn’t really feel like I had enough ammunition to really do a full post.  I was never a Halo player.  I never owned an Xbox, and when I played the PC port it didn’t feel all that amazing as compared to the game I was super into at that time Unreal II: The Awakening.  I feel like Microsoft did a massive disservice by keeping a strangle hold on the Halo franchise, and does to this very day.  However when I first saw Destiny… I knew this was going to be a game for me.  In fact this was the game that ultimately made me buy my PS4 and learn how to play a shooter with a controller.  While the game didn’t really grab me and keep me during year one… year two and the Taken King expansion have been amazing.  I love this game so much and over the course of the last few months it is really my primary game.  While I loved the Diablo 3 season launch last night, there was a little part of me that would have rather been playing Iron Banner in Destiny.  The game has its hooks in me hard, and it really has become this perfect package of game play feel, with a reward system that makes it feel like my time spent was worth it.  Seriously bravo to Bungie for the creation of this game… the only thing that could make it better is if it released on the PC as well.

 

DAW2016: Square Enix

SquareEnix

DAW2016_logo

Developer Appreciation Week is here!  For the uninitiated the concept of Developer Appreciation week dates back to 2010 and was started by Couture Gaming the Blogger formerly known as Scarybooster.  The idea was simple, spend a week talking about all of the things you love about various game development companies and studios.  As a blogger we spend plenty of time pointing out what is wrong in the games we love, and talking about ways that they could be better.  That said it is important to understand that for most of us this critique comes from being a huge fan of the games and genres as a whole.  So during this week we point out the things that are going right and make a point of mentioning all the things we really appreciate out there.  If you too are a blogger please feel free to join in by posting your own Developer Appreciation Week ideas.

SquareEnix

I knew sooner or later I would end up needing to do Square Enix because at various times during my life they played a huge role in shaping how I looked at games.  Lets go back to a time and a place where the only gaming news I got was through Nintendo Power magazine.  In one of those issues I was first introduced to a game called Final Fantasy.  For ages I had been looking for the personification of Dungeons and Dragons in game form, and while the gold box games did a decent job of doing just that… there was always something missing.  Final Fantasy bridged the gap and gave me precisely that, along with a story line that made me care about all of the dungeon crawling.  I remember being so insanely excited when I went to a nearby Walmart and they had this game in stock.  The only negative was that within a short few days I would be heading to Boy Scout camp for an entire week.  While I normally loved camp, this was quite possibly the most miserable week of camp I have ever experienced.  All that I really wanted to be doing was playing Final Fantasy from the comfort of my bedroom… and instead I was making campfires, and hiking up sharp flint rock strewn paths.  When I finally got home, firing up that Nintendo and playing Final Fantasy was quite literally the best feeling ever.  Regardless of how exhausted I was from a week of camp, I still ended up pulling an all nighter and getting through that damned Marsh cave.

When Final Fantasy 2 was released… aka Final Fantasy IV for the rest of the world… it once again dominated my life for a period of time.  I was completely blown away by the graphics at the time, and also amazed at how much more complex the story line of that game was.  This was also the point at which I learned the hard lesson of save at every single save point, because of a bad mishap with the Magus Sisters.  The game also introduced the term “Spoony Bard” into my vocabulary and for that I will always be grateful.  This was also the first game that gave me characters I had no interest in playing…  I am looking at you Edward and your inability to do any real damage.  The game also gave my quite possibly my favorite goofy archetype of character…  the Dragoon, with its amazing but also sometimes frustrating jump attack.  I was completely hooked on the notion of having this huge cast of characters that I could switch between at will…  but then ultimately only ever seemed to play with the same party ever.  For the most part that party was Cecil, Rydia, Kain, Rosa, and Edge… with that last spot being highly variable as I went through the play session.  This is really something I do even today when I play for example a Bioware game.  In Dragon Age Inquisition, my party is pretty much permanently Cassandra, Dorian, Sera and my character.

It wasn’t until High School that Final Fantasy 3 was released…  or Final Fantasy VI for the rest of the world.  I remember it coming out around Christmas break and at first I rented it…  which was a truly dumb idea given that the Super Nintendo didn’t have memory cards.  The main reason for this was because the game itself was something stupid like $85 when it released, which was an awful lot of my limited resources at the time.  However after a few days of playing the game I was making a trek to the big city to try and find a copy.  After searching a dozen different stores I finally found a copy at Target, and much to my shock it was on sale for only $65.  I am not sure exactly sure what it is about Final Fantasy VI, but for whatever reason I think this game will always be my favorite.  I tend to love games that pull a bait and switch on me, when you think you are nearing the end of the game… only to realize that the world just got much larger and instead of being nearly done… I was just barely starting.   I also have a soft spot for a lot of the characters in this game, because it managed to make me feel things that video games had not really succeeded in doing up to this point.  Ashgar and I have had a conversation about this… and for me the game that did all of these things was Final Fantasy V.  However for me… that game was not available and didn’t even receive a fan translation until I was well into college.  The two games do a lot of the same things, I just happened to experience six first.

Over the years there has been a string of Final Fantasy titles always in my life, and several non-FF series games that I loved as well.  For example I love beyond love Vagrant Story, and I remember playing the hell out of it when it came out on the PSX.  I also spent more than my fair share of time playing Chrono Trigger, and the subsequent follow up games.  Then there are games that I wish would get a reboot like Parasite Eve that were so amazing for the time in which they came out.  Essentially there has always been some Square Enix game somewhere in my life, be it Bravely Default that I am slowly working my way through on my 3DS downstairs on my bedside table, or the Kingdom Hearts collection I have sitting beside my PS3 ready to start in earnest.  All of these are in fact great experiences, but the one I feel like I really need to talk about is the miraculous rebirth of Final Fantasy XIV.  This game was released in 2010 and was essentially universally despised.  I remember getting into the beta for it and finding it just largely uninteresting more than anything.  I didn’t hate it, I just didn’t really feel anything about it.  So I was more than happy to return to World of Warcraft, and forget that the game existed.

However in August of 2013 the game relaunched as A Realm Reborn, and I have to say I was shocked at just how much I liked the title.  We played for a handful of months until our group ran out of content that we could realistically complete.  Then July of 2014 I decided to fire the game up again, because I wanted to see how it had progressed in our absence.  Final Fantasy XIV was one of those games that our group left on good terms.  What I found waiting on me was this rich cache of content that laid untapped.  Over the next several months we had what could only be termed as a renaissance of MMO gaming all centered around this game.  I was happy to raid once again, and happy to be doing pretty much all of the tropes of a MMORPG.  What made all the difference was the loving way in which this game was being crafted.  I have to give huge shouts to the localization team and namely Koji Fox.  Final Fantasy XIV is so amazingly well written and is packed full of more feels than most games ever manage to muster.  There is content that will make you painfully belly laugh, and other times infuriate you for all of the right reasons.  Then there are moments that will make you cry… and there are certain cut scenes in this game that even the mere thought of will summon up the waterworks.

While I am currently on a break from the game after burning myself out again with the launch of Heavensward, I know sooner or later I will return and be happy to do so.  Heavensward was quite possibly the expansion I have looked forward to the most from any MMORPG that I have played, since maybe the launch of Trials of Atlantis in Dark Age of Camelot.  Unfortunately much like ToA…  I got my expectations up way too high, and the content drought that followed the launch ultimately ended up with me stopping playing.  However as a couple of patches have built up for me, I plan on returning soon…  probably after I get the upcoming Diablo 3 season out of my system.  I am happy to know that there is still a very thriving guild presence in this game waiting on me.  I have a feeling that sooner or later we will all return for yet another renaissance of MMO gaming and when it happens… it will be in huge part to just how great Final Fantasy XIV turned out.

Lucky Banana

RemotePlay 2016-04-28 06-31-33-87

Strange Dream

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This morning I am opting to make a more traditional blog post rather than an other DAW post because…  well the DAW posts take a lot out of me.  It takes a lot of effort to summon up this hardcore reminiscing, and after doing four of them, I need to take a day off.  I am sure I will return tomorrow with another segment.  Though it seems like not that many people are joining in, and it was a little disheartening the other day when a friend of mine called it a marketing gimmick.  In truth we forgot about it this year, and I felt that it was bad that we forgot about it.  Normally speaking this thing is supposed to happen during the last week of March, but instead I rescheduled it to happen the last week of April because I didn’t want a year to go by without this thing happening.  I feel it is important for us as players to remember that the games we often complain about… are made by actual human beings who just want to do a good job.  So it only seems fitting to spread a little love around during a single week in the year.  I don’t really get anything out of doing it, and I am certain Scarybooster didn’t when he first started doing the event back in 2010.  So if it is a marketing gimmick it is a piss poor design.

I’ve been pretty sick over the last few days, a combination of allergies and asthma, so last night I decided that I really needed to turn in early and get a full nights sleep.  I had a really strange dream as a result and I can only assume it is due to me not exactly being all here right now.  So I had this dream that I was being thrown a birthday party, but instead it was all of my internet friends.  There is a lot of the dream I am already forgetting but there were some really strange moments.  For example my friend Tam that I record AggroChat with, had this circa 1980s Lisa Frank folder with a rainbow colored tiger on it… and inside he had written on big chief notepad paper…  these summaries of different pen and paper character archetypes.  For some reason Markiplier was there, which I found odd because I only really know of him from various Pax panels.  He ended up getting me a gift called a “Cat Tether” which is supposed to be I guess like a cat leash?  The box looked like it came from the as seen on television aisle at Walgreens.  The rest of the dream is pretty fuzzy but I thought it was strange enough that it was worth writing about.  In any case I feel more rested this morning and feeling a little less horrible, so I guess it worked?

Iron Banana

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The other reason why I wanted to take a day off from DAW is that I want to talk about the current Iron Banner.  Largely I want to talk about it… while there is still enough time to people to get into Destiny and participate.  In the past loot from Iron Banner felt like it was few and far between, but it seems like Bungie cranked the switch up to 11.  On average it felt like every three to four matches I was getting a piece of legendary gear.  This week the items up for grabs are boots, class items, Tormod’s Bellows Rocket Launcher, and Haakon’s Hatchet a bullet hose type Auto Rifle.  The loot that you get as drops seems to be limited to these four items that are available.  From the moment you hit rank 1, aka after your first match/bounty turn in you seem to be able to get either the Class Armor or Boots.  When you hit rank 3 the weapons start dropping, and I got my first Hatchet from that next match after hitting the rank.  The rank 3 package sadly is only a 320 artifact, which isn’t all that good for infusion, however all of the items that you end up getting are.  For most of the matches I have been sitting between 327-330 depending on my weapon loadout, and all of my gear so far has been 332-334 with sadly no 335s as of yet.

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Over the course of my matches so far I have managed to get four Auto Rifles, six boots, six titan marks, and a single rocket launcher.  Now the dropped variants have wildly differing rolls, but I managed to latch onto one that wasn’t too horrible and have been using it for most of the banner.  Hip Fire sadly is useless on an Auto Rifle, but the other stats on this one are pretty great.  Right now I am a little over half of the way to Rank 5, and the goal is to buy the vendor roll which is phenomenal and infuse this 334 into it.  The vendor rolls for pretty much everything are really good this time a round, and if I actually cared about rocket launchers I might consider picking that one up.  If I ever use a rocket launcher I am going to use Truth for the tracking ability, because I suck at using rocket launchers.  Other things I have figured out, is that 330 seems to be the current cap for faction packages, because during the course of the last few weeks I have turned in a ton of Future War Cult, Vanguard and Crucible packages… and essentially everything I have gotten stopped at 330.  The funniest thing is that the last three Crucible packages have all rewarded me the exact same primary scout rifle The Saterienne Rapier, one of which was worth holding onto because it had hidden hand and explosive rounds… however the bulk have served as infusion fodder allowing me to bring up weapons I will actually use more often.  As far as Scout Rifles go… I am most likely to use my brand new Hand of Judgement that I pulled out of Challenge of Elders this week.

 

DAW2016: Bioware

BiowareLogo

DAW2016_logo

Developer Appreciation Week is here!  For the uninitiated the concept of Developer Appreciation week dates back to 2010 and was started by Couture Gaming the Blogger formerly known as Scarybooster.  The idea was simple, spend a week talking about all of the things you love about various game development companies and studios.  As a blogger we spend plenty of time pointing out what is wrong in the games we love, and talking about ways that they could be better.  That said it is important to understand that for most of us this critique comes from being a huge fan of the games and genres as a whole.  So during this week we point out the things that are going right and make a point of mentioning all the things we really appreciate out there.  If you too are a blogger please feel free to join in by posting your own Developer Appreciation Week ideas.

BiowareLogo

This is going to be a difficult one to tackle, especially since I didn’t get a ton of sleep thanks to the tornado warnings.  However I am going to give it to good college try, and hope that the end result turns out at least not too shabby.  I first became aware as Bioware as a company with the release of Baldur’s Gate, or more so the existence of what I later came to know as the “Infinity Engine”.  I have been a fan of Dungeons and Dragons since I first found a players manual abandoned in a locker on the last day of school in second grade.  Finding that book spawned a lot of things, not the least of which was trying to hungrily gobble up anything TSR related.  I played the “gold box” series of games, namely because I had read the novels behind a lot of the stories.  There was just something missing with the game, and while I enjoyed them at the time they never really felt that good.  The story that was being told felt limited by the meager technology, and while I was happy enough with the end product…  that only lasted until I had played my first Final Fantasy game.  Baldur’s Gate was the title that brought me back from my console days into once again believing that the PC was a great platform for role-playing games.

Subsequent games were released…  Icewind Dale, Baldurs Gate II and even one of my all time favorites… Planescape Torment… all using this “Infinity Engine” I have to admit I got a bit of the wrong idea behind what exactly the company Bioware really was.  In my mind it seemed like Bioware was the tools company, and Interplay, Black Isle, or later the reboot Obsidian were the game creator.  It wasn’t until Neverwinter Nights was released that I really started to understand that Bioware was both the tools division and a lot of great storytelling wrapped into one package.  Neverwinter Nights was one of those revolutionary games for me personally.  While the original campaign was awesome… it was the inclusion of the aurora toolset that set my mind on fire.  At this time I was playing a lot of Everquest and Dark Age of Camelot so I tried to replicate some of my favorite features of those games using the Neverwinter engine.  I learned the C Script language and figured out how to code things like randomly generated loot from tables when you opened chests or killed mobs.  I also eventually figured out how to create a token based system along the lines of the one that allowed you to purchase armor in the Darkness Falls dungeon.  The end result was this amalgam of the EQ Plane of Hate and DAoC Darkness Falls that I called the “Plane of Spite”.  While I never did anything really interesting with it, I loved every single moment of working on it and figuring out the inner machinations of this engine.

It was not really until Knights of the Old Republic that I hopped back on the Bioware fandom, and I remember being crushingly disappointed when I learned that the title was going to be Xbox Exclusive.  Thankfully later that year it came out for the PC and I was absolutely thrilled to be dissecting that game world as well.  I loved Neverwinter Nights for its technical precision, and the Aurora and Infinity engines for giving me this awesome framework to go out and explore worlds in.  However KOTOR was the first time from Bioware that I was completely stunned by the storyline.  Last week we went into a discussion on AggroChat about the best Star Wars stories, and by the end of that show all of us pretty much came to the consensus that Knights of the Old Republic was if not the absolute best story, it was at least among them.  There are moments in this game that had shocking revelations that I have never quite recovered from.  Even though the engine is dated, and the graphics look like crap compared to what I am used to… I can still play this game happily over and over just because it was so damned well crafted.  I’ve bought it for others, and even own the mobile port of the game.  I feel like this game more than any set the tone for the modern incarnation of Bioware.

I ultimately for one reason or another skilled Mass Effect at launch, and instead picked up the Bioware banner once again with the release of Dragon Age: Origins.  During this period of time I was raiding in World of Warcraft rabidly… but there were a few weeks where I completely dropped off the face of the planet, and it was thanks to this game.  I was just completely enthralled with the world and the setting, and the concept of the dark spawn and deep roads.  I am a Dwarf at heart, so I loved every single moment of Orzammar.  My first play through was as a Dwarven Noble, and I have to say after all of the subsequent play sessions that is still the one I cherish the most.  Much the same as KOTOR, it was ultimately the characters that set this game apart from the others I had played.  They felt so fleshed out and three dimensional, and I actually cared about interacting with them.  I am a huge proponent of smashing things with a big weapon, and games that allow me to slaughter by the hundreds… but it is significantly harder to find a game that makes me feel.  Dragon Age made me feel so much, and during this time I had a really interesting encounter.  One of my guildies invited me to tank for some friends of his, and when I popped onto voice chat we had some of the usual getting to know a new person discussion.  I mentioned that I had been playing a ton of Dragon Age… and it was at this point that they started grilling me about this character or that, or what decision I made where.  It turns out that I was ultimately raiding that night with a bunch of the writers, and you could almost hear them beaming as they proudly chimed in that they wrote this or that as I gushed about various details.

With the release of Mass Effect 2, I later went back and became an addict of that series as well.  I still wish that someone would make that into a Walking Dead style serialized television show, because the story that is being told is among the best science fiction tales ever.  It just seems a crime that the only folks that will ever see the story, are the ones who have played through the game.  Then you of course have the release of Star Wars the Old Republic, that my friends and I tore through rabidly when it launched.  I burnt myself out on that game but recently a bunch of us ended up going back and remembering just how damned well written all of the story arcs really are.  At some point soon I want to go back and finish where I left off which is the start of the Revan content, and try out the new experience fallen empire content that I have heard so much about.  For sake of time though I am going to wrap things up, because otherwise I could probably carry on for a dozen more paragraphs talking about all of the things from Bioware games that I love.  It is a great studio, and while I was scared that EA would destroy its spirit… I have been pleasantly surprised that the core values of the company and the creative might seem to keep trucking along happily.  I look forward to more adventures be it with Andromedia or the next great IP that we have yet to experience.

DAW2016: Blizzard Entertainment

BlizzLogo

DAW2016_logo

Developer Appreciation Week is here!  For the uninitiated the concept of Developer Appreciation week dates back to 2010 and was started by Couture Gaming the Blogger formerly known as Scarybooster.  The idea was simple, spend a week talking about all of the things you love about various game development companies and studios.  As a blogger we spend plenty of time pointing out what is wrong in the games we love, and talking about ways that they could be better.  That said it is important to understand that for most of us this critique comes from being a huge fan of the games and genres as a whole.  So during this week we point out the things that are going right and make a point of mentioning all the things we really appreciate out there.  If you too are a blogger please feel free to join in by posting your own Developer Appreciation Week ideas.

BlizzLogo

This morning marks the conclusion of three years of daily blog posts, and the beginning of year four.  As a result I thought it was fitting to do Blizzard Entertainment today since it is one of the companies that I have the most longevity with.  I have a complicated relationship with this company, and if you scroll through the back log of this blog you will find times when I am bashing them and times when I am praising them.  While I knew of the existence of Orcs vs Humans, I didn’t really come into the fold until Warcraft II:  Tides of Darkness.  I wasn’t exactly the biggest fan of RTS gameplay, but the thing that sold me on this game and the company as a whole was the level editor.  Prior to WC2, my life pretty much revolved around Doom II and making custom maps for it using MapEdit for windows.  Trying to get things to work as I hoped they would was always a struggle, and MapEdit had this nasty habit of completely destroying maps in the process of making them.  That said I didn’t want to mess with constantly having to shell out into DOS to get the “good” Doom map editors to work.  So when I encountered a “good” windows map editor for Warcraft 2 I was enthralled and hooked, and began churning out “PUD” files left and right.  To be honest I spent far more time in the level editor than I actually did playing the game.

However when I truly became sold on Blizzard as a company was with the release of Diablo.  They essentially took everything I ever wanted in a hack and slash dungeon crawler and made it work in vibrant isometric rendered 3D glory.  I can remember many an hour in the Art Department lab that I was supposed to be monitoring playing Diablo, or fiddling with the meager modding tools available for it.  I even own a copy of the barely mentioned Hellfire expansion that allowed players to crawl through the dungeon as a Monk.  What made this game so revolutionary however was the introduction of Battle.net.  Prior to Diablo networking in games was pretty much limited to IPX/SPX which meant that you had to more than likely be sitting on a corporate or college Novell network to play them properly.  There were clients that you could use like Kali that you could run to emulate IPX/SPX networking over TCP/IP, but in doing so you also added a bunch of lag to the process.  The introduction of Battle.net meant that over a TCP/IP connection you could dial into a server and play in a hosted environment… and it just worked with minimal fiddling.  So much of that time sitting in the lab was because I was connected to the college T1 line and able to play lag free on the Battle.net servers.

Later on with the release of Starcraft I ended up building my own windows network back at the trailer my wife and I lived in during the last years of college.  The middle bedroom was my computer room and in it were two desks with two computers connected together over a super cheap coax peer to peer network.  With this setup my cousin and I played so many co-op and versus games, but the majority of these were afternoon long matches of Starcraft.  We were both base builders, and in the process kept trying to build impregnable fortresses to keep the other out.  There was a sweet joy in sneaking that ghost over and listening to him scream obscenities as the game told him “Nuclear Launch Detected”.  The next big game that I devoted large chunks of my life to was Diablo 2 which launched shortly after I entered the work world, and what was ultimately my second job out of college.  I had by then been pulled heavily back into console gaming, devoting most of my time to playing the Sony Playstation and imports on the Sega Saturn.  When Diablo 2 launched however all of that halted and I was back to being chained to the PC, devoting every moment to figuring out the inner workings of this new game.  When the expansion launched and the Druid class was released, that became my jam.  I am really hoping that at some point down the line they give us another druid to play with because that class was insanely fun.  I loved having the various animal companions fighting with me, which in part is why the World of Warcraft Hunter class appealed to me so much at first.

In large part by the time Warcraft 3 was released, I was largely tired of the RTS genre and instead addicted beyond reason to a series of MMO games…. starting with Everquest, continuing into Dark Age of Camelot, Horizons, and ultimately City of Heroes.  We were happily playing CoH when everyone started talking about the next Blizzard game…  The World of Warcraft.  At first I was super snarky about it, joking that I didn’t see how Blizzard could do an MMO given that most of their games only had just enough story to keep them from falling flat on their faces.  Then I got to see the game when a friend of mine got into the closed beta and he brought the client up to work.  I was completely and totally hooked and wanted more.  Most of us managed to get into a stress test weekend, and I remember that it was the weekend of my ten year high school reunion.  All I could think about was getting home and playing more with my friends.  During the beta weekend I played a paladin and a friend of mine played a holy priest, and those two classes had this amazing synergy together.  I would crusader strike things, debuffing them against holy damage… and he would burn them down with smite.  Sadly this ultimately died by the time the game was launched, but it hooked me on the concept of the game…  so much so that when I returned to playing City of Heroes after that weekend it had just lost its luster.

I was a devoted acolyte of World of Warcraft from the day it launched, forming House Stalwart that morning by creating a couple of throw away characters to generate the money needed to buy that guild charter.  From there I stayed happy and engaged through two expansions, and it was ultimately not until the sweeping changes of Cataclysm and several years worth of pent up frustrations and drama that ultimately caused me to leave the game.  Now World of Warcraft is much like a friend from High School that you get along with extremely well… in small doses.  This is the part of my relationship with Blizzard where things get complicated, because it is hard sometimes for me to remember that they are not the “World of Warcraft Company” but instead this company I have had this storied history with since 1995.  They are this friend that has given me countless hours of enjoyment and wonder as I wander around the the worlds they have created.  So while the shine on Warcraft has dimmed for me… it is still polished to a sheen on Diablo 3 and Overwatch and I hungrily gobble up every last morsel of information on them both.  I also greatly appreciate games like Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm, even though I am not really regularly playing them.

The truth of Blizzard is they have this innate ability to take an idea, and render it down to only the bones…  and then build back upon that notion this fun and polished experience.  The RTS genre was cludgy and unwieldy before Warcraft.  As much as I adore Baldur’s Gate… it is not the clean and easy to pick up experience that Diablo was.  Similarly Everquest and Dark Age of Camelot were these arcane and difficult to begin experiences, and World of Warcraft finally brought MMORPG gaming to the masses.  This invokes so many different feelings in people, but you have to respect their ability to distill the pure essence of a thing and then amplify those “best characteristics” into a finished product.  For me this is exactly what they have done with Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm and ultimately Overwatch.  Even though I sometimes am critical of Blizzard, I will always be among their biggest fans.

DAW2016 – Undead Labs

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Developer Appreciation Week is here!  For the uninitiated the concept of Developer Appreciation week dates back to 2010 and was started by Couture Gaming the Blogger formerly known as Scarybooster.  The idea was simple, spend a week talking about all of the things you love about various game development companies and studios.  As a blogger we spend plenty of time pointing out what is wrong in the games we love, and talking about ways that they could be better.  That said it is important to understand that for most of us this critique comes from being a huge fan of the games and genres as a whole.  So during this week we point out the things that are going right and make a point of mentioning all the things we really appreciate out there.  If you too are a blogger please feel free to join in by posting your own Developer Appreciation Week ideas.

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I was first aware of the existence of Undead Labs back in November of 2009 when articles started filtering onto the various MMO news sites that this company had spun off of ArenaNet to create a zombie themed MMO.  Firstly I am a huge fan of all things Undead, and I started watching any news about this upstart company to try and glean bits of information about the upcoming game.  Few things make me happier than slashing my way through hordes of the walking dead, and I’m enough of a fan of the George Romero movies that I have a vial of dirt from the graveyard that the original Night of the Living Dead was filmed in.  With time it was announced that they had set their sights on creating a really solid single player experience instead of an MMO, which honestly was probably a really solid move given that by the time the game would have released…  the MMO market was looking a little shaky.  On June 5th of 2013 the resulting game, State of Decay was released exclusively on the Xbox Live Arcade, and I bought it the moment it was available for purchase.  If you were to craft a perfect Zombie game…  you’d have State of Decay.  I loved everything about it… minus one little detail.  The game felt like it was originally designed to have co-op support if not a fully fleshed out MMO experience.  However as excited as I was about the game I took to my blog and made a post talking about my day one impressions.

Shortly after making the post I had Annie Strain the wife of Undead Labs founder Jeff Strain interacting with me on twitter.  This really told me that this game studio was a little different than the big polished institutions I was used to interacting with.  Everything about Undead Labs seemed like a big family, rather than a business.  I had the fortune to interact with a handful of them at Pax South 2015, as they were ramping up to launch both their pokemon-esc mobile MMO Moonrise and the State of Decay: Year One Survivor Edition.  Just talking with them really brings home this feeling of them all being in this together.  The best part however is that they really do make amazing games, and over the years since State of Decay has launched I have purchased it for so many of my friends.  I even purchased the disc copy of YOSE for my boss, when I found out he had just purchased a Xbox One.  While he is not a big gamer, he was a huge fan of The Walking Dead… and as a result is now also a huge fan of State of Decay.  Once again… the only problem with the game is that it begs to be a multiplayer experience.  We’ve talked about this before on our podcast, but if we could explore that game world with friends it would truly be one of the best games released on any platform.

Another huge boon about Undead Labs is the insanely hard working Sanya Weathers.  If you have been around the MMO industry since the early days, there is a large chance you know that name.  I became aware of her during my time playing Dark Age of Camelot, and always appreciated the job she did trying to wrangle the crazies and help out the folks who really needed assistance.  Within the community management circles she is a bit “infamous” for her blogging days.  Regardless of how you might remember her, she is one of those forces that it wouldn’t matter what company she was working with… I would pay attention to them from that point on.  I am hugely thankful of my own interactions with her during the lead up to, and after Pax South 2015.  I would not have actually had the interview with Undead Labs were it not for her reaching out to me on twitter, and that sort of proactive nature is just awesome.  It was heartbreaking when the Studio announced that they would be cancelling Moonrise because I was right there with them pulling for it to be the next big breakout hit.

One of the folks that I met with during Pax South was Geoffrey Card the Lead Designer for State of Decay.  Since the convention I’ve followed his movement a little more closely and found that he does this amazing series of live streams.  What is awesome about these streams is that he tends to grab various folks from Undead Labs and streams over the pacific timezone lunchtime.  The thing that I find valuable about them is the way that the various folks end up breaking down the games as they are playing them, and deconstruct what elements are really well done and what elements could use improvement.  A lot of the games that I have seen him play are other zombie genre titles, and it feels like he is trying to grok everything that is going on in the title so that he can absorb it like a sponge and burn it down to the purist element to use for inspiration on State of Decay.  As someone who has always been a bit of an armchair designer myself, I find the process valuable and it also serves to give the watchers a bit of a glimpse into the inner workings of the game studio itself at times.  If you are into that sort of thing, I highly suggest you check the stream out sometime.

The best thing about the Developer Appreciation Week construct, is it gives me open season to write love letters to the various companies that I really respect and appreciate.  Undead Labs is one that I knew without a doubt that I would be touching on during this week, and I am really excited to see whatever the next thing is that they are working on.  Part of me is crossing my fingers hoping that we finally get either a co-op experience or a full fledged MMOized State of Decay.  Regardless I will be watching any news about this great studio with interest.

DAW2016: Trion Worlds

DAW2016_logo

Developer Appreciation Week is here!  For the uninitiated the concept of Developer Appreciation week dates back to 2010 and was started by Couture Gaming the Blogger formerly known as Scarybooster.  The idea was simple, spend a week talking about all of the things you love about various game development companies and studios.  As a blogger we spend plenty of time pointing out what is wrong in the games we love, and talking about ways that they could be better.  That said it is important to understand that for most of us this critique comes from being a huge fan of the games and genres as a whole.  So during this week we point out the things that are going right and make a point of mentioning all the things we really appreciate out there.  If you too are a blogger please feel free to join in by posting your own Developer Appreciation Week ideas.

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So this year I am kicking off developer appreciation week with Trion Worlds.  2011 was a bit of a fraught year for me as far as gaming goes.  Cataclysm had just landed in World of Warcraft, and I was reaching this point where I found myself falling out of love with that game.  Early in the year I had friends who were talking about this new and exciting game called Rift.  It turned out that it was precisely the sort of experience I was looking for.  If you had put onto paper every single feature that I ever wanted in World of Warcraft… you would end up getting a feature list that looked a lot like Rift.  While it failed to gain serious traction with a number of my friends, it was my gaming “main squeeze” for quite a long time.  So much so that I ultimately rebooted this blog into a Rift fan blog, and became an official fansite listed on the Rift game website.  From that point onwards Rift has been one of those games that is always somewhere in the background of my life.  One of the most awesome things about the launch is that I ended up striking up a friendship with some of the folks responsible for building the game.

Now over the years I have done the same for various companies, but I was remarking the other day how few of those folks are even in the industry these days.  The ones that are still in the industry are rarely at the company I first knew them through.  However in the case of Trion Worlds, all but one of the folks I knew there… are still there and seemingly happy five years after the launch of Rift.  That tells me that Trion as a whole is doing something right to keep employees engaged for that length of time.  As with every company in the MMO space there have been a lot of false starts, and some cancelled projects… but I have been pleasantly surprised that they have managed to weather that cancellation of these projects.  Rift for example started as a subscription game, and successfully navigated the transition to free to play, with one of the more viable cash shop models out there.  Sure there are some things that they do that I find egregious…  like the various mounts that can only be found on lockboxes, or the constantly limited sale mentality.  Overall though even with all of these things taken into account, I find them a really great company and I am always interested in whatever they happen to have going on.

One of the more interesting experiences with Trion was the development cycle for Trove.  This was really the first time that I had ever seen a AAA title do a fully NDA free Alpha program.  Even more interesting than this however is the way that this game community embraced Reddit.  There are no official forums for Trove, but instead they have an open community on Reddit that has also spawned a separate sub Reddit for users to submit creations.  I love that when you pick up an item in game, it tells you which user in the community designed it.  The only problem with this development style is that it felt like Trove was constantly changing, and in drastic ways.  There was a period of time when I would log in and never quite know what design decisions would have been made in my absence.  The end result is a really fun experience, but it was interesting to see these false starts and reworks happening in real time.  Trion as a whole seems to genuinely care about and cherish their player base, and they were one of the first companies that I can remember embracing Discord as a means of keeping in contact with the player base.  There are a number of discord servers that I am on that have devs and community staff publicly available for conversation, which goes a long way into making players feel connected.

I feel like Trion also has set the gold standard for interacting with the community on a regular basis.  Each Friday they do a lengthy Twitch stream where they alternate through a series of back to back shows dedicated to each of their games.  During these shows they of course do the standard give away construct, but also have the folks actively working on the games in the hot seat to answer questions live from the community.  These also serve as a place where players often get a first glance at upcoming tech, features and content.  Savvy players have learned how to read the comments from the community folks, and been able to glean additional information pretty regularly.  While updates have slowed down significantly since the frenetic launch days of Rift, they still put out a steady stream of content.  The negative over the years has been that two of their products they have limited control over.  So I feel like they have maybe taken unnecessary flack over both ArcheAge and Devilian at times, when in truth they only run the servers and manage the localization… but have little to do with the overarching development direction.  Localization is going to be a structure that we see more and more of, since South Korea is still going through a bit of an MMO renaissance, like we did in the 2000s.  I feel like they have done a better job than some other localization efforts, but could still have some room for improvement.

Ultimately… while I can go for long periods of time between playing Trion games, logging into them always feels a bit like coming home.  So if you have never played Rift, Trove, Defiance, ArcheAge, or Devilian I highly suggest you download Glyph their proprietary launcher and check them out.  The upcoming Atlas Reactor seems really interesting, like a sort of competitive X-Com, but also not really my sort of gaming experience.

 

 

Blizzard: WoW and Overwatch

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Puppy Love

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

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

Nostalgia Not Hope

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

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

Purple Hand Cannon

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Challenge of Connection

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There are some nights where things don’t go quite as planned but ultimately work out okay in the end.  Last night was one of those nights.  The original plan was to do some Challenge of Elders with Squirrel and Sagacyte.  I got home at my normal time, but I couldn’t really commit to doing much of anything until after we ran some errands.  So the plan was once my wife got home, we would go run errands, and then grab dinner on the way home.  After munching some food it would be challenge time.  Unfortunately my wife got home significantly later than I had expected, and then our errands themselves took significantly longer than expected…  and when we went to grab food there was a longer line than expected.  The end result meant I didn’t actually get upstairs on the PS4 until a little after 8 pm.  By that time Squirrel was having all manner of connection problems.  While sitting in voice chat together we were getting only every third word he was saying, making it damned near impossible to understand what he was trying to say.  We gave it the good college try and made an attempt at doing the Challenge of Elders without him on voice chat.

However a few minutes into the match he disconnected which lead Saga and I to end up having to try and solo Sylok the first boss.  We attempted to duo the Cabal boss but had absolutely zero luck there, and ultimately went to orbit.  It was around this time that in the clan channel that Broken and Havel were asking for a third for their own CoE shenanigans.  I felt like a dick leaving Saga, but he assured me that I should grab the open spot.  Last week the bonus was primary ammo headshots, which was super easy and lead to allowing folks well below the suggested 320 light to be able to complete it without much issue.  This week however the bonus was grenade kills, making it significantly harder.  I went in as Sunbreaker because the Simmering Flames perk meant that so long as I had a super ready my grenade recharge was greatly increased.  To that I ended up swapping all of my gear so that I was sitting around 360 discipline.  On top of that I wound up getting a 324 Armamentarium moments before the first attempt at the Challenge, meaning that I also had double grenade charges going in.  Both Broken and Havel did similar steps to allow them to get super grenade action, and as a result we managed to get 108k score over the course of two matches.  So while it sucked that I didn’t get to run with Squirrel and Saga… it is pretty awesome that I managed to finish on my titan regardless.  During the course of the weekend my new goal is to make sure that both Squirrel and Saga get through as well.

Spoils of War

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The result for me is that I walked away with an interesting Hand Cannon that I am not quite sure if I will actually use.  I spent the rest of the night doing bounties with it to see if it was something I actually enjoyed using.  For ages I swore by the Hand Cannon, but then I got used to Auto and Pulse Rifles… and quite simply never use them.  The state they were in after the serious round of nerfs held me back from really enjoying the experience.  During year one I used the hell out of the Last Word, and then for the first part of year two I largely rocked the Hawkmoon… enjoying both weapons greatly.  As far as Her Revenge goes… I like how it feels and it has an interesting sequence of perks so for now I plan on leveling it up and seeing how I enjoy it in its final form.  As for my armor piece, I ended up getting a 328 chest piece…  which was below my current 329 so instead of keeping it I wound up shipping it off to my hunter.  As I talked about yesterday, there has always been a pecking order when it comes to gear… which generally falls in line with Titan > Hunter > Warlock.  My hunter is closer to being viable for things like Challenge of Elders so my goal is to buff him up enough to be useful when it comes to the current “end game” content.

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That said I did also manage to throw a few handmedowns onto the Warlock, bringing the light level up by a few points.  If I can keep stair stepping them up with no more than a 10 light level difference between them I think life will be pretty grand.  I think the mission for tonight is to try and run some content on either the warlock or hunter with the hopes of bringing their light level up a bit.  The biggest thing I need right now are legendary artifacts for both.  The best route to that is of course the Court of Oryx, but neither of them has an antiquated rune to make that possible.  I do have a few skyburner keys and wormsinger runes… so in theory I could burn through those hoping for some drops.  The other awesome thing from last night is that I managed to get another Sublime Engram which takes my set piece count up to three… with 2 chests, 1 helm, and now 1 Titan Mark of the new Jovian Guard set.  I really love the look of that thing, and while I am not sure it would win out over my Iron Banner set… it is still something that I would proudly rock.  Speaking of Iron Banner, Bungie has apparently announced the next bits of gear that will be available and I am super pumped.  I should finally be able to get legs to complete the Iron Banner look, and it also seems like I will be able to get a Titan Mark in the process.  Other than that this round is offering the Auto Rifle and Rocket Launcher, both things that I am super interested in.  Right now the goal is to push both the Titan and Hunter through, so I will be trying to do daily bounties on both of them.

Ghosts and Spectres

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Destiny Bucket List

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One of the things that I love about Destiny is that there are so many intricate things to do… but unfortunately a lot of them require a full group to actually do them.  I mean it is awesome that I have Axioma Clan to back me up in doing these, but my default “non-raid night” stance is wandering around aimlessly soloing things.  So as a result there are several things that I just have not been able to accomplish for one reason or another because I needed to organize a group.  One of those was finding all of the pieces for the Dead Cult Ghost from the Paradox Daily heroic mission.  I love the Stranger’s Rifle so much, and when I found out that there was a year two version called No Time To Explain… I knew I wanted it.  Unfortunately to get it you have to go through a series of jumping puzzles in the daily heroic and retrieve several different dead ghost shells.  After turning that piece in the next weekly reset you should in theory get the follow up quest from Lakshmi from the Future War Cult.  I had watched a handful of videos and I knew that under pressure there was zero chance of me successfully navigating the jumping puzzles and finding all of the ghosts on my own.

This is where my amazing friend Jex comes in because he seems to have the sort of mind for remembering strange destinations.  The problem being that Jex is just about to head out on vacation for a week… and as of writing this post he should already be travelling.  I had a ton of other folks offer to help out like Broken and Wet, but by the time I made it in game I had an invite waiting on me from Jex and shortly after my friend Sagacyte joined.  I of course died a few times doing the jumping bits, and as far as the sped up vault of glass jumping puzzle… I just hung out watching Saga complete it like a pro and pull me through to the other side.  I died a handful of times but not apparently during the critical junctures, because I believe there is a piece of this quest that you cannot die during.  In any case if all works well next Wednesday I should have the final step that ultimately leads to my shiny new No Time to Explain.  I am super thankful to Jex and Saga, and all the other people in Axioma Clan who offered to help out with this.  Now I guess this just leaves the Black Spindle that has eluded me, but hopefully with all the light levels we have been gaining getting that done will be significantly easier.

Spectre Time

RemotePlay 2016-04-21 06-27-14-05

So last night Jex literally snuck on just long enough to get me my cult ghost and then disappeared into the background again to prepare for his trip.  After he left, and ultimately Sagacyte left as well I wound up heading downstairs to play Destiny from the comfort of the couch and remotely connected through my laptop.  It feels like my Warlock is the unwanted orphan of my characters, because he always seems to get the worst hand-me-downs.  This is largely a side effect of simply being the last class that I leveled, and as a result having the lowest overall light level.  The truth is though that I like playing my Warlock way more than I like playing a Hunter.  I think I would probably enjoy the hunter, but it is going to require copious amount of time unlocking class abilities to really get to that point.  Gunslinger seems like the hunter for me, but it is also the class I have progressed the least.  Whereas on the Warlock I pretty much like all of the classes for one reason or another, with Sunsinger probably being my least favorite.  In any case I wanted to chill out and spend the night working through some of the bounties that I had stacked up for the warlock.  On both the Hunter and Warlock I tend to accept bounties until I have no more room, and then once a week work through most of them.

RemotePlay 2016-04-19 07-06-57-03

The interesting lesson learned last night while wandering around and completing bounties is just how much I like the Red Spectre.  I mean I only held onto this weapon because it looks like Red Death… and I am so in love with Red Death.  The roll on this weapon is not amazing, but in spite of that I find that I really enjoy using it.  It kicks like a mule, but it seems to do so way more predictably than a lot of the other weapons I have with shit stability.  In theory once I get it properly leveled it will be performing better, but even in the stock form I enjoy it.  What it ultimately feels like to me is Fabian Strategy… that is once the rate of fire boost kicks in.  This thing is a really strange archetype, because it is not really a bullet hose because it has way more impact than they do… but it has a much faster rate of fire as compared to a lot of the slower rifles I have.  The only problem is…  whether or not I will be stealing this for my Titan once I get it leveled up.  I have a bad habit of stealing the best weapons for that character, and giving the others my scraps.  In theory I would love it for all of my characters to be self sufficient, and I know that thanks to the miracle of the website and mobile app… there is never a situation where I need to use a crap weapon.  However when it comes to day to day play I always seem to just go with whatever happens to be in the inventory of a given character.  The positive of this however is that I end up testing out a lot of weapons that I would not otherwise play with… and often times finding some gems in my dust bin.