Awards Show and Timewalking

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This morning I am having a minor case of the deads.  I seem to have gotten whatever respiratory crud happens to be going around.  Yesterday morning I was largely doing okay… but then as the day went on I felt worse and worse to the point of begging out of Rifftrax last night.  Thankfully they were able to use my ticket for someone else, but it bums me out that I missed it.  However from the sound of it the double feature… would have completely wrecked me.  They apparently showed two complete movies rather than a short and a movie, and they didn’t actually leave the theater until 10:15 last night from a 7 pm show.  Instead I stayed snuggled up on the couch and had some left over crockpot Tikka Masala for dinner.  The bulk of the evening was spend winding my way through some horrible timewalking pugs.  The piece of this that I realized is simply that folks do not seem to remember the Cataclysm content nearly as well as the other content… or at least Cata still requires you to do actual mechanics to keep from wiping.  As a result I spend another large part of the night running back from wipes and trying to explain to people what went wrong.  I should be tanking…  but I wanted to shun all responsibility and just dps.  The part I didn’t realize is that in my sub 810 form… I would also end up being the carry that did twice as much damage as the others in a lot of the groups.  By the end of the night however I managed to pull my overall item level up to around 817, which now unlocked as of this morning some of the 830 world quest rewards.  In theory that is going to be how I gear my Deathknight, but logging in… doing the Emissary chest and then knocking out any items that look useful.

The other activity last night was a vague attempt at watching The Game Awards.  At some point this seems to have turned into a real awards show, when the first few years sorta felt like trying to make “fetch happen”.  Somewhere along the line it actually became “a thing” and now has significant support from companies.  It was largely something I was doing because I was bummed at missing RiffTrax and happened to see it scroll across my twitter.  The part I was not expecting was the fact that apparently… folks are using this as another opportunity to announce and or show off upcoming games.  There is a post in me somewhere about the never ending chain of promotional opportunities that game developers have right now.  For years it was the CES and that was literally the only place we got information.  Then E3 and Gamescom became significant players… and that was the moment when we found out literally everything that was to know about the upcoming games.  Now we technically have five different PAX shows, and a plethora of other events like the Playstation Experience that is happening this weekend… and individual company based shows like FFXIV Fan Festival and Blizzcon.  It seems like at any given point we are a week away from a potential cache of big announcements… and we as fans expect something important at each and every one of these.  It is almost as though we are expecting executives at EA or Ubisoft to be prepparing their “Thanksgiving game”, or their “Presidents Day” game to announce at any moment.  I don’t want to go on about this much longer… but I blame the constant deluge of things just on the horizon for constantly distracting us from the games we actually have installed and should be playing.  Saying that… here are some things that distracted me from games I should be playing.

We finally got some really good footage of Andromeda that goes into more detail about how the actual game is going to function and play in its final version.  Firstly I have to say I am super excited to see this because I like Mass Effect best when it is allowing me to play Star Trek Away Team.  Of the previous games… my favorite is Mass Effect 2 because it was one the one that allowed me the most freedom to pop around the galaxy doing tiny interesting vignettes.  The part I am hoping is that the moment to moment gameplay is going to be able to keep my attention.  There was just something about the way that Inquisition performed that was a turn off… and then you take the fact that I am now forced to play a faction that I would rather be cheerfully slaughtering…  and it was a recipe for a game that never quite clicked with me.  Andromeda however feels like it is going to be something I can sink my teeth into… especially if it allows me to constantly be recruiting new and interesting people to join my core team.  Also jump packs… are awesome.

Watching this trailer made me realize that no one has really done a good Monster Hunter style game for the PC platform.  I am sure in the comments someone is going to point out one that I missed, but Monster Hunter fills this weird niche between traditional RPG and Diablo.  Since this is being billed as an Action RPG I am hoping that maybe it falls along those lines.  What I don’t want this to be is another asymmetric team versus monster game like Evolve.  I have zero interest in that.  Like if it is possible for interest to go into the negatives…  then asymmetrical multiplayer falls into that category.  It is being billed however as a Free to Play take on Monster Hunter by ex Riot and Bioware devs.  On that billing alone… I am super interested.

If naked stranded on a beach crying Norman Reedus was not strange enough…  we get another trailer for Death Stranding.  Last I heard they had not actually even picked an engine yet, so I am finding it really hard to take anything I see on this game seriously at this point.  That said I am really liking the direction of this trailer.  I love the weird washed out post apocalyptic marsh thing going on… and I like the skele-zombie troopers thing and the Cthuloid tanks.  This feels like it is going to be creepy in all the right ways and we need more Cthulhu in our lives… or at least ones that play on modern platforms after the frustration that was Dark Corners of the Earth recently.  I am entranced and willing to throw money at the screen for this one, even if I don’t know specifically why I am.  Guillermo del Toro makes the best monsters, and I was just commenting the other day about how badly I would love to see another Hellboy movie.  Maybe this creations in this game can satiate the desire, because if nothing else it has me now following his twitter that is full of awesome monstrous stuff.

Darth Scrapheap

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If appearance systems are the “true” endgame… them I am woefully losing right now.  Last night I managed to push my Deathknight across the line and ding 110, to which I immediately abandoned all attempts at questing and instead focused on World Quests.  For those who do not know when you hit 110 all you need do is walk over to Khadgar and you can start up the madness on your alts without needing to do the faction grind.  Now I look like a random assemblage of crap…  or very much like a raiding dps warrior did in vanilla.  I know that helm is supposed to be menacing and Deathknighty… but it just keeps reminding me of a lizard or turtle… or something similar.  After a round of “complete the gear quests” I am sitting at 795 and I absolutely plan on exploiting the hell out of the Timewalking dungeons this weekend to help push that higher.  As much as I wanted to like the Paladin… it was mostly just a choice to push up so that I could have a miner to feed my engineering.  Similarly I started the Rogue with the thought of pushing up a Herbalist/Alchemist but stalled out because Rogues are squishy and annoying.  Instead I started working on my Deathknight because deep down inside I still have a lot of love for the character… the fringe benefit however is that now I have a reasonable Herbalist as well to at the very least feed my Seed-Battered Fish Plate habit.

In other news we had a pretty good night of raiding with us coming in and killing Odyn once again after a weird off week thanks in large part to Thanksgiving.  It still took a few tries and there are a lot of fiddly bits we can improve on to make it less horrible at the end.  From there we had a crazy pull that never ended because we did not learn our lesson properly and or they said they patched something they didn’t actually patch.  From there we set up and changed a few things on Guarm and had an amazingly smooth one shot…  which is pretty damned awesome considering this was only our second night of attempts.  We then continued on to Helya and by the end of the we were pushing her into phase three and phase two was seeming less suicidal.  All in all I will count that as significant progress, the only negative being there just aren’t that many gearing options yet from this raid.  I am super bummed that I am going to have to miss our now “a thing” Friday night Emerald Nightmare clear this week.  I have a family thing that happens once a month, and this just happens to be that Friday.  Thankfully I think we have more than enough reasonable tanking options to make something work in my absence.  I am just bummed at losing a shot at maybe just maybe getting those last three corrupted essences.

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I also played a significant amount of Final Fantasy XV, and I have decided it is far less a boy band simulator and more Final Fantasy Entourage.  All of that said… I still like it quite a bit and it is absolutely priceless when Prompto sometimes hums the class FF battle victory theme after you finish a combat engagement.  Right now I am heavily engaged in a life of murder-hobo-ry as I am roaming the country side looking for baddies to vanquish and looting interesting cooking materials.  The key take away from yesterday however is that I gave the official Sony PS4 Remote Play a shot and man…  have they seemingly improved it greatly.  Sure there are still moments when it wigs the hell out and you are best to simply hold still until it stops struggling.  Those however are few and far between and for the most part the end result is an extremely smooth play experience.  For reference my PS4 is hard wired into my router, and I was connecting into it from my laptop over the wireless network.  I did some tests in Destiny to see if this was simply a “good enough for an RPG” thing or if it really was reasonable for playing other games.  I could notice a little bit of controller lag while running and doing some patrols… but it was more than reasonable enough for me to play.  I am not sure if I would be willing to go into the Crucible or something extremely difficult, but I had a good enough time killing random splicers in the Plaguelands remotely.  In truth it is “good enough” for 90% of the stuff I do in Destiny and I would absolutely be willing to try something like farming Archon’s Forge while remoted in through the laptop.  It is definitely good enough for Final Fantasy XV which greatly increase the range of play options I have…  and I am going to want to test this theory out on the Vita pretty soon.  I still think the performance of the unofficial “Twisted” Remote Play was better… but he has just been unable to keep it updated to function on the latest version of the PS4 firmware… and the bonus features of playing with a keyboard, mouse and xbox 360 controller simply are not worth being behind in the firmware version especially given that it will bar you from accessing the PSN store.  I am super happy though to see that Sony seems to continue to improve performance.

Final Fantasy XV Impressions

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Firstly let me start off by saying that I am going to try and be as spoiler free as possible this morning.  Last night I began Final Fantasy XV properly… or at least what I mean by that is I actually created a new game.  It had been quite a long time since I last played one of the demos that were available through PlayStation Plus so I spent the first thirty minutes or so working through the tutorial room.  Firstly I have to say how much I appreciate that the Tutorial Room is completely out of the game and something you can venture into by option.  In truth all I really wanted to do was familiarize myself with the combat a bit before setting off on the adventure, and I managed to do that through a series of guided encounters.  I feel like this tutorial could have been tightened up a bit, and a lot of the text removed because really…  I got what warp strike did without the need for ten panels of text explaining it.  However like I said this is entirely an optional experience and it allows you to escape out at any time and start the actual game.  What I was pleasantly surprised by is that I am pretty sure… the intro to Final Fantasy V is twice as long as the intro to this game, in that it gets you out and into the action pretty quickly, far more quickly than I was expecting.  The game does an excellent job of setting up quickly why you are going on the roadtrip and essentially who these people are that are assisting you along the way.  The game also gives you this interesting flashforward…  to set up that some bad shit is going to happen eventually.  While I originally called this a boy band roadtrip simulator… it actually does an amazing job of making you care about the characters… because from the first dialog the game is fleshing them out for you.

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  • Ignis – Tactician and Master Chef
  • Prompto – The runt of the litter, but also the romantic… constantly snapping photos
  • Gladiolus – The strong loyal type, but also ends up feeling almost big brotherly
  • Noctis – our prince… that ends up not being nearly as angsty as I expected.

We are given some insight to the relationships between Noctis and his father Regis in the intro, and some explanation as to why this road trip is happening… and that it might not be nearly as political in nature as it might seem.  The real gem however is the constant banter between your companions that much in the same way as the Dragon Age gives you little vignettes into each of them, and feels like more than just a simple looping soundtrack of quips.  It all seems purposeful and helps to flesh out the feeling of this group and explain the character motivations a little bit at a time.  I am honestly shocked that only two hours into the game I already care about this team, and for the most part like each of them for their own thing.  Hell I thought Prompto would be the new Snow…  the character that I wanted to punt off a cliff but even he has grown on me.  There are a lot of charming mini-games…  the one that endears me to Prompto is the fact that he takes random photos as you go through your daily activities between camping for the night.  While you are sitting around the camp fire or your inn room… you can sift through the photos and determine which ones are “keepers”.  In fact most of the images for this mornings post come from these.  The only complaint is that I wish when I clicked “save” in game that it actually saved it to the PS4 screenshot folder… and not some in game system that never actually goes full screen.  I had to drop these in photoshop to crop out the black border before actually using them in a blog post which was annoying.

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Another big surprise for me was just how fluid and good combat feels.  I might be imagining things but it feels like they have tightened up the system considerably from the time I played Episode Duscae to now.  It could also simply be that I sat through thirty minutes of combat tutorial, and I didn’t exactly do that in the demo.  Whatever the case I feel like I can navigate combat without really thinking about it… which is honestly the way I like to play combat in most games.  I want to push my abilities to the realm of muscle memory, and just simply react instinctively to what is happening on the ground… and this game seems to let me do just that.  The only thing that seemed like it might be a little cludgy is the magic system, but thankfully I am not exactly the finger wiggler type.  So at least for the case of Noctis I will likely never equip a magical ability… other than maybe Cure.  As far as my team goes, they seem to have their own special abilities that more or less take the place of magic that unlock special team up style attacks.  There is an interesting mini-game where Ignis being the tactician… suggests an attack combo that will work especially well on your opponent.  This is less the Libra command from previous games… and more like a challenge mode to see if you can beat the mob while doing this one special attack.  If you succeed you gain additional ability points to spend on top of the normal ones you would receive for simply defeating the encounter.

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As far as the game world goes… it feels amazing.  This is a Final Fantasy game that has learned what works in Skyrim, the Far Cry series, and Dragon Age… and then re-branded all of that to work and fit perfectly in the Final Fantasy world.  The end result is this huge seamless world that lets you roam freely… with honestly very few constraints that I have found.  Unlike Final Fantasy XIV for example… you absolutely can walk off the edge of cliffs… or at least you can in some places that I found out while tracking down some mining resources.  The world is full of little details… like the ability to sit down beside this strange weather worn mascot for a diner.  As you would expect the act of you doing this causes Prompto to want to take a photo, so it feels very much like a bunch of friends out doing goofy shit and exploring the world…  free for possibly the first time from the shackles of having to live in Crown City under the watch of responsible adults.  Hell there are times the commentary running between the four of them reminds me of some of the random shit my friends and I talked about when we were off on our own road trips in High School.  This is easily the most “real” feeling Final Fantasy world I have experienced, and in a strange way it feels almost “American” in the way the various pieces fit together.  So the biggest surprise of the game came when I happened to touch what looked like a pinball machine in this same diner, and was thrown into a minigame.  Now generally speaking I don’t like Final Fantasy minigames that much, but this was actually really fun.  It was a weird amalgam of bullet hell shooter, pachinko and pinball machine…  with a strange multi character combat system.

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I reached the first point in the story when the game warns you… that if you continue on you won’t be able to return for a long time.  I could have simply said yes and moved the story along, but instead I decided to spend a bit more time and try and mine as much interesting bits from the area as I could before I moved the story forward.  In the past this always paid off in Final Fantasy games… and I am hoping it will here as well.  I decided to use that as a stopping point for the night however, and decided I wanted to go hang out on the sofa with my wife instead of play the PS4 which is hooked up in my office.  I really need to give this game a shot over remote play and see how reasonable it is to play that way.  The combat is active, but not so active that it would not be fairly forgiving of a little input lag.  Menu driven combat is definitely a sweet spot for remote play, but this might just work as well.  In any case…  the game is good.  I am extremely happy that I preordered through the PSN store… so that it preloaded in its entirety.  I am hearing otherwise popping the disc into the system causes a 45 minute install process to start, which has to be frustrating.  I was half expecting this to be the case with a digital download as well, but instead I was pleasantly surprised that I could just hit play and pop right into game without any fuss or mess.  This only serves to cement my decision that digital is always the correct way to go on these things.  I would be curious to hear your own thoughts of the game, but please for the time being keep your comments in the spoiler free variety.

Space Diablo

Last night was a good night.  It was a fairly crappy day at work because we were still dealing with the ramifications of events that happened over the break.  Nothing says excitement like an 8 am conference call.  That said I had an amazing bowl of chicken noodle soup waiting on me when I got home.  Sunday during the day we made a batch of soup in the crock pot, and for whatever reason soup is all the more amazing on day two.  This time around I added a little shredded cheese to it and it was insanely good and the perfect thing to at least in part make me forget the day that lead up to it.  As far as my evening the bulk of it was spent hanging out with Grace and Mor in Destiny.  While I consider myself still very much a fledgling player, they are more so… and as a result it was kinda fun just to ride along as Mor experienced all of the content for the very first time.  The big take away from the night however is that the year one strike bosses are still insane bullet sponges.  I kinda find it sad that they never went back and updates these strikes, when much better year two versions exist.  The walker in the Devil’s Lair normal difficulty strike… is quite possibly the hardest strike boss ever… or at the very least the one that takes the most time to bring down.  I solo walkers out in the patrol zones for fun…  and this one just would not die.

Mor calls the game “Space Diablo” and it is fitting because really in the end we are all after tasty loot.  Since I had already done most of this content before a bunch of times, I opted to play my Warlock which is generally my least progressed character.  On the Stormcaller spec for example I only had the base abilities unlocked that you exit the mission with.   By the end of the night however I had a significant amount unlocked, and gear wise my Warlock has suddenly pulled out ahead of my Hunter.  The thing with Warlock is that I like literally everything about it… except the jump.  Squirrel will probably fight me on this one, but it just feels wrong.  It doesn’t work the way I want it to work… and in truth if I could just give my Warlock the Titan jump… everything would be peachy.  Then again I would give literally every class the Titan jump, and part of me hopes that they introduce a second round of artifacts that do just this… allow you to customize each character by giving them a different class jump.  I don’t think that is likely ever going to happen, so in the meantime I will have to console myself with having permatracking thanks to Memory of Gheleon on every character.  If nothing else that artifact is amazing for finding chests… which considering just how many there are in the plaguelands greatly increase how much glimmer I am getting.

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Once things wound down in Destiny, I disappeared downstairs and worked on my Deathknight for awhile.  Sunday with the start and stop nature of work, I didn’t get terribly far in knocking out some of my dungeon quests.  In fact there was a point where I had queued for a dungeon, and shortly after the second boss had to drop group to hop on a work conference call.  Were it a guild group this probably would not have been a show stopper given that I could alt tab back and forth as needed, however I excused myself from the PUG and became resigned to not actually finishing up Stormheim.  So last night I started off by running Halls of Valor, which went extremely quickly and allowed me to move on in good conscience to Highmountain.  Right now I am largely just focusing on the main story of the zone and ignoring any offshoots for the moment, because it already seems like I am going to ding 110 well before wrapping everything up.  At the moment I am sitting at 60% into 108, and have just started the quests in High Mountain meaning I have most of an entire zone to level through.  I will absolutely ding before leaving this zone, and then I can begin the slow process of gearing through World Quests.  I have to say that I love Frost Deathknight for both a leveling and dungeon running spec, and it is going to dethrone my Paladin as my primary alt.

All of this said… I am not likely to work on my Deathknight tonight because I have a date with Final Fantasy.  I am too old to stay up and play at the official launch of a game but instead have it sitting waiting for me on my PS4 for when I get home.

Working Weekend

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Well this morning is not getting off to a glorious start.  File this under the category of more issues with web hosting.  I seem to be unable to upload any new files to any of my blogs.  Some sort of permission issue, and unfortunately not one that I can remedy myself with the level of access that I have.  We had an issue over the weekend where my sites got peppered with a bunch of bad files that were being used to send spam mail.  As a result I think the web host maybe locked things down a little too tight.  I spent the bulk of my Saturday morning going directory by directory and deleting this fishy files that had gotten uploaded through some exploit somewhere along the line.  However in the meantime I can’t upload any new images… which kinda derails the whole process of blogging for me.  Instead of writing a proper post I have spent the last forty five minutes trying to resolve the issue on my own with zero luck.

As far as gaming this weekend I was all over the place.  I played some Rift and made it to level 67 in the Gedlo Badlands, and also partook of the weekend mount sale to pick up a couple of the previously lockbox only mounts including the back warmech thing.  Early in the week I had set my goals on leveling the Deathknight in World of Warcraft to 110.  Then I found out that the frost hidden appearance that drops from this weeks world boss… also requires Artifact Knowledge 4, which was not something I could hope to finish during the timeframe.  That said I still have been having an awful lot of fun on the Deathknight and even casually playing without a serious push… I managed to get him to just shy of 108.  In Destiny I worked on getting all three of my characters through the various weekly quests available from Shiro in the Iron Temple.  I now have all three classes at 385 or above with my Titan being the highest at 387.  Other than that I started Dishonored 2 and am struggling to get into it.  I am not sure what it is about the setting but it is far less interesting to me than Dunwall.  I am not terribly far in so I am going to continue giving it a shot until hopefully it clicks.

Other than all of this… my weekend was perforated by a lot of things happening at work that I ultimately had to log in and deal with.  A prime example is that I had been trying to finish a dungeon needed by my Deathknight when I had to drop the dungeon finder group… and hop on a conference call for an hour to try and sort out what was happening.  The problem with being salary…  and not having an official on-call rotation is that it means you are always on call.  We sorted it out but it was a something looming over my head because you are never quite certain when you are really “out” for the day.  I thought I put things to bed at 11 am… and I kept getting pulled back in until around 7 pm my time.  Something similar happened on Saturday as well, and I had to stop what I was doing and drive back to the house just to get in for thirty minutes to fix something.  As a result it felt like this really strange pseudo working weekend, and with us skipping the recording of AggroChat something felt off the entire time.  It is funny now our rituals ground us… and now badly I needed mine to make the weekend feel normal.  Raiding Karazhan I guess however helped to serve as a great cap to the weekend, seeing as we once again had a pretty smooth clear.

 

Confessions of an Aging Gamer

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I had some thing happen to me this morning while playing Rift that has happened countless times.  I got a message to the effect of “Hai Belghast!” from someone that I noticed is in fact on my friends list.  However for the life of me I have no clue who it is based on the name.  Not wanting to seem like a heartless bastard I play along, until finally some nugget of a conversation triggers in my head and explains to me that yes… I do in fact know the person and who they are.  Essentially my brains filing system works really weirdly when it is concerned with other people.  I meticulously file away bits of information like personal details… hell sometimes even emotions or songs that I attribute to that person…  my brain building this complex network of only vaguely connected information that I equate to as this person.  However often times when it comes to a name… that information is filed as unimportant and is often jettisoned into the sands of time.  Now there are some folks that use the same name in every single game… and for them I have a bit more rote memorization of those names…  and even better if they happen to recycle the same fragment of a name over and over like I do with “Bel”.  However the problem is after a couple of decades of playing MMOs… I have had so many names associated to so many different people crammed in my skull that it all sort of blends together.

If you think of it like this…

  • Everquest – probably had a pool of about 500 player names that I had to memorize and associate with one another on both Veeshan and Xegony the servers I played on.
  • Dark Age of Camelot – this was a relatively small guild, and we were part of a relatively small alliance so probably 200 names or so.
  • Horizons – I got active in the larger community here so probably around 300 names that I had to sort out and try and remember.
  • City of Heroes – all told probably about 300 names as well but there was a lot of carry over from EQ, DAoC and Horizons.
  • World of Warcraft – Recently we hit the 1000 character cap in the guild… and considering longevity and activity in the community as a whole both horde and alliance side in multiple guilds 2000 names or so total.
  • Rift – Been in several guilds on several servers…  so probably around 300 names to remember.
  • Guild Wars 2 – Not as active here but in four guilds so probably around 200 names to remember.
  • Elder Scrolls Online – We had 150 players at launch… and this was a strange once since we interacted with account names not characters.
  • Final Fantasy XIV – last I checked we were at around 300 characters in the guild, and if you factor in random community folks and other linkshells that probably goes up to around 500 character names.

So not factoring other games in…  we are already up to around 5000 character names that are swimming around in my head looking for associations with some bundle of information about them.  Then there are a plethora of other games, twitter, raptr, steam and other means of contact that I have with names associated there is quite literally no way I could possibly keep up with it all.  I am trying to fake it like a pro but sometimes I fail miserably.  The problem is I want to remember, I want to know exactly who someone is just looking at a name but I simply can’t every time.  What is extra frustrating about it is… that the information is up there somewhere because I rarely if ever forget.  I just have the worlds worst filing system because I associate things with bits of information that make horrible indexes.  I mean how can you search by a feeling…  when you are only inputting a name?  Anyways so firstly I want to apologize if you are ever happy to see me logging in and I am super distant at first.  What I am honestly doing is trying to get more information from you to connect the puzzles pieces until it all comes snapping into focus.  Imagine yourself in a library where there are tons of books but no filing system… and the ones that you used last are of course the easiest to get to.  However the ones that haven’t been touched for months or years… they are going to take awhile to uncover but are eventually reachable.

I am not sure how much of this really is aging, and how much is the fact that I have way more information in my brain today that I had a decade or two ago.  I grew up in a small town where I only ever knew a couple hundred people total in my life.  Now I interact with literally thousands of people on a monthly basis, and in doing so…  I am desperately trying to care deeply about each and every one of them.  The empathy section of my brain is sort of permanently working on overdrive trying to grasp and hold as many people as I can in my monkeysphere while at the same time trying to lose as little information on the ones that just happen to slip out.  I realize this is a bit of an odd topic, and it is once again coming late in the day as I sit down at the keyboard for the first time for any extended length of time.  I guess I am proving that I can in fact write both in the early morning and in the evening.  In any case know that I really do care, I just sometimes need more time to boot up my search engine than others when it comes to retrieving any meaningful information from a name.  The image is of course not connected to this topic at all… I just wanted to somehow blunt the wall of text with a cool mount.

Waterless Thanksgiving

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I realize it is late, but if I blog now it still counts right?  Today was an extremely strange day, but I am now home and mostly happy and sane.  This whole adventure started last night when we heard on the news that my home town was on the brink of being without water.  The irony in that statement is that the town is named Nowata…  and this is essentially a running punchline that I have had to hear my entire damned life.  Tuesday morning an explosion rocked the Airosol chemical plant in Neodesha Kansas, roughly sixty miles from my home town.  In the process of fighting the fire all sorts of strange chemicals ran off into the Verdigris river…  that feeds the water supplies of a bunch of towns as it travels its way down and eventually joins up with the Arkansas river.  Namely this meant that the town I grew up in had to shut off water at midnight last night to keep from getting any contaminants into the system.  It was estimated by noon today that the taps would run dry as they only had about ten hours worth of water available in the tower.  When I first heard that I thought… well I guess there goes the plans for Thanksgiving, because surely no one was going to attempt to hold a big meal without access to a bathroom.  I would be wrong.

When I finally got a hold of my mom this morning she acted completely unfazed by the news, like it was silly for me to think that dinner might be off.  She just said that she was telling people to make sure they used the bathroom before coming.  She also said that we could always just go out behind a building…  remember I come from fairly humble roots.  My wife backed out because she needed to assist a friend of ours from trying to move out of her apartment, and in part because I don’t think she liked the concept of attempting Thanksgiving without running water.  Thankfully as it turns out they had prepped pretty much all of the food minus the bird well ahead of time, so it was just a matter of cooking a small turkey this morning.  All in all it went as pleasant as it could be given that it meant hanging out with my blatantly racist uncle and my sometimes extremely paranoid aunt.  My conspiracy theorist uncle did not make it, so there is at least that.  I love my parents dearly though and I appreciate the effort that my mom put into trying to make a proper Thanksgiving happen.

It has been rough the last few years because over time we have lost what I call our “anchor households” being those locations and individuals that glued the holidays together.  One by one I lost my grandparents, and with the death of my wife’s step father… and her father and step mom turning snowbirds and RVing full time…  we really don’t have much of an infrastructure for proper holiday observation.  We are not the hosting type, because honestly we are the ones that start a timer from the moment we eat…  because it starts ticking down until we have reached our fill of other human beings.  It is hard being an introvert in a very extrovert-centric family.  There were a whole slew of volatile topics discussed, but I essentially knew it was going to happen before hand so I had prepared myself for it.  All things considered though, it wasn’t a bad afternoon and I wound up staying around four hours which is probably a new record for me.  That was honestly the point where I decided… I should probably head towards someplace with indoor plumbing that worked.

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The highlight of the day however was seeing the army of orange fuzzballs following my dad around when I went home to see the handiwork on his new porch.  Also of note I saw two wild turkeys that have apparently been hanging around my folks house.  The cats though were adorable as can be, and one decided it liked me… and hung out beside me on the porch.  It of course screamed its little head off because my dad has gotten in the habit of feeding them wet catfood… and they apparently thought it was well past feeding time.  I love my family, but I never really felt that connected to them.  What I mean is to say that I never really fit in or seemed to think in the same way as they did.  Going home and visiting them is draining, because I feel like I have to put on my “Mark” suit, meaning I shift into the person that they expect me to be without really meaning to.  Being in my hometown always feels suffocating, because I have so much history there… and there are still a large number of people who remember me as something that I probably never was.  All of this makes me appreciate the life I have built for myself, my amazing wife, my furkids… and the family that I chose.  There are so many of you out there that may or may not actually read this… that I am thankful for having in my life.  While there are so many of you that I will probably never actually meet in the flesh… it doesn’t make each and every one of you any less my family.  I have a habit of adopting people… and I am thankful for each of you that I have in my life.

Unintended Stealth

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I had every intent last night of going home and working on my Deathknight.  This week the world boss is The Soultakers, which finally allows folks to unlock the hidden frost appearance.  I had been enjoying my newly humanized Deathknight after years being a Worgen, but had largely been taking my time in pushing through the levels.  However with the promise of an artifact appearance waiting on me, the goal was to get home and push as hard as I could to get to 110 before the week was finished.  Recently they patched the game to make all artifact appearance drops from world bosses a 100% drop chance.  Apparently however there is a giant asterisk looming behind that statement.  What I am hearing now is that in order to get the appearance you have to be artifact knowledge rank four, which is completely impossible for me to actually obtain during this week, at least without the impending catch up mechanics.  So instead I went upstairs to try and solve another issue.  According to my friend Squirrel, apparently I have not been online on PSN in over thirty days…  so after some back and forth we determined that I had apparently inadvertently set myself to appear offline.  For awhile now I had seen a red X beside my portrait in the PS4 menu, but I always just assumed that meant I had a flaky connection.  However apparently on my profile page I hit the wrong thing and flipped myself into some sort of stealth mode.  After fixing that… I also started getting updates as to what my friends were doing, so when Squirrel joined a party I decided to hook my headset up and join as well.

The plan for the evening was supposedly a Hard Mode Wrath of the Machine, but due to the holiday messing with everyone’s raiding plans… it was just Squirrel, myself, Jex and Havel that were available.  The original thought was that if we could somehow muster the folks that we would end up running a normal to show me the ropes.  Instead we just ended up completing various crap that I had sitting undone.  I am the worst at actually grinding through quests, and the Gjallarhorn was something I tried when I was sitting at 340ish and found maddening.  There are wave and waves of exploding shanks that have this nasty way of sneaking up on you when you are least expecting.  I would ultimately end up getting blown up and failing out… and unfortunately this is one of those quests where you have to complete a bunch of stuff if you die at any point.  The goal originally was to pester someone to come help me, but I never got around to doing it.  Last night they were willing to help and I was more than happy to knock a quest out of my inventory.

Similarly I had been sitting on the Thorn quest for at least a week now, having completed the last of the crucible kills during the recent Iron Banner.  In order to do this one I needed a key, and had never actually finished the Sepiks Perfected strike quest…  which rewarded a key.  So next up my friends set about to helping me complete this quest.  Unfortunately I have not actually spent any time with the gun, but seeing as I never got the year one variety I have always been curious just how it feels.  There was a time where I used hand cannons above pretty much any gun, but the short range and ammo capacity nerfs have ended up with me favoring other things.  If nothing else I might throw this up on my hunter and be the stereotype, even though this version of thorn is significantly defanged from the original.

Lastly when I opened the chest to pick up the Thorn, I managed to pull a pretty sweet new sniper with significantly higher light than the one I was using.  I like the super high damage archetype of snipers, so this has already seen some use given that it is solar burn week.  We attempted a random heroic after completing the Thorn quest but for whatever reason I failed to get credit from my Future War Cult quest.  I am super thankful to all of the help that Squirrel and Jex were willing to dish out last night, and I really want to figure out a time when I can hang out properly and do more Destiny stuff.  I knew I missed them, but I didn’t realize how much until the middle of last night hanging out killing baddies.

Fetching Cats

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I am not entirely certain how well this video is going to come across on the blog, since I am just using the default twitter embed process.  I’ve talked about playing fetch with my youngest cat Kenzie before.  She loves rubber bands, and whenever she wants to play will bring one and drop it beside me.  Traditionally this has meant tossing it around the room and her chasing after it.  However over the weekend my wife went to a craft fair and picked me up a basic rubberband gun.  Now at first the results were mixed, but I quickly realized it was because it moved quicker than she could actually track.  So firing it across the room in the air meant she would just look at me confused a few times and then give up.  However if I fire it across the floor so that it makes impact and slides the rest of the way…  she is able to track that and bolts off after it.  I decided to attempt to record this in the process and overall it turned out pretty well… including the batting of the gun to try and make me fire it.  This was my evening… and when she would get tired she would bring it back… and then lay down on top of it.  Later she would discover it again when she got up and the circus would continue.

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As far as gaming went… it was another mixed bag of an evening.  Firstly early in the evening before my wife got home I spent that time working on my Warlock and namely doing the Shiro and Tyra weekly quest.  The idea being that if I keep doing those every week I am bound to get some interesting stuff from the load of legendary engrams that they ultimately provide.  At this very moment I swap them all to the bank and then hop on my highest light character to open them.  However before long that won’t matter quite so much given that the only sub 385 character I have right now is my Warlock.  Today is the weekly  reset, and from what it sounds like it is a really good week to farm packages.  If nothing else this is going to be the week that I farm up all of the heroic strikes I need for Future War Cult quest.  Small Arms and Solar Burn means you can farm heroics, and Mayhem Clash means you can finish games in 6 mins making it an insane Crucible farm week as well.  Needless to say I am probably going to be playing Destiny tonight.

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In World of Warcraft last night was our traditional Mythical Monday night…  which is just a cute name for “oh shit we never did a mythic this week”.  It seems like Monday is the night that I always end up doing a keystone just in time to get a free item today.  This time around there was a double benefit, in that my friend Mor needed Black Rook Hold for the Karazhan attunement, and he also had a keystone for it.  It is getting to the point where these runs are largely pretty smooth and we managed to complete in with enough time to spare that we got two chests at the end.  Unfortunately I don’t think anyone managed to get any usable gear.  Quite honestly it has been a really long time since I have gotten anything useful out of a Mythic, and largely they are just something I do… because of the fear of missing out on something from the chest.  I enjoy them, and I am always happy to tank them pending I can dedicate 30 minutes of my time in one sitting.  However I am not necessarily running them because I need them.

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Lastly I finished the evening in Rift and managed to finish up Scatherran Forest.  I got so into the game that I completely did not watch the time… and wound up finally heading to bed when my wife started to wake up from the sofa at 12:30.  From there I had a pretty fitful night sleep wise, so it is definitely going to be an interesting day.  That aside…  Scatherran Forest was a great experience and the wrap up event was full of epic moments.  At the end of the zone you wind up going into a mini solo dungeon of sorts, with I believe four boss encounters that you take on with two companions.  As far as the story line and ramifications… they also felt pretty awesome.  There were some definite feels caused by the ending… that were not entirely attributable to the late hour.  I’ve now moved on to the Gedlo Badlands, with my general idea being to ping pong back and forth between the two as I work my way through the comet towards the Tower of Ahnket.  I had my first real run in with Ahnket and it was interesting…  definitely get a malevolent evil vibe…  but also that of a cat playing with a toy which makes it all the more fitting to talk about this morning.  I  talked a bit during the day about Time to Kill issues… and apparently a good chunk of that was my own damned fault in that I forgot to slot any planar fragments.  Once I did that… I noticed a significant boost in damage output, so if you are similarly struggling try that.  So far my favorite thing about this expansion is largely just a side effect.  I love that I am gaining planar levels insanely fast anytime I do pretty much anything… which is helping me flesh out those neglected trees.

A Good Weekend

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This past week was the week of seemlingly smooth and fast clears.  Wednesday night we worked on progression content, which mean’t that we spent the majority of the evening wiping to new and exciting things.  However the end result of that evening was that we downed Odyn and made a decent amount of progress on Guarm.  The only negative aspect of that is that it also means that none of us actually saw progress on the quest chain that haunts us.  We kicked around the notion of having an Emerald Nightmare clear night, that I ultimately decided would be Friday.  I set up a calendar invite and hoped, and then was pleasantly surprised at the number of folks that signed up.  In fact we technically had more than our normal raid nights, and other than some starts and stops while waiting on folks or dealing with disconnections…  it was a very smooth evening.  So smooth in fact that I seriously wonder if we could have cleared the entire place in an hour.  I mean because of the various time spent waiting… that was not a thing that happened however it seemed like we might have been on pace for it.  That general smoothness continued on last night with Karazhan, but so did the whole waiting business.  Thalen got sidelined with family stuff, and we had the option of either filling his slot or waiting.  It turned out we ended up getting started roughly an hour and a half late, but once again things went amazingly smoothly.  So much so that I think next week we are going to make a proper attempt at a Nightbane run.  We would have one shot every boss… were it not for the fact that we tried some madness for an achievement on Medivh.

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Another big part of my weekend was roaming around and exploring the Comet of Ahnket in the Rift Starfall Prophecy expansion.  At this point I am sitting around 66 1/3 and feel like I have barely scratched the surface of the Scatherran Forest zone.  Firstly I have to say this expansion is charming as hell so far, namely because of the two companions that follow you around at times… but also because it is a great example of environmental storytelling.  Every area is packed full of little things to be scene and experienced much in the same way the zones are built in Guild Wars 2.  Lots of things are happening in the background and all it takes is you sitting still long enough to experience them.  The best of these vignettes has to be the hedgehogs who are stuck in a ball rolling…  until one of them realizes that they can just let go of their feet to stop.  Similarly there is this adorable sequence where you are playing hide and seek with baby unicorns, and you have to go out and find them so that you can lead them back home.  The only negative so far is that I feel woefully undergeared for some of the content, and there is a bit of an uneven difficulty level happening.  There was an area full of spiders… and they seemed literally twice as tough as any of the other equivalent level 66 mobs.  I could take down entire packs of humanoids… but a single spider was a race to see if I could finish them off before they finished me off.  Getting a second spider meant absolute certain death.  All in all though I am really liking the expansion and it feels much more like Storm Legion did as far as content goes.

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Finally I spent a good deal of time playing Destiny this weekend and was able to push my Titan to the 385 barrier.  This is the point where you stop getting upgrades from legendary engrams, and are stuck relying on faction rewards that stop at 390… and exotic engrams that will take you all the way to 400.  This means I am hoping tomorrow starts a small arms week for the heroic strike list because I absolutely need to spend some time farming.  In theory I believe the Archon’s Forge will go up to 400 when it comes to end of event rewards, but not anything coming from an engram.  I spent some time working on my Hunter and Warlock and getting both of them through the Rise of Iron story so I can have three sets of world bounties to work on each week.  I realize they just reward engrams at this point… but if nothing else it can be infusion fodder to help work up additional weapons and armor.  I need to find the free time to try and sign up for one of the machine raids so I can see the content and get some more tasty gear.  However 385 is a completely respectable place to be, and in theory during the next iron banner I should be able to make a decent dent into pushing that number up into the 390s.  It was a great weekend and especially considering we have a short week ahead of me.