Dragon Quest Builders Thoughts

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I thought I would take a bit of a break from the constant stream of Monster Hunter World posts to talk about something else that I’ve been playing.  Dragon Quest Builders was originally released on the PS4 and Vita back in October 2016 in the United States.  There is apparently also a version that runs on the PS3 in Japan, but seemingly that copy never made it over here.  I remember being super interested when I first saw the trailer, but by the time it was released was deeply distracted by other things.  Just scrolling back through my blog…  on the month it released I seemed to be dabbling in World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy XIV, Guild Wars 2, Destiny 1, Diablo 3 and a little bit of Skyrim.  Basically it released while I was distracted by other things…  and as a result I never actually got around to picking it up.

Scroll forward to February, a month where I am mostly in a Monster Hunter Shaped hole…  and I notice that it officially releases on the Nintendo Switch.  I’ve not really had any builder games in my life over the last few months, so in theory it was maybe a good time to dig into a new one.  It is really hard to describe what Dragon Quest Builders is because it is this sort of beautiful amalgam of a bunch of different games.  At times it feels like a Legend of Zelda game especially when you don a sword and shield and go out into the world to whack monsters.  There are times when it feels like Minecraft because you are absolutely collecting resources and building up your base.  Then there are times when it feels a bit like Actraiser where you are intervening in the lives of the NPCs that populate your village.

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The story of the game is pretty simple at face value.  The game world itself is that of Alefgard the world of the original Dragon Quest, and is essentially what would have happened…  if we had failed and the Dragonlord won.  It is also a world where over time the fledgling human populace has lost hope and forgotten the power of creation.  You as a builder are granted the ability to look at a set of raw resources and gain inspiration in how they might be shaped into useful objects.  As a result it is your place as the new hero… to start reclaiming the world through combat and creativity and push back the forces of the Dragonlord.

The world itself is divided up into a series of islands, and through the course of gameplay you can learn how to make teleporters allowing you to traverse between them for different resources.  All the while you continue running quests for the NPCs that start showing up in the town you are slowly piecing back together.  Placing blocks together in certain ways creates rooms that then the NPCs can inhabit, and you begin to create machines that they can then utilize giving you resources that then can be used as you go out venturing the “save the world”.

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I’ve loved Minecraft since the moment I first watched a YouTube video explaining the basics of the game.  The problem with Minecraft however is that it is awesome to go out and create things in…  but it also doesn’t really have a point.  Sure there is the whole Ender Dragon nonsense that was placed in game late…  but really there is no sequence of events that you need to complete to “beat” the game.  For me “beating” Minecraft is amassing enough Diamonds to be able to use full Diamond everything and not give a crap about it.  However regardless of how cool you build your world out… it feels hollow because there are no NPCs inhabiting it.

Dragon Quest solves this problem by allowing you to build a world… that then comes to life as various types of NPCs come live in it.  Sure you can get this sort of functionality with modding, but it always feels tacked on to the side of the game and not really part of it.  Dragon Quest gives you a reason for your wanderlust and harvesting and allows you to keep coming back to a place you call home and in doing so help out the people surrounding you.  This might be a subtle difference but it is the one that is the most important and is why I have been playing the heck out of this game each night before falling to sleep.  I like that I can pick it up, do a few things and feel like I have accomplished something.  If this sounds at all interesting to you, I highly suggest checking it out.

 

The Good Grind

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Over the last few days I have been thinking about where Monster Hunter World has succeeded and Destiny 2 has failed.  I know this is probably a strange way to start off a post, but I am playing MHW the way that I fully expected to still be playing Destiny 2.  If you add up the total time I have spent with the Destiny franchise across different platforms you wind up with 741 hours.  Given that sort of track record I fully expected to be playing that game currently.  That said I have missed two faction rallies, two iron banners and have not really even logged in during the current crimson doubles event.  Sure I could be getting all manner of cosmetic gear from them…  but the weapon and gear system just feels hollow given that I have collected most everything I am interested in using.

While I love the token loot system, Destiny 2 has a problem with not giving us a meaningful grind to be focused on.  Doing event after event hoping to get a Masterwork Weapon or Piece of armor doesn’t really count.  When I say meaningful grind I mean something that I can do on a nightly basis that is fun, but also feels like I am making progress towards some larger objective.  In many ways the fickle nature of loot in Destiny 1 and the existence of things like the Court of Oryx and Archon’s Forge gave me something I could do… that felt like I was potentially moving in the direction of something that I wanted from the game.  As it stands there are too few interesting weapon options and the watered down version of exotics no longer really make them worth chasing in the way we used to before.

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It may simply be because I am playing on the PS4 with friends that I am drawing the conclusion…  but as I play Monster Hunter World I think about the ways that it has given me this path to madness paved with little incremental rewards.  When you kill or trap a Monster you are hunting you are showered with a bunch of monster parts…  some of which are useful and some of which are not as useful.  The thing is, regardless if I have 50 of an item… I am still sorta excited to see them because I know that eventually I might need to use them to craft some new weapon that I then have to upgrade up to the final version.  I might suddenly decide that Hammer is awesome and then have to start building up my collection of weapons much the same as I do for my beloved Longsword.

I know that every thing I kill, and every object in the world that I loot is taking me towards some bigger goal.  The number of times that I have had to go out lately and farm herbs…  one of literally the first items you encounter in the game…  is shocking given that I am dealing with a completely different set of monsters than I did back then.  However it doesn’t seem like tedium because they have placed value on almost everything you can encounter out in the wilds and while you may not need it today… there is likely going to be a time at some point in the future where you will be wishing you had more of it.  While literally every moment I am not hunting a big epic monster is busywork…  none of it feels like it because it feels valuable to the larger mission of the game.

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While Destiny has never really had something close to this grind, I am thinking maybe it should.  The central focus of all of this for me personally is the Smithy, which is a menu driven crafting system that allows me to turn all of these bits and pieces of critters I have taken down…  and meld them into usable gear with interesting stat combinations.  I’ve spent a good deal of time farming up Odogoron, which is a giant hairless blind hell hound looking thing.  I personally really like its armor set and I want to be able to wield the full thing a a potential replacement for my mishmash of gear I am currently wearing.  This gives me a goal, and the grind itself is slow enough that each kill feels like meaningful progress without ever giving me that landfall moment of getting everything I possibly need in a single round.

Imagine for a second if you had gear and weapons in Destiny based on a similar concept.  Each time you took down the Fallen example, there was a chance of getting an item that could be used in the crafting of Fallen themed weapons or armor.  The common items would drop from Dregs, medium rarity items from Vandals and the rare bits from Servitors and Walkers.  Then say you wanted to craft the Vex Mythoclast you would need to maybe take down a Gate Lord to get the focusing lens, and a bunch of Minotaurs to get the armored housing.  All of this is more meaningful than collect 40 of token Z and hope the RNG gods smile upon your en devour as you may or may not get the item you want from a relatively deep loot table.  It also turns Banshee-44 into more than the Gachapon machine that he currently is, by giving him the actual ability to craft specific items for you.

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What Monster Hunter World does better than almost anything is that it gives me a target for my nightly nonsense.  Granted right now I cannot craft the Chrome Slicer I because I lack the zenny to do so….  but I know where every single piece that it requires drops from.  I know that I can run loops around High Rank Wildspire Wastes for most if it, but to get the Fucium Ore I am going to have to make my way down into the Elder’s Recess.  If I notice a weapon requires parts off of a specific monster I am given a bunch of different ways to target that one specific encounter and run it over and over if I so choose.  In my case what I personally tend to do is answer SOS beacons for that specific encounter, feeling like I am actually helping out someone else in the community take down that critter for fun and profit as well.

More than anything what I think Monster Hunter World does so well is that it eases you into all of this.  You quickly learn the value of the items you can grab out in the world as new patterns start showing up that you can craft.  You notice that items have ??? beside some of the materials and it drives you to go out and explore until you find them.  All of this creates a feedback loop of take down epic feeling monsters, get items, craft interesting gear…  so you can take down even bigger monsters.  Sure a lot of the gear is not strictly required…  but for someone who is very gear focused it certainly makes the journey feel a lot more meaningful.  The monster battle portion being fun enough that while I am actively engaged in fighting…  I am not even thinking about what might drop which is not the case in most MMORPGs.

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When they first started talking about Destiny 2 being a much more open world and quest driven game…  this is honestly the sort of experience I had been envisioning.  What if you could fight a Destiny boss the same way you do a Monster in Monster Hunter World?  What if getting every player to focus on taking out a Gatelord’s weapon arm caused it to no longer be able to fire that weapon… and instead forced it to change up tactics and start engaging in melee attacks.  What if the way you fought a boss mattered just as much as the weapons you took into the fight?  When we got Destiny 2 and it was a stripped down version of what we had in Destiny 1…  I was disappointed, but the mechanical loop of the game kept me engaged for way longer than the game itself probably deserved.  I had enough hype built up to carry me through the console launch and restarting with the PC launch…  but now I just don’t ever feel like even logging in.

What I want is a good grind.  That doesn’t necessarily mean running Omnigul hundreds of times hoping that maybe just maybe you will get that one in a million perfectly stated Grasp of Malok.  What that means for me personally is something that I can do on a nightly basis that feels like I am eventually heading towards some goal down the road.  Maybe at some point in the near future I will feel like I am out of grinds in Monster Hunter World, but I can at least see a road map in front of me that seems like it is going to be an interesting ride.  Right now I am almost overwhelmed by the sheer number of objectives that I could be chasing, and as I move up… it feels like the world keeps expanding out rather than narrowing down to a pin point like the raid cycle does in an MMORPG.  Monster Hunter World is a really great grind, that is attached to a really fun experience of taking down giant monsters that fight in a fluid and believably organic manner.  Maybe Bungie will find its footing at some point, but for the moment I am enjoying discovering the Monster Hunter franchise.

Delightful Nonsense

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Last night didn’t exactly go as I had originally planned but what actually happened was probably better.  There were a couple of things that I knew I had on my list for the evening, one of which was to run to target and attempt to find clearance valentines candy for my wife’s classroom.  There are several candies that she uses in lab exercises like kisses, m&m’s and skittles.  The scene in that candy aisle was just insane with random display boxes strewn everywhere and essentially everything mostly gone.  We did manage to scavenge some plain old fashioned Hershey’s Kisses in valentines packaging for the 50% off discount.

Prior to going into the store I called in a take out order across the street at Baja Jack’s Burrito Shack, so we picked up our orders…  for me a steak fajita quesadilla and for my wife steak fajita nacho platter.  I flipped over to Twitch to see if anyone was streaming, and I appeared to be auto hosting Sushi so I tuned in to say hi.  I finishing “nomming my tasty noms” and fired up the PS4 when almost instantly I had a party invite waiting on me.  Pizza Maid was also just about to fire up her stream and was looking for people to hang out while doing so.  So I joined her, SitaDulip, Misiek, and a very drunk Welsh Fox and Wolfy in chat and prepared for an evening of delightful nonsense.

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One of the main reasons why Monster Hunter World has been scratching my MMO itch is for nights like last night.  While we lost Fox and Wolfy pretty early because they decided they were a little too sauced to be on a stream…  we had this great night of just wandering around and doing random stuff.  Sure I wasn’t necessarily moving my quest chain forward, but I was still having a lot of fun knocking out random stuff… some of it low rank and some of it high rank.  It was this furious blend of investigations, optional quests, and arena missions and a heck of a lot of fun.

I think the only high rank monster we actually took down was a Pukei Pukei at the very end of the night when the stream had whittled down to just me and Pizza hanging out.  The best moment of the stream however was when Pizza runs off to use the restroom only to find out that Aria her adorable asshole cat has rolled all the toilet paper off the roll.  Props to stealthy for clipping this because it is an amazing conversation happening off screen…  but I am chuckling along in my recognition that I have also had this thing happen.  Basically it was a really fun night and if you so care to… the entire VOD of our random adventures is available.

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Tonight however… I would actually like to make some progress.  If that means catching Pizza up to this point in the storyline and then taking down an asshole pink Rathian together then so be it.  Last night was all about hanging out with friends and tonight would be lovely if I could hang out with friends and also kill this horrible creature.   The other thing I am contemplating is doing a dueling banjos stream of sorts where I am also streaming while Pizza is streaming and then posting one of those links that allows you to see the stream side by side.  I will of course have to talk to her about this concept, also also I will have to figure out what PSN chat does to my streaming set up.  I am not sure if it is going to be a horribly echoy experience for my viewers.

Regardless if we take down a Pink Rathian or not I would love to engage in some high rank hunt nonsense.  Right now I have a handful of pools of people that I have been actively playing with and only time will tell tonight who I end up grouped up with.  Regardless though Monster Hunter is feeling like and MMORPG to me in spite of it not really being one.  It feels like I am doing all of these epic boss fights with friends and I guess at the end of the day… that was my most important requirement for MMO grouping.  I had wished Destiny 2 would feel like this, but for whatever reason the magic sauce just wasn’t there as strongly this time.  With Monster Hunter it is all brand new to me having never really gained traction in the series, and with Destiny 2…  I just kept thinking about all of the awesome things we had to give up from the first game.

Monster Hunter Online

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There are times I do things that don’t make sense at all…  but am nonetheless compelled to do them anyways.  Last night was one of those nights and the madness that my brain was targeting involved seeing if I could actually get Monster Hunter Online installed and running.  I had decided that I would end up hanging out with my wife last night and watching some olypmics while she graded, which meant I would be losing access to my beloved Monster Hunter World.  I mean sure I could play it through PS Remote Play but the experience degrades so drastically since I am used to playing it on a 4K display in HDR.  Early in the evening I had stumbled onto a video by Arekkz from June of 2016 where he attempted playing the game.  This for whatever reason  triggered something in my brain wanting to try it, much like I will sometimes devote way too much effort to trying to emulate something that I have sitting in my closet.

The first problem is that there are plenty of guides out there for playing Monster Hunter Online.  The key problem with each of them is that they involve downloading some random package of binaries from either a file dump website or in some cases google drive.  I do not trust downloading a “verified good” client from somewhere I don’t know as the originating source of the file.  Basically that ruled out all of those options and left me sorting out the steps by myself.  Essentially the step to get up and running look a little something like this.

  1. Register a QQ Account – this is essentially the Tencent version of AIM and has a really weird profiling system that includes details like asking you for your blood type which is not creepy at all.  I filled out only the minimum of information and found it hilarious that the QQ version of the Twitter Egg icon…  is a crying baby.  Apparently all Tecent games are driven by the QQ account and this will be a numerical address combined with a password.  SAVE THIS NUMBER… there is apparently no great way to recover an account.
  2. Download WeGame – WeGame is the Tencent version of Steam for lack of a better term for it.  There is no english version so you are ultimately going to be flying blind here.  All of the categories are in chinese except for FPS and MMORPG.  Since what we are looking for is an MMORPG it was pretty easy to select that category and find the Monster Hunter Online logo shown above to start the download process.
  3. Download Monster Hunter Online – there will be what appears to be an obvious download button when you find Monster Hunter Online in the menu.  This seems to download the game in the background…  so the process will show up in Task Manager but won’t actually be a window you can flip over to through Alt-Tab or through the task bar.  I have really fast internet so it did not take long at all…  but it involves two downloads one that is around 9 gb and another that is around 15 gb so it may take forever for you.
  4. Launch Monster Hunter Online – when the game finally finishing installing which is an awkward and largely blind experience… it will show up in the left hand bar of the WeGame client.  All the while it is downloading there will be what is the Monster Hunter Online theme playing in the background…  that you can literally do nothing about.  How I determined it was finished… was when the music went away.  Immediately upon launching the game you will be presented with the next hurdle.
  5. Fake a Chinese ID – You will immediately be presented with a page from QQ stating that the game cannot be played without some sort of national Chinese ID.  This was not super surprising because when you attempt to play a lot of South Korean games you run into a similar problem.  The difference here is that apparently the Chinese ID is an amalgam of a birthdate, region codes, and some randomized number all with a check bit to verify that it is “official”.  As result there are tons of places online that offer you a generator to create your own.  The one I linked is the one that worked for me… and quite honestly since I do not read chinese we engaged in a bit of pattern matching.  You will need to make sure that you match up the names of the regions in both the generator and the client and unfortunately google translate only goes so far.  I went with Bejing and what looked to be the most distinct pattern that I was able to match in both locations.  SAVE THIS NUMBER.
  6. Plug Code into QQ Page and Pray – The page that popped up when you launch Monster Hunter World should still be sitting there in the background, and for me at least I was able to pop that code into the box, hit submit and it worked first attempt. Your mileage may vary especially depending on your pattern matching skills on the earlier steps.
  7. Relaunch Monster Hunter Online – If everything worked you will now be able to play Monster Hunter Online and have the same fun I did guessing what the buttons actually do in the character creation system.  I managed to limp through the process of creating a character by guessing the logic that was used.  On the lower left hand side there is a menu that appears to be some sort of a batch of presets…  and then the button beside it to the right appears to be some sort of a confirmation that takes you to a prompt in the center of the screen that lets you name your character and enter the world.  It accepted my english named character without any problems.

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The next question you should be asking yourself is whether or not you should actually do this thing I just explained to you how to do.  The short answer is no… you should not.  You should really just stick to playing Monster Hunter World and waiting for the eventual PC release.  The positive take away from last night is that I have a fully functional QQ account and will be able to play things that get released by Tencent in China if I so care to at some point.  The bad part however is that the game is not great.  Sure it sorta looks like Monster Hunter but more importantly it FEELS nothing like Monster Hunter World.  If I did not know this was a purposeful collaboration between Capcom and Tencent I would have assumed the game was yet another asset flip mobile game because it is not pretty.

You are treated to this opening cutscene where some monster type I have never seen crashes into your airship.  All the while the monster is clipping through the airship and as you begin to crash land the ship itself randomly clips in and out of the mountain side.  When you finally get to ground level you have to fight yet another monster that I don’t recognize… but it could have been an overly stylized version of a Rathian.  During this fight you are provided with MMO style telegraphs on the ground to denote where the monster is going to attack.  These show up well before the actual animation sequence starts taking out a bit of the fun of playing Monster Hunter in the first place which is reading the monsters attacks.

I am not sure if everyone starts out as longsword but I lucked into that allowing me to try out a weapon that I already understand the attack patterns of which helped me get acclimatized quickly.  In the grand scheme of things the attacks were all recognizable and worked much the same as if I had been using a controller.  The equivalent of my Triangle attack was on the left mouse button and the equivalent of my R2 attack was on the right mouse button… with the short jab circle attacks being tied to E.  Z for whatever reason became the interact/harvest key which is only explained after you encounter your first herb plant to harvest.  You are not really given enough time after your first actual monster encounter to harvest the corpse.

It was playable but the post tutorial interface was clogged with tons of cash shop functionality that I never could figure out how to get rid of.  It was around the time I arrived in the first town that I finally decided to just stop playing and find something better to do with my evening.  The game did not feel great and the visuals felt cheaply thrown together and appear to be vastly different than the original images I saw from the first versions of the game.  The game appears to have been stylized a bit more away from the traditional Monster Hunter vibe, and in doing so the appearance and experience seems to have been cheapened significantly.

At the end of the day I highly suggest you not do the thing that I did last night.  I still felt largely compelled to explain how I did it though in case someone wanted to follow in my footsteps.  This methodology allows you to go to the original sources and get the actual files instead of hoping and praying that some google drive share doesn’t give you a bit coin mining virus.  I could not get any of the screenshots I took last night working, so instead I had to harvest a few from the interwebs for the purpose of this post.  Ash warned me away from this madness but sometimes I just feel compelled to do stupid things.

[Edit – 2/15/2018 – 10 am]

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After posting this…  Ashgar suggested that in fairness I should at least namedrop Dauntless here.  Right now it is in fact a PC based Monster Hunter like game available in closed beta.  To get into that said beta however you either need to be a media personality/streamer of some note…  or to pay for it.  There are varying levels of access that start at $40 and end at $80 (that used to be $100 and the way you got into alpha).  I’ve played this briefly at Pax South a few years back but can’t really speak to the state of the game.  If you are interested I would suggest you check out the video by Skill-Up that I will link below.  His take is that the game has promise, but it is not really a replacement for Monster Hunter yet.  So I return to my original advise of just waiting for World to be released on the PC.

 

The Missing Piece

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My wife is amazing and if you were expecting a game based post… you are instead getting a second real life post in a row. My wife decided to do this thing in her classroom where each day she would post on the board a note talking about why she enjoyed being their teacher. She likely saw it on pinterest or from one of her other teacher friends but it was a pretty cool idea and a good way to mark the month of February leading up to Valentines day. As is often the case when we got close to go time, she needed a little assistance coming up with something to post on her bulletin board. As I have done countless other times I knocked out something quickly, figured out how to print it across multiple pages and then thought nothing more about it.  The above image is what I came up with and it looked pretty good printed on a nice pink paper that she ultimately cut out to put on the white board.

Each morning I go through a specific routine.  I get up and take the first shower so that she can sleep a little bit longer.  Then I start making the coffee, each of ours to a slightly different order…  hers going in a travel mug because she doesn’t like to drink it when it is piping hot.  From there I venture upstairs and drink my “probably still piping hot but I don’t actually notice it” cup of coffee and sit down to talk to all of you out there reading this blog.  About thirty minutes later my wife hollers up at me telling me to have a good day and I reciprocate.  I wrap up my thoughts, post something to the blog and rush around downstairs feeding the animals and doing whatever else needs to be done before I head to work.  I am very much a creature of habit.

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In February however these stared showing up along the bottom of my monitor.  At first I had not really caught on to the scheme because I am dense and also I usually see them first thing in the morning.  Each one a little note, along the same idea as the ones in her classroom but directed at me.  I am hoping that she does not mind the ones I chose to show, because I had to give an example of how cute they are.  This morning I found my favorite candy…  a Reese’s Peanut Butter Egg on the Keurig…  in my coffee mug…  and two upstairs in my chair along with a package of heart shaped butter cookies (also a favorite of mine).  The amount of work and detail that she poured into this scheme is both adorable and impressive and while I feel horrible for not coming up with this concept myself…  it’s been a delightful experience.

The thing is… I’ve never quite figured out when she has been doing it.  Firstly she goes to bed way earlier than I do and when I leave my office to go to bed… there is no note.  Generally speaking I wake up when she leaves bed or at least notice it…  and I have not been waking up or noticing it.  Then when I get upstairs after I take my shower…  there are notes or this morning candy.  The only thing I can reason is that she must be doing it when I go to the shower and sacrificing some of her warm bed time to make it happen.  I would think I would hear someone upstairs given how squeaky our floor boards are… but maybe the sound of the shower drowns it out?  Whatever the case it is precious and baffling at the same time.

My wife and I are a really interesting case study of two vastly different people who compliment each other nicely.  There are certain ways where we are very much the same, and others that we could not be more different.  However at the end of the day the two blend together into a more complete human being than what we had before.  I notice this most clearly when she has to travel to go to a convention or something of the sort.  There is something missing the entire time she is gone and isn’t really back until she has returned.  I don’t sleep well without her laying beside me, and the house feels eerie and cold without knowing she as at a maximum a room or two away.  We can be in the same room doing two completely different things…  and still feel connected and happy to be around each other.

Recently I went through an exercise at work where we have been attempting to standardize our interview questions.  One of the ones that was thrown out and ultimately shot down… was something along the lines of “If money was no object, what would you do with your life?”.  The thing is…  I had to stop and think about this because in truth other than maybe shifting the way and where I work…  I really wouldn’t change much.  It really made me realize just how good my life generally is.  So much of that is because I have a amazing partner to go through it with.  Sure we might be deeply introverted and prone to fits of social awkwardness…  but we work.  This is our 22nd valentines day, and in August will be our 20th year of marriage.  I cannot fathom going through this journey without her.  She supports me in the various madness that I find myself engaged in on a regular basis and I try my best to do the same.

While it is cliche’d and the subject of memes…  I wish for each of you out there reading this blog the sort of happiness that I seem to have stumbled into.  Sure I battle depression on a regular basis, but that is the process of malfunctioning chemicals in my brain and not a by product of my generally awesome existence.  My wife fits neatly into the various spots where I am deficient and together we can pretty much take on anything.  The stress of dealing with potentially having to spend significant amounts of money yesterday on home repairs brought this home.  I felt uneasy and unstable up until the point when I had my wife at my side and then I knew that regardless of any of the circumstances we could handle whatever was coming at us together as a team.  So ultimately I hope for each of you that you have someone in your life that makes you better than what you are alone, and that as a team you can take on the world.

Value of a Hot Shower

This is going to be one of those posts that likely has no image… or at the very least a completely non-sequitur image.  It always feels weird to say “own a house” when in truth the bank owns it and you are just paying it off very slowly.  However that is in fact the correct term, and the biggest problem with that equation is that you are on the hook when things go horribly wrong.  At this point our house has had most everything major replaced but there are still a few outliers that exist from when the house was built in 1979.  Yesterday morning things went horribly wrong and the end result was me taking a very very very cold shower.

For a few weeks we had noticed reduced water pressure in the shower on the hot side and the fact that it was no longer blending the hot and cold water.  This lead us to take very quick showers because the water reached scalding temperatures, but was something we more or less were living with.  The goal was to somehow make it to spring break and then deal with it then as my wife could be around the house to schedule someone to come check it out.  As of yesterday morning however we had no water pressure on the hot side and the only option was a very frosty shower experience, which I opted for…  my wife being the smarter of us figured out some other solution.

Now we do have a shower upstairs in what is more or less the “cat bathroom” and where we keep the litter boxes.  The only problem there is we have never actually used it and while I have this awesome Tardis themed shower curtain up there…  we never actually got a proper shower liner to turn it into a functional experience.  This has since been remedied in case we were stuck using that shower until we were able to sort out what was going on.  The truth is when I was confronted with the ice cold north of a full on cold shower on a 15 degree outside day…  I completely forgot about the upstairs option.

Our heating and air company also does plumbing work, so we opted to call them and see if they could work us in.  I did have a fairly busy day of meetings, and my wife decided she was going to get a sub and take the afternoon off so she could deal with that.  They originally had us scheduled for some time late afternoon around three or four.  I got a call at 10:20 in the morning saying they had an availability if I could meet them there…  so as a result I wound up rushing home and taking the afternoon off anyways.  The fact that we were both ultimately going to be off at the same time was a bit of a blessing but at first it seemed annoyingly redundant.  However with my wife needing to get a last minute sub, we didn’t want to cancel and ultimately screw someone out of a job.

When the plumber got here…  he took one look at our 1979 original shower faucet and quite honestly didn’t want to touch it.  In modern systems there is a water shutoff valve that goes to the shower and allows you to turn that off separately.  In our house so many things were done in a less than intelligent manner, and as a result the only way to shut the shower off is to shut the entire water off to the house.  Even this is its own hassle because we have no water main shutoff in the house and instead have to turn it off at the curb.  Basically his concern was that he would get into the shower and be unable to fix it….  and have the whole thing basically disintegrate in the process leaving us with no water at all to the house.

His assessment is that we had something jammed inside the shower valve, and that it more than likely came from the hot water heater which in itself says proudly on the unit that it was made in 1974.  His remedy was that we ultimately needed to replace the hot water heater to keep this from happening again, and replace the shower.  The problem with the second part of that equation is that it would involve either tearing out the existing fiberglass shower surround…  or ripping into the wall of our bedroom that backs up to the shower.  They would be able to handle cutting the hole, installing a shutoff system and a new shower…  but we would need to purchase our own shower fixtures and get someone to take care of putting in an access panel when they had finished.

This was less than a simple process because for the hot water heater… we had to schedule another person to come out and give us the estimate.  Thankfully they could come out yesterday and around 1:30 or so they popped in for literally less than ten minutes and via an iPad app emailed us an estimate.  Once you added everything up…  the shower work, the hot water heater, bringing things up to code and getting the end product inspected it tallied roughly $3000.  There was a lot of sticker shock in that equation as well given that a hot water heater at a big box store is in the $500-600 range.

This set us down an alternate path, because if we were looking to spend that sort of money…  we wondered what just replacing the shower and having a contractor take care of all of it would cost us.  My wife put out a message on Facebook and one of her friends that she trusts mentioned that her brother was a contractor.  We called him to see if we could get an estimate on what it would take to just replace the downstairs shower completely given that we have never really liked it.  It turned out that while he worked in other towns, he actually lived in our town and could swing by that afternoon.

Within a few minutes of him being there, he decided that we should just try and fix the problem before getting entangled in a bigger project.  He balked that the plumber was unwilling to work on this unit and figured it was far better built than he had given it credit for.  So he started dismantling the shower faucet all the while my wife and I were hoping things would end up being okay.  He got everything taken apart and sure enough… there was a little bit of what looked like paint or maybe thin plastic that was jamming up the valve.  With some tweezers he extracted it and then for good measure turned the water on to blow out any other debris.

This caused some minor flooding…  but only because the water shot out so hard that it bounced off the back wall of the shower and out through the crack in the door and onto the floor.  My wife and I hurried scrambled to get some towels to soak it up but in the grand scheme of things it was a minor hazard to deal with given that the problem was actually being fixed.  It took a bit longer to reassemble than to take apart because lining up the screw holes was a little awkward.  However within thirty minutes start to finish we had a working shower again.

The funny thing is… he didn’t want to take any money for the work he has just done.  We had to basically force him to take some because ultimately his few minutes of time that he thought nothing about…  saved us from having to deal with $3000 at that moment.  This morning I took the best shower I have taken in years, and it is funny how much better a day goes when the little things like that are working as intended.  I think the best part of yesterday is that we now have contact with a really excellent contractor and handyman type for when we need him in the future.

At some point we really would like to properly remodel the bathroom, and I am sure when we do we will give him another call.  However for the moment he was absolutely our savior in being willing to take on something that scared the hell out of both of us.  Sure we still need to replace a hot water tank and sure we probably should make it so that you can get into the shower from our bedroom via an access panel.  All of those things though can now be carefully planned instead of pure blind reactionary mode, which is a huge positive as far as I am concerned.

A Social Weekend

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It was a pretty great weekend as far as hunting monsters goes.  I got to hang out with so many different groups of people and do so many varied things.  On Friday night it was all about hanging out with Tam, Ash and Kodra as I was finally up late enough to allow our schedules to align.  On Saturday it was all about hanging out with Pizza Maid, Wolfy and Rakuno… and then in a little pre-podcast gaming some more with Tam, Ash and Kodra.  Then Sunday I streamed for a bit in the morning between editing two podcasts.  Then in the evening I spent quite a bit of time in the evening running around with Sushi Geisha and Smashy doing some high rank egg birb killing among other things.  The variety and quality of my company was absolutely the best.

The other thing that really happened this weekend is that I spent a ton of time hanging out with various groups of folks on twitch.  I’ve never really acclimatized to that community but right now I am spending a significant amount of time with folks connected to the very awesome casual/positive Moogle’s Pom Tavern.  They have all accepted me as one of their own and call me a streamer even though I barely qualify as one.  Just to give some shout outs… some of the folks I spent time lurking or actively hanging out in are…

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Right now my jam seems to be playing Monster Hunter on the 43 inch 4k monitor while trying to cram a bunch of windows on one of the 23 inch monitors.  As a result a lot of the time I have spent soloing, has been hanging out in a twitch stream and occasionally throwing random comments.  During the shenanigans of Saturday and Sunday I actually wound up on voice chat and as a result “on stream” with Pizza and Sushi.  The world got many opportunities to watch me fail at longswording and miss attacks as monsters shifted on me in combat.  It was a lot of fun and I need to sort out a time when I can stream for myself more regularly.  I had a lot of fun with the little bit that I did this weekend and the whole Sunday morning is starting to turn into a routine.

As far as Monster Hunter itself…  I have now progressed into High Rank hunts but have not done a whole lot of them.  I’ve taken down Pukei Pukei which is the gatekeeper of sorts to unlock High Rank, and then taken down Kulu-Ya-Ku a bunch of times to farm bits so I could upgrade to this crazy two handed scimitar of sorts called Last Dance I.  I am wearing a mishmash of gear because I basically went to the workshop and crafted whatever the hell I could as soon as I hit high rank.  As a result I have 1 piece of Zorah Magdaros gear, 2 pieces of High Rank Bone and 2 pieces of High Rank Alloy gear.  This shockingly has wound up being a fairly reasonable set of gear to run around and do stuff with, and the added defense helped a lot as compared to the amount of damage I was taking during the Pukei Pukei fight.

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I could go into a bunch of detail about the various hunts I did, but for this morning I am not.  The weekend as a whole was all about hanging out with various groups of people for me.  That is always the problem I have when it comes to online gaming.  There are so many different groups that I want to be hanging out with.  I spent a lot of the weekend as a sort of fill in, but still had a blast in doing so.  Right now the timing for me is just weird in actually hanging with the AggroChat crew given that the majority are now on the west coast.  On most nights they are starting to get active around 9 pm…  as I am starting to wind down and prep to head to bed.  This has made organizing anything in a time other than the weekend a pretty fraught experience.

The whole grouping experience in Monster Hunter does not make this easier, given that for much of the weekend folks were having trouble joining specific sessions.  I know last night we kept trying to get a 4th in to help them with some quests…  but the sessions kept timing out.  What I crave the most for Monster Hunter World is some form of a viable friends list, with the ability to invite to parties from it…  and even more importantly have a Diablo 3 style “request to be invited” system.  I hope as time passes that the whole cludge that is grouping in this game improves.  That said… the core experience is compelling enough that I can look past all of that nonsense as I obsess about getting monster bits to make awesome weapons and outfits.

Apex Predators

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Last night I participated in a little bit of non-game related nonsense.  Over the Christmas break I rearranged my set up so that I am essentially sharing a 43 inch 4k display for both console and PC gaming.  I still have access to the PC via the secondary monitor to the side, but the main display will be showing my PS4.  The idea was that this would give me access to my proper mic while playing console games and allow me to hang out on teamspeak or discord while playing.  The only problem there is that my only sound option for console gaming…  has been to have it play through the television speakers, which means while streaming… it gets picked up by my microphone.  My alternate solution was to try and string a usb headset to my PS4 while playing but it was less than optimal and I didn’t have a long enough cord to route it around where it was not in the way.

So I set forth with a mission… figure out a way to pipe the input from my television into my PC.  The television only has optical toslink out and the pc has a 3.5 mm mini jack for input, which meant I needed some sort of a bridge to make the connection work.  After some googling I stumbled across this little device that will convert a digital input… like toslink to an analog signal like RCA/Mini.  After a bunch of fiddling and some rewiring I got it set up… and once I set my system to “listen” to the line in port…  I had console audio coming in through my PC sound card.  This left me with the problem of needing some way to have a microphone for PSN chat.

After some rummaging I found my first Blue microphone… the Nessie and decided to give it a shot.  This is the point where I am thankful I have a rudamentary system of storage boxes because I needed to find some way of stringing a micro usb cord from the other side of my monitor all the way around the back of my desk and over to my PS4.  The final solution was an old samsung charging cable combined with an amazon basics usb extender, but after some fiddling it worked.  Now I can comfortably swap between PC gaming and PS4 gaming without having to grab a new headset or do any manipulation.  While it doesn’t seem like much… it felt like a major victory to me last night.

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As far as my night in Monster Hunter…. I spent a lot of time doing minor content while watching Sushi’s stream and chatting with the other folks in channel on my second monitor.  This is the other use case I have found for this setup is letting me hang out on twitch while playing console games, which is a good deal of fun.  The only negative is I try and cram discord, slack, hangouts and a twitch window on a 23 inch monitor… that seems ridiculously tiny next to the 43 inch I am playing the game on.  I’ve been on this mission to repair my cash flow problem and as a result I have been doing a bunch of investigations that reward around the 4000-5000 zenny mark.  Essentially there are two wants right now…  being able to craft a new sword from the egg bird line to see how well it works with its high affinity rating.  The other is to craft a new set of gear but I am sorta up in the air as to what to go with.

Basically in the coming evenings I should really start doing focused hunts and going after specific monsters to get parts.  I hate fighting the Radobaan, but right now…  it is one of my favorite armor sets.  I need Radobaan parts to complete the weapon I am shooting for as well…  so in theory it means in the near future I am going to start going after the tar dragon with seriousness.  It was a pretty straight forward fight, but was just annoying getting good hits on it and knocking off bits of the bone armor.  I am bad at actually seeking groups for things and instead just end up piddling around on my own most of the time.  Regardless…  my current set of armor feels like it is starting to be a little dated.

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When I finally got back to doing more serious content, I picked up on the quest line that asked me to go to the bottom of the Rotten Vale.  I am not exactly sure what I expected down there, but the supposed bottom floor is a lot more survivable than the one that Great Girros roams around.  There seemed to be way fewer poison clouds going on, and not much in the way of annoying adds.  While down there I ran into my favorite character that I have no clue what she is called…  but a wiki is telling me she is called the Field Master.  I question if she is actually another hunter, or if instead she is just one of the handlers that decided to break out on her own.

This lead to the appearance of a monster called Odogoron that was honestly one of the more annoying fights I have dealt with in awhile.  Much like Legiana, this one can deal a lot of damage in a really short amount of time and I wound up fainting a few times because I simply was not watching my health bar as closely as I should.  The other problem I ran into is this thing is insanely fast, so the only times I could really just go to town on it were when my palico had it distracted or I had blinded it with a flash pod.  The rest of the time I was constantly in a state of trying to make sure it was not about to turn on me and decimate my life bar.  I am not even sure how this works, but once I cut off its tail it seemed to be super susceptible to being knocked down which allowed me to unleash some spirit blade combos.

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After wrapping that fight up, I decided to keep going with the story rather than retreating into a chill expedition.  After some tracking around I found myself on a quest to essentially kill the Apex predators of the Ancient Forest and the Wildspire Wastes…  aka Rathalos and Diablos.  I did not have the energy in me to start either of those so I went back to investigations for awhile.  I now have two quests in my log ready for me to start the hunts for these two big beasts…  and I am guessing I am not terribly far from starting high rank once I knock them out of the skies.  I really could use Rathalos parts because I believe they unlock some interesting crafting options.  Still very much enthralled by this game and looking forward to venturing deeper into it.

Backlog Madness

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The image does not necessarily go with today’s post, but it happened to be in the recently uploaded images that I have not used on my blog so it is seeing some duty here.  I had one of those nights where I attempted to go to bed early… and just wound up waking up every few hours leading to very fragmented sleep.  However coffee heals all wounds and in the grand scheme of things I seem relatively cognizant and “mostly functional”.  As a result I don’t really have much that is pressing to talk about this morning so I thought I would venture off into the arena of things I want to do but may not actually ever do.  I am really great at coming up with ideas…  I am pretty horrible at actually following through with half of them.  I only really feel guilty about this… when money was spent to “prepare” for doing the thing.

One of those long reaching goals is to actually utilize this website that I was introduced called Grouvee.   It seems to have been designed as a way of tracking the games you have beaten… which in truth is not a thing I give a shit about in the least.  I am bad at finishing games.  I will often times get to within a few hours of finishing and then just lose all desire to continue playing it, because I know that when I actually finish…  the experience will be over.  What the site does that I am interested in however is that it has the functionality to import all of the games in your steam library and track weather or not you have spent any time playing it.  It also has the ability to create shelves to divide up your games, and do manual data entry for the services that aren’t steam.

The challenge is that right now because of circumstance more than desire…  I have a collection of games spread out among multiple storefront platforms.  The vast majority of my games are on Steam and have an exceedingly bloated number thanks to the fact that I tend to be a habitual purchaser of Humble Bundles.  In second place is Playstation Network because I have been a Plus member for several years now and use the website to claim all of the games at once…  regardless if I actually intend on playing them.  In third place would be Microsoft Xbox Live or whatever the hell they are calling that platform these days…  in which I have been similarly nabbing the games with gold titles every month.  Then we drop down to probably Good Ole Games or GOG as they prefer to be called these days…  which used to be the only place to buy a bunch of classic titles I wanted to revisit… and also is the home of my Witcher 3 copy due to a video card promotion.  Lastly we have Origin… the network no one actually wants to use but has to if they care about Bioware games.

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There are two main reasons why I care about this website at all.  The first is… if I can ever get everything imported into the system I think it might be really cool to start using the [Tell Me What to Play] button when I am feeling lost and uncertain of what sounds good that day.  I have 300 MBps internet, so can download pretty much any game within a few minutes and it might be interesting to force myself to play some of that backlog.  The second reason why I care about this site…  is I am wondering if maybe just maybe I could figure out a way to retrieve my now playing list on my blog from the playing shelf on Grouvee.  I’ve not sorted out how I plan on going about that, but if I do… I will be sure to post a how to.

The site as a whole has been described as a “Goodreads” for games, and that seems pretty apt.  I know I originally was introduced to the site through Jasyla who I believe actually uses this site for its intended purpose of tracking what she has finished.  For me…  it might just be useful to let me realize that I already have a game through PS+ or Games with Gold and I really should not buy it when it is being sold for $4 on steam.  In theory since I left it off the list… I should add in my physical game libraries and the digital games I have on the Switch and 3DS.  Mostly I have tried to move away from physical games, in part because I just like having whatever I want available and on tap without having to swap a cartridge or disc.  If Grouvee seems like a useful site you might check it out… and feel free to friend me.

Ice and Frost Dragons

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Yesterday was more or less madness.  The last few days have been super stressful for a bunch of reasons that I don’t really want to get into, but its a sort of stress that I am not used to dealing with.  The sort of stress that takes what should be a super familiar and safe environment and makes everything seem weird and tense.  Last night I had a very late meeting that ultimately went over the allotted time, and by the time I left…  we had gotten some freezing rain.  That meant that driving home was in itself a tense experience as well with everyone poking along at a snails pace.  There is this whole judgement game that happens as well, because in theory my normal route is the least populated of the possible routes home.  So I question if I should take it or try and stick to the busier route…  and as a result more prone to be delayed by wrecks and probably much slower.

Needless to say my normal ten to fifteen minute commute was turned into roughly an hour.  When got to town I also needed to make a run by the local grocery store around the corner from my house.  Normally this is a massive pitfall because people go insane when there is even the slightest sign of winter weather.  We were completely out of coffee creamer however…  something I really didn’t want to go home without so I went against better judgement and walked into the grocery store.  In truth it was not nearly as bad as I was expecting… there are times where even the lightest dusting of snow can cause the grocery store to look like the apocalypse hit with entire aisles of food missing.  This time however it was just about three times as busy as normal, but no frantic rushing around and hoarding food.  That said…  it had been about three weeks since we had been to a grocery store so while there I decided to pick up considerably more than just coffee creamer allowing myself to succumb to a bit of the madness as well.

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I got home and made dinner…  which in our case was some piping hot frito chilli pies because I needed something to defrost.  The actual temperature was in the 20s but with wind chill factored in… it felt like the low teens, which for the northerners that might be reading this blog is not that big of a problem.  However those of us who are used to 115 degree August weather are not exactly designed for this sort of frigid weather.  I don’t even have a proper coat because we need one so rarely, which meant I have been roaming around in this in my hoodie.  The frito pies did their job however and warmed me up enough to consider actually doing something this evening other than huddling underneath a fuzzy blanket and staring blankly at the television. Considering the late hour…  I opted to settle into my office and play a little monster hunter considering I was about an hour late for my other obligation and it would have been weird to drop in at that point.

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One of the things about Monster Hunter World is that I seem like I am only really capable of handling one big monster hunt each evening.  As a result I am progressing painfully slow through the quest content that ultimately gates everything in the game.  Sunday I tackled Radobaan and to a lesser extent Great Girros while roaming around in an expedition.  That mean’t a trip back to the Third Fleet Master to once again descend to the bottom of the Rotten Vale.  Unshockingly we once again encountered a problem that required my attention.  Our path took us straight through the hunting grounds of a Legiana, which is a giant frost dragon of sorts that seems to like to gobble up the flying bird/wyvern things that hang out in the Coral Highlands.  We pissed it off… and as a result I needed to go kill it so we could continue downwards.

This is not a terribly easy hunt for a Longsword because it spends most of its time in the air.  Sure I can chip away at it slowly by swinging up at it… but that also put me in prime territory for its two main attacks.  The first of these is a claw dive of a sort that did about a third of my health bar each time I connected with it properly.  The second is the more annoying because it has lasting effects in the form of laying down a line of frost on the ground.  Getting hit with the frost itself seemed to take me down two thirds of my health bar, and getting into the frost seemed to have a lasting slow effect that made dodging everything more annoying.  The other major problem is this monster runs way more often than your average bear…  and like all flyers in this game can travel half a map away in a few seconds forcing you to traverse some truly awkward terrain.

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I’ve only actually failed a single hunt so far in Monster Hunter World, and that was the first time I attempted Anjanath.  That one I mostly chock up to not paying attention and not watching my health bar anywhere near as close as I should have.  Legiana however…  was painfully close.  When I finally took the monster down I had less than five minutes to go on the hunt, and was down to my last faint.  The thing about a close fight like this… is that when you finally defeat it…  you feel absolutely exhilarated.  I had originally intended to just do the one hunt and go to bed, but instead I needed something to do to sorta come down off the high of the really difficult encounter.  As a result I popped downstairs and saw that Sushi was streaming, and hung out there for a bit while roaming around and doing minor things in monster hunter over Playstation Remote Play.

The night did not go at all how I had intended it.  I did not intend to be super late getting home, and I definitely had not planned on the painful drive home.  I also had not planned on fielding messages and emails throughout the night about a recent promotion at work.  All in all however it was still a good night, and I was super pumped to move the story needle at least a little bit in this game that I am rapidly becoming indoctrinated into.  Expeditions are still more my speed and I’ve spent a lot of time roaming around the newly unlocked areas like Coral Highlands and Rotten Vale.  I believe there are two more areas of the game but supposedly those do not unlock until I officially get into the “high rank” hunt territory.

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My favorite part of the night however is that all of my shenanigans allowed me to upgrade my weapon to the Hard Bone Shotel II which with my current gear layout gives me a base attack power of 505.  That is honestly the biggest problem I am seeing with switching weapons is the fact that none of them are even close to the attack power I currently have available to me through the “bone” weapon line.  I see longsword folks running around with much cooler looking weapons… but ultimately they have not been able to compete with the raw attack power of my bone weapon.

At some point I want to jump ship to the “dragon” line of weapons… but that is going to require silly amounts of farming of fairly difficult fights like Rathian.  For the moment I am happy with my damage output and the rather homely looking bone weapon hanging off of my back.  I think my big focus over the next few game sessions is going to be trying to farm the ore needed to get the next real set of upgrades over the gear I am wearing.   I feel like I am pretty close to the next “big” fight, so I might attempt that tonight as well.  All in all still loving this game and still wanting more of it.