Deep Turtle

eso64-2017-01-14-20-53-34-08

eso64-2017-01-14-20-53-34-08

Lately I have been going through an anxiety ridden period where I just find it super stressful to be around people on a regular basis.  This started over the break, and for some extent I pulled myself out of it a little bit around the time I went back to work.  However increased stresses in that realm seems to have caused a relapse.  As a result I am firmly back in what I refer to as “turtle mode” where I duck my head into my shell and largely forget the world exists.  As a result I am taking every possible excuse to avoid doing things that have lots of people involved with them, and I missed both raids this week…  both with completely reasonable reasons but reasons that I probably could have avoided were it not for my anxiety desperately clinging to them.  Sure I had a window to fix, but I could have probably been done in time for the raid.  Sure I dozed off on the sofa, but had I drank a monster or some coffee I probably would have been fine there too.  The excuse was too convenient not to take it when the reality was I am simply having trouble processing existing around other human beings.

eso64-2017-01-14-23-08-06-65

When I am in deep turtle mode it is all I can really do to exist on a daily basis, let alone have to pretend to be a normal human being.  Which I realize is a bit odd given that I am generally a gregarious and welcoming sort, and have become famous for opting people.  There are times where I just can’t be “rockstar bel” as one of my friends has referred to it.  There is time when I just need to hide out and pretend the other human beings don’t exist.  Generally speaking when I am in this mode I play a lot of Minecraft or Skyrim…  or in the case of what has happened over the weekend return to playing an MMO that I really don’t have much of a social structure in these days.  Awhile back I reinstalled Elder Scrolls Online and this weekend I stared playing it extremely seriously.  I am enjoying myself immensely and other than the occasional message from folks who are also dipping their toes in as well and just happy to see a familiar face.

eso64-2017-01-15-18-29-47-97

I have to say the game feels amazing coming back to it after a significant time gone.  The game has released a ton of DLC/Expansion content since release and there are basically two ways of playing it.  Either you buy the DLC outright, where there is a deal that can be had that includes the four major DLC packs for 5500 crowns… which is $39.99.  The other option is to subscribe to the game which immediately unlocks all of the content…  so long as you keep an active subscription.  However there is another reason to go for the ESO Plus subscription option…  because it magically fixes your bag situation.  At launch one of my key problems was trying to keep enough bag space to be actively looting crafting ingredients, while at the same time picking up gear that drops from things I was killing.  With the subscription plan it adds what seems to be a separate bottomless crafting inventory, that items simply go to automatically when you loot them.  This means you can finally afford to loot all of those random crates and barrels full of fish and berries because it all gets whisked away off into the ether into a storage bin you never actually have to mess with.

The other awesome thing that has happened in the period of time I have not really be playing is that they have shifted the Veteran Rank system to be the Champion Point system.  At first I thought this was a one for one swap over to a sort of Skyrim-esc celestial system based around the Thief, Warrior and Mage.  However it seems to be way more than that, in that they are essentially an account wide system of alternate expansion much like the Planar abilities in Rift or Paragon points in Diablo 3.  That means if you log into your level 7 alt like I did yesterday…  I had 130 champion points to spend making me able to do some pretty insane stuff at low levels.  Sure this greatly trivializes the leveling process for alts…  but I don’t necessarily see this as a bad thing.  In truth it makes me far more likely to level alts knowing that I have a lot of the same benefits, on them as I do on my main character.  That said the collections and cosmetic systems also exist at an account level so you can keep using your favorite mounts and pets… or anything you have unlocked through the crown shop.  All in all I have been happy to fade quietly back into a game that I still fine immensely immersive at least from a single player level.

Torn on Switch

hero-table

hero-table

Last night was of course the Nintendo Switch reveal stream…  that seemed to occur for pretty much everyone at an extremely awkward time.  For me personally it kicked off about 10 pm, so I was able to tune in as I was winding down a night of running Nightfalls (and sometimes failing) in Destiny with Squirrel and Jex.  I talked a bit yesterday about my mixed feelings regarding the Switch and its launch on twitter.  Every fiber of my being wants this console, but there is also the logic center of my brain that keeps reminding me of the not amazing track record I have with Nintendo consoles.  I will get more into that later, but first to talk about the details we learned last night.  The Switch is in fact coming a lot faster than I expected with a launch window of March 3rd 2017, or for those who think in these terms….  if I am counting correctly 8 weeks from the Friday I am writing this post on.  In the short term I will be able to play the console personally in a few weeks at Pax South, and there will be a series of demo events happening in “major” cities…  which means nowhere event vaguely close to the fly over country where I live.  They have confirmed two launch titles…  the first of which is 1, 2, Switch which is another one of those Nintendo gimmick games like Wii Sports that while extremely fun is in large part a tech demo for all of the new “innovations” they have woven into the new system.  The launch title that matters however is Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

Now yesterday I said that a lot of it was going to ultimately come down to price.  The first leaked price of $250 seemed like a viable option and potentially even a day one and pre-order system for me.  Shortly after that another price started circulating which was $350…  and that was definitely going to be a wait and see price point.  The final reveal targeted things at $299 which is a figure that I am not quite sure about one way or the other.  I feel like ultimately…  we are going to need to see more details about what actual titles will be available at launch.  I am not sure if Zelda is enough to push this console for me at the start.  However I also know if the Nintendo track record holds… this means that if you did not pre-order your console it is likely going to be next Christmas before there is a reasonable flow of units to the shelves to allow folks to make that late impulse buy.  I remember when the Wii launched in November, it was late February before I even saw one on a store shelf, and even then it was probably mid summer before they were a regular enough occurrence to warrant not noticing.  Nintendo is extremely horrible with supply chain management and producing anywhere near the right number of units to meet the current demand.  This is evidenced by the fact that you quite literally still can’t find 3DS units on store shelves, from a drought that started around Thanksgiving.  Similarly you essentially have zero shot in hell of finding a Nintendo Classic console yet.

Where my brain begins to temper my desire to buy this console is when I think about my general track record with Nintendo.  Growing up I was absolutely a Nintendo fanboy, getting my Nintendo Classic shortly after release and my Super Nintendo a few months after launch as well.  Similarly I saved up my money and purchased a Gameboy within the first six months.  So when the Nintendo 64 launched in college I was similarly smitten with the console, and spent way more money than we should have been spending at the time for the unit given our already strapped college life existence.  While enamored with the early titles through Zelda…  an event occured that pretty much killed me caring about the later titles.  PC Gaming got absolutely amazing, and I got my 3DFX 2 card which made everything that I was seeing on the Nintendo 64 start to look extremely sluggish and primitive.  So instead of caring about Goldeneye, I was playing GL Quake.  The other problem the Nintendo 64 had was the lack of role-playing game support, and when Squaresoft took the Final Fantasy franchise to the Playstation I followed it.  That said I have so much nostalgia for those early days of Nintendo, so I keep purchasing the consoles hoping to rekindle some of that magic.  In the end however of my consoles they tend to be the ones that gather dust.

The other huge problem that I have found is that my life really does not fit a mobile console that well.  I have both a 3DS and a Vita and they maybe see some play time once a week as I am looking for something to do before falling asleep.  The Wii U seemed like an awesome idea, but the limited range on the unit made it largely useless to me.  My expectation was that I would be able to play the screen unit wherever in the house I wanted to, and maybe even out on the back patio.  The reality however is that I need to remain within roughly 8 feet of the unit to keep a stable connection.  So as a result currently the unit is set up in the bedroom so I can play it from bed… but that makes for awkward gaming any other time.  Ultimately I think the real problem for me with Nintendo is that they seem to be extremely focused on gimmicks.  The Switch as a console is a gimmick, and while I don’t think it will be the frustrating experience for me that the Wii controls were…  I definitely think it is going to attempt desperately to function in methods other than your standard game console.  This focus on gimmickry also seems to come at a massive cost in processing power and graphical performance.  While Zelda Breath of the Wild looked gorgeous in its own way… watching the footage last night it definitely felt like a game that was not quite as detailed as the current generation of console games.  While the Switch has courted Bethesda to put Skyrim on their new console…  Skyrim is also a seven year old game at this point.  In the montage of games… I didn’t see much in the way of modern ports which concerns me that we are setting up for another Wii U situation… where the console is simply not powerful enough to run the style of games that the majority of publishers are creating.  That said… you buy a Nintendo console for the first party games and I really want to see some more firm times on when more of those are releasing before committing.

Distant Horizon

There was a sequence of events that lead me to make the above tweet on Tuesday, namely reading a similar sequence of tweets from Syl and the resulting blog post.  In truth I have felt this way for awhile, where I have been hyper interested in extension content being added onto the games I am already playing, but not extremely interested in anything new coming down the pike.  The launch of Elder Scrolls Online was really the last big event that wrapped me up into the hope, hype, and heartbreak cycle that is the launch of a new MMO property.  I got swept up a bit in Wildstar but that was never really “my game” no matter how much I wanted to try and make it be for the sake of hanging out and playing with friends.  This is not to say that I have not tried a bunch of different games that have released since, but they have all largely left me wanting for this or that feature…  or similarly wanting to remove other features.  The latest boom in the MMO industry has been among a crop of games largely coming from South Korea and they all seem to share a vision of MMOs that doesn’t set that well with me.  Not sure if it is the character design or the focus on eventually funneling players towards a murder box, but whatever the case I tend to bounce pretty hard with ArcheAge being the only game in that larger general classification that I play on a somewhat regular basis.

654-1040x560

As is always the case with our community… when you bring up an issue folks tend to come out of the woodwork to help you with it.  I have to say this is one of the most charming aspects of the world I have gotten myself wrapped up in, even if sometimes I am just shooting off my mouth into the void.  As is to be expected there were a lot of games suggested on the near horizon, and most of them I had already mentally bounced from for one reason or another based on past experiences with similarly constructed experiences.  However buried in that pack of games was one that I had not even heard of…  not that I am actively looking for new MMO properties.  One of my blogger friends Isarii mentioned a game that he was interested in, and was just about to release an interview with called Ashes of Creation.  Like any game I have not heard of I started googling and came across a sequence of videos showing off various aspects of the world, and I am not entirely certain what peaked my interest directly but something did.  Yesterday they also released a much more detailed Q&A video answering some questions from the community, that when taken with the interview with Isarii fills in a bunch of details about the intent of the game.  I will say off the bat there are a lot of things that give me hope, and a lot of things that give me potential heartache.

unspecified-1024x576

The description of the game weaves a pretty lofty tale, hitting most of the features that I have loved from other games.  In the Q&A they talk about the lack of hard faction boundaries, and a part of me almost audibly said “Hell Yeah” at that moment.  However they also talk about this dynamic world with ever changing events based on a node system that allows each node in the world to change and effect the nodes around it.  They talk about the engine of change being conquest and sieges… and that a guild holding a castle will have ramifications on the land surrounding it.  This all sounds amazingly cool on paper but it is also something I am extremely gun shy about.  This has been the pitch of essentially every PVP centric open world sandbox to date, that the players make lasting effects on the world.  What ends up happening instead is that the game devolves into a PVP gankfest for at least the first six months, because there is a certain player base that the idea of ganking defenseless players seems really exciting to.  So while ArcheAge for example is a perfectly reasonable game to play right this moment, it was an extremely toxic game for its first year of life…  until said toxic players were either policed away or got bored and shifted to the next shiny object to take a giant crap on.  So my big concern is exactly what Ashes of Creation is going to do to ensure this doesn’t happen.

1-1040x585

One of the bullet points talked about in Isarii’s interview is that they have a three phased flagging system, and that they hope it will help mitigate this issue.  There will be a non-combatant “green” state, a combatant “purple” state, and corrupt “red” state.  The corruption system sounds an awful lot like going rogue in The Division, or the pirate system in ArcheAge.  Intrepid Studios talks about PVP being optional, but in the description of what a corrupted player is… they mention something that I stuck on mentally.  I am going to quote a section of the interview for the sake of pointing this out a little easier.

Players can kill Combatants without repercussions, and are encouraged to do so, since dying while a Combatant means you suffer reduced death penalties. Where this changes is when a Combatant kills a Non-Combatant. In this case, the Combatant is Corrupt, and acquires a Corruption Score (which is accrued based on a number of different parameters, including the level differential of their freshly slain victim). This Corruption Score can be worked off with effort through a few mechanics, but the primary means of getting rid of it is through death.

The particular phase that is bothering me a bit is “when a Combatant kills a Non-Combatant” because in a traditional MMO flagging system this shouldn’t be a possible thing.  “Green” players are traditionally not able to be attacked, and if this is a game where that is not the case we might already have our first stumbling block for me personally.  Now of note… there is a lot of nuance here that I may simply not be seeing.  Like for example in ArcheAge, as a completely non-combatant player you can find yourself in open pvp flagged zones…  that entering will make you able to be attacked.  So in the case of Ashes of Creation, if there are certain hostile areas that are openly contested…  a player would know that entering there could put them at danger.  I don’t however want to see the bodies of helpless players littering the ground in an otherwise peaceful zone like Elwynn Forest because they died at the hand of a ganker on an abusive power trip.

The idea behind this game feels like one that no one has really been able to implement correctly.  If it works well it could be amazing, but generally speaking it is the player that is the ultimate unraveller of the best made plans.  However all of that said, I am interested enough to have done enough reading and watching to be able to post this post…  so I have to say I am curious about the evolution of this game.  At this very moment everything is so fluid that I am not really certain if the end product is going to be something that I want to play.  If will say that right now it is going to be extremely difficult to implement most of the things they are talking about, but I wish them all the luck in the world at trying to translate the vision into video game.  There are a lot of parts of the Q&A session that remind me of the ill fated Guild Wars 2 Design Manifesto.  The problem with an idea… is once shared it mutates.  So when I read the design manifesto it filled my head with all sorts of ideas and dreams of a better game that the reality never came close to living up to.  Watching the Q&A session for Ashes of Creation did the same thing… filled my head with a bunch of fevered dreams about all of the things that I wish I could have seen in this MMO or that.  It is this whirlwind of “wouldn’t it be cool” ideas that have been collected and carefully curated into the game these folks always wanted to work on.  However there is always a chunk of nuance that is lost when you speak your vision, or commit it to paper.  In doing so…  that vision loses some of the sharp edges and becomes much more hazy.  Based on the goals set out… this game could either be literally the game I always wanted to play…  or yet another disappointment that cannot quite live up to my technicolor dreams of the way things “should work”.  Regardless… in the coming months and years… as likely will be the case…  I am going to follow Ashes of Creation as it evolves and see if it can deliver on any of my hopes and is worthy of my hype.  All the while of course being extremely afraid of that heartache that often comes afterwards.

Lobbing SIVA Charges

vlc-2017-01-11-06-05-23-88

vlc-2017-01-11-06-05-23-88

Last night did not go entirely as planned, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a pretty amazing night.  The original plan that I had in my head was an attempt at completing the Nightfall bounty on as many characters as I could for shots at the Icebreaker.  However as the day went on that plan slowly morphed into going to my very first Wrath of the Machine raid.  So around 8pm last night we managed to pull together the six players needed for the raid and I shifted into full on learner mode.  Destiny is one of those games where I am constantly amazed at the level of dedication the community has.  A raid in Destiny is this complex sequence of events that have to be completed in a specific way…  and the first time I step into one of the encounters it is full on information overload.  I find it interesting how fast the community as a whole crowd sources the solution to the fights, sharing tidbits of information and ultimately mapping strategies for how to complete them.  I say this because the fights themselves are actually messaged somewhat poorly as to what you should be doing at any given time.  Since I am very much a “learn by doing” player, it means for the first few raids I ultimately feel completely lost.

c13mmtguqaa5t87

What is extremely interesting about Wrath of the Machine versus Kings Fall is that the “roles” are not necessarily fixed.  In Kings Fall you could essentially put your most seasoned player on the job of doing whatever was the most important task on a given fight.  While there was a certain measure of randomness, like who got chosen to run the spark on the invisible platforms…  others like the person getting Golgoroth’s Gaze were very much something you had in your control.  As a result to some extent it was much easier to carry a new player through and allow them to see the fights in motion, before they were ever expected to take up a key roll in the fight.  That is very much NOT the case in Wrath of the Machine given the game shifts the roles around quickly and while you might be dpsing one moment, the next you might be needing to toss SIVA charges at fixed markers.  The hardest of these fights for me to grok was the Aksis encounter where the raid divided up into three sides, and the game randomly empowered three players at a time…  sometimes requiring you to shift around quickly to cover a side if it did not have an empowered player.  The end result is that new players ultimately have to learn quickly because you never know exactly when that key role is going to fall on your shoulders.

c13mjbgucaadv9s

There were several points during the night where I absolutely know I failed at various mechanics, but while moving through the content I started to get a feel for what I was doing wrong and how to correct it.  Now with Kings Fall, most of the encounters were fairly easy…  but it was the jumping sequences that were the bane of my existence.  With Wrath of the Machine, the encounters themselves seem to be the challenge, and while I died a few times during the much shorter jumping sequences they didn’t see anywhere near as nerve wracking as disappearing ships over of a giant open chasm.  Last night was also important because it marked the first time I had really done large group content with Tequila Mockingbird my clan.  It has been over six months since Axioma clan was dissolved in a fit, and [TQMB] was formed out of the ashes.  It definitely feels like we wound up with the absolutely best natured of folks for the reboot.  Within minutes I felt right back at home, which I guess is a strange statement considering I have been proudly sporting the clan tag since the moment the reboot happened.

c13meyfviaioem7

So while I had no real intent of raiding last night, I am super happy to have seen the content now and to have gotten some of the really awesome stuff that drops there.  There seems to be a massive problem with duplicates from the SIVA key caches.  On the first boss encounter I got the Ether Nova fusion rifle… and then turned around and got the same thing from the cache.  From the second encounter I managed to pick up Arms, that I am extremely happy about given that they have the crazy heavy ammo trait.  From the third encounter, I picked up an Artifact which is decent but it is really hard to get excited over an artifact when I am apparently now swimming in 400 light ones.  From the final phase of the Aksis encounter I walked away with the Genesis Chain auto rifle, and then spent a key and got an exact duplicate.  Past that I wound up with three exotics from the run:  4th Horseman, Hereafter, and Crest of Alpha Lupi.  The first two turning into shards since I don’t really like either weapon, and the last from an engram serving as infusion fodder for the Twilight Garrison I had yet to upgrade.

vlc-2017-01-11-06-06-52-70

I spent a bit of time after the raid running around in the Plaguelands patrol zone to play with both the Auto Rifle and the Fusion Rifle and I like both.  The Genesis Chain feels really awesome when you get headshots and cause the firefly to proc since it has a unique sound effect that goes with it.  The Fusion Rifle… largely just feels like a competent Fusion Rifle.  I sincerely doubt I will be giving up either The Branded Lord or Saladins Vigil for it, but it is nonetheless a reasonable weapon that is probably going to get ferried off to one of my alts.  I have heard it works really amazingly in Crucible, so I will have to give it a shot there.  It is bizarre how I have gone from being someone that NEVER used Fusion Rifles, to being someone who largely now favors them over Shotguns for close to medium range engagement.  The other really awesome thing that happened is that I am now flagged to do the Outbreak Prime quest, which honestly could be an entire post in itself.  It turns out that Lexy is also stalled on this quest, so that gives us Hunter and Titan… and we just need to find a Warlock to ride along with us since that quest requires you to group up all three classes to progress.  Wondering if maybe some point this weekend we can knock out the required pieces so that by the time the reset rolls around we are working on the final step which is the run the raid again.

 

Flawless Royal Warlock

c1z155cuaaaxikt

c1z155cuaaaxikt

Last night I had every intent of attempting to get a Nightfall going.  As a result when I first got home from work I grabbed some food and popped upstairs to fiddle about on my warlock.  It is odd how my order of enjoyment has shifted when it comes to my alts.  Nothing is ever going to dislodge Titan as my primary class in Destiny, but the other two appear to be in a state of flux.  Originally speaking my secondary character was always my Hunter, and my Warlock generally sat in this realm of just one or two steps removed from “afterthought”.  However with Rise of Iron and even some of the late Taken King content…  that sort of shifted around and I tend to enjoy my time spent on the Warlock far more than the Hunter.  I think part of it is that the movement options for the Hunter seem awesome at face value…  but double jump just feels more limited than either the Titan or Warlock jumps.  Admittedly I have constant issues with the Warlock jump because it essentially works backwards of that of the Titan.  However in both cases it feels like I can get where I am needing to go more easily than trying to time a bunch of jumps in order to get up to anyplace high.  On the Hunter I feel like there is never a situation where I do not want to be using the Bones of Eao…  so much so that I question if it would not simply be better for the class if that Exotic were phased out and that function just defaulted.  I still wish there were artifacts that allowed you to switch which jump your class had… because in truth I would still give everyone the Titan jump if given the chance.

diablo-iii-2017-01-10-06-33-14-59

Now I said I had every intent of running a Nightfall last night, but instead when my wife managed to make it home I popped back downstairs to fix her some dinner.  After doing so however instead of filtering back up to my office, I decided to chill downstairs on the sofa with her…  which mean’t no PS4.  I realize I am one of the only people on the planet for which “sofa gaming” does not mean a console, but I have all of my consoles hooked up next to my gaming PC in my office so I can capture from them easily… and also that is where the Television that I can dominate lives.  Before long I was on the laptop and playing some more Diablo, and eventually connected with some friends chain running Rifts for fun and profit.  All in all it was a really good night for me and progression, because firstly… managed to get all of my gems to “Flawless Royal” level.  Additionally I managed to knock out a few more items from my set build namely that I now have the right armor and “weapon” in my cube.  I am now down to a place where the only things I am missing are my jewelry…  but these are also some of the more expensive items to buy from Kadala.  There is a more powerful Legacy of Nightmares build that I am working towards, largely because I have never actually tried doing a build using that pair of rings.  The game apparently wants me to try it however since I wound up with an Ancient version of one of the rings last night.  However I am in the very awkward place of needing Justice Lantern, both pieces of the Endless Walk jewelry set, and the ever present Convention of Elements in the cube.  On a positive note last night I managed to pick up a pair of Nemesis Bracers which I can swap with my Heart of Iron in the cube to make farming runs go more smoothly.  Additionally I managed to get all three of my primary build gems over level 25 so they finally start doing interesting things.  All of these things combined seem to now allow me to pretty easily farm Torment X content, which means that 7/10 of the next Seasonal step is knocked out…  with the only truly heinous thing left being mastering the set dungeon.  For that I am largely going to need to tweak my build because I don’t actually use consecrate anymore, although it is definitely worth trying given how bed of nails works with it.

Tonight however… will most definitely be a night for Destiny because in theory it should be easier to get two characters through Nightmares on reset day 🙂

Diablo 3 Season Start and Anniversary Event

diablo-iii-2017-01-08-23-39-56-42

diablo-iii-2017-01-08-23-39-56-42

My weekend was largely dominated by the launch of Diablo 3 Season 9, and the Darkening of Tristram event.  Up until this point I had not really touched any of the anniversary content, and to be honest the season beginning had completely slipped my mind until Grace asked me if we were doing our usual push.  It has become a bit of a tradition to hang out Friday night and push as far as we can.  While I rarely actually make it to 70 that first night, we both end up with a good head start into the season.  This time around however we opted to do the Darkening of Tristram content… which is essentially a 16 plus level Greater Rift.  I say plus because there are a number of offshoots that grant access to boss battles like the Skeleton King and other side areas.  The interesting thing is that as much as I was not feeling Diablo 2…  I absolutely enjoyed the weird nostalgic romp that is the darkening content.  Basically glorious retrovision was cute… but did not destroy the fact that the underlying game is one that I still greatly enjoy.  However for Diablo 2… I had simply moved on past that style of gameplay and the sort of character decisions that game asked you to make…  permanently or at least relatively permanently.

diablo-iii-2017-01-08-23-07-30-14

As far as Season 9 goes I opted to play a Crusader once again… which is honestly my favorite of the Diablo 3 options.  Primarily my decision this time around was due to the fact that the Invoker set was one again the freebie, allowing me to play quite possibly my favorite build… the one I loving refer to as “stop hitting yourself”.  It is all about maximizing your thorns damage and then watching the mobs grind themselves to death on your armor.  Essentially it plays into my ultimately player fantasy… and that is being this immovable object that survives being swarmed and walks out unscathed.  The unscathed part however is a little open to interpretation since there are a handful of mob types that can just eat my lunch, but overall I am extremely happy with the progress so far this season.  So far I have soloed up to a 42 greater rift, and had more than enough breathing room to probably be able to bump that up to 45 without issue.  The most interesting thing is… I am already doing the equivalent of Torment 8 while still missing most of the items I need to do my proper build.  I am following the traditional Thorns/Invoker build and am still missing: Traveler’s Pledge, Compass Rose, Heart of Iron, Justice Lantern, Akarat’s Awakening and Convention of Elements…  and in truth I could probably use a better Hack than the one I managed to pick up.

d3anniversary_rares

I managed to complete through step 5 (Slayer) in the Seasons journey and am just now starting to slowly work on the Champion aka step 6.  However the bulk of my time has been spent working on finishing the various Anniversary events.  There is an excellent guide up on Icy Veins that I have been working on, and to the best of my knowledge I have completed them all.  The one that took the longest however was “Protector of Tristram” which I included a screenshot of the completion above.  Essentially as you go through the Darkening of Tristram Rift each floor has specific mobs that can spawn.  You are usually only going to see a single spawn per floor, but in at least one rare case I didn’t see any rares up.  Similarly in other rare cases you have a shot at seeing all three mobs up on a given floor… because that happened to me for certain on the fourth floor of the dungeon.  Where the guide comes in handy is after a few runs of the event you are going to get your list of 40 whittled down to something more manageable.  Towards the end of my grind I realized that I needed mobs on floors 5, 6, 7, and 12… so I began focusing those specific floors and simply rushing to the exit on any floors that I didn’t need.  Finally both myself and Grace wound up needing the same mob… which feels like a rare spawn on floor five Foulwing.

d3anniversary_cultists

The other item that took a long time to finally complete was the collection of Cultists pages which can be found off special Temporal Priests that spawn in amongst existing cultists out in the world.  In theory there will only be a single Temporal Priest in a given spawn location, so once you have found it it is probably safe to move on to the next area.  The Icy Veins guide has the zones that are likely to have them up at a given time.  That said we did manage to find quite a few of them while doing normal rifts, and it seems like the “one per area” bit is unique to a given floor because we wound up with multiple pages in the same run a few times.  For those curious about drop rates of pages… by the time I finished I managed to obtain:

  • Page 1: 1 copy
  • Page 2: 4 copies
  • Page 3:  3 copies
  • Page 4:  1 copy
  • Page 5:  3 copies
  • Page 6:  1 copy
  • Page 7:  3 copies

I doubt any of the pages are intentionally rarer than others, but for me I spent a lot of time grinding away still needing the very first page to drop.  At this point I am extremely happy to have finished up all of the anniversary event and can now just start pushing towards that stash tab.  This feels like a good season so far, and I am hoping that my drive maintains itself as I get into the harder content.

Exotic Towels

c1fnreavqae_4o4

c1fnurtuuaaeqrz

This morning is a truly bizarre morning because we went to sleep not even thinking about snow…  and then it apparently happened over night.  I live in a town on the northern border of Tulsa, and I say apparently because there is zero snow on the ground here.  However there was enough in Tulsa proper and the southern communities for the public school system, including the town my wife teaches in to call a snow day.  She is super pumped because it means she has a day to try and play catch up, and me…  I have a weird commute ahead of me because I know at some point on my drive in things will go from peaceful and snow free…  to a winter wasteland.  I promise I did not intend to write three days in a row about Destiny, however that is ultimately what is happening.  Since the launch of the dawning I have not touched any of the supposedly lucrative bounties from Commander Zavala, which are in theory the only way you can currently get the Icebreaker.  Now before I took a break Squirrel, Jex and I had this tradition of running through some content on Thursday nights given that it was a big empty space in our calendars.  Originally the tradition was to run as many characters through the Challenge of Elders as we could in an evening, but last night we rebooted it for the purpose of running a Nightfall.

c1fnreavqae_4o4

From there we chain ran six heroic strikes in a row, because we were already considering doing it…  and I have been sitting on the Champion of the Cult quest for ages.  This is a quest you get when you reach level 25 with any of the given factions, and it rewards an exotic version of your class item.  For Titans this ends up being a rather ornate looking towel…  and I still question the good folks at Bungie for thinking that a flag football towel was a great idea for a glass item especially when Hunters get amazing and iconic looking cloaks.  In order to finish the quest you have to do content while decked out in your factions gear… wearing a shader, emblem and class item for that faction.  The quest ultimately requires you to do the following…

  • Slay 500 Minions of the Darkness
  • Complete 10 Heroic Strikes
  • Slay 250 Crucible Foes
  • Win 10 Crucible Matches

Now this used to be considerably easier because folks were constantly chain running heroic strikes.  However with the changes to the system that essentially make them mini nightfalls…  folks are just not running them as often which meant that if I was ever going to get through this step I was probably going to need a group of friends to do it with.  However since I had already done the more annoying part which involved Crucible wins and kills… there was zero chance that I was going to actually abandon the quest.  So for months it has been sitting in my progress tracker taunting me, until my good friends Jex and Squirrel helped me knock it out by chain running six heroics in a row.

c1fnxpzuuae9sey

Now earlier I mentioned that the weekly bounty from Commander Zavala was supposedly the only way to get an Icebreaker currently.  Unfortunately however this week was not my week, and instead of getting an exotic I wound up with a relatively decent version of the Shadow Price legendary auto rifle.  Now I had been sitting on one of these in the bank that I was using on my warlock, and it falls into the medium rate of fire/medium category.  The biggest problem with this archetype is the fact that it generally has a low magazine size… for example this weapon has one of only 25 which is really too small for most Auto Rifle friendly activities.  This roll however is good enough that it bears further notice since in the first slot I have Range Finder which greatly boosts the range while aiming down the sight…  something I am never not going to do.  In the second column I can choose between Perfect Balance or Hand-laid Stock to give it extra stability…. and after playing around last night I think I prefer Perfect Balance.  Finally in the last column I have Third Eye, which is a way for me to break my dependence on my crutch…  the Memory of Gheleon and equip my far better itemized artifact from Year 2 Kings Fall raid.  Once you get used to having tracking all the time while aiming your primary… it is really really hard to go back to NOT having it.  I still do not think this is going to come close to replacing my beloved Range Finder/Perfect Balance/Counterbalance Year 2 Haakon’s Hatchet… but it will make a decent primary to swap over to my Warlock and Hunter alts.  The real take away of the evening however is that I had a blast… and I am hoping we can get back in the habit of doing the Thursday night shenanigans.

Finding the Forge

c1adk5tusaay80d

bel-colorsFirst off I have to start this mornings post by talking about the surprise I got last night.  For awhile now I have had my friend AmmosArt working on a series of avatars to use for anything AggroChat related.  When I do the title cards it always somewhat bugs me that we don’t have a set of Avatars drawn by the same person, because I think that would end up looking a lot nicer.  As a result I commissioned her to create a set for the main cast, and we kicked it off with mine…  however I think she has a few of them waiting in the pipes as well.  Since I have “Fantasy Bel” thanks to the project that Tam started, and now “Realistic Bel” thanks to the prize commission from Faebelina I thought it would be kinda cool to have a “Sci-Fi Bel”.  So when she asked me what I wanted drawn for my AggroChat avatar I sent her this overly complex idea for me wearing a bunch of named armor pieces from Destiny.  Here she has expertly rendered that idea with me, a giant flaming Iron Lord axe, my Sunbreaker hammer and Nolandroid.  I could not be happier, and while she was concerned about how the fire effects would feel… I think they work amazingly well.  Thanks once again Ammo for taking mad ramblings and converting them into a picture format.  You should also check out some of her other works on her website or on her daily art tumblr.

I have to say… it is truly bizarre getting back to the task of blogging in the morning.  It is 6:23 and I have consumed my first cup of coffee and am trying to get on about the business of blogging like I know what the hell I am doing.  Today is a day I have been dreading because it means that I have to give up the comfort of my sofa blanket cocoon and venture forth into the cruel and now very chilly world.  Of note… I have been off work since Friday December 23rd.  So I have had two blissful weeks that have allowed me to get completely out of the habit of functioning on any sort of a schedule.  Those weeks have been shockingly busy with only a couple days where I could truly hang out dawn til dusk in my flannel pajama pants and pretend the world didn’t exist.  During that time we dealt with a handful of crisis that involved changing out a leaking faucet in our bathroom… and then ironically rushing some big air mover fans to my mother in law who had a major leak in her front bathroom.  In between that there were numerous Christmas celebrations, and an attempt to properly recognize my father’s birthday…  which also coincides with New Years day.  I have not even really gotten around to making some proper resolutions, and while I don’t really buy into them much, the New Year is a decent time to start new things.  At the moment however my mind has turned towards preparing for Pax South which is coming up in a few weeks.

The Forge Trick

c1ado8iuqaecmyo

Yesterday I posted a mammoth Destiny guide of sorts that I had been meaning to create.  I have a number of friends in various stages of getting sucked into the game… and when I try and give them advice it often comes off as mad ramblings filled with a bunch of topics that they don’t quite understand yet.  The guide was my attempt at writing something for someone just getting started but also still focused on pushing through the light levels as quickly as possible.  As I said yesterday…  I failed to do 99% of the things mentioned in the guide but I am following a similar thought process on my Xbox One account since it is largely starting from zero.  One of the things I mentioned doing was Archon’s Forge… and you might of thought to yourself “But Bel, that is a Group Activity… how did you solo it?”.  Some time ago my friend Shadoes gave me some tips on how to reliably make Archon’s Forge spawn with a group in progress.  Firstly you have to understand how patrol zones in Destiny work in order to make this happen.  Each named area is essentially a match made zone that the game tries to pair you with other players also in that area.  However you usually zone in and out too fast for the game to effectively do this, so there are things you can do to force the game to match you up with other players.  Inside of the Archon’s Forge there is a path behind the forge that leads down to an area that a number of missions and patrols send you to, but is effectively open at all times.  You can see this path as the opening with the ride SIVA cables coming out of it in the above image.

c1adgouuqaam7h_

What I find works is to run down this tunnel to the next area, you will be able to tell you have transitioned by a title card coming up identifying that you have entered “The Warrens”.  From here I tend to kill the various splicer mobs that spawn in… which may include a handful of 2-4 Vandals, 2-4 Stealth Vandals, 2-4 Dregs… and potentially a Captain.  The mix varies slightly, but essentially I spend enough time in this area to clear out whatever happens to have spawned.  From there I slowly walk back up towards the Archon’s Forge, and for me personally it helps for me to crouch while walking just to force myself to slow down.  In Destiny I am so used to constantly sprinting that I find myself doing it without realizing it.  Essentially you are trying to give the game plenty of time for it to notice that you are entering an area with an event… and that it should match you up with additional people.

c1adk5tusaay80d

If it works, you should hear the familiar Fallen Klaxon as you near the tunnel leading out of the area and into Archon’s Forge.  If you make it to the Forge without getting matched into an open world group…  then simply head back down to the Warrens and start the process over.  I would say 99% of the time by the moment I reach the top I hear the Klaxon and am up and running with a viable open world team doing Archon’s Forge.  The longest so far it has ever taken to get matched is three trips up and down the tunnel but your mileage may vary depending on the time of day you are trying and your platform.  I’ve not tried this on Xbox Live, but considering the person who tipped me off to this method plays there I am going to assume it works fine as well.  Basically doing this method is going to allow you to hop into the Plaguelands and farm the forge until your heart is content, just remember to keep going to orbit every so often to make sure you are not losing loot.  Your mailbox can only hold 20 items… and while it takes longer for your inventory to fill up now that greens turn immediately into materials…  it still happens frighteningly fast while doing the Forge.

400 Light Solo

c1vht_cviaurvbp

c1vht_cviaurvbp

This mornings post is something I have been kicking around in my head for awhile.  If you have read any of my blog over the last few years, you will already know that I am nigh obsessed with Destiny.  I am not exactly sure what it is about this game that draws me to it so much, but I am smitten.  One of the big problems however is that it can be more than a little obtuse for new players.  There are so many things that you COULD be doing… that it is sometimes hard to identify what it is that you SHOULD be doing.  One of the key goals in the game is the improving of your light level, which is for all intents and purposes exactly the same thing as the modern MMO concept of item level.  Higher light level means you simply perform better, in having slightly better stats on your gear… as well as doing more damage.  Your light level also dictates how well you will perform against the various levels of content in the game from Patrols, to Strikes, to Raids each with their own suggested light levels.

Now throughout Taken King I raided with then Axioma Clan and now Tequila Mockingbird, but with the release of Rise of Iron I simply haven’t been able to align my schedule to be available for raiding…  given that for a lot of it I have been raiding in two other games.  That did not however change my desire to keep improving and bumping my gear towards the currently light cap of 400.  Over the break I managed to push my Titan main to 400 light, and my Warlock and Hunter are lagging slightly behind at 399 and 398 respectively.  I managed to do this entirely through doing solo content with a few hours per sitting of time invested, and honestly…  I did it mostly wrong.  The problem with Destiny information is that most of it that you will find are either in insanely long and difficult to parse Reddit posts, or in a plethora of YouTube videos that you have to listen to a few times to really grok what they are saying.  What doesn’t really help is that most of the “get to 400” information is targeted at folks who ground it up as soon as the game came out and are now trying to explain how it was that they got there.  I have the benefit of having just reached 400 light on my Playstation Main…  and am now slogging my way back there on my alternate Xbox One account.

New To Destiny

destinyxboneaccount

One of the problems with Destiny is that it is really bad at on-boarding new players.  At this point there are likely two different categories of players that might be looking at this guide.  Firstly they purchased the game at launch, played it… got frustrated and are now contemplating coming back.  Second is that they never got into it… and want to get started but find all of the options for purchasing the game confusing.  Regardless you are likely honestly wanting the Destiny Collection, which is a set that includes all content released to this point and will upgrade existing accounts to bring them current.  Please note that you absolutely want to be current because honestly Destiny does not function nicely if you are not up to the latest version of the game.  Largely speaking you are simply limited in what you can do… and this guide of sorts is going to focus on players you are caught up to the Rise of Iron release of the game.  The other confusing thing is that long term Destiny players like myself tend to refer to things as years.  So for the sake of clarification…

Year One

  • Destiny Original Release
  • Dark Below Expansion
  • House of Wolves Expansion

Year Two

  • The Taken King Release

Year Three

  • The Rise of Iron Release

Now your first instinct is going to be that you need to play through all of the original content, then all of the Dark Below content, then all of the House of Wolves content, then the Taken King content, and finally end up with Rise of Iron.  On this I am torn because I absolutely think it is worth playing through all of the content available, especially the two expansions from year one because they are going to give you bits of information that will help to fill in gaps in your knowledge as you do various strikes.  However started at Year One and leveling your way slowly to Year Three is probably the least efficient way that you can be playing this game.  From the standpoint of getting to 400 light… literally everything that happens in Year One is going to be of no long term use to you other than taking up space in your vault as a collectible.

The Infusion System

For the most part Year One was full of a lot of mistakes on how to make content that ages gracefully, and with Year Two they introduced the infusion system allowing you to essentially grow your weapons and armor with you by infusing items into them.  Thankfully if you are coming into the game now, you also missed a completely frustrating grind that was the infusion calculation system because during most of Year Two this was an extremely lossy system.  For example if you took a 300 light item and infused a 308 light item into it…  you were likely going to end up with a 304 light item as a result.  With an update in 2015 they shifted this so that infusion was a one for one increase… meaning if you took that same 300 light item and infused a 300 light item into it…  you wound up with a 308 light item.  However this only applies to items that dropped from Year 2 or Year 3 content…  meaning everything from Year 1 will functionally be locked at the gear levels from that era.

Boosting to the Rescue

The other main problem with playing through content as it was designed is that your light levels are going to increase extremely slowly.  Destiny is confusing in that it has physical levels…  and light levels.  When you finish the base game you will be sitting at around physical level 14… and completing both Dark Below and House of Wolves should be able to take you to level 20 without much issue.  Taken King content opens at level 20… and takes you to physical level 40.  However upon exiting the content you are going to be sitting somewhere around 180-200 light.  The Rise of Iron content expects you to be at a minimum of 280 light level, which was the Year 2 floor for being completely outfitted in beginner Legendary gear.  If we imagine that you are at 200 light, it is going to take an awful lot of grinding older content to get to 280 and again… that is largely going to be wasted time since the goal has moved on you and are looking at 400 light as the new target.

Buying either Rise of Iron or the Collection both give you a boost that you can use to take your character to level 40… and also outfit them in a full set of 280 blue gear, instantly giving you access to start the newest content.  If you want to see the older content, I honestly at this point suggest going ahead and boosting and then just playing through it for the sake of seeing the story…  knowing that the only thing of use that you are going to get out of it is some engrams.  For the sake of speed and getting you on the path to 400 light fastest… I also suggest playing through the Rise of Iron story as soon as you reasonably can.  I did it last night on my 280ish geared Xbox One character and had no real problem making it through the missions.  That said… I play a lot of Destiny and there are a few places where the missions can be a little brutal like during the final fight of the opening Rise of Iron mission.  However completing the Rise of Iron is going to outfit your character in a full set of 320 blue gear, putting you on a much better ground for starting the push to 400 light.

Level Plateaus

Another concept that you are going to need to learn is that the game rations how much light you can get from certain content.  As a result I am going to give you some advice that is going to seem counter intuitive at first.  Don’t decode Blue, Purple or god forbid Orange engrams while you are leveling.  The temptation is going to be great to rush over to the Cryptarch and see what new and shiny loot you get…  but that effort is going to be wasted for the most part until you are at least ready to begin the light push in proper.  You are going to ultimately thank yourself later once you reach certain light plateaus that you have a much needed boost waiting for you in the bank.  I am going to lay out the various light plateaus and then talk you through them.

  • Blue (Rare) Engrams – These Max out at 365 light
  • Purple (Lengendary) Engrams – These Max out at 385 light
  • Faction Package Loot – These Max out at 390 light
  • Orange (Exotic) Engrams – These Max out at 400 light with some caveats
  • “End Game Activities” – Max out at 400 light

The general theory being that you hold all of your engrams until you are at least to the 320 light level that you exit Rise of Iron with.  From there you decrypt your blues and do so in a slow and methodical faction.  Light level is an average, and your engrams will decode to the same light or slightly higher than whatever your current light level happens to be.  So that means as you decode them you want to be doing so as evenly as possible.  So you might decode a helm… equip it, and then decode a chest piece… equip it…  then a weapon…  equip it.  Essentially you are trying to stair step up your light as much as you can before decoding the next engram.  When you hit 365 light in every slot… you start working on your purples and do the same stair stepping manor until you have everything sitting at 385.  Then… you really do not touch your exotics until you have hit 390 loot off of faction packages.  Finally and this one gets awkward quickly… you decode exotics until you reach around 399.  There seems to be a bug in place where once you get past 399 you stop reliably getting upgrades from Exotics.  Sure you can get 400s… but during my most recent slot I would say 80% or so of the exotics I decrypted sat at 399 light instead of going on up to 400 making it heartbreaking.  I saved the remaining exotics for after I actually hit 400 to use as infusion fodder.

Bridging the Gaps

c1vhjnducai-vbl

Quite simply put… there is no way you are going to have enough engrams to get you all of the way through the light leveling process.  This is where all of the other activities come into play.  I personally did a ton of bounties to help start getting me faction packages along the way.  In the above image you see three types of bounties, the first row being the new Strike Bounties that will give you reputation with the Vanguard and your chosen faction that you should have joined by now…  Dead Orbit/Future War Cult/New Monarchy.  The middle row are the traditional Vanguard Packages that can be completed anywhere in the game and these give Vanguard and Faction reputation same as the strike bounties.  The last row are the Crucible bounties that give you reputation with Lord Shax, but pay special attention to these because some of them require you to be a member of a fire team…. and while technically every group is a fire team…  they mean one that you formed yourself.  Here is an attempt at a list of the things that you can do to get past various light plateaus.

365 Light Barrier

  • Blue (Rare) Engrams
  • Siva Crisis Strike List

Side note during this grind…  Siva Crisis Strike list also has the ability to drop Skeleton Keys used to open the Hoard Chests at the end of the strike.  Once again hold these in reserve because you are going to need the light boost to hit 400 and each chest you open will reward you one Legendary and one Rare item up to 400 light.  So start stockpiling keys now as you go through this process.

385 Light Barrier

c1vh38aveaerzop

  • Purple (Legendary) Engrams
  • Archon’s Forge event in Plaguelands Patrol Zone
  • Heroic Siva Crisis Strike List
  • Normal Mode Wrath of the Machine Raid

While this is a guide largely targeted at soloing your way to 400 light… I did include the raid content in the list because it also bridges the gap if that is something you have the opportunity to run easily.

390 Light Barrier

c1vhpgoveaaqz6o

  • Package Loot
    • Vanguard – Tower
    • Crucible – Tower
    • Faction (Dead Orbit/Future War Cult/New Monarchy) – Tower
    • Gunsmith – Tower
    • Eris Morn – Tower
    • Variks – Reef
    • Petra Venj – Reef

Now of note… while you are getting to this point you are going to start getting package loot already.  There is no real way to hold multiple packages in reserve, and you need to be watching your faction ranks manually because as far as I know when you gain a new rank… and have not collected the previous faction package it is lost.  Now I have not experienced this personally, but it is the wisdom of the community that this is apparently a thing that can happen.  This is especially important when you are grinding out a bunch of Crucible matches or Strikes in a row… because the faction goes quickly if you are not watching it.

400 Light Barrier

c1viq39uoaagnqd

  • Orange (Exotic) Engrams
  • Archon’s Forge – Ghost and Artifact slots only
  • Crucible Matches
  • Strike Hoard Chests – Requires 1 Skeleton Key each
  • Iron Banner – Monthly Crucible Event
  • Nightfall Strike – Once Weekly Per Character
  • Trials of Osiris – Serious Team vs Team Event
  • Hard Mode Wrath of the Machine Raid

So something important of note…  Rise of Iron came out in September and I am just now hitting the level 400 light cap.  I am slow as hell and I did not do things in the most opportune fashion.  I broke every single rule that I lined out in this guide, because I was not super focused on getting there as quickly as possible.  However expect that each step in this ladder is probably going to take twice as long as the last step, with the last 10 points taking easily the longest if you don’t have access to something like the raid… or a team that can carry you to the tower each week in Trials of Osiris.  Your absolute best bet is going to be something like the Iron Banner which has a really good drop rate for gear.  The gotcha there however is that each month the Lady Efrideet (pictured above) only brings a few items to the tournament.

This past Iron Banner for example she brought Class Items, Helms, Fusion Rifles and Scout Rifles, so when you add to it the chance of an Artifact or Ghost Shell dropping which is always the case with Iron Banner that gives you six possible items you can get at the end of matches, out of the total 10 slots that you eventually need to raise your light.  There are also four bounties that you can complete each time the event runs, and two reward gear drops, and the other two reward weapon drops… that can drop something that in the current months assortment of items.  The absolute best case scenario is that you save these until the end of the week because they will reward you based on your current equipped light levels… and hopefully by the end of the tournament you will have bumped up your light a bit.  There is also a catch up mechanic that makes gaining faction with the Iron Banner faster on your alts, so in theory I try and run multiple characters through at a time to get more than one set of these packages.  However you are going to have to stomach the crucible, so if you are a strictly non-pvp player this might be a step too far for you.

The Missing Pieces

Ultimately whatever path you choose, there is likely going to be a point where you cannot get the drop you need to take you from 399 to 400.  For me that item slot was my Heavy Weapon, and nothing I did seemed to be willing to drop one.  I finally got it from decoding a Legendary engram, which of note… there is always a slight chance that Rares upgrade into Legendary and Legendary into Exotics.  Hell yesterday I even managed to pull a 400 Mida Multitool off of a Rare Primary Engram… so that is also a thing, but just don’t bank on that actually happening.  Where the Hoard Chests at the end of strikes come in handy is that each one of them has a chance of dropping a specific set of loot, with a loot table of generally only a couple of items per chest available.  The below image is from an excellent reddit post where they took the time to format all of the information in which item drops from which Hoard chest in table form.

hoardlootlist

If you are interested in which specific drops come from which specific chest… then I suggest you check out this visual guide both of these I am simply referencing for the sake of space and my sanity rather than recreating in blog form.  I have recently been chaining strikes in the effort to get an Imago Loop with a decent roll for example.  Regardless you should be able to target specific strikes in spending those keys that I hope at this point you have stockpiled and get yourself the rest of the way to 400 in no time.

But What About Xur?

destiny-xur-inventory-october-30

Honestly I largely left Xur off the initial list… because honestly you never know from week to week if he is going to bring something useful.  When you take that can combine it with the fact that for the last two weeks Xur has not brought Three of Coins…  it feels like his purpose is a bit up in the air at the moment.  Previously Three of Coins was a bizarre stacking buff system that made it so that you had an increasing chance of getting an exotic engram to drop any time you killed an ultra, or completed a crucible match.  Traditionally this was the thing that I saved my Strange Coins for… and popped one anytime I was chain running Crucible or Strike content.  It has problems but it is a nice way of increasing the chance especially new players have of seeing interesting loot.  As far as the items he brings, in Year 3 they are all 350 light level and I absolutely abused this fact on my Xbox One account to get a short term boost in light and also provide me with a decent weapon to finish content on.  Each week Xur brings one weapon, one warlock armor, one hunter armor and one titan armor.  The combination of things you can get however are like I said at the start totally random… and some of the exotic rolls are notoriously bad like bringing items with straight intellect or discipline rolls making it hard to balance your gear around that.  They can of course be re-rolled using Glass Needles that he also sells, and recently he has started selling Exotic Shards making upgrading those Exotics lining your bank significantly easier.  Essentially I check one of the many youtubers Xur videos Friday morning, or hit WhereIsXur.com to see what he is selling an determine if I care about it for the weekend.  Traditionally speaking Saturday night after we recorded our Podcast I would pop over and liquidate my stock of Strange Coins into Three of Coins.  He arrives in the wee hours of Friday morning, and disappears in the wee hours of Sunday morning, so you have a limited chance to get items from him, but it is definitely something worth checking out.  I just wouldn’t count on actually getting something you needed from him.

 

Bel’s Fake Game Awards

wow-64-2016-12-28-20-36-59-91

This break has been a bit of an odd one…  namely because I have completely screwed up a few times and failed to blog.  Even worse… I forgot I forgot to blog.  It is as though I have been in a bit of a weird time warp where I lived a bit separate from the rest of the world for awhile.  So instead of being connected like I usually am…  everything has just sort of flown over the top of me without ever really sinking in.  I have not been logging into MMOs hardly at all… and when I did it was for a specific focused purpose rather than just hanging out there.  The break has been about falling into a number of game shaped holes…  including Destiny, Minecraft, Bloodborne, and most recently Tyranny.  However today represents the beginning of me trying to get into the swing of things.  I technically have two full days left…  well not full given that its 9 am when I am finally getting around to writing this morning.  However it is time for me to do my sham of an attempt at an Awards Show…  that I started last year, where the categories really don’t exist and no one actually wins.

Something Is Missing

AWildZubat
Pokemon Go

Recently in the name of better health and that whole tradition of trying to start the New Year off right…  my wife and I have been spending a lot more time walking.  One of the things I greatly miss that was a huge part of my life during 2016… is Pokemon Go.  One of the updates essentially screwed me over and locked me out at least semi-permanently from playing the game.  The Google Safety check… seems to think my phone is rooted even though it is not.  My only work around is to actually root my phone and install one of the many applications that will hide root from Pokemon Go…  defeating the entire purpose of their safety check.  However I am reaching a point where I really want to play the game… and I might just resort to this.  Essentially this game was a good chunk of my year… or at least I was obsessive about it for two months.  Pokemon Go did something that no game really has…  made me care about mobile as a gaming platform and as a result it should get a significant shout out.

You Can’t Go Back

Diablo 2
Diablo 2

For the AggroChat Game Club, we tend to pick a game for both November and December…  since once you take the holidays into account… you really have a single functional month.  Last year the game that spanned the two was Fallout 4, and this year Grace chose Diablo 2 as her pick.  At first I was all about this because I have some seriously rose colored lenses about this game and my memory of it.  I remember trying to see who could get through all of Act V in a single lunch break, and so many farming runs to see if we could get the coveted set pieces.  However on replay…  I have changed drastically in my tastes since this game released, and while I was on the Diablo 3 doesn’t feel right bandwagon initially…  I have evolved.  Diablo 2 now feels like a grindy mess of a click fest with very little carrot and a hell of a lot of stick.  So I am honestly wishing I had NOT replayed the game…  and could leave it sitting happily in my memory untouched.  My recent experiences…  are proof of that adage that sometimes you can’t go back home.

But Maybe Sometimes You Can

wow-64-2016-12-28-20-36-59-91
World of Warcraft: Legion

Saying that however… there are apparently times when you can go home and enjoy yourself in the same ways you used to.  There was a period of time when I was convinced that Warcraft would always only tangentially matter to me.  That I mourned a time and a place and a specific group of people that were long going and could likely never been aligned and arranged in the same pattern again.  I’ve devoted a lot of digital ink to this lament throughout the years…  and then Legion comes along and proves me to be completely full of shit.  I am not exactly sure what it is about this expansion but for the first time in seven years…  I feel more hope for the game ahead of me… than nostalgia for the time that has long passed.  I thought I was done raiding in World of Warcraft… and instead I am actively raiding three times a week…  one night of progression, one night of farmed content, and an amazing karazhan team.  I am super happy with the state of the guild, and the game… and how far we have come.  I am amped about the prospects of starting Nighthold on time when it releases…  and while I have not spent much of this break in game it still very much feels like home.  While I still have issues with some of the disjointed feeling of the forced faction storyline at times in Legion…  the bulk of the content is amazing and just seems to keep getting more interesting.

But Sometimes It Doesn’t Last

Final Fantasy XIV
Final Fantasy XIV

The other subtext of the year is how I have apparently fallen out of love with Final Fantasy XIV.  We made an attempt to get the band back together and start raiding once more… and it worked amazingly for awhile.  Honestly the Free Company is still an active and happy place…  just with myself not really playing much of a role in it.  I keep thinking that it will be fun to return…  but I knew something was a miss when I started completely blowing off the holiday events that I used to love so much.  Now I am significantly behind in gear and in story… and it is going to take a significant push to catch back up.  This push however is just something that I have not been willing to do as of yet.  I am excited about Stormblood…  but nowhere near as much as I was prior to the launch of Heavensward.  I guess the scale of Heavensward felt limited… with two dungeons per patch instead of three, and that alone wore on me.  When you are grinding two dungeons in an expert tier… it gets super old really fast.  They have since added in other content to occupy time like the deep dungeon…  but it also feels extremely grindy in nature.  I know at some point I will return and happily do so… but in the meantime I have simply not been forcing myself to log in and play a game I was not entirely into.

With Guns Blazing

Destiny
Destiny

The real winner of the year as far as my total time spent… I feel is probably Destiny.  This game has gone from being something that never quite clicked…. to turning into a game that I obsessively play on an almost nightly basis.  Over the break I spent a good chunk of my time playing “Not-Wipeout” and participating in the Sparrow Racing League.  I managed to hit the currently light cap of 400, and instead of it diminishing my desire to play… it seems to have only spurred me on further trying to get infusion fodder to upgrade all of my favorite items.  I cannot tell you how much being able to bring my favorite weapons from Year 2… into Year 3 has improved the game for me.  Traditionally MMO items are just stat sticks with a look and a feel…  and cosmetic systems make it so that you can look however you want therefor really negating any need to keep using older items.  Destiny however…  your items have a feel and a purpose and greatly effect the gameplay.  I have guns that I love… that feel amazing to use… that I cannot actually quantify in words as to why.  For example I love the Fabian Strategy… even though I technically have far superior legendary items that don’t eat my single exotic weapon slot.  I just feel sorry for my friends who are casually interested in the game… because I go from zero to “let me show you my pokemans” in a frighteningly short amount of time.

Bad Christmas Was A Bust

TheDivision 2016-03-09 19-09-27-97
The Division

This time last year… I was looking forward to the impending launch of The Division.  I thought this game would end up being my new Destiny, and even better so because it allowed me to get the sort of gun play and looter shooter action I craved without having to resort to consoles.  Unfortunately that was not the case and I never actually made it to the level cap.  Going into Division I thought I would have a strong community to support me… but one by one my friends checked out quickly for a lot of reasons not directly connected to the game play.  Largely they objected to the themes… and enough so that at least one of them immediately turned around and refunded the game through steam.  I could have reached outside of my circle of friends and found new communities…  but I was left with the awkward situation that my PS4 clan was of course playing on that platform and that I just didn’t really want to have to pester folks to play with me on the PC side.  As a result I solo’d a hell of a lot… and reached a point where to progress at the speed I wanted to progress I needed some people with me.  There was also the technical problem that I just don’t really like playing a third person over the shoulder shooter nearly as much as I enjoyed playing Destiny.  Even more than that…  the thing that was missing was the futurism of Destiny weapons.  None of the guns felt any different than any other gun to me… so ALL SMGs felt the same, ALL LMGs essentially felt the same etc…  they were more stat sticks than something that felt unique or individual.  I still hold hope that at some point that I will be able to get back into the game and push the last bit to hit the level cap and start doing interesting content.

Awesome But Not My Deal

Overwatch 2016-06-21 23-03-33-56
Overwatch

Sometimes there is a game that I am way more into the game world… and the lore than actually playing it.  This is very much the case with Overwatch.  I love the characters, and all of the storyline that is coming out surrounding the game… and while I enjoy playing the game in small bursts it just never seems to be the game I choose to play on any given night.  As a result I am something ridiculous like level 6… and have only logged a few hours in total playing the game.  I think much like with League of Legends… I would enjoy playing with a team of friends… but then you run into the issue of getting bored with bots… and not having the chops or desire to learn them to play against other pre-made teams.  I also tend to be most happy when I am playing Torbjorn, but always end up playing Reinhardt or Mercy because I end up getting randomed into a team full of Hanzos and Genjis.  I wish I had the burning desire to play this game because I love everything about its world and what it is doing with its narrative.  In truth I find myself mourning the game it could have been…  back when it was originally slated to be a new MMO.  I would to play a Destiny like game… set in the Overwatch universe.