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dauntlessissues

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Yesterday was one of those days.  I started trying to leave work around 4:30 but as I was literally locking my machine…  I had a person come into my office that needed to talk through a problem with me.  Then at 4:50 when that person left…  I was not fast enough and another slid in with similar things that needed to be talked through.  Finally around 5:20 I was walking out the door, and got snagged by someone I passed in the hall to help deal with another problem.  This all meant that I did not actually get out the door until roughly 6…  which meant by the time I ran the errands I needed to and picked up meds for one of our animals from the vet I did not get home until after 7.  By the time I dealt with watering flowers, feeding cats, changing the ferret playpen and then dealing with the dinner I had picked up on the way home…  it was at a minimum 7:30 before I actually sat down in front of a machine and began the process of attempting to download Dauntless.

I had every hope in the world of finally being able to try this game out, because while yes I played it briefly during Pax South…  I knew nothing about how to play a Monster Hunter game at that point.  It was my hope that given my indoctrination into the genre with Monster Hunter World, that the experience of playing Dauntless would be more enjoyable.  The above screenshot represents the furthest I have made it into the game yet, and I don’t even know if there is additional patching that needs to happen once you actually successfully log in.  When I finally made it in last night the game itself was in maintenance mode because I am guessing they did not have a very good launch day.  Phoenix Labs can call yesterday the beginning of Open Beta, but if you have already publicly stated that there will be no wipes from this point onwards…  then you have effectively launched your game.

Launches are extremely rough and it seems like everything was on fire last night for them as their status page denoted problems with almost every subsystem.  This unfortunately does not give a whole lot of confidence given that one of the few takeaways I have heard over and over is that the game in general had “performance problems” in closed testing.  Based on last night I am guessing it still technically has a lot of performance issues or more importantly scaling issues for the sort of sucker punch that is opening the floodgates to the unwashed masses like myself.  The game seems interesting but I am not sure if it is going to get more than a passing curiousity from me since I already have Monster Hunter World, and could be devoting that time towards Generations for the upcoming Switch release of Generations Ultimate.

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What I ended up playing instead is Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon which I got for free as a kickstarter backer of Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night.  This game is essentially a prequel to Ritual of the Night as far as I can tell and lays some of the background for the setting.  It also serves to be an amazing re-imagining of Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse in that it allows you to swap between a cast of characters as you make your way through the game and find them.  Right now it should be available on a wide variety of platforms in their E-Shop for roughly $10.  I personally got my free copy on Steam and then turned around and immediately purchased it on the Switch as well.  It is also available however on 3DS, PS4 and Xbox One so for the most part you can get it on any platform.  The game very much has an authentic Nintendo 8-Bit era feel to it…  right up until you reach the boss fights.  The sprites that are moving around are way to large for the memory buffers of that era, but I am more than willing to suspend my disbelief and just go with it.  I wish I had taken a better screenshot but this is of me playing the Zangetsu character just a little ways into act two.  Well worth checking out if you were a fan of Castlevania at all.

Encampment

This is one of those mornings where you are going to have to suffer one of my dreams.  I had a fairly weird one last night… or at least the last dream I dreamt of the evening was odd.  I was at some sort of a video game convention along the lines of Pax…  because really that is the only one I have first person experience of and as a result in my brain all video game conventions look a lot like Pax South.  Pax has this whole bring your own computer area where folks do just that and set up camp for the weekend, and I believe that is one of the cardinal draws of places like Quake Con in Dallas…  the promise of a giant LAN Party.  In my dream this convention went a whole new step and sorta allowed people to set up camp for the week literally.

For whatever reason I was there with a mix of people from my work and people I know from the internet and a few people that I only recognize as faces I probably saw on youtube.  We had commandeered one of the corners of a large building and literally had vehicles parked creating this box of sorts to denote the boundary of our camp like some sort of a protective wall.  There was a space where the cars didn’t completely meet together in the middle and that is how we got in and out of the encampment.  Inside the area we marked off were a bunch of sleeping options and a cluster of desks making a computer lab of sorts.

Some folks were sleeping in the backseat of vehicles, others in hammocks…  a few people in a pickup bed…  and a few more on the roof of the vehicles as well as a few traditional tents.  Now mind you…  this is inside of a convention center building with its high ceilings and soulless utilitarian walls.  None of this makes any sense at all, especially the next bit.  These are folks from my work…  but none of them are aware of the whole “Belghast” thing and the blog or the podcast…  yet I am trying to sneak time to cover the convention for said blog and podcast.

Towards the end of the weekend one of the people that I don’t actually know who they are… but are apparently part of this madness finds out and keeps it on the down low for me.  The convention eventually ends and and we have to start breaking camp… and the first thing to move are the vehicles.  One of which apparently has lost a fuse of some sort and while they were able to get it out to the parking lot were not dead in the water.  So the last thing I remember before waking up for the alarm this morning was sifting through piles of tech debris looking for a fuse.

None of it really makes sense but I think it hints at something weird about my life.  I don’t tell anyone I know in my actual life about my online persona or any of the things I do with it.  I am weirdly secretive about it because I am not really sure how “normal people” would react to such things.  It is just weird to have this thing in my life that I don’t feel like i can really talk about to anyone except people I may never actually meet from the gaming/blogging community.  There are a lot of things I have done or accomplished that I should feel proud about, but that I don’t really feel like I can…  because I don’t think people would actually understand any of this.

I wonder how much of my anxiety and general dysfunction centers around the fact that I in essence have a secret life.  I mean obviously I share it with my wife and she supports the nonsense that I do here…  even if she does not fully understand it either.  There is a general angst about being “found out” even though I really don’t have anything worth hiding.  Everyone has a thing in their life that isn’t quite like what folks would expect.  One of my co-workers is super into model trains… and somehow that feels way more normal than anything I do.  I realize this is mostly an age thing and I grew up in a generation where gaming was an affliction to grow out of and not something to be embraced other than among your closest circle of friends in a dimly lit room somewhere.

This is an odd post, but it is the sort of things I have been mulling over in my head this morning.

 

Backyard and Banana

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Last night was a pretty chill night and was spent either gaming or hanging out on the patio off our bedroom.  Here is a photo from my chair as I waited to top off the pool and played Monster Hunter Generations.  There was a nice breeze and it was making the wind chimes do all sorts of happy sounds.  My wife was hanging beside me doing school work…  because unfortunately it is both hobby and job rolled all in one.  I love our backyard even though I don’t spend anywhere near as much time as she does out in it.  Last night however was a perfect storm of overcast and cool which is about my sweet spot for outdoors.  My eyes are super sensitive to light and there are times where while I am sitting in the shade… the world itself is just too bright for my tastes.  The flowerbabies of course are doing okay still, and I need to wrap up this post soon so I can go out and give them all a drink.

As far as Monster Hunter Generations…  I am largely playing it over 4 Ultimate because of the impending release of Generations Ultimate for the Switch.  Monster Hunter is way too complicated a game for me to really enjoy playing it on a tiny screen with a thinkpad trackpoint nub serving as my second thumbstick.  That said I do know that whatever effort I make is going to transfer over to the Switch so it feels like it is allowing me to have a bit of a headstart as it were.  There are still three months until the release of Generations Ultimate and that gives me some time to casually work on leveling my Palicos and progressing through the quests to a point where I might not be completely on ground one at launch on August 28th.  I am super looking forward to having a newish to me Monster Hunter experience to sink my teeth into…  that I will be able to play on my 43 inch monitor upstairs.

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The tail end of the evening I settled into playing some Iron Banner in Destiny 2 as I had not honestly played much of that since Curse of Osiris.  I am nowhere near as good at Crucible as I once was because I am simply out of practice, but then again I never was terribly good in the first place.  I did manage to turn in a couple of packages, one of which getting me the Auto Rifle that looks like Scathelocke.  I am super pumped about it because firstly I love Auto Rifles and secondly…  I had really wanted to try that weapon out and was afraid that I lost my chance when the season changed.  There is another auto rifle available as faction rewards so I am wondering if I want to try grinding out 30 packages…  and I pretty much figure the answer is no.  I do however want the super high rate of fire weapon because it has auto loading holster and high impact rounds and seems like a much better version of Perseverance/Valakadyn…  which are both weapons that I hated on the console but have come to enjoy with a mouse and keyboard.

I have significant problems with Destiny 2… but damn does that mechanical loop still feel fun.

State of Decay 2 Impressions

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This morning as I alluded to yesterday morning…  I am going to talk a bit about my experiences with State of Decay 2.  This game is officially released today, but has been out for anyone who pre-ordered the game since last Friday the 18th.  Now I had every intent of playing this game on the Xbox One, in part because I really did not want the Windows Store nonsense in my life.  This game has been funded in part by Microsoft and as a result they have made a bit of an exclusivity grab forcing it to be released on the Xbox One console and the Windows Store initially…  though I assume at some point in the future it will also be available on the more important storefront of PC gaming…  Steam.  When you buy the game however you are essentially purchasing two copies and can shift back and forth between console and PC through cloud saves.  This is a fact I am super glad about…  but I will get into that more closely in a few minutes.

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I preloaded State of Decay 2 on my Xbox One and last Friday night when I got home from work I fired it up hoping to lose myself in the zombie filled world.  This however was what I was greeted with…  a muddy mess.  Unfortunately a number of my attempts to save screenshots on the Xbox One failed but the game was filled with a number of glitches and extremely poor textures.  It honestly felt like maybe I was back playing a game on the Xbox 360 which was a bit shocking as I had already at this point seen footage recorded on the Xbox One X.  Therein lies the problem I feel…  that maybe Undead Labs was directed to really push that 4k gaming version on the more powerful console…  and as a result those of us with vanilla Xbox One consoles are going to have a sub par experience.  On top of the look…  there were issues where the HUD would just start flickering for no apparent reason and there was a moment when my health bar and map widget disappeared completely.  There was absolutely no way I could stomach playing the game in this state and I started to get extremely sad and frustrated.

Upon logging out that Friday night I opted to swallow my pride and install the Windows Store client…  which honestly is something I had hoped never to do.  Has I been able to make the  Xbox version work, I would have waited until I could play it on Steam before installing it on the PC…  and in truth if that option comes up along the line I might take it.  I love Undead Labs the company, but I hate this deal with Microsoft they have crafted because I am a Steam and PS4 guy…  not a Microsoft ecosystem guy.  Thankfully for my sake after installing the Windows client the game immediately downloaded my most current save file and I was up and running in windows in pretty short time picking up exactly where I left off on the console.  Now this might be a really great option for people who want to be able to shift back and forth between the two platforms.  For me both my consoles and my gaming PC are sitting side by side and I use the same monitor for both…  so it doesn’t really save me much.

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For point of reference… I am running State of Decay 2 in 4k resolution with the High default options and manage to get a pretty stable 60 fps on my GTX 980…  which honestly tells me on the Windows side at least this is a pretty optimized client.  I’ve scaled down the images to 1080p resolution for the purpose of posting on this blog so just some things to keep in mind as you read the post (and in truth I think the wordpress content network scales them down further).  State of Decay 2 is above all else a game about building a community and trying to make that community thrive.  You start the game with one of several pairs of survivors that each have some sort of a unique link between them…  some are partners, some siblings, some just good friends…  all trying to survive in a zombie infested world.  This takes place in the same ecosystem that the first game did and you occasionally hear remnants of the same network of survivors that existed in the original and “YOSE”.

Your first step upon completing the tutorial is of course to build your base…  or in this case just take something over that looks fortify-able.    The icon on the map that looks sorta like the Arc De Triomphe is what denotes a stronghold that you can choose to move your base into.  Also in the above screenshot you can see a number of meters along the top part of the screen denoting the stability of your base and the sort of resources you have gathered…  which left to right represent Food, Medicine, Ammunition, Building Materials and Fuel.  These become extremely important to making your base work as they serve both as a resource to augment the functionality of the base by building new facilities…  but also serve as resources that are constantly depleting through the actions your community members are taking.

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There is a constant push to go out into the wasteland and search for new resources to take home to your base.  Gone are the sea of vehicles that you can drive around in endlessly and those two now serve as a sacred resource you need to gather up and horde, each with a very limited fuel capacity and range.  The game now differentiates between resources you find for yourself and can store in the communal shared inventory…  and packs full of resources that you find and have to take back to base and place in the material storage.  Similar to the first game you can only carry one of these packs at a time, but with the advent of vehicles being a limited resource…  we instead get the ability to store resources in them to make hauling things back to base a little easier.  As you approach a vehicle you can open the trunk…  even if a vehicle doesn’t have a trunk like a truck.  From there you can store up multiple packs allowing you to drive around and ferry a large number of resources back to base in a single trip.

Additionally you have the ability to claim almost every building as an outpost.  In the above screenshot you can see in orange that Swine & Bovine serves as a food collection resource, meaning that if I were to claim it as an outpost it would start sending back food every day to my community.  Similarly I managed to find a power station that upon claiming gave my base power as a resource, allowing me to start unlocking all sorts of electrical perks.  The cool thing about outposts is that they stay claimed even if you decide to pick up base and move elsewhere when you outgrow your previous home.  Right now my goal is to try and claim outposts in the major quadrants of the map allowing access to always have a safe spot nearby that I can unload my packs or pick up additional resources if I need to.

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State of Decay 2 is a bit of an odd game because much like Destiny 2… if you told me it was simply a patch to the original game I would probably believe you.  Under the hood however I know it is a complete ground up rebuild of the game in a completely different engine, and that process has netted a much better version of the same game we have loved since the Xbox Live Arcade days.  The game is State of Decay but with all of the things about the first game polished a bit more.  Sure there are still some janky moments, but those are fewer and less severe and the end result at least on the Windows client is a very smooth and even experience.  The combat feels better and more purposeful, and while the zeds still occasionally get cheap shots in… it feels like you can control the flow of combat a bit better with dodges and kicks to intersperse into your rapid button mashing of melee attacks.

More than the melee however… the Gunplay feels so much better.  In the original State of Decay the best weapon seemed to be the shotgun… because everything else felt extremely inaccurate and I wound up needing to fire way more rounds than I would have wanted…  summoning an endless horde of the undead to attack me.  Gone are the random zombies that seem to warp into view from out of nowhere, and instead is a more strategic experience.  If you want to take down an infestation…  you can roam around the outside of the location picking off the stragglers to reduce the number of zeds that are going to come running the moment the action really starts.  This feels so much better as compared to SoD1 where just firing a gun would cause a string of roamers to simply spawn into the map.

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Weapons with suppressors like the one shown above slung to this characters pack also feel amazing, allowing you to pick off zombies at a distance.  What is awesome about this is they also serve as a bit of a distractionary measure because the gun fire doesn’t draw notice of the zeds…  but they are momentarily attracted to the sound of a body hitting the ground.  This offers some situations where you can pick off an entire horde a single shot at a time because they will keep swarming the location of where the last body fell, allowing you to line up the next shot.  There are also all manner of explosives this time around that really help when trying to take out the other big new thing in this game…  Plague Hearts.  One of the weird things about SoD1 is that your character could die, but you would never actually turn into a zombie.  Now in SoD2 there is something called the Blood Plague and the red eyed zombies from the first game…  now exhibit the infection with pustules on their body and seeping blood from their skin.

Getting hit by one of these increases a meter that you can see in the Swine & Bovine shot above, that effectively is the increase in the infection until you are ultimately overcome and turn into a mega zombie that your other characters can then take out.  The doctor that you find during the tutorial has a cure for the blood plague, but it involves killing plague zombies and collecting samples…  which in truth is something you are going to have to do pretty often in the game…  meaning you have a nearly endless supply of cure.  Scattered around the map are a number of Plague Heart locations where the plague is emanating from, and taking down one of these requires a ton of fire power… or sufficient explosives.  While you are attacking it the plague zombies are constantly swarming the location to protect it…  but fortunately upon killing it all plague zombies in the surrounding vicinity are killed.

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At this point I have moved from the small base I started to a fairly large hill side church that is pretty centrally located.  Similarly I have managed to upgrade a few of the vehicles that I found laying around in the wastes into proper zombie killing apocalypse machines that can now take the abuse of running things over.  I am pretty damned hooked on this game and I have a handful of survivors that I like quite a bit…  but I am in constant fear of being overrun and I spend a good deal of my time roaming around and taking out infestations to try my best to keep this from happening.  The larger your base gets the more often it gets attacked and as a result I find myself swapping characters regularly in an effort to build each of them up enough to where they are pretty skilled at defending the base when I am not there.

One of my nitpicks with the game however is that there really isn’t much that you can do to properly fortify your base from the zombies.  You will have these huge concrete walls with spikes on them… like you can see in the background of this shot…  but the gates are flimsy and can be beat down by a single zombie allowing them easy entrance into your base as soon as they get close.  I wish we had more options for doing things to actively fortify our bases, like digging moats or setting up spike traps to guard the entrances.  We are exhibiting the same bad ideas that Walking Dead did when they decided a chain link fence around a prison was good protection…  and ultimately found out the same thing that we are finding out with these garden gates on everything.  Like if I could fortify the gates and know that the only way in and out of the base was to hop the fence I would be completely okay with this.  In fact in my first location I did this purposefully to keep from having to open the gate and potentially let a straggler in with me.

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Ultimately Undead Labs has made a really worthy sequel to the first game.  It essentially fine tunes and improves upon so many of the things from the original, and provides enough new game play to make it enjoyable for me to roam around and experience everything again.  I’ve not really touched the multiplayer yet so I can’t really speak to it.  I know it runs on a guest/host type setup where you are dragging one of your community members into another players game and as the guest get very limited access to their resources.  One of the big things to think about when looking at this game is that it is not really a story drive experience.  Sure there is a tutorial that touches on some of the high points of the world and explains what the new plague zombies are…  but after that you are pretty much on your own to find your own reasons for playing.  Instead it is a big of a story engine in that a bunch of events are going to happen and how you deal with them… creates a personal narrative of how your group is interacting with this society.

You will meet other communities… some of which are friendly and willing to trade with you and others will just want to take what you have.   For example I have made friends with a group of moonshiners who taught me how to make a still…  which weirdly generates water for your base as a limited resource.  You are also constantly hearing calls for help out in the wastes that either lead to reputation with other communities or occasionally the ability to recruit new members to yours.  It is a really fun gameplay loop and last night I sat down around 7 and did not get back up until around 9:30…  and during all of that time I was finding just one more thing to do out in the wastes.  If you need a story to keep you focused however you might find the game play experience a bit of a grind.  Personally however I love this game and it is ultimately everything I wanted for them to give me in sequel form.

Flowerbabies Return

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The last month and some change has been insane for both myself and my wife.  The teacher walkout and protests at the state capitol caused the tail end of the school year to be compressed in a way that had my wife either lesson planning on the fly or grading mounds of paperwork each night.  There were many weekends where she started work on Friday night then continued it through Saturday and Sunday and still had a bunch of stuff left over to do to carry over into the next week.  My own life has been slight madness because stuff has been happening at work that initially did not effect me…  but has triggered some musical chairs as folks change positions throughout the department.  While we managed to get our backyard largely in functional order over spring break weekend, we held off on doing the flowers thing since we were expecting a few more freezes.

Finally it is time for “flowerbabies” as I ultimately refer to them.  Tam gave me a bit of shit this weekend before the podcast saying something along the lines of “people will personify anything” but they are my babies.  I water them and care for them and they bloom so pretty for the rest of the summer as a result.  It becomes part of my morning routine of making sure they are happy and well and have sufficient moisture to keep them functioning.  I’m a nurturing person and this year we have some amazing flowers that come from a bunch of different locations.  We spent most of Saturday roaming around and looking at various options hitting I think ten different places before gathering up the plants that we wound up walking away with.  Our backyard does not have a lot of natural spots for flower beds so instead we mostly do hanging baskets.

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At some point I still need to treat all of the petunias for the nasty caterpillars we managed to get a few years back.  I have the bacteria mixed up in a spray bottle so I can just mist them a few times during the season and hopefully everything will be good.  It seemed to work last season and we did not have a repeat of the year when we had the pretty but damaging pink worms on all the flowers.   In our travels we came across at least one cursed object in the form of these planters outside of a Walmart Neighborhood Market.  There is just something about them that screams Walmart doesn’t it?  I am not entirely sure why anyone would get these but if you can see from the display there are several missing.  There is part of me that wants to buy one just to mess with my wife…  but then I would ultimately end up taking care of a plant in this hideous shell because I could never bring myself to just let it die.

Apart from the backyard I spent a significant amount of time playing State of Decay 2 but didn’t feel like I had enough time this morning to do it justice.  If you absolutely want to know my thoughts and feeling about the game right now…  then I suggest you listen to this weekends AggroChat since I lead off with a discussion about what I like and dislike.  I’m not going to go into much more detail here yet because I fully expect that tomorrows post will be my big “thoughts” piece about it.

Cat Fountains

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My eldest cat Allie does not want me to write a blog post for you this morning.  I mean I guess it is fine given that I did’t have an awful lot to talk about anyways.  I’ve been in this weird gaming slump that I have been in many times before… of not really being super excited about anything I happen to be playing right now.  I’m largely splitting time this week between Destiny 2 and dinking around on the Void Elf Hunter in World of Warcraft.  Neither of which are things I am terribly excited to be talking about.  Tonight however I hope to be playing State of Decay 2 on the Xbox One and may or may not have things to say about it come Monday.

As for the cat impeding my progress…  this morning for some reason she has kept crawling up into my arms any time I paused for even a moment.  She does this occasionally where she just wants constant attention and I never can tell if she actually wants love…  or is just hungry and wants me to hurry up so I can feed her.  This week I purchased one of those cat fountains that recirculates water in a bubbler sort of method and I was happy to see this morning she was drinking from it.  The first few days the cats all seemed to be confused and our middle cat Kenzie simply wanted to try and scoot it around the kitchen floor making a mess.

It seems to have reached a state of equilibrium and maybe just maybe the cats have sorted out what to do with it.  The fountain is an attempt to win a battle I have been having with my cats for years…  where they don’t like drinking from a normal water dish.  What they actually want is for me to leave a faucet dripping so they can drink from that, so in the winter time when we do that already to keep the pipes from freezing…  they love it.  The next best thing is a cup that I keep in the sink and fill up with water…  because that appears to be a consolation prize.  If I try just a normal bowl of water on the ground someone tips it over trying to play with it.

The water fountain we ended up going with stores three liters of water at a time, which gives it a significant amount of weight and helps against tippage.  I just need to sort out a routine of when exactly I need to fill it up, and in truth I should probably check it when I go back downstairs as it has been running a few days now.  For reference we wound up going with the Catit Fountain, which I stumbled onto after following an adorable link with a bird splashing around in it.  I remember looking at something like this years ago… but the price was considerably more and not within that “impulse buy” territory.  It is my hope that this fills the needed niche in my home and stops the constant begging me to turn on the faucet in the mornings.

I love my cats… but they are also sorta assholes at times.  The image at the beginning of this post is completely unrelated to anything I have talked about to this point.  The can of pumpkin that shows up in the parking garage in late march/early april…  is still sitting there untouched.  I am sorta hoping that I get to make a birthday post for the can some day.  At this point it has been sitting in the Oklahoma heat for roughly two months and walk past it on my way into the office each morning.  It will be a sad day indeed if someone takes it upon themselves to throw it away at some point.  The fact that it hasn’t happened yet shows a general sense of apathy that I find interesting… I have to admit I almost did it myself when it made it past the one or two weeks mark.  It was around then that I started to daydream about being able to hold anniversary parties for the can…  and stayed my hand.

Adventures in Product Placement

This morning I don’t have an awful lot to talk about.  I wound up watching two movies last night and don’t much feel like talking about either, so instead I am going to tell you a story of something that has been happening over the last week and some change.  Having a website as long as I have had mine means that you are ultimately going to run into a bunch of people who want something from you.  I get a regular stream if emails wanting to do paid product placement on my blog and I have written about this before.  I’ve gotten better at just instantly blocking an email address when I can tell someone is fishing for a paid placement, or in the case of the linked article that I just promote their site out of the goodness of my heart.  Side note…  this is a thing I do regularly but for things I enjoy/believe in or for people who I just generally think are awesome and that others should experience their content.

Recently I got an email from a manufacturer of a gaming specific product that wanted to talk to me about doing a review of said product.  Okay so right off the bat it passes a couple of my tests…  1) I am willing to review products and 2) it has to be something that I am interested in and that I think my readers might be interested in.  They also talk a bit about wanting to start a business relationship that could benefit my users which is always cool if I could provide discounts or something of the sort.  They did mention wanting to place a banner in my sidebar with a link, but that wasn’t an immediate no since if there was a decent discount code attached to it I would probably do that to offer it up easily to my folks.  I sat on this for about a week mulling over whether or not I should contact them back and whether or not it would be a good thing in the long run.

Almost exactly seven days to the date I responded back with an email talking about my terms for doing product reviews.  I talk about how I am willing to look at their product but I am not willing to promise a positive review and that I am only willing to link to their product if it is in fact something I believe in.  I talk about how the only way I am willing to have any form of a permanent side bar link is if they provide a discount code for my readers.  What I did promise is that I would give an honest assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the product and share that content with my readers and social media followers.  Having been through this before I fully expected them to just simply not want to do business with me at this point but I sent the email anyways.

After just stating that I would not agree to any terms ahead of reviewing the product I got back a laundry list of things in response…  completely ignoring anything I said in the previous email.  Here is what they wanted from me…

  • One written review with at least two dofollow backlinks and me to insert a number of specific keywords they requested
  • One video review of the product (I don’t even do these ever)
  • One post on twitter or other social media to promote the posts tagging them
  • Banner placement in my sidebar
  • Signing a contract stating I agree to all of this
  • The product would not ship until the banner had appeared in the sidebar
  • The discount code was some sort of a profit sharing thing…  which is not something I want.  I don’t want to profit from my readers.

Basically I stated that I would agree to none of that in my first response email, yet they rolled in and still threw it out there.  I responded back with the following email.

I apologize if I gave the impression from my last response that I would be willing to accept these terms. I realize as a manufacturer that you would love to have some assurances, but I am simply not willing to give you any. I’ve built my site on integrity and only passing things on to my readers that I completely believe in. That way when they know I am suggesting a controller or a computer accessory it is because I myself either am currently using it or have used it in the past and thought it was a great product. So I am not willing to sign a contract of any form with you or anyone else. I am also not willing to agree to any of your review terms, because I am not wiling to agree to that sort of thing ahead of reviewing the product. Nor will I agree to how much I will or will not promote your product, because again I have never experienced said product. Lastly I do not do video production at all so that one is completely off the radar from the sort of audience I have.

In the past I have simply not responded to requests for me to promote something on my sites. I have no interest in profit sharing, and the only reason why I was interested in some sort of a discount code was that if I chose to promote your product on my site that I would love for my readers to get some benefit from it. All of that said I am not willing to agree to any sort of promotion until I have seen and experienced your product to develop my honest opinion of it. I realize this is not the way you prefer to do business but this is the only way I am willing to do so. I also reserve the right to talk to my readers about my readers about what it is like to work with <INSERT COMPANY NAME HERE>.

I have a genuine relationship with my readers and followers and they know that I am not doing it to promote myself or to profit from them. As a result I only support products that completely believe in and without seeing your product there is no way I could feel comfortable agreeing to any of these terms.

I fully expect to never hear back again from the rep of said manufacturer.  I am not naming any names because hell they may shock me and respond with “okay, where do we ship it?” but I sincerely doubt it.   The truth is the product was in a range of products that I have never been able to suggest to folks because I have not had a great experience with any of them.  I would have loved to have had one that I could honestly support and suggest because it comes up pretty regularly in my timelines.  In video game reviews I have encountered plenty of folks willing to accept these terms, but in product reviews so far everyone has wanted some form of assurance that I am just unwilling to offer.  It frustrates me because I had hope that this one would be different and by the way the originally approached me it seem that way.  However they immediately went back to the same nonsense I have dealt with before, which is a massive disappointment.

Elves I Don’t Hate

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Yesterday I pulled an example from World of Warcraft and after doing so I realized that I never actually talked about the character that was hiding underneath the fold of the Destiny 2 image.  I am extremely late to the party when it comes to Allied races, the Horde races were super easy to unlock but the Alliance ones required a level of commitment that I was simply not willing to offer them.  They were one of those things that I worked on off and on as I had time or wanted something mindless to do while watching television or a movie.  It was a few weeks back when I realized that I was actually getting pretty close to exalted with both of the factions required to unlock them.  Even then I largely failed at doing the quests on a daily basis because I really am not a huge fan of Argus.

Nevertheless I managed to push across the finish line and unlock them both a few weekends back and as a result I have been poking around on a brand new Void Elf hunter during the AggroChat podcasts.  I’ve found it super relaxing to just roam around and take things down at low levels and for whatever reason Void Elves don’t trigger that “I hate elves” instinct that I have built up over all of these years.  In part I think they mostly register as Drow to me, which is something I occasionally played in D&D or the games like Everquest that had decent implementations of them.  Honestly it weirdly makes me want to go back and farm the single piece of Dragonstalker that I am missing, because in all of my years of running Blackwing Lair…  I never got the boots to drop off Broodlord Lashlayer.  The only thing keeping me from soloing it each week is the fact that I really hate doing the Razorgore event.

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I realize that I recently started a Tauren Hunter, but the whole being assigned a pet at the start of the game thing still seems a little weird.  On the Tauren your start with a Plainstrider which isn’t really my sort of pet, but even then I kept using it for a significant amount of time before taming anything else to replace it.  As Void Elf though you start with Voidstalker… that is both my kind of pet and also extremely cool looking.  I’ve found myself with zero drive to go out and tame something else, but that might change as I am now interesting Stranglethorn Vale.  I might grab something rare if I happen across it but for now I am more than happy to run around with my void pal…  even though I have yet to give her a proper name.

It is weird to me that I have lost any forward momentum in World of Warcraft thanks to Battle For Azeroth and the direction they are taking the game.  However I still enjoy dinking around on low level characters because to me that is the purest version of the “WoW Experience”.  BfA really has been a let down as far as the information coming out about it.  Additionally my time playing beta…  hasn’t really done anything to hook me on the direction the game is going.  For years I thought that maybe Metzen was what was holding the game back…  but now I wonder if he was a force of stability keeping the game from dropping off a cliff.  Note I loved Legion “for the most part” but the one bit that I could push right into the sea was the factional nonsense that happens in Stormheim.  Battle For Azeroth feels like an entire game made out of those factional nonsense moments and I am not really looking forward to it.

Chat Goes On Left

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One of the things I am realizing is just how bad I am at responding to messages some nights.  Last night for example I was mindlessly grinding away in Destiny 2 while watching video full-screen on my second monitor.  All the while various folks were messaging me on lots of different platforms including battle.net, slack, discord, and even some resorted to twitter.  All of which I was largely oblivious to as I happily ground public events and took down high value targets pushing the warlock up in level so that I can start doing the weeklies on that character as well.  The problem is really two fold, firstly that I am so used to soloing at this point that I am not really watching messages like I used to for the sign of someone else popping online.  The second issue I will get into shortly.

At this point my Warlock is level 28 so nearing 30 but apparently completely capable of wearing gear of decent level because I am now rocking an energy weapon that is 350.  It is super hard going back to the warlock after only really playing the Titan for a good deal of time.  Hunter is simple…  multi jump will always be multi jump.  Warlock on the other hand has the wrong version of Titan jump and no matter how long I play it I never can quite get used to it responding the opposite way that I am expecting.  I feel like folks either bond with Titan or Warlock jumps…  and from that point on the other one just doesn’t feel like a jump should feel.  Hunter on the other hand always feels like you are riding around on a midair pogo stick.

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Now the other problem I was talking about earlier is that Destiny 2 UI design is designed wrong.  What I mean by that is in literally every MMO I play the chat box location is on the left hand side of the screen as illustrated above by my UI in World of Warcraft.  The chat you care about appears on the left hand screen, and in this ElvUI layout the chat I don’t care about at all ever…  appears on the right hand side of the screen.  This is pretty much how I lay out every MMO that allows me to shift around the UI, but I cannot remember a game off the top of my head that does not default to having the chat left justified for lack of a better term.  Destiny 2 on the other hand creates a super spammy loot window that you cannot remove on the left hand side of the screen and gives you the chat you actually care about on the right hand side of the screen…  that will constantly minimize to just a tiny notepad document looking icon.  When you receive a message it does not de-cloak and show you said message…  however any time some jackass loots some random item the game takes every opportunity to make sure you know about it.

This is a broken design and causes me to simply ignore that chat exists because it does not conform to the cultural standards I am used to.  By culture I mean the general cultural design of MMO games, of which Destiny 2 is a part of regardless of how Bungie feels about that label.  To make things worse…  Bungie themselves taught us that the only place that matters for text was the left hand side of the screen in Destiny 1 as they placed all of that spammy nonsense there.   There is in theory a sound that is supposed to play when someone messages you, but whatever sound that is is either inaudible to me personally…  or just blends into the din of everything else happening in game because I never notice it.  \

Ultimately what my inability to notice chat cost me last night was a run through the raid as my friends over in TQMB were trying to reach out because they needed one more to get started.  I am hoping when they put in the clan chat they also give us the option to swap the locations of the two chat panes so that the spammy nonsense goes on the right and the important chat goes on the left.  Otherwise I am honestly not sure if I can ever fully train myself to look for chat in a weird location.  After over two decades of online gaming… I am just too indoctrinated into a “chat on the left” mentality.

Moms and Minor Gaming

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This weekend was largely not about gaming, as is often the case when a major holiday is occurring.  In past years we have done the divide and conquer thing when it comes to Mother’s Day festivities, with me getting up super early to go to Mass with my mother and then my wife sleeping in and going to lunch with her mom.  However with the amount of work that my wife has been having to do lately trying to prep her kids for the impending AP Exam…  after missing two weeks of instruction time due to the walkout…  she is more than a little sleep deprived.  I was legitimately concerned about her making it home safely if she was on the road for long periods of time alone.

As a result we crammed everything into one day and left the house around 6 am…  getting home around 6 pm.  However in the middle of all of that I believe there were sufficient moms day festivities for all involved.  It did however lead to a really tiring Sunday experience given that we had lots of driving perforated by various other awkward moments like my wife’s sister referring to the litter box as a “poop bed” or her inviting an aunt that neither my wife or I can stand to lunch with us.  Later in the evening there was plenty of awkwardness as my wife’s brother and father got into some political diatribe that was just flat out factually incorrect and also highly racist.  We made it home in one piece and still have most of our sanity intact…  but I did have a rather fitful night of sleep.

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As far as gaming goes I spent some of my time Saturday working on the weekly quests in Monster Hunter World.  I am down to just needing three arena challenges and I am hoping I can connect with someone before the reset happens to do some.  I can technically solo them, but I really really do not like soloing them.  I solo’d the Pink Rathian arena challenge with longsword and that one in particular is really annoying because you do not have the full compliment of healing items.  I pulled out a victory, but it took a long time and I wound up taking three of my eight deaths in the process.  I am one item away from having enough of the event only Sakura items…  but am nowhere near able to craft the set because of general lack of coins.

I wish you could roulette your way into the Arena Challenges because I really am not a huge fan of playing solo in Monster Hunter World.  Now that PizzaMaid is easing her way back into the game I might try and snag her for some shenanigans, because most everyone else I know that is still active gets online way later than I do.  Grace unfortunately bounced off the game as did Mor and while Thalen and I share a timezone… he is always around significantly later because baby happens.  If it does not look like I will have folks to do this with I will ultimately try and solo my way through it, because I know without a doubt I can do it…  I just won’t really enjoy it.  I also ran quite a few tempered roulettes just for the sake of fun and managed to get a couple of decent decorations from it.

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Over in Destiny 2 I am still roaming around but have made all of the movement I can essentially before the reset.  I am still too low level to get into heroic strikes which is unfortunate given that I need to run several of them to move forward a quest line that I am currently on…  that I am assuming is related to the sleeper simulant.  The highlight of the weekend however was getting the Armamentarium again, which allows me to run around with dual grenades in both void and solar specs.  Unfortunately however it does not give me THREE grenades in arc striker spec.  This would have been a completely awesome item if it were able to do that…  now I am wondering if it is as good as my auto-rifle reloading chest but largely running around with it for sheer nostalgia sake.

I am still largely on the fence with this expansion and am contemplating taking Squirrel up on the offer to get the raid in.  I still have yet to defeat Gaul in the raid even though I have a stack of tokens from our attempts.  Folks bounced faster than we had time to progress our way through it, and while I would love to resurrect a Greysky raid I somehow doubt that will ever really be a thing again.  There just are not enough people active and playing, and part of me is contemplating just pushing the Greysky leadership off on my secondary PS4 account and moving my main back to Tequila Mockingbird so I at least have an active clan of folks to play with.  My main PS4 account never left and has always been in TQMB…  that is unless they punted me for inactivity.

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I am still enjoying the mechanical loop of Destiny 2 again…  but I am also feeling somewhat listless as I don’t have a major goal apart from making my light higher.  I managed to level the Hunter to 30 this weekend but have yet to really touch any of the story content.  I like that Warmind seems to not be connected to having finished Curse of Osiris or versa vicea.  I need to push the Warlock up via event quests so I can at least start doing the milestones on each of them each week to slowly push up my weapon light level that way.