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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.

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.

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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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.

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.

AggroChat #204 - Zeds, Mechs and Angst - YouTube

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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Last night I managed to hit the first soft cap of 345 through doing some of the content that happens immediately following the completion of the main story.  I am still a bit dismayed at how short it ended up being.  The core problem with the experience is there was a disconnect between how the NPCs were acting and the events that were actually occurring.  What I mean by that is when we took down Ghaul…  he had done enough to interfere with our lives to make us really hate him by the time we reached the point of final confrontation.  With Warmind…  they end up treating the Worm God we are fighting with similar contempt…  even though we only found out one exists on Mars a few minutes earlier.  Sure I get the fact that the Worm Gods are one of the galaxies great sources of evil and they were key in creating the Hive in the first place.  I’ve read the Book of Sorrows and understand that all…  but the average player has not.

The average player would be going into that scene wondering what in the hell a Worm God is and why these two NPCs seem so freaked about it.  The problem being that the game didn’t really give us enough run up to reach this supposedly epic conclusion.  It feels a lot like the campaign in Rise of Iron where you have some epic things going on…  but nowhere enough lead up to make them feel like that epic nature is earned.  Sure taking down a giant SIVA enfused Iron Lord was a slick final fight just like taking down a Worm God was a slick final fight…  but in both cases it felt like we lacked significant reason for what we were doing.  I mean the “Guardian” is the Deus Ex Machina to fix all problems much like the Warrior of Light is in Final Fantasy XIV.  The problem is it feels like that role is earned in FFXIV whereas we sorta just magically are able to best everything in Destiny without really knowing why we are so much better than apparently every other Guardian out there.

Tam and I get into these discussions a lot and he is usually the one raising these points.  The funny thing is they generally revolve on why he quit playing a game, and for me this is an annoyance but by no means a game breaker.  I feel like there is a magic formula that keeps me engaged in a game.  First you have to have a core mechanical loop that I enjoy, for example in Destiny I love the gun play and the movement which makes me feel awesome as I traverse this beautifully rendered world.  The second point of that magical formula is that there has to be something in the game that I want to do.  There needs to be some objective out there that drives me forward and keeps me engaged with the game when the shiny newness of the mechanical loop wears off.

Please note what I said there…  something I want to do.  For example in a game like World of Warcraft there can never be a possible way that I would ever run out of things to do and content I have not actually seen.  Similarly in Final Fantasy XIV there is just too much content to ever find a true end to it.  The problem is in both of those games I have rather regularly reached a point where there is simply nothing left that I care to do.  Either the content left involves something I don’t much enjoy like Player versus Player interactions or it feels like it has more stick than carrot attached to it.  I reached this point after Trials of Osiris in Destiny 2 where the mechanical loop simply was not enough and the repetitive and unrewarding nature of the Infinite Forest made it so that I just didn’t feel like logging in anymore.

While Warmind is an extremely short expansion… it feels like it might be a fairly intricate one.  What I mean by that is there are already a bunch of post credits items that the game is asking me to do that spawn new opportunities to go off on adventures.  I am sure there will be an end to this, but in some ways it reminds me of the style of interaction that happened on the Dreadnaught in The Taken King.  There are puzzles to be solved and items to interact with in ways that I have not quite figured out.  There were weapons to collect that are associated with questing, and others that folks don’t even know how they work as of yet.  There are drops that can be used to improve most of the exotic weapons, and in it a bunch of interesting ways to feel like I keep moving forward.

On the other end however the new grind is real.  After hitting 345 and finally accepting my Milestones for the week…  each one of those rewarded a 351 item…  6 levels of movement off the base whereas before we were regularly getting upwards of 15 levels of movement from the same milestones.  This means that journey to 385 is going to be an extremely long one when you have a very finite number of weekly options to give any sense of movement.  This means that if I find myself engaged in this game again I will by nature need to push the Hunter and the Warlock through Curse of Osiris so that I can have three sets of weekly upgrade options instead of one.  Sure the armor won’t swap over but those weapons can keep pushing up slowly over the course of multiple characters.

The game needed something and in truth at this point I am not sure if this is what that need was.  The problem with Destiny 2 is that on paper it looks like the sequel I wanted for Destiny.  However in practice it has always felt lacking in part because it felt like we sacrificed so much cool stuff from the first one to get this as a result.  Nothing I have seen from this game justifies the reasons why we had to reset back to ground zero.  I know they felt like they wanted a fresh start, to shed any bad blood from the first title.  However I feel like that plan backfired horribly.  I’m interested to see where they can go with Warmind and if they can give us justification going forward to buy the “Comet” expansion that has been looming on the horizon and leaked via the Canadian Walmart website.  The one act that would go a long ways to building good will for me personally…  would be to port the old patrol zones to Destiny 2 and make it feel like we didn’t abandon half the world to get this game.

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This morning I committed one of the classic blunders… I attempted to fiddle with my computer before finishing a blog post. This lovely screen is the result, and I have no clue how long I will be staring at it. I attempted to apply the lastest Nvidia driver since I have been having issues capturing screenshots in Destiny 2 via the shadowplay interface. At this point I have been watching this screen for twenty minutes as my cats keep check on my sanity.

The truth is that I really did not have a lot to talk about this morning. Keeping with tradition however I am banging out a post on my phone. If I’ve made any horrible mistakes I apologise, but a cellular keyboard sometimes has a mind of it’s own.

I did finish the Destiny 2 expansion last night and finished leveling to 30. I am nearing the first soft cap of 345 light, which means I will soon be in raid/trials/milestones only territory for getting light upgrades. They have significantly slowed the grind because that is apparently what the players wanted. I do agree that the game needed more meaningful friction… but I doubt this is the right combination. Ultimately the inability to get upgrades from things like Iron Banner or the faction rally are the worst feeling parts. I am apparently back for a bit, so we will see if the game manages to hook me further.

[Edit]

Almost like clockwork… the moment I posted this from my cell phone…  the computer rebooted and I seem to have the ability to take screenshots again.  Oh well tomorrow you will get a proper post

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