2019.11.04Destiny 2: I finally have Thorn

image of the exotic hand cannon 'Thorn' in Destiny 2 game. Image credit: Bungie, Polygon.


After enduring weeks of collossal defeats inside the Crucible, and a Hellish reprise of 'Savathun's Song' that nearly saw me crush my controller into tiny black bits using my hands and white-hot frustration, I finally have Thorn, an exotic hand cannon that deals damage over time and uses the souls of its victims to return rounds to its chamber.

Reading the lore behind this fictional weapon actually made me question whether I really want to use this weapon in gameplay. It honestly did. Here's the Reader's Digest condensed version of its history: As a player on a specific question, you recover a burned up hand cannon from a campfire pit, and enlist the help of Banshee-44 to return it to service. That energetically neutral weapon is known as Rose. From there, you're given two quests, which you discover leads you along different paths: one ultimately leads to Lumina; the other -- the one I just completed -- to Thorn.

The simple fact is, I wouldn't have this weapon now if it wasn't for the help (and I mean, HELP) from my clan -- most especially in 'The Chasm of Screams.' I am beyond grateful for their assistance and patience!

Read more about the quest for Thorn here.

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2019.10.31Destiny 2: Shadowkeep - Crucible Matches

Artwork for Destiny 2: Shadowkeep

I wanted to comment on a situation I find myself in with Shadowkeep.

It seems that in Shadowkeep, BUNGIE made available all of the quests for exotic weapons from previous seasons.

On the one hand, it's thrilling; it wasn't until recently I scored The Rat King which is an exotic hand cannon with the ability to fire in full auto. I've waited for years for that weapon because I couldn't fulfill all of the requirements for it.

A couple of weeks ago, seemingly out of nowhere, I acquired the quests for Lumina and for Thorn. Thorn was from three seasons ago, I think; Lumina, two. These are also exotic hand cannons. If you're one for following the lore, both are derived from the same weapon.

Anyway, part of the grinding (and there is a LOT of grinding) to score Thorn is participation in Crucible competitions using hand cannons and/or void energy. PVP is not really my thing, but I do enjoy working in teams on games like Control and Supremacy. But the task for Thorn notes that playing games like Survival will yield faster progress. So, for the past couple of weeks, I've been playing Crucible matches non-stop, armed with a hand cannon.

For the uninitiated, using a hand cannon in a Crucible match is... dumb. All of your opponents are using automatic weapons like auto rifles and submachine guns. Suffice it to say, my character gets killed a lot, and I usually score not even a handful of kills per match, which inches my progress forward perhaps 2 or 3 percent per match.

Now for the weird part: Even though I'm usually dead last for my team each round (again, contributing only a few kills), my overall score in Crucible is the highest it's ever been -- I have a Heroic valor rank, which is the highest -- because I'm in those matches so often. One might expect having a ridiculously high valor rank might indicate that player is really good in the Crucible; I'm here to tell you it doesn't. I play in the Crucible so I can get this dumb weapon, and opponents wipe the walls with me every match.

I've no idea what having such a high valor rank can do for my character, but here I am, lookin' like I'm killin' it in games I've avoided since I started playing Destiny years ago. But that's not the reality.

These exotics had better be worth it.

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2019.10.31Destiny 2: Shadowkeep - Valor Ranks Complete

screenshot of an achievement in Destiny 2

Well, this is new.

I've played so many Crucible matches that my valor has maxed out. I now have the opportunity to reset my valor rank -- meaning, start at the bottom again.

I'll have to study up to learn why I would want to do that.

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2019.09.30Destiny 2: Forsaken: Preparations for Shadowkeep

Artwork for Destiny 2: Shadowkeep

Destiny 2: Shadowkeep is almost here. BUNGIE is shutting down all of it's Destiny gaming servers this morning at 10:00 for a 24-hour upgrade, after which time, players will get their first look at Shadowkeep.

I'm told much is changing about Destiny 2 for the new version, and I spent yesterday online with my clan taking care of some unfinished business (I FINALLY HAVE THE RAT KING!) and doing some housekeeping. Serious Destiny 2 players will have done the same much earlier than did I.


The most notable housekeeping item was that exotic weapons and armor in a player's posession (read: either equipped or in the player's vault) would get its power upgraded to 750 -- the maximum power in the current season. Now, when a player is awarded an exotic item, that item joins the player's collection, serving as a record for having received it. This is important because most items can be retrieved from your collection should you dismantle it. So the big task was to compare the exotics I had in my character's possession with those in my collection, and retrieve the ones I was missing, so that by Tuesday morning ALL of those exotics would have been upgraded. This is a tremendous bonus, because an exotic weapon like Sturm, which originally had a power of 260, becomes thrice as powerful without you having to dismantle other items and spend legendary shards to do it.

Another part of the housekeeping was to go through and dismantle a number of duplicate and/or non-exotic items in my vault -- including objects awarded through Eververse purchases -- because of a change in the Destiny 2 economy: all players should know by now that bright dust, which is a currency used exclusively in Eververse purchases, is going away and being converted into some combination of glimmer and legendary shards. When an item purchased with bright dust gets dismantled, the player receives bright dust. The thinking was that, in preparation for the conversion, one should maximize their ROI on those objects by breaking them down into bright dust prior to the conversion. Given how long I've been grinding away at this game, I should be a virtual buzillionaire come Tuesday morning, with more shards and glimmer than I have sense. The great part about this scheme is that I should be able to get all of those shaders back in Shadowkeep for pennies on the virtual dollar -- though I'm told I may not want to, because a new shader system (2.0) is being rolled out which is supposed to be spactacular.

I spent hours doing this yesterday, much to my daughter's chagrin. And I have to say, I'm not anyone's idea of a hardcore gamer. I don't care about stats or PVP all that much. I don't want to dominate; I just want to have fun while I'm doing laundry. But my clan sort of made me care about getting ready for the upgrade.

The Clan

Actually, lately, they've made me care about a few things. It's a small group with some dedication to all the stuff I tend to shy away from, so I'm getting exposed to "new" aspects of the game that I'm learning to enjoy. Through this, though, I realize I'm building a dependency on them -- there are so many activities that require group participation, so wanting to do them, more than having to do them, requires me to engage more.

Plus, I'm learning more about gaming culture -- a term I use to describe the habits of the hardcore set. I learned a new term yesterday: "rage quit." The term refers to when gamers get so angry they quit out of a scenario, challenge, or game. It's a feeling I know well-- I'm comforted knowing that others feel the same frustrations I do at times. Is it comeraderie? Meh... maybe. But it's certainly social, with a lot of laughter; and I think I maybe need more of that.


So I don't know what Shadowkeep has in store for me. I'm looking forward to the story -- Eris Morn, aka "my creepy girlfriend" (I described the character that way to my wife once) is central to the story, as I understand it involves the Hive and earth's moon -- all of this was written out of Destiny 2 until now. But more than the story elements, I don't know what it has in store in terms of my playing experience. I've become closer to the clan over recent weeks, and that makes me wonder if I'll get more out of Shadowkeep than I would have otherwise.

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2019.09.19GAME NIGHT!!!

An image of the Jack of Hearts playing card


Upon movin' t' Texas I created an account wit' a social media app designed fer scallywags in a neighborhood. Posts typically range from "I saw a bobcat in me yard!" t' "Does anyone know wha' th' new construction be?" 'n "Can somebody recommend..."; every now 'n again somebody will become a nuissance, or make some really bold 'n squiffy statement (one guy ranted about how he got ticketed fer nah wearin' a seat belt), or gets super o'erzealous about th' animal shelter, but fer th' most part, scallywags behave.

A couple o' weeks ago I saw an interestin' post from someone who wanted t' start a regular Euchre game. Now, I be from th' Euchre region o' th' midwest, so I was a wee shocked t' see a post like this.

Th' new group played its first game night a couple o' weeks ago, 'n we had fun! 'twas a group o' scallywags who generally had a few years on us, but it wasn't an "ole beauty party" by any means. Laurel 'n I joined primarily 'cause we don't really know anybody in town yet -- we've lived here fer a year, 'n I work ALL. Th'. Time. So we had hoped we'd find some nice scallywags, 'n we did -- 'n scallywags who knew our galleon town 'n still 'ave tons o' kinfolk in th' area. We heard lots o' familiar city names that evenin', 'n we both felt pretty happy we'd made th' effort t' connect.

Tonight be th' second meetin' -- this time at a local galley. 'n I can nah wait!

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2019.06.30Destiny 2: Forsaken -- I'm turning it into Farmville


I've pretty much given up on staying current with Destiny 2, in terms of challenges and activities. I did nothing with Gambit in Season 6, and I don't get the whole "Indiana Jones" look they've gone to in Season 7. I still haven't gotten past the beat-the-boss-to-fix-the-Izanagi-part thing from whatever season that was.

So, what have I been doing, exactly?

I've spent a LOT of time hanging with The Spider. Enough to have figured out that the key to enhancement core acqusition is buying one every day. It's the first thing I do, to get it out of my way (assuming I'm playing after noon).

And to have also figured out the rotation of the various currencies that may be used to purchase legendary shards -- legendary shards are the only currency accepted for the purchase of enhancement cores.

So what all of this means is that the key to keeping enhancement cores on hand is in having a steady supply of legendary shards.

This is where "Farmville" comes in. After buying one enhancement core for the day (at the low, low price of 10 shards), I generally stick around the Forgotten Shore doing various tasks which complete goals, and collect a particular currency. The currency is an etheric spiral, and it resembles an orange plant with carrot sticks or peppers hanging off of it. Each of these plants collected yields between 1 and 5 units of currency.

So the idea is simple: I "pick as many peppers" (collect as many etheric spirals) as I can within the week so that I can buy a ridiculous number of legendary shards to support my one-a-day enhancement core habit.

Patience is important: the price of a core doubles with each purchase. One may buy a first core each day for 10 shards, but the second will cost you 20, and a third will cost 40. Even though I may have a giant pile of legendary shards, the smart money is in "staying the course" and buying only one core per day. Besides, buying cores from the Spider isn't the only way one can score them.

I started doing this to get myself to a power level sufficient to beat that Izanagi thing. That's why completing tasks are so important: their completion contributes to scoring high-powered, legendary equipment.

And on that Izanagi thing, I've read various boards where people have posted being stuck; oceans of other players have responded that they thought beating it was easy, but they had weapons gained from doing the kinds of activities I just haven't mastered.

I keep working at it.

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2019.03.04Destiny 2: Forsaken -- Is Bungie Pushing Away the Casual Player?

Bungie, the gaming studio spun off from Microsoft and responsible for the HALO and DESTINY franchises, seems to have answered a call from more dedicated players for a more challenging gameplay experience, leaving the less committed (read: people with jobs and responsibilities) behind.

In a recent season of Destiny 2, Bungie introduced The Black Forge -- a new dimension of the game involving an entirely new class of weapons, but requiring the attainment of 600 power level for character participation. I spent that entire season trying to advance my character to 600 so that I can even have a shot at scoring one of these new weapons (forgive the pun), and opening new caches that appear from time to time.

Part of getting to 600 is fighting in the Crucible. Every time I did, I was up against people who were at 650 power -- I was at 550. I got crushed every time I played.

Adding insult to injury, I had acccepted a challenge from the Drifter that requires a number of Crucible opponent kills. The rub is that if you are on a team that loses its challenge, your completion percentage drops. The highest I ever got was 4%; I'm flat-lined.

Yes, I'm mad.

"Grinding" is a term used in the gaming community to represent the work you have to invest in a particular goal, like getting through a level or unlocking a legendary item. Players get frustrated when that relative level seems unusually high, or when, in the case of Star Wars: Battlefront II, they feel coerced into paying to unlock items or characters that they would otherwise have to spend many hours grinding at the game to earn. In the context of Destiny 2: Forsaken, players (besides me) have been complaining about the amount of grinding to reach 600 and to complete the Volundr mission.

According to the new storyline, you must help bring the Black Forges back online by starting forges hidden throughout the galaxy. The first forge is Volundr in the EDZ. Starting it is a 3-person challenge that really requires significant experience, skill, and some CBD oil -- it's pure infuriation (again, getting crushed every time I play -- even at 600!!!). And it's complete bullshit: You really need a power level of over 610 and a lot of experience in this challenge, and enough luck to join a group of others with the same experience and skill, to complete the challenge.

I nearly threw my controller in anger a few times last night. And that's a warning sign for me.

BUNGIE, I fear I'm not long for your worlds. I'm not a college kid who spends all day playing and skipping classes. I work over 40 hours a week and have a family to support and a house to clean. I play in the evenings to unwind and have a good time. THIS -- this is not unwinding. And I'm definitely not having a good time. I understand you have a community that needs new challenges to keep the experience fresh; but you need to make sure those new challenges don't alienate those of us who maybe only get to put in an hour or so at night when the kids are asleep, or a few hours on the weekend. We need you to understand that we're relatively underpowered -- so maybe don't put us into Crucible matches where everyone on the opposing team outpowers us by over 100. We're still with you because we love this game. But we'll eventually reach a point where it's not fun anymore, and we'll go play other games that ARE.

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2018.11.11Destiny 2: Forsaken -- Hellas Basin

"Destiny 2: Forsaken has been an action-packed and tear-jerking addition to the Destiny franchise."

I still believe that. But lately, I've been getting tired.

There are two "quests" at Hellas Basin on Mars. Both are awful grinds -- Bad enough that I probably won't play anything on Mars again once I'm done.

When you first look at the map of Hellas Basin, you'll notice a curious fraction in large numbers at lower right. You'll discover the fraction refers to a total of 45 memory fragments. The fragments, which resemble trophies, are scattered about the map. If you're like me, they've been right in your face in oft-travelled areas; you've seen them but didn't know what they were. Then you shot one and noticed it takes damage. And maybe you figured out that the fraction changed when you returned to the map. Or, maybe you were smarter than I am, and went straight to Google to get the scoop. I couldn't blame you.

I held out for as long as I could before I finally had my fill of searching for them. I think I'd discovered about 20 of them before finding instructions online listing the locations of every last one of them. This is how I learned of the prize: a really nice sword called WORLDLINE ZERO. Through the instructions I found, I discovered that there was absolutely no way in Hellas I was going to find all of them on my own -- a few of them are completely obscured from view, some requiring knowledge of hidden tricks -- the only way to find them is to follow the instructions. (I'm convinced these hidden items are what sells guidebooks.)

Collecting the memory fragments was as simple as destroying them with the right kind of weapon. I mean simple in theory. There was only one step, really -- as long as you had the right kind of ammunition.

The other quest is not so "easy": It calls for the recovery of 40 sleeper nodes -- they appear as black and silver floating diamonds. When you approach one, you'll see a prompt that mentions requirement of a special frequency to open it. The nodes are scattered throughout the map, some in places you'd never find without the kind of guidance I mentioned above.

Finding 40 of these is a huge grind, because you must generate the override frequency through conversion of resonance stems. Each override frequency requires four stems -- which are awarded either singly or in pairs upon completion of public events, including the appearance of Cabal drilling rigs, disruption of hive witches' rituals, or recovery of fallen WARSATs at Hellas Basin, and excluding the escalation protocol events. You'll need to fight in somewhere between 80 and 160 public events to generate enough resonance stems to make the material needed just to go look -- and listen -- for the nodes.

As one finds more and more nodes, the probability that one will continue finding new node after new node diminishes. Combining resonance stems does not guarantee creation of a node you haven't already discovered. So forget what I said about having to fight in between 80 and 160 public events -- it's some WAY bigger number for sure.

At this point I've found nearly 30 of the 40 nodes. I haven't consulted Google yet for any tips, and I don't know what the reward is once all 40 are found -- but unless there's a cheat that gives me 120 resonance parts all at once, it doesn't seem like the rest of the knowledge will matter much: at 3/4 of the way through, I can tell you confidently that I'm really, really tired of Hellas Basin.

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2018.10.10Destiny 2: Forsaken

Destiny 2: Forsaken has been an action-packed and tear-jerking addition to the Destiny franchise.

The trailer:

Here's the harder nerd stuff: As a Hunter, I couldn't be more upset they killed off Cayde-6. As a fan of the game, I couldn't be more upset they killed off Cayde-6. After running the length of the main scenario and tracking down the people responsible (yes, this is spoiler-free), you're left with the pursuit of Cayde-6's prized weapon: The Ace of Spades (clearly shown in the video).

This is the annoying part: the pursuit of the weapon became a drawn out series of carrot-and-stick events that became a major inconvenience. Destiny 2 has something for everybody -- but not everybody is going to want to play at everything the game has to offer. Personally, I don't really enjoy PVP matches. I'm a casual player -- I play in the evenings for a little while after kiddo goes to bed, probably like most other dads who want a little virtual pew-pew-pew in their lives. PVP puts me up against pizza and Red Bull-fueled college kids who play for hours and hours and hours every day. I routinely get beaten pretty badly in those matches (I got my backside handed to me by one guy whose power score was 600! I didn't know that was even a thing!). But to progress in quests like the Ace of Spades, I play them not because I want to. I'm sure my gameplay improves the more I play them, and I appreciate that, but it gets kinda hard to appreciate incremental improvement when you're spending most of the match respawning. I stink at PVP and I own that.

The biggest note about Forsaken, though, has to be the task at the close of the pursuit of the weapon. It's tantamount to an extended good-bye from an old friend.

There was one thing in that whole task that has made me think there's a chance we'll see a Cayde-7. And, honestly, I hope we do. I'd been a little suspicious about what was going on with the Cayde character -- how it was that he was so central to the plot, yet was relegated to a small space in the hangar for the past year or more. Contrast with Zavala, who has the equivalent of an entire pier all to himself. For me, what made Cayde-6 special was the humor. Fillion infused Cayde-6 with tremendous humor, and it was something that made me want to play and keeping playing the Destiny franchise.

Why is Cayde-6 gone? Did the players tire of his wit? I looked to the Internet for answers. Turns out Fillion didn't do any of the voice work for Forsaken1. But, bigger than that, Bungie reports they wanted to create a storyline that would hit players directly in the feels2.

Well, it worked.

In Bungie's first smash hit, Halo, you played as Master Chief, a character who was completely ambiguous on purpose so that the player had no preconceived notions about what s/he looked like. The effort was designed so that players could have no trouble inserting themselves into the role. The trouble with that, I find, is that I had no connection with it. Master Chief offered a suit for us to wear, but not much beyond that. The Destiny franchise is very different, because from the start we had a character we could like and identify with -- a guy (an Exo, not a person) with a great sense of humor and a weirdness that made you constantly question whether the guy was an idiot or a genius. (I'm still collecting expired ramen coupons, thinking they may be worth something someday.) Cayde-6 was no suit for the player to wear. Cayde-6 was interactive, and... alive.

My concern now is what the future holds. Destiny without Cayde-n is just another kill-kill-kill game. I can get those anywhere. Cayde-6 brought the franchise to life. One of the commenters on the PlayStation blog felt much the same: "Cayde-6 is my favorite, as a hunter… he was my mentor through the last several years across each game." Truth.

Ballsy move to take Cayde-6 "off the board" (Bungie's words). At this point, I have Cayde-6's gun, ship, and emptiness. I want my mentor back.

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2018.03.11On Pokemon GO!

I've been playing Pokémon GO! for two years this coming July -- started playing as a way to increase connection with kiddo and to add some fun distraction to exercise. Since then, she's just about stopped playing, but recently I've hit a significant milestone.

It's been a very long road, but I reached Level 30 late last week! And I bought the sweater to prove it!

Image credit: Niantic

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2018.03.04On Wolfenstein II


I am a late adopter of this title. I didn't really care too much about it at launch because I was so heavy into Destiny 2. But Destiny 2 is very heavy on Internet traffic, and my wireless connection to my console has been suffering of late... so I downloaded the insanely large Wolfenstein II. And wow am I glad I did.

It's a fantastic game -- I actually LOL'd and applauded the birthday scene -- and it plays much much longer than I thought it would... though there's one thing about it that makes me nuts: use of the Enigma terminal is very poorly explained and the interface is difficult to understand.

image credit: GameRevolution

Honestly, this part is awful and frustrating. Most people are going to burn through Enigma codes simply because the interface is difficult to understand. There are a number of posts online about it -- just Googling "Wolfenstein II enigma" was sufficient to return several. Three big notes I'd offer about using the terminal are:

  1. The interface is basically broken into two halves of the screen. Except for the progress bar at the top of the screen, the top half is the series of codes you must match, moving from left to right and numbered 01 through 07. Each code sort of resembles a domino piece, with a top and bottom series of dots.

    The bottom half of the screen is the confusing part: it is comprised of two rows of patterns -- an upper row and a lower row. Your task is to make the patterns IN THE CENTER match the numbered part of the code you're working on.

    So now I can describe the image above: the player has solved the first part of the code. The "01" section is comprised of three dots arranged diagonally on top of six dots grouped in two columns of three. On the bottom half of the screen, the player has aligned those two halves at center, which has completed that section.

  2. In that bottom half, your left thumbstick controls the movement of the upper series of codes, and your right thumbstick controls the movement of the lower series of codes. The game developers have reversed the directions the sticks report when you move each row. In other words, moving the left thumbstick to the left moves the upper row to the right, not to the left as you would expect; and the same is true for the right thumbstick moving the lower row of codes.

  3. Your time for solving each of the seven bits of the code is limited -- you only have a few seconds for each. My advice: if you're having trouble getting your bearings on the machine, it's better to return to the list of Ubercommanders than to burn one of your codes. On the XBOX ONE, you leave the decryption screen by tapping the "B" button. This will take you back to the list. Then go back into the decryption screen with your quantity of collected codes intact.
Surely, the developers wanted you to have to figure out the "enigma" as part of the gaming experience, but in my case, I burned through a lot of collected codes just in trying to understand the terminal. The terminal is important because it allows you to discover more precise locations of Ubercommanders, and to then perform missions to neutralize them. These missions allowed me to keep playing the game after I'd completed the story. But because I'd burned so many Enigma cards, I didn't get to some of the Ubercommander missions.

Now that I have a good handle on the Enigma machine, I'll probably go back in and start the game over again. I had a great time playing it.

Like it's predecessor, the game is hella gruesome... but there are some very, very funny scenes that make the experience richer. The funny scenes are funny enough that I'd want to share them with my family, but the gore is gory enough to really make me think twice about playing it in their company.



Image credit: Bethesda Software/MachineGames

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2018.01.24QUAKE. Yes, you read QUAKE.

I still love this game.

I just played it all the way through on my Windows 10 laptop. For some perspective, I was introduced to the game 20 years ago, and played it then on my Pentium-133 running Windows 98.

By the way, it's the same executable from way back in the day -- I just took a chance on installing the disc, and it works! About the only thing is the resolution. The best resolution I can get is 1024 x 768. The game simply doesn't understand the wider screen ratios of today.



Image credit: id Software

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