Destiny’s Dynasty


After years of leaks, months of rumors, weeks of waiting after the beta tests, Destiny 2 becomes real in less than two hours. This is the moment that either elevates the franchise above the original’s successes and failures, or dooms it to r repeat them.

Oh sure, you could say “what you saw in the beta is what you’re getting” but that’s not true is it? The beta is a tiny portion of the final game, revealed before the final polish has been put into place. It’s a vague pirate treasure map without any landmarks: a general inkling without the details that playing the final product fills in.

What will we find tonight? Treasure or fool’s gold? Only 1 hour 25 minutes until we find out…

For the record, all the things that made me angry about Destiny over the years… They angered me not because I saw the game as a failure or a piece of shit, but because I saw the beauty it could be. I’m hoping, honest to God, that that beauty is revealed tonight.

Stream of Change


Since I got my PS4 about 3 years ago, I’ve spent a lot of time streaming the games I play to the internet. For the most part, I do it to entertain my friends more so than as a career choice or a side gig. That hasn’t stopped me from wanting ad revenue or donations; who couldn’t use a little extra money, right? Well, Maxx — my troublemaking, artist best friend — has started pushing me towards being more professional.

So, there’s changes coming. The first of which is that I joined Restream.io which lets me stream not to just one service, but to as many as I setup and choose. In my case, I stream to Twitch and YouTube, but from the PlayStation, I can only choose one or the other. While Restream isn’t [yet] available as a target to stream to from the PlayStation, it is from PC. So, likely in a few weeks when/if my job situation changes, I will be getting a game capture device, to stream through PC. As I’ve been testing the waters with streaming from PC from time to time, I’ve already found a favorite broadcasting software (XSplit Broadcaster) and have found that I like and appreciate Restream.

To that end, and because this is in effect a sales pitch for something that is free, if you stream, go use Restream.io and use my referral link to get there:

restream_promo_banner_300_300_03_logo_table2x

https://restream.io/?ref=J6DzP

They’re having an affiliate contest right now and I would appreciate your help in getting some loot. One of the prizes, in fact, is an Elgato game capture device that would allow me to start doing the enhanced broadcasting sooner. In theory at least. Any help would be appreciated, though if you would rather just make a donation, you can do that as well by clicking here.

My broadcasts can be watched at Twitch, YouTube Gaming, and, soon, Ustream.

Destiny: Rise of Iron and Me


Hi guys, it’s been a while since I’ve posted and longer still since I said “fuck Destiny.” That doesn’t mean that I’ve moved on from Destiny as my go to game to relax, nor does it mean that Bungie has solved all my complaints. In fact, in some ways, Bungie seems to be trolling me… Any way, the newest, and probably last, expansion to the original game was released a few weeks ago, and I thought about “reviewing” — I guess that’s what I technically do here with my rants— it on release day, but I was busy playing and stressing about a the latest in a series of job interviews for a big company. (Incidentally, I’m still stressing out over it as I wait to find out whether they’re going to hire me or not.) So I’m only now getting around to talking about the latest changes.

First of all, the most cursed thing about Destiny is still there: the random number based loot tables. As always, no matter how well you do in the Crucible, strikes, daily missions and [probably] raids*, you have no idea what the hell your reward, if you even get any, will be. (*I added an asterisk because I’ve been in the unfortunate position of having never done a raid, so I don’t know the loot outcome. I just suspect it’s the same as everywhere else in Destiny. If you want to carry me in a raid, let me know!) This means you might have to grind away at an activity that you’re pretty sure will drop your desired loot until you actually get it. That’s just wrong if you ask me. I’m not going to bitch about it today, I’ve bitched enough about it here already. (1 2 3 4 5)

As I mentioned in parenthesis above, I’ve never done a raid. Why? No one to do them with. My best friend stopped playing Destiny for several reasons, not the least of which is the random loot issue. I have a few other friends that play Destiny occasionally, but honestly I’m probably the best player of my actual acquaintances. So that leaves me with three options: matchmaking in game, which Destiny does not support for raids; use the PlayStation 4’s Community feature to find a group; or cobble together a group through Bungie’s forums or somewhere else. Since the first of these is apparently a non-issue and will not be resolved by Bungie, I’ll address the latter two. For the moment at least.

The problem I have with both of these two options is pretty much the same: sure I could get in touch with hundreds of people, but these are all players that value their time enough that they want a perfect or near perfect run. I’m good, but when it comes to a raid or strike I’m not good enough to feel that I’m carrying my weight in the game. I would much rather play with people I know personally and/or have played with regularly and are playing casually— despite the time a raid may take — rather than demanding perfection from me or them. After that, I’d rather play with completely random strangers that have just as much — or little — faith in my abilities and once the raid is over, we never have to see, hear, or play with each other again. Matchmaking makes that possible, but Bungie is extraordinarily confused on the issue despite their stance that they will not add matchmaking to raids. Why, then, do they have a matchmaking system for strikes? Why not just do the same thing there? The Nightfall strikes once used the matchmaking system, but has since stopped. So why not either implement it for raids or kill it for all PvE? (PvP is different since you have to have enemies after all.) I don’t get it, Bungie. You have it both ways but it shows you’re seriously confused about what your vision is.

Ultimately, Rise of Iron really adds very little that’s truly new, not counting story. Gameplay mechanics haven’t changed really, though you get a few new patrol types in the Plaguelands. Yes you can use a flaming axe at various points and places, but it behaves almost exactly like the Sword of Crota with the exception that it has an ammo counter that counts down even when you’re not swinging it and you can extend the allotted time by finding a fire pit from which to pull flames to recharge it. Beyond that, there’s the Archon’s Forge which I’m sure you’ve heard all about, and it operates very similarly to the Court of Oryx, though even the initiator can get locked of the event. Don’t ask me how I know. Any way, Archon’s Forge is fun enough if you can find players to join you AND one or more of you have offerings to allow you to actually trigger it. There have been a number of times that my fun in the Forge has come to a halt when all of us collectively just ran out of offerings. So, needless to say, the drop rate for the offerings is low enough that you can easily run out of things to do and you can only carry one at a time. To be perfectly honest, I wish they made that change to the Court of Oryx — or better yet, put it somewhere in-between — because I’m running around with more than a hundred Stolen Runes, Reciprocal Runes, and Antiquated Runes right now.

As for everything else in Rise of Iron… Well, the new Fallen are interesting, but they’re still basically the same. The new social area is nice looking, though it may have a few bugs that still need to be worked out. What I mean by that is that one of the bounties/missions requires you to climb up on the mountain in which the Temple of Iron  is built, and apparently there’s nothing to stop you from going beyond what you’re supposed to do. Similarly, the Iron Banner opened this week and opened a section you couldn’t go into before (though you technically came from there in the mission to liberate the area), and you can just keep on going very far away from the Temple. I don’t know if these “bugs” are to enable some future event(s) that might take place there, or just left open for the sake of leaving them open, but it definitely reminds me of the alpha and early release days of Destiny when you could go into the upper court at the back of the Tower and poke around the edges.

I think the biggest single change in Destiny actually launched just before Rise of Iron: private Crucible matches. I think they’re probably a great way to train as part of a clan or fireteam for the public Crucible, but I haven’t actually had anyone to train with… Oddly, you can still launch a private match solo, and run around doing… whatever… At the very least, it’s a good way to get yourself familiarized with the various maps.

So, in the end, I can’t say that Destiny has really improved or captured my imagination and attention this time around, but it’s sufficient to keep me going for now. Destiny 2 is rumored for release next year, and while I may buy into it, I’m probably not going to pine away for it the way I initially did with Destiny. Bungie kinda killed that level of interest for me with the random number loot and the lack of universal matchmaking. If raiding requires more than one person (or you to be a superstar with the game), then you need to have matchmaking. Even World of Warcraft has matchmaking for their raids and instances. Unless Bungie changes their stance on the issue and the random loot, Destiny 2 will have to wait for me to get around to buying it. Sadly, I don’t think that Bungie will miss me.

Destiny Has a Few New Tricks (Updated, Again)


I suppose I really shouldn’t be surprised, but I’ll confess I was and still am. Most of the time [in this modern era of gaming] when a developer releases a new update, or a new game, there’s little that’s really new to game. Sure, games have done a lot to distinguish themselves from other game franchises, but it’s rare to see something really new in that franchise. Look at Call of Duty, not counting the different versions of the game (standard, Black Ops, Advanced Warfare) it’s virtually the same game with each new release. The enemies change, but the basic game play stays the exact same. Though honestly, that could be said for most first person shooters. Doom is fundamentally the same now as it was when it was originally released twenty years ago; sure it has new creatures and updated graphics but fundamentally, just go and kill everything.

I’m not trying to say that’s a bad thing, it’s just that it gets ridiculous sometimes. I respected and loved Insomniac’s Resistance series because they changed things from release to release. The first one had some unique weapons, particularly in multiplayer. The second one introduced co-op with unique classes such as the medic which was responsible for keeping the team going. (Yeah, I know classes like that were introduced in some version of Quake, but Resistance 2‘s implementation was beautiful.) And Resistance 3 changed again. I respect that a lot, and I really, really, REALLY wish Insomniac would do a Resistance 4 (and more) for the PS4.

What I expected out of Destiny, based on The Dark Below and the House of Wolves was more of the same. Not “it’s the same as all other FPS games”, but more of the same that we’ve already seen in Destiny. Over the last 36 hours or so, I’ve noticed that there are some new, unmentioned things in Destiny. The new subclasses, weapons, armor, strikes, and raids are getting all the attention, but as far as I know, no one’s mentioned anything about the new details in things that we’ll probably find ourselves doing far more often. (Aside from play the Crucible for those who get off on that.) While what I’ve seen has only been in the Patrol missions, I’m sure that we’ll see new touches in the other modes as well.

So what am I talking about? For starters, what I’ve encountered twice so far while doing Patrol missions is a new type of mission; basically the goal is to collect energy samples for analysis. Unlike all the other collection or analysis missions in Patrol, you simply have to go and stand in various spots for a few seconds. Easy right? The catch is that you have to be fast about it; each spot gives you about 10% of the amount of energy you need, but it decays very quickly. If you stand still for a little too long, the energy that you’ve collected disappears. So you have to be quick to get the percentage up and finish the mission; that means riding your sparrow, which is really not suited for the job given it’s sluggish acceleration, terrible braking, and imprecise handling. And then there’s also the various enemies in the area shooting at you and obstacles to making maneuvering even more difficult. It can be done, and fairly easily, actually, but it can be a little frustrating as you try to do everything perfectly and as fast as possible.

The other mission caught me off guard. I was actually between missions at the time when suddenly Nolanbot said there was an incoming transmission from an unknown source. Initially I didn’t really think anything about it, I think I was slightly confusing the mode with the story mission when the Stranger first contacts you. When it finally did register that this was different, I started recording the video I’ll add below. (Long story, but I currently have the worst internet connection of my life, and that includes dial-up.) The gist of it is, that the Ghost can’t make any sense of the transmission, and works on decoding it. Initially, the mission description is nothing but question marks on the screen, and it remains on your screen unlike with other Patrol missions. As you’ll see in the video, I’m left running around trying to randomly discover what I’m supposed to do until enough of the message has been decoded to give me enough letters to guess what my objectives are. It then led to another two quest objectives . Ultimately, all three objectives were very easy to complete once you knew what they were, and I think it’s an excellent new addition to the game and hope there are many more similar missions and surprises in The Taken King.

Update 9/21/2015:

Alright, now that I’ve had about a week of playing The Taken King under my belt, I’ve encountered the mystery transmission mission several more times. While the list below isn’t necessarily the complete list of mission objectives for these missions, they’re what I’ve encountered most often. By cycling through these actions, you can frequently figure out which of the objectives you’re supposed to accomplish before the decoding process has even begun. I’m doing these from memory, so if I miss one, I’ll update the list again later.

  • Head shots (Heads Blown Off)
  • Dance emote (Dance Floors Mastered)
  • Kill enemies (Enemy Creatures Slain)
  • Find chests (Treasures Reclaimed)
  • Sit emote (I think…)
  • Dropped items from enemies (Bodies Looted)
  • Generate Orbs of Light (Orbs Generated)

Destiny Weapons (and More) Update (Updated, Ironically)


As I sit here waiting for this 17 GB update to download on my current impossibly slow internet connection, I thought I’d share a few thoughts with you about this new update. At this point in time, I’ve been waiting about 24 hours on the download to complete and my PS4 is reckoning another 18 hours before I’ll be able to really see the changes. That said, let’s take a look at my preferred guardian on my personal account. (Although I do have a warlock on my “work” account, it’s not yet high enough level to warrant looking at and doesn’t have so much as a single exotic item.)

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Destiny Warlock

What we see here is that my level is 32, light level 145, with 34 intellect, 45 discipline, and 51 strength. For the most part, the latter three stats can be ignored. Until yesterday’s update, the light level and character level were inextricably linked past level 20. By that I mean that once you fought and quested to level 20, you had to get equipment with various light ratings to go any further, which is a fundamentally flawed system. Frankly, for all that I’ve done in Destiny, I should long ago reached level 34 but because the fucking random number generator in the loot system didn’t see fit to give me equipment with a higher light level than what I have, I got stuck at level 32. This leads me to believe that I could only have gotten higher if I had the opportunity to raid (Vault of Glass and Crota’s End) at all or hit the Crucible a lot more. (More the former than the latter I’m sure.) As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not really a PvP type of person, and I only know two people with PS4s and Destiny, and I rarely even get to play with them, let alone contemplate doing the raids because Bungie is too high on themselves to institute the grouping system on raids. Bastards. (This MAY be mitigated by a feature in the upcoming PS4 3.0 firmware update.) So, bottom line, no matter how hard I worked over the last year, I could never feel that sense of accomplishment by reaching level 34.
That changed yesterday.
With yesterday’s update, light level became a reflection of the quality of your equipment and was separated from your experience point total. This means that completing raids, missions, strikes, and just flat out killing things for the hell of it once again matter. I know I nitpicked about the stupidity of the light level, if not in a post here, then certainly with my aforementioned friends, and my inability to climb higher on the level ladder is a perfect demonstration of why it was bad. Perhaps it was intended to showcase the power of the exotic items or make you feel all the more powerful and fortunate once you got them, but to those of us that haven’t been able to raid, it’s been a source of constant frustration. So I applaud Bungie on realizing that this is an issue to many players and resolving the issue.

While I still, apparently, have between 14 and 24 hours minimum depending on the way the wind blows before my download is complete, I’ll delve into the new light level. In the past, the light level came from the total amount of light your equipment possessed at any given time. I believe the light only came from your armor, and as I mentioned above, it determined your level above 20. Under the new regime, the light level comes from an average of your armor, equipped weapons, your Ghost’s shell, and a new piece of equipment called an “artifact.” Without having a special Ghost shell or an artifact at this point, my light level is currently 145 based on my weapons’ and armor ratings. Considering the new maximum for “Year 1” equipment after this crucial rebalancing of ratings is 170 for weapons and armor, I’m doing pretty well. I should note that my currently equipped exotic weapon, Plan C, hasn’t been fully upgraded yet (I need an exotic shard from Xur) so that rating will increase once I get one. Assuming it’ll be sometime this weekend, I can probably expect my light level to increase to 150-155 or so once I upgrade the weapon or swap to a different, fully upgraded weapon. I don’t expect to hit 170 until I get an artifact and/or shell for my Ghost, but it’s possible those things won’t actually become available until next week’s launch of The Taken King. Which, I would like to point out, you and everyone else (except me, naturally) have already downloaded.

That’s right, I said you’ve already downloaded the next expansion. While I have no evidence to back this up, think about it. Why the hell is a weapon rebalancing update so big? I’d give the update 1-2 gigs if the only things it was doing were changing some of the core files to handle the new balancing system, updating the sound files for the Ghost voice from Peter Dinklage to Nolan North (not sure if the switch-over was activated yet), and a few performance and tuning changes. In these days of high speed broadband, which I’m sorely lacking at the moment, terabyte sized drives, and 50 gigabyte games, we tend to forget that 1 gigabyte is a huge amount of data. Having worked with audio recordings as part of making films, a few megabytes can record many hours of high quality sound, and most of the weapon balancing data could be done in a XML or even comma separated values file probably less than 5 megabytes in size. So why is this weapon balancing update 17 gigabytes?

The simple answer is that it downloaded all the new assets necessary for the Taken King, including the Dreadnaught, the Taken themselves, new weapons and armor, new audio files, and god knows what else Bungie needed for next week’s launch. It makes no sense that Bungie would launch an update this large this week, and then turn around and do another one on Tuesday. For those of us that already have Destiny, yesterday’s patch IS the next expansion. When next Tuesday rolls around, those of us that pre-ordered the expansion digitally will probably see a very small update take place that unlocks all the new content, but it’ll be just that, a very small update. Bungie wants players to start diving into that new content immediately, so it makes perfect sense to put it in place ahead of time. It wouldn’t surprise me to see videos showing exploits to get at the new content early start popping up at some point today or tomorrow.

That about covers everything… I think I’m going to sit back and listen to the Ramones while I wait for this turkey to finish downloading… By the way, what’s up with AT&T? They promised U-verse service in Detroit over 7 years ago, and the best I can get in my centrally located home *IN* Detroit, is their 1.5 MB downstream DSL. What the hell is up with that?

Update: Now that this gigantic update/expansion is finally installed, nearly 48 hours after it was released, I’ve had a little bit of time to play around with it. First of all, like I mentioned, the levels are now completely experience based rather than light/equipment based. That left me free to climb to level 34 ahead of the official release of The Taken King. But I think that that ascension was a little too fast. I literally went from 32 to 34 in the span of minutes as I did several bounties and quests. Minutes. While I acknowledge some of them were experience heavy, Bungie should have tweaked the level profession at higher levels to reflect the increased difficulty in leveling. Maybe it was a fluke, I’ll find out as I work on my other characters.

Another thing is that a fair amount of content that shouldn’t be available until Tuesday is now through various bugs and that’s even affecting rewards. Faction specific quests should probably be avoided until the official launch.

Also, don’t forget to visit the gunsmith and try out the prototype weapons; the ones for which you do the telemetry testing are supposed to be sent to you free of charge on weapons day. Well… One at least. It’s unclear if you’ll get all of them if you test multiple ones

Destiny, The Taken King, and Further Thoughts


To be completely honest, I give Destiny and, by extension, Bungie a lot of shit because of the economy and the bullshit idea that people are attracted to the endless grinding in the game. I will continue to do so until those things improve.

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Destiny: House of Wolves or Fuck This Game Part 2


In my previous review of Destiny, I stated that aside from some key issues, that I really enjoyed the game and frankly, that still hasn’t changed. In fact, despite the new content in the game with the second major DLC, The House of Wolves, the same flaws are still present (getting worse actually) and the basic game play is still fun. If you don’t want to read my ranting and raving, you can pretty much stop reading now. The content is great, but the random number generator/lookup table lottery and the currency issues are still there: fuck Destiny.

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TLoU Factions: A Few Survival Tips


Although The Last of Us has been out for nearly 2 years on the PlayStation 3, and nearly a year on the PlayStation 4, it is still a massively popular game both in terms of single player and multiplayer. The latter, called Factions, has just started getting a whole new wave of players because Naughty Dog and Sony just launched a standalone package of it this week. No longer does it require a full copy of The Last of Us to play; for $9.99 (US), you can now get the Factions multiplayer by itself in a fully usable form, though you may wish to invest a bit more and get the additional map packs and maybe some of the additional weapons DLC packs. While you can kill with any weapon in the game, some of the DLC offers distinct advantages that are well worth the purchase price.

That said, here are a few important and good things to know.

Factions Has *NO* “Levels”!!

The numbers to the left of a player’s name in the lobby screen are not an indication of how powerful the player is, with one caveat. This number is the number of “weeks” their character has gone through with their colony of survivors. The longer the colony survives and the more parts you earn, the more one-time boosters you earn to help you in the game, and potentially the larger your colony. Initially as you survive to and through a certain number of weeks, 15 I believe, you gain more load out points which enable you to pick up more and/or better skills and weapons, including an in-game “purchasable” weapon that is usually absurdly powerful. But once you hit 13 load out points, you’ve hit the ceiling, the only differences between you and someone with 100 or more weeks of survival are skill and experience. They will have no special advantage over you which is a great equalizing factor. This weeks indicator should imply that the player has a certain amount of experience, and should be better than a player that hasn’t played as much, but in all honesty, it rarely does.

The reason I have to emphasize this is that my buddy was playing in a match recently and after the match got a PSN message that basically read as the following:

you’re an asshole, My friend and i just started playing and you were a dick. level 200’s should have their own areas.

First of all, since there are no levels, there’s no way to protect a new player from vastly superior players that have thousand yard stares; the game just doesn’t distinguish player skill or ability that way. While I’ve played TLoU on both PS3 and PS4 and have gotten a lot of experience in both single and multiplayer, my colony survival length has never been all that high; currently it’s at 22 weeks, which makes me seem like a newer player; I may not be on the same skill level as some of the more dedicated players, but you’d be a fool to take me for an easy mark in this game. Similarly, while my buddy and I were playing a few nights ago, a member of our team had a colony that survived for some 800 weeks; frankly, he played like shit.

While I do mostly agree that more experienced players should be put in games together as opposed to dropping new players into matches against them, it’s the perfect place and way to learn. I hate to admit that this is true, but the best way to learn is from players better than you. Second best way is to learn from players that at worse than you if you have enough sense to figure out what they’re doing wrong.

In short, think it’s unfair some “level” 200 kicked your ass? You may actually might have only caught them on a good night; everyone gets lucky some time. Beware the “level” 5 that has been in the entire match but some how managed to avoid death altogether while racking up 6-10 kills; they’re the ringer you need to look out for.

Think Like a Tactician

Watching my aforementioned buddy play this evening, I saw him make a silly mistake that resulted in him getting killed in one particular match: he walked into a room and went straight towards the exit on the other side. A few steps into the room, he was shiv’ed by an opponent. To taunt him, I wrote a message a little less revised than this one to him on Twitch:

Lest you seek a wake with mourners, always be sure to check the corners.

I think that’s pretty clear; check the corners to make sure there’s no one standing there next to you, wondering how you didn’t see them. It might be a little slow to do it, but it’s far better than having someone kill you a moment later because you didn’t bother to look for them. A lot of the time, if they’re hiding like that, they’re out of ammo, and looking just to get to a supply box to get some ammo; very few players are actively waiting and looking for situations like that, though it does occasionally fall in their lap. Don’t be a statistic!

Related to this idea, is to be mindful of your flanks and those of your teammates. Always keep your eyes open and if you see an opponent moving in a teammate’s blind-spot, mark them by aiming your weapon at them and tapping R3 (press the right stick in). Unless they have Covert Training 3, they’ll be marked and your character will shout out a warning; this works even if you don’t have a headset or don’t feel like talking to the other players, and helps you and your team. In fact, marking an opponent can even be more helpful than shooting at the enemy in some situations. I’d like to say I hate to quote a character or movie, but keep your head on a swivel, always look for your enemy to come at you from the side or back or above or below. Never just approach anything looking in a single direction.

Oh, and one other significant thing… DON’T FUCKING RUN UNLESS YOU HAVE TO!!! And *IF* you *HAVE* to run,DON’T RUN *TOWARDS* your allies! When you run, you appear on the minimap as a red dot that is clearly visible to all enemy players. When you run towards your teammates, you effectively tell your opponents exactly where they are. Similarly, although not necessarily as important, if you get downed in combat, I strongly recommend against crawling towards your teammates as that tells the enemy where they are or what direction they’re in. Crawl away from them or sit tight, and if someone’s nearby, they’ll be able to catch-up with you easily enough to revive you.

There are times in Factions when you can and should run-and-gun, but Factions is not Call of Duty, Destiny, Gears of War, or similar game. It’s a game of strategy and patience. I’m not an expert on it myself, and I usually die more often than I kill in it, but it’s a game that balances stealth with brutality, teamwork with opportunistic action, strategy with spontaneity.

Accept That Your Teammates Are Idiots

Unless and until proven otherwise, accept and expect that your teammates are complete idiots with one exception: you know them and you’ve been playing with them for a while. Playing with strangers has frequently left me speechless, and not in a good way. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve actively gone in the opposite direction of a teammate because he or she decided to run full speed across the map, or walk right past an enemy to try to get a supply crate or help an ally up, just to get downed a moment later. In one game, where my best friend was on the opposing team, in the middle of a mass firefight he retreated from the fire I was pouring his way. I took off after him; so did my three teammates who were firing on the rest of the enemy team, so we all got shot in the back because they all wanted the easy kill — the kill I earned.

Which brings me to another minor irritation, kill theft. While it doesn’t really matter if someone else finishes off a kill you started, it’s something you start to take personally in game. The catharsis of downing an opponent, and then executing them is what mainly makes playing Factions worthwhile. I could make the argument for sharing the kills — all participants in a kill get parts (points), after all — but when your adrenaline is pumping because you just faced a [virtual] life and death encounter and lived to tell the tale, you want your points and you don’t want to share them. But what’s REALLY killer about this, that proves that your teammates are idiots, is when they would rather go for an execution rather than fight another nearby opponent or pick-up (revive) you or another teammate.

Your teammates will also lob nail bombs and Molotovs and smoke bombs on the freshly dead opponent you just killed or, worse, empty rooms. They will anger you in many unique ways. Get used to it; this is the world in which we live and play.

All Weapons Are NOT Created Equal

While there was a large range of weapons in the game to begin with, recent DLC has added some particularly wicked ones including the frontier rifle, tactical shotgun, and crossbow. I have only tinkered with the frontier rifle, but it is just about as deadly as the various sniper and hunting rifles, capable of downing a foe at a long distance in a single hit. The tactical shotgun takes a few hits to down your enemy, however it’s rapid fire enough that you can usually accomplish that up close or at a distance with a few taps. Perhaps the most wicked of all is the purchasable weapon, the crossbow. In the real world, a crossbow is no more or less deadly than a regular bow. In Factions, it probably does just about the same amount of upfront damage as the bow as well, however, it also has a bleed effect that can be just as deadly. When hit by a crossbow bolt, the target starts bleeding out, and if they’re not bandaged within a certain length of time, they will be downed even from a single bolt. As of this time, no other weapon in the game has the bleed effect, so it’s particularly nasty and a little unexpected if you haven’t encountered it before. Even if you have, it can still cause you (or your opponent) to waste time and bandages fighting its effects, effectively removing them from the fight for a short period of time. Being a[n in-game] purchasable weapon, thankfully, players just can’t start the game with it, but have to find or earn enough parts to buy it.

While the bow and shiv are the classic silent weapons in game, a number of weapons have silenced versions that require the use of additional load out points. I highly recommend using the silent or silenced versions of a weapon whenever possible in Factions; unsilenced weapons can generally be heard across much of the map, and certainly give away your location. When used in combination with Covert Training 2 or 3, a silent weapon will keep you off the minimap unless you start running.

More to Come!

This will be a post I update as I come up with or receive tips from you and the gaming community at large. I don’t think there’s a single person playing Factions that doesn’t want a challenge; while we all relish the easy victories, they ultimately are boring. We need new players to be ready for and to inspire us. So get cracking.

The Game I’m Dying to Tell You About…


Whether you’ve gotten the idea from this page or not, the fact is that I love movies, books, games, and writing. Not necessarily in that order, but that’s the order my fingers demanded I write them in. So there’s that. I’ve played a LOT of games, I’ve written about a few here, and I talk about them frequently with my friends. Hell, I’ve been streaming quite a bit on Twitch since I got my PS4 a bit more than a year ago. (I still find it strange mostly talking to myself, so I don’t often broadcast with my microphone on.) If you’ve been paying any attention to my Twitch page recently, then you know I’ve been playing a LOT of Dying Light.

A few things you need to know about me and my relationship with horror, the undead, and the horror-survival videogame genre. I don’t generally write in horror; it doesn’t interest me much, and never really has. On the whole, I find horror films silly and mostly going for over the top gore and cheap theatrical tricks to scare the audience. I find suspense much more appealing; what you see on screen in a horror film is make up and faked. What is done in suspense films is almost purely mental, and almost certainly possible; what one can do with such tools… Well, lets just say that I’ve taken pleasure in plying psychological warfare in a few stories. But I don’t write much about the undead… In my opinion, the old stories, legends and mythology are the best. What they don’t cover, Dungeons & Dragons covered to my satisfaction, so with the rare exception, I don’t write about them. They’re fine as they are.

While my bias against horror films can’t really be carried over to videogames (the characters, while perhaps photorealistic and carrying verisimilitude, are completely fictional and you don’t identify with them in the same way as actors on screen) I just haven’t been interested in the gore factor for the most part. I played the original Resident Evil on the first generation PlayStation, along with its sequel, but as I write this, I’m finding myself hard pressed to name a single horror genre game that I played since that time until the release of Left 4 Dead and its sequel. Truth be told, I played those two for the social interactions with some friends I rarely get to see, though I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t enjoy them.

A few years ago, Dead Island came out to rave reviews and I considered picking the game up. A few friends raved about it but I wasn’t in any hurry to play it. It just wasn’t my thing, though I was admittedly curious. A couple years passed, I got engrossed in The Last of Us, which while technically a horror game was, I’d say, far more of a suspenseful game than horror. But then (to get to the point)… Techland released Dying Light. My buddy, looking to use a Sony supplied weekend coupon accidentally purchased it after watching some streams of it being played by some reviewers. Upon release, he immediately got sucked into the game and ranted and raved about it. But he’s far more into horror than I am, I thought. It’s right up his alley.

And it is. He suggested I check it out but acknowledged that it might not be all that interesting to me, so using SharePlay over PSN, I played for a couple hours on release day. I’m not going to say it was the best experience of my life, but I found it very engrossing. I did get slightly motion sick, which I attributed at the time (and apparently correctly) to the disconnect between my PS4, the approximately 2,000 miles between us, and uncounted miles that the digital video traveled from his home in the Seattle area and mine in Detroit, and for the control signals I sent back to have effect. Mind you, everything was nearly instantaneous,  with no noticeable lag, but there was something that caused me to develop a headache in that short time I played. Nonetheless, I played for another 3 hours over SharePlay two days later. The next day, my payday, I bought the game, and I’ve played almost nothing but Dying Light ever since.

Though it is indeed a horror survival game, it’s like saying Grand Theft Auto is a driving game. There’s so much more to the game than simply surviving. There are tons of side missions to be performed, and when you don’t feel like doing a mission,  you can roam and explore the open world environment, fighting and killing the various types of zombies for fun and profit. There’s a distinct role playing game element to it as well, as you don’t just look for weapons to kill all these monsters, but you learn new skills to fight and evade them, not to mention learn how to craft new tools and weapons along the way. Unlike Destiny, not all of the missions are “go here, kill that”; more than one has been to find and recover something for some one, or to go save someone in trouble. One of my favorite missions… Well, you’ll just have to play it yourself…! Get bored just running around? Play with a friend! The game supports at least 4 players in co-op mode, though they only recently fixed a bug that kept me crashing back to the PlayStation home screen.

To make it even better, I don’t know how many hours I’ve put into it thus far, but I’m only just now reaching the 50% completion mark. I don’t mean to pile on to Ready at Dawn’s problems and join a bandwagon bashing the apparent 5-10 hour length of The Order: 1886, but if you get into Dying Light, you will be playing it for a very long time. Techland did a kick-ass job on Dying Light, in my opinion, and it makes me wonder what I missed with Dead Island.

The game isn’t perfect, however. There are the occasional bug that you’ll hit, like the co-op crash I mentioned above, and there was an easy way to exploit another bug (a race condition I do believe) to duplicate items but it was patched. Though that particular duplication bug is history, there’s another one that’s slightly more difficult, but just as reliable. It’s only a matter of time until it’s patched too, but as you can see, there are both positive and negative bugs in the game. I’m sure Techland is hammering away on them even as I write this, but aside from the now dead co-op crash, I haven’t encountered any show stoppers.

So what do I think of Dying Light? If you like killing zombies, you will probably love the game. If you like parkour, you’ll probably have a hell of a lot of fun in the game as well. Is it worth the $60? I personally say hell yes, and I’m definitely considering the season pass to get any expansions that might be released. Should you buy it? That’s up to you. Take a few of my broadcasts for a drive and decide for yourself.

Destiny or FUCK THIS GAME!


From the title alone, you should get the gist of how I feel about Destiny, but it isn’t the whole story. Honestly, when I’m not getting pissed off by the random number generator (RNG) driven reward system and the fact that I’ve done everything in the game (except the Vault of Glass) multiple times because there’s only a limited amount of things to do at this time and nothing new has popped up in the weeks since its release, I actually enjoy the game.

If you read up on Destiny on Reddit and a thousand other sites, you will find one common thread: the game uses a random number generator to decide what “drops” during the game, whether in combat or at the conclusion of a strike or mission. Sometimes it’s useful, frequently it’s not, usually because you have something better already. Sometimes you’ll be the biggest badass in the game during a strike and get nothing; other times you’ll really suck and get something exotic as a reward. It doesn’t make any sense, but that’s the nature of randomness. Worse, you can go to a vendor, Xur for instance, spend your hard earned Strange Coins and Motes of Light to get a piece of exotic equipment and come away with something completely unusable by your class.

As someone that first learned to program more than thirty years ago and an avid gamer, I understand the attraction to using a random number generator and a look up table (LUT) to determine a player’s loot. It keeps things from getting stale. Is a special reward really special when everyone knows you’re going to get it for completing a particular mission? Not to knock World of Warcraft (which I also play), but that gets boring and predictable. (In fairness, World of Warcraft has had random drops in game for a very long time though most mission rewards are fixed. In the recent Warlords of Draenor expansion, some missions (and/or follower missions) award you a generic item that becomes something specialized for your class’ specialization. So Blizzard has obviously thought about that.) The problem with RNG+LUT is just that unpredictability, especially when you have no ability to trade or sell items that aren’t important to you. In Destiny, that means if you get an item on your Warlock that is only usable by the Titan class, you have two choices: put it in your vault and use it on a Titan character you also created or disassemble it for parts. And hopefully those parts will be useful to you; unfortunately, some items will break down into parts that are only usable by the class the item was intended for, leaving you with parts you can’t use unless you move them to another class. You can’t even sell the parts, at this time, just to try to turn a buck.

Speaking of money… For a game that has no economy whatsoever, there’s a shit load of currencies in it. The primary form of money is called glimmer, which is described as a form of programmable matter. While the concept is interesting, the fact is that the concept is totally wasted because you don’t actually do anything with it other than pay for things, such as weapons, ammo, and upgrades. If you could use it to customize your appearance, make unique equipment or even just put it in your character’s hair to change the style and color, then it would be something neat to play with, and something more than just a currency. Given that it does nothing of the sort, they may as well call it dollars or pesos or gold coins. Want to know something extraordinarily silly? You can only carry a maximum of 25,000 glimmer at a time. Considering a 32 bit integer takes 4 bytes and offers a range of 4 billion numbers (unsigned in this case would be most useful), I really don’t know why Bungie chose to use less than a 16 bit/2 byte number as the maximum amount of cash you can carry. Maybe it’s a practical limit… After all, while you can’t always count on getting precisely what you wanted to buy thanks to the RNG+LUT, you can still buy almost everything that costs strictly glimmer with little effort because you accumulate a lot and many of the enemies, especially the “majors”, drop items that help you earn more glimmer just by killing members of their species. Still, I think the 25k limit is awfully arbitrary, pointless, and oddly specific. I’m pretty sure Bungie isn’t saving a lot of memory by limiting it to a 16 bit integer.

If that was the extent of my money gripes, I’d be fine with it. But, as I hinted at before, there are other forms of currency: Motes of Light, Strange Coins, Vanguard Marks, Ascendant Shards, Ascendant Energy, Crucible Marks, and the recently added Exotic Shards. Aside from the Vanguard and Crucible Marks and Exotic Shards, all of those are obtained RANDOMLY throughout the game, either as drops in combat, mission rewards, upgrades mailed to you for public events or reaching new reputation levels, bounty rewards, decrypting engrams, or disassembling things. And like all other drops, they’re random enough that you can’t count on getting them on any regular basis. Well with a caveat: certain daily and weekly strikes and story missions award Notes and Strange Coins the first time you complete them for their respective periods. The Vanguard and Crucible Marks are earned, however, by either completing strikes and missions or fighting it out in the PvP Crucible. Strange Coins and Motes of Light are used to buy equipment from the NPC Xur; the various shards and energy are used to upgrade equipment when combined with the various resources you harvest on each of the worlds, glimmer, and parts you scavenge from equipment like I mentioned earlier. The Marks are used to buy equipment from the Vanguard and Crucible quartermasters. For a game that is based around combat, there’s a whole lot of economics going on even if you can’t sell your unwanted equipment.

Now, I started this review some weeks ago, and I’m only just now working towards finishing it the day after the first DLC pack was released. While I’ve been playing Destiny regularly since it’s release and still have only stuck my proverbial toe into the Vault of Glass, I have mostly enjoyed the game. My frustrations are illustrated above, and led by the striking lack of content to keep the game fresh for a long time after the initial play through. And that continues in The Dark Below; three new missions, more bounties making you play through things you’ve already mastered, a new strike and raid, and new equipment for $20… (Or $35 or $17.50 depending on your perspective if you purchased the “season” pass.) I can’t say the DLC is worth that much, honestly. Wait for it to go on sale if you can; sooner or later it will be offered for about $10 in some special deal. The missions are tough and interesting story wise, but I find the lack of Peter Dinklage’s narration a bit disturbing even though it was replaced by the new NPC’s. I never thought that I’d miss “Dinkelbot.” (Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of Dinklage!)

The bottom line of both Destiny’s main storyline and the DLC is that there are a lot of brilliant scraps of story that are laid out on the table, but there’s so much missing from the bigger picture that you’re not really sure what’s going on. Just like with Watch Dogs, I keep saying that we’re still early in the game’s lifespan, but that is sounding more and more hollow to me. It’s becoming more obvious that Activision, Electronic Arts and other major publishers, distributors and, yes, developers have decided to push DLC as the next big thing in their efforts to make themselves rich. Rather than focusing on making the best damned game they can, they strip out whatever they can get away with to sell as an add-on later, thereby securing their own destiny. While I like Destiny, I think it could have been so much more had this money grubbing scheme hadn’t been a factor.