By The Numbers: Divisional Round + Championship Picks 2017

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Well  I went and forgot to post about the Divisional round of the NFL playoffs, and now that those games are over I can’t rightly call them and act like a sage now can I? If you’re curious as to what I would have picked… I think things went down mostly as I would have foreseen. No one was picking the Texans to beat the Patriots, amirite? I think we all knew that the Steelers would come away with that victory, though I doubt that anyone thought they’d win by only scoring field goals. The Falcons beating the Seahawks was kind of surprising in that the Falcons usually implode in the post season, but the Seahawks looked like garbage this season, so I guess that’s a wash. Finally, I expected my Packers to march into Dallas and come away with a win, but my celebratory mood at half time became a roller coaster of emotion through the last two quarters. Spectacular finish though, and more records for the books. Because I can’t provide these insights pre-game, I decided to round up some of the best memes that I saw on social media during the game:

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And my own little post to boot:

So, now that we’ve gotten the fun out of the way, let’s make the picks for next weekend’s NFC and AFC Championship games, shall we?

NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME:

GREEN BAY PACKERS AT ATLANTA FALCONS

I’m sticking with the hot hand, and my boys are coming in on an 8 game winning streak. We’ve seen a rash of injuries, we’ve seen adversity, we’ve come down to the wire and have prevailed. This team is more complete despite injury, than maybe even the Super Bowl winning squad from 2010. The run is looking eerily similar. Plus, we had the Falcons number in our last post season matchup, along with having only lost by 1 point during our losing streak mid-season. I think this team is the better team. The proof awaits. While I’m on the subject, I pick the Packers to win the Super bowl. But against who?

AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME:

PITTSBURGH STEELERS AT NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

Again, I want to stick with the hot hand here. I was secretly rooting for the chiefs to win, despite the fact that Brady would likely hand them a lost next weekend. I just wanted the potential for a Super Bowl I rematch, exactly 50 years later. That would have been cool. But it wasn’t to be, so I’m rooting for the Steelers for now, just to have a rematch of Super Bowl 45, which the Packers won of course. There could be a rematch of the Super Bowl Brett Favre won as well, from ’97 if the Patriots win the Championship game, so I suppose either matchup has a great back story. I’ll take either, but the Packers win it all.

There you have it folks.

Mini Impressions: January Humble Monthly + More

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I’ve been subscribed to Humble Monthly for several months now. As a service, it’s a heck of a deal. For $12/month, you get a bundle of games and for the most part, the value of the games bundled is at least ten times what you paid. That’s the major upswing, while the downfall of the service is that you don’t get to choose what games you receive and if you’re an avid game collector slash over-spender, you will likely end up with extra copies of games. Great for your friends, but takes away from the overall value a bit, in my opinion. Overall though, I can’t complain because that $12 investment is usually more than worth it. The remaining issue is having the time to actually play the games that are thrown at me each month. Much like with my Playstation Plus subscription, I get too many games each month to give them all their proper due. I will try them all, but few will be played as much as they deserve, and others won’t be played at all due to not falling in line with my interests. But I will never complain about free games, and instead will aim to give you my initial impressions of the titles that I’ve given some time to from this month’s bundle which contained the following games:

Warhammer End Times: Vermintide + 2 DLC
Mother Russia Bleeds
Neon Chrome
Project Cars
Jotun
The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky
HoPiKo

It goes without saying that I already owned the fantastic Vermintide game, as I have talked plenty about that in the past year. There are actually a few DLCs for the game that have released that I have purchased without playing, and that is something I hope to rectify, as I gave my sister this extra copy of the game and hope to do some co-op in the near future. One of the DLC’s packed in this bundle is for some fancy new hat, so I took that bit for myself, but haven’t checked it out just yet. It also came with the mouthful of a name DLC Schluesselschloss, which was released at the same time as the survival mode. Eri and I played that a bit, and it was challenging to say the least. The other two DLCs are additional story bits that I really need to go check out. Hell, maybe I’ll play it today. I should also notate that I won’t be giving an impression of the final two games on that list, because I haven’t tried Trails in the Sky yet as it’s a traditional JRPG and those eat up a lot of time. I’m too busy playing Destiny right now for that. HoPiKo didn’t look like a game I’d even remotely like, so that key is collecting dust until I find someone to dump it on. With that said, let’s jump into the rest of this list.

Mother Russia Bleeds

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If you’re somewhere near my age, you likely played or saw a Sega Genesis played. This game is so much an homage to old school side-scrolling beat-em-up games from the 80’s and 90’s. Think games like Streets of Rage, or even titles like Golden Axe. Those types of games were in their heyday on 16-bit consoles, and I loved so many of them. As tastes changed, so has the technology and gaming has trended away from this style of game, but if you even so much as mildly enjoyed titles like that, you’ll enjoy Mother Russia Bleeds. It’s fitting that the PG-13 rated titles from my childhood can now be recreated to appeal to 34 year old me. MRB takes everything that worked in those old games, and applies it to a modern gaming platform. This is still pixellated goodness, and has the same basic control scheme, but ends up being backed by a far more mature storyline and all kinds of gore.

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If nothing else, it’s pretty easy to run through, and I’m certain that you could beat it in a few sittings. There’s also co-op for up to 4 players, so that’s a bonus as well. I give it an 8/10.

Neon Chrome

I didn’t play this one much, admittedly. The description appealed to me; a twin stick shooter with cyberpunk elements. The graphics were definitely low-poly, though animations were smooth and fast. I wasn’t instantly turned off there. However the mouse and keyboard controls felt a bit wonky, and I played a lot of Nuclear Throne and Enter the Gungeon with this control scheme with no issues. I assume a controller can be configured, but after a few minutes of not being impressed with it, I just farmed out the cards and deleted it from my PC. No thanks. 4.5/10

Project Cars

This game looks to be a great racing entry on the PC. To be fair, I’ve played almost every racing game I’ve ever enjoyed on consoles. Lack of good controller support in my formative PC gaming years led me to believe that racing games were simply better on console. The Gran Turismo and Need for Speed series held most of the titles I enjoyed the most, and for different reasons. Gran Turismo was the ultimate driving simulator, and I loved how long it took to complete your career. The Underground portion of the NFS series also holds a special place in my heart, due to my interest in the street racing scene at the time, and the customization and equally lengthy career mode. Project Cars looks to be the first racing title I’ve played on PC that actually feels like it gets things right. It defaulted to a controller input, and the controls felt on par with the technicality of Gran Turismo. Bonus points there. It’s also very pretty, and runs smoothly on my PC. I’ll be putting some time into this one, for sure. 9/10

Jotun

This one came out of left field for me. I don’t recall ever seeing this game before, and it has a very nice hand-drawn style in the vein of The Banner Saga (though not quite as pretty in my opinion). It’s an action RPG sort of affair, and feels similar to titles like Bastion. There is some narration, some basic puzzle-like sequences, and some low level action combat. Overall it’s an intriguing game if nothing else than for the beauty of it. I don’t have much else to share save for some pictures, but I intend to see this one through to its end. 7/10

That’s it for my thoughts on this month’s bundle, but there were some games that I also received recently I wanted to touch on as well. I mentioned on Twitter the other day that I was astonished that I made it through the entire Steam Winter Sale without spending a single red cent. Impressive as that is, given my track record the past few years, it’s sort of a lie. See, I didn’t spend any money during the sale, but my father was kind enough to gift me a few games for Christmas, and that means I did still benefit from the sale. The past couple of years he usually just buys me one of the full price games on my wishlist and calls it a day, but this time he picked a bunch of the smaller titles that had discounts so I ended with four new games to check out, which I did after I recovered from one hell of a cold. So here’s impressions of those as well:

March of the Living

This is a title that I had on my wishlist for quite some time. It appealed to me because I’ve always enjoyed Zombie games (though I am starting to tire of them from over saturation), and it had that same sort of Oregon Trail meets Faster Than Light feel to it. I enjoyed both of those games, and games like The Banner Saga that used the Oregon Trail formula. This is sort of get from point A to point B scenario, but has the element of choice that Faster Than Light excelled at. Picking branching paths can be more direct but more dangerous, and supplies run short rather quickly. Random  events can be rather brutal as well. Honestly it’s not a bad concept, nor is it a bad delivery, but in the end I wasn’t really enjoying what I was doing. It felt like an exercise in futility, but perhaps that’s just how it goes. A for effort, but my final score is 5/10.

Grimm: Dark Legacy

So this was one of those titles I saw in my discovery queue and it looked interesting enough to add to my list. I had no idea that it was tied into the TV Series Grimm, which I have seen a time or two and consider complete garbage. There were cutscenes at the beginning with characters from the TV show and I already knew that was going to affect my opinion of the game. However, I still ran with it. This is an action RPG at heart, but has some rogue-like elements, though I’d call those optional. See, you can set the game to give you the ability to respawn at the last check point after dying, which is more like a traditional ARPG, or you can put on settings that will kill you permanently if you fall during battle. Otherwise it’s pretty generic. The art is pretty, but nothing spectacular. I wasn’t overly impressed, but I’m not overly impressed with much these days. 6/10.

Killing Floor 2

You may recall some of my play time with the original Killing Floor. A couple of years ago I hosted a gaming event and invited a bunch of blogging community members to play a few rounds as it was a free to play weekend on Steam. It was a great game, and we all had fun running the missions. This game takes the same formula of the original but has better graphics, and some differences in delivery. I played through some tutorial missions and did a few rounds solo and it felt much like the original, but was still enjoyable. However, when I tried playing multiplayer, I wasn’t finding matches no matter how much I messed with the settings. I checked Steam Charts and it seems like there’s a semi-healthy population of players, so I don’t know what the deal is. So I can’t really rate the co-op experience fully, but it still looks like a good game. 7/10.

The Warlock of Firetop Mountain

Another random discovery queue find, this game seemed interesting in that it is based off of the old Fighting Fantasy books from way back when. Those were choose your own adventure books, complete with stat sheets and inventory that could be used throughout the story. What a great concept this was back when I used to read them in the early 90’s. I was fascinated. This is apparently the first even book that was written by the guys responsible for Fighting Fantasy. From what I’ve read, Deathtrap Dungeon was the most popular book in the series, but that was made into a video game already. So this team aimed at recreating the first book in video game form. Illustrations from said book are thrown in from time to time, and I assume the writing is either copied word for word or is similar enough. Aside from making some basic choices and generally following along with the story, there are dice rolls for particular checks, and breaks in the story for combat. That’s the weakest point of the game, in that the combat is a bit wonky. You basically play a guessing game and hope for the best. This isn’t too frustrating until you get to later portions of the story and fight some enemies that are a bit overpowered, particularly if you are unlucky in your selections. Outside of that one weakness though, this is my favorite of the bunch that I was gifted. 8/10.

That’s all I have for now. Happy gaming everyone!

12 Years of Blogging About Nothing

12yearsToday marks the 12th anniversary of this humble blogging establishment. I’m celebrating 4,380 days of writing about nothing. And by nothing of course, I mean whatever-the-hell-I-want-to. It’s been a long journey, and I’m surely not the same person who started this blog 12 years ago. Thinking about that in itself is a trip down memory lane. Reading some of the things that my 22 year old self wrote is practically embarrassing, but I see glimmers of the writer I would become. Despite the fact that I have had inconsistencies with my frequency of posts, jumping around between writing about the personal to writing about gaming and even sports, I’ve managed to maintain a regular reader base, and for that, I am proud. So thank you for helping to keep me motivated to share my journey through life — in the real and virtual worlds I travel.

I’ve always said that I write for myself, first and foremost. But without an audience, I don’t know that I would have kept on for as long as I have. See, when I started I was literally sharing my personal life and wasn’t being read by anyone, save for some close friends and family. Even then, engagement was low and it stayed that way for a long time. It wasn’t until I started talking more about MMOs that I became a part of something bigger, and the real catalyst was the NBI, thrusting myself deep into a community of *mostly* like-minded individuals. I made friends. I played games with people I’d never met. I formed a podcast and helped form a podcasting network. I started streaming and making the occasional YouTube video. It’s been an amazing adventure, and I wouldn’t trade some of these experiences for the world.

But writing, podcasting, recording and editing are all large time sinks, and sometimes real life will throw you curve balls. I’ve had periods where I gave up the blog and called it done, just to come back six months later. I’ve had periods of time where I could only muster 5 posts in a month. Sometimes, there really isn’t much that’s worth writing about. Sometimes you spend so much time unplugged enjoying real life that you forget about this alternate ego; this hobby that you nourished into a monster that eats away all of your free time and then some. Sometimes you feel overwhelmed with it all, and need to take a step back. But once you do, you realize that you really enjoy these things, and you soldier on. At least, that’s been the experience for me. Your mileage may vary.

Needless to say, hitting this milestone makes me want to see year 15, where I’m still blogging and creating content on the Internet. Having no podcast to produce has been a nice way to gain extra free time, but now that I’ve not produced an episode in a few months, I really miss it. I’m struggling to find the motivation to rebuild a brand and an audience, though I know some of that will come just from the recognition of my original show. Still, I do miss it, and I do want to put together a new show. I think I’m done with trying to do anything with YouTube, as videos take too much time. I’ll still share the occasional video, but it’s likely just going to be to feed the blog. But podcasting, providing I can figure out a decent format, that’s something that I can bust out fairly quickly and would like to do again. I know I’ve said this a few times already, but I’m starting to feel like the motivation is there again. Keep an eye on this space for more on that as it develops.

So long rambling story short, I appreciate you for your support throughout the years. Here’s to many more to come.

Onward, To Mars

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been playing Destiny quite a bit as of late. I’m really falling in love with the game, and it’s been a long time since I’ve been hooked by something that so closely resembles an MMO. I know, it’s not really a “true” MMO, but as far as pseudo-MMOs go, this one is about as good as it gets. I’ve barely scratched the surface, so there’s still plenty to do and it feels like I might actually be hooked enough to see things through to the end. Not sure how much I’ll enjoy end game grinding, or having to level up other characters, but at the same time I look forward to nearing the end and seeing all that the game has to offer.

I shared this picture last night, and shortly thereafter I surpassed the 100 light level, and also hit level 18. Finishing off a strike where I had to kill this horrible witch character on Earth was a challenge, but once that was done I was rewarded with my first legendary piece of gear, and that was a nice upgrade from the blue I had in the slot. At this point most of my gear is blue, and I’m starting to feel fairly powerful, despite the fact that I know end game is somewhere in the 400 light level range. Still, progress is progress, and I’m having a blast progressing through this story line and seeing all of the sights, meeting new integral characters, and of course improving my character. Perhaps I just needed an RPG in my life. Lord knows there’s plenty of those in my backlog as is.

I believe I’m moving towards the last bit of the original game’s content. I know that the first couple of expansions were “lackluster” according to friends of mine, but I’m definitely not yet into Taken King territory. The storyline has lead me from Earth, to the Moon, then to Venus, and I’ve met the Queen of the Awoken, who sent me on a mission to kill some Vex. Having completed that quest, she then sent me to Mars. This opened up a new city hub similar to the Tower, and a quest called House of Wolves which I believe is part of one of the first expansions. Regardless, that’s where I left off. The next mission is on the red planet, and from what I recall that is the last bit of the vanilla game, as I’m nearing the original level cap. I’m hoping that things continue on as smoothly and that the game transitions right into the other bits of content. I know I could look all of this up and have my questions answered, but for now I’m just enjoying the ride!

I have yet to play any games in the Crucible, but I think that should be pretty fun. I also just opened up the Strike playlists (vanguard) so I suppose that’s similar to being able to do dungeon runs at my leisure. It seems that leveling is pretty quick, at least to 20, we’ll see how the additional 20 levels go. I’m kind of sad at this point that I don’t believe there will be any more content added to the game in the way of expansions, but I guess since Destiny 2 is in the works, there’s at least that to look forward to. Honestly I’d take more content over more levels, as when you jump into other MMOs with outrageous level caps, it’s not fun to slog through all of the old content. In the case of Destiny, it’s not so bad. The story is engaging, the world is beautiful, the combat is tight, and the progression is fast going. Perhaps it wasn’t this way initially, but it’s going at a rapid clip to this point and it’s made it feel fun, rather than work. Perhaps I’ll hit that work wall at some point, but for now I’m loving this game.

If you play the game, feel free to add me on PS4, my user name is Built4Sin82. I’ll be playing this title for a while to come.

State of the Game: A New Year Edition

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It’s been a bit since I talked much about gaming, so I thought another round up post was in order to share what I’ve been up to. We’re looking at the usual suspects here, although I did make a purchase over the holidays that inspired me to finally give a game a chance that I’ve had in my library for almost a year now, but hadn’t really played much. Playing this game has been a two-fold endeavor, in that it’s a pseudo MMO, but it’s also something that can be struck from the backlog once I’ve played my share of it. You all know by now that I have no real love of MMOs anymore, basically writing them off but dipping my toes here and there. The most recent toe-dipping was with World of Warcraft, where the Legion hype managed to suck me in, but I didn’t play for more than a couple of months before writing the game off again. There’s still hope for Crowfall, and supposedly the beta pledges will be able to play the game finally this year, so that’s something, though I don’t know how well that will keep me occupied considering the game isn’t done. I’m still in the guild that was started up about a year ago for Crowfall, but I have been less than active as of late just because I’ve spent less time at the computer than I had earlier in the year.

So the game that I’m playing currently is Destiny. I received a PSN giftcard for Christmas, and decided to use it to buy the Rise of Iron expansion. Previously I had purchased The Taken King, and I mostly did so because I had several friends playing the game at that point in time. I had a bit of a falling out with one of those friends, and a couple others had refused to buy the expansion saying that it cost too much money. Hence, my play time with the game screeched to a halt despite the fact that I could have been playing it solo this whole time (not to mention knowing several bloggers and others on Twitter who play that I could have taken up arms with). Having spent more money on the game, and knowing that a Destiny 2 is in the works, I figured now was the time to really give it a fair shot. I’m glad that I did.

I must say that Destiny is one hell of a game. It’s not a “true” MMO in the traditional sense, but it has plenty of elements that make it feel MMO-like. It’s really more of a lobby type game, but there are plenty of open-world areas and you’ll see other players running around, sometimes joining forces with them while doing a strike mission. It’s also one of the best looking games I’ve played on my PS4. No, I haven’t and don’t intend on upgrading to the PS4 Pro version of the system because I suspect in the next couple of years we’ll see a new Playstation altogether, and I’ve only had mine for a year so spending the money to upgrade didn’t really make sense. Also, it’s not necessary, as the upgrade isn’t really all that impressive. My system works just fine as is, and most of the games I’ve played for it still look great, even if the architecture of the platform is lacking compared to my gaming PC.

To this point I’ve leveled a Hunter to 11, and have been burning through the storyline at a rapid clip. I do have a boost to 40 from buying the expansion, but I figured it was best to go through the game from start to finish first, and then perhaps boost one of the other classes so I don’t have to level through everything again when the time comes. I have a Warlock that is level 8 from my first romp with the game as well, but I’m unsure if I’ll boost that character or if I’ll boost a Titan. Time will tell, but so far I’m enjoying the Hunter very much. I have yet to dip my toes into any of the PvP matches, but I look forward to seeing all the game has to offer. Something about Shooters always pulls me in more so than traditional MMOs, so this has been a great fit, despite the fact that I didn’t think it would grab me like it has.

Otherwise we’re looking at the usual suspects. I’ve played SMITE nearly daily for months now. I’ve mastered over 30 Gods, and I’m nearly level 30 account level with would max me out and allow me to play in the ranked queues. I still have a handful of Gods that I prefer playing, and I still feel like I’m one of the better players in each match that I complete. You can see some evidence of that over on my YouTube channel where I’ve shared some dominating matches. Going forward I want to hit that max account level, try out ranked and continue mastering gods. Oh, and I finished up all of the Odyssey quests, and that was a fun distraction.

On the mobile front, I’m still playing Clash Royale. I joined Syncaine’s clan, Supreme Cream! and have been contributing as I can. There are various aspects of the game that are simply not available without a clan, so it’s been nice to have that. We trade cards back and forth and you can also play in friendly battles. Tournaments are also a thing, but I’m not quite high enough account level to participate. I’ve hit level 7, but 8 is required. The main issue that I’m having at this point is not having the best cards available, as most are earned semi-randomly. I’ve been running my head into the wall against players who have had better luck upgrading their decks, but eventually that should even out and I’ll be back to climbing. I’m in arena 6 currently, but there are a few more to go that require gaining rating. I’ll get there.

Lastly, I’m still building up my establishment in Tiny Tower. Nearing 80 floors and have over 150 bitizens housed. It’s really just maintenance mode at this point, with a little bit of min/maxing regarding the optimal placement of bitizens in their jobs. Still a fun little time waster, but not nearly as engaging as CR.

I was gifted a few games for Christmas, and I tried those out over my break. Some were pretty cool, others were only so-so. I’ll try to share more about those at a later date. But for now, I’m going to finish off this work day so I can get home to play more Destiny!