Regularly Playing: March 2019 Edition

We’ve passed the official first day of Spring this week and with it will come a lot more engagement with the out of doors and less sitting at home and playing games.  As a result over the spring and summer months this list tends to dwindle down to significantly fewer titles.  For the uninitiated I do this thing where I semi-monthly update my blog sidebar and talk about the games that I am regularly playing.  During the month of March I am being honest with myself and allowing several titles that have been holding on by a thread to drop down to inactive status.  However anyone who has read my blog for any length of time will realize that I regularly revisit older titles when I am feeling nostalgia or otherwise restless.  I am notoriously bad at keeping up with series, however this marks three months in a row!

To Those Remaining

Anthem – PC

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While I am taking a little bit of a break this week because there is an upcoming patch landing on Tuesday that should increase drop rates, I am still very much enjoying Anthem.  March more than anything has been about me championing the cause of this beleaguered game.  There is so much that so many people dislike about it, but I am consistently impressed at how fast we are seeing patches being released to address these issues.  At the end of the day it is player fantasy about me flying around in a Robotech style mech suit.  It’s a good game brent.

Destiny 2 – PC

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You sir are hanging out by the slimmest of threads.  In fact I didn’t have any modern screenshots so I had to pull back into the annals of the blog to find something to use.  The Season of the Drifter appears to largely be a dud and I am not entirely certain how engaged this whole era of “No DLC” is going to be.  I liked the story driven stuff, as limited as it was.  I’ve popped in several times but have struggled to engage.  As much as it saddens me, my time in Destiny may be waning.

Dragalia Lost – Android

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I swear Dragalia Lost is the poster child for how you do reoccurring engagement in a game…  and I sorta wish that all of the MMO-lites that I enjoy would take note.  In general you have roughly two weeks with an event going on, so plenty of time to earn whatever rewards you want without feeling pressured to play constantly.  Then within days of the finish of one event a brand new one starts causing you to engage all over again.  Because it is Nintendo and they purposefully limit that sort of thing… there really isn’t much in the way of excessive monetization either.  You just have a pure diablo-lite experience with a character collecting gacha mini game.  Sure it feels super bad when you waste your five star pull on a wyrmprint, but I keep coming back for more.

Pokemon Go – Android

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Another game that is sorta holding on by a thread is Pokemon Go.  If it were not for the fact that I was getting credit for walking from my watch… I would probably not be interacting with this at all right now.  As it stands I spend most of my time hatching pokemon… and even then I have like 3 eggs ready to hatch and I can’t seem to be bothered to open the damned app and do that.  However with spring and better weather I might be spending more time out and about and reinvigorating my use of this game.

To The Returning and Brand New

Baba Is You – Switch and PC

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This puzzle game is so good, and I have not talked about it much yet since we are probably going to talk an awful lot about it on the podcast.  However it is probably seriously in the running for me for game of the year honors… and we are only in March.  You hack reality to help you get to the “Is Win” condition.  It is one of those things that is really hard to explain but once you grasp it you find yourself thinking in “IS” statements.  So part logic puzzle part programming language.

The Division 2 – PC

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To be honest I was not terribly certain how I would feel about this game, but it has been taking up most of my game time since release.  The Division 1 was a setting without any semblance of hope… and The Division 2 has lots of hope.  Instead of helping out a government that is dying…  you end up helping out the communities of survivors trying to struggle to make it in the post biological apocalypse future.  Division 2 is everything about the first game but more finely detailed and expanded upon.  This is what a game sequel should feel like.

To Those Departing

Assassin’s Creed Origins – PC

I more or less got it out of my system when I became frustrated with what exactly the ending of the game would entail.  I have a feeling at some point in the future I will force myself to finish it, but for now…  I am just letting it slide away.

The Elder Scrolls Online – PC

I know without a doubt that I will return to this game because I always seem to, but for now that just isn’t the style of game I am interested in for the moment.  I seem to be enraptured with the whole MMO-lite emerging genre because I can drop in and out of them really easily and don’t ask an awful lot of me in the process.  ESO is a game of excellent storytelling and questing, and I just haven’t been in the mood for that.

Final Fantasy XIV – PC

I am literally one dungeon away from finishing the Stormblood storyline and I could not seem to push myself across that finish line.  For now Anthem and Division 2 have stolen my attention, but I am certain I will be returning at some point soon.  However due to the rules of this game, I did not play it during the month of March and as such it is leaving the list.

Magic the Gathering Arena – PC

Another game that I did not expect to leave the list, but is doing so anyways.  Still very much love this game and what they are doing with it… and will probably return soon with the upcoming patch that adds a bunch of additional functionality.

 

Monster Hunter World – PC

This one saddens me quite a bit, but I have not logged into Monster Hunter World in a really long time.  Again this is just a problem of limited play time and Anthem and Division 2 stealing my focus.  This will absolutely return to the list and potentially sooner rather than later given there is a high quality texture patch incoming on April 4th.

Summary

This was a month with a lot of movement, as I allowed things that were hanging on barely to slip by the wayside with the release of two back to back juggernauts.  Most of the things that are falling off the list will return and probably soon.  However for the sake of the way this post is supposed to work they are getting removed for the time being.  This is absolutely the shortest my sidebar has been in a really long time.

Incentive Not To Play

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I am still very much in vacation mode this week and as a result the posts are happening way later than normal.  Yesterday Bioware hosted a developer stream and you can check out the VODs on Twitch or Mixer or if you are like me and prefer a bullet point list there is one up on the official Anthem Reddit and a slightly different one up on the Low Sodium Anthem Reddit.  Unfortunately both of them seem to have missed at least one detail, but if you are interested in the Reddit at all… I highly suggest the Low Sodium version for overall better reading experiences.  Ultimately they went over a bunch of changes to the game for both performance and quality of life as well as adding a few new systems in.  First up there are the Elysian Caches that will spawn at the end of Stronghold missions and upon opening will reward either crafting embers or vanity items.  I with it was BOTH and not either…  and there will honestly be hell to pay if one of these chests starts pooping out lower tier crafting embers instead of Masterworks.  The example they gave was 25 Masterwork Embers…  which honestly is nowhere near as relevant to me as a Vanity item…  so I am hoping that isn’t the majority we get out of these chests.  Ultimately each player can get a key through a daily quest and if you have four players with four keys you end up with four times the loot at the end.  Opening a chest grants items to everyone in the mission, so I have a feeling we will probably start saving these keys to run with our friends rather than with random people.

On the ever important loot front they stated that they are greatly improving the loot from chests and from the bosses at the end of strongholds, meaning that while you will still get one guaranteed drop you will have a higher likelihood of seeing additional Masterworks and Legendaries instead of the seemingly fixed 2 purples and an orange allotment that we seem to get now.  I am hoping this actually maps out into something that feels like progress because for me at least the 1.0.3 loot changes have not actually worked out to being more Legendaries.  Again I am at the end of the curve where I shard everything I get from pretty much every bit of content I run.  Another big change is that they have removed the loading screen for the forge and put in what appears to be the start of a stat screen where it now shows on a single screen everything in your load out.  Legendary Missions are going in which will be retreads of story missions but at harder difficulty and with what they are calling an Apex monster at the end of each, which is going to be like an Ancient Titan or a Luminary or something that is big and that already has its own higher baked in chance of dropping good loot.  However the biggest improvement that I am looking forward to is that supposedly World Events will now show up on the damned World Map… so you can navigate your way to them instead of wandering around blindly hoping one will spawn.

I am in this weird place with Anthem where I am super excited to see the changes continue to happen, but it also disincentives me from actually playing the game right now.  Why would I spend hours grinding in frustration when all of the activities are in theory improving their loot chances with the next patch?  Right now it is targeted at Tuesday, so I will be looking forward to them and hopeful that they actually provide what feels like a benefit rather than just something that maths out over a high number of iterations.

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In other news I joined LeavingSafeArea as it appeared to be the Clan with the highest density of folks that I know.  Not that I am actually providing any sort of tangible benefit to the clan yet, but I did roam around a bit last night in the area of the White House dedicated to that sort of thing.  Apparently in the post apocalyptic future we have randomly floating screens that seem to be projected from nowhere in a very specific location?  Whoever this Enforzer person is has a MASSIVE lead on the rest of us.  I am still very much in wander around aimlessly mode and explore the city.  I knocked out a handful of side missions last night and then struggled to queue for the next main mission.  I am not sure if I have missed the boat when it comes to running those missions with other players, or if I just need to bump up the difficulty to catch back up with the train.  Right now I am still digging the Marksman Rifle and Shotgun Combo… and have upgraded what represents that combo more than a few times at this point.  I miss my preorder shotgun, because none of the options I have found in the wild where anywhere near that good…  however I had to walk away when I started getting options that were 2000 more damage.  Still enjoying myself but I have to say… the most excited I get is when I see a new cosmetic item drop.

A Time Long Gone

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Last night was largely spent roaming around the ruins of Washington and unlocking things.  Seeing as I apparently did things out of the natural flow of the game… I have just now unlocked clans and will have to sort out which one I should join as it appears like there isn’t really a coalescence of my friends in one place other than the clan that Scopique and Traellan are in.  Normally speaking I would be joining whatever extension of the AggroChat/Greysky Armada/House Stalwart community that would be erected in a brand new game.  The challenge here however is that I know there won’t be one.  That group of individuals bounced faster off the first one than I did, and as such I know there is no glorious renewal of interest in the game and with it a flourishing of guild activity.  Division 2 is a game that I largely go into knowing that I won’t have the social structures I am used to with the familiar comfortable integrations with other players that I tend to take for granted.  I will be blazing a new trail and carving out a new home for myself…  and the challenge there is of course which group of friends do I choose.

I already have an invite waiting on me from TBC or The Bloody Clans…  a group that dates back to EGA Battletech but I spent most of my time with during Everquest and City of Heroes and have not really spent much time with since.  I know TQMB has a presence or Tequila Mockingbird, which was my original Destiny clan and one that I still associate with when I actually play the game on a serious level.  There are lots of other pools of friends that vary in level of seriousness about the game, all of which gives me a maze of choices to navigate.  This reminds me of a statement that my friend Neph said the other day and while I don’t remember the exact phrasing it was something to the effect of the following.  “I can’t wait until everyone is playing the same game again.”  While I agree with that desire… especially in a scenario like Division where those of us who are playing the same game are not even under the same banner.

The problem is my statement back to her was that it is likely never going to happen again.  I think the era of everyone playing one game is past us… at least for the age bracket most of us are in and for the type of demographic gaming wise that we represent.  The era of the big budget AAA MMORPG is long gone, and there just isn’t something exciting enough on the horizon to unite the tribes of gamers together underneath one mutually agreeable digital habitat.  If I am being honest with myself the last game that did this was World of Warcraft… and I am not talking modern WoW but instead the series run from Vanilla through the end of Wrath of the Lich King.  In my experience that was the heyday of the “It” game that everyone was at the very least dabbling in.  It was the era where you could walk up to pretty much any gamer of any stripe and they would be able to tell you what server and faction they were playing.  My friend tells a story about an awkward interaction at a birthday party when he goes through a sequence of emotions… first of excitement to find out another one of the dads plays Warcraft…  and then disappointment when he finds out they are playing on the opposite faction.

The “It” game for this generation is  Fortnite… and before that it was League of Legends… and before that it was Minecraft…  all of which more or less left the demographic that most of us are members behind.  Even during the heyday of MMORPGs we struggled to ever get everyone to commit to playing a new game.  I remember the first big foray was into Warhammer Online, and even then we only managed to muster about fifteen players to try it out of a roster of almost a hundred.  The inertia of World of Warcraft was too strong to break most players out of its field of influence.  We tried similar jaunts for Champions Online and the one that finally took me away from the game completely for awhile was Rift.  The last big successful departure was Star Wars the Old Republic, and even then that only lasted for a few months.  With the release of Elder Scrolls Online I drew heavily on social media attempting to pull everyone into the same guild…  only to watch it fizzle out after another three months.

Essentially I feel like there will probably never be another game that unites the banners, and that is in part because we as gamers have fragmented and quite honestly are no longer willing to deal with the things we once were.  I remember with the launch of World of Warcraft being stuck looting a Kobold in Elwynn Forest for a good 15-20 minutes and simply hard crashing the client and going on with my life.  Which is in part why I found it so funny to hear people call the launch of Anthem disastrous, because compared to that it was smooth sailing.  We just aren’t willing to deal with the inconveniences that we once were in order to play with gamers online, because that is no longer a novel and unique experience.  Everquest was in part popular because it gave us the ability to have lots of our friends together in the same world, whereas before we were limited to somewhere between 4 and 16 players connected to a dedicated server that someone had to run in order to play games together.  Everquest, Dark Age of Camelot and Ultima Online before that gave us massive persistent worlds for us to explore… and at some point along the line we stopped caring so much about that novelty.

Now almost every game you play has some sort of massively online functionality that pushes other players into your game time.  In Assassin’s Creed when another player dies in game it spawns a quest for you to go avenge their death by killing whatever NPCs took them out.  This is a functionally single player experience, but it still has hooks into the larger game world to make you feel like you are experiencing things together with your friends…  with friends being the loosest definition of that term in this case.  The novelty of being online with other people just isn’t the draw that it once was, and as a result we instead are focused on the story or the gameplay or other elements that instead mean we are effectively looking for different things in our gaming experiences.

I’m a grinder…  and while I enjoy the story…  I am ultimately in a game for the loot and a sense of progression.  So I can play games with the scantest of story so long as the moment to moment game-play feels good.  Tam on the other hand cannot get behind a game that does not have a story or a game world that he cares about.  This ultimately was the line in the sand that kept us both from enjoying Destiny 1/2 because he could not get behind that world or the digging required to find out any of the story.  Ash on the other hand is deeply into systems and tends to love games with lots of customization and ability to tweak builds… so something like a Warframe with its systems within systems within systems really resonates with him.  Every so often there will be a single game that caters to all of these core desires…  but it happens very rarely.  While I just outlines motivations for three members of our group…  you can imagine what that matrix begins to look like when you expand that to ten people or a hundred people.

Ultimately we want a higher level of fidelity in our games now.  We were willing to give something up for the novelty of hanging out online with our friends, but seeing as we are almost constantly connected through Slack, Discord, Twitter, Facebook and countless other little ways…  that connectivity no longer is as valuable as it once was.  Shit I remember a time when my friend and I used to dial into each others computers and talk over a terminal app just because it was interesting and novel, and now I can message tens of thousands of people in my larger orbit within seconds…  and we just consider that the bare minimum for internet connectivity these days.  No one builds massive worlds these days where lots and lots of players are connected at the same time… instead everything seems to have shifted away to smaller match based systems with cities serving as lobbies.  I personally like the Destiny/Division/Anthem/Monster Hunter style of game play that lets me drop in and out without feeling bad about letting my friends down.

I know this summer we will once again coalesce upon Final Fantasy XIV for the release of the Shadow Bringers expansion.  However I know that by the three month mark it too will have dwindled down to only the most die-hard and dedicated of player still playing it.  I’ve largely made my peace with the fact that there will likely never again be another World of Warcraft, at least not in that genre.  That same magnetism however keeps happening in other genres, so maybe someday down the time fifteen years from now… there will be a re-invigoration of the MMORPG genre.  However I think more than anything…  we mourn a moment in time where the stars aligned more than we actually mourn a specific game during its period of greatness.  Games at the end of the day come down to the people you play them with…  and as such I am still stymied by picking who to play Division with.

 

Reevaluating Siege Breaker

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Some time back in the land before the 1.0.3 patch seemingly screwed up my legendary drop rates…  I picked up this weapon the Siege Breaker.  I had mostly ignored it given that sniper rifles are not exactly my jam, but them noticed the perk.  Three shots in a hit streak causes it to freeze the target.  Now this only works if the shields are down, but unlike a lot of the other abilities does not require you to hit a weak point.  This means you can do some freaking awesome crowd control tricks with this weapon, especially on shutting down cannons and turrets that are way the hell across the map from your current position.  It does little unfortunately to most of the sniper types given that they are highly shielded.  Even with knowing this I still didn’t really use it much because once again…  I am not a big fan of sniper rifles.

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Then in my travels I stumbled across a suggested Ranger build for easing into Grand Master 2 and given that I was feeling less than effective there I opted to give it a shot.  First off the build in truth is a tweak of the sort of build I was already going through which relied on the double detonators of Recurring Vengeance and Last Argument that I have already written about before.  Essentially this means you have to prime the target through other means, or in this case with either melee or siege breaker.  Other than Siege Breaker it relies on Divine Vengeance that also seems to have a small chance of catching the mob on fire and priming them as well.  Divine Vengeance has the interesting perk of causing a large fire explosion every time you land three weak shots in a row…  and since this fires four round bursts it is pretty easy to get a proc pending you can dial in on a weak point.  What I did not realize is that these explosions seem to have a staggering effect and do a somewhat effective job of secondary crowd control and even have a chance of knocking flyers out of the air.

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As far as components go the build relies on a bunch of them that either increase survival, boost damage or cause you to get your combo faster…  and quite frankly that last one is greatly increased by Last Argument that can fill half a combo bar if you get a really good multi target combo off.  The goal is to always be able to combo something, and when in doubt use Divine Vengeance to mop up the little trash mobs along the way.  So far it seems to be working extremely well and I feel way more comfortable roaming around in freeplay and doing GM2 strongholds.  That said I didn’t have any luck last night with the drops since I firmly believe my account is now cursed post 1.0.3 seeing as I had been getting pretty much one Legendary a night up until the drop of that patch, and have gotten exactly one since.  I hope they come up with a more permanent and generous solution in the near future, but I am booned to finally have a build that I am comfortable doing solo content with.  I also need to hook up with Weiward at some point and do group content since we are both largely in the same position of just needing to farm a ton of legendaries.

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At some point the very needy Kenzie the cat wanted to snuggle so I went back downstairs and chilled out on the sofa playing some Division 2.  I wound up grouping up with other players for the first time and running a story mission with some randoms.  I am not sure if that upscales based on the number of players that you have in a party, because if not…  wow that was going to be a rough story mission.  Unfortunately I seemingly clicked on the wrong mission and wound up running one two zones over instead of the one to open the zone I was organically planning on moving into.  I am effectively finished with the first area and now will be moving into the second.  For the seasoned players… is there a sort of check list somewhere in the game so I can see visually how far from finishing a zone I am?

At this point I am in need of both weapons… and the trusty shotgun seems to be peforming worse than it was previously.  I forget who suggested that I would need to swap around level 8, but they nailed it.  The only problem I am seeing is that replacement shotguns don’t have anywhere near the capacity of this one.  The game seems to indicate that I might be able to upgrade the weapon…  but I have a feeling that is more endgame stuff and not something I can realistically do right now given that I have no clue at all what the crafting component that I am missing is.  All in all still enjoying myself but while Anthem is something I am still gearing up to play very seriously once I get a group of AggroChatters up to the appropriate level (or quite honestly Grace)…  Division 2 is my solo jam.

Division 2 Impressions

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This morning I am going to take a break from Anthem and talk about The Division 2 which released for me on Friday…  but for other folks earlier in the week.  I still played a significant amount of Anthem including some running around with a large group of people on Saturday, but until the drop rates are fixed to reasonable levels I am probably going to be tapering off my time played to stave frustration.  At this point I am up to 192 hours played of Anthem… and by contrast I am sitting at roughly 6 hours of time played in Division 2 so far.  Largely I am approaching the game as a much more single player experience, and in the same manner I would one of the big Ubisoft open world titles like Far Cry or Assassin’s Creed.

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Probably the biggest praise that I can give to Division 2 is that it is a game that has learned from its past without forgetting it.  Division 2 feels like I am picking up where Division 1 left off, with all of the quality of life improvements that came towards the end of the patch cycle…  and then this game takes that position and builds upon it.  This was the problem with Destiny 2 in that it felt like we were losing more from Destiny 1 Year 3 than we were gaining in the process.  Sure Destiny 2 turned out eventually to be a really great product but it took some time to get there because it had felt like they forgot all of the lessons learned along the way.  Division 2 is cognizant of what came before and gives us effectively all of that product…  with more features heaped on top of that.

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One of the core problems I had with the original Division is that it was a game without hope.  The setting was bleak and it felt like as a Division Agent I was doing very little to actually help those around me.  Sure there were those occasional events where someone would run up on me and ask for food or water…  but if I moved even in the slightest they would go running off.  The citizens were scared of me… and for good reason…  because I while I was attempting to help make things better…  I was doing so by laying down a trail of dead bodies in my wake.  I think the core problem with the narrative is that I was helping to try and prop up what was ultimately a dying vestige of the government…  of control of the masses.  Division was a game more or less about trying to salvage the status quo at all costs.

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Division 2 on the other hand is something entirely different.  The status quo died long ago and from the ashes new communities sprung up of survivors trying to hold things together and carve out some piece of this new world.  The setting shifts from New York to the Washington D.C.  where our nations former capitol lies in ruins…  and what is left of the former government operates out of the husk of the White House.  As such the story shifts from rebuilding the nation…  to acting as a sheriff of the wild lands and helping these struggling communities gather resources that they need to survive and thrive.  Similar to the first game as you finish missions your bases evolve…  but this time around the results feel more tangible as new areas are added like this game room for the kids for example.

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The game map is similar to the first game, but once again has evolved to include a bunch of new options.  There is now the concept of a control point, and these take various forms…  but are more or less outposts that have been overrun by whatever enemy faction is in a region.  In the White House area and Downtown East this is controlled by the Hyenas…  which are part street gang and part borderlands bandit psychos.  In the above map everything that is a green flag is a control point that I have reclaimed and was previously held by the Hyenas, ans as a result there is a tangible feel to winning back an area because you start to see it improving.  As you hold more control points it seems as though there are more frequent NPC foragers going out into the wilds to scavenge for resources.  Additionally there is a whole mini game surrounding delivering food and water to these outposts for experience.  The markers in Red on my map are of course control points that I have yet to liberate…  and I am focusing on clearing 100% of this single map before I move on to other areas.

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As I mentioned earlier…  Division 1 was a game without hope…  and I think Division 2 more than anything is a game with a lot of hope in it.  You seem to no longer be as focused on fighting for the sake of a government, but instead roam around as a free entity helping everyone in your path.  I am not very far along in the game but I am assuming each region is going to have one major settlement that you will be helping to reclaim the wastes.  Ultimately I can see that they are trying to modify the tone of the game.  The first game had some really awkward feelings associating with it… as you spent much of your time gunning down people trying to survive.  Sure there were factions that felt good to take down…  like the Cleaners or the Last Man Battalion that were just fucked up ideologically.  You know I will even lump the Rikers into that group with their public executions of JTF agents…  but the Rioters…  they felt real bad to be taking out given that they were just doing exactly what you were doing and trying to survive.  So far the Hyenas do not feel like taking out Rioters, because they do feel like more of a twisted and cohesive threat given that they are taking on the role of bandits in Fallout and attacking settlements.

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While I am again only about six hours into the game, I am enjoying it far more than I did the first one.  I also feel like they have done a lot to fix some of the issues the original had with item drop stinginess.  I sat at level 26 for the better part of a year and a half because I felt like my weapons were ineffective…  and I didn’t have the cash or crafting resources to make anything better.  I came back towards the end of the game and found that drop rates were greatly improved and actually provided pieces of gear that were useful.  Once again this game seems to have learned that lesson because I am swimming in loot right now.  It really seems to be rewarding me for exploring every nook and cranny of a zone as I am constantly coming across abandoned gun cases and such.

Essentially where I am now…  is I will be poking my head into Anthem and keeping tabs on that community in hopes that we see a future patch where the loot is truly improved for everyone…  not just the folks doing GM2 and GM3.  I will also be hanging out with my friends whenever they are free to be playing Anthem as well.  In those solo periods though, I am going to ease back on the throttle and spend some more time exploring the DC area in Division 2.  I realize it is too soon to really give a proper review… but in every way I am seeing it is a worthy successor.

Challenges and Division

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Last night unsurprisingly I spent most of the night playing Anthem, and noticed that the lighting in the launch bay is really rather good.  They should add a photo mode functionality in here so you could get good shots of your javelin for all the fashionlancers out there.  I also spent a good deal of the night hanging out with friends on voice, even though we weren’t actually doing the same things.  One more friend made it through the final quest in the main story, so looking forward to maybe just maybe having a group that will be ready for shenanigans soon.  In the meantime I have been working on various weapon achievements or challenges as the game calls them.  I finished up the two weapons that I had related to Light Machine Gun and made an attempt to start on Machine Pistol…  but I just do not think that weapon is as good as it should be.  Since it has such a high rate of fire and such a relatively low operating time…  it should be dealing a lot more damage than it actually is.  I am taking this queue off of how SMGs felt in The Division where they were an up close melt machine.

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I am slowly working on the Challenge of Strength after wrapping up the Challenge of Valor, and quite honestly…  it seems like it is going to be relatively easy to complete.  Valor required you do complete certain objectives…  and Strength is just “Kill a Bunch of Stuff that you are already killing a bunch of anyway”.  Sure it might force me to vary up which activities I do, but just by running contracts and Quickplay you encounter a lot of the above.  The  200 legendary kills is going to be the slowest bit, and as I checked at the end of the night…  I feel like the Elite kills step is going to come the quickest by far.  The only problem I have with these and the whole gain a ton of faction quest…  is that they are not terribly interesting or interactive.  In both cases they end up just being “play many hours of this game”.  I am hoping with future content drops that we get some more interested long tailed quests.  It sounds as thought my friends will be around quite a bit this weekend so as such I am going to try and make myself available to run Strongholds and such.  However I will bow out if we have four given that I outgear the lower tier content and I don’t want the experience to feel like getting carried.

tom-clancys-the-division-2-screenshot-2019-03-15-06-20-09-10

On the other things to do front… I was in The Division 2 just long enough this morning to create my character and run through the intro tutorial.  Division traditionally has not been my jam but I am still interested in playing through this as a largely single player experience.  I didn’t do a lot of grouping last time around…  and maybe that was what harmed my overall adoption rate of the game?  We will see… I have a handful of friends on my UPlay list but if you want to add me I am BelghastStern there.  Essentially if a service already has a Belghast…  which is weird because I thought I invented the name…  I go with BelghastStern.  For years I was the only Belghast on WoWhead… and then a handful more showed up.  I am happy enough with my character, thought I wish there was a clean face option…  I am not big on military fantasy as a whole and as such smudge sticking your face is not really my jam.  I am also sorta disappointed that we could not pick two sleeves in the tattoo options but whatever.  All in all I am cool with this being my avatar going forward… I strayed away from my traditional black hair and went with dark maroon because I thought it looked cool.

Ignoring the Boycott

allmasterworksstacked-sm

allmasterworksstacked-sm

First off we are going to start this post with me flooding you with a big damned image.  Last night I managed to cobble together a set on the storm that tips the scale over to Masterwork, meaning that I now have all four lancers to that level.  To make it better… I am using very few of the general purpose masterwork inscriptions…  I believe I have one on the Storm and one on the Interceptor.  The Colossus and Ranger are what I would consider to be in a state of a proper build that I actually want to keep playing.  The Ranger is by far the most tuned and I love the whole double detonator thing because it allows me to prime with either Ralner’s Blaze or more often the case my Melee and them BOOMY BOOM BOOM!  The Interceptor and Storm are both trying to find workable builds…  I love Ten Thousand Suns that I got last night on the Storm so that is likely going to stay.

At this point I have put one hundred and seventy four hours into Anthem since it launched.  To that point… I keep getting various people asking me if I will be participating in the player boycott this weekend.  For reference the official Reddit has organized effectively a walkout to occur from March 11th until March 15th… which is already supposedly occurring.  I mean I get that there are frustrations with the game and I have posted my own, but doing a walkout like this only serves to show how generally impotent the anger of the internet actually is in the grand scheme of things.  For a period when the game is supposedly under protest I happily got Quickplay missions on Grandmaster 1 all night long, and got rapid matchmaking when I decided to run a contract or a stronghold.  The same went for freeplay and I actually had several instances of spontaneous grouping to run around together without any means of communication and do a bunch of events.

So if the boycott is in fact happening…  I am not seeing any signs of it other than maybe an improved community spirit?  Like I said the game is not perfect but the game is pretty much the same as every other live services game that I have played.  You have to understand…  as a gamer I land more on this side of the community than the single player one.  I am used to playing through bad launches, horrific bugs, and a general stonewalling of information to the player base and still figuring out ways to carve out my fun.  Out of those three issues… only one actually exists in Anthem… which is the fact that it has an awful lot of unintended bugs.  The servers have been pretty stable for me from my personal experience…  even though that I know lots of other players have complaints there…  I have been able to play when I wanted for however long I wanted which is not always the case with an MMO launch.

On the last point…  unless you have been through an MMORPG launch that was on fire and burning down around the players…  you will probably not appreciate the last point.  The communication from Bioware has been excellent and their response to the things that ARE fixable quickly…  has been exceedingly fast.  It is hard to explain to a user what is an easy fix and what is a hard fix.  I have multiple copies of this xkcd comic hanging around the development area, because it is the truest explanation I have ever seen of this disconnect between you and your user base.  I think as a developer myself I tend to be way more forgiving of the wobbly awkward stage as a game learns to stand… especially if it is the first time a given company is doing quite this thing.  When I see a bad bug I am more aligned to thinking “ugh that is going to be a bad night for one of the devs” instead of wanting to smash my computer and run off to the internet to rage about how I have been wronged.  I’ve been called at 1 am to fix a mission critical problem because some “VIP” user was complaining about it…  I know those feels.

What I have been impressed the most though about in this process is the level of unvarnished truth that is being dropped on the community from the development staff, and the willingness of Bioware to show it.  The official reddit has turned on the developers plain and simple and it has been something sorta sad to watch.  What was a pretty free an open environment where a good number of staffers felt comfortable making random comments…  has turned into something significantly more hostile.  However regularly there are folks still wading into the sea of anger to deliver serious explanations.  For example there was a thread where a user saw his very first Legendary drop in 80 hours of gameplay…  only to have it locked behind an invisible wall in a dungeon.  You can read the entire thread here if you so choose, but the most important bit is the answer given by Ben Irving self identified as the Stronghold Lead.

Dear /u/Darthchrisshaw I just wanted to pop in here and apologize for a terrible player experience that I am directly responsible for. As the Stronghold lead the buck stops with me. I can offer explanations but at the end of the day, that doesn’t change the experience.

What I really want to do is come in here and explain what we are doing about this so you don’t continue to suffer these situations in the Strongholds.

  1. We’ve disabled every “backtracking” fog wall in the Temple of Scar and Heart of Rage. So as of the next patch, forgive me for not having the exact dates as I’m at home, it should be the next scheduled patch in March. Internally it’s called 1.0.4. So once that patch lands you should never run into this situation again in either of those strongholds. (This is different from forward-blocking fog walls which are necessary, those remain in place.) I’m not currently aware of any back-tracking issues in Tyrant Mine, but please call me on it if I’m missing an issue.

  2. Going forward we won’t be using these types of setups unless they are for some reason mission critical to the mission. I’ve yet to see a mission-critical backtracking fog wall so my expectation is that you’ll almost never run into this again. And if you do it’s likely a bug.

  3. We will continue to strip these out of the existing content as we move forward with continued bug fixing and quality of life improvements. I can’t offer specific timelines for when we’ll have a complete pass on the game at this time.

  4. Until the patch lands, if you end up in this situation bring up your map and hold down LS (Left Stick) on the controller or Y on your keyboard, this will respawn you and should put you on the correct side of the fog wall. I have yet to see this fail to respawn you in the correct location.

Again I want to reinforce none of this is an excuse and I truly do apologize that we weren’t able to correct this prior to launch or until now. I can only promise we will do better by you and the community in the future and try to win your trust back.

I cannot put into words how rare that level of interaction is with a game dev when the game is under stress.  Similarly there is a big thread that Global Community Manager Jesse Anderson posted on the same Reddit trying to address some of the common threads that were being discussed.  It was plain, unvarsnished and shows a level of candor that I am just not used to seeing.  I mean I occasionally have back channels to friends that are working on these games… and have heard similar things from them but told in confidence knowing that I would not be sharing it publicly.  Instead we are seeing this information just thrown out there plainly…  and the reaction Reddit is having is telling.  Having things explained is really doing nothing to quell the tide of reddit gold earning rant threads.  I’m going to repost the full comments here for those who find Reddit a toxic experience and tend to avoid it, just so you can see what I am talking about.

I am going to preface by saying this will be a long post, none of what you’re about to read comes from a place of hatred, please understand that every one of these concerns comes from a place of compassion and hope.

I would also like to note that while I am going to be as thorough as possible with this post, nothing said in this post is to be taken as community’s unanimous opinion, these are my opinions and since I am also human, some of these opinions could differ or not be right from the perspective of many others, that said, Bioware let’s talk.


Whats going on?

I am sure no one that is currently still sticking around can forget how responsive, jovial and outgoing the dev team was pre launch, 50% of your audience for the game probably came from the aspiration you guys showed and the love you guys showed to a game that was your brain child, every forum I went to everyone I spoke to, would always end their conversation with, ‘They have made mistakes in the past and it’s EA, but this dev team is much more vocal and not hiding anything, so I think I can trust them’.

Where did that bioware go, even during the VIP Demo crisis and during the demo, you guys were certainly not shying away from any kind of criticism, you went into battle head on took on challenges that came out of nowhere and still came out somewhat victorious on the other side, lots of youtubers and streamers actually commended the transparency that the dev team had during that whole fiasco.

Now with this post my intention is to compile and present the issues, feedback and solutions I as a fan of this beloved game have, I am sure there are many that will share my thoughts and many that wont, it is also entirely upto you to respond or not, but I am writing this for the sake of letting you know how some if not most of the community feels.


Communication –

1. Pre-game release vs Post game release –

Although I touched up on this subject previously I feel like we really need to talk about this first, you are keeping the community blind of what is going on, we don’t know if you’re working on the issues, if you’re reading our feedbacks, if you even visit the sub anymore, the discord especially was filled with a bunch of blue named (dev) messages everytime I went into any channel, there were devs having casual talk, devs asking for opinions, devs asking about people’s javelin colors and even devs who wanted to team up and play the game with the community.

Where did all of that go? Right now this subreddit and the fanbase in general suffers from lack of knowledge about a game they paid money for even through the fact that your previous game had major failures and your parent company happens to be the most despised company in all of gaming, it is one thing to acknowledge issues and then ghost the community, but it is another to not even acknowledge the issue and just burrow your heads underground hoping the storm would pass.

2. Aggravating the community by acknowledging trivial things over major issues –

In the past 4-5 days the community has been up in arms about a major issue that has been plaguing the game, the loot issue, it got to a point where several gaming news websites started talking about how there was no developer response at all, even through all that, most of your community, understood that it’s a weekend and people have lives to live too,

but you took that for granted and not only did you not even acknowledge the loot issue even after the weekend, you started replying to issues that were apparently already fixed but were just minor bugs and to add fuel to the fire, EA help tweeted out that tweet about coming ingame and helping you figure what’s wrong with the game, do you really need more feedback than there already was? do you really want to sit and test other (not so important) issues during a time where you’re on your last straw rather than fix the major issue that’s looming over you? I don’t even want to talk about the ingame cosmetic that went live called ‘making it rain’ I’m sure that was a automated rotation, it still comes out as bad taste.

3. Being confidential about the patch notes –

This is another thing the community had to discover all by themselves and even then at first you said, there are no hidden patch notes, any unlisted change you see is probably a bug/glitch and then you go on to make a post titled ‘Missing notes from 1.0.3 update ‘ I can’t look at this from any point of view where it doesn’t look like a shady business practice, this only creates more distrust in your practices and creates a rift between you and your community where now we don’t even know if the patch notes we get fix things or break more things that are not even listed,

Stop treating the community like first time gamers who have to be given the bare minimum knowledge of your work and they’d just nod and move on, there are people in this community finding issues and bugs in your game that you haven’t found through multiple stages of checking ( if you even had them), even if most of the community doesn’t care for it, it is your obligation to make patch notes and ingame descriptions as clear and detailed as possible.


Not Learning from previous mistakes

1. Andromeda –

The amount of negligence it would take a company to go through a disaster of a release like Andromeda and still come out the other end with similar practices is astronomical, you through your own admission agreed that Andromeda was not the game you wanted it to be and that it was probably your biggest mistake as a gaming company,

You announced Anthem with confidence of showing something the gaming world has never seen, promises that made andromeda’s promises look silly, you created a loyal fanbase long before the game had even finished production, the community through it’s admiration reminded you multiple times that they will not tolerate another incident like Andromeda, everyone was waiting with gleaming eyes for a game that was in production for 6 years, something revolutionary,

and you know what, Anthem is a great game and a revolutionary game, but you through your learning of new things in making this newer greater game, forgot your lessons from your previous game and soon became what you once were.

2. EA Hate –

Anyone stepping into the production of Anthem full well knew the hatred and doubt that comes from your community just because you happen to ally with EA, I don’t want to talk about EA’s malpractices through the years thanks to EA not even being secretive with their sinister actions, the hatred towards them is very well justified,

holding hands with a company like that, putting their name upfront and claiming you’re bringing change, doesn’t have a very hopeful image in people’s eyes, the community still doesn’t know how much of your production was handled and or scrapped by EA, you are not going to tell me with a serious face that Anthem in its current state is a Game made by one of the most leading AAA companies that took 6 years to make,

Now why I mention this topic is, to show you Bioware that we know some of your decisions are made with your hands tied because of corporate overlords looming over your working shoulders, we as a community understand that, but the only thing that can fix this issue, is communication and nothing else.

3. Upcoming games –

This doesn’t entirely fall under the section of previous mistakes but instead gauging threat and preparing for mistakes, the genre you picked already had really big shoes to fill, games like Warframe and Destiny existed in the looter shooter arena long before you stepped in and these were companies that at their current state had very happy fans, your mission was to see that and create something that is so out of any of their imaginations that actually manages to steal some of their fanbase, not only that, you had games like Division 2 right around the corner,

Yet the way the game came out and is being carried out, shows zero care into the product you claim is the ultimate looter shooter, instead of taking from the communities your competitors had, you created a community that came for your game and now is turning to your competitors thanks to your way of handling feedback, you are literally handing out business on a silver platter to your competitors.


Discarding Feedback

1. Community Feedback –

Another topic that has been mentioned plenty above, but you know why this needs its own section, you in your current state do not deserve the community that is carrying you on its shoulders, they are being civil and respective in their way of giving feedback, yes there are people that just come here to create hate and anger, but you know who your core community is, those that play the game everyday, go through the countless bugs and issues and still come out the other end to say, let me write about this to bioware, maybe they’ll fix it soon,

You need to cherish the community you have, it is already in dwindling numbers, please don’t make the reset go away, because you abused their trust in you.

2. Forgiving Fanbase –

No other company, has gone through something like Andromeda under the partnership of a company like EA and still managed to have a fanbase that said, ‘you know what? it’s fine, mistakes happen, go ahead and take 6 years to create an amazing game and we’ll stay here waiting for you’. I am sure just like me many of your fanbase has been mocked by their friends offline and online just because we still support a company that allies itself with EA,

I am a good example for this, I have friends that never believed a single word that came out my mouth about anthem, yet I still managed to convince them that on the other side of that game is a production team that actually cares about their fanbase, I told them the conversations I personally had with the devs on twitter, this was new for anyone who heard it and they could slowly see the passion I had in the game, through their trust on my their trust on your company grew, I brought them with open arms and confidence into the demo plays, but what did you make me look like? a idiot that trusted a company that was never to be trusted, yet here I am a month later, writing to you about why I still love this game,

Most of your current fanbase is composed of people like me, some would call us outright lunatics for still sticking around and we’re starting to think we are, please prove us wrong.

3. Doing your work for you –

Carrying over from the previous topic, not only do you have fans that have stayed with you through thick and thin, but you have fans that are going through stats and statistics, graphs and experiments and giving you detailed information of what’s wrong with your game and how you can fix it, not many games have the players doing the developing for them, yet you have this golden opportunity laid out in front of you to work with your community and create something that both of you can pride yourselves in and you’re throwing that away.


Lack of Content

1. Hull of a game –

Let’s finally get to addressing the Elephant in the room, the game itself, a game in many ways or atleast in it’s AAA sense has to come with a few guaranteed factors-

1.A good story line

2.Rich character development

3.Enough content to last till your next content cycle

4.Things to keep your players occupied in terms of visual customization and vanity

5.Good gameplay mechanics

6.Good and plentiful rewards

7.Polishing.

anyone can tell you Bioware that anthem does not check out on majority of these points, ofcourse depending on who you ask the things that check and don’t check out might differ, but I am sure that everyone will only have 2 if not 3 things in that list they think you’ve achieved and you know this to be true,

the problem here doesn’t come from the fact that you happened to make a bad game, the problem here stems from every single point I’ve made above, each of those tiny twigs and branches joining together to create what happens to be a major problem for everyone involved in the production of the game and the fanbase through defending you.

2. Looter shooter without any loot –

I don’t even know where to start with this, do I start with the fact that end game content doesn’t even rewards end game loot or do I start from the fact that there isn’t even enough end game loot in this game to make it rain end game loot,

people think the problem is masterworks and legendaries are dropping too low and that drop chances need to go up, but I think the problem is a little deeper and a little more dangerous than that, something that’s making you stay silent,

There isn’t even enough masterwork and Legendary loot to drop for end game content, there is such little diversity in master work and legendary loot right now, if I were to run a dungeon and come out the other end with all master work and legendaries 60% of those will be duplicates just because of the fact that there isn’t even enough items to fill my bag without creating duplicates,

I don’t really know how you’re going to solve this issue, coz by god you took 6 years and did this, but the right thing to do now, is to open the loot floodgates and have people atleast have the illusion that you actually have tons of loot variety in this game.

3. Armor and cosmetics –

Ok I actually am quite annoyed with the current community about this, even after all the shit you’ve pulled and all the abuse you’ve done to your community, they are still open to give you more money to buy vanity items and what do you do? give them 2 proper items and 4 trivial items every few days,

One of the biggest catches for your game was the freedom to customization, you showed us so much customization during those live streams before the demo that people were actually overwhelmed, yet the game launches and you don’t even have things that you had ready before the games completion, how do you show people 10-15 armor variations 6-7 months prior to the launch yet the game launches with 2-3 armor variations and end game doesnt even provide any vanity,

It truly baffles me that anyone wants to give more money to you, but alas its their money, but I just hope you can take that money without feeling guilty.


Turning a good game bad

1. What could have been –

Anthem could have been so much more if it actually hit all the promises made during its E3 press release and during its production cycle, it was the ultimate looter shooter that was to come and prolly obliterate the gaming market with its presence, but that was not what we got.

2. What it currently is –

I don’t even know what the game currently is, probably a shallow pool of the ocean that was promised, fading community and false promises, the game is not what it was meant to be and not what it deserves to be.

3. What it could be –

It still isn’t too late to save Anthem, with simple communication and progressive fixes we as a community and the developers together can fix this game, it probably wont be what it was initially supposed to be but alteast we can create something that is worth staying for, I pre-ordered No Man’s Sky and regretted it very much after launch, but because of the communication that kept coming from Hello Games people stuck around to hear their side of the story and the game right now is galaxies better than it once was and I’m sure Anthem is no exception to that change.

Conclusion

In conclusion I just want to say, we as a community still believe in you, we still believe in this game and we still believe that all of this will pass and we can make something great out of this and all we ask in return is for you to speak to us.

EDIT: I hit submit way too early, sorry about that, first time writing something like this!

The thing is… I applaud the hell out of the Anthem team for the way that they communicate with us.  I also applaud whoever decided to create a second Reddit called LowSodiumAnthem so those of us who are still very much enjoying the game could have a place to discuss it without getting bogged down in the sea of rage.  Please note, this is not me stating that the game is perfect… and I have shared many of my frustrations.  However I also want to share my joys and I still enjoy flying around and doing content and am not going to stop due to some boycott.  Especially when said boycott doesn’t appear to be changing the state of the game other than maybe having the absence of angry players making the grouping experience better?

Anthem System Ideas

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anthem-screenshot-2019-03-12-18-57-56-48

Over the last few weeks I have been thinking about systems that would greatly improve the feel of Anthem.  Right now it is clear that the loot drops are not cutting it… but the problem with that is that there are no other systems to make up for the lack of RNGesus’s blessing.  So if you return to the roots of loot bonanza…  Diablo 3 Loot 2.0…  you will see a system that not only has freer loot drops but also a lot of systems that help you curb bad luck by systematically spending resources in an attempt to brute force your way to fortune and glory.  You have the Rift system and its blood shards currency that allows you to keep regretting your decisions as you feed more to Kadala for utter crap, but you also have the Kanai’s Cube that allows you to gamble large amounts of resources to again push your luck and try for that item you actually wanted.  So it set me to thinking down the line of how would I introduce some tweaks to the system to help curb the sting of bad luck.

The Regulator Scavenger

We already know that the regulators are resourceful and efficient, but what exactly do they do with some of the things they happen to come across in their travels.  Surely they can’t be breaking everything down into materials for Sayrna to sell in the market.  Surely there are items that they deem way too good to destroy, and want to sell at a profit.  So the theory here is to introduce a weekly NPC sorta along the lines of Xur from Destiny or Baro Ki’Teer from Warframe, that shows up and has several items to offer for a price.  In theory I would suggest that each week they had an inventory that had curated legendary rolls of either a piece of gear or component for each of the lancers along with a single weapon…  modelling what Xur sells most of the time.  I figure you have two options for placement…  if the systems allow it I think it would be fun to place them somewhere out in Freeplay sorta like the modern version of Xur that roams the wilds.  If the tech does not allow it… then I would have them operating out of a back booth in Max’s bar in Fort Tarsis which is already a regulator run establishment.

Stable Shaper Relic

Kanai’s Cube allows you to gamble resources in order to try and improve the quality of your items as well as allows you to re-roll existing items.  So along these lines you could introduce a quest chain that comes from Matthias Sumner to go retrieve a stable shaper relic macguffin that the Outlaws or Dominion have discovered…  if you wanted to make it even more lore rich attach it to the super duper secret arcanist organization that I am not going to talk about because spoilers.  Through the course a few missions you would track this item down and retrieve it and once obtained it would be set up in the area Matthias is in and offer you a handful of transmutation options.  Some ideas mirroring Kanai would be:

  • Burn Resources to Transmute a Purple Item into is Masterwork Variant
  • Burn Resources to Transmute a Masterwork Item into is Legendary Variant
  • Burn Resources to Re-Roll Stats on a Legendary
  • Burn Resources to Copy Inscriptions from One Item onto Another

Basically you are giving the players a costly way to have some control over what they can get in the game.  After 171 hours spent in game I am still missing a lot of masterwork weapons with no actual way of targeting them.  For those curious… that list is Close Encounter (Heavy Pistol), Rolling Carnage (Shotgun), Balm of Gavinicus (Grenade Launcher) and finally Endless Siege and The Last Stand (Auto Cannons).  It would be nice to have some way of saving up resources and then dumping them to get a version of that weapon so you could at least unlock to do achievements.

Actual Legendary Contracts

Firstly… Legendary Contracts are a massive misnamed thing given that you are guaranteed a Masterwork at the end of them and I have NEVER gotten a Legendary to drop while doing them.  So I would first off rename them to Masterwork Contracts and leave the frequency at daily.  However then I would slide in another set of contracts that were on a weekly timer that gave you one guaranteed Legendary from completing them.  I would divide them up so that who you were doing the contract for dictated what sort of item you got.  My suggestion would be something like this…

  • Brin – Legendary Component
  • Matthias – Legendary Gear
  • Yarrow – Legendary Weapon

I think that split fits the theme of each of those NPCs pretty well and gives you a weekly shot at getting SOMETHING Legendary that is actually under your control.  I would divide up the new Masterwork Contracts similarly among what sort of item they reward to give better control over those items.

Legendary Chance from Stronghold Completion

Right now a Stronghold rewards you a guaranteed Masterwork ability upon completion…  if you shift that guarantee away from running strongholds and place it instead on the Masterwork Contracts I talked about above you free up the guaranteed item for something useful to finally start dropping.  People bail on the boss kill because after a point nobody needs those Masterwork gear items.  I’ve reached the point where an orange has to be a god roll for me to take note of it, and what I actually need are legendaries.  First tweak I would make is to have the guaranteed loot at the end be a completely random item and not limited to gear… so you could get a weapon or a component.  Next I would shift up some of the details as follows.

  • Grandmaster 1 – 1 Guaranteed Masterwork or better drops, a 50% chance of getting a second drop, and a 10% chance of upgrading any drop to Legendary.
  • Grandmaster 2 – 2 Guaranteed Masterwork or better drops, a 50% chance of getting a third drop, and a 15% chance of upgrading any drop to Legendary
  • Grandmaster 3 – 3 Guaranteed Masterwork or better drops, a 50% chance of getting a forth drop, and a 20% chance of upgrading any drop to Legendary

Additionally I would like to see each chest in the dungeon have one guaranteed masterwork or higher drop just to keep the run interesting.  This has several benefits… firstly you incentivize playing on higher difficulties and also reward players for joining the currently extremely buggy Stronghold Quickplay.  It also keeps players from wanting to bail before you get to the end boss, because it actually drops things that are going to have a reasonable chance of upgrading.

Titanforge Crafting

I am a big proponent of crafting systems that are actually capable of producing useful things for the end game.  Anthem has at low levels a really interesting concept for crafting in that using an item keeps unlocking better versions that you can craft.  This completely dies out when you hit Epic but it doesn’t necessarily have to, and I would borrow another concept this time from World of Warcraft.  Gear has the chance of upgrading in rarity as you craft it, so a blue pattern can occasionally produce a purple item.  The idea is that crafting a purple pattern has a very rare chance of instead producing the Masterwork variant of the weapon again giving you a targeted but very expensive way to burn through resources and gamble on getting something good in the process.  Similarly I would add in the same sort of system to give you a rare chance of upgrading a Masterwork to the Legendary variant upon crafting.  If I had my druthers, I would skew the percentage chance of this happening based on some sort of a scale that keeps track of how often you favor a specific weapon.  Say you use a Defender variant Auto Rifle all the time… you would have a higher chance of proccing an upgrade than if you were trying on a weapon you never use at all.  There is some dark math there, but I am just presenting the idea for someone else to chew on.

Reduce Chaos with Pockets of Control

The idea behind all of these systems is to tamp down the randomness of luck and give players a handful of ways that are under their control that they can feel like they are moving that needle forward.  All of these systems complement loot changes and are not necessarily an either/or scenario.  Running around free play with a harvest set should be as viable way of seeing progression as grinding strongholds over and over…  with the first being a slow and tedious method and the later being a faster and more action oriented.  It gives players choice in how they want to attack moving through the systems, and serves as a great way to remove excess materials from the system like the 1600 epic doodads I have clogging my bank.  Also it would be SUPER NICE if we could just see how many of a thing we have on the vault inventory screen rather than having to go to the forge to see that.

What are some of your thoughts on how to build out systems to add richness to this system?  What do you think of some of my suggestions?  Let me hear from you in the comments.

 

Panel of Knobs

siena

I swear this time change has been significantly rougher than other ones because of the whole giving up energy drinks thing.  That said I am starting to finally feel like I am getting adjusted, and I am trying really hard not to simply replace downing lots of monsters/rockstars a day with downing a bunch of tea.  I still feel like I probably have another full week of feeling miserable before the symptoms start to pass and I can get on with my life.  I do however now suspect that I had been living in a constant state of mild dehydration, so I guess getting away from that is probably a good thing.

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Yesterdays post is probably the most critical I have been of Anthem, and honestly this morning is going to add its own frustrations.  I still very much love the game and I still honestly enjoy it…  but like a family member that is wildly fucking up and making stupid life choices…  I am disappointed because I know they can do better.  Legendaries are way too rare and last night while playing my Ranger main…  I saw the glimmer of lime that indicates that I got another one.  I got super excited, and because you can’t actually see what just dropped until you end the mission I was almost giddy to return from Freeplay and open my present.  Much like the disappointment of opening socks on Christmas morning…  I saw that I got a Legendary Component…  for a class that I was not playing at the time.

So I don’t mind the idea that you can get components for other classes, because at least on some level this helps you build out your other frames.  I’ve picked up things for all three other frames while playing my Ranger, and so long as they were Masterworks I didn’t mind much because I have reached the point where other than a god roll… only a Legendary is going to improve my build.  However there is no reason why a Legendary being as freaking rare as it is should ever drop for an alternate class.  This is just a bad choice…  and as a programmer I get how this sort of thing happens.

siena

This is the best analogy I can give you for making updates in a very complex system.  You essentially have this giant panel of knobs and switches, not all of which are labelled because you were in a rush when you installed the knob in the first place…  to also install about a hundred other knobs.  Your comments made sense at the time you wrote them, but six months later you have no clue what “controls sound temperature” means right now.  As you start tweaking you see the result you were after  without also seeing the thousand other tiny tweaks that you accidentally caused as a result.  So I fully get how we end up in a state where accidental changes make the game feel better, and fixing those bugs removes the joy once again.

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Unfortunately the devs have run out of the good grace that a lot of players have given them, and ultimately as of yesterday they ran out of time.  Division 2 had been looming on the horizon but Ubisoft seemingly released it a day early, giving access to anyone who bought Gold version of the game or higher immediate access to start playing.  For the rest of the world it launches on Friday, and from the sounds of it they have their shit together.  Granted Division 2 is an easier launch than Anthem was because it seems that unlike Destiny 2 they took to heart the lessons they learned while maintaining the original game and have simply iterated on a lot of ideas so that what you see instead is a very polished game state.

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On a personal level… I am still enjoying the game and still playing on a nightly basis.  With the starting of my friend Grace I am quite honestly probably going to continue playing an awful lot as she finishes the story and starts doing the higher tier content.  I know this can be a freaking amazing game, and it is on so many levels.  However Bioware has left the mode of “how do we keep players” and needs to start being concerned about “how do we win back players”.  They had a month to prove that there was enough fun here to keep people from moving on to the Division 2 and as the tone of Reddit has drastically veered off from a positive love fest to joke memes about how bad the loot is…  the community has lost its patience.

To be honest… I get it.  Bugs like the latest one that has been discovered don’t help.  Folks have realized that if you create a new profile and NEVER equip a support item…  your damage is massively increased since apparently it doesn’t take that slot into the damage calculations and since there are no Masterwork or Legendary support items in the game…  you can’t get higher than 38 in that slot.  If you think back to the panel full of knobs analogy…  I get how that happens.  It doesn’t make it feel good though.  Nor did getting a vaunted legendary component.. only to quickly realize it was for the wrong damned class.  Thankfully in my case I have been playing my Interceptor quite a bit so it won’t actually go to waste, but it wasn’t the results I actually wanted.

 

Loot Problems

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Shocking to no one I spent the majority of my weekend playing Anthem again.  It was a bizarre weekend for those of us who spent both Friday night and Saturday playing because some things happened.  Firstly the the 1.0.3 patch that we were expecting to land on the 12th launched a bit early on the 9th around 7 am, meaning when I woke up for the day I had a significant patch to download.  However Friday night…  they did the thing where they accidentally set the loot drops too high and we were getting Masterworks left and right.  Once again the community thought this was intentional…  because ultimately it is what we have been clamoring for all this time.  However with the launch of the patch it was rolled back…  and it has been a bit hard to separate the good of the patch with the bad of having loot nerfed again.

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Anthem has a loot problem, namely that it is way too stingy with Masterworks but more importantly too stingy with Legendaries.  All told I have gotten 4 Legendary drops in what is now 164 hours worth of play time.  Dividing that out it is me seeing a Legendary drop every 41 hours of play time.  There are folks out there who have racked up similar hours and have yet to see a single one.  It was the futile hope of the player base that when we removed Whites and Greens from dropping in post 30 content… that it would have a positive effect of skewing the number of Masterworks and Legendaries we would get.  However as some testing has shown…  essentially every green and white drop was replaced by a purple…  which is awesome if you are just getting started but more disenchant fodder once you enter the hunt for Orange and Lime (that’s what I am deciding to call legendary green).  There is an interesting post that was up on the reddit over the weekend…  where a player farmed 200 drops with +95 luck before and after the patch, linking to the original thread but going to post the data here for reference.

Pre-Patch Numbers

  • Common: 17 items at 8.5%
  • Uncommon: 24 items at 12%
  • Rare: 34 items at 17%
  • Epic: 102 items at 51%
  • Masterwork: 21 items at 10.5%
  • Legendary: 2 items at 1%

Post-Patch Numbers

  • Rare: 28 items at 14%
  • Epic: 163 items at 81.5%
  • Masterwork: 7 items at 3.5%
  • Legendary: 2 items at 1%

The original poster went to the trouble of documenting all of their loot with screenshots, but accounting for randomness it does appear that the Common and Uncommon slots are now just Epic items, which again is great for people getting a start in the game but bad for anyone who has collected a set of epic gear which now happens frighteningly fast under the current loot environment.

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All of that said… I am still enjoying myself and have managed to cobble together gear for three different javelins at this point.  I will probably be starting on the Storm at some point soon once I have spent a bit more time fine tuning the Interceptor.  Right now I have something that I would call a proper build on both the Ranger and the Colossus, and I will be farming content until I reach that point on the Interceptor as well.  How I am getting there…  is because I am exploiting the fact that Strongholds drop a guaranteed ability and Legendary contracts drop a guaranteed component.  While I only have three legendary contracts available to me each day, it seems that Quickplay on Grandmaster 1 difficulty tends to place you into a Legendary Contract more often than not…  and doing this nets you a guaranteed component as well.  Stronghold Quickplay similarly nets you a guaranteed ability drop…  however in my experience this is bugged out the vast majority of the time and not really worth your effort.

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Now I realize there are a lot of players out there that have been having issues with the game nonstop since release.  However for the most part I had not…  until this weekend when I started heavily relying on Quickplay.  That functionality seems to be far more buggy than the rest of the game, and I am wondering if the majority of the issues that players have been encountering have revolved around trying to do this abbreviated path to loot.  Normal Quickplay seemed to stick me in far fewer bugged out instances than it did before the patch, however when something went wrong… it went REALLY wrong often times causing me to have to either go through a loop of being bounced back to the loading screen like the above screenshot… or having to hard kill the client.  Starting Missions, Contracts, Strongholds and Freeplay myself all resulted in predictably smooth gameplay…   however any time I dared to mess with Quickplay I was effectively playing with fire.

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Another byproduct of the patch is that overall Javelin power feels like it has increased, and a side effect of that is that none of the lower difficulty ranks seem to be anywhere near as populated as they were.  Thalen reported issues getting full groups on normal difficulty as he was playing through the story and leveling, and I personally experienced a challenge getting groups at hard difficulty when I was attempting to finish getting the epics on my Interceptor.  So one of two things has happened… either the average player has released that they can now crush Grandmaster 1 thanks to the power scaling, or more likely a lot of players have just stopped messing with the game out of frustration over various issues.  Neither case is great for the game as a whole because it makes it harder and harder to onboard a supply of new players.  Grace will be starting up this week and I will be curious to see how that experience is as a new player and whether or not the matchmaking is as quick as it was for the rest of us that started out.  Side note since I have done this pretty much every week, throwing out a screenshot of the Alliance contribution screen…  I have yet to hit the hard cap for the week.

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One final screenshot of note…  since I played a bit of Warframe this weekend…  I am pretty sure these two chests in the hanger area are a nod to that game.  Anyone has played much Warframe will notice that they have a lot of lockers scattered throughout the ships that look suspiciously similar to these.  Also oddly enough playing a lot of Anthem has somehow made Warframe feel more manageable?  I was not nearly as motion sick playing it yesterday as I have been in the past, and the way too zoomed in perspective did not feel anywhere near as bad as it had after playing the whirling ball of death that is the Interceptor.  I still greatly prefer Anthem, but I have a feeling I could probably start to finally delve into Warframe if I so choose.

So where we are left is that Anthem needs to make a lot of changes quickly.  Chad Robertson the Head of Live Services chimed in over on twitter with some comments to this whole situation.  It spans several tweets so quoting rather than just pasting the thread for ease of consumption.

We appreciate all the feedback from the community on the game. We love the passion and share it. We’re not yet fully happy with the game’s loot behavior either. One of the downsides of moving so fast to improve is that we’re making changes to complex loot systems in several areas and it’s then harder to know how it’s performing. In the next few months, we’re expecting to make significant changes, but we’re starting with some incremental ones so we can better navigate that evolution. Our goal is to ensure the best possible player experience.

So while I appreciate this comment, because they are actually saying words in reference to problems…  which is a step above a lot of studios out there.  The biggest problem that I have with this comment is the fact that he mentions the time frame of “the next few months”.  I am not entirely certain that they have months…  and more likely have weeks to sort this out before players simply give up and file this game in the bin of “check back for year two” like so many of us did with Destiny.  We already see the signs in matchmaking of players dropping out of the system, which is a bad sign.  Additionally the temperature of the Reddit has shifted drastically over the last few days, which was a different situation than the inflammatory YouTube community…  they were positive and hopeful and I think were pinning their hopes on the patch from March 12th fixing a lot of the major issues…  namely with loot drops.  That however has drastically shifted to a community demanding fixes now, because Patch 1.0.3 did not deliver the solace they were hoping for.  While I am still playing the hell out of this game… I cannot say they are necessarily wrong in their frustrations.

There have been two situations where supposedly accidental loot changes have “fixed” the game.  In both times the game felt so much better because it didn’t feel bad when you got another Masterwork with crappy rolls, because you knew another one was right around the corner.  The unbridled excitement of actually seeing a legendary drop, and knowing that this wasn’t a once in a career thing…  made you care less about also getting crappy rolls on it too.  Loot needs to flow like water Diablo 3 style so you can pick through the dross and cobble together something resembling a proper build.  Nothing is more frustrating than getting a bunch of abilities you don’t care about… when you have a specific style of play that you enjoy on your character…  but feel forced to use the Masterworks because the item level increase makes them just flat out superior to using a proper build.  All of this felt less of the case when the loot was accidentally generous…  and the players will not be satisfied until we get something resembling that state again.