Toys R Us Kid



The news about Toys R Us closing is not shocking given the rapid slide over the last month or so…  but still hits me fairly hard.  The truth is I didn’t go to the store that often anymore because quite frankly it was inconvenient.  I did however take the opportunity on a regular occasion to visit them while roaming around other towns.  I’ve been to at least one Toys R Us in San Antonio for awhile while we were down there for Pax South, but in that case it was largely because it was beside a Container Store my wife wanted to go to.  I think ultimately everyone stopped going to the store for their various reasons, and this is yet another step along the chain to the loss of brick and mortar retail as a whole.  It does however make me nostalgic about the Toys R Us from my past.

I found this image online, and decided to use it because more or less this represents the Toys R Us I remember from my childhood.  The closest location for me was roughly an hour from my home and it was a destination location for whenever I had birthday money to spend.  The reason why is that because as a kid it felt like Toys R Us had literally everything we could ever want to play with.  You would go there and see toy lines that you didn’t even know existed, and for the ones you did know about…  they usually had one of every figure in the line along with all of the accessories you had only heard about.


As my passion for Star Wars, GI Joe and the Thundercats turned to Video Games…  Toys R Us became in a way more elevated in my mind as a destination for glory.  During the heyday of the Nintendo Entertainment System they stocked what felt like every single game available for the system.  For those who were not around during this era I found an image online representing how games were presented to us.  There would be essentially the cover of one of the games with maybe some information about it on the backside hanging on a rack with some tickets.  You would dread getting to the store and seeing an empty envelope hanging beneath the game you were looking for.  I remember a few sad trips up to the redemption booth to ask if they maybe had one more copy of whatever game I was wanting somewhere in the back.

Regardless any time I managed to save up enough money to get a new game… I was immediately pestering my parents to see when we could next make the hour long slog to Tulsa and visit Toys R Us.  I remember feeling like the Ticket Booth was a magical portal that had a copy of everything ever in existence…  rather than just the entrance to the stock room.  The core problem with the Toys R Us equation is that they made their name on being the “Biggest Toy Store There Is”.  That meant to keep the promise they needed to stock more of everything to be that go to place when someone can’t find something anywhere else.


The problem is the “Children’s Bargain Town” slogan was mostly a lie, because as soon as I understood the concept of money… I understood that everything cost a little bit more at Toys R Us.  In my market for a good chunk of my childhood there were was a single Toys R Us location.  During the late 80s and early 90s they built a second location in what seemed to be the next up and coming area of town.  However at no point was Toys R Us the bargain option.  On the value for your money spectrum you had Walmart as the cheapest place you could buy anything followed fairly closely by K-Mart and Target being roughly the same.  From there you jumped up to the Mall offerings of Circus World and KB Toys…  and in a far distant end of the spectrum you had Toys R Us.  I remember when Nintendo was king, a game at Toys R Us cost roughly ten dollars more than a game at Walmart for example.

Since they could not compete on price, they had to compete on the sheer nonsense amount of stuff they carried…  but in the mid to late 90s that equation changed to.  They started clearing out sections of the store to hollow them out and make room for the Babies R Us Franchise.  In our store this meant that no longer did they carry products that you had never heard of…  or in most cases even the entire product line for the ones you had heard of.  Also it was around this time that the Video Game section was ejected from is prime real estate and shoved into a cubical in the far corner of the store the furthest location from the door.  Additionally they shifted away from the ticket system and started carrying far fewer items meaning that they lost their sheer selection advantage over other stores.  I remember trying Toys R Us first a few times like when Final Fantasy III (VI) came out…  but finding them completely out of stock and having to move on and ultimately pick it up from Target.


As they lost selection advantage it felt like they started pushing more and more for product advantage by strong arming producers into creating a plethora of “exclusive” lines available only at Toys R Us.  The problem is that this was ultimately a losing battle as well because for example in my metro area at our height we had 2 Toys R Us locations.  On the other hand we have around twenty Walmart stores and about half that number of  Targets.  If you expand that out to the United States as a whole…  the amount of products that discount retailers purchase and stock as compared to specialty toy retailers has to be staggering.  So following on the heels quickly similarly exclusive product offerings started showing up in Target and then not long after Walmart diluting whatever advantage you once had.  Sure you could get a collector into your store to buy that one product, but it was likely they were ONLY buying that and then moving onto another location where the money stretched a little further.

The up-swell of GameStop and Best Buy during the 90’s put a nail in the coffin in product offering advantage Toys R Us might have had on the video games front as well.  Why would you go to Toys R Us for what was already a limited offering from their glory days… when you could just go to GameStop and find the return of carrying every available product offering for each console?  Every one of these missteps hurt Toys R Us long before online retailing came in to take the final chomp out of it.  Unfortunately the “biggest toy store there is” crown now belongs to Amazon.  Why would you drive from store to store to find the one action figure you want…  when you can just place an order online and get it shipped to your door in two days time?


On the video game side we have a wide array of digital store fronts allowing us to plunk down our money…  and get a game within a few minutes rather than needing to throw pants on and drive to the store.  For me personally the convenience is king over anything else.  I could in theory purchase some of the games cheaper in physical form from Amazon and have the discs shipped to me in two days.  However I would rather just have the game installed and always “on tap” rather than needing to fiddle for the disc or figure out which case I shoved which game into.  In truth I am having a hard time remembering what the last game I purchased in physical form was.  More than likely it was World of Warcraft Cataclysm collectors edition, and even then only because they had not yet started offering digital collectors editions of their games.  From Pandaria onwards I happily gobbled up that digital CE and went on with my life rather than trying to hope and pray that Amazon would ship the game on time for me to hit the midnight start.

On consoles it is even more important to me personally to have games digitally, because when I take my switch or 3DS somewhere I don’t want to juggle a bunch of awkward cartridges…  nor do I want some sort of a “cozy” that I carry around with me to keep them organized.  I want the ability to flip to the game I want, hit a button and boot directly into it with no muss or fuss.  Since at least 2007 I have been 99.9% digital in my game purchases, and each one of those sales is in theory one that could have gone to a retailer like Toys R Us.  I am part of the problem and I am absolutely part of why this store is closing.

I have a deep nostalgia about my experiences with Toys R Us as a kid, but the adult version never quite lived up to those memories.  While I would like to think I am still a Toys R Us kid at heart and can break into song singing the theme…  I never had kids of my own to continue the tradition with.  Additionally shopping at the physical store is inconvenient and requires a trip to a completely different area of town than I visit on a regular basis.  Before the second store closed a few years ago… I used to go to that one occasionally because it was easy to get in and out of without a lot of hassle.  I remember semi-regularly visiting when I was looking for Lego Minifigures blind bags and even finding some ones stashed from an ancient series.

The problem is…  I maybe went there once a month if that and prior to the blind bags… it had been maybe five years since I had darkened the door of that store.  I will miss the Toys R Us from my memories, and this absolutely feels like one of those “end of an era” moments.  However it will join the same memory bin where Babbages, Software Etc, Media Play, Hastings, Circuit City, Computer City, Comp USA, KB Toys, Circus World and countless other stores I liked going to… but no longer exist.  Part of getting older is remembering fondly things that don’t exist anymore…  and I guess after a decline that started decades ago…  I am okay with adding Toys R Us to that stack.




Nergal Reaver



One of the more interesting things about Monster Hunter World is how your perspectives shift as you level through the game and ultimately get better at it.  There was a time during the pre-launch demo that I considered Great Jagras to be challenging, and now that encounter doesn’t even bear mentioning.  I’ve beaten that monsters several times before it even had a chance to run anywhere as a way of testing out new weapons.  Similarly I remember a time when Tobi Kadachi invoked fear in me, and now it is just a chill electrical squirrel lizard that I largely ignore unless I specifically need parts from it.  Similarly I used to run from Legiana and now…  if it really wants to start some shit I will end it.

So the question is… what changed?  Ultimately the answer is that I did.  Sure I have better gear but also I have a better understanding of each of those fights.  I also understand how the higher progressed players are always willing to take on whatever happens to be that fight that you are currently considering difficult.  I remember being terrified of Anjanath but just recently farmed it to help folks get tickets for the Aloy appearance and bow event.  It is all a matter of perspective and each time you move up in the game you reach a new plateau of difficulty… that tends to make everything below it pale in comparison.


This moves us forward to last nights activities.  Nergigante was one of those encounters that I never thought would ever reach a point where I was comfortable with it.  For me at least it was an extreme challenge to get through this fight when I needed it to move the story forward.  In the meantime I have been fighting other elder dragons, that in truth are way more annoying than Nergi or at least have the potential to be more annoying.  One of the weapons I have wanted in my elder dragon slaying arsenal is a Nergal Reaper…  which does some dragon elemental damage but more importantly has high elderseal.  This unfortunately would require me to farm Nergi… and that is just what I did last night.

Instead of throwing myself at this encounter solo… I decided on the nonsense option.  That means I threw myself at SOS roulette over and over until I farmed the components I needed from Nergigante.  This also means that there were more than a few times when a single newer player used up all of our faints and I failed at my mission.  However even then…  I walked away with a point of pride because during none of the MANY times I did this last night…  did I actually faint myself.  I managed to get in… deal significant amounts of damage with my new friend the poison blade and get out each time Nergi’s gaze turned to me.

Once again I had climbed to the top of the pile through repetition and experience…  and even more importantly perspective.  I’ve now fought things way harder than Nergigante and as a result the fight while mechanically the same seemed way easier.  This is the aspect of Monster Hunter World that I think I like more than any, the feeling that I grew as a player more than my character did.  Sure I am methodical when it comes to tackling new content, and sure I seem to be moving at a snails pace…  but I feel like I am continuing to move the needle forward.  Nergi has now entered the realm of things I feel comfortable farming…  which is good I guess since my friend Grace is sitting at that step in the process meaning the cycle continues.

The Stronghold Chasm



Last night I fell down an unexpected rabbit hole.  For a few weeks I have known that my good friend PizzaMaid has been dabbling in Neverwinter, but I did not actually know that we were apparently all playing on the same server until last night.  When I got upstairs to nom my noms and check into the world, I saw that she was streaming neverwinter.  Joining her were my friends and fellow Pom’s Wolfy, Jaedia and Starspun all logging in to run a dungeon in game.  We had some confusion earlier in the week as to which server we were all on, and I thought I remembered the name Dragon at some point.  Apparently yes we are all in fact on Dragon which allows us to do interesting things together.

I had my own renaissance of Neverwinter back in January as I installed and booted up the game on a whim.  For years I had been getting press releases about the game to my blogging/podcasting email and I guess over time it built up a desire to log in and see how things were going.  What I found when I got there was an extremely fun and also insanely intricate game…  that I struggled to grasp.  I already thought there was a wide chasm of features and functionalities that I did not quite understand…  but I was apparently only on the rim of said chasm.  Last night we full well opened the maelstrom and hopped right in.


One of the activities were partook of was forming a guild, so as of last night the Owlbear Preservation Society lives in Neverwinter with the aforementioned members as the inaugural group.  This unlocked the ability to start messing around with our Stromhold which is essentially the equivalent of the Guild Hall in Guild Wars 2.  Now I had been carrying around items that assisted in the function of a guild hall for ages, likely since the game originally launched.  The problem is I never actually had a guild to spend them on… so I spent the first few minutes of my time in our stronghold trying to figure out what to do with them.

It turns out you feed them to the mimic friend that we are all taking a screenshot with, and he then applies them to the various costs associated with building things back to their grand status.  I thought Guild Wars 2 had a pretty deep rabbit hole when it came to a guild hall… but this one might be deeper.  The problem is at this moment we have only barely scratched the surface and unlike Guild Wars 2… there are no really easy gains that can be applied and instead everything seems to be pretty slow to acquire.  Right now we are being directed to build a lumberyard, which seems to be capable of producing at least some of the materials we need to start crafting things.


Everything that is flagged with a green icon has a placard in front of it allowing us to build it.  I am guessing everything marked with a grey X is something that will eventually unlock… once we have built up a certain number of things in our Stromhold.  This is a really deep well we have fallen into and I am not entirely certain we will really make much headway.  The collection of items seems to be through “daily quests” of a sort that reset every 9 hours in the Stronghold.  I will not be playing actively enough to do these on cool down, however considering most of the activities are pretty chill I am likely to do a set of them each time I log in.

The biggest problem we have currently is the fact that there are only five of us and this seems to be a design feature that is intended to be sped through by mass amounts of players doing these and funding the building coffers.  I have no clue how wide this madness will spread, but I somehow doubt we will have a mass influx of players like we have had when a new game launches.  I might be wrong, but I am guessing this is going to be a pretty low key grind that takes place over several months.


As far as the rest of my play session, I managed to ding 41 and now that we have our stronghold… I can see that the level cap is 70.  The Stronghold itself is populated with tons of heroic encounters designed for a balanced group of players to go out and tackle which is fairly slick.  We downed a few of them and failed one major event largely because we didn’t really know what the purpose was until it was a bit too late.  It was a really fun night of nonsense and it has sparked my desire to poke my head into Neverwinter more often now that I am actually part of a guild.

Trapping Anjie


Watch PSO2 Nonsense because Sol requested it from Belghast on
Last night when I got home I fired up the stream and played a little Phantasy Star Online 2.  Over the weekend Sol made a comment over my Stream discord that I really should be streaming as I played…  I assume so she could see what the game was about.  The core problem with that is I am guessing based on some of the things I have seen is that the early game is very much not entirely like the late game.  One of the reasons why I loved PSO back in the Dreamcast days is that it was essentially “Space Diablo”.  Essentially you had a randomly assembled corridor dungeon crawler set on a series interesting tilesets that involved killing everything and getting loot drops as your reward.  This core design loop seems to be in place in PSO2, and while I absolutely knew what I was getting myself into…  I am not sure if most other gamers would view the title the same way I do.

There are certain aspects of the game that feel very dated from the relatively chunky terrain to the fact that everything is essentially a tightly closed in circuit.  Sure you can do more with your terrain than you used to be able to do…  like jump…  I don’t think you could jump in the first PSO.  This is actually used in many cases to hide secrets in the verticality of the level design… but as is also seen in a sequence in my VOD from last night it adds to frustration because the jumping mechanics are also relatively low fidelity.  There is a point where I am trying to jump between the individual islands of rock in a chain surrounded by lava, and I am constantly failing to hit the terrain at exactly the right spot allowing me to hop up onto the surface.  While the game is only five years old at this point… but in some ways it feels older.

One thing of note… it took me a bit to realize that my microphone was muted so for the first little bit of the VOD I am completely silent.  I was talking up a storm, describing the various things I was encountering…  all wondering why the folks watching were not responding.  Then I noticed the blinking red light on my Yeti telling me that I had muted it at some point.  I think I have this revelation about ten minutes into the video where I correct it and apologize.  I am not really sure how often I will be playing PSO2 but I am nonetheless glad I went through the process of installing it.  It is a fun game and the core mechanical loop of killing sci-fi monsters for fun and profit is one that I enjoy greatly.  Just not all that sure how fun it is to watch me doing this thing.


The tail end of my evening was spent in Monster Hunter World hanging out with my friend Grace and working on getting her the last few tickets needed for The Proving quest.  I had originally hoped to grab Thalen as well and help him out, but he was nowhere to be seen last night.  Generally speaking I am assuming he had pressing family matters, which I hear is a thing when you are a parent.  I mean I sometimes have pressing family matters too with my cats, but they are on I feel a completely different plateau of general needs.  Usually what I am dealing with is Kenzie prancing around in front of me trying to make sure I see the rubber band that she just dropped on my desk…  that she wants me to fling out into the hall so she can chase it.  If you ever hear the sound of a rubber band zinging through the air while I am streaming…  then I am doing precisely that.

The whole Anjanath farm thing had a side benefit in that I had really wanted to create Flammensucher the crazy flame axe that passes for a sword and shield.  During our final run of the night I managed to get the last of my fangs allowing me to craft it… and I have to say while I love it…  I am having a little bit of buyers remorse.  The problem is not the negative affinity, because it deals more than enough fire damage to make up for that.  The core problem so far is that it has completely horrible durability and I got down to orange sharpness while killing ten Gajau for an investigation.  I am used to being able to fight the boss through two changes of venue before dropping out of blue sharpness…  so this is a significant change for me to get used to.  The positive however is that the fire damage is still potent regardless of the base sharpness.


At some point I need to get back on the wagon and work towards downing the final boss of the game.  I’ve been sitting on that step since this weekend and have yet to really give it an attempt.  I think that is in part because I have a screenshot directory full of things that look like the above…  with me failing various elder dragon fights.  Granted I tend to fail upwards and learn from my mistakes, but it also takes a lot out of me.  This combined with the fact that I have zero burning desire to “finish the game” means I tend to languish around in the doldrums leading up to final boss fights most of the time.  My friends like Void/GrnMushroom have a deep burning desire to defeat games that propels them forward into throwing themselves against fights until they eventually batter them down.  Me… I just like to wander around and constantly find myself actively avoiding finishing things…  even in a situation like this where I know it is just the beginning of a whole new playstyle.

I do however want to uncap my level…  at least until 49 where I have to fight another roadblock…  and start farming elder dragons for bits and pieces to make interesting sets and weapons.  I really need to start throwing myself at Nergigante until he is no big deal and something I can down regularly.  The weird thing is…  I would far rather throw myself into the nonsense that is SOS Roulette most of the time than actually solo something in this game.  I am not sure what it is about soloing that feels bad to me, even though my palico does an amazing job of tanking the bosses and keeping me alive with a constant string of vigor wasps.  It just somehow feels better when I am running around at minimum with another player, and at best with a full party of varied weapons.

Sure it gets frustrating when folks are fainting and there is nothing you can do about it…  it even causes me to curse very loudly sometimes…  but the fights are interesting because I am having to deal with all sorts of random elements.  This weekend when I was attempting Teostra I was starting to feel like I needed to stop calling myself a positivity gamer given how much I was cursing.  However Sita hung out with me and we Duo’d the fight…  but even that took a few attempts.  Basically Monster Hunter World feels best when it is a game played with other players be they friends or completely random strangers.  As a result I doubt I will stop the madness of SOS Roulette any time soon.


Hiragana Boss



Saturday night on the Podcast we talked a bit about the things that were announced during the recent Nintendo Direct.  This caused me to veer off topic a bit and talk about Phantasy Star Online 2 that was announced during the Japanese only segment of the show.  There is apparently a new version of the game coming to the Nintendo Switch which I guess makes sense given that the game currently runs on the PS Vita as well as PC and PS4.  Since the Switch is a region free console… it made me wonder if maybe just maybe we would finally get to play this game.  Unfortunately though there would still be the language barrier and I somehow doubt I will be learning to read and understand Japanese before the release of the game.


Phantasy Star Online is an important game to me, because more or less I consider it to be my first real MMO.  I remember playing it for hours on the Dreamcast hooked in over the rather crappy dial up connection, eventually replacing it with the network adapter and a 50 ft ethernet cable run into my office.  I was serious about this game, enough so that I had a keyboard hooked up through a janky adapter to allow me to communicate with other players more easily.  If you are curious about where this screenshot comes from, there is another post on Aggronaut talking about getting the PC based Phantasy Star Online Blue Burst up and running.  That was another nonsense weekend project that I did some time ago and was able to flip back into playing a Cast Ranger almost as though no time had passed.

I have known for awhile that there was a way to play Phantasy Star Online 2 on the PC and that there was even the option of a good english patch.  However I was under the false assumption that it was complete insanity to get up and running.  It was around this point that Thalen reminded me that I did in fact go through some absolute insanity to get the Chinese exclusive Monster Hunter Online up and running on a whim, and that surely nothing else would be that amount of silliness.  I mean for that setup I had to fake a Chinese regional ID card…  so he had a point.  Probably unintentionally he started a thread in my mind that ultimately lead to me figuring out how to get PSO2 up and running yesterday morning shortly after editing the podcast.


The truth is it is pretty straight forward.  You need a couple of things to get it working and I will quickly run down those and how to actually make it work.  I highly suggest using Chrome for the right click translate option on pages… which will get you part of the way but will not help at all for images.

  • Direct X 9.0c – if you do not for some reason already have this.
  • A Sega ID – will talk about this more in detail.
  • Phantasy Star Online 2 Setup – straight forward install that is unfortunately in japanese
  • PSO2 Tweaker – assists in configuration and applies english patches
  • You Need 53 GB of Space – this game is huge
  • Choose Ship 2 – this is the unofficial English community

The Hiragana Boss


The most crucial step here is setting up your Sega ID.  There are numerous resources that walk you through the process, for example I watched this video to get me started.  The truth is google translate can get you through most of this, but as the final step you are going to have to face what I call the Hiragana Boss.  The page has a captcha on it, but said captcha is not surprisingly in hiragana given that this is a Japanese market exclusive game.  They present you a sequence of handwritten characters and you need to respond in kind…  and for me at least I do not have my keyboard or windows configured to do this.  This mean’t I had to leverage a website that offered a keyboard and the ability to copy and paste characters from it.

I thought I was reasonable at pattern matching, and managed to get through the equivalent Chinese boss while doing my Monster Hunter Online nonsense.  However what makes this one so much more difficult is that people write characters slightly different than the perfect keyboard version.  Look at your own handwriting, when you create a lowercase h for example…  it is always going to be significantly different than a serif or sans-serif h on a keyboard.  It took me roughly fifteen attempts before I finally got the character sequence correct with a lot of trying to figure out where the “signpost” character was or which “L with an accent” was the one I needed to match up to the one I was seeing in handwriting.


If you can pass this test however you are essentially there.  The install itself was relatively straight forward and my only suggestion is to ignore the text on the install buttons and just pretend it is any other windows installer.  The final step is to install the PSO2 Tweaker pictured above and let it patch your game.  It runs through a long file system check and then prompts you asking if you want to install the English patch, which you likely do given that you have gotten this far in the guide.  The only thing of note is… this is a volunteer fan patch and as a result not every possible instance of Japanese is swapped to English, however from my experience the critical path seems to be allowing you to progress and even enjoy the story bits.  If you run into issues there is a fairly active Discord community where you can ask specific questions.


If everything went smoothly, you will be staring at the Character creation screen in no time.  I wound up creating a Cast Ranger like I played in PSO on Dreamcast, but you have a bunch of options that did not exist back then including the Summoner class.  At some point I plan on playing other things, but for the moment I am having a lot of fun with the Ranger which has a much wider skillset than the original.  Right now I have three weapons that I can swap back and forth between… the very familiar Assault Rifle, a semi-sniper/semi-rocket-launcher “Launcher” weapon, and an energy gunblade of sorts that lets me upper cut mobs into the air… and shoot them before they land.  I believe Ashgar was going to also do this nonsense and had planned on playing a Hunter so I will be curious to hear what his experience was as well.


For a game that released in 2012 it still holds up graphically pretty well.  There are scenes like the above screenshot that are just gorgeous…  and then there are scenes that absolutely feel a little dated.  In some ways I think the fact that they have tried to make the game feel so familiar to PSO1 players is what is holding the graphics back.  It is very much the same sort of game where you explore a closed circuit map that is connected to other maps by for lack of a better term zone borders.  If you played the original game it will be deeply familiar to you, and if you didn’t…  it is going to seem a bit limited.  So far there seems to be a big boss battle at the end of every “zone” which maps up pretty closely to the way the original PSO was as well.  I remember fighting some big dragon thing at the end of the forest area for example, and this time around it is a giant rock ape thing.


The game seems to have a ton of systems that I do not fully understand.  For example in the above image you see a blue and a green icon hovering above the ground.  These are harvest points…  but I am not entirely certain yet what I do with the things I harvest from them.  Some appear to be materials and others just ended up being food that I could get a buff from.  All in all though I had a lot of fun yesterday and now have PSO2 installed on both my gaming rig upstairs and my laptop downstairs.  I particularly like that you can shift the ranger into over the shoulder shooter mode which seems to fit most of the weapons available for that class turning it into a corridor shooter .  The nonsense wings I am wearing are from augments that the game gave me…  and thankfully the later upgrades I found were a little more low key.

I am sure over the coming weeks I will talk more about this game because the story is interesting…  but also a little crazy in that Persona series sort of way.  This morning I largely planned on writing out how I went about getting  connected for all the folks out there that are not a big fan of digging for information in YouTube videos.  It is not as silly a process as I feared and in truth other than the Hiragana boss it really is no harder than getting signed up for any other online account.  If I had even the most rudimentary understanding of Japanese it would have been significantly easier.  I have a feeling Ashgar for example… who has actually taken some courses will be able to breeze through the part that stalled me for a bit.  So far it appears to be a really fun game that is free to play, and while I see places where I could be spending money I have not really encountered the need to (nor do I think I can even figure out how to put money on my account).


Certification Get



This morning I really do not have much to talk about so you are getting a super non sequitur image.  Last night I came home, ate some pizza we ordered in, messed with this image for my twitch profile, played a little boy band simulator, and then finally crashed around 9 pm.  This entire week has been odd for me because it has felt like nothing was quite normal.  Monday was a super meeting packed day because I knew I would be in training from Tuesday to Thursday and today will also be a super meeting packed day because anything I could not do on Monday I shifted to Friday.

My key focus for the last few days has been trying to cram as much information as I could about the ITIL framework into my brain in preparation for the certification exam that I took yesterday.  Originally the plan was to take the exam shortly after lunch at 1:35 pm giving me a little bit of time to chill but also largely be in a very fresh state for the test.  The problem is when we first tried to sign me up for the online proctoring the site was having a lot of issues.  It turns out that while we got a voucher to pay for the exam…  they didn’t actually book it and as we started trying to log in to take the test it turned out I still had yet to lock in a time.  The soonest time available was at 4:15 giving me several hours to just kill.

Luckily the training company was a home converted into office space and with it a couple of super comfy couches that I proceeded to chill out on for a few hours.  During that time the trainer and I got to talking and found out that he too was mostly an MMO gamer and was also a long time raid tank.  So for roughly three house we shot the shit and talked about the things we enjoyed playing, and our experiences in raiding and how they ultimately translate to the business world.  Guild leadership and raid leadership were ultimately the things that convinced me that I could in fact handle the fact that work kept pushing me closer and closer to management, so it was a super interesting conversation.  I am wondering if maybe it would be something worth talking about on AggroChat.

The mishaps did not end with the timeframe shifting however.  When you take one of these online proctored tests they have you download this client that ultimately ceases control of your machine while you are taking the test.  Apparently it also monitors like every aspect of your system, and about halfway through the test the proctor warned me that my laptop was about to lose power and that I should pause and plug it in.  Thing is… it was plugged in, so I had to scramble and try a bunch of different wall outlets until I found one that was actually working.  Thankfully I finished with plenty of time to spare allowing me to go back through all of the questions a second time before finally submitting my answers.

The ITIL certification requires that you get 65% and on a 40 question exam that ends up being that you can ultimately miss 14 questions and still be fine.  I ended up missing 5 questions giving me an equivalent percentage grade of 87.5%.  However upon finishing the exam… I damned near had a heart attack because the first number I saw was 35…  for the number of questions I got right.  However my brain immediately assumed that was my percentage and that I had failed completely.  The other person going through training at the same time as me apparently missed 4 so that means both of us passed easily.  Largely all I cared about was passing because my predecessor failed his first time and I did not want to return from class in that state.

It’s weird when your entire week has been consumed with one activity… and then it is finally over without a whole lot of fanfare.  I largely came home and collapsed on the sofa and spent a good chunk of the evening fighting drowsiness.  When my wife said she was about ready for bed around 9…  I opted to follow her and while I had intended on sitting in bed and playing Monster Hunter 4U on the 2DS XL I was asleep before the news came on at 10.  I also slept solidly throughout the night and woke up about 10 minutes before the alarm went off.  In theory I needed the rest because it was a crazy ride of a week.  Next week however I promise that this will in fact return to being a gaming blog.

Moogle Charro Suit



Last night I had all of the intent in the world to come home and stream some Monster Hunter World nonsense.  Wednesday is likely going to be one of those days I stream because it is a relative dead spot for the rest of the Moogle’s Pom team.  When I got home from training however I was just mentally toast and was not sure if I could handle non-streaming interaction…  let alone being “on” while playing something.  As a result I slipped into the comfortable chill of Final Fantasy XV.  As you can see I have decided to go with a completely different outfit for Noct because the Mariachi Charro suit with a Moogle Riding a Chocobo on the back is freaking amazing.  I’ve always thought the classic Mariachi attire looked classy as fuck, and since FFXV is sorta this weird homage to the Americas it sorta fits.  I also swapped the Regalia paint job for a classic two tone with black/gold rims and the black and white interior.

This is mostly going to not be a post about Final Fantasy XV but I had some screenshots to break up the blocks of text so I am using them.  I’ve been in ITILv3 certification classes and it is simply a lot of information to consume and remember.  What is making things more difficult is that some of our practices at work go against the norm and even attribute completely different meanings to some of the terms I am going to have to be tested on.  Some of my peers talked about just being mentally toast when they got out of class each night and that is precisely what I am going through.  We’ve taken six quizzes, a 40 term vocabulary test, a bunch of brain dump review sessions…  and today is the day.  We have a handful of study activities and a practice test…  and then finally at 1:35 to be exact I take the online proctored certification test.


I spent some time reading last night and watched a few study guide videos…  but I could tell that no more data was going to fit into my brain that evening.  Its almost as though there is some maximum buffer of learning that I have reached each day and only sleep manages to come along and clear it out.  At this point we have covered probably well over 100 specific terms that we are going to need to understand and differentiate from other super similar terms.  It is not like my job is on the line if I don’t pass…  but I will catch massive hell because my predecessor did not when everyone else that went through a giant class together did.  So far I have made roughly 80% on all of the quizzes so I am trending to be able to make the minimum of 65% needed to pass the test and get certification.  Ultimately I will feel better once I have taken the practice exam and seen how I do on that.


In the meantime…  I am ready for some normalcy to return to my week.  I’ve been in training each day since Tuesday with my entire focus being absorbing as much raw information as I can.  Coming back to work Friday and doing normal tasks is going to feel super odd given that I have been holed up in a classroom for the last three days.  It honestly may not be until the weekend that I have decompressed enough from this experience to be able to interact with other human beings on a regular basis.  I have stuff that I ultimately want to do in both Final Fantasy XIV and Monster Hunter World, and I have not even had a chance to check in and see what the weeklies are this time around.  I know the Wiggler quest ends soon, and then shortly after that the Anjanath Horizon Zero Dawn quest.  I need to make sure that everyone I know has the bits from that quest they still need before it poofs.

On the Final Fantasy XIV front I need to burn through the rest of the main story quest so that I can unlock the rest of the dungeons needed for Expert Roulette.  I would really like to get into a comfortable pattern of coming home and doing the few daily roulettes for bookrocks in order to catch up gear wise.  I would also really love to grab some people I trust and run through Rabanastre so I can get some quick explanations of the fight before I start tanking it on a regular basis.  I could in theory run it as Samurai, but I am not sure if my gear is good enough to get in there on that class.


Finally last night I spent a little bit of time downstairs in bed playing around with my 2DS XL.  Firstly I have to say how much better I like using this than the 3DS XL.  For whatever reason the screen on the 3DS always screwed with my eyes.  I could never actually see the 3D paralax effect and as a result everything just looked fuzzy even with the 3D settings flipped all the way to the lowest settings.  As a result the 2DS screen looks so much crisper and as a result every game just feels better.  The other awesome side effect is the fact that it is so much lighter, and also qualifies as a “New” device meaning I can finally put some of my favorite SNES games on it.  I managed to catch Monster Hunter 4U on sale for $8…  but sadly at the time of posting this it has gone back up to its full price.  I started that game and already like it more than I did Generations, and I managed to defeat the Well-Done Steak boss on my first attempt because of figuring it out from World.  These games feel so fresh and new… and I have to think a lot of my reluctance to play them had to have been how much the screen frustrated my eyes.


One Big Download



Last night was mostly an evening filled with frustration…  at least the tail end of the night.  I’ve talked about this before but I have a slightly different setup from most people in that all of my gaming stuff is upstairs in my office with both consoles and my real gaming pc hooked up to my 4k television up there.  My wife needed to grade last night which is traditionally a downstairs activity and after about an hour and some change I felt sorta bad being upstairs while she was downstairs…  when I was technically playing something I could play on the laptop.  So I stopped the stream and headed downstairs to in theory chill on the sofa.

The core problem with that idea is that FFXV is a 75 gigabyte download which took legitimately a couple of hours to download over the wireless.  However once we reached what I thought would be the end of the download…  it stalled out for thirty minutes with zero activity.  In the past when this has happened I have paused downloads in steam and restarted…  and then things wake the hell up and finish up.  That was not at all what happened this time however and the game decided to start downloading everything again.  So when I finally gave up last night we were about 40 gb into download number two…  and I have zero clue if it actually finished over night.


According to Steam I have spent 72 minutes playing Final Fantasy XV and for the most part it feels great and looks amazing as a PC game.  There are some weird hiccups where the game would freeze but I was not sure if that was part of the whole combat engine or not.  It would always happen after I did a big attack so maybe this is something that also happened on the PS4 that I am simply not remembering.  As far as the actual feel of controlling the game with mouse and keyboard… it feels amazing other than the menu interactions.  What it seems like you would logically do is select the menu item with your mouse, but that is not at all what happens.  Instead you have to sort of scroll through the menus with WASD or a super awkward move the mouse in a general direction to pick an option scheme.

Combat however feels way more fluid for me using a mouse and keyboard than a controller which is ultimately the mode of the game I am going to be interacting with the most.  This is one of those times that I am super thankful that the game is constantly prompting you which button you should push when, because it allowed me to drop right into the game and start playing rather than trying to memorize the keybindings.  The biggest thing that just feels instantly better thought is basic sword attacks because I always felt like I was never quite dexterous enough with my fingers to do all of the interactions I needed to do.  I was constantly missing blocks and parries which are things that I just sorta now do instinctively with a mouse.


I didn’t make it super far into the game because of the nonsense I tried to do with the laptop, but I did make it to Gauldin Quay which moves the story forward a tiny bit.  That said I was absolutely more into doing the side quests than I ever cared about the main story.  All in all I am happy I wound up picking this up for PC and look forward to making it further than I did on the console.  This is mostly going to be a downstairs and chilling game for me, and the demo performed well on my laptop.  Sure it lost a lot of detail that I get on the full gaming rig, but it will be fine for running around and slashing things to death.

Wiggle Wiggle Wiggle



Last night was all about Monster Hunter World as I had made plans ahead of time to run around with Grace and do the various events.  First out of the gate we worked on the Wiggler quest that grants this truly questionable helm.  It truly is the stuff of nightmares and honestly would have been a pain in the butt had we not realized that you could register multiple wiggler catches at once.  We quickly fell into a pattern of sneaking up on the wigglers and getting one in our sights… then coordinating over voice a 3, 2, 1, GO! to capture both at the same time.  Sure it took three shots at the quest to get all of the tickets needed to craft this monstrosity but here we go…  I have a goofy helm that I wasted some zenny on crafting and will likely never actually use.

From there we spent some time doing the “The Proving” quest that involves killing a fairly beefy high rank Anjanath.  We ran into all sorts of problems with PSN connectivity which made it significantly more challenging than normal.  Throughout the night I kept getting disconnected from the quest with a “Left Quest” message.  At first Ash suggested that Grace was just going off and leaving us… but I think it was more than that considering Ash and Mor both got punted out of the mission after having successfully joined with no ability to get back in.  We struggled through two kills and called the process done for the moment moving on to other things.


Grace is in that awkward in-between step where she is officially a High Rank player… but still is using a significant amount of low rank gear.  Considering her next quest is the Pink Rathian, that is probably something she needs to fix and as a result we farmed Zorah Magdaros a bit for parts.  I am still to this day wearing the Zorah gloves for the hidden element ability, and honestly its an easy farm considering the event mostly just finishes itself.  Now when I was farming this I SOS Rouletted my way into full groups that allowed us to quickly complete the event which for those who need Zorah bits is a completely viable option.  The biggest challenge I ran into… and why I kept running it was that Zorah is super stingy with gems which are unfortunately needed for the gauntlets.

As far as starter High Rank gear goes… I am way more in favor of the Alpha Bone set because it has a lot of good stuff as well as 10 fire, 10 dragon and I believe 10 lightning resistance.  All total to craft the full Bone Armor set you need…  12 Quality Bone, 10 Monster Bone +, 2 Warped Bone, 3 Monster Bone L, 3 Boulder Bone, 3 Coral Bone, and 3 Ancient Bone.  Basically you need to kill a few big monsters and run amok harvesting bone piles in most of the zones to get it.  The end result gives you a set with Health Boost, 3x Attack Boost, 3x Entomologist, Slugger, Horn Maestro, and Master Fisher.  Not all of those are winners…  but Entomologist can be super useful if you are farming bug parts.  All of that said I still think its a great starter set for High Rank shenanigans.


The highlight of the evening however was getting a Tailrider Safari with Grace’s Neutrino and PizzaMaid’s Aria.  Normally I just send Tailriders out from my room back in Asteria, but for this combination I made the trek to the Research Base so I could get the cutscene.  I am also realizing that I need to trade cards with Pizza and Grace because neither of them are actually using these outfits anymore.  The PS4 always has a bit of a delay when you attempt to take a screenshot so I am super happy that I was able to catch a decent one of this party going out to fight.

Tonight however I am thinking about kicking back and streaming some Final Fantasy XV on the PC… all depending on how well today goes.  I will be in training and in theory will have homework tonight because I am going through one of those cram session courses.  As a result my brain may be too broken to do anything interesting.

Go Team Moogle’s Pom!



I want to lead off this mornings post with a little bit of exciting news.  So over the last few weeks you have no doubt noticed the Twitch madness I have been involved in.  That is probably a tale for a different day, but I am trying to stream significantly more often than I used to.  I even have a lot of proper streaming infrastructure set up now including MrAggroBot my fearless chat bot who is getting an adorable avatar that the amazing AmmostArt is currently working on.  I have no clue what is going on but I think partially it is due to the fact that I have a super supportive community of folks from various sources that occasionally pop their heads in and say hi.  One of the main reasons why I don’t play a ton of single player titles is that they end up feeling like solitary experiences.  Sure when I am in super turtle mode that works, but most of the time I want to share my nonsense with someone out there.  In the MMORPG world… that is my guild and when I stream a single player game…  twitch chat starts to feel a bit like guildchat.

For awhile now I have been a member of the Moogle’s Pom Tavern Discord, largely because it already had a significant number of my friends collected in one place.  I knew it was home, much in the same way as the AggroChat slack because I found myself saying good morning to everyone there each day.  Now I mostly knew of the Moogle’s Pom Tavern because of their official/unofficial stream team.  Official in the sense that it is a fixed thing and invite only, but unofficial as I believe none of the members are Partners and cannot actually create an official team in the eyes of Twitch.  With my increase in streaming focus and frequency, I am pleased to announce that I have been invited to the team and now have a banner on my twitch profile talking about it.  I am super happy about this revelation because it truly is an amazing group of people and that I am exceedingly happy to be part of.

For those unfamiliar, a lot of the names are ones you have already seen me talk about or host on Twitch…  but here goes a full listing (alphabetized because it would have bugged me otherwise).

I highly suggest you check out all of these fine folks and give them a follow.  I’ve got them all in my Auto-Hosting rotation so chances are you might see them if you are checking my twitch page with any frequency.  The above image is of course not connected to this at all… but since we don’t have an official banner image for the team I decided to find a “Moogle” image to use instead.  If you are so inclined you can also check out the Moogle’s Pom Tavern wordpress which should in theory be getting bios for the last few of us shortly (because we need to write them).  However the page is current except for me and Visse who were the last few adds to the team.

All of this said I will probably continue to use the BelStreamTime discord when it comes to me going live and chatting with folks because it feels really weird to muscle my way in and take over a discord I am not intimately responsible for.  Also it gives me a nice place to integration with twitch and carry over roles and permissions as well as my emoticon.  Speaking of which I really need to set up the next few ranks worth of emoticons even though currently I am the only one who could use them.  That is another thing that happened over the weekend that seems a bit hard to take.  For awhile now the AggroChat crew has been parking their Amazon Prime subsciptions on me because they knew it made me feel super awkward about it… and it is apparently fun to pick on the Bel.  Sunday however during my stream I had a long time friend throw a legitimate subscription and some bits my way and I have this weird mix of “I am incredibly grateful” and “no don’t do that! I am not worth your money!”.

I am still not entirely sure how I feel about this whole subscription thing.  I feel happy that my friends want to support me, but I also feel super awkward taking any of their money.  I could reconcile them giving me a prime sub… because it was a thing they got for free that wasn’t being used anyways.  Now that I am getting some actual subs I just want to push the money back into their pockets and tell them “no no no you don’t understand, you are throwing your money away!”.  I am weird at accepting recognition in any form…  like when it happens at work I want nothing more than to crawl under my desk and hide until no one notices me.  The problem there is that now I am a manager over three teams… and I can’t exactly do that anymore.  I think maybe my recent foray into Twitch mirrors the transformation I have had to make in the real world, where I am publicly “on” more than I used to be.