Xpovos' Blog - Apr to Jun 17 (104 followers)

PermalinkMy Final Bean Dive
Over the past few years I have taken part in the Annual Bean Dive. It has been a fun experience and I have dived a lot of games.

I wrote about this extensively for my 2014 Bean Dive, which was my largest, by far.
2014: Xpovos' Bean Dive
Xpovos' blog post - Bean Dive - Part 1
Xpovos' blog post - Bean Dive - Part 2
Xpovos' blog post - Bean Dive - Finale
Xpovos' blog post - Anatomy of a Dive - Graphs

Obviously, diving over 100 titles gave me a lot of fodder for discussion and I have never truly recovered from the depth of this dive. The subsequent dives in 2015 and 2016 were sizeable, but nowhere near as big and while I talked about them as well, it was not as significant. The 2014 Bean Dive did the job I wanted it to, for the most part of bringing about a "shelf completion."

Shelf completion as a concept was about how that we have a tendency to buy games and hide them on the shelves until we're ready to play them. This can lead to problems, such as forgetting that we own a game and rebuying it, and that is among the things I hoped the Bean Dive process would correct. It worked well in 2014, but lately I have noticed it has not worked as intended any more.

So I haved decided that 2017 will be my last Dive. dive

The 2015 Bean Dive, I recovered pretty early. By the end of November, I was back where I started from. That had a lot to do with my 2015 GTASC performance being pretty strong.

2015: Xpovos' Bean Dive

The 2016 Bean Dive I still have not fully recovered. Along the way, close to coinciding with the 2016 Bean Dive, I have switched from "Owned DLC" to "All DLC" as a stat setting, and this has actually been a factor in my less through recovery, because games I have played have added a significant number of new achievements through primarily TUs effectively extending my dive. At the time of writing, I am still about 100 achievement short of full recovery from 2016's dive, and there are about two weeks left to go. And 2016's dive was, in game terms, my smallest yet. Though I did dive both Killer Instinct and Plague Inc: Evolved, so the number of achievements dived was still impressive.

2016: Xpovos' Bean Dive

Not achieving recovery from the dive is not that big of a deal. My 2014 Dive is still unrecovered, and may never be, honestly. It is certainly not a reason to not dive again. But 2017 will be the last not because of recovery issues, but because of the psychology has has come to infect me in large part due to the dive and re-dive pattern.

At various points this year I have felt the urge to start a game in my backlog, and I have hesitated, or stopped completely, in part because of other artificial goals (like completing one game for every one I start) but it is most obvious in terms of the Bean Dive. A game started now adds to my recovery space, but not to my Bean Dive stats in anyway. It makes the recovery harder without giving me any perceived benefit. So, there is a new tendency to horde up some games to dive them in July and then the process starts all over again. For an event that I pictured as a reason to ditch the shelf of unstarted games, the Bean Dive has actually become a reason to have a shelf of unstarted games.

The solution came to me as I have watched MADeyePadEYE's dive for a while. For those who do not know, MADeye is part of a group of gamers who, in the early months of 2013, started a Bean Dive of their own. The challenge was simple: just dive one new game every day. Last man standing wins. Most of them ended their run in the spring of 2013, having run out of fuel, interest or money.

42 gamers started this Potentially Never-Ending Bean Dive. While the sheet is out of date, the data is actually still fairly accurate. Three gamers remain, including MADeye. Each of those three has dived at least one new game every day since February 28th, 2013. That is well over 1500 new games for each of them. It is a testament to longevity of a particular type.

I have no interest in starting anything like that, but the reason I bring this up is that MADeye is still on his 2014 Dive here at TA, which he just "started" a little over a year into his full binge. The new technology created for use here at TA was just an added bonus. The point is, a Bean Dive never has to end, unless you want it to. While the "official" period is a week long, it can clearly go longer--after all my first dive went two weeks--and the only reason you have to end one is if you want to start a new one.

My own "perpetual" Bean Dive would look very similar to my current gaming, except I would no longer have any incentive to hoard games for a future dive, and I would have a lot less hesitancy about starting a game because it is going to set me back on my progress for recovery, because every achievement it dives me further is a little bonus for my Bean Dive stats as well.

It is not a perfect system, but I think it will work better than what I have been doing at getting me to where I want to be as a gamer. So in about two weeks I will start up a Bean Dive and then I will just let it run, perhaps forever. Some days I'll start a game and dive that progress. Most days I'll earn an achievement or 5 and climb back up the ladder some. Eventually, I'll reach a point where my unplayed collection is largely exhausted and my completion percentage is back above where it is on the day I start this new semi-perpetual dive. But then I'll always have 2014 to shoot for. And even then I'll just have a Bean Hop running instead of a dive, But I should feel much better about my decisions about when and why to start new games.
Posted by Xpovos on 23 June 17 at 18:48 | There are 10 comments on this blog post - Please log in to comment on this blog.
PermalinkSeason 10 Comes to a Close
Diablo 3 has had seasons on PC for a while. This most recent season, Season 10, was the first on console. As a result I was happy to try it out and as I'd missed several season on PC, see what new features were included. A "Season" in Diablo 3 is an opportunity to start fresh. A brand new character and it treats it almost like it's a brand new account. You get no access to any of your previous gear, paragon points, etc. This puts everyone on an equal footing. And to help keep it that way, trading is essentially prohibited in Season mode. You need to find everything yourself. The ultimate reward, though, is not just experiencing the game from the beginning again (sadly without achievements--though since these would probably be time-limited achievements, I'm actually OK with not having them). Completing various tasks in Seasonal mode also unlocks cosmetic perks for you to use permanently and loot drops that can be a bit trickier to find without the season are guaranteed for completing certain tasks. Additionally, you get to keep everything you earn. All loot, unspent consumables, and experience you gain during the Season are added back into your main account after the season ends and your "new" character takes up a permanent character slot.

My Seasonal Journey will end as the season does but there's still a bit if time left if anyone wants to try it out themselves. I am personally by no means at the end-game content, which is perhaps the most impressive part, given what I can do.

I've been playing almost exclusively with my wife for Season 10, and this video was actually one of the first times I've played much without her in the season.

This is a video of me soloing a Level 47 Greater Rift. Yes, that's me hitting paragon 267. In the season. Yes, I am regularly hitting for 200M+, but wait, I crit for about 7B on the rift guardian. I'm wearing the full Delsere's Magnum Opus set, which was the Wizard gauranteed drop set from playing Seasonal Mode in Season 10. There are still a few days left in the season, which is expected to end June 23rd, so if you want a quick run through to get some gear... well, I can probably help you out. After this video I soloed up to Level 50 without any issue at all.

This season has lasted since late March, almost to three months by the time it ends. That's a bit long for most seasons, but this one has been prepping for the big news.

Late in 2016 Blizzard announced that they had been working on a new character class for Diablo 3. They are re-imagining the Necromancer from Diablo 2 and bringing him forward, though you will now be able to select a gender as well. This means that the Necromancer and the Barbarian are back together again. When the Necromancer announced in November, they had clearly already been working on this for a while and it seemed like the content might be ready for launch soon. But the team working on Diablo 3 is small these days so delays crept in. But all the signs have been pointing toward a release to coincide nearly with the start of Season 11, which would usually happen about two weeks after the end of the previous season.

One of the most significant points of data in this string of details is that a new console game is coming. Though this has not yet been officially announced, the ESRB screwed up and didn't keep their "M" rating for a "Diablo 3: Eternal Collection" under embargo. This will be a new console version of Diablo 3 which will have on-disk all of the updates since Reaper of Souls - Ultimate Evil edition was published, which while substantial don't warrant a new game in themselves. The expected new content will be the Necromancer. And even though the ESRB accidentally leaked the data early, it can't be too early, given that they have to have had enough to base their rating on.

Reliable sources, smarter than I about how all of these data points work together along with more that I've not included here because they're just not relevant to a more generic discussion, have speculated that all of this indicates a July 18th release date for the Necromancer, and likely the Eternal Collection.

What does this mean for us as achievement-hunters?

1) The Necromancer character should be available as paid DLC for the Ultimate Evil edition. This would likely include achievements, but neither of these are certain. Not offering the Necromancer to console users without buying a completely new game seems like a poor move in terms of customer orientation. And that holds true even if the Eternal Collection releases at the same price point as just a standalone DLC, which is unlikely. Transferring your content from one game forward to another is a nice feature by choice, but a terrible design when made into a necessity.

2) The Eternal Collection will be a stackable version of Diablo 3 for Xbox One (and X) and PS4 (and Pro). There's no indication that a 360 version will be released. It will contain a completely new achievement list, though there will likely be a lot of crossovers.

3) Content, including characters, will be importable from RoS:UE to Eternal Collection, this will allow for some very easy Diablo 3 upgrade achievements as any in the new list that are already done in the current version will likely auto-pop.

4) Those with anti-stacking positions may have a very difficult choice on their hands, as there is no guarantee that Blizzard will release the Necromancer for RoS:UE. I noted above that I think this is unlikely and a bad business move, but if they price the Eternal Collection at $30, they may feel there's absolutely no value in attempting to patch the Necromancer into RoS:UE to collect $20.

5) I expect the Necromancer pack to cost $20, if it is stand-alone DLC, and $60 for the Eternal Collection. And just like the Beatle's White Album, I'll probably buy it again.

We should get some concrete announcements soon, as with only a few days left in the season there is not much time to get the hype train flowing.
Posted by Xpovos on 19 June 17 at 16:15 | There are no comments on this blog - Please log in to comment on this blog.
PermalinkDragon Slayer
This week Des and I tackled Dragon's Lair. Prior to starting the stream I had never played Dragon's Lair and was only passingly familiar with the game's artwork as an iconic part of gaming history. That history was why I bought the game in the recent sale, but was that ultimately a good choice?

At one point, bored of my constant death and failings, Des starts reading the reviews of this latest release version and an interesting thing happened. I heard the possessive "s" of "Dragon's" being glottal-stopped into the start of "Lair," making it sound like she was reading reviews for a game called "Dragon S-lair," or audibly as "Dragon Slayer," which may or may not have been an equally good name for this game.

Highlights of this week include 85 deaths and a full completion (not achievements, though) of the game. If I was paying a quarter per continue in the arcade in 1983, this would have cost me $4.25, which is getting close to twice what I actually paid in 2017, so even though I arguably overpaid for this title, I still have already "gotten my money's worth."

Other highlights include a few trips down the nostalgia path with Batman, Marble Madness, Fivel, and Elvira. Also discussed were the nature of gamer's complaints, the history of gaming and QTEs, and vaporware.

All-in-all, with the audio quality issues from last week resolved and no real significant technical issues (except with Des' mic to start the night again), this was one of the best/smoothest sessions we've had and I think the quality of the content shows it. If you've never played "Dragon's Lair" you can probably save yourself a few bucks by watching me fail at it. If you have, then you can relive your own nostalgia by watching me bumble through as Dirk the Daring.
Posted by Xpovos on 17 June 17 at 19:40 | Last edited on 17 June 17 at 19:41 | There are no comments on this blog - Please log in to comment on this blog.
PermalinkDerailing the AC: Origins Hype Train
OK, so maybe not entirely. I have to admit that I am personally VERY excited about the potentials I see in Assassin's Creed: Origins. The game looks beautiful, looks like it plays very well and it has all the hallmarks of a successful triple-A game. I am very rarely on board with big game hype, so the fact that I am feeling this at all is itself surprising.

So I need to take a little air out of it. To calm myself down, at least, and perhaps some of you as well. Obviously, even before the announcement we had rumors. I recall about a year ago I first got wind that the next AC game was going to be in "Ancient Egypt." Given that the game series has generally been progressing forward in history (AC 4's step back aside) and our most recent iterations had gotten to be fairly modern, while also alienating some of the long-term fans. A return to the past makes a lot of sense; both thematically, and as a franchise marketing move. So, to Ancient Egypt we go.

So we get to climb to the top of some pyramids,<br/> and since a Leap of Faith is impossible at that angle, we get a Slide of Faith.  I'm OK with that.So we get to climb to the top of some pyramids,
and since a Leap of Faith is impossible at that angle, we get a Slide of Faith. I'm OK with that.

A few side notes before I get into the letting out of the air. These are all definitely very much about me, so you can skip forward a paragraph or so if you like. My eldest daughter is an Egypt-freak. She fell in love with the idea of Egypt more than anything else, and convinced that she loves Egypt, everything she sees that is Egypt-related becomes a new favorite thing for her. This happened with Yu-Gi-Oh, which my middle daughter took to instantly, but my eldest was completely uninterested in. Until Yugi went to Ancient Egypt. Then she learned all the rules pretty much overnight and the two of them play against each other regularly.

So when I was watching an E3 video showing some Origins gameplay, she was instantly hooked.

Daddy, is that a <i>khopesh</i>?"Daddy, is that a khopesh?"

See, at this point, through extensive reading, my daughter quite literally knows more about Egypt than I do. I had no idea that style of sword, though distinctive and identifiably Egyptian, was called a khopesh. She did. And she instantly knew what it meant. I, on the other hand, know far more about the Roman world, and looking at the opponent in that image above, taken as a still from some of the gameplay we were watching, I saw the strong Roman influence.

Being the armchair historians we are, we can take this single still and discern a few things. 1) Khopeshs exist as a weapon. The earliest known khopesh are dated to about the third century BC. The Assassins always seem to have an edge on technology, so we can go a bit earlier than that, but not earlier than 500 BC, it seems. 2) The galea seems to exist. This distinctive crested helmet only really saw use after Gaulic influence (see also the similarities in roots--though the generally accepted etymology is Greek, I find that path suspect). These helmets were both functional and decorative. The decoration of the crest is obvious, but the cheek-piece is also fairly unique and not common in Roman use until the 1st century BC, again, concurrent with Gaius Julius Caeser's Roman conquest of Gaul.

There are likely other clues that can aid a more educated armament expert, but these are sufficient to point to the game, Assassin's Creed: Origins, having a timeline of 100BC to 300 AD. And right there I got upset.

I was promised a game set in Ancient Egypt, steeped in Egyptian culture. It's ripe with opportunity. You're going back, why not actually go back? It's entirely possible you have no idea what is even upsetting to me about this, so, it's time for a quick history lesson.

  • What is Ancient Egypt

Egyptian scholars have a very long history to work with. Egypt is one of the places where human civilization ever first existed, and it has gone through a tremendous amount of change over the years. As a result, they have categorized certain periods of Egyptian life into "Kingdoms." Each Kingdom was full of dynasties, which were typically family lines of Pharoahs. These Kingdoms reach back to the 31st century BC, though of course there were people living in the lands of Egypt before then, that is the start of the process. We have 30 more centuries of history we could have explored for "Ancient" Egypt.

This is Ancient Egypt. Mentuhotep from the Middle KingdomThis is Ancient Egypt. Mentuhotep from the Middle Kingdom

Ancient Egypt, in a very simple version, has the "Old Kingdom", the "Middle Kingdom" and the "New Kingdom." This, along with some wiggle room, takes us all the way to the 11th century BC. After that there are still a few more centuries that are typically classified as "Ancient" Egypt as well, but the moniker goes away completely at the end of the "Late Period," in 332BC. The next two periods of Egyptian history seem to be where Assassin's Creed Origins is going to be focusing.

  • Macedonean Egypt and Ptolemaic Egypt

Why did I give generic dates for much of this and yet such a specific year for the end of the "Late Period?" Obviously, the more modern the even the greater certainty we have in assigning a date to it, but in many of the previous cases there is no concrete event that designates the end of one period and the start of another. The Late Period ended, though, with a bang. In came Alexander the Great and, much like he had with everything else in the world, he took over. This starts the Macedonian Egyptian period. However, Alexander was a one-of-a-kind, and his own death, a few years later in 323BC marked the end of that. After Alexander died, Egypt came to be ruled by Ptolemy Lagides, thus starting the Ptolemaic period.

Ptolemy was called, "the Savior," though how much saving he did is questionable. He was a successful and shrewd politician, though, and he set up himself and his heirs for a dynasty of their own. What is critically important to understand here though is that this Egypt dynasty remained under Greek rule. The Ptolemy's that followed often claimed Egyptian heritage, but were Greek. And through the next nearly 300 years they often went to great lengths to keep that bloodline pure.

The Ptolemaic dynasty ended in 30 BC when Cleopatra VII reportedly committed suicide by inducing a snake to bite her--but they are unreliable sources, even if culturally accepted.The Ptolemaic dynasty ended in 30 BC when Cleopatra VII reportedly committed suicide by inducing a snake to bite her--but they are unreliable sources, even if culturally accepted.

  • The Reveal

Finally, after showing off some gameplay some of the commentators confirmed that the game would be taking place starting in 49 BC. That is the year that Gaius Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon becomes "Ceasar." Many Assassin's Creed games take place over a period of decades. AC 2 took from 14591476 to 1499. AC 3 took from 1754-1782. So allowing Origins to go for 19 years to explore the conflux of political forces culminating in that intense year of 30 BC is well within the realm of the possible. Given that time range we might be able to meet (and perhaps assassinate) Gaius Julius Caesar and Cleopatra, meet up with Mark Antony and many other fascinating figures, perhaps in an effort to drive out the Greek and Roman influences and restore a true Egyptian heritage. This sounds like a fantastic game concept and clearly something I can still be excited for.

But let's be honest. This is not "Ancient" Egypt. And that is tremendously disappointing.
Posted by Xpovos on 16 June 17 at 19:39 | Last edited on 16 June 17 at 20:30 | There are 3 comments on this blog post - Please log in to comment on this blog.
PermalinkSpanking Death and Taking Names
What? Sorry, could you repeat your name, I could not hear you.

Despite an uneven audio experience, when Des and I streamed DeathSpank: Thongs of Virtue last Friday, the results were quite good. We had a lot of fun as I bumbled my way through the tutorial and into the main game.

Unfortunately, after the stream was finished, the capture was not appearing my Mixer VOD section. I gave it a few hours and contacted technical support when it still had not shown up. A few days later the response was ultimately, "if it has not shown up in 48 hours, we are very sorry, but it is gone." While this was exactly what I expected, it was still a big disappointment. Unlike the previous stream, I felt this one was pretty good and I was really looking forward to sharing it.

Well, while I was working the election yesterday it randomly showed up. It seems the recording was not completely lost in the ether after all. So here it is. It has been a few days so I had some fun myself re-watching it and cringing as I miss what is now obvious. The biggest issue is that the gameplay audio is out of balance with the conversation Des and I are having, so it can be hard to hear us at times. I am looking into fixing that for our next episode and I should have it taken care of.

Highlights from Deathspank include not just the Deathspank signature humor, but also my complete inability to figure out how the Justice meter works, a discussion of "RPG time"--the effect where time does not progress in an RPG until you progress the story elements, what "bootblacking" [NSFW] is, evidence that Xpovos does not French; well maybe a little, and of course, unexploded bombs--and what really should have happened in Fallout 3. We also spent some time talking about this fantastic article from Ars Technica, which will probably get mentioned again in a future blog. The video runs a little longer than I would like, and the audio problems are more than just annoying, but I am very happy with the progress so far and I think there is enough here to allow it to be more broadly entertaining than the previous streams, so check it out.

Meanwhile, we'll be back streaming live again Friday (Saturday) at 9PM Eastern, (0100 UTC). This week the target will be Dragon's Lair as we approach the 34th release anniversary.
Posted by Xpovos on 14 June 17 at 18:44 | There are no comments on this blog - Please log in to comment on this blog.