Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Slipknot - .5: The Gray Chapter (Review)

It's been six years since the release of "All Hope Is Gone", and now Slipknot has emerged with their new album ".5: The Gray Chapter". In many ways this album proves that Slipknot is far from dead, and it also finds the band in a transitional period. That is a good thing for some, and something that could stand to alienate a lot of their fanbase. Perhaps it was a slight mistake to release "The Negative One" as their first glimpse of the album, "Why?" you may ask. Well quite simply "The Negative One" sounds like it could be a song from "Iowa", which gave a lot of people the perspective that maybe the band was going back to the heavier darker days of Slipknot. It was the release of the bands first "official" single "The Devil In I" that made it apparent that, that was not the case.

However you feel about Slipknot, they have been a band that has never stuck with a set "sound", each album has it's own vibe, and are all distinctly different. "The Gray Chapter" is certainly no different, but it is also the closest the band has ever come to having an identity crisis, the album never seems to quite know what it wants to be. It is here, there and everywhere in between. If you didn't know very much about the band you would assume that this is nothing more than Slipknot's swan song. It may give you the deep feeling that the band is on their way out.

But, in the grand scheme of things this is to be expected. If you read the "Revolver Magazine" special "Book of Slipknot" which came out after the release of "All Hope Is Gone", then you would know that Paul Gray and Joey Jordison did most of the demo work for the previous Slipknot albums. They built the skeletons of the songs that would become "Iowa", "Vol. 3: The Subliminal Verses", and "All Hope Is Gone". If you don't count Chris Fehn or Shawn "Clown" Crahan, Joey and Paul made up Slipknots rhythm section, they were the metaphorical soul of the band. Unless you have been living under a rock, or simply don't follow music all that closely you would know that Paul Gray died in 2010, which took more than a toll on the band as a whole. Prior to entering the studio for what would become ".5: The Gray Chapter" Joey Jordison departed the band on unclear terms.

What this leaves you with is the plain and simple fact that this a band whom has lost it's main songwriters, and is being forced to figure out where to go from there. It would have probably been easier for the band to bow out, no one would have blamed them. Between the sudden death of Paul Gray, the inner turmoil that seems to follow the band like a plague, the departure or Jordison, and Stone Sour getting bigger and bigger. It probably would have actually made sense, but instead the band has pressed on and forged a new path in the ever evolving monster that is Slipknot.

That "Book of Slipknot" issue also revealed that during the recording of "All Hope is Gone" there was a clear division growing in the band. Joey and Paul went off to write by themselves, while in another studio space Clown, Sid Wilson, Jim Root, and Corey Taylor were off trying to push the boundaries of what is considered Slipknot. In the end Paul and Joey finished less songs than ever before, and the rest of band almost wholesale rejected what the 4 others were doing, only one song emerged from Clown's sessions the bonus track "'Til We Die".

Without someone telling them "That isn't Slipknot" the band finds themselves able to create without restrictions, and that is exactly what ".5: The Gray Chapter" is, Slipknot without restrictions. This album is as it's supposed to be, a band learning what it means to be a band again. Which has as some have pointed out, that "a lot of the songs sound like they were done by a different band". That's because this IS a different band, this is a band that lost, came back and fought, and in the end triumphed.

Before I move on to a track by track breakdown I wish to address something that bugs the living shit out of me. In between the recording of "Iowa" and "Vol. 3 The Subliminal Verses", Corey set out with guitarist Jim Root and released Stone Sour's first album, an album that spawned the radio hit "Bother" which was attached to the soundtrack for Spiderman 2. "Iowa" was dark, depressing, and fucking heavy, while "Vol. 3" found the band venturing into more harmonies, and variety. I saw this as a natural evolution, Slipknot simply wasn't in the same place as they were when they recorded "Iowa", they also had a new producer in the form of Rick Rubin (Beastie Boys, Eminem, Johnny Cash, Jay-Z). A lot of fans panned the album, stating that Corey's involvement in Stone Sour was poisoning what Slipknot sounded like, this became worse as Stone Sour became bigger, and with the release of the very melodic "All Hope Is Gone".

I am not among these people, actually most of my favorite Slipknot songs are then ones that Corey uses his full range of ability. Mainly because anyone can scream for an entire song, but when Corey goes from rhythmic crazed talking, to belting out a melodic chorus, and then into a full rage screaming fit it has more impact. The closing track on "Iowa" works because it is fueled by the underlying current that it is building towards something, and when it finally does it is far more powerful than a song like "Surfacing" (which is still amazing). I respect Corey Taylor for everything he is capable of doing, he has immense talent, and I don't think a generalized idea of what Slipknot is supposed to "sound like" should deter Slipknot from making the music they wish to make.

With that being said, I will now commence what I think of  the album track by track.

"XIX" - as the opening song, "XIX" is like a declaration. It set's the tone for the rest of album incredibly well. I love the atmosphere of the song, and kind of wish there were more like it. I love the creepy vibe throughout the beginning that builds towards Corey's powerful vocals. The song is definitely raw and emotional.

"Sarcastrophe" - This one starts out almost like a Metallica song before going into a full on signature Slipknot flurry of Guitars, Drums, Percussion, and Corey roaring over all of it. It is certainly a hell of a way to get things started and keeps the pace throughout. The only downside to the song is the mostly forgettable chorus, but the rest is all top notch Slipknot.

"AOV" - This appears to be a fan favorite, and it's not hard to see why. The song comes out fast, furious, and screaming. It also showcases something I loved about this album, which is the fact that everything is accounted for. You hear the whole band on display, and if you listen to it with a pair of decent headphones it is quite simply fantastic. The verses are fast and sharp with Corey screaming throughout, and melds perfectly into the harmonic chorus. The slow and distant sound breakdown in the song is also quite nice as it slowly comes to end and goes full speed back into the insanity.

"The Devil In I" - Everyone who cares about Slipknot, even remotely has heard this song. The reaction has been mixed, but it stands as one of my favorites on the album. I love the way the slow chorus build to the violent chorus yet melodic chorus. Unfortunately as infectious as "The Devil In I" is, it also features some of the worst drums on the album during the breakdown. I've always hated over double-bass pedal, where it stops being rhythmic and just becomes constant pounding as if to say, "look how fast I can do this", it just sounds really bad.

"Killpop" - "Killpop" has already been dubbed "Vermilion, Pt. 3", and for good reason. It follows the same basic concept as "Vermilion, Pt. 1". A song about a girl, but in classic Slipknot fashion it's more of a sick, over obsessed kind of stalker love. I love Corey's psychotic love songs, and this one is no different. It is slow, churning, and expertly crafted. It starts with subdued electronic drums, and as it builds it becomes more and more memorable, and it most definitely stands out from the rest of the songs on the album. As with most songs like this that have come from Slipknot, it all culminates in Corey frantically screaming "We were made to hurt each other, now die and fucking love me." The only thing that I don't like is the pre-chorus, it's out of place, and Corey sounds like shit, other than that fantastic song.

"Skeptic" - Is a tribute to late Bassist Paul Gray, and unfortunately is probably the most forgettable song on the album. I hate saying it, but it's true, I expected a slow moving piece. Instead the song is heavy, and features terrible vocals. The chorus also feels slightly annoying, I respect the message, but it's so not Slipknot. I'm not going to spend too much time bashing the song, as I know it means a lot to the band, which I can respect fully. But it's one of the only songs on the album that I skip instinctively.

"Lech" - This song almost sounds like it was inspired by the great Ministry with the crazy samples during the frenzied riffs and drumming. The song is fucking heavy, and sounds like a statement made through the barrel of a tank. It doesn't sound too much like Slipknot, but it is definitely a step in the right direction. Opening with the line "I know why Judas wept motherfucker!" pretty much sets you up for what you get with the song, hard, fast, heavy, and filled with Corey going from insane speech patterns, to rage filled screams. If you love fast music this is definitely a track you should check out.

"Goodbye" - This sounds more like what "Skeptic" probably should have been. It's slow, solemn, and mournful. It is a fantastically beautiful song, and is an odd choice sandwhiched in between "Lech" and "Nomadic", but I'm glad it's there. It shows the band in the vulnerable state the band is probably in.

"Nomadic" - This has become my favorite song on the album, it has the old sound, mixed with the new sound in such a way that if they made an album on a more singular thread I would hope it sounded like this. Flawless verses, into the stellar chorus, and the entire band on point. I'm not sure why the rest of album is not as on point as this 4 minute song, but it's absolutely stellar. If you only bought the two singles as mp3's, you need to buy this one as well.

"The One That Kills The Least" - Much like "Skeptic" this song for some reason just doesn't gel with me. I really can't place it, but I just don't really care for it. It's kind of all over the place, sometimes singing in the verses, sometimes screaming, sometimes, melodic, sometimes just plain boring. I'm hoping it will grow on me, but I've listened to the album about 7-8 times now and still don't really care for it.

"Custer" - Another song that kind of sounds like a mixture of Ministry and Slipknot. The song is outright apologetically heavy, and immediately catches your attention. This one has also emerged as a fan favorite, and being that is was the 3rd song revealed, it's not surprising as people have had plenty of time to listen to it.It follows the usual formula for a Slipknot song, and has a chorus that took I would imagine 3 seconds to write "Cut, cut, cut me up, and fuck, fuck, fuck me up", but that doesn't mean it isn't effective as it does borough into your head and will have you singing along by the time it's finished.

"Be Prepared For Hell" - It's a creepy 2 minute interlude, full of piano, and loops. There's not a whole lot I can say about it, but it does fit nicely where it's at.

"The Negative One" - Probably my second favorite on the entire CD. It is a throwback to "Iowa", and it hits the mark with precision. It stands as a testament that Slipknot is just as good at forging new ground as they are at exploring what got them to where they are now. Everyone has already had plenty of time to listen to the song so I'm not going to delve to deep into it.

"If Rain Is What You Want" - Probably the most abstract track on the album, and it's fantastic from beginning to end. It's certainly no "Scissors" or "Iowa", but could definitely stand toe-to-toe with "Danger - Keep Away".

Bonus Track "Override" - Another track that probably was best left as a B-side, it's incredibly weak, with an atrocious chorus. But the breakdown is fucking blissfully heavy, and verses are definitely on point. But that chorus, really brings the whole song down. It feels like a bonus track, just not in a good way.

Bonus Track "The Burden" - Reminds me of newer KoRn, but then this moment happens towards the middle where the song turns into pure hell on earth. It's not the greatest song to ever be labeled Slipknot but is definitely far more attention worthy than "Override" and feels like a fitting way to end the album.

All in all the album is worth your attention, as I said earlier this is a band forging a new path and figuring out where they want to go. There is definite experimentation, with sprinkles of classic Knot. But if you were standing in there with the standard version in one hand and the special edition in the other, I'd save your money and just get the standard as the bonus tracks really offer no more worth to the album as a whole. If anything buy the album, and purchase "The Burden" separately. Either way I look forward to the future of Slipknot as they embrace their new found artistic freedom, this is merely the first step on a long journey. If I had to assign it a numbered review score I'd say it lands around a 7.5/10 as it has it's down moments and a couple forgettable tracks, but is overall one the best Metal albums I've heard in quite some time.

You can catch the band on tour with KoRn on the Prepare For Hell Tour in most major cities this Fall. You can purchase ".5: The Gray Chapter" from all major retailers as of today.

Monday, October 6, 2014

What I've Learned From Destiny, a beginners guide (or a guide for anyone who isn't totally amazing)

I won't begin to act, or pretend that I am the greatest person to ever play Destiny. But, I have managed to learn a considerable amount, and I have been lucky enough to couple that with my scouring of the Destiny subreddit, Bungie forums, Youtube videos, and playing with people who all bring that little extra knowledge that has made me a better player. I am going to impart that knowledge upon you, what follows is a guide from the moment you begin playing to the moment you hit level 30. You will also receive tips and tricks on the the Vault of Glass raid.

First thing I feel I should throw out there is you shouldn't play with the sole goal of getting to the Hard Cap, you won't have fun, and it just takes away from overall experience. You should be playing to enjoy what Destiny has to offer, not just to be the most badass Guardian in the Galaxy. This game is all about teamwork, from Strikes, to Weeklies, to the Raid and even PVP there is a strong emphasis on being part of a team, and not a lone wolf. If you don't work with your team your team fails.

When you start out gear will mean very little, you will move from piece to piece without much thought as to what it actually does. At about 15-16 gear will be begin to drop in a way that you will want to start actually looking at the stats it provides. When you pick up a new piece of gear you can press Y on Xbox or Triangle on Playstation to look at a more in depth  list of what that gear can do. If you currently have a piece equipped with an emphasis on Hand Cannons, but you don't use them, and the new piece of gear has an emphasis on Scout Rifles, which you do use then you may want to switch out what you are already wearing for the new one. You should regularly look into what the gear offers, and suit your gear to what your specific play style is.

Once you hit level 20 your gear takes on a whole new meaning, your gear will determine wether you can reach the Hard Cap of Level 30, or if you will be trapped at 29 forever. In order to increase your level past 20 you will need light, all rare/legendary/exotic gear has light once you hit 20. Rare has the least amount of light, while legendary will cap out 27 light when fully upgraded, and exotics cap out at 30 light. In order to reach Level 30 you will need a total of 120 light. Which means 4 pieces of gear that feature 30 light, you can only wear 1 exotic at any given time, so I'm sure you are wondering "well how the hell can I get to 30 if legendaries cap out at 27 light?" Raid Gear, all Raid Gear cap out at 30 light, and unlike Exotics you can have all 4 slots equipped with Raid Gear.

Raid Gear can only be obtained by doing the raid (Vault of Glass), you can not buy it, with the random loot you are not guaranteed any Raid Gear, you could finish the whole Raid on Hard and only receive Ascendant Materials. That is the luck of the draw, once you are of level to do the Raid YOU SHOULD CEASE TO UPGRADE ANYTHING OUTSIDE OF EXOTICS. You will need 3 things for the final upgrades of Legendary gear, Glimmer (which comes relatively easy), whatever base material goes with it (easily obtained on any of the 4 planets), and Ascendant Shards (Shards are fucking hard to come by). This is why you should forgo upgrading Armor that won't give you max light. You will need those shards, so spending them is a waste of your time.

Once you obtain a piece of Raid Gear your primary focus should be to upgrade the piece. You will have to the Raid multiple times before you have all 3 pieces of Raid Gear. I say 3, because you can buy an exotic from Xur on the weekends. BUT, be careful, there is one piece of Raid Gear for each class that can only be obtained in the Hard version of the raid. For Hunters and Warlocks you can obtain everything but a Helmet in the Normal version of the raid, for Titans everything but the Chest-piece can be obtained in Normal. So, really Titans should buy the Chest from Xur, and Hunters/Warlocks should invest in a Helmet.

Weapons should be whatever you find most comfortable for you, you shouldn't sacrifice your style of play because you found something with a higher attack, but is something you would never otherwise use. I dismantle every Hand Cannon I have ever gotten, I don't like them, they aren't for me and I won't use them. But, everyone is different, even if my first legendary had been a Hand Cannon I would have dismantled it. But weapons much like armor can offer bonuses towards things that are important to your class, which is why just like armor you should pay attention to what upgrades you can do for it. If you may lose a tiny bit of attack, but gain upgrades that will boost your abilities you should absolutely go for it.

Weapons have no affect on your Light Level and as such you should absolutely upgrade them at will, especially Exotics and Legendaries. But you should actively use your Vault, which is located by the Cryptarch in the Tower, the main reason you should is so you can store multiple of the same style weapon with different damage modifiers. You should have 3 Sniper Rifles, 3 Fusion Rifles, 3 Machine Guns, and 3 Rocket Launchers. All should have 1 of the damage modifiers, so basically 1 Solar, 1 Void, and 1 Arc. When you start doing Weeklies you notice a skulls next them, these skulls are modifiers, they determine difficulty, usually they will also have a burn skull. Burn skulls impact the type of damage the enemies dole out, but also dictate what kind of damage modifiers will do increased damage against them. So if the Weekly Nightfall is Void Burn then you should have weapons equipped that do Void Damage. This will make things a lot easier on you, while the enemies might be doing additional damage, so are you.

Did you notice that I didn't include Shotguns? That is because Shotguns are pretty well useless in PVE (Patrols, Story, Strikes, Weeklies, and the Raid), Hunters/Warlocks aren't armored enough to be that close to the fray to make shotguns effective, Titans might be able to, but once you start getting into the harder stuff like Weeklies and Raids then they really become pretty useless. They are mainly for PVP, and so while you could have 3 shotguns, I would imagine most people find 1 and stick with it. Clearly Exotic weapons are the best for everything, alongside Raid weapons. I recently managed to pick up a Scout Rifle that had Solar damage from the Raid, this is seriously awesome because most primary weapons do not feature any damage modifiers in the form of elemental. If the Nightfall has Solar Burn I will absolutely clean up, I also have an Exotic Rocket Launcher and Legendary Fusion Rifle both with Solar, meaning that in any instance that I need Solar, I never have to worry about it.

Reputation is hugely important in Destiny, it determines everything, you will not be able to buy most things from vendors without enough Rep, and you won't be able to purchase anything from Faction vendors without Rep. So, you should actually take the time to inspect the gear that each Faction could sell you, if you really like the stats on the Gear for the New Monarchy, but you really like the Weapons from Future War Cult, it will require 2 separate sets of Rep. Unfortunately the Rep system is complicated, and if you want New Monarchy's gear, you will have to grind out Rep for them, while gaining nothing for anyone else.

That's right! When you want to earn Rep for a specific Faction you will have to buy a class item from them, then you will equip it, at that point you will no longer gain Rep for anyone but them until you remove the class item. Most Factions require you be at Level 2 rep to buy Armor, and Level 3 to buy Weapons, either way it's lame, but if you don't wish to grind engrams it is by far the fastest way to get Legendary items. Each have their own styles, and you would be wise to see which one best suits you prior to accepting any as your preferred Faction, as they will be all you are gaining Rep towards. On the other hand you could completely forgo Factions and just gain Rep with the Vanguard and Crucible.

In my honest opinion you are better off just getting Rep for the Vanguard and Crucible. If you gain Rep for a specific faction you will be restricted to 1 vendor, as opposed to gaining rep for Crucible and Vanguard where you will have access to every vendor outside of the 3 Faction vendors. This gives you way more options, and it's rather easy to gain rep. Vanguard Rep can be obtained through everything outside of the Story and Raid, this includes Patrols, which will net you 10 for every one you complete, or 25 Rep for every mission that have a specific Target that you have to kill. Crucible marks can be obtained through playing the crucible, 10 Rep for every loss, and 25 for every Win. If you are part of a faction you will gain rep with them for every single thing you do. If you win in the Crucible that is 25 Rep towards that faction, if you complete a patrol mission that is 10 Rep towards that faction. You could farm Rep, but really if you just play the game you will achieve the same damn thing, so you really don't need to farm, but if you are going to choose a specific faction you should start early, so by the time you hit 20 you will be able to buy what you want.

For every class in Destiny, there is a Sub-Class. My warlock for instance started out with the Sub-Class Void Walker, which had a focus on shaping Void Light into a weapon. Once you reach 15 this opens up a new Sub-Class, for me it opened up the Sub-Class of the Sunsinger, a class that is heavily focused on Solar. All subclasses are different and have perks and drawbacks, my Void Walker Sub-Class is capable of doing insane amounts of damage, but my survivability isn't all that great, but my Sunsinger Sub-Class once fully upgraded gives me the ability to not only Survive longer, but if I go down in PVP or a Respawn Restricted area I can Self-Revive, but I lose the crazy damage from my Void Walker.

Should you focus on one Sub-Class more than another? No, you should spend equal time upgrading both, once I maxed out Void Walker I immediately began working on Sunsinger, So, now that I have both fully upgraded I am able to switch at will depending on what I need. This versatility is really useful, the only time it becomes tricky is something like Nightfall, where maybe the modifier is Void Burn, but, with how hard Nightfall can be my Self-Revive is almost a necessity. During the Raid we needed a quick decision, and we had to turn over relic duties to someone who had never done it, just because he lacked a fully upgraded Sub-Class, you honestly should work on both if nothing more because you may find out that the one that was locked away from you, is actually a better fit for you.

Material Farming/Chest Farming
Material/Chest Farming is beneficial in a lot of ways. One, you can never have too many mats, two mats can be traded in for Rep, three you can possibly find something awesome. I get a lot of questions from random people I play with about Chest farming, or how I manage to find so many mats just randomly. Answer I'm always looking, and when I'm not looking, I still kind of am lol. The key really is to find a spot where you can go in a circle, this circle should contain certain things. Caves/Rooms, regular material spawns in the enviroment, enemies on a regular respawn rate, and finally a chance for Public Events.

While Chests do have a random chance to spawn just out in the open, the more Caves/Buildings that are around the better chance of finding Chests there are. You want to scour the entire area that you have decided in, I have found Chests in really weird places, everything from behind a building to on a ledge, and sandwiched in between walls. You will guaranteed get Glimmer and at least 1 Mat per chest. But, every now and again you will find a double chest, these are random and you may find 1 right off the bat, and then never find another for the entire run, or you could find 1 then find another right after it. These double Chests will grant you usually around 9-10 mats, a couple Greens/Blue Engrams (and in a very very rare case Purple), and Ammo Synthesis.

Finally it's always good to have your circle coincide with places where Public Events happen, while you are gaining steady glimmer and Mats, and with respawning enemies maybe even some engrams, Public Events can grant you Ascendant Shards/Energy. Considering how useful these become late in the game, it will really maximize your farming if you can gain all of these in a run you are doing it right. You can find areas that are perfect for these on all the planets, I haven't found one on Venus that really grants as much as the other planets, but about the best place on Venus is Ishtar Commons, great chance for Engram drops, regular Spirit Bloom, and the occasional chest. The Moon for me was the entire area around the building that kind of looks like the space needle in Seattle (Odd comparison I know, but when you see it you know you're there), Mars has a wonderful place that has served me quite well, from spawn follow the road to the right, you will come to an area where Vex spawn to the left and Cabal spawn to the right. There are probably 8-10 rooms in this area that spawn chests, I have gotten Purple Engrams, there are regular Public Events, and more Relic Iron than you will know what to do with. The Cosmodrome on Earth's number 1 place is probably the Rocket Yard, 2 spots for Public Events, tons of Chests, Spinmetal coming out of your ass, and the new Loot Cave.

Everything in Destiny comes down to XP, well except for getting from level 20-30, even though Light is what makes you level, XP is the only way to level your gear/weapons/Sub-Class. You will gain XP for everything, and it really isn't that hard to come by, but if this isn't your first Guardian you probably don't want to spend all of your time trying to bust your ass to level. So, the question is how can you gain XP fast. The answer Bounties, and adding the Heroic modifier to anything you do.

The first few missions in the game aren't too bad if you add the Heroic modifier (which can be done by selecting the mission, then selecting the green part that says Level whatever Normal, and just select the next one down that says Hard), but as you progress the missions get a lot harder, so it helps to have a higher level character with you to keep you from dying every 5 minutes. Once bounties become available, you should pick up as many as you can. Bounties are great for XP, and Rep, so you should take them and complete them regularly. The more you complete at one time the faster everything you have equipped will level. You could technically upgrade a new weapon a lot faster, by simply completing a bunch of bounties with your normal weapon equipped, and just switch to the new weapon prior to turning the bounties in, and boom instant levels.

You should be doing Strikes, lots of Strikes, once you hit level 23 you should only be doing the Vanguard Tiger playlist (level 24 Strikes). There are plenty of Bounties geared towards killing X amount of Majors/Ultras (which regularly show up in higher level strikes), or kill X boss in X Strike, and they grant more XP and more Rep than most other Bounties. When playing Weeklies you should go as high level as you can, if you have a couple friends who are high level you could even get away with doing them on max level, this will grant you more XP and usually more valuable rewards. YOU HAVE TO PLAY PVP! I know that PVP is a downside for a lot of people but the bounties are easy, and the Rep/XP/Gear/Weapon/Mat gain is worth it. Matches don't tend to take very long, and you don't even have to do well to get great items out of it, so quit complaining and just play it.

Nightfall Strikes/Modifiers
Currently Nightfall is one of the Hardest parts of the game, they are unlocked at level 25 but shouldn't be attempted prior to 26-27. You do not want to try the Weekly Nightfall by yourself, if you are lucky you may make it through the Weekly Heroic, but definitely not the Nightfall. It is beneficial to do the Nightfall however as you have a better loot chance, and you gain bonus XP for the week. Nightfall is hard because it is set to Level 28, and has more modifiers than any other mission in the game.

You have probably heard me say the word Modifier a lot during this, and now I will address them. Modifiers work similar to Skulls in Halo. They add more difficulty by taking things away, or adding and element that wasn't there before. Heroic is the most common, and just means more enemies and they are more aggressive. Nightfall (hence the name) means You will face a relentless army that has never known defeat. If all players die, you will be returned to orbit. Angry will cause enemies to not flinch even after massive damage. Anger Issues causes enemies to display heightened aggression. Lightswitch causes enemies to deal more Melee damage. Mythic increases enemy shields, makes them more aggressive in greater numbers. Juggler makes it so that no ammo drops for your currently equipped weapon, causing you to need to switch between weapons regularly. Arc/Solar/Void Burn which means damage from any source of this kind is greatly increasd.

You should regularly check to see what modifiers the Nightfall is incorporating. There tends to be a regular use of Nightfall, Heroic, Lightswitch, Juggler, and Arc/Solar/Void Burn. What this means is you want to stay back, it's not wise to get close to enemies in Nightfall, if Lightswitch is active they will one hit kill you with their melee, which leaves your teammates vulnerable. The idea behind Nightfall is to take it slow and find ways around being too aggressive. Stay back, use weapons that match the Burn modifier, and keep a close eye on your health and how your team is fairing.

PVP Tips
PVP is hit and miss, but to me it feels awesome, and is incredibly fun and satisfying. I hear a lot of people say they hate PVP, but I have a feeling it's because they can't combat the things they dislike about it.

1. This isn't Halo, it may be made by the Developer of Halo, but, it's not Halo. Halo had a balance for players you could use an Assault Rifle, and still be taken out by a guy using a burst weapon (Battle Rifle) or a more precise single shot weapon (DMR). Whatever you were comfortable with you could use, Destiny has balancing issues, so this doesn't work. My first few rounds in the Crucible I quickly found out that my style of play in Halo (DMR) was not going to work in Destiny. The Scout Rifle is a bad choice in PVP, the Plasma Rifle isn't much better, for the most part it is all about the Auto Rifle, the sooner you accept this the better off you will be.
2. Expect to be killed by Fusion Rifles/Shotguns a lot. I said Destiny has balancing issues, and here is case and point. The Fusion Rifle and Shotgun fall under Special Weapons, Special Weapons much like Heavy Weapons should have their ammo put on a timer, instead they are available from the beginning and regularly replenish on a regular basis. Meaning that someone who chooses to run around with a shotgun can do so without ever switching back to their primary. This is going to happen, don't get frustrated.
3. Don't waste your super! Supers are hard to come by in PVP, especially if your not that great at it. While people who do well can achieve 3-4 supers per match, most might see 2, so deploying it for 1 enemy is just a waste. If you are going to maximize your super it should be when there are several people in one area, especially in control points.
4. Don't get frustrated, no matter how bullshit PVP can feel getting frustrated is going to make you do worse. You are not required to get a ton of kills, a number of people will tell you that your Win/Loss ratio is far more important than your Kill/Death Ratio. This means if you aren't the best at getting kills you should stick with modes like Control, and instead of trying to get kills just focus on capping points. This goes farther towards helping your team and getting the Objectively Correct medal at the end always feels pretty good. Once you learn peoples tactics, you can exploit them and overall the more relaxed you are the better you will do.

Raid Tips
The Vault of Glass Raid is the pinnacle of what you can do in Destiny at this current time. What makes the VoG hard is that it requires you to have 5 other people in your Fireteam without matchmaking. There are plenty of walkthroughs out there and if you are new to this whole thing these are simply tips, not a walkthrough.

1. Do the Raid with people you regularly play with and have good communication with. Destiny's social aspect is a double-edged sword, and it is no more evident than the Raid, requiring people to find 5 other people ready to work on their timeframe is hard for most people, but the lack of any real ingame chat makes it even harder. The first group made it through in 11 hours, some who have done it repeatedly managed it in as quick as 35-40 minutes. My first successful attempt took 5 1/2 hours, the next successful attempt took 3 hours. So clearly you are going to be in the Raid for a considerable amount of time. Which means that the other 5 players you will be playing with will be with you for however long it takes to get through it. If you are doing the Raid with complete strangers chances are you won't have fun, and it will take longer due to a lack of communication. There are a multitude of resources for finding players, but you shouldn't jump right in to the Raid with random people you meet through whatever source, you should do Strikes, Weeklies, Patrols with them to get to know them, and figure out if they have a chance of being a toxic member of your party. Once you find a solid group stick with them and watch the time it takes to get through the Raid melt off with each successful go at it.
2. Don't expect awesome rewards. The Raid giveth and the Raid jippeth, sometimes you will get weapons, or maybe a piece of gear, but chances are you will go the whole raid getting nothing more than Shards and Energies, and maybe a shader. If you are doing it for nothing more than Raid Gear, you are probably going to have a miserable time. Especially if someone else in the group is cleaning up, accept what you get, and be humble about what your Raid Team gets.
3. Communicate, do this times infinity. In order for everyone to be on the same page people need to communicate what they are seeing, and when they are in trouble. Develop a language that everyone in your group understands, that way if you see an Oracle in say back left, shouting it out will let everyone around you know, "hey, we need to get rid of that!" There is no such thing as too much communication.
4. Make sure that everyone knows what they are supposed to be doing, and that they are doing it. There are plenty of sections that require perfect coordination by everyone involved. If someone isn't doing their job, you are officially fucked. But, you also need to be flexible, especially when it comes to something like the Atheon fight, if someone is say expected to be teleported and carry the Relic, but it's not working out there needs to be someone else ready and able to do it in their place.
5. Toxic behavior helps no one. Our first attempt at the raid was destined for failure, due to many factors. We had 4 people ready to get shit done, one person who was unable to connect to party chat due to "NAT problems", and someone who was completely trashed. One of the 4 lost his power, which caused us to scramble to find 1 more person, once that one person was found, he and my very drunk friend had a battle of egos, which resulted in the dude without the mic to not know what the hell was going on, one of the guys in our party to side with the guy who came in late to blindside my drunk friend. We dissolved, and we didn't finish. Then I managed to get a group of guys together whom I had played with before and boom we finished it, did it with the same guys the following week finished it even quicker. The Raid requires you to check your ego at the door, everybody makes mistakes, and everyone needs to be encouraging, the better experience you give everyone the better chances you have of making it through.
6. You should have an Auto Rifle (most enemies), Fusion Rifle (tend to do high damage on Oracles), Sniper Rifle (Atheon/Templar), Machine Gun (Atheon/Templar), and Rocket Launcher (Atheon/Templar). You should also have Ammo Synthesis (atleast 5 of each type), because you would be surprised how little ammo can drop when you need it.

This final portion is basically just our method, which was found by someone else in our team (and therefore I don't know the original source for the method) and it has worked quite well, but I did find an interesting method on reddit, which I now can't find for some reason that seems promising. Atheon really isn't all that bad, and his health goes down rather quickly once you start laying into him. He is incredibly susceptible to Grenades and Rocket Launchers. So what we do is when the guys who were telported come back out everyone get to the middle platform between the two portals. Our Defender Titan throws up his bubble with Weapons of Light (which increases weapon damage) we all stand in the bubble the relic carrier holds down his cleanse infront that bubble which means Atheon can not hit you, but you can still fire out, at that point we unleash rockets and grenades upon him until there is about 5 seconds left on Time's vengeance and then we all get back to where we belong. We rinse and repeat and it takes about 4-5 times of doing this for him to go down. Now the reddit suggestion was you have 2 Sunsinger Warlocks stay out of the teleport, once the three people in the back get teleported both Sunginers (you need Fire Praxis) use their supers and just unload grenades upon Atheon as he will be standing perfectly still, according to that method he could be down in about 3 teleports.

I will be adding to this in time, currently I am writing this because I am laying on a couch with a 101 degree fever and it seemed like a good way to pass the time. If you would like to play with me, or if you need help farming chests, doing strikes, weeklies, or maybe you would like to do the raid you can add me on Xbox One my tag is combicoilag, hopefully I will pick this up for PS3 and if I do I will let you know. If you have any tips, or things you think I should add let me know down in the comments, you can follow me on Twitter @combicoilag or Subscribe to my Yotube channel my username is combicoilag. Thanks for reading, and remember that all in all you should have fun playing Destiny, and these tips are nothing more than a simple guide to how to maximize your time in Destiny, and make the endgame slightly easier on yourself. So Guardian get out there, and as always protect Dinklebot!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Destiny Xbox One (Review/List of needed improvements)

It is incredibly hard to describe how I feel about Destiny. On one hand I am hopelessly addicted, I have played every single day for hours on end since it's release on the 9th. On the other hand this game has frustrated me to no end. I don't want this to turn into a rant, and I don't want to paint a portrait that I dislike the game, because I don't, so I might as well get the first bit out of the way now. Destiny suffers from it's own ambition, it's an unfortunate thing, but there are much worse things to suffer from.

Unfortunately one of the main points on which Bungie missed the mark by so much you can't even see where the target was anymore is the lack of any real narrative. While there is plenty of lore, and information about the world provided through the Grimoire on Bungie.net, it is unbelievable that it isn't built into the game. How can you force people to leave the gamespace to go to an external source to get information about world. How and why was this decision made? There is no story arch, there is a vague begining, but after that, nothing that can be of any use. Why was I dead? Why was I brought back to life? How do my actions affect the world around me? What the fuck is the Traveler?

Apparently in the game, no one really knows, because they are all very quick to be as vague as possible. Also, they keep mentioning things that they NEVER EXPLORE IN THE FUCKING GAME! I can't understand who made the decision that how they put it out there is good enough to warrant $60 or more. The world seems so deep, and you want to know what is happening, where you stand in humanity's struggle to survive, and how it all impacts the random people you see moving about the Tower. But in the end all of your heroic deeds amount to nothing more than a light level, and that is incredibly sad.

Destiny's story mode consists of doing missions on the various ingame planets: Earth, the Moon, Venus, and Mars. The missions center around the same concept for each one fight enemies to get to where you need to be, deploy ghost, fight off waves of enemies, mission end. It really doesn't get more varied than that, and then the game just abruptly ends. There was a moment after reaching Venus where it seemed as if maybe the game was turning a corner, treating us to a couple lengthy cut-scene's featuring the Queen of the Awoken, but they went nowhere, and only seem to stand to point towards what is coming from the Expansion Pass. But, as I mentioned before the game ends in such an anti-climatic, did this really just end kind of way.

But, enough doom and gloom, why have I been playing for two weeks straight if the story is that terrible? Because Bungie nailed the gameplay, and co-op in a way few could. The gunplay is fast, intuitive and easily accessible. The guns themselves feel like they should, firing a Machine Gun has natural recoil forcing the gun upwards, while the Scout Rifle which is a single fire weapon is smooth and accurate with minimal flinch. All weapons and gear can be upgraded through the games in-game currency known as Glimmer, and resources you find out in the world. Once you get up to level 20 you begin to level past 20 using Light, an attribute that comes with most Blue (Rare), and all Purple (Legendary) and Yellow (Exotic) armor. The higher the rarity of your armor the more upgrade materials you need keeping you from becoming top level too quickly.

Once you start unlocking planets you can take on Strike missions, or just go to the open world section of each planet where you can do Patrol missions. Doing either of these will net you Vanguard Marks and Rep, which can be used to purchase Legendary Armor and Weapons. At base level you can tackle the Strikes on your own, but the real fun in Destiny comes from partying up with friends or randoms to do the Strikes and Patrols. I can't describe just how social Destiny is, even if your friends list is devoid of people you will quickly make friends in the world of Destiny. Actually most of my activity feed on Xbox One is people unlocking achievements in Destiny, making game clips of Destiny, and adding friends they have made.... playing Destiny.

There is no shortage of things to do in Destiny, playing through each of the missions on harder difficulty settings also adds a nice mixture of ways to test your skills. But, inevitably you will begin the agonizing grind of farming. It may just be materials for upgrades, or trying to farm engrams for better armor and weapons. The loot system seems a little broken at the moment, I don't think you should just see loot drop everywhere, but you should at least get something for defeating a boss, or actually find something with better stats (once you get a legendary of a certain weapon type, they pretty much all blend together.). Outside of that there are plenty of bounties that will have you completing Patrol missions on certain planets, or upping the difficulty on a certain mission, that keep the game fresh and varied.

When you have explored the galaxy to your liking there is always PVP, which is on par with what you would expect from the developer that created Halo. With the added verticality of double-jumps, triple-jumps, and glides, the battlefield feels fast paced and versatile. There are slight balancing issues as even with nerfs to make players closer in ability bonus stats to armor and weapons remain, meaning those with higher level high quality gear have a slight edge on their lower level counterparts. The amount of special ammo around also makes for a tiresome run if someone favors shotguns or fusion rifles, but overall PVP is quite addicting and doing the bounties will add even more playtime, especially for those who don't tend to like PVP.

With the addition of last weeks Vault of Glass raid, the game has added even more content to conquer. The first team made it through in 11 hours, with an average lifespan of 2 minutes. The Raid is the truest test of teamwork and skill, having only played a little of it, I can't say much about the end boss, but, from what I did experience it is both punishing and incredibly fun and rewarding. Destiny is being lauded as a 10 year deal, with a whole lot of future ahead of it. What Bungie has done here is lay out the groundwork for a series that could become one of the greatest of all time, if it fixes the issues it experienced with this release. I hold out hope for future updates and the DLC, but as of now Destiny feels like a whole lot of ambition with some poor decision choices, and an incredibly weak bare bornes story. I can applaud what Bungie have created, and I look forward to the future, but as it stands right now Destiny is simply incomplete. If you choose to say that "Oh, it's coming!" then you missed the promise that was made in an interview with Bungie done by Angry Joe, which can be found here : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQKp0VcA1Vw if you skip to 10:48 he states "a game with a distinct beginning, middle, and end" that is not what is here. It is vague, and bates you with promise of more story in the DLC, basically trapping the story behind a paywall. With everything considered I still give it an 8/10, but it's more for the amount of amazing times I've had just exploring the world with new friends, and dropping into a public event with complete strangers. So, I will leave you with this picture that pretty well sums up my loot experience, and a list of things I believe could make this game damn near perfect.

There needs to be more story, more impact on the world, your "legend" should have impact and not just be an objective.

Add a Challenge system, while bounties are great, and Grimoire score is nice having a challenge system close to that of Diablo III would add replay value, and a reason for players to play in a slightly different way, or explore more of the world.

Areas should scale to level, I understand that the world of Destiny is all inclusive, but seeing a bunch of 28's run through an area with a bunch of level 8 enemies is just sad and the lower level players never get a chance to kill anything.

Open chat systems in Patrol, and the tower. I don't understand why this isn't possible there is only so much you can say through pointing and dancing.

The Grimoire should be a part of the game itself, at no point should I have to break immersion to go look up what this enemy is or "what happened to this?". 

The ability to find clan members in the world, I have only been able to play with one clan member this whole time, and for all I know I've run right past them while on Patrol or at the tower, it would be great to see a couple members of my clan and be able to just party up with them on the fly.

More Fireteam members on harder difficulties. I feel like if you can have 6 people during the Raid portion, you should be able to tackle the Weekly Nightfall, or the Strike playlist with the same amount. If it's an issue with balancing you can restrict it to a certain difficulty level, and make the enemies put out more damage, or add more multipliers.

More diverse bounties, I can't tell you how many times I've had to do 6 Patrol missions on the Moon, or kill 25 Hunters in the Crucible. It should refresh more, and keep track of what you have done already. Also the Bounty Bot (I'm not sure what he is really called), should have playlist specific bounties removed when that playlist is no longer active (he is still giving me Salvage bounties, a game type that was only available the first weekend the game was out.).

More customization options, I made the same character as I did in the Beta, my girlfriend without seeing mine made the same as me, only her's was female. You don't have to give us Skyrim overkill customization, but at least let there be a chance that we make someone we aren't going to see elsewhere.

Notifications if our friends are playing through the same mission, or a strike that has an open slot. This isn't necessity, it would just be cool if when you are matchmaking a playlist, and you have friends matchmaking the same playlist if we could be lumped together or at least have an option to.

A vote to skip option in the Strike Playlist. Sometimes when you are in the Strike playlist you will end up on the same strike 3-4 times in a row, forcing you to sit through the load, then back out, then go back in, then load, then back out. If it could have a lobby where you have an option to vote it would be really nice, and it would cut back on repetition. 

The ability to skip cutscenes... just seriously one button.

Patrol missions that go somewhere, kind of like a public event. I end up on these scouting missions, where I'm asked to scout an entrance, or a battlefield, and then I get there climb up where it wants me and I just stand there until the meter fills to 100%. Why can't we have it so that scouting something actually leads to your Guardian taking action, to where you feel like you are actually making a difference.

Engrams should scale!!!! If I'm level 24, I should never see a Green engram, I know you can gain mats from Weapons and Armor dismantling, but when you reach over 200 and you are already dismantling every Blue engram you find there is no point in Green's anymore. Have Blue's drop as what they are, and only have Legendary and Exotic engrams drop from that point out.

Make the stats on Armor and Weapons vary from Weapon to Weapon, and Armor to Armor. It doesn't have to drastic, it doesn't have to add more light, just make the Attack differ. I recieved two Legendary Shotguns in 1 day, the both had the same exact stats just a different name, making the second one usless, it would be way better if my weapons actually had a chance of getting better just outright, rather than it's all the same just this one does void and that one does fire.

Make it possible to reach Light Level 30 without doing the Raid. I will be doing the raid, but the drops are still random, and from what I've heard in order to reach 30 you have to defeat the Raid on it's hardest difficulty. It's hard enough getting through the Raid on it's normal difficulty, it's even harder for most to even find 6 people to do the Raid with. If the case is that Raid gear will be necessary to reach 30, you need to make it possible for those who do not wish to do the Raid, or can't find the people to do it with the ability to naturally level to 30.

Make The Gunsmith and the Speaker improve their stock. Outside of weekends when Xur shows up the speaker is the only other person who accepts Motes of Light, and he only sells class items and emblems, which never change! The Gunsmith always sells greens with a slight (and I have yet to see it) chance of selling blues. I use him for nothing more than Ammo Synthesis at this point, try the Borderlands method where he offers up something unique every hour or so at the top that is different for everyone, and once you reach the point that greens no longer apply to you make it so that he sells nothing but Blues with a slight chance of Purples. If you feel that is too easy make it cost more Glimmer, or have people use Motes for Purples.

Cryptarch Level should fucking matter! I'm not saying you should have a significantly higher chance of getting better than what the engram is, I'm saying you should have an increased chance that it will be the same, still with a slight chance of getting better/downgrading. But the chance for the same color should be drastically increased. I watched someone with a Cryptarch level of 16 getting straight blues, 1 purple, and 1 yellow off of like 13 Purple engrams. That is absolutely horrible odds, of even getting the same.

Engrams available to buy from the Cryptarch should level with his level. That goes back to Cryptach Level should matter. At level 27, with a 13 level Cryptarch, he only offers me whites and greens, how does that even work?! If you allowed people to spend more glimmer, or motes on higher quality engrams straight from the Cryptarch you wouldn't have crowds of people standing outside of a cave for hours on end.

Reduce the amount of materials needed for base improvements. The last teir for my weapons and armor require the same amount of Ascendant Shards per upgrade, as the one before it, and I rarely ever find these materials, either reduce the first upgrade in the last tier, make the second slightly more, and the last the most so it at least feels like maybe we can upgrade this stuff.

Increase the range/damage of Shotguns in PVE. I just got 2 fancy new Legendary Shotguns, I will never use these in PVE because they are absolutely worthless there, which means I would have to dedicate myself to my Shotgun in PVP to even get it moderately upgraded, and still have it be worthless in PVE.

Have Strike/Story Bosses drop fucking loot!!!!!!!! I fight my way through hordes of enemies, I get to the final boss and an epic battle ensues, and at the end when the dust settles and he falls to my finely honed skills he drops... ammo and maybe if you're lucky a consumable that will get you more Glitter with a certain faction. SERIOUSLY?! I have watched Purple engrams fly out of a Dreg, and this Bulletsponge gives no one in my party anything?! FIX IT! While you're at it, have Yellow enemies (Majors/Ultras) have a better chance of loot drops as well, and reduce it on the lowly peons. Once again going back to that Angry Joe interview, "We want you to feel like you earned that weapon or piece of armor, and have a memory attached to it." The only memory anyone is going to have is "Oh yeah, I got that by killing endless Goblins during the Nexus strike." or "I stood outside a cave for 3 hours." or "I just woke up the hive over and over again." I don't feel like I earned something when I kill the lowest man on the totem-pole and he gives me a Legendary. I feel like I earned it when I killed something that was hard, with a giant health bar.

Give more Weapon stats, the Attack number system is garbage. Just tell me how much Crit damage it does, and how much on average it does.

Nerf the stopping power of Special Weapons or reduce the ammo. You have to wait for Heavy Ammo, but yet Special Ammo is plentiful and bottomless, allowing for people to run around with Shotguns and Fusion Rifles for the entire match. Put that on a timer as well, so that it's not just a Shotgun fest.

Keep low levels that don't have armor and weapon upgrades in a seperate matchmaking from higher level players. I have seen some low levels deal some serious death, but I have also seen a group of low levels decimated by their high level counterparts. It would just be better to keep things fair for everyone to give us two separate lobbies.

Titans should have to double tap to kill like Warlocks and Hunters, I understand they are like the Tank class, but still if everyone else has to hit twice, so should they.

Give the players on the top of leaderboard a slightly better chance at getting loot, I have watched numerous times as the top players have gotten nothing, while the bottom has gotten a plethora, even watched the next to last player get an exotic once.

Add the aforementioned Challenge system.

Add private lobbies so that people can organize their own events, and compete on a professional level.

I think this game has massive potential, and my suggestions are my own, and you don't have to agree with them. Bungie will probably never see this list, most of these suggestions will never make it into the game, but I felt compelled because I love this game at it's core. I hope more people give it a chance, and I hope the DLC is so massive it blows everyone's mind. I still have 2 more Classes to fully explore, and I just hope that as the community speaks that Bungie/Activision listen, and in the end we get a Galxy worth fighting for.

Friday, August 1, 2014

I live in hell... No Seriously.

I don't normally talk about me on here, but I felt that perhaps I would look at how where you are impacts who you are. I live just 20 minutes outside of what a Rolling Stone article referred to as "The Arm-pit of Ohio". That's right Rolling Stone called compared us to an Arm-pit, but it doesn't end there, I actually catch a lot of references to Youngstown in popular media, and none of them are flattering.

Here is a video of Drew Carey mentioning Youngstown: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0njxBeDiUAA

Paulie of the Sopranos was imprisoned in Youngstown during the first episode of the fourth season, at the end of Goodfellas he is witness protection in Youngstown, and most recently the Netflix original Hemlock Grove mentioned Youngstown in the first episode of their second season by a female character stating she was "followed in to a bathroom". Do we just get a bad rap? No, not really, there are parts of Youngstown that aren't nearly as bad as people believe, but one trip to the East Side of Youngstown and you will understand where all of the negativity comes from. There are actually people who proudly wear shirts that proclaim that we were the "2 Time Defending Champs 2001-2002" for "Murder Capital of America"....awesome. But, I didn't grow up in Youngstown, I grew up in Warren, Ohio about 35-40 minutes North of Youngstown, which is famous for this...

YEAH!! Suck it! Yes that is correct, we have a two story, glass, McDonald's featuring a Baby Grand Piano in the middle, because you need to have class with your Big Mac. But, also Dave Grohl (yes of Nirvana, Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stoneage fame) was also born in Warren, which they made a pretty big deal about, they gave him an alley, yes an alley, and they made a pair of 900 ILBS drum sticks to celebrate it. That in itself is pretty cool, that Dave Grohl was born in the same town as me, not the drum sticks or the giant McDonald's. Warren is not a magical place however in fact it's about as bad as Youngstown when it comes to crime and poverty.

But, growing up it was all normal, it's all I knew, and my parents managed to keep me safe from it. I lived on a street where I could run free and play without having to worry about bad things happening to me. But, we moved around a lot, eventually we moved to a town just outside of Youngstown called Boardman. Boardman was weird for me, people seemed to be a bit better off, there was a shopping district (it's one of the biggest in the area, next to Niles which is 15 minutes from warren), the kids in school seemed to have shit figured out, and the girls looked better. I was actually starting to come into my own in Boardman, I had friends, felt a sense of normality, was becoming popular with the ladies, and I was starting to feel some sense of belonging. But, an unfortunate family problem caused us to pack up and move away from Ohio.

We ended up in Tampa, Fl and if Boardman was weird to me, Tampa was a foreign fucking country. I wasn't exactly living in the lap of luxury, we lived in a double-wide, our yard was sand with weeds jutting out of it haphazardly, and the AC worked when it felt like it. But, after some time I really felt at home, had an amazing group of friends, had amazing success with the ladies, and there was actually a cultural scene. Tampa helped define me, it made me want to do something with my life, I felt creative and alive, and I was loving every minute of it. Eventually the family member we moved down for went back home to Ohio and we stayed, due to my Dad still living in Ohio I was shipped off there every summer. I recall one summer vividly because it was my first real taste of life in Warren was really like. It started with some family members getting me drunk, going to the ghetto of Warren, trying to get me to lose my virginity to some random teenage girl whom was plied with Alcohol and Pot, and when she went off to buy more Pot, she was beaten, robbed, and raped. I became immediately scared to be in Warren, I was 14-15 and there was chaos all around me. I was embarrassed to come from such a horrible place, and to know that my own family had taken on it's mentality. I was always relieved to go back to Florida.

Eventually the company my mother worked for moved down to Ft. Lauderdale, Fl which prompted us to move away from my new home for yet another. I was pretty miserable at first, I was flipped off by a kid at the laundry mat, flipped off by a random woman whom was just sitting on her porch, and I was regularly ostracized at school, and I eventually quit. I felt alone and out of place, eventually a former school mate invited me to a local show, from there my life got a lot better. I threw myself headlong into the local music scene, got in tight with some local bands, ended up in some pretty horrible relationships, and eventually found myself moving back to Warren. We moved as an entire family, my fiancee at the time, my mom, and my brother. I have to admit moving back was depressing, realizing that everything I enjoyed in Florida was magically missing from this black hole was even more depressing, my impending marriage even more depressing.

If I wanted to see a show I had to drive to either Cleveland (which is just as depressing as Warren) or Pittsburgh (my home away from home), if I wanted to experience better chain resturants I was stuck with what they had in Niles or I had to drive to Cleveland or Akron. I lost my taste for most things, the people closest to me were getting way into drugs, and I ended up stuck in a series of soul crushing jobs that paid far less than what I was worth or doing. The light at the end of the tunnel for me was my Son, when he was born the jobs became a little less soul crushing, and I didn't care as much that I was isolated from everything and everyone (due to my incredibly restrictive marriage). I was once again offered a way out of Ohio, my wife's sister asked us to move to Massachusetts, they pulled out the big guns, better quality of life, better wages, and they were connected. So, we packed up, and moved our lives out east.

It didn't take long for me to realize I didn't belong in MA, everyone seemed to have their head up their ass, and my wife seemed to be going in the same direction. After an Industrial Music Festival in Connecticut my wife asked for a Divorce. I moved out, met someone else, lived in the Spanish Ghetto, and could barely support myself. My relationship was emotionally abusive, I was broke, and I hated everything about MA. One of my only friends offered me a place to stay after I broke up with the girl I was with and was facing eviction. So, I moved myself to Rhode Island, but, even with 2 room mates, whom constantly had tons of friends over. I found myself withdrawn, and I was driving an hour to work and an hour back and I couldn't face another day of uncertainty, so I packed it up and moved back to my mom's house in Youngstown.

Ever since I have found myself in a constant cycle of mundane, soul crushing, barely breaking even life. I have a great girlfriend, and a wonderful little girl whom I love with all my heart. But, this place just sucks the joy out of life, it makes it impossible to get ahead. I have gone from job to job, made minimal friends, and never made enough to support myself on my own. This place is devoid of anything cultured, bands don't come here, events don't happen here, business come in and go just as quick. The president mentioned our city as a model for expansion, that's a fucking joke. This is the arm-pit of Ohio, people are struggling, our wages are underwhelming.

When I started going to school for Software Development (no, I didn't finish, no, it wasn't my fault, long story short don't go to ITT Tech), my teacher's stressed that once we got our degree to get out of Ohio. Not just out of Ohio, go hundreds of miles away, go to California, or Arizona, or Texas, or the East Coast. Why? Because staying here you will never, never, get paid what you could with that particular expertise. That is the general sentiment, if you want a good job, with a decent wage you have to leave to do it. Become an over-the-road trucker, find a job near Pittsburgh, or just move. I have worked at an industrial foundry for almost 3 years now, I spend my nights (because I work from 10PM-6AM) slaving over what is called an Electric Arc Furnace or EAF. It uses electricity to turn scrap metal into molten liquid, my furnaces hold a little over 7,000 LBS of liquid metal, that is heated to temperatures of up to 3,050 degrees. When you look at pictures most of these furnaces have covers on them, they are loaded with robots and conveyor belts, while the operator safely monitors it from a booth. I literally place everything in my furnace by hand, if it's way too heavy I have an overhead crane, I monitor it by looking down into it, there is no cover, there are no robots, if there is water in a piece of scrap metal it can explode... all over me and anyone within the vicinity.

For doing this incredibly dangerous job I make $13.60 an hour, when I got my first job in MA i made $11.50 to start and after a month I was up to $12.30. Do the math, I have been at my job for longer than the other, it is 100% more dangerous and I make a whole $1.30 an hour more. Actually earlier this year, my glove caught on fire, which caught 4 layers of clothing on my left arm on fire. This caused severe 2nd degree burns to the side of my left hand and my left fore-arm. It put me out of work for a month. I had to drive to Akron to their burn center, and I had to go through the ever painful process of worker's compensation. Through this and the agonizing pain I was in the only things that saved me was the love from my family, my girlfriend literally nursing my wounds, and video games. I know I probably won't ever become famous for writing about video games, I'm not good enough to go on the pro circuit, and I am too far away to enjoy any of the events that happen in the industry. But, this takes me away from the horrible conditions of life in this crappy place.

I believe that where you live greatly affects whom you will become. People have the tendency to take forgranted the options they have, or the opportunities all around them. When they do big game release parties they are far far from here, when a developer opens a new studio they aren't around here, when tournaments happen they a miles from here. Building connections here are useless, and most of the jobs you can find around here will lead you to nowhere but a nice house in a shitty town. Be thankful for what you have, unless you live a place similar to mine and then you have my sympathy, but, if you do live in a place where there are things happening and people are making good money, and living pseudo-happy lives, take advantage. Don't squander your possibilities, because as the bumper stickers I see everywhere state, I am "Stuck in Ohio".

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

My Love/Hate Relationship with the Playstation (and clarification on why I went Xbox)

Usually I put colorful meme's in my posts but there are none that don't disparage Xbox, and therefore there will be none. My first Playstation was bought for me by my mother, it was back when the first Playstation around 1996-97. I was incredibly psyched when she brought it home, and even more psyched by the copy of Resident Evil 2 that she brought home with it. The Playstation was different than the consoles I had owned prior to it, in the sense that the graphics (at the time) were amazing and it had discs and not cartridges. I played the living hell out of Resident Evil which of course was followed by, Crash Bandicoot, Jet Moto, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, Metal Gear Solid, Silent Hill, and Tomb Raider.  I may have spent more time on my Playstation than paying attention in School, usually because I was thinking about getting home to play it. You should pay attention in school, it's at least advisable. But, this console bridged me from enjoying games being a gamer.

For some reason during the next console cycle I went with the ill-fated Gamecube over the Playstation 2. The decision had a lot to do with the Resident Evil exclusivity deal, which eventually fell through and went over to the Playstation 2 anyways. But, I stuck with my decision, and I played on my brothers Playstation 2, especially when GTA: Vice City came out. I thought about seriously purchasing a PS2, but the price just wasn't right, when they released the slimmer model I once again thought about it, but was then quickly informed that due to the compact design and tiny fans, that the console generated immense heat, and the miniature fans couldn't keep up and would fry the motherboard, so I gave up on my hopes of PS2.

As the next consoles were announced I found myself most excited about what the next phase of Playstation would be, Microsoft didn't really impress me with the first Xbox and I expected very little from what would be the 360. But, E3 rolled around and here is this high-gloss weird looking console, with it's boomerang controller, and it's $499-$599 pricing structure that completely turned me off. But, I thought with a price tag like that there has to be great games, and then there were none. I was flabbergasted, it was as if either Sony had become too big for it's own good, or had completely forgotten how to launch a console.

On the other side of the coin here was Microsoft with the Xbox 360 which was not only cheaper, but seemed to have a better selection of games, and I was excited about upcoming games like Halo 3 and Gears of War, so I was sold on the 360. I really held a lot of disdain for the PS3 for a long while into last gen, mainly because everyone whom I met that had a PS3 would just down talk me for having a 360. Their arguments were all trivial and at the time did not matter at all to me. The common ones were "it has a bigger hard drive" (at the time I wasn't downloading digital content all that much, so I really didn't care about how big my HDD was. Having said that I do now.), or "it has a blu-ray drive" (I was still using a rear projection tv and I was too broke to upgrade so I didn't even have an HD TV, so, why should I care. I now have an HD TV with 3D, so of course the 3D Blu-ray feature is more important to me now), or "it has an internet browser" (I have a computer, I don't need it, when Xbox introduced it I still didn't use it.), and the ever famous "you don't have to pay to play online!" (everyone I had talked to said that multiplayer on Playstation was crap anyways, and now you have to pay for it anyways.). No matter how much people demeaned my decision I stuck by it, I was a proud Xbox supporter.

You couldn't have paid me to play on PS3, and then Rockstar announced the Playstation exclusive Agent (which has been absolutely non-existant ever since.), Uncharted began winning crazy amounts of awards, and the final nails in the coffin were the announcements of The Last Of Us and Beyond: Two Souls. Alright, I was sold, I wanted one just so I could play The Last of Us. I began looking on craigslist due to the still unreasonable price of PS3, and considering I was trying to buy one for mainly 2 games I just couldn't justify spending retail for it. As I researched I became more certain that it was a smart move, especially when I learned about PS+ and the Instant Game Collection. Finally I lucked out and managed to pick up a 160GB Super Slim for a whole $85, and that is where the happiness and woe began.

When I got it home the only controller he gave me was a wireless aftermarket Logitech wireless controller, which I didn't mind until I went to set it up for the first time. He had whiped the hard drive, including the system files, which required me to find the files online transfer them to my PS3, then I found out that you are required to have a wired controller, so I had to go out and buy a PS3 branded controller only to find out, it doesn't come with a USB charge cable, and they don't sell any, so I had to go to radio shack to buy one. After all that, the happiness came in, my first experience with the Instant Game Collection landed me Battlefield 3, Xcom: Enemy Unknown, Uncharted 3, and Little Big Planet: Karting. I felt like it was amazing that Sony just handed me 4 triple A games for the price of my membership, and then the annoyance of Sony's install policy left me feeling incredibly annoyed. The games one by one downloaded and then installed, all of which took forever, and caused it to actually take up more room on my HDD than it actually appears to. Navigation on the PS3 was also a nightmare, I still to this day can't figure out what half of the tabs on my PS3 actually do. That last one is probably just me, and there are probably more people whom find them useful, but it's just way more than I could possibly want.

I began buying games for my PS3 only to find that while I enjoyed the single-player experiences of games like Uncharted, Killzone, Resistance, and The Last of Us, the multiplayer portion was absolute garbage, like the tacked on multiplayer in games like Tomb Raider almost. I understood why multiplayer was free on the PS3, because there wasn't a single experience on PS3 outside of third party that was worth experiencing. Playstation exclusives are games that have potential and come up just short. I still haven't completed Killzone 3, or Uncharted 1 or 3. I don't understand what it is about them but for the most part they just aren't compelling enough to keep me playing. The Last of Us, Beyond and Heavy Rain (which both could have been helped by using less of the Six-Axis) were amazing experiences, especially when it comes to The Last of Us, but when there are only 3 games that really blow me away I can't really say that the PS3 is the wonderful machine everyone seems to believe it is.

As the Next-Gen approached I decided I would reserve my judgment for who was offering the games that most called to me. The reveals left me no more decided than I was before, but the Sony crowd was already sounding the death bell, it was quite frankly annoying, like that guy in the multiplayer lobby that just talks shit the whole time and uses cheap tactics to pad his K/D, but has the audacity to call it skill. Then came E3, of course Xbox touted a new Halo, but also introduced Titanfall, Quantum Break, Ryse, Dead Rising 3, and Sunset Overdrive. I was waiting for Sony's announcement, especially with the Xbox One's $499 price tag, Sony came in with a lower price at $399, and proceeded to spend the rest of their briefing bashing Xbox, the only game that made me bat an eyelash was The Order, it is still the only game that I am curious about on the PS4.

But, with my mind clearly made up on picking up an Xbox One, I was still very excited and interested when my friend brought his PS4 over, he brought Battlefield 4 with him and so for a quick comparison I popped my 360 copy in and we played a few rounds of multiplayer. Once we switched over to the PS4 it was clear that my 360 copy looked like muddy garbage in comparison. The lighting effects, the smooth framerate, and the way the gun shined was just amazing. I was in love, but only momentarily, once we stopped playing and I started trying to navigate the PS4 I was once again frustrated and quickly handed the controller over. I can't complain enough about the UI on the PS3 and PS4, I'm sure a lot of people prefer it, but I really don't like it.

But, what really puts me off from the PS4 is the audience it has, I'm sorry I know that between the Sony, Microsoft, and PC crowds that most people come off as arrogant asses but none seem to spew quite as much hate speech as the crowd that has surrounded and supported Sony. You can't say anything bad about Sony without everyone downvoting your comment until it disappears, it's absolutely ridiculous. Common things that straight up annoy me, the IGC for PS4 has been utter crap, defend it if you wish but it really hasn't offered up anything worth downloading even for free (not that GWG has come out strong on the One, but PS4 hasn't really been as great as people make it out to be.). The fact that while they were bashing the Xbox One and it's policies they managed to slip in that it will be mandatory to have PS+ to play online, and not a single person even mentioned it, they just pulled a Microsoft, and everyone applauds them for it. There were barely any worthwhile announcements at E3, while Xbox made their entire show about games, but everyone made it out like Sony blew them out of the water, just because of Uncharted 4. Now, there has been an announcement that the new EA Access program isn't good for their user base, a program that gives users access to EA's entire console catalog on Xbox One (and well what would have been PS4), plus a 10% discount, and 5 days early access on future titles. I figured people would be upset, at least the people who don't rally against EA in some unfounded righteous cause, but the usual happened, a number of people applauding Sony for their "upstanding morals", and anytime someone commented that they would have at least liked to have had a choice had there comments downvoted, one such comment was even voted so low that it was deleted. I see it constantly, graphical comparison articles are filled with PS4 fanboys degrading anyone who says "I can't tell the difference", that's not even a statement that supports one console or another, but if you aren't on the PS4 bandwagon you are apparently an idiot.

Will I get a PS4? Yeah eventually I will, when there is more of a library to pick from, and a price drop. But, am I rushing out to join the mob with the mice and pitchforks? No. As a matter of fact here is a perfect example and it just happened this morning, it perfectly outlines my love/hate relationship with my Playstation. During a recent sale I managed to get Batman: Arkham Origins for $8, that is a hell of a deal, better than anything in the recent XBL sale. I went to install it and was prompted that there wasn't enough space to do it, so I deleted the Install data for Watch_Dogs, I was up to 16GB the download is apparently 15.1GB, so I try again, no luck, so I deleted Payday 2, and Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes, now I'm up to 20GB of free space. I navigate back to the download tab, hit download, and get the same message, now I'm really frustrated, I go to my Game Data Tab and deleted Saints Row IV's install data, now I'm up to 26GB of free space, I go back to download it, and still insufficient space. WHAT THE FUCK?! This has annoyed me from the beginning, the Playstation lies about how much space things take up, and how much room you actually have. I have PS+ which comes with cloud storage, but only for saves, I can plug an external HDD into it (with a convoluted file folder system) but once again I can only put saves on it. Which in turn makes the IGC a constant annoyance of deleting and installing and then deleting more than what you had to previously for one game. Why it can't just work like the Xbox, if it says 12GB install, it downloads and installs 12GB, and it does it at the same time, not download the entire file, then install and expand the files in a separate step.

I love my PS3 for the most part, and I don't hate anyone for loving their console. I dislike the ignorance that comes with it, it's universal lately, and it's sad. I love video games, it doesn't matter what console they are on, and I will always choose based on the games that interest me. The Xbox One and the 360 definitely haven't been perfect, and there are tons of room for improvement on both, but the PS4 and PS3 are nowhere near perfect, and Sony is definitely has the ability to be like a mean kid with a big stick, but they know what they are doing, they release games people want to play and I commend them for the things they do right, but I believe that they need to use a little humility when they fuck something up and not just throw free shit at people and call it even. It's a wonderful and competitive market and it's better when we all get along. So, to my Playstation I love you and loathe you all at the same time.