Sunday, December 31, 2017

After Christmas - A post mortem for the soul

 
 


Twas the week after Christmas lights still on the tree sadly now shining not so brightly 

At once made perfect with all due care now those lights a nuisance, a tacky cross to bear

The excitement of the season fades to past as the day of reckoning for bills made comes fast

How quickly we forget why the season is so bright or perhaps we never really knew as we bought all in sight

The 26th comes the world again severe.  Good will toward men and kindness in arrears

The baubles now faded, broken and dark as the joy of the season fades to gray and stark

Now approaches a shiny new year with expectations rising and reality drawing near

Soon we'll return to march to another's tune all the time hoping our turn will come soon

Ahh but that reality, an ogre that looms.  A plague on the heart, foe of joy friend of doom

Life is what you make it or so they say but those who proclaim it rarely enter the fray

So as your impending hangover this New Year's Morn you dread

Let me pound this one simple message into your soon throbbing head

The lesson of the season isn't about lights on a tree

It's about the light kept inside year round shared freely

Priorities be damned, you've got them wrong anyway

Give of yourself and shine with the light of Christmas each and every day


Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Steam Winter Sale 2017 Start Date!



According to Trusted Reviews 

The Steam Winter Sale 2017 Starts at 6PM GMT December 21'st and ends January 4th!

Check out the deals when they happen!


Monday, December 11, 2017

Path of Exile: Path of the Gods ( so far )

L
 

Like any RPG, Path of Exile has its share of deities and demigods.  Some more challenging than others but none that you'd be wise to turn your back on.

Since the expansion that brought the game to 10 acts and 2 parts Grinding Gear has upped the ante by making even the most pedestrian hordes more challenging if by nothing else sheer numbers.  As you progress in the main game the action can get frantic and make you wish for those "pediestrian" boss battles like Piety and Dominus back in Part 1.

But that's not much fun is it?  Where's the catalyst for improvement in that?  No, Path of Exile makes you go big or go home.  But sometimes, just sometimes, it can be a little lopsided as you'll see in the playlist below.


Saturday, November 4, 2017

A busy October


Path of Exile Act 2 has been keeping me busy lately.  See some highlights below...



Monday, September 25, 2017

Gaming Rig Upgrades


Change is necessary.  Without it nothing good happens.  But you have to have a good reason and a plan and that's what I present here.

I've been using an Intel X58 Based Core I7 940 for gaming duties for a good 7 years now.  It's one of a few rigs I currently have and it lives happily at my buddy's house awaiting it's weekly visit from me.

Over the years it's changed a bit but most of the core parts ( pardon the pun) have remained the same with the Board, CPU and memory remaining unchanged.  It has gone through a series of video cards, however.  Beginning with a 1000Watt Power supply ( because they needed it!) I started out with a pair of Nvidia GTX 285's.  Great cards but total system draw was on the order of 800 watts!  That and the extra 20F of heat they pumped into the room annoyed my buddy when he got the power bill.  So I looked for something a bit more efficient.  I switched to what was then a top of the heap (as in kicking Nvidia's rear at the time) Radeon 6970 2GB.  That card served me well for close to 3 years and now resides in my home game rig where it still does admirable duty as a backup gaming rig.

A couple of years ago my buddy suprised me with a gift.  An Nvidia GTX 970!  The 6970 was starting to have trouble with newer games and with the added strain of my new penchant for live game streams was just not up to the task.

That was it.  I had no plans to do anything further until a completely new build.  But something struck me with the GTX 970.    The fact that a 7 year old rig based on an 8 year old platform was still viable for gaming with nothing more than the change of a video card.

With some admittedly casual research I'd found that the X58 platform had a wider appeal than just me.  People were actively seeking them out and using them for everything from bitcoin mining to gaming rigs.   I also found a subculture that sought to push the platform further.  The Xeon crowd.

Now everybody pretty much knows that with every new Intel consumer processor family comes a new Xeon derivative.  Or maybe it's the other way around.  Regardless, I knew that there was an equivalent Xeon for the Nehalem/Bloomfield processors and I found it in the X56xx series. 

A bit more research found that others had already blazed a trail with the Xeon X56xx processors and since many servers were coming off lease they could be had from recyclers for dirt cheap prices. 

This story is long enough as it is.  Suffice it to say that I took the plunge and so far have enjoyed the fruits of my labor.  The videos below document the journey.  Check them out!

....or live in ignorance.... :-)


Saturday, September 16, 2017

Gamer Rock


A curated selection of tunes assembled into a playlist.  All these songs were found within the games themselves.

See if they bring back any memories for you.


Friday, September 1, 2017

Fall of Oriath: Strange Days


The World of Path of Exile is not the same.

There's the obvious stuff like a new Act to play through.  New monsters to vanquish and of course the mandatory passive tree respec the first time you log in to POE v3....

Yeah, that last one is always a treat.  Treat as in getting punched in the face while simultaneously being crapped on by a swarm of pigeons.

But perhaps most jarring to longtime players is the elimination of the cruel and merciless modes.  To my eye it appears that Grinding Gear took my advice and eliminated the XP penalties in favor of harder boss battles.

At least to MY EYE...

A friend of mine with a couple of characters past level 80 claims to still be getting an XP penalty on death.  I haven't experienced this myself but it that's what I have to look forward to I may dump this game once and for all.

Already in Act 5 I've gone through 2 vicious boss battles that took my level 40 something witch at least 30 minutes and almost as many deaths to get through.  Neither of which cost me any XP.

There does seem to be a kind of trade-off or perhaps just a side-effect of revamping the underlying game progression.  Higher level characters can literally walk through maps in Act 5 with little fear most of the time.

Other than a blank slate this was bound to be the case with veteran characters.  Grinding gear was looking to attract more players so those new to the game would see the same rate of character progression through the acts as veterans saw with cruel and merciless game modes.

So the veterans are kind of the odd-man out.  If there is an XP penalty for higher level characters it's likely a compromise to keep the game interesting.  Otherwise your level 80 Marauder would be waiting till Act 10 to have any kind of challenge.

One oddity when playing co-op is both welcome and annoying.  As you may already know you can't join a player somewhere you haven't been.  However with the advent of Act 5 there are maps where you can still adventure with a friend.  It's only in the boss battles where you'll find that you're once again on your own.  Better than being completely blocked from participating but annoying when you find out that your buddy can't help you.

But there had to be some compromises somewhere....

The alternative would have been to wipe out everyone's characters and start over.  Something that wuld likely lose veteran players.  After all, get about 500 hours into Path of Exile and chances are you know the NPC speeches by heart.  If I never see the Western Forest again it'll be too soon...

So as we bravely go forth into this new world of Oriath all we can do is see what all of these changes have wrought and go from there.

I'm well on my way as you can see below.  As Adam the Woo would say, " Join Me, Shall You?"



Monday, July 31, 2017

Path of Exile: Saturday Night Action


Path of Exile has been getting A LOT more interesting lately.  First, we have the upcoming Fall of Oriath acts.  Then there's the potential to finally eliminate the soon to be superfluous Cruel and Merciless game modes in favor of the acts.

But in the meantime...

It seems that the volume switch has been turned to 11 when it comes to action.  For the past few months since the Fall of Oriath announcement there seems to be more action and variance in the standard maps than there used to be.

So much so that I've been investing more time in the game.  This has translated to Path of Exile being almost exclusive content on the regular Saturday night live streams.

Which means a lot more YouTube content.  Check out my YouTube channel on Saturday nights around 12AM Pacific time and you're sure to see myself and Shotglass creating mayhem across Wraeclast.

Check out the examples below and stop by!






Sunday, June 25, 2017

Steam Summer Sale 2017



That time of year again.  The Steam Summer sale is here!  Now through July 5th grab the goods while you can.

Once again the fanfare is kept to a minimum and the so are the deals.  A sign of the times with free games like Path of Exile, DOTA 2 and Warframe pushing the modern gamer to ask if it's really worth it to drop 3 bills on a game just to watch it collect dust a month later.

Still, if you know what you want and the price hits your sweet spot then why not!  Me?  I picked up Saint's Row: Gat out of Hell for just under $4.  It's the standalone companion game to Saints Row 4 and something I've had my eye on for a couple of years.  It's been cheaper before but it's been awhile since I threw Steam a few bucks and I spend more time in Steam than anything else so might as well give the Devil his due.

More about the sale below...


Friday, June 9, 2017

What do you want? In a video game that is....


There's a few constants in the life of a serious gamer.  One is that gaming is more lifestyle than pastime.  We can remember an epic victory in our favorite game just as vividly as any sports fan remembers the year their team, "took it all!"

It can bring a chill to your spine, a smile to your face and cement itself permanently in your psyche.  Analogies will spring from the experience.  Equivalencies will be made no matter how false... :p

But serious gamers know that it can be years between those moments.  Which makes the decision of WHAT game you chose to play all the more important.

The sad fact of modern video games is that you rarely get a big payoff when you finish a game.  It's about the journey not the destination so you better enjoy the trip or you're just wasting your time.

I've played a lot of games over the years.  Some so familiar that they've entered my own personal vernacular others were discarded after a few hours.  All that experience has afforded me the ability to judge the merits of a title pretty quickly.  

If I'm pissed off in the first hour I'm not going to bother with it.  Game developers set a tone early in a game and rarely divert from it.  If I feel like I'm beating my head against the wall I'm not going to bother.  If you've watched any of my YouTube videos you can tell I've hit that point when I start calling the experience, "stupid."

Not "stupid" as in sour grapes but STUPID as in unnecessary complexity or difficulty to cover up a weak story or bad game mechanic.

In my own gaming it seems I go through "gaming seasons"  Right now I'm back into the season of Path of Exile to the exclusion of most everything else.  Before that it was Project Cars, Star Wars Battlefront ( 2015), GTA 5 and a brief stint with WatchDogs 2.

I keep coming back to Path of Exile after 3 years of off and on playing.  Watchdogs 2?  I haven't touched it in 4 months.  GTA 5 I was addicted to for over a year....haven't played it in 6 months.

So I'm back to Path of Exile.  It's my "Go To" game.  It annoys me, can be horribly unbalanced and sometimes unfair but there's something that keeps bringing me back.  That's a good game.

Which is a good segue into the videos below.  I have a great time with the game and run the gamut of emotions when I play it.  Which to me is the only REAL criteria for calling a video game...Good...






Sunday, April 9, 2017

Real Dudz Fryd Blog & YouTube Channel updates: From Battlefront to StuntFest


Bills gotta be paid....

So if you've noticed that the frequency of my posts here as well as my videos has slowed down lately it's got everything to do with an unavoidable fact of life....

I gotta work a "Real Job"

It's not a very good one either.  It means long days, total exhaustion at the end of them and scarce time to chase down all the latest gaming news.

Still, anything worth doing is worth making the time for.  In that spirit I've kept up the pace of doing at least 1 video a week on the Gaming With The Real Dudz Fryd  YouTube channel.  I can't say the same of the blog as there really hasn't been that much to write about of any interest.

It seems the more mainstream gaming gets the less there is to write about.  What was "revolutionary," "groundbreaking" and "genre defining" a few years ago is just an also ran today.  VR and AR (Virtual and Augmented Reality) are hot topics these days but the games you play on them pretty much take a back seat to the hardware.  Long standing game series like Call of Duty and Battlefield struggle to reinvent themselves while indie developers rush in to fill the void left by mediocre triple-A offerings.
Change can be good but in this case there are so many gaming choices out there that it's hard for anything new to stand out from a crowded landscape of "me-too" offerings.

For me, time constraints force a less promiscuous gaming eye.  So if something captures my attention these days it's got to have more depth and hold my interest longer than your average shooter or RPG grinder.

To that end, my latest adventures have pulled me away from games like Path of Exile and toward titles with more of a focus on immersive gameplay than spreadsheet-centric RPG economies.

Don't get me wrong, I love Path of Exile and I have goals for my characters that live there.  Reality says, however, between now and the Fall of Oriath update with all it's reshuffling of the game into 10 acts, it's not worth getting too wrapped up in until the dust settles.  One of my pet peeves is Grinding Gear's incessant fiddling with the passive skill tree which can render a good build worthless.  I can only imagine what a major update like this will do.

We've seen much less ambitious updates wreak havoc on builds before.

So that leads me to spending a little less time in RPG land and a bit more in other genres.  For me that's led to Star Wars Battlefront, Project Cars and Watch Dogs 2.

Battlefront has become a Saturday night favorite for myself and my gaming buddy Shotglass as we play the PVP and survival modes of the game.  If there's one thing Dice got right in the reboot of this classic Star Wars game it was Co-op.  While the rest of the game (namely Multiplayer) was little more than a tweak of the classic Battlefield series theres more to Battlefront than just soldiers with light sabers and AT-AT walkers lumbering around like tanks.

Project Cars was part of a Humble Bundle gift from Shotglass over Christmas.  A game that started out as a scruffy upstart to challenge the likes of Forza  and Grid, the game has managed to do on it's own what it's competition could not.  Be fun to play.

Project Cars is a racing simulator first and foremost.  The experience lies somewhere between the classic Race Driver: Grid and Need For Speed: Shift.  Meaning it's far more forgiving than most racing games but you've got to pay attention.  Car selection is somewhat limited but you soon find that what the game lacks in selection it makes up for in the details.  Cars accelerate, handle and respond the way you'd expect them to.  Hit a patch of grass on the side of the track and you're going to lose control.  What's nice is the effect is as expected and recoverable instead of an uncontrolled descent into oblivion. Racing simulations aren't arcade racers but far too many of them try to substitute difficulty for reality ultimately achieving only the former.

Shotglass and I enjoy the game so much that it's replaced all the others in our Steam Library.  It's the GO-TO racing game.  Quite an honor from our perspective.


Lately, most Friday night live streams have found me indulging in more solo gaming efforts having replaced Path of Exile and Rainbow 6 with the likes of Watch Dogs 2.  Another gift from Shotglass, I've been intrigued by the premise of the Watch Dogs series since it's troubled predecessor and jumped at the opportunity to dive into the current incarnation.

What I've found can be best described as GTA 5 meets Mr. Robot.  At least that's the way I play it.  You are free to choose otherwise.

The gameplay is familiar even if the control setup is a bit daunting at first.   I still have trouble remembering some of the keyboard commands but with time that will fade just as it did with GTA 5.

Hacking terminals, blowing up steam pipes and sneaking around data centers ( a la' Splinter Cell) is just some of the fun.  It's a thinking game that lets you be as crafty or as brutish as you deem necessary.  There are multiple paths to victory but all of them require "out of the box" thinking to get there.  While I've only got a few hours into it, It's a game I'll stick with.




The future?  I've heard the buzz about the upcoming Flatout 4.  The latest in a series of destruction-racing games that almost found itself obliterated after the disastrous Flatout 3.  A horrible exercise in milking a franchise; the game suffered largely from the departure of developer BugBear entertainment and a rejection of everything that made the series successful.   The end result has been called "The worst racing game EVER"

This latest installment promises to remove some of the stink of it's predecessor but reviews are mixed at best.  Still, with all the (well founded) hatred of Flatout 3. that there is positive press at all means there's hope.  Will I buy it for it's $33 Pre-Order on Steam?  No, but half that during the Steam Summer Sale seems fair.

As for BugBear, the original developer of the Flatout series, They've continued development of "Wreckfest" their indie-developed destruction racer but more to the point they've also announced "StuntFest" which is where Shotglass and 1 will likely spend countless hours just as we did with Flatout and Flatout 2 when it's finally released.

Check it out here:

That's pretty much the lowdown on what's going on in DudzLand these days.  You'll find out more by visiting my YouTube channel ( link is on the sidebar )

As always, if anything interesting happens, I'll let you know....

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Best Games happen with Best Friends.



The best times you'll ever have in your life are with your best friends.  They let you be who you are without judgement and always give the benefit of the doubt.

It may not always sound that way when we get together but what you don't see is the laughter that happens between all those heated exchanges.

The fact that Shotglass and I can have as much fun as you're about to witness in the videos below proves it.



Saturday, February 25, 2017

Battlefield 4: Goodbye Battlelog!


Battlefield 4 didin't have the easiest start in life but as time has worn on things have at least gotten tolerable.

Of course there was always that ONE THING.  

THAT HATED THING....

That thing that has been plaguing Battlefield games since Battlefield 3 was launched and now it looks like that long descent into night may be seeing some dawn.

Battlelog is going bye bye....

This is nothing new for console gamers but for the PC the kludginess of the Battlefield launcher has always been a sore spot.  Frequent server disconnects, poor filtering capabilities and endless hours wasted trying to join friends.  Annoying nag screens taunting you over the latest version of punk buster and server kicks because somebody put a DLC map in rotation that hasn't even come up yet.

There have been attempts to smooth over the rough spots: Loadouts configurable in the launcher instead of wasting time in game, better filtering controls, etc.  But the core issue remained.  

An intermediary between you and the game for no other purpose than to make it easier for EA to perpetuate its DLC disease...

That's about to change with the announcement that Battlefield 4 is joining its spiritual successor Battlefield 1 (and Battlefront) with the dismissal of the hated Battlelog front end.

From an official EA announcement I received today...

The New Battlefield™ User Interface is Making Its Way to Battlefield 4 for PC 

 
  Dear Battlefield 4 player,

An important change is coming to your Battlefield 4 experience for PC. The new Battlefield user interface - already available for Xbox One and PlayStation 4 Battlefield 4 players - will be introduced for PC players in early Spring, 2017. This UI provides a more intuitive and centralized experience for all your Battlefield games. Changes include:

•  Functionality for squad creation before you enter a match.

•  A recommendation engine to suggest relevant maps, modes, and more.

•  A unified user interface allowing you to launch Battlefield 1 from your Battlefield 4 client (if you own both games.)

Note that Battlelog will still be available on battlelog.battlefield.com/bf4 after this new UI is rolled out.

To whit I say, Good Riddance!


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Path of Exile: 10 Acts and no more grinding...



It's a funny feeling when you finally get what you want.  It's something that usually doesn't happen for me in most video games...

Till now.

Who cares about Valentine's day, the news destined to keep RPG geeks single and sexless has dropped...

Path of Exile is getting another expansion but this time it's different...

It's not just another league, or tweak to a set piece.  It's not about randomizing monster types on the same maps or the introduction of a new set of craftable maps.

I've long said that the one weakness in Path of Exile has always been it's reliance on grinding to advance.  Having to trudge through the same maps 2 even 3 times with the only real change being the level of difficulty and risk to your XP gets old fast.

If you're a real masochist you could try it on Hardcore and up the ante to the POE equivalent of permadeath.  Assuming you've got enough experience and about 1000 hours to kill you could "treat" yourself to the same maps an additional 3 times.

6 times through the same maps.

yay...

Of course the alternative was league play where you compete in a pissing contest to win your place on the leaderboard or custom maps that usually end up being little more than a means for high level players to farm equipment for sale.  Those sales take place in a vibrant marketplace catering to those less adept ( or fortunate ) to find decent equipment in-game.

I'm not a fan of the marketplace mostly because it takes place outside actual gameplay and perpetuates weak drops.  Unfortunately you may eventually find yourself having to partake to advance your character.  Good drops are still rare and even when found are unlikely to take you past the first 1/2 of the game before you succumb to the urge to wheel and deal.

That's not likely to change with this latest news from Grinding Gear but things are about to get a whole lot more interesting...

The February 14th announcement is major.  

Grinding Gear has laid out the framework for another 6 acts (10 total) culminating with a real endgame and set to launch in July 2017 with the 3.0 patch.

With this news came word that gone are the Cruel and Merciless game modes.  A vindication of my long held belief that they were little more than stand-ins for missing content.  

6 more acts to this game is a lot of content.   Enough to keep even veteran players amused for the next year if they did nothing else.

That's going to bring the game to a new level of interest and immersion free of the distraction of endless XP farming just to advance your character.   

Grinding is a crutch for game developers.  An admission that the creative well has run dry.  That leaves the player with a choice to either leave the game when the content runs out or stick around for bragging rights.

There's a danger in that...

Grinding Gear claims they've hit over a million players in 2016 but like Microsoft and Windows installs, you have to wonder how big that number would have been if players didn't hit that grinding wall so fast.

Look, I get the joke.  The developer is called "Grinding" Gear but it's not funny anymore...

In the old days, it was common for video games to offer little more than added difficulty once you'd finished the game the first time.  The limited resources of a console or gaming PC meant that the experience was usually short lived if not a little hollow.  

How many piles of lonely boxes cluttering our childhood closets contained games that never again saw the light of day past a Christmas afternoon?

In 2017 content is king and the only thing getting cluttered up is your SSD.  

Games are not just pastimes, they're immersive experiences and the business models that bring them to you rely on that.  It's why every Triple-A title has DLC and every MMO game must have fresh content to survive.

So Grinding Gear kind of cheated all of that with the whole Cruel and Merciless thing.  Yeah, it was Free to Play but that model relies on somebody actually wanting to throw some cash your way at some point.   Forcing players into punishing and frequently unbalanced modes of endless grinding isn't a sustainable revenue model.   

After awhile, it just plain gets boring.  I don't mind more difficulty but don't make it cost me so much if the payoff for the risk isn't there.  Let me gain as much as I could lose or at least give me some new content to look at.

I've turned my back on POE 3 times in as many years precisely because of this horrible grinding mechanic.  It only served to break the immersion and made it more occupation than game.  Worse it created a toxic "Us and Them" dynamic within the community of the more casual and hardcore players.  

That's a failing. One that is soon to be corrected.

So I for one welcome the dismissal of Cruel and Merciless.  They were a crutch and for a game as well conceived and executed ( most of the time ) a badge of shame that needed to be torn from Grinding Gear's blouse.

It's about the gameplay and that relies on content not shortcuts.

So that's the news.  Path of Exile is going to get better at least from what we see in the announcements.  I've embedded a video below from a YouTuber and Twitch streamer who takes this game WAAAAY more seriously than I ever will.  

I defer to his take on the news.


Monday, February 6, 2017

Patreon: I changed my mind...


OK, call me a hypocrite...

So let's just pull the bandaid off the wound and get it over with...

Last week I opened up a Patreon page.

I know in the past I'd expressed a distaste for how the service has become an incubator for far too many self-important podcasting types.  

Do we really need to provide a platform for the next Ryan Seacrest?  

Psy - Gangnam Style
Would the world be worse off if Psy or Justin Bieber had remained in obscurity?  

For most people the answer is obvious but somehow the cringeworthy still manage to have fans and make a living off being annoying.

We live in a social world with varied tastes.  It's both blessing and curse which has lead me down paths of discovery impossible less than a decade earlier.

If you can't beat 'em....

Over the years I've had well wishers and encouragement but none of it ever seemed to translate into an activity that could support itself.  

Here's the difference between me and the other guys..

I don't for one minute think I'm entitled to anyone's money for the kind of work I put out there.  Nobody is paying me a salary or directing what I do.  

It's not unlike my IT consulting career.  You can't expect compensation just because you hung up a shingle.  Someone other than you has to find value in whatever it is you're offering.  

As such, I'm well aware that the world owes me nothing.

That's the part I don't like about most Patreon creators.  There's this prevailing attitude among them that what they do is important just BECAUSE of the value THEY put on it.

I look at it differently.  If someone wants to support what I do I appreciate that and it validates what I've been working so hard to accomplish.

I have no fantasies that what I may write or produce in a video is anything but an expression of my own creativity and ideas.  

I hope to entertain and inform but none of it is an edict.  I'm not demanding anyone find what I do valuable.  I'm just hoping you enjoy and find my work useful.

I am an authority on nothing but my own experiences.  If that experience is of value to you then I appreciate your support of my voice.

If it isn't, no harm no foul.

Because I grew up in a time where traditional ideas about work were still very much in force it's taken me a while to fully embrace the idea of doing something different.

Even as an independent IT consultant I still operated my business as though it were a regular job.  My schedule may not have been 9 to 5 but my time was never really my own.  I was actually working MORE than I ever did as someone's employee.

Which isn't unlike a lot of folks making a living online these days.  So I was halfway there.  It's just taken me awhile to accept that online is a viable career path.

Considering how bad the job market has become even for skilled people like myself I'd be stupid to ignore the possibility.

But it is hard to make money online and the paltry payouts from blogging, Amazon and YouTube have forced alternatives.  For now that's Patreon.

So I've come into the fold but I don't expect much.  I'm hoping to be surprised but that doesn't mean I don't have to work at it.

If you want to help me out just click the Patreon button up in the corner and know that I profoundly appreciate it.

Thanks and see you soon!

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Why I'm suddenly back into Path of Exile


I have a kind of love/hate relationship with Path of Exile.  I can literally go months without so much as a stray thought about it. 

It's a great game that can be horrible to play.  That stems from the fact that just when you think you've got it all figured out Grinding Gear decides to change something.  Sometimes the changes are good while others are decidedly bad.  

Changes like the DirectX 11 beta that caused frequent crashes and slowed everything to a crawl.  A major issue for me last year was a nagging problem of network synchronization that had a detrimental effect even in single player sessions.

Then there's the kinds of changes that sneak up on you.  Changes that affect the viability of certain skills and equipment that are easily missed until you find yourself on the short end of a boss battle.  

Anyone that's played the game for at least a few weeks knows the feeling when faced with the dreaded "full respec" on your passive skill tree after a patch.

Do you start over or leave things be?  What's the right path? 
Maybe you've got a couple of skill points waiting to be applied.  

That prompt is a line in the sand.  Dismiss it and you can forget about making changes that might make things a little easier in this new world of Patch 2 point whatever.

Lately the changes have been mostly beneficial but it's always a tossup.  As for me, I generally dismiss those prompts for a full respec of my characters.  I've played this game enough with a variety of character types so I'm much more careful about my skill tree than I used to be.  Perhaps if I'd held on to my original character I'd have taken advantage of the complete respec but it's not a feature I'd expect anyone to take regular advantage of with every new patch.  

Besides, what's the point in investing time in a character profile if a patch can render all that time irrelevant?

So much for why I've taken such long breaks from POE.  

So what brought me back?

Changes!

Path of Exile is a dynamic game.  Yes running over the same maps can get a little dull but Grinding Gear keeps it interesting by changing up the map design and even throwing in a few surprise bosses complete with tasty loot drops.

It's a learning curve, one that's only now beginning to dawn on me as I actually start paying attention to the mechanics of the game.  

That's also a complaint.  One I vocalize frequently.  

Everyone eventually hits a wall with their character that forces you to make a decision.  

You can either forget about climbing the XP ladder and just push through the game to reach the end or you can partake in a lively marketplace.  

It's a wondrous place that can satiate any desire to dominate the damned of Wraeclast....for a price.  One that usually involves hours of grinding away on the same maps in search of precious baubles to trade.

Run the numbers and you soon find that the chances of cresting that XP wall to get into the more satisfying aspects of the game like running custom maps and league play won't happen within the game itself. 

Yes, the marketplace isn't the disaster that Diablo 3 was and nobody can Pay to Win but it often seems the game is geared more toward this marketplace than the gameplay.  At least at times.  

I PLAY games, I don't have much interest in the current price of a 6 link bow with 25% chaos resistance buff.  There have been times when it seemed the whole game was geared toward nothing else.   A contention supported by a focus on the many forms of "League" play that made it all the more boring for many more "casual" players that just wanted to keep things interesting.

But right now that's not the case.  At least for me.

My characters are enjoying faster advancement of both XP and skills.  Their adventures much more satisfying than before and my time in the game a welcome refuge instead of the dreary grind it once was.

Does that have more to do with me or the game?  I tend to credit the game but something changed that brought back my interest and that wouldn't have happened if things were the way they were before.

So for now I'm back.  At least until the next patch screws it all up....

Check out my most recent adventures in Path of Exile below.  The level of excitement you'll hear is genuine.