I've been having a blast playing Overwatch since its release last week, and it's great seeing a new Blizzard IP getting so much play in the shop.  I've mostly been rotating between four characters with a tendency towards support characters, usually taking Lucio or Mercy depending on if my team is attacking or defending, and will switch to either Junkrat or Soldier 76 mid-late game as needed.  All four characters have had a pretty low learning ceiling but are a ton of fun to play.  If you own the game and stop by the shop you're bound to find a match (or two) going.

While preparing for a VR session this afternoon I stepped back into Space Pirate Trainer, beating my previous best score but still falling short of Doom Muffins top score.  I could have kept going but decided to cut my session short this time, hoping to avoid the three-day cooldown the game seems to inflict on my body.  There are just so many great games out lately that I forget we have this amazing piece of technology available in the HTC Vive, and I really need to start exploring some of the new VR offerings hitting Steam every day.  With E3 expo just a few weeks away I'm very interested to hear what announcements it will bring, with new consoles rumored and VR making such a huge splash.

You might have seen me with a Rubik's Cube around the shop this weekend, and this is a puzzle I spent time on but never really solved as a kid.  I challenged Sage with a scrambled cube the other night and he figured it in around 15 minutes, claiming it to be the first time he ever solved one, which furthers my theory that he's ascended to some kind of gaming plane of existence and is just waiting for the rest of us to get on his level.  I spent the better part of 2 hours trying to follow a YouTube video along to solve, and I was this close when I made a couple wrong turns and the cube became completely unrecognizable.  The cube is making the commute with me to work this week to help fill my breaks.

Speaking of work: I had a meeting with the LAN Mob crew this weekend about my involvement in the business.  For the last nine months I've been trying to balance a day job and running the business but doing a terrible job at keeping the two in harmony.  With Connorkaze returning from college for the summer we're at our highest staffing level ever, and it's a good time for me to step back and reduce my footprint.  I have this whole world of responsibility outside of LAN Mob that needs just as much love and attention and I honestly haven't been providing it.  I spent a good part of the long weekend delving into priorities and working on breaking habits, and I'm prepared to return to work with renewed focus.
     Drew touched on what it means to work at LAN Mob in his last blog post, and all of us employees probably have different opinions on that subject but I think we can all agree that LAN Mob is an incredible challenge. Now, I'm not complaining, I'm very aware of what I signed myself up for. Running such a specific business in a city like Rome brings so many challenges it's insane. Sacrificing all free time, working a certain amount of shifts per week, but volunteering the rest. Struggling to develop and strengthen communities, trying to be innovative, balancing what games to get the next month. I could go on and on about the very unique (yet incredible) stress of LAN Mob, but enduring it all is obviously worth it. Now one of the best unexpected things about LAN Mob is the incredible friends I've made and reconnected with working here. It's great to come in everyday and see the regulars! To have a community of people that support your dream job and basically make them happen is such an incredible feeling, but I'm finding out that this is a double edged sword. One of LAN Mob's regulars, DoomMuffins, is about to move away to Japan for a while to hunt down mad waifus (but actually for work). I'm not SUPER close with DoomMuffins, but he's a great dude! He's taught me a whole lot about League of Legends just by playing with him and listening to his thought processes and problem solving. He's the type of customer that walks in the building and the employees can't help but be glad to see him. I'm sure we'll see DoomMuffins again at some point and we'll play some league games etc, etc, but the feeling of a regular leaving really blindsided me. I suppose it's a good thing for a community to be tight enough to miss people, but damn it feelsbadman. Time to lock the rest of them in the basement.
To me, LAN Mob isn't simply a place to go play games or burn some time. LAN Mob is my home. I've spent countless hours here, whether it's been behind the front desk, running the stream, competing in the LML, staying for lockins, or even just hanging out; I don't regret any of it. I've enjoyed working here since day one, and even though there have been rough patches, all of us LAN Mob staff continue to strive to provide a fun, memorable experience for every single customer that walks through our doors. While many people may say "Wow, your job must be so easy and fun! I wish I had your job!", those same people don't see all the behind-the-scenes action: the hundreds of hours spent planning, and promoting, and trying our hardest to make sure that LAN Mob is running smoothly and efficiently. As my colleagues would tell you, this job isn't all that it seems. We all work hard in order to keep the business afloat, because in the end, that's all we are: a business. Throughout all the good times, and the bad, I've never once regretted taking this job. While we may have our bad days, you can always count on seeing a smiling face when you come to LAN Mob. :D
      Blizzard's unique new title "Overwatch" has been highly anticipated around LAN Mob. Almost every regular here has shown interest in the new arena class-based shooter as well as most of the employees. This weekend Blizzard ran an open beta (May 5th - May 10th to be exact) and, to no surprise, it was an absolute hit in the LAN Center. I've personally managed to put 22 hours into this Beta, playing whenever I could, with anyone willing to play.

      Overwatch is best described as a class-based arena shooter. If I had to compare it to an existing title, I guess it matches up best with Team Fortress 2. Players get to play 21 unique heroes, with special abilities and play styles that fall into 1 of 4 categories (Offense, Defense, Support, Tank) in a few game modes spread out over 12 maps. I couldn't possibly describe everything in detail but there are definitely some heavily notable favorites from each category around LAN Mob.

      A favorite hero among regulars like MattBGames and Taggles is Reaper. A shotgun wielding, skull faced avatar of death, Reaper is one of the offensive heroes flourishing in close quarters combat. Reaper has very high mobility, with a teleport and an invulnerable movement option, he can get where he needs to go and generally be quiet about it, which is important, because Reaper is incredibly weak at medium and long range. Decimating tanks with his shotguns, Reaper is great at removing defensive champions from objectives, and defending them himself. Reaper's Ultimate "Death Blossom" is a powerful AOE that can clear out a pretty wide area of all threats. My personal favorite trait of Reaper is his passive, "The Reaping" which allows Reaper to pick up a small globe on any enemy hero that he eliminates, which heals him for a percentage of his health. A simple but very important offensive hero, I'm glad to have a solid Reaper on any team.

      Another general favorite of our regular DoomMuffins and our one and only employee Enrique, is a tank hero named D.Va.  An ex-pro gamer from South Korea, this 19 year old hero pilots a mech! D.Va's mech has an incredible amount of armor and is equipped with twin short range fusion cannons. D.Va's cannons are incredible in the sense that they never need to reload or cool down and can fire continuously, but greatly inhibit all mobility while doing so. D.Va's mech is also equipped with a defensive matrix that, when activated, will null any projectiles fired into the matrix, making her an incredible front line while she has her cooldowns. D.Va can also activate her mech's thrusters to quickly re position or disrupt enemies by smashing into them. D.Va's most unique trait is that when her mech is destroyed or if she opts to destroy it herself via self detonation, D.Va gets ejected from the mech and is controllable, wielding only a weak pistol. She can re summon her mech when she gets her cooldown back. Good D.Va players are terrifying, re positioning and absorbing powerful cooldowns, D.Va can completely change the tempo of a game.

      The unanimous respected support among all regulars and employees is Mercy, a Swedish Dr. who decided to build an angel suit to relieve the damage of war (this games lore though...). Mercy is the best healer in the game, equipped with a laser beam that heals allies, very similar to TF2's Medic. The laser also has an alternative fire mode that buffs the damage of the ally you are attached too. Mercy is also equipped with a modest side arm, but has no heavy damage. Mercy can also use her wings to glide towards almost any ally in her line of sight, making her incredible at keeping health bars topped off. The strongest tool a Mercy player has is her ultimate, "Resurrect", which does just that. On a very long cooldown, Mercy can revive fallen comrades in a small area, which has swung multiple games in our favor. Mercy is incredibly powerful, and in my personal opinion, will be on every competitive Overwatch team. The other support heroes are great, but Mercy's kit is really designed for objective control and resistance.

      My personal favorite Hero in the game is Genji, the offensive cyborg ninja. However, for the sake of covering all the bases, I'll describe my favorite defensive hero, Hanzo. A modern day ninja, Hanzo is equipped with a recurve bow capable of firing multiple different arrow types for different strategic situations. His default arrow is simply an arrow, capable of cover fire from a long distance and even short range pot shots. Hanzo can also activate a sonar arrow that will track all enemies in the vicinity of the arrows radius, giving vision through terrain. One of Hanzo's offensive arrows is called the "Scatter Arrow". This arrow fragments and ricochets off terrain upon impact, being incredibly good at flushing out enemies, or firing into small hallways. Hanzo's ultimate can be best described by "what was that!?" to newcomers of the game. Hanzo fires an enormous spirit dragon that soars through the air in the direction it was fired, devouring all enemies in it's path. Hanzo is both offensive and defensive if you're accurate with him, and is all and all pretty dangerous.Your best bet to deal with one is rushing him down, but be cautious, he can still peg you at short range.

       Despite a few blaring issues in balance, Overwatch has been quickly adopted into the everyday life at LAN Mob, being played somewhere in the shop ever since the Beta opened up. Blizzard has said they will be re balancing the game for it's release on May 24th, and I'm ecstatic to play more with everyone at the shop.

     

   

     
A lot of our League of Legends community have been grinding ranked in the last month.  Most of us are working on the sluggish grind of getting out of bronze.  When we stack up as two or three LAN Mobbers, we have to ask, "Normal or ranked?"  What's the difference?

In normal games, you may find a standard game of League where chat can be very quiet and there is not as much focus on rotations or objectives.  Everything appears much more relaxed and players will find the freedom to experiment with new champions and new build paths.  In ranked, like any ranked system, you are rewarded for winning and penalized for losing.  This is monitored in LoL by your League Points (LP)  which cap in any league division at 100 points.  Once you've reached the cap, you enter your best-of-3 or best-of-5 promotional series, depending on whether you're advancing to the next division or next league, respectively.  Ranked can be described as the "try-hard" mode for league, where everyone plays their best champions or plays what they find is very strong in the meta.  You may find a much more active chat and warning 'pings' are highly valued to note enemy movements.

The way that I see it, there's two ways of looking at normals vs. ranked.  Normals appear attractive to players who don't want to risk losing their ranked LP, whether they think they won't play optimally or are playing with friends who are new to the game.  These kinds of players will often rank alone or with a select few; A few who they find synergy with.  Normals provide an opportunity to show off your skill on your favorite champ, or teach some new aspects of the game to your buds.  I've played many normal games with Sage simply trying to find what solid bot lanes there are.  I find that this types of player will put too much pressure on themselves to play their best when they do get around to ranking (which could also be the thing that helps them find success), but will have the most fun playing the game with people who can laugh off a bad play.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, you could be the kind of player who couldn't care less about "LP" (to an extent) and simply want to play in the most competitive environment possible.  You think that people might just troll in normals and not attempt to carry their own weight.  At least if you're playing ranked, you'll have the chance at getting the better mid laner, or the duo bot plat smurfs, or that Lee Sin who is always where he needs to be.  However, once you're sucked in to the ranked flow, you might have a hard time playing at anything less than 100%.  You win straight to your promos, win the first two, then proceed to lose the next three.  This is where the value of gaining LP sinks in and the 'blame game' takes hold. I find that these types of players have a harder time opening their mind to new ways of thinking about the game as they may eventually get too wrapped up in gaining LP, but have the most competitive drive and understand League of Legends' unforgiving snowballing nature.

Whatever your reasoning, there are options for both schools of thought.  I find myself in the middle of the two.  Some days I could care less about LP and just want to encourage a positive environment for anyone I'm playing with.  The games are long; Just because your team has an awful early game does not mean the end! In my ranked experience, teams who have a lead going into the mid-game are more likely to become complacent and be caught out of position.  As for normals, I played with Sage and DoomMuffins at a recent lockin and I hadn't laughed that hard in League games in a while!  Most notably was the Tahm Kench/Annie delivery service that picked off enemy carries.  Sometimes it's the little things!

This past week I was able to successfully win through my series and was promoted from Bronze III to Bronze II.  It felt good to finally get bumped up, but it wasn't satisfying and I want more.  I know I can push through to Silver and possibly higher.  Ranked games will feed that drive towards winning games and improving.  I've already duo'd with Lost 0nes, Kindrid Skylar, Sandbagdude43 and Sage all at different times.  It's mid season 6 already, where does the time go!  If you're trying to rank up, do what you have to do to get going with it.  Find your duo buddy, set time aside to play three or four games at a time, and learn to accept the small victories towards ranking up.  Ending the day with 5 more LP than when you started is a victory, learn what you can from the games you played, let go, and move on.  If you're in for normals only, we have PLENTY of people here who love kicking back and having a good time in casual play.  You'll learn to not sweat the little things and see the bigger picture of the game: having a team who has your back.  Let's queue up, fam.


  Last night I finally got to try out the HTC Vive at Bossman's house, in preparation for it's arrival at LAN Mob for all of YOU guys to try! To be completely honest, I was very skeptical about VR on 3 main fronts -  health risks, quality titles and probably above all else, will it actually work the way it is intended to? I'm happy to report from the perspective of a skeptic that the HTC Vive is the real deal and I was colored impressed.

To anyone unfamiliar with the HTC Vive, the main hardware here is the headset. Utilizing "Room Scale VR", the Vive headset is very cool looking, with multiple sensors littered on the face of the mask, informing 2 separate base stations of the headset's position inside of the designated "VR Zone" (so to speak). The worst part about the headset is the wires protruding from the back, but as long as the user is aware and controlled, it isn't even a problem. The Vive has a small knob on the right side of the mask which will move the lens closer or farther apart so it can be customized to different face types. I found the headset to be incredibly comfortable, resting mostly on my cheekbones and nose, The headset also doesn't weigh that much, never feeling like a burden. I will say, it is incredibly important to utilize the knob on the right to customize to your liking. Things got a little blurry when I wasn't synced up. 


     
     


     The Vive controllers are sleek and well designed with a clear indicator on each wand portraying what hand it belongs in, making it easy for the user. The tip of each wand has multiple crater sensors just like the headset does, making movements completely lagless. Each wand is equipped with a very natural trigger button, grip buttons on either side of the wand, and a face touch pad, very similar to the PS4's. The menu buttons are on the top of the wand, which is an excellent spot so they aren't accidentally pressed, breaking the immersion. I cannot even begin to fathom a better design for the Vive wands, everything feels so natural all the time. For example, in a program called "The Lab" designed by Valve, there is a game called "Longbow" in which, as you may have guessed, you fire a longbow! Without reading the tutorial for this specific game I saw the bow, bent down and picked it up, and naturally began firing it. Using the trigger button as a arrow release, the rest was all motion controlled and my body just knew what to do.

        Assuming all the hardware is taken care of  (here at LAN Mob...) the main interaction will be the user and software, and this is where the magic happens. Like I said, one of my main concerns with virtual reality is risks. Obviously, with great technology comes great responsibility but putting on a headset and running around your house chasing dragons is just asking for an accident to happen. Naturally the Vive has a system set in place to make sure the experience is safe and you are aware of the "real" world. Utilizing a "Chaperone" system, unique to HTC Vive and it's Room Scale VR, the Vive will create a border in the virtual world, making it very clear and obvious of where the pre-set "VR Zone" is. These borders appear when you get a little too close to them, and make you subtly aware you need to readjust or turn around. The only thing the Vive doesn't hold your hand on is the fore mentioned trail of wires coming from behind the headset, but it is up to the user to be responsible, careful and aware.

       Once you're in the VR world and you understand the very generous rules, enjoying yourself takes precedence, and it's pretty easy. Addressing my third concern, there are definitely quality titles available. I spent all of my time in the virtual world in Valve's "The Lab". A collection of what is essentially mini-games that really give you a sense of the Vive's precision and capabilities. There are a variety of games available in The Lab, such as educational exploration of the solar system, exploring a human body medical scan and visiting places all over the world, such as France and Greenland. "Longbow" is a game that really stood out to me. Using the wands to fire simply a bow and arrow you defend a castle gate from an onslaught of little monsters intent on destroying it. No words or image can really do justice to what it felt like to stand on top of that tower, looking over a mote riddled with enemies as you fire your bow at them. The best I can say is despite the less then perfect graphics, the blatant and absolutely pure immersion is something that cannot be replicated. The last game, and my favorite, that I played in The Lab was called "Secret Shop". I've never played a lot of DOTA 2, but this program drops you dead center in a small fantasy themed specialty shop with a plethora of DOTA references. Exploring the shop and finding small creatures and touching things I shouldn't was beyond incredible and I am very excited to explore it again. I played with a lizard dog, shrunk down to the size of a thimble (and got scared of a freakin' giant spider), peered into a spooky forest and ultimately met my demise to a beast who ripped the entire shop apart. I recommend the adventure. 

         My main goal in gaming is immersion. Always has been. I frequently judge games by what level of immersion I'm capable of reaching, if I give it my all. That being said, the HTC Vive set a bar for me. As far as immersion goes, this is the real deal and when the technology continues to grow and refine the experiences we will be capable of having will be unreal. The price tag on a technology like this is obviously very high, but LAN Mob will be booking time slots at a much more realistic price. I personally couldn't be more ecstatic to help people have a genuine immersive experience with a technology that isn't readily available to the public. Trust me, it will completely blow your mind and surpass expectations. With our support staff comfortable with the Vive and how it works, we will be THE place to give VR a try without selling a kidney this summer. 


                                                                                     













 

   



   
   
I'm real excited for all the FPSs coming out as of late.In particular I am excited for BattleBorn,DOOM,Overwatch and Gears of War 4.Battleborn is a FPS-MOBA hybrid that reminds of Monday Night Combat but also Borderlands with its PVE.Overwatch is a Hero based-arena shooter by Blizzard, and Gears 4 is Gears.Don't know much DOOM and I'm not too interested in it with BB and OW in the same month.Currently preoccupied with the Gears 4 beta that lasts until May 1st.Two days afterwards Battleborn comes out while Overwatch's "early access" Open beta starts that same day(if you preordered/prepurchased OW.Otherwise wait till the 5th).After OW's week long beta,it finally comes out May 24th.Battleborn's and Gears 4's beta have me sold so far I'm really looking forward to Overwatch as the salty gods have not granted me access to the closed beta nor the stress test.

First up on my hype list is Battleborn.I was iffy on the game because of how little I heard about it up until the beta.The only source of info was from my brother who was really hyped for it and I couldn't figure out why.After playing the beta I was upset at how little I knew of this game,I would have completely ignored it otherwise!Battleborn's a FPS-MOBA mashup.If you ever played it,it's like Monday Night Combat from way,way back.It has a Story Mode and PVP with a large roster of characters.Both the story mode and much of the dialog between characters makes me feel like I'm playing Borderlands the MOBA.I adore the Borderlands but I'll do my best to not show my bias.I believe the character roster stands at 20 characters currently with 5 more planned as DLC.Each character has their role,as expected of MOBAs such as Assassin,Tank,Healer,DPS,Bruiser etc.If the beta is anything like the base game,you'll have handful of characters to start out with and will unlock the roster as you level up or by completing challenges.My only gripe with the game.As you know,I enjoy my grindy games.And it truly pains me to make the connection but from what little I understand,Overwatch gives you access to all the heroes from the get go.
     There appears to be 3 types of PVP but only two of them were avaliable to play in the beta.The first mode function like your typical MOBA, as you and your team guide minions to destroy the enemies core.Except the there are two cores and they are giant robots that fight back.The second mode reminds me of SMITE's arena mode where you guide your minions to an incinerator to sacrifice them.However, reaching halfway to the goal,the incinerator changes to a location closer to your opponet's base.PVP as a whole reminds me heavily of Monday Night Combat,which was like a tower defense MOBA hybrid.You farm credits to build turrets,heal bots,speed/slow turrets and even siege minions in certain modes.In Battleborn you can also use those credit to activate your equip items that will give you stat buffs/debuffs and even new passive abilities.From playing around in the beta,I found that you can get equips from completing story missions or buying them from packs earned with in game money.I made the error of accidentally skipping through the tutorial explaining how my inventory works(t__t)In game,your characters levels from 1-10.You have a choice of picking between two talents.From the few characters I played,the talents are split between focusing on offense or focusing on defense/utility.In some instances,these talents completely augmented a skill.I chose one where my minigun would no longer overheat but instead catch me on fire! There are also character challenges and levels to complete which can unlock a third talent called a "mutation".Haven't played one character long enough to unlock or experience mutations sadly.Each characters have their own abilities and passive,really felt like each character was their own.I'm counting down the days until it comes out.I hope me being this hyped does not raise my expectations to disappointing levels.

Next beta that I tried was the Gears of War 4 beta.Admittedly,this won't be as...robust as my write-up about Battleborn.I've been hooked since Gears of War 2,so I know what to expect out of  a Gears games.I haven't had the chance to play as much as I would have liked of the Gears of War 4 beta.Partly because my first few games were horrendous because of the rust and partly because I've been so busy.From what little I did mange to play, I did enjoy it.Graphically it does look a bit rough but I'm hoping due to it being in its beta phase.Despite that,it feels familiar,like playing Gears of War 3 again.With this iteration of Gears comes two new cover mechanics, the "Yank and Shank" and the "Vault Kick".Both are meant to combat you and the enemies from endlessly shooting at one another while sharing different sides of the same object used for cover.The first maneuver,the Yank and Shank, lets you grab opponents from cover(The Yank) and upon successfully completing this the enemy will be stunned and open to a knife execution(The Shank).The second maneuver,the "Vault Kick"is where you can dive over cover and stun the enemy,leaving them open to a knife finisher.Not to be confused the vault manuever performed while in cover ,the Vault Kick is performed while in your roadie run.Luckily with both maneuvers,there is a brief moment for the would-be victim to counter and open up their would-be attacker to a knife execution.Hoping I can play more of the beta before it ends.Real excited for what's to come.I'll definitely be keeping my eye out for its launch later this fall.

Next up is Overwatch.I know zero about this game other than it looks like a Hero-based arena shooter.I was hoping the salty gods would bless me with an invite right until the end of the closed beta.Didn't get invited to the stress test either (t__t).Salt aside,I haven't looked too much into this game other than what's on the surface.I'm hoping to satisfy my curiosity with the open beta May 5th-9th.Or,you know,suffer some crippling buyer's remorse :D

Like I said,I haven't looked into DOOM.It has a pretty awesome history but there's too much going in May to go out and buy a third game.I'm not about having white rice and staring at a drawing of a piece of chicken for dinner ORZ

With all that said,May's looking pretty dope for my FPS fix.I might even stop playing my favorite Canadian FPS MMO/Capitalism-Simulator Warframe just to have enough time both of these games once the end of the month rolls around.Maybe :3
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