Friday 28 February 2014

Forced March

Ack, it's only the start of March and I'm already behind on my planned projects. With no game diary thingies planned I'll try knuckle down and get back on track this month, though it also means I'll be a little quieter post wise (much to the rejoicing of some I'm sure). :P

What's up next in March:
Future Tech: Exosuits and Invisible Helmets (done)
Question Time: The Same Character (done)
Question Time: The Stuff you Build (done)
MMOs: Rewarding the Ordinary (done)
MMOs: A Test of Morals (done)
MMOs: Fame and Influence (done)
MMOs: One of a Kind Items (done)
MMOs: Unmarked Quests (done)
MMOs: Voice Actors (done)
MMOs: Spells and Spelling (done)
47 Ronin vs Bunraku (done)
Review Lost Planet 2 (done)
Review Startrek Online (done)
First Chapter of Guild Story
Finish another NWO module. (done)
Today I Smiled (2/2)
Lose 1 kg.

Thursday 27 February 2014

NWO: Rebel Incursion

Woohoo! My second foundry creation in Neverwinter Online is finally done. It didn't take long because it was difficult, it just took long because I haven't worked on it for awhile. Crunching down the quests to 15-20 minutes play time has really impacted my story telling ability though so instead of still trying to go for the story I had planned I'm scrapping the campaign entirely and just making stand alone type quests (that may or may not link together later).

Hopefully since it has such a short play time it will attract more reviews, and it certainly is easier/faster for me to play through and test as well. To all those who play NWO I humbly invite you to give it a try and hopefully leave a review! If you don't know how to get to it just do the following:

1- Log into Neverwinter Online
2- Press L
3- Halfway down is "The Foundry" section. Press the "More" button next to it.
4- Go to the "Best" Tab.
5- Search for "Rebel Incursion" (without the double quotes), it should come up on the right hand pane and the author should be @josephskyrim.
6- Accept the Quest
7- To start it, you'll need to get to an exit and find the Residential District on the overworld map.

You are welcome to try my other quest too, though that one takes a bit longer. ;)

Quest List so far:
Rebel Incursion [NW-DFHLFGNQY] (15-20 minutes)
One Step to Darkness [NW-DNJC9SK7A]  (1 hour running time)

Wednesday 26 February 2014

Dead Island Riptide: Finish Her!

[Part of the Dead Island Diary]

Finally deciding it was time to continue the main quest, we journeyed to the dock lands which doubles as the quarantine zone on the island. Despite the high, secure fencing which the zombies still managed to cross, we required an exploding bulldozer to plow our way in - fighting through a bunch of specials that weren't very dangerous since we had a full team. It really was like a curtain call as every type of zombie made at least one appearance.

Eventually we reached the warehouse laboratory that was making the not-quite vaccine. I call it that because upon finding Harlow we see she's been injected and it's not making her better, it's making her crazy... crazy enough to attack us.  For a smallish female she was doing a decent job of knocking us over (hey she managed to kill us a little) and eventually plugged even more mutagen into her to make her more powerful. The only way to beat her now was to do the same, after which we promptly raged on her and tore the stupid, weak and insignificant bitch into pieces.

How Harlow ended up.

Conveniently, there was another boat docked there so we took it just as Serpo came to try stop us. Not sure how he got there unarmed and all, but we didn't listen to his yells this time and left him to be zombie chow. We then went to pickup the rest of our team before escaping out to sea, only I suppose a whole bunch of them died either in the fort defence or the run to the boat because other than the immune we only had the bearded fellow, the doctor and the food lady on board. Nice to point out we didn't actually go back for anyone else, leaving them to their crunchy and hideously gruesome fate. With that we wave so long to Palanai and to the zombies as we sail into the sunset like true zombie survivor heroes... at least until the next expansion. ;)

Tuesday 25 February 2014

Music is Magic

Ok, other than the obvious mood transference that some songs have I am amused that as a pianist I seem to follow the same rules as the older versions of a Dungeons & Dragons mage, except in exchange for spells I have songs. It takes me long to learn one, and as I gain new ones I lose the old ones that I don't play. Maybe I'm just too low level at the moment? 

And just like in D&D there are those naturally gifted with magic who can use it better. So too is the case in music. While everyone can train up to a certain point there are just somethings that you are born with. A good example is the youtube aussie muso "Lara Plays" (aka Lara de Wit) who has Synesthesia - she "hears" notes as colors. She also thinks a lot of musicians do and maybe that's true, I'm just not one of them. :P

Lara has the most links in this post!

If you don't know what I'm getting at she talks a little bit about it in a question and answer video here. The part you are interested in starts at 0:40 and goes to 2:20. Or, you could just listen to her play stuff! Her side by side vid of playing Rebecca Black's Friday and Nyan Cat is particularly funny since they gel so well together.

Anywho while I'm on the topic of music here are a few other links that I really like, so I thought I'd share them. At the very least check out the first link, because it's bloody amazing.

Amira Willighagen (9 yrs old) - Audition for Holland's Got Talent
(Skip to 1:40 to get to the singing)

"Defying Gravity" from Wicked by Evynne Hollens
(I'm a fan of her husband's layer stuff too)

"Pierce the heavens with your drill!" from the Gurren Lagann OST by Animenz
(This guy does a lot of cool pieces)

"Spain" - Chick Corea and Hiromi Uehara piano duet
(Old clip but one of my favs, very jazzy though)

"Mendelssohn Wedding March" by Arcadi Volodos
(Listen to it fully to be blown away by dexterity! :P)

And if music isn't your thing, maybe learning Elvish is. Elfish? Sylvan? I dunno, you'll have to ask Ravanel for a "Ravalation" as I got the link from her blog. :P

Monday 24 February 2014

Dead Island Riptide: E-E-Elec-Electrical Scraps!

[Part of the Dead Island Diary]

It's side quest time on the island and thank the developer gods that they decided to include a fast travel system in this game, otherwise this would be literally hours of walking through horrible disconnect zones. The walking itself isn't that bad. Getting d/c-ed is BS. Other than doing a few of the instanced locations for nice loot and saving random trapped people, we accomplished a few things this session, the first being that we discover Jacqueline is an idiot. She didn't come with the rest of our team and instead opted to stay again in her theatre. This is only slightly better than the handful of women that opted to remain in Halai Village, just waiting for the plague to blow over. Even telling them the fate of their missing friends did nothing to change their minds.

We also helped out the Zombienator, a local "superhero" retrieve his cape, shoes and fish to help him fight zombies. There was another guy in an apartment who kept asking for stuff too, but by the third iteration of him going "oh... I don't remember what these are for, but could you get x now?" we decided to let him rot. Our most important sidequest this round though was a simple delivery trip to Dr. Kessler back at his Dome lab, where he wants the rather commonly found electrical scraps item for his non-descript inventions. Given the late stage of the game and the number of these items we had on us, we went to town unloading on the good doctor.

"Electri... E... Ele... Electrical Scraps, bring them to me," he would say - or try to because giving him the next one forced a line repeat leading us to believe that the good doctor is actually a robot. This must have been the single most rewarding quest though. Each scrap gave 30+ thousand XP (same as canned food and painkillers but those items are more rare). In comparison killing one of those "dangerous" screamers gives 6k.

Congratulations, you have just won at life!

This is a perfect example of why levels should be done away with, as it meant handing the doctor something in my pocket increased my skills far faster than fighting any zombie present on the island. ELECTRICAL SCRAPS - It's the stuff of heroes!

Sunday 23 February 2014

Dead Island Riptide: Serpo Derpo

[Part of the Dead Island Diary]

Once all the dead are still, we decide that our next task is to try capture Serpo (if he survived the crash) to then force him to evacuate all of us. Of course his helicopter crashed on pretty much the opposite end of the island meaning we had to trek a fair distance (made longer by the D/C issues that plague this part of the game) before reaching the fort. During this there was a small highlight of me in a rage, sucker punching a wrestler zombie so hard that he went flying... to the moon.

We eventually found the downed chopper. A trail of blood walking away from the crash led us on our merry way to the interior where we eventually found the wounded pilot telling us that Serpo was up in the tower, and also that Serpo should die. No arguments there. Sure enough the suit wearing Serpo was at the top of the tower and we greeted him with a good number of bullets - only the man seemed impervious to them, he must be wearing a bullet proof suit! Instead he just told us that he had captured Harlow previously (when she went missing) and now she's a liability that could spread the disease if she escapes the quarantine zone with the not-quite vaccine mutagen. He promises to get all of us out of there if we stop her first. Why do we keep listening to this idiot?

There's a face you can trust.

Anyway, the rest of the NPCs do another quick cut scene run and this time all survive the trip to the Fort which they patch up as their next base. We on the other hand, decide to piss of Serpo by not going after Harlow and instead doing other things on the map. Just out of spite.

Saturday 22 February 2014

Dead Island Riptide: Who Do You Voodoo

[Part of the Dead Island Diary]

We were in for another surprise when we got to the comm station of the base. Major Briggs wasn't around to take the video call, but that suit wearing bad guy Frank Serpo was. He offered us a helicopter ride out of there, and we had no choice but to accept. Colonel Hardy was concerned that Serpo only wanted the immune people though, and would leave the rest of the civilians behind. Still, with it being the best way out we started a fire on the roof top to signal the chopper - and then because the fire was so noisy it was luring a whole bunch of zombies nearby... what?

We quickly needed to do a side quest to a nearby stage to play some music on max volume, and what better song to play than "Who do you Voodoo" by Sam B? Killing zombies to that track is pretty fun. Pity we couldn't hang around as we had to get back to the cinema roof to catch that chopper, pronto.

Once it arrived Colonel Hardy was proved right by trying to get the civilians to safety first. Namely himself. Serpo's hench dude was having none of it though and opened fire, killing the good Colonel. Logan, being the angry American (wait I thought that was Sam B), pulled up a rocket launcher (from hammer space) and in a show of terrible marksmanship, hit the tail rotor of the chopper sending it crashing down away from the cinema.

The noise still brought a horde upon us though, the largest we've had to fight yet - and for a change this time we were being pushed back from our positions. Couldn't tactically fall back into the cinema staircase to bottleneck them though as something fell and blocked the path earlier. We just had to duke it out there in the rain against the almost endless swarm of walking dead.

Friday 21 February 2014

World of Warcraft: Starter Edition

Most people who read my blog or just know me in general would know I'm not a big World of Warcraft fan, but I thought I'd go see for myself just how bad it really is given that the "Starter Edition" makes it free for anyone to play to level 20. As much as I'd like to say that I am right and that WoW sucks donkey balls, I can't because it does actually do many things right.

It's come a long way.

Despite being an old game the graphics which you may first go "ewww" to at the character screen does actually work well with the rest of the world when you get in it. Good luck making a decent looking human male though. Not all races are equal however, as you'll find better starting quests for the later races like Worgen, Goblins and Pandaren with their own starter zones and mini cutscenes, and if there's one thing Blizzard does well (other than marketing) it's cutscenes. Comparatively speaking a starting human or orc is pretty ho-hum, especially given that the other races of their faction can come along and do the same starting quests if they so choose.

The addition of "mini games" in the quest lines also does well to break the monotony of ye old fetch this or kill that which we are all familiar with. As an example, suddenly having to go fly a plane and shoot down enemy aircraft is really neat! The best thing they do for me however is the fast travel where you hire a temporary steed who takes you to your chosen location. You can't control the ride, but the ride keeps you in the world - moving you from point A to point B. Same goes for the said mini-games. Even if you are drifting in and out of instances it is so seamless and it really does its best to keep you immersed.

Ironically the only place where it falls down for me is the combat, where you will spend more time waiting to cast a spell, waiting for energy to attack, or waiting for an attack to activate instead of actually fighting. To top it off your character will "helpfully" tell you so. Repeatedly.

"It's too far."
"I need to target something."
"I need more energy."
"I can't do that yet."
"It's not ready yet."

And then when you do get the rhythm of things it becomes very much like remembering a keycode to defeat opponents. Oh, a wolf? Thats a 152. Hmm a naga mage? I believe thats a 1452152 and so on. It's facepalmingly stupid.

Despite that I give the Starter Edition four out of five orc skulls. If you haven't tried WoW out then I think you should, I mean - I did. Is it enough to get me to PAY for the rest of the game though? Nope, but that's just me. Maybe you are easier parted with your money.

Thursday 20 February 2014

Dead Island Riptide: The Henderson Disconnect

[Part of the Dead Island Diary]

Henderson at last. Our first task was to push through to a nearby cinema in hopes that it could serve as a base camp, and given the high number of zombies on the tightly packed streets this took longer than usual. Also the disconnects from the game in this city were ridiculously frequent for one of my brothers. Obviously the game wasn't well designed enough for him to play. Still, he persevered as we kept on trucking and finally reached the theatre.

After clearing out the undead patrons we found a French lady named Jacqueline, the owner of the place living off bleach and fumes in the projector room. She was so attached to the theatre that she didn't want to leave, zombie apocalypse or not.

At least she let the rest of our crew in, but when they arrived Harlow was missing. We figure she got chomped along the way though Juris uses his spoilerific prescience to inform us otherwise. Our rest is pretty short as Colonel Hardy sends us out to try make contact with a Major Briggs at a nearby military facility to ask for evac though, so once again we are wading through the zombie filled streets, chainsawing thugs, rams and wrestlers, bashing drowners, and shooting screamers as we go. I should mention there's a ton of side stuff to do here, but we skipped a lot of it due to the previously mention disconnection inconvenience.

Soon we arrived at the outpost and surprise, surprise - the place was overrun. How the heck could a well fortified position with a lot of supplies, mines, wire fences and artillery fall to simple zombies? Oh, because it's a French base. That explains it. I suspect some of them fled like little girls. *twirls moustache*

Wednesday 19 February 2014

MMOs: Need more Heroes and less Soldiers

[Part of my MMO Design Folder]

Forced grouping is always stupid.

I don't mind the theory behind having 5 man dungeons, or 40 man raids or 100 man armies etc. Getting people to play together is the whole point in an MMO after all, however I still strongly believe that a skilled solo player should be able to handle anything and everything in the game. I'm not saying make it easy, or make it fast, just make it plausible. What irks me is when a game challenge is designed in such a way that you REQUIRE more than one person to complete it.

A timer on a boss with ludicrous hit points, a set of distant levers or buttons that require simultaneous activation, the requirement of being able to be in two places at once to pass a phase - for me these all detract from the actual encounter. In the end what you end up needing is a zerg of some description (often times a more cohesive unit) and you end up being just another face in the crowd. Woo, you killed the dragon... with like one hundred other guys (and occasionally with large artillery emplacements). Aren't you heroic!

No. The hero is the one who kills the dragon on his own. Yes it's easier in a group. Yes it's saner in a group, but by golly if you are that effing amazing at the game it should let you shine and play the way you want to play.

Do you prefer to be Kratos or one of the soldiers trying to take him down?

Tuesday 18 February 2014

Dead Island Riptide: Criminal Scum deserve Death

[Part of the Dead Island Diary]

With the tunnels drained it was finally time to descend into the darkness to light and clear the way for the rest of our NPC team. The zombies were to be expected, but the gun wielding smugglers at the very end were a welcome surprise. Between the four of us they were easy to defeat and as a bonus provided us with some much needed firearms.

Upon reaching the exit we radioed back for the rest of our people to come through but obviously some zombies respawned on them as Wayne had not only been bitten, but he'd also been pushed into some deadly chemicals by Harlow in an attempt to protect the group. He rapidly mutated into what the game calls a "wrestler", which in my opinion was an improvement - too bad he had to die for us to progress. Took a fair bit to kill him though as he survive a full fuel tank of my chainsaw on him plus a few rounds of rage.

So THAT'S where wrestlers come from.

Once he was out of the way we could progress to the nearby ferry dock which was held by escaped convicts. They were surprised that anyone could survive coming through the tunnels, because obviously only tough customers could accomplish that feat. As expected they then tried to rob us (because criminals are morons) ignoring the fact that we had guns trained on many of their men during the whole conversation.

It was a brief but loud affair, one that saw all those fools put down like the animals they are. Having rescued a captive ferry man it was time to call the ferry, but this involved preparing some high level defences since apparently ferries are loud bastards that summon swarms of zombies. Not to mention that the ferry itself was carrying zombies when it arrived, including a new variety - a screamer, dangerous if you didn't silence her right away. Fortunately with the sudden surplus of ammo, none of this proved troublesome at all and soon we were finally crossing the lagoon to the city of Henderson.

Monday 17 February 2014

Who is your Elder Scrolls Main?

Question time from me since all this talk of The Elder Scrolls Online is slowly seeping out from the bowels of the NDA. If you are going to play TESO or have played any of the previous Elder Scrolls game - who is your main character? The first one you create? Do you often change your protagonist? I don't and you probably can guess what I play just by my name.

If you don't / haven't / aren't going to play any Elder Scrolls related stuff I'd still like your input just based on races. Your choices are:

Top Row:
Altmer - tall high elves that favour magic
Argonian - agile lizard folk who favour magic and are resistant to disease
Bosmer - shortish, dextrous wood elves
Breton - fair haired humans that favour magic
Dunmer - dark (of skin) elves proficient in melee and magic

Bottom Row:
Imperial - everyday normal dudes that excel as crafters and traders
Khajiit - sneaky cat people, complete with whiskers - that enjoy making drugs
Nord - pretty much Vikings who like to punch things - especially dragons
Orc - green of skin with under bite, you won't like them when they're angry
Redguard - dark skinned human warriors - best fighters of the land supposedly

Just curious! Looking forward to seeing your answers! :)

Sunday 16 February 2014

TESO: Beta Weekend 2 Review

If you are reading this, then the NDA has been lifted fully on The Elder Scrolls Online and I am finally free to talk about my experiences with the game about it during their 2nd beta weekend stress test. At least I think it's the 2nd weekend...

Initial impressions? It is pretty cool and fantastically beautiful. I obviously played a Nord since they come from the country of named after me and after escaping a not too dangerous daedra prison (guarded only by weak, crazed souls) I found myself traipsing around an island that seemed pulled straight from Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and later still was reliving my memories of Morrowind.

The combat was decent enough for the class I used (I played in first person as a Dragon Knight) and the clean interface was pretty much copied out of ES:V, with minor tweaks for hot bar abilities. Skills individually gain level as you use them (and sometimes when you don't - which is weird), and at certain points each can "morph" into a different variation of the same move, for example choosing between additional range or damage. There's no going back up the skill tree as far as I know so while everyone may be using a "slash" attack, each would have variations of the same move. The optional first person perspective also helped add to the immersion.

There were some negatives of course. Being a Beta there were missing textures, text mismatching the voice acting (all lines are voice acted - that must have been expensive), missing quest givers, people falling through cracks in the world into ... space? Can't say Oblivion because that's actually a place in this series. :P The enemies have very simple AI and sometimes it feels like you just have to press "E" to win. Also the instances were very "phase" heavy. If I was playing with a friend and I happened to finish a quest before or differently as to how he did in an area then we wouldn't see each other despite standing in the same spot. This is to keep with our individual immersion I guess, but I can see how that will be problematic later.

More worrying were reports that the further settlements were simply just not done yet, which given their release schedule, is a bit of a worry for all those who purchased the pre-order stuff. They may end up racing to a world not yet ready for them. My main gripe however is the login queue. One hour and a half is a bit rich. Hell, even 5 minutes is unacceptable to me, so that was my queue to go play something else.

In the state I experienced the game at, I'm forced to only score it 2 dragons out of 5. Hopefully Zenimax fixes up all the broken pieces before release because this would easily double its score. Will I pay to play it though? That's a silly question. Of course not.

Saturday 15 February 2014

Dead Island Riptide: The Glory of Destruction

[Part of the Dead Island Diary]

Dr. Kessler failed to mention that the church was in the middle of the damned swamp and teeming with zombies. Maybe they were religious zombies? Anyway, after doing what we do best the rest of the team (minus a few who decided to stay at the fishing village) showed up to accompany us through the horrible tunnels. Only there was a slight hitch - the tunnels were flooded. Fortunately one of the guys knew of where to get a mud pump to clear that out. The mud pump was in a distant workshop, obviously overrun by the walking dead.

Luckily Juris joined us at this point and while he was seriously underlevelled the extra hand came in extremely handy since the game decided to trip some balls at this point with disconnects. In the end I found myself alone, marching through the swamp while the others delivered the pump and helped some french guy with some fuel cans. Ofcourse the french guy tried to pull a fast one on us after we helped him out, but we "convinced" him of the error of his ways. By suffocating him.

Back at the church the pump was put in place but the noise of the machinery would attract a lot of unwanted attention, so we were first sent by Colonel Hardy to get some supplies from a downed chopper nearby - specifically a crates full of mines and a pair of miniguns. Juris was pleased. Once our very significant defenses were up the pump was activated and the zombies began streaming in... or trying to. Between the explosions, flying body parts, burning corpses, and heavy gatling fire the reanimated were soon put back into the marsh in tiny pieces. It was glorious.

"Hasta la Vista, baby."

Friday 14 February 2014

MMOs: Why We Hunt

[Part of my MMO Design Folder]

Why do you do quests and venture into deep dungeons in MMOs? Because some NPC told you to?

Quest lines usually have story behind them so that's some pretty good motivation but outside those - what of the "Kill Ten Rats", "Harvest Cyclops Eyes" and "Fetch my hamster from yonder shore" tasks? I asked this of myself and the two usual responses were "experience" and "loot". Experience, even with the removal of levels, is ok - maybe it will increase my skill in doing something like, stomping, or scooping, or swimming for the examples above.

Loot is alright too when used in moderation, but often times it is the PRIME motivator for people to go do something, especially during end-game segments of MMOs. Need a better gear score right? Worse still is that the most desired loot is often a randomized drop, so technically you are gambling that by doing the same activity you have already been doing - you will get a different and more favourable result. Kinda sounds like the definition of insanity but that's ok, some people like that sort of thing.

Shut up, Vaas.

What most MMO's are missing though is perhaps the best reason to hunt: Need. And I'm not talking about in a loot/treasure/greed sense. I'd love to see a game where if you leave bandits unchecked the shops in the nearby towns begin to sell less and less gear with dropping quality and higher prices. Or if an unrewarding troll encounter if left alone blocks a particular fast travel route. Or if a particular plant grows too wild it continually saps the life of anyone wandering through the forest. Or if a cultist den is not raided that magic in the zone becomes a dangerous risk, as casting spells can cause mages to self destruct instantly. Or that rampaging enemy brigade to actually over run the town and occupy it.

Too often it's the carrot used as the lure for adventure. I want to see more of the stick. I want to see a world with fewer treasure hunters. I want to see a world with more heroes.

Thursday 13 February 2014

Wartune is Out of Tune

We've all seen the sultry and most likely copyright breaking ads of this game around, probably even on this very site so I decided what the heck - I'll give it a try. Since it is hosted by the same folk who run Blood and Jade and League of Angels, you sort of know what to expect already. Browser game? Tick. Single path quest line? Tick. Auto-combat with very little combat input? Tick. Pay to win? Tick.

Scantily clad damsels? Tick.

Where it varies is that unlike the other two there is a small city building mini-game that serves as the main hub if you like and upgrading / building stuff takes time. While that's going on you can wander around with your army (my 200+ people were represented by 2 guys) to do campaigns (for quest line), conquer mines (for increased gold), and attack other player cities (to be a douchebag) where like League of Angels the PvP is not against the live person but a representation of their team at the time.

It is painfully obvious that this was their first / an early attempt into browser gaming though because unlike the other two which can technically play themselves with minimal input this one actually detects if it is not in focus and waits for you before resuming any actions. Coupled with the horrible loading times when traversing areas, entering combat, or just opening your backpack it just isn't worth playing when most of the time is spent waiting for screens to load. In this regard it really impresses me how they've improved the system in League of Angels where loading is almost inconsequential - it learned from the mistakes of the others I guess which is why League of Angels trumps the other two in my book.

As for Wartune though, I can safely say steer clear and give it zero hot girls out of five.

Wednesday 12 February 2014

Dead Island Riptide: Under the Dome

[Part of the Dead Island Diary]

Before going to Dr. Kessler's research lab we make a small detour to Marcus Villa's home where we find the pyromaniac waiting with a machete, a lighter and a crazed look in his eyes. Since he made it clear that he was a "misunderstood" threat we sorted him out by murdering him and splaying his blood and skin all over his house. No reanimation for you asshole.

Once that loose end was tied up we went on our way to Dr. Kessler's dome. Of course he wasn't going to help us without giving us a small task first. Apparently he was the last non zombie of the staff there, with the rest of his research assistants in the bio-lab having turned into "grenadier" zombies. Yes, these strange undead guys throw balls of poisonous pus pulled directly from their crotches (I assume). Some of them also were carrying research data that the good doctor wanted retrieved so guess who got to play dodge the bodily fluids?

Once that was done the Doc told us about the tunnels we wanted to know about. Apparently a whole bunch of aussie soldiers went in there to contain some chemical spill but since an "infection" broke out down there the authorities decided it would be easier to just seal them in there for indefinite quarantine. Good stuff. Anyhow, the entrance to it was supposedly located at a not so nearby ruined church so that was our next stop.

Tuesday 11 February 2014

MMOs: The Problem With Levels

[Part of my MMO Design Folder]

Most MMOs love putting people into level brackets probably because they think it isn't relevant for you to encounter people higher or lower level than yourself. I think that's wrong.

As I said in a previous post, characters in MMOs should gain individual skill by practicing said skill (and skill loss through neglect) instead of having a generic "experience bar" that measures your whole worth in neatly packaged "levels" which serve mainly to separate the player base in various zones. Can't have those elites that kill gods camp the chicken goblins we're reserving for the noobs in the starting area after all right? All this does is create an upward flow where eventually all the maxed level people are all in the same zones, getting bored once they reach to top rung of the ladder and waiting for "what's next".

The other problem it has is the common sense issue which is shared by Dungeons & Dragons. Picture if you will, a level 1 farmer getting stabbed by a spear in the face. The farmer only has 6HP and the spear does 8 damage, killing the man in one strike. The same spear then stabs a nude mid level fighter (also in the face) for the same damage. What was a fatal blow to the farmer suddenly is just a potential minor injury for a person of the same race simply because the fighter has a lot more hit points that are magically granted when he gains levels. What?

One level can make a really big difference.

I think that mechanic should be done away with. A wolf pack should be just as dangerous to a wandering musician as it is to a knight, or soldier. Sure, the other two can probably fight the wolves better from their skill set, but who is to say that the musician doesn't study martial arts on the side? What I'm getting at is that skill can help them survive the encounter, not a higher number beside their name. And if they stuff up, a bite is a bite. Equal in all regards if they were wearing the same attire.

The anime Attack on Titan (I haven't read the manga) is a good example of what I'd like to see actually. Skilled people perform better, but they are just as susceptible to death as the peasants they are trying to defend. If you still haven't seen it and are into anime, you really ought to. You know it's good when I'm harping on it for two posts straight. :P

Monday 10 February 2014

What's on my Radar?

While I easily get excited by trailers for upcoming single player games, I don't remember the first time I was excited about upcoming MMO Hype, but I certainly remember the last two. The first was when I heard about Vindictus, and being a big Mabinogi fan it looked awesome despite being heavily instanced - until I read that due to region lockouts I couldn't play it. The next one was TESO itself, but my odds of playing that live look grim since it will be using the subscription model which I never use. Ever.

Now I'm pinning some hopes on the distant land of Black Desert. Yep, all because it looks pretty on Youtube. Open world Vindictus sounds and looks good, but I guess I'll have to wait and see about the region settings, payment model, and platform release. Of course, not everyone is as finicky as me so you should go check it out! Just hope it doesn't go the way of Core Online, or should I say - Core Offline.

I might have to upgrade my PC to run this though.

Lastly Juris has introduced me to the anime "Attack on Titan" and damn it's good. Those who are so inclined and haven't seen it yet should go do so. Also I think an MMO like DayZ with Titans instead of zombies would be a good idea. :P

Sunday 9 February 2014

Dead Island Riptide: All Kinds of Crazy

[Part of the Dead Island Diary]

Finally we reach Marcus Villa's house, only it is inhabited by some locals who deny our entry until we provide them with some medicinal bark. Geesh, we just can't catch a break! Once they are appeased we come in and trash the joint, finding the strange maps we needed. At that point we are called by Paradise camp to return post haste as Marcus Villa is there and acting weird. We get to see how weird when we arrive, with him stating that the immune should be eaten by the others to save mankind. I guess he's a cannibal then?

Since everyone refused the genius sets the entire place on fire, summoning another massive zombie attack which sees specials like floaters, thugs and butchers also participating. Fortunately Harlow arrives via boat after a few waves and everyone (at least I think everyone) escapes and relocates to the nearby fishing village base. At least this place has walls. Annoyingly though as Jim points out, there are no guns... still!

It's ok, maybe they have a battalion of zombie eating plants here.

On planning what to do next Harlow suggests we talk to a Dr. Kessler as he would know about the alternate path to Henderson as well. Why are you only telling us about him now? And where the heck did all these other boats come from? These mysteries and more shall hopefully be revealed in the next session!

Saturday 8 February 2014

League of Angels

Much like Blood and Jade, this is a 2D based free to play (pay to win) browser based MMO which is really designed to sink its hooks into players through ease and accessibility. Basically it is an improved version of Blood and Jade without all the Eastern themes. Still present are the auto-pilot questing on a railroaded quest path, auto-combat systems but with more polish, and more musical tracks (pretty decent ones too) based on what you are doing at the time as opposed to the steady drone of the one track in the previous game. As a bonus though you can play both at the same time. Actually, you can let them play by themselves while you do something else! :P

Of course it still has the scantily clad hot chicks.

They added gaining EXP and gold through a variety of unlockable mini games, including fishing using a gun turret, a version of bejewelled, enslaving other players, and fighting other players in arena or domination modes (indirectly, you only fight their parties without actual player interaction). You also can gain gold from congratulating people on your friend list when they hit specific achievements and if that's still too hard you can literally stand still and just leave it alone and still gain EXP. Yep, it rewards you for just being logged in even if you aren't playing!

The best improvement though is the addition of a player "party". Other than your hero you can bring along up to 5 NPCs (once you reach high enough rank) who complement each other in various ways. Well, when I say "various" I actually mean "one", and it's usually a combo attack of some sort. It's easy to work out which units work best together, and throwing the various blessings of your guardian angel on top it can alter your party strategy. Usually though, you just pick the strongest of what's available to you and run with that.

All in all it IS a better game than Blood and Jade, but as a stand alone it is still pretty weak. You'll most likely find yourself to be grinding just shy of level 40 while trying to reach Dracula. Yerp, there were enough mini games to keep me busy up to that level! Anywho I give it a 2 out of 5 sexy angels, and it is definitely better enjoyed while playing Blood and Jade in a second browser window so you can alternate between the cool downs of the two. Or you know, you could just go play a real MMO. :P

Friday 7 February 2014

Today I Smiled: Batman isn't the only thing Rising

This clip from College Humor really made me laugh the first time I saw it, and it continues to do so every time I watch it! Yes it's crude but I found it extremely well done. Gotta warn you about the adult themes and language present in the clip though, so don't watch it with little ones nearby. Also it would help if you've already seen The Dark Knight Rises movie, otherwise spoilers ahead! 

Its... Badman "Rising". :P

Also the Sochi Winter Olympics has started! I'm glad I caught a replay of my favourite ice skater Evgeni Plushenko, performing his short program. Caught me off guard for two reasons - 1) this took place a day or two before the opening ceremony and 2) I didn't think he was going to be participating any more as he had retired. Glad to see he's back, and hope he does fantastically well for his home crowd! After this round he's currently finished second behind the japanese skater Yuzuru Hanyu who pretty much embodies every anime kid you've ever seen. Hopefully Evgeni totally rocks his long program to take the lead, and the gold. :D

Thursday 6 February 2014

Dead Island Riptide: That was a Dead End

[Part of the Dead Island Diary]

Once we had our hard earned boat we managed to get to the nearby bridge leading to Henderson, except it was broken! Dismayed that we had absolutely no way to cross the lagoon which blocked our path, we had to get our boat (which couldn't possibly cross a lagoon) and make our way back to the fishing village to ask for a different way around. They said this religious leader named Marcus Villa would be able to help, but he was currently missing. It was easy enough to actually find him but those people really didn't want to leave their compound.

After saving Marcus he told us of some maps that could help us cross the lagoon at his house, and as a bonus the fishing village actually let us into their safe zone which was great. We met more people who needed more things done, medicine (and some shrooms) related mostly, so we went and did those first. One of them was pretty bad in that the infected runners would not stop spawning in a particular area. Fortunately we managed to push through and collect whatever it was we were after (drugs I think) and that made them stop falling out of the sky.

Swinging by "Paradise" to drop off more gear and build more weaponry (most of which is ludicrous) we noticed that boats have begun popping up everywhere, including right beside the first base camp. We kinda want to kill Harlow now for sending us all the way across the damned island to build one. >:(

I guess we'll let it slide since she did pull us from the beach.

Wednesday 5 February 2014

MMOs: Where Equipment is more Heroic than You

[Part of my MMO Design Folder]

In MMO's usually what you wear is more important than who you are.

One of my main gripes in most MMOs is that regardless of who your character is, in the end you are defined by the gear you use - and often that gear despite having some level of rarity will never be unique. It's kind of like saying, to make the knights of the round table better you should equip each of them with an Excalibur and a Holy Grail. Suddenly such artefacts become cheapened simply by having duplicates. Why this is the case I'm not sure, as it surely isn't that hard to simply code that a particular item is unique, there is only ONE of them in the game. Maybe its magic properties expires after a week, regardless of the owners log in time, upon which it vanishes or reverts to a more common item resetting the flag for someone else to be able to get the magic shishkebob or whatever.

That is of course beside the point. If everyone can have all the gear then basically you are a storm trooper. Yeah you might think you are unique, with all those hard earned skills and levels behind you but guess what - everyone else can attain those too. In the end if you come across your counterpart of equivalent ability it will come down to the +1 underwear one of you is wearing to have an edge on the other. At least the way you play can still define you right?

Some games try to combat this by either going crazy with their available skill tree (Path of Exile) or simply adding an element of player skill (GW2, NWO) much like how flight and combat sims do it, yet even there exist tiers upon tiers of items locked behind abstract level requirements. Why? To take your time and money mainly. I just wish there were more games where a sword is just a sword and what makes your character better is his (and your) skill with it, instead of one sword being slightly more magical than the other. Yeah ok, that's plausible too but not when -every- person in the game (barring newbies) has a variation of magic sword.

What's really funny is when "gear score" comes into play. Basically your arms and armor become the hero, the only thing of importance, instead of the person underneath it.

We'll take the one with the +10 belt?

Tuesday 4 February 2014

NWO: Gateway to the Sword Coast

I've been playing Neverwinter Online for awhile now but I'm pretty new to the whole browser based Gateway thing they've had going on which basically lets you play some parts of the game without needing to login to the client. Previously you could manage your little workers from there to get them crafting or questing up minor rewards for you and that was it. Enter the "Sword Coast Adventures" mini-game which was recently added. For me, this is a brilliant tie-in and I've lately been spending more time here than in the game itself!

It focuses on the adventures of your companions that you can send out to various dungeons to try complete quests. Low level quests reward crap, but the highest level ones I've seen (as well as the tutorial one) reward unique companions that you can't acquire by other means. How it works is that your team of four must explore a location until they find the goal. In their way are challenges (the goal itself is a challenge) that test various attributes via dice rolls. All party members get 6 six sided die and based on their actual level and class additional four/six/eight/or twelve sided die (I don't have a level 30 pet so there may be a 20 sided in there somewhere).

While luck plays a big part in victory there is strategy to the gambling. You can see the requirements for the nearby challenges before heading to them, meaning you can plan in advance who is best to tackle what. Also the option to reroll when you get a partial success is crucial later on when you literally are running out of rolls to win (dice of your choice are removed as the challenge progresses). In summary I think it's a pretty well done side game that ties in with NWO very neatly, and it's one you never even have to play to enjoy the main game.

Lastly while your companions can gain experience there it is still not as fast as training them yourself in-game. If you have a level 60 character, getting a companion to level 15 in one sitting is very easy. Summon said level 1 companion, then do all the daily quests in the Dread Ring followed by all the daily quests in Sharandar minus the solo dungeons. That's it. Repeat or add to as necessary for pets that have a higher max level.

Monday 3 February 2014

Dead Island Riptide: Deus Ex Machina

[Part of the Dead Island Diary]

Even though we cleared out the massive hordes and saved everyone at "Paradise" the place was just NOT defendable. To that end our priority became helping one of the women there go about setting up defences such as electrified fencing and creating mines. While we were out looking for components of those we were also picking up any canned food for the camp we came across. Interestingly every single one of the NPCs had side-mission fetch quests that would in turn boost their own rank, letting them create better gear to trade or maybe just fight harder.

All that and other weird jobs like saving a movie director's camera and fetching some pot head his drugs really kept us busy and a tad distracted from our "main" objective of finding a boat to get to the nearby city of Henderson. Harlow suggested we check out the nearby fishing village but all of theirs had already been taken. We had to go foraging much deeper into the swamp (monsoon season) before we came across one - the only one in the swamp apparently, and even then we needed to install an outboard motor on it.

Would be a lot less zombies if these were in the game.
Now's a good time to mention the zombies here are a good deal more dangerous than the ones on the last island. Sure they are all still the same types as we've met before but it seems our team is being downed more often on our expeditions this time around. Maybe there are just more of them? Also, I'm really loving this chainsaw we came across as it is really handy for chopping up the slow, tank type enemies who have trouble turning around.

Sunday 2 February 2014

A Dark Room: Will test your Patience

I came across a Dark Room from a Kill Ten Rats article and decided to try it out one night, seeing that it's free for anyone to play. What starts out as a one button text adventure soon grows into a resource management and eventually into an adventure game. An interesting one involving aliens and spaceships which is a pretty big leap from starting a fire in the eponymous dark room. While I do agree with Ravious that the developer does some interesting tricks as the game progresses it isn't without its problems.

This is way too much graphics, hence it isn't in the game.

Obviously as a text adventure there are no sounds and no pictures (though later you do get an ASCII adventuring map) which can be a downer depending on your mood but what really killed it for me is the grinding. Grinding in its purest form: click button. Wait to click button. Repeat. The amount of resources you need is near ludicrous. It may be understandable in the building phase but when you need 100 units of wood (the same amount required to make your first hut) to make a single spear you know that someone is just jerking your chain.

Zubon's comment on the Kill Ten Rats post puts it most elegantly: " I feel like I spent most of the game waiting to play the game." That's the same thing I felt, and it isn't a good feeling. To that end, and because I like pictures and music, I rate it one alien skull out of five. Still worth a try yourself, even if it's just to see the minimalist creativity at work. It just wasn't my cup of tea.

Saturday 1 February 2014

Today I Smiled: The Pull of the Ocean

This is a story that's been shared at family gatherings a lot recently so I thought I'd put it up here. During a family trip to the beach, my brothers along with other family members had swum out to an anchored raft off shore just to fool around. I was too little at the time and not very fond of the water to participate so I stayed on the shore with my mother looking on (well, collecting sea shells and building sand castles more likely). As the day wore on it was time to head back so they took it in turns to dive from the raft and swim to shore.

When my brother's turn came, he dove towards the shore and begun swimming. For some reason however he began to drift off course and was turning away from his destination (either he got pulled by a rip or he was stronger on one side). The calls from the others as he did so were ignored as he continued pushing on, and the water in his goggles prevented him from actually looking where he was going so onwards he went as hard and fast as he could for in his mind, shore was not far off. Only it never came. Finally getting tired he decided to stop and pull off his goggles to see what I would imagine is a scary sight: the wide and vast ocean in front of him with no land in sight (it was behind him).

Fortunately as soon as he had gone off course my grandfather chased after him. Being a strong swimmer he reached my brother after a few moments to calm him down and instructed him to lie down in the water and rest a bit. My grandpa kept him in his arms as he tread water for while my brother recovered, and when they were finally good to go they both swam back to shore safe and sound. 

What makes me smile about this story? Having an awesome grandpa and not losing my brother to the sea. It also means I could gift him the Banner Saga last week for his birthday. ;)