Sunday 29 June 2014

MMO Design: Activities need more Player Interaction

[Part of my MMO Design Folder]

In MMO's everyone gets into fights all the time. Is it simply because there's nothing better to do?

Most MMOs focus on one thing and one thing only: combat. Regardless of the setting, narrative, or game play most of your time in an MMO will be spent fighting either foes either controlled by other people or the AI. There are numerous combat system types which may or may not be similar to each other across the games but generally there is quite a fair bit of thought that comes into the design. Most of your character's gear often affects combat in some way too. Comparatively, there aren't many other in-game interactions that in depth.

My question is, why not?

If you needed as many hot keys for crafting or conversation with NPCs as you did in combat then that would give them more weight. Suddenly you might find that you can talk your way out of fighting in that game, maybe even forming alliances with otherwise hostile NPCs. Maybe people will be happy to craft items and or housing all day if the construction game was good. Maybe character X makes better medicine than character Y not just because of some arbitrary number on that skill, but because the player behind it was actually more competent while making it.

There are MMOs that have tried somewhat to go there, like Mabinogi where you can harvest wheat, grind it into flour, get some yeast and bake bread or harvest chicken eggs, setup a camp fire then get your frying pan out and make breakfast. All those actions needed more player interaction than the Ultima Online version which was basically double click on something, target oven.

A sword crafted in Mabinogi actually took someone the effort and time of hammering correct spots in a mini-game. For me that is more valuable than the mass produced ones in Guildwars 2 where you simply need the material then press the "Craft x number" button which spits out the finished items in less than five seconds. If you translated that into combat basically you have one "fight" button that you just press to fight, cutting out all technique and short handing extra abilities. You'd consider that lazy right?

If people can keep thinking up of unique attack moves for six+ different classes per game I'm sure that if they put their heads to it they can come up with equally just as good systems for the rest of the interactive activities - and that is something I would like to see. What do you think? Is that something you agree with or do you think it would be too annoying if making a single shield or trying to convince a merchant to give you a discount was akin to having a solo boss fight?

Thursday 26 June 2014

Feedback Required! I want YOU! :D

Hello all! I figure it's about time I go about and actually try "build" something (from scratch), but I thought I would ask you all for your input on what I should go about doing first. I guess you can say this is part of my research stage. Anyhow, there are only three questions so it should be nice and easy. Please leave a comment with your response!

Question 1: Make a list from items below in the order of what MOST appeals to you to what LEAST appeals to you.

a) A story, all words.
b) A story with pictures.
c) A flash game.
d) A board game.
e) Weird T-shirts.
f) A webcomic.

Question 2: How much are you willing to spend (or have spent in the past) on the above items? (Zero is valid). :)

Question 3: How often do you spend money on the above items?

Looking forward to reading your replies!

Wednesday 25 June 2014

Today I Smiled: Blog Status Mid 2014

The last time I did this I was in the middle of upgrading my house. I find it interesting to see what's changed over one year. First let's start with my top posts of all time (so far)!

Proving that guides are the best way to get an audience...
Rank #1 - Fastest way to gain AP
Rank #2 - State of Decay: Tips to reach Level 10

Followed by "sex sells"...
Rank #3 - Blood and Jade
Rank #4 - League of Angels

And lastly, if you write (enough of it) it will be read... eventually...
Rank #5 - Skyrim's Adventure Journal

My current post count is 542 (up from 245).
Top 5 audience countries: USA, Australia, Russia, UK, and Germany.
Using: Firefox (34%), IE (32%) and Chrome (21%). The rest use weird stuff! ;P

Most common search keywords: Still "Skyrim Hamburger" and "Pile of Ash" at the top. Funny that "Blood and Jade" and "Emma Watson Latex" get a mention though!

Followers: 2 (up from zero. Get in quick as there are only 49,998 spots left! LOL)
Page views: 56,473 (up from 10,101 - pretty sure this is thanks to two rounds the NBI!)
Comments - the stat I am happiest with: Previously 6.

Now: 320!

Yes, half of those is me replying but still! Thank you very much to everyone who has read and commented on my posts - it has definitely put a smile on my face. :D

Monday 23 June 2014

Poor Design: Competitive PvE

[Added to my MMO Design Folder.]

When 100 people need to kill 10 rats from a pool for 10 slowly respawning rats, there's a lot of standing around to do.

This has been a problem in MMOs since forever (it feels like it anyway), so I am surprised that developers still haven't learned their lesson to avoid making these kinds of quests. In Neverwinter Online's Dwarven Valley there are two daily quests that easily sample Competitve vs Cooperative PvE.

Some days you have to kill five Deathlock Wights in a specific area who are few in number (I've only ever found 4, one of which is far isolated and often bugged), come with a group of other tough undead and take around 5 minutes to respawn. It only counts for you (and your party) if you manage to take off around 50% of its health. As you can imagine there's a fair bit of competition to find and kill these ahead of the other players who have the same quest that day. Often it means camping around one of the cairns they spawn at with your strongest attack at the ready, with the x number of strangers around you who are doing the same - all of you hoping to out DPS the other to get one step closer to finishing this stupidly designed task.

The other quest involves people blessing the exact same cairns that those wights spawn at. However since the objective is static and freely available to all who pass by, its a very different experience on those days as everyone welcomes everyone else being there to work together in clearing the scum to reach the objectives faster. Indeed, on these days you would actually be actively looking for other roaming people to join up with instead of trying to out race and out perform them. Obviously I prefer this quest type over the other one as there is no *screwing over* being done or being had while doing so.

What about you? Do you feel the same? Or maybe you have a "good" example of competitive PvE?

Sunday 22 June 2014

Neverwinter Online: One Year Jubilee!

Well designed game wise. Poor design story wise. :P

Elminster is in town this week to send players around as carrier pigeons and to convince them to protect the city while Lord Neverember makes his speech in a repeatable skirmish instance to earn currency items that can be used to buy the rather affordable rewards on offer. This is all great because it means you don't need to rely on RNG to get your loot. Furthermore, the skirmish is designed in three waves of randomized enemies, each with a short timer that grants a reward if you complete said wave before it runs out.

A number of groups think that the best way to do this is to Zerg. I disagree, and am usually the one off on his own skirting past all the enemies to handle the actual objectives in time. If you need to go destroy catapults then don't stand around fighting what's pushing them guys!

Ok that's a bit unfair since my two characters (rogue and ranger) are specifically built for infiltration and aggro dropping which makes all the trash redundant, especially in timed challenges. Regardless of the method you take it's still a pretty cool experience to be fighting again in Protectors Enclave, something which was last done during Valindra's Invasion many months ago.

Story/Lore wise though, this event showcases how worthless the city guards are as EVERY ENEMY FACTION (in random groups of three) can get in with ludicrous equipment. At least the rebels and wererats are somewhat believable since they're just looting the place but when giant witches and cyclopses manage to drag huge cauldrons in, or Shadar-kai manage to put large shards of the Deathknell about, or the orcs manage to roll in some CATAPULTS into the town proper... um... Side note, if Elminster is actually in town then none of those things should actually be a problem.

*ahem* I would likely flatten the city if -I- did it, adventurer.
Anywho, that aside it's still a fun experience and one with decent rewards. I only hope that this trend continues. Long live Neverwinter! :)

Saturday 21 June 2014

Today I Smiled: Cover Songs (Reluctant Heroes and Game of Thrones)

Since I'm somewhat musically inclined, I thought I'd share a trio of Youtube clips that brought a smile to my face. Especially the last two which are quite jazzy and contain a bit of improvisation so heads up if that's not your sort of thing.

Mica Caldito - The Reluctant Heroes (Shingeki no Kyojin/Attack on Titan)
Swamp Donkeys - Game of Thrones Theme
Dave Koz - "Smooth" Game of Thrones Theme

Have a great day! :)

Thursday 19 June 2014

MMOs: Fairer RNG Drops

[Part of my MMO Design Folder]

RNG = the Random Number Generator. It's an old staple of MMOs and one that is often hated when it comes to the chances of getting the item you want from the rare slain monster or hard to reach reward chest. Usually that chance is fixed at a miniscule percentage, encouraging people to try and try and try until they finally burn out or get what they are looking for. I think it can be improved.

One way is what Guildwars 2 and Neverwinter Online do to a certain extent, which is handing out currency items over the course of the adventure or from the target monster/chest itself which can then be used to purchase whatever reward the player was after. On paper this is the best fix, but even on those games they still insist on having some rewards that require pure RNG luck to acquire, which is exponentially made worse when said items can only be "won" within a short period of time. I suppose the argument there is that they don't want "the sword of killing everything in one hit" available to a guy who just killed a gazillion mice underneath the starter tavern for two years. My counter argument is to reward people who stick to your game, regardless of how they want to play!

Anyway, for rewards that remain pure RNG, I propose that developers just whack another variable for each character (and visible to the player), the "reward percentage modifier" or "perseverance" or whatever name suits. Every time they complete a dungeon run, or slay a boss, or complete x number of quests or do -something- in game the modifier grants a bonus to the loot table RNG. Then it will check what level loot the character got. If they got lucky and the loot was of high levels, the modifier is reset to zero. If they got anything below that threshold the modifier increases, which gives them progressively better chances until finally they get a high level drop.

This way the lucky ones will still get their drops early, but those that persevere will also definitely be rewarded instead of "might be rewarded, but usually not". What are your thoughts? Is this a good idea or will it break loot as we know it?

Wednesday 18 June 2014

Sniper Elite: Nazi Zombie Army

The only good Nazi is an... undead Nazi?
I've had this game for awhile now so I'm a little surprised I didn't do a review of it yet. Some of you may recall the annoyances I experienced while trying to play it cooperatively, which killed the game for me. However, I decided to go through it again solo after being uplifted by playing Sniper Elite v2 which obviously eliminated the severe flaw of frequent disconnects and then being unable to reconnect to your friends problem. That said it still crashed out on me twice.

While the story is shallow ("and then there were zombies!") the gameplay itself works well with the sniper vs undead theme. Most enemies require head shots (or heart shots) to be put down permanently and there is ample opportunity to snipe and survive waves of the walking dead during the story... and by walking I mean at a leisurely and casual pace.

Given that the majority of your foes need to melee you, this actually makes the game easier than the original (where grunts would shoot back, take cover and lob grenades) as you can even avoid them or kick them down with your own melee strike. The few enemies with firearms can be a bit of a problem, depending on where they catch you but generally distance is your friend and that very useful cover system is made quite redundant as long as you have Doom level shooting experience.

Most of the maps will also be familiar from v2, though they are heavily modified decor wise. Overall it is still a fun game which is easiest cleared if you keep your cool from the jump scares and shoot carefully because really, these zombies have no chance against a well armed marksman. I give it 3.5 bullets out of 5 (for solo play).

Monday 16 June 2014

Wizardry Online: Ghost Town

[Part of the journals from Wizardry Online!]

Apart from the Succubus, giant suits of loitering armor, oversized tarantulas, demon imps and ambient classical music in a minor scale it was a band of overly strong werewolves that ultimately prevented us from getting past the magical barriers within the House of Savage Lust. We did reach the library though, and from it we learned the location of some sort of experimental zone built by a mad dwarf named Azarm. Thanam decided to continue to try find a way past the magic barriers in the estate while I returned to Port Illfalo to resupply.

The town was even emptier than when we left it, with all the adventurers having evacuated due to the Armageddon threat. Even the Lost Souls board had a record of zero souls lost for the month, a number I had never seen before since our arrival. Being one of the few remaining people the arcane minister Zermu Terlu was quick to issue out a Dimento medal to assist with supplies in exchange for trying to stop the rumored "end". I also stopped by one of the still functioning guild agencies and found a note from Quark - that he and a handful of the remaining Porkul Pickers and their allies like Raven Daydream, Maco Meng, and Helga had packed up to try their luck on distant shores. They must have packed in a hurry since there was still equipment in the guild armory, some of which I decided to take for myself.

One of the priests at the local temple urged me to find his wand as he seemed to think it would help in our overall goal so I found myself heading back to the dreaded Temple of Oblivion and after poking around in places no sane man should I gained access to a secret lair inhabited by gargoyles! Fortunately I got the drop on them and managed to take them on one at a time, recovering with Dimento camps when needed. After the difficult combat I managed to retrieve and return the wand to the priest... alas all it seemed to do was cure his own speech impediment. Time is running out and I am unsure of what to do, but I know I cannot simply abandon these people to whatever horrible fate is about to pass.

I take heart knowing that if it is an end by gargoyles, I can take a few of them with me.

Sunday 15 June 2014

Sniper Elite V2

My only previous experience with Sniper Elite was with their Nazi Zombie game and I pretty much rage quit over the very poor mechanics of very often getting dropped from a coop session and not being able to rejoin. It quite killed my interest in the whole series until this game was made freely available for one day. I grabbed it and proceeded to play through the single player story on the hardest setting (why play anything less?) that features almost zero HUD and realistic bullet drop.

While it still crashed out on me twice and it has the one path with a few detours typical map setup for the missions the story is not bad, the areas are gorgeous, the mechanics of stealth vs speed are great (I am a Thief fan), and fighting enemy sniper teams and armor are fantastic! The slow motion, sometimes x-ray, kill cam also brought a smile to my face each time I saw my targets organs and bones shatter (sometimes explode) from my rounds, but boy did they get me a fair number of times too. Fortunately you don't take realistic damage or a health bar, instead it uses the troll methodology of "if you get hit too much consecutively you die, but hide for awhile and you regenerate" making it a rather fun 6-7 hours of gaming.

A little lower and you would have got "nut-shot" cam.

The little touches of having the sunlight cause enemy sniper scopes to flash once in a while are awesome too, and it happens to you as well if you wait too long while aiming since unaware enemies suddenly spot you after awhile. I must admit the whole experience has rekindled my desire to retry the Nazi Zombie one, maybe just in single player this time - and definitely ups my interest in the other Sniper Elite titles. I may not buy them for me due to my own rule, but I still buy games for others. So while I sit here humming the main theme of the game as I type, I can't help but give it 4 bullets out of 5. I haven't tried coop on it (no one to try it with) so that may alter the score depending on how it goes.

Friday 13 June 2014

Broforce (Early Access)

Shallow, old-school platforming at its most entertaining!

Featuring many bros (heroes) from numerous action franchises this fast paced side scrolling platform shooter by Free Lives is in a word: crazy. The good kind of crazy. So far the objective of all the maps I've played is simply to "GET TO DA CHOPPA" at the end of the map, with the optional task of rescuing trapped bros (which give you extra lives and a character switch) on the way.

The multitude of playable characters with differing skills is definitely a highlight, however it is slightly annoying that you cannot select which Bro you want to use instead getting a random one each time you begin a level, respawn or free a trapped bro. This is particularly felt in multiplayer where you might get confused as to who you are if you don't pay attention. Seemed to also be some connectivity issues when Doone, Izlain, J3w3l and myself tried it out.

The AI is intentionally simplistic at best, but they'll still manage to kill you every once in a while since one bullet is all it takes. I don't think there are more baddies in multiplayer however the chaos caused by the other players is sure to see indirect friendly-fire deaths more often than not. You can't shoot each other with bullets but with all the exploding going on and the screen trying to tether all of you together there is ample opportunity there for death!

Despite the negatives Broforce is actually a blast! Unfortunately it doesn't have too many levels to go through yet but that is easily remedied. I noticed the developers even put in a level editor there which I didn't really try out. Definitely one to check out for some mindless mayhem, and in its current state I give it three bros out of five!

Thursday 12 June 2014

Shadowrun Online (Early Access)

I've never played any of the Shadowrun games before, so as a true newbie I'll just describe the setting as Dungeons and Dragons meets the future with gun-toting orcs, shotgun wielding spell casters and computer savvy elves running about. This game itself plays quite a bit like the tactical parts of XCOM. You take turns to perform actions and basically have an objective to do on each map, often simply reaching the other end. The "Online" part simply pits you against an enemy player in what is best described as a balanced arena. This tactical part of the game all works fine for the most part.

Better if there were more hot chicks though.
(This one's for you, River.)

The problem (or part not in this version) lies with how all this tactical part ties together. Currently there is only a single bland, text filled mission screen between each mission tying them together with no real choices to be made (outside of how best to complete the assigned objective without dying too much). I am hoping that there is a bit more meat here when the game fully releases. Options to chose what missions you go on for what factions for what rewards and such.

The main characters you get stuck with are pretty cool too (special mention to good voice acting here), but I'd very much prefer to customize my own team (even if they are all silent or just generically voiced) and be able to choose or purchase whatever loadout I want for them. Having them getting injured/killed off like in XCOM would be pretty good too, and force people to play smart. Since there is currently no penalty for death/getting downed so in some maps it's better to just rush to the "stand here to win" tiles. You automatically win if you reach that spot and anyone killed in the process will be back with you in next mission anyway.

The game definitely has potential if those extra bits are filled in. Until they are though I can only score this incomplete offering two cyber-ninjas out of five.

Wednesday 11 June 2014

A Valley Without Wind 2

While this game has similarities to its predecessor, it is functionally a very different game. Gone are the sprawling and almost endless randomized platform levels. They have been shortened into little bite sized pieces where in you either have to destroy a wind generator or beat one of the named bad guys in their lair to level up. Gone too are the smooth controls and animation from before replaced by ho-hum average bob sprites.

Instead a bigger focus is put on the strategic section of the game where in you must command your rebel forces to expand the map, gather resources, build and man structures, destroy enemy strongholds and warp gates, recruit more rebels and most importantly escape from the main bad guy Demonica (a demon overlord) until such a time as when you can fight him (I guess, I haven't reached there yet if so and there are no hints so far on how to actually win the game - just how to survive).

The bit I did like from the previous game, the platforming, has now been made a joke. There are all sorts of cool yet annoying enemies to get in your way but there is absolutely NO REASON to fight them as they no longer drop currency (other than the main targets you have to fight anyway), only ammo and health which you won't lose if you are good at evasion.

It's a pity that they decided to take this road, because for me it ends up being a weaker game for it. I give it two and a half wind generators out of five and would definitely recommend the first game over this one for sure.

A Valley without Wind indeed.

Tuesday 10 June 2014

Eldritch Horror

Cthulhu and other Lovecraftian monstrosities are again awakening and threatening to do nasty things to the world, and once again it is up to intrepid investigators to try stop them. Much like Arkham Horror before it, Eldritch Horror is  a cooperative board game where players must run around the board to shut gates and gain clues to defeat whichever main bad guy you happen to be playing against at the time.

Unlike Arkham though, Eldritch Horror has a world wide scale with a world map as the board and each Eldritch abomination has it's own specific way of being defeated by means of its custom tailored mystery deck. Simply solve three (out of four randomly shuffled, one at a time) before it wakes up and you win.

That is not easy to do as investigators go insane and/or die permanently during the course of the game (and often through events out of your control) it is not wise to get attached to your selected character. Player elimination is avoided by letting them pick a new investigator at that point (provided the main baddie hasn't woken up yet) however there are only 12 in the base game and one of the losing conditions is that if all 12 die it is game over. No resurrection here!

Picture post game: Defeat! >.<

Eldritch is still a big game and takes a bit of time to setup and play, but because of clever streamlining it is only around half the time it takes to setup and play Arkham. This is partially because out of the 40 or so ancient one cards available you only use around 16 per game, and once those run out the players lose regardless at what stage the game is at. That for me is a huge positive, and despite the board and the dice being rigged against you it still makes for an awesome experience.

Another positive is the customized research decks against each ancient one. For example while facing Azathoth (rather, trying NOT to face him), there'll be a number of meteor showers and most likely an alien moon showing up now and again which doesn't happen if you face one of the other horrors.

The double sided cards are another great mechanic, and you are not allowed to read the flip side until the time is right. Spells are a good example. There are many copies of the same spell, but where one might flip to reveal added advantages, others might flip to reveal that by casting it you've just woken up the ancient one a little more, or slowly go insane, or accidentally insta-kill another player!

It does have a minor problem with somewhat thin card decks which means seeing repetition within a single game, but other than that it all goes swimmingly well (usually for the ancient ones). This problem is quite likely fixed with the expansion Forsaken Lore which adds a whole bunch of cards.

For me it does replace Arkham Horror due to the speeded up and polished mechanics. I give it four and a half tentacles out of five.

Re-review score: Four tentacles out of five.

Monday 9 June 2014

Forbidden Desert

In this cooperative board game, your team of explorers have to find and put together pieces of an airship before the raging sand storm that made you crash land in the first place finishes the job and buries you all. It sounds so simple and also has simple mechanics that are easy to understand and teach but difficulty wise the game is HARD. Just to give you an indication: So far we have had two wins on "Novice", and around twelve loses on "Normal" difficulty.

The "board" is made from a randomly shuffled set of face down tiles in a 5x5 configuration with one empty spot marking the eye of the storm. The tiles are double sided too with the "back" usually just being an empty desert and the "front" being a piece of the fantastic city underneath. Some of the city cards indicate where you might be able to find a piece of the airship, and you need to locate two such cards (for x and y axis) before you can spawn the part. After finding all four parts, everyone needs to get to the airship hangar bay to escape and win the game.

A picture of our first victory! :P

After each players move though, that dastardly storm moves around the board using its own card deck and piling up tiles of sand all over the place, often on spots you've already excavated and on spots you need to go. As you progress the storm gains more and more strength too making it even deadlier. If the storm reaches the maximum intensity, or you run out of sand tiles, or ONE player dies of thirst then EVERYONE loses.

Despite our current win/loss ratio I really like this game. It's fast to setup, fast to play (under 1 hour) and easy to learn. The variety of character choices is also a bonus. Perhaps the only thing I don't like is the 5 player limit as sometimes we have more players than that but otherwise I think it's great! Four out of five airships from me! :)

Score after re-review: Five out of five airships!

Saturday 7 June 2014

Blogspot Blog List Tips

I had some serious issues with my blog list recently and most of the problem stemmed from bugs(?) in the blogspot process. I'm just posting this to remind myself and maybe even help others should they come across the same issues, should they still not be fixed.

Firstly, when adding new blogs from the reading list selecting "ALL" or any number greater than one will FAIL. You must add each new path individually.

Secondly, the list won't often update on its own. If you want to see the changes, edit the blog list and untick the icon option and save it. Then turn it back on and save it (or vice versa). That will refresh the listing.

That's it! Hope that's of use to someone! :)

Friday 6 June 2014

Today I Smiled: Mario, Ozzy Man GoT and JAAAAEGER!

Got a bunch of Youtube links that got me smiling this week so I thought I'd share them with you, in case you missed any!

First up is Mario in a Mercedes Ad (somehow he reminds me of Roger Federer). He's looking the healthiest he's ever been!

Next is Ozzy Man's improved ending to Game of Thrones "The Mountain and the Viper" - spoilers ahead if you haven't seen that episode!

Lastly is for all the Shingeki no Kyojin (Attack on Titan) fans - why the seiyuu's (voice actors) of Connie Springer and Eren JAEGER(!) should never sing the opening song. :P

Have a great day!

Thursday 5 June 2014

Neverwinter Online: Fast Campaign Strategy Tips

If you play Neverwinter Online to the latter stages you will find yourself in "Campaigns". Areas such as Sharandar, the Dread Ring and Icewind Dale that require you to complete a (small) variety of daily tasks to push the quite literal completion bar to 100%. Unfortunately even the most stalwart player will feel the grind of these things after awhile so I thought I'd put up a quick post on some tips of how to clear each zone faster and spend less time in game grinding, specifically if you are a Boon Hunter (purchasable unlocks at specific stages of each campaign that improve your character) like myself. If you are chasing equipment drops then some of this might not apply to you.

LeadershipLevel this Profession up since it can provide a consistent stream of Astral Diamonds for you, which is required to unlock some of the Boons.

The Early Bird
Learn what time the daily and weekly quest resets. Much like newly released content, it is often fastest and easiest to do it as soon as it resets because a whole bunch of other people (also the ones who just want to get it over with) are doing the same things. Group up to gain credit faster or if you don't like grouping then you can still benefit by having less random monsters to deal with as they often get cleared by the high traffic player paths of the day. It also makes it easier to run into a more "common" heroic encounter in Icewind Dale that has people wanting to complete it.

Avoid Fighting
Fights take time. If you have a "kill" mission try to always do it in or near a zone where you need to accomplish something else as doing the other task will often net you all the kills you need. When avoiding foes take the path already traveled by others (and help them clear it if you catch up) to have an easier time. This is also true in dungeons. Make use of that Cloak of Lesser Etherealness you got from the Whispering Caverns!

Fast Travel Route
Do not forget to use your mounts. They often can be used in any open air instance such as Witch Fen or Warmakers. If you aren't fighting and are on foot just try to mount regardless of where you are. Also pick the best path to complete everything without having to double back. In Dread Ring and Sharandar, you can switch instance to instantly teleport you back to the nearest camp fire to save even more travel time.

Daily Prayer
While you should already do this in-game for the pretty cool rewards, if you manage to keep it up for 6 real days in a row you can spend your Celestial coins on a Cache of Campaign treasures that will remove some of the grind time for you. Remember that missing 1 day of invocation will make all your Celestial coins vanish, but it literally takes less than 5 minutes to do if that's all you have time for each day.

Set Your Targets
Each campaign requires set "currency items" to advance, but especially in Sharandar, you don't need all of them all the time. Do the maths and figure out just how much of each you actually need then unless you are intentionally after the EXP you can start skipping the daily quests that you no longer need to do! For example, all the Sharandar dungeons just give Crescents which you will be drowning in later from all the other tasks in the region. Unless you really want them, the EXP or the item rewards that the dungeons drop then you can save a lot of time by simply ignoring them.

Dungeon Running
It's fastest to clear content in a team so use the Looking For Group chat channel and even if you really don't like teaming up, I highly suggest doing so for the Dread Ring dungeons and Biggrin's Rest in Icewind Dale. The Dread Ring dungeons are easily soloable (especially Phantasmal Fortress) in give or take 10 minutes. In a party you can clear it in under 5 (even with just ONE other person). Just announce what group you are looking for and you'll probably get an invite pretty quick, especially if it is the daily.

"LFG DS" (Dread Spire)
"LFG DF" (Death Forge)
"LFG PF" (Phantasmal Fortress)
"TT/AB LFG BR" (Ten Towners / Arcane Brotherhood faction Biggrin's Rest)

Patience beats Griefing
Sharandar and Icewind Dale have some poorly designed quests that reward griefers who sneak in an interact with the one use objective while someone is off fighting the guards legitimately. It's not too bad in Sharandar since these objectives are clustered together and only lightly guarded. Icewind Dale is more punishing. If this happens to you there then my advice (other than "do unto others" if you can catch up to them) is to simply wait as close as you need to be to where the objective will respawn which is all of around 2 minutes. Trigger the item as soon as it pops up and walk / ride away. Escaping the respawners aggro depends on what is respawning, but at least you got the objective.

Mining Nodes
Icewind Dale requires you collect 300 raw black ice daily. While you gain this from doing heroic encounters the faster way is simply to mine every node you encounter, especially if the node is unguarded. They spawn in specific spots so each time you find one remember where it is so you will know where to look the next day.

Bare Minimum
Some days you just won't have time to play. That's fine. Some days you might think you don't have time to play. Well, given you can just stack (pick up quests but don't do them) three days worth of dailies from Dread Ring and Sharandar here is the bare minimum that you should do to not "lose" a day of progress. This is also the order I do it (on my ranger alt) in to make the most of the other players helping or at least clearing the way. Afterwards I do Icewind Dale again on my main rogue. :P

1 - Pray and if available, purchase Campaign Coffer
2 - Icewind Dale - complete 1 encounter/collect 300 ice, faster in Dwarven Valley
3 - Dread Ring Daily Dungeon 
4 - Battle for Sharandar (mass murder powries to get 3 Feywild Crystals)

Hopefully these tips are of some use to you so that you can spend time doing the other things you like! :)

Wednesday 4 June 2014

A Valley Without Wind

In the year 888 reality collapsed, and instead of killing everything it just killed the majority of mankind and messed up the world like a jigsaw puzzle of time eras now controlled by an evil overlord and the never ending storm that rages across the planet. That's the premise of this game which has most of its focus on platforming through various randomly generated terrain though it does have a tiny building and strategy component as well.

It's up to you to travel through the very strangely designed structures and pyramids full of card board boxes to find survivors, build a colony using wind shelters (that look like ordinary wind mills) to push back the endless storm and ocean buoys (that somehow calm turbulent seas) and ultimately defeat the very passive main bad and his four lieutenants.

They don't like coming out into the rain I guess.

The music is pretty good but with the size of some maps (mainly the annoying and sometimes dark mazes) you'll probably be turning it off due to repetition. Controls wise it's pretty slick too and has great adjustable difficulty that should suit the most novice of players to those who are already "the guy" (IWTBTG). Be warned though that it is very grindy. While you are free to march straight to the overlord's lair at any time you will probably want to do a few things before hand such as clearing a path through the storm to his place, levelling your skills up by harvesting and crafting stuff, and levelling him down by defeating his lieutenants and convincing other survivors to go attack him.

There are a variety of extra missions scattered around which mainly deal with fighting foes or surviving the environment but you would have most likely played all of them by the time you beat the first lieutenant. To that end I'm not sure how many people actually continue on after defeating the overlord to sail to the next continent and basically do it all again. Still, it is pretty addictive and is a decent ride for those who enjoy platforming games (at least through the first playthrough) so I give it three wind shelters out of five.

Tuesday 3 June 2014

Poor Design: Ingress PvP

Playing Ingress might augment your face.

I've been keeping an eye on Zubon's experiences with Ingress, an AR game (Augmented Reality) which sees player joining one of two factions and then taking objectives for their team by wandering about outside and fiddling with their smart phones to gain XP, territory and the like. On the surface it sounds like a cool, more involved version of geocaching. It is a fair bit more dangerous though because by default it is PvP and there are a number of people who take their "game" a bit seriously. Just google up ingress violence and you'll get the drift.

Why intentionally design a system that promotes unregulated competition? Because it's easier - the players will generate their own "content" and the game makers can just sit back and relax instead of having to think up of ways for them to work together, cooperatively. They could make it that players all around the globe were trying to stop an electronic virus, or Cthulhu or whatever AI system they could think of. Nope, instead they just chose players to stop other players. What could go wrong? Other than threats of (sometimes armed) violence, vandalism, and destruction of property?

Ingress is an interesting idea, but one not thought out well enough. Yes the designers cannot control what the players do, which is all the more reason why they should anticipate for the worst  - and they didn't. Given the opportunity, all humans are murderous scum - innocent looking babies and frail old ladies included. If you don't work from that baseline, then you aren't planning hard enough. As for playing Ingress? It's just not worth it. Go geocaching instead - at least there people aren't openly being ushered to competitively gun you down - in game or out.

Monday 2 June 2014

NBI 2014 - Artists of May

With the beginning of June ends the May NBI Drawing event, and the NBI's "active" phase. There were only a few participants, possibly because of this:

Just a theory! :P
However the brave few that took up the task will be remembered forever... on this page!




Me :P

Lastly, Missy Mojo didn't actually participate (grumble grumble) but she did ask for an avatar - so I thought I'd whack it up here for my own record keeping. :)

Thank you again to everyone who took part. For even more NBI artistry be sure to check out the Big, Magical NBI Poetry Slam Round up at Syl's blog!

Just as a note, while the NBI might be going into hibernation that doesn't mean it's stopped completely. If you are starting up your own blog or site, or just want to get to know some other people with your same hobby then please stop by the forums. :)

Sunday 1 June 2014

Attack on Titan - Tribute Game

With low res, polygonal graphics where your character and enemies look like dolls and houses look a bit like cubes, no music, spoilerific information that can give away a few plot points in the Attack on Titan anime/manga on which it was based, and a very sparse number of levels you would think that this free, Unity based tribute game by creator Feng Lee is a disastrous enterprise.

Well I can tell you that despite all those short falls the game itself is fantastic and can be surprisingly addictive, especially for fans of the series! It also has a pretty severe learning curve at the start where you will doubtlessly die many times while trying to get the hang of your 3D manoeuvring device.

Knowing where to fire your lines, when to let go and how long to press the gas button is your one advantage over the numerous, people eating titans who can easily kill you with one hit. You can do the same to them, provided you get to their weak spot at the nape of the neck. I've seen some awesome players who almost never touch the ground anymore with their skills.

How did I see this? Because you can play cooperatively! You can lure titans away for your allies to get easier kills, or save your friends from getting devoured if you are agile enough to get in a killing (or blinding) strike. There's room for improvement for sure, but even in its current state I give this game 4 out of 5 potatoes, and highly recommend everyone - especially fans of the series - to give it a try!

I also recommend having one of the songs from the OST playing in the background while doing so to really get you in the zone. Personally, I use DOA.