Monday 29 September 2014

Today I Smiled: Kitten Unity!

I know I'm quite behind in my Assassin's Creed having only recently watched the full AC: Unity trailer. Then I was impressed by some of the crazy cosplaying parkour guys that made their own version, but what has me smiling the most is this: Assassin's Creed Kitten Unity!

The Russian(?) creator, Mr.TVCow has some other funny vids too and I encourage you to check them all out. My second favorite is the Egg Destroyer Achievement video.

Anywho that's it for me, hope you all have a great day! ^_^

Sunday 28 September 2014

Warframe General Tips

It only took me to get to Rank 10 Mastery before deciding to post this, (I'm slow!) but hopefully this short cheat sheet will prove handy to some new players of Warframe on the PC.

Damage Type Basics

There are three main damage types which directly relate to the three main factions:

Corpus are weak against Impact
Grineer are weak against Puncture
Infested are weak against Slash

Combined elemental damage types give extra beneficial effects (and will perform better) but at the base level that's all you need to get by.

Speed Running

These are some of the combos I know of to make your Tenno move at the best speed possible. Some require dextrous fingers but a little bit of practice and you'll have it down in no time. I am assuming you have the standard key bind in this guide (left hand on keys / right hand on mouse), and have arranged the moves from easiest to hardest but ultimately none are really that hard.

Horizontal Wall Running  
SHIFT + W + SPACE (and keep it down) while aiming at a wall at an angle. Too sharp and you will attempt to run directly up (vertical Wall run).
I find it faster than normal running on the ground.
Your warframe ignores the laws of physics while doing this and will only stop running along the wall if:
  • it hits an obstacle or runs out of wall
  • you let go of SPACE at which point your Tenno will launch off in the same direction
  • you press E to do a wall spring attack that is more controllable than letting space go, but doesn't take you as far

Regular Slide Attack
Use your the tip of your pinky finger to press and hold down SHIFT at the start then press down on CTRL with the rest of it once you are running
Makes you move a bit further than just sliding without attacking (without + E)
Extra distance traveled depends on melee weapon equipped
Also nice to damage enemies in the way

Forward Somersault
Stepping stone to get to the final move. Not that useful in the larger scope of things.
Like the previous move, pinky finger presses both SHIFT and CTRL
Add + E at the end to finish Somersault with a smash if you are landing in a cluster of enemies

Limited Flight
SHIFT + W + SPACE + CTRL + E (before you hit the ground)
Outside Warframe specific powers this is one of the fastest ways to move across the map
Basically a slide attack in mid-air, breaking more laws of physics and traveling insane distances
Extra distance depends on your melee weapon. Daggers are supposedly some of the best for "flight".
Should have a master rank, two-keypress pinky finger by now from the previous two moves. :P

Don't let the key combinations scare you. If you really just want to practice, the most accessible place for everyone would be any Exterminate mission on Mercury.

Fastest Way to Level Mastery Rank:

Just plugging this in since some people may have come here looking for it. Instead of a to-do mission list, here are three simple tips to help you out:

1 - Play with squad mates (even randoms) when you can, and stay near them (at least one of them) at all times.
2 - Do not bring anything that doesn't need leveling which you feel you can survive without.
3 - Keep your eyes open for Alert and Infestation Outbreak Mobile Defense and Defense missions as its easier to find PUGs in them.

That's it! Nothing really most veteran Warframe players wouldn't know but for anyone that didn't, I hope this helped! Have fun! ^_^

Thursday 25 September 2014

Video Game Addiction

Today I decided to tally up all the game time I've racked up in Steam to discover that the total time spent was sitting on around 87 days. This is around 24% of a year which is pretty close to the percentage I would spend sleeping I think. The scary part is that this figure doesn't include any non Steam tied games of which I have a fair few, most of which are MMOs that quite enjoy gobbling up time.

I always thought my gaming habits were normal but it turns out I might be an addict. I'm certainly not a "casual" gamer, but neither do I think I classify as a "hardcore gamer". Anyway, I decided to take a quick look into Video Game Addiction and found that the American Psychiatric Association has developed 9 criteria for characterizing the proposed internet gaming disorder. I'll go answer them now.

Pre-occupation. Do you spend a lot of time thinking about games even when you are not playing, or planning when you can play next?
Yes! Definitely. I usually like to plan what I need to do in game for the day or week in advance and make a little check list.

Withdrawal. Do you feel restless, irritable, moody, angry, anxious or sad when attempting to cut down or stop gaming, or when you are unable to play.
Yep! This is especially felt on vacations. I'm usually always restless but I certainly become more irritable and moody the more I'm away from my PC.

Tolerance. Do you feel the need to play for increasing amounts of time, play more exciting games, or use more powerful equipment to get the same amount of excitement you used to get?
Not really. Increasing amount of time maybe just to clear new content but I don't really need better gear to be more excited to play.

Reduce/stop. Do you feel that you should play less, but are unable to cut back on the amount of time you spend playing games?
Yes. More so recently, but like today while trying to abstain from gaming I had a quick Warframe session in the middle of typing this up. :P

Give up other activities. Do you lose interest in or reduce participation in other recreational activities (hobbies, meetings with friends) due to gaming?
What other activities? I'm pretty anti-social with the number of real life friends I see monthly (or sometimes, quarterly?) able to be counted on one hand. Often one finger.

Continue despite problems. Do you continue to play games even though you are aware of negative consequences, such as not getting enough sleep, being late to school/work, spending too much money, having arguments with others, or neglecting important duties?
I dislike being late and being parted with my money so those are not usually an issue but sleep is the first one to suffer when a late night / early morning gaming session calls.

Deceive/cover up. Do you lie to family, friends or others about how much you game, or try to keep your family or friends from knowing how much you game?
Nope, I game a lot and I game everyday. Everyone knows this.

Escape adverse moods. Do you game to escape from or forget about personal problems, or to relieve uncomfortable feelings such as guilt, anxiety, helplessness or depression?
Yes. Who doesn't?

Risk/lose relationships/opportunities. Do you risk or lose significant relationships, or job, educational or career opportunities because of gaming?
Nope. At least I don't think so, or haven't yet for significant relationships. Career opportunities though... maybe.

Hrm. That... kinda sounds like I have a problem. What do you think? Or are the questions structured in such a way that every gamer would sound like an addict?

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Keys and Treasure Chests

I find it interesting to see how each game delivers rewards to players, especially after killing tough bosses in dungeons. More and more it seems that these rewards come from treasure chests of some kind.

Guildwars 2 used to (I assume they still do) just have it as a pop up, treasure chest "button" on each participating player's HUD rather than an object in game. Neverwinter Online has a box at the end of each dungeon, often next to the handy exit portal, that can only be opened if you entered during "dungeon hour" (occurs every 6 hours) or if you brought a dungeon key with you.

You can get one free key a day provided you don't already have one in your inventory. As a typical F2P opportunity you can also buy said keys with the pseudo-real currency of Astral Diamonds (which you gain through real money expense or through doing in-game tasks). Some dungeons and skirmishes even have two chests with the bonus one requiring a different key made from other grindable currencies.

Ultima Online laughs at treasure chests when bosses can just explode into gold.

Then there's Warframe and its Orokin Vaults. Found on not so accessible Orokin Derelicts that consume a crafted key just to ENTER, there is always ONE vault hidden somewhere in the decaying space craft and if there's something Warframe is good at, it is hiding things in hard to reach spots that require good eyes and good parkour skills.

The vault itself needs a key to open but the type needed is random out of four. Since each player can only carry one key at a time this usually means to have a 100% chance of opening the room each member in a full squad needs to be carrying one. Of course holding a key negatively affects your Warframe, depending on the type you carry.

The effects to choose from are:
-75% health
-75% shield
-75% damage
-50% speed

Upon opening the door whoever used up the key is back to normal, for a short time at least because picking up the always single "mysterious artifact" (which you will only identify at the end of the mission) will again inflict one of those four effects on you at random.

Oh, and it also triggers an alarm that changes your enemies into the Corrupted faction, so if you came in geared up to fight things with fangs, claws and tentacles you will suddenly find them joined by heavily armored folks with lasers, heavy machine guns and rocket launchers. I suppose I should mention that while not as creepy as the Eris Hive ships these derelicts are far more dangerous, boasting some of the toughest foes and traps in the game.

Vault looting is completely optional though, which means to -earn- whatever it is you looted you MUST complete whatever your actual mission is on that space ship AND make it to the extraction point afterwards. Alive. Specifically the guy carrying the artifact.

So far I've done two of these and they were awesome as it felt we really "earned" that extra reward. I've run many more where I was the sole key carrier and the vault lock didn't match what I carried though. Those were slightly annoying! :P

What's your favourite method of loot delivery in game? Do you like having an easy exit at the end or would you prefer that people had to "get to extraction" on their own?

Sunday 21 September 2014

Neverwinter: Not so Hidden Communities

While the Siege of Neverwinter takes center stage in Neverwinter Online at the moment, with the armies of the Cult of the Dragon attacking the exterior walls of the city I thought I would talk about something else in the Cryptic's online D&D game, namely two not-so-hidden groups that might make life better for players.

First up is the Scribe's Enclave, whom readers of this site might have heard about before. If player generated content and building quests in the Foundry is something you enjoy then please give their guildlaunch site a look (setting up a guildlaunch account is free and straight forward). Not only do they play through your quests but they also give a lot of advice and ideas on how to make your missions the best they can be. Everything from accuracy of lore to decor techniques to technical mechanics and tricks in the foundry editor. They are actually going through some tough times at the moment with scribe leader Zeirlynn going through some burnout, so new blood would be more than welcome.

The second "community" exists as a channel in the game which, if you've wandered the forums or played for a length of time you may have encountered before: the NW_Legit_Community. I knew about them for months but never bothered to investigate further, until I decided that I wanted to run some of the harder epic dungeons. Then I hit the problem in the regular Zone chat PUGs of not meeting their (often higher than needed) gear score requirement, previous dungeon or boss mechanic experience, and/or not having the right class they are looking for. Not so with the NW_Legit_Community. They take anyone who can handle themselves and run various dungeons everyday. One time they were even just rolling dice to determine which epic mission to attempt, one after the other. I strongly recommend signing up to their channel if this sort of thing interests you. At the very least it does open another point of contact for general questions and the like with less trolling than the global zone chat.

To open communications with them just type the following line in-game:
/channel_join NW_Legit_Community

Tuesday 16 September 2014

MMO Design: Grinding vs Idleness

[Part of my MMO Design Folder]

When designing repetitive, daily content for casual players, how much time do you assume that casual players actually have to play?

That's one of the questions I would like to ask many MMO developers. For Cryptic's Neverwinter Online, I have to assume they went with one hour based on their latest content. If you count all the traveling, waiting for the daily targeted dragon and soloing the daily instance solo it comes out to around that much. If you group up you can cut that down a fair bit though. All except the traveling, and the waiting for the dragon.

I asked on chat what people actually do while idly standing around waiting for the timer to tick down. The responses were: read a book, watch anime, check the auction house tab, use the profession tab, play a different game in another window, and the most frequent answer: watch porn. Fair enough. For me though I find it to be bad design if you -want- to play a particular part of the game but can't because of some stupid thing like a 20 minute timer in your way. Even worse if the design actively makes people do stuff OUT of game.

I would change it so that instead of the timer, people simply had to kill the mobs in the area (to the tune of hundreds, like the old Ultima Online Champion Spawn altars) until a particular quota was met then out comes the dragon. The reward would then be based on not just how much damage you dealt / healed (allies) while the dragon was out but throughout the whole process, thus the guy who killed the hundreds of mobs but didn't get to land a hit on the dragon still gets a pretty good reward. This system will probably spit dragons out faster than the timer, but it will be "grindy".

Which do you think is better? Having players actively "grind" to get a boss to spawn or simply having a timer and a lot of down time?

Friday 12 September 2014

Dragon Burnout

Neverwinter's Tyranny of Dragons is giving me some burnout on the daily dragon tasks, though it's mostly my fault for trying to do ALL of them everyday. Advancing the campaign is simply a matter of collecting a handful of different currencies until you have enough to unlock the next tier up, which might be the skirmish or dungeon or bonus keys for either. All that's already open for me, the true killers are the final two boons which each ask for around 100 of the various things to buy the required tomes of knowledge (unless you get lucky and have them drop in the skirmish or dungeon chest). It's easy enough to get 2-4 of the currency items daily. Usually this involves some menial task, a small instanced dungeon and hunting the various dragons. It's that last one that I'm finding annoying with a lot of down time (aka "waiting to have fun").

The five dragons required are open world encounters that spawn every 20 minutes and only hang around for 20 minutes (though realistically they die in less than 10). Getting into an instance with a dragon coming "soon" is often just down to dumb luck due to how the game works. Instances only spawn when the players reach the map limit with new maps getting a fresh 20 minute wait for dragon while instances that "run out" of players just delete themselves so there's no way to determine the time other than arriving at said instance and looking for yourself or relying on the zone chat people who sometimes enjoy trolling folks. It also takes 1.5 minutes before you can switch instances to try again. 

Then you have behavioral issues that come with this (outside the trolls). People ask for dragon times regularly, then get upset when no one gives them times claiming that everyone else is selfish. On the other hand, some people ARE selfish. Getting the good, rare drops from dragons can supposedly only happen when there are less than -x- number of players fighting it. Having a sudden barrage of players coming in means that no one will get -x- equipment so they become vocally annoyed. The same group probably gets annoyed when they run into instances with too few people because while you can survive the dragons with a bit of skill, killing one in the time limit with less than four people would be challenging. If the dragon leaves, no one gets anything.

Need an artifact in game like this I think!

Anyway, I've instead been working again in the Foundry and have finished another quest for people to try out! Might have to hunt it down in the "reviews" or "new" section though. It's another short combat focused quest that you might want to bring some potions to (as per usual). :)

Quest: Coeden
Short Code: NW-DM719BCQ5

Tuesday 9 September 2014

GI JOE: Rise and Retaliation

This is a double review for the GI JOE movies which I'm putting together for ease of comparison.

In "Rise of the Cobra" an arms dealer with a score to settle sets in motion a spree of violent attacks and general terrorism on the world. Good thing the elite fighting force known as the GI Joes are there to save the day. The plot mainly follows Duke (Channing Tatum) as he first learns about both Cobra (the bad guys) and the Joes, the latter of which he joins after an "intense" training/testing montage. Part of his training involves some super futuristic body armor that for some reason IS ONLY USED BY THE NEW GUYS. What? There's also a shooting test which seems to be pretty tough to pass. The Joes only take the best you see. Guess they had a lull in recruitment at one point since all the non-named Joes can't hit a barn door.

Not as colorful as their cartoon counterparts.

Cobra on the other hand have awesome bullet proof armor and freaking energy weapons. Too bad that the armor only protects them against the weapons of non-named characters. If Snake Eyes decides to shoot them with his desert eagle, or throw a shuriken at them the armor is useless. Actually I'm not sure why the rest of the team was required at all as Snake Eyes pretty much handles everything himself. That said there are good FX, good action sequences (especially from the flashback kid actors), to make it pretty decent entertainment. I give it three bullets out of five.

In "Retaliation", everything takes a downward spiral. Both the Joes and Cobra lost almost all their high tech gear for more standard issue stuff (though there are very nice vehicles added in). The previous Joe team is mostly replaced by new and mostly less interesting characters too (other than Dwayne Johnson's Roadblock), and while Snake Eyes is still around his introduction arc is very off-beat and he is no longer as useful plot wise as he suffers from a repeated theme in this movie where "Ninjas are Stupid". I suppose Cobra's engineers must also be ninja descendants because their major plan has a pretty big design flaw, outside the plot holes that you will be poking at. Not sure what happened to this movie but I give it only one and a half bullets out of five.

Saturday 6 September 2014

Rise of the Zombies

Oh Asylum Productions, you always make ridiculous movies. Basically stealing from almost every plot point in the zombie series "The Walking Dead", this film follows a ragtag group of zombie apocalypse survivors who are looking for a cure to the undead outbreak. Don't expect any explanations though as the zombies in this movie can't decide if they can sprint, jog, walk, stagger, or simply fall over. Sometimes they can scale unbelievable heights, while a few scenes later a wire fence slightly taller than a man can stop them. Some don't even look that zombie like. One even gets scared off by a dog. What?

Hero of the movie (on the right)!

The "heroes" aren't much better, often doing stupid things like saying "clear" when there are zombies sitting in plain view, throwing live grenades at team mates, ignoring doors that are getting breached by the infected and so on. Wait so are they infected or undead? Do only head shots kill them? I said not to ask! All of these and more get left unanswered! :P Acting wise I think only LeVar Burton (whom trekkies might better know as Geordi La Forge) is the only passable one. Even title actor Danny Trejo seems like he's just there for the paycheck.

There's little gore (not enough to save it) and the ending is somewhat anti-climatic. As much as I like Danny Trejo I'm afraid I can only give this movie one bullet out of five. One bullet, right in the head.

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Sunshine (and Death)

The sun is dying. The only way to save the world is to send a bomb into it to make a new star out of an old one (um, I would think that might vaporize a few planets but future science knows better!), so the movie picks up with the second and final (due to the first mysteriously failing and a lack of resources for a third bomb) vessel and its handful of crew going in to attempt this important mission. *thumbs up*

What could go wrong?

It's a very interesting premise, and in general all the characters are quite well portrayed and relatable. The effects are awesome too, which is good for a space focused movie. Now what I didn't like about it was how the final arc was shot. Earlier on the movie begins introducing flashes of still pictures into traveling shots and for a time they work well in what they are supposed to do - make you on edge and be thinking "what was that". The last part they use some of this again this time freezing the actual scene that's taking place for... more impact? Not so good. Either that or my DVD decided to stutter at just the right moments. :P

Despite that, Sunshine is a movie I can recommend, and give it three and a half solar flares out of five. Warning, the rest of the post deviates into real life.

For me, one of the more interesting questions posed in the movie is that of death. Do you just quietly go out into the night or do you rage against the forces of fate for at every inch? If your life was in someone else's hands, what would you want them to do? Documentary makers don't interfere when wildlife kill each other. Do they do the same if its a documentary about people? As some of you might know, my father suffered a massive stroke at the end of last year to the extent that he was there on the brink, half his body paralyzed and no longer eating food. Most of the medical staff we talked to suggested we just "make him comfortable".

It was interesting to see the reactions of my quite large family. A cousin tearfully admitted that if he were in the same place, to end his life. I, on the other hand, want to live forever even if it's just my brain left for infinite resuscitation. Many of the others were half/half, until they found out that "make him comfortable" translates to drug him up and don't feed him anything anymore. In my book that isn't "letting go", that's murder. The others agreed so we shoved a tube down his nose to force feed him, and a few days later he was awake, lucid, and managing to eat. 

Was that the right decision? Maybe it would have been easier to let him die? Then my mom wouldn't need to be visiting him everyday. She wouldn't have all those other expenses. With half a body, dad can't do the things he used to enjoy: carpentry, photography, dancing, jogging. He can't even go back to his own house since it's not access friendly and currently lives in the nursing home.

What is the right decision? I guess it varies from person to person and situation to situation. For me at least, I know what my answer is and I doubt it will ever change no matter how selfish it might seem. Yes living is hard, but as the saying goes "Where there is life there's hope."

He has since moved from very thickened liquids to purees to pretty much regular food. From being stuck in various beds, physiotherapy has improved his core enough to be able to sit in a wheelchair (still needs a lot of help to stand). A few days ago we managed to take him to the mall and eat out with other family members at the local Yum Cha where he was happily sharing jokes and feeding himself with his one good hand.

Don't ever quit on life.