Monday 30 March 2015

MMO Design: Vindictus Quest Structure

[Part of my MMO Design folder.]

Most MMO's I've played have the quest structured similar to this:

  • NPC Person has Obvious Marker (?/!) that they have a quest for you
  • Talk to NPC Person to pick up quest
  • Do something which 80% of the time involves fighting
  • Return to NPC Person and get monetary / XP rewards
  • With enough XP your Stats might go up

While Vindictus also has that, there are extra and somewhat hidden quests (mentioned only once during the tutorial phase and never again) you can undertake in the form of Equipment Sets which serve as both a gold drain and time wall. How it works is this:

  • Find NPC Person in town (no obvious mark)
  • Purchase a Story scroll from them and read it to begin Quest
  • Quest is often a combination of collection, crafting and luck
  • When complete, you gain some "title"
  • Each title you earn boosts stats (STR/DEX etc)

It's the first time I've seen a "Pay for Quest" structure that gives out permanent Stat bonuses as a reward but I think it's pretty clever as it really rewards those who play the game longer (to go after those quests). Two of the same character with the same gear at the same level can still vastly differ in power levels due to the title system, and I for one would actually like to see this system in more games. Properly implemented with a few tweaks I think it could even replace the old XP and level structure that everyone is used to.

What do you think?

Sunday 29 March 2015

Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends

The eighth iteration of the same game.

Personally, the last one I played I think was Dynasty Warriors 3 a long time ago. While the graphics are better it is pretty much the same action game as that one but with more rock music because its so Xtreme it doesn't need that initial "e".

So Xtreme Lubu's horse can charge-surf through a tidal wave!

If you've never played any Dynasty Warriors game before you basically get put into the shoes of some semi-historic person and spend most of your time in semi-historic battlefields to slaughter knock out thousands upon thousands of foes with attacks that range into the magical and the absurd (but still cool to do).

Important characters (and there are quite a few) have pretty nice and unique models. The less important the character, the more generic the model. This means standard soldiers come from a clone factory and only differentiate themselves by the color of their sashes and head wraps. Not that it matters, you soon learn to pay them no attention what so ever.

There are quite a few modes of play, but my favorites were the Story mode (which you should play in order by the way, starting from Lu Bu and working your way down to Jin) because you learn a bit of quasi-history while watching a lot of cut scenes and Ambition mode which sees you develop a kingdom of your own. Toying around with making a story series for my play through on that one. :P

Overall, I found it to be a pretty entertaining game so I give it three swords out of five. 

Saturday 28 March 2015

American Sniper

50% Sniping, 50% PTSD.

The film follows the life of Chris Kyle (played by a believable Bradley Cooper), from his youth to when he becomes "the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history" and how it messes up with his mind in that he can't leave the war behind. As you might imagine, there's a fair bit of gunfire and violence involved but Clint Eastwood seems to know his stuff when it comes to that. Having an adversarial sniper (no matter how fictitious) was a good idea too.

A most gifted killer.

I know I might draw some hate by writing this next part since it is about a real guy, but I can only hope that part near the end where he is playing around with a real gun (or even a toy one for that matter) at home, pointing it at his family members and then leaving it cocked on a shelf somewhere was made up. That is never cool or a good idea (eg. "hey, daddy could do it, why can't I?"), regardless of how much training you have.

Also the final action part where he puts his team in danger by deciding to try get vengeance. Wow. That could have ended verrrrrry differently.

The true pity for me is that by succeeding to "come back" from the war mentally was probably what does him in in the end, as I don't see how his paranoid version would have let anyone get the drop on him.

Anywho, as a film I give American Sniper three bullets out of five. While he did what was right by him and his family, I would not pay to watch a good soldier lose his edge a second time.

Friday 27 March 2015

Nameless: Punishment

[This is part of my Creative Writing Experiment.]

The three gladiatrices tried to keep under the shade of the nearby plateau as they continued their journey towards the first batch of bandits Drisana wanted them to silence. The caravan mistress had given them free choice of gear to bring but due to the heat they were wearing only light clothing with miscellaneous pieces of leather armor and carrying few weapons between them, opting instead to load up on a little food and a lot of precious water for the journey across the hot sands.

Indas, who was up front, suddenly spotted something in the distance and signaled the sisters to a halt.

Up ahead was an almost clear patch of desert, with one ominous looking black obelisk in the middle. Someone was chained to it.

"I don't suppose we are about to stop helping strangers now are we?" asked Nessa sarcastically as she took the lead, advancing quickly but cautiously with her companions in tow.

Finally reaching the imposing stone they found a blonde and brutalized, naked woman chained to it. She was still breathing. Not wasting any time the gladiatrices began to hack at the chains, causing the captive to rouse from her unconsciousness.

"Run... it's... coming..." was all she could mutter as Indas managed to break a chain on her side.

The ground suddenly shook violently and from a distance, Nerith could see something moving underneath the sand heading straight towards them. They worked quicker on the chains, hacking free all but one attached to the woman's left leg before giving up to instead face whatever was coming towards them. Only two seconds later did slimy grey tentacles burst forth from the sand, squirming quickly at each of them but none managed to get close as they were hacked and parried back.

A second set of tentacles then emerged grabbing the ankles of each woman and the legs of the captive. Having had enough of this beast Indas reached down and flexing all her muscles, not only freed its grasp from her leg but managed to yank the creature's bulbous, disgusting sack of a body partially out to the surface. Confused, the monster let all the girls go as it desperately tried to burrow into the sand once more but Indas dug her feet in and pulled even stronger, exposing more of it to the surface. Able to see their foe clearly now, the sisters quickly went to work on it with their blades, stabbing, hacking and chopping at it until finally it exploded, covering them and the entire area in it's white, sticky entrails.

"That was disgusting," was all Nerith could say as she spat out some of the vileness that entered her mouth.

With the captive finally free they retreated back to the shade and gave her some water, spare clothes and time to recover. Eventually she was strong enough to talk.

"Thank you for rescuing me," she began. "I am Jasmine of Gedrin."

"What did you do to be chained out here?" asked Nerith.

"You don't know?" Jasmine asked, truly surprised. "That is the punishment of any mage is caught refusing to work for the wizard king."

She suddenly began to cry. "Please, my people. My village. They need your help."

"Here we go again," muttered Nessa to herself as she rolled her eyes.

"Wyrmias, the man that... did this to me... he and his soldiers are still there," continued Jasmine. "He is a sorcerer of the king."

Thursday 26 March 2015

Design: Empty / Scaled Maps

[Part of my MMO Design folder.]

Do you like empty maps?

I have a quick test for you all! Picture yourself running through a large zone in one of your games. Of the two versions below, which do you prefer?

A) The map is almost fully devoid of enemies, NPCs, and items to interact with and only serves as "travel time" from point A to B.

B) The map has a lot of NPCs you can interact with. Some to talk to. Some quest givers. Some to fight against.

Personally, I pick option B, because option A is stupid. Even if you are trying to show the scale of something having a player move through an otherwise empty map is not fun. Some good examples of this - Assassin's Creed 3 underground and getting out into the styx in Project Zomboid. There's lots of ground to cover. By walking. And walking. And walking. That's so exci..zzzzzzzzz....

One of the tips when designing Neverwinter Online Foundries is to not scale your maps unless there's something of interest there. You have a huge castle? Awesome. It better be filled with lore, explorable stuff, important details and/or NPCs. If the only room with interaction is a room in the highest tower then screw everything in between. Design it so the player goes immediately there (or at least has a clear option to) or prepare for a low score.

Unlike a tabletop D&D session where time and movement are really dependent on the dungeon master, computer games where you are literally controlling every step of a character takes can get boring and tiring quickly (if that is all you are doing), especially when moving through "purely decorative" environments. What do you think? Do you agree?

Wednesday 25 March 2015

Today I Smiled: Second Wind

Sorry for the post frequency slow down, that last daily run really burned through my prepped content (and me) but don't worry, it will probably be back to that in a few weeks when I catch my breath. This is just a small post just to say that one of my Neverwinter Foundry Quests got second place. Woohoo!

I lost by .9? DAMN!

While there wasn't actually a prize for second place, I still got 132,000 Astral Diamonds for tying in the Best Story section. Woo! At least I won something... ;P

I also learned a few things since my last post, such as not counting the word "The" in alphabetical listings (so I fixed my lists on the top right there), that all snakes are deaf (but can "hear" vibrations), and that 3D pens are actually a thing (a must see for artists).

Lastly I'll leave you with an video links for an old but funny Mountain Dew Ad, a talented tight rope artist, and a silly site where you compare meerkats. Hope you all have a great day!

Sunday 22 March 2015

The Interview

Stupidity to the max but also incredibly entertaining.

In this movie James Franco is a really stupid yet semi successful entertainment show host who attributes most of his success to his slightly less stupid producer, played by Seth Rogen. By chance they learn that the supreme leader of North Korea actually is a huge fan of the show and agrees to do an interview. Cue some secret agent people showing up, tasking duo the unlikely mission of trying to assassinate the man.

Hilarity ensues.

Despite being thick with sexual innuendo, constant references to Lord of the Rings, and a lot of extremely low brow humor especially for the first act I found it to be a very funny film. It helps that the primary antagonist had such a talented actor in Randall Park to portray him. Yes, it's a silly show but would I pay to watch it again? Definitely! I give the Interview three and a half pieces of gum out of five.

Friday 20 March 2015

Space Hulk (2013)

The Emperor has dictated your weaponry.

The third video game based off the two player board game (as in - an exact copy), this once again sees space marine terminators boarding derelict space ships (aka "Space Hulks") to eradicate them of dangerous DNA eating aliens called genestealers within the dark and claustrophobic passages in turn based combat. It's almost impossible to have everyone survive every mission.

Certain doom.

Having played the very first video game (1993) I can safely say this one is better in all respects except perhaps for the intro. The easiest way to describe the gameplay would be XCOM light. You (and your opponent if you are doing a two player game) get action points each round to do various things. For terminators they get 4 AP to spend on walking, shooting, turning, etc. For genestealers all actions are just 1 point and with 6 AP each they can move a lot faster than the humans. You do not get to name, arm, or dress up your squad - just have to live with what is given to you.

Each round the marine player does get to roll for "bonus" AP though, earning 1-6 more points for the entire squad so there is that element of dice rolling randomness to take into account. I've had peoples guns jam three times in a row (within a single turn) as well as had one terminator bash up over 10 genestealers in close quarters so it goes both ways.

Unfortunately there are only 15 missions and not much of a finale, but it is a pretty solid game regardless and I recommend it to people that either like the Warhammer 40k universe or like XCOM like turn based action. I give this iteration of Space Hulk three storm bolters out of five. If you have played the board game though, there's probably nothing new for you here apart from tweak-able difficulties so you can probably skip it.

Wednesday 18 March 2015

MMO Design: Getting Players back in the Game

[Part of my MMO Design folder.]

What does your MMO offer as enticements for long absent players to return?

In Vindictus (Australian server anyway), the answer is a "Tour of Duty Box" and a "Redeployment Pack", both are non-tradable, character bound items that can only be obtained by not logging in for x amount of time (I think 30-90 days?). The Tour of Duty Box contains random consumables like precious healing potions or time-restricted performance / XP boosters. They also come with another Tour of Duty Box you can unlock as you level up. This is pretty neat but I think can also be found in some other MMO titles.

The Redeployment Pack however is new to me. It comes with full sets (armor and weapons) of near end game equipment, enabling you to curb stomp your way quickly up the levels. All this gear is also zero weight and costs mere pennies to repair. The catch? You can only use them for 30 days at which point they vanish. That incentive of a 30 day curb stomp rampage is a pretty decent one for me, and one I haven't really come across elsewhere.

I'm just wondering what your previous MMO's offer you to come back after a long absence?

Photo Story Folder

A collation of all my photo stories so that they can be found in one place! These are ordered from earliest to latest.

The Magic Bow - Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV
A Night to Remember - Part I, Part II, Part III
Hammering Gnolls - Part I, Part II, Part III 
Never Adventures - Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII
Anti-Demon - Part I, Part II

Tuesday 17 March 2015

Sex Tape

Cameron Diaz is hot, but not hot enough to save this movie.

A married couple decide to record themselves while doing the deed and, due to a severe lack of foresight, are then pressed by the challenge to try stop it from getting out into the public. That's the main gist of it, and while Cameron Diaz being naked is a great thing to watch it kinda falls a little flat on the comedy side for me.

In some games this would be +3 armor.

Yes, there are some funny scenes but most of the time I found myself just smiling instead of laughing out loud which I think is the whole point of a comedy. Jack Black's cameo was something of a highlight here, which is never good when a cameo outshines the movie. Still it was entertaining enough, but not something I would be willing to watch again. Hmm, I think I'll be adding that criteria to all my future reviews too. Overall I give Sex Tape two out of five somersaults.

Monday 16 March 2015

Today I Smiled: Back Breaker +11

Hi everyone! Let me start by apologizing for the delay in my replying to comments. For the last few weeks I was actually overseas and didn't have real dependable access to a computer. How did I still have a post everyday while I was away? Simple. I scheduled them all before I left - I didn't really know I could do that until now. You can tell which ones were automated by their unusually structured posting time stamp.

Apparently it's a common feature and as such, I'm going to be cutting the time down for what I think are "inactive" blogs by a week. I wasn't even AT a computer and could blog. Daily. Yes, what I did was over kill but it just goes to show what one can do with a little prep time. 

Any who it was a good vacation, and now that I'm back I can properly reply to a chain-questionaire nomination from Isey. Much like a few others, I don't really like chain letter stuff but Isey gave me a game with zombies once so I owe him (and I like light, silly questions)! I'm supposed to also list eleven random facts about me to start off with but I'll skip that step, if you really really want to know random stuff go visit my Blaugust posts. :P

Onto Isey's silly questions:

What is the last book you read? What did you learn from it?
The Golem City. I learned that Juris (author and my guildmate) can write! :P

Favourite quote?
Goodness doesn't come from avoiding evil. It comes from facing it and over coming it.

Best Vacation Ever (either in the past, or one you want to do!)

Favourite outdoor sport?
Hrm I'd say Capoeira since that's one I did the longest but it can be indoors too.

What languages do you speak? If only one, what do you WISH you could speak?
I can speak English & Tagalog. I can understand Spanish but can't speak it.

Do you vote?

Where did your blogging alias come from?
My first dungeons and dragons character. He has stuck with me since then to almost all my current MMOs. :P

Laptop or Desktop for gaming?

Your favourite trait about yourself?

Favourite sports team?
Uhhh... none. I don't really follow many team sports. >.<

Are you ticklish? Where?
Yes, almost everywhere!

I'm supposed to nominate more people at this point to do an eleven question survey but I think I'll stop here. Hope you enjoyed reading! Ah, as a heads up I'll also be collating those photo story posts I did as an experiment. Turns out they were pretty popular and comparatively easy to prepare so maybe you'll be seeing more of those in the future too!

Lastly, here's a cat playing whack a mole... because I like silly videos. :P

Sunday 15 March 2015

Bad Support Attitude

Have you ever stopped playing a game because of bad support? I have!

I used to play Guildwars 2, even beat Zhaitan and Liadri. That is until the verification email no longer was being sent through to Yahoo. Their forum response was something like: "It's a Yahoo problem. You really shouldn't use Yahoo." Uh huh. Three guesses how I'm supposed to change that password too, since it also has to be verified through Yahoo.

I tried to see what Wildstar was all about, winning a key ages back. Apparently though this key wasn't for my region and the email they sent back was along the lines of "there is no way we can change the region of the key, or even replace it." Riiiiiight. Because you know, it would take a whole ten minutes to kill one key and generate another for the correct region. Just saying, since I used to generate keys for my previous company.

I'm sorry, the minute I hear a "not our problem" or a "passing the buck" method I get slightly pissed.

You said it Starlord.

Even Mabinogi, which is supposed to have the -worst- support ever actually gives you updates on whatever issue you logged. Yes, most of the time it was a "We're getting to it and apologize for the delay" automated response which only gets sorted out two months later but you know what? They f*ing sorted it out, and they were apologetic and polite about it. Much more polite than I'm being now.

What happens next? I look at who makes these games where I've had bad support experience then I make a neat little list of other multiplayer titles they have... and avoid them.

Have there been any games that you have dropped because of bad support?

Saturday 14 March 2015

Photo Story: The Magic Bow (Part 4)

[Part of my Photo Story Folder.]

Fortunately the healing potions I carry could 
negate the damage the giant bear caused.

Meaning it was time for round two! It was a long fight, and we both got tired.

After some civil conversation we decided to call it a draw, 
and the giant bear let me continue on my quest.

Finally I found the bow I had heard of, only... it wasn't magical. 

Upon returning to town I asked Azuis, my pet polar bear, 
why he thought it was so and angling his furry head to one side 
simply said "because it makes arrows fly." 

*Face palm*

Friday 13 March 2015

Photo Story: The Magic Bow (Part 3)

[Part of my Photo Story Folder.]

With the pink lady on her way back to the surface 
(sure hope she avoided those boulders), 
I finally found myself in a large chamber.

The lone inhabitant didn't look pleased to see me.

He certainly moves well for a big fella. Just have to keep on my toes and eva...

Son of a bitch!

Thursday 12 March 2015

Photo Story: The Magic Bow (Part 2)

[Part of my Photo Story Folder.]

I came across an oddly dressed woman down in the depths.

She was being hunted by kobolds so I... uh... 
I have no idea what I did to them but it sure looks painful!

The kobolds were going to sacrifice the lady in pink
 to some hideous plant thing so I exploded that too.

Got a little too close to the blast though.
I don't recommend setting yourself on fire to keep warm.

Wednesday 11 March 2015

Photo Story: The Magic Bow (Part 1)

[Part of my Photo Story Folder.]

One day, I learned from my pet, Azuis, about a magic bow 
he once saw in some frozen caves.

Deciding to check it out, I geared up and went along with my wife to investigate.

There were kobolds camped near the entrance, so I let my wife 
handle the extermination of those while I went deeper.
In no time at all I found a downward slope and was soon being chased by an infinite chain of giant boulders! Fortunately they were mostly made of snow but I evaded them regardless.

Most of them. >.<

Tuesday 10 March 2015

MMO Design: Vet Party Building

[Part of my MMO Design folder.]

While playing Vindictus I decided to join a party raid titled "Pls Join" for a boss I've never done. While waiting for the party to fill up I asked what tactics were needed and only got replies of "This is my first run too!" and "Lolz I dunno! xD". Still, the team filled up and we set off. As per usual for all raids I've participated in (other than Lakoria) the first move was setting up a campfire to buff up. During this down time I asked again and got different people telling me they also didn't know what to do. That's cool, we can learn together I thought.

Battle begins, we're not doing too badly until the boss nukes us with a special skill. The party leader then gets pissed and says "You do know how to fight this right?". Um. What? 6 out of 8 of your team just said they didn't. Weren't you listening? He then says "Sorry all, I'm restarting" and ends the raid right there. A few minutes later I see his new party waiting for members entitled "Please know what to do".

Without getting into the "play the way you want to play" argument, wouldn't the easiest method to fix this simply be a check box for "Veteran" when viewing the party list? One you have to "tick" first before joining the party, and the only people who can click the tick box are those who on their last attempt of that same raid/mission were successful (otherwise the option is greyed out so you can't just bluff the box)? This way people who failed it or haven't tried it can't join "Know what to do parties" and at the same time Vets who get tired of waiting for the "vet party" to fill up can opt to knowingly join a potentially less experienced team.

Do you think this will cause more problems that it will solve or is it something you would like to see?

Monday 9 March 2015

Photo Story: A Night to Remember (Part 3)

[Part of my Photo Story Folder.]

The fight against the vampire emperor was tough.

He liked to fly around in the air with those wolverine-like claws.

It was then I saw his weakness. It was gross.

His face should tell you everything you need to know 
about where the final shot landed.

With the vampire emperor dead, the morning sun rose 
and it was time to sail on home.

Sunday 8 March 2015

Photo Story: A Night to Remember (Part 2)

[Part of my Photo Story Folder.]

I used my jet pack to fly deeper into the village (and away from the scary spider), 
burning some houses and crops on the way.

Finally I found a vampire and shot him with bolts, 
then I punched him in the face until he died. Again.

The stone columns exploded releasing two more vampires. 
"En Garde!"

Upon beating those two came the shadowy form of the emperor vampire whom I promptly punched in the face AND detonated an explosive in his crotch. The only effect was him yelling numbers at me, "4608!" I began to worry that there was a tiny pacman ghost hovering above my head.

Saturday 7 March 2015

Photo Story: A Night to Remember (Part 1)

[Part of my Photo Story Folder.]

The hour was getting late when I finally defeated the creature in the graveyard.

To my surprise, Cichol (an evil demi-god) showed up and said "Now the vampires will kill you!"

"Vampires?" I scoffed, readying my spiked knuckle duster 
because punching vampires in the face is what true heroes are made of.

Cichol laughed as he vanished and dropped a giant spider beside me instead. 
WTF dude.

Friday 6 March 2015

Mr. Popper's Penguins

Much like all of his other movies, your enjoyment of this will be highly determined by the simple question of "do you like Jim Carey"? 

In this film, Carey is a talented real estate broker who happens to come into the possession of a waddle(?) of CGI enhanced penguins which he somehow takes care of in a city high rise apartment that doesn't allow pets. His attempts to get rid of them are quickly stopped when his estranged kids and wife take a renewed liking to him... because he has penguins. The plot then revolves around him going slightly crazy and getting the penguins "fix" his life. Did I mention his dad abandoned him because he preferred penguins?

Not that type of Penguin.

There is a place for fantasy but this really just gets more ludicrous as the show goes on. As someone who likes Jim Carey, I found it to be an enjoyable enough kid's movie but not something worth going out of your way to watch. Indeed, your time might be better spent watching a few episodes of the Gotham series instead. I give Mr. Popper's Penguins two penguins out of five. Today's review is brought to you by the word: Penguin! :P

Thursday 5 March 2015

Photo Story: Hammering Gnolls (Part 3)

[Part of my Photo Story Folder.]

Once I could stand again it was time to finish my job here... without the giant hammer.

I learned that shooting explosives into an enemy's crotch makes for a pretty good substitute.

It would send them flying!

After sending a few gnolls into orbit I considered this mission done.

Wednesday 4 March 2015

Photo Story: Hammering Gnolls (Part 2)

[Part of my Photo Story Folder.]

I tried to sneakily take out all the sentries...

... but you can only be so quiet with a giant hammer.

More and more gnolls showed up to get hammered.

Eventually I ended up having to throw mine at one of their leaders 
and switching back to my cross gun.

Dropping a giant hammer on your foot is not recommended. Ow.

Tuesday 3 March 2015

Photo Story: Hammering Gnolls (Part 1)

[Part of my Photo Story Folder.]

Trying something new again today, somewhat inspired by Missy Mojo and Ravalation's love for screen shots. I thought I'd try entertain you all a few quick (non-too serious, mostly made up) photo stories based on my time in Vindictus (for starters anyway). Hope you enjoy!

It all started when my wife decided to beat up some gnolls...

After hacking up a few with her sword, one of them begged for his life 
in exchange for giving information on a weakness their boss had.

He was thanked for the information (via beheading)
and I was promptly dispatched to see if this information was true.

Though I did suspect most things have a natural weakness to a giant hammer.

Monday 2 March 2015

Quick Question: Non Combat Excitement

[Added to my MMO Design folder.]

Short post this time. I've just got three questions for you all.

1) In MMOs, what non-combat related activity excites you most and why?
2) In non-MMOs, what non-combat related activity excites you most and why?
3) In real life, what non-combat related activity excites you most and why?

Thanks for replying! :)

Sunday 1 March 2015

Neverwinter Online: Black Ice Backfire

[Added to my MMO Design folder.]

Back when Neverwinter Online introduced The Curse of Icewind Dale, they added Black Ice Armor which can either be junk at low levels but if charged with a LOT of mined and refined black ice it can be near top tier gear. This "charge" suffers a continuous drain as you use said equipment and it slowly degrades to junk status, the idea being that players using it will therefore be forced to go back to Icewind Dale to mine up more "fuel" at some stage.

Punishing Treasure.

I'm one of those that use black ice, and yes I mined a ton of the stuff for my two characters in game. Now though, after I've done everything I've wanted to in all the released modules, it is serving as a barrier to play for me. Unless there's something new or something rewarding enough to let my armor "drain", I feel there is no point in playing. Pretty sure that's the opposite effect of what they initially intended when designing it. Guess I'll be adding this to the list of bad design after all! :P