Extra Life Results

AggroChat #28 – Server Nightmares and Spycraft

Last night we recorded another episode of the AggroChat podcast, which is something that was a bit up in the air a few weeks back.  Because of all of the excitement going on with Extra Life streams and Team Alliance of Awesome… I had wondered at one point if we should just skip the week.  Thankfully we had plenty of stuff to talk about and the normal cast of characters were all in attendance.  Last night we were joined by Ashgar, Kodra, Rae and Tam as we discuss all sorts of stuff going on.  It was a weird lead up for me, since I was out and about all day long, and didn’t really have much time to catch up on the news until right before we started recording.

We talked about the latest round of FFXIV announcements coming out of the London Fanfest.  Unfortunately the announcement that we got in Vegas of the Job information coming in London… was a bit of a tease.  We also talk about what we are looking forward to Tuesday when the 2.4 patch lands.  I talk about my experiences with Rift Nightmare Tide launch and the fairly catastrophic server rollback that caused me to loose essentially one entire days worth of playtime and a bunch of other stuff that came with that.  Tam and Kodra talk about their experiences playing Civilization Beyond Earth as a co-operative team.  Finally Rae fills us in on some of the craziness that is happening in the post season League.  It seems like there is a ton of “horse trading” going on as players are swapping teams left and right.

Extra Life Results

teamallianceofawesome_progress I have to say I am really damned proud of Team Alliance of Awesome.  We opted to do the 25 hour marathon relay style where each of us would pass the baton to the next leg of the stream.  I personally chose to take the 11pm EST to 3am EST slot thinking I could just stay up after we record the podcast and push through it.  I did however take a nap in preparation but I have to thank all of the folks that showed up during the middle of the night to cheer me on.  You guys kept me awake and responsive.  During that last hour after Pazz logged out of voice chat I got more than a tiny bit quiet.  All told we had 9 total participants and as you can see from the image on the right side we raised $1728 for the Extra Life charity.  So I want to thank everyone that participated by taking a leg of the stream, and everyone who tuned in to cheer us on.  It was an awesome experience and I am hoping next year we can maybe even make it bigger somehow.  I know as we neared go time folks came out of the woodwork wanting to participate but we had already assigned all of the slots.

One of the things that I thought was awesome was just how varied the group was in what all they streamed.  Sure there were a few games that got duplicated but there was a ton of variety from Single Player to MMOs to even Classic Console games.  There seemed to be a little bit for everyone.  I know Ashgar even managed to completely beat the Kirby game he was playing during his stream, which is pretty awesome.  I originally planned on playing The Secret World, Trove, FFXIV and Destiny… but I ended up mixing that up a bit.  I started off rolling a brand new Illuminati character in The Secret World, but having not played in awhile I did not make it terribly far into the game before I hit the hour threshold where I had intended to swap games.  After that I popped into FFXIV and threw myself at the Mercy of the Duty Roulette, healing an Ifrit and a Tam-Tara Deep Croft run.  After another hour had passed I flipped over to Rift and spent the rest of the night working my way through Goboro Reef in the Nightmare Tide content.  After two hours of play I managed to finally get back to roughly the same place I was before the server rollback the other day.

The folks I am immensely proud of though are the individuals who took it upon themselves to do the entire 25 hour stream.  For me I found four hours late at night a challenge, but I know Braxwolf, Stargrace and Liore all took it upon themselves to do the entire stream.  So seriously raise your hands and give all the folks that managed to complete the full 25 hour marathon a huge round of applause.  This is an awesome cause and it was great to actually be part of it this year.  Like I said before I am hoping to maybe do a better job of assigning slots and getting as many folks participating as we can next year around.  For the most part I believe the covered all 25 hours of the marathon, and some streams ran a bit long but it was awesome to have multiple folks streaming at the same time.  I really like the team construct in Hitbox, and I just wish Twitch would extend that functionality to mere mortals instead of having it walled up behind being a partner.  I will never have the kind of numbers needed to become a partner in any site…  but it is awesome to still be able to have a team of friends streaming.  You can watch my entire 4 1/2 hours of streaming in the embedded video above.

Valdis Story

Valdis_Story_AC 2014-10-21 19-07-09-303 This morning I am cheating a bit with my Steampowered Sunday game, in part because I started playing this last week.  I have gotten in the habit of picking up almost every Humble Bundle package that comes out, because I know sooner or later I will want to play one of the games in it.  Ashgar actually tipped me off to this game, because of the horribly long name I mostly ignored it when I noticed it in the bundle.  However he thought I would definitely be interested in it as it is a Metroidvania of a sort.  More so than a Metroidvania, it is very much a game in the feel of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night… and if you have been around my blog for very long you will recognize that as most likely my favorite game.  I own copies on the PSP, Vita, PS3 and even still have my original Playstation disc around here even though I don’t actually have a functional PSX any longer.

Valdis_Story_AC 2014-10-21 19-05-02-951 You have a series of characters to choose but initially your only options are Wyatt a emo haired youth with a big sword (see cloud) or Reina a female monk that is labeled for “advanced” players.  I of course went for the guy with the big sword…  because slashing things with a big sword is fun.  At some point I plan on going back through and trying out Reina, especially since during Wyatts play through of the game you encounter her early on… and she seems like a badass.  The storyline of the game is a little odd.  You are in a world where heaven and hell have both come to the material plain to duke it out for the surface.  As one of the last remaining humans you seem to have the ability to use the attacks of either side.  There is a lot of this that I don’t quite understand yet, but the devils are reddish hue and the angels tend to have blue color palettes.

Valdis_Story_AC 2014-10-21 19-11-40-387 The story doesn’t really matter much to me to be honest.  Why I am playing this game is that mechanically it is really fun.  You wander about and collect new abilities that open up new areas to explore just like the traditional Metroidvania style.  For example one of the first abilities you get is a wall jump, allowing you to explore new areas and reach places that you haven’t been before.  Today during my stream I managed to find a new ability that allowed me to erect a pillar of ice, allowing me to jump on it to reach areas I couldn’t before.  If you are used to Metroidvanias none of this will seem out of the ordinary.  There is a basic crafting system that allows you to upgrade your gear in towns, and that aspect actually reminds me a bit of Simon’s Quest the second Castlevania game.

This is the sort of game that you either really like Metroidvania games or you dislike them.   You can check out my entire stream from this morning above.  I play the area between two towns and end up fighting two bosses… both of which I barely made it through.  The boss fights are fairly tough in part because often times the environment conspires against you.  The first boss I made it through I literally have no clue quite how I did it.  In part I feel like I just lucked into that one.  The second boss was difficult because the floor was icy, and the wind would blow you to the side making it super hard to stay on the platforms and time the jumps to avoid the ice beams.  In any case it is worth a look.  The game is pretty much $15 wherever you go for it and available DRM free through the developer or on Steam.  Good game, and I play on playing it some more… I just wish I had it on the Vita to be honest.  This seems like the perfect type of game to play before falling asleep.

Blood of the Werewolf

AggroChat Episode #26


I feel like last night was a really good episode, or at least I hope it is.  It is one of those nights where the conversation flowed freely and we had way more topics to talk about than we realistically had time to do so.  Even at that we still recorded for roughly an hour and a half and it is completely packed full of stuff.  The title of the show is the “Gospel of Galaxy Trucker” and that is because Kodra has become an evangelist for the power of that game.  He has always been a big fan of the board game, and has latched onto the iOS port with both hands trying to get as many people to play with him as possible.  Problem is for me at least I don’t have any iOS devices, and I sadly doubt that android and iOS users will be able to play together….  although in Carcassonne you could play across platforms so here is hoping.

Other than that we talked at length about Dragon Age: Origin and mostly how Kodra has been getting along in the game.  He had tried to play it before in the past but was unable to get into it, so it seems as though he is at least over the hurdle.  As we refer to it “Getting Off Citadel” because that was the big hurdle of when Mass Effect 1 started to become interesting, and getting past Lothering in Dragon Age is a similar journey.  I talk at length about my issues with Destiny right now and the mindless grinding that is required to keep progressing.  I am far more grind friendly than the rest of my cast mates but even I am starting to hit my limit.  Finally we talk about the tell tale blank spots in the Blizzcon lineup and contemplate what they might be announcing.  We throw out a bunch of ideas for a new game genre for them to polish to a mirror shine.

Blood of the Werewolf

Blood of the Werewolf 2014-10-12 10-11-13-894 I picked this up some time ago on a Steam sale because it had two things that greatly interested me.  Firstly the fact that you were playing as a female werewolf looking for revenge for her slain husband was an interesting spin on the genre.  Secondly it looked in many ways similar to the original Castlevania with a series of levels that show your progression in form of a minimap.  The dual mechanics of “human” and “werewolf” modes seemed interesting as well.  So for this mornings Steampowered Sunday I decided to give it a spin and play it for a bit.  I was not really feeling up to interacting with the world so I opted not to stream it, however I did take lots of screenshots along the way.  This however is a review that almost didn’t happen because apparently this game is essentially broken without massive intervention.  When I launched it the first time I started getting C++ debug errors, and since I am programmer by trade and have visual studio installed… it kept asking me if I wanted to launch a debugger to step through the code.

It turns out this is a “known issue” and simply has not been patched.  In fact there is a “helpful” thread on the steam forums on how to fix it.  I put helpful in quotes because the “fix” requires you to edit your registry and hard code the resolution you want to run the game at.  This is a horrible horrible decision, and I damned near stopped playing the game at this point.  If you put a game on steam you should at least have a way to configure your games resolution without resorting to the registry.  Quite honestly this right along makes me not recommend this game for anyone at this point.  I feel like more than likely the current $1.04 pricetag and the regular $7.00 pricetag maybe reflects the fact that this game has some shitty development behind it.  All of this said…  the registry hack seemed to clear up my problems.

Charming Narrative

Blood of the Werewolf 2014-10-12 10-11-19-648 The art style and voice acting are really nicely done.  I maybe should have used charming in quotes… since in reality you are going across the country side on a revenge fueled murder spree.  But I guess in reality the original Castlevania didn’t give you much of a reason why you were going after Dracula…  so it works here as well.  The game is told from the perspective of the mother telling her son what she had to do to seek revenge for the killing of his father.  I am not sure if this is like a journal that the son is reading, but it seems likely.  Which makes me wonder does your character simply not survive in the end.  I have not played enough yet to really be able to determine that, nor do I know if I will play enough, but I can get into the reasons behind that later.

Blood of the Werewolf 2014-10-12 10-10-01-407 The only problem I have is that the enemies you face are mostly random monsters…  and while the rats and crocodiles and even other wolves make sense… I have no clue why there are giant fireball belching deep ones in the sewer system as well other than a faint nod to Castlevania.  I feel like the game didn’t really explain who I was fighting against other than someone killed my husband and the father of the person reading the narration.  What helps me care less about all of this is just how nice the characters and background end up looking.  It is very stylistic but at the same time still richly detailed without going overly minimalistic.

Interesting Mechanics

Blood of the Werewolf 2014-10-12 10-08-56-566 The gameplay is split into two different kinds of mechanics.  The first is that of your character as a human.  She is equipped with a crossbow and here is where things get a little wonky.  You aim your crossbow with your right thumb stick and fire it with your right trigger.  Now if you fire your cross bow without touching your thumb stick it shoots straight at, but there are many times where you will need to angle a shot.  The ability to fire directed arrows allows you to hit switches and trigger traps and angle shots just right to be able to shoot from relative safety.  All of this however in practice feels like a lot to do as something is rushing at you.  I got the hang of it as my play test went on, but it did not feel exactly intuitive at first.

Blood of the Werewolf 2014-10-12 10-24-52-241 Whenever your character goes out into the moonlight, you change immediately into your werewolf form which has a completely different set of attacks but maintains the same basic control scheme.  Right trigger to attack, right shoulder to perform special ability.  In werewolf form you get the ability to double jump, so a lot of the puzzles involve you jumping just at the right time in the middle of the air.  One of the things they carried over from Castlevania is the constant cavalcade of bats timed at just the right spacing as to make it damned near impossible to ignore them, but futile to actually try and destroy them.  Later the bats develop the same kind of loping movement as the medusa heads from Castlevania which makes them even more frustrating.

Uneven Difficulty

Blood of the Werewolf 2014-10-12 10-19-30-539  Other than the fact that the game does not actually run when you install it through steam without registry hack intervention… my number one complaint about the game is that it seems to have very uneven difficulty design in the levels.  Granted the original Castlevania had this going on as well, but it was very much not a good feature.  I feel like this game as a whole is a nostalgic nod to Castlevania in so many ways, and it even managed to carry over the same brutal and frustrating bits that quite frankly were just the product of poor level design rather than actual planning I feel.  I played the first two levels this morning, and in each of them the bulk of the level was rather sedate with logical progression gradually ramping up as you went through the play field.

Blood of the Werewolf 2014-10-12 10-18-22-570 Then they would throw you at a bullet hell section, where for the course of a single area you would have to avoid three projectiles at a time from an enemy on the far side of the room, while avoiding environmental damage form above, bats flying in from the side, crumbling tiles beneath your feet and still having to make perfectly timed jumps between ladders and platforms.  These sections are maddening but not in a good way.  They feel completely misplaced when compared to the rest of the level design.  Why should this one room be that much harder than the others, and why did none of the rest of the level really prepare you for it?  The first time you really encounter the crumbling tiles… is during one of these sections so you really have no clue what that block does until you have already failed at doing so.

Blood of the Werewolf 2014-10-12 10-34-13-316

The above section is what finally made me decide I was done for the morning.  YOu have a series of crushers that are a one shot kill.  They move in all sorts of directions, and extremely quickly.  There are status indicators above or to the side of them that show you how long before the piston fires.  They require perfecting timing to get through.  There is a moment where at two lights, you have to wait a split second before jumping.  If you jump immediately after the second light you jumped too soon and die.  If you jump as the third light is coming on, you jumped too late and die.  I could have handled one sequence of these pistons but after doing three in a row… and having a fourth one at the top of the ladder in the above screenshot…  I just said fuck it and killed the game.  I was not in the mood for that, especially when the rest of the game was actually rather enjoyable.

Rhinestone in the Rough

Blood of the Werewolf 2014-10-12 10-08-44-846

Given that it is the season of monster themed games, I figured playing Blood of the Werewolf was a good pick this week.  Now comes the hard part… do I suggest this game to others.  I can’t really say this game is a diamond in the rough, because there is quite a bit of rough that you have to deal with to get to where you can play it.  The steam forums are full of issues folks have had with this game, and apparently if you are not using an  xbox 360 controller…  you are likely going to have issues with controller support as well.  Like the subheading says this is more a Rhinestone in the Rough.  There are definitely some shiny bits that are fun, but the thing that got me was the uneven progression of difficulty.  If you really like Metroidvania style games, and there is an aspect of collecting bits that make you more powerful… and you don’t mind frustration games that can be down right unfair like say the Mega Man series…  this might be a game for you.

If you wanted a game that you could install, boot up without issue and play through without the feeling of wanting to throw your controller… this is very much not a game for you.  Thankfully like I said earlier the game right now is super cheap on Steam through the 15th for only $1.04.  At that price, even dealing with the bullshit it is probably worth it if you are at all curious.  Sadly despite its charm I will likely never boot this game up again.  I feel like Outland is better at doing the things I like about Metroidvania in every single way, so in truth you would probably be better playing it or Guacamelee.  If however you have massive amounts of nostalgia over the original Castlevania… this might be just the game you were looking for.

#BloodoftheWerewolf #AggroChat

Outland

AggroChat Episode 25

Last night we recorded yet another episode of our weekly podcast AggroChat.  This week we were missing Rae, but had Ashgar, Kodra and Tam to join me to talk about stuff and things.  Of the four of us, three of us have almost spontaneously started replaying Dragon Age: Origins.  In truth Ashgar started it and then Tam and I decided it was a pretty excellent idea to follow suit as we all realized we didn’t really have a good save to feed into the upcoming title Dragon Age: Inquisition.  As such we have been lost in that title and remembering just how amazing it really is.  We gush about about the writing behind the title and some of our favorite and least favorite characters.  We try not to give many spoilers since Kodra has yet to make it terribly far in the game, so should be safe to listen to for complete Dragon Age nubs and pros alike.

We meander our way through a couple of indie games, namely Crypt of the Necrodancer that Kodra has been playing, and Outland the awesome metroidvania that I am reviewing as part of my Steampowered Sunday.  Ashgar hooked me up with a copy originally with the intent of playing this co-op…  but it seems like the latency for co-op play is still absolutely atrocious.  So instead I played it all by my lonesome this morning… we at least as lonesome as you can be while streaming it to the internet.  Finally we talk about Final Fantasy XIV and the odd sense of compartmentalism in that game.  How you can progress among multiple vectors without the need to really mess with the others.  Also we walk about how much we are looking forward to the as of yet completely announced 3.0 expansion, which is rumored to have as much content as the original 2.0 release had.

Two other really interesting things happened during the episode.  For starters we announced that we were now part of TGEN The Gaming and Entertainment Network of podcasts.  Quite honestly I am a bit humbled to be included with such illustrious podcasts as Battle Bards, Beyond Bossfights, Cat Context, Contains Moderate Peril, Couch Podtatoes, Massive Failure and Roleplay Domain.  I am also quite humbled to be the first podcast to officially be launching the network, since we record on Saturday nights and launch Sunday, we are the first show sporting the new network bumper.  Additionally we talk about the upcoming Extra Life gaming marathon and our team.  Right now you can check out Ashgar, Kodra and Myself on the donor pages and our progress… and then tune in Oct 25th to the Alliance of Awesome hitbox team to watch the streamers.  Being our first year I set a very low team goal of $200 and so far we have raised just shy of $600 dollars in pledges.  Really looking forward to the event, and I hope you join us.

Outland

Outland 2014-10-05 11-02-19-011 For a few weeks now my friend Ashgar has been talking about this particular metroidvania with some interesting twists.  Last weekend shortly after recording the Steampowered Sunday for Mercenary Kings he hooked me up with a copy on steam, suggesting we might play it for this Sunday.  Apparently there is some really cool co-operative play in the game, but at the time of writing this it is apparently completely broken in that the latency makes it absolutely unplayable.  I can see how any matter of latency would be a problem, as there are several places where you have a very slim window to time a jump or an attack.  Since the co-op was out of the picture, I opted to still play the game but do so solo… or at least as solo as you can be while streaming.  At face value it is a really artistically slanted metroidvania game.  It follows the artistic style to some extent of the current crop of mostly silhouetted figures against a colorful background.  This almost always makes a game feel far more detailed than it actually is, and I tend to enjoy this style of art.

Outland 2014-10-05 09-55-37-778 You play the role of the ancestor of a great warrior who tamed the twin sisters of light and dark to save creation.  To be truthful while well done the narrative doesn’t seem to matter that much other than add a bit of flavor.  You wander through the levels collecting coins and rare pieces of treasure and sometimes unlocking special abilities.  The twist on the traditional Metroidvania genre however comes in the fact that over time you can harness the power of the Light Spirit and the Dark Spirit and use these to bypass certain obstacles.  The Light is represented by blue, and the Dark by red and while in the same color as an obstacle you can pass directly through it.  You can also use your color to active switches and platforms allowing you to traverse the levels.  You are rationed these abilities slowly and I didn’t get the second color until I had defeated the first boss.  Some of the later puzzles require you to switch colors midair to take advantage of a platform that activates when you land on it with a specific color.  This is facilitated by hitting the right shoulder button on your controller.  This definitely feels like the sort of game that is greatly improved with a controller, so I did not even attempt to pay attention to the equivalent keyboard controls for things.

Epic Boss Fights

Outland 2014-10-05 10-30-24-270

At the end of the first level you have to fight a giant golem that is blocking your way.  The scale of the fight is extremely impressive and makes the game feel much larger than it actually is.  The camera zooms in and out based on how large the chamber you are in happens to be, and this gives a more dynamic feel to the gameplay.  The boss mechanic was rather simple but extremely effective in that you had to avoid a ground slam and then climb the giant itself while it was temporarily drained of its power to attack and exposed weak spot.  As the fight got on there were more details that had to be avoided, like a rain of red and blue bullets that gives the game almost a bullet hell feel to it.  I had to stand in the blue beams to avoid taking damage from the red beams, and I am imagining that in later encounters you will have to shift back and forth between red and blue to soak specific abilities while flipping to the opposite to be able to damage your target.  While you can soak beams of the same color…  mobs of that color can still damage you, and you can only damage them when flipped to the alternate polarity.

The game is constantly compared to the fabled bullet hell shooter by Treasure called Ikaruga in that it has similar soak/polarity mechanics.  However any many ways it reminds me of the gameplay of Silhouette Mirage and earlier title with the same basic mechanic by Treasure.  Similar to Outland it was a side scroller and you had a dual polarity of absorption and repelling based on which direction you pointed your attacks.  You can check out my entire hour and a half long play session this morning in the embedded Hitbox video.  I have to say I dig the game so far and want to play more of it.  I just felt like I needed to wrap up this mornings session so I could get my blog post out, however I played significantly longer than most Steampowered Sunday mornings… so that should tell you something.  Right now the game is under $10 on steam, and more than worth that price.  I would have paid at least $20 for it to be honest, had someone not ever so graciously gifted it to me.  If you like the Metroidvania genre and especially like ones with interesting mechanics like Guacamelee you should check this out.

#Outland #AggroChat

Mercenary Kings

Dinklebot is a Great Name

It was not until last nights stream that I had heard anyone refer to the Ghost in Destiny as the “Dinklebot”.  Kodra credits Matt Lees as originating the term, but whoever did it… it is absolutely priceless.  Not only does it clearly identify that the ghost is voiced by Peter Dinklage  but it also adquately sums up just how useless the Ghost as a whole feels in the storyline.  Last night once again we recorded AggroChat, and this week we had our regular cast of hosts Ashgar, Rae, Kodra and Tam.  Destiny has caused so much angst that we started talking about it even before we went on air, and finally I had to say “guys, we should save this for the show”.  This week a letter from the producer came out as well as some patch notes talking about upcoming changes to gameplay.  We lead off the podcast by talking about these changes and how they personally effect us and our gameplay.  I somehow doubt that any of us in particular will be mourning the loss of the loot cave.

From there I think we dove into Kodra and his morning stream of Hatoful Boyfriend.  I tuned in when he met a bird that is totally reminiscent of the vespa riding mad woman from FLCL…  except she drives REALLY slowly.  Carve it into your soul!  The game feels like it is complete madness… and also created using lots of clip art… and Christmas tunes.  I commented in the stream that I think the game probably cost about $50 in shutterstock credit to make.  The storyline is absolutely insane, so it is totally worth a watch.  From there we dive into Trove and the Closed Beta gameplay that just started.  Rae and I have been playing a ton of it, and we even managed to get Tam and Ash to try it out.  Then things turn to our present obsession with Fallen London.  I think everyone but Rae is currently madly playing this game.

Finally I give over the floor and let Tam, Rae, Ash and Kodra verbally faff about what is going on with League of Legends Worlds.  At this point my eyes glaze over as while I enjoy playing League of Legends… I do not grasp the concept of watching other people play it yet.  It was a good show that ran a bit longer than we had intended… but oh well.  In a rush to tie things up, I totally forgot to do the where you could find us bit… so instead I recorded a snippet later telling folks to please leave comments either on our AggroChat Nook or the @Aggrochat twitter account.  We apparently have some loyal listeners out there, and would love to hear from them.  By the time I record the show and post it Saturday night, to the moment I get around advertising it Sunday morning… we generally have a couple dozen listeners.  That seems like dedication to me.

Steampowered That Wasn’t

1303218406-witcher-2-wallpaper-hd-5 This morning I had every intent to play Witcher 2, as I have had many people in my thread talking about how much they love this series.  I have tried multiple times to play Witcher 1…  and the controls on that game feel like absolute shit.  I will boot it up, and the last time I didn’t even make it through the first action sequence before tossing it aside.  It might have the best storyline ever, but if the controls are horrible…  I cannot bring myself to suffer through it.  Maybe at some point I will see if there is a lets play series where I can watch someone else play the game… or at very least all of the cut scenes edited together.  Since folks had been talking up this game again in anticipation of Witcher 3… I figured I would play it for Steampowered Sunday.  Apparently I figured wrong.

I have had this installed on my machine for some time, and when I went to launch it this morning nothing happened.  After digging through the forums it seems to just not work for some users.  There were a bunch of red herrings that I chased down, but none of them ever caused the game to launch correctly.  The only thing I didn’t try was downgrading it to run under XP Compatibility mode… because honestly I just thought about it this very moment.  In any case it does not seem to like Windows 8.1 64 bit, or at least my machine.  There are numerous supposed problems that it runs into with virus scanners… but given my frustration with the first game…  there is a plateau to just how much bullshit I am willing to go through for this game.  Maybe at some point I will pick up a console version of it, because at this point I am done with the franchise on the PC.

Mercenary Kings

MercenaryKings 2014-09-28 10-45-38-516 Instead I fell back on a game I have also had installed for awhile but never gotten around to playing.  Mercenary Kings is a Metal Slug like shooter from Tribute Games with the amazing animator Paul Robertson.  I was originally made aware of him several years ago when I watched the video Pirate Baby’s Cabana Battle Street Fight 2006.  The animation is in fact as insane as the title might suggest.  Later on he went to animate the amazing Scott Pilgrim vs The World console game, so quite frankly I picked this up because of him.  This morning… I flat out sucked at playing a side scrolling Contra/Metal Slug style shooter.  Maybe it was my frustration after trying to deal with Witcher 2, maybe it was the controller…. or maybe I just flat out suck.  In any case I died a lot, and die in some pretty silly ways.  I think I died to a kitten at one point.

MercenaryKings 2014-09-28 10-57-04-571 Many of my deaths could have been avoided to be honest if I had just read the tutorial level.  Me being my normal self…  wanted to simply rush head long into fate and totally missed the fact that I could do things like proactively reload my weapon for example.  No matter however as bad as I played I still had quite a bit of fun.  The game is not really your traditional Metal Slug or Contra clone, in that the game map can be traversed in many different paths.  One of the missions involved me hunting down and taking out 8 snipers, and as such this involved me covering the entire game map multiple times looking for the last sniper I had missed.  A lot of the terrain is gated by obstacles that you cannot cross in a specific direction, so many times you have to go a different way to get where you were hoping to get.  The game has a checkpointing system of huts that allow you to respawn in various points in the map… and I respawned over and over and over.

MercenaryKings 2014-09-28 11-14-22-904 I saw this screen an awful lot during the time I played the game.  You have two meters for failure of a mission.  Either you run out of fixed number of lives, or you run out of time.  I believe the initial timer is set to 20:00 and I mistakenly took this as having plenty of time to poke around the map.  If you know what you are doing I am sure this is more than enough time to find your objective and move along.  For me… I ran out of time several times.  The game play is not the stage after stage progression that I was expecting.  Instead you have a village full of members of your team, each of them interacting with you in different ways.  There is a village store, someone that will allow you to toggle on internet play, the general that will allow you to pick your missions and the chopper pilot that will drop you off as well as a few other characters that I didn’t really interact much with.  The game is at times reminiscent of a lot of classic arcade games, but it ends up being a really unique mash of of them.

You can check out my entire horrible play of the game in the above embedded Hitbox video.  It is still making its way to Youtube, but if you would rather wait for that copy you can check it out here.  I think I was mostly just having a bad morning.  I woke up late and am still in a state of stupor, and then combined with the frustrations with Witcher 2… that I has psyched myself up to play…  I was maybe not in the best place to do a recording.  In any case I had enough fun that I will be playing it some more.  It falls in a camp of being frustrating, but just frustrating enough to make you learn how to do things better.  In the little bit I had played I had already improved quite a bit.  When I got rushed however I would still make really dumb mistakes.  There are some enemies I could avoid, and others I couldn’t.  Quite frankly at this point I am really not that great at side scrolling platformers, even thought I continue to try and play them mostly in part to a huge sense of nostalgia for that genre.

MercenaryKings 2014-09-28 11-31-52-794 On a positive note I did manage to actually complete one of the missions.  The find the snipers mission, mostly was about exploring the level and not so much about rushing towards a final objective.  As such it seemed to fit my playstyle a bit better.  I got the first 7 snipers pretty easily, but it took me forever to find that 8th one.  It ended up being back near the start of the mission…  which Ashgar kept trying to tell me… but unfortunately I was not watching my stream chat.  I didn’t advertise this one so I didn’t expect anyone to actually be tuned it.  I just fine the process of streaming a considerably easier way to get a video up onto youtube than through actually uploading it myself.  If you like Metal Slug, Contra, Gunstar Heroes, or any of those style of games I suggest you give it a shot.  I might end up repurchasing this at some point on a PS4 because after getting used to that controller…  I have to say the Xbox 360 that previously had been my controller of choice felt really really odd.  I am wondering if I can hook up a PS4 controller to my PC…  but I guess that is a mission for another day.

#AggroChat #Witcher2 #MercenaryKings

Fallen London

AggroChat Episode 23

Last night once again we gathered myself, Rae, Ashgar, Kodra and Tam and recorded yet another action filled episode of Aggrochat.  I would love to think it was action filled, but more likely than not it was just a lot of rambling about about various things.  I titled this weeks broadcast “An Intimate of Devils” because one of the games we talked about is the web based Fallen London.  Several of us are playing it but really only myself and Kodra have spent a good amount of time doing so.  Somehow we both managed to align ourselves with the Brass Embassy which is the home of the demonic residents of Fallen London… the Devils.  It turns out that apparently the plural of devil is an “intimate of devils” so I thought it was an interesting if not fitting title for the show.  If you have not caught on I try and name the shows something that might cause someone to click through on it.

Other than that we talked at length about the Microsoft acquisition of Minecraft, and what its possible ramifications could be.  We talked a little bit about Final Fantasy XIV and especially about Rae’s journey to become an Omnicrafter and get to 50 on all of her professions.  We spent a large chunk of time talking about Destiny and our experiences playing the game… and trying in vain to find the story.  Currently the Tokyo Game Show is going on, so we talked a bit about the games that were being shown there especially Final Fantasy XV or “Final Fantasy Roadtrip” as we have taken to calling it.  Finally we discussed for a bit what all was happening at the League of Legends World Championship.  We ran a bit longer than normal clocking in at an hour and ten minutes, but hopefully you enjoy what all we had to say about a large number of topics.

Fallen London

lodgings A few weeks back my good friend Tarantella convinced me to give a web based game called Fallen London a shot, and since then I have been playing it quite a bit, often times feverishly burning through my turns multiple times a day.  I liked it so much that I decided to become an “Exceptional Friend” which is their equivalent of a patron system giving you a second “candle” worth of turns.  That is the rather nice way of them displaying how many turns you have left.  You start off with a rather large candle and as you take turns it slowly burns down to just the stub.  If you have played the early web based RPG Kingdom of Loathing, the gameplay will be very familiar.  You are allotted a fixed number of turns, and then periodically you gain a new turn.  The turns regenerate at a rate of 1 per every 10 minutes, so generally speaking each morning you will start with a fresh candle of 40, or in my case two candles of 40 since I am a patron… and then you play through those and start accruing them back until you are at the maximum number of turns again.

one of the things that makes this more interesting than say Kingdom of Loathing is the fact that you get what are essentially “chance” cards that you can play.  These also regenerate at a rate of 1 level 10 minutes until you have 6 in reserve.  The size of your current hand is determined by the quality of your lodgings.  You start with only one card in your hand, and then as you upgrade your lodgings this increases.  Right now my lodgings is a decommissioned steamer and it allows me certain types of cards to show up as well as increasing my hand size to three.  These cards tend to give you far better rewards than wandering around the various districts of Fallen London.  I say wandering, but there is no action combat in this game.  Everything is carried out by making a series of text based decisions, and the game has a Everquest style color coding system to show how difficult the encounter is.  If you mouse over an option it will tell you specifically what the chance of success is.  There are various items that can be spent to give yourself additional chances at completing the task.

It’s About the Setting

houseofchimes The aspect of Fallen London that makes it appealing to me is that you have this London by Gaslight era setting infused with all sorts of Cthulhu elements as well as a fair bit of steampunk.  The background of the game is that London is the 5th great city to fall, and in this case it means to be consumed completely by the earth.  In the early bits of the game I found it unclear if this was literally a fissure in the earth or if the city was somehow transported into another dimension.  In either case it finds itself surrounded by a great subterranean ocean known as the “Unterzee”.  Additionally the city has found itself host to several supernatural entities that find it as a handy stopping off place between their own realms and that of the above world.  So the game is a game of factions and secret societies… and you as the player have to tiptoe your way through them figuring out exactly who you choose to align with.

Personally I have found myself fond of the “Rubbery Men” which are essentially Cthulhu style deep ones in suits that wander around the city trading for mysteriously throbbing stones.  Additional over the course of my exploits I’ve found myself getting closer and closer to the Brass Embassy as I mentioned above, the cloister of devils that visits our fair city between trips above to take the souls of men.  The artwork overall for the game is extremely simplistic, but at the same time evocative of a dark and mysterious world that it is trying to induct you into.  The game is not terribly action packed in that you essentially are doing a lot of text adventure, but nonetheless I find it compelling.  It is like a self driven pen and paper role-playing game.  I’ve made more than a few false steps as I have tried to figure out my way around the world… not the least of which was somehow pissing off the patron that had gifted me some really nice things.

An Evolution

2014-09-21_00007 One of the problems with Fallen London is that the way it is set up is designed to ration you out a few turns at a time.  Additionally you are essentially “landlocked” inside of London.  There are missions that open up storylets in different areas, but all of which are roughly connected to Fallen London proper.  The folks at Failbetter Games have created Sunless Sea that is now available on Steam Early access to address this problem.  This time instead of taking the role of a prisoner being released into Fallen London, you are taking the role of a Steamship captain giving you mobility outside of town.  You and your fearless crew embark upon missions outside of the city and engage in battle against pirates and sea monsters while trying to gain the favor of the factions within the city.  I’ve not played a ton of hours yet, but I am nonetheless intrigued.

2014-09-21_00001 The game does not really hold your hand, and in a way it reminds me quite a bit of FTL in that you can screw up spectacularly and wind up dead within a few turns.  While wandering around the “Zee” you have to watch several things… the hunger of your crew, the fuel of your vessel and your hull integrity.  As you wander about the in your vessel, you will encounter new areas and if there is a dock jutting out in to the water you can explore on shore.  So far I have found a few new areas, each with storylets that will likely come into play later as I get further into the game play.  The overall interface of the game is very familiar if you have played the web based Fallen London.  The primary difference is you have to learn what a whole new set of stats means, in that they do not use any of the same baseline abilities as the web version has.

Doing Battle

2014-09-19_00003 Eventually you are going to encounter something that wants to take a chunk out of your hull.  Combat itself is turn based and strategic in nature.  In order to perform most of your attacks you need to illuminate your target to be able to aim properly.  As such the opening salvos of combat tend to be you throwing flares out into the water to light it up properly.  There is the option to do a wild salvo, but the chance of hitting the target and dealing serious damage is pretty low.  As such I tend to throw out 3 flares first so that I can hit the target with a full force attack.  On small targets like this abyssal crab it generally only takes a single hit.  When you start encountering pirates however you will have to a bit more tricky.  I’ve noticed that the pirates prefer to open with wild salvos which generally do little damage but can stress you out as you are trying to light up the target.

2014-09-21_00002

When you defeat an enemy you are given a series of options based on how far you have progressed as a character.  In the case of the Crab, you are given the option to harvest it for supplies or dissect it to learn knowledge.  More often than not I take the supplies as this is quite literally how you feed your crew, and anything that keeps me from having to spend Echo to buy supplies makes me happy.  When I took out a pirate ship I was given the interesting option of sending it to shore with a skeleton crew and getting more resources from the ship.  I ended up getting quite a haul of Echo from doing this, but it greatly reduces the number of available crew members when you do it.  I am sure that has an opportunity cost later on as a result, but I have not quite run into a situation where the number of crew members mattered.

Tomb Colonists

2014-09-21_00005 Right now in my game I am spending most of my time running Tomb Colonists to Venderbight.  The Tomb Colonists are one of the stranger factions of Fallen London.  They are in essence mummies that travel around in coffins.  So basically as I am doing this, I am hauling three coffins at a time and getting a pretty decent payout when I get to Venderbight and sell them back to the Tomb-Colonists there.  It isn’t exactly glamorous but it is worth quite a large amount of echo… something I am sorely lacking.  I need to do some research to see what it takes to get a more efficient engine because right now it seems like I am burning through a good deal of my profit in simply buying up fuel… which greatly limits my range of movement.  I figure in coming sessions I will explore more of the coast line and see what trouble I can get into.  Unfortunately however I don’t really know how to gauge how rough an encounter is… so I feel like at some point I am just going to die horribly to something too strong for me to take.2014-09-21_00004 Right now I am very much digging the narrative of both games and the setting.  I only wish there was a way to have the two games be connected, in that I was either playing the same character or somehow being a benefactor one way or another.  I did notice I was able to log in with my Fallen London account, but I did that right before starting this post… so I have yet to see just how connected they end up being.  Long story short, I highly suggest you check out Fallen London since it is completely free to play.  If you like the setting and find the various factions as compelling as I do, then I suggest you also check out Sunless Sea.  I am looking forward to exploring more of the “Unterzee” as a Steamship “Zailor”.  Right now Sunless Sea is under $20 for steam early access, and I feel like that is an absolute steam considering just how much interesting content I have already seen.  The one thing still on my wishlist is for a proper mobile client for my phone, then I would be raving wildly about how awesome of an experience this is.

#AggroChat #FallenLondon #SunlessSea

Frog Fractions

Conference Prep Work

20140719_151945 As I mentioned yesterday morning my day was filled with helping my wife prepare for the conference this week.  One of the goofy things about a school system is that you cannot take for granted any two rooms being configured the same way.  I have no doubt that at one point or another they were probably all working exactly the same.  However a series of teachers with their own way of doing things has meant that no two projector systems were set up quite the same.  So over the course of the morning we went from room to room turning everything on, and making notes as to how exactly you got sound from the system, and video to the projector.  To add a monkey wrench in the works, some of the rooms had what is called an Elmo, which I guess is some sort of modern age version of the overhead projector.

Some of the systems routed through this device, others you simply had to switch the VGA port over to if it you wanted to use it.  In each room I left instructions on a sticky note as to how to access both Audio and Video, and where needed how to use the Elmo machine.  All of this said I will be around on the first day of the conference playing A/V support if someone has any issues.  I am not phenomenally good at this role, but I can usually figure things out.  Where things get dicey is in the few rooms that have bad connections run through the walls… and for those they were going to just have to deal with it.  Most of the rooms go from an RCA jack to an optical connection that gets run through the wall, and it sounds as though maybe some of the optical cables have been damaged over time.  The approved method of fixing this is apparently randomly wiggling the cords… which is probably what fractured the optical cables in the first place.

For the most part it took an hour or so per floor and then we broke for lunch.  The highlight of the day was getting to have spicy chicken and cheese tots from Rons.  The above picture represents the fruition of our work after lunch.  I should have taken a before photo because the room had been previous configured with tons of tables strewn about.  The tables didn’t fold and stack, but instead the top flipped up and you had to drive them carefully into the closets in a way as to compact them.  I am rather proud of just how compact we managed to get them in there.  The next thing was these heavy iron trays that the stacks of chairs sat on, which I carried into place and figured out a way to stack them in the closet as well.  Finally this allowed us to arrange the chairs all 180 of them in 12 rows of 15 chairs.  It was a busy day, but it looks awesome and is starting to feel ready for guests.

Weary Podcast

Last night was a podcast that I thought might not actually happen.  Generally speaking we tend to start recording around 8 pm CST on Saturday nights.  Last night it was 10 pm and we had not yet started recording, so I was beginning to think maybe episode 15 was not going to happen.  I knew it was going to be a weird week because Rae is travelling and I thought Ashgar was going to be absent as well.  Initially Kodra and I had planned on just having a conversation between the two of us about a few things we had talked about earlier in the week.  As we got closer and closer to the show time…  Kodra was nowhere to be found, but Ashgar miraculously showed up.  I knew that Kodra had intended to come, so I just kept waiting.  I was playing away in Minecraft and Ash playing Destiny so quite honestly the evening slipped away before we really noticed.

When Kodra finally came online we ran pretty late but I think we recorded an enjoyable podcast in spite of the overall tiredness that we all felt.    A major event that happened this week was the  complete and utter failure of the Yogventures kickstarter, and the scandal surrounding it.  We talk at length about this and the potential ramifications it has for kickstarter projects in general.  Additionally we talk about the Destiny Beta and FFXIV free weekends and how crazy it is when so many things are going on during one single weekend.  We also talk about how our sense of community has changed and that it seems to no longer be connected to one game, but instead we take it along with us.  Finally Kodra and I geek out talking about Wolfenstein New Order since he has recently played it.  We had to cut a few sections to trim down time, but we kept the best stuff in there and have it ready to listen to.

Frog Fractions

2014-07-20 11_19_30-Frog Fractions _ Twinbeard I feel like I might be the last person on the planet to have experienced this game.  For some time it has been coming up in both the podcast and just in regular conversation among my circle of friends, and I felt bad because I really did not give the game any time.  My patience for web browser played flash games is pretty much non-existent.  My line of thinking is, I cannot get away with playing this at work… so when I am home I would far rather be spending my time playing a “real” game instead of a web browser based one.  Granted that probably sounds a little harsh but I have yet to find a web based game that really provides me as meaningful of a gaming experience as a traditional PC or console game.  So when the absolute hype cycle surrounding the game happened I booted it up, clicked a few bugs saw some random shit appearing over their heads and walked away bored.  I guess I didn’t pay close enough attention to realize… there is some really strange shit going on in this game.  Be warned… there is no real way for me to talk about this game in any meaningful way without spoiling the fun.  If you have not played Frog Fractions you should do so now before you progress any further in this post.

2014-07-20 10_22_05-Frog Fractions _ Twinbeard The game starts out as this somewhat charming if not low tech game where you are trying to protect fruit, allowing them to ripen by keeping bugs from eating them.  You left click with your mouse to fire out your tongue, gobbling up the bugs and at the end of each round you earn points for each fruit you saved.  The ones that you did not save fall into the water, and at first there is nothing really you can do about this.  The moment at which the game starts to get odd…  is when you start getting power-ups.  Like the point at which I thought maybe this game was a bit strange was when I hit Cybernetic Brain.   You can also upgrade your lilypad into a turtle friend, that allows you to move around with WASD to catch the fruit as they ripen.  There is so much I don’t quite understand… like what the hell Zorkmids are or how you earn Indignity… which I assume is a bad thing.  At this point I kept clicking away with the help of the upgrades…  of which lock on targetting and static tongue seem to be the most game changing.

Then Shit Gets Weird

2014-07-20 10_32_00-Frog Fractions _ Twinbeard At some point you can unlock an upgrade that turns your turtle into a flying dragon… at which point the game suddenly becomes a bullet hell shooter.  So you fly around trying to avoid the multicolored balls while still gobbling up the bugs and trying to save the fruit from falling into the water.  By this point I had upgraded the fruit to durians… which smell bad, and cause the bugs to eat them more slowly.  This is the video game equivalent to Axe Cop, in that it seems like it was almost designed by using madlibs and a 8 year old kid.

2014-07-20 10_32_51-Frog Fractions _ Twinbeard It was at this point I figured out that I could go underwater….  where all the lost fruit was apparently waiting on the bottom of the lagoon.  You can see that apparently now the fruit score does not matter at all, because it now simply reads “Like a billion”.  I have no clue why but I made five or six passes through the fruit watching them all fail to register.  I thought maybe something would happen if I did it enough, but finally gave up on the process and went back up to bullet hell land.  One of the funniest things is the whole lock on vision upgrade.  First you get it, then you get the ability to uninstall it, and then you get the ability to reinstall it…  which finally unlocks the ability to uninstall it again.  Each time this happens it is not like the previous slot becomes available again… it just keeps tacking new upgrade slots onto the grid.  I kind of want to play again and see just how many times I can unlock and remove this option.

Starfox Has Nothing on Me

2014-07-20 10_35_01-Frog Fractions _ Twinbeard After a few more waves of bullet hell madness…  my dragon apparently decides to shoot off into outerspace.  So now I am inexplicably trying to save flying fruit, while dodging asteroids and bug attacks.  Apparently I am going to attack the bug homework… which is apparently “Bug Mars”.  All the while this phase is going on, various characters keep showing up and giving me words of advice in Starfox fashion…  I was disappointed that none of them told me to do a barrel roll (which tam will tell me is not a barrel roll at all).  This continued for six or so waves, all the while it getting harder to get at the bugs because my frog tongue could not go through the asteroids.

2014-07-20 10_37_02-Frog Fractions _ Twinbeard In the weirdest of possible events… some how I get captured and taken to Bug Court.  Where basically I am forced to choose between becoming a naturalized citizen of Bug Mars… or forced labor.  I am not sure you actually have a choice here, or if you are pretty much forced to become a citizen either way.  They ask you a series of questions about Bug Mars culture, and either I got really lucky or quite literally answering anything… is the correct answer.  Some of the responses are really damned funny, but man this is not anything I ever saw coming before playing this game.  In a way it kind reminds me of a modern version of “Takeshi’s Challenge”, and for those who have no ideal what this is you should totally watch the JonTron playthrough.

2014-07-20 10_38_14-Frog Fractions _ Twinbeard So there you have it… I am now apparently a naturalized Citizen of Bug Mars.  You would think that maybe this is as weird as the game gets, but you would be wrong.  Shortly after this I rode on the back of my dragon through an underwater world while a narrator explained to me the true meaning of boxing…  and how this modern punching thing is just a strange bastardization.  Which then lead me to a rocket ship…  and a text based adventure game.  This is the point at which I stopped playing this morning.  This game…  is insanity bottled.  I keep wondering just how deep the rabbit hole gets.  I mean like what is on the other side of the text adventure game.  The best thing about all of this is the fact that the name of the game is a complete and total lie.  Nothing at all about this game has to do with fractions.  Even if you have against my warning made it this far in my post without having played the game yourself…  I highly suggest you experience the madness for yourself.

#AggroChat #FrogFractions #SteampoweredSunday

Divinity Weekend

Auto Excitement

For the most part we hung out around the house yesterday and devoted most of the entire day to working through the mountain of laundry.  As the day drug on, my wife had a few errands that she wanted to run so around 3 pm we got ready and took her vehicle as it needed gassing up.  For some time it had been squealing mercilessly, but she took it to an auto place Thursday and they replaced what I believe was the main serpentine belt assembly and tensioner.  At this point I am just parroting the talky words they told us, because I am very much not one of those guys that knows anything at all about cars.  Miraculously the squealing went away and we were super happy to no longer have to listen to it.  Yesterday for the most part was the first time we had driven it since that day.

As we were heading back to the house we were driving along our street and a pickup truck passed us, and at the same time we heard this noise.  To me it sounded like when you drive over a hot tar road and some of the chat flies up into the undercarriage.  I didn’t really think much about it, and my wife thought maybe the truck threw something out at us…  until she noticed that the battery light came on… and at the same time our engine started overheating.  We were really close to the house so we limped along and pulled in.  The engine fan was working harder than I had ever heard one work, so when we got in the driveway I popped the hood to let it get more air.  Thankfully there wasn’t the smell of anything burning, so I think that part at least is good.

We were maybe a block from the house when it happened, so we decided to go walk down to where we heard the noise to see if we could find any evidence.  I was already overheated at that point and the walk did not help.  We found no evidence of anything in the road, but while walking my wife called the auto place that we took it on Thursday, and they said that pretty much the only thing that could have happened was that the serpentine belt had broken.  Now we have to have the vehicle towed to this this morning so they can work on it again.  Luckily since they did the work, pretty much everything should be covered.  I am just thankful it happened while we were running errands and not while my wife was driving 45 minutes to work… stranding her on the side of the road.  Thankfully we have AAA and they will tow us for free, we just have to arrange that to happen this morning.

Divinity Weekend

Divinity2 2014-07-04 09-47-42-646 For me finding the Divinity Franchise has been like discovering that Fallout or the Elder Scrolls had been hiding under my nose all this time.  One of the things that drives me forward in games is the rich setting, and Rivellon has been built up to be this really cool thing over the course of several different games at this point.  While I have not played the original Divine Divinity and Beyond Divinity… you are given a lot of the lore that comes from that game in Divinity II as you play through it.  So essentially I know the basic elements that happened, as you are dealing with the ramifications of them throughout your play as the Dragon Slayer.  Friday during the day I pushed forward with Divinity 2 and go to the end of the game.

Divinity2 2014-07-04 10-34-22-097 I don’t want to give any spoilers, because you really need to pick this game up on steam and play through it yourself.  But I have to say the ending is an absolute sucker punch.  I did not see it coming, nor did I expect any of the ramifications of it.  That said thankfully Divinity II:  Flames of Vengeance quite literally picks up moments after the ending of Divinity II:  Ego Draconis.  The only problem there is that after the fever pitch of the ending of the first half of the game… I just could not take playing any more in Rivellon for a bit.  So after beating it I played a little Bioshock Infinite and then Saturday I worked my way through as far as I managed to get in Tomb Raider.  I know at some point soon I will pick up Flames of Vengeance because I want to know where the story goes from there.

Back to Rivellon

DCApp 2014-07-06 08-13-00-53 Saturday I returned to the setting of Rivellon, this time decades before the events of Divinity II during the war that ensued after the death of the King Sigurd.  Essentially all of the half dragon children of the king fought for control of the land, and you play a nameless, faceless character under the tutelage of the greatest wizard of the setting… Maxos.  If you want a full and proper review you should totally check out my SteamPowered Sunday feature on the game from yesterday.  As I said in my review… the game is deeply confused as to what it wants to be.  At times it is a Civilization clone, other times a Starcraft II clone, and in still other times a dragon air combat game.  All of these disparate parts are wrapped together in a really interesting narrative firmly rooted in the conflict and setting of Rivellon.

I feel like Larian had this story that they wanted to tell about the period of strife after the death of King Sigurd, and didn’t quite know how to tell it.  Since they have never really been bound to only creating one specific type of game or another…  they opted to use the best vehicle for them to tell the story of a war… and that is the 4X and RTS genres.  The game is deeply rooted in the roleplaying fabric of their setting, and as you move through it you make decisions that effect your council of generals and the allied races assembled.  Additionally for the first time you get to see a proper map of what the world looks like and which races control which territories.  There is so much fertile ground here for future games and setting that have not been explored in any fashion.

Shortly before our eventful trip out to run errands I managed to finish the main storyline.  Unlike many other conquest type games, there is no big cinematic however as you wander around the ship you get to listen to how each of the various members of your crew feels about the events.  The overall experience was enjoyable for me, but I don think it would have been had I not had a firm grasp of the lore of the game before sitting down to play it.  This is very much a conquest game for Divinity fans, and nothing else.  It is enjoyable enough on its own and the assemblage of parts leads to a fun game play experience… but the hook for me is the storyline and nothing mechanically that I am doing.  The real payoff in playing this game is that it filled in a few more puzzle pieces in the evolving narrative of Rivellon.

Original Sin

EoCApp 2014-07-06 19-29-50-035 After the excitement with the automobile, we were so ungodly hot after our hike that we went for a swim.  When I got back upstairs I wanted to chill out a bit, so I broke the “turtle” for a bit and hopped on voice chat.  Kodra was online and we decided that we should try and play Divinity: Original Sin as a duo.  This apparently is the superior way to play the game, and since the release Tam and Ashgar has been working their way through the content talking about how awesome it was.  The game uses steam for match making, but doesn’t actually use steamworks as a server.  Instead one player starts the game and controls it, and the other player connects into that game.  This means that the player that begins the game will be the one that saves, and has the actual game files on their machine.

EoCApp 2014-07-06 19-21-47-476 I created my traditional “Belghast” character based off the fighter archetype, and was pleasantly surprised that even with the limited customization options I was able to create a character appearance I was happy with.  Another surprise is that as a fighter, apparently I also have one of the better heals in the game with cure wounds.  So not only would I be the tank for our group but also be a healer when we needed one and could not rely on potions.  We set off into the world and decided to do the tutorial dungeon.  For the most part everything was going really well, and then the connection issues started.  At first I got disconnected from Kodra’s server, and when I reconnected I was sitting in the boss chamber with no way to return to him.

EoCApp 2014-07-06 19-36-55-790 I didn’t even make it through the dialog before I got another disconnect.  We manages to get through the boss fight, and open the door for him to make his way into the encounter to join me.  On the way to the first town I got disconnected again.  At this point we ran a ping test for both of our connections.  Mine tested out almost perfectly 0% packet loss, 21 ms ping and 1 ms jitter whatever that means.  Kodra on the other hand kept getting varying results and the second time he ran it he was up to 3% packet loss, and 15 ms jitter.  Additionally while my ISP was rated at 4.39 out of 5 for quality, his is rated at 2 something.  So while so many of his problems were in fact coming from a six year old machine… there is also most definitely an ISP component happening there as well.  Rather than continuing on frustrated… we just gave up on the co-op notion for the night.

EoCApp 2014-07-06 22-58-35-411 I created my own game and started playing through the tutorial.  I have a feeling that Divinity: Original Sin is really Larian’s magnum opus.  This game is so ridiculously content dense that I cannot fathom just how many hours of playtime it will take to be able to see even vaguely close to everything in it.  I spent a good two hours faffing about, and I have quite literally done nothing past the first town.  I am still meeting and engaging with every single person in it.  This game brings back the proud RPG tradition of talking to everyone being important.  One person in a line of four might have a single tidbit of information the moves your quest forward.  Additionally you want to barter everything that has the option, because you never know what someone might be carrying and willing to part with.  I’ve seen otherwise generic NPCs carrying around blue quality items already.  This game is going to be a blast, and is likely going to cause me to stay out of the MMO scene for a little longer at least.

#Divinity #DivinityOriginalSin #DragonCommander #DivinityII

Dragon Commander: Divinity

A Cursed Bread Maker

Last night we recorded our thirteenth episode of AggroChat.  In various cultures the number thirteen can be either a positive or a negative, and going into the show I was not quite certain how that would shake out.  Apparently for us however, thirteen is a very unlucky number.  Last week Ash, Kodra and Tam were off hanging out together, and one of the activities was to build Kodra a brand new machine.  All of this time we thought his intermittent problems were related to running on six year old hardware.  Apparently whatever demons infested his previous machine have jumped ship and are now residing in the new one.  We had trouble keeping him online and when he was online he seemed to have issues broadcasting.

All of that aside I think we had a pretty good show last night.  We talked about a hole bunch of topics including Tomb Raider and the fact that I maybe just maybe finally enjoy narrative gaming experiences.  We also talk quite about about Thomas Was Alone and how that game manages to get the player emotionally attached to a red colored rectangle.  We also talk about Rob Pardo leaving Blizzard and the potential effects, as well as the idea that no one person is really that responsible for anything in a game.  Additionally we talk about the Divinity series of games, and how the publisher seems to be able to stick to just one genre.  We did pure madness this time, due to some confusion on my part we ended up with five guests.

Dragon Commander: Divinity

DCApp 2014-07-06 07-24-29-89 As has been the case so many times… I added a game to my wish list in part as a way of tracking to see if it goes on sale… and then another friend comes along and griefs me by adding it to the pile of unplayed games.  I say grief in the nicest possible sense of the word, because Ashgar has supported this thing I call Steampowered Sunday so many times in the past with an interesting game that he would like to see me play.  This time around he ended up purchasing a four game pack and decided he would not play Dragon Commander for some time.  As always I am extremely thankful of his generosity, and the fact that it pretty much determined what game I would be playing this week.  I am still pretty new to the Divinity setting, but so far I have to say I love the universe that it is set in.  I am glad that I played my way through Divinity II this week, otherwise I would have been completely clueless playing this title.

DCApp 2014-07-06 07-27-53-25 At face value this game is a rather pretty 4X title, and were it only for that the game would be forgettable.  The game is extremely confused as at times it is a Civilization clone, other times an RTS like Starcraft, and other times yet a flight simulator.  What makes the difference however is the narrative of the game and the lore of the franchise backing it up.  As a result the game takes you on this deep quest to win the hearts and minds of a kingdom and at the same time defend it from your mad half dragon brothers and sisters.  The game itself is set before the events of Divine Divinity, Beyond Divinity and Divinity II: Ego Draconis.  As such you play out the events of your quest alongside Maxos the wizard that is spoken of in Divinity II in an attempt to liberate the world.

You’re Going to Need Friends

DCApp 2014-07-06 07-26-36-21 The storyline centers around your command carrier the raven, a ship that holds many dark secrets… not the least of which is the fact that the ship itself is a bound demon.  In order to power the infernal machine, Maxos has bound Corvus the Raven demon in a special chamber that eventually you can enter.  The rest of your ship is made up of ambassadors from each of the races of the games setting, as well as a number of gifted generals that you can call upon to guide your troops in battle.  At various points these ambassadors will want to meet with you, an the above picture shows a three way discussion happening between the generals Edmund and Catherine and the Dwarven ambassador Falstaff Silvervein.

DCApp 2014-07-06 07-42-10-10 On board your ship you have representatives of the Dwarves, Lizards, Elves, Undead and Imps…  and each time you do something that benefits one faction you inevitably piss off two others.  Like so many of these games it quickly becomes a juggling game to try and keep most of them happy in the process.  Making the advisors of the various races happy seems to earn you cards that you can play that can turn the tide of a battle.  These give you surprise troops, or a tactical advantage or even there is a card called “Genocide” that lowers the population of an area before attacking it.  I’ve not actually used this one, but had the enemy play it on me multiple times and it can be rather devastating.

Taking Territory

DCApp 2014-07-06 07-28-30-99 Through the bridge of your ship you have access to the map view of your territory.  From here you can assign one building per area be it a War Forge that allows you to build units, or one of many other buildings that gather some form of resource in a turn by turn basis.  From here you try and gain a foothold against your siblings that you are locked in a land war to control as much of the Rivellon heartland as you can.  Combat is resolved in one of three ways.  You can pay one of your generals to lead your forces for you, giving you some tactical advantage in the process.  You can let your army lead itself, which seems to only be advisable if you have an extremely superior tactical advantage, or you can take up the banner and lead your forces yourself.  The limitation is that you can personally lead only one battle per turn, and similarly you can only have a single general lead your forces per turn as well.  This means that you want to limit combat to as few volleys as you can per turn.

DCApp 2014-07-06 07-35-50-40 When you choose to lead your own forces the game changes yet again.  This time around you are presented a real-time strategy playing field where you conquer resources on the map and use them to churn out more troops to eventually overwhelm your opponent.  The interesting thing about this mode is that I tend to leave it in reserve for battles where I do not have a very obvious superior tactical advantage.  There have been fights that I came into the conflict with a single unit, but through the RTS game play get the best of my opponent and push forward with a victory.  If this were not enough, you also have the ability to quite literally manifest yourself on the battlefield and take your dragon form to attack the enemy.

DCApp 2014-07-06 07-38-09-29 When the map starts there is a counter in the center of the HUD counting down how long before you can take flight and join the fight as a dragon.  When you do, you become a nearly unstoppable killing machine with a series of dragon powers that either hurt enemies or help your fighters.  From the air you can wreak havoc on enemy buildings, or hover over your troops and heal them from above.  To make things feel even cooler…  you are a Dragon with a freaking jetpack.  Personally as enjoyable as this mode is…  I tend to try and RTS my way through combat as much as possible without taking to the skies.  There are moments where you think that this game is ultimately four different games that they built, but couldn’t really decide on which one to finish.  However each of these elements is integrated so well into the whole that it just feels natural.

Embracing Controversy

DCApp 2014-07-06 07-26-58-98 There are some really odd events that play out on board of your ship, and a number of conflicts that you will be called to resolve.  Early on you are chosen to pick from one of four princesses paraded before you, and I opted to go for the one that seemed the “sweetest” which oddly enough… was the undead princess Ophelia.  Moments after tying the knot she confides in you that she is wracked by a debilitating disease that will eventually eat her bones from the marrow outwards.  There is no known cure, and her father the Undead Advisor forbids her to research any of the options as such things are considered to be heretical.  However with your permission and the protection of your ship…  there are a number of increasingly twisted things that you can do to resolve the issue.  All of them with some pretty severe moral implications as you are tested to find out just how far you would go to save your bride.

DCApp 2014-07-06 08-13-32-84 Similarly you have to deal with all manner of moral and ethical decisions as you engage with your crew.  Some will attempt to bribe you to look the other way as various things happen.  There is one specific event where an undead artist is revealed to have been a lesbian, and after her death the undead have taken to the streets trying to purge all of her art as heretical.  Do you step in and preserve her works, or do you let the course of undead society go unimpeded.  Similarly there is a general who is by nature a very misandrist character.  She comes to you telling you that she and the other female general are not making near as much as their male counterparts.  Do you do the right thing and increase their pay, while at the same time angering all the males on your ship?  The game does not shy away from presenting issues pulled from our own times, including the ratification of gay marriage.  All of which gives the setting and lore that much more of a living feel.

Sum of All Parts

DCApp 2014-07-06 07-40-07-38 If you  were to take apart all of the different games that make up Dragon Commander, you would end up with a passable but uninspired civilization clone, a passable but uninspired starcraft clone, a political intrigue and romance sim, and a dragon flight combat game.  None of the parts is really that amazing on its own, but when combined together with the woven narrative of trying to save your kingdom from the hands of your insane siblings the game becomes extremely compelling.  This is a truly ambitious title, and it is carried out with such charm that you tend to overlook the rough spots here and there.  The hardest part honestly is the fact that the tutorial could use a bit of refinement.  It took me a couple of games before I felt like I was getting the hang of it enough to survive for long.  If you like Age of Wonders and Starcraft and have ever wanted to fly a dragon with jetpacks, I highly suggest you check this one out the next time it goes on sale over on steam.  It has definitely managed to eat the better part of two days for me, and as soon as I finish with this post I plan on going back to the game and playing some more.

#DragonCommander #SteampoweredSunday #AggroChat

Not A Bel Game

Thomas Was Not Alone

thomaswasalone Two significant things happened last night.  First we went out to eat and dinner did not set well with me, causing me to want to go lay down for a bit.  The second of which was that I decided to take my new Playstation Vita with me.  Now I have done this before with other handhelds, but what was significant here is that thanks to Playstation Plus I had a smorgasbord of games that I could download and play that were already attached to my account.  The first game I gave a shot was Terraria, which I have played a truly silly number of hours of on the PC.  The game almost translates to the handheld, but not quite making it so much more frustrating of an experience especially when it comes to trying to build anything.  When I decided to stop playing that, I opted to boot up a game I have heard so many things about from my friends.

Thomas Was Alone is this deceptively simple game about getting a series of different blocks with different properties through mazes.  You start off with the red block Thomas, that can jump quite a bit and thanks to the magic of the narrator we find is a rather cheery fellow.  You then add a series of blocks each with their own traits like the ability to float in water, or the ability to bounce other blocks higher that additionally have similar interesting traits that we learn via the narration.  The game reminds me in a way of Bastion, in that the game itself is somewhat lackluster but it is the superb narration and voice acting that make it really pop out there.  Thankfully this same narration is artfully displayed on screen at the same time allowing for the experience to translate hopefully to the hearing impaired.

Not A Bel Game

This game very much did not seem like a “Bel” game, as in there is no carnage, no body count… and I am forced to solve a series of structured puzzles to get through the levels.  The funny thing is… I spent most of my night playing it and next thing I know it is 12:30 and I am forcing myself to stop on the above level rather than “play just one more”.  There is something unbelievably charming about this game, and just doesn’t make sense when you approach it from its most simple parts…. that it is a game about a series of blocks.  The game tricks us into using that most human of traits, and attributing personalities and feelings to inanimate objects.  Even when the narrator is not necessarily talking from the standpoint of a specific character… as you move that block you imagine what that character might be saying in your own head.

If you are like me and a Playstation Vita owner, with a Playstation Plus subscription… I highly suggest you install the game and give it a spin.  If you are NOT like me… then I highly suggest you purchase the game because even at $10 for a what is essentially a puzzle platformer… it is money extremely well spent.  Nothing about this game makes sense at face value, that you should not want to care about a series of blocks on the screen in the way that you do.  As you progress through the levels and are slowly being trained to face new challenges you truly do.  The game does an amazing job at introducing concepts slowly and then building upon those concepts in each progressive level.  Most of the levels will involve solving a challenge with a subset of blocks and each time there is an often poignant narrative that goes with it explaining how the blocks feel about being split up.  I am shocked an amazed that I could feel this way about a series of abstract pixels.

Very Bel Game

Divinity2 2014-07-01 22-25-58-747 The other game I played a significant amount of last night was once again Divinity II.  At this point it feels like I am getting near the end, considering I am fighting through progressively larger and larger waves of mobs at a given time.  This is honestly a bit disappointing, considering the early combat was extremely interesting and involved some interesting boss mechanics, and now the answer seems to be the old tried and true throw more bodies at the screen.  That said I am still enjoying myself, but there are lots of things that end up frustrating me, like getting stunned by mobs that are halfway across the screen.  As I have progressed through the levels, it feels like playing as anything but an archer is really a sub optimal experience.  I’ve noticed that even the “Wizard” and “Healer” type mobs now fire nothing but a bow, and the overall gameplay experience at times devolves into a shooter.

I feel like maybe this is why Divinity: Original Sin did not return this game into the “behind the back” dungeon crawler.  The throw waves of mobs at the player thing tends to work fairly well in a Baldur’s Gate type game, but it just feels childish when you do the same mechanic in a first person or over the shoulder style scenario.  Thankfully there are still vignettes of smaller scale gameplay that work extremely well, and interesting puzzles to unlock… but the overall depth and granularity of the game seems to have decreased.  There are entire zones that are made up of nothing but these giant flying fortresses that you clear first in dragon form and then can clear out on the ground.  In all of them so far, it has been a focus on quantity of mobs not necessarily the quality of them.  I am somewhat off the rails right now in my play through, but I am wanting to see it to the end.

#DivinityII #ThomasWasAlone

Three Hours Well Spent

Kidneys Safe, Vita Obtained

I have a running joke with my friend Rae, that each time I go off to meet someone to make a purchase from Craigslist that I am more than likely going to end up in a ditch somewhere missing a kidney.  What can I say… I have a dark sense of humor.  Regardless of this eventual fate, I am extremely cheap by nature, or more so I cannot stand paying more for something than I actually have to.  As a result there are a handful of things I search Craigslist for a few times a week, one of them is the Playstation Vita.  For a long while I have known that sooner or later I would get one, but seeing as I have a pretty lousy track record for playing handheld games…  I most certainly did not want to pay much for it.  Essentially handheld gaming is awesome if you travel a lot…  whereas I actually actively avoid travel.  If I am at home, I am more than likely going to be on my PC or one of my consoles rather than milling about on a handheld.  That said I am still very much enthralled by handheld gaming, and the since I have a PS3 and a PS4…  the Vita remote play functionality even as limited as it might be…  seemed intriguing.

So the other day when I found a Vita that had been posted for a few days for $100 that came with two games… both of them something I would play, I honestly thought it was too good to be true.  However over the course of a series of text messages I gleaned two things.  Firstly that I suspected the person that was selling the unit was female, and that they did in fact seem legitimate.  This is my own personal bias at work, but generally I consider women far more trustworthy than men, and potentially less likely to steal my kidney.  I could not meet up that day so we scheduled a meeting for yesterday after work.  Basically I did not want to mention it on the blog, because I really didn’t want to jinx it.  There was a comedy of errors however when it came to actually meeting up.  The person lived in a town roughly thirty minutes away from the southern most point of the Tulsa Metro.  Since I prefer to meet at QuikTrip for safety sake, and that town did not have one… we decided to meet at one in Glenpool, thinking I had been there multiple times and it would be in the path she had to travel anyways.

Wrong QuikTrip

The only problem is that apparently Glenpool is big enough to actually have two QuikTrips… both of which are apparently across the street from a McDonalds.  I must have looked insane walking around the QuikTrip parking lot looking for a pink and grey Chevy cruze.  Like I was confused enough at one point that I even googled what a Chevy Cruze looked like on my phone, because I thought maybe I was not remembering which model was which.  Once we realized we were at two separate locations she came to me because I had zero clue where she was.  Everything checked out, the Vita is pretty awesome and only has a few scratches here and there on the case.  It came with the vita unit, 4 gb memory card, charge cable, car charger, soft sided case, rubberized skin for the unit, Injustice Ultimate Edition game and The Walking Dead game.  The owner had wiped it back to factory settings so all I had to do when I got home was set the unit up and I was streaming Resogun from my PS4 in a matter of moments.

The main reason why I knew sooner or later that I would get a Vita is that I have been a member of Playstation Plus for awhile.  One of the awesome things about Playstation Plus is it is blanket subscription and does not care at all if you actually own the piece of hardware it is giving away games for.  So since the moment I started subscribing I have been picking up every Vita game offered through the web storefront.  As a result I now have a library of 35 good titles ready to download to my Vita.  The only thing I need to pick up really is a bigger memory card, because quite frankly 4 gb will not hold much of anything.  All in all this makes for another wildly successful Craigslist purchase.  One of the things I am going to have to test out soon is the ability to play across the internet from my PS4 sitting at home.  I’ve heard mixed reviews about it, but just the fact that something like that could possibly exist seems awesome.  Also if you are on PSN and we are not already friends… look up “Belghast Sternblade”.

Three Hours Well Spent

I have seen the Realm Maintenance podcast a few times before, but never actually sat down to listen to it.  I tend to listen to podcasts when I can during the day because it makes the work day go a little faster.  Yesterday Godmother of Alternative Chat had linked this weeks episode, which is a special 100th episode that included her.  The podcast was rather daunting, in that it was a 3 hour retrospective of a bunch of wow podcasters being interviewed and the results knitted together into a narrative.  While it took me literally all of the day to get through it, listening in bursts here and there…  I have to say it was three hours well spent.  Listening to the collective pet peeves, advice and challenges of all of these extremely successful and popular podcasts was rather inspiring.  I would not really put myself or the work we do with Aggrochat in the same league as any of these people, but it was awesome to hear that they had struggled with some of the same issues I had.

One of the most interesting takeaways from the whole show is that for the most part, all of the podcasters list radio and more often than not NPR as being an important influence.  I guess to some extent that makes sense, because what is a podcast if not an online radio show.  If I am in my car I am pretty much always listening to NPR, and I know personally I wanted to do a podcast out of a sense of awe of everything that radio can be.  I’m a huge fan of This American Life and have even gone and seen Ira Glass in person, when he did a lecture here in town.  One of the tougher questions the various guests were asked…  was who their favorite podcast is.  Most of them gave extremely diplomatic answers, but I have to say for me at least there are two podcasts that I pretty much drop everything I am doing to listen to when they are posted.  The first of these is Alternative Chat, because Godmother somehow takes the production value of This American Life, and condenses it into a fifteen minute bite sized chunk.  It is very easy to listen to because I know, no matter what else I have going on, that I will receive this fifteen minute vignette of awesome.

The other podcast that I listen to as soon as it is posted is that of the Battle Bards.  There are two things that make this experience awesome.  The first is the chemistry that has evolved between Sypster, MMOGC and Syl.  Their tastes in music and games have this weird way of fluttering back and forth between complimenting each other and diverging at the same time.  So on a specific topic you might get two of the three to agree, but I have never really seen all three agree on something at exactly the same moment.  This chemistry aside, I love the focus of the podcast because I too am extremely passionate about video game music.  While I might not know the whys and hows like they do… or even know the composers by name…  when I am not listening to podcasts at work, I am listening to soundtracks.  Video game music has always stirred my imagination in ways that nothing else quite can.  It is this warm blanket of nostalgia that I wrap myself in regularly, and it is always awesome to listen to the Bards as they dissect various tracks that I know and love.

Overly Cerebral Morning

Divinity2 2014-07-01 22-22-07-779 As is the case with so many mornings, I sat down to write with a vague idea of some of the things I might talk about.  However as a whole this morning shaped up to be far more cerebral than normal.  I wish I had pictures to at least accompany some of my giant walls of text, but alas you are going to have to settle for a really cool shot from Divinity II last night.  When I got home from my adventure I piddled around with my vita for a bit, logged into Wildstar to claim another boom box and then after our walk settled into Divinity again for the rest of the night.  I find it so odd that I have fallen so in love with a game that is over six years old at this point.  Everything about the game still feels fresh and new to me, and I am loving exploring this world.  All my of my friends are busy and enthralled with Divinity: Original Sin… but at this point I don’t even want to look at that game until I “finish” this one.

I have a feeling that “finishing” Divinity II is going to be a lot like “finishing” Skyrim.  That there will always be something left unfinished and begging for me to wander around and finish at a later time.  The only thing that makes me question this, is that already the game has made some significant changes that caused me to lose access to a number of quests.  The world keeps getting stranger, and I am not really sure how I feel about the chief antagonist.  He keeps showing up to taunt me, and then instead of actually attacking me… sends an army of fodder at me claiming it will “finish me off”.  While I am sure I cannot take him down yet…  I am level 30 and wondering how long this game actually runs.  I am only in the second “area” so far, but not sure just how many more there are.  I know of at least one more that is connected to the area I am in currently, but at this point I have put almost twenty hours into the game and feel no closer a finish than I did at the very beginning.  I love when a game feels like it could go on forever like that.