Too Many Games

I’m a Cheater

Once again I am doing what I consider cheating… which is writing up a post at night that I intend to post in the morning.  Basically tomorrow is another one of those “ride in together” days, because directly after work we have a big end of school cookout thing to go to.  So I simply won’t have much time to do my faff about verbally thing tomorrow morning.  As such I am staging a post tonight, and doing the same thing everyone else… but for whatever reason I feel like I am somehow betraying the ritual by doing.  Today’s topic I have been kicking around for awhile, so I figure this is as good of a time to spring it on my adoring readers…  look I like to pretend I have adoring readers okay.

Too Many Games

Right now things have reached a sort of critical mass with me, and there are entirely too damned many games right now that I want to be playing.  This could not have hit at a worse time considering how busy the tail end of school is combined with the fact that we have weddings and graduations and such to attend.  Normally I feel like I can reasonably juggle three to four games at a time bouncing back and forth between them.  The other day I posted saying that multi-gaming was even an awesome thing to do… considering it kept you from getting bogged down in the decisions a game company makes that you don’t necessarily agree with.  However for me, I am spreading myself super thin with a ton of different activities that I want to be doing.  So today I am going out outline each of the games that I am playing and lament the things I would love to have time to do in them.

Elder Scrolls Online

eso 2014-05-23 19-34-45-037 Right now I still consider Elder Scrolls Online my primary game.  At roughly two months since headstart I am still very much loving this game.  It has some problems, namely with difficulty of grouping, but as far as the game itself goes I dig it massively.  I’m working my way through Auridon and slowly creeping up on Veteran Rank 2.  I have so much that I still want to do in this game, but lately my schedule has limited my time in it.  This is the type of game that I can only really play if I am fully focused on it, and this is doubly so with the veteran content.  Shit can go wrong in a heartbeat if you are not doing all the right things, so it means on the nights I am not feeling all that… I end up playing something else.

Wildstar

WildStar64 2014-05-14 17-55-10-794 This game is the new hotness it seems and it launches tomorrow, at least for the headstart folks.  I mostly preordered this game in case I decided I was in love with it, and I wanted to make sure I secured the preorder bonuses.  I really dig the pre-order house, and I did not care for anything in the Collectors Edition pack… so I went with the normal.  I am still so up in the air about this game… there are things I like and things I don’t like.  Right now I am simply not sure who is going to win out, however since everyone is playing it, and it scratches the same itch that World of Warcraft and Star Wars: The Old Republic do… going to give it a good college try.

ArcheAge

archeage 2014-05-13 21-43-39-052 Speaking of games I am conflicted about…  welcome to ArcheAge.  I find so much about this game intriguing and repulsive at the same time.  It is this fusion of one of the most interesting games system wise and class wise… combined with one of the worst communities I have experienced.  This game has invented new ways for you to grief your fellow players… and this is the sort of thing I have zero interest in.  That alone would be enough to make me go running and screaming into the night… but the class system is so damned interesting to me.  I love the concept of “Rift without Restrictions” and that is pretty much what the open class system seems like.  It reminds me so much of the way the class system for Horizon worked… and that is a great thing.

Heroes of the Storm

Play 2014-03-14 07-51-05-19 I want so badly to be playing this game right now… but I also want so badly to not be playing this game with strangers.  The MOBA thing is one of those things that I really only enjoy if I am queuing with people I know.  That said supposedly the queue times are greatly improved with the new client.  If you are in the HoTS alpha… please let me know!  I need more people to queue with, and I feel horrible for being in this game when so many people want in… and not playing it much.

Defiance

Defiance 2014-05-29 06-30-42-873 The last few nights I have been playing this game again and really enjoying myself.  The whole shift in how I approach it has really helped quite a bit.  I would love to see more people playing it because I think it would be far more enjoyable to run around as a group.  I still have yet to really scratch the surface of any of the story content, and feel like I should do that.  Really enjoyed the first season of the television show, and would love to get caught up on the in game content before the next season starts.

Final Fantasy 5

VisualBoyAdvanceM 2014-05-22 21-56-13-507 At this point I am behind my friends in this game, and quite honestly I am struggling to get the oomph to play it.  That said I feel like I should really finish this game as part of the FF5 draft thing we did.  I feel like I would be a horrible person if I didn’t finish it.  That said I also know I am going to get talked into doing the Four Job Fiesta in a month…  so not sure if I will finish before then either.

Trove

Trove 2013-11-25 16-57-34-42 There is something about this game that makes my inner child squeal with glee.  Things are just so damned much fun, and the mob design is amazing.  That said I have been out so long and so much is changing on what seems to be a near weekly basis that I feel hopelessly lost.  At some point I need to resort to reading through all of the patch notes starting around the time I last played in the hopes of understanding how things have changed.  The combat in this game is just enjoyable, I only wish I could play it with a controller.  I guess in theory I could use one of the keypad mappers but I have been lazy.

Landmark

Landmark64 2014-04-13 22-04-40-22 Oh Landmark… how I love you and am completely bored with you at the exact same time.  Right now it is less a game and more a toybox for you to build in, with a ruleset wrapped around it.  This was really fun while I had giant things to build… and while I was progressing through the ranks of collecting the next best mining pick.  Now that I have topped out, and have fleshed out most of what I wanted to build… I log in pretty much only to mine copper and pay my upkeep.  What I need to make me care about this game is the combat system.  Here is hoping I will fall back in love with it when I can run around the world killing things.

Diablo 3

Diablo III 2014-03-29 19-54-54-44 I still don’t have a character to 70, and I feel like I have somehow failed for not doing this.  Basically this released way too close to the launch of Elder Scrolls Online… and I never gave the game the attention it deserves.  At some point soon I really want to work on leveling my crusader, since I have technically beaten the game on my Monk.  I am struggling with the desire to simply grind the last two levels to ding 70.  I figure at some point I will have a renaissance of caring about d3… but it might be awhile before I cycle around to it again.

Rift

rift 2014-05-08 06-09-17-50 The new souls were released and I have yet to even check them out.  I really would like to level my cleric to 60 before the 3.0 patch hits, but I have no clue how long that is.  Right now I am logging in on a weekly basis to get my patron gifts and that is about it.  I thought it would be really cool to do a streaming series where I try and remember how to tank, and do a public service of tanking elites.  I’ve heard the queue times are absolutely insane, and I know personally I have waited over two hours without getting a DPS queue.  I still love this game, but at the same time don’t really know what I want to do in it.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

swtor 2014-05-05 22-32-57-22 A few weeks back I was playing the hell out of SWTOR and enjoying myself.  While I have let my subscription lapse again… I would love to pick back up on my Sith Juggernaut and see what happens after Balmorra.  I have never actually made it off this planet imperial side, but I was really damned close to doing this when I was last playing.  The real challenge will be if I can manage to play the game without subscribing… or will I re-up again only to cancel a few weeks later.

World of Warcraft

Wow-64 2014-03-25 07-16-07-71 Finally there is good ole World of Warcraft.  Once upon a time I had a grand idea of getting everyone to 90 before the expansion.  I have failed miserably at keeping up with this ambition, but who knows if I will actually do this or not.  Right now all I have left are the Priest, Monk and Warlock… all of which are over 60 at the least.  The Warlock and Priest are both in Pandaria content, but at the very beginning.  I might get a wild urge to play again and push these guys across the finish line.  Either that or I might completely abandon this until the release of Warlords of Draenor.  In any case the account is still active, because I pop in periodically to dink around with stuff for the guild.

Nothing at All!

Tonight I will be playing…. nothing more than likely.  We have an end of school cookout and by the time we get done there… we will likely crash, or walk… or walk then crash.  If anything I launch Wildstar and create my characters.  Right now I am planning on having my Chua Engineer and an Exile Warrior of some sort… just not sure if that will be Human or Granok.  In any case I have nothing exciting to report about my master plan for the evening other than hanging out in the real world and eating some good food.

Faffless Wednesday

Banging Doors

Well it happened again last night, I was woken up by one of our cats banging on the closet door.  The problem is after I finally got her crackhead self settled down and up into bed with us…  I once again was completely wide awake.  Problem is this time it was at 12:45 when it started, so there I lay in bed at 1 am completely unable to get back to sleep.  So I sat there for a bit, finally deciding to get up and go upstairs and play something for awhile to hopefully tire myself back out again.  The game of choice was Defiance, but I will go into that more later.  I managed to get to a state where I thought I might sleep around 2 am, but the rest of the night was extremely fitful.

According to fitbit I was awake 9 times during the night.  I have no clue what is going on with me that my body keeps thinking I am fully awake at any point I wake up.  I have always struggled with sleep, and as a result cannot nap for fear of not being able to sleep that night.  This whole waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to get back to sleep thing that has plagued me the last two nights is brand new however.  Right now this morning I feel mostly normal, albeit a little sluggish… I just fear for what this will mean as the day wears on.  Yesterday was rough since I had been up since 3:45, especially about 2 pm or so it became torture to try and do anything productive.  I might have to start resorting to taking a sleep aid, but I hate how groggy they make me feel in the morning.

Faffless Wednesday

eso 2014-05-29 06-28-44-860 Last night for whatever reason we simply did not have a good turnout for our normal “faff about” in Elder Scrolls Online event.  It could be that people were just busy, or it could be that the Wildstar servers were up for some reason yesterday and folks are anxious for the head start coming Friday.  In any case there were just three of us that showed up with the purpose of doing the event, so we decided that it was really too few to do a dungeon, and too few to really do anything meaningful in Cyrodil.  As a result we just kinda piddled around doing our own thing and chatting back and forth.  PK and Delevax joined the rest of us on mumble and we hung out while playing.  I have not really as much time to play Elder Scrolls Online that I would have liked.

Lately my weekends have been scattered with little landmines of not being able to play anything, and then last weekend the amazing single player games Transistor and Wolfenstein: New Order got my devoted attention.  At this point I think I am about two hours away from finishing Wolf, and transistor was a punch in the gut…  but a very good one.  I had been looking forward to Wednesday because I knew I would devote myself to playing nothing but Elder Scrolls Online, even if the “event” didn’t happen.  I have to say I love the veteran content, and more importantly I love that mobs are once again difficult.  There were always a couple of types of encounters that were painful for me…  I am looking at you Harvesters…  but for the most part I had reached a place where I could steam roll in entire packs of mobs.  There were several late game public dungeons that I solo’d my way through, so my skill level with the game had reached a point where it was simply greater than the challenge.

Veteran content reset that equilibrium.  I literally can get my ass kicked by a mudcrab if I happen upon a pack of three, and even in the case of two at a time I have to use Green Blood to heal myself while dealing with the second one.  I like that the game instantly became a challenge again the moment I completed the storyline.  The result is that while I do the Aldmeri Dominion content, the game feels fresh to me since I am having to relearn how to manage tough encounters.  Last night I finished up Kenarthi’s Roost and moved on into Auridon.  Since this is the content I have done the least, I am really enjoying winding my way through elfland.  I’ve decided that I really like the Bosmer…  I was talking last night with Euron that they remind me quite a bit of the Witch Elves from Warhammer Fantasy.  As much as I want to dislike her, I have to admit that Queen Ayrenn is pretty awesome as well.

Figuring out Defiance

Defiance 2014-05-29 06-30-42-873 I wrote yesterday mornings blog post at about 4 am, and then proceeded to faff about in Defiance for the next hour until 5:30 when the alarm normally goes off.  During that time I think I finally figured out how to enjoy the game.  There was always something I liked about it, but the experience just felt lacking in some way.  Like I didn’t quite grasp how the questing system worked or how the world exploration worked.  The first change I made is that I started playing the game with the Xbox 360 controller.  While it controls competently with the keyboard and mouse, everything feels like it just works better with the controller.  I guess this is the side effect when you develop a game for consoles, but I am slowly getting used to playing an FPS with a controller.  I find the lack of focused aiming to be far less of a detriment that I thought it would be.

Secondly I had a major epiphany while playing as I stumbled across and Arkfall.  I started treating this game like it was Rift, in that so many times in Rift I just spend my time ping ponging from tear to tear closing the Rifts.  Doing this so far has been worth a ton of experience and my Ego rank is slowly climbing.  Additionally you seem to get some really good rewards for doing it, and I am starting to bump into other players as well which makes the experience overall more enjoyable.  I always felt like the thing that was lacking was that I didn’t really have anyone to play the game with.  I am hoping as this game transitions from “buy the box” to “free to play” that folks will start filtering back in.  It might just be the recent time spent playing and FPS, but I am enjoying the game quite a bit.  Therein lies the problem however…  I simply have too damned many games to play.

League Beginner Night

Tonight I’m Playing League of Legends.  Once upon a time in House Stalwart we did these league beginner nights, when we coaxed new players to League of Legends onto mumble and did some vs bots or custom 5v5 gameplay.  The purpose was to ease folks into the game and let them soak up some of the knowledge of a few of our more veteran players.  When the Alliance of Awesome folks started talking about League, I figured it was a good time to try and resurrect this concept.  So tonight I will be playing some league and hanging out on mumble with folks while doing it.  I am just hoping to get in some practice playing Braum, but if not I will probably default back to Wukong, Garen or Darius.  I would actually love to play some Varus since I have yet to do so since picking up the PAX skin.  If you are interest in joining up check out the Anook event, the goal is to start around 9 PM CST to make it doable for the West Coasters.  There are technically only a couple of people signed up, but I know we will have a lot more just from word of mouth.

#ESO #ElderScrollsOnline #Defiance #LeagueofLegends #LoL

King of Monsters

An Odd Day

Sometimes on the weekends you have days that feel like they last significantly longer than they should, and then you have days like yesterday that feel like they are over in a blink of an eye.  I guess in theory what made yesterday feel so odd is because the entire day was planned around hanging out with some friends and meeting them for lunch at 1:30.  So by the time I got up, grabbed breakfast, wrote a blog post… it was pretty much time to shower and get ready to go out.  None of this is to say that yesterday was not a really fun day, but it was just over in a flash.

We ate lunch at a trendy restaurant downtown called the Rusty Crane… which for as trendy as it is, was extremely reasonably priced.  My wife and I ate for $16, but then again we ate off the brunch menu.  I had this weird breakfast enchilada thing, that while tasty is not likely something I would order again.  It was a tortilla filled with egg, sausage, avocado and what was billed as grilled onions and peppers.  So that to me made it sound like they would be nice and soft and caramelized, but in reality they were mostly raw and maybe spent a few minutes on the grill lightly singing the edges.  Had they been like the veggies inside of a Chimichanga it would have been awesome…  but me and crunchy veggies tend to disagree.

But the food overall was tasty and cheap… and the company was the important part.  We had not seen our friends in several months, and normally we like to see them at least once a month to hang out and get dinner and a movie or something of the sort.  The hard part about being non-parents is finding other couples that don’t have kids in tow to go out and do things with.  As a result we tend to hang out with a lot of older couples, and this pair is a really odd situation.  He is the very first “pimp” I had, aka the guy who first recruited me into the dark art of consulting.  She is a teacher at the same school as my wife.  We only realized the connection one year at a back to school barbeque, and ever since we’ve kind of integrated into each others families.

King of Monsters

godzilla-trailer-header-image After we ate we decided to go see a movie.  Since my wife and the other two had not seen all of the X-Men films leading up to Days of Future Past, they opted against that one.  In reality right now there just isn’t much on at the theatre that is not a comic book-y type film.  In the end we decided to go see the new Godzilla film as it aligned up time wise better than almost anything else.  Just a heads up…  I am not sure you can call them spoilers, but be warned this section is going to have something vaguely resembling them.  If you want to be surprised when you see the new Godzilla… feel free to skip ahead, but unfortunately if you have seen ANY Godzilla movie, you have also seen this one which is part of the problem I have.

I am not sure exactly what I was expecting, but this movie literally plays out like every Godzilla movie… or in truth damned near every Anime story as well.  Mankind does something stupid > Horrible Monster is spawned > Hero (Godzilla) shows up and is misunderstood and attacked by mankind > Sage/Elder/Scientist explains something about nature balancing itself > We put our fate in the Hero (Godzilla) > Hero gets its ass kicked royally and is defeated > Just when all hope seems lost the Hero rises again using last ounce of strength to defeat the Monster.  That is pretty much the template for half of the anime I have seen, not to mention every single Godzilla, Ultraman, Kamen Rider, Power Ranger or anything else in the same “big things battle other big things” genre.

Final_Four_Jaegers I blame Pacific Rim for giving me hope, that a tired old movie construct like Godzilla could have new and interesting life breathed into it.  I love everything about the concept of monsters battling monsters, or giant robots saving the day…  it fills my inner thirteen year old with glee.  The problem is the 37 year old brain is still there and unable to be detached.  There were so many things in the movie that seem to have no explanation and made zero sense.  There is a scene where a coal fired train is travelling across the country to deliver a payload of nuclear warheads.  It is super foggy, and a bunch of the troops are sent ahead to scout the track to see if it is safe.  Next thing we know the train is on fire and coming out of the fog.  How exactly did that train catch fire?  Sure it looks cool as a special effect but it makes zero sense because the monster attacking doesn’t breathe fire or anything.  The train just apparently spontaneously combusted while it was coming across the tracks.

The biggest problem I had with Godzilla is that the movie just felt like it was going through the motions.  They so closely followed the template of what a Godzilla movie has to be, that the character actors that participated in the movie just felt like window dressing.  There was never a single moment in the movie that I did not feel like I knew the next three scenes that were about to happen.  Obviously going into it we know that Godzilla is going to win the day…  but if we have that as a fixed ending… sure you can do something to mix up the space between the beginning of the movie and the end.  So as much as I am railing on the movie, I do have to give it credit that the monster battles looked good.  The monsters were well animated and you can tell they spent large amounts of money trying to make Godzilla feel like the original “man in suit” version without making it look cheesy as hell.  If you love the original Godzilla movies and can suspend disbelief and ignore the fact that it is following a very tired template…  you might just enjoy this movie.

Right in the Feels

Transistor 2014-05-20 17-51-41-79 Now for a game that I will not give any spoilers for…  because it really is worthy of cherishing.  Last night when we finished with our festivities, I went upstairs, threw my headphones on and sat down with the purpose of getting through Transistor.  When we recorded the podcast both Kodra and Ashgar had beaten the game, and I had heard that the ending is really heart wrenching.  They were correct…  the game got me right in the feels and I think maybe I even bled a little.  Everything about this game is wonderful, and if they do not win awards with it… it is a major fucking tragedy.  Basically Supergiant Games has a loyal customer now, after loving Bastion and seeing how much more intricate this game is…  I have a feeling that anything they could create would turn out phenomenal.

My only disappointment is how generally short the game is.  It took me roughly three hours of game play to beat and is the equivalent of I think four areas that you traverse, maybe five.  Now one cool thing that happens is when you defeat the game you can play a “recursion” that allows you to play through a second time with all the abilities that you earned the first time… and everything becomes more difficult as well.  So instead of Creep 2.0 you start seeing Creep 3.0 etc.  I love the way this game embraces code lingo to produce a world that is both Tron and French Noir at the same time.  I would love to see a movie made from this game… would be absolutely phenominal.  I have to admit as cool as the gameplay is… I mostly wanted to play through this game for the story.  I wanted to know what happened and why things were the way they are.  The problem is after completing the game it feels like I have more questions than answers.

Beer and Pizza Action

WolfNewOrder_x64 2014-05-20 19-51-03-03 After the emotional rollercoaster that was Transistor, I felt like i needed to play something far more run and gun.  So I picked back up on Wolfenstein: New Order, and at the point in which I went to sleep I was roughly three hours into the storyline.  There is something compelling about the game, but at the same time something that leaves me completely uneasy about the potential of a fascist future.  So far I am loving the game and look forward to playing some more.  Oddly enough this game seems to be able to get me to stealth around.  There is a sequence where you sneak into a prison, and I loved lurking about and sneaking up on mobs and taking them out with the knife.  Normally I do not do stealth at all, but for whatever reason it felt as though I HAD to use stealth.  If you fire a gun anywhere near an officer they will sound the alarm and bring on all sorts of really bad shit like these flying robot things that are damned near impossible to take out with anything other than the shotgun.  The game is action packed and focused, and precisely what I needed to recover from the case of the feels.

#Godzilla #PacificRim #Transistor #Wolfenstein #NewOrder

Transistor Gushes

Good Bye Old Man

smokeyYesterday was a rough day for many reasons, not the least of which was the fact that I had to bury my old man ferret Smokey.  In 2009 we got a pair of brothers from a ferret rescue, and at that point they were several years old already.  Bandit passed away several years ago from Insulinoma, and it was one of the hardest things I had been through.  I feel like maybe him passing quickly was a godsend.  For the last several months Smokey had been deteriorating of old age, and it was hard to watch him go through it.  For the last couple of months we had kept him in a separate cage in our bedroom, where he could have easy access to food and water since he was not moving around very well at all.  His hind legs simply did not obey him any longer and he had developed cataracts in both eyes.

Our goal was to try and keep him as comfortable as we could until he passed.  The old man had some fight in him because there were several nights that we were certain he would not make it through til morning.  When morning came it was still friendly and very much alive.  When we got up yesterday morning we did our normal “check to see if he made it through the night”, and he seemed about as normal as he ever does.  Raised his head, sniffed my hand and went back to sleep.  While we were out running errands yesterday it seems like he passed in his sleep because he was curled up in the same little ball he always was.

I am thankful at least that it seems as though he went peaceful.  He was a good boy and a friendly ferret, even though he never did bond as tightly to us as his brother did.  The above photo is of him in much better days, snuggled up with one of our girls Shiloh in the hammock.  Bandits passing was so sudden and jarring, but with Smokey we have had months to get used to the idea and just tried to make him as comfortable as we could.  So while part of me is definitely sad that he is gone, another part of me is relieved that he no longer has to struggle.

The Big Clean

Pet funeral aside, yesterday was a good but very tiring day.  If it tells you anything I managed to hit 10,000 steps on my fitbit before we actually went for our evening walk.  As I said before the house needed cleaning badly, and I got up and around yesterday morning and picked most of it up.  However there are still a few deep cleaning projects that need to happen.  We needed to run to the bank, so we got out and about and did some shopping.  The shirts I had been wearing were getting huge on me, and my wife would visibly sigh each time I wore one of them that now hung from my shoulders like a drape.  JC Penny was running a door buster sale that we just happened to luck into without really meaning to.  I picked up a bunch of new and better fitting shirts and this prompted me to remove a ton of older shirts from the closet.

Similarly both myself and my wife needed new bathing suits.  I found a nice pair of trunks that are far more colorful than anything I have ever bought in the past, and she found a nice one-piece at Old Navy.  All of the shopping inspired her to come home and tear apart the closet both figuratively and quite literally.  The bedroom for several hours yesterday was a warzone, and among other projects we cleaned out the catch all corner that had jewelry, perfume and lotions on what used to be a typewriter desk.  For some time I have been hauling around a cabinet to go into that corner that we picked up on craigslist, but simply lacked the time to do the necessary cleaning to make room for it.  It fit in nicely, and honestly could have been a bit bigger.

Similarly she tore apart the bathroom that joins to our bedroom and set up one of those wire divider shelves underneath to segment what is normally just one big space.  My biggest contribution was culling my wardrobe by literally half and folding it neatly for a garage sale.  As mentioned yesterday in a few weeks we are getting pulled into a garage sale, and I am wondering exactly what else I will be selling.  I have tons of compact discs in my office, that I simply never listen to anymore.  The idea of listening to a CD just feels foreign, since I stream almost everything thanks to Google Music. I don’t feel the need to own music any longer, I just want access to said music when I want it.  As a result I am probably going to get rid of my entire collection, but I seriously doubt any of the regular garage sale fare will want the type of stuff I listen to.  Not a single CD could you really classify as “pop”.

Transistor Gushes

aggrochat_bubbles_trans Finally last night we recorded our seventh episode of Aggrochat.  Once again Rae was travelling, so since Dallian has been so gracious to be a kind of unofficial fifth member of the cast, he stepped in at literally ten minutes notice.  I called the episode “Transistor Gushes” because quite literally… that game has hijacked the podcast.  For those who don’t know we keep a running shared Google document for the show notes, and during the week we jot down ideas, and recycle ones that we didn’t get to from previous weeks.  This week the only thing mentioned is Transistor written in 72 point font, with a much smaller blurb below it that says “things that are not Transistor”.

We successfully covered both, and we discussed Transistor, Wolfenstein: New Order, the Final Fantasy 5 draft, Watchdogs, Dark Souls II, Comics, and a few other things along the way.  I feel like it was a really good podcast, and while most of the topics only actually engaged 2-3 of us at a time, the mix of which 3 people were talking was pretty evenly distributed.  We plan on having a follow-up show in a few weeks to talk about the actual storyline and elements of Transistor, but for the time being we limited ourselves to just talking about the interesting game play elements.  We will of course start giving a massive spoiler warning when we get into discussion of plot points.  When talking about Wolf, I tried to limit myself to only discussing things that happen as part of the introduction to the game.  Hopefully this works for people, but if not let us know in the comments… hell if it does work let us know… we love feedback.

Re-Return to Castle Wolfenstein

Cyrodil Faffed

eso 2014-05-19 20-58-55-644 It seems like none of the screenshots that I took last night… actually got saved to the disk.  Not sure what is up but over the last few days I have had Dxtory flake the hell out on me.  I’ve used it lately to capture screenshots while streaming because OBS and Fraps seem to piss each other off.  That said something seems to have changed in the mix and I couldn’t get Dxtory working on steam games Tuesday night, and last night it apparently was not taking any screenshots while streaming.  Anyways as a result you get a cool screenshot of Coldharbor instead of a screenshot of what actually happened last night.  What happened you ask?  Well we had our second “Faff About in Cyrodil” night as a guild and while we had fewer people than last time I feel like we got more cool stuff accomplished.

We started off hunting skyshards and that morphed into delving into a whole bunch of dungeons.  Along the way we had a few blips of PVP that surprisingly enough we not only survived by dominated.  We of course has the numbers advantage, but last week that did not matter at all as I saw a dozen of us get taken down by 3 veteran players.  That seems to be the key difference, this week I was a veteran player, and could in theory “tank” the players we were up against.  We found a really awesome town full of repeatable quests that just happened to have a dolmen in the center of it.  We managed to get two Dark Anchor spawns while we were there, and towards the end of one of the battles we had another guy jump in and try and gank us while we were fighting the demons.  Thankfully once again the power of veteran rank won the day.

It is disturbing how much of a difference that makes.  Just being 50 out in Cyrodil seems to completely even the playing field.  At one point we ended up getting attacked by a Veteran Rank 8 player, and still we were able to dispatch him handily.   So the moral of the story is…  Cyrodil sucks if you are not at least 50.  I have an idea of maybe pairing up into dungeons next week during the same time slot, but if that doesn’t work we will just break out and do more cyrodil.  There is still a ton of area left to explore.  The map is huge, a point that was not fully driven home until the end of the above video when myself, Delevax, Horli and Scopique attempted to run back to the way shrine.  It was a really really long run.

Re-Return to Castle WolfensteinWolfNewOrder_x64 2014-05-20 20-15-44-19

First let me get this out of the way… I have a boyish untarnished love for all things Wolfenstein.  The original game is on my 15 gaming influences list, because it truly was the game that turned me away from console gaming in the first place.  All of that said… I found the last jaunt through the Wolfenstein universe extremely disappointing… even for an admitted fanboy.  In theory Wolfenstein: New Order is a continuation of the story arc started with Return to Castle Wolfenstein, continued in the self titled Wolfenstein and finished up in this game.  That story arc involves trying to stop the dastardly Wilhelm Strauss otherwise known as Deathshead.  Whereas the original game was all about tackling Hitler himself, the modern incarnations have shifted into something more malleable, and it works for the most part.

WolfNewOrder_x64 2014-05-20 19-21-29-71 I am fairly notoriously against game introductions, and prefer the game just to plunk me down unceremoniously at the beginning of a level.  That said I have to say the easing into the storyline here in Wolfenstein is one of the more enjoyable introductions I have played through.  They manage to pepper just enough action into what would other be a cinematic to make me feel like I am actually part of it.  The game starts with us trying to land on the island held by Deathshead, and having to content with both Anti-aircraft guns and the ubiquitous Nazi flying V attack fighters.  I am not sure of the specific hardware we are flying into the base but it is some sort of bomber with a forward mounted ball turret, that you actually end up manning at one point during the sequence.  When you finally land on the island you are sent ahead to try and break through the defenses and allow the rest of your team to move forward.

WolfNewOrder_x64 2014-05-20 19-50-31-03 All of this works really well, and I found the storming gun nests aspect of it exhilarating.  Moments later you are involved in what I feel is the single coolest sequence in a modern shooter.  You fire up these really cool grappling hook guns and then walk up the side of the castle as the winch slowly retracts the cable pulling you up with it.  As you go up you encounter all sorts of obstacles, not the least of which are German soldiers opening the windows and firing out at you.  I am not sure exactly what it is about this sequence, but I wish I could play it over and over.  Everything about it just feels really damned epic.  Once you get to the top, your job is to unlock the gate so that the rest of the party can come up from the bottom to meet you.

WolfNewOrder_x64 2014-05-20 20-01-57-56 I am not really sure how they pulled this off, but the game FEELS like a spiritual successor to the original Wolfenstein and even to Doom.  Sure there is the standard sneaking about trying to knife soldiers before they see you gameplay that all of the modern shooters seem to be riddled with.  However there is also a much more arcade “run and gun” feel to the game that works.  I don’t have to play it in a style where I duck behind cover every few seconds for fear of taking a bullet.  You can ping pong around taking out soldiers left and right in an insane ballet that only works in the movies.  I mean you can dual wield machine guns… and it feels amazing, so if it is hyper realism you are looking for… go somewhere else.  This feels like a return to the area when these games were actually fun to play, and not simply this seasons multiplayer fodder.

WolfNewOrder_x64 2014-05-20 19-56-49-48 Right now after seeing and playing this for awhile, I have so much hope for what this might mean going forward.  Return to Castle Wolfenstein, and the eventual Enemy Territory addon… represents the most fun I have ever had playing an online shooter.  I hope and pray that they give us a multiplayer DLC that is every bit as brilliant as RTCW and ET were.  This is a game I actually want to play online.  In the meantime I am going to devote more time to beating the single player campaign as at this point I literally have not talked about anything that is not included in the “introduction”.  Things get gloriously strange as you move forward and the entire world is a sort of nod to the book Fatherland, setting up a dark and stranger alternate history for the events of World War 2.  Thank you Machine Games, and ID for giving us the Wolfenstein we have wanted for so long.

#ESO #ElderScrollsOnline #Wolfenstein #RTCW

Farcry 3: BLood Dragon

Steampowered Sunday #6

fc3_blooddragon_d3d11 2014-02-23 10-10-19-77 A few weeks back I did Steampowered Sunday over Far Cry 3, and thanks to the frustrations of dealing with UPlay I didn’t really give it that stellar of a rating.  The forced stealth play just was not my thing, but one resounding chorus from folks responding to the post was…  play Blood Dragon instead.  From the moment I saw the artwork for the title… I knew I would love it, because I am an unrepentant child of the 80s.  Everything about the game artwork alone screams 1980’s arcade cabinet artwork.  Hand drawn polygon landscapes were a thing that became insanely popular in the post War Games sequence of games.  We all wanted to be part of cyberspace in one way or another… even though at the time this was a largely fictional destination.  Which leads to the question…  did William Gibson predict the future in Neuromancer… or did we just build his future because of our love for it.  That however is a topic for a completely different day.

All the Movies Rolled Into One

fc3_blooddragon_d3d11 2014-02-23 10-08-52-77 This game is in every way a love song for not only the video games of the 1980s but the movies as well.  You start off with a minigun raid on a base form a Helicopter, while Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally” plays on the stereo… a song that featured heavily in the pinnacle of 80s scifi action movies… Predator.  It just keeps getting better from there.  If you took Robocop, Universal Soldier, Ultraforce, and dumped them in a blender with Bad Dudes, Shinobi, and Duke Nukem…  you might come close to creating a game like this.  The visuals seem like a 1980s movie arcade scene vomited its magenta and red neon all over your screen.  I could pick apart the picture above and name a dozen different movie and video game references in this one shot alone.

The Music is So Authentic

fc3_blooddragon_d3d11 2014-02-23 10-35-53-80 The visuals would not be enough to deliver the feeling of travelling back in time… but the music is really where the game scores 110%.  Listening to the insane synths gave me flash backs of so many separate movies at once.  I mean you could take this game as making fun of all the absolutely over the topness that was the 1980s, but instead they chose to make it some sort of a time capsule.  For someone who lived through all of this, it is like a really crazy trip down memory lane.  I had moments where I remembered the first time I watched Terminator, the first time I caught Highlander on HBO, the first time I watched Big Trouble In Little China… and Escape from New York.  While none of it really is some kind of clone of the original tracks that obviously inspired it… it has the same feeling of sonic dissonance, driving drum machines and power chords.

Neon Archery Should Be A Thing

fc3_blooddragon_d3d11 2014-02-23 10-55-33-41 The weapons not only look great, but they are really functional.  There is a sequence not far from the start of the game where like every 80s movie… you are captured and stripped of all of your weapons.  Your fearless hero that has named Captain Rex Colt Power…  has to get by with nothing but a bow and the ability to use the environmental behemoths… the Blood Dragons to take down a base.  Sure the Blood Dragons do a lot of heavy lifting, but I feel like some sort of Neon Green Arrow as I headshot the guards with a bow.  Firstly…  I would wonder how the hell I could sneak around with glowing arms, and massively glowing weapons.  However since everything in this world seems to glow… I am guessing also glowing is a form of camouflage?   Whatever the reasoning behind it, things look badass.  I mean as a child of the 80s… making something glow neon and putting skulls and spikes on it… is the absolute guarantee for making something awesome.

The Stealth Did Not Piss Me Off

fc3_blooddragon_d3d11 2014-02-23 10-10-47-01 Normally I hate stealth in games, but there is something about this game that simply changing the skins and color palettes immediately makes the default Far Cry 3 engine feel so much better.  I think in part it is because I know that if I perform a take down, I get to see the awesome glowing blue wakizashi slice through the enemy and spill light blue glowing cyber fluid.  Additionally there is a completely broken and overpowered ability to chain a bunch of take downs together by pressing your movement keys in the direction of the next mob in sequence.  So far I have managed to take down 4 at once, but I imagine in later levels this becomes completely ludicrous.  I think mostly my problem with stealth in games is the whole idea of a “bloodless” victory.  I play these games to kill everything that stands, and when a storyline impedes me from doing this… my brain rebels.

The Cut Scenes are Amazing

fc3_blooddragon_d3d11 2014-02-23 11-00-25-95 Normally I also hate cut scenes of pretty much any kind.  However apparently if you take those cut scenes… make them infused with the spirit of the 80s… and hand drawn…  apparently I love them?  The combination of the arcade game style pixel artwork and cheesy action movie dialog makes the whole experience enjoyable for me.  That seems to really be an undercurrent of this game, “taking things Bel hates and making them enjoyable.”  One of the more humorous moments is when your stereotypical mouthy partner initiates a tutorial sequence moments after dropping you on the island as a way of screwing with you.  So you are forced there to sit through a sequence of tutorial commands… all the while you are yelling at your partner for making you do them.  This is an awesome and irreverent way of making you play through the basic commands so that you know how the game controls.

The Game Is Still Farcry 3

fc3_blooddragon_d3d11 2014-02-23 10-58-28-51 Everything about the game is still very much Farcry 3.  You move around the world capturing back positions… but instead of doing so from generic badguys that happen to all wear red bandanas… you are doing it from the Omega Force androids.  I guess at the end of the day it is all about the packaging.  If you have played Farcry 3, you know how the gameplay works.  Capture a base, which opens up side missions, which then leads to the next base to capture.  The key difference everything from Farcry has been taken to eleven.  One of my favorite things is capturing cyber hearts and then using it to lure the Blood Dragons to bases and make them do your work for you.  I mean what is cooler than than giant dinosaurs with glowing neon stripes… that have a plasma cannon breath attack?  While I gave Farcry 3, a colossal score of 3 Mehs out of Meh…  I have to give the Blood Dragon counterpart 5 Kick Asses out of Fucking Awesome.

fc3_blooddragon_d3d11 2014-02-23 10-47-07-97 While I have not really made it terribly far into the game at this point, I know this will be one that I return to and play again quite often.  It is the sort of game you need to be in the mood for mindless carnage to be able to enjoy.  At this point I have secured the first base, and started working on some of the side missions.  Every now and then I come home from work, and just need to kill something.  This is the ideal game to reach for, because the objectives pretty much are all “kill all the things”.  There is zero subtlety here, but I am not really that subtle of a person, so it works for me.  Since this is such a nostalgic ride for me, I find it odd how popular it has been among generations of folks who did not live this experience the first time.  Maybe the camp of the 80s is universal and will always appeal.  God save us all.

Far Cry 3

Steampowered Sunday #3

I guess at this point Steampowered Sunday is a real thing now.  I have friends nudging me in certain directions towards games I have in my steam list that I have yet to play.  Today I intended to play one game, but wound up playing another as I didn’t really plan ahead and pre-emptively install it.  So instead I decided to choose a game I did install over the Christmas break but never got around to playing.  One of my good friends snagged Far Cry 3 from my Steam wish list and gifted it to me during the insane Christmas sale.  I had always heard really amazing things about the game, so it sounded like something I would enjoy.

Already Installed DirectX Checkbox

farcry3_d3d11 2014-01-26 11-22-38-48 Be warned today’s post is going to be far more about the frustrations of trying to play a game… than actually playing one.  I had installed Far Cry 3 beforehand, but never actually fired it up.  So of course when I went to launch the game I had to suffer through the usual steam bullshit that involves installing every driver and redistributable known to man.  You would think that by now steam would have figured out a way to set a machine level flag that says “we’ve made this sucker install directx over 10 times, surely we can take it easy on him now”.  On top of the normal bullshit… I had to deal with something I had never seen before  called UPlay.

I guess this means that I have never actually played a Ubisoft game on the PC, since this seems to be required to play any of them.  For starters it took a truly silly amount of time to download and install, and then it prompted me for a login.  Since I didn’t think I had an account, I stubbed out the normal “Belghast” login, only to be told that it already existed.  At this point I scratch my head because maybe at some point in the past I did in fact set up UPlay.  I notice there is a handy reset password option, so I went through the steps to reset it to my email address.

At no point did it say “dumbass you don’t have an account”, it just said it would be sending an email to reset my password.  I waited a truly silly amount of time, refreshing the email window, and apparently locked my account out in the process.  However no emails actually arrived even after scanning the bowels of my gmail account, and sifting through half a dozen broken english versions of “your battle.net account is being banned” phishing attempts.  Turns out I am guessing I really do not have a UPlay account, either that or it was somehow set up on the PS3 and seemingly irrelevant to my PC.  So either this happened or there really are more Belghasts out in the world, as a result I had to set up my account on an old username that used for years.

Gameplaying Time?

farcry3_d3d11 2014-01-26 11-05-32-65 So finally I am able to log into the game and launch it.  I am greeted by the usual cinematic that I ignore and keep pressing the escape key trying to skip out of as soon as possible.  It appears that I am a rich d-bag, and have equally rich and d-bag friends that are amped about spending my trust fund on an island vacation.   Apparently also at some point we think it is a great idea to skydive onto a pirate held island… because you know the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disney never harmed us… so surely the real thing will just give us candy or something.  Color me surprised when we manage to get kidnapped and held for ransom so our equally rich and d-bag parents to pay.

At this point after spending the first hour of the morning trying to get into the game due to the frustration that is UPlay… I am wanting to slaughter everything in sight.  Just give me a gun, point me in the direction of a slaver and I will go Rambo on their asses and save the day.  Conveniently for me, every single bad guy in the game seems to be wearing the same red shirt and red hat… making it super handy for drawing crosshairs down on them.  I love it when bad guys shop at the same place, because I can’t be bothered to think before blowing them away.

But Wait… Stealth Time

farcry3_d3d11 2014-01-26 11-12-13-85 There are few things I hate more in the world, than having to sneak around and be stealthy in video games.  So when I finally get control of my character what do I get to do? Sneak around and avoid being seen as I play through a super on-rails cinematic.  This is one of the things that frustrates me the most about modern games… namely those that started their life originally as a console game.  They seem to relish the concept of making you play through a bunch of shit before actually letting you play the game.  If I have to follow a predetermined path, while doing a sequence of events that are unchangeable… it is a cinematic.  Letting me control my character as I go through the cinematic just makes it all the more unhinging.

For me the ideal intro to a game like this is the Elder Scrolls style…  you arrive as a prisoner, someone breaks out out and then bam you are on your merry way causing mayhem.  I guess the more I think about it…  Oblivion and Skyrim both had some pretty frustrating “follow the dumbass npc” sequences early on… but they felt brief enough and in both cases you got to diverge from the script heavily if you desired.  This on the other hand was sneaking about following a path set aside by your macho army brother… all the while you have nothing that you can really do other than throwing some rocks.  Man I am a badass at throwing rocks… let me tell you.

Can It Be Fun Time?

farcry3_d3d11 2014-01-26 11-15-15-67 So despite your best attempts at avoiding being seen… your dumbass brother runs right into the pistol of the big baddy that you met earlier in the cage.  So you get to play a fun game of trying to mash your space bar hard enough to keep your brother from bleeding out.  Guess what… he bleeds out regardless of how hard you play whack a mole with your keyboard.  In a strange turn of events… instead of just shooting you in the back like you would think the big ultimate bad guy would do….  he decides to release you out into the jungle.  So once again I am thinking to myself… man can I finally have control of my character?  Can I finally play this game and do shit at my own pace?  NOPE!!!

What you get to do now is have a weird sequence as you run through the jungle avoiding bears and helicopters flying over, flashing the tree line with spotlights and trying to shoot you.  During this odd sequence you are once again following a predetermined path, and you seem to be able to take damage but never actually die.  At one point it told me to bandage myself, which I did… but it really did not seem to have much to do with success or fail.  Eventually I followed the path, went out onto a rope bridge… I lost a fight with a helicopter and just like baby Moses got tossed into a river only to get found by a seemingly friendly stranger.

Thanks Three Dog

farcry3 2014-01-26 11-43-01-40 While he sounds absolutely nothing like him… this dude for some reason reminds me of Three Dog from Fallout 3.  So I completely missed his name, because in my head he will forever be Three Dog.  Basically he saved you because you have the heart of a warrior… which if funny because up until this point all your character has done is whine constantly about being in the jungle.  I seriously expected him to break out the Dante from Clerks “I’m not even supposed to be here today”.  Essentially he sets up the premise of the story.  The pirate slavers are taking over the island and these mystical tattoo warriors are fighting back.  Since you escaped the camp alive, you are going to be their great white hope to save the day.  You will learn powers that somehow show up on your tattoo because… magic reasons.

So at this point… I am finally starting to wonder if I get to play the game yet or not.  Three Dog gives you some cash and lets you go shopping for a weapon… which basically means you get to buy a pistol… because all you can afford is a pistol.  Now he sends you out into the jungle on a few missions… the first of them is to destroy a jammer on a near by radio tower.  All in all this goes pretty safely other than the fact there is a static spawn snake that just sits there are the base of the tower.  A bullet to the head and you are up the tower and mapping the world.  It seems that as you open up the towers you allow the vendors to get new and spiffier stuff.

Capture Objectives

farcry3 2014-01-26 12-08-27-41 Once the actual game started after wading through what felt like three hours of bullshit… it was pretty fun.  Essentially the game play is a lot like Just Cause 2, where you move around the map weakening the presence of the enemy forces in your area.  Unlike Just Cause however you actually capture the elements for your blue team.  Unlocking new stuff gives you new power-ups in the form of magical tattoo powers, and unlocks new weapons.  Additionally in each outpost you capture there is a mission board that gives you hunting and kill missions.  Hunting seems extremely important in the game as it allows you to upgrade your backpack… allowing you to carry more weapons and equipment.

The kill missions however seem extremely frustrating.  I took the first one, and like always I paid little attention to the mission introduction.  Look I am a big dumb monkey, give me a gun and point me in the direction of the enemies and I will destroy them.  I however rapidly failed the mission because guess what they wanted me to do…  that’s right sneak around and do some ninja stuff, using the nifty new takedown move that Three Dog just taught me.  I have a feeling that if this is the case… I will likely avoid these entirely because like I said before… stealth is not a thing that Belghasts do best.

Will It Blend?

farcry3 2014-01-26 12-10-21-89 All in all the game really is pretty fun, once they actually let you play it.  This game would have been so much better had they just created a simple reason for you to escape and let you pick up from the moment you get rescued by Three Dog without having to suffer through the horrible on-rails pseudo game play.  Hell I feel like it would have been better had your parachute just landed you in the middle of the native camp, and they simply told you that your family was captured.  Bam instant call to action, and instant adventure time.  If you can suffer through two hours of crap, then the game is pretty fun, or maybe you don’t dislike the modern on-rails psuedo-cinematic as much as I do.

In either case it is worth a play through, so long as you don’t end up paying much for the game.  This is definitely not going to be in the same league for me as Skyrim, Bioshock, Dishonored or even Just Cause 2.  However it is still pretty fun and I like the map control aspect of the gameplay.  I just wish there was more direct action early on that let me run amok and cause mayhem.  Granted you have to understand that I have not played Far Cry 2 either, I have only actually played the first one.  In that game you pretty much dropped straight into the action, and I was expecting the same from Far Cry 3.  I figured sooner or later I would give a review that I didn’t just absolutely gush over the game like I did about Hammerwatch and to a lesser extent Steamworld Dig.  I give Far Cry 3… 3 Mehs out of Meh.

Defense of Subscriptions

So it is neither morning nor Saturday when I sit down to write this.  I am about to cheat massively at my one post per day thing… primarily because tomorrow is going to be pure hell.  I have to get up and around early because I have a wedding to photograph for a friend.  I am completely terrified at this prospect but I figure I will make it through one way or another.  However with all the mess going on tomorrow I simply will not have time to do my leisurely two hour jaunt through blog post land that I normally do.  As a result I am writing up my post on Friday… and since I am impatient I am going ahead and publishing it today as well.

Defense of Subscriptions

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Over the last few days since the joint announcements that Wildstar and Elder Scrolls Online will be subscription based, I have seen a lot of negativity floating around the blogosphere.  You have one camp claiming this is the revival of subscriptions, and a diametrically opposed camp claiming this is a fluke and long live the free to play revolution.  Personally I can see a place for both in the game industry and I feel like we will see lots of both in the future.  Subscriptions are not going anywhere… because quite simply put high quality games have high dollar amounts associated with them.

Most of the games we now think of today as heralds of the free to play “revolutions” started their lifespan as a full functioning subscription based game with a $60 box cost and a $15 a month subscription fee.  This is the case for the Turbine games (Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons and Dragons Online), the Cryptic games (Star Trek Online, Champions Online), the Sony Online Entertainment games (Everquest, Everquest 2, Vanguard, etc) and the new darling of the free to play market… Rift.  Each and every one of them experienced a decently long period of selling boxes and racking up monthly service fees before ultimately converting over to some sort of a freemium model.

Purely Free to Play

I was brainstorming with my friends, and quite honestly we had a hard time listing off significant MMOs that have launched as free to play.  There is a whole string of poor quality Asian market games that are too long to ever mention.  The only game I can really think of that does not have a subscription fee or box cost associated with it is Neverwinter.  Dragon’s Prophet to some extent is in the same boat, but it is still technically in open beta… and was also an Asian market transplant with a good deal of the costs simply being regionalization.  Neverwinter is most definitely a sub par gaming experience, with a good deal of incident costs hidden into the system and at least for me… overall forgettable gameplay.

As far as buy the box we have Defiance and Guild Wars 2… both of which appear to either be struggling or at least having a good deal of growing pains.  Trion has recently set about a massive restructuring of the company that involved dissolving the offices that supported Defiance and pulling that staff into the main offices in Redwood.  Guild Wars 2 has also going through a series of changes trying to deliver content at a more frenetic pace to try and keep paying customers glued to the screens.  Additionally with each update comes a slew of items that can only be acquired by unlocking the in game loot boxes.

My main issue to date with the Defiance and GW2 experiences is that while they are rolling out regular episodic updates… they are essentially throw away experiences and are only available for a limited time.  Defiance is really too young to fully judge, but they are about to release their first real DLC pack.  It will be interesting to see just how much content that adds to the game.  Guild Wars 2 on the other hand, seems completely tied to the concept of an expiring series of “living story” events.  In neither case are they really expanding the game on a regular and permanent basis to add value to that initial box purchase.

Paying Initial Cost

Rich game worlds with hundreds of hours of content cost an extremely large amount of money to develop, produce, market and ultimately distribute.  While I was disappointed when Wildstar announced its model, because ultimately it meant the cost of entry was just too high for someone like me… that only casually had interest in the game in the first place… I fully understood the decision to have a subscription.  Box costs and subscription costs help pay off the excessive costs of game development.  It has been said multiple times that the average blockbuster game costs far more than the average blockbuster movie.  Additionally the development of the game is a much longer drawn out process that someone has to bankroll until it finally sees a profit.

Lets take Elder Scrolls Online for example and try and work through some hard numbers.  Please understand that I am creating a pure guesstimate based on what I was able to pull together from Google.  Zenimax Online studios is in the Baltimore Maryland area, so there are certain broad assumptions we can make based on average costs in that region.  According to Wikipedia they moved into their current offices in 2008, and based on the E3 PS4 presentation, Elder Scrolls Online is slotted for a first quarter of 2014 launch.  That means that Elder Scrolls Online will have in essence been in development for roughly six years at the time of launch.  Please understand I am trying to just pull together some rough figures, it might have entered development before that and potentially after that.

The Hard Costs

Over the course of those six years, if you figure an average of 100 employees made an average of $45,000 a year… you get $27,000,000 in salaries alone.  Some employees will make more, likely some employees will make less.. and over the course of those six years you would have had significantly fewer than 100 and likely now in pre-launch mode significantly more.  From google we can see that the average price of office space in the Baltimore Maryland area is around $17 a sqft.  For sake of coming up with a figure we are going to say their offices are likely around 30,000 sqft, so taking that over the course of the six years you have $3,060,000 in rent.  Factor in a leased digital internet line ($300/mo), water ($400/mo), electric ($1000/mo), and gas ($400/mo) you have a vague guesstimate of $151,200 in utilities over those six years.  Finally if you figure roughly $3000 in computer equipment for each employee, you are at roughly $300,000 not factoring in ANY servers at all.

So far in things I can quantify you are talking about a guesstimate of over 30 million dollars on only a very few factors.  There are so many factors that we just cannot come up with a number for.  For example it was said that Star Wars the Old Republic took roughly 200 million dollars to develop… and that a majority of that was voice acting time.  This is something I simply cannot come up with anything sort of an estimate on.  All the voice acting rates I found online were so widely varied that they were meaningless especially when you consider the names that folks are getting are the Steve Blum’s of the world that are sought after for damned near every gaming project on the planet.  I don’t really know how detailed the voice acting is for ESO, but every demo I have seen to date gives me the impression that the game is fully voiced… which would lead me to guess bare minimum 100 million on the hundreds of hours of voice talent.

I’ve heard before that it costs roughly 1/3 of the total cost to develop a game… the rest of the costs go into marketing and distribution.  So at this point we are already sitting at around 130 million not factoring any tool licensing costs, or server infrastructure and network costs.  If that represents only a third of the total costs of the project… no wonder games NEED to sell boxes and charge a subscription to break even… let along fund future development efforts.  Essentially a AAA game experience is really damned expensive.  If you figure a company receives at most half of the $60 box cost… it would take selling over 3.5 million boxes just to make up for 100 million of the cost.  The reason why that $15 a month is so important is they are getting the entire portion of it.

Someone Has to Pay

Ultimately if we want nice games… someone has to pay for it.  Either these huge gambles can be paid off in box costs and monthly subscriptions… or they can be financed on the backs of a handful of “whale” players.  But ultimately there is no such thing as a free ride.  Game development and game infrastructure have large fixed costs that simply cannot be justified away by a players desire to not spend a dime.  We have nice free to play experiences in essence because players that came before you… paid for the cost of going there first.  They helped to pay off the loans that these companies I am sure have to take out to bankroll this kind of protracted effort.

AAA game studios simply cannot afford to build games out of the goodness of their hearts.  They have to pay ultimately hundreds of people just like you and me to build and support the games.  These are not nameless faceless corporations… they are businesses just like the one you likely work for… with a human resources department, and social security tax deductions and payrolls to make.  This is a real job for someone, and we can’t expect them to get some beer and pizza and knock out a game in their free time.  Overall the game industry pays some pretty shitty wages as compared to the IT industry as a whole.  I know for a fact that I make well more than any of my friends that currently work in the industry… and have pretty much since my first job out of college.

It is almost expected that part of the benefits package for these folks is the fact that they “get” to make games for a living.  Thing is though… they had to gain their skills the same way all of us did, with lots of hard work and sweat equity and now they work in an industry with next to no job security… because it all hinges upon the whims of whether or not gamers like us ultimately purchase their product.  So ultimately… all of these things factored in… I have ZERO problem with the concept of buying a box and paying a monthly fee when it is something I am committed to.  My friends in the industry need to eat, and pay rent, and survive on a day to day basis just like I do.

Free to Play

The free to play model seems to work extremely well at financing the daily upkeep and expansion of an existing game.  I think it has been the savior of a lot of games that have filtered their way out of the popular consciousness and were no longer drawing in active subscribers.  It is awesome being able to fire up an account you haven’t played in years, and revisit old characters.  While you are there more than likely you will spend at least a little money on the game.  Essentially it is the model of “some money is better than no money”.  The thing is, like I said above each and every one of these games that we vaunt so highly as free to play successes all had their time of box sales, expansion sales, and monthly subscription fees to pay back the excessively expensive development costs.

Do I get frustrated when a game that I have purchased the box for… and paid multiple months worth of subscription fees goes to free to play?  Hell no… because while I might bitch and moan on a regular basis about various aspects of gaming… I LOVE the games I play.  Whatever helps a game I have cared about succeed is ultimately going to be good for me personally in the long run.  The games that reward me in some way for being there in the early days and helping pay off the huge debt a company brings with them after a game release…  I love those even more.  But I go into their free to play conversion knowing that ultimately they will be better off in the long run with incremental sales.

Additionally players who start at the beginning of an MMO will always have a tangible lead on players that start later, especially if the game converts to free to play.  You have a head start in the economy before it stratifies, likewise you understand the lay of the land and where to acquire the best stuff.  When Rift went free to play my account had so much stuff unlocked thanks to longevity of play that a starting player would not have had.  For the explorers you get the feeling of actually discovering things before they are common place and on every website.  So while you might have had to pay for the box and subscriptions, you are getting something for your trouble that no one will be able to take away from you.

The games that did not have a box fee and a subscription however have to claw their money out of you somehow.  So while I get annoyed at loot boxes and item purchases and artificial gates to my gameplay… they are just trying to survive however they can, because ultimately at launch they were millions and millions of dollars in the hole at day one.  I feel like launching as free to play is going to forever doom a game to jumping through coin slotted hoops as you play the game.  Rift right now is the best player experience but I feel like it is only that way because they had two years and an expansion of relative success to pay off and fund a fully functional staff during all that time.

Wrapping Up

So if in a few years time… The Elder Scrolls online… that I have used as an example all the way through this post… decides it is beneficial to it to go free to play.  I will greet the change with open arms, knowing that ultimately this is going to be the thing that keeps a game I hopefully will love healthy and open to the public.  Going to go ahead and wrap this up, and likely get it posted.  I hope you guys have a great weekend and that I can survive tomorrow.  Sorry for breaking my own rules and cheating a bit by double posting on a Friday… but expect that I will have a normal post on Sunday.

Crashing Castles

Good morning you happy people… and this time I actually mean it.  I am not sure what it was… the fact that I was completely exhausted by the end of the day, the hour or so I spent playing with friends… or the 15 minute walk I took before bedtime…  but something helped.  I went to bed around 9 pm and slept the entire night through without any panic attacks.  Probably some of the best sleep I have gotten in awhile.  So thank you all for the varied suggestions yesterday on the subject.

Crashing Castles

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One of the best side effects of the steam sale, is it is a great opportunity to get your friends hooked on amazing games when they get priced on the cheap.  I’ve been a huge fan of Castle Crashers for years, and used to play it with some friends on the Xbox 360.  When it was released on steam… I picked it up immediately because seriously…  it is worth buying on every platform you own.  Right now it is going for the absolutely bargain basement price of $4 as part of the daily sale… and should be up there for at least another 24 hours.

As a result I got recruited last night when Ashgar picked up multiple copies of the game and gifted it to anyone who didn’t already have one.  I have to say this was exactly the type of fun I had been needing.  For me, Ash and Tam it was much like coming back home to our side scrolling fighting game roots… and we all adapted pretty quickly.  Rae on the other hand, we could tell never really played that type of game… this compounded with the fact that she was playing with the keyboard…  made the evening frustrating for her.

On that note… I highly suggest you pick this title up especially if you hail from the era of Final Fight and Double Dragon.  But if you do so… I also highly suggest you have a gamepad to play it on.  This was designed to play with an Xbox 360 controller… and I feel it plays best when I use that.  It is completely playable on anything else however… but just remember all the tips and suggestions given in game… will be geared towards that specific controller.  It won’t say press heavy attack… it will say press Y.. so if you are using something else there had to be a bit of translation in your head.

Just as a note to anyone on my steam friends list.  I will almost never turn down an opportunity to play some castle crashers.  There is something about this game that is so pure and fun that it just takes me back to the days of feeding quarters to gauntlet or teenage mutant ninja turtles and playing with three other friends.  I really hope they create a sequel someday that is just as fun.  The only game that I might like more than this as far as side scrolling beatemups… is Guardian Heroes…  if it ever made its way to steam I would be immensely happy.  Speaking of which… I need to get some people together to play the D&D Shadows of Mystaria steam port.

Granite Falls

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Right now on my little warrior I am slowly making my way through the granite falls area.  Stonefield has always been one of my favorite areas in the zone, in part because it was the area shown in the original cinematic trailer for the game.  Additionally the town of Granite Falls is one of the prettiest in the game, and the falls themselves have always looked extremely epic.  Sooner or later I will end up having to buy the Granite Falls dimension so I can have my very own copy.

I am up to my favorite quest chain as well, involving the crypt near town.  Essentially giving me ANY quest chain involving undead and I will be happy.  I started working on this over lunch, and got about halfway through the sequence of quests before I got drafted for castle crashers last night.  My hope is that today I will push through the rest of Stonefield and move on to the Scarlet Gorge area.  I feel like this is an area that just does not get enough credit in the game.  I will have to play up another character when they have gone through with the redesign of the zone that is supposedly in the works.

Defying Reason

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Also over lunch yesterday I decided on a whim to boot up Defiance for a little bit.  I have an odd relationship with this game.  I like it mostly… but I just can’t seem to take playing it for very long.  I am happy to log in, kill a few rounds of mutants, maybe complete a quest… ride around in my dune buggy for a bit… and then log.  I figure it would be much more enjoyable if I was playing regularly with a large group of people, but solo I seem to have a very short attention span.

I guess overall I just don’t like shooters as much as I once did… and the whole behind the back shooter thing works well but feels just awkward enough to give me a low tolerance for it.  I really like the television show and the world, but so far I see little resemblance between the two other than having my very own “cat woman” telling me what to do.  I just wish that the story had been set in the St. Louis area that we are vaguely familiar with in the television show… instead of out in California.  Additionally since I am NOT from the California area and have never been… there just isn’t the same payoff as there is for other people.  I didn’t realize that Mount Tam was an actual place…  but I would have been able to pick up landmarks in Missouri.

Ultimately it is a good game… and it is pretty enjoyable…  but I have the same patience with it that I have for Borderlands 2.  I seem to be happiest when I play in spurts, unlike my friends that can literally play Borderlands 2 for hours and hours on end.  Defiance definitely scratches a similar itch for me…  and I finally found a weapon that I like.  Essentially it is a heavy energy machine gun thing… reminds me of shooting a BAR in the WW2 area shooters.  I can take down the baddies pretty successfully with it…  but I cringe at the thought of eventually out leveling it.  I have yet to find another weapon that I enjoy anywhere near as much as it.

I think this will continue to be one of those titles that I boot up every now and then… but never really dig too far below the surface.  Additionally the game feels very “un-social”, and very much single player.  I rarely if ever end up encountering other players when I play, and if I do they are usually buzzing around on their way to the next objective.  I am sure this changes as you get higher in the content, but I am still in the starter area essentially.  I could push through I am sure and get to the next area… but I figure why force myself when I seem to be enjoying little spurts of play here and there.

Wrapping Up

Well it is that time again… I need to wrap this up so I can get on with my morning and get into work.  Today is trash day, so I need to make sure that is out by the curb.  Additionally I really need to run some stuff by the cleaners.  If I don’t get a start on these things I will end up extremely late for work.  Right now I am essentially the boss, as mine is off on vacation… but it sets a bad example if I start slacking myself in the process.  I hope you all have a great day… and here is hoping that today will be relatively panic free.

Ten MMO Must Haves

This morning I got up roughly 15 minutes before the alarm went off… and decided to that rather than be groggy later… I would go ahead and get up and around.  Right now I am kind of questioning that decision, since the bed seems like a really amazing idea.  I had a really spastic yesterday as I never could really decide on a game to play.  Since Final Fantasy beta was closed by the time I got up and around I ended up cycling through Everquest, Rift, Vanguard, and Defiance never quite sticking in any of them.  As a result I don’t have much excitement to talk about… and I am nowhere near finished with my second part of How To Rift… so I am going off in a completely different direction.

Ten MMO Must Haves

Basically over the years I have noticed several features that I expect most MMOs to have, and when they are not there it greatly harms my enjoyment for the long run.  I keep cycling back to the ones that do have most of the list.  Granted this is in no way a complete list, as I am sure there are things I have omitted for the sake of a clean number, but these are definitely all things I would prefer to see in an upcoming title.  These are not necessarily in order of importance… but more the order in which I thought of them.

1 – Random Events

Nothing breaks up the monotony of questing and killing mobs like a random army invading the countryside.  I have always liked when random things happen in games, I even like random loot so long as it is not something I need to progress forwards.  In the post Rift MMO world, I feel like random things happening in your world is an absolute must have.  When it is missing, the game feels extremely stale to me.  When it is done well, you forget what you are doing and follow along the flow of what is happening in a specific zone.  This should be events chosen from a long list of potential ones… not the same event happening over and over like in Guild Wars 2.  Their implementation did not serve to make the world feel alive, but instead made it feel even more like a carnival ride resetting itself every so often.

2 – Passive Grouping

I should be able to help other players out, and they help me without having to worry about whether or not I tagged the mob first.  Grouping should be something you do to hang out with people, not something you feel obligated to do constantly just to get through game content.  I feel as though simply touching a mob should give me credit for whatever that mob is required for.  Rift and Guild Wars definitely do this extremely well… but when I go back to a game that does not have it… I become a kill stealing asshole.  I just forget that mob tagging is an actual thing that is still in games.  If you do not have passive mob tagging… you are bad and should feel bad.

3 – Puzzles and Collectibles

I have the tendencies in me to power level myself to the cap and then get bored feeling there is nothing left to do.  If your game has little puzzles and collectible bits it helps to make me stop and smell the roses.  I feel for other players this becomes a meta game all in itself.  These systems all seem relatively simple to implement, but it seems like there is a greater return on investment as far as gluing a player to your game.  Rift and GW2 both have amazing examples of puzzles, and EQ2 has probably the most extensive collection system I have seen in a game.  I greatly prefer there to be something for me to always be on the lookout for, that offers interesting gameplay and forces me to stop quest grinding.

4 – Moveable UI Elements

This one is huge to me.  Essentially I will if given the option set my UI to look the same from game to game.  I like certain windows in certain locations because it helps me not have to think about where things are.  When you play lots of different MMOs this becomes something extremely important.  Additionally I find myself setting up all my hotbars the same… 0 is the interrupt key, 7 is my combo point dump, 5 is charge/deathgrip, etc.  As a result I really hate your game when you force me to play with your idea of how the UI should look.  No matter how much research you have put into your UI, it is not ideal for everyone… and as a result you should never force players into your chosen UI design box.  Make the windows unlock able and moveable  either through the default UI like Rift or through Addons like WoW.

5 – Map with User Defined Waypoints

This is another big one for me.  Navigating your world should be easy for the players.  I should be able to open my map, click a point that I want to travel to and then get some kind of directions as to how to get there.  This can be as simple as an Icon on the edge of the mini-map showing you the direction of your destination, or as complex as some sort of golden path or arrow pointing the way.  Additionally it would be really amazing if your system allowed player defined permanent waypoints.  That way we could actively mark whenever we found something cool in your world.  TSW does an amazing job of this.. and I have tons of little markers scattered through all my maps pointing to nifty things I found.  This is definitely something all games should emulate.

6 – Sortable/Searchable Bank and Inventory

First off let me say.. that the concept of physical bags with limited storage is something no one should ever do again.  I greatly prefer one big inventory space because usually with that comes the ability to sort, filter, and search the contents of your inventory.  Rift does an interesting hybrid model, in that they still have physical bags, but they have a sort and search functionality that makes up for the fact of having to juggle multiple containers rather than just one.  Trying to find things in your bags should not be considered a meta game… and you should help players out so they have to spend as little time doing this as possible.  There have been times I have logged into EQ2… looked at the state of my bags and logged out immediately because I did not want to spend the next 30 minutes clearing them out.  That game is the worst case scenario… but I have had similar happen in many other games as well.  Make your inventory system help the player rather than hinder them.

7 – Sell All Junk Button

If your game drops junk items from mobs aka “Greys” and you do not have a sell all junk button… you are a horrible person and should be drug out into the street and shot.  Nothing is more frustrating than going through your inventory and having to manually sell a bunch of trash items that have no real purpose for existing other than to give you some cash.  Better yet, don’t even drop the trash items and give us additional gold instead.  I think the running theme of the last two should be that Inventory Maintenance is not a fun meta game.  No one enjoys it, and all it does is make the player feel like they have just completely wasted their time.  I am completely fine with getting additional cash in lieu of junk, but if you do have junk… for the love of god make a sell all crap button.

8 – AOE Looting

Thank you Rift for creating this construct… and thank you modern MMO developers for having the common sense to say “damn, why didn’t we have this” and adding it to your games.  Nothing is more annoying than trying to select that one corpse from a pile of corpses that still has loot on it.  My OCD will not let me go without searching all the bodies… it is like I knew that if I missed one… that would be the one that dropped some rare epic item.  Again this is a cousin of the whole inventory maintenance is not a fun meta game…  neither is looting.  Better yet… all corpse interactions should be AOE as well… where the hell is my AOE skinning.  The first company to give me AOE skinning, herbing, and mining of corpses… will be a god in my eyes.

9 – Full Character Appearance System

Now when I say this… I am not talking about Transmogrification.  I could go on an hour long rant about how horrible that system is and how it is a half assed version of the good appearance systems.  What I am talking about is additional sets of character doll slots that allow you to directly override the appearance of an item with another item.  Rift has probably the best implementation overall right now, since you can have something like 12 wardrobe slots with ready to switch to outfits on the fly.  The only gotcha there is due to their own constraints they had to implement a shitty “transmog” like system for doing the weapons.  Players should never have to run back to a vendor to change their appearance…  stop making them do busy work.  I would love to see developers emulate the way the system works in EQ2, because you can literally change your appearance to anything in the game… no class restrictions.

10 – Facial Hair

I had a few other items I considered putting on the list… but honestly to me personally this one has to be here.  If your game does not have the ability for me to give my character a nice beard, especially a moustache and goatee combo…  I will hate your character creator and likely not play your game.  I have no clue why this is so important to me… but it is.  Namely I have seen the lack of facial hair in the Asian MMOs… but I struggled to find a look I could stomach in Guild Wars 2 as well.  Additionally I cannot stand the “pretty boy” appearance that some games have…  but I won’t go into that right now.  Please for the love of god when you design your character creator… make Facial Hair a slider…  not something that is attached to another attribute like hairstyle.

Wrapping Up

So there you have it… my ten must haves for a modern MMO.  Like I said, I am sure that it is not a complete list at all… and as soon as I post this… I will think of another 10 things that should have been on the list.  These however are the things that immediately came to mind when being frustrated with MMOs that do not have them.  I would be curious to hear about what your list is, and whether or not I have hit your key frustration points.  I hope you all have a great day, and I hope I manage to stay fully conscious all day long since I got up so early.