Maintenance Gaming

A Conundrum

Wow-64 2015-01-08 06-06-47-06 A few days ago I posted a tweet saying that at this point I am far less bored with World of Warcraft than I have been during other expansions.  There are a myriad of reasons behind this, not the least of which is that I actually like the leveling arc in Draenor.  I am working my way through level 100 number three and I am not really bored with the content yet.  Granted I don’t really seem to have the burning desire to get through it like I have in the past, I am more comfortable to take a “will get there when I get there” approach to my leveling.  I feel like maybe this is a more sustainable thing than my normal “burn three characters to max and quit” mentality that I seem to have.  Hopefully by the end of the weekend my hunter will be 100, and I will likely start pushing more seriously my Enhancement Shaman.

I think there are a few reasons why this is happening.  Firstly I really do like the Garrison now that it is finished, especially on my warrior.  It gives me a place of peace and sanity before I venture out into the chaos of the world.  I can bank, transmog, and hopefully at some point auction without having to worry with mailbox dancers or folks standing on vendors with their corehound mount.  It was when I ventured out of my of my garrison on Christmas to go pick up my presents that I realized I really didn’t miss the people from my “daily” chores.  Someone had taken it upon themselves to coat all of the packages with a layer of savage feasts making it a pain in the ass to click the actual presents… and my immediate thought was “and this is why I don’t leave my garrison”.  That is maybe the problem however… that no one actually leaves their garrison.

Maintenance Gaming

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Initially I was surprised when the response to my original statement about not being bored with World of Warcraft was that so many of my friends absolutely were bored.  The common thread went something like this “Right now I am only logging in to run Garrisons, so I am probably going to cancel”.  I’ve reached this point many times myself when a game has a gimmick that wants you to log in every so often to trigger. With the launch of Nightmare Tides, Rift introduced the Minions system where you could send these mini-pets out on missions to go fetch things.  There was a period of time I was logging in twice a day… when I got up in the morning and when I got home at night to swap out my minion missions.  It wasn’t long before I realized that I was only logging in to flip these switching and faded away from that game again.

The exact same thing happened for me with the Dragon Coins mobile game, and to some extent Landmark in that I was only logging in to pay my upkeep on my claim.  When you realize you are only fiddling with something out of a sense of obligation, it is almost always time to leave.  I think the problem with what I am terming “Maintenance Gaming” is that it  can very much slow down the burnout of a player by giving them things to fiddle with to distract them from burning through the objectives.  The problem is it can also serve to reanimate an already dead corpse allowing players to keep logging in ONLY to do the maintenance activity and never actually playing the game.  So the folks that are logging in “ONLY” to play the garrison, are essentially the walking dead and will eventually quit.

The Glue in Gaming

ffxiv 2015-01-05 22-00-18-02 I feel like the glue that keeps gamers attached to a game is progression in one form or another.  Right now I am actively raiding in Final Fantasy XIV and World of Warcraft and progressing in both of them.  I care deeply about both games because that is my anchor… the fact that I am raiding.  When all the other minutiae bores me… there is a functional core there of the raid that draws me back in.  For others it is the people you play with, but that can only go so far… because eventually you will have done everything you want to do with said people.  PVP can act as an anchor for some folks, but then again you have to be building towards some long term goal to make the PVP seem like anything other than mindless grinding.  While “maintenance gaming” is definitely now a trend… it isn’t enough of a thing to actually keep someone glued to a game it seems.

Minions in Rift were fun for a few weeks, and so was building aimlessly in Landmark… but when I realized I was only logging in to mine exactly enough copper to pay my upkeep…  I was more than willing to let my claim get repossessed.  I have a feeling that before long we are going to start folks reaching that point with ArcheAge where they are willing to let their claim disappear because they are tired of logging in only to pay the upkeep.  The “glue” is a deeply personal thing, and is going to be slightly different for each player…  but ultimately you have to find whatever it is that connects you to the game and makes you care about it.  I think for me at least this is what has been missing… a sense of building towards something more important than what I happen to be doing this day.  The longest stretches I have spent playing any game… are the ones where I have been raiding.  So I feel like I need to raid to keep caring about the game world, and I need that game world to be interesting…  to keep caring about raiding.

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

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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

Wrestling with DRM

Laptop Weekend

Here in Oklahoma it is a rainy nasty weekend.  I pretty much rained all day yesterday, and this morning when I went out to get breakfast I ended up completely soaked.  As such I have declared this weekend a “hang out on my laptop while curled up in blankets” weekend, and so far it has been pretty glorious.  Unfortunately a good chunk of it has been updating my laptop, since it has probably been six month since I have regularly played down here.  All in all it is not going terribly badly as I have had both my Vita and phone to play on while the laptop downloads patches and such.  I have to say I have so much frustration over allowing myself to get sucked into a mobile game.

Dragon-Coins-27 Years ago my wife and I used to play a game at the state fair that involved throwing tokens in the path of a sliding shelf that pushes coins off of the edge.  I had always enjoyed this game, and that first year at the state fair we spent way too much money getting the swing of it.  We played for hours and after about $50 spent all we had to show for it was a bullet keychain.  In successive years I got better and started learning the little tricks, like you can trade in the crappy little gifts for more tokens to collect these poker chips in order to buy bigger prizes.  That second year we walked away with a nice sized stuffed animal, and I think the third year we walked away with like five as we had figured out how to game the system.

Unfortunately Dragon Coins by Sega is exactly this game, but made even more addictive.  You take the already addictive coin pusher mechanic and attach it to a pokemon like monster collection and evolution minigame… and you have a recipe for constant mobile addiction.  Right now I am cursing Liores and Aro for talking about this game on the Cat Context podcast several times because finally I got curious enough to try it.  Now I am afraid I am hooked.  Thankfully as far as games go this one doesn’t feel too egregious yet.  There is a ton of “free” content to play and so far I have not encountered any roadblocks that absolutely required me to purchase anything.  It at least gives me something to play when I am out shopping with my wife.

Wrestling with DRM

daorigins 2014-10-11 10-25-41-983 One of the things that I spent last night installing and updating was Dragon Age: Origins.  Since I intend to be spending a bit more time downstairs I figured playing DA:O while catching up on television was a good activity.  I did not even have Origin installed on my laptop, so I went through the motions of doing that last night and then set to downloading Dragon Age Ultimate Edition.  For whatever reason the DRM on that game and I have struggled throughout the years.  It worked miraculously well upstairs when I reinstalled it a few weeks back so I thought maybe, just maybe Origin had worked out the kinks.  When I went to set it up on the laptop apparently there are still issues because while it downloaded the base Dragon Age… it did not seem to download any of the addons.

To make matters worse windows 8 does not appear to like the Dragon Age Updater program and it just simply is not running on my laptop at all.  So all of the directions from the Origin support site for restoring access to your addons does not appear to work at all.  What I finally ended up doing was manually copying all of the addons from my desktop upstairs to the laptop over the network.  Now when I boot up the game it appears to see everything just fine.  But I could see someone with less patience giving up long before we reached that point.  Dragon Age seemed to be a problem child, because I never went through any of the issues while playing any of the Mass Effect games.  So here is hoping the DRM scheme for Dragon Age: Inquisition is equally unobtrusive.

Of note for those who have not played Dragon Age: Origins before and would like to in preparation for the launch of Dragon Age: Inquisition… it is now apparently available for free from origin.  This game is well worth your time spent, and going back and playing it has made me remember just how much I loved the original game as compared to Dragon Age II.  Honestly I am not in the “I Hate 2” camp, but the first game is simply better in every possible way.  I figure just playing through the first one is more than enough to introduce you to the setting and its characters and conflicts.  More than anything that was what I was trying to do while replaying the game, is to remember all of the intricate struggles.

The Grim Dark Future has Tradeskills

Destiny_20141009231722 One of the problems I am having with Destiny is the fact that you reach this point in the end game where your entire life becomes about grinding otherwise meaningless things.  There are folks who will farm level 2 mobs over and over for five hours in the rare chance of getting drops, or return to previous content areas feverishly hunting for spinmetal or any number of other crafting materials.  Unfortunately these are not extreme players, but representative of the expected gameplay that games at the end of your twenty level story arc.  The end game of Destiny involves the collection of otherwise unimportant bits that you then use to upgrade your armor slots, in hope of getting enough “light” out of it to push yourself up yet another level.   Right now my life is about getting Spirit Bloom, Relic Iron and Plasteel… so it has me wandering aimelessly through the hunting zones in search of ground spawn nodes and chests.

My tolerance for mindless grinding is considerably higher than that of my friends, so while I am still able to find fun in this process… most of them have long since tapered off their play time.  I have managed to push myself up to level 25 after doing a ton of upgrading.  The problem is even I am not sure how much further I care to take the game when the end result is  so damned repetitive.  I suppose I could start trying to do the crucible, but I didn’t really get into this game for its player versus player gameplay.  I realize I likely expected something out of Destiny that it will never really deliver, but up until the point I hit 20 I have to say I enjoyed all of the content from that point on.  I even enjoy running the patrol missions because they give me little bursts of purpose… I just wish the patrol missions had a chance of rewarding you the crafting materials you need to progress.  That ultimately would be a massive improvement that would breathe new life into the game for me.  As of now Destiny is that game I play while waiting on something else, either waiting on my wife to get home, or waiting on something to spawn in Final Fantasy XIV.

#Destiny #DragonAge #DragonCoins