Back But Don’t Play

Supporting Kickstarter

wasteland2 This morning I am going to tackle the second talkback topic for the Newbie Blogger Initiative because it is actually one that has been on the hearts and minds of the AggroChat folks for the last few weeks.  For the April AggroChat Game Club game I chose Darkest Dungeon, and since then the topic of playing “unfinished” games has been somewhat of a recent discussion among us in private.  The fact that the game was unfinished caused numerous problems, not the least of which was the simple fact that we were never quite sure if this or that functionality was intended… or just unfinished.  So I feel like I was not able to give it a really solid testing, because I don’t know what might change between now and when the studio deems the game “finished”.  The prompt however for this talkback is pretty straight forward but my answer is going to be a bit more nuanced.

Early Access and Kickstarter – Do you support unfinished games?

So for the first part… yes I wholeheartedly support the backing of unfinished games.  I’ve backed more than I can count at this point through either Kickstarter or company specific initiatives.  I think Kickstarter is a pretty awesome thing, and it has caused a lot of things that I care about to see the light of day.  I’ve backed both software and physical merchandise projects through it, and have been relatively happy with pretty much every project I have ended up chipping in on.  Kickstarter does a lot of things, but the biggest one to me is that it allows me to vote with my dollar on what I think is going to be an idea worth making.  I rarely back very far into a given product tree, and the end result is me usually getting a cut price copy of the game at launch.  While many of these games offer a double platinum early access alpha program…  that is not so much what I am interested at least not any more.

Tired of Alphas

Once upon a time I wanted to be playing every single game I could get my hands on.  I reveled in the fact that I had alpha and beta tested most of the MMOs out there.  For a period of time this was something that was achievable because at any given moment there were a very limited number of Alpha and Beta test programs available.  Somewhere along the line I noticed that playing an Alpha seriously adversely effected my chances of staying with a game for very long after release.  In essence I would burn myself out playing the Alpha, so that when launch happened the game felt very old and tired to me.  The pinnacle of this problem happened for me with Elder Scrolls Online.  I seriously cared about the release of this game, and I took my Alpha testing duties seriously.  I was told at one point that I was in the top 1% of all bug reporters in the game, and every single time we played I spent most of my time reporting and re-reporting issues I saw.

The problem here is that I had been alpha and beta testing builds of this game for a good year before the game actually launched.  So while I only managed to play about three months after the launch of the title, in truth that was around 17 months of me actually playing the game.  Huge chunks of the content I had literally seen hundreds of times, and remembered each of the different incarnations.  The additional problem is I had trouble letting go of the past.  There were some changes made in that game that I considered “for the worse” and myself and many of the other early testers rather vehemently pined for the imagined “good ole days” of early alpha.  Memory is always an incomplete state, and what we remembered was this or that feature that stood out in an ocean of an otherwise broken game.  The final product was so much better than the one we were requesting they return to, but we got hung up on the minutiae of this or that feature that we missed.  Basically I learned that Alpha testing ultimately ruined my enjoyment of the final product… and it only took me twenty some years to wake up to this fact.

Back But Don’t Play

Ultimately I have a very nuanced stance on Kickstarter.  I am more than happy to donate money towards a cause that I believe in like the creation of a brand new Wasteland experience on the PC, or any of the other games I have backed that let me wallow in the nostalgia of my youth.  Generally speaking I now back just far enough into it to give myself a cut rate copy of the game at launch.  Then when I get said copy and any bonus trappings… it seats neatly in my Steam account until I am ready to play it.  I might boot it up periodically to check on its progress, but ultimately I am not going to start the game for real until I see that note from the developer talking about how the game has launched.  The problem is this also means I am phenomenally bad at tracking the progress of games on Kickstarter.  I almost always have a message that needs to be responded to about this or that game but this is what works for me.  It lets me feel like I am backing things that I believe in, but also gives me the piece of mind of not actually starting a game play session until the game is “finished”.

As far as other games that are in a permanent state of development like Minecraft…  once again my feelings are a bit more nuanced.  Paying to play an alpha does not really bother me, if the experience and the enjoyment itself is worth paying to play said alpha.  I got into Minecraft for example during its pre-beta days when you could pick up a copy for well under $10.  I have gotten easily $1000 worth of enjoyment out of that game.  Similarly while I don’t play them nearly as often I have gotten more than enough happiness out of both Trove and Landmark to recuperate any costs I might have put into them.  Ultimately backing an unfinished game, and playing said unfinished game is not an entirely bad idea… so long as you go into it with the thought process that you are playing something that isn’t quite done yet.  Early Access games are in essence paid betas, and if you can live with that… awesome…  if not wait for the release of the game.  I personally have found that the games I played heavily in Alpha and Beta get more enjoyable over time, and going back a year after launch I end up really enjoying myself.  So that is to say that the games I ruined through Alpha testing…  are not in a permanent state of ruined as evidenced by my recent travels into Guild Wars 2, Wildstar, and Star Wars the Old Republic.  Ultimately you have to figure out what works for you, and the amount or risk you are willing to take.  If I feel like I am going to care about a game, I try my best not to burn out before launch.

Grand Experiment – Year Two

AggroChat 54 – Darkest Dungeon Show

This evening we held the third episode of the AggroChat Game Club where we talk about my pick the early access rogue-like Darkest Dungeon.  I personally chose this game because so many of my friends had been talking about it, and purposefully delayed playing it in the thoughts of this eventually becoming an AggroChat title.  The result is that each of us played the game slightly different, and walked away with a very different perspective and feeling about the game.  Some of us loved it, but even among those that loved it…  we brought with it a completely different outlook and as such a different reaction.  Of course some of us absolutely hated the game, enough to actually Alt-F4 out of the window.

The end result however is what I feel like our most successful game club title to date, because it certainly spurred on some conversation.  Next months title is announced towards the end of the broadcast and I am sure it will be an equally interesting discussion.  As for my own feelings…  I really enjoyed the game, but it seems like I might be the most heartless bastard on the planet when it comes to how I treated my dungeoneers.  Some of my co-hosts developed bonds to their spelunkers and for me… they were just fodder to be thrown at the problem like minions in a Dungeon Keeper game.  Of all the games we have played for the game club so far this is the one that I am most likely to visit and keep playing, but I might be waiting until it exits early access.  There are certain things in the game that I don’t know if they are broken or simply that they have not been finished yet.

Grand Experiment – Year Two

I've Felt Strong Enough to Even Show you Me This Year Two years ago today I set about to change the nature of my blog and embarked upon what I termed the “Grand Experiment” which was more than anything blogging every single day no matter if I had a thought in my mind worth writing down on paper.  Now 730 posts later I continue to question what I was thinking when I started down this road.  The end result has been an interesting ride to say the least.  What has happened more than anything during these last two years is that I have gotten closer with the community of my fellow bloggers.  This has been more important than anything else to me, and it is through all of the various events like the upcoming Newbie Blogger Initiative 2015 that it is happened.  So while I question if I did anything that really mattered over these last  two years, I am thankful for every single reader and peer  that I now have.  There are lots of bloggers that write daily, and they have not made a big deal about it… but for me this was huge.  If you scan back through my blog there are several six month long lapses in content… and very rarely did I actually make it through a month without having a week with zero posts.

It has been so much more than just writing a blog for me personally.  I have allowed myself to open up more about myself and my life than I ever had to date online.  I’ve talked about my personal struggles, and shared with you my excitement and joy.  I’ve let you all into my life, and while I still for the most part am scant on the details…  you are seeing the impression of something very real that is happening.  I figured out early into this process that there would be days when I simply don’t have anything game related to talk about.  There would be days that I would have something on my chest that I needed to get out there, right or wrong… and I am thankful that you all have supported me.  I’ve been told that for many people my blog post is now part of their morning ritual, and if they get to work… and don’t see one they start to worry if something happened to me.  The first day I was late with a post and I had a deluge of people pinging me over twitter and IM to make sure I was okay…  was absolutely overwhelming.

Year Three

Not My Cat - But I Have Decided it is my Spirit Animal :) So tomorrow I begin the third year of this journey.  There are days I question myself why I am doing this… what exactly I am trying to prove.  The thing is I don’t really have an answer for either of those things.  I enjoy this connection that I have to my readers, no matter how ephemeral it might be.  There are days that I am doing this as therapy, other days doing it to share my excitement that I might burst if I don’t get it out onto the page… and in other days…  the days I cannot seem to find the words, I am struggling forward for you.  I feel like we have this contract, that I will write and you will read and together we will have this connection.  I don’t want to be the one to sever that connection.  I don’t want to be the one who lets down my end of this contract.  So I will keep living and experiencing and doing my hack job of sharing that experience with you.  This time next year I have no clue what I might be talking about… but I hope to still be talking and looking forward to our next journey.

Now I ask something of you.  Since we have been sharing these moments each morning for some time…  tell me about what you have done over these two years.  Granted a lot of you have blogs of your own and they are in my RSS reader that I consume at irregular intervals like drinking from a giant firehose of words.  But some of you out there have been with me this entire trip, and have never commented.  I would love to hear from some of you, and let me know how your life has changed over these last two years.  I might not even know you yet, but I would like to.  What major changes has my readership gone through while I have been on this journey.  I’ve upset a few people along the way, some of which have blocked me out of their lives…  but I have gained several orders of magnitude more friends along the journey.  That is the really important thing to me… all of the friends I have to show for my trip, and that I still keep in contact with on a weekly basis.  You are the ones that give me the drive to keep moving forward, and hopefully this next year will be a fun trip shared together.

Loot and Mental Breaks

Rainy Weekend

The problem with three day weekends… is that ultimately you find yourself in need of a fourth day.  While I kept a pretty strict schedule, for whatever reason having three days off in a row tends to shift you out of work mode and into vacation mode.  This morning getting up was absolute hell, and my wife is going through the same thing.  I watched her start to get up only to face plant back on the bed…  a move I likely would have tried had I not needed to get up and turn off the alarm.  In the grand scheme of things I managed to get to bed fairly early last night, or at least early for me.  To make matters worse I am supposed to be in this conference call most of the day…  which for those indoctrinated means fighting desperately to keep from falling asleep and snoring as someone on a speaker phone drones on at length about something.

To make matters worse I am freaking freezing this morning.  Not literally but we are going through one of those periods that we do here in Oklahoma where I am uncertain if we should have on the heater or the air conditioner.  So since it is 55F outside I am upstairs with my zipper hoodie on trying to warm up.  We were supposed to have this lovely Easter weekend, but in truth it was cloudy, windy and rained most of the day.  We went out at one point to visit family in the hospital and it only managed to warm up to around 53F.  The highlight of yesterday however was that getting out and about, and it being relatively lousy out meant that we were able to go to our favorite Desi restaurant and not have any semblance of a line.  Their awesome Desi Rice ended up making both lunch and dinner for me yesterday.  There are times I wish we had a place closer, but I think it would lose some of the specialness of having to make a pilgrimage to go eat there.

Guild Runs

ffxiv 2015-04-05 18-39-25-72 One of the simple pleasures of the weekend came from running lots of content with my guild.  I am amped that folks are getting into their 50s and needing content that will actually pay out in tomestones.  This has been a point of internal conflict for me lately, is that I desperately want/need to cap poetics, but I also want to be there to help people when they need runs.  With the influx of people into our guild I could easily spend every waking moment tanking this or that for one of our free company members.  The problem is for the low level stuff it puts me no closer to my weekly cap goals.  Now that the 130 weapon is within sight, I really really want to get one.  This means that I am going to need to gather up 1300 poetics, which in turn means that I am going to need to cap several weeks in a row to reach that.  So it frustrates me that while I enjoy running stuff for the lowbies, that I am spending time on content that won’t get me any closer to that goal.

Saturday and Sunday however, lots of people needed lots of upper level content which allowed me to feel useful and helpful, but at the same time keep inching towards the goal of hitting 450 poetics for the week.  Over the course of the day we ran experts and hardmodes, each of them slowly incrementing that total so that by the time I slept I was only around 100 poetics away, which seems doable tonight between raiding, the daily expert, and potentially running the new trial.  That honestly is my huge hope for tonight is that we will be able to run the Steps of Faith trial really quickly, because I have tried with two random groups only to have half of the group bail on me after a single failure.  That trial is also gumming up the works right now of the trial roulette because the moment people random into it, they are abandoning party and taking the penalty.  The result is that people seem to just be avoiding the trial queue, because we ran a few this weekend and they took forever to form.

Loot and Mental Breaks

darkest 2015-04-05 11-44-12-28 I’ve spent what feels like a silly amount of time playing Darkest Dungeon this weekend, and I have to say I am still loving it.  Essentially I have been playing through at least one adventure per day, which seems to be about the right amount for me in one sitting.  After that I log into whatever game I am going to be playing for the night.  At this point I have lost one entire party, a couple of singles and pushed three characters to the point of having a mental break.  That said I am having a blast doing it and I finally defeated the Apprentice Necromancer, the first real objective in the game.  Right now my ideal party would include a Bounty Hunter, a Highwayman, a Jester and an Occultist.  No particular reason other than the group comp seems to work really well for me.  As far as healers go I really really like the Occultist, because I guess I am really good at winning the roll that keeps him from bleeding my characters.  I have seen as much as 16 points of health healed on a single turn by an occultist, whereas the plague doctor seems to only be able to dink heal single points.

The bounty hunter right now is my absolute favorite hero, but that might just be because he looks pretty much like every character I tend to play in games.  I love the whole grappling hook thing, and the ability to use it as either a ranged weapon or to pull targets within his melee range.  Highwayman just seems really strong with his range abilities, and if the target can bleed he has a nice attack there as well.  Jester is really brutal, with two attacks that deal a lot of bleed damage.  The biggest problem I have with them is that one of their best attacks is this jump dirk ability that also places them in the first slot in your party, potentially pushing the bounty hunter out of melee.  So I try really hard not to actually use that ability unless I think I can finish someone off with it, because the person in the first party position tends to soak some of the worst attacks.  So far I am going into dungeons with lots of food, bandages and torches and doing remarkably well.  I am sure as I go further the game is going to get more punitive.

Darkest Dungeon

Twitch and Hitbox

Yesterday was a bit of a strange day in that I recorded two different podcasts that were not AggroChat on the same day.  Early in the day I recorded another episode of Bel Folks Stuff, that was completely on the spur of the moment since I was off for Good Friday.  Right now I am tenantively planning on releasing this on Wednesday.  Then in the evening I guested on an episode of the Multiplaying podcast.  While talking on that podcast or actually I think during the “after party” we were talking about Twitch and Hitbox.  During yesterday morning I did my first real test of using JoiCaster to stream to both Hitbox and Twitch at the same time.  Other than some technical difficulties it largely worked and I was able to produce a video of myself playing Darkest Dungeon.

The problem is that I had like five times the number of people watching the twitch stream as I did the hitbox stream at the same time.  So much so that I stopped watching the chat on Hitbox and wound up missing a few comments.  Last night I realized something, that my love of Hitbox is somewhat clouding my judgment.  Me trying to make that happen is kind of like trying to make MySpace happen because you happened to like this or that feature better than Facebook.  At this point Twitch is ubiquitous, everyone has an account and it is widely supported by lots of third party sites.  There are several things about Hitbox that just feel better, but there just aren’t the number of people there that there are on Twitch.  In theory I think I am going to abandon this whole multi-streaming thing and just stick with Twitch from this point on.  It pains me to say it, but Hitbox as cool as it might be… is just too late to the party.

Darkest Dungeon

darkest 2015-04-04 09-27-22-60

As we announced last week during the AggroChat episode, this month I chose Darkest Dungeon as my round robin pick for the game club.  This is one of those games that I have seen circulating in among my friends but I largely avoided it, so that I could go into it fresh as a game club pick.  Yesterday I played it for the first time, in the block above you can see the result of my stream.  I have to say even though the game is pretty unforgiving… I am really enjoying the hell out of it.  At its core it is a rogue like RPG dungeon crawler, with a really awesome woodcut art style… and an interesting sanity mechanic.  So in part it feels a bit like playing Call of Cthulhu.  Everything seems to have a chance of effecting your sanity, and when your characters get too stressed a saving throw is triggered.  If they succeed this internal roll they gain a positive trait, and if they fail it… they gain a negative trait.

darkest 2015-04-04 09-20-40-67 The cool thing is… these are not just passive debuffs but they actively change the way the character starts interacting.  For example in the above play session my Vestal gained the “greedy” negative trait… which oddly enough made her far more blood thirsty in combat.  There were a number of times where she just attacked without my say.  This morning when playing the game a bit one of my highwaymen got the fearful trait causing him to periodically retreat to the back of the pack, changing what abilities you could actually use to attack with.  The only real negative so far is that “the only way out is through” meaning once you start a mission it seems like the only way to leave the mission is to either finish it successfully… or kill off your party.  The positive there is that party members are roughly as disposable as they are in Rogue Legacy.  There are always fresh recruits available through the wagon in camp.  At this point I have lost one entire party… and a few single characters here and there and it feels like I am still making forward momentum.  I feel like this game is going to generate some interesting conversation at the end of the month.

Alligator Pears

ffxiv 2015-04-04 10-05-39-77 Yesterday was a very strange day for me, largely because I was trying not to get too terribly involved in anything.  With the two podcasts, and not really knowing the scheduling of the second one I stayed out of the mix for most things.  This means that the vast majority of my time online was spent working on Botany.  At this point I have managed to take it to level 35 which is the beginning of the more grindy levels.  Thankfully I have for the most part a full allotment of leve quests to get me through them.   Working on harvesting has become my “during podcasts” activity, because it is slow paced and proding and does not require much attention.  So while recording both Bel Folks Stuff and Multiplaying I slowly worked my way through harvesting a ton of stuff…  namely Alligator pears.  I am not sure exactly what they are… but I certainly did manage to gather a dozen stacks of them.  In truth I kind of expect they would look a bit like an avocado in real life.

Now I need to figure out what item I need for my level 40 Botany quest and start collecting that.  So far that has been how I have leveled, I focus fire whatever item I need for the next quest and then when I collect enough of those I start doing Levequests.  Botany seems so much more peaceful than mining was, and I guess it is in part because it almost exclusively takes place in the games extremely beautiful forest areas.  There is just something relaxing about walking around, listening to the music and chopping down trees.  Today however I really need to spend some time working on getting actual content in that can earn me poetics.  I did take a break from the harvesting for awhile yesterday to run some new folks through Tam-Tara Deepcroft.  Tanking low level content is always enjoyable, and it gives me a chance to break out my sword and board and paladin it up.  The constant trickle of new players still manages to floor me, but everyone seems happy and well adjusted which makes me happy in turn.

#FFXIV #DarkestDungeon #Twitch