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

Death to Darkspawn

Lost in a World

daorigins 2014-10-04 01-29-53-900 One of the aspects of a good game that I have always been amazed by is just how lost you can become existing in that world.  With the upcoming release of Dragon Age: Inquisition mid month, several of us have started re-playing origins in an attempt to get a new save file to import into Inquisition.  I realize that the process for importing works a little differently than it has in previous Bioware games, and is done through an intermediary program called Dragon Age Keep that also allows you to choose the decisions you would have liked to have had from previous games.  However with some experience with the Mass Effect 3 “comic book” tool, it tended to also make a lot of really horrible decisions for me.  One of the most enjoyable experiences I have had with a game was playing through the entire Mass Effect series in sequence over the course of a Christmas break…  so while the games in the Dragon Age series do not connect as tightly, I am hoping it will still be very rewarding.

Belghast_1 Over the weekend I said that I had decided to start the “least” Belghast character possible for this play through.  That I guess is not correct… the least recognizable character would have been me starting an Elven Mage.  We all know  that one is never going to happen, as I tend to be allergic to playing finger wigglers.  Instead I basically picked something other than the high born warrior I always tend to play, and in this case that was a Dwarven Casteless Rogue.  I love the Dwarves of the Dragon Age series, and having my very first play through be the Noble rogue pretty much ruined every other introduction storyline for me.  That said the Casteless introduction is pretty great as well, and especially after having played through many of them…  you see hints of the other introductions as you play.  Like I know the events that are going on with the noble houses, and while they are only loosely alluded to in the casteless introduction… they are still very much there and very much the way they play out as a noble.  I like thinking that there is a fixed story arc with multiple windows out onto it.

Death to Darkspawn

daorigins 2014-10-03 23-58-27-939 This game has always hit every trigger for me… in a good way.  I love dark ominous demon filled landscapes where I am the only person with the tools to dispatch them.  I love the political infighting and backstabbing and the identification of a truly wicked person that I can focus my anger and rage towards.  But I also like that apart from that central story arc, nothing is really certain and the game doesn’t judge you much for dabbling in the grey areas.  It is an absolute feat that this game manages to make me NOT side with the mage haters.  Given my feelings towards finger wigglers, it would make sense that I would want to help the Templars eradicate the “Mage Threat”, but instead each and every play through I cannot bring myself to go against the Circle Mages.  Maybe it is because I like the character of Wynne too much, or maybe they just manage to create a narrative that makes me actually care about magic users.

Belghast_204 Granted personally I greatly prefer the side of the Apostates, and generally their cause is one that I can get behind whole heartedly.  I am a huge fan of Morrigan, but I have found her character to be extremely polarizing even among my close friends.  She is dark and brutal and abrasive…  but I always enjoy listening to her quips.  One of the things I am doing this time around that I have not in previous plays is varying my group composition based on what I know my intended action will be.  Generally speaking if you make Morrigan happy…. you won’t make Alistair and Leliana happy for example.  So I hedge my bets and end up simply not bringing the person that I know I will end up pissing off.  It is a strange line to walk but at this point I have some duplication of most of the roles I might need.  There are certain characters that I just absolutely cannot stand…  I am looking at you Zevran.  Though this time around I am finding myself softening to that character, especially after seeing him in Dragon Age II.

Slowly Progressing

Belghast_273 I am taking my sweet time moving through the game.  At this point I am just shy of 20 hours spent and have saved the Circle of Mages as well as Redcliffe Castle.  I am however trying really hard to do every single side quest in a given area.  This means that while I can just blow through Lothering… I am trying to do all of the little side missions which end up dragging out that area considerably longer than you might think.  In a way I am treating this as though it were my last time playing Dragon Age ever.  I realize that is likely not going to be the case, but I guess I am trying to make every choice count since I will ultimately be importing this game into Awakenings and Dragon Age II before finally importing the entire mess into Dragon Age Inquisition next month.  On this play through I am more acutely aware that I am building a world around me, a series of consequences that lead to other consequences later down the line.

Belghast_272 This is a strangely different feeling than when you do the same process in the Mass Effect series.  There you are living the legacy of one person, your version of Shepard… and it is a direct lineage from game to game.  The choices you make on one game, are effect the relationships you have in the next game because you were the person that made them both times.  Here you are setting up a conflict that spans multiple generations, and while you are creating ripples it is somewhat uncertain how the final events will play out.  It is also playing through a game knowing the beginning and the ending but having the steps between be rather fluid and changing.  This will make my fifth play through of Dragon Age Origin since release, and I am still finding little details that I don’t remember from previous plays.  That and the fact that I am not bored with the game, really are a testament to just how good the writing is.

Sneaking into Denerim

Belghast_314 Right now I am tempted to save my game and then make a run at getting to Denerim before completing any other areas.  I would really like to resolve the whole Urn of Sacred Ashes business before moving too much further in the storyline.  I have also never actually gone to Denerim this early in the storyline before.  I have no clue what the rammifications of doing that are, but I already have several quest chains that take me there.  So I think that might be the order for tonight, to create a good clearly labeled save game so I can roll back if I am not happy with the consequences started by my actions.  That is one of the things that is interesting about Dragon Age is just how unforgiving it is when it comes to your choices.  It is super easy to close off a quest chain to you by picking the wrong answer… and there will never be another way to get that option back.  In some of the later Bioware games they have given us the ability to escape out of a dialog tree, but this being a fairly early one has really strictly binding choices.  As such it is making me super careful about what I end up choosing.

Belghast_208 If it has been awhile since you last played Dragon Age then I highly suggest you dust off your copy and give it a proper play again.  I am currently playing the “Ultimate” edition that comes preloaded with all of the DLC… and there was quite a lot of it.  I’ve found this game plays significantly better through Origin than it does through Steam, as anytime I have tried to play through Steam I have issues with it not recognizing my DLC as being “genuine” and the official Bioware answer to this is to hack the save game file to turn off the protection bit.  I would rather just play the game without doing all of that so I am using Origin and overall the experience is not too horrible.  I have to say that Origin as a whole has gotten considerably better since its launch, and right now the only problem I really have with it… is that it is not steam.  I still to some extent resent having to have a separate launcher just for Bioware games but the experience is worth it so for the time being I just deal with the frustration.  Thankfully Ubisoft is taking steps to move towards better integration with steam so that the entire process will be transparent to the users.  Unfortunately with the rather public falling out between EA and Valve… I doubt that will actually ever happen.  In any case… I am having a blast with Dragon Age and look forward to completing it.



AggroChat Episode 25

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

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

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


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

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

Epic Boss Fights

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

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

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

#Outland #AggroChat

Grinding Gear into Plasteel

Ready for a Freeze

The last few weeks my allergies have been killing me, and this is not usually the case for fall here in Oklahoma.  It feels like the seasons are getting horribly confused, and ragweed that normally hits its worst during July has been still active in August and October.  As such my lungs have decided to betray me under the onslaught, and yesterday afternoon I ended up going home from work.  I took a few breathing treatments and got some sleep and this morning I feel marginally better, but still on the scale of “lousy”.  Right now I am just read for the first hard freeze to happen and kill off most of the allergens.  Sadly that doesn’t look like it is going to happen any time soon.  The temperature is dipping down today to the 60s, but otherwise we are still having 70 to 80 degree days.

dragon-age-origin-1024x640 The constant drainage and coughing just makes me want to stay inside and hibernate.  Thankfully right now I have a ton of good games to play.  With the impending release of Dragon Age: Inquisition several of my friends are replaying Dragon Age: Origin since like many Bioware games there is reportedly going to be a save game import feature.  I know my experience playing through all three Mass Effect games in a row produced a ton more quest options than when I played Mass Effect 3 without importing.  So it has me wanting to try going back through the past games as well.  My upcoming gaming schedule may be devoted to Dragon Age: Origins for a bit, but I still plan on poking my head into FFXIV, Trove and Destiny on a nearly nightly basis to see what is going on.

Grinding Gear into Plasteel

Destiny_20141003060320 Thanks to the miracle of the Queens Bounty event I’ve managed to shoot up to 24 light through upgrading the two purple pieces of gear that I managed to get.  Through running various other things I have managed to pick up a handful of nice weapons and other light bearing blues.  Right now I am running around with a level 20 scout rifle, that while it doesn’t deliver as much punch as the hand cannon, it still has a bit of impact and can carry like 250 rounds with me.  It makes it extremely good for whittling down enemies at range with extreme accuracy.  I would still love to find a level 20 blue or purple hand cannon, but so far my only purple ingram has produced crafting materials instead of a weapon.  Upgrading gear right now seems to be my sole source of getting more light, as I have yet to find any items that can directly replace anything I am currently wearing.

Destiny_20141003060344 Last night my play time entirely revolved around trying to find more green armor to grind down into Plasteel, and finding Relic Iron… which so far is the hardest of the materials to spot.  I’ve gotten rather good at picking out the chunks of brown against the red brown landscape of Mars, and had a fair bit of luck finding chests that had quite a large quantity of it.  The problem honestly as you can see from the screenshot is that I just cannot seem to get enough plasteel.  I could in theory buy ingrams from the Cryptarch and grind those down… but that seems defeatist.  Instead I am mostly spending my time doing patrol missions on Mars since they give me reputation and have a fair chance of dropping greens.  I have now entered the grind phase of the game, and while I am still very much enjoying myself I can see how this might wear on folks with a lower tolerance to grind.

Tron and Infinium Ore

Trove 2014-10-03 06-23-24-633 With the release of Beta and the addition of the Neon Ninja, they added in a biome to go with that theme.  While this morning I was only able to find a very small one… this is what folks have dubbed the “Tron” biome.  In fact when you are in the biome a musical theme plays that reminds me quite a bit of some of the Tron Legacy soundtrack.  There are rivers of neon blue water, and instead of grass and brushes you have chips and resistors.  It feels like you are in a datascape and the various robots have similar tron coloring.  Each biome has a version of the skeleton, and in this biome they look like the Red MCP guards from the original Tron movie.  I hope that eventually I can build a table that allows me to spit out stuff themed like this biome, because I will completely switch my entire cornerstone to look like it.

Trove 2014-10-03 06-14-54-858 This little innocuous looking block is Infinium Ore, and it has become the bane of my existence.  After a certain point in the crafting system… every single recipe requires this.  The problem is that as you go up in level this doesn’t seem to get any more common.  You can find Shapestone and Formicite Ore until your heart is content, but Infinium still is a very rare occasional, and any given vein maybe gives you twenty if you are extremely lucky.  Most of my playtime has been wandering around looking for these ore spawns.  The problem with Trove is I simply don’t understand how the game works yet.  In Minecraft the spawns were based on a certain logic, and once you mastered that you could be plopped down almost anywhere and be able to find the resources you need.  In Trove it feels more like you have to be lucky.  I feel like I need to spend some time scouring the Reddit looking for tips and strategies for finding this ore node.  I won’t be able to do any of the really cool things without large quantities of it.

#DragonAge #Trove #Destiny