Last night was a fairly fraught evening with me needing to spend more time than I would have liked dealing with work stuff. By the time I shifted over into gaming mode I was struggling to find the fun in almost anything that I played. Initially I attempted to get into Dishonored Death of the Outsider and managed to make a tiny bit of progress… but in the end just wound up taking screenshots of the weird shit appearing in the game like this… that I can only term as some sort of a monkey baron? For whatever reason this game is struggling to hold my attention in quite the way that Dishonored 1 and 2 did and I am not entirely certain why. It could simply be that I am still not the biggest fan of Karnaca and greatly prefer the vibe of Dunwall.
Whatever the case I made it to about the halfway point of a mission before needing to shut down because my wife needed assistance with something. When I returned to my laptop I did not return to the game and moved on to rummage around for something else to do. Evenings like last night are frustrating because it feels like I squandered the opportunity to have a good time. There are times where my mind is just not in the right place to really enjoy anything so I sorta flail about until eventually giving up for the evening and going to sleep. I wish there was a button that allowed me to purge my mind of worries and just be present in the activity I happen to be doing… and before someone suggests it… meditation doesn’t seem to work for me. I just end up sitting quietly thinking about the same nonsense I was thinking about before I actively tried not to think about it.
So what did I do instead of playing something I had not experienced… I started a brand new game of Fallout 4. In theory I need to get Nexus Mod Manager set up on my upstairs machine and get all of the mods I like to use there. This whole remote playing everything is interesting because there were a lot of experiences like Fallout that I managed to make work downstairs… albeit in a way less pretty fashion. I have to say I could really get used to this whole being able to play games in full resolution and fidelity… from the machine that is most comfortable at that very moment. I need to drag my spare laptop to work and see how well this process works over the guest network there because in theory… it should be accessible from any online connection. I could even try tethering my phone and seeing how playable everything is over a 4G LTE connection.
I sorta always create the same basic character in Fallout 4… which is essentially a version of the same character I create in any game. Little details change but the rough outline of the “Belghast” archetype remains the same. Incoming spoiler alert for anyone who might not have played the game. I don’t even mess with customizing the spouse anymore, because I know a few minutes into the experience she will be long gone. I so rarely play female characters in games because they don’t really fit with the whole unified character thing that I tend to do.
I am not rejecting them because they are female… more that I am rejecting them because they don’t fit the character I keep wanting to play over and over in every single game. I do fine in titles that have a strong female character that you assume the reigns of… like Aloy in Horizon Zero Dawn or Lara Croft in the new Tomb Raider games. However when you give me a game like the Mass Effect series that allows me to craft a tailor made character… I will almost every single time create a “Belghast”. I also have a lot of issue with the game if it impedes me from crafting this character… which I experience a lot when playing games without beard options or “pretty boy” features. Basically I am not really a fan of the whole Bishōnen thing. Belghast is a battle damaged character and as a result I prefer whatever form that representation takes looks that way… though I do worry that at times I am essentially creating a Marlboro Man.
Today marks the beginning of the whole “Daily Creative Thing” business and while you might have been expecting something from me… unfortunately you can’t really expect me to get up and do creativity by six in the morning. Sitting down and writing out a blog post is challenging enough. I am however planning on making something happen today or tonight depending upon when the muse hits me. The other big thing going on today is that it is my Nineteenth wedding anniversary, and while I am not entirely certain what we are doing to mark the occasion yet I am sure we will come up with something. In truth what it will probably mean is that my wife and I go out to dinner, and then wander around hitting the various stores and checking to see if they have started marking down their back to school stuff yet. “School Supply Season” is like Christmas for my wife, and while this is not exactly the normal thing for people to get excited about… it is for a teacher. I’ve spent many an hour over the years scrounging for one last folder or ruler or package of gluesticks for her classroom.
Work is still madness and I am still finding myself deep in the throes of turtle mode. Honestly more than anything what happens during these times is I resort to comfort gaming. I end up dusting off a game that I had not been playing that much and spend a significant chunk of time roaming around its world. Lately that has meant an awful lot of Rift because much like Phantasy Star Online yesterday… I carry a significant torch for this game as well. In honor of the occasion I decided to vary up my default wardrobe a bit from what I had been running around in the first screenshot… to what I am now running around in… which is honestly mostly just some dye and swapping a few pieces. I never managed to hit the “Prophecy of” level cap and I’ve just been working my way through any of the content that I had left to do in various zones. So far the thing that I am liking the most about the content is the way that each zone has this major event that takes place at the very end of the zone that ties up a bunch of loose threads from various quests and packages it neatly in this really epic fight. In many ways Rift feels like a game from a different time, and this has both good and bad aspects to it. The bad is it feels much slower than other MMOs and the time to kill and time to level can feel a little grating at times. However on the good side this is also this same thing that makes it feel familiar and lived in… and something that I can return to over and over to wear it like a blanket. The main problem that I have with Rift that ultimately causes me to wander away is that I don’t have my social infrastructure here. My circle of friends that I record the podcast and game on a nightly basis with… have moved on past this game and will likely never return. At this point I think I am just too set in my ways to branch out and build new communities, and I also know that I will soon return to the fold and wander away from the game myself.
Another game I have been playing a not insignificant amount of is Fallout 4. This runs pretty damned smoothly on the laptop and it has been a recent go to for when I want to wander around a world and explore a bit. In the theme of carrying torches for games… I have loved Fallout since I saved up my pennies to buy the first game when it released back in 1997. I was going to college at the time and not really buying many games, but still made a beeline to Walmart to pick it up once I knew they had it in stock. Side note… that was literally the only place in town that sold PC games and was before the mass expansion of Game Stop. At that point Software Etc and Babbages still existed as separate entities as well as Comp USA and the unrelated Circuit City and Computer City. When the games made the tradition to the open world format I was skeptical but quickly got on board thanks to my love of the Elder Scrolls games. Now the modern Fallout games serve as this familiar touchstone that I can keep returning to anytime I need solace. I’ve started countless games of Fallout 3 and New Vegas and it seems like now I am carrying that tradition over into Fallout 4 as well. My default play mode tends to be to wander towards a corner of the map and do whatever happens to be there. I am not really big for following larger quests in this game, and I likely would have never actually beaten it were it not for the fact that we chose this as a game club game… and I felt obligated to do so. Gaming in general for me is not ever really about beating the game… but more about existing in that game world for a period of time. The game world of choice is determined by whatever mood I happen to be in. Fallout for me tends to be for when I am in a slower paced mood and want to wander around aimlessly dispensing frontier justice on the raiders.
Last night was a bit of a rough night, because we had a massive storm blow through. A side effect of the storm was the fact that about 11:30 my wife woke up on the couch because something dripped on her foot. In the middle of our living room, dripping from one of the beams was a slow trickle of water. At that point there really isn’t much to do other than put down a towel and a bucket and hope it stops. However that sort of ruined any thoughts of a really solid nights sleep. This morning I had originally intended on writing about a rather hamfisted absurdist article that is making its way through my twitter circle, but in truth I am simply going to not deal with that today. It reminded me of conversations that myself and Tamrielo have on a regular basis… but I also wanted to approach the topic with more grace than I probably have in me right now. So instead I am going to answer a twitter poll in blog form.
TWITTER POLL: Quote this tweet with your GOTY for each year for the last five years, 2012 to 2016.
While technically not a poll, it is definitely a thing that I thought looked interesting so this morning instead of tearing into discussions that I don’t really want to get into… I started thinking back upon various years and trying to determine the games that mattered the most to me during that time. Also I may or may not be applying a little “in retrospect” to a few of these choices, but that is also ultimately my prerogative. I limited myself to only picking games released during a specific calendar year, but in many cases the true impact the game had happened much later.
2012: The Secret World
I really cannot say enough good about this game… from the perspective of someone just starting out playing it. I’ve said an awful lot about this game over the years in three pages worth of blog posts… and probably some others that I failed to categorize correctly. This often makes my “best games I am not playing” list whenever I compile one. Functionally there are two vastly different game experiences… the leveling game when you are digging through the story and trying to solve the mysteries of the world… and the end game where you lose all creative freedom that you had while leveling. The first game is phenomenal and something that I feel everyone should experience at least once. The later… is ultimately what caused us to quit and keeps me from reattaching to the game for any length of time. However that said the ride is well worth it, and the game has some of the more interesting dungeons in MMOdom… until you reach nightmare levels where everything sort of falls apart. I am really looking forward to the re-release of the game under the Secret World Legends name… and hoping beyond hope that they can give me an experience to latch onto with both hands.
The impact this game has had on me and my friends is immeasurable. Largely because it gave us a common ground in the form of an MMO experience that we all care about. More than anything however it knows how to tell story in and interesting and serialized fashion, where the story arc from one expansion sets up the key players for the next. This is also the only MMO that has ever sufficiently pulled off a surprise plot twist, and has done so many times…. and been willing to assault structures that I assumed were fixed and sacred to the game itself. From August onwards in 2013… my life pretty much belonged to Final Fantasy XIV until we slowly petered out when we ran out of things we were capable of doing. However we came back and had a renaissance with the game that has continued to the present times with this still being the game we can all sort of agree on.
This is another game that realized its ultimate impact on me long after the year it actually released in. Destiny is a really important game to me for a whole lot of reasons. Firstly it has amazing moment to moment gameplay and it is hands down the best feeling shooter I have ever played. From the moment I heard about the world and the setting I was completely sold… and in truth this is the game that pushed me to buy my way into the current console generation. I got my PS4 console the week the first PlayStation exclusive alpha was happening, and the little I played of it hooked me extremely hard on the concept. Year one had a lot of problems, and I sort of picked at it like you might pick at the remains of a meal you know you are done with… but just keep nibbling on. I did return to paying regularly towards the tail end of the first year, so that I was primed and ready for the launch of The Taken King. From Year Two on however I have been a dedicated acolyte of the world, and own it for both PS4 and Xbox One… and am contemplating making the leap to PC version with the launch of Destiny 2. The game still has some narrative problems, but it does not stop me one bit from enjoying it.
I love Fallout as a franchise. I still remember saving up the cash to buy the first one when we were in college, and I was completely hooked. I am not old school enough to remember Wasteland fondly, but I have always been a fan of the whole post apocalyptic nukepunk genre. So while I am listing this as my game for 2015… it is a hype cycle that began long before and continues long after. This is still the game I boot up when I am in a specific mood. Similarly I have played Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas countless times, and Fallout 4 simply replaces those in succession. This game is proof to me at least that I care far more about systems, and gameplay… than I really do about the main narrative in a game. In fact the only reason why I probably beat this game is because we chose this as our November/December AggroChat game club game for the tail end of 2015. I would probably still be avoiding the main story… and still off on my own having adventures in my head…. which is in truth my preferred method of playing a game. Just talking about the game has given me this huge urge to boot it up… right now… which would be a horrible idea considering I have to go to work.
I have to give a lot of credit here to World of Warcraft and the rebirth of the game that happened with the launch of the Legion expansion. They took a game I thought I no longer really cared about, and was legitimately done caring about…. and turned it into an experience that I rabidly played. I even managed to return to raiding and didn’t check out this time until we were a few bosses into Nighthold… which is in truth way longer than I lasted in Draenor. I’ve reached this point where I am not really playing the game or following it now… but the transformation that took place should nonetheless be honored. They tried a whole bunch of new ideas that they admittedly borrowed from other games… but wove it together in a fashion that felt new and fresh. Similarly I feel like it has to be said that they have done and continue to do a great job of managing patch cycles. They finally broke the “three and done” mold that had happened with Pandaria and Draenor and by all accounts are still releasing interesting content. I know at some point I will return and at the very least finish out the Legion flight meta achievement, but for the time being I am simply not forcing myself to play a game I am not super into. Legion however is probably going to go down in history for me as their best expansion… toppling what was previously my current favorite Wrath of the Lich King.
This weekend was a bizarre one. We are still very much under the gun of a release date, and I attempted to do whatever I could to further that goal. However for all of Saturday our building was without power, and I was instead on call just in case something went wrong. The building power went down at 6:30 in the morning, and by the time we started recording AggroChat we had not yet gotten the all clear. I was just hoping that things would cycle off of the generators as successfully as they did cycling onto them, and that I would not end up getting interrupted during the podcast. Sunday was a mixed bag of work and doing all of the other things that we ultimately put off until Sunday like laundry and various errands. The weekend as a whole wound up being a very random mix of games as I played whatever I could during the brief moments of downtime. As you can see by the Chateau Belghast image above, I started fiddling around with Fallout 4 once again, and scrapped my old house and built this one instead. The inside is largely unfurnished but I am digging the outside quite a bit. It took me far longer than it should have to sort out how best to attempt centering the neon text, but in the grand scheme it seems to look okay. The frustrating bit with their neon font is that is is in no way monospaced with the characters all varying pretty wildly in width.
In Final Fantasy XIV I am still very much getting back in the swing of things, and have fallen into the pattern of doing Beast Tribe dailies. In theory I started down this path because I wanted a reliable source of ventures for my retainers, so that I could keep sending out my gatherers on field exploration. However I also really like mounts, and over the course of the last week or so I have been pushing up the Sahagin, not necessarily because I love the mount, but more because it was the next closest faction. For a long period of time, it was the faction I was spending the rest of my daily allowance on while working on the Sylph. Yesterday however I managed to push Sahagin across the finish line and now have my truly bizarre Sapsa mount to ride around on. I figured what better place to take a picture of it than in the waters of The Mists, where the Free Company house is located. Next up should be the Kobolds as once again… they are the next closest given that I had been spending my extra ventures on them while working on the Sahagin. I mean I know there are lots of other things I SHOULD be doing… but I just can’t bring myself to pug dungeons yet. After a string of bad experiences with Palace of the Dead… I don’t much feel like pugging that one either. The problem there is as we talked about on the podcast, is that if you fail… you lose all progress gained which seems deeply punitive for a random group activity.
Finally I spent a good amount of time this weekend playing Elder Scrolls online. I failed to take any screenshots so instead you get an interior shot of my home. I pushed forward the story line in Malabal Tor a bit, but the big problem with ESO is that I tend to wander wildly. I find it extremely hard to stay focused and instead I wind up going after the next object on the horizon that looks interesting, and as a result never seem to end up getting my objectives accomplished. There is always a fallen log to harvest, or an outcropping of ore to mine. Whatever the case I find myself continuing to move steadily towards 160 champion levels, which is the current item cap. Unfortunately I have a feeling this is probably going to change with Morrowind, but for the time being getting there.. and being able to craft a set of gear that will last me for a bit tends to be my focus. The other thing that I am realizing is that 160 champion levels is just a drop in the bucket given that quite literally every build I find expects you to have at least four or five times that amount. There is a part of me that wishes I had never actually faded away from this game, because at this very moment I am so impossibly behind the curve. Then again I think that overwhelming amount of content is what has been drawing me there much in the same way as it did for A Realm Reborn until we caught up. I know there is more to do than I have time to do it… and in some way that is insurance from ever really getting bored.
This morning I attempted to get myself back in line for the impending work week, and I have to say the experiment has been a dismal failure. I normally get up for work at 5:30 in the morning, and then get up… do my routine and finally knock out a blog post. Sundays have always been difficult because generally speaking I am up until at least after Midnight and often times 1 am working on the AggroChat podcast that I end up having to finish editing and posting in the morning. Last night I was up until around 1:30 but thought it was probably a good idea to set an alarm. So at 7:30 I at least put toes on the ground…. and sat there teetering on the edge of the bed for a few minutes trying to decide what step came next. I finally realized that hoping in the shower was a good idea, and did that hoping that the water would somehow jog my brain into functioning enough to go through the rest of the morning boot up routine. I had decided yesterday that instead of having a yummy bowl of cereal in my warm home…. I would get out and find something in the cruel cold world to call breakfast. This ultimately meant that I would go outside and scrape the vehicle since apparently over night the temperatures had dropped a bit.
So I consumed my breakfast and a big tall monster zero…. and played the fun game of trying to throw my muffin wrapper away. I say its a game… because my kitten for some reason LOVES muffin wrappers. She will literally go dumpster diving through my trash can trying to get it, only to drag it out from the bottom of the bin…. carefully unwrap the plastic bag I threw it away in and unfold the muffin wrapper so she can lick it. She is a damned determined cat and the second I leave the room and let my guard down…. she strikes and before I know it she has the damned wrapper out again. This will be something that continues over the next several days. The long and short of all of this…. is that tomorrow is going to be pure hell. I am dreading going back, not because there is something there that I dread necessarily… but that twelve days off from work is more than enough time to completely destroy any routines you have had. Many nights it might be two in the morning before I finally get to sleep… which is not exactly conducive to a 5:30 alarm clock. The goal is to have forced myself to get up earlier than normal this morning, and to stay up all day long regardless of how tired I might be…. in the hopes that I will get a nice full night of sleep tonight. I feel like it is not going to go anywhere near as well as I might have hoped.
Making a Murderer
This break has been the one of binge watching content, and while most of it was Star Wars… we did manage to watch a new Netflix series called Making a Murderer over the last few days. Apparently my wife’s friends had been talking about it, and when she said they explained it as “like Serial” I knew I was in for the ride. Serial was one of those things that I got in on late, but I still dutifully listened to the show over the course of a few days while doing other things. The only problem with content like this, is that it does not wrap up neatly in a box at the end of the experience. In a “crime drama” at the end of the show you have some grand exposition that explains how it “really happened”, but real life is never that neat. Serial more or less was a show that made me wonder if this kid did what the police said he did, but it never made me physically angry at the police. I could see their side of the tale and I could see the kids side of the tail… and the end result was you mostly trying to sort out what you personally believed in the mix. “Making a Murderer” on the other hand presents a tale so frustrating that it ended up with me yelling at the screen several times, and my wife having to talk me down.
I am not sure how much I can say that won’t give the entire tale away, because I feel like it is probably best to just watch the 10 episode series for yourself. There are however lots of moments that swayed me to the side of the supposed killer. I feel like he was most definitely not given a completely fair chance in this case, and there is a significant amount of bias in the area against him. There were several incidents that occurred that were never explained… like one of the police officers running the tags for the Jeep two days before the victim was reported missing, but after she WOULD HAVE BEEN missing. The recorded dispatch call sounded as though he was staring at the vehicle reading the plates off, and verifying that it was a jeep. Don’t get me wrong… I know a lot of really awesome police officers, but I also know some that probably would not bat an eye at planting evidence to support their case. The thing is… I believe at no point did anyone think they were framing an innocent man… but instead that from the moment his name was mentioned he was already assumed guilty and they began trying to make a case against him work. I think that is probably the worst thing that the show highlights is how non-existence the burden of proof really is. Maybe I am just more questioning of information… but I had more than enough “reasonable doubt”.
The Fallout 4 Show
Last night we recorded our AggroChat podcast devoted to Fallout 4. More or less this was the reason why I pushed through the storyline recently, and I have to say forcing myself to complete this game was one of the more miserable experiences. I wanted to be able to talk about story plots, but part of me thinks i would have been happier if I had just not done that. Bethesda games in general for me are about the little moments, and not the big picture. This is a game that delivers in spades when it comes to little vignettes, but fails to deliver when it comes to giving me a larger story arc that I really cared about. The biggest problem for me at least was the fact that in no way could you complete the game in a fashion that did not end up with completely closing off all of the other options. I hate red versus blue situations… and even though fallout 4 was red vs blue vs orange vs green…. it still set up an artificial conflict that I had no way of mediating. There were no “grand bargain” options but instead a lot of “nope they will hate you now” paths you were forced down.
All of that said… the game itself was really awesome and I highly suggest it. When we finally do the game of the year show, this is more or less going to be my pick. I love the game, but then again I have loved every Fallout game to date…. well except Tactics… we don’t talk about Tactics. It was awesome and interesting hearing everyone elses options on the game as well. When we got to recording the show neither Ashgar or Kodra had managed to beat the storyline… and I think I probably would have been far happier if I had joined them in that club. Dallian on the other end of the spectrum had gotten 100% of the PS4 trophies, meaning that he had quite literally gotten every ending possible I believe. The takeaway is… this is a Bethesda game. If you like those games, then you are absolutely going to love Fallout 4… and more than likely you already own it and are happily playing it. If you don’t like Bethesda games, then this isn’t the departure you are looking for. If you are on the fence… then wait for a sale and try it then. If you’ve never played a Fallout game… I highly suggest you pick up Fallout New Vegas because it pretty much represents some of the best storytelling in the series. The show itself is full spoilers so if you plan on playing Fallout 4 at some point, and if you are one of those people for whom spoilers mean something…. then you probably should skip the show until a later date.
First off let me start this post by wishing all of you my readers a Happy New Year. During the course of this past year nearly 70,000 of you have visited my blog, and I am still scratching my head as to why. Whatever I am doing, I guess I will keep doing that in the next year. I do have some cool ideas for things to keep me moving forward, but I don’t really want to go into those right now…. mostly because it will involve some programming on my part to make it function. The thing I have learned over the years of blogging and this coming year will make seven… is that I am really really bad at columns. I will start a feature and then after a few weeks to months it peters out. The MMOs Worth Playing feature was one of my favorite so far, but it was also one of the more time consuming. That said in the coming year I would really like to bring it back, and maybe change its focus to be a little big more manageable…. sort of a MMO of the Month Club type thing. Each week during the MWP thing I was trying to log into that game, play it a bit to remember the things I liked about it… take fresh screenshots and get up a post every single Friday. As we got into the pre-Holiday crunch time it failed miserably. Maybe an MMO of the Month will work better because it gives me more time…. though honestly if the AggroChat Game Club is any evidence I will probably just end up waiting until the week before we record the show before attempting to play the game.
This morning the idea is to do my Awards for the year, since we have officially wrapped up a year now. These are not exactly your normal awards and more like the back of a high school year book… most likely to succeed etc. Though from what I understand…. there are a lot of schools who are no longer doing that for sake of potentially damaging students self esteem. More than anything I want to thank all of you for joining me on this continued journey. The last few months of the year were pretty rough on this side of the equation, but you all kept with me and kept supporting me, and for that I am immensely appreciative. Without further rambling… here is the inaugural edition of “Bel’s Game Awards”.
I absolutely did not expect to like this game, and in truth I probably never would have played it were not for the fact that my good friend Grace chose this as her aggrochat game of the month. I expected it to be largely played on a goof, and even went to the extreme of recording my first game play session because I expected it would be a maddening experience for me. The end result however was something I did not expect, I really enjoyed it. I laughed more while playing this game than I have laughed in a long time while playing any game…. maybe since initially playing Sam and Max Hit the Road. What is even more shocking is that I continued on after the initial play through and ended up getting six or seven different endings by the time we had recorded the AggroChat show. There has been a whole side discussion since about whether or not Hatoful Boyfriend is actually representative of Otome and Visual Novels in general…. or if it just lampoons the genre. I think more than anything it opened my eyes to the fact that this sort of “non-action” game can be extremely fun, and would make me at least try some other games. So kinda like WoW is an ice breaker for MMOs… this might be that sort of Icebreaker for Otome.
I remember when I first saw this game… it seemed like this amazing callback to the Super Nintendo era of RPGs where you had such oddball genre bending hits like Mario RPG and Earthbound. The problem is that in application… the game ended up as this soulless hull that simply was not fun to play. This was our very first AggroChat game club game… and none of us really liked it. This was the game that essentially we all unanimously voted that we wanted to play… and was also the game that caused us to change gears and start letting individual members pick a game for us to play, rather than trying to all decided together what the next game we would play might be. The game was frustrating from a technical level, but the level of grind needed to get very far just made the experience simply not enjoyable. The idea of being able to recruit hundreds of potential party members was amazing… until you realized that not a single one of them was interesting at all. The part that ruined it for most people was the fact that the main character, the mayor was so completely unlikable. I think it was Kodra that said that the game would have been salvageable if you could simply leave him at home and go off adventuring without him. The stereotypes were caricatures were humorous for the first fifteen minutes, and then quickly became painful to keep playing.
What can I say about Destiny the Taken King that I have not already said. I had no real hopes for this expansion because for the most part I had abandoned all hope for Destiny before the time the first expansion patch landed. Year one was a grindy mess whose light leveling system left me scratching my head and simply not caring anymore about trying to progress. I believe I managed to get to Light 26 before hitting a wall of resource gathering, that I simply lacked the desire to keep pushing through. In year one engrams in general felt few and far between, and you were constantly having to judge whether or not an item provided enough light to make it worth swapping it in, even if in other ways the item might be superior. Year two fixed a lot of this in the same way that the Diablo 3 2.0 patch just magically fixed that game, or at least made it FEEL better. That is the thing with me and games, the moment to moment game play has to feel good and also feel like I am getting something for my time spent. While I could say that technically there is way more grind in Year 2, it feels like you are at least getting something for your time…. even if it is just weapon and armor parts. I would rather see things drop… and all of those things be crap rather than never seeing a drop… and when you finally do it decodes into a lower level than the face value of the engram. The biggest change however is the fact that the Taken King has a story… and it is actually a cool one. Through both the quest narrative and the item descriptions that can be found on the website for each of the items you pick up… the game has started to tell this epic tale of both the Traveller and the Darkness, and how the two have battled through countless races and star systems since time began. For me, I patched up my game and tried the year 2 experience long before picking up the expansion…. and I highly suggest anyone who has not given it another shot do the same.
Game I Still Can’t Get Into
I love the Dragon Age franchise…. or at least I did. I’ve been a fan since Dragon Age: Origins… and I have beaten at least six different endings of that game. Which as a person who rarely if ever finishes video games… that should tell you something. I even managed to play through Dragon Age 2 a few different times, and largely enjoyed my experience. However when confronted with Dragon Age: Inquisition it feels like this insurmountable wall. Firstly I think the game just looks ugly out of the gate with its overuse of object shine and its strange playdough hair. The other big problem I have is that generally speaking I play roleplaying games on the sofa, where it is nice and comfy… and none of the laptops that I own are capable of playing this game with decent settings, or at least good enough settings to make it look not like shit. Recently I have picked it up for the Playstation 4 over the recent sales and it is my hope to maybe try playing it on the vita. The first statement anyone ever seems to make to me when I talk about my problems with the game… is that I need to leave the hinterlands. I promise I have left the Hinterlands… but the main storyline is just boring to me. It is nothing as awesome as Dragon Age Origins was…. and I think that’s because I just don’t like the Inquisition. I could get 100% behind the Grey Wardens… I believed in their cause and was ready to go into battle for them. I could give a flying fuck about being the Herald of Andraste. I hate this green shit that comes out of my hand… and I hate the feeling that I am constantly fiddling with the magic of the world… and my key goal in life seems to be to close rifts full of annoying demons. I like some of the characters that I interact with, but some of my favorite characters so far are characters you can’t take with you on missions like Scout Harding. My party of choice would be Cassandra, Sera, and Harding…. but instead I tend to go with Cassandra, Sera and Dorian. I wish I knew why this game is just so not enjoyable for me…. but I want to play it… I really do.
Lived Up to the Hype
The game this year that I was the most hyped about has to be Fallout 4, and that hype cycle started from the moment it was officially announced at E3. This game did so many things right, and really it was starting with the way it was announced. They held off to show any information on the game until it was already pretty damned polished, and then they hit it out of the part by saying that it would be in our grubby little hands only a few months later. In the meantime they gave us a pretty fun mobile game to keep us interested…. which I will talk about later. Fallout is one of those franchises that I place up on a pedestal for always giving me exactly what I wanted out of the game. A big open world with lots of little things to keep me interested, and a complete inability to ever truly “finish” the game. There is more content in Fallout 3, Fallout New Vegas and now Fallout 4 than I will ever have time to see. Hell in the few days ahead of the launch… I played some more Fallout New Vegas and was still finding things that I had never seen before… and I considered that game pretty damned well trodden. As far as Fallout 4… everything about the game makes me happy… apart from maybe the main storyline. The thing is… I don’t play Fallout games for the story… I play them to go off and inhabit the wasteland and weave my own storyline around me as I go. I thought the voiced protagonist would annoy me… but for the most part I have been able to ignore it. I really like some of the companions this time as well…. namely Piper and Nick. I wish so much that I could adventure together with Piper, Nick and Dogmeat at the same time because I love them all. The biggest moment for me though was when I realized that in this game through the settlement system I could finally make the world a better place. I have a dozen or so different settlements at this point, and I have spent time building on each of them. I feel like I am making things work…. and improving live as I go. As far as the Storyline… I find parts of it frustrating namely that I did not see a good option to broker peace between the three main factions. I would have loved a “Can’t We All Just Get Along” ending option… and maybe it is there but I just have not found it.
Hype That Didn’t Last
If I had to pick a game of the year based on sheer amount of time I played it during this year…. the award would go to Final Fantasy XIV. It has been my constant companion… that is until the last quarter of the year when I started to lose interest. I can’t say I am disappointed in the game, because the content leading up to Heavensward… and the launch content was really amazing. The problem I have had is like after the launch of A Realm Reborn there just doesn’t seem to be that much to do to keep me engaged. I guess in truth the game has always been this way… because I remember us running into the same wall a few months after the launch of 2.0, that ended up leading us to un-subscribe shortly after. Coming back when we did July of 2014 meant we had roughly a year worth of content waiting for us to progress through. This content kept us busy up until the point of the Heavensward launch, with us not actually defeating Bahamut until we did it unsynchronized. With Heavensward we lack that backlog of fun older content to work through, and our casual gameplay style just does not really fit with the Final Fantasy XIV bleeding edge. So we managed to down Bismarck Extreme, Alexander normal, and made some pretty good progress on Ravana Extreme before we petered out and started to lose interest. What is making it extra hard is the fact that there are only two max level dungeons at a time this go around. Previous expansion each content patch came with three new dungeons…. and having to run experts by only alternating between the same two dungeons gets old really really fast. I am sure at some time I will get the bug and go back to playing this as my primary game…. but for now I am just basically only playing the new story and holiday content as it arrives and the rest of the time…. simply not logging in.
Shocked I am Playing
At the beginning of the year, I had quite a bit of fun raiding in World of Warcraft, but as Blackrock Foundry drug on…. and the launch of Heavensward loomed I simply lacked the care to keep playing like I have done so many times. In June I quit playing as the chart at the end of this post shows and focused solely upon Final Fantasy XIV, and I think maybe it is this single minded focus that caused me to burn out of that game so quickly. Blizzcon is a primal force of nature that no one can avoid… and I have to say it got me started down this nostalgia trip that ended with me playing the free version of the game on my sub 20 horde characters on The Scryers server. This ultimately ended up with me resubbing to the game and I have to say I am really enjoying myself. I am playing the game in a much more casual fashion than I am used to, and while I am raiding every single week…. I am doing so with a group that only raids on Sunday nights, and during a time slot when I am normally downstairs watching television anyways. I know there is technically no new content, but what can I say… I am having fun. Playing Horde has breathed new life into the game because it is allowing me to not only play with friends I never really got the chance to play with… but also see the world from a slightly different perspective. No clue how long this will hold out but I think so long as I am playing it and OTHER games at the same time… it might just hold for awhile. I think the key for me not getting burnt out is to allow myself the freedom to play whatever I feel like playing in a given moment and not really forcing myself to keep playing something that feels stale.
Made Me Almost Care About Mobile
As I said above, one of the things that Bethesda did right with the launch of Fallout 4, is that they gave us a fun app to play with in the meantime. Fallout Shelter is essentially Sim Tower or the later Tiny Tower mobile game…. set in a Fallout Vault. This was actually a lot of fun for a few weeks and gave me a reason to play games on my phone. The problem is I eventually got bored with it the same way I seem to get bored with all mobile apps. There were a lot of times I thought that I would keep playing it, were it for the ability to play on my desktop while doing something else. But for a brief period of time I found myself caring about a mobile game, and that deserves some recognition. My lifestyle just doesn’t really support mobile gaming, in that if I am going somewhere… I tend to be the one driving. Then when I am at work… I should be you know… working and not playing games. When I am out shopping… most games simple require too much to get into them and do a few moves before you need to move on to the next area. Then when I am home…. I would far rather be using my laptop, gaming desktop, or one of several different consoles than spending time on a mobile device. The one thing that might change this is the fact that I have started spending some time on my new Kindle Fire before going to sleep. Right now that time is mostly occupied with reading comic books… but I could see eventually playing a game like Fallout Shelter while trying to fall soundly asleep.
Game I Wish I Enjoyed More
If you were to write out every single feature that I would want in an MMO on paper… you would pretty much get the feature set of Rift. That said for whatever reason I have struggled to get into this game since the launch of the first expansion. I will come back and play for a bit but find it far too easy to walk away from. I love Trion, and I love the awesome people that work there. I love some of the awesome folks engaged in that community like Kiwi. All of this said… I just struggle to get into the game itself. I think it is several problems, namely that I just don’t have a large friendly and active community to be part of. I mean I have the House Stalwart guild but it has been dead since the last resurgence several years ago that lead me to go found it. For a long time my hope was Machiavelli’s Cat community, but during Storm Legion the Rift contingency pretty much died, and it lead us to merge into Alea Iacta Est…. who then also seemed to die out. During this awkward period I tried a few other guilds, and never found a home… eventually creating House Stalwart on Faeblight. The big problem that Rift has that WoW does not… is the fact that there is no cross account id system that you can use for communicating with friends regardless of what character they happen to be playing. However with the recent “Glyph ID” that is now showing up in the launcher… I am wondering if they are crafting that infrastructure. I feel like I simply have not put in the necessary legwork to find a new home, because it seems like so much effort. That combined with the fact that finding a workable spec itself is a challenge, has left me in this phase of logging in… playing for a bit and then fading out again. I want to love this game, but it has been a struggle.
Most Emotional Experience
This is a strange one for me… because I’ve technically never played this game. The game itself is more of an experience… a visual novel of sorts… than a true game. Sure there are gameplay elements and mechanics… but those remind me of the video game equivalent of one of those pop up books that has levers and such that allow you to move the characters or animate a specific story element. I watched a let’s play video on this game, and in that I pretty much experienced all of it. The end result evoked some of the strangest emotions in me.. and actually lead me to cry at a few points. I think any creative type can understand the emotions that you go through in the experience, and I know for myself…. who tends to suffer from a fairly unhealthy amount of imposter syndrome… it hit incredibly close to home. I am not sure if it was a positive experience, and for all I know given the timing… it might have been the start of my recent funk. The rollercoaster I went through… was not exactly healthy. That said I feel like I have to give the game credit, because it made me feel things… like deeply feel things. Very few video games can do that, and ultimately I ended up purchasing the game as a thank you for the experience…. even though I doubt I will ever actually install it or play it.
Game of the Year
The only thing I can really give you… is a hearty shrug. I don’t know what my game of the year would be. If you judged it on sheer excitement and the eventual execution… it would probably be Fallout 4. If you judged it based on the amount of time I spent playing it through the course of the year, then it would be Final Fantasy XIV. If you based it on the sheer shock that someone got me to play the game in the first place… then Hatoful Boyfriend. Basically every game on my list deserves its recognition, and for the most part that recognition is positive with the exception of Citizens of Earth. I played a lot of games this year… and I hope to play even more next year. Game of the Year is honestly a silly concept… and just like I can’t really give you a firm answer for “Favorite Movie” or “Favorite Song” I could never tell you my absolute favorite Video Game. My mood plays such of a huge role in what I want to play at a given moment…. and if I want mindless destruction right now Destiny is giving me everything that I could ever want. But as soon as my mood changes… so does my preference in games… and I often times fall back on sheer comfort gaming like whatever MMO I happen to be into. So yeah… all of the games on this list… I mentioned because they were important to me, so they are all my Games of the Year.
This coming Saturday it is the intention to record the Fallout 4 show for AggroChat since we ultimately put it off until after the Holidays. As a result I am back on the mission of trying to finish up the main storyline so that I can discuss it. I have to tell you… focusing on the storyline has killed a lot of my enjoyment of this game, and even then I find myself having a hard time of not following my instincts and letting myself get lost in the rabbit holes that are the weird side events going on around the commonwealth. However I really really need to focus so I can finish up and be read to discuss the path I took. Tam, Kodra and probably a few others will have likely beaten the game multiple times by the show happens… but so much of my enjoyment has nothing to do with the storyline that I am going to be hard pressed to finish this game once. I’ve logged hundreds upon hundreds of hours in the other Fallout and Elder Scrolls games… and started playing each of them numerous times… and to be honest… I think I have maybe beat the main story exactly once per game. Beating them is just not part of what I find crucial to the enjoyment, but instead roaming around and inhabiting the world is what makes them special. That said I am going to talk a bit about the storyline so if you don’t want to have any plot details spoiled… please just skip the rest of this post.
Firstly… I love the Railroad. I’ve loved everything about the quest sequence so far, from the having to follow the freedom trail to find their base, to the extracting and guarding of runaway synths. One of my favorite missions was when I had to pick up a synth and guard him while waiting on someone else to help ferry him along to his new home. I realized by following the path of the Railroad I would ultimately come into conflict with both the Brotherhood of Steel and the Institute, and more or less I am perfectly fine with both of these choices. The Minutemen however, I am hoping I can retain my position with them, because I really like the concept of them as the unsung heroes of the commonwealth. The only frustration so far has been that working on the main story, and also the railroad story… has forced me to follow at least to a point the institute story. Everything about the institute creeps me the fuck out. They keep trying to tell me that they are no where near the bogeymen that they are acclaimed to be…. but then they want me to go abduct a scientist, and act like they weren’t going to give him a choice in the matter. They also really wanted me to create a radio broadcast threatening the commonwealth that if they messed with the institute they would destroy them. Again there is the whole Synth thing as well… if you create life you have to respect it… and they very much seem to treat synths the same way we would treat a toaster.
You would think that by working with the Institute I would come to respect and understand them, but instead it has only served to make me more creeped out by their actions. The only real positive of the institute is the fact that the Courser outfit looks amazing, and I am more than happy to wear it around everywhere. Basically the Institute reminds me of the Vault, magnified to the extreme. Everything is cold and sterile, and I believe you are supposed to sympathize with your son…. aka “Father” but he seems just as twisted and misguided as the Overseers from the various vaults. There is a point where you have this conversation with him, where he basically writes off everything that is happening in the commonwealth as nothing worth salvaging, but instead I feel like I’ve seen so much good already in the people of the commonwealth. What is killing me is how long it is taking for me to get to the point where I can stop playing nice… and help the synths escape from the Institute. There are a few of the scientists that I like, but it feels very much like running around in a creepy 1980s police state science fiction film. Having every single item in the Institute look like 1970s era “high tech” concepts isn’t helping either. I keep having flashbacks in my mind to movies like Logan’s Run or books like Brave New World. Basically the whole experience with the Institute is a whole lot of nope.
So much of me wants to just open fire and take out everyone down there…. then give the tech they have to people who will actually put it to use for the benefit of everyone. They claim that they are the last hope of humanity…. but they seem to be doing nothing at all to benefit anyone other than themselves. They are a bunch of scientists high on the act of doing science…. and seem go give zero shits about the practical application of the tech they are building when it comes to actually improving the world for anyone other than their cloistered society. Basically the Institute is against everything that makes me really love Fallout 4, the feeling of honestly saving the world a little bit at a time. Both the Insititute and The Brotherhood of Steel are these paternal forces, trying to gather power and resources for themselves at the cost of the common folk. So all of that said… I am going to be damned happy when I can finally open fire and leave the Institute behind me. Tam kept alluding to the Railroad not being what they seem…. but I just have not seen it yet. I don’t see the Institute as the noble force worth committing myself to… instead I see a group that causes a lot of harm and ends up thinking of it as “minor collateral damage”. The hubris is strong with them… and I am really hoping I am getting close to ending the story arc and leaving them behind.
There are a lot of folks that have goals going into the holiday season, for me… these tend to involve some gaming feat that would normally take a silly amount of time to do. One Christmas break I played through Mass Effect 3, and then started over from scratch and played from 1 to 3 again trying to control the outcome. The Christmas break that SWTOR was released I leveled as part of a duo from level 1 to 50. Other years my mission has been to level a character from start to finish in World of Warcraft, and I made a decent dent in that with pushing the druid from 1 to 40 so I could use that Yeti mount. This year one of the things on my list has been to finish leveling my Warlock who before this week was sitting at level 30 from the last time I got the urge to level. I am not exactly sure why but I have wanted to have a matched set of level capped characters in Destiny for awhile now. I think largely it is because when I am farming exotics, I hate the concept of items going to waste… and I pretty regularly got exotics for Warlocks in spite of not having one. So sitting in my bank I had 3 exotic helms and 1 exotic chest that were warlock only, as well as a few legendary warlock only items as well.
Throughout the course of yesterday afternoon, while the ice was falling outside… I was sitting upstairs in the warmth of my office plugging away at my warlock. Originally I started doing the House of Wolves content, since I tend to like it better than the Dark Below. However I quickly noticed that I was leveling way faster while simply working my way through the back log of bounties I had accumulated. As a result I spent most of my afternoon meticulously narrowing down the number of bounties I had until finally I was a sliver away from 40. I hopped down to Mars and completed a few missions and dinged. After sifting through my bank and spending a few legendary marks, I managed to push my overall light level up to 270 which is not too shabby for a fresh 40. The only negative is… some of my exotics are really specific to sub class and the only one I have made ANY movement in thusfar is Voidwalker. I really like jumping up into the air and throwing down three bombs at people… but at some point I need to push up sunsinger because for group activity that seems to be the best option. Self resurrection is slightly overpowered, but I figure it is something you save in reserve for when it looks like your group is going to wipe. However it should do well to feed Tlaloc whenever I get one.
It feels nice to have a matched set, and the funniest thing is…. every single one of my characters is an Exo. Mostly I had issues with not liking the other races character creation options. The humans were out because they lacked a beard…. because seriously… I cannot ever bring myself to play a human that doesn’t have a decent beard. The Awoken were out because well… space elves…. and I have a pretty deep hatred of most things elven. I am fine if other people want to play them… but they are very much not my thing. The best elves ever… were both from the Elder Scrolls setting… because Cannibal Wood Elves and Nasty Vile Dark Elves… are the only ones I can embrace fully. That left me with one race left to play… and since Destiny ultimately reminds me of playing Phantasy Star Online… and Exo is about as close as I can get to my Cast it was the clear winner. The awesome thing is though that each of my classes has a very fitting look and feel for their class, even though they are all technically just big robots.
I’ve not dwelled on it too much, but I really think that Phantasy Star Online being my first MMO… has greatly shaped how I feel about Destiny. The games have a very similar feel, with a lobby system of sorts being the tower… which equates pretty similar to the tower like area you ran around in PSO. Then you go out on missions that involve you going to planets and often times retracing the same areas over and over with slightly different features and creatures dependent upon your mission. I played the hell out of that game, up until the point when I got hooked on Everquest. The funny thing about it is, that as melee heavy as I was in other games… in PSO I always played a Cast Ranger. So the fact that I really enjoy Destiny doesn’t seem that shocking. It feels very much like the spiritual successor, minus the anime skin. At some point I really want to get into the raid in Destiny, but similarly to WoW…. I mostly just want to do it for the gear. Downing new content is cool and all, but the force that always drives me forward in these types of games… is the acquisition of new and cool things. When you take loot out of the equation, like in Final Fantasy XIV it is a serious hit to my enjoyment. Most of my dungeon running in FFXIV was in an attempt to complete cosmetic sets, and ultimately was still gear driven… just gear as an appearance not necessarily as function.
At this point I really need to buckle down and finish Fallout 4 main storyline, because this coming weekend we need to record the review show. I am not sure what exactly has happened but I have simply not been playing Fallout much over the last few weeks. I think we can blame most of it, on my re-entry into World of Warcraft and my desire to play “catch up”. Then this week has been a bit of a resurgence in Destiny, this combined with the only machine I have that plays Fallout 4 well enough is my upstairs computer. Over the course of our movie and television marathons I have largely been downstairs on the sofa in my comfy blanket cocoon. This has meant that Fallout sadly has been abandoned for the moment. I tried last night to play it some over steam in home streaming, and once I sorted out the many technically difficulties, I finally got it up and running. The only problem there was that the video stream would artifact out anytime I encountered much action, making it questionable if it is really worth playing it on my desktop… or if I would simply be better playing it on my laptop with greatly reduced graphical fidelity. My laptop will run it after all, but with a somewhat potato quality. In any case… I need to pick up where I left off and make some forward movement.
Today my posts and the AggroChat podcast are coming out a little late, because reasons. My wife has this thing at church this morning, and stuff was not going very much as planned. So instead of wrapping up the podcast when I got up, I went into the mode of attempting to support my wife as she flailed around the house trying to get everything ready. I don’t really do the religion thing, but it is important to my wife so I’ve always attempted to support her in whatever way she needs. Normally speaking I would have been further along in the podcast creation process by the time I slept last night, but instead I decided to have a knock down drag out fight with Amazon. There is an item that starting last Tuesday, has been updating daily to tell me it would be there by 8pm the next day. This has drug on for several days… and the FedEx tracking that I finally received shows that there is no way it is going to be here until sometime at the end of next week. Needless to say I was more than a little perturbed, and ended up trying to get to the bottom of it.
Where I feel bad however is that I know I took out some of my frustrations on the agents that were working the case. I realize why companies hide their chat functionality, but overall it is a horrible practice, that only leads customers to be pissed as hell by the time they FINALLY get a hold of a person to talk to about their issues. I know I probably came off as a mad man, but seriously… I’ve been an Amazon customer since around 2000, and been a prime member for I think as long as the program has existed. I keep that active so that I can have items here in two days… and there have been a lot of times in the past where they actually have it here next day. Since the swap to using the US Postal Service however, I have had several delayed orders… and this one just seems to be another in that line of problems. The worst part about it is.. that after spending over an hour last night trying to get someone to tell me where the ball was dropped… no one seemed to have any answers. I did however get two months of prime added to my account apparently to appease me, so I guess that makes up for some of the frustration. I have no doubt that the item will arrive and be just fine… but man this situation has been annoying. It is nothing nearly as bad as Tam and Amazon quite literally losing his shipment.
The Week of Warcraft
For the most part this was in fact the Week of Warcraft as I am attempting to play both characters on Argent Dawn Alliance side… and the joined The Scryers server Horde side. This means there are two different communities that I am trying to be an active part of, and as a result pretty much everything else I am doing has fallen by the wayside. Part of my Sunday ritual is to go downstairs and watch a sequence of television shows until ultimately it is time for bed. However during this sequence I got pulled into the Horde side guild raid with my friends in the awesomely named Facepull. Between some gear upgrades from drops and some crafted gear by the amazing Brerhoof it took me to around the 670 range. Now after some LFR this week I am sitting at 679 so a stones throw away from 680. I have two parts left to do of LFR and my hope is at some point before this evening I can actually get them knocked out and will hopefully see some more upgrades. My lowest piece on the Paladin is his necklace which is still the level 640 boosted green gear. In theory if I get lucky I could get a baleful item to drop while I am doing dailies… which I also need to do at some point. I have everything enchanted and gemmed… at least with cheap enchants and gems so my performance as a whole should be better tonight… that is if they still want me to come and pewpewpew things.
Then Wednesday night I was invited to raid with some twitter folk that I have known for ages. There I brought my Alliance Warrior Belghast, and similarly have made some jumps in gearing as the week went out. I started the week at 680 and have bumped it a little bit up to 684. This is still a long ways off from the 705-710 range that I need to be in order to really function in Heroic for the Friendship Moose fun, but whatever I am enjoying the process. In both cases I was mostly a fly on the wall as the raid went about their business, but I could see myself enjoying both situations greatly. It is my hope that in both scenarios are am invited back for future weeks, and in spite of my crummy gear I still managed to end up I think 3rd in total damage done for the raid. My burst dps is still on the weak range, but I am throwing out a lot of total damage which still is nice. Gladiator is such a fun spec that I am really going to hate losing once the expansion ships. I guess there is hope at a later date that they might revive the spec, but I seriously imagine it was just too hard to balance when it essentially took all of the same gear that tanks did… which means that my overall survival is among the highest of the dps classes. In any case I am having fun… and that is what really matters right?
Reaching Diamond City
The original plan for this week was to record our final Fallout 4 show last night, and because of that I felt this overwhelming need to have completed the storyline. This means that a good chunk of this week I was pushing hard to get through the main story, and I have to say… it was some of the most miserable I have been playing Fallout ever. My play style is very much a “forget the story exists” method, where I wander aimlessly and go explore whatever happens to suit my fancy. This means there is a lot of ADD induced gaming as I see what that building over there in the distance is, or go explore that wrecked vehicle there because it looks interesting. The result is that I spend a lot of time playing, but not a lot of time getting anywhere specific. With the severe content density that is the Commonwealth, it means I had at 70 hours not gotten anywhere vaguely close to Diamond City. I knew where it was, but I was busy wandering around the Cambridge area and exploring lots of little nooks and crannies.
Instead this week I forced myself to follow the storyline, and while it is really awesome… and there are lots of interesting characters… the entire process feels forced. I mean it IS forced, because I am trying hard to play in a style that is not natural to me. I talked about this for quite a bit on the podcast last night, but essentially most of the time I don’t like it when games end. In Mass Effect 2, I enjoyed every moment of the side missions… but it felt like all of my fun was being sucked down a drain the moment I started that sequence of events that lead to the end of the game. I want these worlds and settings.. and characters that I have created to essentially live on forever… and the sooner I “beat” a game… the sooner that fun for me is over. I think in part this is why I like the MMO so much, because my characters never have to go away… they just keep going on and changing and adapting as new content is released. So as it looks like we are pushing off the Fallout 4 show a bit… I am going to try and find a happy medium where I alternate between following story… and also spending some time following my heart.
One of the subjects I have thinking about quite a bit this week is the video game hype cycle… namely the time from when a video game is announced to the time you can have it in your grubby little hands. There are a lot of times that a game is announced with great fanfare and then when it actually releases two years later… the excitement has died down to a point where I rarely realize it has launched. This is especially true with games that have an early access system, because quite literally in my mind they have been “out” from the moment they started taking money for the game. I’ve come to a line of thinking that Fallout 4 pretty much represents the perfect amount of hype leading into a game launch. While all manner of information was leaked about this game for a few years… there was no official acknowledgement of the game, nor any media floating around about it until June 2015 at E3. At which point they announced that the game would be available in November of that same year. This gave the game a focused four months to hype it up and get people read for it.
The truth is that most of the hype was fan created. Bethesda themselves continued to release a slow trickle of information and trailers… large parts of which were simply recompiled from the demos given at E3. But this constant trickle served to keep the fires ignited long enough that by the time the game actually launched a few months later… folks were still very much at the peak of excitement, rushing out into the store and buying damned near anything even vaguely related to the game. As an example of this fever pitch I give to you exhibit A… the fact that the extremely limited edition Nuka Cola Quantum cases are going for over $1200 on Ebay. They announced a game with lots of new features, and then delivered it a short period of time later as promised. This sort of brevity is refreshing when it comes to video games, because we are simply used to it dragging on over the course of several years including extended alpha and beta phases which only serve to get the players bored with the title before they even lay their hands on it.
Beta is Not Beta
Another huge problem that plagues the industry is the fact that Beta testing really doesn’t mean what it says it means. What is ultimately spurring on this post is the launch of the World of Warcraft Legion Alpha yesterday to the press, streamers and a few fan sites. While Fallout 4 had this nice clean short cycle, Legion is already setting up to have a considerably longer one. We first got the official announcement of the rumored expansion at Gamescom in August, and post Blizzcon in early November we received our potential launch window of September 2016. Now that we have an alpha circulating, we will now have plenty of hype inducing articles and videos circulating… with ten months to go until the potential launch window. While this is awesome to stoke the fires, the flames will have died down significantly by the time the game actually releases. Right now I myself am riding this nostalgia buzz that has lead me to resubscribe to the game, but there is likely no way that the game can sustain my excitement until next year to keep the love going.
What I meant by the Beta not meaning what it used to, is the fact that we no longer have these cloistered NDA protected testing environments. So in essence Beta becomes this time to allow streamers and the press to hype up the game for Blizzard, rather than the period of deeply focused testing. Sure it is frustrating to be in something that is under NDA, and not be able to talk about it… but games need an incubation period before the world gets to see them. When I was testing Elder Scrolls Online I was quite literally in the closed testing process for a little bit over a year before the launch of that game. I tested the hell out of it, and myself and Ashgar apparently developed a reputation for our prolific bug noting. There were lots of things that I saw that would have freaked the hell out of the press and public if they saw them, but I simply calmly noted it and described as many details as I could and moved on. As the builds changed we saw many of those bugs disappear… and often times other ones arise that we continued to note. For me at least it was not about getting to play the game free or having something to fill my site with articles… but instead about trying extremely hard to make sure the best possible game launched.
So now is the point where I present a challenge to anyone with access to the World of Warcraft Legion alpha client. Test the hell out of that game and submit bug notes for anything that even seems vaguely out of place. I want each of you to be so prolific in your bug notes… that the developers behind the scenes know you by name and immediately start predicting what you might say. The Warlords of Draenor testing process was not taken seriously by the developers or by the players… and most of us just used it as a way of showcasing what was coming out from the game. What we ended up with was an expansion that did not quite feel right on so many levels, all of which were things that could have been addressed during the Alpha testing process. By the time a game makes it into Beta… it is essentially in a polish phase, where the content gets the spelling errors ironed out, and cosmetic blemishes are fixed. Alpha is the time when you can actually effect the way a game will play like at launch, and now that you have access to this client I expect each of you to do your job. After all testing is a job, not a perk… or something that elevates you above other players.
Quite literally if Legion is not the best expansion that World of Warcraft has ever seen… we are in a lot of trouble. You can have a single bad expansion and still turn around… namely I am looking at Dark Age of Camelot and the horrible Trials of Atlantis expansion here. They continued on to do a lot of really interesting things, but they absolutely had a misstep. I feel like Warlords was without a doubt Blizzard’s misstep when it comes to the Warcraft franchise, and Legion is their chance to redeem themselves. The problem being they need you the players to give honest and sometimes brutal feedback on what is working and what is not working. There is a huge difference between the live client and the alpha client… and the alpha forums are this magical place where people actually talk about the serious issues of the game without resorting to hyperbole. I expect each and every one of you that have access to this alpha to put that time to good use, and find every single bug in the game. Sure you only have access to the Demon Hunter starting experience, but I expect you to help make that starting experience the best “newbie zone” in the game. Now what are you doing reading my post… get to making bug notes people!