Night Falls

Unfortunate Bonus Round

This is going to be a bit of an oddity for me, I am breaking my normal one post per day rule.  I feel like the gravity of the situation warrants it, because right now I am feeling so many different emotions at the same time.  By now most of you will have heard the news that I believe first broke over on the newly erected Massively OP website.  Today Daybreak Games, formerly Sony Online Entertainment has chosen to make some sweeping cuts to staff.  Among the individuals caught in this madness were none other than Dave “Smokejumper” Georgeson and and Linda “Brasse” Carlson.  I cannot fathom a chain of consequences that would lead to this happening, but I will get into that later.  For me and many others these two individuals along with Scott Hartsman before he left to join Trion…  were the face of the Everquest franchise.  They were the spirit of the game, and the lifeblood that kept the player base constantly engaged, because never once did you question their sincerity or devotion to making the game world awesome.

Last Tuesday when the news broke that SOE was to be no more, and they would be taking up the new name of Daybreak Game Studio I tried to keep things in stride.  After all I had gotten used to Everquest transitioning from Verant to being called Sony Online Entertainment hadn’t I?  When I found out they had been purchased by what seemed to be a cold and faceless financial holdings company, I tried to keep a positive tone in that it seemed that they were holding most of the companies rather than chopping them up into pieces.  I held in the back of my mind the possibility that the future was in fact going to be positive, that maybe out from under Sony they could reach previously locked off markets like the Xbox One.  After all this same company owned both Rhapsody and Fiverr, surely they knew what they were doing right?

Night Falls

Today it seems that my worst fears have been realized, and that things really can’t stay the same.  As online gamers we get lost in the worlds created by the games that we love to play.  Part of that world are the names and faces of the individuals who act as the conduit between our normal mundane lives, and the magical realms we spent our free time in.  At least in a small part they act as civil servants to the virtual cities we inhabit.  As we watch public presentations and read patch notes and press releases, it is amazing just how quickly we can rattle off the names of the key players that are relaying the information to us.  Even though we may never know them, we develop an almost personal relationship as they take the stage to give us tidbits of information about the future state of “our” game.

The problem is…  we get extremely close to these personalities, so that when one leaves either by their own hand, or by circumstances the shock waves reverberate through the community.  Today a mighty shock wave happened, and I am still not quite sure how to talk about it with any intelligence.  For many years, Brasse has been the public face of the Everquest community team, and Smokejumper the face of the future of that franchise.  It was impossible to watch either of them and not see just how excited they were to be representing this game that they too loved.  I find it exceptionally hard to try and imagine a future that does not involve them, and I have to say a lot of my faith that there will even be an Everquest going forward is more than a little tarnished.

The Survivors

This has been the month of senseless corporate action.  First with AOL killing off their blogs, and now the selling of of Sony Online Entertainment.  I am deeply concerned about the future of these games, in part because the gravitas of Sony…  allowed for SOE to be a little “funky”.  They devoted time to building a lot of unique and quirky features that we were not likely to see come out of any other company.  Do you think that any other company would have given us something truly strange like SOEmote?  Sure I never used it, but I thought the tech was extremely cool especially for the roleplaying community.  The tools that I did love, like the robust housing system and the dungeon builder…  likely would not have come to fruition in a company not quite so willing to chase rabbit trails.

All of this said… I think it is important to also think about the people who were left behind.  They are reeling from the layoffs, and seeing their friends gone.  Having been through more than one layoff, it completely changes the feel of the office.  Every action becomes questioned, and every motive suspicious, making it almost impossible to focus on doing the excellent job that the “citizens” are expecting you to do.  It is easy to say you are done with the Everquest franchise, because of these rather rash actions…  but in truth you are just going to punish the people who are still there, still trying to create the game worlds you love.  Hopefully we can all take a deep breath, grieve the loss, and try and figure out how to move on without being bitter.  I really hope this next week gives us some really good news, because this month so far has turned out to be a fairly tragic one.

Much Darkness

Very White Mage

ffxiv 2015-01-31 11-58-05-09 I won’t say that the sparkle is gone from World of Warcraft, because I am absolutely looking forward to starting Blackrock Foundry on Tuesday.  However the shine has diminished enough that I no longer have any real pressing needs to spend non-raid time doing.  As a result I have been spending considerably more time lately in Final Fantasy XIV.  While I was at Pax South the 2.5 patch dropped and I have course have been working my way slowly through all the new stuff.  Last Tuesday I was getting dangerously close to the 2000 soldiery cap, so I opted to purchase another of the 1300 soldiery level 110 weapons.  Now I have one of these already for my Warrior, Bard and Dragoon…  but rather than purchasing it for the Paladin my other 50… I instead opted to purchase it for my White Mage.  Problem there is that my White Mage was only level 45 at the time of purchasing it.  As such I now kind of feel like I should finish leveling, and for most of the weekend that is what I set my mind to doing.

I figured I would solve two problems, namely that I had been out of Venture tokens for months… and I miss running Quick Exploration ventures.  For the uninitiated this game has a strange banking and auctioning system that revolves around the hiring of NPCs called retainers.  Some time ago they added in the functionality to send your retainers out on missions for you…  very similar to how the garrison mission system ended up being.  One of these is called Quick Exploration, in which your retainer brings back something completely random.  It could be something amazing like a rare primal weapon, or it could be something absolutely useless like fish glue.  I spent most of my day piddling around doing levequests which have a chance of rewarding venture tokens but at the same time reward not too shabby experience.  At the beginning of the day I was 45 and at the end I am almost 48…  so making slow but steady progress.  Probably going to start doing some  beast tribe dailies tonight to mix things up.

Much Darkness

ffxiv 2015-02-01 11-48-34-74 Syrcus Tower had been a thing for the majority of the time we have been back in the game.  Which as we are realizing was like six months ago.  One of the big additions in the 2.5 patch is the conclusion of the Crystal Tower series of raids, The World of Darkness.  This only serves to further confuse me since WoD now means World of Darkness the dungeon, World of Darkness the pen and paper setting or the aborted mmo…  or of course Warlords of Draenor.  For the uninitiated the Crystal Tower series follows for the most part the theme of Final Fantasy 3.  These are what I often refer to as the “casual raid” content and reward some nice “catch up” gear for players.  In a Crystal Tower raid you are part of an 8 player full party, which is then part of a 3 full party alliance…  making 24 players taking on the content.  We have long joked that since 4 players is a Light Party, and 8 players is a Full Party…  then 24 players should have been a Heavy Party or something similar.

ffxiv 2015-02-01 12-13-09-27 At this point we have run Syrcus aka part two… so much we can literally sleep walk through it, so it was really refreshing to have to struggle through this raid.  In fact we flat out wiped on the first encounter because of so much craziness going on.  Each encounter has a laundry list of things that you need to watch out for or react to.  Everything in the place just looks gruesome.  I took a moment to snap a picture of this boss, which looked brutal but ended up being one of the easier encounters.  This is another first and last boss are the worst scenario, but I have to say the Cerebus fight in the middle was pretty frustrating.  I think a large part of that was the chosen strategy our group decided to employ.  I don’t want to spoil the mechanics, but for folks who have ever fought C’thun it is going to feel fairly similar.

To some extent I forgot that we were back under loot rationing and rolled on a dragoon piece winning it.  Normally speaking it is faster to queue as dps, and I just roll greed on the warrior items.  The Final Fantasy XIV loot lockout system is fairly unique in that you can run content as often as you like, but you can only receive a single piece of gear.  Granted both Labyrinth of the Ancients and Syrcus Tower have had this restriction lifted for some time, but I forgot that World of Darkness being brand new would still have it in place.  This is both good and bad, in that when you get a piece of gear you can stop running it for the week.  But if you need only ONE MORE item…  it becomes maddening when you cannot manage to get it drop, and keep running it over and over each week.  I am not in a horrible place gear wise on my warrior so I guess it doesn’t matter that much that my first piece of World of Darkness loot went to the Dragoon.

So Zombie

H1Z1 2015-01-31 18-16-02-97

Another activity this weekend is that I patched up H1Z1 and decided to pop in for a bit to give it another shot.  I am still on the Carebear server Willamette and was surprised honestly that there had not been a rollback of any sort from my previous character.  In the above picture I feel like I kinda looke like Nes from Earthbound had a really bad day.  Overall it was more enjoyable because the world was populated with “stuff”.  When I last played I logged out in a small town, and inside a house that was well fortified.  Upon logging back in… the house was no longer well fortified but thankfully I did not get swarmed.  In fact I watched a zombie completely ignore me and run chasing off after a deer, which admittedly was rather comical.  A lot of things about the game seem to have improved drastically, like the fact that damage against zombies seems more predictable… and less likely for me to flat out end up dead as a result.

When I last played I kept looking for items in cabinets, trashed cars, etc…  but apparently “container loot” was bugged… meaning the only items to be found were ground spawns.  This time around I managed to find a backpack, craft a bow and arrow, and find lots of food…  making my chances of survival not entirely dependant upon eating three million blackberries.  I still found water something difficult to find, so I need to do some research to find out what other sources I can use for it.  I know you can fill a bottle if it is raining…  but not sure if you can go stand in a stream and fill a bottle as well.  In any case I plan on popping my head in again this week as time allows because the game is starting to feel less alpha.

Nostaltic Americana

Aggrochat #40 – Hexcells and H1Z1

It feels a little insane to be saying that we recorded episode 40 last night of our podcast.  It just doesn’t seem like we have been running that long, but quite honestly at this point we have outlasted a large number of podcasts so I guess that’s a thing.  We still manage to meet up each week to record a conversation about games… and then manage to like each other enough to do the same thing almost every night throughout the week.  So I guess that in itself is an accomplishment.  Last night was an absolute insane show, that in it’s content but in the fact that we recorded two shows back to back.  So yes we are going to be perpetrating a dirty dirty lie, and releasing the shows a week a part as though it were fresh content.

Next week Kodra was going to be out anyways, and Ash, Rae and myself are going to Pax South and as such won’t have any of our normal recording style equipment.  So the first episode we recorded last night follows the normal format, but the second episode is going to be announcing a new thing we are doing.  However unfortunately I am going to make you all wait until next week to find out what it is.  As far as the show proper yesterday we uncovered a recent addiction to a game called Hex Cells which if I am to believe Tam, Kodra and Rae is this super chill minesweeper like game.  The fact that they mentioned minesweeper pretty much flagged me as not interested at all.  Additionally we talk about the upcoming 2.5 patch in Final Fantasy XIV and finally I talk about my experiences playing H1Z1 in Early Release.  Then I descend into my frustrations about the Early Access model and why if you are taking money for a game… your game is “Release” but you just released a broken game.

In Search of Vitamin D

sewcool Lately the weather here in  the Tulsa area has been absolutely atrocious, not necessarily in precipitation but in the fact that it has rarely gotten above freezing for the last week.  This means that the likelihood of us venturing outside of our house in a major way was next to nil.  Now I have a love / hate relationship with the sun.  I have super sensitive eyes and being out in bright sunlight pretty much gives me an instant headache.  My wife on the other hand LOVES the sun, and during the winter months suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder or “SAD”, so I know so many times I will be pushed out into the bright light for her health and well being.  Yesterday was one of those days because the temperature actually managed to climb up into the 60s.  We juggled a few different ideas for how we would spend the day but finally landed upon “junking”.

kennerbuildingsetOne of the towns nearby has this really historic main street district where almost every building has been carved up into an “Antique Mall”.  For those not familiar with the concept, it is basically where someone renovates a huge old open floor plan, and carves it up into little booths that they then rent out to folks wanting to sell their wares.  Generally speaking they have an all too clever name like the image above,  that is some sort of pun on what they are selling.  The problem is when EVERYONE has a “clever” name it loses much of the desired effect and just becomes a painful cliché.  Mixed in among the dross and “upcycled” furnishings are some interesting relics from the past.  THIS is why I enjoy going junking, because you never know quite what you might find.

I mostly am interested in relics of my own past, namely interesting toys that I can remember and ones that I didn’t even know existed.  Sometimes you find some quirks of branding… for example yesterday I saw an Archie Bunker themed baby doll, and this awesome construction set by Kenner.  Mostly I snapped a photo of it because there is this really awesome twitter thread where they tweet various photos of kenner products.  We spent the entire day roaming around, and the odd thing is at the end of the day we had purchased exactly nothing. Mostly for us at least it is getting out and doing something rather than just sitting at home, and in that we accomplished our mission.

Nostalgic Americana

tallys While roaming around yesterday I got the “hankering” for some traditional American south “comfort food”, and the best place for something like that is Tally’s Cafe.  It is one of those places that has always been there that I can remember and is somewhat of an icon for Tulsa food.  It is seated on Historic Route 66, and gets a lot of traffic from folks traveling the old highway.  What makes Tally’s so interesting to me is the fact that it is this strange nostalgic version of Americana that likely never existed other than in movies like American Graffiti.  The owner Talal Jalil Alame aka “Tally” came to the United States during the 1979 Civil War in Lebanon, and after some time purchased the current restaurant opening on a Friday 13th in 1987.  What makes the restaurant special is two fold.  The decor is this idealized version of the 1950 that could only exist in the mind of someone who grew up watching 1950s movies.  Lots of chrome, neon, and clean tiles give the appearance of this tribute to the mystique of Route 66.

The second aspect of the restaurant is the fact that the food is really good.  Yesterday I had the boneless fried chicken which is precisely what it sounds like.  These three huge pieces of fried chicken, deboned and served with two sides and a dinner roll.  Quite literally two plates of food, for like $8.  Tally could easily get away with charging far more than he does, but in truth he is more than a small part humanitarian.  Each year during Thanksgiving he fixes this massive meal, dinner with all the fixings.  Anyone can walk in off the street and have a meal, and you quite literally pay whatever you can afford.  Honestly when we were not sure what we were doing for thanksgiving, I had seriously considering trying this out and massively overpaying to support the cause.  In any case Tally’s definitely fit that comfort food desire and I ended up taking a good chunk of it home for pre-podcast leftovers.  All in all it was a pretty great day.

The Fallacy of Alpha

Dehydrated in the Rain

H1Z1 2015-01-16 18-52-34-64 Last night I was finally able to get in and play some H1Z1 and I have to say…  I am fairly impressed with what I have seen.  While the game world is not as pretty as the current generation of FPS games… there is a real world charm to it.  Everything feels bleak and gloomy befitting a world rampaged by the living dead.  I have been playing on the Willamette server which is of course a full on carebear server.  It is in fact the very last PVE server in the list, and I am not really sure what my logic was in doing that…  I likely would have been better off picking something in the middle as it seemed like a lot of other people thought the same thing as me.  When I spawned into the game I was quite literally in the middle of nowhere.  In all seriousness I spawned into a forest and walked to the nearest clearing… and could see the texture distortion of the “end of the world”.  On the positive however this belt on the far side of the forest was populated with nothing but blackberries… something that would come in handy later on.

The problem I have with the game so far is it feels like the deck is stacked too much against you.  There is a point in Minecraft where you can reach equilibrium, and are able to gather enough resources to allow you to explore with greater freedom.  In H1Z1 I felt like I was always moments away from death, really limiting how much I was able to go out and explore.  Which in itself is a catch 22… if you are not exploring, you are not finding resources, and therefore dying more quickly.  One of the most humorous things about the game is the dehydration gauge…  which continued to happily tick down as I was standing in the freaking rain.  I did figure out how to capture rain water with a bottle…  but the end result was “dirty water” which seemed a little counter intuitive.  In the real world if you are able to catch fresh rain water, that is about as pure as you can possibly get since our cycle of precipitation is a massive filtration system.

Zombies Mean Business

H1Z1 2015-01-16 18-15-53-37 Early on I found a branch, so that ended up being the first weapon I went out exploring with.  It was horrible but did more damage than my fists so in theory… a much better choice.  When I first encountered a zombie I was wandering back through the woods to try and find my way to civilization.  I was able to knock it down in a single blow of the branch, but it just laid there…  and I should have followed the “double tap” rule.  Instead it got right back up and proceeded to chomping on me.  I was able to kill it after a few more swings of the branch, but I found it far harder to avoid the attacks than say the zombies in 7 days to die.  In that game you can do this whole bob and weave motion and pretty much avoid taking any damage.  In H1Z1 if you tangle with a zombie… no matter how good the melee weapon you have…  you are going to take some damage.  Later on I found a Machete and a Combat Knife…  the best of which seemed to be the Machete because it was able to knock things down.  The Combat Knife technically did a lot more damage but it forced me to get closer to the zombies to stab them to death.

The biggest problem I had with zombies is the fact that they did not seem to drop shit.  Again I am used to 7 days to die, when zombies are a smorgasbord of interesting object for you to repurpose.  The zombies I killed… and ultimately I killed a lot of them…  only seemed to drop cloth scraps.  After some time I made my way to a city that was already swarming with other players.  At this point I was on the verge of starvation… only having found blackberries to eat, which do not offer much reprieve.  After a point I started feeling like a zombie myself, desperately looking for my next meal and finding nothing.  I am not sure if resources really are that scarce… or if the place had just been picked over by the other scavengers.  In any case the game play felt very dark and hopeless…  which I think is probably what Sony is going for.  There are a lot of issues with the world, but they seem to have a firm base to build upon.

The Fallacy of Alpha

H1Z1 2015-01-16 07-18-28-49 Everything about the world is in a state of flux at this point, because the game is in its Alpha state.  The problem is this word does not mean what it used to mean.  Alpha used to be this phase of the game limited to only friends of the company, when they worked out the game breaking bugs in private before letting progressively more players into the game turning it into beta.  We live in this strange world of “pay to alpha”, which to me means “not alpha at all”.  The Alpha phase was the one that was done internally that we have been watching for the last six months.  This phase that we are in now..  is simply a “broken release”.  I have various maxims that I live by, some of which are simple like “anything that gets in the way of me playing with my friends is bad” that no one can really argue with.  Others like “If you are taking money for your product, it is release” are probably the cause of some debate.  To me H1Z1 is a released game because they are actively taking player money for it.

The problem with the Alpha and Beta system is it acts merely as a shield for the developer to deflect criticism.  They can fall back on the bulwark of “its only alpha” to explain why things aren’t working the way players want them to work.  It gives them time to dodge and weave before the official reviews start showing up, since the Metacritic score has become this all important metric that is ultimately meaningless… but I can rant about my hatred of metacritic another day.  However if you are taking money for a product I feel like you are completely culpable for criticism.   I will always give SOE credit for the fact that both for Landmark and H1Z1 they have offered refunds for players who were angry about the product.  That said I feel it is still completely valid for me to complain about the things I feel are broken in an alpha product, and as such while some of them are absolutely hilarious… I feel like every single one of the almost 2700 negative reviews on steam are also valid.  Game developers have decided that opening up the alpha process gives them a trickle of money, and early exposure to build hype.  However they also have to realize that every action is being watched, they are on camera now and if they screw up… even if it IS supposedly alpha…  it now matters.

H1Z1 Early Access

Bel Folks Stuff #4 – An Evening with Petter

This month the Bel Folks Stuff podcast focuses on the amazing Petter Mårtensson.  Petter has been an extremely busy man, and has had a ton of side projects over the years.  In his normal fashion he even offered to guest on Aggrochat if we could ever work out the time zone issues.  Our listeners could know him from any number of places.  For several years he worked for the european gaming magazine GameReactor both as a writer and as an on-air anchor.  Similarly while dormant for several years, he is the man behind the Don’t Fear the Mutant blog.  On the podcasting front he has been extremely active in the CSICON network serving as a host on several different shows including Claims the Normal, Three MMOSketeers, Enochian Frequency and most recently Who’s Who.

In addition to all of this he was involved in creating the A Tale of Internet Spaceships documentary talking about the culture behind EVE online.  Now he is also writing a monthly Final Fantasy XIV column for MMOGames.  Like I said… he is an extremely busy man and I am thankful he took the time to sit down with me and have a length conversation…  mostly about non-gaming stuff.  I think the most interesting thing about the conversation was the delve into Futurism and the things we would love to see.  We also geeked out a bit about Doctor Who, which apparently is something that happens on every podcast now that he hosts the Who’s Who show.  Definitely was an interesting conversation, and I hope you all enjoy listening to it as much as I enjoyed recording it.

Listen to the Show

H1Z1 Early Access

H1Z1 2015-01-15 22-48-18-17 Yesterday Sony Online Entertainment launched the H1Z1 early access.  This was originally supposed to go live on Steam around noon, but various delays pushed it back into the late afternoon.  When I got home from work it was available and I figured $20 but satiate my curiosity was a fair price.  However the game apparently is very much “not quite ready for primetime”.  The above screen is what greeted me when finally after my World of Warcraft raid I fired the game back up.  Early in the evening I was not able to get into the server select screen at all so I guess in a way it is progress?  I am sure this is another case of “underestimated demand” and I seriously cannot blame them.  Throwing a game up on Steam early access as your initial forray into alpha… is pretty damned daring.  Right now the game has roughly 2000 reviews, roughly half of those are positive and half are negative, so if only a small fraction of the population comments…  that means they sold a ton of early access copies.

I love the concept of a zombie survival game…  the problem is I don’t want to have to deal with the world pvp aspect of games like Rust and Dayz.  So when this game was announced I had zero interest, until it was confirmed that there would be PVE only server environments at launch.  Hell I didn’t even mind that the original icon in the server browser list was a teddy bear.  I am a carebear, and I am okay with this notion.  While it is immature to taunt the player base that has proved to make up the overwhelming majority of MMO players…  I can deal with it.  I am sure H1Z1 is going to be a mess for the near future, but hopefully at some point it will be playable and interesting and allow me to play a base building game in a walking dead style world.  If it gives me that… then I am largely going to be happy with it and will consider it $20 well spent.

Mar’gok Attempts

Wow-64 2015-01-15 20-12-37-89 Early in the week on Tuesday we had a really phenomenal night or raiding, meaning we cleared 6/7 on normal and 2/7 on heroic.  This freed up last night to work entirely on Imperator Mar’gok.  While we got a bit of a late start due to key players running a bit behind, we accomplished just that, an entire night of attempts.  Mar’gok is one of those fights with a lot of moving parts, and it is simply going to take a lot of repetition before we have our “click moment” when everything falls into place.  We however did make good strides in that direction.  Essentially there is one transition that is wrecking us… that we need to figure out how to do more smoothly.  Once we have that transition down I think we will down the boss.  All of that said we did manage to start getting him down into the 40% range each time, which tells me we are likely on the cusp of victory.

It feels really good to be doing current content in World of Warcraft.  During my time back in Pandaria I attempted to raid with a group that was in theory several content patches behind.  There is just something demoralizing about doing that, and especially since we never seemed to make any real forward momentum that would lead me to believe that at any time we were likely to get to current content.  When LFR served as my primary source of upgrades…  I had to ask myself why was I even bothering with the constant nights of wiping.  This expansion however has been a completely different experience.  I really want to kill Mar’gok but I have the utmost confidence that we will, and likely before the Blackrock Foundry raid opens.  I am just bummed that I won’t be around Thursday night next week… because more than likely after reviewing the logs we will make some tweaks and finish this raid.

Elder Dungeons

H1Z1 Preview

h1n1 Yesterday was the big reveal of the new SOE game H1Z1.  While it should surprise no one… this is a zombie survival MMO.  With the name there is literally nothing else that it could have been.  Right now the details are pretty sketchy, but details are being collected on the official reddit.  It really looks like it is going to take what Rust and DayZ are doing, to the next level and make it massive and persistent.  While all of this intrigues me…  I think it is pretty much in the “not for me” camp.  I am amped about exploring a zombie filled world, and building bases with my friends to protect against the hordes.  Dealing with additional players in a PVP scenario in that same world… pretty much destroys my enjoyment.  Ultimately I am all about community and working together, and unless there is some unofficial co-operative server there really isn’t much pull for me.

I played quite a bit of the DayZ mod for Arma 2, but the thing that ultimately stopped me from playing it more was the fact that I didn’t need to worry about the zombies, but instead worry about getting sniped from a massive distance by other players.  I realize that it is more realistic to have players be fighting other players for survival, but in these games there are often times far more players in the world than zombies.  I feel like ultimately what I am looking for is State of Decay co-operative mode… which sadly is not in the cards.  I want to explore a purely PVE world with my friends, and scavenge from potentially NPC factions.  I guess the proof will be in the pudding and how things are set up.  What would really kill the game for me is if other players can loot your corpse, similar to DayZ.

So long as if I die to players I get to keep my progression and my inventory, I might be okay with this.  The other big concern is, that Smedley already talks about players coming along and burning down the bases of other players.  As a kid I loved to build with blocks, but it would piss me off when another kid would come along and knock down my intricate structure.  That is precisely what it feels like to me, when you have a base building game… that allows other players to come destroy yours.  Some time ago Smedley said there was another game on the horizon that SWG players would love.  I keep wondering if this is it, because it is supposed to have the whole player created town aspect.  Knowing what I know about the SWG community however, I don’t really see them being terribly enthralled by this.

The Evil Within

A game I have been watching with some interest for some time is The Evil Within.  Essentially it brings the world famous Shinji Mikami, creator of Resident Evil.  During the early days of the playstation, I absolutely ate up survival horror titles.  I played the shit out of Resident Evil, its sequel, Parasite Eve, and even Dino Crisis.  However for me the genre reached its peak with the release of the original Silent Hill.  There was something so perfect about that game and the way it blended between the relatively sedate “normal” world, and the absolutely twisted “nightmare” world.  The game absolutely blew me away from the opening chords of its theme song.  As the Resident Evil series wore on, it became ever repetitive and boring, as you rehashed the same old t-virus saga again and again.

What The Evil Within does is pair the mind of Shinji Mikami with the publishing might of Bethesda Softworks.  Now granted this is not the same team that brought us the Elder Scrolls, or even Fallout…  but so far they have managed to prove that when one of the Zenimax studios creates a title…  I am ultimately going to be interested in it.  The above trailer is brand new for Pax and I have to say I am super interested.  It feels far more like Silent Hill than Resident Evil, and this is an awesome thing to me.  I want another game where I wander around a nightmarish landscape that I can’t quite wrap my head around.  The title is slotted to ship at the end of August, and I am super excited about it.  If you loved the original Silent Hill as much as I did, I figure you have reason to be excited as well.  If nothing else the trailer is really freakin cool.

Elder Dungeons

Screenshot_20140408_195314 I finally put my finger on what exactly I am loving about the dungeons in Elder Scrolls Online.  In many ways it feels like a return to the dungeons of Everquest and Dark Age of Camelot.  World of Warcraft did something to MMOs that has seemed unrepairable until now.  It was really the first game to begin to treat dungeons as though they were wholly separate from the rest of the world.  It walled the dungeons off in instances, filled them with special dungeon mobs, and applied abilities to them that you would see in no place OTHER than a dungeon.  The dungeon became its own unique game, that required a completely different set of skills than play out in the world did.  Every game since the launch of World of Warcraft has taken this lead and filled their dungeons with “elites” that for the most part require players to focus fire them down, since an individual player could not possibly solo one at level.

This was not always the case, dungeons used to be filled with the same kinds of mobs you might encounter out in the “real” world, just in larger numbers and higher frequency.  So stepping into Elder Scrolls Online, I admit I was freaked out when we first encountered and 8 to 10 mob pull.  I am only now realizing that this is essentially the same 8 to 10 mobs you would encounter while roaming around the world.  What makes this challenging and not just “trash packs” is the fact that these mobs fight smarter.  From the moment you step into the dungeon, you encounter “group tactics”.  Healers will heal the lowest target, including other healers…  Necromancers will raise the dead, melee will go after your squishiest party members.  The mobs are treating you like dungeon encounters, and trying to take you down as a team.

What makes this so refreshing is that these tactics are not solely reserved for “dungeons” but the same kind of thing you start encountering as the game ramps up difficulty.  In Stormhaven it is getting rare that I am not involved in three or more mobs at a time.  Almost always this will include a healer of some sort, a “tank” of some sort and a “dps” of some sort.  The first time a mob tried to kite me, it was a really cool moment.  Why this is great is because Elder Scrolls is somehow managing to teach players the skills that they will need for later content, in the content they are actually playing.  So while yes, there is a massive learning curve… I feel like we will not have the same problems we have with the PUG scene in World of Warcraft in the eventual Elder Scrolls Online end game.  If you can make it through the veteran content, you likely can make it through any of the content in the game.

It is refreshing to have a game that does not try to coddle the player.  Shit happens, and if you do not react appropriately to it… you get punished and punished hard.  The game is not some brutal Dark Souls type experience, it plays fair and within a set of established rules… but even after playing it as long as I have… I still die, and die often.  I really look forward to the adventure zone combat, because it feels like it is going to be something akin to the old Everquest planes.  I loved breaking the plane of hate and the plane of fear, both of which were unforgiving and brutal… but also immensely rewarding.  While Craglorn sounds like it is much more structured than the planes were, it feels like it might offer a similar style of gameplay.  It will be a long while before I am Veteran Rank 10, but hopefully when I get there we will be able to wander about the zone finding adventure.

#H1Z1 #TheEvilWithin #CragLorn #ESO #ElderScrollsOnline