Sandboxes and Sheep

Defense of Open World

While I might dip my toes in the water of player versus player every so often just to see if I still don’t enjoy it… at my core I am very much a Carebear.  I’ve always assumed I simply lack the competitive streak needed to make the dance of “you kill me I hunt you down and kill you” enjoyable.  Even in the hallowed days of Doom multiplayer, I greatly preferred playing co-operatively with friends rather than playing a Deathmatch.  Generally speaking this wouldn’t effect me because I never willfully choose to expose myself to a PVP environment or mentality, however for some reason folks keep seeming to get hung up on requiring it to play in their sandbox.  I like the concept of a sandbox world where I can go anywhere and do anything…  but for a certain stripe of player that means that they can also grief and gank anyone as a result.

Yesterday there was a really good article talking about the psychology of a Carebear by Aywren that tries to delve into the reasons for not wanting open world PVP.  This article references several other really good articles, the first of which being “What’s So Bad About Open World PVP” over on Gaming Conjecture.  Later on during the article another post is referenced on Endgame Viable that takes a very similar stance.  Essentially the argument sums up to that in ArcheAge the game in question, there aren’t any real lasting consequences of PVP combat, so why should anyone have a problem with it.  I guess from a certain standpoint that is true, there are no lasting mechanical consequences to my character…  but that standpoint relies on someone actually seeing player versus player as a meaningful experience.

Wasting My Time

When I sit down to play any game, be it online or offline I generally have some broad overarching goals in mind, things that I want to accomplish for that night to feel like I actually did something.  Granted I allow myself to get side tracked all of the time, but that is generally tracing down various shiny bits that I happen across along the way.  These rabbit trails are entirely my choice and I allow myself to indulge them as I move around the world.  My key problem with open player versus player combat is the fact that someone is imposing their enjoyment on my playtime.  I am all about folks enjoying their game play until that enjoyment comes at my expense.  I am never going to be the type of player that attacks first, it is just not in my nature and I have waved and hugged countless “flagged” players during my time in World of Warcraft.  So if I get attacked and killed it will be done and over 90% of the time before I even get a shot in…  because I am not looking to fight other players.

What happens then is a series of things that take me out of the place where I was enjoying the game and force me to deal with the whims of another player.  Either I wait until the player gives up and stops camping my corpse, which could be any length of time.  I could allow myself to get drawn into a conflict and start trying to kill trade with that player until either of us gets bored.  More likely I just log out of the game and go find something else to do, because the groove that I was in is now lost thanks to someone interjecting themselves into my game play session.  Now the fans of PVP will talk about how much it enriches their game play experience, how much they enjoy the constant sense of fear of getting attacked.  For me I just view it as a waste of my time, and I don’t cherish or enjoy it any more than any other waste of time.  I don’t look longingly at waiting in a long line at the super market, nor do I think fondly of waiting in traffic because someone is gawking at an accident.  That thing you enjoy about the game, the pvp aspect…  I consider it about as meaningful as both of those things.

Sandboxes and Sheep

The biggest problem I have with the current generation of Sandbox games is that they attract two completely different types of players.  For me at least I love the intricate systems of the game and the fact that you can craft anything you can imagine and run huge trade cartels if you so choose.  I like that there are housing that are meaningful in the world and give you a physical foothold.  I like the fact that you can choose from a large number of combat classes and each mix and match of them offers meaningful gameplay results.  I like that there are interesting places in the world to explore, bosses to take down and events to conquer.  I am very much there to consume all the PVE goodness that the world can offer and experience the epic journey that it has to offer.  I feel like a lot of players want all of those things and more or less try to ignore the player versus player aspect.  We in essense are the sheep, and the fact that we are plays a necessary role for another type of players enjoyment.

In order for a ganker to have fun, they have to have someone to gank.  The ganker mentality doesn’t seek out a challenge, they seek out  the weakest link in the chain so they can exploit it and get their enjoyment out of making someone else feel weak.  It is going to be us sheep that get drawn into their power games, and us sheep that are inconvenienced by it.  Granted that is not to say that all PVPers are gankers and griefers, because that is very much not the case.  There are noble defenders that are there to engage in epic battles between factions for control of sections of the map.  These players aren’t the ones inconveniencing me, because chances are if I ignore them they will also ignore me.  They too are engaged in goal based play, and their goal is to seek out the competition and conquer it.  The folks that will find me, when I least expect it, when I am getting the most enjoyment out of the game are the folks who just want to ruin my night.

Living Breathing World

Yesterday I posted a very truncated version of this statement over on the Gaming Conjecture website.  I condensed the bulk of everything I wanted to say into two paragraphs, and for the most part folks seem to accept what I said at face value.  There was one response however.

But I’d like to ask whether you feel the gain can outweigh the loss? So for example, I might have my intended plan ruined by a PvP intervention, but does gaining a living breathing world make that a price worth paying?

Once again I think this question comes from a mindset of someone who feels that player versus player combat enriches their experience.  For me at least the fact that I can attack other players does not make it a living breathing world.  The fact that the world is populated with lots of things that I can interact with, harvest, plant, and build makes it a living breathing world.  What would make it MORE of a living world is if players were less focused on trying to kill each other, and somehow screw over each other… and more focused on collaborating on massive scale public works projects.  Once upon a time there was a game called Horizon.. that later on got rebranded as Istaria.  Unfortunately the current version is a mere shadow of what the original was like to play, and has mostly become a game for folks who desperately want to role-play a dragon.

That game was a sandbox environment before I even knew to call it a sandbox.  It had a rich crafting system, and an equally rich multi-classing combat system.  In truth it is everything that ArcheAge is, but a decade earlier.  What make the game so compelling to me is that on Dawn the role-playing server we had massive crafters unions that worked together on big projects.  The  game set these obstacles in our path that could only be solved by devoting both crafting and combat resources to them.  For example in order to access a brand new continent we had to build a bridge, and the construction of it was a month long project of crafters constantly applying materials to its construction.  The problem being that the nearest quarry was a considerable amount of distance away from the bridge, and the entire path was lined with enemies that could easily kill the players wearing their crafting gear.

As a result being primarily combat focused, I along with lots of other players took up the role of guarding players as they applied materials to the construction.  These huge public works projects, and entire player built communities gave the world a living breathing feel… and there was not a single amount of player versus player combat in that game.  I guess what I am saying is I don’t feel it adds anything to my experience, and doesn’t make a world any more real than anything else does.  My world is about collaborating with other players to do interesting things, not tearing down others so I can feel stronger.  That might be a dangerous oversimplification, but that is how I view forced PVP in an otherwise PVE rich setting.  I view it as a few players forcing themselves upon me so they can get their enjoyment at my expense.

#ArcheAge #PVP #Carebear

Tremors in the Force

Glorious Weekend

DoctorWhoTimeHeist The entire weekend was pretty crummy outside here in Oklahoma, so as a result we spent most of it inside.  I curled up on the couch with a brand new fuzzy blanket and spent it gaming on the laptop while watching stuff on television.  It had quite literally been a few months since I had last watched television really.  Granted there was a bit of television each night and each morning while going to sleep and waking up respectively, but I had not actually sat down to watch anything of any importance in a very long time.  As such I had a bunch of shows stacked up that I wanted to catch up on.  The most important of these was this seasons Doctor Who.  I had watched the premiere several weeks back, but had not seen any of the episodes since.

I feel like the jury is still out on how I feel about the new Scottish Doctor.  I guess I am just used to the normal fun loving slightly insane Doctor, and this interpretation just feels strange.  The dynamic between Clara and the Doctor also feels a bit strained.  Granted the companion that survives a regeneration I guess is always a bit odd, but this one seems more so.  It seems in part that the Doctor still has a crush on her, and as he is watching her get on with her life…  it feels a little awkward.  As far as the stories have gone, I think I like the “Time Heist” episode the best.  Trying not to go into much detail for fear of spoilers…  because I am sure there are others out there that have not caught up yet.  In fact public television here in the United States tends to be one full season behind.

Tremors in the Force

StarWarsRebels Other than Doctor Who I finally got around to watching the first two episodes of the new Star Wars animated series “Rebels”.  What amazes me is just how well both of the animated series have managed to get the feeling of the universe, whereas the prequels failed so miserably.  Star Wars Rebels is pretty much the perfect Star Wars show.  You have a scrappy group of fighters, and interesting relationship between reluctant Jedi Master and a force sensitive padawan…  all after the fall of the Republic in a super scary time where being a Jedi means being hunted.  There are just enough call backs to the original series to let you know when exactly this adventure is set.  In the first episode Ezra the main character happens to open a Jedi Holocron with the message Obi Wan Kenobi left for all Jedi during the events of Episode 3 – Revenge of the Sith.  Then in Episode 2, you encounter C-3PO and R2-D2 who are on their way to the Tantive IV.  With those two little vignettes it tells you that the events are sometime in the gulf of time between episodes 3 and 4, which is a super fertile place to base a new series.

The characters are likeable from the start.  They are just “scoundrel” enough to come across as being selfish… but quickly transition into a cell of rebel fighters trying to survive however they can.  The entire series has a very “Firefly” vibe too it, and honestly I am just wishing there was more of the show to watch already.  So far you have Hera Syndulla the Twilek Pilot/Engineer, Sabine Wren the Mandalorian Weapons Expert, Garazeb Orrelios the Lasat Muscle, Ezra Bridger the Street Kid Force Savant and finally Kanan Jarrus the leader of this group and a former Jedi Padawan at the moment Order 66 happened.  The mix of personalities and skill sets makes for a really good viewing experience.  Since Star Wars meant so much to me growing up, I am always happy to watch the fires get reignited for new generations.  I just wish that it was still on Cartoon Network rather than Disney XD, since I seem to be far better in keeping up with Cartoon Network than any other channel.  If you have not watched any of the show and are an old school Star Wars fan I highly suggest you check it out.

Eating some Crow

archeage 2014-10-13 06-17-56-723 I finally decided to start giving ArcheAge a chance this weekend, in part because I have realized that so many people I know happen to be playing all in the same place, and same guild to be more specific.  Other than ventures into Final Fantasy XIV this was the ideal game to sit on the sofa wrapped in my blanket cocoon and watch television while playing.  The game itself is still intriguing and intricate, but the thing that turned me off of the game in beta was just how horrible the community had been.  So far the launch servers seem to be far better than they were before.  I was able to complete the early quests without much attempt at griefing.  The place where I had so much frustration during alpha was when you are asked to take a rowboat across a bay.  In alpha there were tons of high level ships waiting there to capsize players as they attempted to cross.  This time around there was just a single high level ship and they seemed to be loading up for a trade run and completely oblivious to the fact that I was trying to do something.

Similarly I have actually had some decent random grouping experiences.  So while the community is nowhere near as nice as say Cactuar in Final Fantasy XIV…  it is at least up to WoW Standards…  which admittedly isn’t saying much.  I did have a really positive experience in doing an elite quest.  There is this event that happens in a fallen fortress where between the hours of 2am and 2pm in game time hordes of undead spawn with a boss and you are given quests to kill multiple undead.  I noticed that it was nearing the spawn so I wandered up into the hills and decided that I would just kill undead while waiting.  There were numerous people up there waiting, and it was moments later that I was invited to a raid team.  Folks were relatively well organized and the leader made sure that everyone had gotten all 20 kills before we downed the final boss.  Granted this might be an aberration, but it seemed like a pretty reasonable response to the situation.

archeage 2014-10-13 06-13-41-942 At this point I am still not terribly certain how often I will play.  Right now I have a level 16 Doomlord on Naima Western Continent.  This seems to be where most of the people I know are playing, and white honestly I HAD to play Nuian because they were the only race that offered anything even closely resembling proper facial hair.  Additionally the Western faction is supposedly going to get dwarves whenever XL Games decides to give the North American servers the expanded racial options.  I’ve applied to be in the same guild as Liore, Zelibeli, and several others from both the Machiavelli’s Cats and Multiplaying/Alliance of Awesome communities.  I have to say being patron seems to make all the difference in the world because as a true free to play account you have next to no labor points.  I am not declaring this game the “best ever” or anything like that, but it seems to no longer be nearly as toxic as it was in early testing.  I still prefer FFXIV, but right now I just haven’t had the oomph to grind up another character.  So mostly I am working my way through my book quest and doing my daily elite dungeon.  However since my friend Eliyon is now a newly minted 50 I can see myself probably playing a lot more in the evenings there.  It was a fun weekend nonetheless and I look forward to piddling around in it some more.

#DoctorWho #StarWarsRebels #ArcheAge

Blood of the Werewolf

AggroChat Episode #26

I feel like last night was a really good episode, or at least I hope it is.  It is one of those nights where the conversation flowed freely and we had way more topics to talk about than we realistically had time to do so.  Even at that we still recorded for roughly an hour and a half and it is completely packed full of stuff.  The title of the show is the “Gospel of Galaxy Trucker” and that is because Kodra has become an evangelist for the power of that game.  He has always been a big fan of the board game, and has latched onto the iOS port with both hands trying to get as many people to play with him as possible.  Problem is for me at least I don’t have any iOS devices, and I sadly doubt that android and iOS users will be able to play together….  although in Carcassonne you could play across platforms so here is hoping.

Other than that we talked at length about Dragon Age: Origin and mostly how Kodra has been getting along in the game.  He had tried to play it before in the past but was unable to get into it, so it seems as though he is at least over the hurdle.  As we refer to it “Getting Off Citadel” because that was the big hurdle of when Mass Effect 1 started to become interesting, and getting past Lothering in Dragon Age is a similar journey.  I talk at length about my issues with Destiny right now and the mindless grinding that is required to keep progressing.  I am far more grind friendly than the rest of my cast mates but even I am starting to hit my limit.  Finally we talk about the tell tale blank spots in the Blizzcon lineup and contemplate what they might be announcing.  We throw out a bunch of ideas for a new game genre for them to polish to a mirror shine.

Blood of the Werewolf

Blood of the Werewolf 2014-10-12 10-11-13-894 I picked this up some time ago on a Steam sale because it had two things that greatly interested me.  Firstly the fact that you were playing as a female werewolf looking for revenge for her slain husband was an interesting spin on the genre.  Secondly it looked in many ways similar to the original Castlevania with a series of levels that show your progression in form of a minimap.  The dual mechanics of “human” and “werewolf” modes seemed interesting as well.  So for this mornings Steampowered Sunday I decided to give it a spin and play it for a bit.  I was not really feeling up to interacting with the world so I opted not to stream it, however I did take lots of screenshots along the way.  This however is a review that almost didn’t happen because apparently this game is essentially broken without massive intervention.  When I launched it the first time I started getting C++ debug errors, and since I am programmer by trade and have visual studio installed… it kept asking me if I wanted to launch a debugger to step through the code.

It turns out this is a “known issue” and simply has not been patched.  In fact there is a “helpful” thread on the steam forums on how to fix it.  I put helpful in quotes because the “fix” requires you to edit your registry and hard code the resolution you want to run the game at.  This is a horrible horrible decision, and I damned near stopped playing the game at this point.  If you put a game on steam you should at least have a way to configure your games resolution without resorting to the registry.  Quite honestly this right along makes me not recommend this game for anyone at this point.  I feel like more than likely the current $1.04 pricetag and the regular $7.00 pricetag maybe reflects the fact that this game has some shitty development behind it.  All of this said…  the registry hack seemed to clear up my problems.

Charming Narrative

Blood of the Werewolf 2014-10-12 10-11-19-648 The art style and voice acting are really nicely done.  I maybe should have used charming in quotes… since in reality you are going across the country side on a revenge fueled murder spree.  But I guess in reality the original Castlevania didn’t give you much of a reason why you were going after Dracula…  so it works here as well.  The game is told from the perspective of the mother telling her son what she had to do to seek revenge for the killing of his father.  I am not sure if this is like a journal that the son is reading, but it seems likely.  Which makes me wonder does your character simply not survive in the end.  I have not played enough yet to really be able to determine that, nor do I know if I will play enough, but I can get into the reasons behind that later.

Blood of the Werewolf 2014-10-12 10-10-01-407 The only problem I have is that the enemies you face are mostly random monsters…  and while the rats and crocodiles and even other wolves make sense… I have no clue why there are giant fireball belching deep ones in the sewer system as well other than a faint nod to Castlevania.  I feel like the game didn’t really explain who I was fighting against other than someone killed my husband and the father of the person reading the narration.  What helps me care less about all of this is just how nice the characters and background end up looking.  It is very stylistic but at the same time still richly detailed without going overly minimalistic.

Interesting Mechanics

Blood of the Werewolf 2014-10-12 10-08-56-566 The gameplay is split into two different kinds of mechanics.  The first is that of your character as a human.  She is equipped with a crossbow and here is where things get a little wonky.  You aim your crossbow with your right thumb stick and fire it with your right trigger.  Now if you fire your cross bow without touching your thumb stick it shoots straight at, but there are many times where you will need to angle a shot.  The ability to fire directed arrows allows you to hit switches and trigger traps and angle shots just right to be able to shoot from relative safety.  All of this however in practice feels like a lot to do as something is rushing at you.  I got the hang of it as my play test went on, but it did not feel exactly intuitive at first.

Blood of the Werewolf 2014-10-12 10-24-52-241 Whenever your character goes out into the moonlight, you change immediately into your werewolf form which has a completely different set of attacks but maintains the same basic control scheme.  Right trigger to attack, right shoulder to perform special ability.  In werewolf form you get the ability to double jump, so a lot of the puzzles involve you jumping just at the right time in the middle of the air.  One of the things they carried over from Castlevania is the constant cavalcade of bats timed at just the right spacing as to make it damned near impossible to ignore them, but futile to actually try and destroy them.  Later the bats develop the same kind of loping movement as the medusa heads from Castlevania which makes them even more frustrating.

Uneven Difficulty

Blood of the Werewolf 2014-10-12 10-19-30-539  Other than the fact that the game does not actually run when you install it through steam without registry hack intervention… my number one complaint about the game is that it seems to have very uneven difficulty design in the levels.  Granted the original Castlevania had this going on as well, but it was very much not a good feature.  I feel like this game as a whole is a nostalgic nod to Castlevania in so many ways, and it even managed to carry over the same brutal and frustrating bits that quite frankly were just the product of poor level design rather than actual planning I feel.  I played the first two levels this morning, and in each of them the bulk of the level was rather sedate with logical progression gradually ramping up as you went through the play field.

Blood of the Werewolf 2014-10-12 10-18-22-570 Then they would throw you at a bullet hell section, where for the course of a single area you would have to avoid three projectiles at a time from an enemy on the far side of the room, while avoiding environmental damage form above, bats flying in from the side, crumbling tiles beneath your feet and still having to make perfectly timed jumps between ladders and platforms.  These sections are maddening but not in a good way.  They feel completely misplaced when compared to the rest of the level design.  Why should this one room be that much harder than the others, and why did none of the rest of the level really prepare you for it?  The first time you really encounter the crumbling tiles… is during one of these sections so you really have no clue what that block does until you have already failed at doing so.

Blood of the Werewolf 2014-10-12 10-34-13-316

The above section is what finally made me decide I was done for the morning.  YOu have a series of crushers that are a one shot kill.  They move in all sorts of directions, and extremely quickly.  There are status indicators above or to the side of them that show you how long before the piston fires.  They require perfecting timing to get through.  There is a moment where at two lights, you have to wait a split second before jumping.  If you jump immediately after the second light you jumped too soon and die.  If you jump as the third light is coming on, you jumped too late and die.  I could have handled one sequence of these pistons but after doing three in a row… and having a fourth one at the top of the ladder in the above screenshot…  I just said fuck it and killed the game.  I was not in the mood for that, especially when the rest of the game was actually rather enjoyable.

Rhinestone in the Rough

Blood of the Werewolf 2014-10-12 10-08-44-846

Given that it is the season of monster themed games, I figured playing Blood of the Werewolf was a good pick this week.  Now comes the hard part… do I suggest this game to others.  I can’t really say this game is a diamond in the rough, because there is quite a bit of rough that you have to deal with to get to where you can play it.  The steam forums are full of issues folks have had with this game, and apparently if you are not using an  xbox 360 controller…  you are likely going to have issues with controller support as well.  Like the subheading says this is more a Rhinestone in the Rough.  There are definitely some shiny bits that are fun, but the thing that got me was the uneven progression of difficulty.  If you really like Metroidvania style games, and there is an aspect of collecting bits that make you more powerful… and you don’t mind frustration games that can be down right unfair like say the Mega Man series…  this might be a game for you.

If you wanted a game that you could install, boot up without issue and play through without the feeling of wanting to throw your controller… this is very much not a game for you.  Thankfully like I said earlier the game right now is super cheap on Steam through the 15th for only $1.04.  At that price, even dealing with the bullshit it is probably worth it if you are at all curious.  Sadly despite its charm I will likely never boot this game up again.  I feel like Outland is better at doing the things I like about Metroidvania in every single way, so in truth you would probably be better playing it or Guacamelee.  If however you have massive amounts of nostalgia over the original Castlevania… this might be just the game you were looking for.

#BloodoftheWerewolf #AggroChat

Wrestling with DRM

Laptop Weekend

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

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

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

Wrestling with DRM

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

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

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

The Grim Dark Future has Tradeskills

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

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

#Destiny #DragonAge #DragonCoins

Commoditization of Content

Unlikely Inspiration

Yesterday morning I struggled to get my motor started, and when I finally did I latched onto the awesomeness that is Playstation plus.  Unexpectedly it lead my brain through a series of hoops and ultimately inspired this mornings diatribe.  It got me thinking about how my own patterns of game consumption or frankly media consumption in general.  I have not watched television in going on two months when I really think about it.  The very last show that I watched was the premiere of Doctor Who… and I watched that on the computer from a download.  I am rapidly becoming less and less of a consumer of broadcast media and I think it might in part be connected to this as well.  Ultimately I find television shows and movies less valuable today than I did a decade ago.

The real question is why exactly do I value it less, and the only answer I could reach is that it is so readily available.  With broadcast media, I know that if I wait long enough a series will eventually show up on either Netflix of Amazon Prime and I can stream it for free.  I also know that if I care enough about it I could always go find it through other means, but the reality is… that I simply don’t.  I am happy to simply wait back for whatever it was that I wanted to watch to show up on Netflix.  There are a number of shows that I have yet to even watch… that I likely would have devoured like mad during a different phase in my life.  I’ve not watched any of Breaking Bad, only a smattering of Mad-Men and I have watched half of a season of Dexter.  All three of these shows interest me…  but for whatever reason I cannot be bothered to actually go through the process of watching them over doing something more interactive each night.

Commoditization of Content

I think the problem is that all of these shows are entirely too readily available.  I know that at any point, on any evening… I could make a choice to sit down and watch them.  So in theory I am putting it off because there is no risk involved in the decision.  They are always there and available, so why should I prioritize watching them over doing something else.  The only show that I really watch religiously is the Walking Dead, and in part I only do that because there will be Monday morning conversation at work over it.  I prioritized watching the Doctor Who premiere because I knew it would similarly be the talk of my little group, but after watching the first show I can’t seem to be bothered to sit down and watch through the rest of them.  The availability of these resources have made them less valuable in my mind… and essentially a commodity.

So you are thinking… “Bel why are you going down this line of thinking”.  So I guess I am finding this is happening to my gaming as well.  Right now games are readily available, and more so than they have ever been at any other time in my personal history.  I can reach out and download a game in a matter of minutes or at worse case hours, and be playing it moments later.  The problem is that because I am literally deluged in good games…  I find myself valuing each individual one less.  I have reached a point where I am almost entirely unwilling to pay the $60 new release price tag for almost all games.  They tend to fall into one of two categories either I am waiting anxiously to play it and have already preordered (might I add preordered generally at a discount), or I am only interested in passing  and I will wait until it is upwards to 75% off the initial sticker price before purchasing.

The Bundle and Steam Problem

Part of the problem and what has lead me to this point…  are two things.  Firstly the prevalence of various “Bundle” sites…  Humble Bundle, Indie Royale and Indie Gala to name a few of the better ones.  If it is new and edgy and independent… I know sooner or later it will end up in one of these bundles.  As such I have simply stopped picking up any of these titles unless it DOES appear in a bundle, because I know if I simply wait long enough I can get it and a bunch of other games for the $5-$10 minimum price to get all of the content.  Additionally Steam is constantly having some sort of weekly sale, and at least twice yearly they have these insane store wide sales where you can get games for up to 80% off.  Sites like Good Ole Games are also complicit as well as Origin and any number of online retailers, all offering deep discounted sales in an attempt to keep up with the steam powered juggernaut.

All of this is teaching us to never pay retail price for anything gaming related.  If we wait long enough and look hard enough we can find it for the price we want to pay, whatever that price point is.  The problem is this has invaded all aspects of my gaming life.  I didn’t want to pay full price for a PS4 or a Vita, even though I have gotten massive amounts of use out of both of them… nor did I my PS3.  I shopped Craigslist for weeks looking for a PS4 or a Vita in the price range I was willing to pay, and ended up getting the PS4 for $250 and the Vita for $100.  Similarly years ago I purchase a generation 1 “fat” PS3 off a friend who was no longer using it for $150.  There would have been a time where I would have simply gone to the store and plunked down my $400 to walk out with a brand new console, but years of living in this new climate has caused me to question ALL retail prices.

Playstation Plus and Games with Gold

Playstation Plus takes things to a whole new level.  There are so many games I would have at least purchased at a deeply discounted price, that I don’t now.  Expecting that one day or another Sony will give the title away for free with my yearly Playstation Plus subscription.  I held off purchasing the new Strider game exactly for this reason.  I knew that they had a limited library of titles available to give away, and a commitment of giving away at least two new games for the PS4 each month… and I figured my chances were relatively likely that sooner or later they would be handing me a free copy of strider and they did.  Similarly I did the same consideration with Dragon’s Crown and Rogue Legacy.  On the later I figured it would have shown up in one of my Indie Bundles first, but the fact it showed up on consoles made me happy enough in any case.  So as much as I love the current climate of giving me lots of content for very little money is a bit broken.

While there was a time at which I stood by the notion that Steam was helping things, by offering a place to sell games in bulk and allow the “economy of scale” to work for publishers…  I seriously question that now.  What I see instead is game companies struggling to move their content, and game studios closing as a result.  While the $60 new game price point has not decreased… it certainly has not raised either…  and is no longer adequately representing the cost of developing the type of game we expect.  What I am seeing is a race to the bottom to see just how low the sale prices for digital content can go.  Granted there are significantly fewer of the distribution headaches that go into pressing physical media, but there are still all of the real world expenses of running a games studio and paying anything closely resembling a living wage.  What scares me is I think at this point the snowball is already careening towards the village, and there is nothing we can really do to stop it.

Is it Really a Problem?

I know I personally am extremely addicted to free or at least deeply discounted content, and I think most of the world is right there along with me.  Even after everything I said… I question is there really a problem at all.  Remember early on I said there were two buckets I divide games into… the ones I am willing to preorder and the ones I am willing to try if they become super cheap?  There was a time where I would only be consuming the games from Bucket A and completely ignoring the games from Bucket B.  I find myself more than willing to preorder the games I am really into, and even willing to pony up for the extra special happy deluxe velvet edition of them to make sure I am not missing out on any good bits.  So the game company is almost always getting more than their $60 from me when a game exists in Bucket A.

What is different is they are also getting a small bit of money from me when a game lands in Bucket B.  These are games I likely would not have played, or at least would not have purchased for myself.  There are so many games I ignored completely until a friend handed me the game and told me to play it.  As such when a Humble Bundle comes up I often times see it worth the risk to pay a little bit of money and get a ton of new games for me to sift through and see what I like and dislike.  Admittedly there are so many bundle games out there that a good number of them I never actually play… but there are still a significant number that I do and end up loving.  Then I end up blogging about them, and often times inspire more people to purchase them.  So I guess the question is…  are the games studios really missing money at all?

No Conclusions, Just Discussion

I mean I can see the real loss from games studios from the used game trade, especially when it is a store like Game Stop.  They push those used copies super hard on customers, and when you are the Average Joe that $5-$10 off a game seems like a really good deal, or at least it does until they realize that they are going to have to pay that amount at least to buy a fresh clean network play code, or restore the DLC that only shipped with the disc.  In any case that is taking someone who would have purchased the game for full price and converting them to re-buying a game that someone rushed through just to get the maximum resale value.  I question however if the folks who are tossing games into Bucket B could really be considered a true loss.  They are getting some money where they likely wouldn’t have before.

This reminds me a bit of the whole concept of “piracy” numbers.  As a reformed pirate myself, there was a time in my life where when a game came out I turned to making a copy of someone else’s, or downloading it from my neighborhood warez distribution site.  I  think in part I am so willing to give money for games I will likely never play, because I am in a sense trying to pay back for all the times I couldn’t.  I downloaded for lots of reasons… mostly because it was there, and I played a lot of games that I never would have purchased in a million years.  I would say a good 90% of the games I downloaded should not have been considered lost profit from those companies.  The games that I did care about… I still purchased by saving up my limited pennies and going to the store and getting a pretty boxed copy during the era when there were still interesting things like cloth maps to be found inside those games.  So I feel like maybe the Bucket B games are a similar situation.  I am giving them money, not a lot of it… but it is way more than they would have gotten out of me otherwise.  Like the title of this section suggests… I don’t really have a firm conclusion… just a bunch of conversation I wanted to start.  Hopefully folks will comment and add their thoughts to it.  I know the industry is struggling, and I guess in part I am trying to wrap my head around it… and why I find myself valuing content in general less.

October PS+ Line-Up

Writers Block

I have to admit the last few mornings my blog post has been exceedingly difficult to write.  For whatever reason the words that generally flow so freely have been clogged up.  It feels like I just don’t have anything of any importance to talk about, which has never really stopped me in the past.  I guess I am writing this morning to show that even if I blog every single day…  I have days where I stare at the blank screen and can’t seem to figure out how to fill it.  Generally speaking if I poke around the internet for a bit and in that effort something pops into my head.  Today however all I really feel is tired.  I’ve been trying to come down with something, and yesterday I had all but lost my voice.  I keep thinking it is just allergies since I am not running a fever or anything, but not really sure at this point.  More than likely it is since I am struggling under a constant deluge of drainage.

I think part of what is making this morning such a struggle is that last night was one of those nights where I couldn’t quite get comfortable in any game I played.  I shifted between FFXIV, Dragon Age, Spunky, Destiny and even started Persona 4.  When my wife got home I packed up the upstairs and took my Vita downstairs and hung out playing from bed.  I have to say that is one of the coolest things about buying into the “Playstation” system is that everything interoperates so much better than the equivalent.  I am even considering picking up a Playstation TV to add another screen to the equation.  Right now pretty much anything I do on my PS4 I can do remotely, but my only desire is that the PS3 remote play worked better or more often.  There are still a ton of titles that I would like to play on that system as Playstation Plus keeps releasing more of them.

Drive Club Plus

Drive-Club And there we have it folks…  I have a topic to talk about.  There has been a bit of controversy over the last few days because due to consequences Sony has had to back away from one of the promised titles as part of the October Playstation Plus lineup.  Drive Club is a brand new game that is coming out for the PS4 and has been pretty hotly anticipated I might add.  Through some financial trickery they cut a deal to offer it for free as part of the Playstation Plus subscription through a special Drive Club Plus edition.  Granted this version did not include all of the tracks or cars, but was apparently otherwise fully functional.  I was somewhat shocked when I read about it, since in essence this free copy would allow you to join clubs and race with your friends just like if you had purchased the full version.  Additionally Plus members were going to be given the option to plunk down $50 to upgrade to the full fledged copy of the game and get all the bits and baubles they were missing.

Unfortunately as the game launched the servers being run for the game buckled under the weight.  I feel like Sony made the right call here to delay giving this title away in an effort to help stabilize the launch.  The truth is that folks plunked down money for the full priced version of the game, and they should come first.  Granted this is coming from someone who has been a long time subscriber to Playstation Plus.  The natives are restless however because a number of folks decided to pony up for Plus ONLY to get their free copy of Drive Club.  The thing is that they are still going to get it…  just not quite yet.  What frustrates me is listening to the folks Rage about what is already the best deal in gaming hands down.  Where else can you play $50 for an entire year and have six titles delivered to you every month.  Even if you don’t like a few titles here and there… it is still a phenomenal deal.

October PS+ Line-Up

One of the tricks I learned several months back from my good friend Ashgar is that you didn’t actually have to log into the Playstation Store from any of your devices.  There is one handy dandy web based interface where you can access all of your free monthly Playstation Plus titles, as well as queue them to download to any of your devices.  So if you are a Playstation Plus member I highly suggest “purchasing” everything each month regardless if you want to play it or own the device.  For ages I only has a PS3 and still found it a good deal… but all the while I was picking up titles for that console I was also picking them up for both PS4 and Vita knowing that someday I would end up picking up those consoles.  When I got my PS4 I had over a half dozen titles sitting there waiting on me, and when I got my Vita I had around 50 titles that I could play.  The subscription is a great deal but even more so when you have all of the consoles they are giving titles away for.  This month seems to be significantly better than most of the recent ones, so I thought I would go into the titles available right now.


spelunky Available for PS4, PS3, Vita

This is a title I have wanted to play for some time, but never ended up grabbing it.  The idea is that you are a cave explorer looking for treasure, and combating the traps you encounter along the way.  What the game is known for is for being extremely unforgiving in that when you die your game is over and you respawn at the beginning of the area with nothing to show for your accomplishment.  In that aspect it feels a little bit like Rogue Legacy without the whole generations aspect.  I played it for a bit last night on the PS4 and had fun.

Pix the Cat

pixthecat Available for PS4, Vita

This title looks to be a frantic mix of Pac Man and the classic Snake game that we all played so damned much on our Nokia 5120 phones.  Look I am old… I had one of those phones and it was the only game available.  This game seems perfectly suited for the Vita but is also available on PS4, and as part of the whole Bragtoberfest event I believe it was Murf that proposed a challenge to see who could get the highest score on this game.  I have yet to crack it open but it is installed on both Vita and PS4 so I will get around to it eventually.

Dust: An Elysian Tail

dustAvailable for PS4

This is another game that I have wanted to play for some time.  Hell I even own it on steam thanks to one of the many “indie bundles” that I have picked up over the years.  The irony is that now that it is on a console I am actually far more likely to play it.  I really like the Dual Shock 4 controller… and until I pony up the $60 to buy one for my PC, I am likely going to favor playing certain kinds of games on the PS4.  Ultimately this is a really cool looking Metroidvania about a series of anthropomorphic animals as they go on a quest to do something or another.  I really don’t know much about the story, but supposedly it is actually rather good.  Looking forward to playing.

Rainbow Moon

rainbowmoon Available for PS3, Vita

This game looks really cool, and I am not sure how it was completely off my radar.  Essentially it looks like Final Fantasy Tactics by another developer to be truthful.  The gameplay looks really similar, and I am hoping it is just as detailed and in depth.  This will add yet another long form JRPG that I need to play on my Vita, as that device is quickly becoming almost exclusive for laying in bed and playing them.  Last night for example I started Persona 4 Golden.  The JRPG genre is really ideally suited for that handheld, and I am sure Rainbow Moon will be no different.

Dungeons and Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara

DandD Available for PS3

This game…  so much love for this game.  For me at least this is the pinnacle of the 90s era arcade beat-em-up games.  This is a collection of two arcade games, one of which was super rare here in the United States.  What made it so damned awesome at the time was that you would sit down at this rather imposing looking machine with three of your friends and play your way through a choose your adventure style quest.  At various points you are prompted for what exactly you are going to do… do you save the town or do you save the docks.  Each step moves you down a branching path towards the conclusion.  I loved this game so much that I ordered the import from Japan that was only available for the Sega Saturn.  What makes this version awesome is that it supports network multiplayer just like the Steam copy, so a perfect excuse to go smash some kobolds with friends.

Batman Arkham Asylum

batman Available for PS3

So here comes confession time…  I have never beaten this game or frankly made it terribly far into it.  I have had it on Steam for ages, but when I first tried to play it, I attempted to play it with a keyboard and mouse and found the overall experience frustrating.  I simply never went back and tried it again.  What I find most interesting about this is that ages ago Playstation Plus gave away the later games, but we had yet to receive the original until now.  As such I am looking forward to playing this as I didn’t want to jump in on the second or third game without playing the original.  Something about it being on a console makes it seem more appealing.

And there you have it… this months line up of games.  While don’t get Drive Club Plus yet, there is still a ton of awesome to be had there.  What I love the most is that when they give away a game they generally also give away the cross buy rights, meaning if something is available on multiple platforms you can play it on whichever one you choose.  Cross buy is one of those features that really endears me to the Playstation system of consoles, and especially since most of the newer titles also feature cross-save letting me start a game on my PS4 and then pick it up on the native vita client.  In any case I personally think it is a pretty damned good month that will only get better when they finally unlock the keys to the Drive Club kingdom in a few weeks.

#DriveClub #PlaystationPlus

Rostygold and Primordial Shrieks

Bel Folks Stuff

belfolksstuff_512 For a few weeks I have been kicking around a concept, and I’ve finally decided to start moving towards the goal of making it happen.  The concept is pretty simple, that I have a conversation one on one with a personality in our community or in the gaming industry.  Instead of bringing them on to promote something, or actually talk about their gaming…  I want to delve into the person behind the screen, what makes them tick and what they are passionate about.  I decided to give the show a quirky name “Bel Folks Stuff” which as you can see from the logo is short hand for “Bel Talks to Interesting Folks About Really Important Stuff That They Enjoy Doing”.  Because pretty much that sums it up in a nutshell.  I personally find a lot of the people in our community super interesting and I have a sneaking suspicion that listeners would as well.

Now as far as the details of when I would record, how often I would record, what kind of turn around I am expecting… all of that is up in the air.  This is the sort of thing that I would consider a “bonus” podcast rather than a serious scheduled one.  There might be times that I schedule a recording and we realize there just wasn’t much to talk about.  Other times I might record way more audio than I could ever cram into a podcast and have to release multiple parts.  I am keeping all of this pretty flexible.  Think of this as more of a “boutique” project than say AggroChat where we keep a weekly schedule.  I am pretty pumped about the prospects, and the closest thing I can really compare it to is Actor’s Studio with James Lipton.  I still need to firm up some of the things I plan to ask, but the idea is to keep it flexible and go wherever the conversation happens to go.  I am also purposefully not making this specifically a “gaming” podcast.  If folks want to talk about their passion for gardening… we are going to talk about their passion for gardening.  The people behind the screens that we play interesting me more than what happens on the monitor.

Syrcus Grind Starts

ffxiv 2014-10-07 17-43-10-100 For years I have been enamored with the concept of a “reset day”.  So many MMOs have various gates that block you from completing too much content in a single week, as such once a week all of these gates unlock again and you can enter them to get awesome baubles.  If I am being absolutely honestly with myself, I do not raid for the challenge… I raid for the spiffy things that I can obtain through it.  Over the last several weeks I have been fastidiously gearing my Warrior job in Final Fantasy XIV through running Syrcus Tower and careful application of Tomestones of Soldiery.  Over the course of these last few weeks I have managed to take my average item level up to 98 which is nothing to sneeze at.  Quite honestly most of this has been sheer dumb luck.  I’ve entered Syrcus each week and during the course of the first or second attempt at the run a piece of gear has dropped that was an upgrade and I won it.  Now however I am down to just two pieces of gear that I can obtain from there… apart from the Sands and Oil of Time which I will focus on eventually.

Over the course of the night last night I ran Syrcus a grand total of four times, and in none of those times did I manage to see either the Helmet or the Legs drop.  I feel like I have managed to pick up the easy pieces, and now that I only need two… both of which drop from the same boss I am going to have a much slower time to go.  I will probably limit myself to a single running of Syrcus a night to keep from making it absolute misery.  If by the end of the week I haven’t gotten either the helm or the legs I guess I will go after either an oil or sands with the hope of upgrading one of my existing soldiery slots to 110.  I posted the picture above because there is a rule in FFXIV that I have noticed…  if more than one Lalafell is standing in an area for too terribly long… dancing will happen.  This is a bunch of us waiting on the last person to realize they had not yet rolled on the Onion Knight cosmetic pet.  Of course I didn’t win it, but by god I am not leaving the instance until I at least see that my chance at it is over.

Rostygold and Primordial Shrieks

Several weeks into the game and I still find myself hopelessly enamored with Fallen London.  I guess I have Tarantella to thank for this… and in turn my circle of friends has me to thank for their present addiction as well.  I guess what surprises me the most about this game is just how deep the rabbit hole gets.  In various areas of the game there are “Ambition” storylets, and for the uninitiated a storylet is the equivalent of a quest in other games.  You might do something in an unrelated series of a events, which sets a flag that now opens up a bunch of stories that cascade off of it.  The ambition quests tend to be the most intricate and detailed and also time consuming.  While playing Fallen London there are many positive statuses you can earn, but additionally many negative ones as well.  Each of the negative statuses has some consequence associated with it.  For example if you allow your nightmares to reach 8, you quite literally go insane and can take no actions other than ones attempting to reclaim your mental faculties.

Yesterday I got an Ambition that involved me purposefully getting thrown into Newgate Prison to track an enemy of yours that is residing there.  In order to accomplish this I had to raise my suspicion to 8, triggering a sequence of events that ended with being unceremoniously thrown into prison.  From there I could go after my mark directly, but the problem is… once that was completed I still was sitting in prison.  At this point I was forced to take actions in an attempt to lower my suspicion back to zero again.  These actions involved calling in favors that I had earned in the rest of Fallen London, blatant bribe attempts, or doing actions that show “good behavior”.  The problem is while the ability that got me into prison swapped 1 action for 1 suspicion… digging my way out of the hole took a considerably amount of time.

That seems to be the “negative” consequences in this game, are that you can get yourself into a situation where you have to spend copious turns correcting the mistake you made in the first place.  I am still slowly working my way into the confidence of the devils.  I had reached a point where I was getting dangerously close to losing my soul in game, and I took actions to delay that… which cost me a ton of faction in the process.  As such I have been slowly building back up to that point, because really I think it might be interesting to see what the game is like if you have gone through the “abstraction”.

The problem with courting the devils is that you end up constantly teetering dangerously close to the fail condition on both Nightmares and Scandal.  As such I am constantly in search of creative ways to lower both of these negative statuses.  In any case I am still digging the game, and enjoying the setting.  I really need to spend more time digging into Sunless Sea, but I keep hearing there is a major patch in the works that will fix a good number of the problems with the game, and as such I am mostly holding back.  If you have not played this game and enjoy roleplaying games with quirky settings… I highly suggest you check it out.  If you do add me as a contact, so that we can be “delicious friends” to borrow the verbiage of the game.

#FFXIV #FallenLondon

Amazing Podcasts

A Network of Awesome

Yesterday each of the members of The Gaming and Entertainment Network blitzed the world with posts announcing this awesome new venture we are all part of.  However since I ended up technically soft launching the network on Sunday when I posted the latest episode of AggroChat I opted to also follow up at the tail of the pack.  At this point I am uncertain how someone could miss there is such a thing as The Gaming and Entertainment Network, but just in case here goes my attempt to explain just how great this concept is.  TGEN as it will be referred to from this point on as the full name is longer than I want to type on an average basis, is really the brain child of Braxwolf from the Beyond Bossfights podcast.  So the lions share of the credit for this venture has to go to him.  I think each of us had considered the possibility of teaming up with other podcasters, but the most important thing is the person who gets the ball rolling.

Brax had quietly noticed that there were several of us that spring form the same basic community that surrounds MMO gaming and participated in events like the Newbie Blogger Initiative and my little creation Blaugust.  Then over the course of a few months we proceeded to hash out the details in some extremely long gmail threads.  At this point pretty much everyone involved has pitched in with some skill or at least voted in many polls that lead us to reach this point.  So many podcast networks feel corporate and impersonal, and I think while we all wanted to present our best face to the world… we also wanted it to come from the same place as our blogs and podcasts did.  As such TGEN is very much a podcast network for and by the podcasters.

Amazing Podcasts

The entire venture would be completely empty without the actual podcasts and I am not sure if it is absolute coincidence or careful planning but all of the member podcasts fill various niches and happen to be releasing mostly on different days giving us a pretty varied release schedule.  We have a new podcast releasing almost every day except Saturday, but with the whole weekend being family time thing…  at least as far as my blog is concerned that is a dead spot in the statistics anyways.  I feel like at this point I should probably just cut to the chase and introduce the member podcasts.

  • AggroChat – you guys should know this one by now, since it is the podcast tied to the blog.
  • Battle Bards – awesome podcast devoted to something that is often times overlooked in the gaming experience…  the music.  Each episode is thought provoking as they delve into various game scores with the awesome cast of Gypsy Syl, MMOGC, and Sypster.
  • Beyond Bossfights – excellent thought provoking podcast by the man who started this madness.  Braxwolf often digs into deeper topics behind the games and communities we love.
  • Cat Context – awesomely intelligent podcast that is in essence a conversation between friends:  Liore, Arolaide and Ellyndrial.  I started listening because they were my guildies, and stuck around because it was always interesting.
  • Contains Moderate Peril – One of the most polished podcasts I have listened to and always enlightening.  Reminds me of the classic news discussion show, and always has interesting co-hosts.  Additionally Roger has an amazing voice, and I could listen to him read a phone book.
  • Couch Podtatoes – Face it, every podcaster is jealous they thought of this name first.  You come for the interesting name but you stay for the great dynamic of Izlain, J3w3l and Doone.  They always dig into some interesting discussions and have been known to do some interviews as well.
  • Massive Failure – Join the MMO Troll as he talks about what is happening in MMOs and adding commentary to what is going on.  Troll being tongue in cheek as he talks about the good, bad and the ugly in MMOs.
  • Roleplay Domain – And rounding out our founders is a cool podcast that I just started listening to myself recently.  Roleplay Domain is devoted to roleplaying in any form be it on the computer, classic tabletop or live action.

That is one hell of a founding line-up if I do say so myself.  I am absolutely humbled to be included in this venture, and I hope we don’t let everyone down with our more rambling style.  TGEN provides an opportunity for us all to cross pollinate our efforts, and help support each other.  I know personally even in the few days since the launch I have seen a boost in listeners to this past Sunday’s episode of Aggrochat, so it seems like the basic theory is working.

Shared Mission

What makes me the proudest of our network is that while many can say phrases such as “like-minded podcasters” without really hanging that on any sort of a framework, we sought to fix that.  Early on when we started talking about this network we decided that we needed some basic tenets that we should all abide by.  We went into this planning for the contingency that the network might grow beyond these podcasts and encompass new ones, and as we inducted them… we should have a clear “code of ethics” for them to follow as well to insure that the statement “like-minded” stayed true as we moved on.  You can check out the full form on the TGEN About page, but I am going to copy the relevant bits here.

What can you expect from TGEN?

  • Honesty – If we like something, we’ll say so. If we don’t like something, we’ll say so. It’s a pretty simple policy, really.
  • Creativity – We value the diverse, unique talents of our creators. As such, we offer a wide range of shows. At TGEN you’ll find topical discussions as well as news, opinions, interviews, and even music! All of which relate back to our main foci of gaming and entertainment.
  • Diversity - We hail from all around the globe and represent a variety of backgrounds and experiences. As such, you can expect a variety of input and opinions!
  • Collaboration – Even as diverse individuals, we understand that we can accomplish more by working together, not only as creators within TGEN, but also with outside shows, personalities and networks.
  • Consistency – While our creators all lead busy lives and release schedules may differ, we want to make sure that we have a steady flow of new content available. All shows on TGEN are “active” shows that release on as regular a basis as life allows. No waiting months between releases for our shows.
  • Fun – This may be the most important, yet easily overlooked. The purpose of gaming and entertainment is to have fun. And if we’re not having fun, neither will our listeners. Let’s build something fun together!

I think all of this creates a pretty firm foundation for us moving forward.  There has been talk of trying to do some regular mixed podcast roundtables in the future so I can only see things like that strengthening the network as a whole.  Additionally I feel like there is plenty of room for us to grow, and I know personally I have a handful of podcasts that I would love to “adopt” as I am sure other members do as well.  I am extremely excited to be a part of this, and am looking forward to seeing just what awesome things we can do together.

#TGEN #Podcasts

Death to Darkspawn

Lost in a World

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

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

Death to Darkspawn

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

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

Slowly Progressing

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

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

Sneaking into Denerim

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

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



AggroChat Episode 25

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

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

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


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

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

Epic Boss Fights

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

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

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

#Outland #AggroChat