Misery and NDAs

Broken

Game Is Still Pretty

Over the last few days I have felt run down, and I am grasping at straws to figure out exactly why.  There seems to be something going around the office, but so far I am not really showing any signs of whatever it is other than simply being exhausted.  Last night I largely struggled with a Migraine that kept me in a pseudo hibernation state, but this morning as I sit down to the keyboard and attempt to drink my coffee I am just feeling generally lousy.  One of my co-workers has been out for three days with something, so I am hoping I am not coming down with whatever that was.  Last night was the night of restless gaming.  I attempted to log in and be present in Final Fantasy XIV but only wound up AFKing outside the guild hall.  It made me appreciate just how much I love our free company house.  It really is in just about the perfect location that seems to be close to just about everything in The Mists neighborhood.  The only problem is… it is small.  We have talked for a bit about potentially trying to pool our resources and getting a bigger house, but the problem there is we would have to move and likely out of our neighborhood.

One of the things that I like the most about where we are situated is that we actually know a large chunk of the neighbors surrounding us.  While it has not been nearly as busy since the launch of Heavensward as everyone has fallen into this pre 3.1 lull…  it is still nice feeling like you are part of something larger.  While idling in FFXIV I attempted to play some Destiny and managed to complete a few bounties.  However my aim was constantly wonky, and I knew I should not be attempting anything serious.  As the night wore on the headache got worse and ultimately I ended up retiring to bed for awhile… the finally ending up on the Sofa.  I hate those days where you have the will to play something…  but cannot struggle through the “bad feels” in order to actually make any headway.

NDAs are Back

Trove 2014-10-04 22-43-24-104

I am using Trove as the screenshot for this little section because it was one of the first “who needs an NDA” alpha games that I can remember playing.  Everything about that game process was so out in the open that development discussions were openly happening on Reddit.  For a period of time it seemed like every new game coming down the pipe was sans NDA so that folks could stream it freely and generate buzz.  I was shocked when I managed to get into the Warlords of Draenor friends and family alpha for example… and was told that I could talk about it freely.  The problem being… this open transparency bit more than a few games in the ass.  Development is a messy time and as things are changing…  you end up with features in “partially finished” states that look like a finished product to the gamer.  The big problem with open and “pay to join” Alphas is that they no longer feel like testing.  Instead you have simply released a broken game.

As a result lately I’ve noticed a significant number of games bringing back the NDA.  Hell some of them seem to be almost unwilling to let the NDA go, as they have been in fairly prolific testing for a couple of years.  As of right now I am in a handful of NDA bound alpha processes, and each of them seems to be trying to return to the era when Alphas were actually that.  The problem with this is, I am finding myself far less interested in playing something that I can’t actually talk about on my blog.  So generally speaking I install the Alpha client and play every now and then, but I am not actually playing enough to be a proper tester.  I feel bad for this because I have always been the type to bug note the hell out of things as I see them.  While I think it is probably a good thing for Alpha processes to regain some of their previous closed nature, I also feel far less invested in a game until it is actually hatched and ready for public consumption.  So many things over the last years have blurred the lines between finished product and testing, and the current era of incessant and constant “early access” games just makes me leery to invest too much of myself in a game until I know that it is nearing its finished state.

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.

The Contest

Hello Self Conscious

I have officially finished my novel, and I say that in jest because really the hard part has yet to begin.  The whole NaNoWriMo process was extremely draining.  I almost viewed the past year of daily posts on aggronaut as training for the marathon that was Nano.  The thing I was not at all prepared for however was just how draining coming home each night and writing a chapter of original material was.  My blog is pretty much me just reacting or regurgitating “found material”.  Nano on the other hand was me giving birth to characters, plots, settings and for all intents and purposes a big unique world of my own making.

Now that it is over it is time for me to return to the normal daily blog posts… and quite frankly I find myself a little self-conscious.  For the last 29 posts I have simply dumped what I wrote the night before in private out onto the screen for you guys to read (or more than likely not read).  Now I find myself sitting here having to come up with things to write that are relevant and timely.  It is not that I find myself with writers block, because there are a month worth of topics backed up inside of me.  I just find myself a little nervous about the entire process.  I have to get back in the pattern of just dumping my innermost thoughts out onto a page for you all to pick over.

The Contest

 

During the month of my absence from morning posts a thing happened.  Well actually if we are most truthful about it a lot of things happened.  In this case two particular things happened.  Firstly Trion announced the existence of Trove their new game that melds Minecraft, Cubeworld and MMOs.  Secondly I somehow managed to get into the first wave of alpha invites.  Thirdly when I realized that I was one of only a handful of people in the game, and that the alpha process had absolutely no NDA… I thought I should probably do something to show off the game.  As a result I did a thing that I had thought about for some time… I recorded my very first lets play video.

  1. Test Video
  2. Episode 1
  3. Episode 2
  4. Episode 3

So far I have recorded four videos in total, the first of which only being a super short test video in which I was trying to figure out the kinks of using youtube.  I am completely new to this whole experience but so far the videos have been well received.  An interesting thing happened however over the extended holiday weekend.  I ended up getting a second alpha key.  So I thought about what I should do with it, should I offer it up to my friends over twitter or g+?  Then I came up with a constructive idea…  hold a contest.   The idea is to get people to provide feedback on features they would like to see in the game, so that I can compile this list in blog post form to present to the Trion folk.

The Rules

Since the video series is a youtube thing, I will be hosting the contest there.  The basics are this… go to the Episode 3 link.  Do the standard subscribe/like/comment youtube bs.  In your comment describe a feature you would like to see built into Trove.  The sky is the limit as far as features go since this is a melding of the traditional building game and an MMO.  I will only be accepting comments that actually provide a suggestion in them, and will be ignoring all “begging for the key” and otherwise trolling posts.

I will be accepting comments through 12/3/2013 and Wednesday morning I will be pulling together a list of all of the comments and the posters name.  I will be dumping this in a google doc and then using a random number generator to pick the winner.  Everyone’s comments will be featured on my blog and I will cross post that on the trove reddit as well.  Wednesday evening I will announce the winner over the various social platforms that I use.  May the random number generator be in your favor!  I just thought this would be a fun way to give away a key and hopefully provide some useful suggestions back to Trion in the process.

Bun’Jitsu

Hexxen

HexPatch 2013-10-10 06-25-35-83

As you can see from the above image I am almost 80% finished downloading the Hex: Shards of Fate Alpha client.  Starting late yesterday Alpha invites began trickling out as the servers came up.  They of course are starting off with the highest supporters and working their way down the list, only allowing small bits in at a time to keep from cratering the servers.  As a result I figure it will take a few days for them to reach us plebeians that only supported enough to get INTO the alpha in the first place. 

However at one point yesterday they stated that it would likely take a few weeks to get down to the “slacker backers” aka folks who supported the project after the kickstarter finished.  If that is the case it should be a matter of days not a matter of weeks, which is good.  I know there were a large number for $250 backers and that is the tier that is starting invites now.  The majority of my friend are all like me and in the $60 mere-human range.

Bun’Jitsu

I have to say I am really looking forward to getting some playtime with this.  Everything about it feels like a different take on Magic: The Gathering for the online age.  I am already pretty fond of the Shin’Hare… which happen to be a combination of Wild (green) and Blood (black).  That was the deck combo I always relied on in MTG so here is hoping it will be equally effective in Hex.  Besides any race that has a card called Bun’jitsu has to be amazing right?  I just love the concept of these crazy twisted anthropomorphic bunny rabbits.

They released a PDF with all of the initial cards in it yesterday to backers and almost immediately someone took that and broke it out into an amazing deck builder site, so you should totally check that out.  Additionally on Reddit there is a Hex Alpha FAQ thread that is worth checking out as it has a number of useful links… including the downloader for the alpha client.  Like usual we have a pretty decent sized community that will be playing this off and on so I expect it to join the ranks of League of Legends as one of our regular non-MMO games.  If you are part of this madness as well let me know!  I am always looking for more people to hang out with while playing various titles.