Bel’s 2015 Game Awards

Year in Review

 

First off let me start this post by wishing all of you my readers a Happy New Year.  During the course of this past year nearly 70,000 of you have visited my blog, and I am still scratching my head as to why.  Whatever I am doing, I guess I will keep doing that in the next year.  I do have some cool ideas for things to keep me moving forward, but I don’t really want to go into those right now….  mostly because it will involve some programming on my part to make it function.  The thing I have learned over the years of blogging and this coming year will make seven…  is that I am really really bad at columns.  I will start a feature and then after a few weeks to months it peters out.  The MMOs Worth Playing feature was one of my favorite so far, but it was also one of the more time consuming.  That said in the  coming year I would really like to bring it back, and maybe change its focus to be a little big more manageable….  sort of a MMO of the Month Club type thing.  Each week during the MWP thing I was trying to log into that game, play it a bit to remember the things I liked about it… take fresh screenshots and get up a post every single Friday.  As we got into the pre-Holiday crunch time it failed miserably.  Maybe an MMO of the Month will work better because it gives me more time…. though honestly if the AggroChat Game Club is any evidence I will probably just end up waiting until the week before we record the show before attempting to play the game.

This morning the idea is to do my Awards for the year, since we have officially wrapped up a year now.  These are not exactly your normal awards and more like the back of a high school year book…  most likely to succeed etc.  Though from what I understand…. there are a lot of schools who are no longer doing that for sake of potentially damaging students self esteem.  More than anything I want to thank all of you for joining me on this continued journey.  The last few months of the year were pretty rough on this side of the equation, but you all kept with me and kept supporting me, and for that I am immensely appreciative.  Without further rambling…  here is the inaugural edition of “Bel’s Game Awards”.

Biggest Surprise

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Hatoful Boyfriend – Feel the Birblove!

I absolutely did not expect to like this game, and in truth I probably never would have played it were not for the fact that my good friend Grace chose this as her aggrochat game of the month.  I expected it to be largely played on a goof, and even went to the extreme of recording my first game play session because I expected it would be a maddening experience for me.  The end result however was something I did not expect, I really enjoyed it.  I laughed more while playing this game than I have laughed in a long time while playing any game…. maybe since initially playing Sam and Max Hit the Road.  What is even more shocking is that I continued on after the initial play through and ended up getting six or seven different endings by the time we had recorded the AggroChat show.  There has been a whole side discussion since about whether or not Hatoful Boyfriend is actually representative of Otome and Visual Novels in general…. or if it just lampoons the genre.  I think more than anything it opened my eyes to the fact that this sort of “non-action” game can be extremely fun, and would make me at least try some other games.  So kinda like WoW is an ice breaker for MMOs… this might be that sort of Icebreaker for Otome.

Biggest Disappointment

Citizens of Earth
Citizens of Earth

I remember when I first saw this game… it seemed like this amazing callback to the Super Nintendo era of RPGs where you had such oddball genre bending hits like Mario RPG and Earthbound.  The problem is that in application…  the game ended up as this soulless hull that simply was not fun to play.  This was our very first AggroChat game club game… and none of us really liked it.  This was the game that essentially we all unanimously voted that we wanted to play… and was also the game that  caused us to change gears and start letting individual members pick a game for us to play, rather than trying to all decided together what the next game we would play might be.  The game was frustrating from a technical level, but the level of grind needed to get very far just made the experience simply not enjoyable.  The idea of being able to recruit hundreds of potential party members was amazing…  until you realized that not a single one of them was interesting at all.  The part that ruined it for most people was the fact that the main character, the mayor was so completely unlikable.  I think it was Kodra that said that the game would have been salvageable if you could simply leave him at home and go off adventuring without him.  The stereotypes were caricatures were humorous for the first fifteen minutes, and then quickly became painful to keep playing.

Most Improved

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Destiny – The Taken King

What can I say about Destiny the Taken King that I have not already said.  I had no real hopes for this expansion because for the most part I had abandoned all hope for Destiny before the time the first expansion patch landed.  Year one was a grindy mess whose light leveling system left me scratching my head and simply not caring anymore about trying to progress.  I believe I managed to get to Light 26 before hitting a wall of resource gathering, that I simply lacked the desire to keep pushing through.  In year one engrams in general felt few and far between, and you were constantly having to judge whether or not an item provided enough light to make it worth swapping it in, even if in other ways the item might be superior.  Year two fixed a lot of this in the same way that the Diablo 3 2.0 patch just magically fixed that game, or at least made it FEEL better.  That is the thing with me and games, the moment to moment game play has to feel good and also feel like I am getting something for my time spent.  While I could say that technically there is way more grind in Year 2, it feels like you are at least getting something for your time…. even if it is just weapon and armor parts.  I would rather see things drop… and all of those things be crap rather than never seeing a drop… and when you finally do it decodes into a lower level than the face value of the engram.  The biggest change however is the fact that the Taken King has a story… and it is actually a cool one.  Through both the quest narrative and the item descriptions that can be found on the website for each of the items you pick up… the game has started to tell this epic tale of both the Traveller and the Darkness, and how the two have battled through countless races and star systems since time began.  For me, I patched up my game and tried the year 2 experience long before picking up the expansion….  and I highly suggest anyone who has not given it another shot do the same.

Game I Still Can’t Get Into

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Dragon Age: Inquisition

I love the Dragon Age franchise…. or at least I did.  I’ve been a fan since Dragon Age: Origins… and I have beaten at least six different endings of that game.  Which as a person who rarely if ever finishes video games… that should tell you something.  I even managed to play through Dragon Age 2 a few different times, and largely enjoyed my experience.  However when confronted with Dragon Age: Inquisition it feels like this insurmountable wall.  Firstly I think the game just looks ugly out of the gate with its overuse of object shine and its strange playdough hair.  The other big problem I have is that generally speaking I play roleplaying games on the sofa, where it is nice and comfy… and none of the laptops that I own are capable of playing this game with decent settings, or at least good enough settings to make it look not like shit.  Recently I have picked it up for the Playstation 4 over the recent sales and it is my hope to maybe try playing it on the vita.  The first statement anyone ever seems to make to me when I talk about my problems with the game… is that I need to leave the hinterlands.  I promise I have left the Hinterlands… but the main storyline is just boring to me.  It is nothing as awesome as Dragon Age Origins was….  and I think that’s because I just don’t like the Inquisition.  I could get 100% behind the Grey Wardens… I believed in their cause and was ready to go into battle for them.  I could give a flying fuck about being the Herald of Andraste.  I hate this green shit that comes out of my hand… and I hate the feeling that I am constantly fiddling with the magic of the world… and my key goal in life seems to be to close rifts full of annoying demons.  I like some of the characters that I interact with, but some of my favorite characters so far are characters you can’t take with you on missions like Scout Harding.  My party of choice would be Cassandra, Sera, and Harding….  but instead I tend to go with Cassandra, Sera and Dorian.  I wish I knew why this game is just so not enjoyable for me…. but I want to play it… I really do.

Lived Up to the Hype

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Fallout 4

The game this year that I was the most hyped about has to be Fallout 4, and that hype cycle started from the moment it was officially announced at E3.  This game did so many things right, and really it was starting with the way it was announced.  They held off to show any information on the game until it was already pretty damned polished, and then they hit it out of the part by saying that it would be in our grubby little hands only a few months later.  In the meantime they gave us a pretty fun mobile game to keep us interested…. which I will talk about later.  Fallout is one of those franchises that I place up on a pedestal for always giving me exactly what I wanted out of the game.  A big open world with lots of little things to keep me interested, and a complete inability to ever truly “finish” the game.  There is more content in Fallout 3, Fallout New Vegas and now Fallout 4 than I will ever have time to see.  Hell in the few days ahead of the launch… I played some more Fallout New Vegas and was still finding things that I had never seen before… and I considered that game pretty damned well trodden.  As far as Fallout 4…  everything about the game makes me happy… apart from maybe the main storyline.  The thing is… I don’t play Fallout games for the story… I play them to go off and inhabit the wasteland and weave my own storyline around me as I go.  I thought the voiced protagonist would annoy me…  but for the most part I have been able to ignore it.  I really like some of the companions this time as well…. namely Piper and Nick.  I wish so much that I could adventure together with Piper, Nick and Dogmeat at the same time because I love them all.  The biggest moment for me though was when I realized that in this game through the  settlement system I could finally make the world a better place.  I have a dozen or so different settlements at this point, and I have spent time building on each of them.  I feel like I am making things work….  and improving live as I go.  As far as the Storyline…  I find parts of it frustrating namely that I did not see a good option to broker peace between the three main factions.  I would have loved a “Can’t We All Just Get Along” ending option… and maybe it is there but I just have not found it.

Hype That Didn’t Last

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Final Fantasy XIV – Heavensward

If I had to pick a game of the year based on sheer amount of time I played it during this year…. the award would go to Final Fantasy XIV.  It has been my constant companion… that is until the last quarter of the year when I started to lose interest.  I can’t say I am disappointed in the game, because the content leading up to Heavensward… and the launch content was really amazing.  The problem I have had is like after the launch of A Realm Reborn there just doesn’t seem to be that much to do to keep me engaged.  I guess in truth the game has always been this way… because I remember us running into the same wall a few months after the launch of 2.0, that ended up leading us to un-subscribe shortly after.  Coming back when we did July of 2014 meant we had roughly a year worth of content waiting for us to progress through.  This content kept us busy up until the point of the Heavensward launch, with us not actually defeating Bahamut until we did it unsynchronized.  With Heavensward we lack that backlog of fun older content to work through, and our casual gameplay style just does not really fit with the Final Fantasy XIV bleeding edge.  So we managed to down Bismarck Extreme, Alexander normal, and made some pretty good progress on Ravana Extreme before we petered out and started to lose interest.  What is making it extra hard is the fact that there are only two max level dungeons at a time this go around.  Previous expansion each content patch came with three new dungeons…. and having to run experts by only alternating between the same two dungeons gets old really really fast.  I am sure at some time I will get the bug and go back to playing this as my primary game…. but for now I am just basically only playing the new story and holiday content as it arrives and the rest of the time…. simply not logging in.

Shocked I am Playing

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World of Warcraft – Warlords of Draenor

At the beginning of the year, I had quite a bit of fun raiding in World of Warcraft, but as Blackrock Foundry drug on…. and the launch of Heavensward loomed I simply lacked the care to keep playing like I have done so many times.  In June I quit playing as the chart at the end of this post shows and focused solely upon Final Fantasy XIV, and I think maybe it is this single minded focus that caused me to burn out of that game so quickly.  Blizzcon is a primal force of nature that no one can avoid… and I have to say it got me started down this nostalgia trip that ended with me playing the free version of the game on my sub 20 horde characters on The Scryers server.  This ultimately ended up with me resubbing to the game and I have to say I am really enjoying myself.  I am playing the game in a much more casual fashion than I am used to, and while I am raiding every single week…. I am doing so with a group that only raids on Sunday nights, and during a time slot when I am normally downstairs watching television anyways.  I know there is technically no new content, but what can I say… I am having fun.  Playing Horde has breathed new life into the game because it is allowing me to not only play with friends I never really got the chance to play with… but also see the world from a slightly different perspective.  No clue how long this will hold out but I think so long as I am playing it and OTHER games at the same time… it might just hold for awhile.  I think the key for me not getting burnt out is to allow myself the freedom to play whatever I feel like playing in a given moment and not really forcing myself to keep playing something that feels stale.

Made Me Almost Care About Mobile

Fallout Shelter
Fallout Shelter

As I said above, one of the things that Bethesda did right with the launch of Fallout 4, is that they gave us a fun app to play with in the meantime.  Fallout Shelter is essentially Sim Tower or the later Tiny Tower mobile game….  set in a Fallout Vault.  This was actually a lot of fun for a few weeks and gave me a reason to play games on my phone.  The problem is I eventually got bored with it the same way I seem to get bored with all mobile apps.  There were a lot of times I thought that I would keep playing it, were it for the ability to play on my desktop while doing something else.  But for a brief period of time I found myself caring about a mobile game, and that deserves some recognition.  My lifestyle just doesn’t really support mobile gaming, in that if I am going somewhere… I tend to be the one driving.  Then when I am at work… I should be you know… working and not playing games.  When I am out shopping…  most games simple require too much to get into them and do a few moves before you need to move on to the next area.  Then when I am home…. I would far rather be using my laptop, gaming desktop, or one of several different consoles than spending time on a mobile device.  The one thing that might change this is the fact that I have started spending some time on my new Kindle Fire before going to sleep.  Right now that time is mostly occupied with reading comic books… but I could see eventually playing a game like Fallout Shelter while trying to fall soundly asleep.

Game I Wish I Enjoyed More

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Rift – Nightmare Tides

If you were to write out every single feature that I would want in an MMO on paper… you would pretty much get the feature set of Rift.  That said for whatever reason I have struggled to get into this game since the launch of the first expansion.  I will come back and play for a bit but find it far too easy to walk away from.  I love Trion, and I love the awesome people that work there.  I love some of the awesome folks engaged in that community like Kiwi.  All of this said… I just struggle to get into the game itself.  I think it is several problems, namely that I just don’t have a large friendly and active community to be part of.  I mean I have the House Stalwart guild but it has been dead since the last resurgence several years ago that lead me to go found it.  For a long time my hope was Machiavelli’s Cat community, but during Storm Legion the Rift contingency pretty much died, and it lead us to merge into Alea Iacta Est…. who then also seemed to die out.  During this awkward period I tried a few other guilds, and never found a home… eventually creating House Stalwart on Faeblight.  The big problem that Rift has that WoW does not… is the fact that there is no cross account id system that you can use for communicating with friends regardless of what character they happen to be playing.  However with the recent “Glyph ID” that is now showing up in the launcher… I am wondering if they are crafting that infrastructure.  I feel like I simply have not put in the necessary legwork to find a new home, because it seems like so much effort.  That combined with the fact that finding a workable spec itself is a challenge, has left me in this phase of logging in… playing for a bit and then fading out again.  I want to love this game, but it has been a struggle.

Most Emotional Experience

The Beginner's Guide
The Beginner’s Guide

This is a strange one for me… because I’ve technically never played this game.  The game itself is more of an experience… a visual novel of sorts… than a true game.  Sure there are gameplay elements and mechanics… but those remind me of the video game equivalent of one of those pop up books that has levers and such that allow you to move the characters or animate a specific story element.  I watched a let’s play video on this game, and in that I pretty much experienced all of it.   The end result evoked some of the strangest emotions in me.. and actually lead me to cry at a few points.  I think any creative type can understand the emotions that you go through in the experience, and I know for myself…. who tends to suffer from a fairly unhealthy amount of imposter syndrome… it hit incredibly close to home.  I am not sure if it was a positive experience, and for all I know given the timing… it might have been the start of my recent funk.  The rollercoaster I went through…  was not exactly healthy.  That said I feel like I have to give the game credit, because it made me feel things… like deeply feel things.  Very few video games can do that, and ultimately I ended up purchasing the game as a thank you for the experience…. even though I doubt I will ever actually install it or play it.

Game of the Year

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The only thing I can really give you… is a hearty shrug.  I don’t know what my game of the year would be.  If you judged it on sheer excitement and the eventual execution… it would probably be Fallout 4.  If you judged it based on the amount of time I spent playing it through the course of the year, then it would be Final Fantasy XIV.  If you based it on the sheer shock that someone got me to play the game in the first place… then Hatoful Boyfriend.  Basically every game on my list deserves its recognition, and for the most part that recognition is positive with the exception of Citizens of Earth.  I played a lot of games this year… and I hope to play even more next year.  Game of the Year is honestly a silly concept… and just like I can’t really give you a firm answer for “Favorite Movie” or “Favorite Song” I could never tell you my absolute favorite Video Game.  My mood plays such of a huge role in what I want to play at a given moment…. and if I want mindless destruction right now Destiny is giving me everything that I could ever want.  But as soon as my mood changes… so does my preference in games… and I often times fall back on sheer comfort gaming like whatever MMO I happen to be into.  So yeah…  all of the games on this list… I mentioned because they were important to me, so they are all my Games of the Year.

 

Bel VS Mobile Gaming

The Eureka Moment

FalloutShelter_ScreenShot

I just had a moment of realization while checking on the progress of Vault 816…  I am not a mobile gamer.  While I really enjoy the idea of playing Fallout Shelter, I always have the same thought I have with any mobile game.  “Man I wish I could play this on my desktop or through a web browser.”  There are games that I enjoy the idea of playing… like Fallout Shelter, Alphabear, Dragon Coins, or Final Fantasy Record Keeper.  The problem is I get frustrated by the imprecise controls.  Using your finger to move objects around the screen feels so much more cludgy than doing it with a nice tight mouse pointer. Granted if I were a smaller person I would probably not be having any of these issues.

Sausage-Like Fingers

AttackOfSausageFingers

I am 6’4” and have huge hands…  I can palm a basketball. Attached to these huge hands are useless sausage-like fingers that have the fine motor skills of sleepy toddler.  The more I think about it… this fact has gotten in the way of my enjoyment of almost every mobile game I have played.  At first I thought the bulk of my problems would be resolved were I simply playing on a larger device.  However as I graduated from my iPhone 3s to a Samsung Galaxy S2 to a Samsung Galaxy S5…  each time the screen size increased sizably but the difficulty never went away.  When I finally got my own iPad I still felt like throwing it across the room anytime I was asked to do anything that required a modicum of detailed movement.

I realize there is such a thing as a stylus, but then I am having to fiddle with an awkward device on top of an already awkward control scheme.  The problem is…  there really are games that I want to enjoy on mobile devices.  Fallout Shelter for example takes two things that I have loved in the past…  the Fallout Franchise, and Sim Tower like gameplay.  During my pre-college and college years I spent silly amounts of my free time playing both of these games.  I spent enough time playing Sim Tower to be able to build freaking airports at the top of my towers.  I have played each of the Fallout franchise games multiple times, and even though I rarely play the original…  I feel like I could pretty safely pick it right back up and meld into the nostalgia nicely.  So I am the core demographic of this game…  except for the whole control scheme problem.

I honestly have no clue why I felt like I needed to write this post, other than having my own little Eureka moment.  For the longest time I thought my dislike of mobile gaming was more about the game experiences that you have on a mobile device.  Now I realize that is wrong… there are plenty of “gamerly” experiences available.  My problem is that I struggle to get any sense of control while playing a mobile game.  Finger based movement against a slick screen always feels chaotic to me.  It reminds me of how frustrated I get when trying to use a trackball.  I guess I am just accustomed to the mouse, keyboard and controller…  and when it finally comes down to relying on my own digits to make things work…  I find the experience frustrating.  I am wondering if anyone else out there with sausage-like fingers suffers from this same issue?  We should totally form a support group or something.

Week In Gaming 8/30/2015

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Stressed but Still Here

This week turned out to be a shockingly stressful one, but thankfully all of said stress happened at work… and I could more or less leave it there as well.  There has been a twinge of sadness as well because months ago I had hoped to be able to attend Pax Prime and get to hang out with friends there.  However that didn’t quite work out, and since I lacked tickets to go there…  because AggroChat was not apparently qualified as a media outlet, I stopped pushing quite so hard.  The beginning of the school year is especially rough on my wife, and it would have been even more stressful to be travelling during this time.  As such I am doubting that Pax Prime will ever really be in my cards unless for some reason they decide to move it either earlier or later in the year.  I will always have Pax South however, and I fully intend to go this coming year.  I am going to be trying to talk as many people into attending as I can, and hopefully can organize a meetup or something while there.  There were plenty of people at Pax South last year but I was completely overwhelmed by it being my first real convention, and the internet was pretty horrible…  so I missed most of them.  Anyways…  on with what is I hope becoming a Sunday tradition, where I review the games I played over the past week.

Final Fantasy XIV

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Currently “The Rising” event is going on in Final Fantasy XIV that marks the yearly anniversary festival.  This year the quest that goes along with it is one of the most touching quests I have experienced in a game before.  I don’t want to spoil too many details about it, but suffice to say there is a little bit of fourth wall breaching going on.  Diehard Final Fantasy XIV fans have this hero worship for Naoki Yoshida and the rest of the team, and it is absolutely well earned.  It feels like there is very much a symbiotic relationship going on there, and they understand fully just how important the loyal fans are to the continued success of the title.  The game is in this interesting place where it is extremely humbled by the fact that it launched in 2010 and failed to capture hearts and minds.  They are putting everything into the game and leaving nothing on the table, and it shows.  Other than the anniversary event we worked on Ravana Extreme attempts, and I have every hope that we will be able to down him this coming Monday.  Past that I have honestly been taking a bit of a break from Final Fantasy XIV, or at least not really logging in every day.

Diablo 3

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If you are wondering where the bulk of my game time was spent, you can look no further than Diablo 3.  I am not sure if it was my time playing Hellgate London, or the fact that I finally pulled my head out of the sand and realized there was such a thing as a “season”.  Whatever the combination I have been pumped to be playing Diablo 3 again and have been spending a lot of time with my friend Grace was we worked on pushing up our seasonal characters.  At the beginning of the week I managed to get my Crusader from last season to 70 with the help of Grace and her crazy torment farming ways.  Then Friday when the new season opened I started work immediately on a female Barbarian.  As of last night I am now level 60 and making the final push to 70.  That is really what I intend to spend most of my time today working on, and hopefully by tonight I will be sitting at 70 and starting to work on gearing up for doing torment and beyond.  I am having a blast, and I am not sure whatever mental block cleared that has allowed me to get involved once more with the click to attack madness.

Wildstar

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I can’t say that I have made stellar progress since last week, but I am continuing with my new tradition of trying to play Wildstar Tuesday nights.  At this point I am level 25 still in Whitevale but I think maybe I can see the end of the zone.  My hope is to move on past it this week and hopefully into something less desolate.  I feel about Whitevale the way I feel about most desert zones in MMOs.  I have come to realization this week that it is never the biome necessarily that I like or dislike, but instead the zone design.  I was warned that Malgrave is coming up, and a desert… but from what I have seen of the imagery inside it seems like something I will enjoy.  I want to devote more time to this game, but for now I am going to settle with making it a Tuesday night thing.

Hearthstone

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The game that I played that shocked me the most this week was Hearthstone.  I have not really spent much time playing it since release, and with the addition of a new expansion of cards I decided to poke my head in.  This is where I found a brand new game mode called Tavern Brawl.  Apparently you have a different weekly challenge, and this week was essentially playing with a randomized deck.  I played hunter and had a good amount of success.  Playing with a random assortment of cards, including many of the brand new Grand Tournament cards gave me a nostalgic feeling much like the early days of Magic the Gathering.  I used to love the days when I was limited based on the  cards I physically owned and as a result made some odd decks to try and weave in my favorite elements.  In truth I would probably play Hearthstone more often if this random brawl option thing was a fixed item.  I know this coming week there will be a completely different Tavern Brawl, but I will likely poke my head in to see what it is and give it a shot.  This might breathe new life into the game for me, and for that I am kinda pumped.

Fallout Shelter

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My week in review would not be complete without at least talking a bit about Fallout Shelter.  Now I have been technically playing this game for awhile now but since I do not regularly use my iPad, the sessions were limited and I went weeks between opening the app.  With the release of Fallout Shelter for android I have been playing it far more often on my phone, and it has now become my default “moment of downtime” game as I check in on my little post apocalyptic ant farm.  All things said I learned a lot of lessons playing it on the iPad that I have now applied to this new vault.  Where Vault 999 was a relative failure, Vault 861 is pretty damned idyllic.  Through a bit of luck of drops, and some careful planning I have managed to create a pretty safe environment that can absolutely shred raider attacks.  I had a random person show up at the vault that was fairly warriorly, and once I equipped her with power armor and a plasma pistol she has been roaming the wastes dispensing justice.  At the same time she has become a major source of income and the gear she brings back I am slowly outfitting all of my settlers in.  I have jokingly started calling the restaurant on the first floor Cafe Death, because the raiders always go there…. only to get shredded by all of my shotgun toting vault dwellers.  The only thing that I feel bad about is that I essentially  have one couple that is slowly populating my vault.  I have left them in the room for weeks now and they have half a dozen offspring roaming around as a result.

Hatoful Boyfriend

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The last game that I played a significant amount of this week was of course Hatoful Boyfriend, and last night we recorded the AggroChat game club show for it.  This was Grace’s pick and I think a lot of us went into this assuming that we would end up hating the game.  We were mostly wrong as the vast majority of us had lots of good things to say about the game. To make it even crazier this is the first game that the majority of us have actually played through more than one… but given that an individual play session tends to only be around the hour long mark that makes sense.   If you want to hear our length discussion about dating “Birbs” after the apocalypse you should totally listen into the show.

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