Back But Don’t Play

Supporting Kickstarter

wasteland2 This morning I am going to tackle the second talkback topic for the Newbie Blogger Initiative because it is actually one that has been on the hearts and minds of the AggroChat folks for the last few weeks.  For the April AggroChat Game Club game I chose Darkest Dungeon, and since then the topic of playing “unfinished” games has been somewhat of a recent discussion among us in private.  The fact that the game was unfinished caused numerous problems, not the least of which was the simple fact that we were never quite sure if this or that functionality was intended… or just unfinished.  So I feel like I was not able to give it a really solid testing, because I don’t know what might change between now and when the studio deems the game “finished”.  The prompt however for this talkback is pretty straight forward but my answer is going to be a bit more nuanced.

Early Access and Kickstarter – Do you support unfinished games?

So for the first part… yes I wholeheartedly support the backing of unfinished games.  I’ve backed more than I can count at this point through either Kickstarter or company specific initiatives.  I think Kickstarter is a pretty awesome thing, and it has caused a lot of things that I care about to see the light of day.  I’ve backed both software and physical merchandise projects through it, and have been relatively happy with pretty much every project I have ended up chipping in on.  Kickstarter does a lot of things, but the biggest one to me is that it allows me to vote with my dollar on what I think is going to be an idea worth making.  I rarely back very far into a given product tree, and the end result is me usually getting a cut price copy of the game at launch.  While many of these games offer a double platinum early access alpha program…  that is not so much what I am interested at least not any more.

Tired of Alphas

Once upon a time I wanted to be playing every single game I could get my hands on.  I reveled in the fact that I had alpha and beta tested most of the MMOs out there.  For a period of time this was something that was achievable because at any given moment there were a very limited number of Alpha and Beta test programs available.  Somewhere along the line I noticed that playing an Alpha seriously adversely effected my chances of staying with a game for very long after release.  In essence I would burn myself out playing the Alpha, so that when launch happened the game felt very old and tired to me.  The pinnacle of this problem happened for me with Elder Scrolls Online.  I seriously cared about the release of this game, and I took my Alpha testing duties seriously.  I was told at one point that I was in the top 1% of all bug reporters in the game, and every single time we played I spent most of my time reporting and re-reporting issues I saw.

The problem here is that I had been alpha and beta testing builds of this game for a good year before the game actually launched.  So while I only managed to play about three months after the launch of the title, in truth that was around 17 months of me actually playing the game.  Huge chunks of the content I had literally seen hundreds of times, and remembered each of the different incarnations.  The additional problem is I had trouble letting go of the past.  There were some changes made in that game that I considered “for the worse” and myself and many of the other early testers rather vehemently pined for the imagined “good ole days” of early alpha.  Memory is always an incomplete state, and what we remembered was this or that feature that stood out in an ocean of an otherwise broken game.  The final product was so much better than the one we were requesting they return to, but we got hung up on the minutiae of this or that feature that we missed.  Basically I learned that Alpha testing ultimately ruined my enjoyment of the final product… and it only took me twenty some years to wake up to this fact.

Back But Don’t Play

Ultimately I have a very nuanced stance on Kickstarter.  I am more than happy to donate money towards a cause that I believe in like the creation of a brand new Wasteland experience on the PC, or any of the other games I have backed that let me wallow in the nostalgia of my youth.  Generally speaking I now back just far enough into it to give myself a cut rate copy of the game at launch.  Then when I get said copy and any bonus trappings… it seats neatly in my Steam account until I am ready to play it.  I might boot it up periodically to check on its progress, but ultimately I am not going to start the game for real until I see that note from the developer talking about how the game has launched.  The problem is this also means I am phenomenally bad at tracking the progress of games on Kickstarter.  I almost always have a message that needs to be responded to about this or that game but this is what works for me.  It lets me feel like I am backing things that I believe in, but also gives me the piece of mind of not actually starting a game play session until the game is “finished”.

As far as other games that are in a permanent state of development like Minecraft…  once again my feelings are a bit more nuanced.  Paying to play an alpha does not really bother me, if the experience and the enjoyment itself is worth paying to play said alpha.  I got into Minecraft for example during its pre-beta days when you could pick up a copy for well under $10.  I have gotten easily $1000 worth of enjoyment out of that game.  Similarly while I don’t play them nearly as often I have gotten more than enough happiness out of both Trove and Landmark to recuperate any costs I might have put into them.  Ultimately backing an unfinished game, and playing said unfinished game is not an entirely bad idea… so long as you go into it with the thought process that you are playing something that isn’t quite done yet.  Early Access games are in essence paid betas, and if you can live with that… awesome…  if not wait for the release of the game.  I personally have found that the games I played heavily in Alpha and Beta get more enjoyable over time, and going back a year after launch I end up really enjoying myself.  So that is to say that the games I ruined through Alpha testing…  are not in a permanent state of ruined as evidenced by my recent travels into Guild Wars 2, Wildstar, and Star Wars the Old Republic.  Ultimately you have to figure out what works for you, and the amount or risk you are willing to take.  If I feel like I am going to care about a game, I try my best not to burn out before launch.

Desert Rangers

Taco Bell Salad

As strange as it sounds, one of the meals we used to eat all the time when we were watching our calories is Doritos Tacos from Taco Bell.  Each of them is pretty filling and only 170 calories a piece, and come in a variety of flavors now so it feels like you are eating way worse than you actually are.  For some time now I have had this idea of taking them and turning them into a Taco Salad.  Finally last night we actually did just this.  The idea is that you essentially dump out the contents of the tacos, crunch of the shells and them mix it all together with some form of a binding liquid.  I prepared my wife’s with four packets of Taco Bell hot sauce, and then did mine with some low fat ranch dressing.

The end result was really damned good.  Like amazingly tasty, and it felt and looked pretty much like a Taco Salad.  The only downside was it was a colossal mess to crunch the shells.  You know you your fingers feel after eating a bag of nacho cheese Doritos?  Well take that and multiply it by 100 because the shells themselves are not entirely dry as they’ve had taco fixings inside of them.  I need to find a better way than using my fingers to crunch them up, and if so them bam I have a brilliant fast food “hack” that was super tasty.  Three Tacos made a plate full of Taco Salad and was only 510 calories, I can totally live with that.  It inspired me to try their breakfast this morning, and I have to say it is in no way near as manageable.  In fact their breakfast seems like they ran an experiment of trying to cram as many calories into as little food as possible.

Desert Rangers

WL2 2014-06-28 08-50-25-607 Earlier this week my friend Warenwolf mentioned something about playing Wasteland 2, and as a result I decided to check and see if I had access as well.  Sure enough, when I dug out my forum link from the kickstarter project I had a steam early access code waiting for me.  Last night I intended to just pop in for a moment and check the game out, and wound up playing over an hour.  Now I knew of Wasteland, but I never really played it when it was originally out for the PC.  That predates the bulk of my PC gaming, and I was still heavily a console gamer at that time.  That said I was a massive fan of both Fallout and Fallout 2, and since Wasteland was the logical predecessor to those games I knew I had to get on board with this project.  In truth other than the fact that the original fallout runs pretty lousy on a modern PC, I can still play it for hours. WL2 2014-06-28 08-54-15-264 So far pretty much everything about this game is true to that genre and is a modern update of what feels like a classic game.  There is an over arching storyline that you can follow, or you can simply wander around the wastes looking for trouble.  You cannot however wander indefinitely as there is an interesting movement mechanic while you are on the overmap.  Each step you take consumes water, and you have a finite amount of this.  Every so often you can find an oasis here or there that lets you refill your canteens, but this keeps you from going too far off the beaten path.  Luckily if you follow the actual quest line it leads you to find a large number of Oasis spots that you can always fill up at along the way.

WL2 2014-06-28 09-09-05-758 Just like in Fallout as you wander around the world map you will come across random encounters.  The interesting thing is that each time you come across one of these you have the chance to either fight or run.  So far being the warmonger I am… I have fought all of them and it has been the source of much needed ammunition and medpacks.  Overall the combat is not super challenging, but it is tactical in nature.  Cover rules apply, so since I have a handful of ranged characters I try and place them behind a rusted out car hull or something similar and for the most part this allows me to whittle down the enemy forces.  Another strategy I have found works amazingly well is to simply wait out the enemy.  They seem to be willing to come to you most of the time, allowing you to set up from a defensive position and gun them down as they run towards you.

WL2 2014-06-28 08-55-30-666 The game allows you to assemble your own team of rangers to meet anything you might encounter out in the wastes.  For this first playing I chose to go with some premades so I have Pill the wasteland punk combat medic, Cold Eye the sniper, Bear the Native American tracker, and Big Bert the punk with a spiked bat and essentially my groups only front line fighter.  So far it seems like I assembled a fairly balanced team.  The only thing I am really missing is the ability to pick locks, but up until now I have only actually encountered a single locked object.  Cold-Eye has a mechanical repair skill, which I figure will come in handy eventually.  So far I am absolutely hooked, and looking forward to seeing the finished version.  From what I understand it is pretty much fully functional, just missing some polish.  Definitely glad I backed the kickstarter.

Hail to the Chief

SaintsRowIV 2014-06-25 06-02-34-557 I logged into Wildstar for a bit, but really was not feeling the MMO thing.  I am in somewhat of an existential funk when it comes to online gaming right now.  I am going through one of my periods where I just want to play by myself, and not be bothered with other people.  These usually last a week or two and then I have recharged and can be my charming self again, but while it is going on it is probably just best for me to play mostly single player games.  Since I had so damned much fun the other night playing Saints Row IV I decided to fire it up and attempt to make some progress.  The problem with me and big sandboxy games is that I never actually get anything accomplished.  I have been wandering around the simulation picking up code fragments and knocking down Zin shield beacons reclaiming sections of the map.  Last night I actually made an attempt to complete some of the quests.

SaintsRowIV 2014-06-27 21-18-53-685

The major accomplishment of the night was getting to the top of this tower.  This is the granddaddy of all jumping puzzles I have ever encountered.  The tower itself is so high that the game lets you save at various warp points up the tower as you try and ascend it.  I admit it took me probably a dozen tries to get all the way to the top, and when I was up there my vertigo was going absolutely insane.  The last bit of the climb freaked me the hell out, and I am just glad it is over.  That said it was pretty cool because I actually feel like I accomplished something difficult.  In addition to this there was a whole sequence of events that introduced me to the various minigames including Fraud where you throw yourself in front of cars for money, and one where you rampage through the simulation on a zin battle tank.  I only managed to get bronze rating on fraud… but damned near got gold on my first try with the battle tank.  I guess my inner rampage pays off sometimes.

SaintsRowIV 2014-06-27 22-22-31-111 I actually progressed the main storyline a bit and in the same fashion as the Matrix, unplugged forcibly and woke up on a Zin Battlecruiser butt naked needing to escape from the vessel.  I can apparently take enough time to find a gun, but not enough to take a uniform off of one of the zin soldiers and wear that.  I will admit the whole naked escape sequence thing was pretty funny, and it makes me happy I went so insane with the various tattoos.  Like I really went crazy when I found the tattoo shop as you can see in the above picture.  I feel like this is what I like the most about Saints Row, is that it is really similar in nature to Grand Theft Auto…  but does not take itself seriously at all.  In fact if there is a way to poke fun at your character, the game is going to do it by putting it in ridiculous situations.  The fact that Saints Row is in essence a parody of a parody makes this the video game equivalent of one of the “Scary Movie” franchise movies.

SaintsRowIV 2014-06-27 22-22-31-111Saints Row is one giant running “dick and fart” joke, but it works and while it is extremely lowbrow it is insanely fun to play through.  Even if you don’t normally go in for that sort of thing…  I think there is something in Saints Row for pretty much everyone.  If this goes back on sale before the end of the Steam Sale… you should totally pick it up, because it is well worth the $10.  I am also happy I went ahead and picked up all of the insane DLC, because some of the costumes are just great.  Last night I was rocking the “cloud” outfit from FF7, but I have zero clue where to find the sword that goes with it.  Instead I was running around swinging the “anal probe” weapon.  At the end of the night I had just gotten out of the “matrix” and had not really explored the “real world” much at all, so I figure next play session I will do that.  This game makes my inner thirteen year old extremely happy.

#Wasteland2 #TacoBellSalad #SaintsRowIV

Kickstarting Regrets

Patron Buffs

rift 2014-01-28 06-04-39-64 Last night I just was not feeling the raid thing.  Monday nights are traditionally the open flex night in House Stalwart, but that night has always been an optional evening since it is not really attached to any specific raid group.  As such I decided to mill around over in Rift and work on my rogue.  Earlier in the day I had complained about how slow the 56-60 game was.  To be truthful Storm Legion as a whole is much more sluggish and prodding than the old world content, and by the time you reach 56 it slows down again.  Thankfully @gamer_lady came to the rescue by reminding me that there are patron buffs.

I think I began the night around halfway into 58 and wound up ending the night 15% away from 60.  The buffs make a massive difference in the speed at which you level, especially with quest turn-ins.  I hit a sequence in Argent Domain with tons of quest turn-ins and saw my xp just skyrocket.  Tonight if I get back into Rift I will likely finish off the push to 60, and hopefully be able to open all the various lockboxes I have saved up for his ding.  Additionally I am pretty close to finishing off runecrafting, so here is hoping the greens I currently have in my bags are enough to carry me over that finish line.  I think runecrafting was the last of the trade skills that I had no maxed out, or at least I vaguely remember finishing off artificer the last time I played seriously.

Kickstarting Regrets

pantheon-cqa-epl-116 The theme that I keep seeing repeated out on kickstarter is that designers are using it as a way to work through their past regrets.  Each time a game fails to grab market share there are a myriad of reasons why it happens.  However in the case of recent kickstarter campaigns it feels like each designer has their own internal reason why they feel a project failed.  In the case of Camelot Unchained, it seems like Mark Jacobs feels that Warhammer online failed because it simply was not pvp enough.  So as a result Unchained is being designed to be this love letter to PVP in all its glory.  I am sure there is a niche that wants to do nothing but pvp, but in my experience the only aspect of Warhammer I really liked at all…. was the PVE content.  So I wish Jacobs luck on his journey because he is building a game I simply am not interested in.

Similarly in the past weeks Brad McQuaid started his kickstarter for Pantheon: The Fallen.  The pitch so far seems eerily familiar to the one I can remember hearing for Vanguard.  Hardcore game with mandatory group centric game play, and some really complex systems to add depth to the world.  It seems like McQuaid’s regret is that Vanguard was not hardcore enough, and definitely in the post Sigil games era it became much more casual and solo friendly.  The thing is… the Vanguard he proposed really failed to get serious market approval, and SOE watered it down to try and find a market for it.  I realize this might be “too soon” since SOE just announced they were cutting Vanguard from their lineup… and honestly that depresses me quite a bit…  but it is very obvious that McQuaid has a very different reason in his head for why that game didn’t meet expectations.

Wish Them Well

camelotunchained This is not to say that I don’t think both Pantheon and Camelot Unchained will not be modest successes.  In both cases they are feeding to a relatively underserved sub-demographic of gamers.  The problem is… that really is a niche within a niche within a niche and I feel has some pretty slim market potential.  As romantic as I feel the vision of Pantheon is, I know personally I simply cannot play that sort of a game.  I need a game where I can find a group quickly and one that I can also have meaningful solo game play and progression.  Gone are the days when I could sit for five hours in the plane of hate camping an epic mob with friends. 

My blocks of time are more in half hours and hours at a time these days, and at any given time I might need to be pulled away from the screen.  As a result I have to play games that do not penalize me for this.  So while I am nostalgic for the days of sitting outside Karnor’s Castle and forming groups…  I also remember the hours upon hours I sat around doing absolutely nothing because I did not have said group.  Granted this is me projecting a lot of my own thoughts on these games, and very little information is really available about them.  However the pitch just does not sound like something I can really participate in. 

Ultimately I hope all of these new MMOs succeed, and even though games like Wildstar are strictly in the “not for me” column…  we need more MMO success than failure if we hope to keep our favorite genre alive.  Additionally there needs to be a great adjustment for what exactly “success” means.  If 100,000 players keeps the game running and turns a minor profit… then man that sounds like success to me.  World of Warcraft skewed our reality, and just with my opinions of the community… it is time for a reset.  No game has been as successful as WoW has been, so it is clearly an outlier and not the mold by which all games need to measure up.  Until that sort of baseline adjustment happens… all new games will end up being judged as failures.



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.


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.