DAW2016: Bioware

BiowareLogo

DAW2016_logo

Developer Appreciation Week is here!  For the uninitiated the concept of Developer Appreciation week dates back to 2010 and was started by Couture Gaming the Blogger formerly known as Scarybooster.  The idea was simple, spend a week talking about all of the things you love about various game development companies and studios.  As a blogger we spend plenty of time pointing out what is wrong in the games we love, and talking about ways that they could be better.  That said it is important to understand that for most of us this critique comes from being a huge fan of the games and genres as a whole.  So during this week we point out the things that are going right and make a point of mentioning all the things we really appreciate out there.  If you too are a blogger please feel free to join in by posting your own Developer Appreciation Week ideas.

BiowareLogo

This is going to be a difficult one to tackle, especially since I didn’t get a ton of sleep thanks to the tornado warnings.  However I am going to give it to good college try, and hope that the end result turns out at least not too shabby.  I first became aware as Bioware as a company with the release of Baldur’s Gate, or more so the existence of what I later came to know as the “Infinity Engine”.  I have been a fan of Dungeons and Dragons since I first found a players manual abandoned in a locker on the last day of school in second grade.  Finding that book spawned a lot of things, not the least of which was trying to hungrily gobble up anything TSR related.  I played the “gold box” series of games, namely because I had read the novels behind a lot of the stories.  There was just something missing with the game, and while I enjoyed them at the time they never really felt that good.  The story that was being told felt limited by the meager technology, and while I was happy enough with the end product…  that only lasted until I had played my first Final Fantasy game.  Baldur’s Gate was the title that brought me back from my console days into once again believing that the PC was a great platform for role-playing games.

Subsequent games were released…  Icewind Dale, Baldurs Gate II and even one of my all time favorites… Planescape Torment… all using this “Infinity Engine” I have to admit I got a bit of the wrong idea behind what exactly the company Bioware really was.  In my mind it seemed like Bioware was the tools company, and Interplay, Black Isle, or later the reboot Obsidian were the game creator.  It wasn’t until Neverwinter Nights was released that I really started to understand that Bioware was both the tools division and a lot of great storytelling wrapped into one package.  Neverwinter Nights was one of those revolutionary games for me personally.  While the original campaign was awesome… it was the inclusion of the aurora toolset that set my mind on fire.  At this time I was playing a lot of Everquest and Dark Age of Camelot so I tried to replicate some of my favorite features of those games using the Neverwinter engine.  I learned the C Script language and figured out how to code things like randomly generated loot from tables when you opened chests or killed mobs.  I also eventually figured out how to create a token based system along the lines of the one that allowed you to purchase armor in the Darkness Falls dungeon.  The end result was this amalgam of the EQ Plane of Hate and DAoC Darkness Falls that I called the “Plane of Spite”.  While I never did anything really interesting with it, I loved every single moment of working on it and figuring out the inner machinations of this engine.

It was not really until Knights of the Old Republic that I hopped back on the Bioware fandom, and I remember being crushingly disappointed when I learned that the title was going to be Xbox Exclusive.  Thankfully later that year it came out for the PC and I was absolutely thrilled to be dissecting that game world as well.  I loved Neverwinter Nights for its technical precision, and the Aurora and Infinity engines for giving me this awesome framework to go out and explore worlds in.  However KOTOR was the first time from Bioware that I was completely stunned by the storyline.  Last week we went into a discussion on AggroChat about the best Star Wars stories, and by the end of that show all of us pretty much came to the consensus that Knights of the Old Republic was if not the absolute best story, it was at least among them.  There are moments in this game that had shocking revelations that I have never quite recovered from.  Even though the engine is dated, and the graphics look like crap compared to what I am used to… I can still play this game happily over and over just because it was so damned well crafted.  I’ve bought it for others, and even own the mobile port of the game.  I feel like this game more than any set the tone for the modern incarnation of Bioware.

I ultimately for one reason or another skilled Mass Effect at launch, and instead picked up the Bioware banner once again with the release of Dragon Age: Origins.  During this period of time I was raiding in World of Warcraft rabidly… but there were a few weeks where I completely dropped off the face of the planet, and it was thanks to this game.  I was just completely enthralled with the world and the setting, and the concept of the dark spawn and deep roads.  I am a Dwarf at heart, so I loved every single moment of Orzammar.  My first play through was as a Dwarven Noble, and I have to say after all of the subsequent play sessions that is still the one I cherish the most.  Much the same as KOTOR, it was ultimately the characters that set this game apart from the others I had played.  They felt so fleshed out and three dimensional, and I actually cared about interacting with them.  I am a huge proponent of smashing things with a big weapon, and games that allow me to slaughter by the hundreds… but it is significantly harder to find a game that makes me feel.  Dragon Age made me feel so much, and during this time I had a really interesting encounter.  One of my guildies invited me to tank for some friends of his, and when I popped onto voice chat we had some of the usual getting to know a new person discussion.  I mentioned that I had been playing a ton of Dragon Age… and it was at this point that they started grilling me about this character or that, or what decision I made where.  It turns out that I was ultimately raiding that night with a bunch of the writers, and you could almost hear them beaming as they proudly chimed in that they wrote this or that as I gushed about various details.

With the release of Mass Effect 2, I later went back and became an addict of that series as well.  I still wish that someone would make that into a Walking Dead style serialized television show, because the story that is being told is among the best science fiction tales ever.  It just seems a crime that the only folks that will ever see the story, are the ones who have played through the game.  Then you of course have the release of Star Wars the Old Republic, that my friends and I tore through rabidly when it launched.  I burnt myself out on that game but recently a bunch of us ended up going back and remembering just how damned well written all of the story arcs really are.  At some point soon I want to go back and finish where I left off which is the start of the Revan content, and try out the new experience fallen empire content that I have heard so much about.  For sake of time though I am going to wrap things up, because otherwise I could probably carry on for a dozen more paragraphs talking about all of the things from Bioware games that I love.  It is a great studio, and while I was scared that EA would destroy its spirit… I have been pleasantly surprised that the core values of the company and the creative might seem to keep trucking along happily.  I look forward to more adventures be it with Andromedia or the next great IP that we have yet to experience.

Week in Gaming 12/13/2015

Blogging is Hard

KnightsOfTheOldRepublicComicjpgI’ve been in a bit of a relative funk this week, and found it extremely hard to get started writing most mornings.  It is like for whatever reason my will to put fingers to keyboard and make important sounding things happen… has been drained out of me.  At this point we are a few months away from going three whole years worth of blog posts, and I guess in a way it is having its toll on me.  At this point I have far more regular readers than I have ever had at any other point in the blogs history, and that is freaking awesome.  The fact that I have so many supportive people with my back…  is ultimately the thing that keeps me moving forward on days like today.  We recorded this insanely huge podcast last night where we took the normal crew of myself, Grace, Kodra, Tam and Thalen…  and included some other friends InkyBrushes, Nephsys and Pizzmaid.  Sadly we were missing Ash but he had his own version of a really rough week.  Combined we focused a single topic… and recorded for over two hours…  which compressed down to just under it.  The problem being… by the time I did even the most basic editing pass…  it was around one in the morning.

I’ve been fighting what I think is largely sleep deprivation most of the week, and it has ended up with me falling asleep as early as 8 pm on a couple of the nights.  Well granted I went to bed at 8pm… and read comics on my new kindle but still I ended up drifting off to sleep about 30 minutes to an hour later.  I have been getting a lot of use out of my Marvel Unlimited account, and largely using it to read the backlog of awesome Star Wars comics.  At first I went through what was available of the modern series, namely Star Wars and the Vader series.  I started on the Princess Leia series but struggled with it, mostly because I simply was not a huge fan of the art style.  Recently though I have been running back through and reading the Knights of the Old Republic series from the start.  I am maybe a dozen episodes in at this point and I am loving it…  this totally feels like I am consuming comics in the same way I binge Netflix shows.  I just wish the lag between print and them showing up on Marvel Unlimited was not quite so great.  The latest issues of the modern Star Wars comic to show up are from August of this year, but what I am really hoping is that they release the issues on a semi-monthly basis just with that lag.  I can totally deal with reading comics late…  I just want to be able to read them with a certain regularity.

World of Shipyards

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This week has largely been about reconciling my differences with the Shipyard system.  I commented last week that they were essentially a worst possible version of the Garrison system…. and in many ways I don’t have a significant change in that opinion.  What did change however is that I realized that after so many of you told me about it…  the Garrison addon I was already using had built in functionality to automate a good deal of the shipyard bullshittery as well.  The end result is that I have somehow managed to learn to live with the Shipyards and they have rewarded me well for my blind submission.  At this point between the three characters that have them…  I have earned a hippo mount, a bunch of hellfire citadel gear caches,  and more left sharks than I could ever have a use for… I seriously have three sitting in the inventory of my MooCowAdin.  The problem with all of this of course is the fact that I now need to feed the beast that is the shipyard, and the only reliable way of doing this… is schlepping out to Tanaan jungle and completing the daily mission.  Now some of my characters have been stockpiling oil from Garrison missions for along time now and won’t really have this problem… but Belghast is constantly struggling to pay his daily upkeep.

Other than this I have been slowly inching up my gear levels on Belghast and Belgrace, and attempting to run the Timewalking event on my alts… that can actually benefit from the 660-675 gear that they can drop.  The funniest part of the week however has been learning that I don’t simply remember the BC era content as being significantly rougher… that it actually really is.  PUG groups are simply not prepared for mobs that crowd control and fear the hell out of players… and are in no way ready for just how hard everything hits.  There have been more wipes from the party finder than I have had in ages… and I am really enjoying every minute of it.  The alliance side…  has been a colossal mess of chain group joins and splits until finally we push through the dungeon.  Horde side on the other hand.. people just buckle down and pick themselves up after a wipe and keep pushing forward.  I guess when you have to wait through a thirty minute dps queue… you are significantly less likely to abandon ship at the first sign of trouble.  Alliance will always be my first home because that is where my army of alts lives…  but I have to say Horde is growing on me really quickly.

Fabian Strategy Lives

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I know I spent a good deal of my post yesterday gushing about the new and revised Fabian Strategy… but seriously I am in love with this gun.  It had been roughly a month since I had seriously spent much time in Destiny, and yesterday I poked my head back in.  Apart from being woefully out of practice, I am still amazed at just how fun the moment to moment play is in this game.  I spent a bit of time yesterday trying to play Battlefront, and the gameplay just doesn’t hold a candle to just how good Destiny feels.  Now that I have this weapon that allows me to abuse all of my instincts, I can see myself really settling on it as my main gun.  Now I have said that numerous times… and I know I said it recently with the Xhalo Supercell…  but seriously….  this gun is amazing.  I will always be a Titan at heart, because I want to play like a tank in most games.  This gun makes me FEEL like a tank, because the chance of regeneration upon kill ends up firing a lot more frequently than I think most people realize.  There have been several strikes that I survived entirely because of this weapon constantly triggering my shield regeneration.  It is my goal this week to pop in periodically, and not go quite so long between play sessions.