Raining With Friends

Good Morning 4 am

At this point it is actually 5 am, but who is counting?  My body decided it had enough sleep at roughly 4:40.  I had planned on getting up at 5 anyways to get up and around early so I would have to deal with less traffic on the drive in.  The greater Tulsa area is still very much under a blanket of ice and snow, and we really did not manage to get too much melt yesterday.  I am hoping that once I get out of my immediate neighborhood that the roads will be clear, otherwise this is going to be an extremely frustrating trip into work.  I wanted to give myself as much time as I could to get in, before the madhouse that is winter driving starts.  As a result this mornings blog post is likely going to be somewhat abbreviated.

Raining With Friends

Risk of Rain 2014-03-03 20-32-07-42 When I started down the road with Risk of Rain last Sunday, my feelings about the game have evolved into something much more nuanced.  The friend that originally suggested that I play the game, had told me for some time that it was a much different experience multiplayer.  Once again Ashgar was not wrong.  We planned on meeting up last night and getting in on some epic tiny pixel multiplayer action.  Firstly with two people and attempting to follow each other around somewhat, the various encounters become easier.  There are many types of mobs that you can burn down well before it actually reaches you.  Additionally when you get power-ups you can filter them towards the person who can most benefit from each type.

Risk of Rain 2014-03-03 20-08-01-15One of the things the game does that is pretty cool is show you an indicator of where your friend is at all times.  So if they are up and to the left of you, you see their character moving along the very top left edge of the screen.  We got split up often, but having this indicator allowed me to find my way back to Ashgar.  I think on our first playing, with me as the default character we managed to get three worlds in before destructing horribly.  On the second play through I changed things up to one of the characters I had just unlocked… the Enforcer.  At face value he seems like I character I would like, with his shotgun and its pushback ability.  However playing as him felt extremely sluggish, and once a mob managed to get right up on me… there was really no way to get out of there.  Poor Ashgar carried me through at least two levels where I died and he finished up the map without me.

Risk of Rain 2014-03-03 20-53-40-85 Finally on play three I think I found “my” character.  The bandit has a super long rifle shot with a small amount of pushback, a sniper rifle shot, a dynamite throw and the ability to fire a smoke bomb and go invulnerable for a short period of time… just long enough to get the hell out of a bad fight.  During this play through we each focused on our strengths, with me building everything ranged combat and Ash building everything melee combat.  We managed to get through to world five, which involves staying alive for 40 minutes as everything tries to destroy you.  At this point I had an absolutely insane drone army of 5 machine gun drones and a flamethrower drone.  Stuff attacking us would just disintegrate as it got near.  With 60 seconds to go… something catastrophic happened.

There seemed to be a hiccup in Cox communications the local cable provider, because at exactly the same time I disconnected from the Risk of Rain co-op session and Rae disconnected from Diablo 3.  I think the game was just pissed at me, because Ash and I had managed to accumulate enough power-ups during that play through that we would have had the 40 minute timer without any issue at all.  I think that is what makes this game so enjoyable, the absolute silly number of power-ups you can get.  In a way it reminds me of R-Type or Gradius…. without a cap on the total number of abilities you can get.  So towards the end I had 6 drones, the ability to fire anime sidewinder missles, the ability to proc mortar fire, as well as the occasional grenade.  On top of all of this every shot slowed the enemies, I had insanely boosted crit damage… and a short term usage jet pack.  I can now say without a doubt, that I love this game.

Whirlwind of Doom

In addition to all the Risk of Rain, I am still playing a silly amount of Diablo 3.  It is funny how one patch can completely change my perspective on the game.  Previously there were things I liked about it, but it felt extremely tedious to level through… knowing there was not much of a chance of getting something truly nice.  However I think the change for me goes deeper than that.  I love having a Clan.  I love seeing across /clan when someone gets something cool, and the obligatory chorus of gratz when someone gets a really interesting legendary drop.  I also love not feeling completely alone in the game.  Granted right now I am mostly playing solo to catch up my Barbarian, but I like feeling that while I am doing my own thing… I am not completely alone in doing it.  This is the problem I tend to have with most single player games… I just don’t feel connected to anyone else while experiencing them.

As of last night I have managed to catch my Barbarian up to level 45, and have grown into the really nice axe my monk used for awhile that summons the ghostly protector.  At this point I am still using cleave as my main attack, but as of last night I switched it up a bit from a rend that heals, to the whirlwind that sucks mobs in.  So far I am really liking the change as it lets me set mobs up for my freezequake attack.  As of last night I was up to the realm of shadows step in the Zultan Kulle quest chain.  We have decided that “Hard” is the new “Normal” mode since pretty much none of us play anything less than that when we are soloing.  Normal just seems too easy now, and the xp and drops seem much better on Hard.  Even at that, Hard is not all that Hard… in that I have to be not paying attention at all to actually die.

Diablo III 2014-03-03 16-37-20-32 Granted I have done than more than a few times, but with my paladin healbot I can pretty much run around doing bad things.  Right now through the release of Reaver of Souls, there is a “community event” going on that buffs experience gained by 50%.  So my hope is to soak up as much of this goodness as I can.  Once I finish pushing my Barbarian to 60 I plan on shifting back to the monk for a bit and working on paragon levels.  We have quite a few people playing right now, so it is pretty easy to get a torment game going.  I am not sure how amped I am with the key farming madness, but right now my key priority is getting the last two items to make a Whimsyshire staff.  I want to go kill rainbows and ponies… for science.  I am sad that I was not on mumble when Warenwolf took Rae to Whimsy for the first time.  I am not sure if she recoiled in horror, from having to kill her beloved ponies… or if she squealed in glee.  Diablo 3 seems to do the same thing League of Legends does…  bring out her murderous side.

Snow Day Project

The very last cool thing I did yesterday while snowed in, was take a moment to organize my video game screenshots.  For most people this is not a big deal, but since my blog very much relies on access to decent screenshots…  it is slightly more important.  For some time I had standardized on using a “GameShots” directory and using Fraps to take them so that everything dumped into one directory per machine.  The problem is that each directory was getting unwieldy quickly.  So as I tried to look a picture up, it would take forever for livewriter to list the newest files.  What I opted for is a directory on my 4 terabyte network attached storage, with sub directories for each game.  After setting up that structure I proceeded to sift through three different machines worth of screenshot directories and file them away in the right places.

That in itself would have been a huge positive, but I decided to go one step further.  I installed Picasa on my secondary machine and am now synchronizing each of these game directories with google plus photos.  Now if I am away from my machine, I still have access to my screenshots if I feel like I need to cobble together a quick post on something.  My hope is this will make blogging from the lake this summer a bit easier, as there is no way I could have access to my entire archive of screenshots remotely otherwise.  So far it seems to be working well, the only negative is that each time I add a new game directory I have to manually log into the machine running Picasa and configure it to sync.  The next project will likely to to merge in a bunch of the screenshot directories I already have on google plus into the newly created ones.

The Anchors Fall

Snowbound

Tulsa once again is buried under a thick coat of ice, with a dusting of snow on top.  Luckily we were prepared for it, and I did the traditional grocery store run Friday afternoon before the madness really started.  Saturday we got out early in the morning and ran the few errands we had to run, and made it in well before the crap started that evening.  It was predicted that the ice would begin around 6pm but it started considerably later.  Thankfully it was just sleet, and not freezing rain or we would have been in trouble.  When we got up yesterday morning it really did not look like we had much accumulation, and as a result my wife was convinced that they would be having school today.

However over the course of the morning, it started in hard and heavy with the ice and didn’t let up until late last night.  While we only got roughly 3 inches of accumulation, almost all of that was ice in one form or another.  One of the more interesting things is we had what they call “Thunder Sleet” and “Thunder Snow”.  Essentially it sounded like a rain storm with lightning and thunder, but as the precipitation fell it turns into sleet on the way down.  After a day of this I texted my boss about 9pm saying that I was not even going to try getting out this morning.  At that point I was apparently the third person to say the same thing, and he was not sure if he was going to try and make it or not.

I am really questioning if my wife will be having school tomorrow either.  At some point today I need to go out and try and clear the vehicles, as I am sure tomorrow morning I will be driving into work.  Honestly when a day like today happens work pretty much shuts completely down, and it is their own damned fault.  Once upon a time we would work remotely during a snowstorm, and things would continue moving forward.  However the current management made a point of stating that there was no official working from home policy, and as a result we all take vacation days and ignore email.  I think they were far better off the other way around, because at this point… it damned well better be a crisis for me to deal with it when I have spent a vacation day.

The Anchors Fall

eso 2014-03-02 18-47-32-30 I spent I would say the majority of the weekend in Tamriel.  Not that I really felt the rush to play, since I have been part of the private testing group for roughly a year now, but I did want to get to hang out with my friends as they played.  By the end of the weekend I think we had 35 members or so in House Stalwart, and for the most part everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves.  There were a few people who simply could not get used to the “action mmo” perma-mouselook interface but overall I think we are going to have a large and bustling guild for launch.  Really that is the most I could hope for.  I entered the weekend with grand ideas of getting to the 15-18 range of Spindleclutch… the first dungeon in Daggerfall.  However i didn’t even get close, ending the weekend around 9.5.

I am really bad at leveling in Elder Scrolls.  There is always this cool thing over here to look at and explore, or this camp of baddies to clean out…  or this bit of ore to mine.  The Elder Scrolls Online is distraction city, and I am a willful participant.  In World of Warcraft, I have learned to “quest grind” and push my way through content extremely quickly.  However in the much more immersive world of ESO I tend to stop and smell the roses quite a bit.  One of the interesting things about the game is that I actually somewhat pride myself on making my own gear.  So the tail end of the night since I was roughly half a level from 10… I was in a mad rush to gather iron ore.  Up to this point I have tried to have a full set of the next level of gear ready to go for when I ding.

I realize I don’t NEED to do this, as you can pretty much get by fine in several levels old gear.  However I like the concept of making my own stuff.  Firstly it levels blacksmithing, but more importantly I always know where my next upgrade is coming from.  Granted it usually means I am well over level since wandering around mining ore, tends to mean you are also killing a ton of bad guys and soaking up extra experience.  Right now I am just ready for this to launch.  It feels like I have been waiting for this to happen for so long, and now we have a month left before go time.  I am ready for my characters to finally be permanent and my choices to matter for longer than a weekend.  Since I didn’t explain it… the above image is of a Dolmen moments before a Dark Anchor is about to fall.  If you see this scene… go somewhere else… because if the anchor falls on you… you end up taking massive damage.

Not on Easy Mode

Risk of Rain 2014-03-02 13-38-59-06 After my little Steampowered Sunday write up, my friend Ashgar informed me that even though it says “very easy” in the upper right corner… that is apparently a lie.  He said he could tell from the things on screen that I was not in “easy” mode, and that I should try that setting.  So sure enough I fired up the game a bit later in the day and noticed that I was not in fact on easy mode.  In fact when I DID set it to easy, I managed to get through the first level just fine.  Well “just fine” being relative, because the game is still maddening at times.  However after a few deaths I managed to progress to stage two “Sky Meadow”.

There I proceeded to die rather spectacularly over and over.  So while the game is a BIT less abusive on “easy”, it is still maddening.  I am probably going to fire this up every now and then, just because at this point I really want to see more of it.  I don’t know why I do… but I do.  This is like a puzzle that I want to crack, and I don’t understand WHY I want to open it…  but I really do.  Ash says this is one of his more played steam games, and I can see why.  There is just something about it that gets under your skin and makes you want to play more.  It is so brutally unapologetic in the way it kills you, that you want to keep getting back up just to try and piss the game off.

Risk of Rain

Steampowered Sunday #7

Risk of Rain 2014-03-02 09-18-14-54 I feel like I am getting on on this bandwagon about three months too late.  Risk of Rain is an interesting indie metroidvania shooter, with randomly generated worlds and randomly placed objectives.  I remember seeing this and thinking, man that looks cool.  So I picked it up over the Christmas break, but never ended up playing it.  When I started this whole Steampowered Sunday section this was also the very first game I think that a friend of mine gifted me to do a write up on. It was at that point that I knew sooner or later I would have to devote a Sunday morning to it.  It was with a certain bit of trepidation that I finally sat down to play it.  I had watched a few streamers playing this… and saw the frustration of them dying horribly over and over.

Your Death Was Extremely Painful

Risk of Rain 2014-03-02 09-24-45-79 I honestly cannot remember a game that has been quite so successful at making me feel like a complete and total failure.  I just finished playing roughly thirty minutes of the game and I feel like I want to throw the controller across the room.  I of course won’t because I don’t want to break my favorite controller.  The deck is stacked against you from the start it feels like, and the longer you take to find the teleporter, the worse the enemies get.  However the longer you hold out, the better your chances are because you level up and can unlock various abilities throughout the level.  The best I managed was getting to level 8 before finally getting swarmed to death by so many adds on screen at one time.

Risk of Rain 2014-03-02 09-41-17-18 The problem I had with this level is I seriously could not find the damned teleporter.  I wandered all over the place, picking up all sorts of nifty things, but never finding the actual objective.  This is the real frustration of the game for me, is the dual missions…  find the teleporter fast, and level up and find interesting weapons.  When you finally do trigger the teleporter, you have to stay alive for 90 seconds while this insanely huge colossus attacks you, along with tons of other baddies that have spawned in.  I have made it to the colossus phase half a dozen times at this point but the closest I have managed to make it is 30 seconds to go.

Risk of Rain 2014-03-02 09-20-26-56 I think in part my issue is that it is set up with “modern” controller settings.  I am just not used to using my trigger buttons for anything.  I am far better controlling games with the face pad, so I have considered remapping the controls greatly to put all of my cooldowns on the face buttons.  This is a side effect of growing up in the Atari/Nintendo/Super Nintendo era and pretty much disappearing from consoles in any serious way until Playstation/Playstation 2.  I am just used to having everything controlled with the thumb buttons, and even while playing super nintendo games I tended to remap the controllers to put the buttons I almost NEVER pressed on the shoulder buttons.

Risk of Rain 2014-03-02 09-37-18-04 The game itself is pretty gorgeous, and for not having many pixels to work with, the sprites evoke a sense of character to them.  It honestly reminds me of the same kind of graphical treatment that the old school PC lemmings games used to have.  Super intricate world made up of super tiny sprites.  The music adds a certain character of foreboding to the alien landscape.  Running around this world just feels eerie and I can’t really explain why.  The purplish color palette fits the first level, but I am not sure if this changes the further you go in the game.  The game is extremely well crafted for the limited resources it has on screen at a given time.

Risk of Rain 2014-03-02 09-29-06-21 What the game reminds me of honestly is a bullet hell shooter, but if a bullet hell shooter started out extremely sparse and continued to get progressively worse over time.  In most bullet hell games there is a point of equilibrium where “it can get no worse”.  Once you reach that point you can adjust to it, and move forward.  Risk of Rain always gets worse, there is no point at which you can really take a breather from the gameplay and prepare for the next assault.  Each of the mobs on screen has a pattern, but some of them are purposefully non-complimentary.  So far the things that always seem to kill me are the little flying jellyfish things.  At the very least they whittle down my health to a point where one of the other mobs, like a lemurian can finish me off.

As maddening as I found the game, and while I could only take thirty minutes in one sitting… I have to say I enjoyed myself.  I kinda want to boot the game up again and give it another try until I can defeat the first level.  The game is extremely enjoyable and the concepts are simple enough to pick up in a few minutes.  Survival is the major problem.  I think if I could find the leech seed again, and then locate the teleporter early on I would be able to make it through the 90 second phase.  If I got better at using the trigger buttons, namely to dodge I would have had a much better chance of success as well.  Sooner or later I will have to adapt to “modern” controller layouts, because this new fangled trigger button thing apparently is not going away.

Now For Something New

For some time now, I have gathered up not only a backlog of games to play… but also thanks to the various humble bundle packs, a number of duplicates.  As a result I have decided to start hosting a contest.  The idea is that you the reader votes for the next game to be featured on Steampowered Sunday.  I picked 10 possible titles from my steam backlog, and you the reader will pick which one you want me to play next sunday.  During Saturday’s blog post I will declare a winner and choose a random submitter to win the game that is up for grabs that week.  This week I will be giving away a copy of the original Bioshock.  For this giveaway you must have a steam account to be eligible.  I will be tabulating the results using a Google Form.  If you are not interested in the game, but want to vote anyways… there is an option for that as well.

Click Here To Vote