Extra Life Results

AggroChat #28 – Server Nightmares and Spycraft

Last night we recorded another episode of the AggroChat podcast, which is something that was a bit up in the air a few weeks back.  Because of all of the excitement going on with Extra Life streams and Team Alliance of Awesome… I had wondered at one point if we should just skip the week.  Thankfully we had plenty of stuff to talk about and the normal cast of characters were all in attendance.  Last night we were joined by Ashgar, Kodra, Rae and Tam as we discuss all sorts of stuff going on.  It was a weird lead up for me, since I was out and about all day long, and didn’t really have much time to catch up on the news until right before we started recording.

We talked about the latest round of FFXIV announcements coming out of the London Fanfest.  Unfortunately the announcement that we got in Vegas of the Job information coming in London… was a bit of a tease.  We also talk about what we are looking forward to Tuesday when the 2.4 patch lands.  I talk about my experiences with Rift Nightmare Tide launch and the fairly catastrophic server rollback that caused me to loose essentially one entire days worth of playtime and a bunch of other stuff that came with that.  Tam and Kodra talk about their experiences playing Civilization Beyond Earth as a co-operative team.  Finally Rae fills us in on some of the craziness that is happening in the post season League.  It seems like there is a ton of “horse trading” going on as players are swapping teams left and right.

Extra Life Results

teamallianceofawesome_progress I have to say I am really damned proud of Team Alliance of Awesome.  We opted to do the 25 hour marathon relay style where each of us would pass the baton to the next leg of the stream.  I personally chose to take the 11pm EST to 3am EST slot thinking I could just stay up after we record the podcast and push through it.  I did however take a nap in preparation but I have to thank all of the folks that showed up during the middle of the night to cheer me on.  You guys kept me awake and responsive.  During that last hour after Pazz logged out of voice chat I got more than a tiny bit quiet.  All told we had 9 total participants and as you can see from the image on the right side we raised $1728 for the Extra Life charity.  So I want to thank everyone that participated by taking a leg of the stream, and everyone who tuned in to cheer us on.  It was an awesome experience and I am hoping next year we can maybe even make it bigger somehow.  I know as we neared go time folks came out of the woodwork wanting to participate but we had already assigned all of the slots.

One of the things that I thought was awesome was just how varied the group was in what all they streamed.  Sure there were a few games that got duplicated but there was a ton of variety from Single Player to MMOs to even Classic Console games.  There seemed to be a little bit for everyone.  I know Ashgar even managed to completely beat the Kirby game he was playing during his stream, which is pretty awesome.  I originally planned on playing The Secret World, Trove, FFXIV and Destiny… but I ended up mixing that up a bit.  I started off rolling a brand new Illuminati character in The Secret World, but having not played in awhile I did not make it terribly far into the game before I hit the hour threshold where I had intended to swap games.  After that I popped into FFXIV and threw myself at the Mercy of the Duty Roulette, healing an Ifrit and a Tam-Tara Deep Croft run.  After another hour had passed I flipped over to Rift and spent the rest of the night working my way through Goboro Reef in the Nightmare Tide content.  After two hours of play I managed to finally get back to roughly the same place I was before the server rollback the other day.

The folks I am immensely proud of though are the individuals who took it upon themselves to do the entire 25 hour stream.  For me I found four hours late at night a challenge, but I know Braxwolf, Stargrace and Liore all took it upon themselves to do the entire stream.  So seriously raise your hands and give all the folks that managed to complete the full 25 hour marathon a huge round of applause.  This is an awesome cause and it was great to actually be part of it this year.  Like I said before I am hoping to maybe do a better job of assigning slots and getting as many folks participating as we can next year around.  For the most part I believe the covered all 25 hours of the marathon, and some streams ran a bit long but it was awesome to have multiple folks streaming at the same time.  I really like the team construct in Hitbox, and I just wish Twitch would extend that functionality to mere mortals instead of having it walled up behind being a partner.  I will never have the kind of numbers needed to become a partner in any site…  but it is awesome to still be able to have a team of friends streaming.  You can watch my entire 4 1/2 hours of streaming in the embedded video above.

Valdis Story

Valdis_Story_AC 2014-10-21 19-07-09-303 This morning I am cheating a bit with my Steampowered Sunday game, in part because I started playing this last week.  I have gotten in the habit of picking up almost every Humble Bundle package that comes out, because I know sooner or later I will want to play one of the games in it.  Ashgar actually tipped me off to this game, because of the horribly long name I mostly ignored it when I noticed it in the bundle.  However he thought I would definitely be interested in it as it is a Metroidvania of a sort.  More so than a Metroidvania, it is very much a game in the feel of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night… and if you have been around my blog for very long you will recognize that as most likely my favorite game.  I own copies on the PSP, Vita, PS3 and even still have my original Playstation disc around here even though I don’t actually have a functional PSX any longer.

Valdis_Story_AC 2014-10-21 19-05-02-951 You have a series of characters to choose but initially your only options are Wyatt a emo haired youth with a big sword (see cloud) or Reina a female monk that is labeled for “advanced” players.  I of course went for the guy with the big sword…  because slashing things with a big sword is fun.  At some point I plan on going back through and trying out Reina, especially since during Wyatts play through of the game you encounter her early on… and she seems like a badass.  The storyline of the game is a little odd.  You are in a world where heaven and hell have both come to the material plain to duke it out for the surface.  As one of the last remaining humans you seem to have the ability to use the attacks of either side.  There is a lot of this that I don’t quite understand yet, but the devils are reddish hue and the angels tend to have blue color palettes.

Valdis_Story_AC 2014-10-21 19-11-40-387 The story doesn’t really matter much to me to be honest.  Why I am playing this game is that mechanically it is really fun.  You wander about and collect new abilities that open up new areas to explore just like the traditional Metroidvania style.  For example one of the first abilities you get is a wall jump, allowing you to explore new areas and reach places that you haven’t been before.  Today during my stream I managed to find a new ability that allowed me to erect a pillar of ice, allowing me to jump on it to reach areas I couldn’t before.  If you are used to Metroidvanias none of this will seem out of the ordinary.  There is a basic crafting system that allows you to upgrade your gear in towns, and that aspect actually reminds me a bit of Simon’s Quest the second Castlevania game.

This is the sort of game that you either really like Metroidvania games or you dislike them.   You can check out my entire stream from this morning above.  I play the area between two towns and end up fighting two bosses… both of which I barely made it through.  The boss fights are fairly tough in part because often times the environment conspires against you.  The first boss I made it through I literally have no clue quite how I did it.  In part I feel like I just lucked into that one.  The second boss was difficult because the floor was icy, and the wind would blow you to the side making it super hard to stay on the platforms and time the jumps to avoid the ice beams.  In any case it is worth a look.  The game is pretty much $15 wherever you go for it and available DRM free through the developer or on Steam.  Good game, and I play on playing it some more… I just wish I had it on the Vita to be honest.  This seems like the perfect type of game to play before falling asleep.

Mercenary Kings

Dinklebot is a Great Name

It was not until last nights stream that I had heard anyone refer to the Ghost in Destiny as the “Dinklebot”.  Kodra credits Matt Lees as originating the term, but whoever did it… it is absolutely priceless.  Not only does it clearly identify that the ghost is voiced by Peter Dinklage  but it also adquately sums up just how useless the Ghost as a whole feels in the storyline.  Last night once again we recorded AggroChat, and this week we had our regular cast of hosts Ashgar, Rae, Kodra and Tam.  Destiny has caused so much angst that we started talking about it even before we went on air, and finally I had to say “guys, we should save this for the show”.  This week a letter from the producer came out as well as some patch notes talking about upcoming changes to gameplay.  We lead off the podcast by talking about these changes and how they personally effect us and our gameplay.  I somehow doubt that any of us in particular will be mourning the loss of the loot cave.

From there I think we dove into Kodra and his morning stream of Hatoful Boyfriend.  I tuned in when he met a bird that is totally reminiscent of the vespa riding mad woman from FLCL…  except she drives REALLY slowly.  Carve it into your soul!  The game feels like it is complete madness… and also created using lots of clip art… and Christmas tunes.  I commented in the stream that I think the game probably cost about $50 in shutterstock credit to make.  The storyline is absolutely insane, so it is totally worth a watch.  From there we dive into Trove and the Closed Beta gameplay that just started.  Rae and I have been playing a ton of it, and we even managed to get Tam and Ash to try it out.  Then things turn to our present obsession with Fallen London.  I think everyone but Rae is currently madly playing this game.

Finally I give over the floor and let Tam, Rae, Ash and Kodra verbally faff about what is going on with League of Legends Worlds.  At this point my eyes glaze over as while I enjoy playing League of Legends… I do not grasp the concept of watching other people play it yet.  It was a good show that ran a bit longer than we had intended… but oh well.  In a rush to tie things up, I totally forgot to do the where you could find us bit… so instead I recorded a snippet later telling folks to please leave comments either on our AggroChat Nook or the @Aggrochat twitter account.  We apparently have some loyal listeners out there, and would love to hear from them.  By the time I record the show and post it Saturday night, to the moment I get around advertising it Sunday morning… we generally have a couple dozen listeners.  That seems like dedication to me.

Steampowered That Wasn’t

1303218406-witcher-2-wallpaper-hd-5 This morning I had every intent to play Witcher 2, as I have had many people in my thread talking about how much they love this series.  I have tried multiple times to play Witcher 1…  and the controls on that game feel like absolute shit.  I will boot it up, and the last time I didn’t even make it through the first action sequence before tossing it aside.  It might have the best storyline ever, but if the controls are horrible…  I cannot bring myself to suffer through it.  Maybe at some point I will see if there is a lets play series where I can watch someone else play the game… or at very least all of the cut scenes edited together.  Since folks had been talking up this game again in anticipation of Witcher 3… I figured I would play it for Steampowered Sunday.  Apparently I figured wrong.

I have had this installed on my machine for some time, and when I went to launch it this morning nothing happened.  After digging through the forums it seems to just not work for some users.  There were a bunch of red herrings that I chased down, but none of them ever caused the game to launch correctly.  The only thing I didn’t try was downgrading it to run under XP Compatibility mode… because honestly I just thought about it this very moment.  In any case it does not seem to like Windows 8.1 64 bit, or at least my machine.  There are numerous supposed problems that it runs into with virus scanners… but given my frustration with the first game…  there is a plateau to just how much bullshit I am willing to go through for this game.  Maybe at some point I will pick up a console version of it, because at this point I am done with the franchise on the PC.

Mercenary Kings

MercenaryKings 2014-09-28 10-45-38-516 Instead I fell back on a game I have also had installed for awhile but never gotten around to playing.  Mercenary Kings is a Metal Slug like shooter from Tribute Games with the amazing animator Paul Robertson.  I was originally made aware of him several years ago when I watched the video Pirate Baby’s Cabana Battle Street Fight 2006.  The animation is in fact as insane as the title might suggest.  Later on he went to animate the amazing Scott Pilgrim vs The World console game, so quite frankly I picked this up because of him.  This morning… I flat out sucked at playing a side scrolling Contra/Metal Slug style shooter.  Maybe it was my frustration after trying to deal with Witcher 2, maybe it was the controller…. or maybe I just flat out suck.  In any case I died a lot, and die in some pretty silly ways.  I think I died to a kitten at one point.

MercenaryKings 2014-09-28 10-57-04-571 Many of my deaths could have been avoided to be honest if I had just read the tutorial level.  Me being my normal self…  wanted to simply rush head long into fate and totally missed the fact that I could do things like proactively reload my weapon for example.  No matter however as bad as I played I still had quite a bit of fun.  The game is not really your traditional Metal Slug or Contra clone, in that the game map can be traversed in many different paths.  One of the missions involved me hunting down and taking out 8 snipers, and as such this involved me covering the entire game map multiple times looking for the last sniper I had missed.  A lot of the terrain is gated by obstacles that you cannot cross in a specific direction, so many times you have to go a different way to get where you were hoping to get.  The game has a checkpointing system of huts that allow you to respawn in various points in the map… and I respawned over and over and over.

MercenaryKings 2014-09-28 11-14-22-904 I saw this screen an awful lot during the time I played the game.  You have two meters for failure of a mission.  Either you run out of fixed number of lives, or you run out of time.  I believe the initial timer is set to 20:00 and I mistakenly took this as having plenty of time to poke around the map.  If you know what you are doing I am sure this is more than enough time to find your objective and move along.  For me… I ran out of time several times.  The game play is not the stage after stage progression that I was expecting.  Instead you have a village full of members of your team, each of them interacting with you in different ways.  There is a village store, someone that will allow you to toggle on internet play, the general that will allow you to pick your missions and the chopper pilot that will drop you off as well as a few other characters that I didn’t really interact much with.  The game is at times reminiscent of a lot of classic arcade games, but it ends up being a really unique mash of of them.

You can check out my entire horrible play of the game in the above embedded Hitbox video.  It is still making its way to Youtube, but if you would rather wait for that copy you can check it out here.  I think I was mostly just having a bad morning.  I woke up late and am still in a state of stupor, and then combined with the frustrations with Witcher 2… that I has psyched myself up to play…  I was maybe not in the best place to do a recording.  In any case I had enough fun that I will be playing it some more.  It falls in a camp of being frustrating, but just frustrating enough to make you learn how to do things better.  In the little bit I had played I had already improved quite a bit.  When I got rushed however I would still make really dumb mistakes.  There are some enemies I could avoid, and others I couldn’t.  Quite frankly at this point I am really not that great at side scrolling platformers, even thought I continue to try and play them mostly in part to a huge sense of nostalgia for that genre.

MercenaryKings 2014-09-28 11-31-52-794 On a positive note I did manage to actually complete one of the missions.  The find the snipers mission, mostly was about exploring the level and not so much about rushing towards a final objective.  As such it seemed to fit my playstyle a bit better.  I got the first 7 snipers pretty easily, but it took me forever to find that 8th one.  It ended up being back near the start of the mission…  which Ashgar kept trying to tell me… but unfortunately I was not watching my stream chat.  I didn’t advertise this one so I didn’t expect anyone to actually be tuned it.  I just fine the process of streaming a considerably easier way to get a video up onto youtube than through actually uploading it myself.  If you like Metal Slug, Contra, Gunstar Heroes, or any of those style of games I suggest you give it a shot.  I might end up repurchasing this at some point on a PS4 because after getting used to that controller…  I have to say the Xbox 360 that previously had been my controller of choice felt really really odd.  I am wondering if I can hook up a PS4 controller to my PC…  but I guess that is a mission for another day.

#AggroChat #Witcher2 #MercenaryKings

Frog Fractions

Conference Prep Work

20140719_151945 As I mentioned yesterday morning my day was filled with helping my wife prepare for the conference this week.  One of the goofy things about a school system is that you cannot take for granted any two rooms being configured the same way.  I have no doubt that at one point or another they were probably all working exactly the same.  However a series of teachers with their own way of doing things has meant that no two projector systems were set up quite the same.  So over the course of the morning we went from room to room turning everything on, and making notes as to how exactly you got sound from the system, and video to the projector.  To add a monkey wrench in the works, some of the rooms had what is called an Elmo, which I guess is some sort of modern age version of the overhead projector.

Some of the systems routed through this device, others you simply had to switch the VGA port over to if it you wanted to use it.  In each room I left instructions on a sticky note as to how to access both Audio and Video, and where needed how to use the Elmo machine.  All of this said I will be around on the first day of the conference playing A/V support if someone has any issues.  I am not phenomenally good at this role, but I can usually figure things out.  Where things get dicey is in the few rooms that have bad connections run through the walls… and for those they were going to just have to deal with it.  Most of the rooms go from an RCA jack to an optical connection that gets run through the wall, and it sounds as though maybe some of the optical cables have been damaged over time.  The approved method of fixing this is apparently randomly wiggling the cords… which is probably what fractured the optical cables in the first place.

For the most part it took an hour or so per floor and then we broke for lunch.  The highlight of the day was getting to have spicy chicken and cheese tots from Rons.  The above picture represents the fruition of our work after lunch.  I should have taken a before photo because the room had been previous configured with tons of tables strewn about.  The tables didn’t fold and stack, but instead the top flipped up and you had to drive them carefully into the closets in a way as to compact them.  I am rather proud of just how compact we managed to get them in there.  The next thing was these heavy iron trays that the stacks of chairs sat on, which I carried into place and figured out a way to stack them in the closet as well.  Finally this allowed us to arrange the chairs all 180 of them in 12 rows of 15 chairs.  It was a busy day, but it looks awesome and is starting to feel ready for guests.

Weary Podcast

Last night was a podcast that I thought might not actually happen.  Generally speaking we tend to start recording around 8 pm CST on Saturday nights.  Last night it was 10 pm and we had not yet started recording, so I was beginning to think maybe episode 15 was not going to happen.  I knew it was going to be a weird week because Rae is travelling and I thought Ashgar was going to be absent as well.  Initially Kodra and I had planned on just having a conversation between the two of us about a few things we had talked about earlier in the week.  As we got closer and closer to the show time…  Kodra was nowhere to be found, but Ashgar miraculously showed up.  I knew that Kodra had intended to come, so I just kept waiting.  I was playing away in Minecraft and Ash playing Destiny so quite honestly the evening slipped away before we really noticed.

When Kodra finally came online we ran pretty late but I think we recorded an enjoyable podcast in spite of the overall tiredness that we all felt.    A major event that happened this week was the  complete and utter failure of the Yogventures kickstarter, and the scandal surrounding it.  We talk at length about this and the potential ramifications it has for kickstarter projects in general.  Additionally we talk about the Destiny Beta and FFXIV free weekends and how crazy it is when so many things are going on during one single weekend.  We also talk about how our sense of community has changed and that it seems to no longer be connected to one game, but instead we take it along with us.  Finally Kodra and I geek out talking about Wolfenstein New Order since he has recently played it.  We had to cut a few sections to trim down time, but we kept the best stuff in there and have it ready to listen to.

Frog Fractions

2014-07-20 11_19_30-Frog Fractions _ Twinbeard I feel like I might be the last person on the planet to have experienced this game.  For some time it has been coming up in both the podcast and just in regular conversation among my circle of friends, and I felt bad because I really did not give the game any time.  My patience for web browser played flash games is pretty much non-existent.  My line of thinking is, I cannot get away with playing this at work… so when I am home I would far rather be spending my time playing a “real” game instead of a web browser based one.  Granted that probably sounds a little harsh but I have yet to find a web based game that really provides me as meaningful of a gaming experience as a traditional PC or console game.  So when the absolute hype cycle surrounding the game happened I booted it up, clicked a few bugs saw some random shit appearing over their heads and walked away bored.  I guess I didn’t pay close enough attention to realize… there is some really strange shit going on in this game.  Be warned… there is no real way for me to talk about this game in any meaningful way without spoiling the fun.  If you have not played Frog Fractions you should do so now before you progress any further in this post.

2014-07-20 10_22_05-Frog Fractions _ Twinbeard The game starts out as this somewhat charming if not low tech game where you are trying to protect fruit, allowing them to ripen by keeping bugs from eating them.  You left click with your mouse to fire out your tongue, gobbling up the bugs and at the end of each round you earn points for each fruit you saved.  The ones that you did not save fall into the water, and at first there is nothing really you can do about this.  The moment at which the game starts to get odd…  is when you start getting power-ups.  Like the point at which I thought maybe this game was a bit strange was when I hit Cybernetic Brain.   You can also upgrade your lilypad into a turtle friend, that allows you to move around with WASD to catch the fruit as they ripen.  There is so much I don’t quite understand… like what the hell Zorkmids are or how you earn Indignity… which I assume is a bad thing.  At this point I kept clicking away with the help of the upgrades…  of which lock on targetting and static tongue seem to be the most game changing.

Then Shit Gets Weird

2014-07-20 10_32_00-Frog Fractions _ Twinbeard At some point you can unlock an upgrade that turns your turtle into a flying dragon… at which point the game suddenly becomes a bullet hell shooter.  So you fly around trying to avoid the multicolored balls while still gobbling up the bugs and trying to save the fruit from falling into the water.  By this point I had upgraded the fruit to durians… which smell bad, and cause the bugs to eat them more slowly.  This is the video game equivalent to Axe Cop, in that it seems like it was almost designed by using madlibs and a 8 year old kid.

2014-07-20 10_32_51-Frog Fractions _ Twinbeard It was at this point I figured out that I could go underwater….  where all the lost fruit was apparently waiting on the bottom of the lagoon.  You can see that apparently now the fruit score does not matter at all, because it now simply reads “Like a billion”.  I have no clue why but I made five or six passes through the fruit watching them all fail to register.  I thought maybe something would happen if I did it enough, but finally gave up on the process and went back up to bullet hell land.  One of the funniest things is the whole lock on vision upgrade.  First you get it, then you get the ability to uninstall it, and then you get the ability to reinstall it…  which finally unlocks the ability to uninstall it again.  Each time this happens it is not like the previous slot becomes available again… it just keeps tacking new upgrade slots onto the grid.  I kind of want to play again and see just how many times I can unlock and remove this option.

Starfox Has Nothing on Me

2014-07-20 10_35_01-Frog Fractions _ Twinbeard After a few more waves of bullet hell madness…  my dragon apparently decides to shoot off into outerspace.  So now I am inexplicably trying to save flying fruit, while dodging asteroids and bug attacks.  Apparently I am going to attack the bug homework… which is apparently “Bug Mars”.  All the while this phase is going on, various characters keep showing up and giving me words of advice in Starfox fashion…  I was disappointed that none of them told me to do a barrel roll (which tam will tell me is not a barrel roll at all).  This continued for six or so waves, all the while it getting harder to get at the bugs because my frog tongue could not go through the asteroids.

2014-07-20 10_37_02-Frog Fractions _ Twinbeard In the weirdest of possible events… some how I get captured and taken to Bug Court.  Where basically I am forced to choose between becoming a naturalized citizen of Bug Mars… or forced labor.  I am not sure you actually have a choice here, or if you are pretty much forced to become a citizen either way.  They ask you a series of questions about Bug Mars culture, and either I got really lucky or quite literally answering anything… is the correct answer.  Some of the responses are really damned funny, but man this is not anything I ever saw coming before playing this game.  In a way it kind reminds me of a modern version of “Takeshi’s Challenge”, and for those who have no ideal what this is you should totally watch the JonTron playthrough.

2014-07-20 10_38_14-Frog Fractions _ Twinbeard So there you have it… I am now apparently a naturalized Citizen of Bug Mars.  You would think that maybe this is as weird as the game gets, but you would be wrong.  Shortly after this I rode on the back of my dragon through an underwater world while a narrator explained to me the true meaning of boxing…  and how this modern punching thing is just a strange bastardization.  Which then lead me to a rocket ship…  and a text based adventure game.  This is the point at which I stopped playing this morning.  This game…  is insanity bottled.  I keep wondering just how deep the rabbit hole gets.  I mean like what is on the other side of the text adventure game.  The best thing about all of this is the fact that the name of the game is a complete and total lie.  Nothing at all about this game has to do with fractions.  Even if you have against my warning made it this far in my post without having played the game yourself…  I highly suggest you experience the madness for yourself.

#AggroChat #FrogFractions #SteampoweredSunday

Dragon Commander: Divinity

A Cursed Bread Maker

Last night we recorded our thirteenth episode of AggroChat.  In various cultures the number thirteen can be either a positive or a negative, and going into the show I was not quite certain how that would shake out.  Apparently for us however, thirteen is a very unlucky number.  Last week Ash, Kodra and Tam were off hanging out together, and one of the activities was to build Kodra a brand new machine.  All of this time we thought his intermittent problems were related to running on six year old hardware.  Apparently whatever demons infested his previous machine have jumped ship and are now residing in the new one.  We had trouble keeping him online and when he was online he seemed to have issues broadcasting.

All of that aside I think we had a pretty good show last night.  We talked about a hole bunch of topics including Tomb Raider and the fact that I maybe just maybe finally enjoy narrative gaming experiences.  We also talk quite about about Thomas Was Alone and how that game manages to get the player emotionally attached to a red colored rectangle.  We also talk about Rob Pardo leaving Blizzard and the potential effects, as well as the idea that no one person is really that responsible for anything in a game.  Additionally we talk about the Divinity series of games, and how the publisher seems to be able to stick to just one genre.  We did pure madness this time, due to some confusion on my part we ended up with five guests.

Dragon Commander: Divinity

DCApp 2014-07-06 07-24-29-89 As has been the case so many times… I added a game to my wish list in part as a way of tracking to see if it goes on sale… and then another friend comes along and griefs me by adding it to the pile of unplayed games.  I say grief in the nicest possible sense of the word, because Ashgar has supported this thing I call Steampowered Sunday so many times in the past with an interesting game that he would like to see me play.  This time around he ended up purchasing a four game pack and decided he would not play Dragon Commander for some time.  As always I am extremely thankful of his generosity, and the fact that it pretty much determined what game I would be playing this week.  I am still pretty new to the Divinity setting, but so far I have to say I love the universe that it is set in.  I am glad that I played my way through Divinity II this week, otherwise I would have been completely clueless playing this title.

DCApp 2014-07-06 07-27-53-25 At face value this game is a rather pretty 4X title, and were it only for that the game would be forgettable.  The game is extremely confused as at times it is a Civilization clone, other times an RTS like Starcraft, and other times yet a flight simulator.  What makes the difference however is the narrative of the game and the lore of the franchise backing it up.  As a result the game takes you on this deep quest to win the hearts and minds of a kingdom and at the same time defend it from your mad half dragon brothers and sisters.  The game itself is set before the events of Divine Divinity, Beyond Divinity and Divinity II: Ego Draconis.  As such you play out the events of your quest alongside Maxos the wizard that is spoken of in Divinity II in an attempt to liberate the world.

You’re Going to Need Friends

DCApp 2014-07-06 07-26-36-21 The storyline centers around your command carrier the raven, a ship that holds many dark secrets… not the least of which is the fact that the ship itself is a bound demon.  In order to power the infernal machine, Maxos has bound Corvus the Raven demon in a special chamber that eventually you can enter.  The rest of your ship is made up of ambassadors from each of the races of the games setting, as well as a number of gifted generals that you can call upon to guide your troops in battle.  At various points these ambassadors will want to meet with you, an the above picture shows a three way discussion happening between the generals Edmund and Catherine and the Dwarven ambassador Falstaff Silvervein.

DCApp 2014-07-06 07-42-10-10 On board your ship you have representatives of the Dwarves, Lizards, Elves, Undead and Imps…  and each time you do something that benefits one faction you inevitably piss off two others.  Like so many of these games it quickly becomes a juggling game to try and keep most of them happy in the process.  Making the advisors of the various races happy seems to earn you cards that you can play that can turn the tide of a battle.  These give you surprise troops, or a tactical advantage or even there is a card called “Genocide” that lowers the population of an area before attacking it.  I’ve not actually used this one, but had the enemy play it on me multiple times and it can be rather devastating.

Taking Territory

DCApp 2014-07-06 07-28-30-99 Through the bridge of your ship you have access to the map view of your territory.  From here you can assign one building per area be it a War Forge that allows you to build units, or one of many other buildings that gather some form of resource in a turn by turn basis.  From here you try and gain a foothold against your siblings that you are locked in a land war to control as much of the Rivellon heartland as you can.  Combat is resolved in one of three ways.  You can pay one of your generals to lead your forces for you, giving you some tactical advantage in the process.  You can let your army lead itself, which seems to only be advisable if you have an extremely superior tactical advantage, or you can take up the banner and lead your forces yourself.  The limitation is that you can personally lead only one battle per turn, and similarly you can only have a single general lead your forces per turn as well.  This means that you want to limit combat to as few volleys as you can per turn.

DCApp 2014-07-06 07-35-50-40 When you choose to lead your own forces the game changes yet again.  This time around you are presented a real-time strategy playing field where you conquer resources on the map and use them to churn out more troops to eventually overwhelm your opponent.  The interesting thing about this mode is that I tend to leave it in reserve for battles where I do not have a very obvious superior tactical advantage.  There have been fights that I came into the conflict with a single unit, but through the RTS game play get the best of my opponent and push forward with a victory.  If this were not enough, you also have the ability to quite literally manifest yourself on the battlefield and take your dragon form to attack the enemy.

DCApp 2014-07-06 07-38-09-29 When the map starts there is a counter in the center of the HUD counting down how long before you can take flight and join the fight as a dragon.  When you do, you become a nearly unstoppable killing machine with a series of dragon powers that either hurt enemies or help your fighters.  From the air you can wreak havoc on enemy buildings, or hover over your troops and heal them from above.  To make things feel even cooler…  you are a Dragon with a freaking jetpack.  Personally as enjoyable as this mode is…  I tend to try and RTS my way through combat as much as possible without taking to the skies.  There are moments where you think that this game is ultimately four different games that they built, but couldn’t really decide on which one to finish.  However each of these elements is integrated so well into the whole that it just feels natural.

Embracing Controversy

DCApp 2014-07-06 07-26-58-98 There are some really odd events that play out on board of your ship, and a number of conflicts that you will be called to resolve.  Early on you are chosen to pick from one of four princesses paraded before you, and I opted to go for the one that seemed the “sweetest” which oddly enough… was the undead princess Ophelia.  Moments after tying the knot she confides in you that she is wracked by a debilitating disease that will eventually eat her bones from the marrow outwards.  There is no known cure, and her father the Undead Advisor forbids her to research any of the options as such things are considered to be heretical.  However with your permission and the protection of your ship…  there are a number of increasingly twisted things that you can do to resolve the issue.  All of them with some pretty severe moral implications as you are tested to find out just how far you would go to save your bride.

DCApp 2014-07-06 08-13-32-84 Similarly you have to deal with all manner of moral and ethical decisions as you engage with your crew.  Some will attempt to bribe you to look the other way as various things happen.  There is one specific event where an undead artist is revealed to have been a lesbian, and after her death the undead have taken to the streets trying to purge all of her art as heretical.  Do you step in and preserve her works, or do you let the course of undead society go unimpeded.  Similarly there is a general who is by nature a very misandrist character.  She comes to you telling you that she and the other female general are not making near as much as their male counterparts.  Do you do the right thing and increase their pay, while at the same time angering all the males on your ship?  The game does not shy away from presenting issues pulled from our own times, including the ratification of gay marriage.  All of which gives the setting and lore that much more of a living feel.

Sum of All Parts

DCApp 2014-07-06 07-40-07-38 If you  were to take apart all of the different games that make up Dragon Commander, you would end up with a passable but uninspired civilization clone, a passable but uninspired starcraft clone, a political intrigue and romance sim, and a dragon flight combat game.  None of the parts is really that amazing on its own, but when combined together with the woven narrative of trying to save your kingdom from the hands of your insane siblings the game becomes extremely compelling.  This is a truly ambitious title, and it is carried out with such charm that you tend to overlook the rough spots here and there.  The hardest part honestly is the fact that the tutorial could use a bit of refinement.  It took me a couple of games before I felt like I was getting the hang of it enough to survive for long.  If you like Age of Wonders and Starcraft and have ever wanted to fly a dragon with jetpacks, I highly suggest you check this one out the next time it goes on sale over on steam.  It has definitely managed to eat the better part of two days for me, and as soon as I finish with this post I plan on going back to the game and playing some more.

#DragonCommander #SteampoweredSunday #AggroChat

Not A Bel Game

Thomas Was Not Alone

thomaswasalone Two significant things happened last night.  First we went out to eat and dinner did not set well with me, causing me to want to go lay down for a bit.  The second of which was that I decided to take my new Playstation Vita with me.  Now I have done this before with other handhelds, but what was significant here is that thanks to Playstation Plus I had a smorgasbord of games that I could download and play that were already attached to my account.  The first game I gave a shot was Terraria, which I have played a truly silly number of hours of on the PC.  The game almost translates to the handheld, but not quite making it so much more frustrating of an experience especially when it comes to trying to build anything.  When I decided to stop playing that, I opted to boot up a game I have heard so many things about from my friends.

Thomas Was Alone is this deceptively simple game about getting a series of different blocks with different properties through mazes.  You start off with the red block Thomas, that can jump quite a bit and thanks to the magic of the narrator we find is a rather cheery fellow.  You then add a series of blocks each with their own traits like the ability to float in water, or the ability to bounce other blocks higher that additionally have similar interesting traits that we learn via the narration.  The game reminds me in a way of Bastion, in that the game itself is somewhat lackluster but it is the superb narration and voice acting that make it really pop out there.  Thankfully this same narration is artfully displayed on screen at the same time allowing for the experience to translate hopefully to the hearing impaired.

Not A Bel Game

This game very much did not seem like a “Bel” game, as in there is no carnage, no body count… and I am forced to solve a series of structured puzzles to get through the levels.  The funny thing is… I spent most of my night playing it and next thing I know it is 12:30 and I am forcing myself to stop on the above level rather than “play just one more”.  There is something unbelievably charming about this game, and just doesn’t make sense when you approach it from its most simple parts…. that it is a game about a series of blocks.  The game tricks us into using that most human of traits, and attributing personalities and feelings to inanimate objects.  Even when the narrator is not necessarily talking from the standpoint of a specific character… as you move that block you imagine what that character might be saying in your own head.

If you are like me and a Playstation Vita owner, with a Playstation Plus subscription… I highly suggest you install the game and give it a spin.  If you are NOT like me… then I highly suggest you purchase the game because even at $10 for a what is essentially a puzzle platformer… it is money extremely well spent.  Nothing about this game makes sense at face value, that you should not want to care about a series of blocks on the screen in the way that you do.  As you progress through the levels and are slowly being trained to face new challenges you truly do.  The game does an amazing job at introducing concepts slowly and then building upon those concepts in each progressive level.  Most of the levels will involve solving a challenge with a subset of blocks and each time there is an often poignant narrative that goes with it explaining how the blocks feel about being split up.  I am shocked an amazed that I could feel this way about a series of abstract pixels.

Very Bel Game

Divinity2 2014-07-01 22-25-58-747 The other game I played a significant amount of last night was once again Divinity II.  At this point it feels like I am getting near the end, considering I am fighting through progressively larger and larger waves of mobs at a given time.  This is honestly a bit disappointing, considering the early combat was extremely interesting and involved some interesting boss mechanics, and now the answer seems to be the old tried and true throw more bodies at the screen.  That said I am still enjoying myself, but there are lots of things that end up frustrating me, like getting stunned by mobs that are halfway across the screen.  As I have progressed through the levels, it feels like playing as anything but an archer is really a sub optimal experience.  I’ve noticed that even the “Wizard” and “Healer” type mobs now fire nothing but a bow, and the overall gameplay experience at times devolves into a shooter.

I feel like maybe this is why Divinity: Original Sin did not return this game into the “behind the back” dungeon crawler.  The throw waves of mobs at the player thing tends to work fairly well in a Baldur’s Gate type game, but it just feels childish when you do the same mechanic in a first person or over the shoulder style scenario.  Thankfully there are still vignettes of smaller scale gameplay that work extremely well, and interesting puzzles to unlock… but the overall depth and granularity of the game seems to have decreased.  There are entire zones that are made up of nothing but these giant flying fortresses that you clear first in dragon form and then can clear out on the ground.  In all of them so far, it has been a focus on quantity of mobs not necessarily the quality of them.  I am somewhat off the rails right now in my play through, but I am wanting to see it to the end.

#DivinityII #ThomasWasAlone

Divinity II: Directors Cut

Old Time Rock and Roll

Something interesting happened this weekend, I was hit with a critical case of nostalgia.  This all started while playing Wasteland 2 the other night, and seems to be continuing on today as I search for more games to give me that classic PC role-playing game experience.  I said yesterday that I was in a bit of an existential funk, and that seems to continue.  While I like the concept of playing Wildstar and Elder Scrolls Online… for whatever reason right now they are just too fast paced for my current mood.  Essentially I am needing games that are a bit more prodding and deliberate, and preferably without other players bothering me.  I am going through one of my retreating phases, and I right now I just want to be lost in my own little world.

Divinity II: Directors Cut

Divinity2 2014-06-29 08-29-05-500 I’ve had this game in my steam inventory for quite some time, but for one reason or another I never actually fired it up.  I had heard really good things about the Divinity series and the other night my friends Tam and Ashgar were off playing the brand new Divinity: Original Sin.  So when I cranked this game up I was expecting a Baldur’s Gate esc game along the lines of the original Divinity and Original Sin.  What it is instead however is something more akin to Knights of the Old Republic.  The control scheme is a behind the back pseudo action combat setup that still somehow manages to feel old school at the same time.   The controls are a bit prodding at times, but this is not exactly a high action game that allows you to dodge out of combat here and there to avoid enemies.  Instead there are minor flourishes that you can do here and there to improve your success, but for the most part it is stand up fighting.

Divinity2 2014-06-29 08-01-20-776 The character creator is adequate, as I was able to create something that I liked, however there really are not a lot of options.  Essentially you can be blonde or brown haired, and with a few different facial and hair choices for each color.  This allowed me to create something I liked enough to make me happy, but there really is not a lot of configuration available.  Thankfully in Divinity: Original Sin the newest game they seem to have fixed all of this and given players a bajillion different options.  I would say the customization is “passible” if only because it allows me to give my character long hair and a beard, which is “close enough” to the Belghast appearance.  The limited appearances makes me really glad the game is not Asian inspired, because I am pretty sure I would not have been able to create any character that I could stand.

Divinity2 2014-06-29 08-02-00-559 The game utilizes a silent protagonist with text dialog options for most of the interactions, and quite honestly I am happy with this.  I always find it jarring when my character has a voice that is not my own.  So if I am given the option of a well voiced character, or a silent one… I will almost always choose the silent one.  These games are about me inhabiting the space of the character, and not about watching the lives of someone else.  So in a game like Uncharted… I am watching a movie unfold in front of me that I am not a part of, this type of game however… it is all about the character being an extension of me.  The dialog is charming at times, but nothing I would call spectacular.  But then again I am not really playing this sort of thing for the dialog, I am playing it for the overall adventure.

Divinity2 2014-06-29 08-52-12-425 The game is several years old at this point, but it still looks extremely good.  This is no Skyrim mind you, but the world definitely looks believable and something I don’t mind spending a significant amount of time in.  Occasionally there are some really nice vistas and lighting effects like this one that I find really nice looking.  During some of my screenshots I was running on the default settings, but once I cranked everything up to max the game started to look extremely beautiful.  The visualization options like the mini-map and where we are supposed to go for various quests is pretty much non-existent.  The end result means you need to pay attention to the dialog and spend a good deal of time wandering around in order to figure out how exactly to complete each of  the quests you are given by townsfolk.

Divinity2 2014-06-29 09-00-14-372 I’ve not really played enough to get a good handle on how exactly character progression will work.  However when you first start the game you are set up as a Dragon Slayer, and as part of the ritual that gives you the powers of a dragon… it also wipes your memories, giving you a clean construct for picking a brand new path for your character.  You essentially have the choice of following the path of the melee warrior, the ranger or the mage.  In the first town you can freely switch between them, but once you leave the village your choice is locked.  There is thankfully a little testing ground that allows you to try each of the combat styles and see what fits you the best.  I of course went with the melee warrior, but I feel like the ranger would probably be extremely fun as well.  Mage on the other hand…  felt odd because there was a significant cast timer on each of the attacks.

Divinity2 2014-06-29 08-28-54-664 Admittedly so many times with these Steampowered Sunday games, I play it for a little bit but then never return to it.  I don’t think that is going to be the case with Divinity II.  This honestly seems like about the perfect game for my current mental state.  It feels the right speed, and I can cocoon myself in this fantasy world and explore it without the need to feel like I am letting anyone down in the process.  So while I have taken a break to knock out my morning blog post, as soon as I finish writing I am going to return to clearing the goblin camp I was working on when I paused the gameplay.  Right now on the summer sale this game is only $8 for the directors cut, and so far I am loving it.  If you are looking for an old school Knights of the Old Republic style adventure, then it might also be the game for you.

Enter the Waffles

Last night we had an odd recording of AggroChat as has happened before in the past, we had two of the original cast otherwise busy this week.  I butchered the hell out of the explaination, but thankfully I was corrected.  Essentially this week Tam and Ashgar are off to visit Kodra and to somehow have an intervention to replace his current machine, that we have not so lovingly referred to as a toaster.  That said I feel like maybe that is a disservice to toasters everywhere, as they seem to be far more functional.  As you’ve listened to our podcast in the past, when Kodra goes robot on us, it has nothing to do with his internet connection but is instead his machine freaking out.  Here is hoping operation replace Kodras machine has been a success.  In the meantime that left us down two people for the podcast and thankfully we had replacements all too happy to step in.

This is the first show to include Warenwolf, another one of our multi-year old chat group, also lovingly referred to as Waffles thanks to Mumble pronouncing his name oddly a few times.  In addition to Waffles we are joined by Dallian once again who is the best fill-in guest ever, and pretty much is just now our regular “5th man”.  We talk about the Steam Sale, Wasteland 2, Saints Row IV, Lego Minifigures Online, Wildstar, and Warlords of Draenor alpha among other things.  We ran a bit short this week due to some technical difficulties causing chunks of the show to get edited out, but I hope you will all still enjoy the results.  I believe next week we should be returning to our regular format.

#AggroChat #SteampoweredSunday #DivinityII

Crimzon CLover World Ignition

Technical Difficulties

Last night was probably the roughest time I have had editing the AggroChat podcast in the eleven episodes we have been running.  Mostly this centers around us trying to change the way we record the show.  Since its inception we have been recording it on the House Stalwart mumble server in a private and locked down channel.  This worked pretty well and produced the first ten episodes without much issue.  However on July 19th that server will be going away and as a guild we will be permanently switching to the Alliance of Awesome Teamspeak server.  In theory Teamspeak does the same type of things that mumble does, so I thought we could simply record our channel without much issue.  Turns out that was not quite the case.

Mostly we had a lot of issues with Kodra coming through either garbled or not at all when he was holding down his push to talk key.  Apparently on his end it was me that was coming through like this.  Oddly enough Ashgar and Rae didn’t seem to have any problems at all.  It might be something we can fiddle with codec wise to make it work better, but honestly after the trouble I had with last nights podcast I am just of the opinion that we not try and record on teamspeak again.  We have access to a more private mumble server, and I am guessing from now on we will just use that one instead.  A lot of folks have suggested skype, but none of us are really skype users… so that would take its own trial and error to figure out how to really use it.

Last night we finished recording around 9:30 and I started editing by 10 pm.  I did not actually finish editing the podcast until well after 12:30.  The hard part was trying to glue together enough audio out of the garbled sections to make sense of what was being said.  I’ve listened to most of it while I was editing and I think the end result works.  However if you hear something that doesn’t quite make sense…  it was probably me trying to make the of a corrupted segment of speech.  While I don’t think the show was our weakest, it definitely made for some strained recording time since we kept having to redo segments that did not transmit.  Hopefully what did make it through is enjoyable.

Fly That Geek Flag High

In this weeks episode we have the original cast reunited again.  Ashgar is back from doing whatever it was that Ashgar was doing the week before, and Kodra is back from the awesome gaming convention Origins.  As we had talked two weeks ago, Kodra gave us a run down of what exactly he did at Origins.  This leads to a little discussion about something that is unfortunate in the gaming and geek communities…  geek on geek shaming.  Apparently Kodra catches some crap from the Magic the Gathering gamers for his choice of playing the My Little Pony card game.  But hey we pretty much support all potential diversions here on AggroChat.

Additionally we talk about the Warlords of Draenor expansion and my experiences so far with the Alpha.  We also talk at length about the Wildstar patch schedule and our hopes that they are actually able to maintain it.  Join us for these topics along with a bunch of other ones that just get slipped in here and there was we go.  Since neither Ash or Kodra were here to talk E3 2014, we do a bit of a callback there as well to talk about a few things that make people excited.  Remember to let your geek flag fly high, but remember to respect everyone else’s choice of flag as well.

Crimzon Clover World Ignition

For the last couple of weeks I have been trying to get enough time to really give this game a proper playing.  My friend Ashgar and I seem to be the only folks in our immediate circle of friends that really appreciate the “bullet hell” shooter.  So when a new one comes out, he sometimes throws it on my game pile because he knows I will actually play it with him.  The latest one of these is a random gifting of Crimzon Clover, and if you want to see a more logical and proper write-up about the game check out Ash’s blog.  The other night when he was working on his indepth reviews of the game I took a break from Four Job Fiesta and Wildstar to play Crimzon Clover with him.  I say play it with him… but mostly we just happened to be on voice chat at the same time while both of us are in game.  It sadly does not support internet multiplayer gaming.

CrimzonClover_WI 2014-06-22 08-43-26-121 The game actually does a fair bit of bait and switch.  When I booted it up and started playing the other night I originally thought it was going to be a “Shmup” and not really a “Bullet Hell” shooter.  This however changes quickly as it somewhat eases you into the game play as you get used to the movement controls and various attacks.  By the time you reach the first boss however things have escalated to the point where you are dodging the attacks like crazy.  The game itself is extremely clean and the controls responsive.  This is the sort of game where you just hold down the fire button at all times and spend the rest of your time looking for the only safe spot on the screen.  I question in this genre why the fire isn’t just toggled on and left on, since there is never really a point at which you don’t want to be holding it down.

CrimzonClover_WI 2014-06-22 08-43-43-581 As is often the case with this type of game you end up with the choice between different ships.  Type-I tends to be the most baseline and the easiest to control, whereas Type-II and Type-III give you a benefit in one area but make another area variable through the play session.  I started off trying Type-II but quickly fell back on going with the tried and true “default option”.  Ash actually managed to beat the game, but I only made it through boss number four before deciding my fingers were too sore to continue onwards.  Apparently in order to truly beat the game, you have to make it through without hitting continue.  If you do that you get a different ending and I believe a different boss encounter.  This also seems to be a theme with a lot of these very serious games.  I remember in the BlazBlue games there were “good” endings and “bad” endings depending on how you did in the earlier content leading up to the final encounter.

CrimzonClover_WI 2014-06-20 20-02-18-571

I have to say this game is a really good entry into the genre, and combined with Danmaku Unlimited 2 gives some seriously good options for Bullet Hell shooters on steam right now.  I am happy that this genre is alive and well and did not die with the death of arcades.  This specific title is interesting in that it is what they call a Doujin or essentially the Japanese version of an Independent PC game.  This appears to be another thing that steam is doing right, in that it is giving these games a market in the united states.  Recettear is another one of these Doujin games and it has been wildly popular and also likely would never have been seen here without steam.  If you dig the Bullet Hell shooter genre, this is one of the more pristine examples I have seen in a long while.  You should totally check it out  because right now during the steam sale you can pick it up for only $7.  This game is more than worth that money even if you only slightly like shooters.

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater HD

Steampowered Sunday #12

This weeks episode of Steampowered Sunday is chock full of self indulgent cheatery.  Firstly we have plans on going out and about Sunday morning, so I am technically playing the game and doing this review Saturday night shortly before recording AggroChat.  The second bit of cheatery is that normally I play through a game in my steam back catalog.  That however is not the case this week as currently steam is having a sale on all Activision titles.  Among the list was one that caught my eye.  I had noticed it a few times in the past but was never at a price point I was wiling to snap it up for.  However yesterday for $5 I figured it was well worth that just for a trip down memory lane.

THHDGame 2014-05-03 19-32-02-65Something you need to know about Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater franchise is that I played the hell out of it.  I was one of those little skater kids, and I even went so far as to have the “Tony Hawk” style “hangover” haircut.  As a result when this came out for the original Playstation I latched onto it with both hands.  One of the things I always wanted was a really good skating game, however we were stuck with either Skate or Die that at least had a free style ramp mode, or 720* which lacked any kind of free skate option… and if you took too long you were chased by an angry swarm of bees.  No game gave me what I wanted, which was the ability to faff about without a timer ticking and do all sorts of nifty tricks.  This game franchise had exactly that, and I spent countless hours playing and it and it’s higher resolution cousins on the Dreamcast.

Memory Lane

THHDGame 2014-05-03 19-34-59-10 When the I got my Playstation 2 one of the first titles I picked up was Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3.  So I knew one of two things was going to happen.  Either I would have a wonderful romp down memory lane, or I would be severely disappointed by the crappy remake.  Thankfully the game is pretty much a 1080p remake of the original playstation title, and this is a good thing.  Playing the game with a XBOX 360 controller on my PC feels almost exactly like I remember playing it on the PSX.  All the tricks worked essentially the same, and I struggled with the same problems I ever did.  The game works the same way, each map has a ton of objectives and as you move your way around the area you get bonus scores for collecting them.  As always the first objective I generally go for is for grabbing the letters S K A T E scattered around the room.

THHDGame 2014-05-03 19-35-37-03 Additionally all of the old secrets are exactly where I remember them, and accessed through the same kind of tricks.  I really was not expecting anything more than a graphical update, so I was not terribly disappointed to find that literally nothing had changed.  I got the same enjoyment crashing through the room on top of the ramp as I ever did.  One of my favorite things about the series was trying to find all the named “gaps” and a lot of these work the same as they always did.  The only thing that is confusing really is that the game is like a remix of all of the Tony Hawk titles.  There are maps from the early THPS games as well as the later Underground games.  Overall this gives you a good mix of things to go and explore, and Free Skate mode is just as much of a guilty pleasure as it ever was.

Stripped Down Game

THHDGame 2014-05-03 19-34-43-14 My biggest complaint about the game is that it is greatly stripped down.  Gone is the ability to create custom skaters, and also gone are the weird unlockable characters like the Neversoft eyeball guy, and Spiderman.  The lack of ability to create your own skater really hurts my overall enjoyment of the title.  I liked creating a skater that was a reasonable facsimile of myself and customizing his stat package to be only the things I cared about… namely street skating.  I found that overall Eric Koston has the closest stat package to what I would want, so I have been using him.  The game has been out for two years, so I doubt that we will be seeing any kind of DLC that adds in the missing functionality.  My only hope is that maybe just maybe someone cares enough to create a mod that lets you do the same thing.

The other missing feature is the skate park creator.  I spent hours building interesting skate parks to go explore, and I remember THPS 2 for the Dreamcast had a wide variety of items you could choose from.  I realize this title was released not only on the PC but also tablets and phones… so there is a limited amount of stuff they could realistically squeeze into the game given those constraints.  Even with these missing features, I have definitely gotten my $5 worth of fun.  Sure I still have my playstation, playstation 2 and dreamcast…  but I am not going to go dig them out of the closet and hook them up just to play Tony Hawk.  This little download has allowed me to relive some of those memories without having to do that.

Watch Me Suck at THPS!

As has been the trend lately, I recorded the entire play though of THPS, or at least a good chunk of it.  You can see just how bad I suck at the game these days, and how many jumps and tricks I miss.  I had a blast doing it, and I need to figure out a better option for a push to talk key while playing a game that requires a controller.  As a result there are huge blocks of time where I say nothing.  But it is fun nonetheless.  If you had good memories of the game like I did, you might check out the sale while it is still going on.  Well worth the few bucks, and the game performs extremely well.  I didn’t notice anything glitchy about it, so it seems like a pretty solid experience.

Episode 4:  Mentors for Everyone

Last night we recorded Episode 4 of the AggroChat podcast, and once again we had our regular cast in place.  Kodra was back from his business trip, and Rae was no longer trying to join the circus.  I tried a little experiment last night, that I probably won’t repeat again.  I had been concerned that I had been overly directing the flow of conversation, so I tried to take a step back and let the rest of the hosts introduce topics.  The end result lead me to do way more editing and massaging on this episode than normal as I deleted a ton of awkward pauses.  The end result is still fairly interesting.  We ended up talking about the current state of Elder Scrolls Online with its launch and remaining bugs.  We talked quite a bit about ArcheAge and how intrigued I am by it.  Finally I nudged the rest of my panel into talking about League of Legends.  They had been threatening for weeks to derail the podcast, and I encouraged it… and the end result was not terribly derailed after all.

#SteamPoweredSunday #AggroChat #TonyHawkProSkater #ElderScrollsOnline #ESO

Grand Anniversary

No Free Lunch

Last night was Saturday night, and that means we recorded another episode of the Tales of the Aggronaut podcast…  AggroChat!  We had a few odd things going on last night.  Firstly Rae was off travelling in world visiting her longtime friends Ahi and Bez.  This means she was completely unavailable.  Additionally Kodra was travelling, and connected in from crappy hotel wifi in San Francisco… leading him to be a little bit robotty.  However we pushed through all of this and picked up a 4th player in the form of our good friend Tam.  He had been talked about plenty of times on the podcast already, and it only seemed fitting to have him sub in.  Super thankful for him to be willing to do it in a pinch.  We talked about all manner of things including Hex Closed Beta, ArcheAge and the concept of selling entry into the beta process, and our ideal scenarios as far as character building and abilities in MMOs go.

We are going to have to find a way to stay more on topic, because each episode has increased every so slightly in length.  The first one was right at an hour, the second an hour and fifteen minutes, and this one roughly an hour and thirty minutes.  We could have formal topics that we push through, but I personally like the meandering format, because it means it is more like the natural conversations we already have.  I wish I had kept rolling because moments after I cut the podcast off we had a pretty epic conversation about how Lucasfilm is disavowing the entire Expanded Universe concept… and while we will miss some things maybe it isn’t so much of a bad idea.  There were some really odd fan service things about the Expanded Universe that don’t really hold up story wise.

Steampowered Sunday #11

When Elder Scrolls Online released on a Sunday, it pretty much put a severe halt to my blog series known as Steampowered Sunday where I take some time and play a game from my backlog of titles.  Last night during the podcast we were talking about a game that Ashgar had been playing this week that fell firmly into the Bullet Hell genre.  Kodra seemed to think this was madness, and having been a big fan of Ikaruga I totally understood the draw.  There was a time period when I used to play lots of bullet hell shooters and pre-hell shooters.  Gradius, Darius Twin, Raiden Trad… all games I remember fondly.  I was never particularly good at them, but I enjoyed them nonetheless.  I remember playing 1942 on the nintendo for hour upon hour trying to make my way through all the stages.

At some point I just stopped playing them.  I think it was during the death of the dreamcast, but when I bought my PS2 I just simply stopped picking up the games anymore.  While I have Gradius 5 on my PS2, I guess my tastes in games changed a bit.  This honestly more than anything represents a period of time when I stopped playing consoles very much and started consuming games almost exclusively on the PC.  Every now and then I would flirt with a new shooter like the ever amazing Jamestown, but I never really got heavily into it again.  Last night in an attempt to cold boot this series again, Ashgar griefed me by gifting me a copy of a really rather awesome bullet hell shooter on steam.  At face value Danmaku Unlimited 2 reminds me of a less technical cousin to Ikaruga.  The soundtrack is in part what makes the gameplay, and helps you do what is needed to make it through the levels.  The secret to a bullet hell is to zone out and focus only on the pattern and not so much about the rest of the noise on screen.  Only a few things can actually hurt you, so you focus in on those things.

The hilarity of my play through is that after years of not playing these games my reflexes that had built up are completely gone.  In addition I am playing this game roughly thirty minutes after waking up.  So yeah I do pretty bad.  Ashgar tried to make me feel better by saying that I did significantly better than he did the first time.  Essentially the gameplay video is roughly seventeen minutes and the point at which I ran out of lives to keep going.  I made it to about the mid point of stage four.  All in all I think I did a pretty good job.  The awesome thing about the game is it is really cheap.  So for the price you cannot beat this kind of bullet hell goodness.  I feel like there is a lot of customization in the way you set up the game.  I went with pretty generic options and was playing on easy, so I think there is a lot more depth to be had there if I dig into it.  Probably going to stream some more of me trying to play it later.  In any case… I have successfully rebooted the Steampowered Sunday feature.  Long live me playing through my steam backlog!

Grand Anniversary

Last but definitely not least… today is the one year anniversary of the Grand Experiment… my attempt to blog something each and every day.  This means as of today I have made a post every single day for a year.  That is a pretty significant feat and I am really damned proud of myself for sticking with it.  At this point I figure I am going to try and make it another whole year without letting the beat drop.  It hasn’t been the most easy thing to do, but I want to take a moment to thank my wife who has been extremely supportive in this adventure.  There have been days where I might not have made it through the post without her just assuming that it was going to happen and giving me time and space to do so.  Additionally I want to thank my friends who have supported me in this madness and my readers.  There have been moments when I felt alone in my mission, and was surprised at how many of you have reached out your arms to help me along the way.  Somehow I have gone from being the least regular of bloggers… to the most regular, and it is a pretty insane transition.  I feel like I have grown a lot in the past year, and I thank you all for helping me with it.

Assassin’s Creed II

Steampowered Sunday #10

I have had a really lousy week, and if you have followed my blog you know why.  However that said, I did not want to break the Steampowered Sunday tradition.  This week we had a tie between Assassin’s Creed II and Evoland, and in order to settle the tie I essentially flipped a coin.  As a result I played roughly and hour and a half of Assassin’s Creed II.  At face value this seems like a game I would not like very much, considering in general I do not like stealth titles.  However so many friends of mine have been so into this game series that I felt like I had to give it a try.  I feel like I am somehow losing gamer cred by admitting that I have never played ANY of the Assassin’s Creed games before today.

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All of my friends have said that the essential title that I needed to start with was Assassin’s Creed II, so as a result that is the title I have placed in the running for a few weeks.  Initially the title suffers from many of the console game tropes that I hate.  Namely the “long introduction” and the forced “stealth” to get to an area where the game opens up.  Then when you finally get into the action, there is yet another trope that I cannot stand…  “the un-skippable mini-game” namely in the form of the rooftop race with your brother.  So early on… things were not looking really good for this title.  Within the first 15 minutes it had committed three cardinal sins.  That said I kept playing and eventually got a grasp on why exactly this game is fun.

AssassinsCreedIIGame 2014-03-23 11-16-19-93

Where this game shines is the open world exploration aspect.  While they only give you a small area at a time to roam around, for the most part you are allowed to get to your objective in whatever fashion you like.  Additionally the “stealth” aspect of the game is extremely forgiving.  If you are “feeling your wheaties” you can beat the shit out of your pursuers, or if you don’t feel like fighting you can simply run away and in a grand theft auto style wait for the coast to be clear again.  Your enemies show up as very clear red dots on the map, and in many times you can simply blend into the crowd to avoid them.  The only time they seem to notice you is if you are extremely close or doing something like running about or doing something to draw attention to yourself.

AssassinsCreedIIGame 2014-03-23 11-22-55-66 I realize at an hour and a half into the game I have barely scratched the surface.  So far it seems like the game progresses in a very GTA style, where you are presented a series of small quests.  Some of them involve going and fetching something, others beating up a person, and others still following around NPCs and helping them with some task.  All of this is pretty boring, but the fact that you can accomplish these missions by wandering around the rooftops of the city make it far more enjoyable.  I can see why people are into this title, and I think I would like it even more if it were more open and free.  I can only imagine how great this title would be if it were presented in a more “fallout” type sandbox manner.  Right now you are given pretty clear direction in what the quests do and which ones you should take.

AssassinsCreedIIGame 2014-03-23 11-18-25-82 So far the only real frustration is when I manage to get a “timed event” style quest.  I find movement in this world to be cludgy at best, especially after being used to the parkour of newer games like Titanfall.  There are many times where I do something like leap off of a building that I did not intend, but did so because I either didn’t wait long enough for my camera angle to readjust or waited too long.  If I can get used to the quirks of the movement I feel like my enjoyment will improve, however when you put me under a timer and the  movement does something screwball I feel like throwing the controller across the room.  I have to remind myself that this game was initially released in 2009, and since then game controls have become so much more responsive.  I am sure if I cracked open Assassin’s Creed IV many of these issues have been solved.

AssassinsCreedIIGame 2014-03-23 11-15-41-64 Overall I think this is going to be a title I play quite a bit more of.  In fact once I finish a few chores this morning, I will probably boot it back up and play some more.  I am hooked enough on what is there to make me want to play some more.  Right now I am also feeling deeply antisocial, so a single player title is a good option.  At this moment I am tentatively positive about the game and considering I got it as part of a massive package of other Assassin’s Creed titles, I can see maybe going back and playing the others as well.  My friends all told me to start with 2, because there were some serious controllability issues prior to that point.  If that is the case I am very glad I did, because I already feel like 2 is more than a little awkward, I would not have likely made it this far in a title where the controls were worse.