Night of Primals

Juggling Games

Wow-64 2015-05-05 19-30-34-21 One of the challenges for me during the Newbie Blogger Initiative is determining which days I should make NBI related posts and which days I should do my traditional thing.  It is a bit of a juggling act because I want to keep pumping out articles in support of the initiative but I also don’t want my blog to stop being… well “my blog”.  As always I am juggling a silly amount of games.  Right now as it stands I raid Tuesday and Thursday in World of Warcraft, Monday and Saturday in Final Fantasy XIV and for the time being I am also filling in on Wednesday nights with another free company static group.  I would not mind staying with them indefinitely but I would love to get to a point where I am more optional than the current tank role that I am playing.  Finally on Friday nights I have been trying to join in the festivities with the Black Dagger Society as I play some Wildstar.  Other than this I am also trying to juggle playing Marvel Heroes and some Rift… and needless to say I feel like there is always something I want to be playing.

Last night was a WoW night and we once again stepped into Blackrock Foundry.  I did not place the sign above but I was wondering if it was going to foretell my evening.  At the beginning it did seem like maybe it was prophecy, because we had a rough start.  We wiped several times on heroic and tempers were flaring a bit.  Our raid leader made the right call and took us back outside flipping the difficulty to normal.  From there the night got significantly better.  I was once again being frustrated by Flamebender Kagraz not dropping pants or a sword for me, but that has now been par for the course so I really wasn’t that upset.  Last week we made serious progress on Furnace encounter so I was extremely happy when our raid lead said we were heading that direction.  Apparently we had not forgotten the progress we made because in a single attempt we downed our first new boss since March 19th.  While heroic difficulty is where we will find upgrades, there is a huge part of me that wants to be able to say we cleared at least normal difficulty before the 6.2 patch.  We are now two bosses away from being able to say that.

Night of Primals

ffxiv 2015-05-04 21-02-18-84 One of the things our Monday night group has decided to do is to spend no more than two nights in a row on any one encounter.  It has felt like we have ground our faces against turn nine for awhile now, so it is refreshing to get to see something else.  Monday night was our first “off night” in this rotation and we opted to get the folks that missed Leviathan Extreme their kill.  This fight went smoothly and by the numbers and other than some of the folks who were new to the fight struggling to stay on deck, we were able to make some serious progress.  I want to say it was on attempt four that we managed to push through and defeat Levi Ex unlocking Ramuh for a large number of the folks, and getting a nifty summoner book.  From there we moved on  to Odin as our group had not actually downed it before.  We made one night of attempts but then got enthralled by the push for Turn 9 never to return.  We shifted things around a bit this time and had me tanking it and Ashgar dpsing, hoping that my insane health pool would help soak the horrible Sangital attack.

ffxiv 2015-05-04 21-03-32-20 The assumption seemed to be correct as it would take me down to around half health instead of almost killing me.  The thing is… we have gained a lot of gear since when we last tried this fight so I am pretty sure Ashgar as a Paladin would have been fine as well.  We managed to take out Odin and get a piece of the armor set.  I believe it was the gloves, but I really want to take this guy down more because I need to be a Lala-Odin.  From here we opted to take on Titan Extreme in part because it was standing in the way of us working in Ifrit Extreme and finishing the first set.  When we downed Titan before we were missing a significant number of the folks that we had on last night.  This fight has been the bane of our existence for awhile because it is precisely the kind of fight we are generally bad at.  If a fight requires us to adjust to conditions on the ground, then bam we are on top of that.  If it is a fight that requires us to do the exact same thing over and over with laser precision…  went tend to fail.  Fortunately we managed to catch up to speed quickly and on I believe our fourth attempt we downed Titan once more keying a whole new batch of players for Ifrit.  It was one of the most enjoyable nights of raiding I have had in any game, because each of the primal encounters were so drastically different.

The Old Blood

WolfOldBlood_x64 2015-05-05 22-23-01-08 This game I honestly forgot was releasing yesterday, that is until in the middle of the raid I had someone message me over the steam client asking me if I was having trouble with the game.  After the raid I opted to boot it up and give it a look see.  I have agreed to play this game in part to let Kodra know if I think he would be interested in it.  He and I both loved Wolfenstein: New Order… but completely different reasons.  I loved the game because it felt like a throw back to the 90s shooter era, and he loved it for the complex character interaction and development.  It was awesome that the game supported both things so completely, and by the looks of “The Old Blood” it seemed like the 90s shooter part.  Essentially this game is a loving reworking of the classic Escape from Castle Wolfenstein game that I spent so many hours playing during High School.  If it is nothing more than Machine Games redoing that game… I would be completely fine with this.

WolfOldBlood_x64 2015-05-05 22-13-18-63 While I have only played a few minutes of the game right now, I have to say I am amped about it.  The game is just as gorgeous as New Order, and seems to have the exact same kind of dialog between characters.  The problem being that I have a feeling there is a much smaller cast given that the entire game takes place inside of Castle Wolfenstein.  This next bit is going to include spoilers because the introduction is pretty short, but still extremely fun.  Essentially the start of the game centers around this plan between you and a British agent to sneak inside Castle Wolfenstein and steal the blueprints to Deathshead’s compound… aka that thing you are storming at the beginning of New Order.  The problem being that when you get into the offices of occultist Helga Von Schabbs, the plans are missing.  There is nothing in the safe in the wall, and you and Wesley quickly draw unwanted attention and a firefight ensues.  While trying to make your escape you are captured by Rudi Jager and thrown in the cell that you in theory begin the original Wolfenstein in.  From there you have to escape the castle… and quite honestly I did not make it much further.  The game is rather short, supposedly only two chapters, but for the price that seems more than reasonable.  I think I am going to love this game, but I still question if there is enough story in it to appease Kodra.

Hunting Malboros

The Night Before

This mornings post is going to be a little scant on visuals so I am just going to leave you with this amazing cinematic trailer that Riot released yesterday called A New Dawn.  You should totally watch it and marvel at just how awesome Graves is.  If you watch the making up they talk about the whole video having a meme running through it “Graves is not impressed”.   Onwards to the real post.  This morning is the beginning of the Mathematics conference, and throughout the day today I will be playing chauffer to a group of folks who need ferried from the airport to the hotel.  As a result we spent some time last night cleaning out my wife’s Pontiac Torrent since it has the most comfortable seating for a large number of adults.  The thing that makes that vehicle awesome is that it has a sliding bench seat so you can push it back for extra leg room but still have a significant amount of cargo space.

coffeeandmonster I went comatose around 10:30 last night, but apparently my wife is having schoolgirl jitters.  As a denizen of twitter as well…  I guess I would probably be jittery about meeting a bunch of folks all at once from the twitterverse.  Granted this is the third running of this conference, but it has never been anywhere near as large as it is this year.  We have apparently completely sold out two hotels and they are booking in a third overflow hotel now.  To give me fortitude to get through a day of meeting all of these people I don’t know but will be expected to be cordial with…  I am leaning on both coffee and a monster ultra.  Mostly I just wanted to show off this awesome WW2 Dalek poster coffee mug we found the other day.  My wife actually spotted the Doctor Who mugs first, and there were a bunch of designs to choose from… but I have always been partial to the WW2 era propaganda poster from Victory of the Daleks.

So while I conked out completely around 10:30 my wife was apparently up until 1 am.  Then when I woke up this morning at 5 to get around and showered, she was awake again and responding to tweets.  I think its adorable that she can be all hyped up on nerves and I will likely be the same way when January rolls around and I go to Pax South.  I am not sure if  have mentioned that on my blog or not yet, but as of right now I have tickets for all three days to Pax South.  I may or may not be attending Sunday, but I am definitely going to try and be there for Friday and Saturday.  I figure the last day of a con is likely the “anything you missed” day and all the major stuff will likely occur on Friday and Saturday.  I might be completely wrong, but that would at least give me Sunday to drive home.  If you are also going to Pax South give me a shout, because I would love to arrange some sort of a twitter/blogosphere/whatever meetup.

Attack on Deathshead

WolfNewOrder_x64 2014-07-22 18-59-17-748 I made it a bit further in my play through of Wolfenstein New Order but I am still struggling with crash to desktop issues.  I had a spot in the moon base that was doing it, and now am having a spot in Deathshead compound that is kicking me out.  Last night I gave it a few attempts but just didn’t have the patience.  I think next time I try it I might shut down EVERYTHING, including DXtory that I generally have running so I can take screenshots.  I know some games get a little pissy about overlays, or it might simply be that I need to disable the steam overlay.  In any case this game is really amazing and it gives me totally unrelated hope.  This past weekend at Quakecon, ID Software gave an exclusive peak at Doom 4 that has apparently just be renamed Doom and is somewhat of a reboot.  If Machine Games can give us a game as awesome as Wolfenstein… I have high hopes for what Doom has in store for us.

As my friend Kodra has said before, Wolfenstein is very much exactly what games felt and sounded like in the 90s.  Everything was industrial metal…  and we liked it.  I am perfectly fine with this throwback syndrome, because the modern FPS is nowhere near as much fun as the first generation of them used to be.  We have come so far in trying to make everything more and more realistic, and I think in that struggle we lost sight on what actually made the games fun.  If Wolfenstein and the reboot of Doom herald in an era of interesting level design with secrets and multiple paths to the objective… then hell yes I want to return to the 90s.  Right now my goal is to make it through Wolf one way or another by this weekend, so we can potentially talk about the ending on the podcast.  We will of course warn people ahead of time before the spoilers start flying.

Hunting Malboros

ffxiv 2014-07-22 20-18-24-344

This is one of those moments when I really wish Hitbox.tv knew what “today” and “tomorrow” actually meant.  For the last several days they have said that they would have the export to youtube functionality back up and running today or tomorrow.  I realize they are a small company and this is a beta product, but at this point it is seriously making me consider going back to Twitch.  I don’t want to, but I also like having the ability to embed video recorded from the night before in my mornings blog post.  Complaining aside…  one of the things that I have been enjoying since coming back to FFXIV is the hunt system.  Each day you can go to a hunt board in your grand company offices and grab a new set of wanted posters.  They call them bills…  but “handbill” hasn’t really been used popularly in the United States in decades.

I love that the various wanted posters just list a bounty and a basic location for where the mob will spawn.  In general I can remember where in each zone that type of mob already exists, and usually the type you need is intermingled within the pack.  This system would totally be a quick enjoyable jaunt out into the world if it were not for the two FATE based encounters each day.  Here you are either super lucky or have to wait around for hours.  Last night I streamed a fairly boring stream, because it was me killing Malboros and Dark Sylphs while waiting on an apparently rare fate to spawn.  The positive is this is causing me to actually level my chocobo.  As of last night I dinged level 3 on it and made a goodly dent into 4.

The big thing I have noticing is it is super horrible about standing in stuff.  Like I had to do all sorts of crazy to try and position the Malboros in such a way as to not let the Daedalus (my chocobo) get breathed upon.  Hint… I am pretty horrible at this and probably went through a dozen gysahl greens during the course of the night resummoning him.  I find this game extremely relaxing compared to the spastic pace of Wildstar.  I have lots of love for that game, but just watching the world absolutely wears me out.  Coming back to FFXIV and its more sedate pace felt like crawling into a warm bed.  Granted the combat system is still interesting in that I am constantly having to move out of stuff while keeping up my combos, but it is far less button mashy since everything has a sizeable cool down.  In any case I am enjoying myself, and at some point I am going to get brave enough to do Duty Roulette for the big prizes.

#WolfensteinNewOrder #FFXIV

Moon Raider

Edition Madness

2014-07-22 06_07_13-Save 81% on Two Worlds II_ Velvet Edition on Steam I feel like the colorful descriptors that companies tack onto iterative versions of games has hit an all time low.  Since the 80s we have been forced to play a progressively extreme number of versions of a game.  During the 90s the Street Fighter franchise for example proved to us all of the ways it could not actually count to 3.  We’ve suffered through Super, Hyper, Ultra, Zero, Alpha, Game of the Year, Ultimate, Legendary and innumerable other hardcore and extreme versions of the games we love.  This morning as I idly checked Steam I spotted something that made my eye stop dead over it.  We really have a game that is a “Velvet Edition”?  What is next suede or cordura?

I keep thinking maybe this is a translation error somehow, but “Samten” doesn’t really sound much better.  Maybe it is me, and I just have a negative connotation towards the word velvet, and maybe it is completely normal for someone to use that word in place of say “deluxe”.  This is just a first for me, and I think maybe this whole descriptor thing has gone a bit far if we have arrived at fabrics now.  I mean even though “game of the year” bundles are completely inappropriately named, considering very few of them have actually won a “game of the year” award…  at least for awhile they were something standardized.  I personally would rather they go with something like “complete edition” considering that is what we are talking about… the version that includes all the damned DLC in one place.  Though I guess game companies would probably frown on admitting they have been rationing game content to us for years.

Moon Raider

WolfNewOrder_x64 2014-07-21 21-02-13-441 We had a few errands to run last night, and by the time I got home I was not sure what exactly to play for the evening.  Since this weekends podcast, Kodra has been urging me to finish up Wolfenstein so he could have someone to talk about it with.  So I opted to work on that, and while I did not quite make it through the game I figure I am pretty close to the ending.  I suffered a series of technical difficulties where I would crash out and have to load back in restarting me at the previous save point.  When this happened the last time I figured I would call it a night, as it seemed like I was probably going to have to repeat a significant chunk of the previous level.  It seems to be related to when I go into a cutscene and then come back out of it.

WolfNewOrder_x64 2014-07-21 21-50-29-397 It is really hard to find screenshots that I can show off that don’t really give away anything major about the game.  Well other than the fact that you get to experience Nazi’s on the moon…  but that doesn’t really give much away plot wise.  I feel like that is the aspect of the game I enjoy the most is seeing how this alternate reality evolved without the influence of the United States.  So much of everything we experience today is because of the global export of American goods and American values.  As a culture we have had a death grip on the entertainment industry and the internet as well… and as a result everything that comes from other countries often feels like an odd remix of something we would see in the United States.  So to see this reality that evolved entirely in a different direction is interesting to me.  I applaud the level designers because all of the little details feel like they come from a completely different place.

WolfNewOrder_x64 2014-07-21 21-05-26-813 This game is definitely going to warrant a second play through, because there is a single decision that you make early on that causes the game to go in different enough directions that from that point on the chapters of the game branch depending on your choice made.  It seems that Kodra and I picked completely different routes, and I think it will be interesting to talk about the differences between them.  I don’t feel like this is probably a discussion we can really have on AggroChat because it would be impossible to do this in a way that is not spoilerific.  I really hope all of you took advantage of the QuakeCon pricing and picked up this awesome game when it was essentially half price.  I have a feeling that this game is going to experience quite a bit of third party modding, and I hope that sooner or later they bring out a multiplayer addon.  One of the more enjoyable game play and narrative experiences I have had in awhile.

Sparse Next Few Days

The next few days are going to be interesting for me.  Today is technically my last day at work this week, but just because I am off does not mean I won’t actually be working harder.  My wife is part of a crew putting on a mathematics conference here in town, and I have opted to take off from work to help her with it.  I know Wednesday for example I will be operating an impromptu shuttle service, and then the other days I will likely be filling in a tech support role and general “gopher”.  With all of these constraints it will be interesting to see what I end up blogging about, as I doubt I will be playing that many games.

Magic-2015-M15-Core-Set-Fat-Pack That said it sounds like at least one of the conference attendees is a Magic the Gathering fan, so I will be bringing up a box of decks just in case that happens.  Speaking of Magic…  I really have no clue what Wizards of the Coast was thinking when they came up with the 2015 product designs.  Once upon a time the off brand products that you can get in your grocery store that are branded as Always Save or Best Choice or even Sam’s Choice were simply called “Generic”.  They featured white labels with start sans-serif writing on them, similar to government commodities.  So I cannot look at this magic the gathering set without thinking “oh its generic magic”.  I feel like we arrived at this point out of some sort of hipster minimalist design ethic…  but yeah it is just not working for me.  I guess they have used every other color of the rainbow lately for the primary theme of a set…  so sooner or later they were going to get around to white.

It will be interesting to see how the next few days shake out.  Likely you will be getting some more personal posts.  Right now the plan is to take my laptop and work on editing my NaNoWriMo novel between times I am needed.  The only problem with this is that the guest wifi at the school is horrible.  My phone will allow me to tether to it, but not sure how much I can do that without AT&T getting pissy with me.  We are grandfathered in on one of the unlimited plans, and I don’t really want to do much to jeopardize that.  The positive is that the Galaxy S5 shipped with unlocked tethering software, and it is not like I had to do anything to get it up and running.  I just expect that all of the websites I would want to look at would be blocked without it.

#Wolfenstein #MagicTheGathering

King of Monsters

An Odd Day

Sometimes on the weekends you have days that feel like they last significantly longer than they should, and then you have days like yesterday that feel like they are over in a blink of an eye.  I guess in theory what made yesterday feel so odd is because the entire day was planned around hanging out with some friends and meeting them for lunch at 1:30.  So by the time I got up, grabbed breakfast, wrote a blog post… it was pretty much time to shower and get ready to go out.  None of this is to say that yesterday was not a really fun day, but it was just over in a flash.

We ate lunch at a trendy restaurant downtown called the Rusty Crane… which for as trendy as it is, was extremely reasonably priced.  My wife and I ate for $16, but then again we ate off the brunch menu.  I had this weird breakfast enchilada thing, that while tasty is not likely something I would order again.  It was a tortilla filled with egg, sausage, avocado and what was billed as grilled onions and peppers.  So that to me made it sound like they would be nice and soft and caramelized, but in reality they were mostly raw and maybe spent a few minutes on the grill lightly singing the edges.  Had they been like the veggies inside of a Chimichanga it would have been awesome…  but me and crunchy veggies tend to disagree.

But the food overall was tasty and cheap… and the company was the important part.  We had not seen our friends in several months, and normally we like to see them at least once a month to hang out and get dinner and a movie or something of the sort.  The hard part about being non-parents is finding other couples that don’t have kids in tow to go out and do things with.  As a result we tend to hang out with a lot of older couples, and this pair is a really odd situation.  He is the very first “pimp” I had, aka the guy who first recruited me into the dark art of consulting.  She is a teacher at the same school as my wife.  We only realized the connection one year at a back to school barbeque, and ever since we’ve kind of integrated into each others families.

King of Monsters

godzilla-trailer-header-image After we ate we decided to go see a movie.  Since my wife and the other two had not seen all of the X-Men films leading up to Days of Future Past, they opted against that one.  In reality right now there just isn’t much on at the theatre that is not a comic book-y type film.  In the end we decided to go see the new Godzilla film as it aligned up time wise better than almost anything else.  Just a heads up…  I am not sure you can call them spoilers, but be warned this section is going to have something vaguely resembling them.  If you want to be surprised when you see the new Godzilla… feel free to skip ahead, but unfortunately if you have seen ANY Godzilla movie, you have also seen this one which is part of the problem I have.

I am not sure exactly what I was expecting, but this movie literally plays out like every Godzilla movie… or in truth damned near every Anime story as well.  Mankind does something stupid > Horrible Monster is spawned > Hero (Godzilla) shows up and is misunderstood and attacked by mankind > Sage/Elder/Scientist explains something about nature balancing itself > We put our fate in the Hero (Godzilla) > Hero gets its ass kicked royally and is defeated > Just when all hope seems lost the Hero rises again using last ounce of strength to defeat the Monster.  That is pretty much the template for half of the anime I have seen, not to mention every single Godzilla, Ultraman, Kamen Rider, Power Ranger or anything else in the same “big things battle other big things” genre.

Final_Four_Jaegers I blame Pacific Rim for giving me hope, that a tired old movie construct like Godzilla could have new and interesting life breathed into it.  I love everything about the concept of monsters battling monsters, or giant robots saving the day…  it fills my inner thirteen year old with glee.  The problem is the 37 year old brain is still there and unable to be detached.  There were so many things in the movie that seem to have no explanation and made zero sense.  There is a scene where a coal fired train is travelling across the country to deliver a payload of nuclear warheads.  It is super foggy, and a bunch of the troops are sent ahead to scout the track to see if it is safe.  Next thing we know the train is on fire and coming out of the fog.  How exactly did that train catch fire?  Sure it looks cool as a special effect but it makes zero sense because the monster attacking doesn’t breathe fire or anything.  The train just apparently spontaneously combusted while it was coming across the tracks.

The biggest problem I had with Godzilla is that the movie just felt like it was going through the motions.  They so closely followed the template of what a Godzilla movie has to be, that the character actors that participated in the movie just felt like window dressing.  There was never a single moment in the movie that I did not feel like I knew the next three scenes that were about to happen.  Obviously going into it we know that Godzilla is going to win the day…  but if we have that as a fixed ending… sure you can do something to mix up the space between the beginning of the movie and the end.  So as much as I am railing on the movie, I do have to give it credit that the monster battles looked good.  The monsters were well animated and you can tell they spent large amounts of money trying to make Godzilla feel like the original “man in suit” version without making it look cheesy as hell.  If you love the original Godzilla movies and can suspend disbelief and ignore the fact that it is following a very tired template…  you might just enjoy this movie.

Right in the Feels

Transistor 2014-05-20 17-51-41-79 Now for a game that I will not give any spoilers for…  because it really is worthy of cherishing.  Last night when we finished with our festivities, I went upstairs, threw my headphones on and sat down with the purpose of getting through Transistor.  When we recorded the podcast both Kodra and Ashgar had beaten the game, and I had heard that the ending is really heart wrenching.  They were correct…  the game got me right in the feels and I think maybe I even bled a little.  Everything about this game is wonderful, and if they do not win awards with it… it is a major fucking tragedy.  Basically Supergiant Games has a loyal customer now, after loving Bastion and seeing how much more intricate this game is…  I have a feeling that anything they could create would turn out phenomenal.

My only disappointment is how generally short the game is.  It took me roughly three hours of game play to beat and is the equivalent of I think four areas that you traverse, maybe five.  Now one cool thing that happens is when you defeat the game you can play a “recursion” that allows you to play through a second time with all the abilities that you earned the first time… and everything becomes more difficult as well.  So instead of Creep 2.0 you start seeing Creep 3.0 etc.  I love the way this game embraces code lingo to produce a world that is both Tron and French Noir at the same time.  I would love to see a movie made from this game… would be absolutely phenominal.  I have to admit as cool as the gameplay is… I mostly wanted to play through this game for the story.  I wanted to know what happened and why things were the way they are.  The problem is after completing the game it feels like I have more questions than answers.

Beer and Pizza Action

WolfNewOrder_x64 2014-05-20 19-51-03-03 After the emotional rollercoaster that was Transistor, I felt like i needed to play something far more run and gun.  So I picked back up on Wolfenstein: New Order, and at the point in which I went to sleep I was roughly three hours into the storyline.  There is something compelling about the game, but at the same time something that leaves me completely uneasy about the potential of a fascist future.  So far I am loving the game and look forward to playing some more.  Oddly enough this game seems to be able to get me to stealth around.  There is a sequence where you sneak into a prison, and I loved lurking about and sneaking up on mobs and taking them out with the knife.  Normally I do not do stealth at all, but for whatever reason it felt as though I HAD to use stealth.  If you fire a gun anywhere near an officer they will sound the alarm and bring on all sorts of really bad shit like these flying robot things that are damned near impossible to take out with anything other than the shotgun.  The game is action packed and focused, and precisely what I needed to recover from the case of the feels.

#Godzilla #PacificRim #Transistor #Wolfenstein #NewOrder

Transistor Gushes

Good Bye Old Man

smokeyYesterday was a rough day for many reasons, not the least of which was the fact that I had to bury my old man ferret Smokey.  In 2009 we got a pair of brothers from a ferret rescue, and at that point they were several years old already.  Bandit passed away several years ago from Insulinoma, and it was one of the hardest things I had been through.  I feel like maybe him passing quickly was a godsend.  For the last several months Smokey had been deteriorating of old age, and it was hard to watch him go through it.  For the last couple of months we had kept him in a separate cage in our bedroom, where he could have easy access to food and water since he was not moving around very well at all.  His hind legs simply did not obey him any longer and he had developed cataracts in both eyes.

Our goal was to try and keep him as comfortable as we could until he passed.  The old man had some fight in him because there were several nights that we were certain he would not make it through til morning.  When morning came it was still friendly and very much alive.  When we got up yesterday morning we did our normal “check to see if he made it through the night”, and he seemed about as normal as he ever does.  Raised his head, sniffed my hand and went back to sleep.  While we were out running errands yesterday it seems like he passed in his sleep because he was curled up in the same little ball he always was.

I am thankful at least that it seems as though he went peaceful.  He was a good boy and a friendly ferret, even though he never did bond as tightly to us as his brother did.  The above photo is of him in much better days, snuggled up with one of our girls Shiloh in the hammock.  Bandits passing was so sudden and jarring, but with Smokey we have had months to get used to the idea and just tried to make him as comfortable as we could.  So while part of me is definitely sad that he is gone, another part of me is relieved that he no longer has to struggle.

The Big Clean

Pet funeral aside, yesterday was a good but very tiring day.  If it tells you anything I managed to hit 10,000 steps on my fitbit before we actually went for our evening walk.  As I said before the house needed cleaning badly, and I got up and around yesterday morning and picked most of it up.  However there are still a few deep cleaning projects that need to happen.  We needed to run to the bank, so we got out and about and did some shopping.  The shirts I had been wearing were getting huge on me, and my wife would visibly sigh each time I wore one of them that now hung from my shoulders like a drape.  JC Penny was running a door buster sale that we just happened to luck into without really meaning to.  I picked up a bunch of new and better fitting shirts and this prompted me to remove a ton of older shirts from the closet.

Similarly both myself and my wife needed new bathing suits.  I found a nice pair of trunks that are far more colorful than anything I have ever bought in the past, and she found a nice one-piece at Old Navy.  All of the shopping inspired her to come home and tear apart the closet both figuratively and quite literally.  The bedroom for several hours yesterday was a warzone, and among other projects we cleaned out the catch all corner that had jewelry, perfume and lotions on what used to be a typewriter desk.  For some time I have been hauling around a cabinet to go into that corner that we picked up on craigslist, but simply lacked the time to do the necessary cleaning to make room for it.  It fit in nicely, and honestly could have been a bit bigger.

Similarly she tore apart the bathroom that joins to our bedroom and set up one of those wire divider shelves underneath to segment what is normally just one big space.  My biggest contribution was culling my wardrobe by literally half and folding it neatly for a garage sale.  As mentioned yesterday in a few weeks we are getting pulled into a garage sale, and I am wondering exactly what else I will be selling.  I have tons of compact discs in my office, that I simply never listen to anymore.  The idea of listening to a CD just feels foreign, since I stream almost everything thanks to Google Music. I don’t feel the need to own music any longer, I just want access to said music when I want it.  As a result I am probably going to get rid of my entire collection, but I seriously doubt any of the regular garage sale fare will want the type of stuff I listen to.  Not a single CD could you really classify as “pop”.

Transistor Gushes

aggrochat_bubbles_trans Finally last night we recorded our seventh episode of Aggrochat.  Once again Rae was travelling, so since Dallian has been so gracious to be a kind of unofficial fifth member of the cast, he stepped in at literally ten minutes notice.  I called the episode “Transistor Gushes” because quite literally… that game has hijacked the podcast.  For those who don’t know we keep a running shared Google document for the show notes, and during the week we jot down ideas, and recycle ones that we didn’t get to from previous weeks.  This week the only thing mentioned is Transistor written in 72 point font, with a much smaller blurb below it that says “things that are not Transistor”.

We successfully covered both, and we discussed Transistor, Wolfenstein: New Order, the Final Fantasy 5 draft, Watchdogs, Dark Souls II, Comics, and a few other things along the way.  I feel like it was a really good podcast, and while most of the topics only actually engaged 2-3 of us at a time, the mix of which 3 people were talking was pretty evenly distributed.  We plan on having a follow-up show in a few weeks to talk about the actual storyline and elements of Transistor, but for the time being we limited ourselves to just talking about the interesting game play elements.  We will of course start giving a massive spoiler warning when we get into discussion of plot points.  When talking about Wolf, I tried to limit myself to only discussing things that happen as part of the introduction to the game.  Hopefully this works for people, but if not let us know in the comments… hell if it does work let us know… we love feedback.

Re-Return to Castle Wolfenstein

Cyrodil Faffed

eso 2014-05-19 20-58-55-644 It seems like none of the screenshots that I took last night… actually got saved to the disk.  Not sure what is up but over the last few days I have had Dxtory flake the hell out on me.  I’ve used it lately to capture screenshots while streaming because OBS and Fraps seem to piss each other off.  That said something seems to have changed in the mix and I couldn’t get Dxtory working on steam games Tuesday night, and last night it apparently was not taking any screenshots while streaming.  Anyways as a result you get a cool screenshot of Coldharbor instead of a screenshot of what actually happened last night.  What happened you ask?  Well we had our second “Faff About in Cyrodil” night as a guild and while we had fewer people than last time I feel like we got more cool stuff accomplished.

We started off hunting skyshards and that morphed into delving into a whole bunch of dungeons.  Along the way we had a few blips of PVP that surprisingly enough we not only survived by dominated.  We of course has the numbers advantage, but last week that did not matter at all as I saw a dozen of us get taken down by 3 veteran players.  That seems to be the key difference, this week I was a veteran player, and could in theory “tank” the players we were up against.  We found a really awesome town full of repeatable quests that just happened to have a dolmen in the center of it.  We managed to get two Dark Anchor spawns while we were there, and towards the end of one of the battles we had another guy jump in and try and gank us while we were fighting the demons.  Thankfully once again the power of veteran rank won the day.

It is disturbing how much of a difference that makes.  Just being 50 out in Cyrodil seems to completely even the playing field.  At one point we ended up getting attacked by a Veteran Rank 8 player, and still we were able to dispatch him handily.   So the moral of the story is…  Cyrodil sucks if you are not at least 50.  I have an idea of maybe pairing up into dungeons next week during the same time slot, but if that doesn’t work we will just break out and do more cyrodil.  There is still a ton of area left to explore.  The map is huge, a point that was not fully driven home until the end of the above video when myself, Delevax, Horli and Scopique attempted to run back to the way shrine.  It was a really really long run.

Re-Return to Castle WolfensteinWolfNewOrder_x64 2014-05-20 20-15-44-19

First let me get this out of the way… I have a boyish untarnished love for all things Wolfenstein.  The original game is on my 15 gaming influences list, because it truly was the game that turned me away from console gaming in the first place.  All of that said… I found the last jaunt through the Wolfenstein universe extremely disappointing… even for an admitted fanboy.  In theory Wolfenstein: New Order is a continuation of the story arc started with Return to Castle Wolfenstein, continued in the self titled Wolfenstein and finished up in this game.  That story arc involves trying to stop the dastardly Wilhelm Strauss otherwise known as Deathshead.  Whereas the original game was all about tackling Hitler himself, the modern incarnations have shifted into something more malleable, and it works for the most part.

WolfNewOrder_x64 2014-05-20 19-21-29-71 I am fairly notoriously against game introductions, and prefer the game just to plunk me down unceremoniously at the beginning of a level.  That said I have to say the easing into the storyline here in Wolfenstein is one of the more enjoyable introductions I have played through.  They manage to pepper just enough action into what would other be a cinematic to make me feel like I am actually part of it.  The game starts with us trying to land on the island held by Deathshead, and having to content with both Anti-aircraft guns and the ubiquitous Nazi flying V attack fighters.  I am not sure of the specific hardware we are flying into the base but it is some sort of bomber with a forward mounted ball turret, that you actually end up manning at one point during the sequence.  When you finally land on the island you are sent ahead to try and break through the defenses and allow the rest of your team to move forward.

WolfNewOrder_x64 2014-05-20 19-50-31-03 All of this works really well, and I found the storming gun nests aspect of it exhilarating.  Moments later you are involved in what I feel is the single coolest sequence in a modern shooter.  You fire up these really cool grappling hook guns and then walk up the side of the castle as the winch slowly retracts the cable pulling you up with it.  As you go up you encounter all sorts of obstacles, not the least of which are German soldiers opening the windows and firing out at you.  I am not sure exactly what it is about this sequence, but I wish I could play it over and over.  Everything about it just feels really damned epic.  Once you get to the top, your job is to unlock the gate so that the rest of the party can come up from the bottom to meet you.

WolfNewOrder_x64 2014-05-20 20-01-57-56 I am not really sure how they pulled this off, but the game FEELS like a spiritual successor to the original Wolfenstein and even to Doom.  Sure there is the standard sneaking about trying to knife soldiers before they see you gameplay that all of the modern shooters seem to be riddled with.  However there is also a much more arcade “run and gun” feel to the game that works.  I don’t have to play it in a style where I duck behind cover every few seconds for fear of taking a bullet.  You can ping pong around taking out soldiers left and right in an insane ballet that only works in the movies.  I mean you can dual wield machine guns… and it feels amazing, so if it is hyper realism you are looking for… go somewhere else.  This feels like a return to the area when these games were actually fun to play, and not simply this seasons multiplayer fodder.

WolfNewOrder_x64 2014-05-20 19-56-49-48 Right now after seeing and playing this for awhile, I have so much hope for what this might mean going forward.  Return to Castle Wolfenstein, and the eventual Enemy Territory addon… represents the most fun I have ever had playing an online shooter.  I hope and pray that they give us a multiplayer DLC that is every bit as brilliant as RTCW and ET were.  This is a game I actually want to play online.  In the meantime I am going to devote more time to beating the single player campaign as at this point I literally have not talked about anything that is not included in the “introduction”.  Things get gloriously strange as you move forward and the entire world is a sort of nod to the book Fatherland, setting up a dark and stranger alternate history for the events of World War 2.  Thank you Machine Games, and ID for giving us the Wolfenstein we have wanted for so long.

#ESO #ElderScrollsOnline #Wolfenstein #RTCW

15 Gaming Influences

Gaming Influences

A few days ago one of my friends that works in the games industry was talking about a thing that had been circulating around his studio.  The idea was for each of the folks to create a list of the fifteen games that most influenced them, or taunt them something new that games could do.  While this is a really helpful exercise in the gaming industry I am sure, I figured it would also be pretty fun to do as a lifelong gamer and gaming blogger.  The thing I was not realizing while going into it… was just how hard it would be to pair things down to a list of fifteen games.  There are so many titles I wanted to include, but I had to come up with a hard rationale for each and every one on the list.  So there will be titles that are conspicuously absent, and others that I have included that you wouldn’t think of.  However the final list includes titles that I learned some lesson from along the way.

Gauntlet (1985)

gauntlet_arcade I grew up essentially during the beginning of the video game era.  There is really not a time I can remember where they did not exist.  Early on my parents had a sears pong system, and as I entered elementary we got an Atari 2600.  For the most part each and every game I played was a mostly single player experience, or if there was any form of multiplayer it was limited to the kind of interaction you had in pong.

Gauntlet was really the first game to teach me that you could play video games as a team.  I thought this was a profound thing and every time my cousins and I managed to squirrel away a few quarters we wanted to spend it on what felt like at the time the “massively” multiplayer experience of Gauntlet.  Over the years the game changed, and gauntlet became gauntlet 2 which turned into teenage mutant ninja turtles and later the avengers or simpsons.  However the mission was always the same.  There were three to four of us, and we wanted to play a game that we could all play together.  My eldest cousin and I would help shelter the younger and less skilled players, so it fundamentally changed the way we gamed together.

Mega Man 2 (1988)

megaman2_nes For the most part games evolved like I expected them to.  While I feel like maybe I should have included Super Mario Brothers in the list, because when I first played it I was absolutely blown away.  However it was less about the game itself and more about the massive jump in fidelity.  I didn’t really experience a true “mind blown” moment during the Nintendo era until I first played Mega Man 2.  Somehow I had completely missed the original Mega Man, in part I think the horrific elementary school quality box artwork was to blame.  Seriously take a look at this…  nothing about this cover makes a kid want to spend their allowance on even renting it.  So it was only after the release of 2 that I started to pay attention to the franchise.

I can remember I got this game when my cousin was over and we proceeded to play the shit out of this game for the next 72 hours.  There was something so cool about being able to complete the game in any order you chose.  This is really one of my first “sandbox” moments in a game, and we tried multiple paths to the end trying to figure out which was more efficient.  Having to determine which weapon worked best on which boss, and finally which weapons were our favorites were completely new concepts to us.  While the Mega Man franchise has evolved over the years, and I have to say everything about Mega Man X trumps this one…  it is still this original one that brought me into the franchise that I hold above all of the others.

Shadowgate (1989)

shadowgate_nes Now this one is going to probably seem odd to a lot of people, but you have to understand.  I did not get a PC until the 386 16 my parents got during my high school years.  So there is an entire era of PC gaming that I mostly missed.  I had played Zork and various text based games like that, but mostly over at friends houses and mostly with them at the console.  By the time I got to experience the game they had already figured out 90% of it… and were mostly showing off their mastery.  Shadowgate was really my first experience with the “adventure” game genre, because it was really the first big one to come out on a system I owned and could play.  I remember the first time I played Shadowgate, my friend and I had rented it and we stayed up literally all night trying to delve its secrets.

I proceeded to keep it out overdue for a good few weeks trying to figure out how to beat it.  During the day at school my friends and I would brainstorm ways to solve the puzzles, and then that night I would try them all attempting to progress to the next area.  Over the course of this we managed to beat the game, and it was one of the most triumphant experiences I have had in gaming.  It definitely took a team, because there were so many things that I wouldn’t have thought of doing.  Of course I moved on from here to Maniac Mansion, Deja Vu, and eventually became a fan of the Lucasarts PC adventure games.  However Shadowgate will always have a special place in my heart as the “first”.

Civilization (1991)

civilization_pc Part of the reason why I buy so many games these days, is in part because there was a time in my life when I had no money and was a pretty egregious pirate.  Truth be told ALL of us were, it was just an accepted thing growing up when and where I did.  One of my good friends had a brother in college, and every so often he would go up to stay the weekend with him.  It was pretty much expected practice for us each to pony up for a brand new box of verbatim 3.5 inch disks and that at the end of the weekend he would return with a bounty of new games for us to play.  Our lives pretty much changed the weekend he came home with Civilization.

I had never played a game like this and I wanted more.  I spent countless hours and lost entire days trying to conquer other nations, establish trade routes and come up with new ways to win.  One of the cooler moments is when we figured out how to hex edit the game and change the names of the nations leaders to whatever we wanted.  Each of us had a different strategy, mine centered around two things… 1) getting the chariot as fast as I could, and 2) getting gunpowder as fast after that as I could.  This is also the game I learned that I am have extreme nesting tendencies, since I would build everything available for each and every town I conquered.  I also learned about my darker side in that I would leave a race alone, making trade with them… up until the point they decided to attack me.  Then the next several turns would be all about me pouring war machines from every town I had and completely obliterating that race off the face of the planet.  Sadly this is still pretty much how I play 4X style games.  I am your best friend until you attack me then it is total obliteration time.

Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (1991)

linktothepast_snes This game has a weird story, and will always have a special place in my heart.  I had some pretty significant sinus surgery, and we picked this game up on the way home from the hospital.  Laying in bed playing this game is essentially how I recovered and took my mind off the pain and constant grossness that was having to wear “nasal drip pads” after a sinus surgery.  This is now why this game is on this list however.  Everything about the game is perfect, it to me will always be the ultimate Zelda game… however not even that is worth putting it on the list for.  I remember when I first played it feeling like I was getting ripped off.  The original Zelda had taken  me months to beat, and here I was sitting at home and it seemed like I was just about to beat the game after only a few days of gameplay.  I was getting to the point where I wanted to throw the controller at the screen for getting ripped off.

Then it happened… the game turned the tables on me.  Not only was I nowhere near the end of the game… I wasn’t even halfway through.  This is the first game that did the bait and switch on me, where I think I am nearing the end only to find out I maybe completed the first act.  This has happened so many times with so many games that at this point it has just become a trope.  However Link to the Past was my first, and will be the one I always remember.  I can remember lying in bed thinking “holy shit, there is a whole other world?”.  Few games have had as much impact on me as that original mind blown moment.  As a result I will always be able to return to this game and play it happily, each time basking in the warm glow of nostalgia.

Street Fighter 2 (1991)

streetfighter2_arcade Obviously 1991 was a big year for me in shaping the way I looked at games from that point on.  The local circle K had at one point had Street Fighter, and while I played it and enjoyed it… the game didn’t really feel that much different than Ye Ar Kung Fu… which granted was a favorite of mine in the arcades.  However the game play all seemed to revolve around mashing the right button at the right time.  You have to understand the street fighter cabinet I played was not the original game that had been in the cabinet, and the operator had not bothered to include the stickers that showed us that something like a fireball move existed.  So each of us played the game pretty much like a button masher, with different attack buttons to mash.

When Street Fighter 2 came out, my first experience of seeing it was in a true arcade… not a gas station.  The first time I saw someone pull off a fireball motion, I was completely blown away.  What the hell was he doing, you could move the controller in a certain way and get a certain move?  I became absolutely obsessed with learning everything I could about the game.  I bought an EGM magazine… which in those days was a pretty epic 300 page thing.  My friends and I memorized every move and tried our best to master every character.  When an arcade opened in our town called the “Wooden Nickel” we spent most of our money plugging the machine.  What was so cool about SF2 was not necessarily the game, but the culture that evolved around it.  Every respected everyone else, and there were simple rules…  loser pays, winner stays.  Anyone could slap their quarter up on the bezel to reserve the next fight.

Wolfenstein 3D (1992)

wolfenstein3d_pc This game came to us through another one of those weekend diskette runs, and much like Civ it changed the way we thought about our games.  I can remember back then I had no sound card, but instead had a device that plugged into the back of the computer that created the sounds through a speaker.  So if nothing else, this was one of the first games I had played that attempted to replicate human voice.  Hearing the Nazi troopers yell “Achtung!” freaked me the hell out the first time I heard it.  More so than that, this was the first 3D game we had played.  Granted I had played some stuff in the arcade that pretended to be 3D with massive rotating polygons…. but this game gave it to me in blazing speed and gorgeous sprites.   Of course now I realize just now “not” 3D the game really was, but at the time we were in awe of it.

As cool Wolf was, for being essentially the first 3D FPS I would ever play, this is not why it made the list.  Shipped along with our illegitimate version of Wolf was a nifty little program called “WolfEdit.exe”.  The first time we cracked it open and saw that WE could edit the levels in Wolfenstien it changed the way we looked at games forever.  Up until this point, game creation was a black box.  It was a thing that the common man just couldn’t do.  Being able to edit and create our own levels and there for extend the gameplay indefinitely was a completely new concept to me.  Sure we could edit the track in Excitebike, but this was just fundamentally different and game changing.  From this point on, I pretty much dabbled in editing and modding whatever games I happened to play, and this was the point at which I really shifted to being extremely serious about PC gaming.

Final Fantasy VI (1994)

finalfantasyvi_snes This one I debated about for a long time…  do I include Final Fantasy, Final Fantasy IV or Final Fantasy VI.  They each had their own influence on me.  The first one really was less about the game, and more about “I can finally play D&D on my Nintendo”.  The second US release, was less about the storyline and more about “look at how much prettier this is than the original”.  When Final Fantasy VI came out I rented it over Christmas break, and when it came time to take it back… I begged the local rental place to let me buy their copy off of them so I wouldn’t have to start over again.  They of course declined and I ended up going to Target and picking up a copy and beginning my journey a new.  This game was so many things to me, but more than anything I loved the story and the characters.

This game probably goes down in history as the first time I really cared about a character as more than just pixels on the screen.  Up until this point, any story being told was just an excuse for me to accumulate interesting loot or kill lots of bad guys.  This is the game that got me in the heart, and when a character triumphed or died…  I had so many “feels”.  I feel like this game was for me what seven was for so many other people.  The level of intricacy and the awesome steam punk setting were just gravy.  Looking back now, the story feels so primitive compared to massive epic sagas like Mass Effect, but it was enough to make me care about each and every character I picked up… and even make me hate a few of them.

Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall (1996)

tes_daggerfall_pc With the upcoming release of Elder Scrolls Online, and all my fanboyism about it… this seems extremely relevant.  Daggerfall was my entry into the series and the world and lore hooked me.  More than any of that the reason why this game stands out is it taught me just how mind blowingly vast a video game could be.  You could explore for literally hours, constantly coming across brand new stuff.  On top of this it was fully 3D just like Wolf or Doom… but used it in a way that produced what felt like a real world to me at the time.  I still feel like this might have been the single biggest game I have ever played.  Granted some of the MMOs that came later probably have eventually… after years and years gotten to a size that was larger.

Looking back now, it looks extremely primitive and I have a hard time believing we felt this game was real, but for awhile it absolutely was.  At some point I want to try going back and playing it again.  Bethesda in all their graciousness offers the full game available for download on their website.  This is the game that started my obsession with the elder scrolls, but I fear going back it will not have held up to the test of time the way that Morrowind, Oblivion and Skyrim have.  Some games work just fine going back and playing them, like Commander Keen for example.  But others like Wolfenstein 3D just have not held the magic because of the extreme changes in what we can do technologically.  Luckily I will be able to revisit Daggerfall in a way, since my guild has chosen to go Daggerfall Covenant for the launch of Elder Scrolls Online.

Diablo (1996)

diablo_pc This game… so many hours lost to it.  Lately I have been playing the hell out of Diablo 3, and really to me it is the same addiction that came with the first one.  My mind was completely blown when I realized that Diablo was a new game each and every time I played it.  I could not fathom that a game could be creating levels on the fly, and this was really the first game I realized had procedural generation happening behind the scenes.  This game is like the purest version of what I am looking for in any game.  Interesting places to explore, awesome loot to earn and lots and lots of bad guys to slaughter.  I really am a big dumb monkey, and this at its core is a big dumb beer and pizza game.

At the time I was working as the lab administrator for the Fine Arts lab, and since it had Ethernet internet access… something that was extremely rare at the time… I spent so many hours playing this game off zip drive while waiting for someone to come into the lab and need assistance.  What I find funny is that years after the fact people seem to have almost complete forgotten that there was an expansion for this game.  Sierra games released the Hellfire expansion that allowed you to play an additional and extremely overpowered “monk” class.  For that matter they also released a Starcraft expansion if I can remember correctly.  Neither will ever be listed on the Blizzard page, but I can remember both and played the hell out of the modded version of Diablo for years.

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (1997)

castlevania_symphonyofthenight_psx Metroidvania was not really a thing before the existance of this game for me.  Metroid was a cool game, and I remember playing it, but it didn’t really feel that different from any other platformer at the time.  I was like a side scrolling Legend of Zelda to me.  Super Metroid felt like a big upgrade, but was not that different.  Symphony of the Night was just a complete and total gamechanger in the way I felt about the genre.  Firstly in addition to gaining gear, you also gained levels.  So everything I did felt purposeful, killing easy mobs felt like it was helping me towards reaching my lofty goals.  On top of this, the Mega Man 2 non-linear aspect of the game play felt like a 2D roleplaying game to me.  It had everything I loved about console RPGs in an action form.

The real hook of the game was just how mind blowingly gorgeous it was, and how great the soundtrack was.  Everything about this game screamed awesome, and how cool is it to play a noble vampire as the main hero?  I am gushing a little bit here, but Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is pretty much my favorite video game.  It exemplifies everything I look for in a game wrapped up in one neat package.  On top of this, it has the switcheroo at the end as you can play through the upside down castle vastly extending the gameplay.  To date no game has dethroned the title.  The Saturn version did not control nearly as well as the playstation, but it had some interesting changes like the ability to control Maria.  I keep hoping at some point there will be a version the incorporates the best features of both games.

Fallout (1997)

fallout_pc I have always loved the concept of a post apocalyptic world.  As a kid, probably influenced by Mad Max, I used to have dreams about living in a post nuclear landscape.  Fallout took all of these fantasies and wrapped them up into one game with an interesting premise and characters I cared about.  The big thing about Fallout however was just how “free” and “open” the world felt.  There were no hard objectives, you could just wander about the wasteland dispensing justice in any fashion you felt.  However there was very much a central storyline to the game, but you were under no obligation to follow it.

I have played this game so many different ways over the years, and each time it has felt as fresh and entertaining as the first.  Additionally there were so many secrets that you could only find by wandering around the map and looking for special events.  Did you guys find the crashed UFO?  I found it by generally faffing about the map looking for secrets.  As the series has progressed, I have loved every moment of the games that followed.  Well with the exception of maybe Fallout Tactics… that game was a bit too far off the path for my tastes.  War never changes… and lets hope the core principals of the Fallout franchise never do either.

PlaneScape: Torment (1999)

planescape_torment_pc Planescape holds a special place in my heart for several reasons, but the biggest is that this is the first game I played that felt like i was reading a good novel, and not just playing a video game.  While I cared about the characters from other games… they were “good for a video game”.  The story of Planescape Torment felt like it would hold up against the best stories anywhere.  This was the first game that made me feel like games could be more.  While I don’t always want it, and most of the time I want a big dumb beer and pizza game… I can fully appreciate that a video game can be something phenominal.  This game was the game that proved it to me.

Another interesting thing about this game, is it made me deeply care about a Dungeons and Dragons setting that I pretty much ignored to date.  I was a huge fan of the Dark Sun setting, but I pretty much completely ignored Planescape.  Upstairs I have tons of the source material and world books… and this is all inspired by the fact that this game made me LOVE this setting.  I am really hoping the kickstarter sequel to this game lives up to the brilliant of the original.  I realize in many ways it will be a new setting… since they do not have the rights to do a direct sequel.  I am hopeful, but even if it is perfect… this game will stand out as a special thing to me.

Everquest (1999)

everquest_pc This game was the beginning of the end for me.  While I have already told the tale of me starting to play Everquest many times, the game reserves a special spot on this list for showing me exactly what an MMO could be.  I was extremely leery of the title, namely because at the time I had a pretty crappy intel graphics card, and an even crappier internet connection.  However upon playing this game I was completely enthralled with the fact that a game world that was huge like Daggerfall could exist online, with hundreds of other players and existed 24/7.  That concept was a real game changer for me, and gave me something I had apparently craved…  large scale social interaction with other gamers.

So much of the way I view online games today came through everquest, and the importance it placed on the social unit of gaming…. the guild.  Hell the fact that I run House Stalwart the way that I do is a direct influence of how much I hated the way the guild was run in Everquest.  I can’t view the game entirely through rose colored lenses.  I remember reading a GDC article from the creators talking about many of the game design decisions being centered around the fact that originally they had planned to charge by the hour for the game.  So things were purposefully designed in a way to take large blocks of real time.  But for all of the flaws, this game was my first large scale online world.  I dabbled in Ultima Online a bit, but it just felt like Massively Multiplayer Diablo.  Everquest was the first game that felt like a whole other world to me.

World of Warcraft (2004)

wow_pc What can I really say about World of Wacraft that has not already been said.  After coming from Everquest, Horizon, Dark Age of Camelot and City of Heroes… playing WoW for the first time… was like watching a movie in High Definition.  It was everything I ever wanted a game to be, and more… at a level of detail I simply could not fathom existing to that point.  Prior to getting into beta, I was deeply skeptical about the game.  I pretty much had the opinion that Blizzard games had just enough storyline to keep them from completely falling down on their asses.  Granted at this point I had not played Warcraft 3.  That really seems like it was the game changer for Blizzard and a shift from really awesome mechanics to a focus on the storytelling.  Prior to that they made really technically awesome games, but super limited storyline.  The story arc of Warcraft 2 and Diablo were cool, but nothing really worth writing home about.

World of Warcraft is a game that just raised the bar.  They took the best features of every game that came before that and elevated them.  They added so many things, both good and bad to the genre.  Instanced dungeons was so amazing…. “you mean I don’t have to compete with other groups of players for spawns?”.  Then there was the amazing backstory behind each of the enemy factions.  I remember at one point I ran my own Everquest emulator server and I tried to do just that.   Instead of having generic goblins, I wanted to give each goblin tribe a backstory… then damned if Warcraft didn’t do that.  This game will always hold a special place in my heart, but this game is the gauntlet that is constantly thrown down to other MMOs.  While niche games have evolved the genre, there has yet to be a game that is just light-years better than everything else on the market in quite the same way that World of Warcraft was simply universally so.

Steampowered Sunday

brutal-legend-wallpaper

For most of the week there was a four way tie between Assassins Creed II, Brutal Legend, FTL and Alan Wake.  However while writing this post a tiebreaker vote came in and it looks like I will be playing Brutal Legend tomorrow.  I really don’t know much about this game other than the fact that it is Heavy Metal, stars Jack Black and is from Double Fine Productions.  I am perfectly okay going into this with little knowledge.  I got this as part of a humble bundle package, or I am not sure if I would have bought it.  When it came out, it looked really interesting, but didn’t really trigger the response of “man I need to get that.”  So we will see what you all have gotten me into.  I will be picking a winner and contacting them today at some point to give away the copy of Bioshock.  I want to thank all of you for voting.  Tomorrow we will have another contest at the end of the regularly scheduled game play write-up.