New Project

Been working with an old friend and co-worker recently on a new website.  We’re doing video game reviews, development tips and news for Indie Games.  Take a moment to check it out if you have time.  This also means that this site will start to get a little less of my attention and won’t be touching on and independent titles.

Until next time.


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TERA Online

Disclaimer

As some of you may know, I currently live in Korea, and I have Korean friends who were kind enough to let me sit down with them and get hands on this game.  As an end result this is a review of the Korea version of the game and all I can really do is provide you with some very brief insight on what the US release has in store.

Background

The Exiled Realm of Arborea, also known as TERA Online, was released in South Korea on January 25th, 2011 and is rumored to release in the US early September. The game is being developed by Bluehole Studio and according to their website it looks to be their first project/game.  The claim to fame for this game is it’s non-targeting true action combat mechanics.

Eat your heart out Edward

True Action

TERA Online promises true action oriented game play.  This is a feature I’m usually pretty skeptical about as a lot of MMORPGs make this claim.  Age of Conan made this claim and all they did was make the basic attack three separate buttons and integrated them with the special attacks.  DC Universe actually did a fairly decent job at it but they still utilized a targeting system, which depending on the class, loses it’s action.  Enter TERA.  The key here is that all your attacks have to physically hit the enemy, and you are fully capable of dodging enemy attacks.  In fact some of the games more useful skills seem to be dodging skills.  As an Archer, one of your starting abilities is jumping back in an expedient manner.  Though I think what truly makes this shine is the way the enemies form patterns, move in a more realistic manner and also have to make contact with you.  For example, one of the first enemies in the game is a moose.  He will rear his head back and charge at you in a straight line.  If you move to the left the moose won’t simply alter his course and once he’s done the charge it will take him a second to reorient himself.  This is the opposite of games like City of Heroes and Champions Online were they give you the ability to fly but also give every villain and thug a ranged attack.  I took some game play videos to give you an idea of what I’m talking about.  It’s only level four as I had a limited amount of time to actually play, but it does give you a good idea of what to expect.

Gameplay Videos

Warrior (Level 4)

Sorcerer (Level 4)

Slayer (Level 4)


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SWTOR goes on sale today: Early access included


Click the image for details

The email just went out and Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR) is now available for pre-order.  The Collectors Edition is on sale for $149.95 while the Standard Edition goes for $59.95

I believe they’ve pretty much made the pre-order package the most tempting I’ve seen to date.  Not only does it allow you early access to the game, but provides you a color stone to change the color of your blaster fire and of course, the lightsaber.  It looks tasty but I’m definitely going to have to consider this choice carefully.  The game looks fantastic but after looking at the way the classes are structured  and how the weapon types are limited to certain classes I think I may end up waiting until the price drops, or a trial version becomes available.  Bioware would be smart to offer a trial version upon release but I’ve seen far too many games hold off on their trials for several months.  A game without a trial version tells me they don’t believe strongly enough in their game to let you make an educated decision about buying into it.  That’s a rant for another day and one that SWTOR hasn’t earned yet.


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Team Fortress 2 and F2P Model

It’s probably not a surprise that I’m a Valve fan boy.  Each and every one of their products has a special place in my heart.  Each game is a well thought out and well implemented world that generates it’s own subculture.  Portal and Portal 2 were instant successes and brilliant works of art, while the Half Life series held a surprisingly engaging story for a First Person Shooter and brought us one of the smoothest running game engines to date.

I was first introduced to Team Fortress 2 with my Orange Box.  Needless to say, Half Life 2 and the original Portal eclipsed the game for me for quite some time and I didn’t end up giving it a shot until almost a year later.  My all expense paid trip to the water-less beach may have had something to do with it as well.  It was a solid game but one I never spent a long period of time playing until this weekend.  It was a game I played when I didn’t have a lot of time, and it worked well in short bursts.  The game garnered my increased attention this past weekend because a couple of non-gamer friends were feeling like playing video games.  With the recent announcement of the F2P model, and it’s obvious appeal to violence lovers; Team Fortress 2 was a perfect choice.  12 hours later, it’s 2am and my friend Andrew is giving me shit for going to bed too early.  I call it a success, and I owe that night completely on the F2P model.  Having watched me play more then a few dozen really odd and outlandish games, these friends are always skeptical about spending a few bucks on one of my recommendations (but tell them we’re going down town and each of them is down $100), and the appeal of free is the only reason my night worked out.

Valve implements the F2P model with a sense of grace and understanding.  Their for purchase items are a mix of clothes and weapons.  The clothes come in the form of hats and accessories while the weapons provide an alternative direction for combat.  The weapons aren’t a simple upgrade in damage but a give and take that usually results in a variation of play style or an advantage in a given situation attacked to a global disadvantage.  Long story short, they implement F2P without implementing Pay to Win (P2W).  Best of all, by making me look at my killer’s cool weapons and outfit after each death, I believe they utilize a concept I discovered over at techdirt.com;

Connect with Fans (CwF) and give them a Reason to Buy (RtB). CwF+RtB=$$$

Otherwise known as, ”I want a cool hat too”.

To show my gratitude and to support a business model that is often overlooked and under appreciated, I opened up my Steam wallet and deposited $10 for Team Fortress 2 hats.  I also made a video, lets see if you can’t get me that 100,000 youtube views achievement.


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CCP and the “leaked” internal newsletter

I’m trying to shift my focus a bit on this blog from rants and my experiences playing games to something more journalistic.  So I took the first step and started  pouring through the different news feeds trying to find some interesting articles surrounding my favorite communities; the MMO communities.  What’s the first thing I stumbled upon?  An article posted a few hours ago on massively about a newsletter that was “leaked” from CCP and all the nerd rage associated with it.  Now massively has been following the controversies associated with micro-transactions in general so I won’t get into too much detail on that topic.  You can also see some of the reactions concerning micro-transactions and the leaked document on the Eve Online forums.

The newsletter can be found here, and so far I have found no credible sources to confirm or deny it’s authenticity.  The focus of the newsletter are the new micro-transactions seen in the latest expansion “Incarna” and the way ahead for CCP.  They talk about the different items they are going to offer, and how they are approaching each of their games.  What has outraged most of the community are the ‘pay-to-win’ scenarios.  For Eve Online they discuss the possibilities of selling weapons, ammunition, ships and even faction standing outright for cash.  While this may create a more enjoyable environment for those who can spend the money, it can also take away from the enjoyment of those who can’t.  Then again, the currencies are all linked since PLEX can be bought and sold on the market so there is a balancing act there somewhere.

Of course, if this is a hoax then it’s all for naught.  I think it’s also worth noting that throughout the newsletter the focus isn’t about grabbing as much cash from the player base as they can and more about finding ways to engage players better so they will want to spend the money.  They even go as far as to compare Eve Online to golf:

“Both [gamers and golfers] will pay money to access this experience. Both will spend a significant amount of time doing it and will have strong emotional moments doing so. The latter, though, will probably spend much more money indulging in his pastime. He will spend a lot of time researching and buying various different clubs, balls, gloves and shoes. He will spend money in the club house socializing with other golfers, travel, etc. In fact the average golfer spends $3,000 a year on his pastime with about half of it being the actual access fee to the experience. Most will thoroughly enjoy this extra expenditure. Why is that?”

That makes a lot of sense to me and it really feels like their simply offering more options to their players.  Sure, there are advantages to purchasing some of the in game items for cash, but that has been possible since the introduction of PLEX.  The Eve Online economy still feels as strong and reliable as ever; the strongest online economy I’m aware of.

To the Eve Online community: It looks like our friends at the CCP still have our best interests at heart, yet they need to evolve to maintain a sustainable business model.  If they can’t evolve to meet current trends and player demands then they will eventually fail and there will be no Eve Online for anyone.  Ever. If only the rest of the entertainment industry could understand this.


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Giving disappointing games another try (Part Two)

The list of games I ended up with that night grew as I waited for downloads to finish and visited some of my favorite hot spots.  In total I had downloaded and patched Darkfall, Final Fantasy XIV, Forsaken World, Spiral Knights and Aion.  To be honest I didn’t give most of them a solid run, and for any MMO a “solid run” would take several weeks.  Though if I’m not captivated by the first moments of a game (be it minutes or hours), then it usually is not going to keep my interest.  A reviewer for Eurogamer actually got a lot of shit for this but I’ll be up front, I’m a first impression kind of gamer.  Beautiful women are approached and hit on all the time by men; so much so that they have to make their mind up in the first few moments when they meet someone.  It saves them time, and while they don’t really give each guy a fair shot, their instincts save them a bit of time.  In the same way, that’s how I treat video games at this point.  Some of them don’t even bother me with a pick up line and occasionally a douche bag of a game gets in and I don’t realize it until one of us gets hurt.  Since video games don’t have feelings, it’s usually me. Although GLaDOS did seem genuinely hurt.  I jest, Portal and Portal 2 are beyond reproach.  Just brilliant games.

I ended up spending the most time with Darkfall, three hours tops, and the game held out fairly well overall.  It was pretty much the same game I remember from before but the nagging feeling that I could never catch up to the veteran players kind of threw me off.  The community was also dead in my timezone (currently GMT+9) so it was a single player experience for me.  I rolled a Dwarf and went in swinging a two handed sword at Kobolds until I got bored.  The thrill of watching my skill points raise every couple swings was enough to keep me going but after a while it just felt like MMO.  A few days past and I just uninstalled it.  It’s a great concept but I think it’s just has been implemented in better ways already.

Aion lasted about an hour.  Having played so many mmorpgs in the past, it just felt dull and unoriginal.  It’s the same stuff I see in so many other games and nothing seemed to enthrall me here.  I reached level 6 and got tired of navigating the obtuse “quest helper” and boring quests.  Maybe I’m being a bit too cynical here but I couldn’t even stay entertained enough to make it to level 10 and pick up flying.

Final Fantasy XIV didn’t even last as long as Aion.  I had previously played the game for a few months, receiving my pre-ordered Collectors Edition in the mail a few days after release.  I was a part of the Real Life Comics Linkshell “Vera Vitae” and heavily involved within the Australian part of the community (time zones and all).  Within a few moments it’s pretty obvious the community is dead.  The forum was full of spammers and no one was online.  The controls were always a bit funky on the keyboard but after recalling the trouble I went through before to get the game working on my controller I tried to  push through.  I killed a few monsters, and started to make the walk back to town.  About 10 minutes after logging on, I logged back off and uninstalled the game.  Why?  It’s so slow.  Back breaking slow.  When the game first came out I was excited and I knew it was going to be slow.  I had played FFXI heavily and I knew what I was in store for.  However I have a hard time falling in love with the Armory System in the same way I did the Job and Subjob system from FFXI.  Jobs and Subjobs are Final Fantasy at it’s finest.  When I’m going to spend multiple days grinding from level 23  to level 24 I want it to be as a Red Mage, a Summoner, or even a Dragoon.  Yet all I get is Gladiator or a Lancer who after weeks worth of play time are wearing mid level gear that still looks like he’s running around with rags for clothes and wooden weapons.  I want to feel epic, and I want it to feel like FFXIV.  The ten minutes I spent in game was just a sour reminder of the past.

Forsaken World?  Don’t even bother.  It’s a cheaply made MMO created by the fast food chain of the gaming market, Perfect World.  With almost a dozen titles under their belt in the last 4 years, I feel like ever game they produce steals a bit of my soul.

I want to end this on a positive note, I’ve been very negative.  About a month ago I stumbled onto Terraria, a game that is being called 2-D Minecraft.  That is an incredibly accurate statement but Terraria also stands on it’s own.  If you can find a good server to play on, something invite only without the griefers, then it’s an experience to behold.  Go try it.  The game is currently $10 on Steam so you don’t have much to lose.


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Incarna 1.0 Launches – Eve Online

Fans of Eve Online are rejoicing at this exact moment as the latest expansion went live about 20 minutes ago.  This expansion brings quite a bit to the table to include various tweaks, fixes, and graphics updates but what we are really excited about is the implementation of the Captain’s Quarters.  This is the first time a player has been able to take control of his avatar outside of his ship and is a huge step for the game.  This promises to be the first step towards being able to fully explore a space station.  I took a quick look around before work this morning and what I  saw was a nice visual to go along with my normal docking procedures.  As promised, all the previous features still remain (menus and such) and a player who isn’t interested in walking around to do various tasks isn’t effected (aside from an extra step to open up your current ships cargo bay).  The next big item on the list, and a personal favorite of mine is the Agent Finder. This tool will probably mean the end of the third party website Eve Agents, but is an otherwise welcome change.  I have already put it to great use in the few minutes I explored the changes and my weekend missions are planned and ready to go.

The future of Incarna  promises the implementation of several more locations we can visit on foot, and I’m excited.


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Giving disappointing games another try (Part One)

I reached level 50 on Rift a few days ago, and it became apparent very quickly that my current time zone issues were going to prevent me from grouping up at a decent pace on the weekdays.  So I started looking around for something to pass my time during the work week and I came across a few articles that led me to a few more articles that ended with me downloading three MMOs; Aion, Darkfall, and Final Fantasy XIV.

When Darkfall was first released I was constantly refreshing my browser in an attempt to purchase the game.  When the game came out the servers couldn’t keep up with the demand.  This resulted in the game being sold only a few hours each day for a few weeks, and this was only the EU version.  So I finally made my purchase, got into the game and after a couple of days the newness wore off and all the excitement I had built up died away.  So now I’m revisiting, three expansions later to see if it can match my original expectations.  More to come…

The situation was the same with Final Fantasy XIV.  Except this time I started with the beta, and fought with client download issues, updates that wouldn’t download, and in the end I had to torrent the client and each of the updates manually.  Once I got into the game I found myself having to purchase a controller simply to be comfortable controlling my character.  When the game was released I waited anxiously for my collector’s edition and dove right in with a guild from the Real Life Comics community.  Two or three weeks later the shininess wore off and the games’ ugly core mechanics started to show through.  About this time the game’s producer apologized for the poor product, and extended the trial period indefinitely.  Now I’m excited to see what kind of changes have made it into FFXIV.  I’ll let you know how it feels in a week or so once I’ve re-experienced it.

Aion simply lacked a free trial.  It now has one.

I hope to come back with some second chance reviews in a week or so for each of these games.  See you then.

(to be continued…)


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Darksiders PC port rant

Darksiders is a game that I’ve been looking at for some time now.  It looked amazing and Penny Arcade, a web-comic I read thrice weekly, had great things to say about it.  So when I finally decided to purchase it on Steam, I had high hopes.

The game isn’t bad, and is probably excellent on an actually console, but the port to the PC is poorly done.  The first problem I had started within seconds of trying to play.  The first two logos appeared and then the screen went black, and stayed that way until I press alt-f4.  No problem though, a quick Google search and I fixed the problem.

So I finally get past the opening screens and like every game I play, I want to go to windowed mode so I can continue doing everything else uninterrupted.  To my surprise there is no windowed mode, but for some reason there is an x and y axis sensitivity slider AND a mouse sensitivity slider.  This problem wasn’t as easy to fix and required me to search for about 10 minutes only to find that I had to download and use a third party program.

Alright.. time to play! So I set the audio to run through my headphones, load the game and then switch the sound back to the TV so a buddy of mine can continue to watch episodes of Father Ted through my hdmi cable.  Suddenly the game decides to play the audio for the cut scenes through my TV and the rest of the audio through my headphones.  Why?  Because they open up and external video player for each cut scene to play their videos.  Now it’s truly impossible to multitask politely in my current situation.  I end up skipping all the cut scenes and playing the game without a fragment of understanding about whats going on.

The last straw, before I decided to take a break from the game, was when it showed me how to use special abilities.  I had to choose four at a time and put them in a selection menu that looked a lot like a four button controller setup.  Then to call upon them I had to hold caps lock and then press a  corresponding button (1, 2, 3 or 4).  This kind of mechanism is only required if you don’t have enough buttons on a controller, but with a keyboard there is no excuse.  Not to mention, holding a shoulder button down is so much easier then holding the caps lock button down, especially when you consider your using alt to dash, and holding shift to lock onto targets.  Why couldn’t we just link the abilities to the number keys without caps lock?  It’s probably because no one at Vigil wanted to take the time to do a proper port.

This isn’t an official review because I didn’t give it enough time to truly review it, and I’m sure it’s still an excellent game but I really need to nerd rage a bit there.


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Hall Pass – Insert rage here

So I’m currently watching the movie Hall Pass.  I’m in the middle of it so it might get better but there was just a moment in the show that put me into a slight nerd rage.  It was probably regular rage but being a nerd I don’t get much better then nerd rage.  So the concept of the movie was that these two guys (played by Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis) get a hall pass from their wife.  A hall pass is apparently a week off from marriage.  Owen Wilson’s character Rick is forced to take a week off from being married in what sounded more like a his wife was asking for a temporary separation.  His partner in crime Fred gets the same treatment and treats it as the reward is ‘supposed to be’.

*Spoiler Alert*

So here’s my problem.  Rick’s wife (Jenna Fischer) feels like this hall pass is going to help their marriage, and it will show him that being single isn’t what he remembered.  When Rick is told he’s being given a hall pass he really doesn’t want it, but she insists.  So she takes the kids to her parent’s beach house for a week.  Then she ends up being the one that spends her week flirting.  So what it really comes down to, is that both their wives set them up with a trap, went off for a weekend to have their own flings and planned on coming back like nothing happened and to wrap it up I’m pretty sure their gonna spring their trap.

*finishes the movie*

So half the story is not so bad with Rick and his wife though I still don’t think the ends justified the mean.  The other half ends as expected. Both Fred and his wife cheat, but she lets him take all the guilt.  Wonderful fun, and mostly the reason I dislike romantic comedies.  Why?  It is because men are usually the bad guys or the ones who screwed up and has to solve everything.  The woman usually takes a situation, misreads it, takes it completely out of proportion and is willing to throw their relationship away based on perception or hearsay.  Then  we all get to laugh and the dude’s expense as he has to fight to win her back.

This film is no different, with both male protagonist getting knocked around, shot at, and generally hurt while the women take their time trying to figure out that they were the problem in the relationship in the first place.


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