Saturday, 29 December 2012

FTL - Well, there goes my life.

I know it's been out for a while now but I have just picked up FTL (Faster Than Light.) The game is wonderful it's a microcosm of the strategy game. After a slight learning curve (and a substandard tutorial) I became hooked.

The premise of the game is that you are a brave crew desperately trying to return to your fleet with vital information about 'the war'

Gameplay is hard to explain. There is a map with locations on it, jump to a location where an event may happen, combat or conversation (or stores) usually the latter turns into the former. Combat is done by targeting the systems of the opposing ship. While combat commences you have to use your crew to run about the ship repairing systems and fending off intruders. You have to manage the power levels of each system (shields, Engines, Weapons, Bridge, Life Support) each time an event finishes you finish up your repairs and then 'jump' on to the next location trying to navigate to the sector 'exit' - Along the way you collect 'scrap' this is used as currency to buy upgrades and fuel.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

STEAM - musing.

For the first time in, well, for the first time ever there has been a Steam Sale and I haven't brought a thing. Partly because I've been super busy this Christmas and gaming has been far from the focus of my time and partly because so far at least nothing that I want has been on sale at a price that makes it irresistible.

Steam sales are so regular that I the sense of buyers urgency has faded substantially. For instance a game I have wanted for a while - Alan Wake - was on sale for about £7 a few weeks ago, usually an irresistible price but I was a little light in the piggy bank and figured it would be on sale again pretty soon - Steam sales are so regular that they have become a reason not to buy a game at a bargain price unless all other conditions (bank account) are perfect.

With the launch of Steam for Linux and the announcement of the 'Steam Box' the PC gaming world hasn't been so bright for years and the future is looking very good indeed. I have even gone to the effort of installing a Linux partition on my hard disk to test things out and I assure you, Steam for Linux is a very solid application, the games list just needs time to grow.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Why do beginnings have to suck

Having been back at WoW with a vengeance, I have been playing my high level paladin, shaman and rogue (the pally and shaman currently level 86 and the rogue is 82 at this time). These are all characters that I had when I quit playing 18 months ago, and I have to confess that playing them again, especially the shammy, has proven challenging.  Dozens of skills, some of which are new, to figure out, what they do and the best time to use them. This combined with the interesting (and very pretty) newer areas have lead me to having a whale of a time, testing out the strengths and weaknesses of each of them.

But on Sunday afternoon we (me and the wife) decided to have a go at one of the other big features of the expansion, the pandas and their new class, the monk. First impressions are good, I create a character that can easily be described as adorable, and from what I saw of the starting area it is gorgeous and has some very fun quests. So why wasn't I enjoying myself? Well I felt the character wasn't challenging me. It starts,  as most mmo's do, with just the one skill, and by the time I hit level six, I had a total of 3 skills.

And I was bored. It wasn't the world that was boring, more that I was finding the class unstimulating  There where certainly indications that the class could be good later on, I just didn't want to plod through early levels of limited interactivity.  This is far from a problem just with the Monk class,  or indeed World of Warcraft. These mmo's give you cool sounding classes, and then hide away all the cool stuff until you are much later in the game. It is not surprising that some people bounce off mmo's.

It is perhaps for this reason that at the moment Blizzard are offering a character boost to level 80 if you come back to WoW (the scroll of resurrection). My other half took advantage of this, creating a level 80 spellcaster druid.  It was confusing to play from her,  but it sure wasn't dull.

It costs nothing to ruin a game

I have come to a conclusion about free to play mmo's. That there is one word that sums them up more than any other,  it's compromise.  Developers want to make a great game,  all of them do.  Of course it doesn't always work out that way,  but the intention is usually there.  So if a developer creates a great mmo,  but then,  either before release or after,  the choice is made to make the game free to play.  This is where the compromise comes in.  

The developer (probably with some heavy handed assistance from any publisher involved), has to look at their lovingly crafted game,  and decide what to cut out. They need to cut stuff out in order to charge people for it.  Essentially they are compromising their vision of the game,  so that they can make money off it.  Of course there are always scale to this,  but generally the pay monthly games (of which there are fewer and fewer now), haven't had to compromise in this way (this is not to say that all pay monthly games are great,  just that they are closer to the way developers wanted them to be). Nothing made me realise this more than going from trying the free to play The Old Republic, which had been amended significantly from the pay monthly version, to WoW which is as intact as it always has been.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Lara. I just don't get it.

Iv'e been milling about the internet now, pretty much ever since I got that 14.4 BPS Modem for a birthday present. So, you can tell I'm not not new here. My sorry butt was digitised before the eternal September started.

In this astonishing amount of time I used a web browser for many things. Not least of them gaming. I have played everything in a browser window from Rotox to Quake live. But today I saw something strange. Lara Croft and the Guardian of light in a browser.

This was a featured item in the Chrome webstore today. Here is the link if this is something that makes any sense to you.  I cant understand it. I just see no purpose for any game as whole as this one to exist inside a browser.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Ops I did it again

Ok, yes, fine,  I started playing World of Warcraft again,  but it really isn't my fault,  it's my wife's. She gets an email from blizzard saying that she can try Mists of Pandaria free for 10 days, so we decide to check it out (heh worse case scenario I could squeeze a blog out of it). We log into our only level 85 characters and head off to Pandaria. My first thought we're of how good Blizzard have gotten at their scripted stuff,  full in game cut scenes with voice acting. In fact there seems to be quite a lot of voice acting,  not up to TOR volumes but still a decent chunk.

So there I was running around completing quests, exploring the world, and it suddenly hits me,  I am having a whale of a time.  The quests are funny,  they have a very smooth flow and the combat is as fun as it ever was.  Hell I even like the changes to the talent tree, which uncomplicates  things significantly.  Much to my concern I could feel myself falling in love with WoW again.  You could argue it was me being nostalgic, and I am not sure I would argue too strongly against that.  Never the less I was eager to see and play more, and even looking at levelling some of my level for 80's up to 90, going through the Cataclysm and MOP content.  

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Upgrade: PSU - how to choose one.

The other day my PC went 'BZZZzzzzzzzzzzz' and then it went 'Plink!' and it was off. I did what every good technically minded person would do in my case, I flicked the desk lamp on and off to see if there was a power cut. Sure enough, my Geek dungeon had the lifeblood of electrical joy that it needed to operate. So, with no delay I jammed my finger onto the power button of my precious rig and it came back to life for an hour. After the third redo of this story I decided that there maybe something a miss. Upon opening my case I could smell a less than satisfactory smell, I remember describing it at the time to myself as an 'icky stinky nasty smoky smell'

I investigated the issue further to find that my power supply had developed a 'loose connection' inside the main cluster and although for the most part was still working every time it powered down it released its unpleasant smell. I could either burn incense inside my case and tape down the power button or just buy a new power supply. My adventure began....

Let me begin the master class for power supply selection:

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

I order you not to, erm pre

I hate pre-ordering stuff, really I just don't see the point. There have only been a couple of times in the last 3 or 4 years where I have pre-ordered a game, and these are games I have been especially excited about. So the rise of pre-order bonus on games has always kind of irked me. The last game that I pre-ordered was Battlefield 3, and I got the first map pack for free when it came out (which as it turned out was about two months after launch). As a bonus is concerned it was a decent one, the maps being ok and I was not
missing out on launch content when the game came out.

Interestingly Borderlands 2 had a similar offer, with a whole new character becoming
available after launch if you pre-ordered, which I didn't. Do I feel I missed out by not
pre-ordering Borderlands 2? No not in the slightest, I got a decent sized game at a great
price by waiting a week of so after launch. I am sure had I waited a couple of months for BF3 I probably could have gotten the game and the DLC at the same price. So we are clear then that I essentially am not a huge fan of pre-order bonuses.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

The Old republic is now Free to Rage

I have jumped back into The Old Republic a couple of times since it has gone free to play, so I thought I would share my thoughts.  I booted up my Sith Warrior, who is level 41, so plenty of levelling left to do,  but not miles from Max,  to see what the changes are like. On the character select screen I get a message that some servers have merged to increase population (a major problem for TOR previously ) and I might have to change character name (which I didn't have to,  the reasons why will become apparent).

So I log in first time on a Sunday morning and my character is on Hoth. Hoth is a really big map,  I glance  at the corner of the screen to see how many people are on this planet.  Oh yeah 28, that's not many at all for a map the size of a couple of WoW's zones, that's a bit concerning. I log in the following night and see Hoth's population top out at 41. It is entirely possible that the lower levels are much busier,  however I couldn't really check this as I only have two character slots,  both of which are taken. I should point out at this point that I am Bioware refer to as a Preferred customer. This basically means that I have been a previous subscriber, so get various bonuses.

Monday, 19 November 2012

A Gaming Geek ramble.

A few weeks ago I chose to pick up Windows 8. As a veteran Windows user I didn't want to risk grading my already flaky windows 7 install so I chose to 'keep nothing' when I installed. Aside from a new issues the new OS had with my hard drives SATA slot selection everything went swimmingly.

Having only a crappy ADSL internet connection it took me a few days to re-install all my games and get everything working as I like it. Since my re-install I've only really played two games, Minecraft and Guild Wars 2. At any given time I have a stack of games installed but this re-install of my system made me suddenly be aware that as long as those two games are installed then everything else is really just filler for me.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

It is great not being charge for no playing

I have pretty much had the last two weeks off, and I have been playing a lot of video games. However what I have not been playing is Guild Wars 2. I love GW2, I really do, however in between Dragon's Dogma, Dishonored, Doom and The Last Story (unexpectedly fab JRPG), I have not felt the inclination to touch it. I find this interesting, as I am pretty sure that if GW2 was subscription based, I would be considering cancelling my subscription by now. Not because the game is bad, but because I have something more, well, compelling I guess, to play.

I have gone through the same cycle with other mmo’s that I have loved, Age of Conan, DCUO and TOR. I really enjoy them, but some new and shiny games come along (particularly a problem around this time of year), and I get distracted. As I have freely admitted previously, I have a spectacularly short attention span, so as much as I enjoy GW2, more action type games tend to get my attention. So with a subscription mmo I hit the point were I have £9 coming out of my bank for a game I have not played for a couple of weeks, and have no strong desire to play in the near future, so I cancel my subscription. 

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Cosplay advice from noob



fish[2]The last weekend I ventured back to the MCM Expo in London, only this time I went dressed up in a costume, or as many know it cosplaying.  It wasn't the most extravagant of outfits but I was pretty happy with it. As you can see from the photo I dressed as Kaneda from the Akira film/comic. I got asked for pictures a couple of times and, very much to my satisfaction on two occasions someone yelled KANEDA!!!! at me (if that means nothing to you,384937_296180297161556_535795938_n go watch the movie, it's great). So  I thought I would share some thoughts I had on cosplaying.

The first thought is a very simple one. Some effort is better than no effort at all. At the Expo I saw several zombies with truly excellent make up and outfits (including one that was texting on her phone but never once broke her zombie shuffle). However I saw others that had done little more than dabbed a little fake blood on there face. Regardless, you have make an effort and that is to be admired. I understand that there is a little anxiety to overcome when dressing up, and I certainly can't assuage that. However I can say that certainly that at the expo a good 70% of the people who go to the Expo dress in in some form, so you will be far from alone in cosplaying.

304366_296185103827742_342157576_nWhich leads me to my second point. It doesn't matter how elaborate or complex your costume is, someone will have created a more impressive cosplay. For instance I saw a woman with wings so big that she had to go through doors sideways and the Witch King who had to be escorted about as he couldn't see where he was going. By all means try for an elaborate outfit but don't in anyway feel that you have to. There were several Slenderman wondering around, which is little more than a suit and bit of white cloth for a hood. Likewise there were plenty of store brought spider-man and deadpool cosplayers. Also just because you didn't make your outfit by hand from scratch doesn't discount you as a cosplayer, as far as I am concern the fact that you turned up in a costume is the important thing.

While I had a great deal of fun in my Akira costume, I was more or less dressed for the weather. As it was the last weekend in October, the temperature never got into double figures. This wasn't to bad once you got into the expo but there was still a lot of people hanging about outside chatting,665474_296185473827705_815793389_o acting and dancing (inevitably gangnam style broke out left, right and centre). So my advice is dress for the weather, of course this didn't stop people dressing up in skimpy outfits, both men and woman. Likewise the same goes for the summer months, that massive suit you created may look badass but think about how you will feel after wearing it for 3 or 4 hours at 25 Centigrade (I don't do Fahrenheit, it is stupid and makes no sense).

This leads me (probably) my last point. This is more of a personal one than any real piece of advice. If you are man, dress up as a man, and if you are a woman dress up as a woman. Don't get me wrong I saw some pretty good cosplayers, including a really good Loki by one really tall woman, this is just a personal opinion. It's not like there are not thousands of characters to choose from, and as a woman you don't have to pick something skimpy. Heh in fact I saw a few women who did dress up in something skimpy and I wished they hadn't.

That's about it, if you have any other pearls of wisdom I would love to hear them.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Geek-Class: Usenet information for beginners.

With Internet Service Providers throttling Peer to Peer bandwidth across all services and the obvious security concerns of connecting to strangers who are logging IP addressed there has never been a better time to dump Torrents.  Enter Usenet. The best way to get stuff from the internet (but not the cheapest.) Its important that I get the following statements out of the way before I write any further...

Piracy is wrong, it hurts most industries that produce digital media, its illegal and its naughty. We don't support piracy. We buy stuff we want but there are times when you may want to download public domain media. Stuff that has no copyright and you are free to get from the internet. Free music, Free amatur films, Open source software or games. even web TV shows. There are lots of reasons to use Usenet or even torrents that don't involve breaking the law. this guide is for those times. if you choose to use this information to get illegally copied and distributed material then its your doing not ours. - we don't pirate stuff here at Quest Hard or affiliated sites. 

Great, now thats out the way let me first tell you that Usenet is an ancient (born, like me in 1980) method of transferring messages and later binary files through either. Have a wikipedia link if you want some home work. 

Basically unlike torrents you don't share files with other people, you download them from a server. The server has something called 'retention' as long as the file is younger than the 'retention' of your server you should be able to download the file you want.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Quick it is Time to kill these Events.

Resident Evil 6 has been receiving a critical drubbing, for several reasons, but one of the
primary ones being that it's insistence on shoehorning in a quick time event in at every
given opportunity. Strangely people have reacted badly to this change from the franchise norm. Previous Resident Evil games have had QTE's in, but not to anywhere near the minute to minute basis that they are in RE6. Having played the demo on the xbox I can confirm that the game does involve a hell of a lot of stick waggling (snigger).

So are quick time events acceptable? Having played through the previous RE games
recently, I think it is safe to say they are not. I love games and the more QTE's are in
a game, the less it becomes, erm well a game. It essentially becomes little more than
a Dragon's Lair style affair, with the same failing. That failing being that you succeed
in the QTE, or you die and you go back, often having to go through the whole process
again. This is a tedious memory task, which you will probably fail the first time because you
don't know that the QTE is going to happen.

Should you go back (to your favourite games)?

As I am no doubt you are aware, I have been keeping a list of games I have finished this year, which can be view at Finished Games. I am pretty proud of myself so far, however there are a few games on the list that I have completed but not counted. The reason being that these are games I have replayed, having previously finished ages ago. This includes both Bioshocks, Splinter Cell Conviction, Gears 1 and 2  and Resident Evil 4 and 5. It seemed to me that counting these was a bit like cheating, as whilst I have refinished them from the beginning, having advanced knowledge of the game that definitely puts it in a new light (yes I know Binary Domain is on the list twice, I am counting pc and console versions as different breeds).

I got to wondering how often people replay games that they love. With the exception of Half-life 2, I don't think that there is a single game I have finished more than twice. So am I the only one who goes back years later and replays there favourite games? However the more that I think about it, the more I realise I am wrong. Whenever you create an alt in a mmo, you are essentially replaying the game, same with the most recent Diablo which I have "replayed" about 6 times. Hell I have finished (or at least tried to finish) each of the Left 4 Dead campaigns at least a dozen times.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

I uninstalled GW2

The game is great...
I didn't look at the leveling bar either....
It's really enjoyable...
I can go back to it right?...
So Wtf happened...

I tried the combat mode mod (some call it the tera mod) and found that the game should be played with this control scheme, then I ran into the limitations with it being only a mod and not fully integrated, so I got fed up and quit. The combat mode mod shouldn't get you banned, it apparently got the nod of approval from some officials  and they have stated that it will eventually be incorporated.

Why do I need to change the control scheme? Well basically because with the default controls its very difficult to move freely, while placing effects on the ground for example. Also, the left/right mouse buttons are a waste in a game where you don't need to select your targets. So really, in GW2 the right click is only there to be held down for all eternity, godawful control design imo. I don't really have a full range of movement and ability to use my character. This constant need to click drag is something that bothers me after 2 years of Mobas as my primary game.

I don't need to try and imagine what it might be like to shoehorn additional dimensions into LoL or Dota, I have GW2. When this feat was accomplished, it takes the form of smite, where up/down and spinning the camera separate from the character are impossible. I can't ever do everything I wanted to do, because I am too busy messing around with the clunky camera. This is my problem with GW2, having a control scheme that isn't as action orientated as the game design, so I am forever trying to place effects and move

So the combat mode mod fixed the issues with having to drag around or target anything, and let me bind the left and right mouse buttons to skills, as clicking to select and camera dragging were now redundant concepts. The problem showed itself every time I had to interact with an NPC, or some kind of quest interaction, I would have to tab out of combat mode, then tab back into the mode afterwards. This isn't really a deal breaker, but it left me feeling that I couldn't be bothered with it until fully implemented the mode.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

A man walks into a bar, gets bored.

I read Hex's most recent blog about Guild Wars 2 and a thought struck me. He states that when playing he found that he didn't look at a levelling bar at all, and gave it practically no consideration, as he was enjoying the game so much. This struck me as an odd statement, not because I disagree with it, more that he felt the need to point it out at all. I know I am not what I would call a mmo player, however a game needs to engage me, or the game has failed.

I have nothing against the levelling mechanic, but it should be a case of "oh cool I levelled." rather than "just 1 more quest and ten more bear kills and I should level.". Levelling should be a mini reward for playing and enjoying the game, little achievements I guess. A game should be a fun and engrossing experience that should be enjoyable with or without levelling. As soon as you make the game about levelling it fails. A prime example of this, for me at least, is The Old Republic, which I found the earlier levels really engaging but later on the great story dried up, I found myself level watching and subsequently quit.

I know that Hex has no problem running around killing bears for xp just to level, I am just not willing to spend half my time looking at a bar.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Guild Wars 2 is finally my complaint free mmo

My adventures in GW2 are continuing, so I thought I would give you an update. My necromancer Charr is now level 40 and I have now seen good chunks of a dozen areas. To date all the areas have been uniformly gorgeous, however one really stands out, the city of Divinity's Reach. I wasn't even looking for it, I was passing and saw it far off the distance and thought "there are structures on a plateau over in the distance, lets check it out.". This is one of the reasons I love this game, a lot of the content is clearly laid out for you, but much of the joy is exploring. Anyway if you haven't been, please check it out, it is spectacular.

I also tried my first dungeon with a group from my guild, including a max level character. In other mmo's this is called boosting, a high level character blasting through the mobs so the others can get through the dungeon. However GW2 automatically drops your level to the mobs of whatever you are fighting, give or take a level. This means you can happily explore low level areas and still be challenged. We got the group into the dungeon and I found myself wondering if a dungeon with no fixed tank/healer/dps mechanic would be chaos, and from what I played I would be right. This is not to say it wasn't fun, as it was, and also refreshingly challenging with many a death.Though again ArenaNet show their efforts to reduce grind, with in dungeon way-points and a repair bloke at the entrance. It was also fun to be running around with the famous in game character in the dungeon, two of the five from Destiny's Edge. A disbanded 5 man team with one hero from each race, effectively GW2's Avengers.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Steam BIG PICTURE - Best idea ever?

Today I opened steam to be greeted with a banner telling me to opt-into the Steam Big picture update. I clicked the banner to see the below YouTube video. I watched the trailer twice before opting into the Beta. Steam Big Picture is an optimised version of steam designed for arm chair gaming. For many users (like me) this is a firm step in the direction we want to go. My massive PC gaming collection is now part of my living room gaming experience.

(Click read more to continue)

Sunday, 23 September 2012

GW2, still in love.

Guildwars 2 has taken quite a bit of my time. Its a game that I have instantly taken to and so far I haven't encountered anything that irritates me. This is a highly subjective thing to say but so far it's close to a perfect game for me. So much so that I haven't even logged into another MMO (LotRO) since GW2 was launched (Something I intend to correct this weekend)

There are lots of thing about GW2 that I could praise but one thing that just sticks as a stroke of genius is that the game has no structured quests past a main story line. As you explore the content there are event that can happen at any time (kill the thing, collect the thing, save the thing) as tasks to complete (help the villager by  killing enemies, gathering resources or destroying stuff for them)

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

I want my film to be interactive

The other day I found myself wondering if video games would be the last medium to be created. It is certainly the youngest by far, with comics being just over a 100 years old (this is very debatable, I know), and the oldest recorded being written fiction, though I would guess music far predates this. I was trying to think of what would possibly supersede games, but be it 3D goggles or holographic rooms, they would still be games.

Then I played Dear Esther, and it occurred to me that the next medium will be an offshoot of games, in much the same way that comics is an offshoot of art and novels. Dear Esther is a “game” in which you traverse a hauntingly beautiful island, whilst the character you are playing monologues the journey. It is left the the player to piece together the story from visual clues and what the character says. Let me be clear, there are no gameplay mechanic, aside from being able to move about (the game is view in first person). No puzzles to solve, no enemies to shoot, heh no blocks to move, hell you can’t even jump.

He is not the hero to save us, which is good

I have just finished Fallout New Vegas, and I have come to the conclusion that being the hero is boring.I really liked New Vegas because, even if you are being a good guy, which I was, it is still full of backstabbing, double crossing seedy character. And thats why I liked it. Hell I prefer Mass Effect 2 to 3, as in 3 you are the hero everyone is pinning your hopes on, whereas in 2 nobody trusts you, and you are essentially working for the bad guys. Looking back this is true of most of my favourite games.

Perhaps this is why I never took to Fallout 3, the game starts you off with pure intentions, the search for your father. Whereas New Vegas starts (minor spoiler) with you getting shot in the head. Of course there have been games I have loved were the story hasn’t been, humm murky, but I enjoy them for the game play not the story, Halo being a good example. Even something like Half-Life 2 has you fighting with the downtrodden against a totalitarian alien influenced government in a crumbling world. Compare these tales to Mass Effect 3’s alien invasion, and ME3 comes off for the worse.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Guildwars Vs Guildwars 2: screen shots

I have played very little of Guildwars 2 since launch. so far I can tell you that Guildwars 2 is everything I expected it to be and is a true sequel in every way. It's a very good game. The joy of the game has been overshadowed so far as I have spent most of my time going back and forth between GW1 and GW2 comparing locations, thankfully you can log into both a once so its been quite easy. This passing distraction has brought a real sense of place to some of the locations. I've been able to get to places like Lions Arch with relative ease making the gratification quite instant.

Each picture below is linked to a full resolution version if you click. GW1 will always be on top and GW2 below (unless stated otherwise.) Without further introduction I present for your viewing pleasure the new and old worlds of Guildwars.

Firstly the character select menu, not a massive innovation here but they both match the look and feel of the respective games and both a are clean and functional. Notice the GW2 menu shows progression and achievement detail of the upper right where GW1 shows a shop link. I have substantially more Character slots in GW1 but this is after four expansions so I can't really complain.