Sunday, 27 May 2012

Passion is always a good thing



fish[2]I have just gotten back from the MCM Expo in London, I am totally shattered but had a truly wonderful time. My wife won tickets from a games website, and even though London is a fair distance from us, we decided to go. For those of you that don't know this is the London Comic Con, not  anywhere near the size of the American con's, but probably the biggest affair in Britain (and probably Europe). Like Hex, I too am a pretty big comic fan, and have been for fair bit longer than he has.

DSCF1279I don't intend to blog about comics now or in the future,  there were however, some games at the expo. I got a decent look at Aliens: Colonial Marines, which I am pretty excited about, and saw a few other bits of game stuff; Steel Battalion, Lollipop Chainsaw, to name a few. However that’s not what I wanted to tell you about. What really amazed me was the Cosplayers. Having been to the Birmingham Comic Con last year I expected there to be a few DSCF1234cosplayers in London, however I was unprepared for the sheer number of them. It is no exaggeration to say there were hundreds of them, I would say about a third of people had dressed up. These costumes ranged from the fairly simple, there were at least 5 pairs of Ash and Misty from Pokemon and tons of Pikachu, My Little Pony outfits, to the horrifically complicated and awesome.

We were so in awe of these people, that after we had gone around the floor in the morning (OK yes I may have spent some money), that we spent the afternoon outside chatting to people, enjoying the sights and sounds. I should point out that, as my sunburn will confirm, it was a really hot day but even this DSCF1237didn’t quell the enthusiasm shown by the cosplayers. I felt a little shamed by my lack of effort (jeans, a flash t-shirt and my superman converse), so in the morning I purchased a pair of goggles and wore them all day Digimon style, like a boss!

All these cosplayers, from the field of anime, games and films to Steampunk, were all there because they had a passion. Some people might write them off as geeks and nerds, and I am sure a few of them wouldn’t deny it. However, to those people I would say, What have you got in life that you are passionate about? What do you have that you are willing to put time and money and effort into, not for some monetary reward or prize, just for the joy of it?

I know that I asked myself these questions and I thought that doing this blog was me making an effort to be creative and express myself. However when I looked around on that sunny afternoon, it felt inadequate at best. I will tell you this for a certainty, I will be there next year, and I intend to wear something a bit more elaborate than jeans and a t-shirt. The Wife too!

For many many more pictures click here, warning there are some of me and the wife.

Friday, 25 May 2012

When the dust settles (gaming after the hype)

Reddit, Kotaku, Rock Paper Shotgun and even 9gag. Those are sites that go nuts when a high profile game is released. A new game becomes an all consuming virus that spreads across the websites that I visit. Usually I play those games at release anyway, so I get swept up with the hype and memes and general excitement. On the odd occasion that I don't get the game at launch this ritualistic love affair makes me want the game more or at least become interested in a game that I would usually ignore. 

In the case of Diablo 3 the Internets love of the game was directly responsible for me not only buying the £45 title but in creating a new Blizzard Battle-net account, even though I had no intention of ever going though the process again.

When the Old Republic was launched it was the same, memes, news, screen shots and general love for the titles but now a few months down the line I'm still playing the game and the general consensus (a little more realistic one) is that the game is pretty good but has some great big issues it needs to have worked out.

Its funny how so many gamer's seem to play a title early on but never see it though to its end. In the case of MMO's its even more strange because an MMO is something that is constantly evolving and moving forwards. When the hype dies down your left with a game you intend to play for a long time more, at least that's the idea.

As a person who has pretty much fixed time slots for gaming and blogging (I split my time as best as I can) I tend to be the one only just getting to finishing these games way after the hype is over and forgotten, left only with a few memes to keep me going.

Diablo 3 offers more freedom than I expected

I have just finished the second act in diablo 3, and i felt compelled to write a blog about the game. For me Diablo 3 stands out not because it is an attractive satisfying action game, which it is, but because of the way it levels up your character. This is unique amongst pretty much all rpg's I have played in, well the last 10 years (including almost all mmo's). Diablo 3 ditches the talent tree, and has made me realise just how much of a crutch it is.

In D3 you can have a maximum of 6 skills equipped at any time. Every time you level you gain either a new skill, or a rune for an existing skill. Runes basically tweak a skill so it works in a different, not better, way. As you can only have 6 skills at any time, you are constantly thinking about how the skills work together. Each and every time you level, you re-evaluate your existing skill, perhaps even using ones that you had previously discounted as useless.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Peer Pressure and cloning a classic

I don't usually play Blizzard games, (they screwed my account up, long story) so when Diablo 3 was announced I didn't care much. Even on the run up to the actual release I didn't care. Then on the day of release my favorite website (Reddit) was literally packed with talk about the game, the internet was a buzz with praise and at some point I was converted and I wanted it. I wanted it really bad.

Yesterday I finally managed to get my hands on it. The game is good, its the classic Diablo hack and slash but with enough polish to keep a warehouse full of army boots shiny until the end of time. 

It has a pretty simple and slowly unfolding plot that I enjoy a great deal. I played my little wizard through the game to defeat some skeletal boss dude (scary bloke, not very friendly). That was the point when I called it a night and retired to my movie chair (the Chasing Amy Blu-ray was calling me.)

Friday, 18 May 2012

The illusion of freedom in an online world.

I have been playing diablo 3 with my wife, and I couldn't help but think that I am glad this isn't a mmo. Having played a lot of single player games recently, like Skyrim, Kingdoms of Amalur, hell even Dues Ex, I have come to a conclusion. As soon as you make the decision to make your game a mmo, you are actively restricting your game.

Take the recently announced Elder Scrolls Online for example. I love The Elder Scrolls games, however I love them for all the reasons that it will never work in an mmo.The biggest problem that always faces a mmo developer is how to balance players and the game world. When I am playing Skyrim, I am free to wander off in any direction I want, and face challenges with a wide choice of skills and abilities in any order I fancy. However I can't see that ever happening in a mmo, because how do you balance having high level characters and a low level character wandering around the same area. How do you cope with pvp, what if 5 people turn up at the same cave at the same time, how to character skills interact with each other. It is for this reason that all mmo's have groups of enemies just milling around a fixed location, waiting to be killed.

Super Hero Games

I sat today reading the rather fantastic 'Earth 2, Issue 1' its a new run from DC set in an alternate universe where things have turned out a little differently. Alternate universes and indeed alternate earths are a well excepted part of the DC cannon. This is the premise of the DC Universe online game. I have played a little of this game on the PS3 but today for the first time experienced it on on my PC.

I love the DC universe, all the characters, the setting and the over the top black and while morality. You could say that I'm a dedicated fan-boy (I buy comics every week, yes, every week) but DCUO disappointed me. It started bad and went down hill fast. Sure, I love the setting and the premise of the game but the actual game play mechanics are flawed and difficult. 

Champions Online however has a comparatively poor setting but a slightly less 'dodgy' control system. the end result is still a game that I just can't take to for any length of time. 

City of Heroes did succeed in grabbing my attention a few years ago, briefly. In the end the total lack of any real community in Europe made me move on. So, MMO's are out. what about single player super hero games? - let me list the good ones....

Sunday, 13 May 2012

My disappointment is no Secret

Following on from my last post, thanks to some serious effort by my wife, I  got into the Secret World beta. I have been looking forward to trying the game. They have been making some bold claims about an unique modern day setting, puzzles to solve and a level free experience system. So the question I have is after just a couple of hours play, why do neither me or my wife want to play any more?

I think it is largely down to the game's attempts to create an atmosphere. The beginning is quite interesting, playing as a Templar (there are 3 factions, Templars, Illuminati and Dragons) it puts you in a reasonably attractive and stylised version of London. It is here that you get to choose your skillset. Essentially you pick a weapon or magic type, and the more you use it, the more skills you unlock. This is essentially the levelling in the game. From what I could see there was no reason why you couldn't level up multiple different skill sets. Up to this point everything seemed ok, if unspectacular, even the voice acting (of which there is a decent amount, but not everything is voiced) was pretty good.

We are given our first mission, to go and investigate a mysterious outbreak in a town called Kingsmouth in New England. We take the secret magical passageway (OK that was pretty cool) there, and we discover a small fishing town besieged by zombies and similar monsters. It was at this point that any hope I had that Secret Worlds would be different shrivelled up and started crying in the corner. We fought to the centre of the town (groups of zombies attacked us and we clicked on the zombie and pressed number keys until it was dead), and found the sheriff (quest giver) and her men hold up in the police station (quest hub). So we picked up the quests which were little more than go to a place and find something or kill something.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Don't be a Facebook Pawn

I get an email from big game publisher A about their big game sequel B that is coming out Autumn. This email excitedly tells me that if I share out a link to their game sequel's web page, I can help towards them revealing a gameplay trailer for the big game B. I can do this by either liking it on Facebook or tweeting with the appropriate  hash-tag on. This generated a not inconsiderable amount of rage inside me.

Hang on, I thought, you want me to pimp out your game to my acquaintances, for free, in order that you can reveal a trailer for a game that you hope I will buy in the future. I don't swear often in blogs, however I can't think of any other way to put it than "Fuck you Publisher A". As you will have notice I have not confirmed the game in question. That is because, as much as it pissed me off, I have no intention of giving game B any more publicity.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Bata gaming

I have a rule about Betas. It’s a simple rule. I don’t play them. This rule has served me well in the past it prevents me from becoming jaded by an unfinished product that I would otherwise enjoy, it also saves me wasting time. If a game is really great I could sink a good chunk of hours into the beta to later have to repeat all the content when the game goes live. 

This is why I haven’t touched the Guild Wars Two beta. It’s also why I didn’t play The Old Republic until it had been out a few days.

Beta’s are a strange idea to begin with. When a beta is offered it’s not a beta at all. Usually the game is usually stable enough to call at worse a release candidate or Demo.

What are doing us stress testing the servers and giving them feedback on playability. Sure a bug or two maybe discovered but the true purpose of a Beta offer is to get you to buy the product early (pre order now and get beta access) or to give you change to try a Demo. If the game is not liked by the gamers the developer gets to say ‘all those things you hated are beta only features that will be changed in the full version.  Where as the word ‘demo’ is a commitment to the quality of the product. 

Sigh what a bonus

Still playing TOR and still really enjoying it. However I have notice one thing that is really getting on my nerves. A lot of missions ask you to go to a place for one well explained and voice acted reason or another. So you get to the area and you tackle the enemies in your way. And magically a little bit of text pops up that there is a bonus to this mission, of killing so many of the enemy. Generally the number you have to kill is very close to, or under the number you would have to kill to complete your objective anyway.

It is not the fact that I have to defeat enemied that annoys me, it is the fact that it is still a requirement, even though it is optional. For a game that focuses so strongly on narrative and role playing, it is quite immersion breaking. You never play Dragon Age, or Witcher, or Sykrim or indeed Mass Effect, and have it suggest that as you are here anyway, you might as well kill exactly 12 enemies. Yes I understand that I will probably end up having to kill those 12 enemies anyway, so why are you suggesting that I do it, it makes no sense. Everytime a bonus kill count pops up, I suddenly feel a lot less like a awesome sith warrior exploring the galaxy and more like a dude playing a video game in his pants (pants are optional).

Friday, 4 May 2012

Elder Scrolls Online

Well, this first trailer for Elder Scrolls Online doesn't give away alot of information does it. I must admit though I do have high hopes for this game to bring something a little different to the MMO table.

I was always a fan of Morrowind but I must confess to loosing a little interest when Oblivion took the open world an laid a little more structure down in it. By the nature of an MMO though this game should play more like Morrowind.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Damn the game I was playing got cancelled

As it stands it looks like we are going to go probably at least another couple of years without a new xbox or PS3. My question is are we being conned if we now decide to buy some of the earlier console games. Let me explain. I play, using the word loosely, EA Sports Active 2 a lot. It, along with the Wii Fit before it, helped me lose a fair amount of weight.

As an exercise routine I find that it pushes me and provides me with what i need.However when I brought is a couple of years ago (it was released in 2010, it also offered a full online support package. Essentially it took all the information it collected, heart rate, calories burnt etc and put them on my own website to look at. Being honest I didn’t use the website very often, but when I turned on EA Sports Active the other day, I had a message that said the online service had been turned off.

A simple way to make Steam better

Okay, so this is more of a suggestion than a blog but as someone with a pathetic internet connection and the desire to optimise its time I would  very much like Steam to have a scheduler for downloads. 

This is literally the only feature I would like that's not already in Steam. 

when you think about that statement you realise just how great Steam is. Origin can't even update games without bothering me. 

Damn it Steam, why did you raise the bar so high? - don't you know your making EA look bad?