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.