HS: What’s the problem again?

July 28, 2015

So rumor has it tournament Hearthstone games are being decided by a coin flip.

What a minute…

What HS game isn’t decided by a coin flip?

Time Warp – Fallout: New Vegas

July 28, 2015

Time Warp hits post #2, making it the most successful ‘theme’ since Friday Blog Wars (oh how I miss you FBW) here at syncaine.com. This time let’s talk about Fallout: New Vegas.

Brief random history first: I never purchased NV when it first came out, even though I loved Fallout 3. I don’t remember exactly why, but I think part of it was I thought NV was a stand-alone expansion rather than a full game, and for whatever reason I had this idea that Vegas would be a really crappy, really cheesy setting for Fallout. I also don’t remember when I eventually did buy it (some Steam sale maybe?), but it was the original version, not the ultimate with all the DLC. The Ultimate I just bought a few days ago. Weird stuff all around.

Anyway, F:NV is a good game, you should play it. Done, thanks for reading.

Kidding. Please keep reading.

After finishing a mostly full playthrough of Fallout 3 recently, including loading up a lot of mods, I figured I’d do something similar with NV. Much to my surprise, I think NV has better mod support than F3. Maybe NV came with better mod tools? Or modders simply prefer it over F3? Either way, NV goes from good to still freaking great with mods. For starters, load up a bunch of the graphic enhancer ones, which will give you great textures for everything. Add some lighting stuff, character overhauls, weather effects, and NV can be made to look as good as something released in 2015.

Next grab some content mods. Right now I’m loving the “New Bison Steve Hotel and Lucky Casino”, which allows you to restore the casino located in Primm through a series of quests. The voice acting is pretty solid, the quest chain sends you all over, and the evolution of the casino space is very cool to see. I’m near the end, but haven’t finished yet to see the final payoff of the casino coming back to life.

The one companion mod I’m currently using is Willow, which so far has really impressed me. For starters, Willow comes with her own full set of gear, a unique look, and a very long quest chain to get to know her. Her voice work is also very solid, and seeing her interact with other companions is great. However the most impressive part is how Willow comments on the standard quests in the base game, including the main chain. She does and says more than the base companions in the game, and really enhancing a playthrough.

I’m looking forward to trying out some of the other major content mods, but right now the above are keeping me plenty entertained.

To briefly touch on an old topic, I do think F:NV is the better game overall compared to F3, just in that it feels more tied together. F3 is a more open sandbox (it would be nice if NV didn’t box you in so much at the very start), and has some great stuff, but NV feels like one area, with everyone aware of what is happening and caring about it (mostly the NCR vs Legion stuff, but also the general “we are in/around Vegas” thing).

My ‘gamer plan’ is to finish NV prior to the release of Blood Bowl 2, then take a good break with that game, and be nice and ready for Fallout 4 in Nov, while still having the events and general feel of F3 and NV fresh in my mind.

Finally MMO genre is free of Smed, at least for now

July 27, 2015

Back from vacation, and this reentry Monday is ROUGH. After every vacation I question whether actually going on vacation is ‘worth it’, because coming back to 500+ emails to dig through isn’t a lot of fun, especially then all 500+ can be summed up as “we held off doing anything until you got back, but now every deliverable is overdue, enjoy!”

While I was away we had a little bit of SOE being SOE, or more specifically, Smed being Smed. Only here it’s Smed (likely temporarily) going away, in about the timeframe that someone predicted. Being constantly right is the cross I bear, and yes, its heavy.

Now before I get into the meat of the post today, let me get this here first. I don’t have a personal issue with Smed. I’ve only talked to him once or twice in person, and interacted with him a few more times on the web, all of which was cordial. I also don’t support or feel good about the harassment stuff he has dealt with; there is a certain price for fame, but having your plane delayed and some of the other stuff is way over the top. Now, with that out of the way…

Smed ‘moving on’ is a good thing for the MMO genre, and as an MMO dev, I think Smed is about as overrated as you can get. I also hate seeing this ‘Smed was a gamer dev’ notion, because while true (Smed does play games), it didn’t help other MMO gamers one bit.

Smed was and will forever be tied to SOE, so how much of this is Smed’s fault vs just general SOE is up for debate, but when you are the figurehead, you eat the blame.

SOE sucks. Did when they were officially SOE, still do as Daybreak. If you take away EQ1 (and if EQ1 never happens, maybe we don’t spend a decade mired in clone-world themeparks, eh?), SOE has nothing. Planetside, perhaps the only other somewhat successful product they made, was meh at best, and PS2 is a joke. EQ2 was a disaster. Their entire “F2P, ALL THE WAY” push was a disaster that didn’t work out, but sure helped mire the genre once again. They have shut down numerous terrible games, if it wasn’t for EQ1 being such a major cash cow, they perhaps don’t survive past the EQ2 launch.

If Smed is such a gamer, why allow so much of the above to happen? After SOE ruined SWG, why dump a truckload of salt by calling H1Z1 ‘home’ for SWG players prior to it’s release? Hell, why as an MMO gamer are you releasing a DayZ clone years after the DayZ fad has passed, and then releasing something as putrid as H1Z1, and having the gall to call it an MMO? And if the response is “it wasn’t Smed’s call”, then what kind of CEO are you, and what exactly were you doing besides collecting a paycheck, posting on reddit, and tweeting?

What are you doing with Landmark? Again, why are you jumping on the Minecraft bandwagon so late, and bringing nothing to the table? When Trion’s Minecraft clone is ‘better’ (Trove), you know you have hit absolute rock bottom (get it?). And what kind of ‘gamer’ dupes your core audience into forking over $150 for access to Landmark when you know its not going to amount to anything? Just how long as Smed been cashing out at the expense of core SOE/EQ fans?

I could go on, but really just look at the Daybreak wiki page and the list of games and the story writes itself. SOE dying was a good thing. Smed leaving is also a good thing. The MMO genre is better off with both gone, just like it would have been much better off without them originally.

Legends of Eisenwald Review

July 18, 2015

A few days back I had written about whether Early Access on Steam was working or not, and today I want to give one example where it worked perfectly.

Legends of Eisenwald is a game that likely never gets made without Early Access. Its an RPG that plays somewhat like Heroes of Might and Magic, with perhaps the biggest difference being that you don’t start or even generally own a castle. The main focus is on your character and their story, rather than building a town and fighting just to clear the map.

As my friend Obmar put it, its also very German. There is a big emphasis on legends and tales, some of which are pure fluff text, while others are clues into how a quest can be completed. The writing isn’t bad (I’m very much enjoying the main story), but a lot of the names look like someone randomly smashed the keyboard until a 20+ character ‘word’ came out, and there are a lot of references to real-world folk tales that are mostly only known in Europe.

I think the biggest point of interest for me with Legends is just how different it plays from any other RPG. Again, its sorta like HoMM, but not really. Combat for example is on a grid, but movement isn’t limited by how far someone can travel, but rather restricted to the nearest target. In other words, if your infantry is standing next to an enemy, they have to attack that unit. If there are two units of equal distance from you, you can pick who to attack. On paper that sounds very simple, but once fights get larger it really creates some very tactical situations, and again feels different from other games.

Quests are another example of the game being familiar but different enough to be interesting. From talking to various NPCs around the map and in taverns or inns, you can pick up a good deal of side quests, and how to complete those side quests isn’t always obvious. Sometimes completion requires being at a certain spot at a certain time of day (the game has a nice night/day cycle), others require already having spoken to someone or having an item to open a dialog option, while sometimes you just need to discover a location on the map, and the only way to do that is to travel off the beaten path. You start knowing the major locations on a map, but the smaller ones must be discovered. There are no ‘!’ markers here, and the quest journal doesn’t hold your hand either.

I bought Legends a while ago (maybe over a year ago?), and back then it was fairly rough, with only the first few maps (chapters) available, quests that would bug out and cause you to restart, and graphics/sound/animations that, while they had potential, really weren’t great. Today, in its fully released form, Legends is solid. There are still some odd bits, like archers who shoot but no arrows come out, but I haven’t run into any bugs or broken quests, and the full campaign is in.

I think without Early Access and the funding it brought it, Legends doesn’t get finished. I certainly don’t think any major publisher would support it, so without Steam we never see it. And while I doubt it will be a major seller, I hope it sells enough to justify the effort, because it is both a unique and quality game in a sea of clones, rehashes, and titles that disappoint.

If you are a fan of RPG games, and are looking for something a bit different, pick up Legends of Eisenwald, it’s well worth your time and money.

That’s not how things work lady

July 15, 2015

I’m getting more amusement than I should out of the Amazon Prime Day ‘outrage’, but Jackie Dana ‘wins the internet’ with this:

This was the worst sale ever on Amazon. A bunch of crap no one wants that still sold out in seconds

Bolding is my work to help Jackie and Jackie-like individuals out.

Hearthstone: The more dice the better

July 14, 2015

I’ve posted my overall thoughts about Hearthstone in the past, but the TL:DR is that its less a card game and more of a graphical dice simulator. It looks like a M:TG clone, but the gameplay is a lot more like Candyland, where it’s less about the decisions you make and more about just watching things happen based on luck/dice.

That said, as a ‘TV goes to commercial, let’s kill 5 minutes and CoC/BB/FO:Shelter don’t need to be checked’ option, you could do worse. The most recent addition, the Tavern Brawl, plays to this strength, as it’s a completely randomized clusterfuck.

Basically every week a new Tavern Brawl starts, and each one has unique rules. Last week it was spells-focused; every time you cast a spell, the game would summon a random monster of your spells cost for you. The week before that, every time a creature was killed, you gained a random card that could boost troops or harm others. Before that it was a deck full of spiders, with said spiders giving you a random creature when they died. Before that it was two pre-made decks of silly, broken OP cards.

In other words, winning or losing in Tavern Brawl isn’t the normal 90% luck that a typical game of HS is, it’s 99%, and the deck building aspect drop from the usual 10% to 1%. And its great fun in very short bursts (one or two games a week, just enough to get the free card pack), because you can’t possibly take the games seriously or care if you win/lose. Just make your clicks, watch the explosions, and return to whatever you were watching on TV when the commercial break is over.

Hopefully Blizzard continues down this path with HS, just embracing the fact that it’s not so much a game as it is a WoW-themed dice simulator, and continues giving us more stuff like Tavern Brawl in 6 months when the next game update happens.

Blood Bowl 2: Pre-order and such

July 10, 2015

You can now pre-order Blood Bowl 2, and for the PC you pick either the Wood Elves or the Lizardmen as a pre-order bonus. It looks like additional races will be DLC, which honestly is a better fit than the old model of buying a different version of the game that just had more stuff.

Assuming the game isn’t a complete mess of bugs and broken features, I’m excited. I played a lot of BB1, and had fun running leagues. I plan to do that again, likely the first league starting very shortly after release. Pre-order players also get into multi-player beta a few weeks early, which will be a nice tune-up.


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