Payday 2 is good co-op fun

September 30, 2013

I picked up Payday 2 on the insistence of some friends, and it’s been a very worthwhile purchase. It’s a great co-op sneak-or-shoot style game with an interesting leveling system and nice randomization on the maps.

For the leveling system, the higher your level, the more options you have in how to complete each mission. At level one, with basically just the starter guns and armor, you’re only option is to run in guns blazing, and given your skill/gear, you likely can only survive on normal mode (assuming of course you don’t team up with higher-level players, which is totally an option).

As you progress, options such as body bags, tricking the police intercoms, silences, and better sneaking open up. This allows you to start trying to beat missions ‘clean’, without alerting the police. You don’t usually get more rewards, and the map isn’t exactly easier this way, but it can be VERY satisfying pulling everything off and getting away clean.

The game currently has about half a dozen missions, some with one map and others with two or three. On each map certain elements are random, such as security camera locations, guard patrol routes, civilian locations, and safes/vaults. The randomization is certainly enough to keep the missions from being routine, but is one aspect of the game that in the future (Payday 3) could be even better. The pinnacle of course would be 100% completely randomized maps, but I don’t think that’s realistic right now.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is the online community right now. In a game where you can blow the stealth aspect for the other three people you are playing with, you would expect some to grief missions or rage when you make a mistake, but so far everyone I’ve played with has either been silent or just helpful. Either I’ve been lucky, or somehow Payday is designed in such a way as to reduce rage. Either way online play has been very enjoyable, whether with my buddies or just randoms.

Finally, as you complete missions you not only earn cash to buy new guns, but you also get new weapon modifications, adding a bit of depth. Masks and mask design are the fluff aspect, and are surprisingly fun. When you succeed, you have a random chance to get a new mask, or a mask color, pattern, or design. You can then combine the three to create a more custom mask that others will see online. It’s a small detail, but another nice bonus when finishing a mission.

If you enjoy shooters with some depth and great co-op, Payday 2 is worth picking up on Steam for $30.

Blood Bowl: First come first server

September 28, 2013

The Blood Bowl league is up, but needs one more coach. First to sign up is in!

League: HC/Inquistion League, Season 3

Password: inq

Someone should say something about WAR

September 26, 2013

As you might have heard, Warhammer Online is shutting down. TAGN has a post that links to many others; use that if you still need a background or more opinions.

There is a lot that can be (and has been) said about WAR today, which I think itself says something about the game and its impact. Compare WAR to Aion for example, is anyone writing anything about Aion? If it shut down tomorrow, how many “End of Aion” posts would people create, and at what depth/feeling? WAR not only created an insane amount of hype pre-release, it also generated a lot of emotion post-release, and I fully include myself in all of that.

For starters I love the Warhammer IP, so much that it very well could be my favorite IP all around. It works great for the tabletop game, and it should have translated so well into MMO form. The world is huge, every area has a rich history, and rivalries and alliances between the various sides can be logically (in a world with fire-breathing dragons logic) explained.

In much the same way Ultima Online had something extra special because it was the Ultima on top of a great game, WAR should have been special because it was in a world I’ve long wanted to just live in.

WAR is also an MMO my wife really enjoyed, playing it long enough to reach the level cap and do some group content. In particular she liked PQs, to the point of not really enjoying GW2 in part because of the differences between their PQ implementation (less transparency) compared to WAR.

I think WAR’s PvE was underrated (early dungeon content aside, Wilhelm!). Had WAR delivered fully on the PvP, I think more people would have appreciated how the PvE blended into the zones (especially the early zones) and what a nice change of pace it was. I’m not saying it was amazing, but again, had WAR been a solid PvP MMO with PvE, the PvE would not have been judged as inadequate.

Like so many MMOs after it, WAR’s biggest issue is it tried to be everything to everyone, and ended up not retaining anyone. It contained countless design flaws, from the hard-locked two-sided conflict, the inclusion of instanced PvP, and the end-game being a total mess, but its biggest flaw was that Mythic didn’t simply attempt to create a PvP MMO. They tried to create what they thought was a better WoW to compete with WoW, and utterly failed.

BloodBowl reminder

September 20, 2013

See previous post for details, but we still need at least one team to put our league together. Anyone?

Rift closing in China, Death accountability.

September 18, 2013

Things are not looking so hot over in Rift-land, including the upcoming closing of Rift China. The mighty MMO 3.0 seems to be falling, and falling fast. I can’t do a real comprehensive “why” analysis because I’ve not played the game since the 1.2 (‘accessibility’) patch, but even from an outside perspective it’s an interesting story. Is Rift a bad themepark? Is it mismanaged? Or is it a reflection of the changing genre?

I have a hard time believing Rift is bad, even today. The game was solid in beta, got a bit worse for release, and 1.2 happened, but even after that there was a lot of room between Rift and ‘bad’. TAGN has had a few posts about it and from those it sounds like the game is still basically the same, just with more stuff now, so I’m going to assume ‘bad’ is not the reason.

Is it mismanaged? Maybe, and I only say that because lots of other blah MMOs are still up and running, so why can’t Rift seem to keep it together? In a world where EQ2 and LotRO are still alive, let alone the countless nameless straight-to-F2P trash heaps, Rift should be able to keep the servers up.

A reflection of the changing genre? Man I hope so.

The genre’s roots are in part based on taking a single-player game experience (Ultima) and removing the single-player limiters and just letting players live in that world (Ultima Online). EQ1 started the ‘shared single player experience’, but it was so rough and extended that it worked (and compared to themeparks today, it was a ‘sandbox’, as ridiculous as that actually is). WoW cleaned things up a bit, but still had enough ‘world’ to keep going for a few years. At some point the interns at Blizzard took over and we got WotLK, phasing, and the full-forced introduction of the sRPG on a server.

As game development operates under a delay, even after WoW started to falter we still say WoW-clone after WoW-clone, with many cloning the now failing version. WoW made this harder to see for some due to its monstrous size and pop-culture snowball effect. For a bit, even as the churn was extreme, the number of players coming in was able to keep up with the flood of players going out. It was a uniquely WoW situation, like many are/were.

Rift, especially post-release and with 1.2, was cloning the failed version of WoW. More focus on the sRPG aspects, and a heavy limiting of ‘world’ aspects. Again, I don’t think it’s purely a ‘bad game’ issue, but it’s not doing itself any favors either. What I think is a bigger factor is players, even themepark fans, are growing tired of the online sRPG.

Let me clarify that actually; I think the average MMO fan is finally, FINALLY figuring the themepark formula out, and while they still enjoy the quick burst of Online sRPG content, they are not sticking around for long after the best parts are consumed. At the same time, those best parts (heavy story-based solo content) are non-repeatable and too time-consuming for devs to produce more of at a reasonable pace.

The end result; a lot of dev time/money spent to produce something expected to last, and all of it consumed in a month or three, with the devs left holding a rather large bill and no further revenue coming in. The death march is sometimes delayed by F2P-switch trickery, but as we are seeing, that fad is nothing more than a simple delay of the inevitable, and much like the Online sRPG itself, its being figured out faster and faster with each title.

There are a few important things to understand here. One is that the MMO market is indeed a niche, and not only that, but each title should be a niche within that niche. There are groups of players looking for certain games, and they will play them for long-enough to justify a reasonable investment. Just don’t expect WoW, or even EQ1 numbers, and you will be fine so long as you deliver what the niche is looking for.

Along with that, if your model relies on keeping people around for months and months, your content, and far more importantly, your content delivery plan should reflect that. Unless you have a magic voice-over production factory that costs you nothing, it’s not too smart to base your game around that extremely costly gimmick, now is it?

So while the news is bad for Rift, I think the underlying story is positive for the genre.

In totally unrelated news (ha), I’ve joined up with Sinister in Darkfall after the post-Proxy plan did not really work out. Our alliance (Death), has recently won a war against NOX, and an excellent video recap of the war can be found here. Worth watching IMO.

Is it Bloodbowl time again?

September 18, 2013

Thanks to a Steam sale a few weeks ago, I picked up Blood Bowl: Chaos Edition, and have been slowly getting myself back into the game. I few people have asked me about running another league, so here is the post to see if there is enough interest.

The league will be run much the same way it was before, one match a week, organized through the Inquisition message board. Vent will be available but not required. League is open to anyone, regardless of skill level, and those of you with the Legendary Edition can play with Chaos Edition players (you just won’t be able to create one of the 3 new teams, but you can play against them). If you played before your old account is still active and all teams have been retained.

If you have never played the game I still highly recommend it. It’s a turn-based strategy game with an American football ‘skin’ set in the Warhammer fantasy world. Matches take between 30-45min depending on the players. The system reqs for the game are pretty low considering the initial game is now rather old, but due to that it’s bug-free for the most part (I’ve not run into any) and now contains a great variety of teams. There is still a pretty active community playing the game, so matches are very easy to find online, and the auto-matchmaking works well.

If you are interested please comment, and if I can get at least 5 others I’ll get the league rolling.

I’m Syncaine in the game, so feel free to friend me to chat or play a game.

F2P sub options, and NFS: Hot Persuit

September 11, 2013

Sorry for the lack of blogging around here in the last week or so, RL kicking my ass a bit.

Quick observation; if F2P is so great, why do they often provide a subscription-like option?

And, why is it that more often than not, the subscription-like option is incomplete; you still need to buy additional stuff to get the ‘full’ game?

Random sandboxish note; my buddy let me borrow his PS3 to play some Need for Speed: Most Wanted, which overall is a lot of fun and puts my recently installed home theater to good use. The game itself allows you to drive around a fairly large city/map looking for cars to collect, signs to smash, and races to complete. The races take place in a ‘phased’ version of the map, but once the race is over you flip instantly back to the full map and continue driving (and the cops keep chasing you if the race happens to feature them).

It’s not a super-deep game, and you will repeat races often as each car has 8 difference races to collect all of the upgrade parts, but just driving around the city looking for things to collect or smash is pretty fun, and running from the cops will often result in some rather spectacular crashing.

The game is made by EA sadly, so in addition to the box price it also has a few DLC packs you can purchase. The game is very persistent about remind you about them too; from loading screen messages, a blinking “shop” menu item, to seeing the cars you can’t drive until you pay in-game. It’s also pay-to-win in a fashion, as all the best cars are DLC cars, but as this is a single-player game, I don’t really care about that, other than the annoyance of not having some of the game’s cooler cars (Diablo SV for example).

Fun game for a week or so. The GW2 of racing games.


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