So Two World II is not good

July 24, 2014

As the seemingly endless summer of “wtf do I play now” continues, I fired up Two Worlds 2 to give that a shot. Things aren’t going well on that front.

The single biggest annoyance is the voice acting, especially for the main character (you); it’s beyond terrible. It’s so jarringly bad it pulls you completely out of the game, and has me dreading talking to someone in the game, which is not exactly a good thing for an RPG.

In addition to the voice acting, the animations during conversations and cut scenes are atrocious as well. Random, misplaced gestures, uncanny-valley filled movements, and really no rhyme or reason to any of it that would help build characters.

The crap trifecta is completed with poor writing and more nonsensical dialog. The character you are playing is trying to be a badass in every dialog, whether he is actually doing something heroic like saving someone, or something simple like learning how to craft. Within the first hour I’d had enough.

The shame in all of the above is the rest of the game seems pretty decent. The graphics overall are really good, the music fits, and while the controls aren’t perfect they get the job done. For me however that’s not enough; if I’m playing an RPG, the core RPG aspects can’t be a mess.

(Divinity: Original Sin is a title I have my eye on, but Steam conditioning is in effect and I’m waiting for a sale that includes the DLC. Plus for a ‘one and done’ title, I’d rather play a fully patched-up version as well. All of that said titles like Two Worlds make waiting a hell of a lot harder.)


Tales from Steam: 90% off

July 14, 2014

So many questions about this.

Like what is the end-game here? Because at 50 cents a copy, no amount of sales is going to amount to anything here, so what’s the point?

90% off is a bit much. This kinda goes into the newish phenom of Steam sales, where 33% off is a pass, 50% is ‘normal’, and 75-80% is ‘a good deal’. For me 90% is too much. It’s kinda like how guys like when girls are a little aggressive, but TOO aggressive and its a turn off? 90% is that girl who you are embarrassed for in her desperation.

Bonus: How about the first review quote for this game huh? Gametunnel (who?) gave it a 73%, lets lead off with that!

Edit: Should have scrolled a little lower; this game is 90% off and now 29 cents.

PS: Considering buying it since it has Steam cards.

PPS: Not really but sorta. Only thing actually holding me back is that if I did, it would be officially admitting I have a problem, and I’m not at rock bottom yet.

 

 

 


The humble bundle that keeps on giving

July 14, 2014

League of Legends has been randomly lag-spiking for us recently, to the point where ranked play is now more frustrating than normal (a game mode that was already borderline more frustrating than it was worth).

The real problem is that when a 51% win rate moves you up, and a 49% win rate moves you down, losing even one in ten games to a bad spike or playing slightly worse due to lag makes all the difference, and losing due to technical reasons is a killer for me. ARAMs don’t matter, so the issue isn’t as big a deal there, but ARAMs I can only really do one or two before having enough.

Moving on, I finished Risen 1, and can now fully say it was a really excellent game start to finish. Final boss was odd and a bit underwhelming, but beyond that an excellent RPG. I started Risen 2, but the controls are so bad I don’t think I can stick with it. The game taking such a major step back from the first title to the second is disappointing (new engine, but still), and hopefully Risen 3 doesn’t have this issue. Also, voice acting with constant swearing gets very old, very fast for me, and at least in the first hour or so, Risen 2 had a LOT of it.

Finally, I loaded up Saints Row 3, and must say I’m really enjoying it. It’s been a while since I’ve played a Grand Theft Auto game (PS2 days I think…), and SR is like an 80s action movie version of that. Just crazy over the top most of the time but not pushing things so far that it’s too silly (a fine line that might be in a different spot for everyone). I have all of the DLC for SR3, although most of THAT is too silly so I just ignore it.

I own SR3+DLC for the same reason I own Risen 1+2; a Humble Bundle that also included Dead Island and DI:Riptide (the reason for the bundle purchase). The last games and ones I might not load up unless someone tells me they are worthwhile are Sacred 2 and Sacred: Citadel. Even if those go unplayed, that bundle was the best $10 spent in a long, long time.

 


Re-confirmed: I’m kind of a big deal

July 9, 2014

Knowing how many ‘real people’ readers a blog has, much less how much influence a writer has on his readers, is almost impossible to tell. WordPress provides view/visitor statistics of course, but based on personal experience those numbers aren’t 100% accurate (or even close, really). Not only that, but at this point I’m not even sure if they are inaccurately inflated or under-reported for this blog, as a few recent events have hinted at.

Let’s take a step back; as anyone who reads this blog has noticed, post volume is down, mostly because the MMO genre is in the toilet right now and this being an MMO blog, that has an impact. And it goes deeper than just the current crop of MMOs being meh-to-terrible; they also bring nothing new to the table, which further makes it difficult to break things down and write a blog post. For all its failings, at least Warhammer Online brought new ideas, and had a dev team behind it giving us plenty of fodder. It ultimately didn’t work out for Mythic, but it was blogging gold.

In addition to needing a good MMO to play, I’d also like another WAR in terms of blog fodder please.

From a pure “looking at my numbers” perspective, the shutting down of Google reader was noticeable, and my WordPress stats page reflects this. To a lesser extent, VirginWorlds no longer picking up my blog (along with no longer really working overall) hurt. Jester not blogging has an impact as well. But again, while the raw numbers are down, how many ‘real people’ readers have stopped coming here is tough to tell. I’d like to think that if you are a real person, and you enjoy reading this blog, the shutting down of a reader, or another blog no longer updating, isn’t going to instantly stop you from figuring out how to keep reading this blog, right?

Number of comments is another indicator, but again it gets tricky. I mean, I’m pretty sure I could write a comment-bait post tomorrow (spoiler-alert) and get north of 30 comments. If the comment-bait is really good, and gets picked up by some larger sites, 50+ comments would happen. Get a good comment-section flame-war going, and 100+ is ‘achieved’. But what does 30, 50, or even 100 comments mean, especially when they were somewhat baited or 80% of them are off-topic flames? Does a post getting one person to comment mean that post sucked and this blog is dead/dying, or did thousands of people read it, enjoy it, and just have nothing to add so they didn’t comment? These are the kinds of questions that keep me up at night (not really).

Let’s return to those recent events I mentioned in the first paragraph. The first is my Clash of Clans… clan. Those posts didn’t get a lot of comments, and traffic was normal, so it would be easy to assume not many found them all that interesting or were ‘influenced’ by them. Yet today, I think I’ve had 10+ people join the clan (“Supreme Cream!”, still time to join and we are building something pretty solid), many of them new players to the game who picked it up due to this blog. How many others at least tried the game due to those posts and just didn’t enjoy it? How many are playing, just slowly, so they haven’t joined the clan yet (or joined someone else because they are jerks like that)?

The second example is Risen, another post with very few comments, and Steam. On Steam my friends list has grown tremendously due to mentioning my screen name (Syncaine) on this blog and asking people for Steam cards (feel free to send some), which has resulted in getting a better feel for what “the people” are doing on Steam thanks to the “Activity” section.

As mentioned Risen was on sale recently due to the pre-order coming up for Risen 3, and thanks to the “Activity” tab I noticed a bunch of people picked the Risen 1+2 bundle up. Now I don’t know how many of those buys are due to this blog and how many of them would have happened anyway, but I’d bet at least SOME are blog-based, which is pretty cool and says something about influence.

Lastly, and the example with by far the most data, was my time blogging about Darkfall 1 and including the Community Publishing Program link/mention in every post. The CPP was basically a referral system that paid me 20% (I think?) of the initial purchase made using my link, so when AV was running a promo for the game+6months for $100, I got $20 per person who bought that bundle. I wish I had gotten 20% of all future sub fees, if only to track how long people stuck with the game, but sadly it didn’t work that way.

Through the CPP I got credited with hundreds of purchases (and I know for a fact I didn’t get credit with all purchases made due to technical issues sometimes), and AV would later confirm that I was by far the most successful CPP user. This blog, literally, made AV thousands (if not tens of thousands) of dollars, and unlike Clash of Clans that rakes in millions daily, for AV my contribution was actually very noticeable to the company overall. More importantly to me however was seeing confirmation that this blog was influencing people to the point of spending real money on something they would have otherwise passed on.

Examples like the above making writing the blog easier, because it confirms ‘real people’ are reading and not every view is some spam-bot finding its way here thanks to Google. This blog’s main purpose is to entertain #1 (me), but that can’t happen without all of the little people (you) showing up, so thank you dear reader, and keep dancing on those strings (and sending Steam cards).


Risen related: Well that’s good timing

July 7, 2014

Not only is Risen 1 and 2 on Steam sale today, but Risen 3 is coming out in August. Didn’t know any of that when I wrote my post below.


Risen is a surprisingly great open-world RPG you should play

July 7, 2014

I’ve been playing Risen since returning from vacation (picked up in a Humble Bundle pack a while back), and I’m very pleasantly surprised by the game. I went into it expecting/hoping for an “80% of Skyrim” type of experience, and while in some ways this is true, in a few key areas I think it trumps even that masterpiece.

I actually loaded up Risen somewhat on a whim, as I was looking over my Steam collection and noticed that over 40 people I’m friends with own Skyrim, which is far more than just about any other game (only Civ V comes close). Needing a little break from TBS titles like Eador, and having done just about everything in Skyrim itself, I figured I’d give Risen a shot.

This won’t be a full review (here is an excellent one that says a lot of what I would), but rather just some observations, mostly around how this game is and isn’t like Skyrim.

Graphically Skyrim is far superior, but then again it’s also the newer game (Risen came out in 2009) with a lot of mod support focused around making it look even better. That said maxed out Risen doesn’t look bad, and I think it’s graphic style has aged better than say ES:Oblivion, particularly character faces. Even a bit dated, Risen will sometimes surprise with a great looking vista or atmospheric cave/tomb.

I have a same-but-different love/hate relationship with the combat, similar to Skyrim. Initially I thought Risen combat was clunky and frustrating, especially because the game can be so difficult (more on that later), but the more I play the more I appreciate fighting different monsters, using different weapons, and getting a ‘feel’ for things. Killing a tougher monster through successful use of combos, blocks, and dodging can be a fist-pump moment, which I think says a lot about the game overall but specifically about the enjoyment of combat.

The biggest difference between Risen and Skyrim to me is the setup of the world you play in. While Skyrim is almost too open-world, Risen jumps between keeping you restricted to one area for a bit of time to letting you run free around the island (though highly limited based on monster difficulty).

I think my favorite example of this is design in Risen is the placement of monsters. Just outside a cave you will find easier monsters like wolves, and if you kill them you can loot a chest they were near. If you go into the cave you might encounter a ‘higher tier’ of monster, and if you manage to kill them and go a bit deeper, you might find an even tougher challenge. The important part here is that unlike many other games, the ‘monster tiers’ in Risen are pretty harsh. An easier monster might need to hit you 10 times to kill you, while you only need to hit it 2-3 times. A ‘normal’ monster might take 5-6 hits, killing you in about that many, while a tough mob will drop you in 2-3 hits, and will require 15+ hits to kill. So while a tough monster isn’t impossible to take down, it sure is damn hard, and when you come across a location with 3-4 of them, you know this is a location you should come back to later.

What I love about this design is that the game doesn’t force you to stop. You can try and power through that tough monster (or have its AI bug out for a cheap kill, which occasionally happens), and if they are related to some future quest, you will actually get credit. More than once I’ve gotten a “quest complete” message while randomly exploring and killing/collecting stuff, and to my surprise, Risen is smart enough to not only give you credit, but also have the related quest NPC dialog handle this situation (“I want you to go kill X” “I’ve already done it, here is the proof” “Well, you work fast don’t you” is dialog that happens in Risen).

Speaking of characters and dialog, I must say I like them more in Risen than I did in Skyrim. Skyrim too often wanted to be epic about something, but came of kinda silly (a lot of the main quest, IMO). Risen feel authentic to me. Everyone is stuck on this island due to the storms, they are all bothered in one way or another by the monsters, and the two major factions dislike each other for solid reasons. Some character are smart about what they want, others are selfish, but I’ve yet to come across anything that feels majorly out of place or disconnected from the game. The voice acting and writing is also top-notch and pulls you into the game, rather than shaking you out of it.

Finally, while Skyrim never felt exceptionally difficult due to its world scaling with you, Risen is one of those “save before every fight, reload a bunch on anything tough” type of games. You will die, a lot, but that also makes finally beating something tough so much more rewarding. I also like that failure isn’t always ‘game over’. For example, I upset a local leader in one location, and to teach me a lesson he had all his goons attack me. Anytime I got close to one of them, they would agro, and most of them were too tough for me to beat at the time. They would beat me in combat, knock me down, take some gold, and walk away with an insult. Once all his goons got me once, the local leader’s dialog reflected this, which was not only excellent but made me really want to get at the bastard when I got stronger.

To tie this all together, I went in just hoping for a budget Skyrim, but instead found a different, and at times better version of the open-world RPG that Elder Scrolls is famous for. Risen isn’t an outright better game overall (Skyrim’s giant pile of content, and just overall polish, are very tough to beat), but for anyone who enjoyed Skyrim, I would say it’s very well worth your time.


Missing the Steam sale, not buying beta, leading in CoC

July 3, 2014

Quick note about missing the Steam sale due to vacation: Unless Steam wasn’t sending out those “your wishlist game is on sale” notifications, I don’t think I would have picked up much, and I think the winter sale will be more of a thing for me.

I basically echo TAGN thoughts on the sale overall; a few years back it was a big deal, while now we all expect it and it’s really not a surprise or as big an event.

Small MMO note: The rise of paying for beta access also means titles I’m 50/50 on (like Archeage) stay on the waiting list longer (free beta). I’m sure for the company behind a game it’s better to get money up-front sooner than to get ‘influencers’ (if blog writters can still be considered that) to write/hype there game, especially if the game in question isn’t amazing (less hype, more “pass on this” posts).

Final item: I’m now the leader of the Clash of Clans… clan “Supreme Cream!”. If you are at all interested in the game (and you should be, its pretty fantastic) feel free to apply (just mention this blog so I know your not some random). Since the game is actually a rather deep strategy title, I’m more than happy to answer any questions you might have either through Steam or in-game. Also don’t forget about my tips post.

#Steam #CoC #AA


Big boy toys

June 12, 2014

It wasn’t THAT long ago when video games were considered a kid’s toy. Now when someone asks me when I’m going to stop playing ‘games’, I tell them hopefully the afterlife has solid broadband.

Given the above, it makes sense that along with gaming content (‘mature’ themes) changing, pricing models and levels have also been changing. A kid’s toy maxing out at $50 makes sense. Little Billy isn’t the one holding the wallet, which makes picking up a $200 in-game shiny difficult if not impossible for him. Someone a little older and successful can decide between going out to dinner for $200 or buying said shiny, and a serious argument can be made in what has more real ‘value’.

TAGN has a post up about Shroud of the Avatar selling in-game towns for real money, and these are not micro transactions. The smallest option comes in at $750, while the largest is $4000. Those prices are beyond just a decent dinner out, but if you are in a long-standing guild with successful people, splitting even $4000 between 20 or so players starts to sound a whole lot more manageable.

Star Citizen, also mentioned by TAGN, is another example of this growing trend, and just like SotA, if you have the means knock yourself out.

I’m perfectly fine with games like this so long as you know up-front what is going on. While I personally haven’t enjoy my wallet winning for me since giving up Magic The Gathering, if that does it for others more power to them. If a game I’m currently playing switches over to wallet-warrioring, I have a problem, but here both games have been upfront since day one. No one can say they didn’t know what they were signing up for here.


Could Kickstarter have made World of Darkness possible?

June 6, 2014

This World of Darkness article is sort of a good read. I say sort of because how many times have we read an MMO story about managers asking for one unconnected feature after another, code being reworked, and a game that is in development forever not going anywhere? The answer is often. Hell, I’d bet most released MMOs that have done decently even have a similar story.

Moving past that, the point I want to make today is that Kickstarter could have made WoD possible, for a number of reasons.

For starters, I guess the IP is a big deal (I’m not familiar with it), and big deal IPs attract attention on Kickstarter. Combine this with the fact that you don’t need millions and millions of dollars to make an MMO via Kickstarter these days, and had WoD set a target of, say, 1.5m, I think they would have gotten it.

Second, the Kickstarter route means you are selling access to stuff like alpha, which means more people giving you feedback earlier and really driving the game to some sort of release state. This of course doesn’t guarantee you end up with a good game, but it at least moves you to actually finish it or get it to something resembling a more complete product. And while you never fully want to be designing based on what your players/fans are telling you (cough: AV), if you properly filter the feedback it should be a benefit to the overall game.

Finally, the Kickstarter route somewhat lowers the standard IMO. You don’t need to deliver a full bells and whistles MMO, just a solid core that primarily appeals to those who funded you and others like them. If the initial budget is 1.5m plus whatever extra comes your way, you don’t need 500k subs to recoup that, which means if your MMO is only great at 1-2 things specific to the goal/IP, that will work.


Double cheese weekends

June 4, 2014

Quick one for today, which I think is going to build towards a more substantial post: is anyone else highly bothered by an MMO doing “double XP/loot/whatever” weekends?

I think I’m primarily bothered by it because such events bring “this is a game” to the forefront over “this is a living world”. I guess if your MMO is already highly ‘gamey’, not that big a deal, but the closer your MMO tries to be a virtual world, the more this bothers me. Especially when it’s done with a very broad brush, like “all loot sources doubled” vs “this particular type of mob is now 50% more likely to drop X”.


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