Going oldschool with AoW3

April 17, 2015

The Age of Wonders 3 play-by-email feature is, surprisingly, a godsend. The core problem with AoW3 multiplayer is that one player’s turn can take a long, long time if you fight multiple battles, while other turns might be very, very short, resulting in a lot of waiting and sometimes not much playing. Then factor in that one game takes hours to complete, and the whole thing can be a bit problematic.

You can somewhat get around this by using auto-battle against all NPC encounters, and only play a battle out against other players. While this does speed the game up, I feel it removes a lot of the fun from the game, as building up an army is a big part of the game, and auto-battle loses you units too often and too randomly.

PBM is great because it allows everyone to take as long as they need vs the computer, but interestingly enough battles between players are done in auto-battle. I actually don’t mind this as much, as the focus is still about building up and fighting the computer well, and removes the player vs player battle decisions. I still like that aspect mind you, but it is also nice to have an option where it is removed.

If you have AoW3 and want to get a PBM game going, ping me on Steam (Syncaine) and we can give it a go. I’ve got both expansions, so if I host it will use those (though you won’t be able to select the new class or races, but will see the new game systems and map additions).


GTA V: The corpse of the Skyrim UI designer got reanimated I guess?

April 14, 2015

Making a UI for a game can’t be hard. Now I don’t have personal experience making one, but seeing how often a mod for a game is a UI edit or complete overhaul, I’d bet good money it’s not THAT hard to make something decent.

I bring this up because the UI in GTA V for the PC is a console-port abortion. If I have to click more than twice to close the damn game, your UI sucks. Also if during the tutorial you leave in using the left arrow key on the keyboard as something you expect players to normally do, your UI sucks. And again, this stuff isn’t that hard, and there are plenty of examples to refer to on how to make a basic, acceptable UI for the PC. Pro-tip; using the mouse shouldn’t be an afterthought!

This reminds me of Skyrim all over again, only this UI isn’t AS BAD as Skyrim was, but its perhaps more frustrating because the PC version of GTA V is coming out YEARS after the console versions, so clearly the devs have had plenty of time and budget to make changes, but they didn’t so instead they could focus on a built-in movie editor? Really?

And much like Skyrim, the fact that the UI sucks isn’t enough to ruin the game. GTA V on the PC is glorious. The big change is of course the graphics, and yes, GTA V looks phenomenal maxed out. First person view is also very nice, especially since you can switch between it quickly, so shooting-heavy parts I go first person, but for most other situations I use the standard view. But man would the whole thing be much better if the UI didn’t get in the way as often as it does. Bring on the mods I guess.


Paying full price, because it won’t be changing anytime soon

April 13, 2015

Steam has conditioned most of us to wait for sales on anything we feel we can wait for. At the same time, for something like GTA V, which I’m dying to play on the PC, waiting for a while isn’t something I want to do, and because the game is going to be incredibly popular and successful, it’s not going to see a price reduction for a while, which makes paying full price… easier?

Now if someone can explain to me why the game unlocks late on a Monday, other than to troll everyone into waiting, I’d love to hear it.


Backer envy and the increased power of your money

April 10, 2015

Now that Kickstarter has shown it is a very viable wallet-vote platform for delivering excellent games we would not have otherwise gotten, I’m wondering if a general sense of ‘backer-envy’ isn’t something that has happened already, and will continue to grow.

Take for instance Pillars of Eternity. The game is selling very well, which means most of the people playing it aren’t part of the original 77k backers who made the idea a reality. In a very real way, that enjoyment everyone is getting is BECAUSE of those 77k, and while a delayed wallet-vote helps fund future RPGs, or the expansion+sequel for Pillars itself, the money that talked loudest came from the original 77k.

The general concept of the wallet-vote is very familiar to MMO players, since unlike every other genre pre-DLC, the MMO genre best captures the continued support (or lack of) for a game. If the devs do things right, subs go up. If they don’t, subs drop. In a normal game once you buy the box, that’s it. Whether you loved or hated what you bought, your wallet-vote said you wanted that game, and because of that wallet-voting strength was greatly diminished.

It should be no surprise that we will soon see more games like Divinity or Pillars. Studios copy what works, and currently the ‘old school’ RPG is working. Yet without Kickstarter, and the amplified voice backers got, that wouldn’t be the case today. After all, how many years did we go between Baldur’s Gate 2 and Divinity/Pillars without anyone seriously trying?

To get back to the envy aspect, I think in some ways its a good thing. While plenty of Kickstarter games will fail, either because they just aren’t that great or they never get released, I feel the money donated via Kickstarter towards something non-mainstream is still better spent than only buying top 10 titles, so that in the following year we can see the exact same top 10 get rehashed over and over.

Big AAA studios losing power isn’t a bad thing, and creating top quality games is clearly not the exclusive territory of anyone who can spend tens of millions to make it happen. Between Kickstarter helping solve the funding issue, and Steam solving the retail exposure problem, today more than ever an individuals wallet-vote has great power. Use it wisely.


The Liebster Award

April 8, 2015

RAVIOUS!!!

Nominating TAGN and Keen.

11 Random Facts

1. I was born in Poland.

2. First MMO was Neverwinter Nights on AOL.

3. I’ve never played EQ1, yet that MMO is the one I hate most.

4. Our house was always a Mac house, and I was always jealous of all the great PC games I couldn’t play. Senior year in highschool I borrowed my friend’s PC for a few months, since he was grounded and couldn’t use it. Play a LOT of Asheron’s Call – Darktide and DAoC during that time.

5. I was ranked #1 in the world until the first ranking reset in Myth 2. Would have been ranked #1 in Myth 1, but I was playing it on an older Mac that got 5-10 FPS during combat. When we got a new Mac it blew me away being able to actually control units in near real-time.

6. On the other hand, we got cable internet very early, so I was playing with a ping that was always much, much lower than most others who were still on dial-up. The good old days of “Pay to Win”.

7. I listen to far too much sports talk radio.

8. Pretty sure I have heavy OCD; for example my wallet, phone, and car keys are always in the same pockets whenever I go out.

9. Favorite drink when out is an espresso martini. At home gin and tonic.

10. Back in the day I applied to work at Turbine. This was right before the release of DDO and during LotRO planning. During the interview I told them instancing was a bad new feature/direction in MMOs. Didn’t get the job. Ultimately it worked out for me, not so much for Turbine.

11. I enjoy trading stocks on the market. The ironic part is while writing a blog post ranting about some $5 ‘P2W’ item, in another tab a stock or two might go up or down ~$100, and that doesn’t even cause me to blink.

Questions from Ravious:

1.What are the benefits and detriments to playing with your significant other?

Benefits: More stuff you have in common and can talk about. Great acceptance of spending so much time gaming. Far cheaper activity than going out, also more flexible with children.

Detriments: The LoL rage is real. Progressing slower because they don’t play as much, or wishing they played game X with you.

2. When you write a blog post do you care if developers read your feedback?

Not really, unless the intent of the post is to cause change in a game. Unless a dev is out of game development, they rarely share or confirm things anyway, which would be the main benefit.

3. What is your favorite “analogue” game (board game, CCG, TTRPG)?

I wish I could play these more, but right now Risk 2210 AD. It’s basically Risk but with most of the original game flaws fixed.

4. Who would play you in your Hollywood biography?

Easy, Matt Damon, specifically “Good Will Hunting” or “Rounders” Matt Damon.

5. Which upcoming MMO are you most interested in loving or hating?

Crowfall to love. EQN to hate? Most of the hateable MMOs are dying, and kicking them when they are down is only entertaining for so long.

6.You are reincarnated in the universe of Heinlen’s Number of the Beast, where every fictional universe from our perspective is real. Where are you reincarnated?

All of the interesting universes that come to mind are also much harsher than my current, so drawing a blank on this one.

7. What will be your perfect “last meal”?

Would have to go with the traditional filet steak and plenty of sides. Runner-up would be lasagna.

8. Do MMO gifts between you and your significant other (gold, skins, etc.) mean as much as the conventional gifts?

I think so? Riot points in a Christmas stocking has become a tradition over the last few years.

9. You are granted a wish to live anywhere with an internet connection that pings 50 ms to anywhere. Where do you live?

Assuming I also don’t have to work, or can work from home 100% of the time, Bahamas or Cancun. Beach or pool in the morning, gaming with room service at night, all day every day.

10. What is your favorite means of transportation?

I enjoy driving a car. I hate being a passenger in a car.

11. Do you have a guilty pleasure?

I religiously watch WWE every Monday night and the events on the WWE Network. Have since my pre-teen years. Much like gaming, this isn’t one of those ‘you’re going to grow out of it eventually, right?’ type of deals. I also love reading the write-ups Brandon Stroud does on the topic.

Questions for TAGN and Keen

1. What is your greatest MMO achievement?

2. If you could go back and stop any MMO from every being released, which one would it be and why?

3. What is your greatest ‘rage out’ moment in an MMO?

4. If you were forced to stop gaming and gaming-related activities (blogs, reading game sites) what would you do with that time?

5. Do you have any plans to retire from gaming? From blogging?

6. Which game had the most memorable ending and why?

7. Have you ever been a ‘whale’ in a F2P game? If yes, confess!

8. Is there a game or genre you wish you could enjoy, but just don’t?

9. How much time, on average, do you spend doing gaming-related activities per week (not counting actually gaming).

10. Which former blog do you wish still existed or was updated?

11. Your ‘Mount Rushmore’ (top 4 all time) games are?


Pillars of Eternity: Endless Paths discussion time

April 7, 2015

Initially my plan was to write a full-game spoiler-based post about Pillars of Eternity, but since I figure most people haven’t finished the game yet, I’ll let that one sit for a bit. I do however want to talk about the Endless Paths, because I think the story within that place is very interesting, and I’m also unsure about of a few of the plot details.

Lot of spoilers here, so if you haven’t finished the Endless Paths and don’t want anything revealed, skip this post. Read the rest of this entry »


Pillars of Eternity review

April 6, 2015

This post will be a non-spoiler (spoiler post coming tomorrow) review of Pillars of Eternity, having now beaten the game, with a playtime of just under 60 hours. I didn’t complete all of the side quests, but I’m guessing I did most, including finishing the Endless Dungeon.

Quite simply, the game is one of the best RPGs to come around in years. The story, the game systems, the graphics/sound; everything works here and it all comes together. I ran into one bug during my playthrough, and even that is now fixed with the recent 1.03 patch. On normal difficulty I had plenty of challenging fights, but never ran into anything that felt impossible and prevented me from moving forward.

The six companions I used (Aloth, Durance, Eder, Sagani, and I replaced Kana with Grieving Mother) all felt like real people with real motives rather than party fillers. Most of their personal quests were great, and I especially liked Eder and Aloth. They also add in dialog many times during the game, and it was always solid and in-character. Looking forward to playing with the ones I did not in a second playthrough.

The ending, which to me is critical to get right, was fantastic. It’s often very difficult to get this right, to make an ending that feels like a proper reward for all of your effort, but PoE nailed it. A nice bonus here was that the ending did sort of a “world update” based on your actions, which I felt was great, especially with an expansion and sequel already in the works.

A few other random bits:

Surprisingly I liked the crafting here, as it was somewhat minimal but useful. Being able to take a decent weapon or piece of armor and ‘update’ it to a higher tier was nice but not mandatory. I didn’t use food much, but for tougher fights it seemed to give that little bonus I needed. Same with potions, though I used those more often than food. Scrolls I only really used on a few boss battles, but I could see them being very powerful/helpful.

I liked the pace of the game. For something that took almost 60 hours to complete, I never felt the game was dragging or losing the pace of the main quest. I also liked the three tier breakdown of quests. You had the main quest line(s) always at the top, the you had the big side quests in the middle section, and finally the third section was tasks, which were always small, short, and less story-important things you could do for bonus XP or items. I liked this because it made it easier to decide what to skip, or what to consume if you needed a longer/shorter break from pushing the main quest forward.

Surprisingly I don’t have a problem with the level cap being 12, mostly because it allows for the final area/dungeon to remain challenging, and especially the final encounter. I think a game like this really leaves a bad final impression if you grossly overpower the final encounter, and so having a level cap helps to control this.

The Endless Dungeon might be my favorite bit of content in an RPG ever. It really was amazing, right down to the finally. More on that tomorrow.

Unless you absolutely hate RPGs, Pillars of Eternity is a must-buy.


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