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


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.

Pillars of Eternity: Two great moments so far

March 31, 2015

Spoiler Alert for Pillars of Eternity, unless you are to at least to chapter 3 or don’t care about spoilers, don’t continue reading.

Two scenes so far have really stuck out to me, the first being the Watcher you talk to in the keep (I suck with names, sorry) who is all crazy, and the second is when the traveling soul moves through the flesh golems in the mental institute (again more name problems).

I like the first scene a lot because it gives you a potential glimpse into your future and why being a Watcher isn’t all roses. Combined with everything else you know up to that point about how souls come back and all that, the whole thing just really worked for me and drove the point home. Plus the voice acting was fantastic and for whatever reason, I wasn’t expecting that turn in terms of who the older Watcher would be. I also think it really helped that this was the scene before the keep unlock and gaining access to the endless dungeon, two piece of content that are also amazingly awesome.

I liked the second scene because while it wasn’t a full reveal, it moved the story along significantly and was again not what I expected. I expected to go in and gather some clues about the Key organization, not to come face to face with who I expect is the big bad AND to see one of his unique powers at work. I also liked that it tied into the animancer’s struggles with his experiments well. Its rough enough that these guys are playing around with souls, they really don’t need a traveling soul intentionally screwing with them, and that happening made it easier to side with them and not just default to that they are all evil bastards.

I’ve talked to a few people who aren’t finding the story gripping in PoE. Those people are like an alien species to me just based on what I’ve seen so far, and I can’t wait to see where things go.

Pillars of Eternity: Thoughts after a few hours

March 27, 2015

Whenever developers ‘remake’ a classic game, or attempt a ‘spiritual successor’, there is always a balance of what to keep and what to change/update, and if you don’t get that balance right, you disappoint. Often-times you not only disappoint, but also end up with a below-average product overall.

Pillars of Eternity (PoE), 4-5 hours in, gets most of the Baldur’s Gate formula right.

The graphics look good/great, but it also looks like Baldur’s Gate would if it was released in 2015. Same with the sound and voice acting, its all very solid, and the quest text is a mix of voice and writing, much like it was in BG (I find games with 100% voice tiring as too often you are waiting over something you aren’t fully invested in, while having lesser-important parts be written means you read through them at a better pace). The UI is parts BG theme, part smart UI design for 2015.

Combat, a very critical aspect, also feels like an evolved version of BG. You still can pause and then let things play out, and you still have spells and special abilities, but the entire game isn’t confined to AD&D rules, but instead uses a ruleset that likely better fits a computer RPG.

I love the stamina and HP systems too. Stamina is like a short-term HP pool that auto-regens during and at the end of combat, while your true HP pool can only be restored by camping or at an inn, and camping is limited by a consumable that you can only carry so much of. If your stamina hits zero in a fight, you are knocked down and out, until either your party wins and you stand up, or everyone is knocked out and you lose. Since HP don’t regenerate and aren’t easily restored, that system acts as a ‘wear you down’ mechanic during a dungeon crawl, and tougher fights that deal a lot of HP damage are more meaningful, while smaller fights with weaker creatures will likely only take some stamina that is fully recovered after the fight. Hopefully the above makes sense, but in short it really is a wonderful system to both capture the struggle of a single fight, while also providing a system to show long-term fatigue/damage.

The one ‘flaw’ for me so far is the need to use stealth to find secret, since this results in your party going around in stealth mode 99% of the time, which just feels off and is a bit annoying (you walk slower in stealth). I’d much prefer the game just do a skill check when needed, to still reward having a character with that ability, without forcing that extra click and slowness. Plus it would leave the stealth mechanic for, you know, actual stealth when you need it. I wonder if that’s something that can be ‘fixed’ with a mod in the future.

More as I get deeper with the game, but even this far in, its very easy to recommend PoE to any RPG fan, it’s a gem.


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