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.

Early Access: Is it working?

July 9, 2015

Being in somewhat of a ‘main game’ lull, I’ve been looking over my 100+ list of Steam games of late. In particular, I’m checking back in with a some of the Early Access titles I’ve purchased in the past but have long since stopped playing. Some I stopped playing because they sucked, but others I played enough to say “this is going to be good” and waited for more development to happen. Consider this a half-time review of Early Access.

Some games haven’t been updated much, which leads me to believe they never will be. Those are the worst examples of Early Access, and the titles that sour people most on the entire thing. If you are a dev responsible for such a title, finish your damn game or go play in traffic, thanks.

Other titles have gotten updates, but either the ‘vision’ has changed, or the updates just don’t do it for me. Sometimes an early access game will be in such a state that you believe something good will come of it, because there isn’t enough there just yet to really know, and once the devs do hit those critical ‘pull the game together’ parts, it just doesn’t work. While these titles aren’t great games, they aren’t a terrible example of early access either. You are buying in early to see how a game shapes up. It won’t always shape up how you expected, and since the price is generally low, that’s not the worst thing in the world.

Then there are the titles that either made it out of Early Access as great games, or are still in Early Access but are clearly progressing and getting better as time goes on. If the devs throw in some stuff about how the Early Access-based funding has contributed to the game improving, all the better. It’s these titles that show the true strength of the system, especially for titles in genres or themes that aren’t viewed as major sellers or ‘viable’ by suits.

Finally, sometimes a title is in Early Access for so long that, despite it being ‘finished’, feels old or dated. Whether its the graphics, or the ‘unique twist’, or the combination of features, sometimes the gaming landscape changes so fast that what was cool or interesting a year or two ago is now tired and boring. Great games and great ideas age well, but sometimes a quirky little title just stops being quirky.

Overall I can only say I’ve truly regretted a small percentage of Early Access purchases, and have been very happy with many. I like the system, and while not perfect, is a plus to gaming IMO.

Time Warp – D:OS thoughts

June 29, 2015

Welcome to the newest feature for the blog (which means this will be the only time it is used); where I blog about an older game you have either already played or have no interest in playing. Should be really riveting stuff, so get excited!

I want to like Divinity: Original Sin more than I do. Which isn’t to say I don’t like it, but at the same time I can’t play it for more than an hour, and while I’m overall interested in whats happening, the game works really hard to make me care less with its humor and immersion-breaking bits.

Let me get this stuff out of the way first; The graphics are very good, sometimes amazing (standing on a cliff and looking at the area below is very well done), but I wish there was some in-game indicator for what the terrain is. Sometimes it can be hard to spot a pool of water, which is rather important when you are throwing around lighting spells. Sound is mostly good, although as mentioned the goofy voiced dialog can at times be distracting or a negative. No crashing, game loads up quickly, has mod support, etc, so all good on that end.

The combat is a lot of fun, although can be a bit taxing. I’m more than fine planning things out for a larger battle or a boss fight, but doing all of that for EVERY encounter can feel a bit much at times. There is also something a bit off with the numbers behind the action, as a lot of times I don’t take much damage at all, but then for some reason (crits, specific element damage, bad status effect) a character will just get trucked almost instantly. Resurrection scrolls seem to be rather plentiful, but still it would be nice if things were a bit smoother.

My main issue with the game however is the setting/humor. D:OS to me seems to be stuck in an awkward middle ground, where it has mostly serious content that fits the setting, but throws in just enough jokes or immersion-break self-references to pull you out of that setting anytime you start to really feel invested. Either go all-in on being a jokey RPG, or keep the meta-jokes down so they aren’t always so in your face.

Finally, while I can see where min/maxing characters could result in a lot of fun and powerful combinations, the game feels as though you almost HAVE TO min/max to get a lot out of it. Combat is clearly geared towards combos, so if you happen to run a party that can’t combo easily (or the combo you do have a certain enemy is immune to), its not only an uphill battle, but you feel like you are playing the game ‘wrong’. I think if every character had more access to elemental damage, but the overall impact was toned down a bit, the game would feel better. Right now a lot of the encounters feel more like a “do you have this combo” check than a strategic puzzle to figure out.

Again, I am enjoying the game overall, its a fun RPG with a lot going for it, but it’s not on the same level of Pillars of Eternity IMO. D:OS gets 80% right, where I felt PoE got 95%.

Fallout 4 info and the mobile game

June 15, 2015

As most of us predicted, given it was up for pre-order on Steam, Fallout 4 is coming later this year. The full 2+ hour E3 presentation can be seen here (talking starts at 26min, Fallout 4 around 1hr), and you can get pre-hyped with the Fallout mobile game (yet another reason why Bethesda is like Old Blizzard, the Fallout app is #1 right now on the apple charts, unlike the release of HS).

Can. Not. Wait.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 228 other followers