Extra Life Marathon

AggroChat #27 – Ice and Ishgard

Last night we recorded another episode of the AggroChat podcast.  This week I was joined by the regular lineup of Ashgar, Rae, Kodra and Tam.  Since the Final Fantasy XIV Fan Festival is going on right now in Vegas we had lots of news spilling out from it.  The most exciting is the official announcement of the Heavensward expansion that is targeting a Spring 2015 release.  I have to tell you developers, this is the way you announce an expansion, when it is only a few months away.  Final Fantasy XIV has been a model for how to release content in general, with a lot of other exciting news coming out about the 2.4 Dreams of Ice major patch introducing the first new Class/Job combination since the release of the game.  Most everyone I know is really looking forward to playing the Rogue/Ninja and I fully expect that every group that I run after a certain point will be full of nothing but Ninja dps.

We did not ONLY have Final Fantasy XIV news however, and we talked a little bit about the Trove Halloween event going on right now.  Additionally Kodra and Tam talk about their experiences playing Borderlands the Pre-Sequel.  I was pretty hesitant about this game because quite frankly they did a really bad job promoting it.  It was made clear early on that this was the “B Team” working on the game, and the trailers seemed to lack any real effort and did not sell me on why this would be a game I wanted to pick up.  Additionally most of the classes that were playable didn’t really interest me.  However apparently the game is pretty damned good, albeit considerably more buggy than BL1 or BL2.  My biggest complaint about the borderlands series to be honest is that we keep having to get new characters to play.  I kinda wish that each game release would simply ADD more characters to play, without constantly removing the last games set.  At the very least I would love to see DLC that adds back in the other characters released after the launch.

Finally since we did not talk about League at all last week, I let Rae loose to discuss whatever she wanted related to league.  This is generally the point in the podcast where my eyes glaze over and I try desperately to follow the conversation.  I find League and interesting game, but just not as interesting as my other podcastees do.  It is a fun thing to play, but considering it seems to have its own language that is not entirely related to english I struggle to follow it.  Additionally there is my whole problem of not really following e-sports in general.  However if you are into league, and into e-sports I am sure this section of the podcast will make perfect sense to you.  I generally wait patiently until the league storm winds down and we can move on to the next topic.  We ran a bit long last night but I think there was quite a bit of really awesome conversation especially about Final Fantasy XIV and its current direction.

Extra Life Marathon

Another topic we discussed is the upcoming Extra Life marathon.  I wanted to break this out into its own topic this morning because of its importance.  Months ago several of the Alliance of Awesome community started talk about organizing a team for the 25 hour Extra Life marathon.  I personally have always wanted to participate in this event, but doubted if I could actually make all 25 hours.  As such we have formed a Hitbox Team, which allows us to all stream to the same shared page.  So next weekend we will have 25 hours of Alliance of Awesome gaming, and I really hope that you tune in to check some of it out.  Right now the schedule looks a little something like this.  All times are in Eastern Standard Time

  • 8 am – 12 pm – Stargrace
  • 12 pm – 2 pm – Arislyn
  • 2 pm – 4 pm – Ashgar
  • 4 pm – 7 pm – Kodra
  • 7 pm – 9 pm – Zelibeli
  • 9 pm – 11 pm – Scopique
  • 11 pm – 3 am – Belghast
  • 3 am – 6 am – Scarybooster
  • 6 am – 8 am – Cav

As you can see from the list three of the AggroChat hosts are going to be streaming, but more likely than not a large number of us will be hanging out on the Alliance of Awesome teamspeak streaming channel at any given time.  I know I plan on doing this for most of the day, apart from when we end up recording the AggroChat podcast.  I guess that too is still in the air, if we record an episode that day or not.  In any case you should tune in and watch the festivities.  If you want to do more than just watch…  any of the streamers would greatly appreciate your donations.  Right now the team as a whole has raised over $700 but since it is ALL going to an awesome cause we are hoping to get that number a bit higher.  I personally would love to see us hit $1000 but not sure if that is feasible or not yet.  If you are interesting in donating here are the links to the various team members.

AggroChat Hosts

Other Alliance of Awesome Folks

Something of note… Kodra is doing something special with his stream.  Basically he is letting you choose what game he is going to play.  When you donate to his stream, you can vote for him to play ANY game he has in his stream library…  or if you are truly a griefer… you can gift him a game and then donate towards him playing that.  There are certain games like Amnesia: The Dark Descent that he has only played a few minutes of…  and it freaked him out too much to continue.  All of these games… are totally fair game.  In fact I think we should probably make him play something truly disturbing.  In any case I hope you guys tune in next Saturday to watch the festivities.

The Future Is Now

Other Peoples Drama

Yesterday my wife and I went on an adventure to Northwest Arkansas.  We have a deep sense of nostalgia about the Fayetteville area, because I guess it was one of the first towns we knew nothing about and wandered around together in.  This is a thing we like to do, go to a new area without any real warning and see what all we can find.  Combine this with the fact that my wife has a really awesome cousin in the area, and it is a location we try and get to as often as possible.  For whatever reason however it had been a few years since we had managed to make the trek.  I mean its not extremely far, but it still ends up being roughly a two hour journey from our home… so something we don’t exactly undertake lightly.

One of the coolest things about going up there is hanging out at our cousins place of business.  She is a tattoo artist of some renown and the shop is always an interesting place.  It gives us a window into lifestyles that are just somewhat hard to fathom.  I guess I’ve always thought it was important to expose yourself to other ways of thinking, but there are times that I just sit back and cannot quite follow the logic that lead down some of the paths.  I mean  the family is awesome, but the shroud of drama that surrounds it is one part really bad luck and one part less than stellar decisions made in the midst of that bad luck.  But what I love is just how valiantly they fight back against whatever circumstances they are thrown into.  While constantly in struggle mode, you can feel the love and the life that they embrace.

The Future Is Now

6922-walmartpickup-459 Northwest Arkansas is known for a lot of things, but probably the biggest is that Bentonville is the headquarters of the Wal-mart corporation.  As such you see some interesting machinations take root there that will likely filter out into the rest of the country.  Yesterday while roaming around town we saw something interest, a Wal-Mart Pickup Grocery.  In essence it looks like a non-descript warehouse building with a series of bright green drive in stalls similar to a drive in restaurant like Sonic.  The idea apparently is that you order your groceries online, and then pull into the stall and punch in some code letting the folks inside know you are there.  At which point they bring out your groceries and help you load them into your vehicle.

I have wanted exactly this same concept for years… and I am pumped to see that it even exists in a test market.  For years I have wanted to be able to do my grocery shopping online and simply pull up to the store and load what I just bought.  I really hate everything about grocery shopping, from the journey from cold to humid within each store, to the slow moving shoppers, to the desperate for small talk and validation cashiers.  I mean I try my best to be pleasant through the average shopping trip, and keep from biting anyone’s head off…  but it is a frustration that I would be more than happy to abandon.  The prevalence of self checkout lanes greatly improved my shopping experience, and this is just the next step.  The only thing that would improve it beyond this is maybe if robots delivered my groceries.

Playstation TV

Today I am wrapped up in my fuzzy little cocoon on the sofa, with cats napping beside me.  After two days of heavy activity, I am ready to just be mostly comatose today.  I got home late enough last night that I didn’t really get much chance to do anything.  I did take a bit and hook up my Playstation TV and so far the results are mixed.  I feel like I need to probably hard wire my ps4 into my network, so that only one of the two units is using wireless.  Playing Destiny there was a noticeable lag to the gameplay.  I mean it is probably no worse than when playing on the vita, but playing on a tiny screen with already awkward controls seems to make it less noticeable.  I didn’t experience any of the graphical glitches that Pete Smith on G+.  I am hoping if I hardwire my PS4 that it will help out the latency a bit.

I essentially need another HDMI hub downstairs as essentially I had to unplug my Chromecast to plug in the PSTV.  The other thing that I guess I was not prepared for is that I would need another Vita memory card.  So I have an HDMI hub and another memory stick on order that should arrive tomorrow.  The base unit only has 1 gig of storage so there really was not much that I could even download to play on the unit.  I will likely keep the chromecast hooked up until I get the rest of the bits to connect things up.  Thankfully it recognized my Dual Shock 4 without any issue, and was able to play using that.  The only problem I see there is that the PSTV doesn’t seem to take advantage of the touchpad at all, which makes some of the “Vita” interactions a bit awkward like the motion to “swipe away” a current application to close it is performed by holding down a button as the corner slowly peels away.  I think once I get used to it, I will enjoy it more as it will extend the PS4 to yet another television.

Movies, Roulette and ArcheAge

Little Projects

front_closet I am cheating a bit on this post, and writing it the night before I intend to post it.  The plan is for us to go running around in Fayetteville tomorrow, and as such I really need not to take my normal leisurely “not having to rush to work” amount to time to write a post in the morning.  Today was an insanely busy day.  Right now I am taking a few days off work because it is Fall Break here in Oklahoma, and since my wife is a teacher she is out.  One of the problems with living with a teacher is that you pretty much have to plan your time off around school breaks.  For awhile we had planned on doing a little project, originally the intent was to rip up all of the carpet in the bedroom and paint the floor.

As time got closer to fall break we backed away from that notion, mostly because it would quite literally take all four days of this little break… and since my wife has had an insane semester so far… she really needs to take an actual break, and not a working one.  Instead we opted to do a bunch of little things around the house today.  Our house for starters was in massive need of a deep cleaning.  Additionally we needed to gather up and take another load to Goodwill.  The front closet was our key mission, and for quite some time it had been packed with coats and shoes we weren’t actually wearing any longer.

Instead we took what was useless space and turned it into something useable.  Previously the closet was full with a bunch of coats that were too big for us since the weight loss.  The floor was full of shoes that we longer wore, and the top was full of a bunch of board games that we had not touched since college.  We kept the few things we were actually going to use from all of those categories and the end result left us a bunch of open space.  We moved an 8×2 cube unit into the empty space, allowing us to store our SLR equipment on top of it, and use the other bins for scarves and such, and the lower two bins for storage of our current shoes.  This left a spot on the right side that was perfect for our laptop cases, and just enough room to hang the handful of coats we decided to keep.  One of the nice things is once we end up organizing something…  it tends to stay organized so here is hoping that is the case with this as well.

Movies, Roulette and ArcheAge

ARCHEAGE 2014-10-16 20-28-16-05 When I finally crashed on the sofa after working on the house all day long, I logged into Final Fantasy XIV and ran my daily elite roulette with my good friend Cylladora.  It went pretty smoothly and when it was finished we both logged out of FFXIV for a bit.  I opted to poke my head into ArcheAge for a bit since right now it is pretty much a solo affair for me.  A few days ago I applied for Greymoon the guild that everyone I know is playing the game is in…  and was accepted, but I have zero clue how to actually go about getting an invite.  None of the folks I know have been around since I got accepted, so I figure I will just wait until one of them is on to ask them.  The guild requires folks to log into teamspeak, which seems a little odd to me.  Granted I spend most of my time connected to TS, but it feels strange to require that folks just log in out of course rather than for them doing so with a purpose.

I am still slowly working my way through the content, and I am closing in on 22.  I managed to get a pretty sweet katana to drop earlier which was a massive improvement over the blue sword I had been using for awhile.  I took a handful of deaths because I really was not paying nearly as close of attention as I probably should have been.  Lately I have been hanging out on the sofa and watching television while playing games, but tonight I opted for a movie.  I had yet to see the Amazing Spiderman 2, so I decided to watch it.  All in all I think it was a pretty good comic book movie.  I’ve never been a massive fan of Spiderman, but I think all kids who read comic books at least know a bit of the storyline and a few of the major villains.  It seemed like they did a good enough job at representing both the Green Goblin and Electro.  It was good enough to pull my attention from the game a handful of times leading to deaths.

8 Bit Boy

8bitboy 2014-10-13 17-18-19-378 A few days ago I watched the awesome Missy Mojo playing an interesting game on her stream.  The game reminded me of a mishmash of a bunch of the late 8 bit Nintendo games as sort of a combination of McKids and Super Mario Brothers 3.  8-Bit Boy pays homage to so many different games and is an absolute steal at only $3.99.  I have been playing it off and on, and while I don’t find it in the same league as the various frustration games like Super Meatboy, I find it plenty challenging.  I’ve reached a point where the game has started to feel a bit like the special levels in Super Mario World.  It isn’t the type of game I can play a lot of in one sitting, but I keep returning to it and whittling away at progress.

8bitboy 2014-10-13 17-13-14-757 There is a certain generic character to the game, that would normally turn me off.  The main character is just about as bland as you can get and at the same time looks somewhat like Mario, the character from Adventure Island, and even a little bit Alex Kidd.  I think I would have rather the game actually built a strong character for you to play than something that ends up being his amalgam that never is as strong as any of them.    The level design kinda feels super generic as well, borrowing elements from a ton of different games.  So all of these things would normally turn me off, but I have to say the game play makes up for it in spades.  It controls like pretty much the best version of all of the games it is trying to replicate.  If you are into that sort of thing, you should totally check it out.

#ArcheAge #FFXIV #8BitBoy

Doomlords and Paladins

The Tobold Effect

toboldeffect Yesterday was a strange day because every now and then one of my posts develops a life of its own.  I had gotten an email saying that I had a comment waiting in queue.  I keep my blog set to moderate new comments because for whatever reason I get a truly phenomenal amount of spam.  Every now and then one of them makes it through Akismet and ends up as a real comment.  So instead of letting these just sit out there without noticing them, I have my wordpress set to moderate the first comment from a specific poster, and once I have approved them they can comment from that point on freely.  So while in wordpress I happened to look at my Jetpack statistics page and saw something weird.

For a moment I thought the stats were completely borked or something, but upon closer inspection I was in fact having what looked to be a spike in readership.  When looking through the referrers I saw a name there that I had not seen before.  Apparently Tobold created a post with nothing but a link to my “Sandboxes and Sheep” post on ArcheAge, and then bam we were off to the races.  While I might be occasionally getting lambasted in his comment stream, I guess there is no such thing as bad publicity?  I mean I really did not write that post to be anything than me adding my counter point to the posts that were linked.  I was not trying to condemn pvp, but just present an alternate viewpoint to “there are no consequences”.

In any case on an average day I have around 150 readers, and that day I saw that number up up to be like 750ish.  Here is hoping that some of them might stick around for awhile, and if so welcome to the new folks who are reading me ramble.  I post something new every day, and you get my unfiltered thoughts as on the average morning I start writing around 6 am and write hard and fast for thirty minutes to an hour and produce the post you see each day.  I did not necessarily set out that day to write the post I ended up writing, but instead that is what happened to flow out when I put text to screen.  The only thing I would add to the comment stream, I was an Alpha player of ArcheAge so while my current character is only level 20, I have more experience than that would denote.

Less Toxic Community

ARCHEAGE 2014-10-16 09-59-01-23 I freely admit that most of my opinion of ArcheAge as a whole comes from early testing of the game.  I got into alpha testing back in May when a friend of mine hooked me up with an invite.  Overall I think my first impressions were favorable, but as I played it was the community that ended up grinding me down.  The griefing was prevalent, and most of it did not involve pvp combat at all to be truthful.  I’ve talked about some of my experiences before, but ultimately I detached myself from the game because of the toxic community.  With the games launch this was my number one detractor from giving it another shot, that and the fact that at 35 in Alpha I pretty much stalled out due to the constant pvp ganking while trying to quest.  Both of which were sad because the game still has quite a bit to offer players of all stripes.

Coming back I have been pleasantly surprised I guess is the best way to put it.  While the community is still fairly horrible when compared to say Final Fantasy XIV with their awesome pugging experience…  it is at least as good as say World of Warcraft, which is to say it is pretty much the norm for a massively multiplayer game these days.  While the public channels do sound a bit like /trade or barrens chat most of the time, they can be pretty easily ignored.   I am not sure if simply the worst offenders have moved on to other games, or have at least moved on to bigger content and are no longer in the areas I am in… but in any case I have not actually experienced the non-pvp griefing like I did in alpha.

I think maybe in alpha folks were just like a child testing the limits of their parents will.  So many of the things I think folks were doing just because they “could” do it.  The fact that most of those early invites were youtubers and streamers probably amplified this toxic nature.  There were a few awesome streamers like Kiwi, but also a lot of not so awesome ones whose streams consisted mostly of “watch me abuse these players”.  If you went afk in alpha… you were more than likely going to get pushed out of town by a tractor and find yourself dead in the countryside.  So it is all of these experiences that have so negatively colored my opinion of the game and left me not wanting to really give it a shot at launch.

Doomlords and Paladins

ARCHEAGE 2014-10-16 10-02-51-82 So I have watched this games progress and played the role of the grumpy curmudgeon as various friends decided to give it a shot.  I was fairly happy to ignore it until I realized something.  By some quirk almost all of the people I know and care about playing the game seemed to have ended up in the same location.  Firstly I noticed that most of the players were on the Naima server, and while I figured a lot of folks would end up playing the “catgirl” faction…  it turned out that almost all of them were on West the faction I actually preferred.  To make matters worse, I realized that almost everyone happened to be in the same guild.  This is the point at which I started to contemplate actually playing the game.  What makes it stranger is that several of the groups of friends, don’t actually really know each other.  So they all seemed to arrive there independently.

As such I have been trying to look at the game with somewhat fresh eyes, and give it a fair shake where I had not before.  The game itself is really fun, but at this point I am not really sure why.  I keep flipping back and forth between Paladin and Doomlord, because I am really not sure which one I prefer.  Paladin seems to be considerably better for pure survival, but Doomlord has a lot of fun toys.  Right now I have both a charge and a death grip attack, which makes me extremely happy.  The healing capabilities of Paladin sadly are not terribly useful in combat.  Like I can throw a heal over time on myself, but the amount of health it heals versus my hitpoint pool feels insignificant.

What I would love to find is a version of tank that plays like a Shadowknight or a Deathknight, where my attacks basically proc heals.  Not sure if such a beast exists and is still at the same time “tanky”.  The biggest surprise has been just how willing people are to group up for objectives.  The main difference with this game is that there is the ability to send out a group invite to anyone in the vicinity.  So many players do that by course before starting an encounter.  The negative is that there is no passive tagging system, so the first player to hit anything owns the encounter.  I realize this is an older game, but I find it hard to believe that any game would choose active tagging for mobs at this point.

Chief Concerns

ARCHEAGE 2014-10-16 10-01-24-25 My biggest concern for this game is the fact that Trion does not have any real control over it.  They run the servers, and can fiddle with bits in their databases…  but as far as the client and server code they do not have any access to that at all.  They are essentially a third party reseller of this game to the western markets.  There are a lot of things that players requested in Alpha that have come out as not being functionally possible, or XL Games was completely unwilling to consider them.  There are features that are just requirements for a modern game like the ability to invert the mouse axis, that are missing.  I know of at least one friend that simply cannot play the game because of this.  At the end of the day, while I have warm fuzzies about Trion…  I have to realize this is not their game.

If this changes I might have more hope, and I feel like they are doing their best to accommodate the play style of western gamers.  I have listened to a few discussions on this however, and so many of the things that we are requesting… just don’t make sense to XL Games who is entirely focused on the Korean MMO mindset.  What I would love to see is for the code to be forked in such a way as Trion had the ability to “improve” the game, but the problem there is that we then get cut off from the main trunk of the tree and it becomes extremely hard to obtain all of the expansion content.  The Korean version is considerably further along than the Western version, in that there are even additional races like the Dwarves.  It will be interesting to see how things shake out.


Pre-Warlords Patch Time

Tis the Season

I have to say I am more than a little bit scared that this crap I have had for the last few weeks is not just “allergies” as I had originally thought.  The last couple of days whatever it is seems to have settled into my lungs, and it is getting a bit harder to actually breathe.  I still would not think anything about it really, apart from the fact that my boss has been out the last few days for a fairly serious case of bronchitis.  I guess in truth it isn’t so much the bronchitis that is serious but more so the fact that he has bronchitis… and only one lung.  In any case something appears to be going around, and considering the close proximity in which we all work together… it is likely if one of us catches something we are all going to catch it.

The positive I guess is the fact that today is my Friday.  Since my wife is off for fall break the next couple of days I decided to take them off as well.  As of yet we don’t really have any solid plans other than a few projects around the house.  In any case even if I feel like shit, at least I don’t have to go into work right?  Thankfully most of the projects are just time intensive rather than labor intensive so I can totally muddle through them with junk in my lungs.  If things get much worse I will either go to the doctor or go to urgent care and hopefully get a steroid course or something to clear it up.  I would probably call in this morning, but since my boss has been out for the last two days… and I have been attending meetings in his place…  we need to actually do a bit of an information dump before I am gone from the office as well.

Pre-Warlords Patch Time

belghast_beforeafter Yesterday twitter was completely abuzz over the release of the 6.0.2 patch in World of Warcraft that brought in all of the major changes that are always the precursor to a major expansion.  One of the biggest of these was the entrance of the brand new player models for all but the Worgen/Goblins.  While I had played quite a bit in Alpha… I had not actually copied most of my characters over to see what they would end up looking like.  I copied my main Belgrave, but since he is a Worgen it really didn’t matter much in the grand scheme of things.  I made a handful of premades, but when I last did that they still had the whole “single face” issue going on so it was really hard to see just how they would match up the appearances.  So when I logged in last night I have to say I was a little shocked at just how strange the transition looked.  Above is an image of Belghast prior to the patch and Belghast after the patch.

belghast_updated Something was just off for some reason in the appearance.  It didn’t feel like “my” character that I had spent so much  time playing and tanking on.  So like everyone the first thing I did was run to the barber shop and try and improve the appearance.  After some tweaking I finally landed on a look that feels “closer” to how I felt Belghast looked in appearance.  What is strange about this entire process is how much I realize that the characters no longer feel like they are “mine”.  I am not sure how to articulate that, because it wasn’t until I saw what my characters looked like that I realized how much the face apparently DID matter to me.  The differences aren’t that massive, but they just don’t feel like they belong to me any more.  They were just these higher fidelity things that happened to have the name and all of the gear of my previous character.

lodin_beforeafter The characters I feel that translated perfectly however were the Dwarves.  This shot is of Lodin my original raiding main from vanilla and his after the patch translation.  I have to say it is perfect, it captures everything I intended for the character and feels just about perfect.  So the handful of characters I have that were dwarves feel the same to me as they did previously.  The big problem I seem to be having is with the Humans and Draenei.  For whatever reason they just seem to be off in ways that I can’t fully articulate.  If I did ever come back, I have a feeling I would be race changing most of my characters to be dwarves, because so far that seems to be the clear winner in this upgrade to me at least.  Granted that could just be my natural affinity to the subterranean folk in the first place.  In any case my curiosity was sated and other than things feeling odd, I didn’t really have much emotion about the translation either way.

Lalafell Badass

ffxiv 2014-10-14 18-28-57-728 The real fun of yesterday was the fact that Tuesdays are reset day in Final Fantasy XIV.  This means I was able to pop back into Syrcus Tower to try for another piece of gear, or one of the tokens needed to upgrade an existing piece of gear to ilvl 110.  In addition this was the week that I finally would have enough tomestones of soldiery to be able to purchase the chest piece.  Granted I already had a level 100 chest, but there is just something about this chest that the moment I saw it… I knew I had to get it.  I have this thing for plate mail skirts in games, that I likely will never fully understand.  In world of Warcraft, my favorite set of gear will always be the Paladin Judgement set, and in FFXIV it seems to be right now the soldiery chest.  The problem with it is that my bunny samurai helmet no longer really went with it.  Thankfully last week I managed to get in on a Behemoth kill which netted me the really badass looking plate helm I am wearing in the above image.

ffxiv 2014-10-14 22-22-01-721 Tuesday nights are traditionally our raid night, but over the last several weeks we have been struggling with getting enough people online at the same time.  Last night we sat there with seven for quite a bit, and then two of our newer 50s that are considerably less geared came online.  We opted to get their weekly elite hunt done, which would allow them to get just enough gear to be able to enter something interesting.  As a way of breaking them into what raiding in FFXIV is like, we opted to do Hard Mode Ultima Weapon.  It had been quite some time since we had downed it ourselves, so we were all a bit rusty, but we managed to work through the issues and the massive lag issues our newest charges were having… and defeated the boss.  Hopefully over the next few days we can start knocking out the various hard modes for them so that they can do the Hard and Elite duty roulettes for gear and tokens.  If nothing else going into Ultima allowed me to take this really badass screenshot.  I love my new armor, and while I will miss the bunny samurai hat…  the behemoth helmet just looks amazing.

#WoW #FinalFantasyXIV

Sandboxes and Sheep

Defense of Open World

While I might dip my toes in the water of player versus player every so often just to see if I still don’t enjoy it… at my core I am very much a Carebear.  I’ve always assumed I simply lack the competitive streak needed to make the dance of “you kill me I hunt you down and kill you” enjoyable.  Even in the hallowed days of Doom multiplayer, I greatly preferred playing co-operatively with friends rather than playing a Deathmatch.  Generally speaking this wouldn’t effect me because I never willfully choose to expose myself to a PVP environment or mentality, however for some reason folks keep seeming to get hung up on requiring it to play in their sandbox.  I like the concept of a sandbox world where I can go anywhere and do anything…  but for a certain stripe of player that means that they can also grief and gank anyone as a result.

Yesterday there was a really good article talking about the psychology of a Carebear by Aywren that tries to delve into the reasons for not wanting open world PVP.  This article references several other really good articles, the first of which being “What’s So Bad About Open World PVP” over on Gaming Conjecture.  Later on during the article another post is referenced on Endgame Viable that takes a very similar stance.  Essentially the argument sums up to that in ArcheAge the game in question, there aren’t any real lasting consequences of PVP combat, so why should anyone have a problem with it.  I guess from a certain standpoint that is true, there are no lasting mechanical consequences to my character…  but that standpoint relies on someone actually seeing player versus player as a meaningful experience.

Wasting My Time

When I sit down to play any game, be it online or offline I generally have some broad overarching goals in mind, things that I want to accomplish for that night to feel like I actually did something.  Granted I allow myself to get side tracked all of the time, but that is generally tracing down various shiny bits that I happen across along the way.  These rabbit trails are entirely my choice and I allow myself to indulge them as I move around the world.  My key problem with open player versus player combat is the fact that someone is imposing their enjoyment on my playtime.  I am all about folks enjoying their game play until that enjoyment comes at my expense.  I am never going to be the type of player that attacks first, it is just not in my nature and I have waved and hugged countless “flagged” players during my time in World of Warcraft.  So if I get attacked and killed it will be done and over 90% of the time before I even get a shot in…  because I am not looking to fight other players.

What happens then is a series of things that take me out of the place where I was enjoying the game and force me to deal with the whims of another player.  Either I wait until the player gives up and stops camping my corpse, which could be any length of time.  I could allow myself to get drawn into a conflict and start trying to kill trade with that player until either of us gets bored.  More likely I just log out of the game and go find something else to do, because the groove that I was in is now lost thanks to someone interjecting themselves into my game play session.  Now the fans of PVP will talk about how much it enriches their game play experience, how much they enjoy the constant sense of fear of getting attacked.  For me I just view it as a waste of my time, and I don’t cherish or enjoy it any more than any other waste of time.  I don’t look longingly at waiting in a long line at the super market, nor do I think fondly of waiting in traffic because someone is gawking at an accident.  That thing you enjoy about the game, the pvp aspect…  I consider it about as meaningful as both of those things.

Sandboxes and Sheep

The biggest problem I have with the current generation of Sandbox games is that they attract two completely different types of players.  For me at least I love the intricate systems of the game and the fact that you can craft anything you can imagine and run huge trade cartels if you so choose.  I like that there are housing that are meaningful in the world and give you a physical foothold.  I like the fact that you can choose from a large number of combat classes and each mix and match of them offers meaningful gameplay results.  I like that there are interesting places in the world to explore, bosses to take down and events to conquer.  I am very much there to consume all the PVE goodness that the world can offer and experience the epic journey that it has to offer.  I feel like a lot of players want all of those things and more or less try to ignore the player versus player aspect.  We in essense are the sheep, and the fact that we are plays a necessary role for another type of players enjoyment.

In order for a ganker to have fun, they have to have someone to gank.  The ganker mentality doesn’t seek out a challenge, they seek out  the weakest link in the chain so they can exploit it and get their enjoyment out of making someone else feel weak.  It is going to be us sheep that get drawn into their power games, and us sheep that are inconvenienced by it.  Granted that is not to say that all PVPers are gankers and griefers, because that is very much not the case.  There are noble defenders that are there to engage in epic battles between factions for control of sections of the map.  These players aren’t the ones inconveniencing me, because chances are if I ignore them they will also ignore me.  They too are engaged in goal based play, and their goal is to seek out the competition and conquer it.  The folks that will find me, when I least expect it, when I am getting the most enjoyment out of the game are the folks who just want to ruin my night.

Living Breathing World

Yesterday I posted a very truncated version of this statement over on the Gaming Conjecture website.  I condensed the bulk of everything I wanted to say into two paragraphs, and for the most part folks seem to accept what I said at face value.  There was one response however.

But I’d like to ask whether you feel the gain can outweigh the loss? So for example, I might have my intended plan ruined by a PvP intervention, but does gaining a living breathing world make that a price worth paying?

Once again I think this question comes from a mindset of someone who feels that player versus player combat enriches their experience.  For me at least the fact that I can attack other players does not make it a living breathing world.  The fact that the world is populated with lots of things that I can interact with, harvest, plant, and build makes it a living breathing world.  What would make it MORE of a living world is if players were less focused on trying to kill each other, and somehow screw over each other… and more focused on collaborating on massive scale public works projects.  Once upon a time there was a game called Horizon.. that later on got rebranded as Istaria.  Unfortunately the current version is a mere shadow of what the original was like to play, and has mostly become a game for folks who desperately want to role-play a dragon.

That game was a sandbox environment before I even knew to call it a sandbox.  It had a rich crafting system, and an equally rich multi-classing combat system.  In truth it is everything that ArcheAge is, but a decade earlier.  What make the game so compelling to me is that on Dawn the role-playing server we had massive crafters unions that worked together on big projects.  The  game set these obstacles in our path that could only be solved by devoting both crafting and combat resources to them.  For example in order to access a brand new continent we had to build a bridge, and the construction of it was a month long project of crafters constantly applying materials to its construction.  The problem being that the nearest quarry was a considerable amount of distance away from the bridge, and the entire path was lined with enemies that could easily kill the players wearing their crafting gear.

As a result being primarily combat focused, I along with lots of other players took up the role of guarding players as they applied materials to the construction.  These huge public works projects, and entire player built communities gave the world a living breathing feel… and there was not a single amount of player versus player combat in that game.  I guess what I am saying is I don’t feel it adds anything to my experience, and doesn’t make a world any more real than anything else does.  My world is about collaborating with other players to do interesting things, not tearing down others so I can feel stronger.  That might be a dangerous oversimplification, but that is how I view forced PVP in an otherwise PVE rich setting.  I view it as a few players forcing themselves upon me so they can get their enjoyment at my expense.

#ArcheAge #PVP #Carebear

Tremors in the Force

Glorious Weekend

DoctorWhoTimeHeist The entire weekend was pretty crummy outside here in Oklahoma, so as a result we spent most of it inside.  I curled up on the couch with a brand new fuzzy blanket and spent it gaming on the laptop while watching stuff on television.  It had quite literally been a few months since I had last watched television really.  Granted there was a bit of television each night and each morning while going to sleep and waking up respectively, but I had not actually sat down to watch anything of any importance in a very long time.  As such I had a bunch of shows stacked up that I wanted to catch up on.  The most important of these was this seasons Doctor Who.  I had watched the premiere several weeks back, but had not seen any of the episodes since.

I feel like the jury is still out on how I feel about the new Scottish Doctor.  I guess I am just used to the normal fun loving slightly insane Doctor, and this interpretation just feels strange.  The dynamic between Clara and the Doctor also feels a bit strained.  Granted the companion that survives a regeneration I guess is always a bit odd, but this one seems more so.  It seems in part that the Doctor still has a crush on her, and as he is watching her get on with her life…  it feels a little awkward.  As far as the stories have gone, I think I like the “Time Heist” episode the best.  Trying not to go into much detail for fear of spoilers…  because I am sure there are others out there that have not caught up yet.  In fact public television here in the United States tends to be one full season behind.

Tremors in the Force

StarWarsRebels Other than Doctor Who I finally got around to watching the first two episodes of the new Star Wars animated series “Rebels”.  What amazes me is just how well both of the animated series have managed to get the feeling of the universe, whereas the prequels failed so miserably.  Star Wars Rebels is pretty much the perfect Star Wars show.  You have a scrappy group of fighters, and interesting relationship between reluctant Jedi Master and a force sensitive padawan…  all after the fall of the Republic in a super scary time where being a Jedi means being hunted.  There are just enough call backs to the original series to let you know when exactly this adventure is set.  In the first episode Ezra the main character happens to open a Jedi Holocron with the message Obi Wan Kenobi left for all Jedi during the events of Episode 3 – Revenge of the Sith.  Then in Episode 2, you encounter C-3PO and R2-D2 who are on their way to the Tantive IV.  With those two little vignettes it tells you that the events are sometime in the gulf of time between episodes 3 and 4, which is a super fertile place to base a new series.

The characters are likeable from the start.  They are just “scoundrel” enough to come across as being selfish… but quickly transition into a cell of rebel fighters trying to survive however they can.  The entire series has a very “Firefly” vibe too it, and honestly I am just wishing there was more of the show to watch already.  So far you have Hera Syndulla the Twilek Pilot/Engineer, Sabine Wren the Mandalorian Weapons Expert, Garazeb Orrelios the Lasat Muscle, Ezra Bridger the Street Kid Force Savant and finally Kanan Jarrus the leader of this group and a former Jedi Padawan at the moment Order 66 happened.  The mix of personalities and skill sets makes for a really good viewing experience.  Since Star Wars meant so much to me growing up, I am always happy to watch the fires get reignited for new generations.  I just wish that it was still on Cartoon Network rather than Disney XD, since I seem to be far better in keeping up with Cartoon Network than any other channel.  If you have not watched any of the show and are an old school Star Wars fan I highly suggest you check it out.

Eating some Crow

archeage 2014-10-13 06-17-56-723 I finally decided to start giving ArcheAge a chance this weekend, in part because I have realized that so many people I know happen to be playing all in the same place, and same guild to be more specific.  Other than ventures into Final Fantasy XIV this was the ideal game to sit on the sofa wrapped in my blanket cocoon and watch television while playing.  The game itself is still intriguing and intricate, but the thing that turned me off of the game in beta was just how horrible the community had been.  So far the launch servers seem to be far better than they were before.  I was able to complete the early quests without much attempt at griefing.  The place where I had so much frustration during alpha was when you are asked to take a rowboat across a bay.  In alpha there were tons of high level ships waiting there to capsize players as they attempted to cross.  This time around there was just a single high level ship and they seemed to be loading up for a trade run and completely oblivious to the fact that I was trying to do something.

Similarly I have actually had some decent random grouping experiences.  So while the community is nowhere near as nice as say Cactuar in Final Fantasy XIV…  it is at least up to WoW Standards…  which admittedly isn’t saying much.  I did have a really positive experience in doing an elite quest.  There is this event that happens in a fallen fortress where between the hours of 2am and 2pm in game time hordes of undead spawn with a boss and you are given quests to kill multiple undead.  I noticed that it was nearing the spawn so I wandered up into the hills and decided that I would just kill undead while waiting.  There were numerous people up there waiting, and it was moments later that I was invited to a raid team.  Folks were relatively well organized and the leader made sure that everyone had gotten all 20 kills before we downed the final boss.  Granted this might be an aberration, but it seemed like a pretty reasonable response to the situation.

archeage 2014-10-13 06-13-41-942 At this point I am still not terribly certain how often I will play.  Right now I have a level 16 Doomlord on Naima Western Continent.  This seems to be where most of the people I know are playing, and white honestly I HAD to play Nuian because they were the only race that offered anything even closely resembling proper facial hair.  Additionally the Western faction is supposedly going to get dwarves whenever XL Games decides to give the North American servers the expanded racial options.  I’ve applied to be in the same guild as Liore, Zelibeli, and several others from both the Machiavelli’s Cats and Multiplaying/Alliance of Awesome communities.  I have to say being patron seems to make all the difference in the world because as a true free to play account you have next to no labor points.  I am not declaring this game the “best ever” or anything like that, but it seems to no longer be nearly as toxic as it was in early testing.  I still prefer FFXIV, but right now I just haven’t had the oomph to grind up another character.  So mostly I am working my way through my book quest and doing my daily elite dungeon.  However since my friend Eliyon is now a newly minted 50 I can see myself probably playing a lot more in the evenings there.  It was a fun weekend nonetheless and I look forward to piddling around in it some more.

#DoctorWho #StarWarsRebels #ArcheAge

Blood of the Werewolf

AggroChat Episode #26

I feel like last night was a really good episode, or at least I hope it is.  It is one of those nights where the conversation flowed freely and we had way more topics to talk about than we realistically had time to do so.  Even at that we still recorded for roughly an hour and a half and it is completely packed full of stuff.  The title of the show is the “Gospel of Galaxy Trucker” and that is because Kodra has become an evangelist for the power of that game.  He has always been a big fan of the board game, and has latched onto the iOS port with both hands trying to get as many people to play with him as possible.  Problem is for me at least I don’t have any iOS devices, and I sadly doubt that android and iOS users will be able to play together….  although in Carcassonne you could play across platforms so here is hoping.

Other than that we talked at length about Dragon Age: Origin and mostly how Kodra has been getting along in the game.  He had tried to play it before in the past but was unable to get into it, so it seems as though he is at least over the hurdle.  As we refer to it “Getting Off Citadel” because that was the big hurdle of when Mass Effect 1 started to become interesting, and getting past Lothering in Dragon Age is a similar journey.  I talk at length about my issues with Destiny right now and the mindless grinding that is required to keep progressing.  I am far more grind friendly than the rest of my cast mates but even I am starting to hit my limit.  Finally we talk about the tell tale blank spots in the Blizzcon lineup and contemplate what they might be announcing.  We throw out a bunch of ideas for a new game genre for them to polish to a mirror shine.

Blood of the Werewolf

Blood of the Werewolf 2014-10-12 10-11-13-894 I picked this up some time ago on a Steam sale because it had two things that greatly interested me.  Firstly the fact that you were playing as a female werewolf looking for revenge for her slain husband was an interesting spin on the genre.  Secondly it looked in many ways similar to the original Castlevania with a series of levels that show your progression in form of a minimap.  The dual mechanics of “human” and “werewolf” modes seemed interesting as well.  So for this mornings Steampowered Sunday I decided to give it a spin and play it for a bit.  I was not really feeling up to interacting with the world so I opted not to stream it, however I did take lots of screenshots along the way.  This however is a review that almost didn’t happen because apparently this game is essentially broken without massive intervention.  When I launched it the first time I started getting C++ debug errors, and since I am programmer by trade and have visual studio installed… it kept asking me if I wanted to launch a debugger to step through the code.

It turns out this is a “known issue” and simply has not been patched.  In fact there is a “helpful” thread on the steam forums on how to fix it.  I put helpful in quotes because the “fix” requires you to edit your registry and hard code the resolution you want to run the game at.  This is a horrible horrible decision, and I damned near stopped playing the game at this point.  If you put a game on steam you should at least have a way to configure your games resolution without resorting to the registry.  Quite honestly this right along makes me not recommend this game for anyone at this point.  I feel like more than likely the current $1.04 pricetag and the regular $7.00 pricetag maybe reflects the fact that this game has some shitty development behind it.  All of this said…  the registry hack seemed to clear up my problems.

Charming Narrative

Blood of the Werewolf 2014-10-12 10-11-19-648 The art style and voice acting are really nicely done.  I maybe should have used charming in quotes… since in reality you are going across the country side on a revenge fueled murder spree.  But I guess in reality the original Castlevania didn’t give you much of a reason why you were going after Dracula…  so it works here as well.  The game is told from the perspective of the mother telling her son what she had to do to seek revenge for the killing of his father.  I am not sure if this is like a journal that the son is reading, but it seems likely.  Which makes me wonder does your character simply not survive in the end.  I have not played enough yet to really be able to determine that, nor do I know if I will play enough, but I can get into the reasons behind that later.

Blood of the Werewolf 2014-10-12 10-10-01-407 The only problem I have is that the enemies you face are mostly random monsters…  and while the rats and crocodiles and even other wolves make sense… I have no clue why there are giant fireball belching deep ones in the sewer system as well other than a faint nod to Castlevania.  I feel like the game didn’t really explain who I was fighting against other than someone killed my husband and the father of the person reading the narration.  What helps me care less about all of this is just how nice the characters and background end up looking.  It is very stylistic but at the same time still richly detailed without going overly minimalistic.

Interesting Mechanics

Blood of the Werewolf 2014-10-12 10-08-56-566 The gameplay is split into two different kinds of mechanics.  The first is that of your character as a human.  She is equipped with a crossbow and here is where things get a little wonky.  You aim your crossbow with your right thumb stick and fire it with your right trigger.  Now if you fire your cross bow without touching your thumb stick it shoots straight at, but there are many times where you will need to angle a shot.  The ability to fire directed arrows allows you to hit switches and trigger traps and angle shots just right to be able to shoot from relative safety.  All of this however in practice feels like a lot to do as something is rushing at you.  I got the hang of it as my play test went on, but it did not feel exactly intuitive at first.

Blood of the Werewolf 2014-10-12 10-24-52-241 Whenever your character goes out into the moonlight, you change immediately into your werewolf form which has a completely different set of attacks but maintains the same basic control scheme.  Right trigger to attack, right shoulder to perform special ability.  In werewolf form you get the ability to double jump, so a lot of the puzzles involve you jumping just at the right time in the middle of the air.  One of the things they carried over from Castlevania is the constant cavalcade of bats timed at just the right spacing as to make it damned near impossible to ignore them, but futile to actually try and destroy them.  Later the bats develop the same kind of loping movement as the medusa heads from Castlevania which makes them even more frustrating.

Uneven Difficulty

Blood of the Werewolf 2014-10-12 10-19-30-539  Other than the fact that the game does not actually run when you install it through steam without registry hack intervention… my number one complaint about the game is that it seems to have very uneven difficulty design in the levels.  Granted the original Castlevania had this going on as well, but it was very much not a good feature.  I feel like this game as a whole is a nostalgic nod to Castlevania in so many ways, and it even managed to carry over the same brutal and frustrating bits that quite frankly were just the product of poor level design rather than actual planning I feel.  I played the first two levels this morning, and in each of them the bulk of the level was rather sedate with logical progression gradually ramping up as you went through the play field.

Blood of the Werewolf 2014-10-12 10-18-22-570 Then they would throw you at a bullet hell section, where for the course of a single area you would have to avoid three projectiles at a time from an enemy on the far side of the room, while avoiding environmental damage form above, bats flying in from the side, crumbling tiles beneath your feet and still having to make perfectly timed jumps between ladders and platforms.  These sections are maddening but not in a good way.  They feel completely misplaced when compared to the rest of the level design.  Why should this one room be that much harder than the others, and why did none of the rest of the level really prepare you for it?  The first time you really encounter the crumbling tiles… is during one of these sections so you really have no clue what that block does until you have already failed at doing so.

Blood of the Werewolf 2014-10-12 10-34-13-316

The above section is what finally made me decide I was done for the morning.  YOu have a series of crushers that are a one shot kill.  They move in all sorts of directions, and extremely quickly.  There are status indicators above or to the side of them that show you how long before the piston fires.  They require perfecting timing to get through.  There is a moment where at two lights, you have to wait a split second before jumping.  If you jump immediately after the second light you jumped too soon and die.  If you jump as the third light is coming on, you jumped too late and die.  I could have handled one sequence of these pistons but after doing three in a row… and having a fourth one at the top of the ladder in the above screenshot…  I just said fuck it and killed the game.  I was not in the mood for that, especially when the rest of the game was actually rather enjoyable.

Rhinestone in the Rough

Blood of the Werewolf 2014-10-12 10-08-44-846

Given that it is the season of monster themed games, I figured playing Blood of the Werewolf was a good pick this week.  Now comes the hard part… do I suggest this game to others.  I can’t really say this game is a diamond in the rough, because there is quite a bit of rough that you have to deal with to get to where you can play it.  The steam forums are full of issues folks have had with this game, and apparently if you are not using an  xbox 360 controller…  you are likely going to have issues with controller support as well.  Like the subheading says this is more a Rhinestone in the Rough.  There are definitely some shiny bits that are fun, but the thing that got me was the uneven progression of difficulty.  If you really like Metroidvania style games, and there is an aspect of collecting bits that make you more powerful… and you don’t mind frustration games that can be down right unfair like say the Mega Man series…  this might be a game for you.

If you wanted a game that you could install, boot up without issue and play through without the feeling of wanting to throw your controller… this is very much not a game for you.  Thankfully like I said earlier the game right now is super cheap on Steam through the 15th for only $1.04.  At that price, even dealing with the bullshit it is probably worth it if you are at all curious.  Sadly despite its charm I will likely never boot this game up again.  I feel like Outland is better at doing the things I like about Metroidvania in every single way, so in truth you would probably be better playing it or Guacamelee.  If however you have massive amounts of nostalgia over the original Castlevania… this might be just the game you were looking for.

#BloodoftheWerewolf #AggroChat

Wrestling with DRM

Laptop Weekend

Here in Oklahoma it is a rainy nasty weekend.  I pretty much rained all day yesterday, and this morning when I went out to get breakfast I ended up completely soaked.  As such I have declared this weekend a “hang out on my laptop while curled up in blankets” weekend, and so far it has been pretty glorious.  Unfortunately a good chunk of it has been updating my laptop, since it has probably been six month since I have regularly played down here.  All in all it is not going terribly badly as I have had both my Vita and phone to play on while the laptop downloads patches and such.  I have to say I have so much frustration over allowing myself to get sucked into a mobile game.

Dragon-Coins-27 Years ago my wife and I used to play a game at the state fair that involved throwing tokens in the path of a sliding shelf that pushes coins off of the edge.  I had always enjoyed this game, and that first year at the state fair we spent way too much money getting the swing of it.  We played for hours and after about $50 spent all we had to show for it was a bullet keychain.  In successive years I got better and started learning the little tricks, like you can trade in the crappy little gifts for more tokens to collect these poker chips in order to buy bigger prizes.  That second year we walked away with a nice sized stuffed animal, and I think the third year we walked away with like five as we had figured out how to game the system.

Unfortunately Dragon Coins by Sega is exactly this game, but made even more addictive.  You take the already addictive coin pusher mechanic and attach it to a pokemon like monster collection and evolution minigame… and you have a recipe for constant mobile addiction.  Right now I am cursing Liores and Aro for talking about this game on the Cat Context podcast several times because finally I got curious enough to try it.  Now I am afraid I am hooked.  Thankfully as far as games go this one doesn’t feel too egregious yet.  There is a ton of “free” content to play and so far I have not encountered any roadblocks that absolutely required me to purchase anything.  It at least gives me something to play when I am out shopping with my wife.

Wrestling with DRM

daorigins 2014-10-11 10-25-41-983 One of the things that I spent last night installing and updating was Dragon Age: Origins.  Since I intend to be spending a bit more time downstairs I figured playing DA:O while catching up on television was a good activity.  I did not even have Origin installed on my laptop, so I went through the motions of doing that last night and then set to downloading Dragon Age Ultimate Edition.  For whatever reason the DRM on that game and I have struggled throughout the years.  It worked miraculously well upstairs when I reinstalled it a few weeks back so I thought maybe, just maybe Origin had worked out the kinks.  When I went to set it up on the laptop apparently there are still issues because while it downloaded the base Dragon Age… it did not seem to download any of the addons.

To make matters worse windows 8 does not appear to like the Dragon Age Updater program and it just simply is not running on my laptop at all.  So all of the directions from the Origin support site for restoring access to your addons does not appear to work at all.  What I finally ended up doing was manually copying all of the addons from my desktop upstairs to the laptop over the network.  Now when I boot up the game it appears to see everything just fine.  But I could see someone with less patience giving up long before we reached that point.  Dragon Age seemed to be a problem child, because I never went through any of the issues while playing any of the Mass Effect games.  So here is hoping the DRM scheme for Dragon Age: Inquisition is equally unobtrusive.

Of note for those who have not played Dragon Age: Origins before and would like to in preparation for the launch of Dragon Age: Inquisition… it is now apparently available for free from origin.  This game is well worth your time spent, and going back and playing it has made me remember just how much I loved the original game as compared to Dragon Age II.  Honestly I am not in the “I Hate 2” camp, but the first game is simply better in every possible way.  I figure just playing through the first one is more than enough to introduce you to the setting and its characters and conflicts.  More than anything that was what I was trying to do while replaying the game, is to remember all of the intricate struggles.

The Grim Dark Future has Tradeskills

Destiny_20141009231722 One of the problems I am having with Destiny is the fact that you reach this point in the end game where your entire life becomes about grinding otherwise meaningless things.  There are folks who will farm level 2 mobs over and over for five hours in the rare chance of getting drops, or return to previous content areas feverishly hunting for spinmetal or any number of other crafting materials.  Unfortunately these are not extreme players, but representative of the expected gameplay that games at the end of your twenty level story arc.  The end game of Destiny involves the collection of otherwise unimportant bits that you then use to upgrade your armor slots, in hope of getting enough “light” out of it to push yourself up yet another level.   Right now my life is about getting Spirit Bloom, Relic Iron and Plasteel… so it has me wandering aimelessly through the hunting zones in search of ground spawn nodes and chests.

My tolerance for mindless grinding is considerably higher than that of my friends, so while I am still able to find fun in this process… most of them have long since tapered off their play time.  I have managed to push myself up to level 25 after doing a ton of upgrading.  The problem is even I am not sure how much further I care to take the game when the end result is  so damned repetitive.  I suppose I could start trying to do the crucible, but I didn’t really get into this game for its player versus player gameplay.  I realize I likely expected something out of Destiny that it will never really deliver, but up until the point I hit 20 I have to say I enjoyed all of the content from that point on.  I even enjoy running the patrol missions because they give me little bursts of purpose… I just wish the patrol missions had a chance of rewarding you the crafting materials you need to progress.  That ultimately would be a massive improvement that would breathe new life into the game for me.  As of now Destiny is that game I play while waiting on something else, either waiting on my wife to get home, or waiting on something to spawn in Final Fantasy XIV.

#Destiny #DragonAge #DragonCoins

Commoditization of Content

Unlikely Inspiration

Yesterday morning I struggled to get my motor started, and when I finally did I latched onto the awesomeness that is Playstation plus.  Unexpectedly it lead my brain through a series of hoops and ultimately inspired this mornings diatribe.  It got me thinking about how my own patterns of game consumption or frankly media consumption in general.  I have not watched television in going on two months when I really think about it.  The very last show that I watched was the premiere of Doctor Who… and I watched that on the computer from a download.  I am rapidly becoming less and less of a consumer of broadcast media and I think it might in part be connected to this as well.  Ultimately I find television shows and movies less valuable today than I did a decade ago.

The real question is why exactly do I value it less, and the only answer I could reach is that it is so readily available.  With broadcast media, I know that if I wait long enough a series will eventually show up on either Netflix of Amazon Prime and I can stream it for free.  I also know that if I care enough about it I could always go find it through other means, but the reality is… that I simply don’t.  I am happy to simply wait back for whatever it was that I wanted to watch to show up on Netflix.  There are a number of shows that I have yet to even watch… that I likely would have devoured like mad during a different phase in my life.  I’ve not watched any of Breaking Bad, only a smattering of Mad-Men and I have watched half of a season of Dexter.  All three of these shows interest me…  but for whatever reason I cannot be bothered to actually go through the process of watching them over doing something more interactive each night.

Commoditization of Content

I think the problem is that all of these shows are entirely too readily available.  I know that at any point, on any evening… I could make a choice to sit down and watch them.  So in theory I am putting it off because there is no risk involved in the decision.  They are always there and available, so why should I prioritize watching them over doing something else.  The only show that I really watch religiously is the Walking Dead, and in part I only do that because there will be Monday morning conversation at work over it.  I prioritized watching the Doctor Who premiere because I knew it would similarly be the talk of my little group, but after watching the first show I can’t seem to be bothered to sit down and watch through the rest of them.  The availability of these resources have made them less valuable in my mind… and essentially a commodity.

So you are thinking… “Bel why are you going down this line of thinking”.  So I guess I am finding this is happening to my gaming as well.  Right now games are readily available, and more so than they have ever been at any other time in my personal history.  I can reach out and download a game in a matter of minutes or at worse case hours, and be playing it moments later.  The problem is that because I am literally deluged in good games…  I find myself valuing each individual one less.  I have reached a point where I am almost entirely unwilling to pay the $60 new release price tag for almost all games.  They tend to fall into one of two categories either I am waiting anxiously to play it and have already preordered (might I add preordered generally at a discount), or I am only interested in passing  and I will wait until it is upwards to 75% off the initial sticker price before purchasing.

The Bundle and Steam Problem

Part of the problem and what has lead me to this point…  are two things.  Firstly the prevalence of various “Bundle” sites…  Humble Bundle, Indie Royale and Indie Gala to name a few of the better ones.  If it is new and edgy and independent… I know sooner or later it will end up in one of these bundles.  As such I have simply stopped picking up any of these titles unless it DOES appear in a bundle, because I know if I simply wait long enough I can get it and a bunch of other games for the $5-$10 minimum price to get all of the content.  Additionally Steam is constantly having some sort of weekly sale, and at least twice yearly they have these insane store wide sales where you can get games for up to 80% off.  Sites like Good Ole Games are also complicit as well as Origin and any number of online retailers, all offering deep discounted sales in an attempt to keep up with the steam powered juggernaut.

All of this is teaching us to never pay retail price for anything gaming related.  If we wait long enough and look hard enough we can find it for the price we want to pay, whatever that price point is.  The problem is this has invaded all aspects of my gaming life.  I didn’t want to pay full price for a PS4 or a Vita, even though I have gotten massive amounts of use out of both of them… nor did I my PS3.  I shopped Craigslist for weeks looking for a PS4 or a Vita in the price range I was willing to pay, and ended up getting the PS4 for $250 and the Vita for $100.  Similarly years ago I purchase a generation 1 “fat” PS3 off a friend who was no longer using it for $150.  There would have been a time where I would have simply gone to the store and plunked down my $400 to walk out with a brand new console, but years of living in this new climate has caused me to question ALL retail prices.

Playstation Plus and Games with Gold

Playstation Plus takes things to a whole new level.  There are so many games I would have at least purchased at a deeply discounted price, that I don’t now.  Expecting that one day or another Sony will give the title away for free with my yearly Playstation Plus subscription.  I held off purchasing the new Strider game exactly for this reason.  I knew that they had a limited library of titles available to give away, and a commitment of giving away at least two new games for the PS4 each month… and I figured my chances were relatively likely that sooner or later they would be handing me a free copy of strider and they did.  Similarly I did the same consideration with Dragon’s Crown and Rogue Legacy.  On the later I figured it would have shown up in one of my Indie Bundles first, but the fact it showed up on consoles made me happy enough in any case.  So as much as I love the current climate of giving me lots of content for very little money is a bit broken.

While there was a time at which I stood by the notion that Steam was helping things, by offering a place to sell games in bulk and allow the “economy of scale” to work for publishers…  I seriously question that now.  What I see instead is game companies struggling to move their content, and game studios closing as a result.  While the $60 new game price point has not decreased… it certainly has not raised either…  and is no longer adequately representing the cost of developing the type of game we expect.  What I am seeing is a race to the bottom to see just how low the sale prices for digital content can go.  Granted there are significantly fewer of the distribution headaches that go into pressing physical media, but there are still all of the real world expenses of running a games studio and paying anything closely resembling a living wage.  What scares me is I think at this point the snowball is already careening towards the village, and there is nothing we can really do to stop it.

Is it Really a Problem?

I know I personally am extremely addicted to free or at least deeply discounted content, and I think most of the world is right there along with me.  Even after everything I said… I question is there really a problem at all.  Remember early on I said there were two buckets I divide games into… the ones I am willing to preorder and the ones I am willing to try if they become super cheap?  There was a time where I would only be consuming the games from Bucket A and completely ignoring the games from Bucket B.  I find myself more than willing to preorder the games I am really into, and even willing to pony up for the extra special happy deluxe velvet edition of them to make sure I am not missing out on any good bits.  So the game company is almost always getting more than their $60 from me when a game exists in Bucket A.

What is different is they are also getting a small bit of money from me when a game lands in Bucket B.  These are games I likely would not have played, or at least would not have purchased for myself.  There are so many games I ignored completely until a friend handed me the game and told me to play it.  As such when a Humble Bundle comes up I often times see it worth the risk to pay a little bit of money and get a ton of new games for me to sift through and see what I like and dislike.  Admittedly there are so many bundle games out there that a good number of them I never actually play… but there are still a significant number that I do and end up loving.  Then I end up blogging about them, and often times inspire more people to purchase them.  So I guess the question is…  are the games studios really missing money at all?

No Conclusions, Just Discussion

I mean I can see the real loss from games studios from the used game trade, especially when it is a store like Game Stop.  They push those used copies super hard on customers, and when you are the Average Joe that $5-$10 off a game seems like a really good deal, or at least it does until they realize that they are going to have to pay that amount at least to buy a fresh clean network play code, or restore the DLC that only shipped with the disc.  In any case that is taking someone who would have purchased the game for full price and converting them to re-buying a game that someone rushed through just to get the maximum resale value.  I question however if the folks who are tossing games into Bucket B could really be considered a true loss.  They are getting some money where they likely wouldn’t have before.

This reminds me a bit of the whole concept of “piracy” numbers.  As a reformed pirate myself, there was a time in my life where when a game came out I turned to making a copy of someone else’s, or downloading it from my neighborhood warez distribution site.  I  think in part I am so willing to give money for games I will likely never play, because I am in a sense trying to pay back for all the times I couldn’t.  I downloaded for lots of reasons… mostly because it was there, and I played a lot of games that I never would have purchased in a million years.  I would say a good 90% of the games I downloaded should not have been considered lost profit from those companies.  The games that I did care about… I still purchased by saving up my limited pennies and going to the store and getting a pretty boxed copy during the era when there were still interesting things like cloth maps to be found inside those games.  So I feel like maybe the Bucket B games are a similar situation.  I am giving them money, not a lot of it… but it is way more than they would have gotten out of me otherwise.  Like the title of this section suggests… I don’t really have a firm conclusion… just a bunch of conversation I wanted to start.  Hopefully folks will comment and add their thoughts to it.  I know the industry is struggling, and I guess in part I am trying to wrap my head around it… and why I find myself valuing content in general less.