Author Archive: Isey

Paladins – Joining the Dark Side

Paladins is the best small team shooter I have played. In a world of a dominating Overwatch and several fail-(ed)/(ing) Overwatch clones, Paladins stood out as a game holding it’s own. It had a lot of good things going for it – a diverse and fun cast of characters, varied and enjoyable game modes, and most importantly a load out card system that permitted – and encouraged – experimentation of different builds of the same character. I had so much fun playing and according to Steam I played 130 hours of it. That is a lot for me to play a game. I was fully engaged on the official forums, discussing my suggestions for balance, trying to keep a positive community, and generally being helpful and engaging other players. I don’t normally do that in games, but there I was, being a Champion of the realm. (Editors note: That is the tagline for Paladins. “Champions of the realm”. Very clever of the author (who is also the editor) but due to the lack of coverage of the game in Blognation I felt necessary to point that out.).   Funny, my rise and fall of the game (May to August) seemed to coincide with the popularity of the game on the PC – according to Steam Charts.

Why did I stop? I started getting League of Legends syndrome with the game – where good, fair and fun matches were becoming harder and harder to find. When you have limited gaming time you want that time to feel good. Slowly but surely I lost my love for the game and when I started getting uncomfortable with their loot box mechanics  it was time to move on. I did not move to any other team base shooter, just took my crystals (in game currency) and uninstalled. All in all I spent $86.19 on the game and hadn’t spent all of my in game currency when I quit. On a side note, I think you should be able to gift away your currency when you quit a game, but that is a topic for another day.

What happened in August? Why did things start siding down?

  • According to the patch history Patch 56 (August) was when the new, Ranked 2.0 system launched. I wonder if that acted as a catalyst for people.
  • Patch 57 (August) launched a terribly unbalanced Champion (at the time) a sniper with stealth. People were dying on one-shots not knowing where it came from or how to counter.
  • Patch 58 (September) Launched their new VIP system and VIP membership buy in system
  • Patch 59 (September) added Talus, a new champion, but didn’t seem to be an issue
  • Patch 60 (October) added a Map and new quests
  • Patch 61 (October) added a new champion, Terminus, and a third person toggle (that allowed champions to see around corners and surprise attack people without counter-play)
  • Patch 62 (November) added Legendary Class Keys
  • Patch 63 (November) added a new champion, Vivian, who was (by reports) a tanky, high damage champion which was counter to traditional gameplay

Looking at that is death by 1000 cuts. You have a popular game, you start adding unpopular champions, you add new monetization methods, you add in cheese gameplay (third person toggle), and it looks like that the pace and rate of change exceeded Hi-Rez’s capability to keep the game compelling.

Patch 64 is the nail in the coffin. The final thing that will destroy what made this game great. I don’t blame Hi-Rez as they are probably desperate to remain relevant (and profitable) but by all accounts the new system they are launching in Patch 64 has most supporters of the game uninstalling. Players have been discussing, persuading, heck – BEGGING Hi-Rez to not go live with this patch but they are being ignored. This patch has all the same elements as the Battlefront 2 fiasco EXCEPT a more ostrich-like developer. They are launching “Cards Unbound” in less than 20 hours.

Cards Unbound, to the lay-person, non-Paladins player is simple to explain. Take the current card system that every Paladins player loves, that makes the game unique, and replace it with the Star Wars Battlefront 2 card system and progression system. Pure pay 2 win, random upgrade mechanics. The only reason why I know this is because I was considering reinstalling and seeing how the game was doing, but reading about this change and the community reaction has scared me away from that.

Normally, this attempt could be chalked up as a learning experience – except the market – and players – clearly spoke very loudly forcing EA to backtrack on this. So why, in the face of that clarity is Hi-Rez sticking to their guns?

Because they have no choice. That has to be the only reason. Obviously this game is in really dire straits and they are tossing the “hail mary” pass to try and right the ship. Unfortunately, there is a reason why football people call the “hail mary” pass “fail mary” because of the low percentage chance it has of succeeding. The real danger now is that even if Hi-Rez miraculously changes their mind last minute they are losing their core audience, and that is hard to come back from. Unless, of course,  they can replace that audience with enough people that loved the idea of the Battlefront 2 progression system. Does that sound likely?

I wish them luck but am sad and disappointed. It was nice to have a challenger to Overwatch who did something better and unique – but ultimately if the business goals of the company were not being met by the current design of the game they have to tr something different.

Even if that attempt is the exact opposite of what most fans of the game were hoping for.

Blinking and Missing the Moment : Brian Kesinger

The world is a giant, strange place full of good, bad, and everything in between. Most importantly, and often the source of many of those emotions, are people. There are billions of us on this planet and we are all making our own way through our versions of what our lives should be. My point is that there is no way to know of everyone out there, but sometimes you learn of someone – their talent, their gift, their personality, quite randomly or by accident even – and you discover something amazing. This happened to me when I hit a Bored Panda link on Facebook by accident. Until last week I had no clue who Brian Kesinger was. According to his Instagram page  he is a “story artist at Walt Disney animations studios and an Artist for Marvel Comics”. He is also a big Calvin and Hobbes fan, and evidently, Star Wars too. He has mashed up a whole bunch of joy between two of my favorite worlds

#lilkylo #starwars #calvinandhobbes #mashup

A post shared by briankesinger (@briankesinger) on

Calvin and Hobbes has always been one of my favorite things. I have the entire anthology and now my 12 year old child is reading them and really enjoying them (which makes me very, very happy!). I linked a comic here once back when the economy was crashing. I want to use them on my new, still boringly white goalie helmet (if I can find the artist to do it!). I even have a tattoo of Hobbes, leaping across my body that I got when I was 15. To better give you insight into how much of a rebel I was/am, even when I was 15 and getting a tattoo done against my parents wishes in the basement of a suspect, older high school student I had the foresight to put it somewhere where I could choose who would and wouldn’t see it. There would be no mistaking a tattoo-viewing without my absolute permission.

Too soon #lilkylo too soon. Etsy commission. #thelastjedi #spoiler?

A post shared by briankesinger (@briankesinger) on

Mr. Kesinger has brilliantly merged the two. Any fan of Calvin and Hobbes, or Bill Watterson’s art style (the creator of Calvin and Hobbes!) and more importantly the style and attitude of the former syndicated strips will instantly recognize – and fall in love – with the mashup. He has hit many nails on many heads.

I just can’t get enough. If you look through his Instagram page you will find all sorts of awesome pieces from other genres and popular movies as well – but because I have had a Calvin and Hobbes drought AND the upcoming The Last Jedi movie launch I am only focusing on these ones. If you dig deep enough you find The Little Mermaid, Dr. Who, Big Hero Six, Guardians of the Galaxy, and much more. Heck, even Garfield!

#lilkylo commissions go on sale on my etsy store tomorrow at 7:30 am pst!

A post shared by briankesinger (@briankesinger) on

Mr. Kesinger is not selling a book of them (unfortunately) and rightly respects that his works are fan fiction and that he could not sell without prior written permission from Mr. Watterson. Still, I’d pay to buy a book and not so secretly hope that there is some way, shape or form that proceeds from such a sale could go to a needy beneficiary of some sort. Of course maybe I am the only willing buyer but these mashups really pull all the right levers for me.

Happy #valentinesday from #lilkylo. #starwars #calvinandhobbes #mashup

A post shared by briankesinger (@briankesinger) on

I’ll link a few more but just a happy way for Calvin and Hobbes, and Star Wars fans, to start their Monday. I’d encourage any fan to stop by his social media and give lots of likes, and loves =)

Poor #lilkylo.

A post shared by briankesinger (@briankesinger) on

By @briankesinger #lilkylo

A post shared by McDonough🍔 & 🍟Chu (@mcduff138) on

Sweet dreams #lilkylo. #starwars #calvinandhobbes #mashup #commission #starwarsfanart

A post shared by briankesinger (@briankesinger) on

#lilkylo and Darth review the Death Star plans

A post shared by briankesinger (@briankesinger) on

#lilkylo is a punk. Color commission using #copicmarkers

A post shared by briankesinger (@briankesinger) on

Thank you, Brian. For sharing your talent and passion.

 

Surprise and Delight

I watched the Video Game Awards last night. Well, mostly watched. I had it on my phone while I also had a hockey game on, and was flipping between the Habs game and the Thursday night football game. Still, I was watching it. The reason for my interest was not because I like award shows – I hate awards shows. I think they often are just self serving fluff pieces for already privileged and wealthy people. Every time an actor cries for being the best at pretending to be somebody else (notwithstanding appreciating it is an art form) I want to throw things at my TV. At least the red carpet is interesting – it’s when we get to judge everybody ruthlessly. But I’m not bitter.

That’s a nice explanation of why I was watching – if you watched 30 minutes of the Twitch stream of the video game awards you got a free Syandana (cape, but don’t call it that around Tennos) for Warframe. Since Fashionframe is a thing I thought why not. I could use a new, beautiful flow-ey cape. I’ll post pictures so you can ruthlessly judge me.

Since I love video games, and I had it on anyway, I ended up muting my TV and listening in. There were some not so interesting world premieres of new games coming up, but also, amazingly, this surprise.

I don’t own a Switch and I haven’t played Breath of The Wild (although I have heard great things about it) – but the comments section was BUZZING. Did they really just launch a trailer at an awards show – and then say “ITS AVAILABLE RIGHT NOW?” Yep, that was the twist. Watch this trailer and go get the game. I loved it. It’s not very often the video game industry surprises us – well, not in a good way at least. Lots of greedy ‘surprises not surprised’, few ‘surprise and delights’!

A long time ago in 2008 I wrote about how marketing and hype are failing games. I think it is even worse today. Here is an excerpt:

…Make a game. All of the money you would spend hyping it two/three years before release goes towards making the best game possible. That’s right, zero market penetration. When the game is a couple months from release start marketing the hell out of it. At that point to release you actually know the content of your own game and can convey semi-realistic expectations. I say ‘semi-realistic’ because we all know Marketing is still going to make it out to more than it is. The problem with the current Hype Machine is that years before a gamer will get his hands on a game they already have formed an opinion on what that game is, how it will play, and how it would be better if the programmers would make the game the way they would want it. And that is where new games fail.

I know that BoTW is an existing property but it was completely refreshing to see a company try something different outside of our insanely long hype, early access, pre-pre alpha announcement trailers, and general promising the moon but delivering the park down the street. So thank you, Nintendo. Heck, Star Citizen is a permanent fund raising to advertise organization. They may or may not be making a video game in there somewhere as well.

I am still not buying a Switch though. Someone go buy that expansion to reward them for trying something different.

Turns out Epic Games, of Fortnite, also launched an “available RIGHT NOW” trailer for a new game mode:

Maybe this is a “new thing!” I definitely hope so!

Here is my new Syandana, which is icing on the cape with the surprise and delight.

Ultimate Screenshot Mode

(as with all of my pictures in posts, click on it to make it bigger and more perdy. It will open in a new window)

Wow. Just WOW!

I have never been a big screenshot person. I wish I did better at it but I always tend to miss the right moments as I am focused on playing the game and not capturing specific things. As a gaming blogger I need to enbe better at that. Some, such as Bhagpuss at Inventory Full, seems to have an endless trove of amazing screenshots to put into his posts. Heck, TAGN has a whole website dedicated to EVE screenshots and even wins awards (on purpose and by accident) for sharing them. Screenshots are a nice way to breakup the monotony of text in blogging. I have been trying to share more in my posts when I think of it.

Playing Warframe, I noticed there was a weird word under the “appearance” tab of my frame when I was doing some color editing for my skin for my Rhino frame. It said “Captura” and I assumed it was some sort of screenshot for the frame I was working on. Turns out it is much, much more than that. It allows you to load an area and create scenes to take pictures – with a ton of options. Kind of like when they load the dojo in the Matrix. This makes a lot of sense as I have often complained that even my own screenshots of Warframe have my frame taking up big chunks of the screen. I did a little bit of playing this morning with some of the options. First off, the best part, is getting a “free camera” mode.

Here I drew my bow, then clicked “Toggle free camera” and it froze the scene and allowed me to pan around.

While not a huge difference from the first, I clicked “advance timeline slowly” and “hide menu” so you can see my Sentinel rotated around (looking for enemies as he is apt to do) and that introduced a new light source to the picture.

Speaking of light sources – I toggled “3 light setup” and it loks as though it introduced a new light  source from the angle I have the current camera, highlighting the shapes and colors on his back.

and because it’s the holiday season (and because its an option) I changed the 3 light setup to a green fill light with a red rim light to see what effect that would have. Very cool.

Here I messed with the “Field of View” which now gave more to see. Distance and Depth changed the blur factor. At this point I noticed the “Kill Enemies” box at the bottom, and scrolled down to learn that I could spawn chosen enemies into my scene!

The issue I had when I spawned an enemy and toggled off the “free camera” is that they react like normal enemies. They started attacking. I re-toggled the camera and captured this moment that the Heavy Grineer was smashing the floor with an AOE attack. Because I wasn’t too far away.

Here is the other angle of it.  I think the warped effect is part of the AOE damage attack, not sure. This is all very new.

I am amazed, to be honest, and while I only spent 10 minutes messing with it this morning there are 5 base “scenes” you can load (and can unlock more) and this is a game within the game – capturing the minds of those chasing the ultimate screenshot you can just set it up yourself. I do want to learn and read more about it – I’d love to spawn multiple enemies, for example, and show you the Rhino stomp picture I promised. Trouble is my Sentinel attacked and killed this one before I could spawn another – and they spawn the enemies right on top of you so setting up several in a circle might be a challenge.

I think this is yet another brilliant add on to an already wonderful game. I am looking forward to exploring it more. I can’t recall many games having this feature but believe it is a great addition. Does you know of other games that do this well?

The Joys of Ragdoll Death Physics

Dying in Style

Over the weekend I was able to spend some quality time with Warframe. Warframe is great to spend time with. Time flies by, she is very unselfish and giving, and she is just a lot of fun to hang out with.  Several times during gameplay, pretty much with every session, I have moments where I have to pause for a second to admire something beautiful, or something cool, or just a “wow” moment that makes me smile. Skewering soul less enemies is sometimes a part of that.

He didn’t get there by himself

Depending on your weapon and it’s stats some of the hits are ridiculously powerful. A bit crazy, even. That poor Corpus (bastard) above was running away from me up those same steps I am admiring the view from. I took my time, did a full bow draw (for maximum power) and the arrow sent him flying off the steps, to the wall of the cavernous ravine, and stuck him right in there. Shiskebob! Bob.. that’s probably his name too. How fitting. (Anyone wondering about my mental health these days?)

=IF(T1,R1,IF(T2,R2,IF(T3,R3,IF(SHOT IN THE FACE))))

Take this guy. Slumped in a chair. He is (was) probably an accountant, just minding his own business, filling in an excel sheet and then I walk by, notice a simple error in one of his Excel sheet formula and BAM. Dead accountant. Poor Trevor, he should have known nested IF statements is a messy way to build a query. I may have put  him out of his misery though, come to think of it, as that chair doesn’t even recline.

Clearly a Lismer

It’s not just bows that has this kind of impact on chickens accountants bad guys. There is a rifle that launches bolts, called the uh, Boltor, which also has a huge impact. Leslie here didn’t get the Labour Day memo. Punishable by skewering and hanging on a wall like a Group of Seven Saskatchewan Winter Plains painting. For extra Canada reference, this isn’t at the ROM.

Come to think of it, (this is a seque)  Warfront is pretty simple with their naming conventions. Frost is the Warframe that uses Cold. Ember is hot. Volt is electricity based. They do sometimes stray from pretty standard naming conventions but for the most part what you hear/read is what you get. This is true of my next Show and Tell Warframe, Rhino.

Show And Tell: Rhino

I will give you 10 seconds to guess what kind of a Warframe Rhino is. Go ahead, give it a good old college try. Yes, that’s right! Tanky and strong. Here is a cookie.

And here is his video.

Right now I am playing Warframe in two ways. The first, is doing daily missions and relic grinding to level up my new Warframes and weapons. The second is taking on more challenging content trying to finish out my Star Chart (Still 30% more to go there). The first activities I can pretty much get by with any frame, and any sets of weapons. The higher level content is proving challenging and Rhino is my “go to” top level frame. The main reason is his skill “Iron Skin” which makes you basically invulnerable (until you take X amount of damage). It is low cost and I can keep it up pretty much indefinitely. His third power, “Roar”, increases damage to everyone in range for a solid 30 seconds (base) which means groups like hanging out with you – and you can pop Iron Skin, then Roar, and kill everything around you before you take any real kind of damage.

His fourth power, “Rhino Stomp” is just incredibly cool. You stomp (duh) and everything in range pops into the air, but in a stasis mode, so it looks like they are all going in slow motion (still moving). It’s such a cool effect and you can run around melee’ing them all or shooting them all as the slowly float up and back down. It is a sight to behold and never gets old.

I keep forgetting to take pictures of it, and the video (around the 1 minute mark) doesn’t do it justice. I’ll try to remember to get some in my next play session.

Quick Mesa Revisit

Last post I discussed Mesa, and how her damage first playstyle would be great in certain situations – most likely groups – but that as a mostly solo player I didn’t get to see her at her full potential. Well, I did in a defence mission as I finished leveling her up to 30. It was GLORIOUS. My stats were ridiculous – I had double the kills as the next person in my group AND a 98% accuracy rate. In defence missions, especially higher levels, there is a really high volume of enemies all heading towards an item you are trying to protect. This made it perfect for me to toggle my fourth ability (Peacemaker – which aims for you and does sick damage) and mow them down like a remake of the Lawnmower man(woman). Quickly run around, pick up more energy, rinse, and repeat.

Check out that Fire Accuracy

Of course my accuracy is never that high, but combining a high damage auto aim ability with a lot of bodies (dropping lots of energy) and a slow, 10 energy per second drain meant I could literally spam impressive damage for 20 to 30 seconds at a time. Often there was just no one in range to kill.

I am still amazed I haven’t even caught up the main expansion yet. I sincerely hope the destination is as fun as the journey.

Show and Tell : Mesa

Warframe does a few things I love especially – stats. Every weapon, Warframe, etc. tracks kills stats, head shots, melee kills – you name it. They also have stats for overall game performance. You can see below that even pushing 55 hours in I have only completed 145/227 nodes (areas) on my Star Chart. Still another 46% to go before I get to the new game update – Plains of Eidolon – that many are saying is one of the best expansions in a F2P game in a long time. It’s crazy to think that I haven’t even scratched the surface on the game and it remains a shining beacon of the exact opposite of the stunts Destiny 2, Battlefield 2, and the like are pulling in the marketplace. I strongly encourage people to give this game a try – you have nothing to lose and rewarding a developer for making a great game and monetizing it in a fair manner is important these days. As mentioned in my Black Friday post I went on a shopping spree and purchased some nice new Warframes and bundles – and of course, my dear Mesa (pictured below) that I have been really interested in playing.
I really enjoy the fact that each Warframe has a video about them to give you a bit of a taste. This post will be the first of many where I am going to introduce my Warframes, show the videos, and discuss what I like about them. Each video is around a minute long so not  huge commitment. Since I used Mesa in my stats picture above we will start there. One of the most attractive parts of Warframe is that every frame plays VERY differently from one another and you quickly find yourself with several different ‘classes’ that you can use on missions depending on what kind it is. Unfortunately I haven’t found a clan yet so have not been able to build a group based on synergies – it has been randomized through LFG.

Mesa is, in MMO terms, a Ranged DPS class with some utility. Think Hunter in WoW.  When paired with a protective Warframe she can really shine but unless your idea of a good time is “kill things faster than they can kill you” she isn’t a great Warframe for soloing.  Her utility of increasing damage of friends (one at a time) and jamming weapons of enemies has limited use in a group, but her reflective shield is a decent defence mechanism. She definitely has her place for the more active, aggressive player (which I am not). I have enjoyed my time leveling Mesa – and still have 8 levels to go  – but she won’t be my go to frame for solo missions. When I get to be in a tightly knit group – such as defence, mobile defence, or survival – I think those are all good mission types to LFG with this offensive minded class.

Her style is definitely Wild West in space and her animations and gun play are quite fun. She gets an innate bonus to dual wielding pistols (fire and reload rate) so if that is your preferred weapon or style she fits the gunslinger icon perfectly. Her skills do not help her shine in a group setting but the rate and power of how she can take down enemies is definitely group worthy. I suspect in a preset group with someone who can return energy, extending her toggled fourth skill – Peacemaker – could have amazing results. I have used it very effectively in some situations where my team was about to get overrun with infested. Hopefully I can find a clan and better explore that style of methodic gameplay.

I realize that almost all of my frames are Black and White – because the shader pack ‘Shadow’ have the muted tones I prefer. The Halloween one I have makes for some godawful combinations and I think I need to invest in more color packs. This post I did shows a bunch of random color options on my Rhino, to get an idea of the palettes I currently have available.

Mesa looks, feels, and plays like a Cowboy which is the obvious goal with this Warframe. I will use her whenever I feel like that kind of play, but I have other Warframes that suit solo play better, and that bring  more to a group in an unselfish way. (Getting all the kills is selfish, right?). I have always been the “team player” in groups and Mesa is better suited for the one who wants to stand out. Still – was a great purchase and will be the right frame for me when I want to step out of my shell and shoot things in the face.

I hope that last line sounded as poetic in written form as it did when I said it out loud.

Caught in the Cookie Jar : Developers

Destiny 2 has not been a favorite of mine for many reasons, and not going to rehash those at this time, but it was for purely game reasons. They have, unfortunately, stooped below the game-level issues I disliked. Literally slowing XP gains secretively on Bright Engram boxes. You know, those same boxes that you can also buy with real money, or grind for in game. Bungie has come out and admitted it – without admitting they did anything “wrong” of course – and are adjusting the practice. They are only admitting it because they were caught by the community as the community ran several tests to try and replicate the “bug” that made XP gains “inconsistent”.

Turns out it’s not a bug, it’s a feature. A hidden money making feature.

Trust is at a pretty low point with developers right now, I’d say. If it’s not for you, it should be.

Again – as discussed in this space previously – I don’t blame them, entirely. This is what a business is supposed to do. Profit. However, the pure dishonest nature of it all is what bothers me. When you program things in your game to affect the player’s expected experience you should come right out and say it. This is pretty scandalous, and should be treated as such. In fact, it is far, far worse than the EA Battlefront II lock boxes – at least EA didn’t lie about it or hide it. If you are going to slow XP gains to players to encourage payment you should just say so. If you don’t feel comfortable telling the truth to your customers about an internal decision you have made that impacts their gameplay dishonestly, chances are it’s the wrong decision.

It’s our fault, of course. We engage developers as if they are our friends, as if they truly care about the gaming communities we have fostered. We buy their games based on their past successes, even when we say we won’t.  I wrote about how I felt about developers and past successes back in 2009:

I am not  anymore a big fan of “rockstar designers” than I am of “rockstar CEO’s”. I believe their success is as much entrenched in timing and market conditions than their own personal contributions. Mark Jacobs, of DAOC/WAR fame is a great MMO manager for sure, but doesn’t have any unique or special vision. WAR is proof of that. Lord British had a great hit with UO 15 years ago but has been unable to follow up with any sort of recent success (in gaming – the man did make it into space – kudos). The Diablo team’s follow up had a short life span. Brad? – well, you read the above if you got this far. One success – no matter how successful, does not give you a design pedigree that you can fall back on – solely. Good business managers evolve – they do not rely on past successes and hope it carries them through. Even WoW has changed lead designers multiple times. Is it more important to have someone who knew what they were doing in the past, or someone who you think will know what to do in the future? Seems like a gamble either way

I am begging the industry to self regulate. The other two options – government regulation, or continue lying to the player base – are far worse.

Self regulation can be this simple:

  1. Any loot box style items will have the percentage chance of winning a specific item listed IN GAME before purchases (and companies will have their randomization code audited by an accredited third party)
  2. Any background/invisible mechanics in game that impede progress that can be circumvented through purchases are clearly outlined on the login screen.
  3. Any matchmaking mechanics that involve purchase history as a condition must be transparent

The first should have happened ages ago. Every company is lying about the odds of getting what you want by not sharing the chance. The second covers off hidden, dishonest grinds quite simply. I am sure there are several others the industry can agree to and if they don’t, anything the government(s) of the world could do could be much worse. Volkswagen programmed their cars to lie about emissions and fuel efficiency to incentivize you to buy Diesel cars. and avoid regulatory issues. Destiny programmed their game to lie about XP gains to incentivize you to buy boxes. They are in the same ballpark.

The only purpose of a gaming company – now more than ever – is to make profit. Once you start believing that and acting on that you will be far less disappointed. As consumers our direct ability to hold them accountable will shape the industry in the future – as it already has in the present.

 

UPDATE: Kotaku reports that when they adjusted XP gains to be consistent, they doubled the XP needed to level from 80k to 160k. No mention if this is a balancing feature from the increased XP gains, or a mistake. Nice article for other mess ups by Bungie. Consistent with my disappointment with Destiny 2.

Shopping Spree

Well, I have already completed my Black Friday shopping. Which can’t really happen until 11 am (when the sales start) but I am already decided and ready to go. It’s all Warframe, which is having a 50% off sale on some Bundles. Bundles includes weapons, Syandanas (capes) and boosters.

Here are my choices from that list. Ivara is a stealth based Warframe which is (apparently) good for spy missions. I’ve had my eye on her for some time. I don’t even care about the weapons, but they are a nice addon. The price below is before the 50% off (which doesn’t kick in until 11am)

Another Frame bundle, Inaros, is a sand based unit with Scarabs and a pretty cool revive mechanic.

The third – Chroma – isn’t nearly as sexy or exciting as the other two for me, but still – 50% is 50%!

On top of bundles, all Warframes are on a smaller sale and even some awesome skins. I have really, really wanted Mesa so now is the time to invest.

My desire level for Mesa is nearly 1000. She is so badass. Using ‘desire’, and ‘sexy’, and those kinds of verbs and adjectives when talking about semi-infested robotic exoskeletons is a bit odd, even for me….

Rhino is a go-to frame for me and this skin is so full of awesome, I am going to spend, spend, spend.

The only downside is that I don’t get to farm these in game “the old fashioned” way, which is really a lot of fun to do. But on the bright side I’ll have so much new to farm and play, which I am really excited for. Total spend is 1380 platinum, of which, I got 1000 for $26 CAD (when I received a 50% off platinum perk) and another 1000 for $41 CAD (when I used a 20% off perk) so total spend around $43. For me that is great value as I have already crushed over 50 hours in it, and with these purchases I will be spending another 30-50 for sure.

Not even thinking about other games right now because I don’t have time to play them. I don’t even want to.

Modding in Warframe

First off, I am still a novice Warframe player. This three minute video is a great, fun and pretty accurate watch on the learning curve in Warframe. (and for the record, I am at day 40!)

Jeromai rightly points out in my comment section (last post) that most Mod guides are for “end game” and he is having some struggles at certain level ranges and asked for help. I am not struggling at those level ranges so feel like this information might be handy dandy for newer players. Just be forewarned this setup works for my playstyle and may not be the most efficient means, but it has been very effective for me. First I’ll explain what modding is.

Throughout the game you get “card” drops of abilities, stances, skills, auras and the like. Here is my base loadout for my Frost frame to explain some of the basics.

Each Warframe has 10 mod slots – eight basic, one Aura (top left), and one Exilus (top right). The Aura slot can only hold auras (effects that impact the entire group) and the Exilus has to be unlocked with a drop / craftable item and also requires a specific mod type to fill. The rest are only limited by the Polarity (symbol – more on that soon) and capacity of the Warframe. A base Warframe gets 1 mod point per level, up to level 30. You can use an Orokin Reactor (called “potatoeing” by the community) and double the available mod slots to up to 60 capacity. You can also add capacity through your Aura Mod (which adds to capacity, instead of deducts like most – see I have 70 above and a 10 in my Aura slot). The last way to manipulate your capacity is though Polarity – if you match a mod polarity symbol to a polarity slot symbol it takes up half the amount of capacity (see my Streamline mod with a cost of 5 in green – normally 10). The polarity works in reverse too – if you put in a wrong polarity mod it costs double. You can change or add polarities to every slot with a Forma (quest reward or crafting item) but doing so resets the level of the entire Warframe to zero having to be leveled up again. Still, if you do that to every slot you will have an incredibly powerful Warframe in the end. I haven’t bothered yet as I have been unable to max out my cards in the slots I have, as you see I have 15 remaining capacity on this frame. I’ll be able to use those as I improve the Mods.

Duplicate mods can be ‘dissolved’ into Endo to increase power in other mods

Mods have different costs (number), rarity (color), polarity (symbol beside number) and level (glowing dots at bottom). You upgrade them via Endo, a drop in game. Taking a card from 1 to 2 might cost 20, and 2 to 3 might cost 40 (it depends on the rarity of the card) but getting something from 7 or 8 to 8 or 9 costs thousands. It is hard to get them really powerful quickly, but it is really fun when you do. The Gold mods are ‘Rare’, Blue “uncommon” and Red are Common, I don’t have any Legendary Mods yet but I do have a Riven mod – which is very rare and has random properties, (sometimes negative ones with really powerful effects). I am not high enough level to use it yet, however.  There are 835 base mods in the game. That is a ridiculous amount of customization. There are some mods just for Warframes and just for weapons, and specific to specific types. What is wonderful about this system is that since you can only have one Warframe, and one of each weapon equipped, you can share mods in the same same category. Once you have a high level mod every single Warframe you have can use it. This makes those valuable cards feel more valuable. Finally – you can dissolve extra mods into Endo to make your other mods more powerful. I always keep 2 of each on hand – It’s handy if you have a pet / sentinel that can also use that mod but also if you are leveling a lower level Warframe. My level 10 energy mod won’t fit into a level 1 Warframe.

Any questions? Clear as mud? Good.

Onto my build-out. The purpose for me is to be able to solo. I like grouping and do it in specific instances (boss farming, intercept missions, archwing missions, relic farming/opening) but otherwise I like to take my time. This means I need to be able to survive the tough missions on my own. The first thing I always start with is the right Warframe. Warframes have shields (that recharge when not taking damage), health (that depletes only after shields are gone, and does not regenerate without mods or skills), and armor – which limits the damage to health once shields are down. I have two Warframes with 60 mod capacity – My Frost Prime and my Rhino. The extra 30 capacity is a big difference. They also each have a defensive special ability. This is critical to have when running solo. All of the mods I have chosen are to protect myself and enhance my special abilities. Here are my go to mods currently. They are pretty self explanatory.

(click on any to open it in gallery format)

Flow and Streamline affect how often you can use your abilities. Stretch is my Aura, which gives +12% health (multiplicative) to everyone in my party, including myself. So you see with all of the mods either adding layers of protection or helping me to increase how often I can use my abilities (especially my protection abilities) I can survive any fight, or at least run away fast enough to recharge and regroup.

I use far differing mods on my weapons but here is my standard three I use on my Primary Weapon

(click on any to open it in gallery format)

Doing more damage (Serration) faster (Speed Trigger) gets the bad guys out of the way faster. Cyro rounds is one of many elemental effects but has the added bonus of slowing enemies. Every weapon has a “Status effect” chance (The Vectis is 30% as an example) so there is a 30% chance you can slow your enemy, reducing the damage and actions they do to you. The Cold damage portion is always applied regardless of status effect change. I have tons of other mods for different weapons depending on what I am using but those are my three standard.

There are far more interesting mods out there but these simple ones that I focus on most people will have, and it covers the basics. Live longer, kill faster, and protect yourself with abilities more often and to greater effect. All of those things allow for safer gameplay. I do have some Warframes that focus on damage and I am getting to the point where I want to try some ‘glass cannon’ builds – and just try to kill everything faster than it can hurt me. That is what is great about this system – the customization is incredible and endless, and even if you have two of the same Warframes in the same group – they could both be completely different in their strengths and weaknesses. This can really shine in group play, at least, potentially in an organized form. My next goal in the game is to find a Clan to better explore purposeful grouping.

Hope this little guide helped, and as always, open to discussion and suggestions!

Checking In : 50 Hours of Warframe

(as always with pictures here, click on them to open them in a large format in a new window)

I hit that milestone last night. 50 hours in a game. That is roughly five “AAA” single player campaigns, by today’s soft production standards. The biggest two compliments I can give this game from a time perspective is that firstly, I feel like it was my first day with the game yesterday (time flies when you are having fun) and secondly, it continues to surprise and delight with discovery, storytelling, immersion, and depth. To to my general gushing fanboyism of this title (ongoing) I feel like it is important for me to disclose here that I haven’t received anything free from Digital Extremes. Not even a “thank you”.  Quite the opposite actually, I would like to thank them for making such a game that really fits my personal needs and tastes in gaming right now.

That’s the moon. It didn’t age well in the future.

While by design or not I hit a major milestone in the story last night. I am not going to discuss it here – keeping this post spoiler free – but the mission and story surrounding it really solved the biggest question I had up to this point – who I am and why I am doing this to begin with. That is a bit crazy to have that realization not show up until the 50 hour mark but I have to admit I didn’t take a straight line there. Still, I am guessing, even if I did sprint to the finish line on the story quests it still would have been 30+ hours in – that is still just a guess, it may be 40+ hours. I am trying to retrace my steps on where I went off the linear path. Either way – it speaks to the amount of content when you can’t sort out a question like that.

Back to the story – there is still far too much unresolved, and I am only half way through unlocking my Star Chart (the map with the missions) so I am hoping and expecting that the story will continue. What this major step did was resolve the past – who I am am/was, why I am doing all of this, and who the Lotus is. (The talking head guiding you through missions). It’s a doozie. My main fear of this story line is that it will end up like Destiny or Destiny 2 – in Destiny lore, less was more. The story was better when the player added in the missing parts. When Destiny 2 went full lore and explanation, it was some of the worst writing and story concepts (like, ever) and I felt like it would have been better left half unbaked so the player could continue to create a more sensible and creative narrative. Either way, Destiny has passed the point of no return while Warframe still has the opportunity.

Cloning facility has animated clones in tubes. Good use of environment

I continue to be amazed at the artwork and map design – especially because it is a randomized tileset – but they have incredibly strong rules built in to make areas coherent and incredible. I spent 15 minutes exploring a cloning facility to try and trace the route they were moving the clones.  I ended up in a room where  machine plucked pods into a circular holder one by one, slid them down a line, attached an assortment of cables to it, and then pushed it up into what looked like a “delivery” area. I wish I would have made a video. I tried to get into the areas I shouldn’t have to explore further but the game did cut me off from that. I came close though, that felt good. It was just so believable. I felt like I was in a proper, fully operational cloning facility. There haven’t been many games – if any – that has made me explore in awe as much as this game.

Flooding a room  as a mechanic versus a robotic exosuit? Nice Try. Still, nice statue.

The unknown of it all has my imagination racing about the possibilities. This is not your typical fantasy story standard in a science fiction setting that we often see (well done still, mind you) with Star Wars and the like. The parts I have discovered have been mind expanding, incredibly interesting, and different. Which makes it that much more interesting to me. Take the Grineer – they inhabit most of earth now. They are cloned humans that were used as the disposable work force to a powerful group that ran the show (keeping this bland enough for spoiler free discovery). They figured out they had the numbers and revolted. They are now lead by two queens (of which I know little about at this time, but I have heard and read an understanding that there is a story mission surrounding them coming up – hopefully soon!) and are fourteen billion strong. Simple technology, using a strategy of throwing as many people at a fight as possible to wear them down – a war of attrition. They are slowly falling apart though as they have cloned upon cloned and the genetic strain of DNA is becoming weaker and weaker. They infuse their bodies with technology to make up the difference. They face extinction if they continue to clone, but must continue to clone to survive.  The things we are experience in current, modern day science is a good precursor to this.

Uranus has many underwater transitions – the first time this has been used on any planet.

Oddly enough the story isn’t even the focus of the game and I can’t help but believe it has been added on slowly over the years on top of the gameplay. The gameplay is still the breadwinner here but they have found a good combination of both. You can just play and ignore those parts, focus solely on those parts, or do a combination of both. That is the camp I am in. The only thing I am worried about now is that the end game (whatever that might be) may not be as fun or exciting as the journey there. I suspect I have another 50 hours of gameplay before I find that out – at least time is on my side.

The lighting effects continue to be a strong point

I now have 7 Warframes and 28 weapons, and many pieces of others that I will soon get to build and level up. The variation and discovery here has been incredibly fun. I do find weapons I don’t particularly love but I still level them to 30 as it is the primary way to move your character forward. It also truly gets me to spend enough time with the weapon or frame to make sure I understand it. I am excited to start using a laser whip soon – as I haven’t spent as much time with whips in any video game as in the bedroom I think I should have in the past. Interesting to see how they built that into this game.

I know other bloggers are playing Warframe right now and there is a general sense of positivity around the game in a lot of gaming media right now. I do qualify my experiences here with this is just working for me right now. Others may not have the patience or interest to go 50 hours before sorting out what should probably be considered the biggest plot twist in the game. Truth is, I am already so invested in the game and the universe that it was an amazing moment for me. Others may never get there or may not have been hooked to begin with.  I don’t know what is worse – that I have have zero desire to play any other game out there (or coming out soon) right now, or that I don’t have anything else to really write about these days. I’ll spend some time thinking and writing about the improvements the game could make too – it’s not perfect. Right now though, for me, pretty close.

So You Are Saying There’s A Chance

Gevlon wrote a pretty sarcastic piece (I think it was meant to be sarcastic!) calling for the end of all randomization in gaming to counterbalance the future of loot box mania (which is already here, and not going anywhere). I do appreciate that some people – and “gamers” in particular – appreciate some certainty. This is why we went from random boss drops in MMOs to tokens, and the like. Some randomization is good, but when it is too much in specific circumstances it can be bad. Many games try to find a balance.

Back in 2009 I wrote a piece about how much I love randomization in games – often in extreme cases. While the premise was built on a pen and paper game that took the idea to a very fun place.

One thing I loved about the Star Wars pen and paper game was the concept of the ‘red’ dice. SW was played with all d6 – and on your rolls you always had to had an off colored dice. That dice was the “special” dice. We called it the fate dice. It may have officially have been called the ‘Force’ dice. I’m not sure. Its been 15 years. The crux of it? You rolled real bad on that dice, even if you rolled all 6’s on the others, and crazy things would happen. Crazy bad. It also worked in the reverse, where a good roll – on that one dice – would make amazingly incredible things happen. Out of the ordinary.

The off color dice in Star Wars PnP gave a full creative licence to the Game Master to do amazing things to the person, situation, and campaign. The game was far better for it. I even loved the randomization of a bad luck roll that cost me a perma-death member of my Blood Bowl team (in that same article). That was always part of the game and the chance that that could happen made the game have consequence and tension. I could easily avoid that chance by not playing that character but I would lose more games because of it. Choice and consequence are exciting things in games and sometimes I feel like we are seeing less of both.

Truth be told when thinking about randomization in games it’s basically the main vehicle to keep things interesting. Games (across all spectrums – board, card, digital, heck, even live sports!) are built on chance and that chance creates the moments that make the games worthwhile. If not for randomization, we would just be playing math problems – and as much as I like math I also like shooting things in the face and having random things happen around that. In cards, the lone Euchre hand is built on randomization. What cards are dealt in each of the four hands (100% random, but from a defined number of options) what card your opponent leads with (partially random, with some skill based on experience) and when and what trump cards you use. Being able to say “I’m not playing this hand” after it is dealt to you in essence ruins the game. Especially moreso for the person who actually has a lone (or strong) hand to play.  Most board games have rounds resolved (or started) with the roll of a dice – what is more random than that? Taking away the element of chance is taking away concept of the “game” as well. Sure, some games such as Chess have no random elements outside of the human choice made (which is defaulted more to strategic thought) but on the whole – if you are playing or watching most games there are elements of chance and elements of strategy – how much of each co-exist is dependent on the game itself.

I do agree that randomization should not be tied to – or a result of – monetary investment. This is the slippery slope where video games are heading (or at, depending on perspective) and once again it is up to the consumer base to send a message by voting with their wallet. It has been demonstrated that some people actually like that opportunity to exchange their time for money and as such many of these titles will see success with the model and continue to build those contingencies in.

Thankfully we live in a gaming world of choice, and not just chance. It’s far more interesting that there is both.

 

Blog Therapy – Drafts Folder Purge Part 5

I still have pesky drafts sitting in my ‘Posts’ folder from waay back in 2015. I am continuing to examine and decide whether to finish off the post, or delete it to the blog-void permanently.

My other posts in this series are Part 1Part 2Part 3, Part 4.

What I am, and Not, Playing (4/30/2015)

Back during #writersblogblock (you know, the online version of writers block – because everyting in blogging has to have the word “blog” in it) I managed to pull of a full two blog posts in April. Two. That is basically my worst month of blog posting during months that I posted at all. I took extended stretches of breaks to deal with a cancer scare and a self-induced divorce avoidance. Those were times where I was more focused on hiding and being in denial than writing about games and hobbies. I literally wrote a couple sentences in this draft mentioning I was still enjoying playing  Baseball on the PS4  and used the quote “In this giant gaming market of choice of freedom” without finishing the sentence. I think it was a general malaise statement – that even with all of that I did not feel inspired to write. This post is pretty common in #blognation when bloggers don’t post for a while they often come back and post what they have been playing to pass the time. I keep a list of all the bloggers I used to follow closely who no longer post as a reminder of old friends and voices gone (or changed). Some of died on that list.  Of course, it is just a tiny snippet of the multitude of bloggers who stop but they were close to me.  I still check them randomly to see if their sites are still alive (many are, just forgotten) and every once in a while one will post something. My hard and fast rule is that if you don’t post for six months you are a Writer Resting In Paradise (WRIP) but you can always come back.  Anyway – off topic here but a clear outcome of kill the draft, save the world.

Emotional Connections (4/30/2015)

I just couldn’t get a third blog post out that month, despite my best effort. While the text wasn’t exceptional it did hit on an area I think games are primed to succeed in:

Games and gaming are immature industries. I am often reminded of this by Tesh.

Wait, isn’t it silly to call a multi-billion dollar industry “immature”? Gaming has been happening for *years* and with it huge productions, programs, studios (etc.) have made (and lost) millions upon millions. I have spoken before about how the industry needs to look to other retail methods and sensibilities that most retail and purchasing habits follow.

Connect with heads and hearts. We use that in retail all the time. You truly can’t win over a customer if you only connect with their head. Their head, will find other and better reasons to shop elsewhere.

Video games are well placed to succeed here. Games naturally play on our intellect with focus and engagement. They also help us form bonds. On a deeper level, some of us traditionally connect better through our online bonds than in regular social situations (stereotypes aside) or have learned how to socialize OUTSIDE of games from the in game parts.

Gaming as an industry acts in many ways contrary to business fundamentals. The churn and burn mentality. The taking as much advantage of your customer base as you can without crossing the line. Eschewing any sense of loyalty or rewards beyond access to their games although loyal customers tend to make up the majority of repurchase decisions. I think gaming companies are fortunate that a lot of money comes from immature consumers and eventually their actions will come back to haunt them. Still – this post resonates with me as I remain very curious and interested in wondering the impact of a gaming company acted like a normal, retail company in how it treats, supports, and engages it’s customers. I do believe there is an opportunity here and have spoken about loyalty and gaming several times. Will be interesting to see the industry grow and adopt. Outcome: treating this post like gaming companies treat customer loyalty. Ignoring it.

Before Midnight (5/21/2015)

The romantic movie Before Sunrise (1995) was a movie I watched with a University sweetheart that immediately connected with me.  I loved the conversations, the actors, the setting – everything. I can still recite the waterside poem by heart. There was a second, Before Sunset (2004) that resolved the ending of the first and introduced new ideas and issues to the lovers. Then the third, Before Midnight, came out in 2013 and I hadn’t watch it yet until I made this blog post. I am not going to give away any spoilers to these movies but the writing is amazing, the characters relatable, and the situation – in all three – is very honest. This, of course, from my novice moving loving opinion. I wouldn’t even qualify myself as a romantic and I think why this movie trilogy is brilliant is that it isn’t made with the romantic at heart. I can’t say much else without spoiling the plot. This post draft explored my history with the movie and themes within and I already had 500 words written down – which is often a regular sized post for me.  All that being said I am hardly going to revise and update a post I started two years ago about a movie that is 4 years old already. Oucome: Not finishing this one as it’s way in the past, like an old lover you can’t forget but still get choked up when you think about them. Even though you have both long moved on.

Better the Second Time Around (06/23/2015)

This was another 500+ word draft that I just didn’t finish. It was based on how much I was enjoying playing Everquest on the progression servers, of which, I already have several posts about. A small excerpt about an old XP penalty for a class that is now long gone – and how taking the old base game and giving some modern day improvements doesn’t ruin the experience.

My Shadowknight is now level 8 (with  around 10 hours played) and that does seem really fast. The old SKs faced one of the worst XP penalties (168% as a troll, I believe). Could you imagine that in today’s MMO landscape? That class/race combinations would level at different speeds? That’s crazy talk. It also didn’t survive and those penalties are gone.

That is like how Monopoly now has debit cards so you don’t have to count all of your cash and have these stacks of funny money that get lost and stack terribly. Some purists may like that torture but I’ll take the quality of life improvements while preserving the core experience any day. This post might be relevant today with the WoW server announcements but i am just not sure if it will hold the same appeal to me. Yes, vanilla WoW and The Burning Crusade were formative MMO years and my recollection of trial and tribulations of getting something solo I wasn’t supposed to be able to do with workarounds (still love that experience, and that post!) but those moments have been long removed from MMOs and even though the grind, comradarie, and joy of being “back home” in EQ had some staying power it was still a temporary visit. Like going to a high school reunion and realizing how small the gym actually was, and looking at old class pictures to realize the fantasy of the past was really out of style. Outcome: killing this draft as I stopped playing shortly after, and had the realization that yes – you can go home again – you just can’t stay there long.

Listmas (12/21/2015)

Yes, I had a 2014 Listmas post in the LAST Draft cleanup roundup. Seems I really want to get on board with Murfvs‘s #Listmas push but I didn’t get around to it. For a second year in a row. And now Murf is WRIP, so I will never be able to do a Listmas. I am not great at Blognation events, although I did crush a couple of Blaugust months back when they were a think. I even played around in Anook when there was a push to focus on a blog social platform, but really it was just a place I reposted what I already post.  I don’t even use twitter for blogging – well barely, but I do use it as a resource where I read some tweets and defend the honor of Ketchup Chips. Like a good Canadian.

The Listmas I was going to do was the top 10 things to try as a gamer to get healthy. I started posting about my own health journey where I went from 230 pounds to 175 and the impact it had on my physical and mental well being. Some other gaming bloggers suggest I make that “my thing” as there is a stigma around gaming and being unhealthy – you know, the Mountain Dew fueled 12 hour sedentary lifestyle the gamers embody and often promote. I did a couple posts around that but in the end the information is out there – but you just have to want to do it, commit to it, make small and manageable changes, and not beat yourself up when you fall off your goals (which you will). Key is to fail often. Anyway – this Listmas was going to be about how and what small changes to start with if you wanted to focus on a healthier lifestyle that doesn’t interfere fully with your passionate hobbies. The two can co-exist and I am living proof. Outcome: there are 10 reasons why I am deleting this draft. #10 – Listmas is over. #9 – I am not chronicle-ling a health journey here as a focus. #8 – you get it already, right? ….

Another batch of Post Drafts cleaned up! Sad that I am not building off of any of these but as mentioned in prior posts it feels good to purge the folder. It feels even better to review what I was thinking at that time and where I was planning on going with posts that didn’t make the cut. The best news is that my drafts folder is almost full caught up – I might have one more of these cleaning posts to do.

Postcards from Space

(this is a picture heavy post – as with all of my posts, click on the picture and it will open a new window with the full, high res version. To really appreciate them!)

Warframe has a beautiful looking backdrop. Shame because there is an awful lot of rush, rush, rush in co-operative PVE in Warframe. The game has been out in years. People want to finish objectives. I get it. It’s fun. I keep getting stuck being curious about things that I see and want to explore further. That makes me a cat in a world of dogs and well, you know how that is supposed to end. Still, I can’t help but wondering things that I encounter and learn more about the deep, rich science fiction world that I am currently killing tons of stuff in. Reminds me of a great Hank Moody quote: “You can’t do a line of coke off a woman’s ass and not wonder about her hopes and dreams.. it’s not gentlemanly”. If only players in a rush to unlock the next widget were so polite.

This photo was in a Grineer ship in the “basement”. The randomized tilesets in the levels created by Warframe is brilliant – they make sense. Here in the basement is some sort of storage, but to the left you do see water. It’s not deep, or a pool, but feels like run off from a condensor or equipment that pumps oxygen throughout the ship. These ships and areas are completely huge and often I thought things such as “this is what it would feel like to explore the Death Star or a Star Destroyer” – you know, if it was Star Wars and not Warframe. These pictures do not capture how gigantic and varied the internal landscapes are. It’s something you really have to experience first hand to appreciate.

Here is an equipment room, which happened to be connected to a dorm area – the suits of armor hanging on the wall and disassembled pieces on the right hand side just beg to be investigated. The lighting from the floor and ceiling adds a particularly beautiful ambiance. When I first started reading about Warframe I wasn’t sure if I loved the art style and form – but it has definitely grown on me in a very positive way. Appreciate they put a changing bench there too so the soon to be dead Grineer soldier has a place to sit before dying.

This area is a moving assembly line – I think those are clone pods as they go through that process, but I wasn’t able to open one up. The arm at the top of the picture was busy plucking the pods and placing them on the conveyor belt. Much of this is intractable – You can ride the pods, follow the conveyor line, and explore further and deeper…

…but not too deep. There are areas off limits that still create the illusion of size and scope. Jumping into the abyss is a quick death (but thankfully, automatic recovery). Still, out of the corner of your eye it adds perspective. The game does a great job of using environmental effects to create space – far better than Destiny 1 or 2 ever did. I rarely feel cramped in Warframe.

I liked this picture for the lighting from space and just the industrious nature of this part of the ship – down to the rivets and non-slip surfaces. Have to have worker safety, after all. Shooting out the window was tempting and ultimately futile. Although there are parts of ships you can do exactly that, and then have to hack a terminal to close down the shutters to re-pressurize the room. Those windows I usually break by accident as it forces a lock down procedure.

Not everything is deep in the bowels of space stations or space ships. Here, awaiting extraction I can overlook the gaseous (and dangerous)  vista complete with crashed starships  and remnants of civilization. Dangerous because exposure to the sun here (or gas? Haven’t quite figured out which part. maybe the cold?) slowly drains your shields and eventually your health – leading to death. This planet is the Warframe equivalent of Hoth (sorry for all the cross referencing to Star Wars, usually an easy way to compare things) and these giant ships are embedded into and beneath the surface which make up most of the level dynamics. Here is the only place you see the bright sun – and I was also very curious what the column was to the left, rising out of the landscape. Handy dandy sniper rifle scope might help?

Not entirely. Looks mostly like a pillar of snow. Still, was worth checking in on. Love the fact that the scope let’s me know that pillar is 5 km away – makes me want to go visit even more. Which, of course, I can’t. Still – it is creating that dream and desire that is improving the mood and feel. That curiosity.

A closer-up of one of the partially buried space ships, complete with it’s own language and writing on the hull. Similar to English for familiarity but still different enough to be futuristic and all space-y like. I still haven’t figured out what caused all of this crashing and commotion and why the Corpus still decided to setup research facilities here – there must be a grander and deeper story to it all and not just the whim of a background or environment artist – right?

I also start wondering about function. That is clearly a gigantic fan. The size of a big building. Why or what does it do? Is it that hot that it is to cool off the planet? Blow away poisonous gas? Blow and disseminate fertilizer? talk into it to make the coolest voice ever? Why is that there? And stop staring at my robotic butt. That wasn’t the point of this picture.

Finishing off the screenshots with my newest Warframe, Limbo. He has inter-dimensional skills (can hop between two planes with the press of a button) but I really like the nice touch of the top hat – which he removes after certain actions in game, with a tip of it to friends and enemies alike

There is so much to appreciate with the environments in Warframe that I often find myself exploring and trying to understand how and why things are put together the way they are. Sadly I usually end up with more questions than answers but that doesn’t stop me from looking. This adds many layers of interest and complexity for me in an otherwise run and gun universe.

Stranger Things 2, Plots, Poop

Always wanted to put ‘poop’ in a title. For clarity it’s not about the second coming of poop, but the sequel. Of the show, not poop. I am going to regret the decision to not put the 2 at the end, aren’t I?

THERE BE SPOILERS IN THESE DANG HILLS

NON COUNTRY SPEAK – SPOILERS AHEAD

ALSO SWEAR WORDS

AND SEXUAL REFERENCES

PUTTING A PICTURE UP ABOUT THE SHOW AND THEN WILL BE TALKING ABOUT SPOILERS

SORRY CAPS BUT *spoliers*

Clarity is good, right?

courtesy of – stolen on the internet – before the spoilers.

I just binge watched the first two seasons over the weekend.

The Good: Season 1 had a ton of suspense, discovery, solid science fiction, interesting characters that you cared about, and good plot. A lot of tension and mystery. I loved it.

The Bad: Season 2 was terrible science fiction. I still enjoyed it but after the last episode, when I started thinking about it, I was relegated to pretty heavy disappointment. I loved and hated it.

Assuming I won’t share a popular opinion here but Season 2 of Stranger Things represented everything that is wrong with TV to me. That mostly being that TV shows try hard to be awesome first – and soon as they get success that effort to be awesome becomes an effort to extend the duration of the show for money – whether it be additional episodes or seasons. I usually don’t last past season 3 on shows (Dexter, Lost, etc.) and when I do I end up completely disappointed in the end as something that may have started off interesting and artistic is twisted into financially successful first and foremost. I know that TV shows are a business. I just don’t think they start with the profits angle first because they need the critical acclaim, hype and popularity by making an awesome show. Then the shit goes to hell when they try to extend the profit time or range. It’s not always immediate hell or a clear and visible transition to crap town, but it’s a slow degradation. A sequel for the sake of a sequel, not because there is a good idea or story to explore.

Season 2 did some things well. They enhanced the characters that you came to know and love from the first season. Built on the good of that and learned more about them. Unfortunately the plot was downright awful. Complete shit. We can talk about a few specific things but in general just accept it is sewage level. Here are some things that drove me nuts, written in a “crazy man” ranty run-on format. I am using this format to better explain how the plot felt. In no particular order.

  • Negate the sacrifice of Elle (Eleven)  killing herself and the super monster from the first season by having her somehow disintegrate and reintegrate in “the upside down” – to immediately escape and go hide instead of finding her friends or making contact. Basically the shittiest of shit explanations for how she survived the encounter. Her sacrifice was an important and excellent conclusion to the first season. Except it didn’t happen. Because money, and season 2 needed. (By that account, the monster should still be alive as well).
  • Introduce a new super monster that for some reason didn’t exist in the same dimension (the upside-down) from the first season, but is all seeing, knowing, and powerful and now exists in color as a red storm in an otherwise black and white dimension with one used-to-be-super-monster that is gone (but shouldn’t be, because should just be back in the upside-down like Elle) but can’t cross the dimensional plane like the other, weaker crappier bad guy from the first season could at will.
  • Introduce a new character “08” that could have huge implications (and even be what the entire season should have been about – the kids and the experiments) in the first episode, only to ignore her until the 4th from last episode, only to have her not play a role in anything important to the central plot (including her episode). Was a waste of air time and opportunity. What happened to 1 through 7, and 9 and 10? Were there any after 11? This could have been a plot. You know, those things shows and stories are made up of. But no, need Dungeons and Dragon jokes and Elle’s nosebleeds.
  • Not kill off any important or meaningful characters although the plot but them into 100+ situations throughout season 2 that would have warranted a meaningful death. Hopper should be dead. Steve should be dead. Once it became obvious that no matter what situation they were put in there was no actual danger the show lost all suspense. Just a walk in the park.The show would have been better for it if they had consequence or tension.  Turned into a  Scooby-Doo LARP. “I would have taken over your dimension if it wasn’t for you meddling kids!”
  • Introduce Bob the boyfriend – Bob was such a perfect boyfriend that both my son (12 years old) and I suspected he wasn’t what he represented. He was *too* perfect. Clearly, based off of the experience of the first season where the writers actually tried, Bob must be a government agent planted to keep an eye on the Byers family – or maybe for some other nefarious, sinister reason. No one is that sweet, perfect and nice. This show is about twists! Well, WAS about twists. Now it just introduces the perfect, sweet and nice boyfriend character so they can kill him off at the end (so they don’t have to kill off any real characters) so the viewer would “care”. Bullshit character. Didn’t care. Glad he got eaten, I just wished it was someone else. (Okay, maybe I felt a little bad for Bob, but at that moment I realized he was only put in the show to die anyway, so just served his function.)
  • Have hundreds of miles of tunnels dug five feet below the surface of the entire town but not a rumble or a noise, or a neighbor “hearing” the tunnels happening. It would probably feel like an earthquake – every 10 feet of tunnel – but no, they just magically appear. When Hopper digs a five foot deep hole to find the tunnel in the first place he creates a mountain of dirt (that used to be in the hole). Where did the millions of cubic feet of dirt go from the tunnels? Who created them?  How were they created basically instantly and overnight? (The Pumpkin fields basically died overnight). How was it done silently? Why tunnels in the first place? What was their purpose? WHY IS THERE NO PLOT? Shit, I tell you.
  • The polliwog to Demi-Gorgon development actually had some legs to explain where the Demi-Gorgon came from in the first place. Except now it just stopped developing half way (in a 12 hour period) to a dog-like form instead of human-ish form.  Why was the original monster unique, when the dimension is able to create hundreds of creatures that look like the original monster but just run on all fours instead of upright? Why didn’t these creatures exist in thee mirror dimension? Why did the original monster exist by itself – why were there no others? How does the new, big bad monster exist as smoke?
  • The boy as a conduit between two worlds based on his time there had some merit. I give them that. They just didn’t do anything good with it.
  • Why turn a perfectly good science fiction drama into a sitcom? Really, the humor stood out in Stranger Things Season 2, but I have reruns of Seinfeld to watch for sitcom satisfaction. Seinfeld had a stronger plot too. Yes, I just said that out loud. I wasn’t looking for a new buddy comedy in Stranger Things 2. I was looking for a bit more of what was on tap with Season 1. There are enough buddy comedies out there already.
  • Every single person in the government building is dead. Everyone slaughtered. Except, miraculously, the one person who might actually be able to give Elle her life back – who, remarkably, hid in such a clever place – THE MAIN STAIRWELL. THE DEMON DOGS THAT CAN HEAR A BROOM HANDLE HIT THE FLOOR FROM 100′ AWAY AND ARE BASICALLY BULLET PROOF HUNTED DOWN AND SLAUGHTERED EVERY LAST LIVING THING IN THE BUILDING EXCEPT THE ONE, MAIN GUY WHO COULD PRODUCE A FAKE BIRTH CERTIFICATE FOR ELLE. That was very nice of him. He should have tried that in his (better) appearance in the movie Aliens. There were lots of stairwells in that base too. Genus idea.

If Stranger Things Season 1 was like sex (anticipation, good the whole time, strong climax, feeling of satisfaction afterwards) Season 2 was basically circle-jerk science fiction. It felt good at the time but after it was over and looking into the eyes of all around you you might feel a little embarrassed for liking it. Maybe it didn’t measure up to the real thing and the good feeling didn’t last long and its something you would prefer to not talk about again. I have no reason to look forward to Season 3 as I suspect they will add in laugh tracks.

Season one was great TV and I was emotionally invested in Season two. I care(d) about the characters and I felt like they introduced interesting concepts and ideas on the first season that could have been expanded and improved upon instead of abandoned. Everything interesting and eventful was discarded in season two. It felt like fan fiction “feel goods” that every one gets whatever they ever wanted, everyone’s downfalls are redeemed, and no one important ever gets hurt.

Community Resourcing and Rewarding : Warframe

It’s funny how certain things I learn and experience in gaming remind me of old posts. Some are word for word suggestions and ideas I made in the past (such as having WoW armor switch stats on specialization switch which I suggested almost a decade ago – you are welcome) to my ire that people who add extensively to a game through volunteer modding or UI enhancements should get paid. WoW is another good spot for this as in the past (and present) you can’t even play the game right without the third party community made mods as support. Blizzard should pay those people. They don’t, but still. If your game is infinitely better by someone in the community putting their time and resources into something that saves you from spending your time and resources, you should find a way to reward them. Even notionally.

Enter, my darling Warframe, and the Tennogen program.

All of those items are community created. There is a whole sub-section in the marketplace with dozens of items made by, and for the community at large. Here is a second screen to show some other really good work. I’m really impressed. That Excalibur unicorn *ahem* helmet is cool beans. I don’t have Excalibur yet, but can see myself rocking that helm at some point in the future.

Mesa is a Warframe I have had my eye on for a while – I have a bunch of star chart to unlock before I can even think about grinding for her. The one issue I have with Warframe is that while the frames themselves are so varied you have no clue whether or not you will really like one until you play one. And you can’t play one until you unlock them. That takes time, money, and commitment. They do have a “testing” room for challenges to move up a level and I think it would be a good program to run that you can try out a Warframe in that testing environment to see what you like. I bet it would lead to more unlocks. Back to Mesa, I absolutely LOVE the Tennogen Dead Eye Helmet option. It’s got a futuristic eyepatch and everything:

I have that one on my Wishlist. The price for these items seem to be set at $6.49 CAD of which the creator gets half. With millions of players in Warframe there is an opportunity here for content creators to make some decent dough if they hit the right notes on look and feel.  Of course, a lot has to line up to make that happen but even if the sales hit the 1000s it’s not a bad side income. I haven’t found any statistics on the programs yet to know how sales are actually going.

Not sure what it is about Horns on robots that I like so much but here is another standout that I chose as a personal favourite. Keep in mind everything is still customizable on color and I think I appreciate how they give shape to the ‘faces’ of these bots. I love the detail of the white glow dots on either side of the horn as you can customize those to be any color and I can envision that looking wicked if you went with a contrasting instead of complimentary glow.

Another Warframe I don’t own but appreciate the look of this helmet. Funny this (and the Harka Frost Skin I have) give earrings to the frames. I have seen a few others as well. They are also animated – so they swing back and forth and sway when you turn your head or body. The level of detail is quite impressive.

I have never been a cosmetics guy. In games that have that option – which are more and more of course – I tend to find an outfit I like and just keep it and upgrade everything into that look. It’s simple. I have never once spent real money on in game cosmetics but I am pretty confident once I settle in on a favourite Warframe or two that I will definitely explore custom options. Bonus is that I can support both Digital Extremes and player content creators at the same time. It isn’t hard to get behind that.

(As always, you can click on a picture to get it in grander detail and higher resolution – it will open it in a new browser)

Have a Cookie : Login Rewards

First, I promised Bhagpuss I would try and get some outside shots of Warframe. There is no first person view for screenshots that I am aware of and unfortunately my WF takes up a big chunk of the screen. I am also not great at acreenshots (both remembering to take them in the first place, and the skill of taking them) but here are a couple beautiful, industrial vistas on Mars. Property prices are very reasonable here. I’ll try better next time.

Warframe has a daily login reward and everything I have received has been very useful.  Right below the reward it has a line of text saying “next Milestone reward in X days” and I am working on my first, which is 50 days of logging in. I have barely scratched the surface. Curious as to what those are and when you get them I meditated on my Google-Fu. I was both shocked and amused simultaneously when I saw the Milestones.

Milestones

The following rewards can be claimed upon accumulating the required number of log-in days:

  • 50 Days – Imminent Eclipse Sigil, 3-day Affinity Booster, and Orokin Catalyst
  • 100 Days – Azima (Comes with weapon slot and pre-installed Orokin Catalyst)
  • 150 Days – Awakened Luna Sigil, 3-day Credit Booster, and Exilus Adapter
  • 200 Days – Primed Fury (Unranked)
  • 250 Days – Eternal Stasis Sigil, 3-day Affinity Booster, and Orokin Reactor
  • 300 Days – Zenistar (Comes with weapon slot and pre-installed Orokin Catalyst)
  • 350 Days – Solar Flare Sigil, 3-day Credit Booster, and Orokin Catalyst
  • 400 Days – Primed Vigor (Unranked)
  • 450 Days – Void Gate Sigil, 3-day Affinity Booster, and Exilus Adapter
  • 500 Days – Zenith (Comes with weapon slot and pre-installed Orokin Catalyst)
  • 550 Days – Lotus Deliverance Sigil, 3-day Credit Booster, and Orokin Reactor
  • 600 Days – Primed Shred (Unranked)
  • 650 Days – Spectral Tide Glyph, 3 Forma, and Orokin Reactor
  • 700 Days – Sigma & Octantis (Comes with weapon slot and pre-installed Orokin Catalyst)

700 Days? Really? Wow. What can be so cool that it is worth logging in for for 700 days?

A sword AND shield?  Maybe that is worth it. See you July 20, 2019, give or take the days I miss from now until then. I don’t think it will be many.

Humour (yes, that was what that was) aside – I want that. Today though, I mean, I would pay real money for it. It’s completely wicked.  I am not sure if there are other sword and shield combinations but I really hope there are. I have never really been a big fan of login rewards and gating something so cool behind so many days is something I can dislike and get behind at the same time. It is a true testament and reward for someone who has been there for years, supporting the game and being a part of the community. That is something that should be more celebrated in games in general – but more so around ones that are built around communities. The only dislike is pretty personal, that I really want it (now)  and won’t have one for two years (take my money please). I’ll survive. The only downside for me is that daily login rewards should have some sort of event completion tied to it, so that you actually played. I spent more days logging into Fortnite to get my rewards than playing that game.

I am getting behind this decision and hope Digital Extremes stick their guns – people are already complaining about it on Reddit. Meanwhile, if I get the pleasure of seeing a player with this I will simply bow in envy and appreciation.

Snake Oil : Day One DLC

Way back in 2010 I was pretty upset with EA. I am embarrassed enough to say that I have linked to that post myself five times – six, if you include this one. Each of those links was for different reasons but it remains one of my most linked posts by myself. I think it shows a gamer broken with exasperation by a company and an industry that continues to do head shaking things to itself, it’s customers, and it’s employees. Not much has changed in the seven years either as companies do what companies are supposed to do – find ways to maximize revenues, minimize costs, and provide shareholder value. Often at the expense of the consumer. In many ways you could call it a digital, perverse version of Stockholm Syndrome since we continually feed the behaviors that are most often against our longer term goals for quick fixes and “happiness”.

Loot boxes are one component of this and Blognation and traditional media outlets are reporting on whether or not they resemble a form of gambling. I have stated here before, and other places in comments, that while they may not be gambling per se based off of corporate behaviors and their only function to return value to shareholders there is nothing requiring them to be honest in the odds or fair in the chances that those loot boxes will give you want you ultimately want. They do know what you want, the information is there. When I have played 80% of my competitive games as a certain character and there is a skin for that character only available in a certain loot box that I start buying they know exactly what I want. And at that point, they will try to sort out my willpower and extract every last penny they can in my quest to get that one thing.  They have, and they will again. I am not going to go deeper into Loot Boxes here as it has been covered better elsewhere and discussed to the small percentage of getting to near death for maximum revenue.

The other component which isn’t so much in your face is the release of as little content as possible to sell additional content as soon as possible. In my EA link at the top their Medal of Honor release waited two full weeks to launch a paid DLC – which was minor, at $10, but the game had so little content to start with it was a pretty bold move. I do believe it was a consumer test to see who would buy and who would backlash. I think it was a successful test because now companies wait a whole 90 days to launch their DLC after their content-light major launch.

Wait 90 days and I’ll give you the other half – for a price!

Yes, looking at Destiny 2.  They just released their first date for their DLC which is December. Of course it was completed before Destiny 2 launched their main game. It’s ready to go and much of it could have been in at launch but it’s better to get your player base bored fast with what you released, and charge them for more content later. It’s a good strategy that is working for them well. Hell, I pre-bought the version that gives me the first two expansion. Which, all three together, would probably make a complete game. I was fooled by the hopes and dreams of a better Destiny, but instead got a heavy does of Reality. Shame on me, of course. Lesson learned.

Voting with my wallet won’t work while there is a sea of people who are fine with it. And that’s okay too. I went through a great phase where I didn’t get caught up in hype and would wait for releases and Blognation reviews (over the paid marketers) and I was just happier then because at least I knew what I was in for and not nearly as disappointed. I don’t remember the last time I was so disappointed by a game or gaming company and I am actually embarrassed that I care so much, that I had such high expectations, and that I feel like I was… conned. Of course it is all on me – they were honest on much of it and if you look at their first development schedule they did the exact same thing – September release, December DLC launch (of content that was already done), then 6 months for the next DLC.  6 months for the third, and then a year for the fourth. It wouldn’t surprise me if they kept to the exact same schedule since it is Destiny 1.5 after all. 😉

Is there a real world equivalent to this digital commercial behavior or is this just part of the new-norm, digitized economy?

Confirmation Bias : Warframe, Destiny 2

Metacritic is one of those fun sites that gives a glimpse into the mood of the crowd. It also has some truth to it. Long ago I stopped trusting paid reviewers and review sites for much of the obvious – they are just a single view point of opinion without any backdrop to understand what kind of games / movies they like. The reason why I keep putting movies in with games is that I do have the Flixster App on my phone which I am constantly referring to to find showtimes and also get a glimpse of the mood of the crowd as well. It is rare to have a Critic score match a User score (much like Metacritic) and when those two numbers are very different then I am tend to trust the user score first and foremost. I have had my issues with Metacritic before when the user reviews were reviewing the “liberal agenda” of Bioware moreso than the game that was released.

This lead in is to show the difference between a hyped up, huge ‘AAA’ title, Destiny 2 which disappointed many a fan but was largely gushed on by critics:

Versus the little engine that could, small developer made title out of London (Ontario – yay Canada):

When it comes down to it most of the negative complaints on the Destiny 2 Metacritic surround the shallowness of the experience, the lack of improvement, many comments about how this is really a Destiny 1.5 not a Destiny 2 – you know, the same old, basic fodder I have been throwing at it since the PS4 release. Basically the low score represents the disappointment of the fan base – myself counted among them. I always make it clear how much I loved Destiny 1 and how for me Destiny 2 represented an opportunity to improve upon it. That same mood is where a lot of the low scores stem from. The  high scores, anecdotally, are from people who didn’t play Destiny 1 – and that is ALSO fair – because if you don’t have a reference you don’t understand you are largely playing the same game with a few instances of two steps forward and three steps back.

Warframe on the other hand – continues to give me hours of enjoyment, discovery, challenge and fun. I very much understand “to each his own” and even put the title of this post as such because I am acutely aware that there are other trains of thought on the game. I am now 30 hours in and finding deeper enjoyment in the systems as I discover and use them, and the endless combinations and customization that is available. I am going to wait to add my own scores to the above Metacritic ratings but you can already guess on which side of the spectrum they will be.

Wait, There’s More : Warframe

Warframe is a game of discovery. And grinding. Thankfully the discovery part fun far outweighs any negative part of the grinding. Also, the grinding is fluid and ALSO fun so it’s in a pretty big win / win spot.

My third Warframe finished building (took three days) and it is the often recommended and easy to get for a new player – Rhino. The Rhino is a tanky, in your face frame with abilities that are best used up close and personal. The first is charge which propels you forward sending enemies flying away. It is very satisfying to charge an enemy and ram him into a wall and view the inkblot style blood spatter left on the wall as the body slides down, crumpled. Is that a caterpillar? No, an angel? A can of food? It’s it’s own fun mini-game. Psychology with a Rhino! The fun part of that ability is that if you chain it – each successful hit does more damage and impact. You can really rag doll the hell out of groups of enemies and also does decent boss damage. His second ability  hardens his armor making him near invulnerable for a time period. His third increases damage by all friendly units within range for thirty seconds in a multiplicative way by 50%, and the fourth is a massive floor stomp that does a nice turn of damage as well as lowering damage by the baddies and other status effects. In short, he is like the hulk, just less green and more intelligent.

Well, I guess he can be as green if you want.

On the advice of fellow blogger and all around nice-guy Jeromai I bought the limited time Hallowe’en color pack (basically free, 1 credit) since we are in that holiday time period. I used a nice, bright red to color my Rhino away from the black and whites I have been using for my other frames.

Then I saw the fun “random colors” button so I hit it. Several times. Here are the fun results only using the base color palette, Shadow, and Hallowe’en (Gallery opens when you click for easy viewing!)

That was fun. Of course, I ended up with the black on black on grey on grey one. Again. Ugh, I need more color in my life. Also note that the Syandana (which is Warframe for “cape”) doesn’t automatically change colors with the rest of your items.  It is easy enough to fix afterwards if you want it to match just by going to the Syandana (cape.. why make up a new name for this?) and clicking “copy main warframe colors”. You can also do this with your weapons, which I did here.

The Soma Prime is a gold weapon (as you see it in default form on the top left) and using ‘copy Warframe colors’ made it black and subtle red, with the nice green LED glows that match my frame. It’s an amazing system that you can play with for hours – or just hit random and not be as boring as I am. Colors are just the tip of the iceberg for customization for Warframe and after spending time with it I am already wondering how this is not the standard for many games – or at least the price of entry. It’s amazing.

With seemingly endless items to farm and build and a still hidden away story I am trying to discover – AND a full, new open world expansion (The Plains of Eidolon) to play at some point after I have visited and unlocked every planet I keep expecting to still hit that point where things become more repetitive and well, boring. Fortunately Warframe keeps giving me little surprises. I know the repetitive part is on the horizon somewhere but WF is doing a good job of pushing back that reality.

For example I thought I had explored all of the ‘types’ of missions but found another new one just the other night. A typical ‘rescue’ mission is to get to a prison area, hack jail cells, find the target, and extract them safely. I had commented in the past that I thought it was a nice feature that you can give up your secondary weapon to the prisoner and they will help you fight. I joined a mission on Europa which was to save squads of people, not just one. The twist was there were waypoints that required being kept powered up. When you started the squad moving they would go to the first waypoint and ‘rest’ there until you told them to move to the next one, and the next, until finally they would depart on the ship. Aside from keeping these gather areas powered up you had to escort the squad safely between them and to their final destination. Instinctively as a random group of 4 we all took a leg as our responsibility. Squad to C, C to B, B to A, and A to ship. As with most missions in Warframe that have ‘waves’ they start pretty easy and increase in difficulty. The game let’s you leave in set intervals (normally 5) but the longer you push and harder it gets – and the bigger the rewards. The group worked well for the first 10 squads we saved, at which point the far more experienced players in the group mentioned that we should push for 16. It was so hard. So fun. squad members (the NPCs) were getting picked off. It was getting impossible to solo the legs, so you had to have two move the group forward. The enemies became stronger and more numerous and we even had Warframes go down. This was a glimpse for me into a more meta-game – this mission would be easier with the right kind of Warframes with the right kind of build outs. I don’t have too many options there yet but it was a peek into a deeper and more nuanced and challenging option for end game players. The good part is that if the early going gets rough you can just end the round at the set intervals and everyone still gets their rewards and gets to go home.

The second pleasant surprise is that there are more and different kinds of Mods as you move planets. At the beginning I felt like I had seen them all and would get stacks of +40% health and +20% shields. (Mods are great because you can improve that +40% health to +240% health (for example) AND you can use that single mod in ALL of your Warframes. I love that they are not single use and are free to interchange anytime, anywhere.). On the newest planet I started getting more interesting mods, +STATUS, more specific to different situations and you could see how you could build very specific build outs with frames and mods – and then very specific team compositions – that will make farming and mission completion more efficient and enjoyable.

I do not know how much longer there will be new discoveries and newness – but I welcome and enjoy it. Especially after how shallow many games are these days (Destiny 2, Overwatch, etc.)

Where Have You Been : Warframe

As a continuation of my exploration of Warframe, the good AND the bad I made a bullet point list in my previous post. It was a pretty long list so not going to copy and paste it but use that as my step off for my “balanced and fair”,  “reporting”. Ahem.

First, a distracting, beautiful new skin that I received. (as with all of my blog post pictures – click on it to enlarge in a new window)

That is my same old, Frost Prime Warframe with the new skin, and using my Shade shader pack (which is basically black to white options, and greyscale in between). The art style is really growing on me. That guy me – looks absolutely amazing. I mean, horns! With dangly earrings!

As a comparison, here is the stock Frost Prime skin:

Which is also very cool, but at the end of the day isn’t robo-antler-guy.  The new skin is downright intimidatingly cool.  The sad part about how I got this skin is that it was from not watching Twitch streams.  Warframe gave me the Frost Prime skin for linking my Twitch account to my Warframe account after doing a free, Amazon Prime trial (still live right now, if you want a free Warframe). They also have a promotion going on right now that if you watch Twitch streams of Warframe you get a free in game item every time that streamer gets an in game achievement. There are streamers literally chain running new characters and getting 50+ achievements per hour, and then starting fresh again. The ‘feels like cheating’ part is that I just keep multiple Twitch streams open in the background while I work (or play) and the rewards roll in.

To be fair, 95% of the rewards are junk – fireworks, etc. And there is a limited reward set – I have received the same Rifle Blueprint over 100x already. On the good side, there is a whole bunch of cool things as well that I have received – from an in game Laser Beam Sential (Wyrm), to useful items to craft with, the Shade color back, and the Warframe Skin.  Obviously they have done the math but my logins look like this now:

Yup, 55 free items for not watching Twitch. I am sure they have done the math on it all. I also do not, for one bit, feel guilty or wrong about this. The truth is I am loving this game so much that I did give the company money. I got a 50% off Platinum (in game currency only available by spending real money) as a login reward so the $55 dollar CAD purchase I was going to make cost me half. It’s a good, Steam style system. I’ll probably spend more next time I get that perk. Supposedly there is a 75% off one too.

The next “good” thing on my bullet list is customization. There are literally hundreds of colors available (many for purchase, mind you) I only own the base colors and the Shade pack and here are a bunch more:

Customizers, eat your heart out. There are 5 shade available options on your Warframe (including power colors) as well as multiple options on your weapons, capes, Sentinel (fighting pet). Those aren’t even ALL the colors, that list above was from an old Reddit post I found from two years ago. There are actually 25 in total. Many people call Warframe “Fashionframe” and for good reason. You can customize everything, and the results can be stunning. I received a free Sentinel from Twitch called a Wyrm. I also received a free ‘mask’ for the Sentinel. IT was funny, because on it’s own it looks like a little machine that flies around and does things for you in game (looting items within range, attacking bad guys with whatever customized weapon you have given them, etc.) Here he is with his mask on:

Cute right? In a Voodoo, I am going to kill you kind of way. The green eyes, of course, are customizable. I also left up the fact that there are 7 tail options. Yup, you have the choice to add 7 tails to the little robot flying around your head looting and killing stuff for you. Tails. I find that a bit overkill on one breath, and in the other think the Para Sentinel Tail would look lovely on my Wyrm.

The true beauty if the game and customization is the Warframes themselves. Not only can you customize colors and dozens of options per frame (helmets, shoulder pads, leg pads, you name it – it is customizable) but the 34 current Warframes in game all offer different gameplay styles and abilities – and all form your core player. I have grown more and more in favor of this kind of progression. I am building my third Warframe currently (Rhino) and when it is ready, I just swap out Frost, and can keep using my high level weapons, addons, money – everything to move forward. It is a part of my character – not a new one – so no going back to square one everytime you get a new frame.

a small selection of available Warframes

There is something for everyone here, all wrapped up in a tight, beautiful gameplay package.  I have read people on Reddit learning new things about the game after putting in over 1000 hours already. I bet they don’t have everything in game yet either.

I mentioned I bought Platinum and my goal was to spend a little bit to get the automatic scanning Sentinel to fill out my Codex in the hopes that will give me backstory. It cost 75 to buy and I happily equipped him (it?), the mask, and went in game. Sure enough you could hear the scans going off every 3-4 seconds as I fought and after a few hundred scans I rushed back to my Codex (it’s available on the ship) to see what I had learned – and it was nothing that I had wanted. Sure, it had a cool model that rotated and showed what kind of damage it did, what kind of damage it was weak too, and also what loot it could drop – but no backstory or explanation. I was really looking forward to that part. The interest is still there to scan everything automatically now of course because hey, the completionist in me is happy. I am only on my 5th Planet (out of 17) so still holding out hope things get some clarity. The people building this game put in so many things that are very interesting but I still don’t know my purpose, or the purpose of the enemies that I am fighting.

What I do know, is that I can (and do, if I do say so myself) look good doing it.

“I’m pretty sure there’s a lot more to life than being really, really, ridiculously good looking. And I plan on finding out what that is.”  In space. Shooting things. Buying tails.

They Pull Me Back In : Destiny 2

My previous post about Destiny 2 was supposed to be my last one until the next expansion. If you love something set it free – if it comes back… blah blah blah. I had/have become too negative about a game I am no longer playing – but that frustration is born out of love! The game already became boring fast and they didn’t address most of the major issues of Destiny 1. In my opinion they even created new issues that now also need to be addressed.  For me, Destiny 1 was that child that I hoped would grow up to be an awesome community member but ended up living far short of  hope and expectation. Like a good parent I just need to accept that some kids get hooked on drugs – and love them anyway.

Destiny 2 developers recently had a panel to discuss how they were going to manage the game going forward and I was pretty disappointed to learn that it’s not by listening to feedback of their loyal/former customers.

Their main objective is to break the year into ‘Seasons’, which will last three months each (just like the real ones!). They will use these seasons for major balance changes (and the like) which I think is a smart way to do things – unless they leave horribly overpowered weapons or glitches for three months to fix. Still, that part is sensible – having a set phase for feedback and changes. What isn’t sensible is that they are going to reset your Clan XP (basically, your Guild) every season.

Seasons will reset your Clan progress, so everyone starts from zero. They said that was to make it so that new clans could keep pace with more established, high-level clans

This is confusing. No players asked for this. Not one. There is no competitive benefit to a Clan. You get a little extra glimmer (that you will hit the maximum on quickly, anyway). Some faction tokens (of gear you don’t need or want by the time your clan is high enough to get it) the odd, extra engram (of which you get 100s just by playing regularly. There is no benefit so great that needs resetting, no perk that being in a high level clan actually grants. What this does do, is screw with people who are in small clans with friends. When the perks are mostly fluff, why take away progression?

It’s a complete head scratcher. One thing players hate is to have things taken away that they have worked towards. This is yet another design decision showing that Bungie is completely disconnected from their community and it shows, too.

Destiny 2 went from a peak of 3.6 million players down to 1.9M in a month. Close to half. I am not sure how many huge launches lose almost half their playerbase in a month, but I am suspecting they were hoping that it would grow or sustain itself in the short to medium term. 2M players is still a great number, mind you, but it just doesn’t feel like it achieved everything a highly touted replayable sequel should have. I don’t even know if that kind of drop is normal for most games. For a game based on always having something to do and work towards it doesn’t make sense to me.

The answer to bringing players back isn’t by taking away their Clan XP, or making it so a gun that was Arc is now the exact same gun but now with Void damage – or even some pretty new armor. They need a path of true progression for casual players, through all of their content. That is what would bring me back – an LFG mechanic that has been the top wishlist item by the community since Destiny 1. I’ve given up on a coherent story but would love easy access to the content. I know Metacritic is not a great measuring tool but the average score has dropped from 5.9 to 5.6 since my September 20th post showing as people get to the end and realize how shallow the game is there is a growing frustration.

This design decision makes me feel that they are not hitting revenue targets with “silver” sales (basically buying in game currency with real money) and the players are not sticking around. They are not seeing their return on investment (500 million) – they signed a 10 year agreement in 2010, meaning there is just a scant three years left before Bungie is free to go publish with who they want. So they are pushing Bungie to monetize faster and harder while they can. The reskin. The novice story writing and telling. The same enemies. It is all adding up to maximizing profits for profit’s sake.

Back in 2010 an analyst forecasted this on the partnership:

“It’s reasonable to expect that Bungie will put out a game every two or three years, so probably four games under this deal,” he said. “If we think that the games will do 8 million units each (very conservative, my bias is much higher), then we’re talking about 32 million units sold at an average of $45 wholesale (again, very conservative). That’s $1.44 billion in sales.”

Instead of four titles, guess two. The other numbers might line up still though, as charts list sales across all platforms of Destiny 1 (and expansions) of over 17M units globally. Doubt they are hitting the $45 average on that with the expansion units in the mix. As commercially successful as it has been the clock is ticking on maximizing potential return.

I feel really bad for a lot of my PC friends who will be playing Destiny 2 for the first time soon who held off from the console version. I am really curious if the boost of PC players gives the game life or just a larger chorus of detractors from what should have / could have been.

As long as they don’t release information saying that the next expansion they are resetting all characters back to zero again so new players can keep pace with older, established players – I will hopefully be done caring now. Good luck to you Destiny 2.

Anything You Can Do : Warframe

If you haven’t played Warframe (at all or recently) here is a two minute non-commentated clip of an assassination mission I completed this morning to give you an idea of the gameplay. I am using the Frost Prime warframe (free with Twitch Prime! Even better is that it is free with a Twitch Prime *trial account! Which is how I got it. I am using the starter bow as my primary weapon (I like it because it’s silent, which allows for stealthy play around the map) a giant Axe as my melee, and a sidearm as my secondary.

That is the base model (colors and everything) but the only addition is that kickass cape, which I colored myself when I put it on. You’ll notice a few fun things:

  • Enemies try to run to set the alarms a few times, which I am able to stop them from doing (you can do a hack minigame to turn them off. The alarms increase number and frequency of enemies)
  • The beautiful of two bow moves which makes the gunplay incredible – one when I am running away and shooting over my shoulder, and the second when I zoom in, floating down, Legolas style and kill a baddie.
  • I used two of my four abilities in here (and both not well) – first is “freezing” an enemy, and second is sending frozen spikes in a straight line that kills anything it hits (I hit nothing).
  • You can jump, climb, slide, etc – just move over any part of the map. It’s parkour all the way.
  • The little guy (Taxon I think?) is my companion who loots for me (all items within X range), and I have outfitted him with a gun which freezes enemies. He also steals shields from enemies and transfers them to me.
  • Maps are randomly generated, and are varied and well put together. It’s impressive.

There is a taste of the gameplay, of which I wasn’t doing particularly great, but should give you an idea of the style of the game. I was sliding too much. (Bullet jump – the forward moving barrel roll –  is jump+slide buttons together.)

I wanted to show you that before describing the game to give you some background and flavor of style and game substance. Steam says I have put in 25 hours into the game but Warframe says I am at ten and a half – assuming WF is correct here.

It does so much, so much better than Destiny 2 and outside of the FPS vs TPS difference (a biggie, granted) I can now see why people wish Destiny 2 had adopted much of what is good in Warframe. Which is most of it. Caution here is the first 10 hours “new car smell” of it all but I can’t stop playing right now.

The Good:

  • More unique content than I can imagine consuming at this point
  • Playstyle for everyone – over 30 Warframes with different skills and powersets, and hundreds of weapons
  • No barriers to progression in early game – haven’t seen the need to spend money outside of wanting to reward the developers (but, not sure of a good way to do that either!) Feels like F2P done well
  • Personaliztion to the nth degree – colors, addons, weapons, frames, ships, companions – you name it
  • Co-Op Matchmaking for all gameplay and game styles
  • Deep and interesting systems
  • Tight shooting and fighting gameplay
  • Movement. Wow, The Movement.
  • Codex in game
  • You get your  home home base, your ship (which can also be fully personalized)
  • Helpful community in game and on Reddit.
  • Fun, Interesting and varied mission types

The Bad:

  • Story campaign is drip fed. I am still confused on what is going on
  • Codex is gated behind in game scanning. Which is cumbersome and challenging.
  • Third Person only
  • Systems do not interlink effectively or efficiently, and are confusing at first (and persistently so sometimes)
  • Co-Op “rush” mentality
  • New Player Experience needs fixing / updating
  • Biggest new update does not apply/ not effective for new players
  • Art style is love / hate

Unique Content: Good

I am not going to write a paragraph about each thing (today) but going to touch them over a series of posts. First off the universe is gated by jumpgates and repeatable missions. In Destiny 2 they gave you a handful of planets but took away the original handful from Destiny 1. Here is the solar system map in Warframe, through my ship’s Navigation system (pictures taken with my starter Warframe, the Volt, which I personalized to be blue).

When you zoom in a bit it shows how they are connected and gives you an idea of the number of missions available on that planet.

And of course, further zooming in shows how the missions on each planet are connected.

You aren’t going to run out of anything to do in the short term. Each of those planets and missions are very different, and procedurally generated so if you are running them for the second, tenth, or twentieth time at least there is some variation.  You can see with the blue lights the missions I haven’t completed yet. The mission types I have participated in so far include (and I don’t know if I have done them all yet):

  • Assassinate: Kill a high priority target
  • Terminate: kill X number of bad guys
  • Defend: Protect an item at a specific spot for X waves of enemies
  • Mobile Defence: Carry a hack terminal to three different spots in the map, and defend it while it downloads information
  • Spy: Steal data – if you get seen near the hack terminals and alarms get set, the data will get destroyed so have to be stealthy
  • Rescue: Save a hostage(s). Fun part is after you release them from their cell, you can give them your secondary weapon to help fight. You have to be stealthy in the first part (setting them free, or they could be exterminated) and then escort them out of the area safely in the second part
  • Sabotage: Destroy strategic objectives within a map
  • Interception: Capture and hold control points on a map
  • Survival: Be a distraction so a fellow Warframe can run a mission. Set off the alarm and survive for X minutes.

And I think there are more, but those are the ones I have tried.  There are also there “bad guys” at this point – the Grineer, the Corpus, and the Infested, so each of them have their own style and substance to those missions.

Story Clarity: Bad

Remember those factions I mentioned just a couple lines ago? I don’t quite understand why I am killing them all. In fact, I don’t even understand why I exist at all. I know my ‘handler’ The Lotus, who gives me my missions calls me a Tenno. I know she somehow rescued me from Vor and the Grineer who were trying to capture me. I don;t even know what I am! Am I a person inside the suit? Human? Or am I a robot? When I change suits (are they suits?) do I leave one and jump in the other, or is my programming sent over, OR am I some sort of ghost /soul that floats between constructs to do the bidding of the mysterious Lotus? Who am I fighting for?

By paying attention to what I have found IN game I know the Grineer (who freed me to try and use me for their own desires) are dying out because so much cloning has made their DNA fragile and unintelligent, and that they had planned to use me to rebuild themselves. Or something like that. But I don’t know what year it is, (IS THIS TRUMPS AMERICA IN 2025?) or what/who I am, or how I got here. The Corpus, the second enemies I ran into use more robots and look different but I still don’t know why I am killing them either, or what their society looks like, and how they got to where they are.

The infested, on the other hand, I have sorted out through in game means that they were a weapon that the Corpus were testing on and of course they got out. There were some in game mentions that the infested lived long ago but were thought to have been defeated – eliminated, but these mentions and findings in missions are often during periods of hectic fighting and survival and I don’t always absorb all the information fully.

The Codex: Good AND Bad

Big points for having a Codex in game. Big negatives for not having story elements in baseline. All the questions I have about the Story Clarity in my previous paragraph should be solved through the Codex. It still might be. There is a lot of base information available immediately – all the weapons and Warframes – but the things in the world have to be scanned by you.

You can buy a limited charged scanner from the marketplace for in game dollars (and cheaply) but this isn’t explicitly instructed and I had to sort that out on my own. Add to that, how difficult it is to scan in game (you can’t be interrupted, and its hard to be in a non-combat state) so things are not fleshed out. In 2 of 20 possible scans of a single Grineer Fronteir Lancer (They have more than a dozen Grineer enemy types that I have seen so far – maybe far more) I get little information. I want background info, not stats. 18 more scans to find out!

In the first bit of P2WL (Pay to Win – Lore) I saw in the Codex for companions that instead of my companion that steals shields and loots for me, there is one that automatically scans codex entries. You have to pay real money for it (sadly) or find the Prime blueprints (very rare) via in game activities. I have luckily found 1 of 4 components for that particular companion but also have 1 of 4 components for a dozen other items too. It’s not looking good from a lore / story Codex particulars. And I think when you are trying to build context in a world and game that this part should be especially accessible. I am hoping the story becomes more clear and obvious as I unlock new planets – long time readers here know how much I appreciate stories in games. I have really trashed Destiny 2 for this, but that was because they doubled down on a terrible story/premise. I liked it better when there was benefit of the doubt, of which, the story of Warframe still has.

From a pure game perspective it is incredibly fun to navigate through a map, shoot bad guys, find items, and complete objectives – all the while leveling up your items and frames, customizing skills and abilities, and exploring new planets. All items that I will discuss in future articles.

Go the Way of the Dodo : Single Player

Andromeda has been my favorite game this year. I love long, single player rpgs in expansive universes where my decisions impact the gameplay.  While I understand some of the arguments against Andromeda and the ambitions it tried to live up to – as a standalone product it probably would have been better received. Either way – it is sadly mothballed, we will never learned what happened to the Quarians (or any species in that universe) and a huge chunk of alternate gaming realities (the Mass Effect universe) is now, quintessentially, extinct.

And now the Star Wars RPG project is also as EA shuts it down.

Electronic Arts announced yesterday that it is refocusing the Star Wars project that had been in development at Visceral Games, an unannounced action-adventure title with a linear story campaign. EA Vancouver is taking over with a new direction, assisted by other EA studios, while EA is shuttering Visceral Games entirely and looking to shift the studio’s developers elsewhere inside the company.

It’s a sad day for single player game fans who have had a slew of Star Wars titles to enjoy in this manner. Heck, the original Knights of the Old Republic is what put Bioware on the map to begin with.  Of course, I am not really surprised.

Patrick Söderlund described the industry as “evolving faster and more dramatically than ever before,” and pointed to market trends as part of EA’s reasoning.

That is executive speak for we can’t sell loot boxes in single player games“.  

This breaks my heart. We are abandoning narrative for repetitive. Choice for chance. Immersion for twitch streaming capability. Destiny 2, Battlefront 2, Anthem, Overwatch… Its all about the crates. It’s far easier to create repeatable content than meaningful content and more profitable to heavily monetize a small world than to abandon a large piece of one when you move past the narrative. I do get that.

I am just hoping that this is just the new trend, and there will be future market demands for expansive RPGs – hoping Dragon Age, Red Dead Redemption 2 or some other game can hit it out of the park and get other studios back interested in the single player narrative. My worst fear is that they will somehow add a loot crate mechanic to those games. I was very much looking forward to exploring the Star Wars Universe through a personal story lens, as it remains one of my favorite worlds to fantasize about being a part of since childhood.  Very disappointed but not entirely surprised.

No Satisfaction : Destiny 2

Media is reporting that Destiny 2 physical sales are down 50% during this period over the 2014 Destiny 1 release. While not a big surprise as consumers shift away from boxes, analysts hit Activision pretty hard.

“The launch month of Destiny 2 was well short of the original iteration by a material amount,” Piper Jaffray analyst Michael Olson wrote in a note to clients Friday, citing the NPD data.

Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter also called the “Destiny 2” sales “underwhelming” in a Friday report.

Pachter added the September NPD “Destiny 2” sales data missed his forecast for the game by 37 percent.

I take no joy in this, but am also somewhat okay with the fact that (if reported correctly) the market is voting with their wallets.

I still believe that Destiny 2 is what happens when you try to launch a big game with as small of a budget as possible. I do believe, since the game is really just a reskin of the first, that it will be Activision’s most profitable game – maybe ever. So little work went into Destiny 2 as a sequel that an expansion team probably built it. So, while the market and analysts may be giving Destiny 2 a hard time I am sure Kotick and company are laughing in the background because they are still going to make billions off of a game they put little effort into improving.

Activision didn’t even really help matters by not gushing over the sales volume of Destiny 2, back like it did for Destiny 1.

Activision Blizzard on September 15 announced Destiny 2 sales “surpassed the original’s records for engagement and digital sales in launch week.” However the company did not reveal a total sales number for “Destiny 2” inclusive of physical retail store sales in contrast to the “more than $325 million” first week press release for original title in 2014.

When you stop bragging about things it’s normally because you have nothing to brag about (cue World of Warcraft subscription numbers). Then again, they may be waiting for the PC release. This too will be skewed information since you can buy Destiny 2 with WoW tokens now. Either way the game has earned it’s negative press. I am nearing max light and I haven’t seen a raid or a nightfall strike. I wait until Tuesday (reset), get my 3 powerful engrams – one of which by doing an activity I hate (Crucible) get a few light levels and abandon the game for the rest of the week. There is nothing there for the 84% of the player base (on PS4) that hasn’t completed the raid.

Outside of the terrible story and the recycled enemies, weapons,and classes the ‘true emperor has no clothes’ moment for me came this week when I was playing and I realized that they didn’t fix the AI. Destiny (1 and 2) had two quirks with it’s AI that I always thought was completely lazy (noticing a theme here?). First, let’s revisit when I called them out on crappy AI in 2014:

The AI is some of the worst I have seen in modern day FPSs (to be fair, I am comparing PC FPS AI – I don’t have a console experience equivalent). At best it is the same as FPS games i have played in the last decade. This was an opportunity to really step up the genre not be the status quo. I was fighting through the final Moon “task” mode last night and there was a room that was hard to complete – I started retreating backwards and I hit an invisible line on the ground that soon as I passed, the mobs stopped attacking and turned around. I could still shoot them. Step forward, they turn around and charge. One step back, they turn their backs to me and walk away, I shoot them. Rinse repeat.

I had not experienced this in Destiny 2 but I found it once again while questing for my Midi Multi tool. Swarms of thralls start rushing me and I think I am going to die. I am backpedaling, pull out my shotgun, grenade is on cooldown, Super is not charged – this is going to be a tense moment and I am probably going to bite it but maybe, just maybe I can pull it off! Continue backpedaling while shooting, health is at 5%, 10-15 enemies are on me AND – they stop and run away. I crossed a line on the ground that made them disengage. Step forward, they stop running away and charge again! Step back one step and they run away again. You can trivialize encounters this way. I did.

It’s the exact same game, kids.

Add to the bad AI is that when you die enemies continue to shoot at your “ghost” / body.  You are dead. Enemies keep shooting you. There is no AI trigger to stop shooting the dead guy and focus on the other, live players in the room.

There re many other games to play and Destiny 2 will be out of the spotlight until the next DLC which I (now regrettably) pre-bought  with high expectations they would improve the game. I will probably complain at that time (rightly so) that the DLC content should have been in at launch since there is so little content to do currently. My guess is that the DLC is already done and they are just waiting for the right lull in interest to fire it up to get back to media sites and good press about the amazing “new” content they have provided.

And yet I play my hour or two each week waiting and hoping the game will somehow just get better. That makes me almost as – or just as – bad as them.

W(TF)arframe

When googling “games like Destiny” one game pops up frequently. I google that phrase quite a bit as I hope and fantasize about another gaming company building a game like Destiny but addressing the shortfalls and applying a bit more effort. The game that pops up frequently is Warframe. Warframe is a free to play third person loot-shooter. It is very different from Destiny in terms of the third person part, and that from what I understand the missions have a tileset, random map function to keep things interesting. Their tagline is also “Ninjas play free”. I am not a Ninja but still was able to play free! When googling and reading about Warframe I kept coming back to one, consistent thought.

“What the F*ck?”

So of course, to all the better answer that, I logged in.

I think the best way to describe Warframe from a Destiny 1 or 2 perspective is that it would be just like it if you only played using your super ability the whole time. It actually works okay (although I wish there was a first person mode). The story is very confusing at first. You are awoken as a “Tenno” by a bad dude (VOR) who is trying to use you for his / his team’s power, of uniting the universe under a single rule. Some emperor or Queen.  The Lotus is a person/group that wants to free you to do what you do best – going against tyranny and oppressive rule. Or something like that. The introductory mission does a good job of teaching you your abilities, and the focus the game has on movement, but not so good and explaining the bigger lore and story of the universe.

The art style is very unique, futuristic and interesting. After the first mission I googled the Warframe story and what I did find was that it is actually reviewed as pretty good, and spoiler warnings were that the story style of the game is meant to be confusing – you were just awoken, and as you play through the game things will be explained to you more. I didn’t read past the spoilers since I am a big sucker for a good story and will explore it in game. I ran three or four missions and it acts as a tutorial of sorts. The fighting is slick, the weapon options are varied, and I’m sorting things out. Although, to be honest, I am still very much confused at this early stage but definitely intrigued enough to keep going. Free to play, after all.

The game makes you make three choices early on. First is your base Warframe – the name of the game. There are three options and it explains each a bit in game which I will let you discover for yourself. I chose Volt, pictured above, which has a caster like electric shock ability. Through out the first mission you also have to choose a melee weapon (Bo staff or Sword, I chose Bo staff) a secondary weapon (throwing knives or pistol, I chose pistol) and a main weapon (bow and arrow or machine gun, I chose the bow). When you finish the first  mission you get your own space ship, which is your base. I like having a cool home base. Of course the various parts aren’t working or are missing so the next few missions you are upgrading core components. The first is the module to upgrade and outfit your gear. The second is the galactic marketplace. I didn’t spend much time at either. Each of these core component discoveries continues the tutorial aspect of what you can do and how you can do it, while also keeping an underlying story going (Vor attached some things to us, that we can’t get off, that gives him access to our mind a bit.. so assuming we have to sort out how to free ourselves from that at some point.)

Then, I find the holy grail in my ship. A Codex. The Codex has a listing of all the available Warframes as well as details about factions, the universe, weapons (Etc.). I spent an hour exploring and reading here. Delicious background information.

There are a TON of frames. How to get them I have no clue yet and I don;t even know what they are – suits I go in? Am I a person?  These things have not yet been revealed to me and I am playing and learning in this game with a lot of enthusiastic confusion.  The Codex, however, has mission recaps (the first picture in this post was from that) and tons of information. Most exciting for me was that there are stories sprinkled throughout. Check out the Codex on the Mag Prime Warframe that I aptly nicknamed “The Geth”:

Warframe Archive – Debrief excerpt

We sat strapped in, safeties off, waiting for the punch. Waiting for death. Through my filthy porthole I saw stars among the outlines of the other Splinter ships queuing for the Solar Rail. It would soon grip us with an incomprehensible power and cast us through the void into the mouth of our enemy.

I watched the ships one-by-one bending and gone. Each crammed with zero-tech soldiers sucking stale air, white knuckling their percussion rifles. Each filled with a desperation that comes from extinction. Our ship would be the last to cross the gap. Our ship had special cargo.

It was essentially empty. Just ten men, like me, strapped in with the best zero-tech suits and weapons the empire could build… and “it”. “It” stood in the aisle, a slender and eyeless metal form. A Tenno inside its Warframe. Vaguely human, vaguely feminine. Was this armor or some ornate carapace for the monster that lived inside? I strained against the harness as the ship yawed for final approach. I could see the Tenno standing there freely. Solemn and gold-gleaming, oblivious to the inertial force.

I had been, until then, a Tenno denier. They were ghosts, propaganda, twisted casualties of the void era. Not possibly real. Yet here it was in the flesh. The Empire, in their desperation, was going to turn the demons loose and hope for the best. Who did we fear more, the enemy or this monster? We had our safeties off, could we trust it? Then it didn’t matter anymore. The punch came – and our windows became blinding. When we could see again our ship was somewhere else, shattered and dead in an instant.

My lungs were flattened, eyes full of death. Ship debris glittered like a night snow. The alien blue star was dark and blinding beyond us. The countless articulating worm-ships of our enemy, ringed in glowing discs, undulating and heat-bursting the surviving soldiers like me. This is where I died. I was in R-disc, sweeping over my right and setting my blood on fire. My vision flattened, the hearing muffled and buzzed. I could feel the side of my face going slack and wet.

I was in a dying dream. I saw a bright spot blurring and weaving toward me. I felt a tug toward it from the metal clasps on my suit. It reached me, rising up – a gleaming beast, a plume of golden wings rising and unfolding behind it. An angel. It snatched me from my death. I could feel my lungs fill as it wrapped me in its wings. Its Void Shield shimmered blue, strained under the enemy beams. I felt a suddenly tug of acceleration. I closed my eyes and held on it like a child.

I awoke on the floor, the sting of crisping flesh on my face and side. It was standing over me, the wings gone. I heard the cracking of weapons echoing down the corridor. Maybe the mission would be saved, but I was dying and so I waved my hand to send it away. I felt a pistol thrust in my hand as I was heaved to my feet. The angel had saved me, pulled me from hell, but it would not pity me. I was to die on my feet, by its side. I turned my good side toward the gunfire and raised the gun. It nodded, its outstretched metal hand surging and pulsing in ancient shapes as blue shimmered around me. It turned, drawing its blade and together we surged headlong into the hailstorm of death and fire that awaited us.

Ok. Still very confused, but also very hooked, lined, and sinker-ed. I do find it interesting that the suits themselves have male/female forms and I am assuming at some point I will be able to jump in between them as I want.

What is Warframe? So far it is fun and I have barely scratched the surface. Whether or not it has staying power for me as a standalone game, or Destiny 2 replacement, remains to be seen. Definitely worth exploring more. The game has been around since 2013, has a ton of contents and updates (all free), and has a huge new open world expansion dropping very soon. I’ll report more back as I play and hopefully there is a lot of war-splaining to come during that exploration.