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Half Pregnant

They say you can’t be half pregnant.  This is what slows me down from blogging, the thought that you are either in or out. I’m on the line. It has been awhile since I have posted and like most excuses reasons, they are varied and plentiful. It was partly time, passion, focus, desire and gaming. The Pie chart would look like this:

I know. Fancy. I still read a lot of blogs but I used to dedicate some serious time to reading and writing. Hobbies are fun and all, but I found new ones that also took away my time. At one point I thought I would shutter the blog on my anniversary (August 27th, Happy 7th!) but that felt really melodramatic and over the top. Especially for something that I have loved so long. If I set it free I wasn’t so sure it would come back, and being a nostalgic fool that would be hard to handle.

I have really stepped up being healthy. I get up at 5:00 am everyday, have a coffee, read the news, and then work out. I track my progress and stay focused. I have lost a lot of bad weight and added good muscle weight. I also have been focusing a lot on my diet. I feel happier, healthier, stronger and more satisfied with how I feel. I think it might add years to my life. I still drink beer and eat bad food now and again, but it’s in balance. This does seriously cut into my gaming time as I used to play late night when my wife went to bed. With a 5:00 am wake up time, I know that time is better spent with the sleep I need. C’est la vie, something always has to give!

And yet here I am. A burning desire to belong to Blognation ™ and to write, and to game (and think about gaming). Here I am, half blog-pregnant.

But I have been gaming!

The Everquest TLP servers have been amazing. I finally stepped away after getting multiple toons into the 30s as there is a promise of a bot-free TLP coming around Christmas time. One character logged in at a time would really take away the distractions of having every named camp perma-camped by AFK mages. It is a big problem. Also, the single person running full raid teams. I am looking forward to really playing it again once they launch that server as interdependence and team play was key in the core experience. The best part about EQ TLP is that they did modernize grouping and looting, while retaining a lot of the magic. I just do not want to invest more time in characters that I will be leaving behind, and preserve much more of the core experience when I go back. They haven’t announced whether or not you can transfer there (guessing no) but if that announcement comes that you can I may continue a bit. Either way, strange to believe that my time in Everquest actually isn’t over after all these years – and in many ways it is the only place providing a satisfying MMO experience.

True to my word, I am playing WildStar again! I said I would go back when it went F2P and I am there. I am really enjoying the story line and even the 5 man adventures. I do plan to take one Exile and one Dominion to cap to experience the story. It is a fun, furiously-paced game and in many ways is EQ-opposite but a nice spacey distraction when I have 30 minutes to play. They have fixed a lot of what made that game less fun and it’s worth playing now that  you can do it at your own pace. I will be giving them some money soon, as I do like supporting games that provide me with fair entertainment for my time.

I also downloaded Project Reality 1.3, which is now a standalone product. I am hungry for a FPS experience and this one was the best one out there, so I am going back. The download just finished last night (all 6+ gigs) and really looking forward to carving out some time to play. It is another one of those games that really need you to dedicate distraction free and focused gaming to get the most out of (and give the most in). Project Reality has provided the best platform for  memorable FPS gaming and it’s gritty realistic and rewarding of patient game play (and team play) is completely different from the other options out there.

EQ tore me away from The Secret World and although I am only playing it for the single player experience, there is a lot left to enjoy there and I also recently updated it. I am still at the savage coast and a ton left there to explore as well.

Feels good to write and good to be back to pluck away at things.

Personal Easter Eggs

When questing in the Savage Coast in The Secret World I came across a gem during the Crime and Punishment quest line. This was after finding Sam Krieg’s fan mancave and hacking into his computer:

You can click on that to enlarge it to read it, but it is the quest text for the final part. The text is about Sam Krieg and reads:

“Born September 11, 1951; history teacher; married three times; Anne-Marie Ellsworth left him in 1983 (glastnost was a front); TV star Bobbi Mann (born Popescu!) left him in 1986; third wife, Elizabeth Galvan, died of breast cancer in 2002; writes letters to his dead wife; loves cashmere; hates the Habs; misanthrope; knows all about the darkness in our hearts; the cadence of shit; conspiracy buff; dominant theme in his novels: people pulled into the abyss; drinking problems; writers block; OCD.”

That description of Sam by his fan was priceless to me. “Hates the Habs”. Most hockey fans would get the reference. I am a huge Habs fan (origin: Les Habitants, ie: The Montreal Canadiens). Any good New England guy would naturally hate the Habs. The Boston Bruins are our most hated and heated rivals. Seeing it in there just tied more relevance and “reality” to the game for me. Of course, Sam Krieg, New England native would hate the Habs. I am just more impressed that a Norweigian quest writer would know that.

I am not sure how many hockey, Canadiens, or Bruins fans actually play(ed) TSW and hopefully that reference was not missed or lost upon the members of the Secret Societies. Sometimes it is the simple things that you learn to appreciate.

Gaming Week #20

While it may seem like perfect sense I didn’t realize that for reporting purposes people actually use week numbers. Last week was week #20 for the year and it has been awhile since I have shared what I am playing and figured it was a good way to start the week off. Canada had a long weekend – Victoria Day Weekend (The May two-four weekend, as it is commonly called) celebrating the life of Queen Victoria. Canada does holidays well, and the date changes every year but it is always the Monday before the 25th day of May – this ensures the long weekend status. Two-Four is also Canadian slang for a case of beer, since there are 24 beer in a standard case here. It reminds me of the quote “Education is important but hockey is importanter”. Anyway, back to the topic at hand. Where have I been spending (and not spending) my gaming time?

MLB The Show 2015 : Majority of time, but nearing completion

Well, I played three weeks of this title before calling it ‘mostly complete’. Sure, the game goes on indefinitely but in my second season of “Road To The Show” I was promoted from relief pitcher to starting pitcher one third of the way into the season. I pitched well enough on my remaining 20ish starts to win both the NL MVP and the Cy Young award. Those were always my goals in the game. I am still with the Nationals, I bargained hard for a huge pay increase (MVP plus CY Young should be 25+ million a year (Scherzer gets 30M annual and he didn’t win both of those awards in a season..)) but the Nats had a 510k option on me. They did offer a 5 year, 10 million deal but when I said I wanted a 5 year, 100 million dollar deal (a bargain, I assure you) they scoffed, and used their option on me. So I am playing the season mad at my club, and there is no holdout option. I’ll have to play the season but thankfully I am an unrestricted free agent at the end of it so I can go to where I please. My goal there is to get to the American League so I don’t have to worry about hitting. Screw you, baseball purists. I was playing this nightly but with my major goals accomplished, I may pitch a game or two a week to see what kind of salary I can pull in year three but for the most part this game is no longer my focus. It was fun, and highly recommended if you love baseball.

The Secret World : Back in the saddle

With Baseball monopolizing my time I haven’t played much TSW but I did carve out some time this weekend. I am going through every quest in every zone to experience it fully. This is one of those games that if you don’t do that you might miss out on a gem. I am pretty much finished the Savage Coast and already have my main quest-line pointing me to Blue Mountain, but a few side quests remain that I want to finish before moving on. A small annoyance here – I wish the mini map changed the color of quest givers based on status, so it is easy to see what is doable. For example – white – never completed. Yellow, completed once, repeatable. Black, completed, not repeatable. I am currently putting a map marker on each as I complete them (with the label “done”) to mark off which ones I have finished. I haven’t been able to find a mod to do what I want =) I am still using Sword/Fist and still have over 100 AP and 40 SP. The story is amazing. I feel like I have so far to go just to catch up but this is definitely a game that is rewarding to stop and smell the roses along the way (they usually smell like corpses, unfortunately).

Dragon Age Inquisition : Abandoned

I really enjoyed the game at the beginning but it quickly became “chore”-ish the way the game was fleshed out. The main enemy, once revealed, didn’t really intrigue me. Once I cleared out all the quests and sub-quests and challenges and flag markers/camps in four or five “zones” it felt like that was all I was going to end up doing for another hundred hours or so. I found the combat boring, and the wall of text texts on areas and items made me curious enough to read, but feel like my gaming sessions were turning into failed Oprah Book Clubs. Furthermore, relationship management with my team was like pulling teeth. Travelling to each one just to see if they have anything interesting to say to make sure you don’t miss anything  became entire play sessions. You would think they would sit around a small camp nice and easy for you to approach, but no, they have to spread to the four corners of the camp just to kill more time. I am shocked they just don’t approach you when they have something to add to the game play. The other shocker to me is that in a single player game, I can’t change my class. I rolled sword and board tank but want to play around with an archer class and I would have to re-roll (after 30 hours). It’s single player. Who cares. Let me change and try, and change back if I want to, or change to something else. Have an in game fee if you like or some “punishment” but still, this is complete silliness that you can’t do that. I would still have to worry about gear and learning how to play – but again, single player. Stupid barrier. I may go back if I run out of things to play, but the chances of that happening are slim. I still think the DA series failed by not giving you a persistent character across the trilogy (a la Mass Effect)

EQ Progression Server : Upcoming

The nostalgic fool that I am, I am jumping into this game. Tomorrow. I have no clue who else will be playing (I know both Wilhelm and Bhagpuss will be in some capacity) and I am still torn on race/class. I may be a Gnome (the same class I did beta with and the same avatar I was an EQ guide as) or may go Troll once again – although I do dislike the new Troll graphics. Guk and the swamp was where my quintessential MMO experience was fleshed out and truly born, while the Minotaur caves in Steamfont was one of my fondest gaming experiences. I’ll make up my mind at some point. How long I last in the classic world remains to be seen but I have to go even just to visit. It will be wonderful to see starting areas with population again. Nostalgia is always temporary fun.

Summer is here, and I garden (don’t laugh! The vegetable kind!) and play outside, and don’t focus a lot on gaming so the EQ thing has terrible timing.  There is so many games coming up that I am curious about but we will see how the summer unfolds.

The Beauty of Complexity

Simple is always good but sometimes you find beauty in complexity – even if you trip over it. Time and time again in The Secret World (blog sites, forums, etc. I have been doing a lot of reading!) I am discovering suggestions to build your own decks and pay attention to different states. These states can cause interesting synergies during game play.

Take my Blade/Fist deck for example.

My ‘builder’ attack is an AOE called BLADE TORRENT. It does PBAOE ‘Frenzy’ damage and causes a lot of hate. It is a tanking move. Doesn’t seem useful for soloing.. until you also add a passive called PERFECT STORM.

PERFECT STORM adds a damage over time component to BLADE TORRENT and also sets an afflicted state to enemies it hits. Another passive I have, DARK POTENCY, increases my penetration chance every time I set an afflicted state. I have two other passives that work off of penetration – FLUID DEFENCE, which increases my damage every time I penetrate and IMMORTAL spirit that gives me a heal over time effect when I penetrate. (used different emphasis methods for in game states, skills, etc. Hopefully doesn’t read too annoyingly.)

I am not sure how much things can stack but theoretically  I hit 4 mobs. Each of those 4 mobs should increase my penetration chance. When I penetrate not only do I do more damage but I also heal myself. So as I set more afflicted states I increasingly penetrate and increasingly do more damage, all the while healing myself. This build lends itself to area of effect grinding, don’t you think?

I have other tanking abilities currently that increase my survivability but I am going to see if I can find other skills or passives that feed off of penetration or afflicted states. Most passives are cross weapon (meaning you can use them regardless of what weapon you have equipped) so the best thing I can look for is some more active abilities that set afflicted states or penetrate directly.

For example, as per Sylow in the comments in my last thread, I can also lower damage done to me by 30% (3% stacked 10 times with 12 Gouge) every time I penetrate an enemy. Add that to the crazy penetration scenario above.  I am  not sure how things stack – there is a nice Automatic Rifle passive that sets afflicted state every time you use a frenzy attack (which Blade Torrent is). So I am extra curious if both passives set separate afflicted states, meaning I should be able to double up on the afflicted states doubling my penetration? I am sure there are caps and what not. This level of complexity needs some sort of DPS calculator to sort all of that out.

I think I am understanding that correctly. Thankfully, in game at least, in TSW you can search by state or effect so it’s not so hard to build that out and look for skills and abilities that complement each other. This website has a searchable wheel.

I could see this level of complexity being a turnoff to some players but personally I am welcoming it right now – especially because all we have seen MMOs do (for the most part) the past 10 years is to become oversimplified. WoW lost a lot of magic when they homogenized their game. I can’t help but wonder if the complexity of TSW is hurting, or helping attracting long term players to it. It’s currently having a positive effect on me.

Modern Cars and TSW

Features on new cars have taught us to be really terrible drivers. I haven’t looked over my shoulder to go backwards in three years (reverse cam) and I drive a truck. I was driving in a colleague’s Mercedes Benz and he doesn’t have to do shoulder checks because his car tells him if someone is in his blind spot as soon as he turns on his signal. Parallel parking is a lost art form, with entry level cars performing the task for you now. All of this is wonderful until that exact moment one of those systems fails you and you are out of practice with it. This happened to my colleague with the Mercedes Benz, he was rear ended which broke his sensor on his backup cam and he forgot it was broken. The next time he backed up he hit a pole, further damaging his bumper. Things become automatic and it is hard to get out of habits.

This is how I am feeling in The Secret World.

Modern day MMOs have spent so much time conditioning me to be stupid in questing in games that it is hard to break out of the mold. My body was having an adverse reaction somewhat – thinking? You want me to THINK in game? no no.. find the shiny breadcrumbs! If they aren’t there, download a mod with them. I refuse to THINK while gaming!

(quick side question, what accent did you play that out in your head, of my mind arguing with myself?)

Rest assured, I haven’t lost it. It is just a bit uncomfortable – completely in an amazing way. It is fun to getting back to thinking and using some research and head space while gaming.The Secret World is now my go to game, and I still have so much to learn. I just finished every mission in Kingsmouth (except the group instances.. all old MMOs should patch out group missions after their game is 2+ years old and/or make them solo-viable) and the times where I had to go spoiler sites did cause me to /facepalm here and there. Things are only obvious when you expect them to be. Thankfully I am unlearning my bad habits and getting into the flow.

My Character Sheet is here and after I finished the Champion starter deck I got a nice, free Kill Bill-esque style jacket so I went shopping to match out the outfit. Swanky!

Truth be told, there is something about shopping in this game that is oddly fufilling – even moreso than real life shopping. Perhaps it is because I couldn’t walk around with a rapier in the real world while doing so. The new challenge for me as I venture into the Savage Coast is sorting out how to properly progress. I have blown most of my cash on clothes, but I have a ton of Sequins of Solomon Island that I should sort out what to with. I have also broken down every single non-upgrade item so I am sitting on 25 of 50 inventory spaces with crafting mats. I am still getting through quests without trouble with my almost standard Templar – Champion Deck (I added a single target blade attack to help with big, single mobs). The challenge for me right now is I have 25 SP and 100 AP and I don’t know if I should be rounding out more inner wheel items to be better prepared, or starting to explore into the outer wheel. I do know I eventually want to fill out the Preacher Deck (for the outfit, plus I already have some Blood Focus abilities) and also the Paladin Deck – but I think I am getting way ahead of myself. People always talk about roadblocks and tough areas in TSW so I am cautious to spend points when the game isn’t forcing (or even strongly encouraging me) to do so.

The Secret World launched when I was raiding in WoW which is why I skipped out on it at the time. It is nice to be discovering it now, so expect more posts on the subject. It is also nice to have a single game to be excited to login and play again. I am looking forward to exploring group play and maybe actually getting in game with people I know. There has been some life in Kingsmouth which is good to see and two different role players have interacted with me on different occasions (I am on a RP server). All in all, this has been a great experience and I am finally starting to understand the good things people have said about this game over the years. Nice to experience it for myself.

TSW – New Player Experience

Funcom recently (and seemingly quietly around BlogNation) dropped their Enhanced Player Experience in The Secret World. As a recent purchaser (November 2014) who struggled with some of the well documented issues of the early game (mob density and time to kill) and I even spoke about it in my first blog post about the experience.

The good is what was expected (story), the bad is how silly ranged weapons fit into the game (and MMOs in general). Having to empty 40 bullets into a zombie to kill it isn’t right. I am going to stick with it because I want to see how the story progresses but this is one of those examples where the game play gets in the way of the point of the game.

Truth be told I didn’t really stick with it – the beginning part of the combat aspects was a huge detractor to the questing and story based aspects. I was excited to revisit it with the presumed improvements. And let me be the first to tell you, they are simply Amazing. Amazing! The game is 1000 times better. That is a scientific number, I assure you.

I am way more likely to play this seriously now because it is such a more enjoyable experience. I made a brand new character to fully dig into the changes, and went Blade / Fist (you get two starter weapons now) and revisited the new and improved Kingsmouth. The entire experience was so much smoother and fun. Combat felt like part of the experience now, steps between investigations, not the barrier slowing you down.

Now, all it needs is PC controller support.

I am Chris ‘Braack’ Fontaine on the Leviathan (RP) server if you are playing. I am looking forward to further exploring what The Secret World has to offer. If you have friends who were on the fence about this game but always had a bit of interest now is the time to reintroduce it to them. It’s a night and day experience compared to when I started back in November. With the hype long gone about this game I am not entirely sure what they hope to do with this patch – I suspect a big marketing push will follow – and hopefully the word gets out. Interestingly enough there were more people in Kingsmouth on that Saturday afternoon than I had seen in the previous days I had put into the game. I hope it was actually new people or new people returning so my trek to Tokyo isn’t as lonely as I was first prepared for.

The only detractor for me with TSW is the same complaint I have with GW2 – weapon swapping mid fight. It looks a bit silly when I have a 2.5 foot sword out that during an epic battle I sheathe it instantly, punch a zombie in the face, and then the sword is magically back out instantly for the next attack. I love the idea of having weapons attached to skills so you can level up in different ways and have a differentiation – I just wish that the weapons were more integrated OR separated – one or the other, instead of mashed into each other. It suspends the fluidity. For example, You can be more integrated by using my example of Blade/Fist – I swing my sword with one attack, and the next I punch the zombie in the face – but my sword is still out (or use the offhand). It would be a bit less silly. I know they can’t separate them completely at this point (a la FFXIV). Some may think that is a silly complaint but those little things can add up to detract from a game. It’s something that takes away from the experience for me anyhow. I am going to try and pair a magic skill with blades instead to see if that works better thematically. Blades is definitely the right fit for me.

The ability wheel still scares me and I am sitting at 8 SP and over 20 AP because of the aforementioned decision to want to get away from Fists as my secondary. I find having two openers is great for up front burst but then there is a bunch of waiting in between. This could also be because I have only fully updated the inner wheel of offensive blade and haven’t touched fist yet. Still, I will be Google-fu-ing some nice synergies to go with blade.  I played again for a couple hours last night and what an amazing experience again.

Now is a good time to go back if you have been gone for a while to see the changes, and if you never did get into TSW it’s the probably the best time for you now if you are looking for a greatly improved experience.

Peeking into The Secret World

I spent more time in TSW on the weekend and I am getting better at programming my mind to play this game like a point and click adventure. I mean that in a very positive way. If you find a keypad, chances are there is something nearby that will tell you clues to the code. If not, you can always open your in game internet browser to do research. The prior quests I have stumbled upon has helped teach me along the way and set certain expectations.

Some random thoughts, and looking for help – because I want to enjoy the mechanics of this game as much as I enjoy the story and “backdrop” of the world.

  1. Could the skill wheel be anymore confusing? I figured out how to work towards a pre-built template – but I am stuck! I have 18 AP banked but can’t buy the skills the pre-built template is telling me to buy, and it doesn’t explain to me why. The skill is in the Auto Rifle tree and costs 7AP to unlock, and I have everything unlocked before it. Still no dice. A little more explanation would be nice here. Also, before I get too far (and I am probably already “too far”, or depending on the 4th point below) what is a good spec/build for solo play? I have a feeling most of my time here will be soloing through the story.
  2. Gear – I look exactly the same as when I started. No clothing or anything has dropped, so I have no options. There also haven’t been any boutiques or clothing shops in Kingsmouth (nor should there be I suppose). Free of gear grind is nice in some ways, but getting bored at my look and no clue where or how to change it. My pants are too baggy, I need skinnier jeans. I mean, I am all hip and cool like that. I am surprised you can’t buy named brands. I want a personal shopper.
  3. I know the TTK changes and mob density changes aren’t in yet (right? I hope?) but for some reason it doesn’t feel as bad as it first did. I am just  hoping that is because I have grown in comfort level and not because they are in – because it was still a *bit* tedious but not nearly as bad.
  4. Changing items – with such a confusing skill wheel, how do you reset it? Should be easy, no?
  5. Is ANYONE in BlogNation playing this? If so, how do I find you? It’s a lonely secret world! I know it’s probably not picking up a lot of new players, I just need people to bother and poke while I trudge through. I promise not to bite, or ask for too much help, but just someone I can fire off questions too or participate in some minor chit-chat would be nice!
  6. For such an immersing game in theme and feel, the nature that quests don’t go away drives the completionist side of me crazy. I want the missions to go away when I do them so I know I have done them! Not just a checklist in the corner. I have a feeling they are repeatable (also an immersion breaker) but I suppose that is better than hitting up to content you can’t beat. I suppose there is a toggle to turn them off?

Hopefully some kind soul can direct me to some answers and ideas – my Google-fu tends to be strong but I’d prefer an opinion from the blog world, more trusted and could save me from frustration. I am enjoying my time but those 6 items are nagging me a bit, and I am sure it is more me than the Secret World. I just need some answers and guidance!

I Am Pavlov’s Dog

A thing happened to me while playing The Secret World last night – I have realized how much I have been conditioned by the titles I have played over the  years – and I feel dumber for it. I restarted Kingsmouth quests with a new weapon that seems to fit my play style better (assault rifle) and while doing some of the beginning quests I stumbled upon a side quest. Anyone who has played it will probably remember it. It has to do with a dead cleaner and a cell phone hint.

Sounds easy enough. I am an effecient quester so I checked my map and noticed that I could complete this quest on the way back to the quest hub, I had two other ones further away. So I went out and completed them, then headed to the church.

Except I forgot the hint. I checked my quest log for more detail but it didn’t provide that much, so I had to hoof it back to the cleaner’s corpse and recheck the message. Note to self, pens and paper are handy. My first difficulty was actually finding the rock. It said “in front of the church” and I was clearly in front of the church, but there was no glowing icon or giant arrow/indicator of where this rock is. I had to look around all by myself. Terribly inconvenient! Then, it asked for the code. Now I was prepared for this because I knew TSW did some different things with questing and what not – and I was going to sort this out on my own. This is a starter quest, how hard can it be?

“The code for the keypad is the first song he planned to sing on Sunday”

Simple. Let’s go talk to him. Talking with him brought some insights and other quest options but nothing about a song. I remembered reading that there was an in-game browser so I opened that up – I haven’t been to church in 10 years (don’t judge!) so maybe there were a few standard starting hymns typically used. No dice. I searched around the church for a while looking for a pamphlet, something, anything on the ground. In the pews. I couldn’t find it. After 10 minutes of looking around for chat bubbles or glowing objects (the looking around was already 10x longer than the getting there in the first place…) I gave up and googled it. And there was the answer, staring me in the face the whole time.

The song was listed exactly where songs are listed in church – I do remember that from when I went. I didn’t look up once, I didn’t check the scenery. This is when I realized how incredibly trained I have been in MMO questing to look on the mini map, or for the glowing object on the ground, or the NPC to talk to. I stopped looking for the “right way to look” or the sensible “what would I do in real life” to find the answer – I defaulted to the tips and tools that I have been taught to use in my MMO gaming the past decade.

Good news is that now that I realize I can – and should – think freely while questing in TSW and it may allow me to engage in the game in a different way. Hopefully I can unlearn some habits.

Sessions

Before last weekend I was pretty sure  I was going to have to give in my gamer card. Life is busy and I have learned to prioritize work/life/gaming balance much better than the past. Family, then work, then gaming. Sadly, the realities of a job that demands a lot and a family that I want to give a lot to leaves gaming as something I wish I could make more time for (but normally can’t). Sometimes it feels as though I spend more time reading about gaming, listening to podcasts about gaming, and blogging about gaming than I actually play games in a week. This has lead me to all sorts of crazy thoughts from stopping blogging (I love it – but is it genuine enough if I am not gaming much?) to allowing myself that hour to two hours a night to enjoy a hobby I am extremely passionate about (when you hit 40, there is so much more in your life you feel like you *should* be doing instead of gaming). We have the NBI, and Blaugust, and Bragtoberfest – do we have gaming blog counselors? Where is our Dr. Phil, I need to talk to him! Good news about all of this is while searching for a “video game character on a couch getting psychiatric advice” I stumbled on a nice new web comic line.

[Click on that to go to the web comic – there are several fantasy/game themed ones and they are beautiful and sobering. Definitely go look at them!]

Then, something miraculously happened on Sunday. My son was going to a movie/play date with a friend, my wife wasn’t feeling well and wanted to go lie in bed for the afternoon and I suddenly found myself with free time on a wet and cold day. I didn’t need to exercise because I had played a hockey game the night before, I could do work (as I always could) but I had a pretty good week the week before and felt good about where I was (I have one of those jobs that I am never “done” work. Finishing work just opens up new work.). The dogs were sleeping in a puddle of sun coming through the window which masked the cold and wet outside. The house was peaceful.

I was free. Free to game.

I fired up the gaming laptop and started updating everything – I wasn’t even sure what I was going to play! GW2? Landmark? I have uber fibre internet so literally updating 5 or 6 games at the same time doesn’t make anything chug. At the end of the day, I got in 6 hours – which is more than what I have been getting in a week (not counting phone games). So, what did I play? What were my sessions?

The Secret World

I bought this on a Steam Sale (duh) and while I had played through all three factions to see which resonated I hadn’t played much of the game itself. I ended up messing around with a bunch of weapons and I didn’t really fall in love with any of them – but I took pistols and off to Kingsmouth I went. The good is what was expected (story), the bad is how silly ranged weapons fit into the game (and MMOs in general). Having to empty 40 bullets into a zombie to kill it isn’t right. I am going to stick with it because I want to see how the story progresses but this is one of those examples where the game play gets in the way of the point of the game. In my initial impressions the mission would be better as a first person shooter style (which I know is silly, but really, 30 second kill times on your first main mission in an MMO is a huge disconnect from sensibility. No surprises here though as I have heard that complaint before. The ability wheel is intimidating but you really don’t have that many choices to begin with. I am glad I got to dig in a bit deeper – the setting and mood are top notch and my initial impressions is that the game play may hurt the style more than vice versa.

Metro 2033

I won this game (among others) from Contains Moderate Peril who runs a monthly contest. I was always interested in the setting and after playing TSW and thinking it should be a FPS, I figured it would be a nice segue into a proper FPS. The setting didn’t disappoint and the game did a good job of pacing between high intensity and breaks in the action. There was a lot of “fluff” in the opening sequences (NPC’s, families, background chatter) that did a good job of setting the tone of a community stuck underground without much hope for change. I am looking forward to this as my single player game that I can pickup and leave off. The strangest part for me is that this is the first THQ game I have blogged about – I tag categories by producers/developers typically, and that is my first THQ. I wonder if the setting is foreshadowing on the future Russia if they don’t stop screwing around in the Ukraine.

Heroes of the Storm

I don’t know if it is now open Alpha or what is going on, but when I was hovering on the “install” button for World of Warcraft I noticed that there was an option to install HOTS. So I did. I was a big League of Legends fan so I was definitely curious what Blizzard’s offering was going to look like. I ended up playing this game the most! True to Blizzard fashion it is well polished (already – in alpha) and pretty big simplification of the genre when using LoL as the comparative. Truth is though, it is less intimidating so far. I stopped playing LoL because they reset every season and I didn’t want to relearn the items and champions that I had become very familiar with. Items are the great equalizer in LoL and allows for a lot of customization as you can select items to change the balance of power in any match. It also meant you needed to understand the match-ups of 100’s of champions and how to fight against certain item kits and champions. It took a lot of effort to be “in the know”. HOTS takes out items altogether but still leaves a lot of choice in the game for talents. I am only level 6, so a long way to go but will be interesting to see if Blizzard can do to MOBA what it did for MMO. That statement is either beautiful or ominous depending on your view on Blizzard.

I still have barely touched my PS4 and haven’t played a round of Destiny in a month. I miss being “sold” on a title. I miss being “all in!”. You know, that realization that when you do have free time you are spending it in one place and one place only. Right now I am so overwhelmed with choice and options that I actually miss the day that I was dedicated to a single title and it received all my spare time an attention. I think there are so may places I want to play in right now that I just can’t focus on one. At the end of it all, I am just really happy I was able to take some time to myself and enjoy some really satisfying and fun gaming hours. It has been long overdue.

Corporate Governance

This sat in drafts and I never got around to finishing it. Now the info is really outdated, but still – wanted to talk about companies that make games really briefly.

First, we have this nice reminder of EA being voted worst company to work for (again)

Then, we have FUNCOM being raided for suspected wrongdoings

Add in a whole bunch of short-term stock thinking, churn and burn/crunchtime production mentality and man, I can’t help but think:

Is it really a surprise we get crappy games?

Then I read this gem from over at Valve – their awesome employee handbook

And this – the Bteam website

Is Corporate (North) America ready for an epic showdown? Is it all coming to a head as hard working humans reject that they need to be taken advantage of to earn a living?

Can we have purpose AND profits?

(side note: go read Tony Hsieh – Delivering Happiness)