Monthly Archive: November 2017

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.