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As I delve deeper and deeper into Paladins I have made the leap from casual Paladins player to forum poster. Forum poster started off fine, but has since graduated to game defender, common sense freedom fighter, and general anti-anger enthusiast.

Boy, did I get sucked in.

I am not sure what drove me to go to the forums in the first place but there I was, filling out a profile, selecting an avatar, and combing through the various sections on the boards. They make you use your in game name as your forum name so cross referencing games and performance is quite easy. This builds some semblance of justification of opinion (oh, you are complaining about Bomb King? I have 250 wins as BK! Look at my stats!) but in truth I appreciate it because it removes a small layer of anonymity that often fuels negative behaviour online. When it’s harder to hide who you are, it’s harder to act differently than you do “in real life”.

The fact that escapes so many on message boards / twitter / facebook (etc.) still shocks me. Especially on  platforms that don’t use aliases. Either way, it’s all out there.

You can’t go down there. I wish you could.

Paladins seems to use ELO as a ranking system and I am very familiar with ELO through League of Legends – which arguably is the “best” (most successful?) MOBA out there, and back when I did play seemed to be the shining light of how to do Free 2 Play. Bonus is that it also makes a ton of money. ELO is a grind – lose a match? -12 rating. Win a Match? +13. Because of the closeness of proximity of the scores (typically between 12 and 19) and with base ELOs around 1500 you quickly learn that it is a very long haul to climb the ladder. I actually agree with this system because it smooths out disconnects and general poor teammates/afk’s, etc. Sure, you might get a troll but chances are they are ranked low, so you only lose 12 rating. Next game, with the fully competent team you gain 15. I have played 25 “ranked” matches and have had a troll/purposely incompetent player/afk exactly one time. If it sticks to a 4% rate then this game will be spectacular.  Using those small increments getting into the top tiers (4500 ELO) is in the hundreds of games – heck, the top two players have well over 1000 games played.  I love that there is a third party website, Paladins.guru, that tracks all of this.

I am a bit confused because in game they have a competitive rating instead. Now I am not sure if ELO is thier system or that websites. I wish there was more clarity. Either way my point is how many people are arguing about the outliers of games that is “ruining” their ranking. The truth about ELO is that it works, and you are placed in the correct ranking when you win/lose 50% of your games. That is great balance. What players tend to forget is that if you are routinely seeing a specific type of player at a general skill level that means you are home. People do not like the ELO system because everyone thinks they are better than their results show they really are. I am not telling you anything new here at all, am I?

I didn’t mean for that comment to come off as passive/aggressive or anything, but trying to illustrate facts to people when emotion are removed from it all.  The other, frequent commonality I see on the boards are with nerfs “Thanks DEVELOPER for dropping my damage by 2% This means I am TRASH and now I am QUITTING!” To these I normally get this kind of responses.

I end up having to say this alot. Repetitively. it’s a common misconception that nerfing one character is bad for the game. It is good, it makes it more fun for everyone else who is sick and tired of facing the same overpowered champion again and again. If you are that good with that champion, it might be for a reason (other than you are an elite, master gamer at 1200 ELO).

And of course, when people get angry and attack other forum posters for their counter opinion, and how theirs is more important than everyone else’s:

Needless to say I have been down this road before (ie: every other forums I have participated on in one way or anvother since the late 90s) but this time it feels a bit different. Like I am a wise, old soothsayer dispensing emotionless truth to the needed masses. Or something far less modest and it’s just a Zen like way to kill time. An out of game grind.

I care about my results in ranked (which is where you are supposed to try) but am absolutely getting killed in Casual play for two reasons. First is because I have decided I am going to play every champion to level 6. That takes about three hours of play. Some champions I am just terrible at, so that makes it a long three hours.  Still, I do improve but some I just don’t gel with well and once I get to 6 may never play again. The second reason is because few people want to play Front Line and Support, when I am not playing those (which I prefer) it usually means we have a poor team composition. Which makes playing the other roles I am already not that great at that much harder.

This game absolutely destroys Overwatch in terms of flavor, strategy, champion design, in game skill adjustment, builds (etc.). I don’t even understand how OW is still in business when you compare the two. It’s like Vanilla ice cream (OW) vs a full banana split with three kinds of ice creams, chocolate and caramel sauce smothered all over it, and cashews, chocolate chops, and little pieces of peanut butter cups on top. There is no comparison from the amount I have played of each. I hope it has a strong, bright future.

My posting on the forums will no doubt support that.

#delusionsofgrandeur.

Mr. Unpopular

Paladins

I am a Paladins fan. I couldn’t enjoy Overwatch and found it entirely bland and boring. Paladins, on the other hand, has depth, strategy, customization and challenge. I have started to flesh out my champions experience and availability quite well. Here is my level with each:

Level 6 for all, here I come!

Players get ‘free’ Radiant chests at level one, four and six so to really maximize your opportunity (with better cards, skins, etc.) it makes sense to have level 6 as a goal for all champions. You need several at level 4 to get into competitive so the extra two levels isn’t that much harder. I still have a lot of work to do although I have firmly sorted out that I am only good at two roles – Front Line and Flanking.  I can service as a support but do not seem to excel at it. The good news for me is that the ‘meta’ for team composition is two Front Line, one Support, and two Damage and few people want to play Front Line so I pretty much always get to do it. It takes around three hours to get to level 6 so on that basis alone with 28 champs is a lot of game play. Of course this also skews my stats because playing my best champions I have nice stats – constantly learning and jumping between champions takes away the comfort and skill level. The good news is there are two game modes (Casual and Ranked) so I use my good champions for ranked and learning champions for casual. (Sorry, casual players).

My BAE

Inara is my favourite and I am climbing the ELO ladder in ranked with her. She doesn’t have a lot of flash and her skills are mostly about staying alive which isn’t glorified gameplay for those who want to shine. It is more of an unsung hero type champion which suits me just fine. In a world of Overwatch, I am a big Paladins fan. It’s a fantastic shooter and I hope it can continue to iterate and improve (it is currently in Beta).

Battletech – Backer’s Beta

Big robots waltzing

Battletech has always been a pen and paper game that should have translated into an even better game on the computer. We have a slew of FPS style games with MechWarrior series but not a pure or true translation. This game plans on being more of that. Tesh and I have been talking about the need for this game going on 6-7 years.

It was always known as a very ‘math’ game to work on so using the processing power of a computer should enhance the gaming experience. Early stages are promising but some of the current limitations (4 mechs regardless of budget, map size, etc.) keeps the game really focused. I think there are some opportunities to expand on this to make the game really exciting but it is very early  so will give time to see how it develops. Currently you can only play against the computer, there isn’t a ton of customization options, and a map selection of 4. Looking forward to seeing this title expand and grow, and the company (Harebrained Schemes) had some great titles with the Shadowrun series which gives high hopes. Inserting a gallery here of a ton of screenshots of some gameplay for those interested!

(click on any part of the gallery above to get it rolling!)

I continue to play games that aren’t that popular but that I thoroughly enjoy – which tends to limit engagement and page views – thankfully I don’t do this for a living =)

More Paladins Fun

I did a video. My mic was off, so you don’t get to hear me speak but if you are curious about the gameplay or anything of that nature it’s a fun Siege match that goes to 4 points. 1 point for capturing the objective, and 1 for the payload status (if you get it to the end point you get another point, if it is successfully defended the other team gets a point.) This was one of those “wow, we really kicked butt in the first round – I should record this!” thoughts and then I did decide to record it. And then of course the inevitable happened.

Without voice it does lack my paladin-splaining on much of what is going on but I do think most of it is self explanatory. I’ve never been one for streaming or recording and this won’t change much but thought it would be fun for a nice change of pace. I am playing Ying, a fun, illusion based healer.

I love lists and plans and serial gaming – and Paladins really helps with that. I make enough in game gold playing a character to level 5 to buy another character (more or less, so it seems) and that has been my plan. I have one of each type (Flanker, Front Line, Damage, Support) in the leveling process to 5 at any time and I fill the hole most needed for the team. Once they hit 5 I buy another champion of that category and start again. Rinse, repeat. Like most matchmaking games, perfect matchmaking would have you win / lose at 50% of the time when you hit the level where you belong. Much like League of Legends, Paladins uses the ELO system. There is also a really handy third party website (paladins.guru) that pulls your stats.

How am I doing by role?

My flanker win rate was much higher until I started leveling a flanker (Lex) without invisibility or a more clear escape mechanism. I was trending in the 70%+, but coming back down to earth. Not as many players pick support or front lines and I happen to really enjoy both roles. Sometimes in the Front Line role I get stuck playing WITHOUT a healer often which really makes the W/L hard there. Front Liners do not have a lot of built in sustain where a support / healer can still shine healing a bunch of damage dealers. I really suck in the Damage role and I think that is because I lack map awareness. As a Front Liner lacking map awareness is less deadly as you can take a few hits before going down. Support can often heal themselves at least once before it happens. Flankers have escape mechanisms. Damage are more of the sitting ducks and if you get caught on a flank or not paying attention you are a goner. It is also the quickest locked-in role so I don’t get to practice as much. I have a feeling I will have maxed out all the Support and Front Lines before I truly get to dig into the Damage class.

Here is my overall playtime, Win Loss, and K/D/A. Reading this tells me I should still climb to a bit higher of competitive level. It also isn’t a pure indication as I am constantly learning new champions.

I love data. Here are the champs I have been using and how I have done with each:


Based on my previous comment about constantly learning new champions if all I played was Skye, Grover, and Ying it looks like I would be 23-10 with lots of room to climb. Still, I firmly believe that you can’t learn to beat a champion unless you have walked 5 levels in their shoes and I plan on continuing just that. You also get a lot more chests by leveling up (there is an overall level tied to you, and a mastery level tied to each champion) so it’s a quicker and easier path to new cards, skins, and other opportunities for growth. As you can see it takes around 2 hours of playtime to get one to mastery level 5.  You need 12 champions level 4 or higher to take part in competitive, so some time left in casual before I can start playing with the big kids.

The business model isn’t bad, but not great either. My most interested part is building out new decks to customize and personalize the champions for gameplay. That costs essence, of which you can only get by getting duplicate cards. Building a legendary card costs 12,000 essence (which fundamentally changes the way a champion plays, and is hella fun) and you get between 250-500 essence per duplicate card. New to the game, I do not get a lot of duplicate cards, meaning I could probably play another month or so before really getting to the point where every card is essence based. There is no way to buy essence – I find that a miss and have since learned that it never existed in the game before open beta 42 or 44. This tells me that the company was not happy with the profitability and are trying to find creative ways to change that.

There are few ways to spend money. The first is $19.99 to unlock all current and future champions. I like keeping focused on my unlocks as it forces me to practice and learn champions as I go. You can buy crystals which you can ‘boost’ your character with, gaining faster XP, money, extra cards on unlocks, etc. I hate the way they do boosts because it is done on a time basis (7 or 14 days) and I feel like I would not be able to maximize my time under boost so I wouldn’t get the same value. I would probably buy a boost if it were for a set number of matches, for example.

Crystals also unlock special skins – some are crystals only while others are gold or crystals. You can also upgrade keys to your Radiant Chests to enhance them, giving you a better chance of getting something spiffy. At the end of the day right now I find myself wanting to give Hi-Rez some well earned cash but not sure where to spend it to feel good, so I am just holding onto it until something becomes clear. I don’t want to buy a skin yet for a character I am only playing for 5 levels – and for the record, in all the loot boxes I have earned i have only received one armor piece (a chest, for Ash, a character I don’t play yet. There are skins and armor sets so you can get weapon, body, or head upgrades).

I think I would spend more if the business model was more like League of Legends (who does F2P the best, in my opinion) as of right now I am still trying to understand the relative values between the currencies and opportunities. The good news is, I am just having a ton of fun with this game and I will continue to play it until such time I can sort out how to support it financially.

The Oracle Speaketh!

Sometimes, I get it right. Every once and awhile I go read an old post – this is normally because someone else read it and it got a hit and I try to see what lead them to that post. Here is the paragraph from what I wrote in 2008

A side thought to this is to change the MMO subscription model a bit while introducing leasing. Drop the “magical” $14.99 per month sub tag to a lower number, and start selling gold to your own players. That way everyone wins. People who want instant items without the lease (and the gold on hand) can buy it from the MMO company. The people who do, subsidise everyone’s subscription fee so the ones who don’t pay a smaller monthly fee. Company wins from increased revenues. Playerbase wins from decreased costs.

I wrote that way back in 2008. in this post, about a stupid idea about leasing items but hey, is that close enough to say ” I called it?”

Probably not. But for a brief moment it made me feel like writing here all of these years hasn’t been a complete waste. And yes, I barely remember writing it.

Paladins – You Might be Missing Out

(click on pictures to see big ones in new windows, I know my frames are small.)

The initial title of “Team shooter perfected” was a bit of a click-bait title and I am far too early in on my Paladins journey to give it that much credit this early. They are well on their way, however, and have definitely solidified themselves as my favorite entry into this genre and deservedly so. Of course, before talking about the present, let’s talk about the past.

I played team shooters back when it was real tough. Rainbow six had message board ladders (nothing in game for rankings, matchmaking, etc.) and a punishing play style. I did do a lot of Counter Strike back in the day as well. Then, for years, there was nothing. I skipped Team Fortress 2 for the most part (which I suspect most would argue is the true inspiration for the new group of bright and cartoony team shooter offerings) and when I did try to get into it the matchmaking was so poor and everyone else was so far ahead of me that I couldn’t find fun or get a foothold. I spent years not playing small map team based shooters, and instead stuck the to the Battlefield 2142’s and Project Reality’s of the world.

My son started playing Overwatch with his friends and in true Blizzard fashion it looked slick, interesting, and fun. I tried to get into it myself only to find things a bit bland for my tastes as well as matchmaking being completely broken (when you are level 14 playing against a guy who is level 314 you know there are issues.) So much clutter onthe screen, claustrophobic maps, lack of customization options and enemies that were just so good it also felt like there was no chance to catch up (already) and that things just weren’t “fair”. Add to the whole buy + microtransactions model that I fundamentally disagree with I just didn’t stick with Overwatch. It wasn’t terrible but just wasn’t a place I wanted to dedicated any more time learning in or trying to have fun in after 20 hours of ‘meh’ gameplay. I gave it a fair chance.

Enter Izlain, and his recommendation for Paladins – the F2P team shooter option from Hi-Rez Studios, and it does everything that Overwatch doesn’t and then some. I have over 7 hours played and  this is my new go to game. So much to discover, to unlock. So much fun. While it isn’t a huge departure from what we know (and what is popular) it does have some neat options which make it a bit more complex and fun. Let’s talk about those after a general explanation about how the game works.

Like most team based shooters there are a lot of different champions. In Paladins they are split into four groups – Damage, Front Line, Support, and Flank. Those are self explanatory for the most part (Damage, Tank, Heal,  Light Armor Damage). There are four modes currently (three standard, and a new one being tested) and they are also very similar:

Pre-match, but clean window and useful UI

  • Payload (moving an object from a starting point to an ending point). Swap from offence to Defence. 1 point for objective, need 2 of 3 to win the round.
  • Siege (battling for a position on a map, which, once won spawns a Payload phase). Need 4 points to win. 1 point for securing the objective, 1 for the payload.
  • Team Elimination (die once, no respawn) first team to 5 full team eliminations wins.
  • Onslaught (control point time + kills). Game is over when the total points hits a threshold.

They are all fun. The maps are varied. Where Paladins truly wins is in the customization. First, characters – you don’t only have different weapons and outfits to equip, you can fundamentally change the way a character plays using the card based system. Here is the best example of this, with Skye.

Skye’s Legendary cards plus some others

Skye is flanker. The flanking play style revolves around sneaking around the back (or side, literally, flanking) and while big heavies and damage dealers are focusing on an objective swoop in and cause havoc from a different angle. Skye has a stealth on a high cooldown (15 seconds). This ability has huge gameplay ramifications as it gives you the freedom to move around the map. The first three cards are the legendary cards and you must choose one before the match. The picture above shows the new card I built (you can loot them or spend in game resources) which changed her default gameplay style from “Do 30% more damage to enemies hit by poison bolts” (secondary attack) to “Reduce all cooldowns by 100% when getting a kill or elimination”.

Totally different playstyle. Striking from the shadows, and immediately entering back into the shadows, versus applying a shred that can take down even the tankiest of enemies fast, but far more exposed. The third legendary option for Skye is an Alpha strike option, doing 300 more damage on the first hit out of stealth. So, now you have a themed character that you can change to better suit a map or playstyle you prefer. The other cards allow you to further personalize your abilities. I am going to use Ying, my first support character, as the example here.

Ying heals by creating illusions of herself that cast heals every second to the most injured team member in their range. They are stationary. Her other abilities are to swap positions with her furthest away illusion (escape),  do damage, and “shatter’ her illusions – they charge the nearest enemy and then blow up. It is a really fun kit and I am having the most fun healing with her.   With all characters you get to select up to 5 cards, and use 12 points (you can improve each card – so if one says increase health by 100 as a base, you can spend three additional points and make that 400. As an example) to make your character yours.

Here is the base Ying.

Base loadout – I kept to the base ones for learning until I better understood the gameplay dynamics for the champion

This impacts her gameplay.

  • Spring Bloom (4) Illusions are on a 5 second timer, and have health. If one dies the counter goes down 2 seconds faster.
  • Squadron (4) Her illusions are a lot beefier with 4 points (+400 health)
  • Disappear (1) Ying can move faster out of combat with a 7% movement speed increase  (and if you added a point there, would most likely be 14% faster).
  • Efficiency (1) Reduces the cooldown of Dimensional Link (the teleport swap skill) by 1s.
  • Tangible (2), increases personal health by 100 (Tangible 1 would have been 50. It moves it very round numbers).

This kit its focusing on personal and illusion survivability with good movement. It’s the base Ying everyone plays. I found that I was ‘shattering’ (exploding) my illusions a lot and that if someone got in my face and I teleport swapped then they would kill the illusion. I also wanted more than one illusion up at a time effectively I loved the theme and mood of Ying but wanted to create a playstyle that was a bit different. This is what I came up with:

Second loadout – 8 per character are available

  • Mesmerism (3) increases the range where you can deploy illusions by 30% (Now I can stay safer and further away)
  • Squadron (2) increases health by 200 (I didn’t need 400 because I was blowing them up a lot anyway to do damage)
  • Rewind (1) swapping to the spot of a dead illusion spawns an illusion with 25% health (great emergency heal escape if low)
  • Carry On (4) – your illusions last 4 sec longer (now I can layer them better)
  • Spring Bloom (2) – when illusions die to an enemy reduce the cooldown of illusions by 1 sec (get them back up faster)

I absolutely loved the new deck, and my first game, kicks some nice butt with it too. There are a few tweaks I might use (taking a point off of Carry On and adding it to Spring Bloom) but that is what is great about this game – you can make the champions your own in a controlled environment.

Here was the results of my first game with Ying v2.0

#flex #epeen #humble #karma

Remember, Ying is a support/healer. I had the highest kill streak, most objective time (escorting the payload), comparable damage, and only healing in the game. My 11/4/13 KDA outshone most of my team (who were all playing pure damage dealers).  It was a great round for me.

The customization doesn’t start there. In game  you can also customize your champion further based on who you are facing in game and how the match is going, through an in game item store – of which, you score points during the match and then spend. Remember that Skye I told you about, that could stealth after every kill and is a great harasser? A skilled player could see that happening and adjust in game to better deal with her by buying the Illuminate skill (increase range you detect stealthed characters). If Ying’s illusions are taking you down during shatters get the Blast Shields – they lower AOE damage. If your support isn’t healing, buy Life Rip – which gives your damage a leech effect. Against some big tanky front lines with shields? Wrecker takes those down fast. The item shop gives you more options to strategically support your success. It is pure awesome. You can lower cooldowns, increase ultimate charge, lower healing on players you did damage to – all sorts of steady states. It is limited to one item per line (Defence, Utility, Healing, Offense) but you can also upgrade the item in the same category for more money. When I was trying to increase my illusion uptime on Ying I would go with level 3 Chronos builds (30% cooldown reduction).

Item Store in game

There are a lot of other topics of discussion to discuss about Paladins and I will more deeply explore them – it is my definite new go to game for the forseeable future. If you feel like picking it up (it’s free) add me as a friend and I’d love to learn the game with you. My in game name is “Founts”. Looking forward to exploring and understanding this title better – and already absolutely in love with it.

Can’t do Injustice 2 Justice

There was something very disturbing and satisfying ripping an opponents head and spine out in Mortal Kombat. It was a fun arcade based past time when you put in a quarter and beat the snot out of your friend. I also fondly remember emptying my bank account (at an actual bank, for cash. Had to stand in line, talk to a human being, everything!) and running to the local gaming store to buy my Super Nintendo, arcade-joystick emulator, and Street Fighter. Running home and playing for 12 hours straight against Darryl, a friend of mine. Oh, the glory days of youth and fighting games. I did not remember the last one I played until I bought Injustice 2.

Ps4 still sucks for sharing screenshots so borrowed this from Digital Spy

I was on the fence about it. I read overwhelmingly positive reviews about it. I never played the original Injustice, I have always preferred Marvel over DC and memorizing complex combos that had to be executed flawlessly and twitch-quickly hasn’t been my cup of tea for years. Still, my newfound interest in Green Lantern coupled with my newfound love for Wonder Woman, with a dash of a discovered $80 Best Buy card lead me to the purchase choice. And let me tell you, I am not disappointed. Quite the opposite, elated!

The graphics and gameplay are really fun. The heroes are varied, interesting, and exciting. The differences between them are immense but how you play them is not always – for example, L1 is a grab move (for everyone). Of course, everyone’s grab move is completely different. This gives some consistency on how to execute moves and the variety between superheroes keeps it fresh. The PVE mode (which is all I have played) is really great. First, there is a story mode. Yes, a fighting game story mode and quite surprisingly the story is pretty good. I am not even half way through the story mode and each chapter has you using new superheroes and learning them as fighters first, but some flavor and attitude as well. The second PVE mode is the Multiverse – these are small, PVE challenges that change based on which earth your are visiting and they are extremely varied and most that I have done have been incredibly fun.

I haven’t played against any human beings yet. I am going to finish the Story Mode first as this has introduced me slowly to all sorts of heroes allowing me to understand various strengths and weaknesses of each. I fully expect to get destroyed online by leet chillins.

It has been a fresh revisit to a gaming category I thought I was done with. The best part is the incremental growth nature of it – you get a lot of “Mother Boxes” by doing your favorite activities and each reward 1-4 pieces of gear of varying rarity. This is a complete crap shoot (I have 12 pieces for Catwoman, someone I have only played in the Story Mode) but each piece has a unique look and unique stats and this allows you to mix and match your costumes for both maximum efficiency AND maximum coolness. Bonus points is that you can transmogrify a look into a higher piece so if you find something you absolutely love you can carry it with you. Only downside to this system is that the gear is level locked regardless of what level you get it, and you have to wait to use some of them until you are the appropriate level.

I’m smitten. It’s a fantastic game and comes highly recommended for anyone who loves the genre, but also for someone who wants to try something out of their comfort zone – or revisit some old (but new) stomping grounds of a genre of misspent youth.

Instagram – Credit Where it is Due

I am not big on social media. I have a couple twitter accounts (of which, my tagline is “consumer of tweets” – I read there but don’t engage. I don’t like the platform). I do have Facebook which chronicles my life in positive facing, bite sized pieces. I tried Snapchat for oh, a week – and still get ‘snaps’ from some people and rounding out all of that is my Instagram account, of which, I have very little of myself in there but a lot of what I look at. I have different opinions about all of the platforms and the two I like the most are IG and FB.

Facebook is easy, because I wish my grandpa (and his grandpa) had Facebook so I could go back and look at the amazing things they did in their lives. While you get told a lot of these stories as kids, seeing and living them would be so much better. It is kind of a diary of your life.

Instagram I like because I am a visual person. I find recipes there, get workout tips, etc. etc. Now, I don’t know the rules of Instagram but I always did some simple things, such as follow for follow. If someone follows me, I follow them back. I held true on this except in two regards – clear spam only accounts, and porn accounts. At first I was shocked at the number of naked Russian women that wanted to follow me on Instagram. They don’t get the follow back. I even started reporting these accounts to Instagram, an annoying process due to the frequency of them and after a while I just stopped to bother reporting – firstly, because they need to find a better way to stop these accounts to begin with (sheer volume of them indicate the seriousness of the problem) and secondly, like most companies, they don’t tell you the results of the notification.

Until now. And let me tell you, HALLELUJIAH!

Instagram is now my most favourite social media platform. I am tired of the excuses by Blizzard and other big companies when I report people for harassment, racism, cheating (etc.) that they hide behind the veil that they can’t share the action on the account. Of course they can. And they should. Every time. They just don’t want to because they don’t want to cut off their revenue streams. It is inconvenient when some of your big spenders may also happen to be harassers, racists and homophobes, and who take joy in ruining the experience of others through non-gaming methods.  I know it is expensive to build a stronger community in terms of technology and manpower but it is worth it. Invest in good people playing your game.

I had stopped reporting to IG because there was no feedback, and now that there is, you can bet I will more often and with great enthusiasm. I will help ensure spam and illegal accounts don’t exist. I will do it frequently. I will do it for free. It is a wonderful win/win.

I think MMO (especially) and gaming companies should take a page out of this book and start sharing when they get rid of community detractors. We need to make common decency commonplace in our virtual worlds. That happens by clearly demonstrating acceptable behavior in words and actions. Currently, most just share the words part.

Side note – If you have Instagram you also need the ‘Unfollowers’ app.  It tells you when people un-follow you. This is particularly useful for the “follow for follow” crowd. People do this to get their numbers up and then unfollow you a few days later. You have no clue who does that, but that app is completely free and helps you keep track of those sorts of things.

In Touch With My Wonder Woman Side

Wonder Woman was a very powerful movie. I tried for a bit to sort out why I felt that way. It has been a rough few weeks. I went in hopeful after reading some good reviews, and left it feeling great. It felt like WW was the first shot at building a superhero movie around love. I am not Mr. Sappy pants and I love me the clever humour in the Marvel Universe as much as the darker, more serious tones in the DC Universe. Wonder Woman cut out the jokes, and the darkness, and brought an awesome movie around doing what is right, love and nurturing.

In someways an innocent girl growing into womanhood seemed a bit cliche as she discovered the world as it is for the first time, but I felt the writing and directing did it enough justice by keeping her learning of the world and society intelligent and based on discovery and wonder instead of immature silliness or stupidity. It felt like they did her justice. They didn’t even use the words Wonder Woman in the entire movie which as a modern day macho man feels like a condescending term created in the 40’s due to lack of creativity (it was, right?)

Of course, coming from a man, I honestly have no clue if women feel the same way on feminist themes and discussion around the film. I read the UN took away Wonder Woman’s Ambassador status because of her sexualized nature and unattainable body image.

Outside of all the good there was one scene that I did not agree with and I am putting a picture up AS A SPOILER ALERT (stop reading here if you haven’t seen the movie)

Ok. Here it goes.

The scene where it is implied that she had sex with Mr. Trevor. I mean, she just went full on goddess-beast mode and took down the top of a church with her shield charge. He was not worthy. He knew it. the audience knew it. She had to have known it. I suspect they did it to further explain her connection with humans and why love was enough value to save mankind, and perhaps a woman may have viewed her losing her virginity (to the first man she met?!) as some sort of rite of passage or necessity to be more human – I just felt like it took away from the story instead of adding to it. But what do I know. Either way, it was a minor thing, and the only small gripe I had with it.

The irony here is that the movie actually had a real world effect on me. I struggle foundationally with the world and how humans are basically slaves to their jobs for the majority of their lives – many of which are just to survive. Ironically, I am a capitalist and make great money (and also pay well with many benefits for my teams) but consumerism as a purpose to live doesn’t jive with me. It’s okay for things to change, but I am a romantic at heart in one regard – there has to be more to life than work.  It doesn’t always feel that way and the structures and systems that keep the common person down are bigger and stronger than ever. At times, I wonder if it is even worth it – the insignificance of human life as part of the 7+ billion person ecosystem. I know people say the human connections make it worthwhile – and I see that in my son – as I have already sold myself on the idea that my new adventure is ensuring he gets to have better ones than I did, or ever will – but at the end of the day most of us will never be remembered and will not do anything of grand significance outside of the family we may have. And with society seemingly getting worse and more impersonal (and violent, and uncaring) it just feels like a shitty world to be a part of. This has been my struggle, and that of a general introvert made/makes it feel even more lonely sometimes. Sorry for the dose of sunshine here, just typing my thoughts as they come.

(Edit:  After re-reading that paragraph it was pretty ‘sad’, but not a cry for help. Just an emotional tangent.)

Wonder Woman, by the end of the movie, had given me a different perspective that maybe the small things are enough – and they really have to be –  but I didn’t really feel that way prior to the movie. When the three friends, out of bullets, and ready to die huddled around each other and hugged there was a certain beauty in it. One that made me think I could better translate that into my real life. It’s so strange to me that this movie actually had a noticeable positive impact  on my view of the world and my small part in it.

A superhero movie. Who would have thought it.

Not I.

The Overwatch Conundrum

My son and all of his friends play Overwatch. Typically that style of first person shooter (spammy, jumpy, TF2-ish is probably a fair description) has never been high on my list. And yet, I find myself playing it. The oddity of this isn’t the fact that I am playing it (I play all sorts of games) but the fact that I am playing it and still haven’t figured out if I like it or not. It is a strange beast. After 10 hours or so and getting into online matchmaking there are some things I know I DISLIKE about it, but I am having a hard time putting my finger on the things that I DO like about it.

compliments of razerone since screenshots are hard to port over from PS4

I dislike that you can change characters upon death. While that makes sense for matchmaking purposes, I find that it helps the winning team more. As soon as you switch thinking you are bringing a counter to the table to balance it out more the other side just does the same thing. There is no strategy behind this and it becomes a guessing game of who is going to pick who. I would change this to the losing side can only change at any given time (to balance it out) or not have it change at all. Of course, the game is not up for changing something as fundamental as that design choice. It is pushing me away from the game. I yearn for a mode like League of Legends where people pick one at a time and stick with it.

I also dislike the lack of customization options. The skins, for the most part, are just re-coloration on the low end and things like tags and voice lines you don’t get to really enjoy. If you stop to check out a cool tag you are dead, plain and simple. If you are paying attention to interesting or fun in game speak you are dead. The game is too fast and spammy to enjoy the majority of the loot box items – emotes, voice overs, and tags. The only weapon customization that I have seen is golden guns which feels like a HUGE miss.

I dislike the lack of strategy. Things happen so fast that there is no time to work out any sort of fundamental strategy outside of spam here and spam there. Objectives are won and lost so quickly that it’s simply run back, try to find a group, and spam/shoot away. I know you are probably thinking “well duh, that’s the beauty of it!” but I don’t see it that way. I wish there was more to it but it feels very shallow in so many ways.

And yet, I play it. I don’t know if it fits in mindless zen grinding for loot boxes territory (which I do like, actually, but think you should get one for every match – not level – as a B2P game it’s a bit crappy) or the semblance of semi interesting characters (albeit devoid of story or purpose). There is definitely some sort of hook to it that I just can’t put my finger on. Maybe someday soon I can explain, if I continue playing it.

Enter the competitor, Paladins.

Izlain over at Me Myself and I made a post that included Paladins and when I checked out some reviews and videos it hits a lot of the check boxes of things I dislike about Overwatch. Player is locked in for the match, but they are further customized by cards you collect as well as in game gear you can buy (much like League of Legends). There is a loot box pathway in the game that doesn’t also charge you a box fee. The gameplay and characters also look varied semi interesting. I also have nothing to lose by trying it, so I will. Will be interesting to comp the two.

easy peeyzy lemon breezy

Bonus here, as a PS4 noob that I could get the game and download it to my home PS4 from the PS store in my browser at work. I didn’t realize it had that functionality and quite frankly, that is awesome. I was honestly thinking that I wished I could do that from here, and tried it for the heck of it, and sure enough it worked. Makes so much sense and removed another barrier to purchase. This could end up being a costly and dangerous feature for me.

What do you think? Do you play either? What do you love about it? I am going to continue to explore this further and any tips or suggestions would be helpful.

This and That

Destiny

Hot off the heels of me ranting about the ridiculousness of the base premise of Destiny – I am happy to report I spent most of my rainy, Canadian long weekend playing Destiny. It is not hypocritical to me because as a PVE shooter it is a wonder and a beauty to behold.  Which is why I think I get ever so frustrated with the invincible zombie premise. If you are in no danger of dying, as per the video last post, then you are in no danger of losing. Which means just keep dying and pushing through and eventually  you will win. There is not a good story premise – it takes out any sort of drama from it. It is a foregone conclusion, story wise. Just keep eating brains, immortal zombie.

My Warlock

Man, is it ever such a great game if you ignore that part though. I started the weekend at 320(ish) light level and got to 385. A lot of zen grind in there and I loved every minute. I just had to suspend the provided story and create my own. At 385 the gear grind gets very tight (as a non raider) as only purple engrams (the drops that loot-box into items) give upgrades. And each is giving a 386-387. Which means the going from here on out is just going to get tough and in tiny increments. With the Destiny 2 beta coming in the summer and the game itself in less than four months there isn’t a ton of desire to get to 400. We will lose everything anyway. Still, with being uninspired by other games right now – and not having a “go to” game – it is filling fun gaming time nicely.

I am now working on my Titan. Of which, I suspect will be my “main” again in Destiny 2. They redid the sub-classes for D2 and the Defender Titan will now have a Void shield (a la Captain America) which they can use not unlike the Captain – blocking things, chucking it to bounce in between enemies and the like. With the armor style above it is not hard to imagine an Iron Man / Captain America combo.  It looks like a blast. I hope it plays as fun as it looks.

Overwatch

I have never played this, up until last night. My son (now 12) plays it with his friends. I was never a big fan of Team Fortress 2 and other spammy shooters but watching him play a lot made me curious to check it out. I only played against AI to sort through the various characters available and it wasn’t bad shooting mechanics wise but there is so much going on and so little feedback I felt quite lost for some time. For example – I was playing a healer who had the ultimate skill to ressurect any dead team members in the vicinity – but I couldn’t find anywhere if team members were dead. You should have a team profile in a corner somewhere to show who is dead and/or alive, and where they are. At one point it DID tell me two were dead and I am not sure if I missed it the first time or whatnot – so I hit it and it worked, but I was very confused by it. I played bots on Easy and Medium and was fine, got some nice kill streaks and won rounds (as you should against AI, right?) As soon as I put the AI match to ‘hard’ we got destroyed. Utterly and completely. I felt very inadequate.

My son did tell me he struggles against those bots too, which was oddly comforting coming from a twelve year old.

I am not sure if I am going to continue much – I will try my hand with online play against ‘evenly matched’ humans and if the fact I am a year behind is grossly evident (even at same level) there isn’t much hope of me sticking with it. I know from other shooters high ranking players get bored and start new characters just to auto-faceroll noobs like me. Hopefully Blizzard has solved that problem (which would be VERY EASY to solve) but if not it’s fine – but whether I buy it on PC or not depends on my PS4 experience.

Green Lantern

Side stepping games – I love the Green Lantern. This is odd because I grew up a Marvel ‘guy’ and didn’t spend much time, effort or money in the DC universe. I do not know where I became interested in Green Lantern but I do remember being in a local hobby/gaming store and seeing “The Sinestro Corps” graphic novel – of which, I heard was quite well done. I bought it and read it – and it IS quite well done. Now I have the desire to learn more and become more deeply involved in the Green Lantern lore. This lead me to thinking of buying other, critically acclaimed graphic novels (Blackest Night) but also look at gaming options. First, and most obvious – is DCUO – a game I have never played. I have installed it but have not fired it up yet (on PC). I have googled tutorials on how to build a Green Lantern character but have also read that you have to buy an expansion first in able to do so. I had this same issue with the Warden class in Lord of The Rings Online – the one character type I was most interested in playing was gated behind an expansion of which, I wasn’t sure I wanted to buy because I wanted to play that character to BEGIN with to decide if I was going to invest in the game. It took me years (literally) to make that decision in LOTRO and I finally broke down and bought the expansion on a big sale to get the Warden. It still remains the only reason why I am considering playing LOTRO, and the biggest motivator for me to dip my toe into DCUO. I am not sure if that is a fair expectation on good old Hal Jordan.

The second option is Injustice 2 – the fighting game from the DC Universe which as been reviewed incredibly well – so much so that when I went to go buy it at Best Buy they were sold out of the PS4 version. I didn’t buy it online because I have a $70 GC from Best Buy and wanted to use it for that, so I have held off. I have not played Injustice 1 and I am still mildly hesitant to buy a game for a single character that may be a terrible experience as anyway.

That is where I find myself at odds – I am making great money and in a part of my life where I have the most disposable cash ever – but am less likely to part with it on odd grounds – on principle, rather than on reason. Perhaps that is a sign I am getting old. Maybe just unreasonable. Maybe a little from column A and column B.

In General

I still don’t have “that game” right now so remain in an uncomfortable position (like the back of a volkswagon? – bonus points if you know where that is from) of bouncing around half interested in various games, all loaded and ready for me to enjoy at my whim. In the past week I have logged into and/or played (in no particular order or reason) – GW2, LOTRO, EQ, Destiny, The Division and have loaded up many more in the background – Wildstar, DCUO, EQ2. I don’t do well playing the field and need to commit soon for maximum enjoyment. When is Secret World Legends out again?

Destiny 2 – Immortal Zombies Unite

Destiny is a game that I loved everything about except the story. I made a ton of fun of the story. It ate me apart from the inside just thinking about it. Trying to understand the story was equal to drinking a bottle of acid. Maybe it goes down okay in the first instant, but the longer it goes the worse it gets for you – and quickly. It breaks down all the systems and organs that make you live, until you are just a hollow, former shell of a human being.  Destiny is, without a doubt, the best PVE shooter out there right now. It does a lot right – pretty much everything! (except the story. Did I mention that?)

Hello, Destiny 2. You can get better! Guess how?! Re-read my first mini paragraph and take that wild guess.  I am not even going to dignify it by making it rhetorical. I have faith in you dear reader.

Let’s start with a really nice origin story for one of the lead NPC characters in the game. 

I made fun of the plot of Destiny because basically you are a zombie. I suspected that the true twist in the story is that we are the bad guys – the evil zombies and the rest of the galaxy is trying to rid us of our ways. I have a whole post about it here, complete and using grimoire entries to try and make sense of it all.

I never once suspected we were immortal zombies. Yes, immortal zombies. That is what Destiny 2 and the video above is showing.

Have you heard anything quite so stupid lately? (In before you say yes because you read my posts here. Touche.)

But really. Watch the video. Guy comes back to life. Gets killed. Left there. Brought back to life. Gets killed. Left there. Brought back to life…

Now, I know that the enemies are some sort of sentient life – they can fight, they stand upright, they communicate, they build and fly space ships, advanced technology, etc…. so we can agree there is some semblance of intelligence. They also know about the zombie (Guardian) outbreak because they have been fighting them for years. So here is a tip. If you know that walking away from a zombie without cutting it up into little pieces, destroying the brain, burning it into little ashes, etc. that it is just going to come back and kill you, then why walk away?

I know games try to build believable stories about how you die in games and come back. Instead of spelling out the immortal zombie theatrics in an expensive CGI narrative, just have the Guardian brought back to life once, chosen. That is a cool backstory about being selected.  If death happens then just rewind to where you were still alive (the save game state, waypoint, etc.) and try again. In game – story wise – you never did die. Game wise and player wise, you did, but how in the heck are you supposed to explain how you were blown to bits, and reappeared near the same spot at the same (or similar) moment in time? The Player is supposed to learn from their mistakes and take their redo, and just imagine that they didn’t die in the first place.

Or, I guess, you could just be an immortal zombie.

Take your pick.

13 Reasons Why

I do not watch a lot of TV. I find I get interested in some shows and find them really well done, and get engaged in early seasons. Eventually, and pretty much always, writers on the show change, TV studios realize they have a hit and do everything they can to stretch out what might have been a 3 year planned show into a 5-8 year planned show for commercial purposes. In TV the longer a show goes the more the show provides revenue – and more often, the lower quality it becomes.  It is rare that I am gripped by a TV show. I currently only watch one regularly, a comedy (New Girl) which will have it’s final season next year. Besides that I watch sports or documentaries. I prefer to be engaged in my entertainment which is why I play video games.

I started watching 13 Reasons Why on a rainy day after I read about the controversy. If you haven’t heard of it the premise is simple: a high school girl kills herself but before doing so records 13 tape recordings. Each tape is about a person who helped push her towards this decision. The tapes were meant to be listened to in order by the people she put on the tapes – so the first person to receive the tapes was meant to listen to all 13, and then pass on the tapes to the person on tape two, who would listen to them all and then pass them on to the tape three subject person, and so on, until all 13 people heard all 13 tapes. The show is told through the perspective of Clay, who has a tape, as he listens and explores what happened. I am not going to give plot spoilers here directly but will be talking about general themes about it, briefly.

Through the first seven episodes I found it interesting and worth continuing. It was fascinating to read about experts and schools tear the show apart for glorifying suicide when I watched it from two very different perspectives. One was that of a parent and the show did not hide the the many “signs” of a struggling youth. It did it in a very clever way, through Hannah’s tapes (who we know from the outset did end up committing suicide) but also through Clay’s behavior as the tapes and their content change him, his habits, and actions. The viewer knows Clay isn’t suicidal but to a parent much of how he is acting is similar to that of Hannah in several regards. Just for very different reasons. It was an obvious way to show that warning signs might not be true – or they might.

The second way I watched the show was through the lens of my own High School experiences. I didn’t quite fit in any group but jumped in several at any given time. I always felt like an outsider because of that but also managed to fit in “enough” with wherever I happened to be at that moment. I was a good hockey player, so I fit in with the “jocks”. I was on the school computer programming team ,so I fit in with the nerds. I had a whole separate group of friends that I played PnP RPGs with so I fit in with the geeks. I was a skateboarder, so I fit in the ska-loving half head shaved skater kids. I was a social chameleon that fit in everywhere and no where at the same time.

I was very lonely. I empathized with Clay and felt like I understood how he felt. I also understood the different dynamics in tribal actions and thinking in High School. They existed in my days there too.

13 Reasons Why resonated with me – too much. Episodes 8 through 13 became more and more difficult to watch. I cried. A lot. I think it was just a challenge to watch as I have struggled with my own mental health issues for most of my life alone and in silence. The combined pressure of living the show through the eyes of my high school self and the fears and trauma of watching it as a parent of an eleven year old who may face these struggles as well was just too much. For me. I haven’t had a show make me feel, well, anything in so long that when it was done, and I was trying to pull myself back together I just let myself… be. For a little bit. Then I started thinking about the whole experience.

The show is good, and well acted. There are some plot points and moments where you (might) shake your head but they are few and far between. It is very consistent and engaging. I believe it is a good show to watch, especially if you have kids, because they are watching it. It is very popular among the teen crowds. Watch and understand it so you can talk about it. I also think that despite warnings from schools and suicide groups that this may encourage people to commit suicide I believe that the more kids that watch it the better – because it shows how sometimes little, daily interactions can tear someone down piece by piece until they feel they have no other option. It also tackles far larger and more serious interactions. Maybe it will make kids try a bit harder to be positive and engage their peers, instead of doing some of the things in the show that we know are happening in our schools everyday. Maybe it will make people better understand the impact their actions can have on other human beings – both big and small actions. It should raise awareness of  signs when someone is struggling – and if people are aware then that is the first step to getting help.

When I heard they were doing a sequel, a second season, I did get angry. There isn’t a second book. The characters were all honored to the source material and everything was tied up nicely. The only reason to do a sequel is money. The producers realized they have built these characters and connections and have a great setting for another young adult show – a more depressing version of 90210 and feel that needs to be fully exploited. I do not understand why viewers are not allowed to use their imagination on what comes next to completely close off what is most likely going to happen. It’s bullshit and cheapens how I was made to feel throughout the series. It cannot be better, it cannot get better. It can only get worse. I have never been so disappointed in a television show (and sequel announcement).  I will not watch it as I fear it will ruin the whole experience for me.

As angry as I am about the sequel announcement I do recommend the series and thank it for forcing me to take a closer look at myself, and outward to my friends and community.

Aha Moment, Diversity

I have always been sympathetic to ‘liberal’ social causes. First, I am Canadian and we have a supportive society with a distinct world view. We are just friendly people, for the most part, to use the stereotype. Most of this came from attending a liberal arts university that back in the 90’s was considered ‘gay friendly’. That is a pretty progressive label to have back in the 90’s. I came from a rural town in Canada and while homosexuality was very foreign to me I was in such an accepting and open minded environment that I learned quickly how normal and natural it was. It was even cool, in our little circle of friends and spheres of influences. There was still hate, and bigotry (there always is), but there was also hope and acceptance. Turns out my favorite uncle ended up being gay and hid it until he was able to move away from hick-town and go somewhere where he could fall in love openly and get married. . I use the term ‘hick’ as a term of endearment here. Very small town folk we were/are.

My general viewpoint on equality is that I unequivocally support the exact definition of the word in all societal senses, labels and freedoms even though I am an outsider to many of them. Religious equality (I do not participate in organized religious constructs, but I am spiritual in my own way) Gender equality (Women should be equally empowered. I am a man). Sexual equality (Love whoever you do, openly and without harm. I am cisgender) Racial equality (Humans are humans! I am white). I am an outsider because I embody the privileged, middle class, white cisgender male that is the root cause of what ails the world today (if you read the news). I could only be worse if I was a christian as well, I suspect. This is not my fault – it was the way I was born and brought up, I did not have the choice in this. Please do not judge me based on who I am and my skin color.

As much as a good natured, open minded and progressive cisgender white male that I strive to be I cannot draw from experiences when it comes to racism, or sexism, or most ‘-isms including the own privilege I enjoy. I know it exists, but my cisgender white friends and families are also as afraid of the future as our more diverse friends and families. They are scared about good work and providing for their families. The world is changing in many ways and most of it not good for middle and below home incomes, regardless of what color of skin you are or how you self-identify sexually.  I think no one really feels safe anymore. Not even the rich, because we common folk are coming to get them. (This is part of how I think a guy like Donald Trump gets elected, but another story, and I try to keep this blog politics free).

I try not to get on heavy topics here. I don’t write particularly well enough to ensure I am getting across what I am feeling so typically leave this space to  my gaming whims and child-like hobbies. Still, I do have a point coming up. And that point is that I finally had a moment where I understood how visible minorities have felt for some time about representation in games. Because it happened to me – finally.  The difference is that when I felt it it wasn’t a reflection of the struggles I have had in my real life, or a disappointing  ‘yet another time” I was made to feel small, or an outsider. It was an “A-ha!” moment. One of small triumph. Because I finally had what felt like a more honest and true understanding of the movement for more diversity in games that I have already supported in thought only. It was nice to be able to draw a direct experience to how that made me feel – so I could, for an instant,  and on a very safe level- have a small glimpse of understanding.

I am going to be clear here that I do not think it was wrong, and for me that didn’t matter – it was just a moment of realization and understanding. And because it is such a sensitive topic in general, as you can tell, I am really trying to be clear and cautious about how I present this, because I am petrified to have it come across the wrong way. One more table to set before sharing.

People who read here often understand by now that I am a terrible roleplayer. I do not roleplay. When I am engaged in a game (with a story for the most part) I insert myself into the story. I am not playing as Scott Ryder, I am a my real life counterpart, thrust into the situation by whatever backstory/justification I could think of. When I insert my present-day self into my games I find I can more deeply be moved by them and feel more closely to what is happening to my characters – because it is happening to me.

With that, and the rest of what I have written, in mind, Prey.

Screenshot Credit: The Verge (https://www.theverge.com/2017/2/15/14622050/prey-bethesda-softworks-arkane-studios-science-fiction-game-preview)

Having protagonists with clear Asian decent is progressive, right? I am unsure of how many First Person Shooter games that have. My immediate thought was “this was different – good for them!” and then I wondered how it would be accepted by the gaming community. And then it hit me:

“They don’t represent me. I don’t feel connected to those characters visually.”

That’s the AHA moment, as silly as it is. Those four words (They don’t represent me), probably felt by millions of non-white gamers over decades of being forced to play as white, male characters as the norm and I felt it for my first time. I haven’t even played the game and I doubt that racial selection of the Prey protagonist has any sort of real impact on the game either, but there is the realization that I understand it just a little bit more.

Funny to note I was afraid to write this post – silly, right? I spend so much time reading things on the internet that I felt that just presenting this thought could have negative consequences in this friendly little gaming space. Would people think I am racist because I feel those characters don’t represent me? Would they attack some of the phrases or words that I used? I don’t have much hope for the internet, of course. I do know that I am not perfect and am just a human being, trying to be cool to all other human beings, and learn and get better along the way.

I understand that people who are good at roleplaying might not understand this line of thought and relish the opportunity to be different people, sexes, aliens, etc. Any tips on how to build that comfort? I feel like I am missing out on huge opportunities. Even when I played PnP games in the good old days I stuck to male humans. Boring AF.

Guild Wars 2 : Reloaded

Very artsy fartsy. In that good way.

I have decided to go against my serial gaming nature and play the field a bit. Mass Effect: Andromeda was all I could play/think about and consumed all of my gaming time and energy. Right now I have several, small interests in some older titles and instead of committing to just one have decided to go where my mood fits me at that gaming time. The Division is my third person shooting itch, and Guild Wars 2, freshly loaded this morning, is my MMO itch. I am going in lightly and starting fresh. I last played over three years ago and played a Guardian to level 37.  I really wanted to play a Mesmer back then (thematically) but wasn’t doing very will with it. Hopefully it is better balanced and I can do fine as a fresh character.

I do love the art style of Guild Wars 2. I didn’t play the original Guild Wars and even trying to recall my prior experience with which Guilds are at War. I don’t remember that being a central theme at all come to think of it. I am sure it isn’t that important. I remember my gripes being pretty minor and maybe even petty (to a degree, of course) of the way weapons and skills worked in the game. Either way, time for a fresh start. Logging into a new character gave me several rewards that I have no clue are exactly for or what I can use them with, but that is normal for returning to a game after many years. Even if I don’t remember what they are for I am certain they are valuable / useful. I did get a costume right off the bat which was a bit over the top to put on, but hey, I look like a city guard! The things were appreciated and I am sure I will sort out what to do with them all in time.

City guard costume reminded me of this

This is one of Bhagpuss’s favourite games and I love visiting his blog and reading about his adventures so going to give this the good old college try. What is nice about MMOs is that the base familarity of them all are vanilla enough that you pretty much can find and correct all of your issues based on prior knowledge. A simple example of this is that my mouse was inverted at the get-go (which I dislike) but of course that is a quick visit to settings and a checkbox. The options were not under the picture of the mouse (which was keybinds) but simple enough to find while looking around.

If you have seen one, you have seen them alle

I believe that familiarity is helpful for all MMOs when you start. It’s like driving a car – they all look and feel different, but in the end they basically work the same fundamentally. I was surprised with the number of people in the starting area – especially during a workday, before lunch (I swear I was just testing to see if the install worked, IT snooping guy!) There were probably a dozen or so new characters running around. I was impressed for such an old game.I do also like the cinematic chats in the quests which is a nice bridge from pure text reading.

I need to spend more time at character creation…

I am off to the races in GW2 again and am looking forward to better exploring this game. With no subscription fee, and no hard end goals to race to (besides level, learn class, have fun) I can dip in and out and try to find the magic this game has to offer. To the GW2 fans out there – any starter tips to enhance my enjoyment?

The Division : Reloaded

I am still stuttering along looking for a new home. I almost bought MLB: The Show (I love baseball and it has been a few  years). I almost bought Horizon: Zero Dawn based off of Blognation recommendations. I almost bought Ghost Recon: Wildlands with it being a top seller and in a third party shooter mood. In the end of it all none of them jumped out to me as a ‘MUST PLAY NOW’ title and I decided to reload a game I didn’t get to finishing – The Division. I have three posts about The Division, one that uses an example of their ’emergent’ game play (2014) that made me question where new features come from – player demand, or designer curiosity. The second (2014) was questioning why they would want to compare themselves to Destiny (and subsequently failed as a comparison to Destiny, now in real time) and the third was when I was actually playing it – a year ago (2016) and what was holding me back from loving the game. Until I get a really hard motivation to play something in particular, this is what I am going to try.

I do look badass

Logging in shows that I am level 20 with almost 18 hours played. (Not sure where that picture gets 7D, 18H played – the outside menu says 18H. I have not played 7 days…) It also shows I am 61% through the main story line so I already have my main goal established. It will be nice to finish that. I remember fondly enjoying the main story arc but quickly reminded that The Division suffers from “that game that would be awesome as a single player game but need to make it multiplayer for a check mark and future revenue sources so will make it less good to fit that mold” immediately. The skinny of it is that an outbreak hits New York, and you are a part of a deep, undercover network of operatives who only get activated when all other support systems break down. It is a great premise. The types of things you get to do is clear out gangs, rescue hostages, support groups such as the police and JTF, re-establish services such as power (etc.) – all the while trying to solve who started the outbreak (and why). See? Told you it is a very cool premise.

It falls short on two main areas. The first is the forced multiplayer element. They have a nice map of New York. As we clear out parts of the city and support the Military and Police, those areas should stay “safer”, unless the various groups and gangs of criminals make a deliberate push. Working through “rescuing” parts of New York until the entire city is saved as you solve the mystery could be an award winning narrative. Instead, roaming gangs “repop” right outside your base every 5 minutes. It’s a waste of a setting.

Very welcoming

The second is the gear grind / bullet sponge effect. I am level 20 with blue and purple gear. (Simply saying there is blue and purple gear makes everyone reading right now understand the rarity quality. That is issue one right away). As a level 20 in decent gear, I went straight to the next story mission which has level 20 enemies. Level appropriate content with a fast travel option – hurray! I did half relatively smoothly and then hit a “boss” battle. The boss had 2 higher level henchmen with her. One took me over 400 bullets to take down.

Over. 400. Bullets.

If you build your entire game around a modern day premise then that needs to match up. I don’t care if you are wearing a bullet proof vest, there is not a bullet proof vest on the market that can take 400 bullets from an assault rifle at close range, (plus 4 grenades, did I mention that?)  before taking a guy down. That suspension of disbelief is at levels of ridiculousness. Once again, showhorning in RPG and MMO mechanics into an otherwise great game has a ruining effect. The way to “win” these battles isn’t to be tactical or a good shot. It is to unload a clip / use cooldowns (yes, cooldowns.) retreat far enough to reload clip, reset cooldowns, heal up. Unload. Run away. Unload. I almost ended up at the beginning of the map to take the guy down. Once he was down, I now have to run all the way back through the map to get to the end again to properly exit and “win” the instance/scenario. How that is supposed to be fun as a tactic is beyond me.

That didn’t take 400 bullets

The key is to greatly out level the content. In order to do that you have to hit all the side missions, etc. which isn’t so bad. But the pacing is horrible. Absolutely dreadful.

But yeah, I can stomach that for 39 more %. I think. Guarantee I am skipping all the DLC though. You can judge me for being that upset about the ridiculousness about it all but still want to play. There is a lot of good here. The graphics are great. The menus and information settings are very “alternate reality” and super cool. The setting is captured wonderfully. As you can tell from the pictures above, there are some really graphic moments but New York definitely feels under siege and I have a purpose in game. The gear upgrades and clothing options are fun. Modding out a weapon is fun and useful. I love the clothing options (chose a suit with a scarf – all of that is customizeable with things you find in the world). The regular gunplay and gameplay is fun, things are just broken on boss battles / “epic” enemies (which just shouldn’t exist). In Destiny I get it (aliens, monsters, etc.). In The Division you are just shooting humans, some of which may be monsters in actions only. The stories have been great (from tracking down other missing agents, to learning how the outbreak virus was distributed to the population, it’s all very good and I am connected to the world and the well-being of the people there).

I hear Ghost Recon: Wildlands keeps much of what is good about The Division but bakes in more realistic enemies, and I hope I am not wrong on that. In the meantime I am going to give The Division a bit more time and attention unless it is able to turn myself off of it completely. Solving the outbreak will come down to my willpower to battle bad design decisions, which in itself may be harder than saving New York.

Where to Next?

With Andromeda fresh in the books as the most satisfying gaming experience I have had to date I have 3-5 years to kill before the sequel. Plenty of time to try other games. I’m just torn on where to go so I thought I would reach out to Blognation to see what hidden opportunities may be out there. The shortlist I had in mind (and open to a longer list) is the following

  • HORIZON ZERO DOWN – I have a PS4 and know this is a pretty darling game right now, and well reviewed by Blognation.
  • SWTOR – I only finished the main campaign and unsubbed at the first expansion due to ME:A coming out
  • LOTRO – I have had several stops and starts in this game, and I don’t think I’d want to sub it until I built up enough comfort level that I may actually stick around – is it playable if you aren’t subbed to it?
  • SQUAD – the spiritual successor to Project Reality and I havent played a FPS in quite some time (Destiny was the last, which is now unplayable due to impending-exansion-itis)
  • FFXIV – free to play until level 35 makes me feel like this may be my best chance to give this eastern MMO another try.
  • THE DIVISION – I have heard there have been a swathe of improvements – I only got to level 25
  • STEAM BACKLOG – Because apparently that is always a thing
  • EQ – I have been logging in and poking around here and there… not sure why.. but there is an itch!
  • OTHER – I am totally open to trying something new. Most of those ideas are going back somewhere.

If you have a suggestion, and it’s an MMO/Online game you are playing please leave the server name and/or your ID in the comments (or my email if you want to keep it private) so I can has friends in game too. I am a lost explorer looking for somewhere to find right now. My serial nature of gaming really only gives me space to focus on one at a time, and I just don’t have a clear cut number one right now. All seem like an OK idea.

And oh, just for fun, this popped up on my “you posted this 4 years ago” Facebook memories, and figured it would be worth a share for Friday giggles.

MEA : So Long, For Now

I finished Mass Effect Andromeda before going on vacation (yes, another one) last week.

I can say I am fully and wholly satisfied with the entire experience it provided. I know that is not much of a surprise to people who have visited here often but I went in expecting not-so-good based on pre-reviews and walked out questioning the way games are reviewed and the impact of “me too” journalism. Heck, I actually support a Donald Trump-esque “Fake News” claim here. [omg what is wrong with me!]

It is a pretty bad sign when many people who actually played the full game are giving it glowing reviews, and professional review sites who need to look for holes in the product while rushing through a quick play through to write their 2000 words for pay missed much of what was good about it. I suspect that is more of a mark on what is going on in the review industry anyway, and I far prefer reading bloggers who I know are professional gamers over people who I know are professional writers.  It feels a lot like the movie review sites who give blockbuster movies bad ratings for not being Cannes-esque enough while actual movie-goers give it glowing reviews.  The audience must (should) be considered.

All that being said, of course there were things that could have been better. The larger plot wasn’t the strongest part of the game. Too many unanswered questions about the galaxy were left hanging. Bioware clearly took the approach of taking care of the you, the protagonist and your squad’s stories over what was going on overall. And because you feel closer to your team instead of the 100k in cryosleep it works better that way anyway. Still – it feels like they could have given more but will flesh that out in sequels and/or paid DLC.

one happy customer

I could spend several posts worth talking about the things that could make this game better but when you take the experience on the whole, the close to one hundred hours of enjoyable game play, the establishment of the people, the galaxy, the game play.. the sheer size and scope of the project is amazing. It deserves game of the year nominations, and should get them. It gets my vote. I mentioned it in a previous post but I don’t remember the last time I enjoyed myself in a game this much. It has been years.

So, goodbye for now Andromeda. Please bring DLC soon. The good news is that with a new galaxy the possibilities are endless. My Scott Ryder ended the chapter of this game with three simple words to his team:

“Let’s go exploring”

Yes. Let’s.

SAD-romeda

This is another one of those posts that I can’t share too much information without entering into spoiler territory. But I can share with you how a certain mission made me feel and that it elicited true emotions – happiness and sadness – and at the same time cemented my feelings that this is the best game I have played in recent memory.

There is a quest chain that starts early from Liam that he wants to start a movie night so the crew can unwind a bit. This is an ongoing mission full of small tasks including finding the right movies, snacks, drinks, (etc. etc.) – it spans several planets and several hours of the game is spread out between other missions where new options keep popping up as different squad mates learn of the plan and want to add their twist to it. Each has preferences and needs.

As I near the ending of the game this event starts building in my mind. With each quest I know it is leading to a “buddy” moment – of course what a great time to hang out with all of the characters I have spent sixty plus hours getting to know and enjoy their company. Like most BioWare games there’s some that you connect with right away (Peebee) and some that take more time (Liam). Some of this is due to certain companion missions not opening up until later in the game where I really built an affinity with them. I wish they came earlier so the naysayers of this game might have enjoyed it more. I also think that reviewers and people rushed through the main missions to complete the game so they can do a “proper” review would and missed out on so much of the non-essential missions (such as the movie night) which is where the characters are more fully fleshed out. The point is if you weren’t engaged in the universe to begin with they probably wouldn’t have had as much meaning anyway.

The culmination of the movie night was everything I had hoped it would be. It felt like I was watching a movie with my roommates in University and/or family members, and/or friends from the neighborhood. It had clever, character appropriate and fun banter between characters and ending with a tongue in cheek scene that made me laugh out loud.

When it was over I felt sad. Sad because I knew that my time in Andromeda was coming to an end. Sad because I felt very close to these characters in game. At the end of it all the best way to describe the feeling was when it was my last year of University and knowing many of my classmates would be moving back home, or going to work in a different city after graduation and I would not see them for a long time as I too head back to my real life. As such I am eagerly awaiting a sequel and some quality interim DLC – while the crew and people of the Andromeda galaxy continue to lead their digital lives without me.

Mass Effect Andromeda has not been a perfect experience. The culmination of this mission came pretty close.

Planets of Mass Effect

As I travel to new systems I can’t help but to explore all of the planets that are there. Part of this is due to the progression percentage at the top of the page (completionist, damn me!) the other part is the fact that I am so invested in this galaxy that I want to learn everything I can about it.

Part way through my play through I started taking photos of the planets. You can see someone – or better yet (most likely) some people had a fun time designing beautiful planets and creating short back stories for each. What can you see from space? What can you find there? What bits of history from  miles out are apparent through scans? This leaves the explorer in me curious if some day some of these may become playable through expansions and DLC. If not I still fully and wholly appreciate the time put into this small part of the game. It is nice universe-building.

There are no spoilers here so feel free to have a look. It won’t give away anything in the main game but will spoil the flavor text for you if this is something you would rather investigate on your own. This is not an exhaustive list, just some of the ones I have snapped during my adventures.

My personal favorite so far is Letapho, which moves a few inches closer to a black hole each year, and will eventually be consumed.

Happy exploring.

I installed a gallery plugin to test –  if you click on a picture down below it will open the gallery for easy viewing of larger images. I’d appreciate any feedback on responsiveness, etc of the plugin!

Mass Improvement Andromeda – Pacing

Mass Effect Andromeda is the best RPG I have played in the last decade. Now, to be fair, I have always had a soft spot for Sci Fi over Fantasy, and I didn’t even play others such as The Witcher Series (couldn’t get comfortable with the combat, turned me off of it right away). I also put barely 20 hours into Skyrim. That is why I am being clear that that is a strong “in my opinion” and from “my enjoyment” standpoints. Regardless – many people find a game that just clicks for them, and ME:A is one of those for me..

This doesn’t mean that I can’t wax poetically about things that I believe would have made the game better. This is a hopeless wishlist series because these things definitely will NOT change in the existing title – but I still think that they are good things to discuss to maybe introduce in sequels (please, gaming gods, let there be sequels) and perhaps even good lessons for future RPG designers. The Mass Improvement Andromeda (MIA) series is when I look at things that I feel could have been done in a better way, on all sorts of scales. First thing that could have improved was the introduction to the game.

pfft. pure voodoo yourself, non-white NPC made ugly by transgender feminist designer . (Sorry, been reading too much Metacritic lately).

Much has been discussed about the hectic MEA tutorial planet and first planetary exploration in the game, where humankind travels 600 years in cryo-sleep to start shooting at the first aliens they see on the first planet they crash on. This is a hectic, intense tutorial scene, where you are quickly introduced to the varied systems you will be playing for the next 50-200 hours – from movement, to scanning, to shooting and everything in between (but mostly shooting and scanning). No doubt the designers were trying to show what the game had to offer and felt that introducing the main enemy (the kett), the main mystery (revenant technology) and killing off your dad (making you the pathfinder) all had to happen in the first 30 minutes. It didn’t. Well, except the “kill the dad” part.

After that hectic-ness things slow down and the gameplay hits a strong exploratory and discovery pace. I believe this pace should have been in from the get go and alluding to the main enemy in a more nuanced and satisfying way. For example, when you crash land on the planet maybe find charred bodies, or find evidence of an alien race that looks militarized. Maybe some datapads with language you don’t understand that you can start investigating. Breadcrumbs that there is something out there and they may not be so nice, building suspense, until you finally get an encounter. The revenant technology discovery would have been plenty enough content on the first planet and allow you time to absorb what is going on, before introducing the second threat and major plot point. There was plenty of time to do so.

I suspect the counter argument is that today’s gamer would be entirely bored with that – that a payoff has to happen quick. I think it sets an unrealistic pacing expectation and throws too much to fully appreciate too fast and is part of the initial turnoff for many people who did not enjoy the entry into MEA. What is done is done, but hopefully in future iterations they pay closer attention to better, more suspenseful methods of introducing the plot.

For complete clarity – my sarcastic caption on the photo above is based on reading Metacritic reviews as I wanted to see why the game is scoring lower than I believe it should. Sadly, the review section is taken over by agendists and I was disappointed to read the types of comments attached to the low user scores that had nothing to do with the game parts of the game. I suppose this is the new normal now.

“When a company forgets why people play games, and instead pushes social agendas, they make games like Mass Effect Andromeda….”
“But what we don’t need are 20th/21st century earth social issues shoe-horned into a futuristic space fantasy…”
“This is what happens when Bioware hires based on ethnicity (so they can pat themselves on the back for their diversity) instead of actual talent”
“..it’s that bad, and that is without even mentioning the horrible radical feminist BS they just had to drop on this game.”
“Ugly characters and facial expressions”
“Everyone seems to be black, there’s no way to have a white or asian skin for your character ”

That’s a whole other discussion, and one I know I’ll never be able to reconcile with here on this blog or on the internet in general. It is a shame (for humanity reasons) that this is what the pain points of the game are being reduced to.

I Uninstalled Hearthstone Today

Hearthstone is a card game that I have had some great enjoyment with. The pace of the expansion packs has felt really rushed and clearly in the past three months they have been pumping out “I win” cards with each. This is somewhat understandable in a free to play format where they want to get paid. I do believe that you need breathing room for the playerbase to earn these cards “the old fashioned way” so they feel they can still play and be competitive with the whales.

Historically, the expansions have came out (in average) every 241 days – but not the new one. Pushed by declining revenues (my guess) they released the latest in half the timeframe – 126 days. I was just starting to feel good about competing with Gadgetzan decks. Now a whole new expansion is out, with new win conditions. I played a game last night that finally made me decide to stop playing. I was playing my C’thun Priest, a not very popular deck but a fun one if you can keep the game going a long time. With this deck I have been as high as rank 16 (the top 25% of Hearthstone players are rank 15 or above) so on that bubble of not being entirely terrible not really great either. I don’t play the meta-decks, I don’t play “competitively”, but I was having fun.

Last night I hit a warrior – I normally don’t like warriors to begin with – their “hero” power works (+2 armor) even if there is nothing on the board, where a priest needs damage against to effectively use the hero power. Turn 1, he plays this:

I have never even heard of that card, but it rewards this:

And that card is basically an “I win” card. I am also playing an “I win” card deck (C’Thun), but really, I need to get to the 15th round or later for the most part to make it happen – and I have to dig it out of a deck of 30, so it’s a late play. How many rounds could it take for them to get to their “I win” condition?

Six. Six rounds. There are so many taunt cards, and even more low taunt cards that he was able to play 7 taunt minions in 6 rounds.  IF it was possible to do enough damage (with an aggro deck, or whatnot) then maybe there would be an effective counter. Except they are all taunt cards, which means you have to clear them before doing damage to the player. You have to have a specific deck able to clear faster than he can play taunt cards before hitting his I win condition. In six rounds.

(Granted, six rounds is probably not normal, but it was still my experience so others are probably having it as well). Soon as he hit it, that early, and seeing what I had in my hand I knew the game was over. I just looked at the board and my hand, saw what was going on and realized there wasn’t a possible way for me to win. Not even if I was completely lucky. The kinds of cards that could help me in that situation (Reno, Brann, Sylvanus) were “retired” from standard play with the new expansion. I realized that this game is pushing too hard on revenue and not hard enough on preserving the experience or value of existing decks. This was somewhat obvious on the Gadgetzan expansion, but completely clear with Un’Goro.

It’s a shame – I paid over $60 for the game this year as I was having that much fun, so now they lose my long term, steady stream of revenue for the short term big sprints. I would have paid more if I had felt they were focused on improving the game. I like paying and supporting companies who earn my gaming dollars.

Seems I am not the only one.

Can anyone recommend a good, other card game to play on my phone when I drink port and smoke cigars in my garage? Hearthstone expanded itself right into an uninstall.

The Ties That Bind

ME:A is turning out to be one of the best games this year. When you cut out the bullshit complaints and rose tinted glasses (I went back and played ME 1-3 again – MEA is far superior in pretty much every way, except the mystery. More on that later.) it is a very well done game. The pacing for completionists works well – periods of intense action, followed by periods of conversation / relaxation – and you can jump in and out of each part at your own leisure. I prefer to do big sweeps of each (finish colonizing a planet, check in with my entire team, check in on the Nexus, back to my team, go to next planet) but I could easily do all of that in a short one hour play through  in much smaller chunks. The game gives you the freedom to enjoy and explore at your own pace. There is no imminent or pending threat that would cause you to do otherwise, like in previous ME titles. Something happened on the weekend in game that made me love it even more. I am going to reveal it without revealing any plot twists, but there may be tiny spoilers if you can read between the lines and it could impact your decision making if you have this top of mind on this specific planet. That is my gentle spoiler alert, and I will have a nice picture next before explaining the gaming event.

Tron-esque

Something happened on Kadara – well, two things, that made me nod my head in appreciation of great storytelling AND forced me to make unclear choices. First – heading into a conversation I finally had an “a-ha” moment where I was able to tie in a couple major plot arcs before it was fully revealed to me. I had sorted out a mystery that was, in many ways, right in front of me many times before that I didn’t quite connect with. Having that moment where it became clear made me smile and enjoy that this game has that much more to offer. I was finally getting ahead of the game, thinking about it, sorting through the mysteries before they were presented to me. When it was revealed in game I wasn’t surprised (and had a dialog option to indicate so, so it felt good doing that) but then I was forced to make two decisions quickly without having time to think them through. There are some “quick-time” moments where it gives you an option to do something with a fast timer – it is a yes/no option.  I didn’t have time to fully think through the decision but i went with my gut. Before I had the chance to really reflect on that decision ANOTHER quick-time game play option came up and I quickly made a second choice.  After they happened and the resulting effect of my choices were clear (which also would have been clear if I had had time to pause and think through) I felt guilt about the first and uncertainty about the second – I felt I had made two mistakes. They were mistakes I couldn’t go back on though, and my choices were mine – I would have to live with them. Maybe for years, if ME:A spawns sequels.

Down the rabbit hole

Of course, I COULD have loaded a previously saved game and made the other choice(s). I actually sat there and thought about it. I even went into spoiler territory to read on google what choice others made, but in the end I appreciated that I made those decisions and I should live with them and see what happens – preserve the game experience for myself. Not many times in many games do your choices matter. In Mass Effect Andromeda they do, and that is what makes it wonderful. The downside is that I am 60 hours into the game, and this really is the first time I was fully caught off guard. A few more of these moments would really enshrine the game as a RPG masterpiece. Perhaps if they had a few more of these kinds of moments earlier on in the game more people would have appreciated them before their reviews. I am being hard on it though, I didn’t get a single moment like this in Fallout 4, or other massive RPGs I have played. The expectation is just much higher, I suspect.

For every complaint I have read about the game there is such an easy counterpoint. I think the game is worse for people who were in love with ME 1-3 (which I was) because you are carrying the weight of 10 years of connecting to a title with 10 hours of a new launch. Yes, Garrus was my bestie too. In ME1 he was bland and mostly forgettable. In ME2 he got a cool scar and was a familiar face, and by ME3, after five years, two expansions, and 27 DLC packs with the Turian all I wanted was for him to have a safe and happy life in the Milky Way. It took years to forge that digital relationship, over hours of gaming, small talk, loyalty missions and what not. There is no way you can achieve this with new characters on a quick play though race to the end. I know I will have my ME fan card pulled for this, but the companion characters in ME:A are fantastic – better than the original ones in many ways, except the familiarity. That will come with playing through a trilogy. Vetra ME:A outshines Garrus ME1 in every way on a one to one, game to game, Turian to Turian comparison.

There are/were some problems with Andromeda, specifically the pacing – I think they could have introduced the Kett and the action in a far more suspenseful, memorable way, but compared to the amazing galaxy there is to explore and the story elements starting to shine through we have an RPG that is the tops in the series to date. I thought I was a fanboy before, but this game is just an entirely better experience than what came before.

Mass Improvement Andromeda

I haven’t had a chance to play for five days due to travel and responsibilities and I am missing the game in a pretty bad way. I have put some thought to what could make ME:A even better and the list is pretty short and also (one would think) pretty simple. These potential improvements keep coming to mind as I play. This will be a multi-part series.The screenshots are just for screenshots sake!

Hey! That’s not Garrus…

New dialog opportunities – quest/non quest highlight

When things happen in ME:A this often opens up a dialog opportunity(ies) with your crew. The challenge is that these events can be as big as a  major event on a world, or as little as being unlocked by a preceeding conversation. This leads to frequent “walk-arounds” to check in with each of your crew members to make sure you aren’t missing something. Normally, this isn’t so bad in itself as the new dialog happens automatically when you engage the conversation. There are two little quirks that you need to be aware of.

One, is that sometimes when that engagement is over it ends the conversation. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t another conversation to engage with that crew member, and you have to re-engage. Sometimes you can do this multiple times depending on what has been going on in the world. A little more natural flow from one conversation to the next would be better here, instead of start, they turn their back to you, then you engage again, they turn their back to you when it’s done, to re-engage. It would have been far more natural to talk about each.

The in game museum is a nice piece of Roleplaying potential

The second, and much more problematic (that I discovered quite by accident) is that in the menu system if there is a new conversation topic on the highest level it will be in white text. Once you use that option it turns grey. This is good and lets you know if  you have had a conversation with that person. The issue is if it is part of a sub-menu the main option stays grey but the sub menu has white text. You would not ahve a clue about this unless you check all sub-menus. Which, over several characters, is a pain in the ass. This is especially apparent during the “Crew” sub-menu where you can ask them for their opinions on other crew members. This changes based on in game events. I have missed many of these updates.

The best way to do this is an alert or menu option to show when these new conversation items are available, and whether they are mission based or just flavor/world building. I hate missing both, where others may be more interested on not missing out on new and/or additional missions in game.

Bare minimum, they have to at least highlight top menus in white if a new sub-menu dialog option is available.

The Secret World: Reboot Edition

Hat tip to our friends over at Massively OP, about The Secret World relaunching as The Secret World Legends.

So what is Secret World Legends? The official branding docs describe it as “a shared-world action RPG with completely revamped combat, a newly designed progression system, and updated visuals.”

I have long argued here that a game like TSW would be far better off single player, or as a lobby based game. When you save a town it can stay saved. It makes sense if mobs aren’t repopulating. I found the MMO elements of TSW as an impediment to enjoying the rich, single player experience they provided that was wholly bogged down by trying to be a MMO.

I also believe other games, such as SWTOR (especially), and even WoW in many ways would be better as lobby based games where you could solo RPG to your hearts content, and then join up with friends for repeatable content when it made sense and felt right.

Unfortunately the teaser trailer gives nothing and does not build much interest.

While I don’t have time for a brand new RPG right now, its a spring launch and I am going to make time for TSWL because I am wholly interested and curious if they got it right. I am also really hoping that stripped of  MMO shackles that this title can truly excel – it is such an awesome backdrop for deep and rich storytelling hindered by messy systems.

I can’t wait to try it, and I hope I am proven right.