Bullet Time Three

It’s that time again, time for a round up of what I’ve been doing. Are you prepared to dodge some bullets?

  • For the past week I’ve been working on NBI related projects more than anything. Curation of the NBI archives? Check. Working out the details of the League of Legends night that I’m hosting? Check (mostly). Recruiting some new bloggers? Check. Posting on Twitter, the NBI Forums, and other Forums? Check. Yeah, I’ve been busy. But it’s been well worth it. Speaking of the League of Legends night I’m hosting, I still need volunteers to play. I have some Riot Points to give out as prizes, so head over to the NBI Forums and sign up! Or you can get at me on Twitter (check the side bar).
  • One of the newest recruits to the NBI is my sister. She’s been writing for as long as I have. We used to try and collaborate on stories and all sorts of writing ideas when we were kids, and she has since become an aspiring novelist. I know that she will be able to share her experiences with writing with the other members and will be a great addition to the group. She also plays video games (though not as fervently as I do) and will have some commentary on that. Check out her page over here.
  • Another large chunk of my time was dedicated to trying to catch up on Game of Thrones. Yeah, I’m the last person on earth who’s gotten involved, but I’m enjoying it so far. It’s not that I never wanted to watch it, I just missed out on the beginning and never had HBO, so I’ve taken it upon myself to track down the seasons and watch them. I’m about halfway through season 3 at this point, so I’m almost caught up to present. Officially, Tyrion is my favorite character. I’m not sure why I have such an affinity for dwarves.
  • I got sucked into another Sale. It’s still going on for the remainder of the weekend, so if you’re a PS3 gamer, head over to the PSN store. This holiday’s Flash Sale contained upwards of 30 titles for $0.99 each, and although many of the titles were games that I’ve picked up (or were freebies via Plus), there were enough decent ones left to warrant spending $5 (minimum wallet funding amount). I mostly went after the TellTale Games titles that I partially didn’t know about or had never bothered with (I didn’t get started with their games until The Walking Dead). This includes Jurassic Park, Back to the Future, and Tales of Monkey Island. I recognized all of the IPs of course, but wasn’t really aware these were TellTale Games. I also picked up the PS1 classic CTR: Crash Team Racing which is a Mario Kart clone from back when I was in high school. I played the shit out of it back then, and already beat a few races last night. The graphics are waaaaay worse than I remembered, but the gameplay is still solid and fun. Lastly, I grabbed Tokyo Jungle. I have yet to play it, but I watched my brother-in-law try it (he also took part in the sale) and it looks interesting enough. In typical fashion, I’ll be going through the Telltale games one episode at a time and sharing my experience. Look for those posts coming soon.
  • Last Tuesday the Playstation Plus game was Castle of Illusion: Starring Mickey Mouse. This is known. However, it wasn’t until the day before that it was announced that for a limited time when you downloaded the game there would be a bonus. These ended up being the pre-order bonuses that were originally offered, and you can only get them until near the end of the month if you are a plus member. Otherwise the extras will be unavailable. What were the bonuses? The Sega Genesis version of the game, and a dynamic theme. Themes are cool, but I’m not much for Disney characters, so thanks but no thanks. But the OG version of the game is awesome. It all came back to me instantly when I fired it up. Playing through the first few levels I found the game I loved when I was a kid. Playing through the same amount of content in the remake gives a nice comparison of how it was/how it is now. The levels and structure are still the same, but there are differences a plenty. It’s nice to see the devs stick to the original formula but keep it fresh and interesting for today’s gamer.
  • Being on Twitter has been far more enjoyable than I once suspected. I’ve always been a “one-social-media-site-at-a-time” kind of guy, starting off with one of the first, Myspace. When I learned of Facebook I though it was ridiculous how so many more people were flocking to it rather than staying with the one they had been on for years. Eventually I bit the bullet because no one was using Myspace anymore. Facebook is still going strong and not going anywhere, as you can do a lot more with it than you can with sites such as Twitter. However, I feel like I get more feedback and more exposure through Twitter than I ever have through Facebook. I never did link my blog up to my Facebook account though, so perhaps that is why. I’m not abandoning Facebook just yet, but I use it a lot less  than I used to. It’s going to remain primarily personal or IRL, and Twitter is the social network of choice for my blog. Interesting how these things work out.
  • I didn’t realize that the Hearthstone seasons were going to be so short. I just saw a notification last night that there’s only a few days left of the “April Season”. Apparently seasons will only last a month now that the game is live. Perhaps the test seasons were also only a month, I didn’t really pay attention because beta stuff typically changes. I made it farther this season than I have before, despite not playing all that much ranked (and possibly helped by the small head start given at the beginning of the month). I’m sitting at rank 17 right now, and that’s sad. It’s still the furthest I’ve come, but I know I can do better. Just need more epics and legendaries. Too bad they take so damn long to farm. Otherwise it’s been dailies here and there. I am beginning to hate Arenas, as the Random nature of it ends up screwing me most of the time. The most wins I’ve ever had was 5, but that was a long time ago. Since then I haven’t been able to get over 3 wins, and more often than not I get 1-2 wins. It’s pathetic, and I can’t quite figure out what I’m doing wrong. In constructed deck play however, I will wreck you.
  • I was digging around through a box of computer stuff (hardware/old games) and stumbled upon a copy of Heroes of Might and Magic V, a game I forgot I even owned. There were a few other gems in there like Morrowind, but having been playing Might and Magic X, playing heroes sounded like fun. I only discovered the game yesterday, so I have yet to install it, but I’m planning on doing so. More on this later.
  • I’m starting on a cataloging project. I want to catalog all of the games that I currently own. Be it disc-based or digital download, I want to know what I have at a glance. This will include all games from PSN, GOG, Humble Bundle, and Steam. I think I’m going to make a separate page for it, and perhaps go further by labelling games as finished or unfinished. This way I can truly know what my backlog includes and maybe make a plan to finish some damn games!

That’s about all for now. Until next time.

I’m Charming

It’s Easter. So here’s some Death Metal. Happy Zombie Jesus Day!

I’m Charming – The Black Dahlia Murder

Yeah, I’m running off the rails
I’ve finally gone crazy
And the ground is spinning faster
Than my teeth could ever grind

I know it’s a shame
When success was to blame
But I can’t remember my name

In the absolute wrong
I have made this place to lay my head
A reoccurring nightmare
I never trust, I never rest

I’ve become another victim
Of this self-serving device
My cock does all the talking
My mouth now just for lie

I’m winding down to nothing
It suddenly comes clear
I’m winding down to nothing
Human smoke that fills the air

What can you believe?
That is the question
I have you on a string
Something yet up my sleeve

Bury me deep,
As we have an unborn child
In this world yet cold enough
To host this seed of endless ugliness

[solo]

In a sea of corruption
A wake of lie
So wildly I have stirred

I’m winding down to nothing
It suddenly comes clear
I’m winding down to nothing
A human smoke that fills the air

What can you believe?
That is the question
I have you on a string
Something yet up my sleeve

(My love is but a lie)
Always reaping what I have sown
(Taking you down with me)
To what degrees you’ll never know

If that isn’t charming enough, here’s the audio. Enjoy :P

#theblackdahliamurder #deathmetal #metal

Reblog: NBI F.A.Q.

Wondering how to get involved with blogging? Already blogging but want to be a part of the annual NBI event? Just want to be a part of a larger community? Here’s how!

Original post: NBI F.A.Q.

How do I join?

First, follow us on Twitter, Google+, Tumblr or RSS. That will keep you informed. Next go Here.

Who can join?

  • Bloggers
  • Vloggers
  • Streamers
  • Podcasters

…who game and write about games. That’s it. It doesn’t matter how new or old your blog is. Even if you’re just *thinking* of starting a blog, but don’t know how, joining gives you access to a community of bloggers with the skills and experience to help you get set-up!

What’s this all about?

Helping fellow game writers. This is a grassroots community effort coordinated by volunteers who simply care about the medium. We want there to be a place for bloggers to go when they need support. We also want to foster a sense of community, to be more connected, to network, to have greater access to people and ideas. The NBI is about community.

Why do this?

Like it or not, game bloggers are an important part of the wider game community. Game writers create the wikis, write the guides, lead the guilds, author the forum stickies, make the reviews and write the community news. All of these things together make up a significant portion of the framework upon which game communities are built. Take any of those things away and you’re slashing at the core of the community.

That said, it can be hard to *feel* connected. Writers usually go off into their own corners of the internet and pontificate about games. Alone. It’s like heading out into outerspace to establish a colony only to find you need to invite people from Earth to your new planet. It’s SO hard to get started as a blogger and as the internet grows more complex, there’s an ever increasing need for community institutions and resources. The NBI wants to connect us so that blogging isn’t such a lonely thing.

What can I expect?

  • An audience: If you’re just getting started and you join the NBI, you’ll immediately have access to something most writers don’t: an immediate audience, ready to listen to what you have to say and to join your conversations.
  • Resources. With so many veterans lying around like sacks of loot, you have access to invaluable advice. Not sure what software to use? Want to know how to build your audience? Curious about how to make money from your work? Need to protect that work? We can help you find answers to these questions and more.
  • Mentoring. Sometimes we just need a personal advisor, someone who we can consistently talk to about blogging and who can help us grow.

There’s also community events from time to time. Since we’re an all volunteer organization, the main NBI event happens but once a year. However, members of the community host their own individual events and challenges throughout the year.

How can I participate as a supporter, mentor or other volunteer?

Check out this page.

Where do I sign-up?

First, follow us on Twitter, Google+, Tumblr or RSS. That will keep you informed. Next go Here.

#NBI #NBI2014 #newbiebloggerinitiative

Party-Based Systems and You

There are several types of games with a party-based system. Most of these fall under the role playing game umbrella, which would include several sub-genres. However, there are other genres that also utilize similar systems, all of which lead to certain levels of customization. This can also lead to min-maxing, which in itself can be a benefit and a detriment. Min-maxing is defined as:

…the practice of playing a role-playing game, wargame or video game with the intent of creating the “best” character by means of minimizing undesired or unimportant traits and maximizing desired ones. This is usually accomplished by improving one specific trait or ability by sacrificing ability in all other fields.

Generally speaking, there is always a way to make your party the best it can be, regardless of if you are the only character controlling the party (single-player RPG), or you are playing a single character in party filled with other players (MMORPG). What kinds of single player games come to mind when you think of party-based systems?

First to my mind are old school JRPGs (Final Fantasy series among others)  and Tactical RPGs (Shining Force, FFTactics)  which typically use predetermined characters to form your party, all with set skills and abilities. Your customization comes in when it comes to what gear you equip on the characters, and sometimes what skills/spells you may advance. Some newer games that fit this mold are the Dragon Age and Mass Effect series, along with the game I’ve been playing, Might & Magic X. The characters are relatively set in their ways, though you can affect gear and skill choices. Min-maxing only occurs via gear/skills and party composition, which you cannot always control depending on happenings with the storyline.

On the flip side, if you’re playing a Massively Multiplayer Game, you can customize the hell out of your character, min-maxing every stat-line, but you cannot control the effectiveness and efficiency of your party-members. This of course, is why pickup groups are detested. Still, within the game’s parameters there is a “optimal” way to configure a party, and finding players in agreement with this view are easily found.

Other genres suffer from similar issues. Play a game of League of Legends, and try to mess up the games established “meta” in a ranked game. You will be reported. There is an established meta for a reason, and that is because the meta “works”. If you want to experiment with different group compositions, you had best do that on your own time, or at least that’s what the community expects of you (whether or not this is the best attitude for the community to possess is a whole other topic).

These types of attitudes are prevalent in every game I’ve played that has a multiplayer cooperative component. It doesn’t matter if you are cooperating against AI opponents or other players, you are expected to contribute to the best of your ability as if this is your second job.

It is human nature to want to be the best at something. To excel beyond the threshold which our peers have reached. Game designers have simply taken that desire and translated it into a facet of our lives, a place where we can all go and “be somebody”. This is why in games like Skyrim you are the perennial hero of the story, and you don’t need a party (though you can grab a follower who is more a storage container than anything). Stat lines give people something to brag about. Gear scores give people something to achieve, but also gives other people a reason to keep you out of their optimized group.

What inspired this post in the first place was M&MX. I posted my first foray into the game recently, and I found myself the very next day going back through the same exact portion of the game because I found out more about the mechanics, and thought that I had found a better overall party composition. So I re-rolled and played through the same content, and it turned out that this party didn’t do any better, actually a little bit worse through the first dungeon. This experience had me thinking about how customization via stats and classes is the wrong way of creating progression.

I’ve been guilty of enjoying and “voting with my wallet” for this type of progression since I was a child (although I was voting with someone else’s wallet back then). I played Shining Force and other JRPGs so many times with optimal set ups and then went back and played with sub-optimal groupings just to see if I could do it. I was all for gear+stat progression (or optimal party selection) through the Baldur’s Gates and Diablos and my first MMOs. It has come to a point where I think games like Ultima Online and Skyrim have the right idea in skill based progression, where skills level as you use them, and gear doesn’t have stats attached (outside of protection values or types of damage attached). Simplfy things to where the adventure matters, where your companions matter to you not for their gear or skills/class, but for their company and willingness to have your back.

We need a community of gamers who work together to solve mysteries or group together to survive. I like some of the ideas coming out of MMOs in development that have a more sandbox style. The concept of games like DayZ, Rust, and H1Z1 fascinate me, where people actually have to work together to survive and figure out if it’s a better idea to set up shop somewhere or wander around for a safer locale, with the threat of Zombies, the wild or other players who could potentially kill them, keeping them together. The original Everquest felt like this, but it was still rooted in a party-based system, where the optimal trinity was the standard.

Don’t get me wrong, I will always love a story-driven RPG like the classics have offered, where classes and gear and all that matter. But from a social aspect, I would prefer we got away from games like this that have a multiplayer component. I don’t see why there should have to be balance between classes. Why there should be classes at all? Why not start out with nothing, and as you do things you gain experience (literally, rather than a nominal amount) in that activity. Some people would naturally want to gather and build. Let them. People who prefer to hunt/fight can take up arms and protect the gatherers and builders. Leaders would naturally arise. Next thing you know cities are cropping up and wars are breaking out, all because everyone wants to be the king. Stay in a city and deal with the politics, or start a farm on the outskirts where you can raise a smaller group? You decide.

The technology is there. We are coming to a point where our social lives are on the internet. We are living our lives attached to keyboards/mice/gamepads. When we aren’t at home, our mobile devices. Most of our Facebook friends we never talk to, and our Twitter friends we’ve never met in person. So why not make our game worlds what we want them to be? Why not get this message out and continue to communicate with the developers via Twitter, Reddit, etc, so we can share our vision and they can create the worlds which we crave? Why not make a game that is one big social experiement? I think these issues are what gamers are trying to tackle, along with other social stigmas which others are much better at articulating than myself. This is why blogging and Tweeting and making your voice heard is so important.

Now I’ve gone and rattled on beyond my original point, but a storm is brewing. People are getting more and more involved in creating media. We ARE the media, and we are growing stronger by the day. Our voices are being heard, and we need to keep up the work! We might not win any world-peace medals, but in our own small way we are shaping the society of the future. Let’s keep it up.

#Community #Gamedesign #Gamingculture

Getting started in Might and Magic X

So as I mentioned previously, I picked up a copy of Might and Magic X – Legacy via Steam, motivated by the sale price. I haven’t touched a game in the series since M&M2, and that was a Sega Genesis port of the title. I have played a couple of the Heroes of Might and Magic games over the years, but despite being the same world/lore, it’s really unrelated. Whereas Heroes is a turn based strategy top-down game, the OG M&M is a first person party-based RPG. It’s still somewhat turn based once you get into combat, but it is a little more free form than it’s strategy counterpart. I was happy to find that the initial set up of your party is still fully customizable, though it does seem to be a little more streamlined from what I remember. There are options to form a default or a random group as well:

Might  and  Magic® X Legacy2014-4-14-2-32-17

Of course, I chose to create my own party, because random sounds a little dangerous and a preset lacks imagination. Here’s the party that I ended up with:

Might  and  Magic® X Legacy2014-4-14-2-47-10

My thought process was a Crusader tank (who can use a bit of magic), a Bladedancer for dual wielding DPS, a Runepriest which isn’t much of a priest but rather a mage like DPS class, and a Druid who will be my main healer, although she came equipped with damage spells to begin with. This may not be an optimal group selection, but as of right now it has worked for me. I did make a couple of mistakes with initial skill selections, particularly with my Druid — I didn’t select an initial weapon skill, so she started unarmed and I couldn’t use basic attacks. This was a little limiting, but thankfully upon leveling up you can add new skills, and I managed to get a decent dagger drop along with the skill for her. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Might  and  Magic® X Legacy2014-4-14-2-52-47

After the intro movie, you end up on this dock here. The town of Sorpigal by the Sea. There is some story here, but basically you’re a new merc in town and have to get some things sorted out before you can leave. Some quest pointed at other locations on the world map, but as I said, you are stuck in town until you solve a mystery.

Might  and  Magic® X Legacy2014-4-14-3-11-58

 

The sergeant at the garrison says that there’s a bunch of spiders down a well in the center of town, and accompanies you to deal with the issue.

Might  and  Magic® X Legacy2014-4-14-3-20-20

Entering the Spider Lair gave us our first tastes of dungeon crawls in this game, and combat. Combat is turn based in that you can only move if not otherwise engaged (if a mob is directly next to you it is impossible to move away), and if a mob is far enough away to not be able to hit you it is possible to hit them with spells/ranged attacks and kite to a degree. All four of your characters can perform an action during your turn, and then all enemies nearby (and they will surround you if possible) take their actions. In some cases you can burn down a mob before it has a chance to do anything, but then you come across a boss of sorts, and they will definitely take a little more skill to best. Health and mana management become a little tricky, and I’m sure that will only continue to become more prevalent.

Might  and  Magic® X Legacy2014-4-14-3-21-36

The cave was pretty straight forward. We killed many a spider and eventually found the queen.

Might  and  Magic® X Legacy2014-4-14-3-26-10

Upon defeating this baddie, we ended up finding some treasure chests and then returned to town. At that point it was time for me to call it a night, but I’m going to continue my run through this game in further posts.

#MightandmagicXLegacy #Singleplayer #cRPG