I Have A Dream: Making an Homage to Doom in Legend of Grimrock

There are few times in one's life when they know that they have a particular calling. This week, I found mine.

I recently updated Legend of Grimrock (which is one of my strong contenders for Game of the Year unless Hotline Miami affects my pleasure areas the way I'm thinking it will), and with that update comes the LoG Dungeon Editor. After sitting down over the weekend and playing around with it a bit, something struck me. Whether it was the actual physical object of my girl slapping me in the side of the head and saying "hey, let's watch this movie" or some type of metaphysical being of awesomeness digging into my ear and finding its way to the idea center of my brain, it hit me.

I must make an homage to Doom in the Dungeon Editor. The full game. All of it.

Now, there are a few issues with this. First of all, there are obviously none of the same monsters, instead replacing them with LoG's stock enemies. That's fine. The other issue is that the amount of space you have available to make these dungeons is a bit confined. You can do a LOT with it and cover some serious space, but some of the bigger wide-open areas just can't be at big and wide open. There also can't be higher tiers of elevation, as there is only ground level combat. This is all fine.

My general goal is to take all of these maps and translate them as best as I can to the Legend of Grimrock Dungeon Editor in order to recreate as much of Doom within LoG as possible. The idea of playing an Eye of the Beholder-style version of Doom tickles my pleasurable bits just right.

This project shouldn't take more than a month or two to complete so long as I have the time available for it. I'm also going to need to find a way to record some video to show people exactly what I'm doing and working on. In the end, though, I have a feeling that I can create something unique and fun to play while also offering homage to one of my favorite games, nay...THE reason I got into PC games in the first place.

Wish me luck!!!

4 Comments

How EA Is Turning A Bad Situation Into A Win

Over the weekend, many people became aware of a glitch with a promo code that EA had offered through a survey for their Origin service. The promo code in particular was for $20 credit towards a purchase, and even with some stipulations attached, this meant that a majority of games under $20 were free. The glitch was that people were able to use the code multiple times through specific exploits (deleting cookies, using different browsers, etc etc), thereby stocking up on a ton of games for absolutely nothing. Some called it theft while others called it a ploy by EA to get a larger user base. Many believed it would result in banhammers being dropped.

None of this is the case, as EA has come out on their forums and stated that the coupon is expired now and that they will honor all sales from the promo code. They went so far as to say "enjoy your games".

People have fumed about this over the last few days, and while they do have valid points, there are bigger things at stake here, and EA has now put themselves in a very advantageous position. I have a bullet pointed list to explain:

  • Holiday season is coming up. With all the new users on Origin, EA has the opportunity to try offering deals that can beat out Steam, thereby enticing users to buy from their service rather than Steam.
  • EA now has a better chance to test our their Origin service and servers, making sure that any potential kinks are worked out.
  • There is a solid opportunity to flaunt some numbers to third-parties in order to get their games onto the service, offering some form of competition against the monolith that is Valve.
  • With the plethora of negative PR surrounding EA over The Old Republic, Dragon Age 2, Mass Effect 3, Dead Space 3, Medal of Honor, the "Doctors" leaving, and so many other things, this is an opportunity for EA to gain an upswing of positive PR. Hell, this is the same company that was voted the single worst corporation in the world...OVER BP!

The problem on the other side of this scenario, however, is precedent. Now that EA has made this decision, it means they have set in stone that they will turn the other cheek when it comes to people exploiting their system. What happens the next time that they issue a promo code that is used maliciously? If they ban people or even cause some hoopla about it, the easy response for the user is "remember when we downloaded all those free games that one time and you didn't do shit about it?". It's a slippery slope to run along.

In the end, this is what I know: I finally get to play the PC version of Dragon Age Origins and use some other games I acquired to stress test my new gaming PC a bit more. Because of this single move, I think I might buy myself a game on Origin. The hook has been set.

23 Comments

How Guild Wars 2 Excels Where Other MMOs Fail

With the hype around Guild Wars 2 finally settling down and people finally digging into the world of Tyria, there have been many forms of analysis on the internet as to whether Guild Wars 2 has what it takes to make the long haul and continue remaining worthwhile beyond the initial level 80 grind. In rebuttal to that statement, I say "the first game is still going strong, so why wouldn't the second one?" Why is that? The reason is simple: Guild Wars 2 does what most MMOs won't or don't, and because of this, it has excelled beyond many of them.

That's not to say that Guild Wars 2 is a perfect game by any stretch. Then again, I wouldn't peg any other MMO as a perfect game. Instead, I would say that Guild Wars 2 takes a "road less traveled" approach to its general design aesthetic. One of the first places you can notice this would be in how it handles travel around the world. Rather than offer up flight paths that transport you from city to city, they offer waypoints that you can find throughout the world and use as a form of fast travel. Some will complain that the loading screens can cause the world to feel disjointed, but the upside is that the loading screens are generally much shorter of a wait time than a flight path can be. There are not enough fingers and toes on my body to count how many times I've heard people complain about waiting on a flight path to get them where they need to be. While part of an MMO is to immerse yourself in this giant world that has been created, gamers also have a general displeasure towards waiting to achieve a goal. Therefore, this waypoint system gets me where I need to be as quickly as possible so I can get back to adventuring, not watching the world pass by underneath me as I wait...and wait...and wait.

These waypoints are also used as your "graveyard". Once you die, you can resurrect back at a waypoint. There is no corpse run. While some games like Vanguard and Everquest made corpse running an integral and immersible part of their worlds, corpse running in general can be annoying as hell when it isn't necessary. Moreover, each zone in Guild Wars 2 is so massive that it would cause people to travel for quite a while. Again, looking at the design aesthetic of the game, it's about getting you back into the adventure as quickly as possible. They want you to spend your time PLAYING THE GAME, not corpse running and flight pathing. It's a breath of fresh air. Are they the first to do these? Not necessarily, but they handle them incredibly well.

Here's another brilliant piece of design: overflow servers. Most MMOs will have you wait in a login queue, watching what feels like an arbitrary number tick down over time while you wait to get into your virtual world. Guild Wars 2 instead uses the game world itself as the login queue. If the number of people on your server has caused it to be "full", you are put into this overflow server with multiple other servers' worth of people. The benefit? It's the common theme that we see with the previous two features I've mentioned: they want you to play the damn game! You can still do world events, dungeons, event quests, kill mobs, craft...EVERYTHING that you can do on your own regular server. The only issues with the overflow server is that there are multiple overflows. Therefore, if you want to be partied with a friend who is on a separate overflow, it can get a little dicey. Generally, waiting until you are both on the actual server is the best bet there.

Even then, Guild Wars 2 is an MMO where you might not even find yourself partying up very often. This is because of the general structure of questing and leveling up. Instead of the general "exclamation point above someone's head" scenario to designate that there is a quest to pick up, all questing is handled through three methods: story quests (which are instanced and focus on your own character's story), public events (which are the same as public quests, but they are your primary form of quests), and world events (which randomly show up and can either succeed or fail to unlock additional world events afterwards). The stories that unfold through your story quests are generally pretty unique amongst characters, and the voice acting is pretty top notch. The system of public events works incredibly well for general questing and leveling. Yes, there will be quests where you'll do arbitrary things like "put on a cow disguise and do these random things" or "hey, take this water bucket around and fill up some water troughs". If you have no investment in the world, this stuff will seem menial and dull. If you like a little bit of crazy variety in your questing and take in the reasons for doing these different tasks, they fit well within the world. Generally, the events that make the most sense are "go and kill these guys for us". However, it's not an instance of "talk to some random guy who is too lazy to do this shit himself". Instead, you actively see NPC characters participating in these events as well. It helps to make it feel less like the laziness example and more like a world that is alive and aware of its necessities for survival.

The world events is where the game shines, however. When you enter specific areas, a world event can pop up. Many times, it will tell you something like "defend this area" or "kill the shit out of these muthafuckers for us". Again, NPCs will usually fight alongside you. As you complete that world event through success or failure, it can lead to another event happening. The thing is that failing an event can have some negative repercussions. For instance, you can completely lose access to a town until the next time that world event pops back up. A primary example of this would be in the Town of Nageling, as it will be taken over and the gates will be shut down when it gets invaded. You'll have to kill an onslaught on enemies, followed by a particularly nasty boss monster at the end of all the defending and/or assaulting. If you fail or don't complete it, Nageling is generally shut off from the public. It's not always a CRUCIAL thing when one of these failures happens, but it's generally disheartening for the player. When you've become invested in the world, you don't want to see something fail. You want to see triumph. Some of these world events can actually lead to specific boss fights that you otherwise couldn't easily reach, and they generally feel both dynamic and like a grand adventure. You feel like a hero when you participate in most of them.

Speaking of grand adventures, another feature where Guild Wars 2 succeeds is in rewarding the player for generally exploring the world. Within every zone, you will find multiple different "collectibles": Waypoints (your fast travel places), Vistas (think of the spinny camera highpoints of Assassin's Creed), Points of Interest (areas of lore within the world of Tyria), Skill Point Challenges (they allow you to unlock additional skill points for your skill tree), and Tasks (these are your public events). Finding any of these is worth a good chunk of XP, and they generally give the player incentive to scour every last inch of a map before moving on to the next zone. It gets you familiar with the world around you, but it also helps build the initiative within the player to look at this game differently: it's not about grinding, but rather about exploring and adventuring. Sure, there is a level cap to hit...at some point. However, there has been a tireless amount of time put into creating this gorgeous world, and they WANT you to find everything. Moreover, getting every "collectible" in a zone will unlock a chest for you which generally contains goodies like uncommon or rare loot, boosts for things like XP/Karma/Magic Find/Speed, things of that nature. Therefore, ArenaNet does something that other games don't: offer incentive to immerse yourself into their world. Mind you, this could feel like a cheap ploy to make you explore the world, but it rarely feels that way. There's a general excitement upon entering a new area or uncovering a new portion of your map, as the world design is just jaw-dropping with how much detail the developer put into each design decision.

Throughout all of this adventuring, there are other things that you may take for granted at first but will eventually feel refreshing. Just look at your inventory bag. There are two options available within the bag: "Deposit All Collectibles" and "Compact". These should become industry standards. The first will automatically send all crafting materials or gems in your inventory to your bank, while the latter will pull everything you have into closer empty spaces, making the search through your inventory less of a hassle. Even then, if you really want to find something in your massive inventory, there is a search bar in your backpack to find exactly what you want. Ingenious all around!

There is also no "trade" window. Essentially, when you want to trade, you will instead use the mail system. Mail arrives instantly no matter what is being sent, and it's also how you'll end up collecting the money you get from either trades or your public event rewards upon completing them. This is something that could be abused: what is the protocol for trading in this kind of scenario? Generally, the community in Guild Wars 2 is a good group of honest guys, but there's always going to be that bad apple that spoils the whole bunch. Luckily, reaching customer support to report something of this nature isn't much of a hassle, and they are generally decent about replying to these types of things in a timely fashion. Moreover, the economy of the game is so low (having 5 gold pieces essentially makes you a god to most people) that losing out on a couple of silver for a day or two isn't going to cause much sting in your pocketbook, but your confidence in community may waver a bit.

Another nice feature is that anyone can gather anything when it comes to ore, plants, leather, and other types of crafting materials. This helps in two distinct ways: it means that everyone can have a way to make money and thusly keeps the economy of these commodities relatively locked down in terms of its pricing for private sale, and it means you can always use these materials for bartering with other characters when money isn't much of an option. Moreover, those gathering nodes are not a "first come first serve" type of system, so you will always be able to gather from an ungathered node, even if someone else is collecting from it. There is the potential for abuse on this from gold farmers and such. However, with the economy being so low and having the option to buy gold with real money through the game's microtransaction store for a rather reasonable price, it seems like gold farming is all but dead weight in the game.

"WHOA WHOA WHOA, MICROTRANSACTIONS?! YOU CAN BUY GOLD IN THE STORE?! THIS IS PAY 2 WIN!"

Calm your jets, Kimosabi. Guild Wars 2 is not a "Pay 2 Win" just the same as it is not technically a "Free 2 Play" game. It's a Buy 2 Play with a vanity store of microtransactions. If buying a baseball cap or some aviator sunglasses is going to all of a sudden make someone down a giant dragon quicker, then you can start exclaiming that shit. Yes, you CAN buy gold by spending real money to buy "gems", then use those gems to collect gold. However, it also goes the other way: you can spend your in-game gold to acquire gems. In turn, ArenaNet has offered a way for the game to be completely self-sufficient without needing to spend a dime beyond the initial $60 game purchase. If someone wants to give them more money, then that is their own personal prerogative. That doesn't mean they are "winning" any more than you. They will just look cooler than you.

As a matter of fact, they don't even really allow higher level players to automatically win in lower-level areas! Thanks to a smart level scaling system, high level characters will be scaled down to the level of an area. Therefore, if you are level 70 and go into a level 20 area, you'll be scaled down to level 20. Now, as far as we've noticed, it seems that this scaling only applies to your personal character stats and not the gear that you have equipped. Therefore, you still get a slight edge over an actual level 20 and feel that power in your character, but it generally evens out pretty well. What makes this level scaling even more interesting is how future updates and expansions could work. Since your character gets scaled down, it means that ArenaNet doesn't have to solely make new zones catering only to level 80. They can make a level 30 zone and it works because you will get scaled down, meaning the content can still present a general challenge.

Because of this level scaling, it also makes dungeons hard as hell. It's a whole new ballgame in learning how to approach something like a dungeon, specifically since there is no dedicated healing class. There is a lot of crowd control necessity followed hand-in-hand with knowing your class, your weapons, how to evade attacks properly, and generally using your environment to your advantage. This means that you not only use the terrain within fights, but also what the terrain has available in terms of items. Upon first fighting Vassar and Ralena (the twins boss fight) in Ascalonian Catacombs, you'll find that you die pretty damn easy. However, once you realize that it's because you don't have one person being dedicated to throwing boulders at Ralena while you beat the shit out of her lover, the light bulb clicks in your head: these fights are about more than beating the shit out of someone. Some of them are pure tank 'n' spank, but the majority of dungeon fights require some thought and knowledge. It's a nice change of pace from the rather simplistic mindset of other MMOs when it comes to dungeon design.

Last but not least, there is the shining gem of Guild Wars 2, the reason you want to play the game: WvWvW. That incredibly awkward-looking anagram stands for "world versus world versus world", which is the main PvP mode in Guild Wars 2. The general idea is similar to what some other games have attempted (like Warhammer Online): have one server face off against another in objective-based battles on huge battlefields and the winning side will gain benefits for dominating. Luckily, Guild Wars 2 actually makes it work. There's something incredible and visceral about seeing forty people from one server turtling in a garrison to fire off ballistas and drop burning oil on top of the invaders at the gate, all the while the opposing force is building catapults and battering rams in the hopes to breach the enemy walls, storm the garrison and lay waste to everything inside, then claim the territory as their own until it again becomes contested. The whole experience is visceral and exciting. A flow of giddy violent joy sweeps over you when the gates come crashing down. Granted, Yak's Bend happens to fucking WRECK SHOP in WvWvW (seriously, we are almost completely uncontested in our awesomeness). Nonetheless, it's still exciting as hell to play.

Overall, there is no "revolutionary" thing about Guild Wars 2. It's been stated by multiple people, and I can reiterate it. Some have called it "iterative", and I don't think that can necessarily be contested either. Personally, I like to think of it more along the lines of these two words: "refined" and "different". When playing the game, it's the two words that constantly pop into my mind.

Hopefully this has helped you understand why there is such a fervor around the game in general. There are those who won't enjoy it, and that's more than okay. However, that doesn't mean that ArenaNet hasn't crafted something unique, enduring, and entertaining. Many things in this game should quickly become genre standards, while other things should just remain within the confines of Guild Wars as a whole.

Until next time...piece.

27 Comments

Waiting in Antici................................

......................pation.

Guild Wars 2's 3-day headstart is on the horizon. There's an energy of excitement in the air around our store this week. Many of us who are now friends met through our mutual love of the first Guild Wars (and subsequently, World of Warcraft as well). There was something special about Guild Wars, about how we essentially had freedom to play it whenever we wanted without worrying if we were wasting money on a subscription. It's something we are all looking forward to feeling yet again.

In the original, my main was a Warrior/Necro. Coincidentally, my brother played as a Warrior/Monk, and we did a LOT of Drok's runs for people (thereby making shitloads of money). Aside from that, our group of friends also ran a lot of Sorrow's Furnace trying to get perfect greens, played a lot of PvP, and did a lot of Elite skill capturing. In short, we never felt like it was a grind because we could spend a couple of hours with the game, feel like we accomplished our general goals, and then move on to something else. Guild Wars was the "MMO" where you didn't try to plan your real life around the game, but planned the game around your real life. It was the odd man out, the middle finger to the industry saying "we'll do it our way, and we'll be successful at it".

Sadly, many of us quit playing some time after the launch of Factions, namely because we got sucked into WoW way too much. Since then, we've tried multiple different MMOs - Warhammer Online, DDO, Rift, and SWTOR are the main ones, but none of them were nearly as entertaining as our time with Guild Wars. In short, we were never looking for a game to replace WoW, not even one that was better than WoW. We didn't hold WoW to nearly the high standard we held Guild Wars. WoW was a job, while Guild Wars was always pure fun.

So we sit here...and we wait... Guild Wars 2 is on the horizon. We'll all be joining the Yak's Bend server to be alongside the Giant Bomb community as we explore Tyria, fight the forces of evil, and maybe draw penises in the general chat. We hope to see you all there on Saturday.

Until next time, piece.

P.S. - I'll be making a Charr warrior named Finlee. If you guys feel the need to throw me a friend request, go for it.

55 Comments

Sales slump in video games accompanies shift to mobile

Forgive the post on this. The local newspaper wants you to subscribe to their online site...which is kind of stupid IMO. Anyways, this is just a way for me to have the article available if need be. If you want to read it, go for it. I've got quotes somewhere in there, but everything is relatively out of context because THE PRESS. It's always interesting when your words are twisted to make it sound like console gaming is struggling when it's still very much thriving and just as the end-of-life-cycle for the current consoles.

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The current state of console video gaming like Xbox and PlayStation could make the ever-ebullient plumber Mario hang his head as the mobile app Angry Birds and its kind are blowing up more than egg-hiding pigs.

That $65 billion industry presently is mired in an extended sales slump. Video game hardware and game sales continued a seven-month slide in figures released this month by market researchers NPD Group and sales of consoles like Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Nintendo’s Wii and other hardware have dropped 45 percent drop from last year.

At the same time, games created for mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets are tallying impressive sales and downloads. In only three years, the game Angry Birds, in which a player slingshots birds to destroy green pigs, has topped 1 billion free and paid downloads.

Colton Russell (right), 19, and Dustin Jackson (left), 18, play computer video games at LanSharx Video Gaming.

Rod Aydelotte / Waco Tribune-Herald

Independent game developers are finding ways to distribute their creations directly to fans rather than trying to win the attention of game company giants such as Activision Blizzard (creator of Call of Duty and World of Warcraft), and Electronic Arts (Madden NFL, The Sims).

Fans intimidated by the $50 and $60 price tags of new console video games are finding mobile games selling for $5, if not offered for free.

“There’s been a huge shift from console to mobile,” Joseph Dolan said, who teaches video game creation at Texas State Technical College.

TSTC’s game development and design program, in fact, now requires students to create and publish a mobile game as a degree requirement.

The move to mobile and how downloadable games are sold online mean new opportunities for independent game designers and developers, who can release their own games directly.

Mobile games are more likely to be what Dolan calls “instant gratification games,” which a person can pick up and play for short periods, such as while waiting in a doctor’s office, standing in line or other time-consuming activities.

But he explosion in mobile gaming hasn’t affected business at Waco’s videogaming center Lansharx, which offers 20 Xbox stations, 40 PCs, high definition monitors and fast online connections that can make all the difference in multiplayer versions of first-person shooters.

Assistant manager Josh Williams, 30, said the 7-year-old business has found a steady customer base thanks to the center’s focus on family-friendly gaming. “Word of mouth has done good for us,” he said. “We still do tons of parties and have overnight lock-ins. We have dads and their sons, dads and their daughters.”

While mobile gaming puts games literally in the palm of one’s hand, it’s hard to share that experience with others through a smartphone. Serious gamers still enjoy playing in front of others who cheer them on — or diss them good-naturedly.“We’re still about the social aspect,” he said.

The rise of online gaming has reenergized console gaming at Lansharx, Williams pointed out, thanks to a flood of new games from indie developers. League of Legends, one such game, has a loyal following at Lansharx with players who feel it’s a more challenging fantasy role-playing game than Activision Blizzard’s enormously popular World of Warcraft.

Lansharx’s group of core gamers turns over every few years with new, younger players replacing older ones who move on, Williams said. That suggests that casual gaming won’t replace console gaming any time soon — particularly since Microsoft and Sony both boast they’ve sold more than 50 million Xboxes and PS3s.

Baylor University film and digital media professor Cory Carbonara believes the present transition in gaming has opened the door wide for young programmers and game developers, with technology suggesting avenues of future game play such as wearable games.

Carbonara, who works with video gaming with fellow FDM professor Michael Korpi and assistant professor Dan Shafer, sees promise in two fields: haptics, or wearable devices that provide feedback through vibration or other sensations, and augmented reality, in which devices add information to an existing environment.

Google is developing glasses with lenses where information is projected. That could be used to turn everyday objects into game icons or real-world locations into game environments, moving games from handheld devices into the open spaces of the real world, he said.

That day may be closer than you think: Baylor Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III is presently working with the FDM division on a project that employs Google Glasses to help a quarterback learn the opposition’s defensive setups, Carbonara said.

A quarterback would wear the glasses in practice, seeing — a la Madden NFL — where the defense is most likely to position its players on certain plays.

If that works, expect to a see a whole range of new gaming applications.

1 Comments

I Know How Men In Exile Feed On Dreams

My name is Josh, and I have a confession to make.

It's something I've needed to say for a long time and just admit to...

I don't play most RPGs for the story. Verbally berate me if you must, but first, at least hear me out on this.

I have made it no unknown quantity on these forums that I'm a loot whore. It probably plays into the collector side of me: I need to have ALL of the things ALL of the time. It's a syndrome or a complex or some stupid shit like that...or at least that's the excuse I'm going to use. Due to all this hoarding nature, it makes hack 'n' slash games (particularly ARPGs) thoroughly satisfying to me. All I have to do is left-click a mouse or spam X a bunch...and you are going to GIVE ME SHIT?!

If life were only so easy...

Moreover, stories in RPGs are typically delivered in one of three or four ways: text boxes, cutscenes, talking heads with creepy eyes, or dialogue trees. Most of them are uninteresting blabber to me, filler material to try and flesh out the world where they couldn't flesh it out in a more visual manner...or hell, just deliver that shit to me while I'm running around killing everything in sight.

No, I play most RPGs for the mechanics, the leveling up, looking badass with a big fucking axe and cleave fools in the head. It's not necessarily the whole "carrot-on-a-stick" thing. It's just that I like the part where I actually PLAY the game. I play a Barbarian/Fighter/Warrior/Marauder, and when I do, it's usually as a tank. There have been a few times that I've tried to psychologically link me wanting to have the shit kicked out of me to my real life, but unfortunately, I don't get the shit kicked out of me. Therefore, I think it's the opposite side of the coin: I want to be indestructible. *CUE STREET FIGHTER IV THEME*

All of this is leading to the following: I put down the $10 to get into the closed beta for Path of Exile. A friend had informed me of the game a while back, and after looking at it a couple of times, I had some anticipation for the game. It wasn't like I was drooling onto a bib that was attached to me because I kept salivating for the game's release (which I'm sure someone could Photoshop in the worst ways). I was interested.

Last weekend was the open beta weekend for the game, so I dove in to see what the fuss was about. What I played over the course of five levels (in character progression, not actual territories) was capable of sinking its teeth into me...hard...and the pain felt gooooooooood. This is a game where mechanics are king. I hated Final Fantasy X, but I loved the Sphere Grid. It's in here. I want to leap in on my enemies, shield charge towards them, and then once their dead and lifeless bodies are surrounding me, I want to spam a button to make all those bodies explode in order to make the entrails flying everywhere deal damage to the enemies that keep swarming me. It's in here. I want to go from looking like a stranded waste of life to a revered badass that will pillage the village and trash the scene *CUE COWBOYS FROM HELL*. It's in here.

Beyond that, Path of Exile does some ingenious things in order to offer a slightly fresh perspective on the ARPG genre while also preventing annoyances in the game. Gold spammers are a general nuisance that many would love to see out of games permanently, especially ones where the economy is based heavily on the players. Diablo III tried to combat this with allowing players to sell gold themselves, and Guild Wars 2 is supposedly offering the same thing. Meanwhile, Path of Exile has taken a different turn and said "NAY, THERE WILL BE NO GOLD IN YONDER GAME! YE SHALL BARTER, FUCKHEADS!"

So it was written, so it shall be done! You barter things such as your Scrolls of Wisdom (read: Scroll of Identify) and various orbs, armor scraps, blacksmith whetstones, etc in order to buy things from the vendors. Is that essentially the same as gold? I guess, in its own way. I liken it more to something like the honor badges and such in World of Warcraft...except it's the ONLY currency.

There's also the fact that your skills are determined based on what gems you have socketed to your gear. All of those skills will level up through experience gained by killing enemies. This reminded me a ton of the AP Crystal system in Final Fantasy IX, which again...I fucking loved that mechanic.

Truly, Path of Exile does the mechanical part of making an interesting game correctly. Is the story worth it? I don't know, maybe. It's dark as hell, pretty as fuck, and smooth as butter when it comes to performance. Sure, it's a closed beta, so who knows how many people are playing? If it was the 10 million that bought Diablo III (or whatever ludicrous amount that bloodsucking soulless beast sold), I'm sure the performance would be crippled hard. That is not the case, however: in the time I've played the game, I saw two instances of server lag issues...and they were so minor that I don't even know why I fucking mentioned it.

So, for anyone who didn't read all of that, here's the TL;DR version!

You should throw in the $10 to get some closed beta action on Path of Exile. It's fucking magnificent so far, and from what I've read, they are making significant progress on a regular basis. The game will be free-to-play when it fully launches, and the $10 is going towards development costs. You'll get 100 phony bucks of whatever their "real money currency" is in the game for you to hit up those microtransactions, but they've stated MULTIPLE times that the game is NOT pay-to-win. They detest it.

Until next time....piece.

5 Comments

The Trouble With Being Fickle

The Steam Summer Sale is rounding the corner, coming to a close. Having started with a $50 budget, there is still $30 left on the account...and the question is this: why is it so hard to pull the trigger on these prices?

For those unaware, the first Steam purchase on my account (that wasn't a free-to-play game like Super Monday Night Combat) was Titan Quest Gold at the beginning of the Steam sale. Yes, I had never played the game. It's been quite enjoyable so far. Yesterday, I picked up Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes, a game I had purchase on XBLA and just never really got around to playing much of. That game is also rather pleasant (to the point that it led me to playing way too long last night and going to bed way too late).

Games like The Binding of Isaac, Torchlight, and many others are sitting there with price tags under $5, and yet every time the mouse hovers over that "Add To Cart" button, it finds a way of going back to the Store button and surfing some more. Part of it could be because it's the end of the Steam Sale and I feel like I've missed out on some good stuff. The other part could be my qualms with Steam as a whole. I'm not a fan of DRM, and if these games were available on GOG, I would pick them up there instead. Torchlight is now on that service, but for $12 more than what it is on Steam. I'm actually having a debate about getting BOTH versions of it.

There's also a part of me that wonders just how much I'll play any of these games. In the past, my hobbies became something where I collected and collected, buying without much care for what I was spending the money on. I HAD to have that 3-disc Criterion Collection copy of Brazil or that hard-to-find copy of Flesh-Eating Mothers on DVD. If you gave me this same $50 in a used CD store when I was a teenager, it would've taken me two hours to walk out with over 30 albums, but the whole $50 would be gone.

Maybe it's just that I've become more fiscally responsible in my age (I turned 30 in May). At the same time, I just spent over $100 on Heroclix last week! Is that what the problem is? I don't want to spend money on something that isn't going to gain any value? I mean, of the Heroclix I bought last week, they are worth more than what I paid for them out of the box.

So I sit here...with a browser window open...staring at these prices and constantly asking myself "why can't I just buy it?" Even with games that I know are good and I've enjoyed immensely (*cough* GRANDTHEFTAUTO3 *cough*), I ask myself "I played it once already, would I play it again?".

It's all impulse buying, and I think I've become immune to it.

Is this a common problem? I listened to on the latest Bombcast, and he talked about how he can't understand why someone would ask if a game is worth $3. It kind of made me feel not only fickle, but like a bit more of an asshole than I usually am. However, I want to get the most for every penny that I spend. Will I play Binding of Isaac enough to actually warrant having purchased it in the first place? Moreover, I'm working within $50, not whatever crazy amount the crew can throw at Steam.

In a time where people feel the need to throw money around everywhere for whatever they please, I'm trying to stretch those dollars as much as possible. Right now, I just switched over and Dead Island is $10. I've played some of it on Xbox 360, and I know I love it...but is it worth getting on PC? Are the bugs still there? Would I sink significant amounts of time into the game, or would it merely hold my interest for a day or two before I switch to something else? Could I just spend this money on Heroclix pieces, which I play significantly more?

Anyways, #firstworldproblems and all, right?

Until next time, piece...and hope your Steam Summer Sale picks have been fruitful.

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When Mechanics Bump Into Immersion

I bought Amnesia: The Dark Descent. Directly from Frictional. DRM-free games make me happy.

Anyways, after seeing what Patrick had to say about his time with Amnesia on Twitter and hearing his comments on the Bombcast, it felt like a necessity as a fellow horror geek to finally pick the game up and make my way through it. I have a question for everyone that has played it: was there ever a point when you asked yourself one of these questions:

  • Do I continue going into this pitch black darkness which I know is going to outright kill me so that I'll probably just have to do it all again...only to die again?
  • How long will I be walking around before I'm less scared and more pissed off that it's pitch black and I can't find this one last fucking chemical?

Essentially, I am now stuck in a rut because the game's mechanics are now beating up against the immersion in this game. See, I know this is a game with an objective and mechanics at play. A gamer's natural instinct is to use these mechanics in a way to benefit them to get to their objective. I lit torches to see my way through in order to conserve my lantern oil. Something happened (either I picked up a chemical or the monster showed up or something, can't remember exactly) that blew the torches out. All of them. All of those tinderboxes I used...wasted...and I have no more. Therefore, I turned on the lantern and went searching. The lantern oil is gone...and I've got three of the four chemicals.

When those mechanics you need to have that advantage are taken away from you and then some other mechanics are used as a massive obliterating obstacle, you have to ask yourself one of those two questions.

That ended up becoming my problem: I stopped being immersed and started being pissed that I couldn't find the chemical. Every mechanic that I could've had available to me in order to find it was taken away from me, and that's understandable. I shouldn't expect everything to stay static at all times. However, I would hope that I wasn't wasting something without having a little inkling that it COULD be taken away, right? I don't know. It's a weird line that I'm straddling at the moment.

So I have this entire pitch black wine cellar that I've been through what I assume is almost the entirety of...and no way to see what the fuck I'm doing. The moans and groans, even the ambient music and the sounds of an impeding monster stomping through the doorways doesn't scare me anymore because I'm too busy being frustrated that I cannot find the objective piece I need to continue the game.

I've considered just starting over, but I know what to do in the beginning parts of the game now. It won't have that same unique sense of dread and tension that it did before, and I'm deathly afraid I'll just see it as more mechanics rather than this really cool and immersive world that was created to try and scare the balls off me.

Giant Bomb community, what should I do? Suck it up and just die over and over (or whatever happens whenever I sit in darkness for too long), or start over and make sure I don't use those tinderboxes?

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New Adventures

Last week, my brother and I moved into a new house - 2 bed, 1.5 bath with a den, laundry room, carport. You're probably saying "why you and your brother"? The answer is because "it's dirt fucking cheap and I don't need all the space, so why not split all the bills?" The place is $500 a month, water and gas is covered (as the landlord works for the gas company and her sister works for the water company), and we just pay electric and other stuff like internet or whatever. Needless to say, it's a STEAL in this economy!

My friend wished to remain anonymous. He loves bleach though...the liquid, not the anime.

Now that we've moved in, we started building some PC rigs for ourselves. We were given eight or nine towers worth of PC parts, equaling out to about 16GB of RAM, eight high-end processors, at least five high-end video cards, around 1TB worth of hard drives, and even a couple of 3.5" floppy drives. We finally got one of the builds done:

  • Intel Core 2 Duo 2.53Ghz processor
  • 500W Antec power supply
  • 4GB DDR2 800 RAM
  • 130GB WD Caviar SATA HDD
  • 1GB NVIDIA GT 220 video card
  • Fatal1ty FP-IN9 motherboard (which was a bitch to work with)
  • Soundblaster Audigy 2 sound card

It's not a ZOMGFUCKINGPOWER system, but it will run all the shit we need without a problem...

...which leads to the purpose of this blog: I finally got to play The Witcher! FINALLY! After all this time of listening to Vinny talk about it on the Bombcast and hearing my friend Pip tell me that I need to play it, it was time that I got it downloaded from GOG and started that fucker up. I'm not very far into it (basically just started Chapter 1), so here are my knee-jerk reactions:

  • What the fuck is with the camera? It's kind of disorienting, as it feels a lot like that camera view you would have when you see a long hallway and then it keeps extending even further. Actually, Dragon Age kind of had the same thing at one point in the game (on Xbox 360, that is). It's just really awkward to use. I need to look at other possible camera options...if there are any.
  • Right now, I haven't seen any of this crazy "in-depth" combat that people have gone on about. All I've been doing is clicking my left mouse button on time to keep my combos going and not really paying attention to anything else that has been hitting me. I am playing it on the Normal difficulty, in case anyone is wondering. Moreover, I don't know if there are ways to quickly switch between weapons, but if there isn't, they should've considered having that in there. I prefer axes. Just saying. I know I could hit pause and then switch over to the axe, but that just seems a little wonky.
  • That game is still pretty. I'm not dropping down and kissing the ground it walks on, but it still holds up relatively well to this day on its highest settings. A lot of that is probably due to the attention they gave each character's faces, as their bodies are kind of...eh.
  • I slept with Triss in the beginning. Is that bad? I have a thing for redheads. I just can't help it.
  • Why did I not get to fight the Frightener? Did I pick the wrong path or something? I wanted to kill the thing from Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones' arena fight sequence!
  • There is a specific level of brutality that this game brings which I like. I just don't necessarily feel like it achieves the level of gore that I'd want to see. I mean, when I cleave a guy in the face with the hilt of my sword like that (which is so fucking badass that I can do that while holding the blade!), I would hope there would be some Apocalypto-styled "I hit you in the side of the head and now blood will just continually spurt from that spot in a slightly dark yet funny way" type of thing.

Overall, I'm enjoying myself with the game so far. I'm looking forward to the continuing adventures of Geralt, and hopefully, I can get this done within a decent amount of time to pick up Witcher 2 and get that out of the way. In all honesty, I picked up The Witcher JUST BECAUSE I wanted to be able to import my game save into Witcher 2.

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In other news, I've pretty much completely quit Diablo 3 at this point. The few times that it has been fired up were to farm some gear to throw on the RMAH in order to buy Diablo II and the expansion. It feels like I'm having to fight more systems in that game than creatures, demons, and monsters. That's not what Diablo should be in my eyes. You got my $60, Blizzard...but you just can't keep me around. Maybe I'll launch it back up in a few months.

I made more progression in Legend of Grimrock. Goddamn, that game is good. Easily one of my Top 10 for the year. I'm hoping to finish that up sometime in the next week. I'm on level 9 right now (1st temple, room with the three fire mages....III, II, I, III), so it shouldn't be much longer. I've been told there are only 13 floors.

Because I started playing that...and we now have a gaming PC for once in our lives, I also ended up digging into some Fallout and Icewind Dale Complete. That's right. We've got this excellent rig...and I'm playing 10+ year old games! It's been a good ten years since I last played Icewind Dale, and given that I died to the first mob in the game because I forgot how to fucking play beyond "click to kill", it shows. They both remain great, though.

Anyways, it's time to open the store up.

Until next time, piece.

P.S. - I STILL need to get Amnesia: Dark Descent. Now that everyone is talking about it, that hankering is getting uncontrollable!

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The Diablo 3 Fallout: How A Game Is Dying Overnight

For anyone unaware, patch 1.03 came out last night. This was the infamous "Inferno nerf" patch...which was actually more like an "Inferno adjustment" patch. Some things were buffed, some things were nerfed, and some things were changed. Regardless of it all, Inferno is more doable but still tough as nails. That's cool, and I've appreciated the adjustment so far.

What I haven't appreciated...and almost an entire forum's worth of people on the Diablo 3 website seem to agree...is the ridiculous feeling that we are being punished for trying to progress through Inferno at the cost of insanely overpriced repair bills. These hikes in repair bills (from around 5k broken to 50k broken) were essentially the idea that Blizzard had behind "stopping graveyard zerging". This means that people would pull a mob to the last checkpoint that they had popped, continually deal damage and throw their body at the enemy until they die, then respawn with the enemy right there. Since your companion can never "die" but only get put down to one knee, it means that you could allow them to deal damage while you are dead until you decide to rez and take the kill.

Exploitation in a video game is nothing new, and Blizzard has been pushing as hard as possible to kill exploits. However, with the new patch, they have started pushing too hard and it is bleeding over on the good and honest gamers that just want to enjoy their game, try to progress, and have fun with it. For instance, Warden/Butcher runs in Act 1 Inferno had become a common way to make some money in order to gear up. You had to run through four different areas (Halls of Agony LVL 2, Highland Passages, The Cursed Hold, Halls of Agony LVL 3) in order to get to Butcher, while Warden resided on Cursed Hold. During the course of this, you might have a chance to pick up a couple of rare items that would either have some decent stats for you to replace some gear and upgrade or possibly sell on the AH for a little scratch to put towards more upgrades.

Those runs have had a lot of their item drops nerfed, Warden boss was buffed (which he needed it, but he's still a fucking pussy), and the mobs were generally doubled. This is fine for some classes. However, thanks to a nerf in itemized attack speed, it has caused some trouble for Demon Hunters and other classes who chose to play poorly constructed builds based on exploiting the use of skills that has high percentage weapon damage conversion.

That is partially the fault of people playing Demon Hunters for stacking IAS as a main weapon stat rather than secondary, but it's also the fault of Blizzard for itemizing in a way that makes IAS more attractive than other stats.

Nonetheless, it causes a problem because Demon Hunters, Wizards, and Witch Doctors are generally squishy classes. When you double the mobs that are coming at them, you are essentially sending them to their death wish...and then increasing their repair costs by about four times what it used to be (up to six times more if you are wearing iLVL 63 gear).

Moreover, they have removed many of the capabilities to actually make money due to how fast wear and tear happens. Sure, you can drop down to Hell difficulty and farm for money, but is that really "fun"? If you listen to Blizzard's employees that have been showing up on the forums, THEY decide what is fun - not the players.

Is this the proper approach? I'm just the guy that paid the money for your game, and at this point, quitting the game means you are victorious. You made your money and then killed your game. If you think that's a general overreaction, the numbers that are coming out today support it. XFire usage with the game is down to around 2,000 players. Public Games being shown and registered as active on the game has dropped to around that same number. Multiple people on the forums who have stated that they are quitting...have held true to their word.

People are declaring the game as being dead right now...and the numbers are proving it.

Given that it's a Blizzard game, I'm sure it can recoup, but I've never seen a mass exodus of a Blizzard game in this magnitude. It's kind of interesting to see, as many people on the forums actually...speak with logic and sense! *GASP* I've even posted a few of my own threads, namely pointing out how 1.03 is a completely counterproductive patch that breaks more than it fixes, as it has caused players to fear playing the game more than being excited to play the game. You should NEVER instill fear in people to come into your game world and enjoy themselves, despite what exploiters are doing to your in-game economy. It's an ARPG, not an MMO.

Nonetheless, I've made the decision that I'm going to be taking some time away from the game. There is some serious work that needs to be done to Diablo 3 at this point before it is something I even wish to play again. It just means I'll be able to dedicate a bit more time to Dark Souls before the DLC hits later this year, as well as finally dig into Max Payne 3 and maybe some of the Summer of Arcade stuff.

How does everyone else feel about patch 1.03? Are you going to continue trampling through the game, or do you feel like one brick wall has been replaced by another?

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