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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

To 2014

It has been an interesting year in gaming, and yet one I think will be lost to memory. "Things" happened, but none of them stick out in my memory as I wave farewell to the year past and welcome the year ahead. For me little of note occurred in the gaming world. Certainly there have been ups and downs, but the industry itself sails on, continuing on its meandering course. I would say that in terms of social justice, the year has been better than some, but there is a long road ahead, so while a victory is worth celebrating I'll save the champagne for another day. Even the series games seem to have done a little better this year, with GTA5 and AC 4 Black Flag exceeding expectations. I find myself optimistic regarding the coming year, with several interesting looking MMOs (Wildstar, Elder Scrolls Online, Everquest Next, Warlords of Draenor) on the horizon.

So as I wrap up this brief post I wish you all a Happy New Years, bring on 2014.

Monday, December 9, 2013

[Hearthstone] Mini-post; Card changes, sky falling

Blizzard is soon to be updating Hearthstone with a few minor changes to a few cards that see far too much use, and a change to how gold is acquired. Most of these changes people saw coming a mile away, as they were the cards showing up in 2/3rds if tourney decks, or every deck of a particular class.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

[WoW] Dreams of Diablofication?

Though it still may change going onward, at this point Blizzard appears to plan some sweeping itemization changes for Warlords of Draenor. Among them is the random chance for an item to have one of three qualities: warforged (high item level and presumably slightly better stats), gem slots, and "tertiary stats" (movement speed, extra durability). The response to this is mixed, but some of the more hyperbolic have begun claiming that Warlords is adopting the often loathed itemization of Diablo 3...and to a degree, rightfully so.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

[Hearthstone] I'm better than you

Have we not met? Oh, you must be in the wrong place then. This place is for winners, like ME. WHO am I? How droll! You must be new. My name is Argent Commander, and I am better than you. How could you not know who I am? Kripparrian, Hafu, Artosis, Noxious, Trump, Reckful, and Day9 do; we had a blast at Blizzcon.

Friday, November 22, 2013

[Blizzard] No, you're not running for President, but...

Rock Paper Shotgun held an interview with Dustin BRO-wder regarding Blizzard's upcoming MOBA, Heroes of the Storm. The interview went mostly well and covered mainly their strategy going forward and how they intend to distinguish themselves from competitors...then it took a sudden turn when RPS asked about some of the depictions of female characters. I've reproduced the "uh oh" section below.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

[WoW] Blizz CAN write female characters, or, "Something about blind squirrels and nuts."

Over the past week Blizzard has caught more flak than a B-17 over some of their marketing of Warlords of Draenor at Blizzcon, and to be frank, it's not necessarily undeserved. One has to face that most of the promotional material is a sausage-fest. This doesn't mean that Blizzard is somehow a bad company or bad people, but when you give your community only limited information it should come as no surprise when the community assumes the worst. If I see someone throwing gasoline on my car I'm within the realm of reason to voice my concern even if they have some grand idea that isn't apparent yet.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

[WoW] Blizz Drops Dailies, or, "What to do at 100?"

So few to no Daily Quests at level 90, that's quite the change and upsets a paradigm that's been around since ye olde days of Burning Crusade. Originally they were an answer to limiting the acquisition of reputation-based rewards without having to hide them behind massive grinds. I was skeptical at the time but I learned to love it to a degree that now I find large rep grinds distasteful. (I'm looking at you Emperor Shaohao...) They also conveniently gave max level players something to do aside from sit in Shattrath and try to kill Aldor/Scryers before getting teleported.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

[WoW] So Warlords of Draenor...

Blizzcon has come and gone, with the most major news being Blizzard's new foray into the MOBA genre, which I'll save for another post, and the next WoW expansion; Wailords of Crymore "Warlords of Draenor". I find my feelings about it could not be more mixed. Throwing us back to, on the somewhat flimsy story excuse of Garrosh going back and messing with the timeline (and apparently forgetting about the Time Traveler's paradox)...

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

[WoW] Blizz Trademarks "Warlords of Draenor" what?

Edit: Name confirmed at Blizzcon, chalk another one up for Boubille!

So MMO-Champion has posted today that Blizzard has filed a trademark for "Warlords of Draenor," but, being a student of law I thought I'd do a brief post explaining what it means. As a quick disclaimer; it is very possible that this application is fake. Only a month or so ago a fake "Halflife 3" trademark was dug up and was later debunked. So I write this under full knowledge that tomorrow we might find out that this is completely false. Still, with luck I can shed some light on what this application means.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

[WoW] You...disappoint me, Garrosh.

Thrall hasn't cornered the market on disappointment in his former protege, for when I spent 3 hours wiping on him killed him and reaped the benefits I looked back to Blizzard's first attempt at LFR, Dragon Soul, I found myself a little disappointed with the end-all boss of Mists of Pandaria due to his, of all things, loot table.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

[WoW] Timeless Isle? More like Time WASTE Isle!

So the Timeless Isle appeared on the scene in patch 5.4 and, true to its intent, promises content for those with nothing left to do, and an easy way to gear-up alts for those new to the expansion (such as me). It is not without its flaws though, and two of them have become glaringly apparent after the first few days of playing. The first is the crazy level of grind the Shaohao rep can be, and the second is the mixed multi-tag/single-tag enemies in the zone.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

[WoW] How to be a d**k on the Timeless Isle

As my somewhat perturbed tweets indicated this morning, I encountered an unfortunate exercise in dickish-ness this morning while doing my Shaohao daily. Another player acted in a way that fell somewhere between callous cruelty and outright selfishness. Before I judged I tried to apply Hanlon's Razor, and yet the blade couldn't seem to cut it.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

[RP] What good is a Background?

I am of the opinion that a character's background in an RP is one of the most important parts of the character. Certainly their base personality and concept is important, but both of those are informed and honed via the background. I once met another player who genuinely wondered "Well what's the point? It's all the past." So I thought I'd address that. I'll use references to WoW because they are very familiar to me.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

[WoW] Looking for Repugnants

So a luck Burden of Eternity drop resulted in my eligibility for the Siege of Ogrimmar LFR. Eager to see the newest, shiniest raid I jumped in this morning. I can't entirely complain about how things went given that we only wiped once on the Sha of Pride. Still, what never ceases to amaze me is how much verbal abuse goes on in LFR and how generally unnecessary it is.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

[LoL & SMITE] A tale of two characters, or, "Who the Hel is that?"

So in the past few weeks two of the bigger MOBAs have each introduced a new female character...well in one case it's a rework of an old one, but given that the character got a complete revamp, I think it counts for the purpose of this post. The characters are Jinx from League of Legends, and Hel from Smite respectively. You see the two show fundamentally different design philosophies; one takes a step forward, the other a step back. Yar, there be satire ahead; and remember, we can be critical of media while still enjoying it. Also, the horse isn't dead yet!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

I'm officially a

As the title says, I've gone to Twitter, a move I once said I'd never do. Good thing no one recorded it and I didn't Either way, come find me at 0utofBeta and tweet: your thoughts, comment on posts, tell me how terrible my last post was, discuss your fantasy sports league, share brownie recipes (keep it legal kids), or just say hello!

Warframe's Gender Depictions, or, "Wut r u doing?"

So I've been enjoying Warframe quite a bit since I was introduced to it at PAX this year. Given my post history, I figured that at some point I would want to examine it for how it deals with gender issues. Overall the game isn't sending any messages, and it's depictions are actually better than I thought at the lets dive in.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Laughter inducing Abilities/Powers

These are dark times: Breaking Bad is over, the US government is shut down, and no one seems to be able to see why kids love Cinnamon Toast Crunch. So I think it's time for a post with a little more levity in it! Every game has one or two abilities that make me laugh, they're the abilities/weapons/powers/whatever that somehow managed to get from a whiteboard and into the game and yet something about them makes me laugh hysterically when used appropriately (or inappropriately). Maybe they are meant to be taken completely seriously but something about them just lends itself to situational humor.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

[WoW] Aaaaand...I went back.

Okay so I am a hypocrite; well not entirely, the mulling and dithering I experienced did eventually result in me returning to WoW. However the return was through the 10 day trial, wherein I made a panda monk and I punched, kicked, and rolled my way through the old world, Outland, and much of Northrend before the trial expired. Downside is I didn't actually make it to Pandaria.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

[WoW] I won't go back, I won't go back...

So I read the other day about some of the new features in WoW 5.4; namely the "Proving Grounds" which are a living incarnation of ideas I saw discussed on the forums back in the days of Wrath, as a means of training newer players. Interesting as they sound, I find I keep reminding myself "I won't go back". That got me thinking, games like WoW are constantly trying to win players like myself back, which is not helped by us adopting a stern (perhaps even unreasonable, if the game were to be in fact fun) determination not to why do we do it?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

[Warframe] Interesting Pricing Models

Most F2P games create their own purchased currency, in Warframe it's "platinum," to help obfuscate to the purchaser exactly how much they are spending at any given time. Three weeks after buying X platinum for Y dollars, my mind likely won't analyze the purchase of something in a game as "I am paying the equivalent of $10 for a one-time use camouflage pattern..." No, instead to me it's "I just spent 50 spacebucks on tiger stripes for my armor!" Though this might have some questionable ethics, it does work...alas, in Warframe, I find it almost amusing, because at a glance, their prices are ridiculous (and not in the "Crazy Al's Used Cars, our prices are insanely low!" sort of way).

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Craving a card game

So being the drug-dealers they are, Wizards of the Coast handed out free 30-card Magic: The Gathering ("MtG") decks at PAX as part of the "Swag bag" everyone could pick up on the way in. Being a former pokemon player and someone who is obsessed with collecting things like that, I took one...and through some trading and such, got 2 others (with the 4th on the way). Alas I did not seem to find a Green deck but I digress. Going through them has stirred within my feelings I've not felt since high school and a desire to get into some sort of CCG again. Admittedly a drug habit would be cheaper, but I'm sticking to the realm of "legal in most states" for now.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

[Diablo 3] Blizzard tries to unring the bell

Blizzard announced today that it intends to close the Diablo 3 auction house on March 18, 2014. They claim it is because the auction house undermines the basic premise of the game ("Kill stuff, get cool loot.") and I think they have the right of it; the auction house had the benefit of facilitating trades, but with Diablo's crazed scaling, the AH's generally poor interface, and nothing to really guide prices, it did more harm than good.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Design, Cosplay, Agency, and "Strong female characters"

"I'm not bad. I'm just drawn that way." - Jessica Rabbit

Not long ago in my post about heavier characters I mentioned that characters are created; they inherently lack agency because an artist or writer decides what they do. I was sitting in on a panel regarding women in gaming, and one of the topics which came up was about how "Cosplay is not consent." I agree with the statement, and I really liked a point made during the panel; that there is a difference between an artist creating a scantily clad character, and a cosplayer choosing to dress up as them. It got me thinking about "strong female characters" in games, and how adding "strong" to their description seems to excuse strange (read: skimpy) clothing choices.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

WoW 5.4 Garrosh Cinematic, "You still don't matter" Edition

So while I have not played WoW at all throughout Pandaria, I have occasionally spotted a headline or two on reddit. Today was one of those days, announcing the release of the new cinematic for when the players defeat Garrosh Hellscream. I'm not going to pretend to be good at analyzing the voice-acting work (which felt wooden but that is not out of place for WoW), but the part that got a genuine laugh out of me was the resolution.


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Learning and evolving, or "Weight in games, Part 2"

Like most of us, I often unknowingly delude myself with the belief that I am the "reasonable person" (ask a lawyer about it) and that my opinions and points are sound, rational, and otherwise the objective truth. Well occasionally thought and a bit of a push from others can remind us that we aren't, and that sometimes we need to adjust our view. Milady's comment on my "Depictions of Weight in Gaming" post was among those, so I wanted to take a moment to clarify and adjust my position, which in the original post I muddled.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Post-PAX Regrets

You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.- Harvey Dent, "The Dark Knight" (2008)

Trigger Warning

While this quote tends to get far too much mileage online, I find it does contain an unfortunate truth about life. Reading about the recent fallout when Penny-Arcade Co-founder Mike Krahulik announced in the last day of PAX that pulling the infamous "Dickwolves" mechandise from their online store was one of his biggest regrets.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

100th Post!

It's taken me a long time to get here; over a year and a half. I am not exactly the fastest poster in the West, but it's been an enjoyable journey through many different games and I've learned a great deal in the process. In the next hundred posts I hope to expand a bit more, write some guides, and be a bit more aggressive in putting myself out there (such as starting a twitter account, a thing I never thought I'd do)!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Warframe first impressions, or, "I'm a ninja, I do what I want."

Not often am I able to describe a game as: "You play as a robot ninja from the past and you use various swords and guns to fight armies of clones, robots, cultists, and aliens." I think the last time I could give a summary like that was 1998. I'd installed the game on Steam some time ago but wasn't initially grabbed; it wasn't until the past PAX, when I watched some gameplay at the nVidia booth that I decided to take it up again.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

PAX Prime: Season of the MOBA

As I commented in my post yesterday and observed again at Day 3 of PAX, this next year is going to be the year of the MOBA. Riot Games had a huge showing, with a tournament running alongside the convention. Meanwhile, I counted at least four new MOBAs being promoted, not counting SMITE which had a small presence with Twitch.TV and DOTA2 which was not in attendance (I was surprised to see no sign of Valve).

PAX Prime, who phoned in what?

A strange series of events lead to me getting a ticket to Saturday and Sunday of PAX prime this year; the last time I visited PAX, Valve was demo-ing some game called Left 4 it's been quite some time. That said, while some of the panels I visited were interesting (more on them in another post) I found I had mixed feelings about the games being shown off.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Iran bans female LoL champions?

Honestly I thought it was The Onion I was reading when I came across an amusing article today, which explained that apparently as part of an agreement to hold a League of Legends tournament in Iran, the WGC would have to ban virtually all of the female champions. The only ones to escape are Anivia (being non-human) and Annie (presumably because she is a child). The full list after the break.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Depictions of weight in gaming

Note: There is now an update to this post, please see:

This isn't a topic I see often discussed in the arena of gaming, but I think it's relevant all the same. I am not going to sit and argue as to whether weight is an "-ism"; we can go around and around about "choice" or "predisposition". That is not the topic I want to go into though, instead I want to focus on how it is depicted in gaming, and why the modern trend is problematic. We hear a lot about race, gender, sexual orientation, and classism but I rarely hear people mention ableism or related issues with regards to gaming.

Remember, characters in games don't exist, they don't need to eat, sleep, work-out, have sex; they appear as an artist CHOOSES them to appear. If a female character appears in skimpy armor, it's because an artist chose to put her in it, not because "she likes to be sexy". We can flesh out these characters to justify those design choices, but how we choose to depict a character and the attitude we set around them are decisions the creators make.

Before I dive in, I may use words accidentally that might offend, but I do not intend to. If you, a reader, discover a word related to weight used pejoratively or insensatively, it is not intended. Point it out and I will happily remedy this.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Resets: On the player or on the server?

In my experience I have come across two forms of "resets" on daily quests and rewards; the "Server side" and the "Player side". When I say server side I mean the reset is tied to the server, as in it happens at a specific time of day for everyone. For example, in Guild Wars 2 all dailies and such reset at exactly 5 PM PST. For player side, it is when the reset is tied to the account of the player. An example of this is League of Legends, where the first win of the day bonus returns something like 22 hours after it is completed. Both have their strengths and benefits, and I find I am troubled in figuring out which I like more.

Friday, July 26, 2013

[SMITE] Credit where it's due

In a previous post I mocked SMITE's interpretation of female deities and their apparent penchant for upping the combative ante by insisting on fighting in high heels. Though there was an exception, she was not without her issues (sorry Freya). Let it not be said however, that I do not notice improvement.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Future evolutions of F2P

It seems like not all that long ago Free to Play was the new hot MMO buzzword. Though we can quibble over what game was first to be "Free to play" Wikipedia suggests that the earliest versions were things like Furcadia and Achaea. Whatever they were, it was early on that mainstream free-to-play games adopted the "playing is free, convenience is extra" mentality, as well as some early experiments with the infamous "pay-to-win" version. These days it is ubiquitous, and even subscription based games such as WoW are contemplating options that look very "free-to-play". But where is this headed? How might the model evolve in the next few years? Below are two things I have seen that  suspect might be more common.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

[Planetside 2] Cutting out your own implants

Despite the sardonic title, Planetside 2 has not yet gone this far, but they came rather close. The issue is that their newest Game Update (GU13) was slated to bring out new "Implants" which were basically temporary buffs you would buy with Certs (not going to go into the massive folly that which the cert grind is) or Station Cash. The problem is that several of these buffs were extremely powerful to the point of seeming nearly mandatory. Thankfully they have chosen not to release them with GU13, but the lesson is worth examining none the less.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

[Firefall] An ARES mission rundown

ARES missions show up on the map like little Greeco-Roman helmets, shown below:
For Troy!!
The difficulty is the colored bar on the left (Yellow -> Orange -> Red -> Purple, with Yellow being the easiest, Purple being hardest), and the description shown in the upper left corner should give you an idea of how tough the mission is going to be. The "Difficulty Stage" is because some ARES missions will become tougher as more people show up. If you see a small white icon above the ARES one that looks like 3 bathroom-door figures, that means it is a "group" mission and is intended for a group of 3-5.

A word on is relative. Each faction is different, so what is difficult for one battleframe might be easy for another. I find the difficulty a bit deceptive currently, because a Yellow mission against Chosen/Tanken might be much harder than a Red mission against Aranha. Right now I would scale them as such:

(Hard) Chosen ------ Bandits ----------------------------------Aranha (Easy)

The Sniper is the gentleman aiming at me. There will be many.
This is because Aranha have few burst damage options and can be easily avoided by staying airborne as much as you can. Chosen have Juggernauts and Snipers, both of which can do extremely high damage in a short period of time; and most Chosen can throw down Melding Portals and summon small armies of Tortured Souls you need to deal with. Bandits tend to have large numbers and high health, so can beat you with attrition; their Assaults are also not to be underestimated.

So you hoof your way to the mission and should find something like this:
Not ominous at all.
There are currently six types of missions; each of the six can pit you against one of the enemy factions, chosen randomly with some restrictions (in parentheses).

Chosen Bomb (Chosen) - In this mission there is a bomb, usually located in the back of the area that is cycling down from 100% to 0% stability in 1% increments (every 2-3 seconds). When it hits 0% it deals around 1000 damage to everyone in its room and the mission fails. To disarm the bomb, you need to find three colored icosahedrons (d20's); a red, white, and black (that looks purple). Then you need to bring these to the bomb and press "e" when prompted. Each time the bomb loses 1% stability it will change its current color, and you need to put the icosahedron in while the bomb is on its proper color, or everyone in the room takes damage. Putting in the icosahedron's gains you a few percent back on the bomb's countdown. Once all three are in, the mission should complete.

Payload Recovery (Chosen, Tanken, Aranha(?)) - The most common in my experience, this ARES mission requires the player venture into a cave/base/whatever to find a "payload" which can be anything from medical supplies, drill parts, or experimental weapons...doesn't really matter, the result is always the same. Go to object, pick it up by pressing "e" near it, then run it out to the Arcporter that should be outside (though sometimes they are a bit hard to find) and press "e" to turn it in. Depending on the difficulty of the mission you might need to do this a few times, and the Arcporter should have a number that reads "Objects Remaining: #" somewhere on the hud.

Datapad Recovery (Tanken, Chosen, Aranha(?)) - Virtually identical to Payload recovery, in this case the object is a datapad. The only difference is that there will be 1-4 "terminals" scattered around the area, and if you are carrying the datapad you can interact with them by pressing "e" for some bonus xp and loot. The datapad only needs to be recovered once, so return it to the Arcporter outside and you're finished.

Terminal Hack (Tanken, Chosen(?)) - A timed mission; there will be 1-6 terminals inside the mission that you need to hack but pressing "e" when near them. You usually get somewhere in the range of 5-8 minutes to do so. I cannot confirm, but I believing hacking one terminal gives you a bit of extra time. Failing to do so within the time limit can mean failure, but sometimes you can still hack even after the clock reaches zero, and thus still complete the mission and get the rewards (this is likely a bug and will probably be fixed).

Planet Explosives (Chosen, Aranha) - Also a timed mission, there will be 1-6 objects you need to plant explosives on. For Chosen they are tall towers called "Strifebringers" and for Aranha they are called "Armored Cocoons". In either case, you plant the bomb by pressing "e" near them. BE WARNED! The bombs explode and deal something like 1000 damage to everyone and everything near them when they go off, meaning they can kill enemies (which you can use to your benefit) and can kill YOU!.
The orange slash is a bullet that happened to be whizzing by.
Assassinate Bandit (Tanken) - In this mission there is a Bandit Leader you need to defeat; he's a dreadnaught and likes to use the Mammoth's Shield Wall ability. He is also relatively tough and usually comes with Bandit Elite Assault enemies, which have a lot of health and a gun that is a mix of an Assault's cannon and a Dragonfly's crossbow; a high speed, high damage projectile. Furthermore, there will usually be 1-4 "Bandit Callboxes" that the bandits or player can interact with. 10 seconds after interaction they summon a few more bandits (often Bandit Elite Assaults) and another Bandit Leader. Though killing the additional ones is not necessary, they do give a few thousand exp and bonus rewards.

For the missions that require you to carry something (Payload, Chosen Bomb, and Datapad) you can't use your primary weapon while carrying the payload; left clicking will toss the object in front of you. You CAN switch to your secondary weapon and use it without dropping the payload, and you can use abilities as normal (though special shots like a Recluse's Creeping Death will require a gun be used to function).

So there you go!

Monday, July 15, 2013

[Firefall] Learn to Thump in 5 minutes or less

Thumping, not just a euphemism for the kids anymore, is the primary means of getting specific and the highest quality resources in Firefall. However due to the new, unique (compared to other games) interface it can be a little daunting at first, so I wrote this quick guide to get you from zero to thumping as fast as possible.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Enjoying a game in spite of bugs

When I think of bugs in a game, I think of hilarious animation glitches, NPCs that don't properly spawn, or perhaps misplaced textures. Bugs are always going to be there, despite the best efforts of developers...but I find that my ability to excuse bugs in part depends on how much I was enjoying the game prior to encountering it. The paragon example in my mind is Skyrim. Out of the box it has some severe, sometimes game-breaking bugs, and I once played with them and enjoyed myself. So I got to thinking, why is it that I was eager and happy to play and defend Skyrim despite the bugs, when other games I would have completely dismissed due to a single or smaller bug.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Free to Play follies

Given all the discussion about Free to Play games I've been seeing buzzing around I thought I'd inject a bit of opinion of my own on two of the common pitfalls I've seen that keeps me from really getting into a game. The thing about effective F2P marketing, in my opinion, is not having the player be too aware that they are having a second-class experience if they don't subscribe or spend money. Make them aware that they COULD spend money, but don't spend all your time waving your premium aspects in their face. The second is when the game designer hems away so much content/ability for F2P purchases that they leave the player basically playing a very poor quality demo.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Smurfs, or, "Ethical issues caused by tiny blue people."

Once upon a time games had no matchmaker systems; you joined, you played...sometimes you had even teams and the game was plenty of fun! Other times you had the advantage and got to "ROFLstomp" (a technical term) the other team, and the rest you were the one being ROFLstomped. Eventually enough vocal players decided that they didn't like this paradigm; they didn't like that the majority of their games were becoming either the latter or former...either due to opponents that were not challenging, or opponents that they had no chance against. So developers stepped up and introduced ELO and other history-based matchmaking systems in an attempt to encourage more of those "even" games. This has not been without its consequences, especially for free-2-play games.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Fun > Realism? Or the other way around?

This dichotomy seems to permeate every media, but lately I've heard it more and more in the realm of video games. The argument takes many sides, and thankfully the wide market can often accommodate both in other forms...sci-fi fans have hard sci-fi for those who want scientific accuracy and soft sci-fi for those more interested in the fantasy or philosophical. In video games, the prohibitive cost of triple A titles tends to mean that they are rarer and the variation more sparse.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Seen but not heard, or, "Introducing 'Quiet'."

So the Metal Gear Solid series has an interesting history with female characters. For the most part it has been around the middle of the pack...or at least, it has not been among the egregious offenders. I think generally Hideo Kojima has good intentions with his design, but...

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

My Love-Hate Relationship with ARAM (All Random All Mid)

So the budding craze among the MOBA scene is the new game-mode called ARAM, or All-Random All-Mid. Short version is that everyone picks a random hero, then everyone goes to the middle lane and dukes it out. Originally this came from DotA in which it was just a tacit agreement amongst the players to honor that rule, but now that it's sort of caught fire because of its emphasis on team-fights other MOBAs such as League of Legends and SMITE have adopted it. Both have created maps specifically for ARAM gameplay to help enforce the previously oral rules. Because the game is random and focuses more on team-fighting, I can stand it much more than the traditional MOBA gameplay. I'm not stuck in a lane alone or with a single other person and more or less entirely at fault if things go south. Lower stress = Happier Clockwork. The problem is ARAM is not without is issues...

Friday, June 14, 2013

Timely and Responsive Patching!? Not in my Game Industry!

These days a game can often go on for weeks or months in a "broken" state in which exists some serious imbalance. Planetside 2 players right now would probably agree that aircraft are in an especially bad place right now, but SOE has no plans to fix them until the next major patch. Developers seem to be stuck between a rock and a hard place; letting the imbalances sit can drive away players that are affected by them, but knee-jerk patching and repairing could cause even more problems.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Marvel Heroes - 10 Hour Review

Just a few days ago Marvel Heroes, a new free-to-play Action RPG in the style of Diablo, released on Steam. Marvel Heroes is being put out there by Gazillion Entertainment, most notable for being lead by David Brevik, one of the three founders of Blizzard North of Diablo fame. While it's release was rocky (though I have yet to see a game have a smooth one) and marred by crashed servers and client issues, at this point it seems to be fairly stable (in my time of playing I have not encountered any problems).

Friday, June 7, 2013

Lessons from Games (SMITE) #1: All Goddesses wore heels

Apparently I am on a bit of a feminist kick but the topic was too good to pass up. Today's lesson comes from SMITE, Hi-Rez's (of Global Agenda and Tribes: Ascend fame) foray into the MOBA genre. For this they decided to use various gods, spirits, and heroes from religions worldwide (though not from Judeo-Christian religions, we wouldn't want to offend anyone....that we might know). Unflapped by the potential risk of offending the billions of Hindus, Taoists, or Greek polytheists (and others) out there, Hi-Rez has given its art department the monumental task of making every single female god a "10/10, would bang". I've mocked League of Legends before, but I admit, even Riot is making improvements (reworking Sejuani, adding Quinn, etc)...while Hi-Rez is setting new lows.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Goblin fixed sexism!

Obviously the title is meant facetiously. While I have a respect for the knowledge of everyone's favorite goblin with regards to making money in games, I fear this time he's let his ego pull him unprepared into a new arena he is unfamiliar with. Here is the link to his post, and here are the links to the Tropes vs. Women videos he refers to.

Trigger warning: Mentions of rape jokes. Murder. War

Be warned, the post below is quite long, and sadly does not lend itself to a tl;dr any better than what I said above.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Cheapness, Part 2

"That move is cheap!"

I said it before, you've said it before, we've all been there...bested by some tactic or move we couldn't get around. To some players, there is no such thing; so long as the player can do it, then it's fair. I take a different stance. There are "cheap" things, but the claim is often a knee-jerk reaction to not understanding what someone just did. Cheap tactics usually fall within the rules of the game, but are often of the type that most players do not want to engage in for one reason or another. Some players attest that nothing is cheap, that so long as it is within the rules that everything is allowed. In a literal sense, this might be true, but that doesn't mean that the accused act should be within the rules.

Lets apply this to video games, being as its my main focus here. Video games are a special kind of beast; where developers can, at will, change the rules.

If there is no such thing as cheap in video games, then what is the purpose of a balance patch? If you think about it, all a balance patch really is, is a list of admissions by the developers of the things that are "cheap". They are abilities, units, moves, depending on the game, that are cheap or otherwise over-performing. Sometimes, things are broken, sometimes moves are being abused. We don't even need to be able to perfectly define something to consider it cheap; we have referees in sports who make determinations based on evidence, we can have them in e-sports.

The gist, the moral, if you will, is that things CAN be cheap.

How do we tell? Are a disproportionate number of players using this item/move/ability/class/character? Is it basically mandatory at the higher end of player? Is there adequate counter-play with similar risk-reward profiles? These questions are not exhaustive, but should give you the idea that the main question is whether the risk/reward of whatever is in question is out of sync with the rest of the game.

Viewers of all competition love risk/reward; we love seeing poker players go all in on a bluff, of watching a football team throw a Hail Mary on a 4th and long, a designer trying a new and different image...the situation can be found anywhere. As players, this should be our same emphasis, we want to gauge risk, and reap rewards as appropriate.

As a result, I think it is important to be able to differentiate between the knee-jerk "That's cheap!" and genuine criticism, and it's never easy, but not good for a community or game to outright dismiss it.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Emergent Gameplay, Cheapness, and Bugs, Part 1

“That move is cheap,” we all said this at some point in our life, probably when we were young, playing with a friend and that friend had just discovered Ryu’s fireball or E.Honda’s slap and basically just chained it repeatedly to victory (oh memories of Street Fighter 2 Turbo…). I was once that child, and I recall that my hating was because it felt as though there was no counter, I was too young to understand or discover the mechanics beneath or how to beat it.

Emergent gameplay, for better or worse, is responsible for some of the mechanics and gameplay that has elevated games towards competitive interest…not all of them, but some.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Posting Hiatus

As is clear, I have no posted for a while; sadly finals have rolled around in Law School so I am mostly preoccupied studying patents and corporate law (sounds fun right?). So in the meantime I am afraid I will probably not post until after they conclude, but I do have some what free time I have I've gotten back into GW2 and Planetside 2 (clearly no one in the industry can count to three..). So hopefully some content regarding them!

Monday, April 8, 2013

[Review] Bioshock Infinite; Spoiler Edition

So as promised here is part 2 of my review. This part is getting into the meat of the game, but as a result will be almost entirely spoiler so is not recommended for those who have not yet played Bioshock 1, 2, and Infinite. The break is your last warning, do NOT progress below it if you do not want to know. Truth be told, I could fill volumes discussing various aspects of the game, but I have forced myself to narrow my scope to several important topics, and address them somewhat lightly in an effort to stimulate thought rather than come to a conclusive answer.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

[Review] Bioshock: Infinite or Biocrock: Infantile? Part 1

I plan on splitting this review into two segments; the first, today's, is intended to be the "spoiler free" review. I define "spoiler" as something you wouldn't get from the marketing material or within the first 5 or so minutes of the game (and even then, only if it is obvious or innocuous and not story breaking). Because of that, I'll focus more on the gameplay and mechanics than the storyline today...which, I admit, for a game with "Bioshock" in its title is kind of like going to a fancy restaurant and then reviewing the silverware and dinner rolls. If you want my more detailed analysis of the story and how well Bioshock Infinite holds up to to its vaunted name; stay tuned for the spoilerific version...sadly, a review of that side of the game is woefully incomplete without revealing those details. Last note, I will be including a few screenshots, but I have endeavored to keep them in line with my aforementioned policy.

Monday, April 1, 2013

[MMO General] Trial Run

One of the smarter moves I think most F2P MMOs are making lately is the shift towards having trial periods for their premium or special options. This page out of the drug dealer playbook does help solve the problem of getting people to want to make that magical first purchase. As I have heard, the hardest gap to cross is getting people to spend that initial bit of cash, and thus anything to make players more likely to spend money is success. Finding the right balance between giving players a taste and removing the need to spend money or resources entirely is something few have managed to hit right on the nose, so below I wanted to address a few. Of course, it should be noted that because each game is different, that sweet spot exists in a different place for each.

Monday, March 4, 2013

League of Legends' Person of Color Problem

This post was brought on by a discussion I had with a friend, in which, as a joke, he exclaimed "There are no black people in League of Legends," referring to the character list. While perhaps a crass way to put it, he had a point. But League of Legends is one of the most popular games in the world right now, that had to be wrong. Yet I could not think of a single dark skinned champion to save my life. So I did the responsible thing and did some research, below are the findings and some analysis.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

[General] Advancement and Guilds

I was going to do a post on Firefall's progression and crafting, which ironically happen to be the two things that Red 5 is about to change substantially so I will hold off until that is released. I still recommend the game! For those readers looking for beta spots I have a few invites left. Instead, with Guild Wars 2 coming out with a new patch, and me having taken an interest in playing it again recently, I thought I'd discuss some of my concerns about these new Guild Missions and what they can do to guilds.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Hiatus broken! Firefall Beta Discussion

So a brief post amidst long hiatus where I've been busy being a law student and fondly recalling when I used to have time for "fun". Alas in truth I did find some time to have a bit, and in the past few weeks I've found myself entered into two closed betas. Sadly one of them has me under a strict NDA. The other does not, so I will discuss...FIREFALL!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Farewell THQ

Starting a new semester with a writing intensive course load has put me in the position of having little time to write for myself, and what free time I do have tends to go to PLAYING the games I want to talk about. Last I wrote I mentioned an Assassin-Type game compare-contrast and I still want to, but today I wanted to discuss something else.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Planetside 2 "They nerfed what I paid for!"

First post in a while I know :( I have been on break and enjoying it! Which has rendered me unable to take the time to post due to family and friends. Currently I've played Dishonored, Hitman: Absolution, and Assassin's Creed 3 so expect my next post to be a bit of compare and contrast of these three "super assassin" games. And on to today's topic, nerfing what I paid for!

With more and more games moving to the Free-to-play-but-you-can-spend-cash-to-have-more-fun model (not "necessarily" pay to win) a new common thread I am seeing are games in which one can unlock certain items/weapons/whatever-kills-people-in-this-game through gaining of spending some cash. Some, like World of Camping Tanks/Planes allow you to buy specific alternatives that in the past often got preferential matchmaking and earned you more in-game money (but since that couldn't be traded it wasn't too big of an issue). Here we are in 2013 and I am playing Planetside 2, observing that every weapon in the game can be purchased with experience (often copious amounts required, from 100 to 1000 certs, with 1000 taking at least 10 or so hours of game-time to achieve, and that's being generous) or with Station cash, SOE's currency. So most players tend to use their certs on character upgrades (which can't be necessarily bought) and spend station cash to buy weapons (many, such as myself, having taken advantage of the recent Triple-Station-Cash day).