Author Archives: Azuriel

Alpha Centauri 2

News out of PAX: Firaxis is working on a new Civilization game… in space.

Honestly, Alpha Centauri is basically one of those infinite-nostalgia games for me. My prior exposure to the Civilization games was actually Civ 2 for the SNES (yes, really), so you can imagine how blown away I was after installing those Alpha Centauri discs back in high school. Hell, I haven’t even played a Civ game since then – I have Civ 5 in my Steam library, but I was always a bit leery of getting sucked back in.

The thing that impressed me the most in Alpha Centauri though were the quotes that came with every technological advancement. You can read the big list of them if you’d like, but here are a few of my favorites:

Resources exist to be consumed. And consumed they will be, if not by this generation then by some future. By what right does this forgotten future seek to deny us our birthright? None I say! Let us take what is ours, chew and eat our fill.

  • CEO Nwabudike Morgan “The Ethics of Greed”

This was one of the first times I encountered a thought turned on its ear.

We are all aware that the senses can be deceived, the eyes fooled. But how can we be sure our senses are not being deceived at any particular time, or even all the time? Might I just be a brain in a tank somewhere, tricked all my life into believing in the events of this world by some insane computer? And does my life gain or lose meaning based on my reaction to such solipsism?

  • Project PYRRHO, Specimen 46, Vat 7. Activity recorded M.Y. 2302.22467. (TERMINATION OF SPECIMEN ADVISED)

I laughed. And still do at the meta-humor.

Man’s unfailing capacity to believe what he prefers to be true rather than what the evidence shows to be likely and possible has always astounded me. We long for a caring Universe which will save us from our childish mistakes, and in the face of mountains of evidence to the contrary we will pin all our hopes on the slimmest of doubts. God has not been proven not to exist, therefore he must exist.

  • Academician Prokhor Zakharov

(Heard after researching Intellectual Integrity)

This was likely my first formal introduction to the Just-world hypothesis/fallacy. From a videogame! And beyond the above quotes, Alpha Centauri fielded a lot of more classical, real-world quotes from Plato and Aristotle which, combined with the coolness of the game itself, instilled a sense of wonder and wanting to know more. I definitely doubt I would have read The Republic without having played Alpha Centauri.

I don’t have any great expectations that Civ: BE will be better than my crystallized childhood memories of AC, but I remained cautiously optimistic nonetheless.

So far, it looks like the tentative release date is Fall 2014.

H1Z1-fit

As you may or may not have heard, SOE is coming out with a zombie apocalypse MMO called DayZ Online H1Z1. This was, in fact, what Smedley was talking about vis-a-vis the MMO that SWG veterans “could come home to.” Because… crafting? Whatever.

By the way, I’m with Syp on pronouncing H1Z1 as “hizzy.” Because just with the Xbone before it, these companies need to take a little more thought with how they name their products.

The details of the game are sketchy. Not in the ambiguous sense, but rather in the “there’s no possible way that will work” sense. Right off the top, this is a F2P full-loot FFA PvP game. In fact, the Tweets (sigh) are suggesting that the current design is permadeath, but I have a hard time imagining rerolling an entirely new character each time. I mean, if your character’s facial features and other customizations are somehow saved, is that really permadeath? Another feature is player housing that exists in the world, and people can set it on fire, presumably even while you are offline. That sounds totally reasonable, amirite? There will also be “trading,” which I understand as a euphemism for looting things off the corpses of traders. There are also no levels, which combined with the F2P aspect, seems to indicate the potential for an infinite firebombing army to reduce all player-owned structures to cinder at 4am.

Now, conceivably, these are solvable problems. Smedley has mentioned the existence of different server types, some of which will likely be PvZ-only. Some might even offer player housing protection on by default ala Minecraft. I have little doubt that we’ll also see housing immunity (or at least insurance) for 2000 Station Cash. The question mark is whether they’ll sell items directly, which could become problematic with a full-loot PvP system. “Hah, I totally ganked that dude and stole his $10 golden revolver.” [Fake edit: you keep your customization]

As a PS2 player, I wouldn't put this past them.

As a PlanetSide 2 player, I wouldn’t put this past them.

Speaking of monetization, Smedley has a Reddit thread up right now asking for ideas. No, seriously, he does. Currently, he seems pretty adamant that A) they will not be selling weapons at all, and B) they have a “preference” to not selling anything that helps with survival. Everything else is conceivably on the table… other than just asking for a goddamn subscription or box purchase. Many of the ideas so far revolve around pets, animations, clothing, and in-game advertisements ala Battlefield 2142. To his credit, Smedley shot down that last one, although ironically that would be something that made complete sense in the context of the game.

As far as the map size goes, well, here is Smedley:

I’ve seen a bunch of people asking questions about the Map size. Forgelight is built to handle arbitrarily sized worlds. Our plan is simple – we’re building the core of “anywhere USA”. When we first open it up to users the map will be huge, but nowhere near as big as it’s going to be in short order. Our Map Editing system allows us to quickly add massive areas. We want to make sure we clearly understand how the players are playing the game before we do that. On Planetside 2 we made a mistake by making multiple continents before we had a strong enough idea of what worked and what didn’t. This game is different. We’re doing it smarter. [...]

So not to worry. Zombie Apocalypse isn’t going to be any fun if it’s like Disneyland on Spring Break and super crowded. We want remote.. haunting… being scared when you see someone. Your first instinct needs to be to hide. If there are 20 players in your view it’s not a very convincing Apocalypse :)

Ah. So… an MMO where actively avoiding other people is the only sane way to play. Hey, at least I already have a lot of practice doing just that.

This is the part of the post where I balance the negativity of the preceding paragraphs with some halfhearted praise. So… uh… well. I liked State of Decay? Using the PlanetSide 2 engine means they will have a quick development cycle, although it also means there won’t be any actual physics. The “play as a zombie” mode sounds like it could be fun. And… yeah. I feel kinda bad for The Forest guys, although maybe I shouldn’t – at least The Forest doesn’t feature full-loot PvP.

H1Z1 will be up on Steam’s Early Release program in 4-6 weeks for $20. Why are we paying money for the privledge of alpha-testing free-to-play games? Because fuck you, that’s why.

#TitanFail

I don’t think I have ever had something like matchmaking so completely and totally ruin a game for me. I mean, queuing up as Alliance for BGs in WoW was pretty bad towards the end, but Titanfall? Holy Jesus, it’s bad. So bad that I started an Imgur album to detail it. Examples:

dH1uOGK

Balance.

More balance.

More balance.

This matchmaking is so terrible it cannot possibly be random chance. I mean, I can understand a little bit of snowballing – god knows that if I see a veteran on my team, I play it out until I get sick of the game – but this sort of shit is just stupid. All Titanfall has is it’s moment-to-moment gameplay, so for you to face an entire 10 minute match with your nose in the carpet the entire goddamn time is worse than the most banal daily quest in any MMO. I’d rather be grinding Golden Lotus rep – at least at the end of the day, I’d have something to show for my blood, sweat, and ample tears.

I tried to play some PlanetSide 2 to wash the taste out of my mouth, but the game crashed to desktop after about 20 minutes.

Remember when I said I never buy games near their release days and/or at full MSRP? This is why. If I could resell Titanfall or get a refund, I would; then maybe come back when the developers got their shit together.

TitanSide PlanetFall

After gorging myself on Titanfall for the past few days, I just wanted to re-affirm my impressions from earlier.

This = Very Fun

This = Very Fun

Essentially, Titanfall is the quintessential wirehead game: an absolute orgy of sensory experiences surrounding a hungry engine of time destruction. Respawns take less than five seconds. Time-to-Kill is better measured in mouse clicks. The game is so frantic and fast-paced that the 90 seconds inbetween matches feels like an eternity. This is the sort of game where nobody would have time to type “GOGOGO” if there were even a chat interface in-game, which there isn’t. There’s one in the lobby, but it’s sole function seems to be pre-game prognosticating (“Lame, they have two G6 players. GG”) and post-game trash talking/ragequits. There is also voice chat, but it too seems superfluous – what sort of coordination is possible or even necessary when your foes could be cloaked and across the map in 15 seconds or less?

I have never owned a Call of Duty or Medal of Honor game, so this could all be old news for some of you. I cut my teeth on Counter-Strike and Halo and Battlefield 2 which, at least back in the day, seemed to take a bit longer.

This = Less Fun

This = Less Fun

What is somewhat sad is my motivation for playing the game. Essentially, I’m playing it as a PlanetSide 2 substitute. They aren’t really comparable games at all, but sometimes you just want to shoot people in the face, sci-fi style. PlanetSide 2 was failing on the “people to shoot” front, and there is every indication that it’s eternal beta is catching up with it. Specifically, either it’s hemorrhaging players or hemorrhaging paying customers (or both). Anything less than a 24v24 hex is a waste of time, and even the few freebie kills from the spawn room of hopeless defenses is losing its luster.

And by the way, can I just reiterate how asinine faction-specific game experiences can be? I chose VS more than a year ago and have almost all of my unlocks and such spent on that character. There is not a single moment in which I have not regret that choice. I have infinite more fun on my TR and NC alts based solely on their faction-specific missile launchers. Infinite! About the only redeeming factor for VS is the Lasher (which is garbage 98% of the time) and the fact that the Scythe fighter jet thing doesn’t have bars across the cockpit windows. That’s it. A single TR or NC dude with a rocket launcher is a threat; a single VS dude with a missile launcher is a threat 10 minutes from now.

I brought up the Titanfall vs PlanetSide 2 comparison for another reason: I’m realizing the inherent imbalance of level-based unlocks. In Ps2, you are given a menu to select upgrades from. In Titanfall, you unlock things at certain levels, or occasionally based on achievements. I recently unlocked Satchel charges, for example, and it is better than grenades by a factor of a little over 9000. Most upgrades are technically sidegrades-with-downsides, but usually you’ll find that you can more than compensate for the trade-off. What you can’t really compensate for is that your guns or whatever can/will be weaker than those who played longer.

In any case, the one thing Titanfall absolutely must fix (and soon) is it’s utterly repulsive and/or non-existent matchmaking system. There is a “beta” version out there for Attrition and Hardpoint modes, but I cannot begin to imagine what that is supposed to mean in any context. Is it really that difficult to not have matches like this:

This = Rage Quit Worthy

This = Rage Quit Worthy

Those special symbols are sorta like the Mass Effect 3 multiplayer tags, e.g. it denotes a player who hit level 50 and reset their progress to level 1. After “Generation 2″ it also requires you to earn 4-5 special achievements in order to unlock the, ahem, next generation. It’s not fucking titan science to, you know, spread those guys around. Hell, I don’t even care if the G5 player is a skill-less noob somehow (pretty difficult to imagine), it’s just goddamn demoralizing heading into a 6v6 match of any kind looking down that sort of barrel. Give us the G5 and G2 and let them keep the G4 and G3. Bam! Balance! What’s worse is that you’re stuck in the same lobby of people from match to match unless you specifically leave, which tends to cement the winning teams harder and harder.

Anyway: Titanfall. Shooty-shooty, explosions, instant-kill jump kicks, wall-running. I spacebar through the 5-second kill cams so I can perma-sprint into the adrenalin high faster.

“Explicit schedule of villainy”

Props to Zubon of Kill Ten Rats for the coining of a new phrase in regards to Guild Wars 2′s timetable for dynamic events: “explicit schedule of villainy.” No, seriously:

This is just a snip; it continues on for 3 pages.

This is just a snip; it continues on for 3 pages.

“Oh, 7pm? I’m just in time for the Megadestroyer!” Read that in a faux British accent for maximum effect. I also appreciate how they gave us a generous 15 minutes inbetween world-destroying bosses. “You too can save the world four times an hour, on the hour!” Japanese train conductors would be so proud.

That said, I am actually somewhat interested in ArenaNet’s April not-an-expansion expansion. I decided to give TESO a pass (technically I’m gambling on a Press™ copy) but just the thought of character progression of sorts was tempting me to boot up some MMO or another¹. GW2 is free, so why not, right? Titanfall has scuttled the plans for the time being, but maybe soon.

Well, provided I have enough hard drive space

¹ The Secret World is still installed, actually, and I still play it from time to time. I consider that a single-player RPG though. Still, it is 40gb…

Anti-Patch Notes

I didn’t think it was possible to get excited for an expansion of a game I haven’t played in over a year, but damn. I got to about here:

Druid

  • Innervate has been removed. Mana costs for Druids have been adjusted accordingly.

…before I realized the devs were serious about the pruning of cooldowns thing. I mean, Jesus, they even removed Mana Gem.

Blink and you'd miss it. Wait... Blink is still around, right?

Blink and you’d miss it. Wait… Blink is still around, right?

Paladins were about the one class that seemed to come out ahead after the ability decimation; losing Wings on non-Ret specs makes me shed a nostalgic tear, but in return no more Divine Plea or Inquisition? That’s practically a bonus! Plus, Lay on Hands and Divine Shield survived. Blinding Light didn’t, but we only had that for what, one expansion? It looks like Seal Twisting is making a come-back, but hopefully it won’t be powerful enough to be mandatory.

Man, look at this:

Priest

  •     Binding Heal is no longer available to Shadow Priests.
  •     Hymn of Hope has been removed.
  •     Heal has been removed.
  •     Greater Heal has been renamed Heal.
  •     Inner Focus no longer provides any mana cost reduction.
  •     Rapture has been removed.
  •     Renew is now available only to Holy Priests.
  •     Shadow Word: Death is now available only to Shadow Priests.
  •     Void Shift has been removed.
  •     Inner Fire has been removed.
  •     Inner Will has been removed.

That’s all of the Priest notes. Well, more or less, there’s some additional explanation at the bottom. Still, there is 109 instances of the word “removed” across 34 pages of notes. The end result will likely be a tighter game experience, but damn, all these simultaneous band-aid removals took some hair with them.

As for the new level 100 Talents, some of them are jokes that won’t pass the AV test. What’s that? It’s simple: just imagine someone (or 40 someones) using the ability in an AV match. Seriously, they’re giving Death Knights Defile. Defile. I hope your CPU is water-cooled next time you’re slumming it up in Drek/Vann’s room because otherwise your machine might well burst into flame. Necrotic Plague alone will pad all the meters, and combined with Chilblains? You can single-handedly stop an entire mounted charge.

That’s basically what I’ll be doing in BGs all expansion long: being annoying. Did it when Death Knights first came out with Death Grip and/or Chains of Ice; did it when Paladins could Seal of Justice mounted players from 40 yards away; did it with portal shenanigans via the Warlock; did it old-school just Sapping people and watching their reactions from stealth as the Rogue. If your goal is to be annoying, it’s damn hard to lose in WoW. And now it’ll be 100% easier in the next expansion!

Preparing for Ti… Oh

Err… looks like I’m going to need to make some more space.

Thank god for no data caps.

Thank god for no data caps.

 

[Kickstarter]: TerraMythos

As a general rule, I do not do solicitations of any kind (*cough* except for free games/MMOs *cough*), but I’ll make exceptions when something amuses me. The Princess of Panchala is the first in a series of YA-ish novels getting Kickstarted by Tom Wright. Part of the premise involves parallel universes, blurring of lines between sci/fi and fantasy, along with a MMORPG setting thrown in there. Based on the sample chapter on the Kickstarter page, I also anticipate there being an “is this girl just schizophrenic?” undertone.

What amused me though, was the paragraph down in the Risks section of the Kickstarter:

The risks for this project are minimal, since the novel is already written and I have a great team working with me. The worst case scenario is that I get hit by a bus, in which case the project would still continue to completion, but the likelihood of completing the remaining books in the series would be significantly reduced.

Ah, understated humor.

In any case, there’s around 20 days left to the Kickstarter if this sounds like your cup of tea.

Them Blizzard April Fools

I despise April Fools, but I will admit that a surprising number of chuckles (and groans) were had over the fake WoW patch notes posted on Tuesday. Some of the highlights:

  • Dogecoin is now accepted as a form of payment, but no one really knows how it works.
  • [Hunter]: For safety, all Hunters must now wear bright orange vests at all times.
  • [Monk]: Blackout Kick now causes the victim to wake up the next day and question their life choices.
  • [Paladin]: New Ability: Renounce. When cast, Renounce permanently changes the Paladin into a Warrior.
  • [Shaman]: Rockbiter Totem now transforms the Shaman into a large stone elemental that cannot save their friends, despite having such big, strong hands.
  • [Warlock]: All spells and abilities have been significantly revamped. Again. You’ll figure it out.
  • [Warlock]: Warlocks are now overpowered. This will be addressed in a future expansion.
  • [Warrior]: Warriors have been nerfed because reasons.
  • [Raids, Dungeons, Scenarios]: Due to recent acquisitions, The Oculus is temporarily inaccessible.

You should probably just give the whole thing a once-over. The Warrior one concerning Charge in particular was extra amusing if you have been following patch notes for the last, oh, several years.

I’m pretty far removed from the game at this point, but I’ll also admit that my eye started twitching a bit at the female draenei joke revamp.

Wut

Wut

“What have they done… oh, right. Ha. Ha.” Some might say that it was too obvious, but after seeing what Michael Bay is doing in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot, I don’t know what to believe anymore. I mean, have you seen this:

I need an adult.

I need an adult.

While pretty much everyone else have been riding the nostalgia train with reboots this past decade, TMNT is pretty much my only non-Toonami stop. Well, them and ExoSquad. And maybe Gargoyles.

Who Beats Games These Days? (2014)

Way back in August 2011, I wrote about a CNN article that stated only 10-20% of people who play a videogame end up finishing it. Some of the industry experts interviewed stated that this metric was behind the rise of shorter campaigns, a heavier focus on DLC, and so on. After all, if it takes 100 developers a year and a half to produce six hours of gameplay, why would they spend even more time/money on extending that out when 80%+ of their customers aren’t going to see it anyway?

Almost three years later, the completion rate has increased to about 30%.

Too bad those stats didn't apply to a better game...

And the other 47.4% did not miss a single thing.

There are caveats galore, of course. First, that series of infographics is damn ugly. Second, the research methodology is simply looking at Steam achievements, so it’s tough to say whether or not it’s representative of gamers as a whole (not that it’s claiming to be).

Third, and most amusingly, this research looks at and includes people who own the game and have yet to turn it on even once. It’s amusing because this isn’t as crazy as it sounds given Steam sales (and Humble Bundle, etc). But it’s still rather surprising for some games when you actually dig into Steam achievements on your own. For example:

And I thought that first achievement was a good joke...

And I thought that first achievement was a good joke…

I know Borderlands 2 was a part of a good Steam sale a few months back, but I’m pretty sure it didn’t end up on any bundle sites. In which case 24% of the people who own the game haven’t completed the very first quest, which is literally pressing E twice.

Of course, when I ran my Steam ID through this website, it indicated that out of the 385 games I own, I haven’t played 63% of them. In my defense… err… uh… I buy a lot of Humble Bundle-esque sales. And Steam didn’t track stats for some of those games I did play a long while ago, like Half-Life and Counter-Strike.

Incidentally, this is a major reason why I hate purchasing things at full MSRP. It is not really that $59.99 is some kind of insurmountable obstacle, but the reality for me is that I have enough games on Steam to last me until the heat death of the universe, and thus it’s difficult to justify purchasing more when I can reasonably wait for a price drop. And even when it’s something cheaper like Banished ($19.99) or Starbound ($14.99), it still doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me; I can just work on the backlog and save a few bucks later.

In any case, it’s heartening to know that the nightmare scenario of three years ago hasn’t occurred (yet?), and that it appears as though the indie side of things can prop up a lot of the longer-game space AAA has vacated. Still, as someone who endeavors to finish every game that I start even beyond the point of fun, this infographic is a sobering example that I might be well out of my mind.