Saturday, November 6, 2010

We're #1, We're #1!!

So what have Crimson and I been playing these last few weeks, with nary a posting between us? Two things:

1) MineCraft for a while - we're waiting on the multiplayer to becomes patched so that you aren't invulnerable to being poked at by zombies (much less atmospheric than the single player to me).

2) StarCraft II:



As you can see, we have climbed our way up through the ranks and made it to #1 of some Diamond league. There are many Diamond leagues so it's not like we're #1 in the world. It would be disappointing if we were, because we have gotten here through the use of the following build:



Yes, cheese. We have tried many flavors of cheese in our ruthless quest for the top. Such cheap tactics will only get you so far as silver-gold league if you're playing in 1v1, but in 2v2 it seems that the combined might of focused cheese is nigh on unstoppable.

So what is our favourite flavour of cheese? It's not very complicated. Crimson is a Protoss, and very sneakily lays a pylon near an enemy. He then lays down Gateways and starts pumping out Zealots. I am a Zerg and follow a "9 pool" Zergling pump with a Queen and Zergling speed boost as soon as possible.

Frequently, our early aggression is scouted by the enemy. Usually, this makes little difference, as we proceed to focus fire one of them down and then the other.

Fear the might of our 30 APM (actions per minute - a common metric of measuring how Korean somebody is.... pro 1v1 players have somewhere in the vicinity of 200 APM)... fear our hotkeyed production buildings, and our pushing of 1-A-click. Rawr.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Langdell's comeuppance

Courtesy of Chaos Edge, this little gem should please anybody following the professional patent troll saga that is "Dr" Tim Langdell.

Quoth the judge:

"...given the suspect nature of Dr. Langdell’s representations to both the USPTO and the Court concerning plaintiff’s current and future sales and business activities, it is an open question whether plaintiff’s business activities legitimately extend beyond trolling various gaming-related industries for licensing opportunities."

First use of the word 'trolling' in a legal document? Fantastic.

It's a shame that it took the bottomless coffers of EA's legal team to shut this fool up, and that an innocent and talented indie was powerless to fight it. I'm not sure how "Dr." Langdell could have been so stupid as to take on EA, but I'm glad that the bigger bully in the playground ROTFL-stomped him.

Hopefully now somebody will follow up all the fraud allegations and put this gentleman out of commission permanently.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Commitment issues

I used to worry about whether XXX MMO would offer "enough" "endgame" "content" (whatever those words mean).

These days I mostly... don't care. I don't feel anymore that I need to assess a new MMO the way I would a potential mate, and make sure that we have a '5 year plan' together. The relationships that I pursue have become of a more casual nature and I seem to have much more fun this way. Maybe once a year I find a new one that adds itself to the permanent roster, but such relationships are not exclusive - the lass in question finds herself instead part of a gaming harem, a bevy of beauties that are at my beck and call. On the other hand if she shows herself to be the "high maintenance" variety that demands my attention to the exclusion of all others, she will find herself discarded by the roadside rather quickly.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

StarCraft 2 Update

I've been casually playing SC2 for around 7 weeks and I dare say that I've become quite addicted to it's PvP. I've mainly been playing Protoss, but I've also given the other races a fair go.


I'm still only in Bronze League with 1v1 and 3v3, but I'm happy to say that Melf and I managed to get to Silver League with 2v2. We also made it to the top of our division. The matching system in SC2 is very impressive. It's rare that we will go for more than 3 wins without being matched up against a superior opponent. Some of the games are so close that it literally comes down to the probes/SCVs/drones.


StarCraft 2 is all about the rush tactics. Most of the games I win, are because I've rushed an opponent at the start crippling them in some way so that I can destroy them on the next wave (if not the initial rush). I've learnt to use quite a few different rush tactics, but my favourite is still the cannon rush. It's not really that hard to beat, but if you execute it correctly it can be an instant match winner. I like to consider executing a perfect cannon rush as a form of art. In the first 4 minutes of the game, you have to sneak a probe into their base and then warp in a Pylon unnoticed. Then you get one Photon Cannon operational and slowly creep into range of their base. At such an early stage in the game, there are no units that can destroy the cannons before they destroy their main building. Once the main building is down, they can no longer collect resources and it's GG.

Melf and have been employing a dual cannon rush for our 2v2 games with high success. The only downside, is that if your foe beats your cannon rush, it can take a while to build up a second offense. It's pretty much GG if you can't get a base going before they rush you with their first wave of units. Still fun though.

The key to winning in SC2 is being able to adapt to your opponents tactics. If you're good enough you can greatly influence their tactics and thus counter them. For example: A game I played recently was against someone playing Terran. Right from the start I devoted all my resources to building Void Rays (an air unit). They absolutely decimated his tanks and Marauders, which prevented him from getting the upper hand in the match. I knew that he/she would build Vikings (mostly air-to-air) to combat my Void Rays, so I stopped building them and began pumping out Stalkers (ranged unit). I won because his Vikings couldn't easily attack my Stalkers. The point here is that by building certain units, I was able to anticipate what units my opponent would build to counter and thus counter that. Confused? It's the fast decision making and micro management skills that makes SC2 so challenging and thus rewarding.

The other cool thing is that the game replay system allows you to view your previous games and thus learn from your mistakes. It's like a virtual level up. In fact the replay system is so awesome, that Melf and I have been emailing each other replays of our 1v1 games and analyzing them later. I find it really interesting to watch how people think.

In summary, I'd like to say that SC2 is the TF2 of RTS. If you are serious about PvP and haven't tried SC2 yet, then what are you waiting for? You don't need to be scared about getting into the PvP, since the matching system will always make sure you only play against opponents of relatively equal skill. In my opinion, SC2 is a bottle of adrenaline waiting to be opened.


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

And now for something completely different

Thanks to Rock, Paper, Shogtun for dredging up memories of the Fighting Fantasy genre of games. I wiled away many an afternoon when I was about 13 playing through these kinds of books.

Lone Wolf was a big favourite. I can see how it might have scared some people away due to the seemingly random, endless potential for unbelievably brutal death lurking around every page. For me this created a splendidly compelling atmosphere. I'm not the type to feel "immersed" in games or books much at all, but after playing through these I think the closest I can come to immersion is when I genuinely care about every action and decision that I make, because I know it could be the last. This forces me to actually "play a role", but it's not what you'd usually think when we talk about role-playing games. The desire to play some stereotype like a Male Elf or a powerful wizard or a plate-wearing do-gooder is over-ridden by the simple desire to *live* to the next page. I find myself playing the role of *me*, making the decisions that I would actually make were I in the story. That's a pretty powerful thing.

The series also gives a great long-term "achievement" feeling with the powerful items and abilities that are progressively unlocked and carry over with you to the next adventure.

I've fired up the game referred to in the link above and it is fantastically well done, featuring the (fully licensed) complete text and illustrations on a worn parchment background and managing all the fiddly parts of the game mechanics while still letting you observe what's going on beneath the hood. I definitely recommend it to anybody who has played these kinds of books or thinks that they sound interesting.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Game designer lineage

Brand names are a great way for companies to build up trust and repeat business from their customers, and games are no exception. It's a pretty sure thing that anything new from Valve, BioWare, Blizzard, or ArenaNet will be at the top of my "must try" list thanks to some stellar games that they have produced. As gamers we learn to distinguish these development houses from the parent companies and publishers such as Activision, EA, or NCSoft for the above. They are little more than suits; we know where the actual talent lies.

Or do we? After whining recently about some odd design decisions that ArenaNet are making for Guild Wars 2, I decided to dig into the Guild Wars 1 credits and see which people were responsible for making the bits that I was most interested in keeping. I was not concerned so much with the visual style or with the story, but with the core mechanics. Here is what I found.

Once upon a time, there was a young game designer named James Phinney. After proving himself with some minor roles at Blizzard he managed to find himself on the "Strike Team" (I gather that this is a Blizzard term for the "main dudes" overseeing the general design of the game) for the first Diablo. Proving his mettle on this classic he went on to be the Lead Designer of the original StarCraft. This is a game renowned for the beauty of its mechanics - the units, their skills, the upgrades, all tremendously fun to use but at the same time wonderfully balanced for 3 different races. What an all-star guy, right? In 2000 his buddies Mike O'Brien, Patrick Wyatt and Jeff Strain splintered off from Blizzard to found ArenaNet, and some time not too long after this Phinney joined them and became Design Team Lead for the original Guild Wars.

In short, Lead Design on StarCraft + Guild Wars = this man is my new god.

However a couple of weeks ago, unbeknownst to me, it was announced that Phinney was leaving to go and join Undead Labs, the new start-up from ArenaNet co-founder Jeff Strain who are working on making a console-focused Zombie MMO. Great move by Strain. Bad move by ArenaNet for letting him go. We can only speculate as to the reasons involved for his departure - surely ArenaNet have deep enough pockets to keep him interested. Let's hope it was something simple like personal problems, or him being sick of working on a fantasy game. However the worry is that he butted heads with corporate fat-cat types who wear suits, smoke cigars, have little dollar signs light up in their eyes every time someone mentions the word "MMO", and generally try to WoW-ify everything. Did this game design guru leave ArenaNet because Guild Wars 2 was turning into an un-salvagable mess? It seems frankly bizarre otherwise to leave a game that is so close to release and that is receiving so much hype.

But surely there are other talented designers working at ArenaNet, right? Well... tracing such an impressive pedigree in terms of design credentials for ArenaNet's other employees does not seem to bear fruit. The new Design Lead is Eric Flannum, who does have an impressive resume but mainly in relation to things like art and level design. He has been design lead on Sacrifice and The Bard's Tale, but I found both of these games fairly cruddy (especially Sacrifice). My main man Phinney was involved with Sacrifice too, but it was in terms of writing the story so I do not consider his record sullied. Anyway, next we have the 3 founders linked above who are all extremely talented programmers, between them having been lead/senior programmers on Diablo, the WarCraft series, StarCraft, and Battle.Net. But design magic is nowhere in their ancestry either.

Most of the other employees on ArenaNet's design team are either involved in art or level design like Eric, or are fairly new college graduates who do not have any specific role listed. Some of these could turn out to be budding design wizards, but it does not inspire much confidence. The one name that is listed as being involved with combat mechanics, and one that will be familiar to anybody that has spent some time reading a Guild Wars forum, is Isaiah "Izzy" Cartwright. "Izzy" joined ArenaNet 12 months before Guild Wars was released and was in charge (with input from his boss - Phinney - and a few others) of balancing the skills for several years after the release of the original Guild Wars, and as such was often the subject of much player ire. From my observations of the years I would say that he did not do a perfect job, but his hands were tied quite a bit by the addition of 4 new classes and a couple of hundred new skills when the Guild Wars expansions were released.

Apparently as of February last year Izzy has now moved on to be "involved in the development of combat, economy, and other unspecified "big systems" for Guild Wars 2". Here is me officially crossing my fingers and hoping that Izzy has learned some lessons from the first game and can steer this one away from the precipice it seems to be teetering on.

Friday, August 20, 2010

World of Guildcraft 2

I don't know what to make of the facts that are dripping out of the gamescom footage from Guild Wars 2. First there was the "damage in the thousands" silliness. Then today I learn via Ravious of some more bizarre design decisions.

Example the first: "using a skill will no longer automatically put the character in range of the enemy. Instead the spell will cast as normal, fly towards the enemy as normal, and then fall short. As it falls short it then tells the player “out of range.”

I don't know what the rationale for this is. Yes it's more "realistic". It also sounds like a pain in the arse and a good way to completely waste mana/cooldowns.

Speaking of which: Elite skills apparently have a recharge time of 720 seconds. You may recall me harping on about how revolutionary the short cooldowns of Guild Wars are a while ago. Now they're doing a 180 on this as though their initial success was just a coincidence.

Could it be that ArenaNet are not the game design prodigees I've been talking them up to be? Or maybe the people who made the smart decisions on the first game aren't with the company anymore? Or has ArenaNet been infiltrated by the Zerg mastermind that rules over Blizzard? Tune in next time for answers to these and other questions readers, same fail time, same fail channel...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Zerg Rush : A Case Report

My experience with the 1v1 aspect of the first StarCraft didn't last long. I was happily mining minerals in my base and contemplating how lovely it would be to cultivate my ultimate fleet of 10+ Carriers to demolish the enemy, when half a dozen Zerglings ran into my base. I had not yet even created my first military unit and was promptly crushed, despite a valiant effort from my army of workers. The game lasted about 3 minutes.

How could I be crushed so mercilessly? I, Melf, Slayer of Noobs? Possibly this mysterious gentleman was some kind of Korean with "crazy micro" living in a net cafe. I knew that I could never pull off such a feat of human dexterity. The entire reason that I had selected the Protoss race was for their smaller (but higher value) number of units, to reduce the amount of clicking that my feeble non-Korean brain could accomplish.

Enter StarCraft II. A little older and wiser now, I knew that I would face the same "dirty" tactics again. There was only one way to prepare myself, to truly know my enemy. I would have to play Zerg and get this rush thing down pat so that I could defend against it.

Of course there was no way I would just jump into 1v1 battles to try this. Instead I practiced against the AI. StarCraft II is a huge step above its predecessor in terms of skirmishing vs AI. There are 6 difficulty levels, and the AI does not "cheat". It does not receive extra units or resources. It is simply smarter in terms of the order it builds units in, makes smarter decisions in battle (e.g. sometimes the enemy will run when they see that your army is larger, before the first drop of blood is shed), and of course micro-manages like a Korean on speed. After floundering around on Medium difficulty for a while, I moved up the ranks, trying different combinations of build orders until I was able to beat the AI on Insane difficulty. This shocked me - I had never managed to beat Insane difficulty with my beloved Protoss, and in fact I did it here in under 5 minutes.



There was something exciting I realized from all of this. I realized that this did not require "cracy micro uber hax" after all. In fact, it requires a lot less clicking and multi-attention-splitting craziness. Why let my games proceed to be longer than I need to? The longer the game proceeds the more units, more upgrades, more expansions, and more backdoor tactics there are to deal with. I get worse at the game by the minute!

Now I was ready to unearth my strategy on the unsuspecting n00bs of BattleNet. First, let's see what we're dealing with here:



This is the post-match "build order" of both players in one of the games I played. You can see that I make just one worker unit (Drone) in the beginning, before saving all my pennies for a Spawning Pool. This will allow me to make my little precious Zerglings. While I'm waiting for the Pool to finish building I make another Drone, and an Overlord to nourish my army. When the Pool finishes building I have exactly enough minerals to convert my 3 larvae into 6 Zerglings. With a waypoint set into the enemy's base, in no time at all these hatch and scurry off. With my base hot-keyed it's a simple matter of hitting 0 (select base), S (select larvae), Z (make zerglings) every time I see that I have another 50 minerals gathered. This brings a steady stream of reinforcements in and lets me focus on micro-managing the fragile Zerglings to make sure they don't do silly things like get slaughtered by an army of workers.

The fellow on the right was playing smartly. He starts off with a few probes to boost his economy, lays down a supply source (pylon) to keep them coming, and saves up enough for a couple of Gateways. This allows him to start creating Zealots, a strong melee unit that is the only early defense the Protoss has time to muster against my Zerg rush.

What you can't see from this is that he is also placing these buildings to try and prevent early rush tactics. Each base has a narrow choke point leading to it - he has actually placed both gateways and a pylon such that my poor little pets can not make it up the ramp without first chomping through his buildings. This theoretically buys him enough time to make enough units to stop me, and then trump me with his superior economy. However, using a pylon to make this wall was a bad idea because it powers his buildings. Chomp, chomp, chomp (eventually). There is a Zealot waiting for me on the other side but my 'Lings stream on past so that they can surround him, and once he is down go and begin munching his other pylon. This fellow does not make it easy for me - he sends his entire army of workers to come and harrass me. Fortunately my steady stream of reinforcements allows me to ignore them and get that pylon down. Once this happens his Gateways have no power and can not create units; there are no more Zealots to deal with and I slaughter the rest of the worker army at my leisure. A bare 3 minutes after the game started:



Now, I do feel a little bad. But this is all in the name of research, you understand. We must learn to fight the Zerg menace from the inside if we are to have any chance of prevailing in this war against the cheap, dirty tactics employed by the BattleNet hordes.

*gurgle*
*rasp*

Sunday, August 8, 2010

StarCrafting...

I've been playing StarCraft 2 now for for about a week and a half. Most of this time was spent doing the campaign or learning strategies for each of the races in co-op or custom games. It's all been fun, but my PvP heart was yearning for more...

So this weekend, Melf and I decided it was time to hit the big leagues. We skipped the rest of the practice league and jumped straight into some 2v2 team quick matches... oh boy...

For our first game, Melf and I both played Protoss. We'd been practicing a joint Warp Gate maneuver against 2 very hard AI with success, so we thought we'd use it as our starting tactic. Our opponents were playing Protoss and Terran. The game started beautifully. Not a single mistake from Melf or myself. The nerves were racing and the adrenaline was pumping. Every second of the initial base building was crucial for success. I was so focused, a passer by could have sworn I was having a staring competition with my computer. By about the 4 minute mark we both had a Probe scout close to their bases (hidden of course) and deployed a Pylon each. We both had 3 Gateways ready for when our Cybernetics Core finished the 'Warp Gate Upgrade' research (Crono Boosted of course). When your entire strategy relies on a single piece of research being complete, you watch that progress bar like a hawk. The second it finished, we converted our Gateways into Warp Gates and Melf and I warped in 3 Stalkers each to our hidden Pylons. We each warped in a second wave of 3 Stalkers before unleashing hell on our unsuspecting opponents. They both put up a good fight, but it was no match for a dozen Stalkers and another dozen on the way. When the 'You are Victorious' message box appeared, I sat back in my chair and smiled. This game is seriously awesome.

"Another game?", I asked Melf on vent.

"Of course", he replied.

We went on to play another 7 or so games with varying success. We managed to win 3 in a row at one stage, netting us both the 'Team Hot Streak: 3' achievement.

As the evening set in, Melf's girlfriend Lillsy joined us, and our 2v2 turned into 3v3. We played through to about 3am. Probably the most memorable game was the one where my base got destroyed in the first 4 minutes of the game and it was left to Lillsy and Melf and hold the team. I managed to save a probe and Melf patched me some minerals to get another based started. Unfortunately that got destroyed as well within the next few minutes. I was almost ready to surrender, but I thought I'd hang around and see what happened. I still had 1 Probe to my name which I hid in Lillsy's base. Melf and Lillsy somehow managed to hold their own against 3 opponents while I started a new base inside of one of Lillsy's expansions. Progress was slow, but I managed to get back on my feet. I amassed an army of Zealots and sent them out of Lillsy's base ready for action. To my absolute amazement, there was nothing left to kill. Melf and Lillsy had won the day without my help. Hat's off to their ninja skillz. My Zealot army was cool though ;)

Here's a screen shot of this weekend's results:

Good times...

Monday, August 2, 2010

StarCraft 2 first impressions

After reading a few reviews prior to purchasing the game, I was expecting to play SC1 but with better graphics and higher resolutions. Well, yeah.. it pretty much is. I don't want to repeat what you could read in other professional reviews, so I'll keep it short. Is SC2 worth buying?

If you are like me and enjoy hardcore PvP on casual terms, then yes SC2 is definitely worth buying. They've made PvP convenient and awesome! There is a 'Quick Game' button that launches you into a PvP 1v1 match against someone of 'equal' skill. I honestly couldn't design a casual PvP game better than that. Click, boom your in! Pow, pow! Awesome!

At my level (very noob), your average game goes for about 35 minutes, which is perfect for slotting into those free time gaps. I can see this becoming the TF2 of RTS.

As another positive, it's very easy to play with friends and there are achievements and unlocks that you can showcase for your e-peen. The single player campaign is pretty good too. They also have challenge missions that are like playing mods from SC1. For example: Defeat 3 waves of enemies with limited units. You buy the most awesome RTS ever made and get a bunch of free mini games... can't complain.

I spent the entire weekend playing it and I want to keep playing it. Starcraft 2 was definitely worth the money I paid, and then some. Love it!

Friday, July 30, 2010

What does a GW2 level actually mean?

I've just finished reading a blog post by Scott from Pumping Irony on the Guild Wars 2 leveling info released by Arena.net earlier today. For those that haven't read it yet, Arena.net have announced the level cap for Guild Wars 2 will be 80. As Scott pointed out, this seems like an awfully diku WoW inspired move by Arena.net. I'm not entirely inclined to agree. What I'd like to point out is that we still don't know what gaining a level in GW2 will actually means. For example, do we gain attribute points per level? I still haven't read any info released from Arena.net that suggests there are even going to be attribute points. What restrictions does the level of your character put on game play? Again, we still don't know yet. How long does it take to reach the max level? Until we get more information, the level cap might as well be 5000. It makes no difference.

What we do know, is that level progression will be linear and not exponential like most MMOs. That gets my tick of approval. Did we learn any other new information from the latest post aside from the cap being 80? Nope, not really. So the only thing I'm upset about with the latest blog post from Arena.net, is that there really wasn't much information in the post.

It would seem odd to me that Arena.net would move away from the winning leveling formula they had with GW1. If I had to guess, I would say that your level will only restrict the XP you get from kills. Same as in GW1. This forces players to move through the story/game if they want to progress the level of their character. Given the amount of design changes so far with GW2, it's best not to assume to much. So in conclusion, I only have to say this:

"Arena.net more info please!"

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Crimson is back!

It's been well over 6 months since I last posted here on the blog. I will explain why, but the short answer is that time constraints caused me to have a lifestyle change.

Just after Christmas (now 6 months ago) my girlfriend and I moved in with her parents to save money for a our own house. This threw a bit of a spanner into the works of my daily gaming routine. My gf's parents house is located 1.5 hrs travel time away from both mine and my gf's work. Essentially my gf and I were getting up at 5:30am for work and getting home around 7:30pm. Once dinner was cooked I'd get about an hour and a half of gaming in before I needed to be asleep ready for the next day. Shortly after starting this routine, my gf decided that she wanted to start doing a TV writing course after work. The downside to this, is that we catch the train home. Her classes wouldn't finish until 9pm at night, which meant she would have to catch the late train home. Unfortunately our train line has some shady characters around and it gets even worse the later you catch it. So of course I had to wait around and catch the train with her to ensure her safety. This meant that I had a gap between 5:30pm and 9pm after work where I would do nothing. I couldn't play games because my gaming rig was 1.5 hrs away. What was I to do? On our second late train home of this routine, we encountered a rather aggressive young fellow who was insistent on smoking a joint on the train while punching windows randomly (seriously wtf?). Anyway it scared the crap out of both of us and I decided that if we would continue this routine, I would need to learn some self defense. So I signed up to a Karate class after work which filled the void nicely. So for the last 6 months or so I've been training Kyokushin Karate four days of the week, as well as going to the gym. You can imagine the change in fitness/body shape going from a regular gaming geek who does very little exercise to a full fledged killing machine...

Let's just say, I don't worry about the crazy people on our train line any more.

With all this going on, I started to lose touch with gaming and the blog-o-sphere in general. Oddly I didn't actually tell anyone about it either. Poor Melf was probably wondering where the hell I disappeared to. Cheers Melf for keeping the blog going btw.

Unfortunately there is a downside to doing anything excessively, and that's 'burnout' (yes it happens in the real world too!). All the exercise was becoming physically taxing and it lead to some minor injuries. Mostly neck and back problems. I knew there would need to be another change in my lifestyle or else I would hammer myself into a wall. So a middle ground was found. I now do karate two nights of the week and gaming on the other nights. My gf has also adjusted her night classes to fit this schedule. She's so awesome :)

So what game did I start playing again once I started getting back into gaming? Guild Wars. All this talk about GW2 has me excited about MMO gaming again. Plus I still think Guild Wars is the best MMO available at the moment. It was weird firing it back up after over a year of inactivity. A couple of weeks back into it, I organized a 3 day LAN with Melf, his gf and the brother of my gf. I started a Mesmer and relived the good times of starting a character from scratch. GW is so awesome, and it's great fun gaming with friends! You can expect some more posting on Guild Wars to come, but for now, lets just say:

It's good to be back!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

LoL by name and by nature

A few months ago I attempted to play League of Legends (LoL). I am quite a fan of the Defense of the Ancients (DotA) style of arena-based RPG formula. However at the time I could not manage to actually get past the LoL game launcher due to some apparent retardicity in said launcher. After about half an hour attempting to make the game work I gave up thinking, "fine, it's a free game made by some amateurs turned pro, they need some time to iron out the kinks. I'll try again some time in the future."

Fast forward to ten minutes ago, where I saw an advert that their first proper competitive season is about to start up and that now is the time to jump on the bandwagon. Splendid! I attempt to log on to the website:



Right. Clearly I must have got this far last time. Seeing as how I used my generic gamer name, I'm sure I used my generic gamer password too:



Hmmm. No, I haven't forgotten, but oh well. Let's just reset the password so we can get on with playing this reportedly fantastic game:



Ahh, the unknown problem. That wonderful catch-all error message that turns your coding ineptitude into a summer breeze.

If you can't even make a basic website that will let me download the game, I'm not going to entrust you with any more of my time. My game time is already quite limited, as evidenced by the solidly put together couple of dozen or so games just sitting not even installed in my Steam catalogue because of the veritable gaming smorgasbord that we are provided with these days. LoL? Yes, I think I will LoL in your general direction now.

Monday, July 5, 2010

As if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced

Ergh.

From the words "this is the trooper.... he'll be our main tank" there was a sinking feeling in my gut. It was all downhill from there. I'm trying to decide whether the Jedi "holding aggro" is more of a slap in the face to the Star Wars legacy, or whether the honour goes to the smuggler throwing "light heals" around.

Luke: I'm excited for that new Bioware game.
Obi-Wan: That's no Bioware game. It's a space WoW.
Han: Bioware are too awesome to make a space WoW.
Luke: I have a very bad feeling about this.
Chewie: Unnggggghhh.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Irony

Ravious rightly points out that with all the free to play options open to MMO players these days, if you want to hang on to your subscribers you need to be giving them a steady stream of content. Give them a lump expansion and they'll burn through it all in a week and won't be paying you next month.

This is frankly what I assumed my subscription dollars would be buying when I first started playing MMO's. I see a steady stream of content becoming the standard way of operating for the MMO 2.0's of the near future.

It's amusing that the plethora of free to play games is going to force the improvement of subscription MMO's. I get the feeling that the "best of both worlds" (a steady stream of content without a subscription) is going to be Guild Wars 2, with the Guild Wars 1 War in Kryta event system acting as a test-bed.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Just release it already.

*Shooooom* feel the speed of the incremental hype train.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Bioware MMO may contain insufficient WoW

Disturbing news - Bioware appear not to be copying World of Warcraft for their upcoming Star Wars MMO.

The horror!

(...)

Seriously?

There are two types of people that still play WoW. There are those who love WoW and the only possible game they will ever play is WoW 2.0 when Blizzard releases it. Then there are the ones that play WoW but truly do yearn for something more.

I just have to reply to some of what Darren said in his post:

"Their expectations for what an MMO should be looks to be waaaaay off from what gamers expects an MMO to be"

Gamers, if we're speaking generally, expect MMOs to be steaming piles of doggy doo-doo. Therefore we can expect that SW:TOR will be waaaaaay off from that. Excellent.

"Bioware intends to re-train an entire generation of MMO gamers who’ve been suckling at WoW’s tit for the last 6 years"

It sounds to me like Bioware are targeting a much larger audience - gamers in general. To the majority of these, the prospect of another epic grindfest doesn't exactly appeal. I imagine they'd be quite content not to disrupt Blizzard's current teeting arrangements, as it will allow them to pull in a much larger pool of people. Not to mention that their forums will be relatively free of "be more like WoW" vs "go back to WoW" comment threads.

Not that I'm saying SW:TOR will break WoW's subscriber numbers. Bioware have a tough hill to climb because MMOs have such a bad name amongst the general gamer population. But to me it sounds like what they're offering is a lot more entertaining then:

"click through the text in these games and don’t read. Click-click-click…look at quest log….go kill 10 froogles"

And a quote from the interview that I think shows that Bioware may actually have considered all Darren's points:

"...people tried to convince us these limitations were canon... you could not, in fact, put interesting bits in an MMO because that was now sacrilege."

Somehow I trust Bioware's judgement in producing a fun game for me to play.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Official ArenaNet Guild Wars 2 blog is up

I started writing about MMORPG's a couple of years ago (on another website, hopefully now buried in the mists of time). Like a lot of people I went through an exciting brainstorming phase where I proposed all sorts of crazy ideas to try and improve the MMO genre. Looking back now, some of it was good. Some of it was ok. A lot of it was short-sighted drivel.

While I have come to accept that I may not, in fact, be about to sigle-handedly revolutionize the entire genre, there's one thing that I can tell from this experience. ArenaNet is a lot better at it than anybody else has ever been.

The revolution is here my friends. Game on, Blizzard. Game on.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Demigod 75% off

... Through their refer-a-friend promotion. Are you my friend? I thought so! Here's a coupon code:

DGFRIEND-4443391

Expires 8th April 2010

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Brilliant 10 minute indie game - Specter Spelunker Shrinks

Fascinating concept with a central mechanic reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland. Give it a play.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The world is ending in a week

The Large Hadron Collider is going to triple its previous record for high-energy proton beam collisions in about a week. Depending on who you ask we may all be swallowed up by a black hole, or possibly converted into some kind of soup composed of strange matter. Hold on to your hats.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Downloadable "content"

Apparently the new Bioshock "DLC" is a whopping 24 kB in size. This means that customers are not actually downloading any content because the content was all already there when they installed it.

Perhaps they should quit with the blatant false advertising and re-label it DLP? (DownLoadable Permission). Might take the wind out of the marketing propaganda sails.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Achievement unlocked

Paraphrasing part of Sirlin's recent GDC write-up:

If achievements are removed from a game, the decrease in desire to play is proportional to how shit the underlying gameplay is.

Makes sense to me. Reading stuff like this makes it much easier to resist the temptations of the XP/GP overlord lurking inside my router.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Hats off for Valve, again

Following the recent furore over Ubisoft's Nazi-style DRM scheme in which you must always be online or they will dispatch their killer dogs who bark killer bees at you and shoot lasers from their eyes and stuff, we receive news of this from Valve.

It's almost as though a group of people at Valve periodically sit down and say, hey, how can we do stuff to make our products things that people would want to actually have on their computer? I don't know what they teach the business grads who run a lot of the major gaming companies these days, but Valve are going to be laughing all the way to the bank while the rest of them fade gently into the company-churning mill that is the global recession.

The only problem is, I can't see any possible way that Steam won't have a >90% market share of games sales across the world within the next 10 years (this includes all physical retail outlets, which will die a slow death).

Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and all that.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Greatest gaming moments

Team Fortress 2 is one of my all-time favourite games. It's casual, goofy fun while at the same time being tactical and competitive if you feel like it. I've had a lot of great moments playing this game, but the other day stands out as one of the most fun moments I've ever had in any game.

You see one evening I had decided to log into an instanst respawn, 100% critical hits server. This produced some initial jubilation due to a crazy amount of deaths raining from the sky. But the initial good feelings were not to last, as it was horribly unbalanced.

Just when I was thinking of changing servers, something magical happened. A vote was cast, asking people what they'd like the new gravity for the server to be. How unusual, I thought. Would I like to set the gravity to be as low as physically possible? Why, yes, yes I would. And so did everybody else on the server (hurrah for democracy!). This was the result:



If you're not familiar with TF2 or this map, suffice it to say, I am quite high up in the air. The other fellow is up even higher. We are scouts, who are able to double jump (jump again while in the air). Except when there's no gravity, it's not so much of a double jump as it is a quadruple jump. With lengthy amounts of floating on light, fluffy clouds in between jumps. Light fluffy clouds of hilarious death.

It's not just the pseudo-flying that was fun, it was doing it with limited / unpredictable control. Difficult steering, automatic critical hits, hilarious physics when you get shot in mid-air, and the fact that I had to come back down from my skywards jaunts every 10 seconds or so, all just added to the hilarity. I can not remember a funnier, more exhilariting game experience.

What are some of your favourite gaming moments?

Guild Wars Holy Trinity

Guild Wars is one of my favourite MMO-style games for many great reasons. One of these is that the class system does not resemble the cliche "Holy Trinity" of tank, healer and damage classes.

Ravious over at Kill Ten Rats also likes that Guild Wars lacks the Holy Trinity. He'd like to see them get rid of the monk class to further distance themselves from the healing of the Trinity. This would be replaced by the ability for more characters to be self-sufficient, healing themselves.

I agree with this for the most part because, as Ravious points out, any system where you have to spam the chat for a long time looking for one particular class is flawed. However, we can't shaft the monk completely. See, monks feature not only healing skills, but these skills that are dubbed 'Protection'.

Protection skills are cast on players before damage lands, making them a lot more interesting to use than watching 'red bars go up'. Protection skills also often scale in efficiency the more players are attacking the target, making it a direct counter to the mindless PvP tactic of hitting the same fellow over and over until he dies. Suddenly a whole new dynamic is introduced to the game, where players have to judge when the other team is just building towards an alpha strike, or merely applying some pressure. This subtle dance of figuring out what your opponent intends to do is the cornerstone of every decent competitive game.

Other MMO-style games just don't feature these kinds of skills (or if they do, they are on some ridiculous cooldown), and this is why their PvP is regarded as a joke. Protection skills are the pièce de résistance of Guild Wars, they are unique to it and are a massive evolution in competitive gameplay.

There have to be different solutions to the "always need a monk" problem - maybe allow the dual class system to better pick up the slack, or give the other classes a smattering of class-appropriate Protection skills (e.g. Warriors offer protection from attacks). Whatever we do we can get rid of Healing, but Protection has to stay.

Friday, January 15, 2010

RTFFAQ

In this latest episode of Keenwatch, Keen is disappointed because Global Agenda is not a traditional MMO with large, open-world areas. Allow me to quote directly from the Global Agenda FAQ:

"Elements of a typical MMO that are NOT in Global Agenda:

a large, seamless world to explore
quest givers
open world PvP or PvE
elves
If you consider any of these items to be must-haves within your MMO, we may not be the game for you."

"Overall, we consider the game to be an Action-based Shooter MMO. The game offers the fluid gameplay mechanics of a multi-player shooter, with elements of character progression, territory control and economy drawn from the MMO genre. The gameplay includes both player-vs-evironment and player-vs-player content, but all of it is fast-paced and highly engaging and designed to get you into the action quickly"

And this, from "The Game" linked to on the main page of the Global Agenda website:

"Co-Op with friends online - Four players share the same online mission experience - working as a team,communicating via built-in text and voice chat, infiltrating facilities, defeating end bosses, and earning technology upgrades.

Compete in fast-paced, multiplayer matches - Teamwork and tactics are paramount within objective-based game types designed from the ground up to support intense and balanced player vs. player combat."

What part of the description of this game implies your generic, open-world MMO? Gee, if I didn't know better I'd say that Keen tries to shoehorn every single game he plays into some UO/Darkfall/WoW extravaganza of failure.

Oh, also, he seems to be QQing about instancing a lot lately. If you want your generic mash-all-buttons-in-boring-non-interactive-carebear combat, by all means play a game in which every single person that is playing can all be crammed into one giant area.

If you want a game that the client and server can actually handle and possibly at the same time depict some semi-fun semblance of gameplay, you need instancing, because the technology just can't handle it otherwise.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

There's.... too many of them!

Useful tactic for posting something ridiculous on the internet to minimize ridicule aimed at yourself:

String together such a multitude of irrational, delusional statements that nobody knows where to start.

I am therefore motivated only to summarize and say that the so-called glory games of yesteryear that Keen discusses are all niche games, which do not appeal to the majority of people because they do not like getting ganked.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Crimson's 2009 top games

Favourite game for 2009:
DEMIGOD

I didn't jump on this game when it was initially released, because it had an incredibly shaky start. To be truthful, it didn't sound the kind of game I would want to play. The screen shots looked a bit boring and I didn't want another RTS on the pile...

Around about July, Melf started telling me on vent that he had downloaded the Demigod demo. He said the game play wasn't what he thought and that the game had some good PvP elements to it. Well, the sweet talk payed off. I downloaded the demo and gave it a go. So glad I did! Demigod is an awesome little PvP game. Each game is incredibly tactical and requires a lot of teamwork and skill to win. It's exactly what PvP junkies need to survive ;) The game cost me around $40 US to buy, but it's been on special so many times that you should be able to pick it up for under $20 US now. Stardock and Gas Powered Games still seem to be releasing new content for it, so it's definitely worth buying in my opinion.

Next up:
TEAM FORTRESS 2

With all the updates Valve have been releasing, how can you not play this game? What I love about TF2 is that you can jump into a game and get a high speed action PvP fix within seconds. You can also leave without making too much of an impact on your team mates, which makes this the perfect casual PvP game.

CITY OF HEORES/VILLAINS

Oddly I didn't really play a lot of MMOs this year, however I did play City of Heroes/Villains for 4 months. I really enjoyed this game initially because, well it feels good to be a super hero. My girlfriend even played it for a couple of months, which says a lot (she doesn't play games usually). I stopped playing for two reasons; The PvP was crap and the Mission Architect patch took the fun out of the game.

Other games of note that I felt I got my money's well worth:
  • Left 4 Dead
  • Plants vs Zombies
  • Defense Grid: The Awakening
I'm reluctant to put Dragon Age on this list because I still haven't completed it yet and have no motivation to do so. In my opinion Baldurs Gate 2 is better.

What game sucked the most? AION

I was severely let down by Aion. At some point when building an MMO, you need to stop and ask yourself, is this game fun? If the answer is no, then please take it back to the drawing board until it is. In short, Aion was not fun to play.

So in summary 2009 sucked for MMOs, but it wasn't all bad. Demigod was a surprise and TF2 held strong. Fingers crossed that Guild Wars 2 will release this year. I feel like I've been waiting for that game forever.