More Here Soon! Blog Resurrection

Hopefully without blog DNA transcription errors

I’ve been playing games!  Games that are online and are played with other gamers! I’ve been doing it for a few months now, so I’ve decided to work with the blog again. Why not?

First on the list, and in the rotation since winter, is Clash of Clans. It’s a free to play mobile strategy game. The monetization scheme is rather fair — spending money might advance your village faster, but that will just put you up against stronger opponents sooner. There’s a lot of depth and strategy to the game — much more than I expected, so much more that I occasionally feel bad for my clanmates when I don’t take the time to play, learn, and improve. If you’re looking for a clan, you can find a bit more info about the one I am part of here.

About two months back, that old MMO itch came back again. I had little interest in Wildstar and no interest in Elder Scrolls Online, so I decided the easiest way back in was just to boot up Guild Wars 2: it was still on my system and did not cost anything to return to. So I checked with Havok, and she had been thinking about playing it again as well. We got back in just before the second Living Story season started. The game has gone through some changes since I quit around this time last year, which for the most part I like.

I did find that the Living Story took little time to complete, however, so I found myself looking for more. Which led to spending more time in WvW, which led to joining a WvW guild, which actually led to spending more time in structured PvP to level a thief. And now I mostly play a thief in any pvp mode — the engi still comes out for PvE and dungeons.  And until I have one of each, there’s always at least one character that I’m leveling. So now my current stable of GW2 characters contains an 80 engineer, 80 guardian, 80 thief, 80 mesmer, 44 elementalist, 42 warrior, 40 necromancer, and a 20 ranger. My first 3 80s have full exotic gear, with the engi having several ascended trinkets. The thief has a few ascended trinkets and a few pieces of ascended armor. Currently leveling the ele, though I’m not really concerned about playing with that pro at a high level or equipping out anymore 80s I achieve. Other than occasionally running map completion or world events, usually while only half paying attention, most of my game time goes into learning about fighting other players with the thief. I have a few guildies that prefer thieves, so I know I have a lot of room for improvement.

Last night, I launched into Archeage. I’ve barely scratched the surface of the game and have yet to encounter any of the sandbox features that make people I know so excited about it. But I am already enjoying the class system. And looking forward to the crafting. I’ll probably be playing this more than GW2 by the end of the year — partly because I have payed for Patron status and want to get my money’s worth. I’m not a huge fan of the combat, but it is better than pre-NGE Star Wars Galaxies, and I loved that game. I don’t think the combat will be the main draw for Archeage any more than it was for SWG.

I have quite a few article ideas brewing, so more here in the near future.

What I’m Playing

Just a brief update about the games I’m playing, some of which might motivate me to use this space in the future.

I have not played much Wizard101 since my previous post.  I generally leave it up to Beans as to when I play that — meaning if she is playing, I will too, but I’m not likely to go in on my own.  But I’m betting we’ll go back in together by mid-October.

I have not been in GW2 since the LFG tool and Taco the Dragon update, haven’t even downloaded it.

I have played a lot of Saints Row IV, which some might find horrendously sexist, but I just find terribly funny.  It’s fun, though it really doesn’t scratch that Saints Row or GTA itch — the Matrix-like abilities make driving cars sort of pointless, and for whatever reason, much of my fun in these games has come from cruising at street level, listening to the “radio,” and getting to know the roads and paths.  There’s no compelling reason to learn my way around the city when it is a very simple matter to launch into the air and sail over all the obstacles.

I tried to play Age of Wushu.  I downloaded the installer and it ran just fine, but when it was done the game would only give me an error and not launch.  My system should run it without trouble, so I assume there was an error in the installation.  I uninstalled it and have not yet been motivated to try again.

I’ve strongly debated investing in Star Citizen, but I think I need to upgrade my computer.  The hanger module is unlikely to run well on this system, so I find it likely the game will crap out too.  But upgrading might be on the horizon for me.

I played through Lego Harry Potter, years 1 – 4.  When I played through Lego Star Wars, years back, I felt compelled to go back and explore the areas that cannot be reached the first time through.  I have not felt any urge to do that with this game.  But I haven’t uninstalled it either, so perhaps I’ll be back.

Every once in awhile, I pull up a game of FTL or Don’t Starve and get my Rogue-like on.  Usually more FTL than Don’t Starve, but I’ve started running out of goals for FTL.  Don’t Starve is in development, so changes give me reason to come back.

Sometimes, I play a round of Hearts on Windows.

MMOs aren’t dominating my game time in any way shape or form, and I’ve actually spent much more time reading or writing than gaming lately, which is probably a good thing.  I’ll find something compelling and multiplayer eventually though, and I will write the crap out of it.

Wizards Have Terrible Grammar: My Initial Impressions of Wizard101

Wizards do indeed have terrible grammar in Wizard101, though I should note it’s mostly not the fault of the people playing them: it’s mostly due to a draconic chat filter that makes it nearly impossible to speak without finding many of your words replaced by ellipses.

And no, it’s not because I fucking swear all the goddamn time.  I’m not a classless asshole.  I tried to tell the friend I am playing with, a Glitch alum known in Ur-that-was as Beans, Obviously, (yes, the Obviously is part of the name, that’s why it is capitalized, obviously) that a fight had kicked my bum.  Bum would not type out.

Neither would numbers or number words (6 or six, respectively) — which I assume is part of the safety measures intended to keep children from sharing their “friend code” — a code that lets players add someone to their friend list who is not standing next to them, a precaution so that children cannot be sought out by internet strangers, I guess.

But the only real result is that the local chat channels are filled with mangled garbage that passes for English sentences.  For example, if a player needs someone level 6 or above, they type level sixth, as ordinal numbers are not filtered (though the word ordinal is). Their hearts are in the right place at KingsIsle Entertainment, I’m sure.  But as a writer and a once aspiring English teacher, all I can do is contemplate the horrible effect such examples have, an effect that goes above and beyond normal netspeak and produces some really twisted sentence constructs.

As a result of viewing these twisted constructs, I’ve come to find the chat filter completely useless.  The kids seem to find ways around it, so the filter serves no real purpose except as a security blanket for clueless parents.  And a severe roadblock in your average child’s English education.

Oh but the game is fun.  Runs a little more saccharine than my usual taste, but the turn based combat has some interesting tactics that appear to grow more complex with time.  And it works well with a small group of 2 – 4.  The game certainly feels like a Harry Potter MMO without the Harry Potter.  And that makes Beans rather happy and makes Havok likely to join us at some point (do eeeeet).

Beans has progressed to level 10, and I have only reached level 6.  Once I’ve spent a little more time in game, I’ll publish a Wizard101 review about something other than the effect chat filters might have on impressionable young minds.

Obligatory Everquest Next Reveal Impressions

I’m dragging myself out of the depths to which inactive bloggers are banished in order to talk about the topic of the moment.  During the SOE Live 2013 Everquest Next announcement, I was in the office working on formatting the latest revisions to one of our manuals, but I’m alone on Fridays, so I put the livestream on one computer while working off another.

I almost regret that choice.  Now I have to go in and work tomorrow to make up for how unfocused I was for the last three hours of the day.  But it will only cost me a little in gas.  Seems worth it.

I can sum up why with a single quote:

What we do is we tag everything in the game world with what it is.  The game is constantly polling the world to find out where the guards are, how often people have gone down a lonely stretch of road to find out whether it’s lonely or not.  And so what we do is we create orks and then we just release them into the world.  And then it’s up to the orks to find the spots that they like.

I’m glad I work alone on Fridays, because the following video is actual footage of what happened in my office next:

I never realized how much I look like Winona Ryder.

Anyway, no static spawns: instead, mobs have behavioral subroutines that assign likes and dislikes, preferences and aversions.  Further explanation revealed that the same scenario can have multiple results — players may be sent into the woods to push back goblins that have recently arrived.  And the goblins might start withdrawing, or the goblin king might decide he needs those woods and respond by sending armies.

Actual change in the world.  Actual change over time without updates needed.  It’s what many expected from GW2.  But rather than dynamic ghost story events, EQN, as described at least, does not have dynamic events — instead, it has a dynamic virtual ecology that will vary from server to server.

This part of the reveal, by itself with nothing else, is enough that I can say I will play the game to at least see this claim in action.

The cynicism of the MMO community is well-earned, but I don’t find myself agreeing with many of the complaints that are already circling.   The new art direction is frequently under attack — I find myself not caring at all about the changes to character models and otherwise impressed with the environment art.  The combat style is under attack.   I’m not sure it’s possible for me to have feelings about the combat that based on video, even the video in which various developers play the game live on stage.  I’d need to take the controls myself.

Syp over at Biobreak seems unimpressed with the Rallying Cries, EQN’s version of public questing, stating that “practically everything they’re saying about them makes [him] think of Guild Wars 2,” but I would disagree there as well.  Sure, the basic mechanic reminds me of GW2 or Rift or that game that shall not be named where the term PQ comes from, but I think that’s missing the point.  PQs are static in all three of those games, but if things work as claimed, Rallying Cries will be generated organically by the emergent AI in the applicable mobs and NPCs; in other words, there will be no dragon timers for EQN.  On one server the dragon might be attacking the city because too many adventurers have threatened his hoard while on another he’s still guarding the hoard and terrorizing the mountains.  And that dragon might have settled in different places on each server to begin with.

My only disappointment is that I’m not seeing how EQN will itself be a sandbox.  From the reveal, the sandbox elements seem safely confined to EQN Landmark. I would play that game even if it wasn’t tied to an MMO — even if it was just a AAA graphics version of Minecraft.  In fact, I’m strongly considering upgrading my PC or buying a new one before EQNL releases.

But I’d be more impressed if the two were a single game.

 

I’m Alive!

I just have a job and stuff again!  Losing Glitch as my main source of ideas for posts on top of having the demands on my time and my overall lifestyle change simultaneously hasn’t left me a lot of time or desire to write.  Certainly not to write about games, and my primary fiction piece has seen maybe a paragraph added in the last three months.  I’m not full time, but the job keeps my brain burning glucose and leaves me rather tired.  Most work nights I’m not up for gaming at all.  And MMO-gaming and the social interaction—even the casual interactions—it brings is out of the question.  I’m an introvert to the bone — even if I do not talk to anyone and only deal with emails in a day, that’s enough social interaction for me.  

For the last month, I’ve barely played GW2.  I can’t decide if I’m done with the game, or if I just don’t have the energy for an MMO.  I think it’s a bit of both — I don’t have the desire to make enough time for the game to see event content during the time frame it is available for, and I have otherwise experienced most of the content I find interesting.  Combine that with a desire to be isolated most evenings, and I’m really not logging in much.  I know from past experience—I have been me for my entire life after all—that my need for isolation will pass — the “too much interaction for the day” baseline will move as I become accustomed to the interactions required for work.  

So I’ve been asking myself what it would take to make me excited about GW2 as I grow used to the new demands on me, and the best I could come up with are two possibilities: “small group, non-dungeon, permanent content” is the first.  This means, to me, something I can pop in to with one or two other people and still have it be challenging and fun, but not something that requires a set number of people and becomes impossible without that number.  And it doesn’t have an expiration date — the last few events have passed me by — I haven’t been able to log in during each more than once or twice.  The second change that might bring me back would be entirely new environments and mechanics.  

The first of these seems likely to come eventually, though it’s quite possible that by the time it does arrive, I’ll have moved on to new pastures. I feel as if Anet has focused on event content, which is probably not a bad thing for the regular players, but I don’t feel motivated to start a task that won’t be available to finish the next time I feel like playing.  

The second seems less likely based on Anet’s own statements about not adding professions, crafts, races, or zones but focusing on free content updates that expand the existing.  I’d almost prefer that a large paid expansion was in the works to release at the one year point — the one year mark is when GW got its first expansion, and when GW2 released, I commented to several that we’d probably see one in August or September.  

Probably not.  

But such a large expansion, with more skills, more weapon skills, perhaps even a new style of combat altogether (mounted? ahem) would likely give me another 8 – 9 month surge.  

I’m not sure I’m the one they want to market to though.  My server seems otherwise healthy.  Subjectively, it seemed to reach a low point about two – three months ago and has bounced back in my absence.  My favorite way of gauging the health of the game has always been to observe gem sales — those seem to be about the same as ever, since an early rise after the honeymoon phase of the game ended.   

In the meantime, I’ve taken this time to acquaint myself with single player games I missed and to reacquaint with the ones I’ve been missing.  I’ve been playing The Cave, Blood Bowl: Chaos Edition, Tropico 4, Saints Row the Third, and XCom: Enemy Unkown.  I picked up Borderlands 2, and played it a wee bit, but it’s much better as a co-op game.  I’ve mostly ignored it in order to play with Havok, and she has even less time for gaming than I do.  

I’ve also been playing an unnamed beta. The combat feels more like I expected GW2 combat to feel, at least in the early game, so it’s getting points for that.  

For the near-future, I plan to give Age of Wushu a try.  I like the sandbox elements and the setting, though I’m not sure how I feel about their monetization strategies.  But I’d like to get a firsthand feel.  I’ll try to write about that experience, at some point.  

I’ve also been strongly considering playing Darkfall: UW.  But I think that would need to wait for me to actually feel like gaming with other humans again.  Solo Darkfall is a bad idea.  

Glitch Guest — The Search for Something Preposterous: Tinkatolli

Updating once every month and a half is reasonable.  I’m still out there in gaming playing Guild Wars 2 and sampling others.  Other writing projects have been progressing lately, but I foresee some more posts here in the near future.

In the meantime, fellow former Glitchen acronymph approached me to see if I would run a guest blog, which sounded like a swell idea to me and a great way to update my blog with minimal work.  That post will shortly follow, but first I’d like to go ahead and request more guest bloggers from the Glitch community.  Not all of the games that Glitchen have migrated to are of interest to me, and I don’t have time to play them all.  Many of the games I play would not be of interest to most Glitchen, but I do want to provide a bit more content to the community.  If you’d like to review a game you are playing that you think might interest other former players, email me at the address provided in my bio and let me know the game you’d like to review, and perhaps we can do some more of these Glitch Guest posts.

-~-~*~-~-

I am not a gamer. I am not a blogger. Bear with me.

I fell in love with Glitch, the first and only MMO I’d ever played, after it was recommended to me by a real life friend in October 2011. Oh, the hours I lost. Oh, the fun I had. Oh, the friends I made. Sadly, the game closed December 9th, 2012 essentially due to lack of funding.

Looking for a replacement wasn’t high on my list of priorities initally, although many of my in-game friends were recommending other games that might potentially whet my whistle.

Several weeks after Glitch closed and as I still combed the newsfeed (thank you Tiny Speck for keeping that aspect available to users) I found I really did want another game to keep me occupied in my limited spare time. I had purchased and was still playing Bubbletown locally on my laptop, but there are only so many borbs you can shoot in a day and still walk away with any sense of accomplishment.

A couple other Glitchers had mentioned Tinkatolli, more than once, and I finally signed up a week ago.

This game is aimed toward kids. Age range isn’t mentioned, but it’s apparent once you’re inside that the age range is youngish-young.

Now is also a good time to mention that I’m not a parent. Even so, I have to say it’s a useful game for young’ns. Gross motor skills are tasked with any video game, sure. But this online game has so many games within games it offers testing of math skills, prioritization, depth perception and timing.

There are seven lands in the world, each being small and straightforward. Stinkatolli is the exception to that statement, being somewhat labrynthine in layout and larger than the others. In my limited play, it seems the game is not particularly quest-driven. Aside from a daily “trade” challenge, the goal appears to be to collect coins and trash as you move through the lands. Energy is maintained through consumption of fruits found scattered about.

As with most online games, there is the option to become a paid member and this unlocks access to an additional land. Membership begins at $5.95 for a single month and includes additional “trinkets” which are also earned each time a player levels up. Trinkets can be exchanged for upgrades such as expanded housing for your Tinka.

The arcade style games-within-game are located throughout the lands and can be played at will. Many of these are fashioned after old classics. For instance, there is a version of Memory and another game is akin to Bejeweled. “Stax” is almost flashcard-esque in nature, testing basic math skills in a timed fashion combined with cute graphics.

As a tree-hugging hippie myself, I have to also love the aspect of the game that teaches and encourages kids to recycle. There is a “sorting station” that allows the users to take the “junk” they’ve collected from the game and make other items from it. I love that. There is also an option to create things IRL from recycled items, photograph them, and upload them to the site to be voted upon with an opportunity to have those creations become a part of the game.

It is a bit confusing to me why this game was designed as an MMO. Granted, after only a few logins perhaps I’m missing something, but to date I can’t see a purpose in having friends there and there isn’t much of a social aspect to it even passing other players in the trash hunt. There is a chat option, but it’s rather cumbersome and only available on the main screen of a land. If you’re engrossed in a game, comments are missed.

Overall, kid game for the win. For now. Is it fun? Yes. Is it challenging if you’re over the age of seven? Probably not. But it’s fun anyway. Shelldiggr is my favorite game so far and has managed to scare off the doldrums on more than one occasion. Tinkatolli won’t become the social platform and all-consuming game that Glitch had been for me – it simply doesn’t have enough depth – but it works well to satisfy my need to occasionally log in to something and experience a bit of diversion.

If you decide to take a run ’round Tinaktolli, I suggest you turn your chat option off. If you’re older than nine, you probably don’t want to hear the random chatter.

The Search for Something Preposterous: Here Be Monsters

There once was a strange civilization filled with sexless muppets that worshiped eleven giants.  They were often savage little capitalists, but they did not settle their differences with violence.  We know this civilization existed as the archaeological record is available on facebook pages and blogs and soon in art books and CDs.  But when this civilization came to a halt, the lives of the muppeteers did not.  Where did this diaspora lead them?

Many of their communities traveled nearly intact to facebook.  Some of them became emboldened by the success of the journey and set out to explore the bowels of their new territory.   Among these dark and dingy caves, known to most as facebook games, they encountered a place they found similar to their old home.  Thus some of us were introduced to Here Be Monsters.

Although HBM is not going to replace Glitch for me, there are some positives to the game, and I find myself enjoying it despite not expecting to.  Even the time I started playing helped overcome my expectations as I had the pleasure of finishing some introductory tasks and returning to London, the game’s hub location, to find maybe a dozen or more players I knew from Glitch.   HBM is a game of quests, exploring, harvesting, recipe unlocking, and fishing.  Oh and there’s some monsters too.

Although the game’s title and lore center around the monsters, I seem to spend little time with them.  And that’s too bad since the monsters are the best art in the game by far.  I think of my trap as a teleport point and a money generator.  Since you can travel to it for free, I set it up near a quest hub or resource that I am interested in and leave it there — as long as I make sure it has something for bait, it will generate money.

If I’m actually playing the game, I find a small slice of my time goes to crafting, and the majority goes to exploring and harvesting, usually both at the same time.  Crafting, unfortunately, is designed to be a large time sink, with some items taking hours to craft, and many items having a potential to fail despite the time — such failure can be prevented by success potions, but these seem to be only available as gifts from friends (but one of many options, with no way to really make a request) or from the cash shop.  The time to craft needed items begins to extend from minutes to hours to days, and while there are time potions that will speed this up that can be crafted, those also come with a chance of failure and take significant time.  Of course, you can get those potions if you spend money.

I’m not a big facebook game person.   In fact, when starting this one, it had been years since I played any facebook game, not even a puzzle game like Bejeweled.  I found the experience disheartening: despite the gigantic dip in Zynga’s stock, this company, if not others, still seems to be using the Zynga monetization methods.  I know these companies need to make money, but there’s a difference between conveniences that improve the free game and inconveniences designed to make the free game unwieldy and time consuming.  Ultimately, I think HBM commits the same sin I’ve repeatedly seen from many of these casual games: rather than try to make the moment to moment game play fun, they instead insert artificial time barriers that encourage a player to log out and check in later.  Rather than making the game a joyful distraction, this approach makes the game a habit.  Rather than playing the game to have fun, I found myself pulling up the game to see if my crops were done so I could do some cooking so I could do some other activity so I could finish a quest.  Most of the time, that meant a few minutes of gameplay and then hours of nothing with no reason to stay in game.

Even with these issues, I would be still playing HBM if it enabled me to spend time with my friends from the Glitch community in a virtual world again.   But despite that the game has persistent, multiplayer zones where other players can be seen moving and interacting with the world, there seems to be no reason at all for the developers to have put any effort into making that possible.  Other players interacting with the world have absolutely no effect, positive or negative, on your own interactions.  The chat interface is incredibly awkward: having it open blocks a sizable chunk of the play screen from view, but not having it open makes you very likely to miss the occasional message from a friend.  Private instant messaging is possible, but as far as I can tell, only between two players in the same zone.  And it cannot be done while playing.  Opening an IM window takes you to a screen with the two avatars standing there, completely eliminating any access to anything relating to gameplay.  The idea is creative, but it doesn’t belong in a game.  You cannot give, trade, sell, or buy items from other players, with the exception of sending an unsolicited gift once every 24 hours.  And this seems unlikely to change — the time it takes to craft items is inherent to the pacing of the content and the monetization style of the game.

The one thing I feel they have right is the incentive for adding friends.  Adding friends provides convenience but not adding does not lead to a penalty.  Really, the opposite approach of the crafting system.   Players can travel to the homesteads of their friends for free, making it a good idea to have lots of friends spread out around the world for easier exploration.  But a player who refuses to add friends will still be able to explore as her level increases, it will simply take more time.  There’s no failure, no push to the cash shop, no push to recruit or add strangers.  Well done there, HBM.

But I don’t think this game will work for most Glitchen.  Interaction is minimal.  Socializing is difficult.  Depth is completely lacking.  And as the game is intended for children, the chat filter is draconic.  Even the word “space” is filtered, presumably because one could then explain to another player that you can swear if you put spaces between the letters.  Well d a m n that approach to h e l l.  I even noticed a Glitch player in their forums complaining because she cannot use her normal screen name — it contains that nasty “space” word.

Despite that it is intended for children, I really don’t recommend it for them either.  Children have even less resistance to the habit-forming mechanics  that these kinds of games are so fond of than adults — in my completely amateur opinion, kids should just play games that are fun or informative, not games designed to make them check in at regular intervals.

On a scale of Rube to Scion of Purple, I give this game a Rube.  For you non-Glitchen, that means it’s often not that great and just a wee bit annoying.

There are other “Games for Glitchen” on my list, so we shall keep trying.