Friday, April 30, 2010

Complain about the rain and you'll end up with a drought.

As the title suggests, I'm kind of in a gaming drought ATM. I had a few games to play, but it has quickly whittled down to 1.

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Mass Effect 2 was a great game while it lasted. The main complaint I have is the stupid scanning mechanic for minerals. Had they just had minerals in the missions you had to get it would have been a lot better. The sense of exploration was missing in this one as there were only a scant number of exploration missions, and they were all quick affairs on tiny, though very atmospheric maps.

Mass Effect 2 did nail down the maps though. Every location feels different for the most part, there isn't the recycled feeling of ME1. And some of the maps have intense background shots.

The characters were interesting, though I found that the familiar faces from ME1 were my favourites. Maybe it's cause they are the most developed, and maybe it's because they are more good aligned. The mercenary style characters in ME2 are not all that interesting, really. I had no real connection with them, aside from Zaeed, who unfortunately doesn't have near enough screen time, as he's part of a DLC pack.

And I was a little annoyed at the major nerf to Biotics in ME2, as my character in ME1 was an Adept. But it did make the fights more challenging, instead of what they devolved to in the later stages of ME1: "Fire Singularity, watch enemies float around helplessly, kill them like fish in a barrel". Though Shockwave did become kind of cheap in a similar manner later on.

But all in all, ME2 was an epic sci-fi game. It got me all stoked to run a Mass Effect tabletop game using GURPS with the guys. I'll talk about that later.

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As for Bad Company 2, I've kind of become disillusioned with it. Simply put, the playerbase has NO FUCKING IDEA how to play as a team, and it just irritates me to no end. When my team does nothing but snipe, or run around all solo, and we lose because of it, it maddens me. I simply don't have the will to submit myself to it anymore. I'd actually rather play CoD4, where it's fine if people do that.

Also, I doubt that Kofi will get a new PC anytime soon, as he's got a new car in mind, so he's out. Inferno would probably be interested, but our corresponding spare time is next to nil ATM, so there's no reason. And Warmachine from my guild hasn't played in weeks. Maybe for the same reasons as me. Maybe because it took him 1 day of lots of playtime to get all the Assault unlocks. Yeah ... super easy.

I think it took me one evening to get most of the Medic unlocks. And most of that was about 3 rounds with a really good squad. Compared to 2142, it's fucking simple.

Oh well, BC2 might be better later on, when the CoD style morons go play MW2's Stimulus Package expansion or the next best thing. Maybe then the remaining players will be true Battlefield fans.

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Hopefully, the upcoming Firepower Pack for Shattered Horizon will coax some more people back to the game. SH is much more interesting, though I'm worried that the new weapons will unbalance the game a little. Even if it's a little unbalanced though, the better players, 3D fighting and space locale will keep me entertained.

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In the guild, nothing new has come up at all. People are still checking in to see what everyone is playing, hoping that there's /something/ that could bring us all back together.

Guild Wars 2 has piqued a lot of our interests. Their design blogs are very interesting and give us hope that ArenaNet is working to make a great MMO.

Of course people are still waiting on The Old Republic. Though TOR isn't slated to be out until spring 2011, so we've got a long wait. Personally, I don't want to get all hyped up for it, as it will just let me down in the end if I do. I just want the game to be challenging, have interesting classes (namely the Imperial Agent!), and have an interesting enough story that I might want to play it again with an alt.

Bioware does seem to have one good design philosophy in mind that I like: Multiple heroes beating on one enemy is NOT heroic at all. They are going for the City of Heroes method of 1 hero vs. multiple enemy mobs. And that excites me. I would love it if TOR had CoX style combat, as it was some of the best combat I've had in an MMO. Adds weren't death, and when the fight was over, you felt like you kicked some ass for real. Sounds very cool. But again, trying to not get my hopes up.

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One game that Warmachine and I are both looking at is Red Dead Redemption for the XBox 360. He's already pre-ordered it, but I will probably get it too. It looks to be Rockstar's version of GTA, but set in the Old West. The big feature that War and I like is the online multiplayer where you can just roam around the world together, or separately. It has deathmatch and other "traditional" multiplayer aspects, but the free roam part sounds the most cool. I will probably renew my Live! Gold account for 1 month at least so that War and I can team up a bit.

But, if it's anything like GTA4 online MP, I doubt it will hook me for too long. I figure that War and I can get some cool MP out of it for a month or so before the repetitive nature rears its ugly head, and we see how MMO-lite it is.

Hopefully the SP will be good enough on it's own to make the game worth it.

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I /might/ get the two DLC packs for GTA4 before that though. This gaming drought has me looking hard for options, and /supposedly/, both DLC packs are good enough to be games on their own. I can get them via the Live! Marketplace and use 4GB of my 360's drive, or I can spend like $3-5 more and get them on a disc that uses no space. Hmmm ... I wonder which one I will get? DURR! Stupid MS online pricing.

The DLC for GTA4 can also get me into the mood for RDR, and get me used to the controller again. As well, I can lend it to Inferno or Nihil, who both own GTA4 as well.

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Well, the gaming drought has also got me to play a LOT more Lord of the Rings Online too. I was playing somewhat with Inferno, but since his schedule and mine haven't worked out for a while, I've been playing solo. First I did some low level deeds to get my traits up higher, but earned no XP in the process, as they were all grey to me. I did get some XP from Shire quests for the Innocence trait, but it wasn't even 1/4th a level for 75 quests.

After fooling around with that for a long time, I've decided that I need to play my Captain solo instead, so that I can give the game a serious go. Only playing with Inferno means 1-2 nights a month, maybe, and there's no need to pay 15 bucks a month for that. That's almost as bad as my 2 years of XBox Live! for $120 (60/yr) with 4 times played online, all within the first month.

So, if I find I have enough fun playing my Captain solo, I'm going to stick with LotRO for a while. I might get a 3 month sub as it works out to the normal cost for 2. $9.99 / month is a lot better if I'm not playing a ton, than 15 bucks.

I might try and get into a guild in LotRO too, or see if any of the War Seekers are interested in joining me. Cause if I have some peeps to chat with while I solo, it's just that much more likely that I will stick around. Plus, I might be able to find some RPers that I like to RP with, and maybe for once get interested in fantasy RP. I've really found it hard in the past.

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In TV I've been trying to keep up with my shows, but sometimes I forget. None of them are really gripping me that much right now, so it's hard to remember. Also when they keep having 1-2 week hiatuses all the fucking time.

Nihil did get me to give an old sci-fi show a chance though. He said that Farscape was the best sci-fi show ever, and it's his favourite. I watched a couple episodes on the Net, and I remembered seeing parts of the show years ago on TV, but it never caught my eye. Now after watching the first 6 episodes of season 1, I'm in. The sets and costumes aren't super high tech, but the characters are interesting and the show is engaging. I love Crichton, and even Rigel is getting interesting, especially for a puppet. Though all the puppets are Henson production ones, so they are top quality. Farscape is also helpful in giving me ideas for the Mass Effect game I want to run.

I want to watch more episodes, but at 4 seasons and 20+ shows per season, all 45+ mins in length, there's a lot to watch. Inferno also lent me Burn Notice and told me I HAVE to watch it, even though I was adamant I don't have the time.

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In tabletop we've wrapped up Inferno's Cyberpunk game, and we all survived to our amazement. Best part was my character got a crotch rocket style motorcycle and that's something he'd most definitely want. Our one gaming buddy seemed a bit put off that we weren't playing all friendly near the end, but he has no clue how to play Cyberpunk. There's no "we share the loot equally" in Cyberpunk. It's usually a "You're lucky I don't shoot you and take your share of the loot" type of thing.

Since Nihil hasn't got completely prepared to run his Urban Fantasy game yet, we dove into a short session of Cthulhu run by Blake. But our one buddy I mentioned above also has no idea how to play a mystery game. He kept playing it like a game, not like his actual character would. It was very annoying to Nihil apparently.

Inferno, Nihil and I joked the other weekend how it would be awesome if we could ditch that guy and pick up another buddy of ours. But there's no easy way to do that, and he'd never leave willingly. He probably feels like it's "his group" too, even though it's been Inferno, Blake and myself for the vast majority of it. Nihil was around in the beginning too, it's just he didn't live here for the DnD years.

Nihil's game should hopefully be pretty cool, and I really like my character, even though I pretty much stole him from Shale in Dragon Age. He's also a mix of Lt. Commander Data from Star Trek, maybe a little of Arnie's Terminator from the movies as well. Pretty much he's a sentient stone golem, who's trying to figure out the world around him, and how "fleshies" think. That's his name for mortals. Kind of like HK-47 in Knights of the Old Republic. I even drew a picture of him, and used a pic of Hellboy as the outline, tracing a lot of the original. See? I'm stealing from everyone.

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After trying to work out how I wanted to do my Mass Effect game, I started with the Star Wars d20 system. It has the epic, cinematic feel to the game and I wanted the players to feel like they were part of something bigger that themselves.

But after working out races, which I didn't like how they had to have negative modifiers to balance positive ones, I went on to classes. And there was when I quickly realized that converting d20 to Mass Effect was way too much work. Just trying to figure out what to give the classes for saving throw bonuses, and feats was mind boggling.

Then trying to figure out how Biotics should work, and if they were balanced vs. everyone else was just tedious. As soon as I wound up trying to playtest a combat scenario and realized how much math I'd have to check, I figured GURPS was the far better choice.

So I naturally went on the Steve Jackson website and checked the GURPS forums for a Mass Effect thread. Low and behold I found a 17+ page one, with lots of Biotics conversions, races, armour and guns already worked out. After looking at what other people had done, it was a few hours and I had all the races, weapons, and armour worked out. A couple more and Biotics was mostly done too, though it proved to be very costly in character points.

I've tried to get the guys interested in it, but since I'm the only one who's played Mass Effect 1, let alone 2, they didn't seem super keen. Our one gaming buddy, the powergamer one, did seem somewhat more interested when I talked to him after the session. He said he loves Sci-fi more than fantasy, so he's more like me. I think the rest of the group are more fantasy lovers than sci-fi fans.

One thing that is great about Mass Effect is all the lore that is already laid out from the two games, and it's all readily available from the web. The Mass Effect wikia is a great resource, and it allows the other guys to peruse the background story at any time. It also doesn't require me to type up much of anything, and it is somewhat simplified, as compared to something like Star Wars which has over 50 alien races in the Alien Anthology alone.

Star Wars doesn't work as a gaming setting unless everyone has a similar background knowledge of the world. I tried running a Star Wars game before and it ended up like Cyberpunk, but in Star Wars. And anytime I mentioned something like "rodian", "sullustan", "astromech droid", "Z-95 headhunter", "code cylinder" or whatnot, they all looked at me confused. Then I had to describe what it was, try and remember a movie appearance of the aforementioned thing, and continue. It was really jarring. If the group was all big Star Wars fans, I'd probably not have any issues.

Another big problem with Star Wars is that /everyone/ is going to want to be a Jedi, or Force user, so it just doesn't work out well.

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And lastly, I have finally finished some more of the Gaunt's Ghosts books I have. I got the first book of the 4 part omnibook done, and I have to say it was a fucking good read. Really need to get reading more, but I have so many things I want to do, and it's not like they are going anywhere. They are especially good for when I have PC troubles, or have a gaming drought, like recently.

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So there you have it. Another update. Hope you enjoyed it.

Thanks for reading,
The Rev.

Friday, April 2, 2010

OMNOM! That's was good.

Well, consider my plate cleared for the moment. After the glut of gaming options a scant month ago, I'm now down to two games.

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I'm going to try and streamline this so I don't ramble on like I normally do. Mostly cause I'm doing this rather late, and don't want to be typing forever.

First off, I /finally/ finished Dragon Age. This was in the most part due to a week's holidays I recently had, which gave me a lot of time to hammer out the end half of the game. Dragon Age was one of the best games I've played in a long time, with a few minor annoyances, but all in all it was great. Although, like most Bioware RPGS, it has the beginning, a totally open 2nd act where the bulk of the gameplay time comes from, and a tight and focused 3rd act and conclusion. I'm kind of getting bored of this type of RPG setup, as the game gives you all this wide open space to do whatever you want, then when you finally get back to the story, you're back on rails and stuck there.

I'd much rather have wider open acts that all have side stuff to do until right up to the end. Dragon Age was just like Fallout 3 and Oblivion for me. Spend countless hours doing everything I could find after the story is set, then get back to the main quest and finish the game off in a few hours. It's the side quests that make up the bulk of the time to finish the game. If I just did the main quest chain in rapid fire succession, I'm sure I could wrap the game in no time. Where's the fun in that?

Sure, games like Call of Duty 4 or Bad Company 2 have quick, epic singleplayer campaigns. But the games are sold for the multiplayer component first and foremost, games like Dragon Age have no multiplayer. They should be a better campaign design than simply designing the game to get players to replay it with a different characters. Sure, the origin stories in Dragon Age will be different, but I can bet the game is near the exact same with another character, so what's the point? I'd rather have a battle simulator that I could replay with different characters, so that I could see the other classes, try out different group setups, and use different tactics. Maybe have all the boss fights be replayable, or have free re-specs of characters. Borderlands actually has this, which I was unaware of until recently, and it is an awesome design.

For the cost of less than the money you get for vendoring a gun, you can completely re-spec your character. No worries about gimping yourself, nor about trying out different builds. You don't have to spend the countless hours replaying the game again, just to see how the end fight would be. Easy. Why can't RPGs be the same way?

Anyways, I went off on a tangent, exactly as I hoped not to, so I'll get back on track. Dragon Age = good. Replayability though, is not quite there I think. Neverwinter Nights 1 and 2 were the same though, so I'm not sure it's just a Dragon Age thing.

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Shattered Horizon has pretty much died now. It really took off after the free weekend, but since Battlefield: Bad Company 2 has come out, SH has gone to 1-2 populated servers in the evenings, one of which is usually in Europe. SH simply doesn't have enough for the CoD style FPS fans out there, where BC2 has it in spades.

Sorry SH, it was a good run. :(

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Speaking of Bad Company 2, I finally picked it up, after beating Dragon Age, as Kofi already had it and I wanted an FPS to play since SH was dead. Unfortunately, Kofi's PC isn't up to snuff so we can't play together, but I've had fun playing on my own. Definitely not as fun as with Kofi, and the players of BC2 are most definitely not up to par compared to the BF2142 days.

Simply put, there is a very small minority (maybe 2-5%, IMO) of the BC2 players that actually know how to work as a team, or even in squads. CoD style FPSes are all about the individual player, not the team, so everyone does whatever they want. Back in 2142 players would actually work as a squad, and were usually complete strangers. Now in BC2, I can almost never even get a rez, or a healthkit, as every damn player is either Assault or a Recon (sniper). And god help you if the other team has even 1 squad that actually works as a team, cause then you're pretty much destined to lose. It's kind of saddening.

Hopefully though, Kofi will be able to upgrade his PC, as he said he's figured out he's got more money than he thought. Then we can actually work as a team. Kofi is /really good/ at working as a team, mostly cause his online gaming has pretty much been him and RL friends teaming up for YEARS. That's just how he games, and that's why they almost always win.

BC2 did have an awesome story, pretty standard fare, but coupled with the epic in-game combat, explosions, and destructible /everything/, it was a hell of a ride.

BC2 has taken over SH as my FPS game currently. It's also my filler game too, since it's "hop on and play", and doesn't require more than 15 mins or so per round.

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My other game is Mass Effect 2. Yes, I finally opened the package and started playing the game. :P

I have noticed a few things so far that irk me, like the modified classes, no inventory, and reduced RPG aspects of the game. It feels more like a semi-TPS game now, like Gears of War, than the RPG I loved so much. The characters are still very cool and the story has me going, but so far, it's not hooked me like the first one, or anywhere near like Dragon Age did.

We'll see how it pans out, as I've only got a little into it so far. I'll update you on it when I've got some more hours in, or when I finish it. Whichever comes before my next update, I guess.

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In guild news, pretty much everything has fizzled. Allods has lost almost all it's following, even the vocal Keen from Keen and Graev has put it aside for WoW (that's saying a lot). Star Trek Online is maybe played by 1 guildie, if that. Guild Wars seems to have been abandoned again, though any of us could rejoin later, so that's not a total loss. The few that were playing Global Agenda have left it, and all that's been talked about on the boards is chit chat and "what SP game are you playing?" type questions.

Hopefully something comes around to get us all back together again. Probably won't be until Star Wars: The Old Republic though. And that's like 1+ yrs at least. Sigh ...

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Oh, in unexpected news I picked up a deal on Lord of the Rings Online the other day. They had a PAX East sale and had the base game + all expansions + 1 month of gametime for only $9.99! Since this can be applied to an existing account I simply couldn't resist. Even if it only grabs me for a month again, that's still less than if I had simply resubbed to my old account. And now I can try out all the expansion features as well. Double win!

Oh, and I'm sure Inferno will be super happy about it as well. Though his internet has been shit for a while so he doesn't play much. Should be resolved in the next month or so though. Cools. :D

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In tabletop, we're /just/ wrapping up Inferno's Cyberpunk game. It's looking like we'll actually succeed even though I figured we'd TPK (Total Party Kill) on this last part. I actually got some bonus character points at the end of the session for great roleplaying and thinking on my feet. I have to say I did do a pretty bang up job. I figured my character was completely dead at one point, as I was alone vs. one NPC and my guy has shit for gun skills. Put it this way, he missed shooting a guy in the head at like 3 ft away. /facepalm. Yeah, he's the techie guy, not a combat character.

BUT ... due to his better than average Fast Talk skill and some quick thinking on my part, I got him out of a MAJOR jam with the NPC and the Police afterward. It was pretty effing sweet.

Up next on the agenda, and I'm totally stoked about this, is Nihil's Urban Fantasy game. He still hasn't typed up all the world info and stuff to email it to us, but we spent the one night making characters and running them by him as Blake had to cancel. I think Nihil is worried about how things might turn out, as he hasn't put concrete rules on character creation, also cause it's his first time GMing GURPS. He's GMed a lot of other games, plenty more XP (lol!) than me, but he's not 100% familiar with GURPS. I think I'm going to have to help him out a little, as I've GMed GURPS the most I think. Maybe Inferno has more XP with GMing GURPS, I dunno. Both of us are very good though, so Nihil should be fine. Blake is well informed on the system too.

Anyways, my character for his game is a Stone Golem. I pretty much ripped off Shale in Dragon Age initially, but I would really like to grow him into something more my own. I might throw some more Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation in him, as it's more what I was aiming at. More clueless non-human being than callous, uncaring machine creature. Shale is cool, but he's more of a non-good aligned creature than my guy is going to be. Especially since we're all supposed to be good types and we work for what is essentially a government organization to protect the people from the scary, supernatural shit they have no idea about. Very BPRD.

Oh, and my guy is called Jasperoid Slate. Both are types of metamorphic rock. I think it's kinda cool. Not sure if I'm going to go by "Jasper", or "Slate".

Hopefully it'll be fun, we'll see.

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And TV has been pretty quiet, but that's not that unusual for this time of year (2 week hiatuses all the time).

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That's about it. I'm sure something will come up soon enough.

Till then my friends!
The Rev.