Archive for June, 2011

It’s not an article by Cracked, I promise. Pity though, it’d probably be funnier than my ham-handed writing. Which is why, today, I have a special treat. A friend of mine wanted to write a colab article about things video game companies really need to stop doing, and I thought it would be a fun thing to do. So you’ll get three things from me, and three from my friend, DDDreamer. So let’s see how this works out! First up, my three that games need to stop having…

Broken Pre-Oder Bonuses:
We all know what a pre-order bonus is. Everyone loves those! Buy the game early, snag some sweet stuff to enjoy in-game. Heck, I do it all the time if I like what comes with it. The last (physical) game I pre-ordered was Halo: Reach, and I got a nice little multiplayer skin out of it. Now, that is fine. Cosmetics and other things that don’t disrupt the balance of the game are the perfect little treat to entice a buyer into reserving a copy early. The problem is when you do stupid things that break the game.

Like unlocking this 1 second into the game

If you’ve ever heard of it, pre-ordering Fallout: New Vegas got you the Caravan Pack. What was in that Pack? Oh, some food, water, and the best leather armor and shotgun you’ll see for a few hours. The pack completely broke the balance of the game and rendered all of the starting armor useless and the guns inferior to the Caravan Shotgun. That’s bad. Care to guess what’s worse? When you do that in a multiplayer game. Battlefield 3 has a pre-order bonus of several weapon modifications that give an edge in a competitive environment. Now, they have said the bonuses will be available to everyone for free later, but come on. You’re selling power-ups to people that shell out money, assuming they even live in a country where the deal is going on. If you don’t, tough luck. There will be better players in multiplayer because they pre-ordered and you didn’t. Fix your pre-order rewards game companies, don’t give stuff that make single player boring and multiplayer broken.

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A Good Day To…

Do whatever you wish, especially in a video game. This one is probably going to be short, if only because I’m too happy to stay coherent for long… Okay, fine, coherent for the same amount of time as usual. As some of you may now, in November of last year there was a case in the Supreme Court to decide if video games are protected under the first amendment as a right to free speech, or if they had no redeeming qualities and needed to be regulated by the government like pornography or tobacco. Well folks, yesterday we got out answer.

Video games are protected under the first amendment.
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Artistic Gaming

Well, it was only a matter of time before I did something high-brow to look like a smarty art type who knows what she’s talking about, so let’s get on to it. I’ve a lot to say, and a lot of ground to cover. To start with, go watch this (Or scroll to the bottom). And if you don’t normally watch Extra Credits, check it out sometime. They cover a great number of topics and go over the state of the industry. Always a joy to watch an episode. Now, after that episode went up, there was another post were the writer of EC, James Portnow, had a friendly argument with Thomas Grip of Frictional Games, who you might know for the game Amnesia: The Dark Descent. You can read the entire conversation here, but I’ll be talking about my main views with quotes here, so don’t worry about having to read the whole thing before this.

NOTE: While I intensely disagree with Thomas Grip, I respect his own philosophies. Do not try to twist this into me going off on someone, or I will hit you with a frozen tuna. Maybe and old mail box. You get a cookie if you can name the game that reference is from. Now, without further ado, let’s begin.
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Grind House

Oh god, I’m not dead. Undead though, so close. Don’t worry, you’ll see what I’m talking about soon. I promise. Power outages and a little bit of life issues and blah blah, get to the game talk Kana. Alright me, sheesh, so bossy. Anyways… today, I’d like to talk about a certain mechanic that is present in a massive number of games, if not all of them. I’m talking about the horrid nightmare of grind, the act of repeating an action and and over to gain some kind of reward. Most of the time, when you hear the phrase “grind” it means slaughtering dozens to hundreds of a certain type or group of NPCs for a reward at the end, but virtually any repetitive action can be defined as grind. It’s all in how you perceive it that makes it good or bad. So today, we’re going to compare two of my favorite games and see if there is any way to make grinding more fun. One of the two I’ve already covered, my personal monster killing fetish fest, Monster Hunter. The second is a smaller game, based on the Touhou series called Labyrinth of Touhou. It’s a more-or-less standard dungeon crawler with an obscenely huge cast. Right, now that that’s out of the way, let’s get started.

The main thing I want to get across is that I absolutely love both of these games. Over the course of a week or so I dumped well over thirty hours into Labyrinth, I enjoyed all of the characters, the music was absolutely beautiful, the mechanics were solid, and my favorite, favorite, favorite character from anything ever was in there as part of the recruit-able cast, and she played the ‘high-yield glass canon’ archetype, which is my personal favorite. The whole thing sounded like a dream, and it was right up until about the 30th hour of play. Everything came crashing down as little things that had previously annoyed me piled up and I ran into a massive brick wall. The only available solution? Grind levels. A lot of them. I tried, I really did, but I just couldn’t do it. Two levels later, I had to turn the game off. I came back later and played for another level, then another, then just… stopped. I couldn’t find the effort to keep going. The three main things that got me were character development, repetition, and a distinct lack of rewards. Now then, let’s compare how my monster-murder game compares and, in my opinion, does grind better.
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Hunting Simplicity

This is one I’ve been saving up for awhile. Today, we’ll be looking into one of my favorite game series and what makes it so special. If you know me, you’ll probably be aware of the little obsession I harbor for the Monster Hunter games. I got the original many, many moons ago on the PS2, and have played through up until the most recent Portable 3rd. Sadly, being something of an idiot in Japanese, my enjoyment of that one is somewhat dampened until we get an actually translated version over here by Capcom.

But enough of my little love affair for the Monster Hunter series. You are probably wondering why I enjoy it so much, or why I won’t shut up already and get to the point. So let’s get that out of the way right now, shall we? The Monster Hunter games are all very special to me because of their simplicity. Each one has the same level of difficulty innately built in from the beginning, and slowly builds upon itself as the game progresses, but despite this, the game never becomes any more complex. How is this possible? By segmenting the game into two different categories, and then building from there. These two being the titular monsters that inhabit the world, and the player that explores and murders everything.

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A Helping Hand

Yes, we’re back here again. I can’t help it if I love this game and enjoy talking about it, there is a lot I can say and pull from the world of  Telara at large. So anyway, Support. This is a new addition to the ‘purity’ of the trinity that’s made up gaming for awhile now: Tank, Healer, and Damage Dealer. Rift introduces the role of Support, rewarding players who might want to spec into a more hybrid type build. I know some people who like to have both damage and healing talents to make leveling up easier. Yeah, you will never heal or deal as much damage as a more pure build will, but unlike those builds, the hybrids have versatility. So today I will be going over what, exactly, makes a Support character, and why having one is good for the group. At the end, I’ll do a break down of each class and tell you how Support usually works for them.

What is a Support? Support is the new role in Rift that allows players to take on various sub-roles in parties. Generally speaking, there is no one thing a support has to do. If your groups damage is lacking, deal damage. If your healer is struggling, help heal. If something breaks off from the tank, try and grab it before a squishy gets pounded. Buff allies, debuff enemies. Support exists to do everything it can to make everyone’s lives easier. I’ll give an example of how I play support, just to give you an idea:

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Side Job: Horror

I’ve been thinking about the new Elder Scrolls game coming out, and thinking back to another couple of Bethesda’s games I’ve realized what might be a trend. While I know it’s too late for Skyrim, I can still hope for the best for that and future games. What exactly am I referring to? Why, the horror section of course! Oh don’t play coy. You know there is one in virtually every rpg ever designed. That one level or area created to evoke a sense of fear or terror. Most of them fall flat on their ass, for a multitude of reasons. My example for today is going to be the one and only Vault 22 of Fallout: New Vegas fame. It was a Vault I personally loved, for a little while at least. Needless to say, there will be spoilers. You’ve been warned.

Ambiance: This is probably the single hardest part of any little horror based section to get right. Go too far one way and the play might swing right out of fear and into amusement. Not far enough and the player won’t even notice. It has to be subtle, but noticeable. The music in Vault 22 played a large roll in what made it feel alien. There wasn’t anything truly noticeable. The sound wasn’t trying to fight for attention. Every few seconds it would be slightly over taken  by the sound of something moving, usually behind you. I’d argue that particular sound effect was used on too short a loop, but it worked good for awhile. Every single time I heard that I’d  flip around, shotgun at the ready to find… nothing. It’s unnerving at times. Likewise, the zone was really well designed. Flora that hid the monsters (and we’ll get to them soon), particles in the air, overgrowths of plants around. That’s good, it felt like truly being alone. The monsters were well paced to keep from becoming too predictable. The atmosphere was done well, and one of the high points of the area.

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Crafting, Crafting

Today’s topic is something I’ve been wanting to talk about for a little while. Today, we’re going over the crafting system that is found in some games, usually mmo’s. Remember that this applies for all crafting specialties in games, I’m just referring to Weapons and Weaponsmithing because that’s what I have the most experience with. Now with that out of the way, we can begin. Crafting is something of an oddity in gaming, that is both hated and loved, sometimes at the same time. I hate leveling my weaponsmithing because it’s expensive, and it just involves standing at a forge making what ever weapon uses the lest ingredients and get’s me the highest chance of leveling. And yet, my rogue was creating level 50 weapons when she was in her 30’s. I hit the max smithing level of 300 at level 39 and am close to already buying an epic recipe. At level 40. I can’t even use any of the stuff I’m now making or working on until I hit the level cap of 50. So how did this all go down?

Two words: Damascus Shiv. While I was leveling before, it was a common thing for me to use my marks, the currency you buy recipes with from doing dailies, when I noticed something odd. For one, this recipe was almost 5 times more expensive than it’s counter-parts. A normal recipe around this point cost me 13 or so marks. The Damascus items cost 68 minimal. I was intrigued by this odd recipe, and it was closed for me when I found out it was a blue, and a beautiful dagger too. I had to have. I began hording marks, doing every single daily to get as many of them as I could, until I could finally buy the recipe.  A more hidden reason for why I wanted the Damascus Shiv, it’s crafting materials were nothing special. Some planar dust I had kicking around, a piece of leather I already had for my warrior’s armorsmithing, and then the steel. Steel was the weird thing, I couldn’t make steel yet. Until I went out to mine a little…. and got the quest within a few lodes to learn how to create it. Now, the Shiv is a beautiful weapon. I’m level 40 and still using both of mine. They are relatively cheap and easy to make, and equip-able by level 32. It’s a wonderful item that really got me set and the fires of the forge burning for a long time. Finally around the high twenties, I was done. I had forged my own Damascus Shivs…

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Elder Scrolls: The Old and New

So there is a new Elder Scrolls title just around the corner, and I am finding myself more and more sadly optimistic. I remember my time spent on the last game, Oblivion, roaming the country side and being murdered by wolves. Always wolves, you’d think there would be a roaming band of hunters formed or something to keep wandering adventurers safe. After talking with a friend, I decided to do a quick run down of things from Oblivion that really stuck out in my mind after all this time and things I would like to see for Skyrim when it releases. Some of these things may have already been confirmed by Bethesda and it’s slipped my, but if that’s the case then hey, I just got one point off the wish list fulfilled. Speaking of…

Wish List- Things I’d personally like to see in the next game:
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Rift: The Ugly

And now we’ve come full circle with the game. From the things I loved, to the things I dislike, and now on to the things I despise. These will be a much smaller list in theory because the things that truly set me off in this game are few and far between, but they do exist and I’ve been waiting a whole week to really get into them and start tearing things apart. If you are allergic to vitriolic comments, you might want to skip this, because we’re starting with the one thing I hate most.

“Expose”: Now you’re probably wondering what expose is, and I’ll answer that right now. Expose is a very simple mechanic in Rift that slows you by 6%, stacking 5 times. So why is expose bad? Every mob in the game has access to it. Every creature in this game has the ability to slow you with basic auto-attacks, up to the point where it is impossible to run from them. Your only options are to keep moving a stupidly diminished speed or turn around and fight, and if you have Exposed stacked up to 5, odds are very good that there are more than just one freakish abomination trying to run you down and turn you into paste. So, you have a mechanic in your game that gives everything with the default attack (Literally everything) the ability to slow players who are actively trying to leave. What could be worse? Oh, they also have access to your player skills. In a move I used to enjoy, nearly all PvE mobs have access to one or more souls, depending on the intended difficulty. This means you can easily find, say, a Reaver soul infused monster, or Assassin soul, and this makes a good deal of sense in the game for the humanoids and undead. What doesn’t make any sense is then going and giving those mobs player slows. I’m talking about PvP centric talents like the ability to slow your opponent by 70%, or disorients and stuns on semi-low cooldowns. Pray to your deity of choice once a big pack starts following you, because odds are good that something in there has access to those 70% slows along with everything else rapidly stacking exposed on you.
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