Archive for November, 2011

Dark Souls: Setting Up

So I’ve got quite a bit of footage to start off. Since you can’t play co-op on the first level (without kind of cheesing it), Episode 0 as I’m calling it is the Tutorial zone of Northern Undead Asylum and the upper reaches of the Undead Burg. Once we get into the Undead Parish, we’ll really get moving with the Co-Op play. Likewise as a precautionary tale, exploration will be kept down to keep videos in manageable chuncks. I’d encourage everyone who has this game to simply explore the world and find all the goodies out there. Sometimes it’s something stupid like an extra Humanity. Sometimes it’s an entire boss. While we won’t be showing the level in super detail, we will be showing the way through, and all the secrets and bosses/mini-bosses we can. Yep, that means showing how to kill a Black Knight at relatively low level, for anyone who’s ever wanted to try! Now, without further ado, let’s move on to part one of this little series.

(And I’m aware the quality is a little wonkity. That should hopefully be fixed by the next set of videos.)

Honestly, there isn’t much to add to this. Sure, I could explain everything, but if you are just picking up this game, you should be reading those notes. Each and every one is specifically for the new player to explain the various control aspects of the game, so instead we’re going to talk about class until the first boss pops up. For the purpose of the LP, I picked a Knight to show off a more basic approach for new players starting out. I prefer light, agile characters, but a big heavy tank can easy shrug off hits and keep swinging. As you’ll see in the next video, heavy armor ups a stat called “Poise” which determines if being hit staggers you. If an enemy hollow were to hit you as, say, a Sorcerer, it will knock you backwards and put you in something I call hit stun. Basically you can’t move or react until hit stun is over, but you can be attacked again. It’s a nasty way to die. Having a lot of Poise means you won’t often be put in hit stun, so you can actually trade bows and count on Estus Flasks and blocks to keep you going.
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Dark Souls LP

Hey guys. Wanted to give you a heads up on whats going to be happening very soon. A friend of mine and I started throwing around ideas a couple days ago and decided to grab the equipment and just go nuts, starting with an LP of the game that’s taken up huge chunks of our life recently: Dark Souls. It’ll be a fairly informative and playful LP, but we’re also going to be doing most of the game as a duo-play through instead of just one person going on. We’re only going to record one play through of each zone, but probably switch to let people see two different play styles and all the zones and bosses. There will be a couple rules, however…

  • No min/maxing for the best stuff. It’s been decided what we’re going to play and we’re going to stick to that. I’ll be primarially a Strength/Endurance name with a smattering of faith (mostly just for heal) to show off the most effective way for new players to get into the game. My friend will be running Faith/Intellect to show off the magic of the world, and will be going at it in a more advanced way.
  • No farming for souls. Almost all of the footage will just be straight play. We’ll probably cut out all the load screens, but things like Invasions, Boss fails, and everything else will be in there. We’ll be showcasing one or two zones at a time, and the last thing we want is to open an episode with the caption “So I’m about 20 levels higher than I was last time…” and then stomp on the content.
  • Following a (relative) order of difficulty. On our main play through, we didn’t even get to the Catacombs until we were ready to fight one of the end-game bosses. I’m pretty sure my Pyromancer straight up 3-hit killed that boss by that point. We’ll try and keep things in the order they were meant to be.
  • Show off secrets and Covenants. This one is going to be a killer, but shouldn’t be too bad. We’ll try and devote an episode a piece to each Covenant and detail what they are and do. We’ll show off whatever secrets and tips we know.
  • Try not to fail horribly on every single boss.

We’ll also try to show off some PvP outside the Covenants, invasions and spirits of vengeance. If we are incredibly lucky, maybe even some Gravelord footage, but I wouldn’t hold my breath on that one. Tends to be extremely buggy and extremely rare. You’ll see plenty of ninja though, we plan on sinning. A lot.

So that’s hopefully going to be up in the next couple of days. First Episode will probably be just me playing both of our characters up the the point where we can actually join consistantly. So my character for Asylum Demon (tutorial zone) and the Sorcerer for the Tarsus Demon (upper Undead Burg), and then after that it’ll be the two of us horribly failing on our way to end-game. Hope you guys enjoy it as much as we do!

Strawberry Warfare

Hello everyone. Look at your clock. Now back to me. Look at your clock. Now back to me. It is Saturday, and I’m writing an article about that game you love. Now that we have the proper day of the week established, let’s hop right in. Going to start with a look at the whole ‘modern realistic shooter’ thing before heading into Modern Warfare 3’s systems. Also important to note, I have not yet started single player. This is solely my thoughts on how the multiplayer is going. My friend said it’s been alright, but I wouldn’t expect BioWare writing or Bethesda word building going into it.

Okay, first on my list is the tirade against the whole ‘realistic modern shooter’ thing, and how much people seem to think that matters. We seriously need to drop it. Last time I checked, real warfare wasn’t done in god-like invincible bomb-disposal suits called ‘Juggernaut Armor’. Heck, even the idea that the more people you kill, the more the army lavishes high-tech, extremely dangerous weapons of destruction on you is even weird. It doesn’t even look all that realistic. Everything feels like it has this pervasive over-layer of dull to it. Yeah, that’s good for building atmosphere, but it’s not like we;re playing Dead Space 2 multiplayer. People aren’t going to pay attention to the atmosphere when it’s going to get them killed. Here is a fun experiment, walk outside for a bit in the day and look around. See how much color there is? The world is a bright place! It has contrast, it has tones, it’s not all just one color. Add a little variety to make buildings (and players) pop from the scenery. Give the levels some actual depth.

"Realistic" Warfare.

Not even getting in to the stupid design decisions. We really need to come up with a better way of informing the payer that they have been hurt than just making it look like someone threw a jar of strawberry jam at their head. This is especially horrible in Hardcore, where your health won’t ever regen. So if someone shoots you, you spend the rest of the game, or until you get shot again, with the entire edge of your screen covered in red jam and your hearing shot all to hell. It’s impossible to gauge any sound once your stuck like that. Who thought this was a good idea? We know we got hit, there is no reason to make our character permanently hobbled until we get hit again. Modern Warfare 2 let the jam go away after a few seconds.
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Hey guys, just wanted to give a quick update, just on a couple things for this week. First thing is the lack of posting you may have seen here. Fallen a bit behind in a couple classes, so I’ve been working on catching up. If it was possible to use java to murder things, I’d probably have made a game and written about that by now. Good news though, I’m working on a post for Modern Warfare 3 multiplayer. Haven’t really touched single player, but I’ll be getting into that as well. Mostly a look on multiplayer as a whole, and what MW3 does right and wrong. Plenty of that all around.

Second is, I am actually playing Skyrim. Not on 360 mind you. And no, I didn’t pirate it. After going back to the store to just get credit for my next purchase, the guy offered to trade my copy over to a PC one, one the basis of fan mods and quicker patch time that’d make it at least more worth my while since a complete refund wouldn’t really be in the question. So, thanks Gamestop Guy, I appreciate the favor. To those wondering, quit a few of the bugs have been fixed. I can actually play the game now. It is actually fairly fun, but I haven’t really seen what makes this game oh-my-god-amazing that other people see. Great game? No, not yet. I’d peg it as above-average, just because of the weird design decisions and 360 menu that really doesn’t work on PC. I’ll probably come back to Skyrim if/when I beat it and have another go, though if anyone cares I can give a revised first opinion on the game next too.

Here's a screenshot.

So that’s the quick review of things going on this week. Hoping to see you guys tomorrow for MW3, and maybe for a little more of a look into Skyrim. It does have some things  going for it. Like being pretty! Again! So in closing, since today was the annual TERA Twitter event, I give you… crabs.!


A Look Into Skyrim

Edit: To all the trolls crying about my hatred for this game, point to where I ever said I was reviewing the game. I will be, but only later once I’ve gotten through it. On PC. I still consider Skyrim an insult and not worth 60 bucks for 360. No game should be this buggy on launch, on hardware six years old. So stop crying about a review, It’s first impressions. Which matter a lot around these parts.


So it’s now 11/12/11 and Skyrim has been out for a day, no doubt long enough for some people to have already beaten the game. I got the game for 360 and was hopeful the game would I have cleaned up all of the problems I had with Oblivion, the previous Elder Scrolls game. So let’s have a look at Skyrim and see how it did, shall we?

First and most obvious thing I notice is the load screen hints. Or maybe it was load screen backstory. I can’t tell, because for what ever the hell reason the game is designed only for high-definition television. Which means my TV, which is perfectly serviceable for everything else can’t display any of the text without it becoming this massive blurred pile of crap. Why don’t we have an option to fix this, exactly? It’s the game’s text for god’s sake, it would take, what, 5 minutes to make an option to display in bigger font?

But it looks pretty!

Okay, so the load screen follows the retarded trend of high-def text. It’s annoying but not the worst thing in the world. Tons of other games do it (Looking at you, ME2), so I’m finally passed the horrible blob of backstory-hint-mystery text and load up into a beautiful game world. The light is cascading through the few gaps in a forest, and you pass by a flowing stream as the Emperor Mr. Exposition 2.0 starts talking. After looking around at the scenery and at the other people in the cart with you, I settle in and look at him as he speaks. Only he’s randomly stopping. And talking to himself? What? Then I realized he was holding a conversation with the guy sitting next to me. I’m sorry, but game devs, just stop using audio cues. Make it all the same sound level all the time. In order to hear the guy speak at all, I had to be looking at him. If I looked away at all, his voice would fade into nothing. That’s not how it works in real life, guys. If you’re going to ape that at least do it right. So the annoying “you magically can’t hear as well if you’re looking away, even if you’re right beside them” problem is present and rampant in the first 30 seconds of the game. Am I supposed to just spin my head around over and over to make sure I don’t miss anything?
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Sound of Nothing

Now, this is something I’ve been wanting to talk about for a little bit, so to start, we’re going to hop media for a second. I’ve watched an anime by the name of ‘Lucky Star’ and absolutely adored the entire show. The characters were cute, animation was great, personalities were full, but for the life of me I couldn’t ever remember more than one background song, and that was only rarely, but it strangely didn’t bother me. Flash forward to when I bought the actual anime OST and found out there is a lot of music in that anime. What does that have to do with games? Well, mostly that video game music can actually be really, really bad.

Right now, we’re more or less stuck in this ‘must-have-epic’ mindset for a ton of games. Games have to have this big, amazing boss fight at the end of them. Yeah, how’d that go for you, Dead Space? Games have to have a billion weapons, even when the game isn’t designed to handle more than a couple. Duke, looking at you. Rebalance your stuff. Most of the time, the sound track is over looked, but it suffers the same problem.  Music is just over the top, subtlety is becoming a foreign concept. That’s starting to hurt the players enjoyment of the game, more than anything. What happens when you hear this epic, live orchestra rendition of a battle-theme… while in town? Or just walking through the woods? What if it’s night?

What if it’s at night, in the woods, with a puppy?

It creates a disconnect, pulling the player from the game as things start becoming just a little off. If it gets to its worst, the player can just pause and open the menu, going straight in to disable the music in general. But that can’t be a good solution, right? The game was made to be played with that score! Actually…
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Art of the Blade

Despite that title up there, I’m not going to be talking about art style today. No no, we’re going to be looking at combat and how it affects the players, using various games. The art of combat is a delicate one; if the combat is too samey, then no one will want to play because of a grind. If it’s too different, you run the risk of alienating people because of the overall systems are just too unfamiliar. Now, there are more than a few ways around this problem…

World of Warcraft has a combat system driven entirely by numbers. No matter what, there are just somethings you can not affect in combat, and player skill required drops. Dodges and traps become harder to do because of it, but by giving a massive variety of skills, you can simulate a more real-time combat system. Player skill required starts sliding back up because of the niche use of skills in PvP and PvE, giving the combat a bit more life. The original problem remains though, that there will always be a mathematically superior way, and for some of those classes it will just involved mashing a couple of buttons forever.

On the other side of the spectrum we find games like Monster Hunter, where combat is almost entirely driven by player skill rather than numbers of ‘hit chance’ or gear benefits. Weapons have a set amount of moves that the player can do, and it becomes the players job to learn the most effective way to chain those skills on whatever monster they happen to be facing to maximize damage. Downside is, without the ability to ever do more, some players can become bored. Monster Hunter mitigates this by having every weapon be different forcing players to adapt and change styles once switching over.
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