Archive for June, 2011

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Riftshot Of The Day: How Do I Look? Too Evil? I Hope You Like Evil

June 29, 2011

Hey look ma I'm the Faceless Man!

Did I mention that the Rift update 1.3 also added a whole slew of new costumes, armor pieces, and cosmetic items? Now we can all play dress-up with even more wardrobe choices found from vendors across the world, special rifts, or the world event. Yes, please!

Last night, the second phase of the Waves of Madness event, “Against The Storm”, also went live. Still more dailies, but at least we’re getting to see some water rift action, that is, if I can only find them…

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Rift: Midsummer Madness

June 28, 2011

Summer is in full swing, and while I find myself spending more time out-of-doors and less time in front of my PC these days (turning that computer tan into a real one, heh!), I will always always always make time for an MMO live event.

Say hello to “Waves of Madness“, Rift’s newest multi-phaser that went live last week with their latest update, timed to coincide with the opening of the new Hammerknell raid.

You can bet I’m there.

Over the years, I’ve come to learn a thing or two about my gaming habits. For instance, when it comes to content, what makes me stick with a game isn’t so much the endgame. While I can’t deny a certain fondness for the raid rifts and experts, there’s no relying on those activities alone for reasons to maintain my sub. What I can’t resist, on the other hand, are little things like this — live events, the prospect of one-time-only occurrences, special enemies and unique rewards.

My new Blue Shell Crab pet! Clearly you can see where my priorities are.

To be honest, though, I didn’t think another one was going to roll around so soon, but I suppose this is Trion making good on their promise of many future events. They certainly don’t waste time.

Given the arguably disastrous outcome of the last world event, there’s also a part of me curious about how this one will go. It really was a shame how “River of Souls” ended, but I think it would be an even greater shame if players let the fallout from that cast its pall upon all future events. Fortunately, Trion strikes me as a company that reacts well to player feedback and learns from its mistakes, so it will be interesting to see if they can pick up the ball.

Phase 1: The Black Depths is currently well under way. And I suppose the aquatic theme means I’d better hurry up and get over the awkwardness of battling under water. Truth is, the underwater combat in this game has always made me feel like a Rock’Em Sock’Em robot suspended at the end of a claw crane machine fighting with a wet shirt over my face. I’d never felt very comfortable with it, even all the way back since the early stages of closed beta.

This being the first phase (out of a total of five!) I can’t say I was expecting a lot, and was utterly unsurprised to find myself going through the motions of completing a bunch of dailies, all with the predictable flavor of “kill X of this” or “collecting X of that”. I am, however, expecting things to get more exciting as they ramp up, and at least we get something related to the Plane of Water this time, a nice change that beats all the fire and earth rifts I’d been grinding and farming.

In case you missed it a few weeks ago, the Waves of Madness trailer:

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Hard-Boiled In Los Angeles – Thoughts On L.A. Noire

June 24, 2011

It wasn’t until I completed L.A. Noire that I finally started getting an idea of why some of my friends don’t like reading depressing books. It doesn’t usually bother me to read novels where the good guys don’t always win, or where the main protagonists are put through an unbearable amount of strife, but apparently my brain objects when it comes to games.

You see, it’s one thing to be reading about the characters in a book, it’s quite another when you are the protagonist in a video game. In L.A. Noire I find myself connecting to my character on a whole different level because I’m the one playing Cole Phelps, making his decisions, determining his successes and failures. I become attached to my video game characters in a way I don’t with heroes in a novel.

So when bad things happen, I get royally pissed.

In some ways, this is my way of giving my kudos to Rockstar Games and Team Bondi. They’ve done a great job with the story and characters of L.A. Noire, and made me care. Still, I’m detecting a pattern here, no pun intended. Those who have played Red Dead Redemption will know what I mean. Without giving away anything, let’s just say most of L.A. Noire isn’t exactly all sunshine and lollipops either. In fact, it all goes downhill after Homicide.

Once again, I’m don’t want to make it sound like that that’s a terribly bad thing — after all, as its title suggests, the game draws heavily from elements of film noir, including sex, violence, and moral ambiguity. All those themes were captured very well, and it’s certainly not Rockstar’s fault that after finishing the game I felt like I needed a hug.

Anyway, enough of me bitching about the story. Moving on to the other features, I’d mentioned before how much I liked the interrogation aspect of the game, even though I sucked at it.

There is a super fine line between “Lie” and “Doubt”. Trying to read a suspect’s expression remained the biggest challenge for me (other than navigating awkwardly through the mean streets of L.A in those old 1940s automobiles), especially once I discovered how very little distinction there is between the behavior of someone who is actually lying versus that of some hyperventilating idiot whom I just tackled after chasing him down for like 8 city blocks. Seriously, all the perps are friggin’ Olympic sprinters or something.

The beauty of the game is its open world, but here you are much more limited in your activities. Playing as a cop, shenanigans can only hurt your mission and make you score less at the end of a case. There aren’t even mini-games to distract you, though you can drive around discovering famous L.A. landmarks or hidden cars, and there are always street crimes you can solve by accepting them as they come in on your radio. However, they all end up boiling down to three categories — shoot the bad guy, chase the bad guy, or shadow the bad guy.

The recycled content was probably my biggest disappointment, but at least they make it dramatic. The character of Cole Phelps himself is like a mystery within a mystery; he’s a good cop but also a flawed hero, and the more you play the more you learn about him and his past. There are twists (albeit some good, some bad), great dialogue, and like I said, some emotional moments. The game soundtrack is also incredible.

All of that makes the repetitiveness easier to bear, though at some point I did stop picking up street crime cases all together, not to mention it also took me 3.5 weeks to finally finish L.A. Noire. The game’s formulaic nature (at least for the first half) made it impossible for me to sit through more than one or two cases per play session. At times I loved it; at other times I wanted to hurl my controller at the TV screen, especially near the end when the game took a baffling turn.

Like I said, however, it’s a rare gem that can make me care that much about a story and the characters despite its flaws. I’d rather feel something than nothing.

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A Change Would Do Me Good

June 22, 2011

When the good folks at Rift posted the list of allowed destination shards for Defiant (North American) transfers, I was surprised to see Faeblight on the list (edit: or at least it was the night of June 22). Even tonight I was still hit with a queue when I tried to log in.

Granted, it’s a lovely server and my main will ever so faithfully remain there, but getting hit with long waits every time a new patch or update for the game goes live gets old fast. Especially when all I want to do is hop in and play a little on an alt.

Thus my pretty little Rogue was transferred to Estrael tonight. I am still stunned at over how simple and painless the whole process was. It was everything Trion said it would be — I clicked a button, typed in a confirmation, and seconds later, I was at my new home and that was that. They don’t even make transferring your cable or phone service this easy. Are you telling me that Blizzard has been making us pay $25 a pop for this? I am Jack’s wounded sense of indignation.

Anyway, moving off an overpopulated server was one thing — but knowing how capricious I am with my alts in general, I’m also hoping the change will inject a new interest and quality of enthusiasm into leveling again, especially with several others I know also moving their Defiants to Estrael. Few things I know are better motivators than a new home, new friends.

Even so, I have no guild lined up yet, which makes me wonder if part of me didn’t just do a character transfer for the sake of a character transfer. But who cares, the point is thanks to Rift, I did it ’cause I CAN.

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10 Random Thoughts About “Game Of Thrones” Season 1

June 20, 2011

  • Hoorah for an adaptation that didn’t have me seething with nerdrage over casting. With few exceptions, every actor and actress were amazing in their roles, bringing to life the essence of each character. A few that stood out for me: Sean Bean as Ned Stark, of course — it was like the man was born for the role. Mark Addy showed that everyone underestimated him as “just a comedy actor” with his performance as Robert Baratheon. Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister, who makes whoring and drinking look charming. Maisie Williams made me alternate between being stupefied by her sword fighting skills to wanting to hug her for being so cute. And as much as I wanted to dunk Joffrey’s head repeatedly in a dung pile, they couldn’t have chosen a better or more evil looking kid than Jack Gleeson.
  • The Song of Ice and Fire series involves multiple storylines and enough characters to fill a small village. One of the first concerns about this show was whether or not they could pull this off without confusing the hell out of the people who haven’t read the books. For the most part, however, I think they did a great job with presenting the whole story, keeping a tight grip on it as best as they could. HBO successfully made each plotline distinct enough so you were never too lost.
  • There were still some things they could have made clearer. I didn’t realize how much I took for granted until my friend who hadn’t read the books asked me for clarification on a few things — like why Jaime Lannister being called “Kingslayer” was such a big deal, not just because he killed the old king but because of who and what he was as a White Cloak. And the direwolves certainly did not get enough screentime! When Ghost finally appeared again with Jon at Castle Black, even I was a little taken aback.
  • I still wonder about the pacing. There were definitely parts that felt a little off to me, like a couple of the middle episodes that were more about world and history building, versus actually having anything happen. In contrast, the last three episodes were crammed to the brim. It’s never boring, but it did seem like the final episodes had to cover more than half the book.
  • Game of Thrones had all the elements of an HBO show in spades — blood, sex, violence, sex, power, sex, humor, but also honor and strength.
  • Beautiful sets, costumes, props, etc. What stood out for me: 1) Their depiction of The Eyrie and its sky cells. I wasn’t disappointed (unless you count how I wanted to see even more). Certain things were even better than the book — like the stunning and ginormous wooden throne (cooler than even the Iron one!) and their version of the Moon Door. 2) The Wall and the men of the Night’s Watch. 3) Littlefinger’s wardrobe. Damn, the man looks good even in black silks and embroidered roses.
  • Made by the same people who did the titles for other HBO shows like Rome and Carnivale, the opening sequence deserves some love. I wasn’t crazy about it at first, but the more I watched the more it grew on me, despite — or perhaps because of — the fact that it’s not very “fantasy-ish” at all. I also love how it the map changes, reflecting new locales as they are introduced or visited by the characters in later episodes. What a fun and interesting concept. The awesome opening theme music pretty much guarantees I’ll be all over the Game of Thrones soundtrack too when it comes out.
  • Satisfied with how loyal the show stayed to the original source. Understandable how there were a few liberties taken and a couple new spins, but there weren’t too many instances where they outright changed the characters or the outcomes of an event. I wouldn’t have wanted it to adhere exactly to the books anyway, and I’m not one to pick the details to death, plus ultimately I felt that most of whatever they added or trimmed away served to enhance rather than impair the story.
  • Even though I knew what and when things were coming, I was still shocked when they happened. It’s amazing how emotionally affected I was; there were times where I just sat there wondering if all of it actually happened.
  • Can’t wait for Season 2, Spring 2012.
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Here’s All I’m Allowed To Say…

June 17, 2011

…There is a game testing program, and I am in said game testing program! (I just found out I can definitely say as much without getting into trouble, but that’s about it!)

Anyway, as it actually happened last weekend, I hope those expecting my usual weekly write-up and thoughts on the Friday Star Wars: The Old Republic update today can understand why I’ll no longer be doing that anymore, and no more SWTOR commentary from me in general. I take NDAs very seriously, and as such, I’ve decided the most obvious, safest, and simplest way to not break them is to avoid getting myself into discussions related directly to SWTOR all together.

I’m gonna miss them, but you can understand why I really don’t want to do anything to screw this up! Best of luck to others seeking beta invites!

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Inner Peace

June 15, 2011

Scopique writes a good blog. I very much enjoy his “Gamer Psychology” posts — not only for the insight and humor, but also for the fact his thoughts often mirror mine and he conveys them much more eloquently and concisely than I could ever manage. Two posts of his have inspired me to write this today, accompanied by a stark realization that hit me recently: For a group whose main hobby centers around a form of fun and entertainment, we gamers can be a rather cantankerous bunch.

Sure, sometimes mistakes get made and we need to hold those responsible accountable. It’s also okay to get angry or upset when things don’t go our way. But as with most things in life, happiness is beyond anyone’s control but your own. If anything, “Zen of Gaming” and “Why Do We Bitch” made me see that much of our dissatisfaction with gaming and the industry is inflicted upon ourselves, by ourselves. Knowing what you want is a start. Sometimes what it takes is also a different way of thinking, or a shift in attitude, because blaming others for one’s own bad behavior never gets a person very far.

Granted, I have a dark side (who doesn’t?) but in his latter post, Scopique has already hit upon many of the methods in my mental arsenal to stay happy and positive-thinking. But three more semi-random thoughts born out of this:

  • Consistency – “The more time goes on the less excited I get, even though I was so hyped about it a couple months back.” Sound familiar? If I shed a tear for every time I saw a quote like that in the gaming forum community, we’d all be drowned by now. Did being excited and staying excited go out of style while I wasn’t looking? I realize anticipation can quickly turn to frustration, but you shouldn’t let waiting make you become bitter. Don’t know about you, but feeling “disappointed” or “disillusioned” before the whole thing even has the chance to get off the ground is a damn shame, don’t you think?
  • Sense of Entitlement – Get rid of it, or it will eat you up. The world doesn’t revolve around any one person or his or her desires, and nothing will make everyone happy. Game devs need to make money and put food on the table for their families too, so sometimes it’s better to recognize you are not their target audience and move on. Stay realistic — the “perfect” MMO does not exist, not for anyone, so if you are going to play something, might as well start enjoying it for what it is instead of agonizing over what it’s not.
  • Play and let play – Don’t like something? You can always ignore it, but don’t try to ruin the experience for others. Those features you find yourself agonizing over might actually be something thousands of others are grateful for. Like I’ve said in the past, criticize the game, not the gamer. There’s more to a person beyond their interests and hobbies — insulting other gamers or thinking less of them for their game-of-choice or play style is immature, not to mention kind of dickwad-y.
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