Saturday, December 31, 2011

Top Five: Video Games of 2011

  • Here they are, the five games that defined the year for me. As always, keep in mind that I'm only picking games that I've actually played. So if there is some awesome game that I'm missing, it's likely that I never played it. Or maybe you have really poor taste. Whichever excuse works for you.

  • Bastion - Everyone wants to parody the narrator now, but no one can find the right voice. That's because it is not just some trick. There is a strong, well told story throughout Bastion that only Supergiant Games could tell. But even acknowledging that, it would be a crime to let that distract from the amazing art style and its tight Action RPG roots. It works on every level, as a story, as a game, and as a work of art. Bastion is a game that will stay with me for a long time.

  • Dark Souls - There is no way I can think of that I should have liked this game. Any one of the punishing difficulty, the opaque game systems, or the lack of any direction would normally be enough to keep me from even purchasing a game. But Dark Souls proved to me that I actually can enjoy such a game. I may have put the game aside for now. But I will return. I will return and I will earn every soul that I can take.

  • Portal 2 - Valve was in an impossible position when they built a sequel to Portal, one of the best games of all time. That Portal 2 was not only a great sequel, but arguably a better game is amazing to me. It may not have been as surprising (the twist is not so surprising and Want You Gone is no Still Alive), but the emotional resonance is much more intense. The long, melacholy climb through the history of Aperture Science and the frantic, inspired finale left me stunned when the game was over. It may have been a little long, but I can't think of a single thing to cut. And I love the game this much without ever trying the co-op. It is that good.

  • Rift - Try as I might, I have trouble staying away from the launch of a new MMO. The sense of discovery and the inevitable community discussion are a strong attractor. So Rift drew me in and, for a few weeks, it was great to visit an entirely new world. Eventually I ran aground on the single player content, but I don't regret the time I spent with the game.

  • Saints Row: The Third - The insanity of this game paired with the quality of its systems means that playing Saints Row: The Third is pure joy. The missions are great, the open world activities are challenging, and the exploration is actually fun. If there is one compliment that I can give this game, it is that SR3 is the one game that I would consider attempting to complete one hundred percent and I never do that.

  • My honorable mention goes to Panzer Corps: Wehrmacht. It has one of the most fulfilling tutorial campaigns that I've ever seen. If only I hadn't been distracted before I got very far into the real campaign.

  • Now that you've seen my list, what were your favorite games of the year?

Friday, December 30, 2011

Random Shots: The Year That Was 2011

  • Today, we look back at 2011. There are two themes that run through this post that played havoc with the crazy predictions I made last year. One, we had a baby and my gaming time fell precipitously. Two, several of these games didn't even come out this year. So I'm not expecting to have done very well. Let's take a look.

  • Diablo III - Did I really predict that D3 would be out this year. Shame on me. I didn't even get into the beta. (Insert un-smiley face here.)

  • Guild Wars 2 - When I made my predications at the beginning of the year, I knew that there were two ways that I could go. I chose wrong. But in my defense, I really, really, really wanted to play GW2.

  • Dragon Age 2 - I thought that would hold out longer against the DA2 lovefest. However a $20 price tag on Amazon broke my resolve. I was right about the second half of my predication though. I did regret buying it.

  • Mass Effect 3 - More wishful thinking on my part. I'm sure ME3 will be a great game, but not until 2012.

  • Torchlight II - Again, still not out. I haven't even preordered it, though. Anytime you're ready, Runic.

  • Dawn of War II: Retribution - I couldn't help myself. I went ahead and bought Retribution, but I haven't played it very much. Someday, I would really like to.

  • LA Noire - I wanted to like this game. I really wanted to. But I didn't finish it. And here is a spoiler for you: it's not on my Top Five. I do want to see this one though here.

  • The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim - Finally, a predication that I was (mostly) right about. Skyrim did come out on time and I haven't bought it. But all of the hype around the game is weakening my resolve.

  • Portal 2 - The only thing that I got wrong about this predication was that I didn't wait to buy it. It was a lot of fun, it did feel a little long (mostly because of the climb through the old Aperture Science facility), and I still haven't played the co-op. I'm glad that I didn't bother to wait.

  • DC Universe Online - Home run! I still have not played DCUO and it seems like few people are. Yay?

  • Rift - I was pretty close on this one too. I did get caught up in the hype, I going in during the head start, and I did burn out pretty hard. However I was smart enough to unsubscribe in time. I get extra points for not being stupid, right?

  • Tera - Again, failure to launch makes this prediction moot. At this point, I'm starting to doubt that they will even bother.

  • Star Wars: The Old Republic - SWTOR came out so late this year that my predications haven't had enough time to prove themselves. I was right about the very first thing, though: my brother was in at launch and wants me to play. And considering the gift card burning a hole in my pocket, I'm sure that a purchase is not far away. For my reaction to the actual game, we'll have to wait until next year. Oh, and I'm going to give myself credit for predicting that SWTOR will be the most talked about. You can't turn around in this community without bumping into a Jedi or Sith. But so far, I haven't had the opportunity to tell anyone "I told you so."

  • Considering how bad I did, I should get out of the prognostication business. But why would I do that? Look for my 2012 predications here in a couple of days!


© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Random Shots: In Memoriam - 2011

  • As the video game industry has grown and matured, it is only fitting that we at Bullet Points look back at the game developers and executives who we lost in 2011.

    • Matt Stubbington, 39, artist, co-founder of Iguana Entertainment and Big Sesh Studios

    • Don Barnes, 41, artist, credits include Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Kung Fu Panda

    • Heather Thompson, 42, producer and project manager, credits include Marc Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure and Dead to Rights

    • Jerry Lawson, 70, creator of the Fairchild Channel F, the first cartridge-based video game console

    • Norio Ohga, 70, former president and chairman of Sony, launched Sony Computer Entertainment

    • Takeshi Miyaji, 45, founder of Game Arts and creator of the Grandia series

    • Bill Kunkel, 61, pioneer of video game journalism, founder of Electronic Games, the first video game magazine published in the United States

    • Will Townsend, 33, producer, credits include DJ Hero, Command & Conquer: Generals, Medal of Honor: European Assault, and Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle Earth

    • Carl Wade, 40, programmer, credits include Turok: Dinosaur Hunter and South Park: Chef's Luv Shack

  • Please take a moment to reflect on the lives of everyone, in the game industry or not, who we lost this year. They will be missed.

  • This post is in honor of my father-in-law, Wellan Briggs. There is a hole in our lives where he belongs.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Read Lately: On Basilisk Station by David Weber

  • One might think that with all of the novels available in the world that I would have dug something up out of Amazon's catalog when I got my new Kindle Fire. Instead I turned to Baen's Free Library and tried out a book that I've been wondering about for a while, On Basilisk Station by David Weber.

  • On Basilisk Station is the first book in the Honor Harrington series. Commonly thought of as Horation Hornblower In Space, the novel follows Harrington as she takes command of the light crusier Fearless and deals with the incompetance and politics within the Royal Manticoran Navy. Assigned to the backwater Basilisk system, Harrington refuses to let her current position define her command.

  • In establishing the series' sci-fi trappings, Weber has created a system wherein ship-to-ship battles play out much like Napolionic navel battles. He does take into account modifications to account for three dimentional space and inertia in a vacuum. So instead of a line of battle, ships array themselves in a wall. And the outcome chases are determined not by relative velocity, but by relative acceleration. But otherwise you could drop these ships in water and have the battles play out quite familiarly.

  • The level to which you can accept that will go a long way to determining whether you think the book is clever or crap. If you prefer your science fiction of the hard variety, you will probably like this as much as you like Star Wars. But if you don't mind science fiction being used as a backdrop to tell interesting stories, then you should be just as delighted as I was.

  • David Weber is an excellent writer and this novel got its hooks in me from the start. There is nothing flashy about his prose. But he is deft in his characterizations and the creativity of his plot. With On Basilisk Station he has built a future that I can understand and visualize with ease, and that is a great accomplishment.


© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Played Lately: Saints Row: The Third

  • This is the time of year when tend to reflect on where the year started when how we got here. When I wrote my post looking ahead at 2011, Saints Row: The Third was nowhere on my radar. At most, the game was an off hand joke because of its childish "Strap It On" tagline. I knew about Saints Row 1 & 2, but they never sounded like anything that I wanted to play. But then the hype for this game started to build and I got super curious. That, plus the fact that I had enough gift cards to buy it for five dollars, was enough for me to try it out.

  • I am so glad that I tried this game. Saints Row: The Third is the game that every pseudo-nanny thought that GTA was, only played entirely for laughs. Sure the gangster story is played straight, but it is in service of making the over-the-top gameplay stand out that much more. There is really nothing ordinary about the missions. That's not good enough for Volition. Either the mission is crazy or it's not worth putting in the game.

  • And while it emulates the GTA formula, it doesn't suffer from the hazard of poor controls. Whether it was driving, shooting, or just running around, I haven't ever felt like the game was fighting me. Truly, I'm do die a lot and end up losing more missions and activities than I care to admit. But I've never been able to blame that on anything other than my own poor abilities.

  • As much as I'm enjoying the game, let me make one thing clear: the QTEs suck. I hate them so very, very much. They don't come up that often. Only in two places: whenever you fight a brute or when you perform a flashy melee takedown move. But they flash by so quickly that I rarely have to ability to react. Just no, folks. No.

  • Barring that one idiocy, I love Saints Row: The Third. The only thing keeping me from finishing it is that I have to take care of my family and work first. Every other bit of free time, though, will find me in Steelport, expanding my criminal empire, laughing the entire time.


© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Random Shots: Dear SantaCorp

  • It has come to our attention that your company is taking proposals regarding the administation of gift assignments this year. We are aware that Bullet Points is a fiendishly difficult corporation when dealing in this field. As such, we have prepared this guide to assist with your preparations

    • Although our game playing has been severely curtailed this year, we will not be requesting a greater portion of time to do so. Instead, we request the wisdom to remember why we have chosen to spend our time free time with our family instead.

    • While we are thankful that so many are enjoying their time in Star Wars: The Old Republic, we request that they be mindful that they are still playing a Bioware game. Therefore we hope that they will be circumspect about posting spoilers, else we will find ourselves reading far fewer blogs in the coming months.

    • While we appreciate the effort that Hasbro has made in releasing its boardgames as apps for the Kindle Fire, we would be very grateful if other developers decided that it was worth their while. We are sure that involves the Kindle Fire actually becoming popular, so we are asking for a miracle here. But you didn't become SantaCorp by playing it safe now, did you?

    • Finally, with all of this years ups and downs, we hope that 2012 will be a happier and healthier year for everyone, family and friends, online and otherwise.

  • We hope that will ease your decision-making burden.

  • Sincerly,

    Anjin
    President & CEO
    Bullet Points

  • P.S. Can you do something about all of these blogging memes? They are driving us up the wall.


© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Played Lately: Dark Souls

  • It is funny to me how much my time with Dark Souls has changed with study and practice. I have nearly memorized the extent of the Undead Burg. I know about the hollow warrior just to the right as I exit the bonfire room. I know that I have to watch out hollow crossbowman on the rooftop nearby that I have to keep my sheild toward as I fight the first. I know about the warrior who charges up the steps as I finish those two off. I know where every single enemy is in that stretch of the city. Knowledge makes me powerful, but it also makes me cocky.

  • Dark Souls is not a game that rewards sloppy play. You can certainly bash your way past opponents. And I have been as I've started leveling and gearing past these initial enemies. But I'm still being punished for not playing the game the right way, even though the punishment is now longer as dramatic.

  • Since my last post, I decided that I needed to stop farming for souls and finally took on the Taurus Demon atop the wall overlooking the Undead Burg. Luckily for me, I knew the trick (flinging myself from the tower onto its head) and was able to bring the beast down. And then the Hellkite Wyvern burned me to a crisp and I lost all of those souls I just won.

  • I was able, however, to snipe the beast's tail with my bow and arrows to win the fabled Drake Sword. I made short work of it because my Wanderer focuses on Dexterity, also the required statistic for archery. Whoever that left me low on Strength, leaving me to only wield my new blade two handed. It is an remarkable weapon, so I was able to farm souls quite well afterwards and build up my statistics. But I felt quite naked without a shield to protect me.

  • Unfortunately, that is were I have stopped playing. Not because I ran into a brick wall, though that wyvern seems unkillable. Instead, my attention was diverted to other things. Like Saints Row: The Third.

  • But Dark Souls is an amazing game. A game that I did not know that I was yearning for. So I will be back when the time is right.

© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Played Lately: The SWTOR Beta Test

  • Despite what I've said in the past, I found myself wanting to try out the best test for Star Wars: The Old Republic. So as is required to keep my MMO Blogger membership in good standing, I must record my thoughts about the game.

  • It was not bad. I may even have liked it, had I the time to play longer.

  • It is not really fair to SWTOR to talk about it when I had so little play time. I rolled a Sith Warrior (the opposite of the class I would want to play when the game goes live) and, across three short play sessions, I made it through the opening quest zone to the Sith Academy on Korriban and achieved the grand level Three. And half the time I was playing one handed because I was holding a baby. It was not, I'm sure you would agree, the ideal testing situation.

  • For all that, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the game in such little time. I am not afraid to admit that I like themepark MMOs. Even playing as a Sith (woo, evil chick with a lightsaber), I enjoyed fighting things, running around, and questing. I did not get a handle on the UI, though I suspect more time with it would help. Being able to use two hands would also help.

  • And, although I was a wee bit skeptical, I actually enjoyed the talky bits. Bioware pulled off a conversation system like their single player games. Unfortunately, I was only able to take part in a few of these. But avoiding the wall of quest text was huge improvement.

  • I still doubt that I will be playing at launch. As long as I can avoid spoilers, I see no reason to subject myself to the massive crowds the game is likely to see. But I am much more likely to eventually play it instead of skipping it entirely.

  • And I just might try a character on the Sith Empire side.


© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Random Shots: Crackpot Theory of the Day - SWTOR Edition

  • Consider two items:


  • Conclusion: EA/Bioware is trying to put millions of players under NDA so that no one can talk about the game!

  • Oh, look at that. Time for my medication again.


© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Random Shots: SWTOR Is Going To Be Big

  • If there is a surefire way to determine if an MMO is going to be hit based on the amount of gold selling spam it generates. By that measure, Star Wars: The Old Republic is bound to be a success.

  • Bullet Points is a small enough blog that the spam bots (machine or human) don't even bother to try. So when someone dropped a link on an old SWTOR post, I knew that things were going EA/Bioware's way. I have a couple questions, though:

    • The spam comment was advertising "swtor credits." Is that right? I'm not in the beta, so I'm not sure if it is credits is the correct currency or not. No comment either way.

    • Who exactly are they selling credits to? The beta testers? Maybe they need to beta test their credit selling operations.

  • I hope EA and Bioware have those authenticators available at launch. If not, watch for news of an early rash of account thefts. Game safely, people.

  • UPDATE: I just had to delete a spam comment off of this very post. Hilarious!


© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Random Shots: Agreement By Degrees

  • I don't mean to pick on Jayedub (who is a really great guy), but his recent tweet perfectly illustrates a common attitude in a certain sector of the gaming community.
    How is it that everyone but this guy likes Uncharted 3? http://www.honestgamers.com/reviews/9640.html And people wonder why game reviews shouldnt be taken seriously.

  • The review he linked to is the 4/10 review on Honest Gamers by noted contrarian Tom Chick. But here is a little exercise for you. Try to pick out which of the following quotes comes from that review. (Links provided, but don't cheat.)
  • The fact that failure means you're simply sent back to the latest checkpoint turns what should be an exciting and visually compelling sequence into a game of trial and error. It's hard to get a sense of flow during the chase sequences when you're only playing the game in ten-second chunks between failures. I'd love to see the chases uninterrupted to get a feel for the rhythm and nuance of the scene, something that's impossible when you're playing them. (Link)
    Uncharted 3 is the most exciting game in the world, but only until you deviate from the script. Even in this chase the conflict between the developer's theatrical choreography and player-controlled interactions is clear. In order to ensure each set-piece is set off correctly, the game commits the cardinal sin of insinuating you have full control of your character, but in fact tugging you towards trigger points - making sure you're in the right spot to tumble over the bonnet of that braking car, for example. (Link)
    But as the spectacles get grander, the player’s interaction with them lessens. For example, there’s a visually astounding scene where you’re trapped on a sinking cruise ship. Rooms around you become flooded almost as soon as you enter them. But as long as you press forward and jump occasionally, you’ll make it through without a scratch. (Link)
    You have to participate by holding the analog stick up to move Drake forward. You are almost literally pushing him, as surely as you push a truck in one of Uncharted 3's many non-puzzling puzzles. Push him through stretches of exposition, through flashbacks, through hallucinations, through wilderness, through crevices, up walls, along railings. In the climbing sequences, which have zero sense of exploration or uncertainty, you push Drake up a wall much as you might push a child up a jungle gym to help him feel a sense of accomplishment. (Link)
    Some of the game's more tightly scripted action sequences, particularly the ones where you're running somewhere at breakneck speed, can fall apart if you don't do exactly what the designer wanted you to do exactly when they wanted you to do it. When you're running toward the camera from a giant wall of water and can't really see where you're going, one split second's hesitation or missed jump means you're going to repeat everything you just did, which is a detriment to the frenetic way these games move. (Link)

  • Did you figure it out? What is funny about all of these reviews, and several others that I looked at was that they all agreed about what they liked and did not like about Uncharted 3. What they differed on was the degree to which that swayed their opinion of the game. There are several 100 point scores on Metacritic, several in the 80s, and then there is Tom Chick with his 40. A 40 has the same problems with the game as everyone else, but could not overlook those problems like nearly everyone else.

  • If there is a reason to not take games seriously, it is because so many reviewers give inflated scores to big budget games before the deeper flaws become apparent, not because some people have different opinions. I have not played any of the Uncharted games, so I have no idea who I might agree with. But what I do believe that I would rather have a range of opinions than a line of yes men ready to stamp their seal of approval on every high profile game that comes down the line.


© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Played Lately: Dark Souls

  • It feels like accepting a dare.

  • After watching a recent Giant Bomb video of Ryan Davis playing the first couple hours of the game (which I would link, but it's subscriber only), I decided that I finally had to try out Dark Souls . Everything you have heard about this game is probably right.

  • Dark Souls is hard. And it is unforgiving about its difficulty. The very first armed enemy that you come across will kill you if you aren't careful. And you can never take any enemy for granted. No matter how many times you've killed that one undead at the top of the stairs, you can't just rush him. If you don't go in with your shield up and wait for an opening, he's just as deadly as any of the demon bosses.

  • This isn't easy to get used to. The pace of combat is slow and methodical. You might hear people complaining about being locked into animations, so they can't escape when they find themselves in trouble. But Dark Souls is not an action game; it is a game of choices and consequences. Button mashing will get you through some fights, but taking your time and planning your attacks is always the best course of action. The slower pace means that even someone as uncoordinated as I am can succeed at the game.

  • At least, I can as long as I keep the controls straight. (Attacks are on the Right Bumper and Right Trigger? Really?)

  • I've only played the game for a few days, and I have taken my time to explore, harvest souls, and learn how to play. But each and every one of those minutes has been nervewracking and thrilling. I suspect that this is similar to what MMO PvPers feel when they really get into a game like EVE or Darkfall. I'll never be hardcore enough for that, but this allows me to edge a little closer to that kind of exhileration.

  • It is a game of skill instead of stats. It is a game of exploration and discovery. It will not hold your hand, but it rewards your achievements. I didn't not even know that I've been looking for this kind of game until I played it. I wish that there was a demo available because you won't know if you like it until you play it. But if you have the chance, you might give it a try. Maybe you'll discover that it fills a hole that you didn't know was empty.


© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Random Shots: The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass

  • I briefly alluded to this in regards to the annoucement that Diablo III would be free to WoW annual pass subscribers, but I think it deserves its own post. Very likely, if reports are to be believed, the Golden Age of the MMO is coming to an end.

  • Don't panic.

  • (I've used that joke before, right?)

  • The thing to keep in mind is that this is the natural evolution of any cultural phenomenon. It is a cycle that has repeated time and again in gaming. Board wargaming had its hayday in 1970s. Tabletop role-playing games were huge in the 1980s. Collectable card games were everywhere in the 1990s. None of these genres are the colossi that they once were. Neither is the Nindento Wii. And so too will go the MMO.

  • People try to blame the games, the companies, or even their fellow players for the loss of popularity. However each of these genres exploded because they caught the attention of the mainstream for a time. People bought and played Dungeons & Dragons, Magic: The Gathering, and World of Warcraft who had no intention of looking at anything else. They were caught up in the cultural zeitgeist and were done when it passed. That is what the golden age of each of these genres looks like.

  • Some people will tell you that games in these dead genres have never been better. They may be niche games instead of mainstream, but they are still around for those of us who care about them. The same thing will happen with MMOs. We may never again see a WoW sized juggernaut. But in a way, we don't want that again. If real innovation is to take place, we need the people making MMOs to do it because they love games, not because they love money.


© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

News Filter: Grand Theft Auto V Trailer

  • It has been three years since Rockstar Games released GTA IV. So when they announced Grand Theft Auto V a couple of days ago, I was curious where they would take the new game.
  • I actually got chills watching that trailer.

  • My history with Rockstar games is not the best. I tried out all of the GTA III games, as well as GTA IV. I got the farthest in GTA IV, but never was able to get to the end. It was their other games, Bully and Red Dead Redemption, that I thought were their best. And I was able to complete each of them. I can only hope that they learn something from those games and apply those lessons to GTA V

  • After the drought that this year has been, I'm glad to have something to look forward to in 2012.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Admin: Wrecking The Curve

  • I was up late Wednesday night/Thursday morning, trying to soothe an unhappy baby. As I was feeding her, I noticed a new post by Tobold. A post wherein he linked back to my post discussing different reactions to Mists of Pandaria. My first thought was "Tobold actually reads my blog?" My second was "I wonder if anyone will follow that link."


  • Thank goodness that I don't pay for bandwidth or I would be in big trouble with my wife now.

  • It is always amazing to me when one of the top tier blogs like Tobold's MMORPG Blog, Player Versus Developer, or Kill Ten Rats links back to me. If there is any doubt about that Tobold is a major blogger, you just have to look at the spike on that graph. I'm sure that I received those hits because I found myself in the middle of the ongoing Tobold/Syncaine feud. Heck, Syncaine even commented on my post (which I appreciate. Thanks!)

  • Things have come back down to normal now. And I'll try to keep it here with more comic book and fake RPG campaign posts. But it was nice to have my moment in the blogging spotlight.


© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Comic Roundup: October 12, 2011

  • Comics! More comics! Too many comics?

  • Warlord of Mars: Dejah Thoris issue 7 & Warlord of Mars issue 10 - More Warlord books. Still good, solid stories, even if they are painting around the edges of the original books. I wonder when they start on The Gods of Mars.

  • Optic Nerve issue 12 - This is one of those books that I've heard vaguely about, but never thought to pick up. Now that I'm approaching middle age, I feel like I should be reading grown up books like this. Sometimes, grownups are right about things. Now I need to look for back issues.

  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles issues 1 & 2 - Remember everything that I just said about being a grown up? Screw that. TMNT is rad. Especially ones that aren't color coded.

  • Batwoman issue 2 - I love everything about this book. I miss having Greg Rucka on it, but JH Williams and company make it like he isn't even gone.

  • Also purchased: Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 9 issue 2, Stormwatch issues 1 & 2, Warlord of Mars: Fall of Barsoom issue 3, and Glamourpuss issue 21. All are currently unread, waiting on my nightstand for me to find the time.


© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Random Shots: Are Pandas The Apples Or Oranges In This Metaphor?

  • I want to link a couple of posts here, both because they are interesting and because they illustrate a point that everyone in the debate seems to be missing.

  • Werewolves in top hats, gnomes performing the dance moves from Bloodhound Gang’s Bad Touch, steampunk motorcycles and planes, Murlocs, escorting orphaned children through the Dark Portal in Hellfire Peninsula, ridiculous sexual dimorphism in PC races, non-combat pets, Haris Pilton, giant cow-men riding on chocobos[...]

    And you’re worried about pandas?

    - Melmoth, Killed In A Smiling Accident

    Somehow I don’t think pre-teens were running around knocking out elite mobs in the open-world, organizing town raids, playing the first version of the PvP system, min/maxing the second system, or sitting around with 39 of their closest pre-teen friends to knock out Rag after a five hour raid. And to suggest that this was just a ‘very minor’ part of the game, well, guess Blizzard disagreed when they expanded that ‘very minor’ part for well over a year straight, while at the same time picking up millions of new subs. Naw, total coincidence.

    - Syncaine, Hardcore Casual

  • I don't think that there has been greater instance of two sides of an argument talking past one another. (Hyperbole alert!) When people argue that World of Warcraft is a silly game, they are talking about the world. When people argue that it is a serious game, they are talking about the systems. So when you look at their seperate arguments, they are both right.

  • Just a reminder: an argument where both sides are right is a stupid argument. Now go play some video games, for goodness' sake.



© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Random Shots: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Panda

  • Green Armadillo tweeted that he feels strange looking forward to Mists of Pandaria while the blogging community is almost universally negative. Blizzard has handed more ammunition to people already dissatisfied with World of Warcraft. And their voices are loud, no matter how long they have been away from the game. But GA is not alone.

  • I signed up for the annual pass on Saturday.

  • I understand that it is not in vogue to like WoW anymore, but I do. It's not a game that I'm going to dedicate my life to, but it is one that I will go back to from time to time. So when Blizzard announced that Diablo III would be free for anyone who commits to twelve months of WoW subscriptions, I knew that I would be back sooner than I expected. Yes, it feels like a ploy to buoy their flagging subscription numbers, but it is a ploy that I can get behind. The total cost to play WoW and D3 makes it more than worth my while.

  • And the expansion still looks like a lot of fun. Yes, Blizzard is lifting systems from other games in toto. Yes, they are going to rewrite whole game systems again. Yes, questing is five more levels of "more of the same." Yes, the endgame will probably be as exclusionary as before. But I really don't care. That is all the stuff I sign up for when I buy a new expansion. World of Warcraft is the ultimate known quantity in MMO gaming. If I wanted something vastly different, I would subscribe to something else.

  • That said, Guild Wars 2 can't get here fast enough.

  • I'm sorry if WoW isn't for you anymore. I'm sorry if the pandas aren't ushering in the game's second coming. However I'm happy to see WoW get a little bigger and a little crazier.


© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Friday, October 21, 2011

News Filter: Mists Of Pandaria Officially New WoW Expansion

  • As has been expected for the last two months, Blizzard has officially announced that Mists of Pandaria is the next expansion for World of Warcraft.

  • Let's get this out of the way first: wow, I was really, really wrong about that. Oops. Even more hilarious, I completely blew it when I tried to prognasticate how Blizzard my handle new races or classes. Double oops. I suppose this shows why I'm a blogger and not a psychic.

  • From MMO-Champion, here is the list of features for the expansion, along with my commentary:

    • Level cap raised to 90 - Five levels seems like the norm after Cataclysm, so no surprises here.

    • New Class: Monk - I really wanted a Brewmaster, but monk sounds to be very interesting. Curious to see where it falls on the tank/healer/DPS spectrum.

    • New Race: Pandarens - For both factions??? That is crazy awesome.

    • PvE Scenarios - Huh?

    • Pet Battle System - Using non-combat pets? I image that MMO Gamer Chick will have a huge advantage if that is the case.

    • New Talents - There is an entire panel dedicated to this update, so I'm reserving judgment until then. But so far it sounds like a huge change.

    • New continent - If anything, this was the least surprising announcement.

    • Challenge Mode Dungeons - Huh? part two.


© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

News Filter: Diablo III Free to WoW Subscribers

  • The craziest news ever just came out of Blizzcon 2011. Diablo III will be free for World of Warcraft players who have a twelve month subscription.

  • There has been talk that the Golden Age of MMOs is coming to an end. If ever there was a desperation move in response to that decline, this is it. Blizzard is obviously trying to establish a bulwark against declining subscriptions with Diablo III. And I think it is just crazy enough to work.

  • I still like World of Warcraft enough that I know that I will subscribe again. If you consider the eventual retail cost of D3, that would be an amazing deal. Actually, now that I look, I don't know what the price of an annual subscription would be. The website only shows options up to six months. Curiouser and curiouser.

  • UPDATE: According to Blizzard's website, this is not an annual subscription. Instead, it is a commitment to subscribe for twelve months under any of the prior subscription options. So if you subtract the cost of Diablo III (approximately $60), the subscription cost is effectively $120 (monthly), $108 (quarterly), or $96 (semiannually). If you were already going to buy D3 and want a WoW subscription, this makes it a no brainer.

  • While I'm at it, I should also point out that signing up for an annual pass also grants the Tyrael's Charger mount as well as automatic access to the next beta. Looks like I'm headed back to WoW.


© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

News Filter: SWTOR Press NDA Is Up, Nothing To See Here

  • Bioware has finally lifted the Press NDA for Star Wars: The Old Republic and opinions are flooding the internet. Instead of linking all of the various articles, I'll point you toward Syp's list at Bio Break where he's done a good round up.

  • Unsurprisingly, I am not participating in the beta. I didn't sign up because I never do. (An exception will be made for Guild Wars 2 if the opportunity arises.) But if I ended up with an invite, I would have given the game a try. Although I've avoided the hype like the plague, I actually want to read about the beta. I'm much more interested in the opinions of people actually playing the game. If anything would sway me to try it out, this is what I need to hear.

  • So far, the take away is that the story is good, but the gameplay is more Kill Ten Rats. I don't mind a good KTR is there is a good story behind it, so I'm curious about how well these balance out.

  • There is still the Star Wars barrier that I can't get over. I watched the laserdisc version of the original movie the other day (i.e. the version that doesn't even have the Episode IV label on it) and was reminded that, once upon a time, I was a fan of the series. Maybe SWTOR will rekindle that love, but the hurricane that was the prequels did a lot to extinguish any feelings I had for the franchise.

  • I suppose we will see what happens this December.


© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Listened Lately: I Come To Shanghai, Eternal Life Vol. 1

  • Although it was released back in July, I hadn't taken the time to sit down and listen to the new album from I Come To Shanghai. All of the usual excuses apply. But they all break down to "I'm stupid" because this is an amazing follow up to their debut.

  • Eternal Life, Vol 1. lasts only twenty two minutes, with nine songs shoved into three tracks, but it is mesmerizing from start to finish. It is much more conspicuously electronic than the first album, but it is never gaudy or overbearing. The lyrics are just as askew as you would want.

  • The album is free to download, but Sam and Robert really deserve your cash. I paid because I want to encourage creative people to be creative.


© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Monday, October 10, 2011

News Filter: Co-Op Missions In Mass Effect 3

  • On various magazine covers previewed earlier today, we discover that Mass Effect 3 will feature some sort of multiplayer. Since then, Bioware has confirmed that the multiplayer mode will be four player co-op missions.

  • They also said, "Don't panic." It's too late for that. But then, this is the Internet.

  • There is a post to be written about the stupidity of tacking multiplayer modes onto single player games to curb used game sales, but it was already written several times in several places over the last couple years. It is just as true now as it was then. But that's not the post I want to write.

  • I don't like multiplayer games. I don't like to leave my fun in the hands of other people. I don't want to be the reason that other people do not have fun.

  • How much do I dislike multiplayer? I have never played the co-op mode in Portal 2. I play League of Legends entirely with bots (and I still lose). I played Borderlands front to back, both on 360 and PC, in single player, even though I had several invitations to play with others. (Sorry, Jayedub.) I solo my way through MMOs. As far as I'm concerned, multiplayer is a waste of disk space.

  • Just because I don't like multiplayer, don't mistake that as me wanting to impinge on other people's fun. It would be hypocritical of me to mimic all those who say that single player games are an aberation, though in inverse. I understand that I'm in the minority here.

  • But is this really necessary? Is co-op the thing that was keeping people from trying out Mass Effect? I doubt it.

  • UPDATE: Chris Priestly posted the details of the co-op missions as well as the Mass Effect 3: Galaxy At War system. I'm glad that they are going out of their way to say that you don't have to play multiplayer to get the best ending in single player. Gee, Bioware, thanks for putting all of this stuff in the game that I'm going to ignore. What the hell is going on over there? Why foist that on this game at all?

  • UPDATE 2: I tweeted this late last night, but I think it bares repeating here:
    They didn't call it #ME3 Galaxy at War just for co-op, folks. Just wait until they announce the Facebook game and iOS app.


© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

News Filter: Did The Mittani Just Win EVE Online?

  • A pair of posts have appeared on the EVE Online website that signal a major shift in where and how CCP directs the game in the future. In the first, CEO Hilmar Veigar P├ętursson admits that CCP has lost sight of its player base as it tried to push the game in ways that were of no interest to the subscribers. In the second, Senior Producer Arnar Hrafn Gylfason provides a list of all of the updates coming to the game now that the company is refocusing efforts on Flying In Space.

  • Somewhere out in cold dark, The Mittani is smiling to himself because he just won the biggest EVE Online metagame of them all. It looks like taking over the CSM and issuing his ultimatum actually worked.

  • Bravo, sir.

© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Played Lately: Magic: The Gathering - Duels Of The Planeswalkers 2012

  • With my limited time to play lately, I've had to seek shorter games when I can. It turns out that a game of Magic: The Gathering is perfect for a short fix.

  • Released just a few months ago, Magic: The Gathering - Duels Of The Planeswalkers 2012 is this year's iteration of 2009 game. I didn't know this had turned into a Madden-like franchise. But it is fitting if you look at how the game was updated. Like Madden, this update is primarily about adding a few tweaks, a new mode, and a new roster...er, card list. So if you liked the first game and want more, this is definitely more. If not, there is little here to change your mind.

  • The biggest update involves deck management. Although full desk construction is still not available, this version allows you to remove base cards from your deck instead of just your unlocked cards. Beyond that, the new Archenemy mode is a great change of pace. The UI is improved in almost every way, especially the layout of the campaign interface.

  • Disappointingly, there are a few bugs that crop up in the game. The card-like main menu has a tendency to spin in the opposite direction than I'm clicking. And the campaign screen lists the first mission in the expansion's Archenemy campaign no matter which screen you come to. These are little nags, but point to a lack of polish. Also, there is still no way to track in game which desks you have used to beat different duels. Since this is necessary to unlock different cards, I would like the game to help indicate this instead of needing a separate spreadsheet. (Copies available upon request.) Also, they want to sell you deck unlocks and foil conversions again. Really, WotC?

  • Again, Magic 2012 is more Magic. I really liked the first game, so I'm happy to get more. In fact, I have progressed farther in this edition than I did in the previous. If you want full deck construction, this is still not the game for you. But if you want to pit balanced preconstructed desks against one another, upgrading is a no brainer.


© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Top Five: Songs That Got Stuck In My Head

  • While my beautiful wife falls in love with songs because of the lyrics, I get hooked solely based on the melodies. Many times I don't know what the words to a song are until long after I've been listening to it for days. The songs that stick with me, though, are the ones that evoke some emotional response with only the power of its sound. Here are five songs that, at one time or another, were placed on permanent repeat on whatever electronic device was nearby for days at a time. Beware: I can talk video games, comic books, movies, etc. until my lungs fall out, but I have no talent to discuss music. Fair warning.

  • The Killers, When You Were Young - The Killers have an amazing facility for writing catchy tunes. This may be one of their best. But even more than the music, the conflicting currents of hope and disappointment in the lyrics twist the song every which way. There are so many highs and lows in just a few minutes and I can't help was ride this rollercoaster over and over again.

  • MGMT, Time To Pretend - There is something to be said for great tune that is completely nihilistic. The song builds over its course so that the music is as bombastic as the lives that the singer portrays. It is a beautiful and terrible song that I cannot listen to enough.

  • Kelly Clarkson, Already Gone - I love songs that evoke melancholy and longing and this may be my favorite. Every time I hear it, I can't help but be washed over with a wave of sweet sadness. Clarkson's voice drives the emotion to powerful heights.

  • Cee Lo Green, Forget You - I'm going to admit something here. I was not listening to this version. For some reason, I'm feeling a little circumspect about embedding that video, but the two version feel very similar. Green's open aggression in the face of heartbreak is thrilling. It's everything that I would want to say were I rejected by a woman. And when he breaks down near the end, the facade fall away and you can see the pain behind his bold words.

  • OK Go, All Is Not Lost - When it comes to videos, you can't do much better than OK Go. So when the latest video came out on the Nintendo 3DS, this song hooked into my head and would not let go. If you were worried about me, All Is Not Lost stands in opposition to the songs that proceed it. Its message that we will come out the other side no matter what comes down the road. I'd not go in for hopeful songs too often, but that's because they don't connect with me the same way this does.

  • Of course, I did spend the entire time writing this post listening to Little Sister by Miracle of Sound. We'll see if it makes the next list.

  • If you are interested to see which songs my wife picked, check out her blog here.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Random Shots: Release Dates Are Big News

  • Something amazing happened over the weekend. At least six different blogs that I follow reposted the news that Star Wars: The Old Republic had a release date. I'm not reposting the date because 1) this isn't a News Filter post, and 2) you find it just about anywhere else on the Internet by now. Try one of those links above if you really don't know.

  • When I thought about writing about the release date, my first inclination was to point and laugh that so many people had so much to say about something so insignificant. On second thought, though, I think it says something about the state of MMOs and the anticipation of SWTOR in particular that so many people had so much to say about something so insignificant.

  • Where once we could count on release after release after release of new MMOs, we are now in a cycle where Triple-A games are few and far between. Sure, there are more MMOs being released now than ever before. But these are the lazy knock-offs and cash-ins that should have been cancelled years ago but somehow weren't. Only Rift stands out this year and that came out back in March. People are hungry from something new.


© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Random Shots: Your Fifteen Minutes Have Arrived

  • As I commented on Bronte's latest post, the Internet just gives and gives and gives.

  • Netflix recently announced that it was splitting up its DVD and streaming services, spinning the DVD rentals off to a new company called Qwikster. I would be indifferent to this news were it not for Jason Castillo. It turns out that someone at Netflix didn't Google the name because the holder of the Qwikster Twitter account is a stoner and a fan of Elmo. Evidently he's waiting for his payout. As Chris Remo tweeted:
    This @Qwikster affair is one of my favorite internet things to happen ever

  • And because things don't get any saner on the Internet, there was this little scuffle on the Twitter account of Mark Davidson. Evidently Mark pays ghost-tweeters to make him look good online. Only he fired one of them but didn't change his password. Hilarity, as it will, ensued.

  • And this is why I spend all day on the Internet, folks.


© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Comic Roundup: September 14, 2011

  • Things have been upside down recently, so I'm quite behind on comic reviews. I rarely get to the shop now. And when I do, I have less time to read. So I have roughly a full month of comics to go over. Better get started. In order of anticipation:

  • Mystic issue 1 - Marvel continues their renewal of the Crossgen franchises, this time with Mystic. I read very little of it in the first incarnation, but there is something winning about this version. The first issue deals with two girls who dream of escaping their orphanage to learn magic. It is a classic tale where the ending is written based on how it began. But the writing and art have me interested in how they execute it. I'm very likely to see this miniseries to the end.

  • Justice League issue 1 - The all-star team of Geoff Johns and Jim Lee take on the all-star cast of the Justice League, showing how the group came together. If I have a compliment to give it, it's that this issue reminded me of the Marvel Ultimate books. The story will obviously take its time to build, but that makes the anticipation that much greater. Assuming it holds up, there may be a second DC comic that I end up reading on a monthly basis.

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Nine issue 1 - Did you know this was happening? I certainly didn't. I lost interest in Season Eight as it went along as the story went real wacky there at the end. But considering how that series wrapped up, I was at least curious how this would go. This issue could very well just be the next issue in the series instead of a new number one. But I'm still curious what Joss does with Buffy from here. Especially since I get a strong Season Six vibe from the issue. And I intend that to be a compliment.

  • Danger Girl and the Army of Darkness issue 3 - This series continues to be the best Danger Girl since the original series. I don't know if adding Ash to the mix was required to make it good again, but some thing works.

  • Rocketeer Adventures issue 4 - As last issue in the series, it did not end on the strongest of notes, storywise. The Ashley Wood pinups at the end actually were amazing, but the stories did not live up the the great start. Nonetheless, I'm so happy that IDW has helped to bring the Rocketeer back to life with so many creative people. I'm sure Dave Stevens would be proud.

  • Warlord of Mars: Fall of Barsoom issue 2 - Like the first issue, Fall of Barsoom is an interesting take on Burroughs' world. As long as the quality keeps up, it looks like I'll keep buying Warlord of Mars books.

  • Warlord of Mars: Dejah Thoris issues 5 & 6 - Like these.

  • Warlord of Mars issue 9 - And this one too. I really hope they don't start any more series.

  • Batwoman issue 1 - I've been waiting for this comic for a long time. You could say I've been waiting since November 2010 when issue zero came out. Or you could say I've been waiting since April 2010 when her last issue in Detective Comics came out. It is worth the wait. J.H. Williams produces beautiful art with an amazing eye for how a page is designed. And his writing, alongside Haden Blackman, feels like a perfect continuation of the story that Greg Rucka started. If Batwoman fell off your radar because of the long wait, it's time to come back. (And it's time for me to fire up my Batwoman look-alike in Champions Online, I think.)

  • Criminal: Last of the Innocent issue 4 - I know that everyone love this arc, but I continue to be left cold by it. I think that it is because I lack any connection to the comics that it is referencing. It's a fine story. An interesting story, even. But it feels like I'm at arm's length from it because I'm not in on the joke. That may be my fault or the comic's. Either way, I hope that the next Criminal series speaks to me more.


© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Farewell To Ascalon: Let's Play Guild Wars - 4

  • Savich, oh my dear Savich. He was so sweet. Our love was bright, but fleeting. He could see how much I loved the gloves, but he could not meet my clothing needs. So he told me that there were others, brothers of his, who would be willing to trade for matching garments. He pointed me toward Fort Ranik and my destiny. I will never forget those ten minutes we spent together.
  • Fort Ranik is northeast of Wizard's Folly, but it is not a straightforward climb down the mountain. The path down leads through a cave full of ice elementals. Not that my Flare spell and I were in any danger. In a way, it was a very leisurely, scenic trip.
  • Have I mentioned before how beautiful this game is? Even this cave is beautiful. The game is six years old and it still holds up.
  • As we left Wizard's Folly (we being Gwen, my gloves, and I), we found ourselves on the bank of a river. Runoff from the snow flows through here out to, well, who knows where. We're nowhere near the ocean, right?

  • As we walked down the river, we were set upon by Giant Aloe Seeds. Ascalon is a crazy dangerous place. And here I thought the Charr were bad. You can't even walk through the countryside without being set upon by bandits, scales, and these freaking seeds.
  • Okay, we need to talk about naming things. Aloe Seeds are already giant when you compare them to regular seeds. Giant Aloe Seeds are not all that giant when you compare them to the already giant Aloe Seeds. Somebody has their scale set all wrong.
  • After we overcame many obstacles, we arrived at Fort Ranik. My goal was finally in sight.
  • The fort itself was rather barren. The soldiers must be out patrolling the countryside, right? Since it's so dangerous out there, right?

  • Savich's brother, Hatcher, was easy to find. He hadn't mentioned that they were identical twins. Be still, my heart. Hatcher was willing to trade a Krytan Robe in exchange for five unnatural seeds. Since I had harvested several from the Aloe Seeds, I handed them over and took my reward. The robe was more like a halter top with wings, but that's what he called it. The trip was already worth all the trouble.
  • Hatcher pointed out his other brother, Varis, also an identical twin! Three identical twins, if you can believe it. He was offering Krytan Leggings in trade for, um, something else.

  • "Did you say you wanted three spider legs?" I asked, hoping that I heard wrong.

  • "Yes, three spider legs," he replied earnestly.

  • I repressed a shiver. "Spider legs are pretty small, though, right? How about I just find you a spider and you can pick off the legs yourself."

  • "You misunderstand. I need the legs of giant spiders."

  • "Is that anything like the Giant Aloe Seed where they aren't much bigger than a regular Aloe Seed?"

  • He thought for a moment. "Yes, I believe that you are correct."

  • That calmed me down a little. "Okay. I've heard of giant spiders like tarantulas. Do you mean about that size?"

  • "Maybe a little bigger."

  • I bit my lip. I really don't like spiders. Really don't like them at all. But if I could get some nice new leggings in return for some a-little-bigger-than-tarantula spider legs, I would do it.

  • "You have yourself a deal," I told him.
  • When I left Fort Ranik, I ran across Mary Malone. The poor woman had been collecting apples, but was forced to leave her basket behind when she ran across some giant spiders. She had run all the way back to the fort and was hiding behind a tree. I told her that I would be happy to help recover her basket. And if I can find some spider legs along the way, all the better.
  • I followed the road to the south, keeping my eyes open for any spiders. The basket was sitting alone in the middle of the orchard, completely devoid of arachnids. Well, at least I can return it to Mary, right?
  • AAAAAAHHHHHHHH!
  • AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!
  • AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!
  • When I finally escaped the madness and dropped off the apples, I returned to Fort Ranik with spider legs for Varis to claim my prize.

  • And then I punched him square in the face.
  • Here ends part four. We are close to the end of Pre-Searing now. Next time we'll delve into the Catacombs, and then we're off to the Ascalon Academy. See you next time!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Random Shots: The Age Of The Dragon Is Over

  • I've come to the conclusion that I will never play Dragon Age II again. Not even that great song could get me to go back and play it. It was a mistake to purchase the game in the first place. And considering how little I enjoyed the first game, I regret even only having spent the twenty dollars for the game.

  • Having come to this realization, I dug back into the archives of the Gamers With Jobs Conference Call and listened to the Dragon Age II spoiler section in episode 234. I figured that I had already heard enough spoilers that going back and listening to an in depth discussion would not make matters any worse. Having listened to the podcast only cemented my decision. Although the individual character arcs seem interesting, the overall plot arc sounds like a complete mess. I'm not going to spoil the game for anyone else, but the ending sounds nonsensical.

  • I've already learned my lesson from this experience. No matter how excited everyone else is about a game, it is not worth spending the money on a game that I have reservations about. It has been some time since I have bought a new game. I do not intend to do so until something comes out that I'm looking forward to. I like getting caught up in the conversation around a new game, but playing games that I'm not excited about is no good for anyone.

  • Especially if all we get out of them are lame posts like this one.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Farewell To Ascalon: Let's Play Guild Wars - 3

  • As it turns out, there was this one guy who asked if I had a devourer egg. Something about using it to lure a worm queen and driving the vermin from a field. It's not the work of heroes. But hey, I have an extra egg, right?
  • Upon my return to Ashford, I discovered that the place was overrun with pigs. None of them tried to kill me, but they certainly did not belong here. With a little effort, I corralled them and Farmer Dirk gave me 25 gold for my trouble.
  • This pig herding event is actually a hidden quest, one of two available in Pre-Searing. I'm not aware if this mechanic is used anywhere else in the game.
  • Pitney was happy, and a little shocked, when I returned with a devourer egg. We wrapped up the worm problem without any trouble. As we returned to Ashford, Devona mentioned that she wanted to investigate the rumors that the Charr had been seen south of the wall. Since killing Charr is the reason I came to the Academy, I agreed to help.
  • Devona was right. There was a real and actual Charr roaming the path from Regent Valley. The coward ran off before we could get to him, but we finished off his Grawl buddies who stuck around.
  • Not shown: me losing my chance at the Survivor title before I get out of Pre-Searing. Pathetic.
  • Devona was quite concerned about this Charr running loose, but she knew I had business in Wizard's Folly. As I left Ashford, she told me, curiously, "Think warm thoughts." Okay.
  • Wizard's Folly, it turns out, is up in the hills. As I made my way south, I came upon this waterfall. The sound of the rushing water was so peaceful that I took a moment to catch my breath and reflect on my journey so far.
  • This waterfall, overlooking Ashford, is one of my favorite sites in Pre-Searing, much less the game. There is no real reason to come up here other to take in the view. For as game-centric as most of the environments are, ArenaNet still found a way to put in these little explorable wonders.
  • Once I got up the hill, I understood what Devona was talking about. Snow, lots and lots of snow. What she should have mentioned were all of the elementals roaming the hillside. I can't help but wonder if this wizard's folly involved making too many elementals.
  • As Gwen and I made our way up the mountain, I discovered a small, green valley untouched by the snow. Since the frost was setting into my clothing, I decided to explore a little.

  • A number of tents and wagons ringed the clearing. A merchant and various people milled around the makeshift encampment. This must be Foible's Fair, I thought. Such a fitting name for the camp, a foible in the shadow of a folly. As I looked across the camp, I saw a woman with blue hair. An elementalist for certain. I walked over and introduced myself.

  • The woman drew herself to her full height as she addressed me. "I am Ralena Stormbringer, master of the element of air."

  • "Stormbringer?" I mused. "That would be a perfect name for a Charr."

  • "Do I look like a Charr to you?"

  • "Not in the least," I replied, although her expression looked just as hateful as one of the fanged beasts.

  • "Hmm," she said as she appraised me. "You have the stink of one of those fire fetishists. Well, there is more than one element in the world, you know."

  • "Oh, I only know a Flare spell. I would love to learn more about Air Magic."

  • "Would you? Very well, listen carefully." Ralena taught me how to cast Lightning Javelin and Blinding Flash. I'm not sure how a Lightening Javelin is any better than a flare, but I smiled and kept my mouth shut.

  • Ralena also let me know that another elementalist, Aziure, was performing research up at the tower atop Wizard's Folly. She asked me to go slay the Tower Guardian using her Air Magic and rub that fact in Aziure's face.
  • Really.
  • I thought that was a little bitchy, but I wanted to see Aziure anyway. If I could wipe out a guardian on the way, more fun for me. With Gwen in tow, I set out for the top of the mountain. We found the tower surrounded by earth and ice elementals. The guardian was easy to spot and easy to kill. It ignored all of the rampaging elementals, but it made a beeline right for me when I came into view. Not surprising really.

  • The amiable Aziure was quite happy to have the guardian gone. In fact, she even asked if I would help her with her research.
  • It turns out that she wanted me to help by acting as a bodyguard. Since I am just a novice, she taught me how to cast a Fire Storm and the Glyph of Lesser Energy.

  • Aziure began casting her Ward Against Harm which immediately drew the attention of all of the elementals in the area. As she taught me, I covered the area with Fire Storms and the elementals melted away. Take that, Ralena!

  • Her task complete, Aziure gave me her thanks and went about her way. Without teaching me how to cast the ward. To make sure the day was not a complete waste, I collected the various lodestones that had energized the elementals. Some sorcerer would find a use for them.
  • As we walked down the mountain, we passed a shrine where an odd man was waiting. "Hail, good lady," he called to me. "I was hoping you might help me. My name is Savich and I am in need of icy lodestones to help a friend. I have no money, but I could trade you these gloves which are too delicate for my rough hands. If you have the time, I will share with you a tale that will..."

  • "Shhh, shhh," I said to him, reaching out to take his hands. "You had me at gloves."
  • And here ends this episode. For a second time because Blogger ate the first version. You might think that having a second go would let me polish the story, but mostly I'm just annoyed. At least it's done.

    Join us next episode when Khilesia says "AAAAAAHHHHHHHH!" See you next time!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Random Shots: Gaming Superstitions

  • As promised by Nintendo, the 3DS Ambassador Program has gone live and the ten NES games are now available. I played and enjoyed a number of those games back when they first come out. In fact, one of the first things I did when we moved into the new house was hook up my Nintendo and slap in The Legend of Zelda.

  • As I fired up the games, memories came rushing back to me. Zelda, Zelda II, Metroid, and more. I can't wait to relive these classics on my fancy little handheld.

  • As I've played through these games so far, I find that I've fallen into the same patterns as before. There was an unspoken rule that I always followed. Whenever an item drops, I take the time to pick it up even if my energy/hearts/missiles/bombs are full.

  • Somewhere along the time, I came to the conclusion that if I passed up a power up I did not need, I would not receive a power up later when I really needed it. It's almost as though there is some gaming god who would punish me for turning away from their gifts. And even though I know that item drops are decided by a random number generator, I still follow this old behavior. I doubt that I could overcome this superstition even if I wanted to.

  • Are there any gaming superstitions that you still observe?


© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Played Lately: Panzer Corps: Wehrmacht

  • In a moment of weakness, I started the main campaign, 1939 - Early Blitzkriegs, on the Easy difficulty. I tell myself that I just want to see all of the scenarios that I wouldn't be able to reach under a real difficulty and that I'll go back later and try the other campaigns on Normal or harder. In reality, I just like things easy.

  • Panzer Corps: Wehrmacht starts with the invasion of Poland. It was hear that I discovered how the difficulty is implemented. All of the opposing units are at half strength. So while combat is not super tense, I still has to plan my attacks to insure that I'm not taking costly casualties. Even as I took my time, I easily rolled over all of the objective cities and reached Warsaw well within the allotted time.

  • I followed the conquest of Poland with an invasion of Norway (quite a maneuvering challenge), the Low Countries, and finally into France. My troops bowled over the defenders quite satisfactorily and with plenty of turns to spare. I would like to say that the lack of challenge was no fun, but I did enjoy myself immensely. Next up will be the 1940 launch of Operation Sea Lion to take over England. On a normal difficulty, I probably wouldn't see the mission outside of the scenario menu.

  • That said, the farther I go, the more I'm interested to see if I really have the mettle to take on a fully equiped opponent. I may do well, but I hope to surprise myself. But I'm not ready to do it yet. I have a world to conquer first.



© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Random Shots: Two Years After The Fact

  • Torchlight has been out for almost two years now. That is a long time for any game, especially a single player game, to occupy so much real estate in my brainspace. I've enjoyed it now on two platforms and I'm really looking forward to the sequel. However, after all this time, I finally figured out that I have one nit to pick with the game.

  • Sending your pet back to town is useless.

  • I know that it's cute and it could be handy, but it is just not. There are a couple reasons why. First, town portals are plentiful and cheap. In every case where you might send your pet off, you are better off going yourself. Second, with new quest becoming available for every dungeon level, there are plenty of reasons to head back to town on a regular basis.

  • If Runic really wanted the system to work, they would give potent medium term buffs (five to ten minutes) make staying in the dungeon worthwhile. That way you have to weight the tradeoff of leaving the dungeon and having your buff expire versus sending your pet away and pressing on alone.

  • Yes, that is the one thing that bugs me about the game after all this time.

  • Enough complaining. Did everyone see that Torchlight 2 is going to be $20? I don't know if that price is crazy good or just crazy.


© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Farewell To Ascalon: Let's Play Guild Wars - 2

  • Ashford Abbey is as grandiose as the town it is named for. Which means not at all. The Abbey consists of one building, a shrine to Dwayna, a nice tree, and an entrance to the catacombs. I considered seeing what all the fuss was about with the catacombs until then I remembered how hard it is to get dirt out of this material.

  • It did not take long before I found Meerak the Scribe, the man Devona sent me to speak with. "Well, hello beautiful," he said, strolling up to me. His eyes roamed up and down. "What can I do you for?"

  • "Devona tells me that you won't man up and report what you know to the proper authorities."

  • That stopped him in his tracks. He started to look everywhere but at me. "Oh. I suppose I could. I've just been a little busy. You don't suppose that you could help me out. I could maybe write a letter if you could run it up to the city. I don't want to go out there if Devona is around."

  • "Devona is the least of your worries. I've run into river skales, giant worms, an entire camp of bandits, and a huge swarm of bees. Do you hear me? Bees! I don't want to go out there either."

  • "Not a problem! Let me show you on this map how to avoid all of that and get to Ascalon City before you know it." Meerak may have been a lech, but he did know his way around a map.
  • And here we have the start of a beautiful relationship. No, not with Meerak. I mean with the map travel system. I can't even imagine this game without it. In a normal MMO, I can understand wanting to limit fast travel to maintain the illusion of a large world. You can't get away with that in Guild Wars because the world actually is massive. I can't even fathom how long it would take to run from Ascalon to the deepest part of the Maguuma Jungle. The map travel system really helps to fulfill ArenaNet's goal of getting right to the good stuff whenever you play.

    Yes, there is a quest in the game to teach you how to use the map. I may have embellished the details.
  • Following Meerak's instructions, I quickly returned to Ascalon City. I looked for Sir Tydus, but he did not seem to be around. Instead, Armin Saberlin was standing watch at the gates to the Academy. I hurried over and handed the letter to him.
  • "This is grave news, if true," he said, the words echoing through his helmet. "Do you understand what this means?"

  • "That it's finally time to march on the Charr?" I asked hopefully.

  • "Well, no. It means you'd better train some more if you are going to be of any help to the kingdom."

  • "But I've already learned how to cast a Flare and an Aura of Restoration."

  • I could see a smile within the shadow of his helm. It was not a kind smile. "Good for you, miss. But shouldn't an elementalist know spells from more than one element."

  • I might have tried my pouty face on him, but he did have a point. "Fine, but next time I'm expecting you to let me into the Academy."

  • He had already turned his attention to one of those death freaks by then, so I headed back toward the city gates. "Excuse me, miss," came a gruff voice. "Maybe I can help you out."
  • Standing near his stall, a weaponsmith waived me over. "That's a fine wand you have there, but it's not fitted right for your grip. I can fix that up right quick and for cheap too."

  • "This old thing?" I asked, holding up the wand. "It's just for show. Thanks anyway!"
  • The Guild Wars answer to binding equipment is what they refer to as customization. Armor is automatically customized when you buy it, but not weapons. You are free to use them or trade them freely. However if you customize your weapon, it receives a twenty percent bonus to damage. This is not an inconsiderable amount. At least for people who use their weapon for damage. If an elementalist is wanding something to death, they are probably doing it wrong. However, it's still an idea wish more games ran with.
  • With all of my errands accounted for, I headed out of the city again, intent on continuing my education. Gwen was there with her usual cheerful demeanor. I can't shake that girl to save my life. Also waiting was Haversdan. I'm not sure why he was still out here, but he did point me toward Wizard's Folly, where a great elementalist might instruct me.

  • What luck, I thought, and immediately set out in entirely the wrong direction.
  • I'm not sure how I misunderstood, but soon I had crossed over the river and through some hills until I happened upon a man in heavy armor standing outside a cave. This I did not expect.

  • "Greetings, madame," he called as I approached. "By the style of your dress, I take you to be the type who would aid a bereft nobleman in the procurement of his breakfast."

  • "I beg your pardon?"

  • His expression fell. "Can you help my man, Fadden, get some devourer eggs out of the cave?" I told him I would and we were off.
  • Fadden is not so brave facing down the devourers. Maybe if the duke had lent him his very impression armor and mace, he might have been more daring. As it was, the twin-tailed terrors were no match for my stream of Flares.

  • As a reward, Duke Gaban gave me two eggs. Yay?
  • I'm going stop here because I prepared twice as much material as I actually need. So the ending may not be entirely satisfactory, but you can look forward to a second post this week.

    Thank you to everyone who voted, even the spiteful trio who voted for Legendary Defender. With seven of the thirteen votes cast, I will play through Pre-Searing long enough to get the entire collector armor set before moving on. This task will give a good survey of Ascalon before it all goes to hell, so we can enjoy a couple more weeks of greenery.

    One final note, I may have been overly optimistic about polling the audience each week. There aren't that many decision points in the game, but I will let everyone take part in the ones that do come up. Thanks for reading, everyone!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Admin: Post Five Hundred

  • Back when I wrote post four hundred, I had estimated that I would reach this post some time in June. Based on prior performance, it normally takes about seven months to knock out a hundred posts. This year has been anything but normal. Between dealing with both an attempted and a successful house break in, selling that house to the city and moving to a new one, as well as having our first child, the blog just could not compete for my attention. That everything I just mentioned only added two months to the timetable is amusing to me. I'm not making any guesses as to when the next milestone will be reached, but I'm fairly confident that there will be a six hundredth post.

  • Out of prior top five posts, only two of them have held on a spot here. My top post of last nine months was not one of them. Top Five: EVE Online Stories received twice as many hits as the next down. It has been a perennial favorite for months now. The post saw a major spike in activity June 27, 2011, at the height of MonocleGate.

  • Sometimes, you just want more hits. So I decided, in a perfectly mercenary way, to write a speculative post called Random Shots: The Expansion After Cataclysm. Considering that we knew absolutely nothing at the time, people have been eager for any news or rumors and I certainly cashed in on that. Hits have been consistant since posting, though they have been trailing off in the last month or two.

  • The prior top spot holder, Top Five: Things To Do Before Cataclysm, fell to third place this cycle. Hits stayed quite high from the start, spiking up on December 5 and 6, 2010, but then dying completely when Cataclysm launched December 7, 2010. It had a good run.

  • The other top five survivor, By Request: Champions Online Q&A is the little engine that could, averaging a hit every day, even though it was first posted way back in September 2009. The reason the post in on this list, though, is because of the surge in popularity it received on January 26, 2011, the day after Champions Online went free-to-play.

  • The final post in the top five is a little more unique in its trajectory. After the announcement of the collector's edition for Star Wars: The Old Republic, I wrote Random Shots: CEs The Way God Intended Them. It's not a post I'm super proud of, but it did its job. I posted it July 21, 2011, it spiked on July 22, 2011 after receiving a high profile link from Kill Ten Rats, and it was dead by July 29, 2011. So even though it only received hits for about a week, that was enough to get the post onto the top five. Thanks for all the traffic, Ethic.

  • Gaming has been, much like my posting, rather sparse over this cycle. Rift certainly dominated a couple months of my gaming time. Otherwise, there were a number of smaller games like Bastion, Torchlight, and Pac-Man Championship Edition DX. And let's not forget Portal 2. So mainly I've been focusing on games that can be played and completed in a reasonable about of time while staying away from, or putting aside, the monster epics. As it stands, I'm not missing them.

  • On the creative front, I continue to be very happy with my Unexplored Worlds series. I only got five posts up in this cycle, but they are some of my favorites. And now I've started my Farewell To Ascalon series which is really exciting for me. And, funny enough, it's actually helping me to enjoy Guild Wars again, a game that I haven't been able to play for a few years now.

  • Finally, I would like to say thanks once again to all the commenters who make this place so much fun for me. So thank you to Blue Kae, Jayedub, Yeebo, MMO Gamer Chick, Bronte, Hunter, Tesh, and our newcomer, Straw Fellow. You make the hard work worthwhile. Now here's to the next hundred.



© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

News Filter: Go Buy Wing Commander Right Now

  • If I started this blog twenty years ago, you would have read any number of posts about the Wing Commander games. WC1 was the game that made me buy a sound card (a Sound Blaster Pro, installed myself in my 386-20). And it's the game that made me buy a joystick. I know a lot of people preferred the X-Wing games, but I was a Wing Commander man all the way.

  • Fun Fact: When I selected my callsign for WC1, I chose Anjin. And it has stuck with me ever since.

  • The good news is that GOG.com just release a bundle of both Wing Commander 1 & 2 (minus the expansion packs) for $5.99. The bad news is I'm stuck at work so I can't play yet.


  • Just looking at that image brings back the memories. I remember trading off missions with my brother. He was always much better at the game than me.

  • I wonder if I still have that joystick somewhere. Heck, I wonder if I have a serial port to hook it up to.


© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.