Monday, December 31, 2012

Top Five: Video Games of 2012

  • 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.

  • Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer - Although it came out in 2011, I didn't get a chance to play it until I got my iPhone this year. For all of the talk about how Apple's App Store is better than the various Android offerings, Ascension is the only game that makes me glad I switched. A simple deckbuilding game in the vein of Dominion, I have lost hours to building a card engine and watching it go. Whether I focus on Lifebound heroes to build up victory points or Void heroes to slim my deck to a perfect killing machine, I'm always excited to draw new cards and see how they will interact. With all of the apps available on the phone, this is the one I come back to time and again.

  • Fallen London - I think it was Tom Chick who convinced me to finally try out Echo Bazaar, the game that would eventually become Fallen London. You would think that after reading all of the tweets and blog posts, I would have been tempted sooner. But as soon as I did, I was sucked in to a fascinating world. The writing is excellently flavorful, giving me a reason to come back to the stories again and again. My exploits were amazingly varied and always exciting. I ended up playing for several months (partly because I could play in a browser at work) right up until I hit a grind that could be measured in astronomical units. So I may be done, but I sure had fun. You can try it out yourself right here.

  • Guild Wars 2 - Everything leading up to the reason of this game turned into anti-hype for me. Nonetheless, I could not miss the launch, buying my account just hours before the game opened. I'm glad I did. Guild Wars 2, while not the MMO messiah many were hoping for, is a smart, lovingly crafted attempt to answer the problems with the genre. I played it hard for a couple weeks, then went back less and less often. But it was glorious while it lasted.

  • Mass Effect 3 - My troubles with the ending notwithstanding, Mass Effect 3 is an amazing culmination to the best series this console generation. I could go back to that galaxy time and again and always be excited to see something new. If the conversation about the game has scared you away, put that aside. Mass Effect 3 is as good as we expect from the series. And, hey, the ending isn't quite so bad any more.

  • 10000000 - If there was one game that pulled be away from Ascension for a couple of months, it was 10000000. It is a simple match three where, instead of matching gems, you match melee and spell attacks, keys, items, and crafting ingrediants. Along the top of the screen, your character runs through a dungeon. The matches you make determines your progress, whether you unlock a chest or defeat the monster. With crafting and leveling mechanics, I was hooked on yet another Bejeweled clone. Once I hit the titular ten million points and won the game, I only have gone back occasionally to best my high score. But it was an absorbing run for such a simple premise.

  • Now that you've seen my list, varied and eclectic as it is, what were your favorite games of the year?

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Random Shots: The Year That Was 2012

  • Looking back at 2012, I find that gaming has not been a priority. I've spent more time reading, listening, or watching games than I have played. Between work and parenthood, finding the time and will to start a game has been difficult. But those games that have essentially forced me to play have be extra satisfying. It's time to look back at my prediction from the beginning of the year and see which came true.
  • SSX - Prediction: SSX will announce another delay, but it will be a day one purchase no matter when it is released. I will enjoy the game quite a bit and make one trip through the campaign until I reach some event that my aging hands just can't get me past. It will a serious contender for my Top Five list anyway.

    Result: There were no additional delays announced, but I did purchase it on day one. Unfortunately, SSX didn't click with me. The tracks were unforgiving and not a lot of fun. The campaign was annoying and the customization was a laugh. I probably could have spent more time learning the game, but life it too short.
  • Diablo III & Torchlight II - Prediction: Ready for the crazy? D3 will be released before TL2! Even so, I will finish Torchlight 2 first and it will end up on my Top Five next year.

    Result: Even crazier, I was right! D3 did launch before TL2. But I have never finished either game. And, spoilers, neither made the Top Five.
  • Mass Effect 3 - Prediction: First day purchase of the standard edition. I will play and enjoy ME3 but I won't play any of the side games, like the multiplayer, even if some one were to ask me to. And at the back of my mind, I'll wonder if I got screwed out of enjoying the end of the trilogy because I didn't buy into their expanded vision of the game.

    Result: I wasn't going to, but the pull was too strong. Day one purchase, standard edition. I did play and enjoy the single player game without partaking of the multiplayer or the apps. And it turns out that my enjoyment of the ending was not effected by the expanded gaming options at all. Amazing that.
  • Guild Wars 2 - Prediction: GW2 will be a special edition preorder and first day purchase for me. I will play as much as I can, but will have difficulty finding the time to do so, straight through the end of the year. But even then, it will be a Top Five game for me.

    Result: After facing a mountain of hype, I almost didn't even buy the game. I did end up with the digital deluxe edition on day one, played for a couple weeks, and then slacked off. Tune in tomorrow for the Top Five.
  • Bioshock Infinite - Prediction: Bioshock Infinite will be a later purchase, either on sale or used. I will play for a few levels, but eventually get frustrated with some bit of shooting that I can't get past.

    Result: Um, failure to launch this year. Will return for 2013 predictions.
  • Grand Theft Auto V - Prediction: I'll end up buying GTA V at a discount due to a gift card or rewards certificate. And I will play as far as the main campaign will let me, so long as I don't run into that one mission that I can't beat. But I won't play nearly as much of the side content as I did in SR3.

    Result: Again, failed to launch this year. I'm a lot more interested in this game than I was twelve months ago.
  • Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning - Prediction: When Reckoning comes out, I suspect that I'll have other games on my mind. But I will eventually pick it up once word of mouth spreads about how good the game is, despite its poor sales. And I will enjoy the parts of it I play before moving on to the next big thing.

    Result: Well, I did wait before buying it. But since it was so recent, I can't tell if I'm already done with it or not.
  • XCOM - Prediction: I won't buy this game, and it will be a poor performer, sales wise. Expect to read a lot of "I told you so" posts this year.

    Result: This one is amusing. The prediction was about the FPS version which failed to come out and may no longer exist. But then there was the new turn-based strategy game and it seems amazing. I just got it for Christmas and I'm looking forward to playing it as soon as I get near an Xbox.
  • Of my predictions, the ones about my purchasing decisions were most likely to be right. At least for games that actually released. How was your 2012?

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Random Shots: In Memoriam - 2012

  • Once again, Anjin In Exile looks back to those we lost in the game industry over the last year.
    • Adam Adamowicz, 43, concept artist for Bethesda Softworks, credits include The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Fallout 3, and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

    • Dr. Christopher Erhardt, 50's, Professor of Game Design and Production at DigiPen, credits include Pool of Radiance and Battletech: The Crescent Hawk's Inception

    • Michael Kuehl, 32, programmer for Insomniac Games, previously of Electronic Arts and Infinity Ward

    • Bill Sears, late 50's, known as Phosphorous, artist, designer, and musician, co-founder of Digital Eel

    • Mike Singleton, 61, pioneer in ZX Spectrum gaming in the 1980s, credits include Midwinter, Lords of Midnight and Doomdark’s Revenge

    • Joe Skivolocke, 44, artist, credits include Warhammer 40,000: Rites of War, Werewolf: The Apocalypse, Island Life and My Vineyard

    • Sean Smith, 34, information technology officer in the U.S. Foreign Service, played as Vile Rat in Eve Online, killed in attack on U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya

    • Paul Steed, artist and designer for Origin and Id Software, credits include Quake I, II, & III and Wing Commander III & IV

    • Jack Tramiel, 83, founder of Commodore International
  • Our thoughts go out to everyone who lost a loved one in 2012.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Played Lately: The White Birch - Prototype

  • Purchasing access to Double Fine's Amnesia Fortnight is one of the best decisions I've made this year. I've watched day after day as these games took form over the course of two weeks. When the opportunity came to download the prototype, the game I chose to play first was The White Birch.
  • Inspired by Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, The White Birch is a puzzle platformer, drenched in atmosphere and beautiful to behold. It is amazing to see what the team achieved in just two weeks. There are some clever puzzles and mechanics, fun animations, and great scenery.

  • Since I watched the playthrough on the Double Fine livestream, I didn't have any difficulty finding my way up the tower. The only issues I ran into were matters of execution. I was able to play the game to completion on my first night, but could not complete it on the second night I tried. I want to blame the game and its prototype status, but I also know that I get impatient and fail to play properly.

  • If there is one thing I don't like about the prototype, it's the ending and the fact that it has one. It is such a huge tease. I want the game to keep going, prototype or not!

  • More seriously, though, there is a lot interesting from an intellectual point of view in playing a prototype. Of course it isn't perfectly smooth, there are a few interesting bugs, and it is short. The Amnesia Fortnight documentary showed the team fighting a bug that would leave the main character in a flying state after a cutscene. They decided that, since they couldn't solve the bug, that they would just have her reset at such a point. She does a little hop occasionally that is a side effect of the fix. I'm sure it drives them crazy, but I think it's awesome to peak behind the curtain.

  • If you are curious too, there is still time to get access. The Amnesia Fortnight Humble Bundle is still available for the next few days if you want to try all of the prototypes and documentaries. I'm only one game in and it's already worth it.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Played Lately: Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning

  • So this happened.
  • Considering all of the time I've taken examining the fall of 38 Studios, you might have thought I would have played this long ago. It turns out that, curious as I was, I wasn't about to pay full price for a game that only reviewed okay. So, I waited for the price to come down. Then I waited to make sure I had enough money. Then I waited for the stars to be right. Then I made sure I still had enough money because, you know, things.

  • It turns out that Reckoning plays just like a single-player MMO, for all the positive and negative that connotes. There is no end to the content available. You just have to look for the gold exclamation points. Crafting is interesting in that there is no grinding to level your skills. But then there's no need to craft at all unless you need something.

  • The biggest positive of the game is the open character system. Any character can advance in warrior, rogue, and mage skill trees and mix-and-match as you see fit. I'm playing a pure mage at the moment, but I could respec and be playing an entirely different character at a moment's notice.

  • I haven't been too far in the game. Leveling is slow and I'm still tied to the first quest hub. Game time is hard to come by, but even then I've only been able to play an hour or two at a time before I need a break. If I even finish, it will be a miracle.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

News Filter: Layoffs At Trion?

  • This is interesting.
  • If you don't know who Jen MacLean is, you obviously haven't been following the news about 38 Studios. Let's just say that she's in a position to know. No idea what this means for Rift, End Of Nations or anything.

  • Still looking for confirmation....

  • UPDATE: Here you go.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Random Shots: The Internet Brooks No Irony

  • I haven't ever heard of Nikole Zivalich. I'm not sure how many have. After the VGAs tonight, a whole lot more people will know her.
Image Courtesy of Kevin Dent
  • My initial response was "What the fucking fuck?!?" My next response was to do a little digging. It turns out that she was in on the joke.

  • So, no need to freak out yet. But I fear for this woman's future on the internet.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Random Shots: The Hobby Horse, A Rant Delayed

  • Turbine decided that they needed a monocle of their own. But since hobbits are naturally hesitant, they decided to try it out on their test server before letting it go live. The internet responded in a wholly even-handed and practical way, as only the internet can. Today, Turbine temporarily recovered from whatever insanity afflicted them. (I wonder if it is the same madness that brought us Incarna?) And now the fifty dollar hobby horse has gone back into the closet where it belongs.

  • If you've come to the conclusion that things have come off the rails over at Turbine, I might be forced to agree. Even Green Armadillo has turned a skeptical eye to the company.

  • The free-to-play model is no longer the panacea everyone assumed it would be. More and more companies are finding that, instead, free-to-play is a short term fix for a long term problem. For MMOs to operate, they need revenue. If you just let people play for free, there is no revenue. Someone has to pay, and companies like Turbine have to find things to sell. But most things in an MMO are finite. Unless you can convince people to continually purchase consumables, you have to come up with more and more things to sell. And the things have to be more powerful or more exotic to make them more enticing than the things people have already bought. Fifty dollar hobby horse.

  • I for one, don't care if Turbine wants to sell a ten twenty-five fifty dollar mount. It's just a symptom. When CCP started showing these symptoms, the community intervened and the game recovered. LoTRO seems to be too far gone.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Played Lately: Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Games

  • We drove up to my parents' house for Thanksgiving this year. That night, after the feast was put away, after the football was over, after everyone else had gone to bed, my brother and I broke out the Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Games from Fantasy Flight Games to relive some of the Star Wars battle from our youth.

  • Game 1 - For our first game, we played with the Quick Start rules. I took the Rookie Pilot and he played the Academy Pilot and Obsidian Squadron Pilot. The rules call for a 2x2 play area. I didn't bother to measure. We just set the ships up closer to one another. The Quick Start rules are pretty stripped down. There are no actions, no upgrades. Just turning and shooting. There is one other difference between these and the real rules: if your ship can complete a move, it doesn't move at all. My brother misjudged his third move with the Academy Pilot, put him in front of his superior, and locked out his move for the round. My brother does not handle frustration well. This was not the last time Academy Pilot would do something stupid during the night. The match ended with TIEs gunned down and the X-Wing limping away with three hits.

  • Game 2 - It was an easy choice to move up the standard Rules for our next game. We set up the default scenario again, my Luke Skywalker versus his Night Beast and Obsidian Squadron Pilot. I decided to see if the superior shields and firepower of the X-Wing would allow me to fly headlong into the TIEs and pulverize them. The dice told me know. I came away with my shields down and a hull hit without inflicting any appreciable damage on my brother's team. I tried to put up a fight afterward, but it was a forgone conclusion at that point.

  • Game 3 - It was getting late at this point, but there so much in the rules and in the box he did hadn't played with, we had one last go. This time with the Advanced Rules. We set up four asteroids to make the flying more interesting, though they ended up in a straight diagonal across the field. And built our own squads. The rules suggest 31 points if you are playing out of the box. But my brother wanted to take Luke Skywalker and R2-D2, so we bumped it to 32. I went for Mauler Mithel with Marksmanship and an Academy Pilot. I should have known he would be my undoing. To surprise the X-Wing, I turned the Academy Pilot across an asteroid and opened fire. It was sure a surprise and put my brother on the defensive, but I was trying maneuver Mauler more carefully and the Academy Pilot got chewed up before I could get him in position. It was a tight battle at the end. R2 got the chance to restore shields twice as I continued to pour fire into the X-Wing, which I think saved him. Scratch off two TIEs.

  • I didn't end victorious, but it was fun. I don't know when I'll next have a chance to play, but I'm definitely putting more ships on my Christmas wish list.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

News Filter: The Resurrection Of TSR?

  • Found by way of James Maliszewski of Grognardia, there was the recent discovery of a company calling itself TSR Games. Even more interesting, the first product of the new company will be Gygax Magazine. Tim Kask, one of the primaries on the magazine, tells us that it will be a quarterly that covers both old and new games, and has a plethora of great talent contributing to the first issue.

  • I signed up to be notified with the first issue is ready. I like the idea of high quality quarterlies. I did subscribe to the defunct WoW Magazine for this very reason. Kill Screen seems to be doing this very thing for video games to great acclaim. So I'm willing to see what they put out.

  • And there is a little part of me that is happy there is a TSR again. Let's hope that they live up to the name.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Random Shots: Another Shot Across The Bow Of MMOs

  • Another vote for the "Syncaine was right" camp. Wired Game Life's Andrew Groen has an article up today titled "Star Wars’ Stumble Points to Free, Open Future for Online Worlds."

  • Modern MMOs are broken and there is nothing to convince me that this line of thinking is wrong. Everyone has taken the wrong lessons from World of Warcraft. Yes, accessibility is a good thing for MMOs. But it needs to be the on ramp to something bigger, not the MMO itself. What worked about WoW is that Blizzard made a big, hard game, then let everyone else play anyway. And I know that the elites don't want to hear it, but EVE Online works because anyone can play, even if a bunch of them play in Empire space.

  • There is no core to SWTOR or any number of failed experiments. I'm the biggest care bear there is, but I still want to be where the action is. Without that hardcore center, without that major challenge to strive for, there is no action. There are no stories to tell. Why play a mediocre RPG when there are plenty of better single player games on the market.

  • The verdict is still out on Guild Wars 2. The systems are all kinds of decent, but I'm not hearing any stories yet.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

News Filter: Grand Theft Auto V Trailer II

  • A little late, but here is the second trailer for Grand Theft Auto V.
  • Like the first trailer, watching this has me crazy excited. I suspect that GTAV will be the big game I'm looking forward to this coming year. Sure, Rockstar didn't take a chance by including a female protagonist (actually, now I want them to do that in a new Bully game), but that won't stop me from picking this up day one.

  • As a side note, I'm glad that Rockstar is moving back to Los Santos. Since they want to use the current economic problems as a backdrop, there is no better way to show that than in their Los Angeles analogue. There is few other places in the world where glamour and desperation stand alongside one another so starkly. There is a reason Raymond Chandler wrote about the place. And I can't wait to get in their and play.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Random Shots: When Is A Game No Longer A Game

  • An independent game development company called The Astronauts has posted a blog surely intended to provoke discussion. In the post titled "Why we need to kill gameplay to make better games", they posit that the best parts of many games are the parts that are not what would be called gameplay. Instead, the memorable moments are things at fall between the action. Furthey, the author posits that by removing the gameplay, one might make a more memorable game. This is horse hockey, but I'm sure they are well aware of that.

  • People play games for various reasons. But the main reason we all play them is because they are games. Games come in all shapes and sizes, from pure mechanics and elaborate simulations and experiences. But at their foundations, they are still games. If you strip that out, if you remove the interactivity that underpins the medium, you are left with nothing more than a movie.

  • I hope that this was a purely intellectual exercise on the part of the author. But if not, we will be safe to write off any game that company creates in the future. But who knows, maybe their movies will be pretty good.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

News Filter: Grand Theft Auto V: Oops, all dudes!

  • Game Informer revealed their December cover today featuring the lead story on Grand Theft Auto V. As part of the reveal, Rockstar announced that there will be three protagonists in this edition, all of them dudes. That means there is a tiny uproar on the internet about the lack of a female protagonist.

  • While I'm not going to yell or cry over their decision, I do think that this is a missed opportunity. Looking at their website, their only game that has a female protagonist is Oni, and it was originally developed by Bungie. I would love to see Rockstar stretch their boundaries a little. For as much as people complain about the ludonarrative dissonance of their games, I think they can be very effective storytellers. This is something I know they can do.

  • How about it, Rockstar? Are you up to the challenge?

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

News Filter: 2012 Windhammer Prize Results

  • Well, I did not win. But I did take one of the two Merit Prizes in this year's competition, which is beyond belief to me! Thank you so much to everyone who voted for my gamebook. I know in my heart that I would not be in this position without each of you.

  • Academy of Magic: The First Term is going to be included in a Tin Man Games app? This is just surreal.

  • Here is the announcement, just so you can see that I'm telling the truth:
2012 Windhammer Prize winners announced.

Arborell.com is proud to announce that the winner of the 2012 Windhammer Prize for Short Gamebook Fiction is Zachary Carango for his futuristic sci-fi adventure, Final Payment. Merit awards have also been awarded to Marty Runyon for his magical fantasy adventure, Academy of Magic - The First Term, and to Ashton Saylor for his exciting sci-fi adventure, Legacy of the Zendari. Well done to all participants and congratulations to this year's winners.

This year's competition has been particularly hard-fought. With 22 quality entries, more than 4000 visitors to the competition webpage over the voting period, and greater than 8500 downloads considered, it proved the most competitive of competitions in the history of the prize.

It is no small thing to ask entrants to write original gamebooks for the Windhammer Prize. This year the quality of the entries submitted has been exceptional. I would like to thank all readers who voted this year for their commitment in evaluating such an extensive entry list. Special thanks must also go to those who provided feedback for authors. The amount of comment forwarded has also been the largest given in any competition year and all is greatly appreciated.

All entries have now been placed into the Windhammer Prize gamebook archive and can be accessed from that page along with all other gamebooks submitted since 2008.

All Information regarding the Windhammer Prize can be found at : http://www.arborell.com/windhammer_prize.html
All entries can be found in the gamebook archive at: http://www.arborell.com/gamebook_archive.html
Information regarding the sponsor of this competition can be found at http://www.arborell.com/

May Glory and Renown follow all who have found success in this year's Windhammer Prize.


© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Random Shots: Games Journalism

  • It all started with a picture.
  • A carefully selected screengrab of Geoff Keighley, sitting amongst the paraphernalia of capitalism: Doritos, Mountain Dew, and Halo 4. It was quickly passed around the internet with much derision. It is an odd thing to see, but the internet didn't actually blow up until the issue was tackled by Eurogamer columnist Robert Florence.

  • You see, Florence is concerned about the state of games journalism. He has been for some time. He's especially concerned about the uneasy relationship between games writers and PR for the game companies. There is no shortage stories about how PR tries to influence reviews, with anything from fancy press kits to this amazingly crass presentation of the 3DS to Giant Bomb. The CGW crew talked about how PR so often crosses the line on this podcast about the firing of Jeff Gerstmann. And just recently, a disgustingly tone deaf letter was sent to reviews from the VP of PR for Ubisoft thanking journalists for their help promoting Assassin's Creed III.

  • Florence's main contention in the article is that it looks really bad if journalists are seen as promoting a product. Any product from a game down to a bag of chips. So when he pointed out that Lauren Wainwright's Twitter feed and page are covered with Tomb Raider, it's difficult to take what she writes about the game seriously. Then Eurogamer took that section out of article, Florence quit, and the internet exploded.

  • On his blog, John Walker of Rock Paper Shotgun discusses the situation in three separate posts and also hosts Florence's guest post about his firing. At the moment, probably the best review of all that has happened was written by Stephen Totilo of Kotaku.

  • Games journalism is in a crazy place. Kotaku quotes Florence saying "I think we're in a horrible position right now, where most games coverage is almost indistinguishable from PR." It is hard to disagree with that.

  • Integrity is important. I am not a games journalist and probably will never be. I would like to think that I uphold my own integrity here as best I can, but there is little temptation otherwise. Nonetheless, I find it important to write from a place of honesty so that there is no mistaking my intentions. Everyone we read should be held to that standard.

  • Not everyone is corrupt, and we do everyone is disservice by chasing down that intellectual rabbit hole. Even worse, we become the problem when we lash out at reviews with hateful, homophobic, or misogynistic comments in an attempt to silence opinions we don't agree with. Where we see corruption or dishonesty, we need to point it out and let them know that they are doing wrong.

  • But even more, we need to reward those writers and sites that do display integrity and intellectual honesty. That's why I focus primarily on sites like Giant Bomb and Polygon who are upfront about their policies and biases. Find the writers you can trust and stick with them. There is good games writing going on out there, no matter how much doom and gloom people perceive. You just have to look.

  • Credit where credit is due: a lot of these links are pulled directly from the mega thread over at NeoGAF. The posters there have done some amazing work pulling together the various pieces of the topic.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Watched Lately: Macross Frontier

  • Although I like anime, I don't follow everything out there. It's the same with video games. I don't buy the annual Madden or Call Of Duty just because they are games. So when I come across something I like, I tend to like it very much. That is how I feel about Macross Frontier, an anime that isn't even available in the United States.

  • I watched it the first time a couple of years ago and fell in love. Since it had been a while since I'd seen it, I went back this week to see if it held up. And it total does.
  • Macross Frontier is about the conflict between the Macross Frontier colony fleet and the insect-like alien Vajra. Alto Saotome, a student pilot, ends up in the cockpit of one the series' hallmark transforming fighter mecha and eventually joins a primary military company to fight in the war. His personal life is no less complicated as he is torn between the cute and musically talented Ranka Lee and the galactic singing idol, Sheryl Nome.

  • The series has so many ups and downs that it is hard to talk about anything more without spoiling something. The ups and downs come from the excellent pacing of the show. The tension will ratchet up for a couple of episodes, then back off to give a little breathing room before coming back with something bigger. And there are several parallel storylines that all interrelate in interesting ways. By the time I reached the final episode, there are so many storylines that I was invested in coming together that I had tears running down my cheeks, the experience was so overwhelming.

  • I come at this series with my only Macross experience being its bastardized inclusion in Robotech, my gateway to anime. Even then, I did not have any trouble getting into the new series. It did help me to catch several of the callbacks to the original Macross. (Not that you would miss anything if you haven't.)
  • Finally, it would be a mistake to avoid talking about the animation and music. Music plays a huge role in Macross and it is the same in Frontier. Your tolerance for J-Pop will determine how much you enjoy it, but the music is so fitting for the series. I quite liked how well animated the show is, but the standout is the CGI mecha. You can still tell it is computer generated, but it merges with the traditional animation without looking so different.

  • If there was one thing I notice upon watching again was the overly sexist portrayals of many of the women. I know it's a function of its country of origin and the intended audience. But even though the titillation factor is lower than other anime, it's still enough to make me wince a time or two.

  • Upon rewatching the series, I can say that it absolutely belongs among my favorite anime, alongside Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex and Cowboy Bebop.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Played Lately: Project: Gorgon

  • I've been meaning to write about Project: Gorgon for a few days now. But then I remembered that Yeebo had already done so already and better than I ever could. So you should just go over there.

  • For the record, I did not turn myself into a cow. So I have that going for me.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Random Shots: The Most Self-Serving Post On This Blog

  • Hello, friend. How are you today? Well, I hope. The baby is fighting off a sniffle which means we'll be sick in about a week. I think I feel a tickle in the back of my throat now. Better not stand to close.

  • Sorry for rambling, but I did have a favor I wanted to ask. Do you remember back in September when I mentioned the 2012 Windhammer Prize? And do you remember the part where I said that it didn't matter if you voted or not, just that I wanted you to read and enjoy some gamebooks?

  • Yeah, it turns out that I lied about that. I would really like to win. Or if not win, I'd love to come in second or third. No need to be greedy. But I really do want to at least show in this race.

  • So if you haven't already, head on over to the Windhammer Prize page and take a look. My entry is Academy of Magic: The First Term. The rules require you vote for two entries, so you can't just vote for me. Which is good for you because there are some other great entries. Say, for instance, Andrew Wright's Guild of Thieves, which I am insanely jealous of.

  • That's all. Thanks so much for making it this far in the post. Back to gaming or complaining about not having time to game next time.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Random Shots: The WoW Annual Pass, One Year Later

  • Since Green Armadillo of Player Versus Developer has already posted his thoughts about his year with the WoW Annual Pass, there's no reason for me to hold off. Last year I signed up for the annual pass, right around the same time GA did. No that the year is almost passed, I have to admit that it was not a good investment. Here's the breakdown:

    • 12 month subscription - One of the features of the annual pass is that you are locked into a 12 month subscription. I chose to pay this off on the semi-annual cycle because it was the cheapest way to fulfill the obligation. If I had played throughout the deal, this would have been a crazy good deal. In the end, I ended up playing for four or five of the twelve months. At some points during the year, I didn't even have the game installed thanks to the Windows 8 preview. That means I paid more for my time than if I had just paid monthly for those months I actually wanted to play.

    • Tyrael's Charger - I used this mount for about a week. Then I got sick of the wings obscuring my view and went back to my flying carpet.

    • Beta Access - I don't really do beta, not for things I know that I'm already interested in. That I have not bought MoP doesn't change that I want to go in fresh when I eventually do. So beta access was a wash.

    • Diablo III - And here is the thing. The big draw of the Annual Pass was getting Diablo III free. Even if I didn't get the annual pass, I would have bought this. And I would have regreted it either way. Like everyone else, I ran afoul of the day one server disaster. But then when I could play, I only did so for a couple of nights. I don't think it is a very good game. And because of various Windows updates, it is no longer installed on my computer.

  • So at the end of one year, I find I have made a very bad decision. I will continue to play WoW from time to time. But from here on out, I'm going to do so on my own terms and no lock myself into a long term committment.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Played Lately: World of Warcraft

  • Even with the new games available (GW2 and TL2 specifically), I find myself returning to World of Warcraft for reasons that are not entirely explicable. I can think of at least three, but there are probably more.

    • Partly is because WoW is the MMO equivalent of comfort food. I always feel welcome in Azeroth.

    • Partly because I'm feeling left out of Mists of Panderia. It will be strange getting to the new zones after all of the events are over.

    • Partly is because of Wilhelm's exploits in the Emerald Dream private server. The nostalgia factor is exceptionally high reading his posts.

  • I haven't gone back to my mage since coming back. She still has to finish Uldum and Twilight Highlands. So far, I'm not super eager to do either. Instead I jumped into my perma-TBC paladin to finish off Nagrand and head into the Blade's Edge Mountains. I'm getting to content now that I haven't seen in a couple of years. Between Hellfire Peninsula, Zangarmarsh, and Terokkar Forest, it's not hard to hit level 70 and move on to Northrend.

  • I found that the gronn in Blade's Edge have been nerfed to quest target difficulty as well. Which is fine if you're questing through at level, solo. But again, I find myself surprised at how much Blizzard has touched Outland in unexpected ways. I've been letting myself get overleveled so that I can take on the instances. I would having liked to take them out as elites, but it's a very small thing. So far, I haven't cleared many dungeons, but the patch 5.0 changes seem to be making that much easier so far.

  • Speaking of which, playing a paladin after patch 5.0 is a very strange experience. After logging in and respecing, I was surprised to find half of my abilities missing, including my auras. I don't know what to say about that. Considering how much of my damage comes from Exorcism and Judgment, I'm half a ranged class now. Leaving retribution paladins as a cooldown limited class makes her play like a GW2 character. It feels like a lot of what makes them special has been lost.

  • But I haven't spent all of my time on the live servers. Instead, I've been messing around in a private server I've installed on my own computer. It's at patch 3.3.5, which is late Wrath of the Lich King. I'm surprised at how well the game works even when you are the only one in the world. The server is a work in process, so several things are still broken. But when I logged in yesterday, I found that Hallow's End had started. I'm not sure how well implemented it is, but I was able to collect candy, get a costume, and earn a holiday specific achievement.

  • My real goal for this is to see if I can modify the database so that I can convert an instance so that an on-level character can solo it. I suspect I'll start with something small like Ragefire Chasm. A long term goal would be that I can tune Molten Core for an appropriately geared single character. I doubt that will happen anytime soon (and I'm never exposing the server to the internet). But I would love to see if I can do it.

  • As a side note, I'm going to have to keep my WoW sub going indefinitely to assuage my guilt. But that's a whole other matter.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Random Shots: Project: Gorgon Videos

  • I know these videos are linked from the Project: Gorgon Kickstarter page, but I can't help but share them here. Take a look at what they are offering.

  • This first video shows off how he is building his shared dungeons and demonstrates the first quest inside.

  • The second video shows where he finally got visible equipment into the game as well as showing off various systems that he's talked about on his blog.

  • Of course all of this is in a pre-alpha state. The Kickstarter is intended to pay for the art and animation necessary to make it look like a modern game. So if you are at all curious, take a look at the blog, and think about kicking in.

  • Also: Eric posted a link to Kick Assist today. It's a site that will pledge $500 toward the project that gets the most votes. Since a vote doesn't cost you anything (outside of time staring at a Captcha), it's easy to help out!
  • EDIT: And wouldn't you know it. As soon as I get this post up, Eric posts a third video. Here you go.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

News Filter: Project: Gorgon Launches Kickstarter

  • I just found out from Zubon of Kill Ten Rats that the Project: Gorgon Kickstarter is live. This is important and I'll tell you why:

  • Eric Heimberg and Sandra Powers are trying to do something different with this MMO. They are not just building an MMO, they want to build a community. Their passion is running MMOs, as they did with Asheron's Call 2 and other games. But first, they need an MMO to run, so they are building as interesting a game as they can muster.

  • This is a game that must happen and I want to see it done. Go read the Kickstarter page. And if you are intrigued by what you read, go read their blog, Elder Game. What I've been reading for the last several months sounds amazing.

  • Now to figure out just how much I can afford to kick in.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Random Shots: Bouncing Between Games

  • As has been the norm, it is an odd time for gaming in the Anjin household. There are several games I could be playing, but no will to dedicate myself to just one. So like a rubber ball, I've been bouncing from one game to the next.

  • Guild Wars 2 - Gaming time in GW2 has slowed quite a bit since launch. Not from lack of interest, but from too much else to do. When they flipped the switch on discovery from the bank, I spend so much time running through as many possibilities as I could find. But since I'm still only in Kessex Hills, there is quite a bit of adventuring ahead of me.

  • Torchlight 2 - Of all my games, TL2 has occupied me the most. I loved Torchlight in a way that makes me want to spell "love" with way too many O's. TL2 has been everything I love about that game and more. I love the side quests. And the vingettes in the zones. And the one phase beast portal I found was bonkers. I was used to everything being the same from the first game and I'm constantly surprised whenever Runic pulls off something super creative. So good.

  • World of Warcraft - Yes, I played WoW last night. No, I did not cave and buy Mists of Pandaria. I spent the entire night in Nagrand, working on my perma-TBC character. I was surprised to find that the elite mobs had been converted to quest-target mobs instead. Even poor Durn the Hungerer, the saddest of all the gronn. No time for pity when there are blue quest rewards ont he line, though. I don't know when I'll see Pandaria. I doubt I'll roll a panda since I never tried a worgen or goblin either. But I do have a something to spend my time on, even if it is six year old content.

  • So what has kept you occupied? Playing old favorites or discovering something new?

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Random Shots: The Music That Sold Me An N64

  • In 1996, I somehow found myself in grad school at UCLA. A good friend of mine from high school was also attending, so we ended up rooming together. This guy was a genuine, no questions about it, Nintendo fanboy. To each their own. For instance, I'll be buying the new Xbox as soon as I can, but have never bought a Playstation unless it was used and approaching the end of its life cycle.

  • So that summer between terms, he bought a Ninentdo 64 and what is arguably its best game, Super Mario 64. I was enthralled. Platforming in 3D (from back when that meant something different) was finally down right and I loved it.

  • My favorite level in Super Mario 64 was, without any hesitation, Jolly Roger Bay. The level involves swimming around an underwater stage wherein, at one point, you lift a sunked ship from the ocean floor. The best part of the stage, though, is the music.

  • I remember turning the game on, jumping into the world, and then letting the music play. Even now it brings back memories of a simpler time. If only all game music was so evocative. When we went our separate ways (a story for another day), he took his system and I needed my own. And that's how I ended up with an N64.

  • A few years ago, I found this remix that is ridiculously amazing. Enjoy!


© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

News Filter: No Torchlight MMO And That's Okay

  • Via Polygon (who got it from Videogamer.com), Travis Baldree from Runic Games stated in their recent Reddit AMA that there is no longer a Torchlight MMO on the horizon. And you know what? I'm perfectly okay with that.

  • Travis makes a lot of sense when he says that the landscape has changed. Since they worked on Mythos, they've now delivered two games, both single and multiplayer now, for exceptionally reasonable prices, I'm not sure what more an MMO would bring to the table. And as they say a little bit further down the thread, Runic would like to work on something that's not another Torchlight.

  • While they figure what they want to play, I'm going to dig into TL2 (Thanks, Blue Kae!) and not worry about what else they have up their sleeves for some time.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Random Shots: Trying To Be Good

  • Circumstances change with frightening regularity. I am not always quick to notice such changes, so occasionaly I find myself reacting to a situation I did not realize was creeping up on me. Without going into any details, I find myself needing to cut back on video game purchases at exactly the worst time in the game release calendar. Here are just a few games coming out that will have to go on my wish list:

  • Borderlands 2 - I absolutely adored Borderlands. I normally hate shooters, so I initially very hesitant. But somewhere between the art style, the humor, and the pure thrill of shooting crazy guns, I found myself playing the game through to completion. So once the second game was announced, I knew I would be ready for more. At least, I will someday.

  • Torchlight 2 - There may be no better Diablo-like ARPG than Torchlight. And its definitely in the top 5 Dark Alliance-style ARPGs. As soon as I heard that TL2 was being made, I wanted to play it immediately. But even at twenty dollars, this will have to be more than an impulse buy.

  • Mists Of Panderia - I can't believe that I'm not going to be in WoW at the launch of the new expansion, but that's were my life finds me. I wish that I was more excited about the game, but even having open access for the last year didn't see me playing that much.

  • Lucky for me, Guild Wars 2 is sure to keep me busy for months. But if one or two of these show up under the Christmas tree, I would not be disappointed.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Friday, September 14, 2012

News Filter: The 2012 Windhammer Prize

  • If you've followed the blog for a while, you might know that I'm a fan of gamebooks like the classic Fighting Fantasy and Lone Wolf as well as the more recent Fabled Lands and DestinyQuest series. I mean, they are games and books. At the same time!

  • Since I fancy myself a bit of a writer as well, I've also tried to write a gamebook or two in my time. So when I discovered the Windhammer Prize for Short Gamebook Fiction, I knew this was the perfect opportunity to write something, finish it, and put it in front of a bunch of people. So I started to write a 100 section book called Academy of Magic: The First Term to submit for the competition. In 2010.

  • That did not work out so well, so I finally got my act together and submitted for 2012. The voting has opened today. I really should have submitted last year. There are 22 entries this year instead of the prior year's eight. But my main goal was to enter, so I'm glad to have done so.

  • The Windhammer Prize always has a great collection of short gamebooks every year and you should check it out. I'm not asking for you to vote for me. There is likely to be a few books that you enjoy. Do give it a try and have an adventure!

  • Before I go, I wanted to thank Blue Kae and Yeebo for their help with testing. I couldn't have do it without you guys.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Played Lately: Guild Wars 2

  • When I logged in last night, there was just a single heart left in Queensdale. It was located in the middle of the Godslost Swamp, a subzone I'd accidently run into and immediately died in a week ago. My first goal was to track down the skill point, which seemed to be down under the water.

  • That's when I saw the statues. And then the name of the challenge. I was floating in the ruins of the Temple of the Ages! On one side were statues of Dwayna and Kormir (who must have been added some time after the end of Guild Wars). In all honesty, I was a little choked up by the experience.

  • And overlooking the skill challenge, is Grenth, Lord of the Underworld. I could not find the statues for Balthazar, Lyssa, or Melandru. Nor could I kneel in front of the statues. Maybe we don't have favor currently. (Yes, I really tried.) Not that I needed access to the Underworld, since it was popping up all around me.

  • The swamp's heart is completed by killing Underworld creatures and closing portals. I thought it was just going to be a bunch of shades until I was jumped by an aatxe. Those things will murder you dead in GW, so I didn't expect to see one out in the open here. That beast just above is actually a Veteran Aatxe, a fact I was not aware of until I turned my HUD back on. What a terrible time to try for a screenshot!

  • The swamp held the last checkpoint, heart, skill challenge, vista, and point of interest for the zone. I reached 100% completion at the portal to Kessex Hills. Hearing about how great the zone completion rewards are, I eagerly kicked the treasure chest only to find a matched set of green pistols (that I cannot use), a large stack of copper ore (I'm a cook/leatherworker), and a few transmutation stones (yay). I'm sure a future alt will be very happy with all of these rewards.

  • Anyway, Kessex Hills, here I come!

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Random Shots: Two Items, Unrelated

  • Players rally to save City of Heroes - Ardwulf has been doing a yeoman's work today, linking and discussing the efforts by players of City of Heroes to save their game. I certainly applaud their efforts, but I won't have more to say unless they are successful.

  • Amazon announces next round of Kindles - The Verge has a huge round up of the Kindle announcements. I'm glad that Amazon isn't giving up the fight. I enjoy my Kindle Fire and use it just about every day. But unless the app situation improves, I don't see much of a reason to upgrade.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Random Shots: Nitpicking Guild Wars 2

  • As much as one enjoys any game (and oh dear, do I love Guild Wars 2), there will always be something you can find that is not quite right. No, I'm not talking about account hacking, overflow servers, and the like. I'm talking about the little things. And these are little, so don't take this as some massive critique of the game. It's just that, should someone at ArenaNet look at this post and decide to fix a few of these, I wouldn't mind at all.

  • Adjustable UI - Currently I'm playing a ranger. (And only a ranger. I want to hold off on alts for as long as possible.) One of the major class features of the ranger is your pet companion. That's cool and all, but the pet bar is completely borked. The icons are stacked on top of one another, so I can't really control it properly. It looks like they are crammed into too small of a space. So I, the intrepid go-getter that I am, looked through the options to find out how to adjust the UI. Only I can't find one. Maybe I'm overlooking it, but I don't think so. Considering how flexible the modification was in Guild Wars, I'm quite surprised that didn't carry over.

  • Crafting from collection - I really love crafting. I love that I can deposit crafting material into the collection from anywhere in the world. I love that I can access my bank and collection from any crafting station. What I don't love is that I have to manually extract items from your collection to your inventory for use with crafting. It's a minor thing, but is the perfect quality of life improvement I would love to see.

  • Underwater preparedness - It wasn't immediate, but it did not take too long for me to find myself underwater, using completely unfamiliar skills. And with a completely inadequate weapon. GW2 doesn't really remind you that you need to be upgrading your aquatic weapons alongside your regular weapons lest you fall woefully behind once you hit the water. An extra hint might be helpful.

  • Gem prices are too high - What else can I say. Gem prices are higher than I would ever pay. ArenaNet does the thing where it costs one dollar to buy 80 gems just like Microsoft. But then they take it a step further and charge everything based on a hundreds and quarters thereof. It's a great way to obscure how much things really cost. (Everything on Xbox is in multiples of eighty, so the math there is still easy.) But anyone with a calculator can see that prices are too high. I'm hoping that ANet follows SOE's lead and Gem discounts. Since the digital deluxe in available for gems, I don't really see that happening. But until that time, I don't have any extra money to through at what is, in all honesty, a deserving game.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Played Lately: Guild Wars 2

  • My chores were minimal Thursday night (and I really needed a break since I wasn't feeling especially great about myself), so I sunk into Guild Wars 2 for a time. I'd been stuck in Divinity's Reach for long enough, so I felt the call of the wilderness. And all of those little icons in said wilderness.
  • One thing that I didn't expect, even though I fully should have because I did Guild Wars quite a lot and they did the same thing there, was all of the optional paths, hidden nooks, and landscape just for the sake of having something cool to see. On the west edge of Queensdale, there is a long ravine that leads between the northern and southern halves of the back, patroled by several ettins. There is not reason for it to be there except that it's cool. So of course I fought my way up and back, killing and gathering all the while. And I swam to a waterfall, I ran into Kessex Hills, and I got killed in a swamp that was too high of a level for me. Just for the fun of it.

  • By that time I had leveled enough to return to my personal story. Of course the clandestine meeting (right in the center of Divinity's Reach!) was an extended ambush. Freaking White Mantle again! Hilarious that they've become cultists in the intervening centuries. It's a good thing they came in waves instead of all at once or I never would have survived.
    As an aside: I really miss the Mursaat. I hope GW2 delves into the history of the world more. Between the Mursaat, the Seers, and the Forsaken, there have some neat little bits of lore.
  • The next step in the story was rated three levels higher, so it was back to adverturing again. I fought bunch of centaurs, skritt, a server reset, and escorted a flock of pygmy moas to find my way to Beetletun. I can't believe how huge this world feels. And I'm just in the starter zone. I love running around and just running into stuff. Unfortunately I'm so used to other games that I forget that downleveling means I have to treat every enemy seriously.

  • And then it was two o'clock in the morning.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Friday, August 31, 2012

News Filter: City Of Heroes To Close

  • Via Polygon, word comes that NCSoft's City Of Heroes, the first superhero MMO, is targeted for closure.

  • In some ways, it is not surprising. COH was old school in the vein of Everquest. It has modernized much over time. But at its core, it is a game that reacted to the earlier generation of MMOs, unable to take clues from World of Warcraft. That's going to be plus is some people's minds, but it undoubtably limits the scope of people who would be interested in the game.

  • Of course, I speak from a perspective of someone who hasn't played the game in several years. I was never able to fit into the game when I did try. Then once Champions Online was released, there was no reason for me to ever go back.

  • It's sad to see any game close, especially one with such a towering heritage in the MMO genre. I hope there is a hacker out there perfecting their private server so that we don't loose the game to oblivion.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Random Shots: Still Talking About Guild Wars 2

  • I played for all of a half hour last night, so I'm making this a Random Shots instead of a Played Lately post. But it's still going to be all about Guild Wars 2. Things aren't that different around here.
  • When I woke up yesterday, I saw that Rowan wants to quit blogging. He shouldn't, and most likely won't, but I can't blame him for feeling that way. There is nothing like a new MMO to bring out the worst in the blogging community. It's Haters versus Fanboys in the streets since GW2 came out. If you haven't already, though most of you have looking at the comments, go show the guy some love.

  • I was in game long enough to make my way to Claypool. Once there, I engaged in a shield training exercise to complete the town's heart. And I did a little more cooking. I'm thinking of buying one of every common ingredient just to have more discovery options. That's going to get expensive, though. I can't say I wasn't warned.
  • Tobold makes a great point about the technical problems with the game. They seem to only be affecting people who actually like to play with other people. Solo players like myself have been largely unaffected. I feel kind of guilty about that. My antisocial tendencies are being rewarded. Knowing ANet, it won't last forever.

  • I just changed my password to a crazy long phrase. Something I can remember, but at least it is unique and should give the dictionary hackers fits. Be safe out there.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Played Lately: Guild Wars 2

  • I did not have much time to play, but I couldn't help but explore more of Queensdale last night. As I neared an incomplete heart, I saw an icon that I didn't recognize. It turned out to be Assistant Chef Victor looking for skale eggs. As soon as I talked to him, an event began and people started to gather. It was it was amusing to me how fast other players were drawn to a new event. And when we finished, he sold me a recipe for Eggs Beetletun. A food recipe with bonus to Magic Find? I've never seen such a thing in an MMO. Amazing.

  • One thing that I appreciate about the game so far, as I did with Guild Wars, is that the game respects your time. This is not a unique thought; it came up on the Gamers With Jobs podcast as well. I love that crafting recipes multiple times accelerates the completion rate. I love that I can teleport just about everywhere. I love that I can access my bank right from the crafting station.

  • Just a quick hit today. Have a great time in game.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Played Lately: Guild Wars 2

  • After I got done writing my last post about Guild Wars 2, I remembered all of the things that I forgot to mention. Since that post was already too long, here is everything I missed:

  • Launch issues - Just about every game has them. Ardwulf gave a personal view of how it affected him. I did not have any issues outside of an instance change disconnection until I ran into an extended loading screen last night. I count myself extremely fortunate considering what some people have been through.

  • Overflow servers - I've also run into constant overflow servers. Every time I change zones, I get a popup telling me I'm in overflow. Then a couple minutes later they tell me the regular zone is ready. It is completely silly. But since I've only been playing solo, it's not as infuriating as to those who are playing with friends. Also, can someone tell me why the overflow server is always more crowded than the main server?

  • Personal story - I've been enjoying the personal story line quite a bit. I just hit a quest a couple levels above me, so I have to go out and level again. It's funny just how much it feels like a Guild Wars story. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised since it's still ANet, but I was.

  • Vanity guild - Just as in the first game, I made a new guild as soon as I could. So The Brotherhood Of Stone is currently a one person guild on Fort Aspenwood. It is entirely a vanity guild made to support me, myself, and I. However, if you want to wear the [tBoS] tag, just let me know. I'm Anjin.5086.

  • Naming conventions - Considering how many things carry over from the old game, I'm surprised that the convention of taking a first name and a surname did not continue. I couldn't give it up because that is part of the Guild Wars experience for me. But it is alien to me to see so many people falling back into the bog standard MMO mononym. Embrace your creativity!

  • That Reddit thread - Speaking of naming conventions, I'm super glad to seen that ANet is taking their enforcement responsibilities seriously and stepping on any bit of naming or chat idiocy that gets reports. So if you see something out of line, report it! The other thing this thread highlighted is the amount of account theft already in progress. I turned off chat as soon as I started the game, so I can't tell you if gold spam is a problem. Even with heavy policing, ArenaNet has to look into two factor authentication as soon as possible.

  • I have not played very much since that first night. I've been working on the personal story since a lot of it is centered on Divinity Reach at the moment. However I'm itching to get back into the world and adventure again. I love being overwhelmed with so much to do!

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Played Lately: Guild Wars 2

  • For some reason, everything leading up to Guild Wars 2 gave me the impression that I would not enjoy the game. Even playing in the beta test left me cold. I don't know if it was the level of hype or personal issues, but I was not looking forward to the game launching, except that maybe people would finally shut up about it. Oh, how wrong was I?
  • While I've read any number of blog posts for people trying to decide with races and classes to play. For me, it was no choice at all. As in Guild Wars, I would be playing a human ranger. I knew my first character would be a descendant of my GW character. And I really have wanted to see what happened to the humans after I saved the world several times, even killing a god in the process. Evidently, that kind of thing doesn't last for long. One day I'll probably try a sylvari or norn, but I'll stick with humanity for now.
  • My short time playing the beta did not prepare me for exactly how much fun it would be exploring this world. Since I'm unconstrained by the quest chain, I feel to say "I'd like to see what is over here" and just take off. And that's an entirely valid way to play! I found myself in an underground complex in the middle of Queensdale for which I was a little underleveled. But there was an event going on that I could take on and there were harvesting nodes to clean out. There was no reason for me to be there, but there was every reason to look around. I'm rather stunned how great it feels to be unshackled from the WoW model.

  • It was great seeing crowds of people everywhere. And it was even better that I enjoyed having them around. Since I am an inveterate soloer, I usually hate having people around killing my mobs and clicking my items. But since whatever they are doing can only help me during events and there is plenty to do while filling hearts (Is there an official term for that? Filling hearts sounds so dumb.), I've never been angry to have other people around me. Of course, it would stupid to base my opinion on the crowds in the newbie zone during these early days. Hopefully the dynamic side of the events work just as well when the population thins out.
  • For all the time I spent adventuring, I spent equally as much time exploring Divinity's Reach. That city is amazing. It seems like everything that WAR's cities wanted to be, but couldn't pull off. I loved wandering throughout that vast urban area and taking in the sights. There is so much to see. And there is so much potential to fill out the city. I spent a few hours just running around and looking at stuff. And, of course, seeking out all of the vista spots. What a great concept! I just about wore out my Print Screen key this weekend. I'm sure that I'm not the only one posting that exact screenshot today.
  • Two other things to touch on. I love having a seperate set of town clothes to wear when I'm not adventuring. Please comment if I'm wrong, but it sounds like additional outfits will primarily be available in the gem shop. If so, good job, ANet. You can take my money now. Also, I picked cooking as my first crafting profession despite the warns of how expensive it can be. I played around with the discovery for a while before I remembered that I had more items available in my collections. Then I discovered grilled mushrooms and hamburgers. There are hamburgers in Guild Wars 2, folks. I don't think I've ever been happier with a crafting system in my life. (Aside: I am never going to look up recipes on the wiki [should it ever work again]. I had way too much fun playing with the discovery system.)

  • So that's where I am now. My play time was limited due to real like circumstances. But you can bet that I will be in Guild Wars 2 for a long time to come. I could not be happier to be so wrong about a game.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Random Shots: Why Copernicus?

  • Vagabond is one of my favorite new voices to come out of the NBI (Go check him out.) So when he recently asked the question "Why should I care about Copernicus?" I had to take notice. I'm not aware of anyone else who writes about the game with any frequency, I figure I should actually answer.

  • You probably shouldn't. There is no game coming at the end of this hype cycle. Vagabond points out that with new games coming out (like City of Steam), there is no reason to follow a game that won't ever exist. And he is right. But I'm not in this for entirely rational reasons.

  • I've identified three reasons why I continue to blog about Copernicus:

    • Archeology - Because the game is destined to never come out, I enjoy digging up whatever data I can. Like an archeologist piecing together the shards of a shattered urn, I am gathering the pieces of a shattered game. What I end up with will only be a pale reflection of the original, but I enjoy learning as much as I can.

    • Contrariness - There is another part of me that is holding onto it out of dogged stubborness. This subject fascinates me and I'll be damned if I'm not going to write about just because I happen to be the only one who cares. I blogged about Champions Online long after is was no longer fashionable to do so. As was said many times during NBI, I am blogging for myself. If just one other person is interested in the subject, if somewhere down the line they can use this blog as a resource to find out about the game, that would be cool. But mostly I'm leaving these notes because I want to record it for myself.

    • Mourning - Finally, there is a part of me that is profoundly sad that the game imploded so spectacularly. People poured their energy, their dreams, and their lives into the project and there is nothing to show for it. I'm not sad because I won't be able to play the game, I'm sad because they won't get to see their game played. So these posts become an extended vigil for an idea that died.
  • There you go. I promise to always include the name Copernicus in any posts about the game. So feel free to skip them when they come across your RSS reader. Or maybe, if you are curious, peek inside because maybe I'll have found something pretty cool.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

News Filter: New Copernicus Fly-Through Videos

  • By way of Patrick Klepek of Giant Bomb, Youtube user "stduquette" has uploaded three video fly-throughs from Project Copernicus. I can't embed them here, so you should head over to Youtube and watch them yourself.

  • The way they are named, labeled (City Crew) and dated, these look like presentation videos to show off how the team working on Amalur's cities is progressing. There are two videos showing off the gothic city of Jottunhessen, dated September 2011 and December 2011, and one for Valiance (the city in front of the dam) dated May 2012.

  • The more this stuff comes out, the more I'm bummed out that I'll never get to explore that world for myself.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Played Lately: Champions Online

  • In Jayedub's July roundup, he wrote something that caught my attention:
  • [...] and I've actually played some Champions Online and really enjoyed that as well. I haven't played CO since the f2p conversion, and boy has it changed since then. It's good, it's fun and I think I am going to be playing more of it again!
  • It has been a long time since I played CO. More than a year? Yikes. So I updated the client and jumped into the game. Jaye was right! I can't believe how much has changed.

  • I almost didn't recognize it. They changed the title screen, the loading screen, messed with the UI, and threw a huge intro for the latest patch up on the screen. It was overwhelming, but everything looked great. As I am want to do, I immediately backed out to the title screen and rolled a new character.
  • Aside: I've always heard that people in superhero games tend to accumulate alts like crazy. Since I like to devote my time to one main character, I tend not to branch out into alts unless I've been in a game for a long, long time (e.g. Guild Wars, World of Warcraft). I have eight different superheroes of various levels now. I may need help.
  • I was amused to find that Cryptic has streamlined the tutorial (which I never ever skip). They blocked off a section of zone where a couple of frivolous quests once appeared. And they removed Kinetik from his trap. It was much quicker to move through the zone and get to back to Millennium City. And that's when I discovered how much they have updated Renaissance Center and Westside (again!).

  • It's crazy to me that I've been away from the game for so long that I have trouble recognizing it. Everything is still familiar; it's still hot keys and powers and costumes. But the details have changed enough that it feels like discovering a new game. That has been a very pleasant surprise.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

News Filter: WOW MOP TLR

  • The World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria trailer is out. You've probably watched it, but I really like embedding videos now.
  • Opinions are mixed, as I've come to expect from the internet. I was pretty happy with how it turned out. I like having actually Horde and Alliance characters in the video again. I love that it evokes a sense of mystery about the world. And I love that it returns to the whimsy that has always been a hallmark of the game. If the trailer tells me anything, it's "This is going to be fun."

  • Since I love Top Five lists, here are the WoW trailers from my most to least favorite:

    • World of Warcraft - The first is still the best. It introduced the world, the characters, and the conflict cleanly and clearly.

    • The Burning Crusade - Following in the footsteps of the first, TBC's trailer sticks with the character focus while giving a hi

    • Mists of Pandaria - See above. It feels like a natural continuation of the first two trailers.

    • Cataclysm - Like the WotLK trailer, this is more about telling a story than introducing a world. But it pretty cool seeing Azeroth messed up like that.

    • Wrath of the Lich King - Definitely the worst of the trailers. It is beautiful from a technical perspective. But it takes the focus away from the characters and the world and places instead on the big Blizzard story instead. No thank you.

  • What did you think of the new trailer? Which one was your favorite?

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Random Shots: Girlfriend Mode

  • Guess what? I've acually played some MMOs over the last few days. I even want to write about them. But no, I'm here writing about sexism again. Because that never gets old. Nevertheless...

  • So what's the story? Gearbox gave a studio tour to Eurogamer (and other media outlets, presumably) to talk about Borderlands 2, and the pre-order bonus class, the Mechromancer. During the interview, designer John Hemingway referred to the character's Best Friends Forever skill tree as "girlfriend mode". Since the article broke, Gearbox president Randy Pitchford went on the attack, but that didn't do much more than fan the flames.

  • I am a little reticent to blast this man with the full force of the Internet Hate Machine for a comment made out of turn. I really wish there was more context for the two word quoted that freaked everyone out. But considering that author Wesley Yin-Poole has always come across as a straight shooter, I doubt that illumination would paint the phrase in any better light. Because even if he didn't mean it a deragatory way, that's where he ended up at the end of the day.

  • Folks, we can't use language that implies an entire gender (or race, or sexual orientation, et al.) is somehow lesser just because of how they are born. It is demeaning to them and it is demeaning to us because we perpetuate this stupidity. I would love if my wife or daughter saw me playing this and wanted to join in. How belittled would they feel if I put the game on "girlfriend mode" for them. Sure, that's not what they call it in the game, but it's out there now. They can't take it back.

  • I would much rather be playing Borderlands 2 than writing about it. I've actually stopped reading anything because I want to go in fresh. This isn't going to keep me from buying and playing the game. But I really hope that Gearbox owns up, says it will do better, and really does so.

  • P.S. If you are curious about how to stamp out sexism, take a look over here. Someone is doing it right.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

News Filter: Rift Announces An Announcement

  • I normally wouldn't take the time to write about something like this, but I am constantly amused by the hype cycle of video games. This is a prime example. From my email today:
  • That's right, Trion is announcing that there will be an announcement of the new Mage soul for their upcoming expansion. The probability of three more announcements and announcements of said announcements is very high.

  • Thanks for the invite, Trion. But how about you just launch the expansion? That's all anyone cares about anyway.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

News Filter: Vanguard Is Free-To-Play, GO GO GO

  • From Massively, we receive notice that the free-to-play rollout for Vanguard: Saga of Heroes has slipped out a week early. So if you were planning to check out the game once those pesky subscription fees went away, now it your chance.

  • I tried out Vanguard a couple of years back during a free trial, but it didn't really hook me at the time. I was never, ever, going to pay money just to give it a second chance. The move to free-to-play is exactly what I've been waiting for, ever since John Smedley teased it a couple of years back.

  • Are you going to try out Vanguard? Because really, what else are you going to do until Guild Wars 2 comes out?

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Random Shots: The Sign To Move On

  • MMO Gamer Chick had an interesting post up Wednesday that struck a nerve with me. In it, she reveals that she likely won't continue to play Star Wars: The Old Republic for much longer now that it is going free to play. I also prefer the subscription model, and I think for a similar reason.

  • The pressure of a monthly subscription forces me to get the best use out of my gaming time. If I pay for a month and then fritter it away, I've wasted $15 dollars for no good reason. There is freedom in knowing that I have access to the entire game for my fifteen dollars, even if it is only for a month.

  • But as soon as the game goes free-to-play, that pressure goes away. There is no incentive to use my time wisely if I'm not spending money, so I don't play at all. Oddly enough, I discovered something similar with my lifetime subscription to Champions Online. Once I got the value out the purchase, I drifted right away from the game.

  • I don't really need to bring out my old prejudices again the Free To Play model. Especially when Wilhelm is already doing such a great job throwing up the caution flag. But that's always going to be in the back of my mind as well.

  • I'll have more thoughts about the WoW Annual Pass in a couple months, so stay tuned. But until then, I'll stick with my subscriptions, thank you very much.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.