Showing posts with label top five. Show all posts
Showing posts with label top five. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Top Five: E3 2014 Announcements

  • E3 is an exciting time each year for big budget video games. With the launch of the new consoles last year, people are practically salivating at the thought of new games for their shiny new systems. Here are the five that have interested me the most this year:

  • Rise of the Tomb Raider - Seeing this trailer reminded me that I never played last year's Tomb Raider beyond the first few hours. I had even forgotten that I bought the game during a Steam sale several months ago. So I have some catching up to do before the new game comes out.

    For any naysayers about how Lara is being treated in this trailer, look at posture, the scars on her hands, and the way she cracks her knuckles. She is not some meek girl traumatized by her experience. I suspect she is there because she has to be and the real therapy is what is happening in the other half of the trailer. Watch and decide for yourself.

  • Bloodborne - After finishing Dark Souls and Dark Souls II, I find I am no longer entralled by them as I once was. But if Bloodborne is a good as this trailer (and other leaks) implies, then I will be helpless against being sucked into that world again. From Software did something special with the Souls games by making me eager to test myself in ways I didn't think I was capable. So if they can preserve that feeling in this new, beautiful and facinating world, I will eagerly take on their challenge again.
  • Grim Fandango - Any article about Grim Fandango will indubitably append the word "classic" to its description. I never played the game, so I'm taking everyone's word that it is a classic. That's why I was excited to see that Double Fine would be releasing a updated version. I'll finally be able to see what everyone was talking about.
  • No Man's Sky - The hype for Hello Games' new game has buried the needle on the ballyhoo meter. (Eff yeah, It is hard not to get caught up in the excitement. IF (with a capital IF) the game really does everything these trailers imply, it could be amazing. I keep my figures crossed.
  • The Legend Of Zelda WiiU - I have not been excited for a Zelda game since Ocarina Of Time. Not that I think the newer games are bad. They just haven't been enticing enough to make me buy a Nintendo console. This trailer changes things. It is the very worst type of teaser: more fluff than substance. But it is very beautiful fluff. I can't wait to see if the game lives up to the expectations the trailer sets.
  • Okay, you got me. This post was just an excuse to post a bunch of trailers. Nevertheless, what did you see at E3 that has you excited?

© 2014 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Top Five: Video Games of 2013

  • Ninety-nine percent of my gaming this year has taken place when I should been in bed. But that didn't stop me, even when it should have. These five games did the most to keep me from getting enough sleep this year. As always, this is a list of games were are important to me this year, not some kind of authoritative, objective list of the best games of the year.

  • Dark Souls - I've owned Dark Souls for close to two years now and I never beat it. The difference between this game and every other one in my collection is that I'm still trying to beat Dark Souls. I don't know that a game has ever gotten under skin the same way. No, I'm not playing it the "right way". I've read every wiki, forum, and guide I could find. I watched so many videos. But that doesn't mean anything when you have a controller in hand and have to execute everything you've learned. Dark Souls is an unforgiving teacher. And I love it dearly because of that.

  • Etrian Odyssey IV: Legends of the Titan - When I played D&D, I was always the DM. I didn't mind. I liked getting friends together to play. But the part I didn't tell anyone about was that I really liked to make maps. EO4 is a gift to my map-marker heart. An old-school, Wizardry-style dungeon crawler, I haven't played a game like this since Might & Magic II and The Bard's Tale. Funny that a genre you might think long dead could be alive, well, and just as good as you remember from thirty years ago.

  • Gone Home - From the moment of heard about the Fullbright Company, I knew that I wanted to follow them. Gone Home was exactly what I hoped it would be. It seemed to be a direct response to everything I wanted out of Bioshock Infinite. I enjoyed wandering through the house, finding out what happened to my (Katie's) family over the last year, and hoping that I would find them okay. I can't wait to see what the team does in the future.

  • Saints Row IV - Considering how much I loved Saints Row The Third, there was no chance I would pass up SR4. Although in some ways it felt like an add-on to SR3, it ended up surpassing the older game in many ways. I would have trouble returning to Steelport without having access to superpowers any more. The game was pure joy from beginning to end.

  • World Of Warcraft (Private Server) - I make the distinction here because playing an MMO in a world with only one player is a very strange experience. The economy is non-functional and the several quests and characters are all kinds of buggy. But turning the nobs on the server to suit my needs, whether it is weakening elite mobs or turning up reputation gain (because screw reputation grinds), is really gratifying. No, it is not the same. But exploring an Azeroth that no longer exists (the server is set to patch 3.3.5a) is a different kind of treasure.

  • Honorabe mentions Super Hexagon and Bioshock Infinite came pretty close to making the list. It has been a very strange year for gaming, but I'm super happy to have such variety.

  • So, what were your favorite games this year?

© 2013 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Top Five: Best Things About Ultima Forever

  • Ultima name used for an actual game - I mean, at least they didn't turn it into a crappy online service like they did with the Origin name.

  • Runs better on the iPhone than on the iPad - That has got to be some kind of achievement, right?

  • You don't have to pay for it before finding out how bad it is - Try before you buy hundreds and hundreds of keys!

  • Um, this is a lot harder than I thought - There has to be more. I assume so.

  • Yeah.... - Maybe not.

© 2013 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Top Five: Personal Reactions To EverQuest Next

  • It was less than a week ago that I was talking about how excited I was (or not) for the upcoming reveal of EverQuest Next. And, amazingly, SOE delivered on the announcement thrills. So here are the top five things that interested me about EQNext.

  • Character Models - I give most MMOs a lot of leeway when it comes to their character models. As long as they aren't hideously ugly, I'm happy to play just about anything. (I even like the LOTRO models, believe it or not.) The models in EQNext are very attractive. Something about the human models reminds me of Bioshock Infinite. I'd much rather they go in this highly stylized direction that try for a realistic style and fail (see: EQ2).

  • Multiclassing? - So, SOE decided that they needed to one-up Rift and Guild Wars 2. I know that I'm weird when I say that I like a strong class identity when playing an RPG. And the last thing we want is a world populated by tank-mages.

  • Heroic Movement - I know it's silly to put much stock in something this simple, but I like what it represents. MMOs have tried to make combat more action oriented. By they haven't yet made traversal as fun as an Assassin's Creed or Prince Of Persia. I'm not saying that EQNext aspires to such heights, but at least it's aspiring to something.

  • Storybricks, er, Emergent AI - Flashback to 1997. Richard Garriott discusses the ecosystem of Ultima Online and how it reacts to player action. Some months later, the system if ripped out of the game because it can't stand up to hundreds of murderers depopulating the world. Now in 2013, SOE makes similar grandiose statements. I understand why the designers want it to work so badly. It could be amazingly cool if it works. But they had better prepare to rain down Armageddon on their servers. Otherwise the players will push them into a constant win state with no way for the enemy to fight back effectively.

  • Voxels! - As soon as I saw this, I thought of the Procedural Worlds blog. It turns out that was for good reason. Adding genuine construction and destruction to the world might be the most interesting part of the announcement.

  • And since EQNext is the most interesting thing to happen to MMOs in over a year, opinions are already thick in the air. No matter what comes of that game, it's not to have something to talk about.

© 2013 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Top Five: Nintendo 2013 E3 Announcements

  • Nintendo decided to go their own way this year. Rather than subject themselves to the circus that is the E3 press conference, they've released a new Nintendo Direct video. But that's not going to stop us from rating their announcements.

  • The Legend Of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds - Not even a part of the show, but worthy of mention anyway. How can you not love a classic Zelda game? Oh, and I already own a 3DS? Sounds good to me!

  • Bayonetta 2 - It's old news, but you have to give Nintendo credit for getting behind Bayonetta. I only played the first game a little bit, but it has a style you just don't normally get on their platforms.

  • Super Mario 3D World - I'm stretching at this point, but a new 3D Mario game is a good thing, right? And playable Princess Peach? Anyone with me?

  • Xenoblade Chronicles sequel - Oh, here's a good one. If Santa were to gift me a WiiU, this is exacly the kind of game I would seek out.

  • Um.... Etrian Odyssey: Millennium Girl? - Again, not part of Nintendo Direct, but still good news. I'm really enjoying Etrian Odyssey IV, but I need to buckle down if I'm going to finish before this comes out.

  • I'm giving Nintendo four points for their announcements. That looks like more than Microsoft's three, but it really breaks down to two for the Wii U and two for the 3DS. I'm glad Nintendo is getting some third party support, but their systems still look anemic.

© 2013 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Top Five: PS4 2013 E3 Announcements

  • I'm running late because of Giant Bomb's equipment theft, but here are the five announcements that caught my attention at Sony's press conference Monday.

  • The Order: 1886 - It isn't much, but the trailer caught my attention. I hope there is more to see on the show floor.

  • The Dark Sorcerer - I've never played a Quantic Dream game, but I do know they make some pretty cool tech demos. I know this will come to nothing, and David Cage will poop out some overwrought story next time. But from time to time we can enjoy something strange like this.

  • Transistor and the Indie Community - If you asked me when I knew I would be buying a PS4, it would be when Greg Kasavin walked on stage and announced that Transistor would lead on Sony's console. Seeing the other indie games announced just cemented my resolve. Even if Sony had gone in lock step with Microsoft's high price and draconian limitations, this was enough to win me over. Thankfully, mercifully, there was more.

  • Own Your Own Games - Having Jack Tretton take such deliberate shots at Microsoft was a thing to behold. He took their platform apart point by point. When it was done, there was no doubt the PS4 was the Gamer's console. I was skeptical, but I have been won over.

  • $400! - Then to cap it all off, the price. Four hundred dollars is still a lot of money, but it's just expensive. Not the Xbox One's crazy expensive. When I heard this, I turned to my wife and said, "I guess we're getting a PlayStation 4."

  • There is no other way to say it: Sony has won this console generation before it even started. I have to give them five points for their audacity. We will see how Nintendo stacks up next. What do you think? Have you made up your mind about next gen consoles?

© 2013 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Top Five: The Best of the Rest 2013 E3 Press Conferences

  • Just because you don't have a console to sell doesn't mean that you can't have a press conference. Here are the top five moments from the rest of the pack.

  • Battlefield 4's 64 Player On-Stage Demo - I don't care how staged that was, I am one hundred percent behind that massive kind of spectacle. Whether or not the game is worth it, I have no idea.

  • Peter Moore Calls Out Kotaku - Just hilarious.

  • Watch_Dogs - It wasn't even a big focus of the press conference, and it's still the most exciting thing that Ubisoft showed. It's so good that I let them have their underscore. And it's now an unusually timely game as well. This is probably the AAA game I'm looking forward to most this generation.

  • Mirror's Edge - Never played the first game. I guess was scared off because of all of the flak it took. But just look at that trailer! I'd like to see what a new iteration plays like.

  • Finally, a release date for The Stick Of Truth - Holiday 2013. My wish list is getting longer.

  • Evidently, I'm a jaded old man now that I'm forty. Maybe Sony will be a little more interesting? Maybe a surprise on the show floor? I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

© 2013 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Top Five: Xbox 2013 E3 Announcements

  • The press conference is over, and it turns out that Microsoft wasn't lying about the number of games they would show. Here are the top five announcements that caught my attention.

  • World Of Tanks - I'm sure WoT is a fine game. I haven't played it before, but I see the appeal. What catches my attention is what this reveals means for free-to-play on the console. It sounds like Microsoft really is getting behind that pay model and Wargaming is the right company to lead the charge.

  • Project Spark - Out of every game announced, this one is the most intriguing. Not that I expect them to actually deliver. I mean, it has "Project" in the title, so there is no way this thing is ready to go. But I do love big pie-in-the-sky announcements like this. And if they do deliver? Oh man, it could be sweet. The fact that it's also coming to PC means that it's not an XB1 seller, though.

  • Twitch Integration - We've been expecting this, but it's good to hear that Microsoft made it official. Console streaming is the next big frontier. I'm excited to try it no matter which system ends up in my living room.

  • Below - Oh hell yeah. The one gamey game that caught my attention through the whole thing. Can't wait to see what the Capy team has up its collective sleeve.

  • The Price - Five hundred effing dollars. I've been saving up money for half a year so that I wouldn't have to go to my wife, hat in hand, and beg her for permission to buy a console. All because I knew the price was going to be crazy and I was right. If Sony beats this price at all, I might buy my first Sony console at launch.

  • All in all, I give Microsoft three points for their press conference. Let's see how Sony stacks up. So, what did you think? What has you excited or skeptical?

© 2013 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

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?

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Top Five: More EVE Online Stories

  • A word of warning: I don't follow EVE Online all that closely. So these five stories are just the ones that got big enough for me to see them. So if I missed something really cool, it's because I had no idea what I was looking at. Let me know in the comments and maybe they'll make it into the next post. My original Top Five post of EVE Online stories can be found here.

  • 2006.12.11 - First Titan Built, First Titan Killed - Having been built less than three months before by Cyvok of Celestial Horizons, the Avatar class titan name "Steve" was brought down by Band of Brothers. It was both the first titan built on the Tranquility server, as well as the first titan destroyed. A memorial currently resides in the system, C9N-CC, where Steve met its fate.

  • 2007.02.09 - T20 Scandal - Like any good MMO developer, CCP employees actually play the game that they work on. Unfortunately, one such employee took the situation too far when he granted several Blue Print Originals (BPOs) to his corporation. It was one of the first scandals that eroded confidence in CCP, leading in turn to the formation of the Council of Stellar Management (CSM).

  • 2009.06.22 - Unholy Rage - Like most MMOs, EVE Online had an issue with external Real Money Trading. Bots and ISK farmers were ruining the game's economy. In June 2009, CCP launched an initiative to ban bots and other RMT related accounts. According to their reports, closing about 3000 accounts had an immediate effect not only on the economy but also on the servers disproportionally taxed by the botters.

  • 2011.06.23 - Incarna meltdown - After the launch of the Incarna expansion, the EVE player base revolted in the forums and in the game itself. With so much displeasure being voiced, CCP called an emergency summit of the CSM and eventually changed the course of the game. With their next expansion, Crucible, CCP showed that they had renewed their focus on the Flying In Space systems. If you need a snarkier version of these events, go read Scott Jennings' post where he reminds us why he was once called Lum the Mad.

  • 2012.03.27 - The Mittani Banned, Steps Down From CSM - In the wake of questionable comments made during a panel at the 2012 Fanfest, Alexander "The Mittani" Gianturco, after having made an apology and resigned the chairmanship of the CSM, received a thirty day ban and was removed from his position in CSM7. Almost as interesting as the main story is abysmal quality of copy-and-paste journalism about the incident.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

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?

© 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.

© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Top Five: Video Games Of 2010

  • It is that time of year again. It's time to look at the games that I played in 2010 (even if they did not come out in 2010) and decide which were the Top Five of the year. Keep in mind that this list is completely subjective. I'm even listing them in alphabetical order to avoid any problems. Let's see which ones had the biggest impact on me.

  • Borderlands - I don't think there has been another game that I have tried harder to play more than Borderlands. I initially bought the game in a Steam sale. When my video card crashed out and I had to swap in an underpowered substitute, I gave it up for a while. But then the GOTY edition came out on Xbox 360 and I bought it again. And then replaced it when the first didn't come with the DLC codes. The reason I tried so hard is because Borderlands is just fun. That's all it wants to be. The story is not compelling, the gameplay isn't deep. But it's fun as hell and actually got me playing a shooter this year.

  • Dragon Quest IX - As a long time fan of the Dragon Quest series ever since the NES era, I was looking forward to this game for quite some time. I was not disappointed. There is a vast world to explore, crafting and gathering, multiple jobs to level up, and a full endgame in place. But the main story is told almost episodically, so the critical path is not overwhelming. Although I was concerned that the move to the DS would hurt the game, making it portable was a godsend. Dragon Quest has never been about pushing polygons, so they did not lose anything by shrinking it. In fact, I probably played it more because I could play it anywhere.

  • Limbo - When the Xbox Summer of Arcade launched, I didn't have any idea what this game was. But one Giant Bomb Quick Look later convinced me that I had to buy this game. And although it only took me a few hours, it was one of my favorite games of the year. I'm not very good at puzzles, so I did have to hit the FAQ a couple times. Even so, I had a blast figuring out how to navigate Limbo's dark world. But it wasn't the gameplay that won me over. Instead it was the mood and tension that bored into me like one of those disgusting brain worms. Even now I can recall the feels the game gave me, from hopeless despair to moments of triumph. That is why it made this list.

  • Mass Effect 2 - I loved Mass Effect. It was far and away my favorite game Bioware has made (just ahead of Jade Empire). ME2 was the perfect follow up. From the first tense moments through to the harrowing climax, I was hooked by this game and its story. It was great to step into Commander Shepard's shoes again and guide her (oh yes, Shepard is much better as a woman) to victory against the Collectors. If I have anything negative to say about the game, it's that now I can't wait for Mass Effect 3.

  • Red Dead Redemption - I like the idea of Rockstar's games a lot more than I can play them. Usually I run into some wall that I just can't overcome, so I give up in frustration. Which is sad because the stories their game are unusually excellent. Red Dead Redemption has the excellent storyline that I was looking for along with great gameplay and an amazing world to explore. RDR's deconstructionist western hit all of the right notes with an amazing lead character, confident story beats, and a mood that effected me long after I finished the game. And finished and finished because you aren't done playing until the final credits roll, no matter how the story goes. I'm embarassed to say that I put the game down at the wrong point and had to go back later when I realized my mistake. And I'm glad I did go back because RDR has one of the most satisfying endings ever.

  • Although they didn't make the top five, I want to give Sid Meier's Civilization V and Costume Quest some honorable mentions. It's like some people asked themselves "What would Anjin like to play?" and made them just for me. Thanks, everyone.

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Top Five: Best Of 2010 Lists

  • If there is anything that Best Of lists are good for, it's starting fights. And the Internet loves a good fight. This may be listed as a Top Five, but it's really just a collection of lists that I've discovered and enjoyed this year.

  • The A.V. Club's Best Games - For straight up best games lists, you can't beat the A.V. Club's. It's simple, straightforward, and well-rounded. Go for it.

  • Giant Bomb's GOTY - There is some crazy stuff going on at Giant Bomb. They've collected the top ten games from several people in and around the games industry, announced their own awards, and released a series of podcasts delibrating the categories. Even better, you can't even count on everything matching up. It's hilarious.

  • Bio Break's Flushies - A lot of bloggers (including myself) like to celebrate the end of the year with a best of list. Although there are any number of good ones, I should point out Syp's 2010 Flushies. He does an excellent job of breaking down what happened during the year and putting a humorous spin on it.

  • AoL Radio Blog's 10 Best Songs - I don't follow music that closely anymore. I wanted to be one of those cool people who enjoys new music late into life, but that's just not going to happen. But amusingly enough, I actually know and like all the songs on this list. Maybe things aren't as bad as I think.

  • Massively's Top Indie and Free-To-Play Stories - 2010 may not have been a great year for Triple-A MMOs, but Beau reminds us that indie and free-to-play MMOs exploded throughout the year. It's easy to overlook all the news when our particular niche put up a poor showing this year. (I mean, really, Cataclysm is going to be the AAA MMO of the year, folks.) It helps to look outside the bubble and remember that things weren't all the bad, just not what we expected.

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Top Five: Best Things About Civilization V

  • Ah, Civilization V. I haven't enjoyed any of the previously games as much as I have this version. There is just so much great stuff to enjoy. So here's my Top Five list of my favorite things in the game. Like all of my Top Five posts, this is not objective. It's just meant to highlight things that I enjoy about the game.

  • The Advisors - Civ V comes with a two hundred thirty-two page manual. You don't really need it. If you've ever played a Civ game before, the advisors in the game will give you enough information to walk you through your first moments of the game. (This is not to say you should forget the manual entirely. Once you're familiar with the game, its a great way to dig into the rules.)

    At this point, I'm comfortable enough that I'm ready to turn off the tutorial popups. But the advisors do so much more. You can consult your advisors at any point, scrolling through their advice on various aspects of your empire. It's an excellent way to make sense of what you should be doing in the game if you're not sure. When then the Military Advisor tells you that your army is too small, you should believe him. Trust me.

    But even if you ignore all of that, the best thing the advisors do is point out what would be your optimum choices for construction and technology. I may end up going my own way, but I'll always look at what the advisors suggest before making my decision. It's a subtle, but effective way to nudge an unsure player in the right direction.

  • Tactical Combat - The combat in Civ V is everything that I hoped it would be. You can't just smash huge stacks of units against one another and hope that you roll better than they do. Now you have to pay attention to what type of units you're fighting, positioning your army well, and take advantage of opportunities to press the attack and recover. And most of all, it rewards you for playing patiently. More than once I've charged ahead only to find a unit cut off and destroyed. I have so much fun fighting that I'm always tempted to try for a domination victory.

  • City-States and Resources - I know that resources were in the earlier game, but they have been a revelation in this one. Between having to scramble for resources and deciding whether to support or destroy various city-states, the game is much more than straight-up conquer-the-world simulator. If anything, they have gone a long way toward emphasising political consideration in the game.

  • The User Interface - I adore the interface for this game. It can be very easy to be overwhelmed in other games, but Civ V hits the mark for me perfectly. Just looking at the screen gives you a broad overview of your empire. But just underneath everything, you can find heaps of information if you need. I spend a crazy amount of time reviewing the tooltips to see exactly how my happiness and other resources are being gained and spent.

    Of all things, I'm especially impressed with how the Next Turn button is used. In other games, that button is minimized so that you don't accidently hit it when you shouldn't. In Civ V, they not only make it huge, but they use it to remind you of what you need to before continuing. Between that and all the alerts that scroll down the right side of the screen, I know everything that I should be aware of during my turn.

  • Natural Wonders - Were these in earlier games? I don't know but I love them. Civ has always focused on the wonders of human endevour. Adding wonders from the natural world has made exploration that much more rewarding. I hold that a future expansion adds a few options because I think this is one of the neatest little features in the game.

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Top Five: More Things To Do Before The Cataclysm

  • NOTE: This is a follow up to a prior post, Top Five: Things To Do Before The Cataclysm. Be sure to check it out if you haven't already.

  • Complete the Test of Faith quest series - This quest is only available to Horde characters, so you Alliance faithful know what you have to do. This quest chain involves a long trip through Azerothian lore, including a trip to the library in Scarlet Monastery. Blizzard may find other ways to teach new players about the Dragon Aspects and the Scourge. But they won't be able to replicate the very first memorable quest in the chain: a leap of faith into Thousand Needles. With the impending flood, the same jump wouldn't be quite as harrowing.

  • Complete the Battle for the Undercity quest - For some reason, Blizzard thinks they have to reset the state of the entire world when Cataclysm hits instead of letting history pass as players quest through the game. The most unfortunate side effect of this decision is the removal of the Battle for the Undercity. The immediate followup to the disastrous assault on the Wrathgate, players have the opportunity to assist Thrall and Sylvanas Windrunner or Varian Wynne and Jaine Proudmore as they attempt to purge the Undercity of Grand Apothecary Putress' and Varimathras' terrorist forces. But since the lore would be contradictory to the new status quo, Blizzard is pulling one of the iconic quests from WotLK out of the game.

  • Raid Zul'Gurub - One of the more fascinating casualties of the Cataclysm will be the conversion of Zul'Gurub from a 20-player raid into a level 30 to 35 questing zone. I can't claim that ZG was unique. See if this sounds familiar: trolls lust for power, start calling upon various evil beings, go crazy, begin sacrificing folks. You're right, that's every troll zone in the game. But ZG has a great charm, looks good, and has a boss that you can fish up from a river with Mudskunk lures. That spells fun in my tome.

  • View the intro movies for each race - Currently when you start new character, the game plays a flyby of your starter zone to introduce you to the story of your chosen race. However when Cataclysm rolls out, Blizzard is replacing the flyovers to reflect the new state of the world. If you want to witness the originals as they were meant to be watched, you might spend time rolling up temporary characters to see the original movies before they disappear into the bowels of YouTube forever.

  • Try out the opposite faction - While you are watching those intro movies, you might consider trying out a character on the opposite faction. If you have only ever played from one side or the other, this will be the last chance to see how the other side from level one before it all changes. To push it too hard because things will probably be changing for the better soon. But it will be too bad if you take the time to tour the lowbie lands now.

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Top Five: EVE Online Stories

  • A word of warning: I don't follow EVE Online all that closely. So these five stories are just the ones that got big enough for me to see them. So if I missed something really cool, it's because I had no idea what I was looking at.

  • 2005.04.18 - Guiding Hand Social Club Pulls Off Massive Heist - Probably the first big story I ever saw, it even made the pages of PC Gamer. GHSC was contracted to infiltrate the Ubiqua Seraph corporation, steal its assets, and assassinate its leader. After spending a year on the operation, they carried out the theft and murder, got a writeup in a gaming magazine, and introduced EVE to a whole lot of people who would rather read about it than play it.

  • 2009.02.04 - Band of Brothers Forcefully Disbanded - One of the most epic battles came to a hilarious conclusion when Haargoth Agamar, a director in BoB's Black Nova Corp, defected to the Goonswarm and disbanded Band of Brothers as way of saying goodbye. BoB eventually reformed under a new name, but it was a wake up call for the players to see power shift so dramatically, so quickly.

  • 2009.06.09 - EBANK's CEO Embezzles Over 200 Billion ISK, Is Banned By CCP - For a while there, stealing all of an ingame bank's assets became almost passe. The most notorious heist was perpetrated by Ricdic, CEO of the EBANK. He took over 200 billion ISK and then sold it for real money, earning himself a ban from CCP. Remember, no one cares if you steal fake cash. But if you convert it to real cash, you don't get to play any more.

  • 2010.02.04 - Goonswarm Disintegrates - In the most amazing of coincidences and with a copious serving of schadenfreude, the Goonswarm alliance was disbanded by its CEO exactly a year after it brought down the Band of Brothers alliance. Evidently, internal tensions boiled over when the alliance lost sovereignty in several systems when funds were not transferred properly. The CEO decided to burn down the alliance rather than give it up. And it burned so well.

  • 2010.08.07 - Pirates Destroy Ship Carrying 74 PLEX - When CCP recently allowed players to move PLEX off of a station, everyone knew it was only a matter of time before someone would lose a one in a PVP battle. And although no one is claiming it is the first, the kill on August 7, 2010, that destroyed 74 PLEX (over six years of game time) will go down as its most notorious. Keep in mind that PLEX are only created through a real cash transaction and are used as a way for players to purchase ISK (the in game currency) by selling them to other players. At approximately fifteen dollars a month, that is a loss of over a thousand dollars.

  • Additional EVE stories can be found at my follow up post, Top Five: More EVE Online Stories.

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Top Five: Gamebooks

  • As with every Top Five on the blog, this is a list of my five personal favorites. This is not intended to be objective or exhaustive. If I happened to run across it and I liked it, that's how it gets on the list.

  • Fabled Lands: The War-Torn Kingdom - Probably the last great gamebooks, the Fabled Lands series eschews the mediums Choose Your Own Adventure guided storyline roots in favor of an open world to explore. The ingenious use of check boxes in the text and codewords act as the variable flag that guide you through the various encounters. Removing the strong narrative does leave you without much motivation. But if you have a healthy curiosity, there are a lot adventures to be had and stories to find. And if you run out of things to do, all you have to walk to the edge of the map and you can move on to the next book. The War-Torn Kingdom is the book I've spent the most time in because it was the first released. But it is well balanced with big quests to follow as well as an interesting land to journey through.

  • Fighting Fantasy: Deathtrap Dungeon - The fact that it was the very first gamebook I ever owned may cloud my judgment. However Deathtrap Dungeon is, appropriately, one of the most famous Fighting Fantasy books ever published. Devilishly difficult, with wrong turns aplenty that make it easy to miss something you will need several encounters later. But the atmosphere made this a story that captured my imagination. I never did get all the way through the book, but I enjoyed my many, many deaths just the same.

  • Fighting Fantasy: Space Assassin - On the opposite side of the Fighting Fantasy spectrum is this sci-fi. The additional rules make the book a lot easier to get through, which makes Space Assassin one of the few that I successfully completed. Funny enough, the one part that sticks out most in my mind is the impromptu tank simulation that occurs partway through the book. It's a neat little minigame that does something different with the medium.

  • Lone Wolf: Fire On The Water - The Lone Wolf series was a serious departure in gamebooks for me. A much great storytelling experience, the series felt more epic than the down-in-the-dirt fantasy of the FF books. While the first book was good introduction to the series, Fire On The Water sees your character (the Lone Wolf) traveling to a neighboring kingdom to procure a magic sword with which you can thwart the invasion of your homeland. It took me a couple of attempts to make it through this book, but the massive battle at the end was well worth the effort.

  • Steve Jackson's Sorcery: The Shamutanti Hills - Based on the Fighting Fantasy rules, the Sorcery series was goodbooks for grown-ups. At least that's the impression I got. In actuality, the book was a pretty traditional start to the series. It's also the only one I was able to finish with any sense of accomplishment. I stumbled through the second on accident, I think, and never found more than two of the serpents. Don't even ask about my time in Mampang Fortress. But the mad imagination at work in The Shamutanti Hills drove me to try that book time and again. Someday I'll try the whole series again, but I'll have to find them first.

  • All of this thinking about gamebooks has reminded me that I've been meaning to write a gamebook of my own. Maybe I'll even share if I get something done. What do you think?

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Top Five: Video Games Of 2009

  • Before anyone blows a gasket, this is my personal top five for the year. I didn't come close to playing enough games for this to be a definitive list. These five games are the ones that shaped the year for me.

  • Champions Online - I've had an interesting relationship with Champions this year. I went from it being totally off my radar, to blasting it because of a misinterpreted developer quote, to falling madly in love with the game, to bearly playing it at all. I like CO a lot more than I ever liked City of Heroes. I like the solo content, I like how grouping works, and I like the feel of the game. But it also has a lot of rough edges that Cryptic have been furiously filing off. Even four months later, CO is a better game than when it launched. Eventually it will mature into an awesome superhero universe. But for now, it's a place I'll only be vacationing in once and a while.

  • Free Realms - Much like with Champions, the excitement curve for Free Realms had a decidedly steep rise and fall. Its a game that does so much right, mostly by remembering that it's a game first and foremost. Instant travel, fun mini-games, and a great mixture of activities mean that you don't have to spend any time bored if you don't want to. Tired of fighting? Teleport to mine and prospect for ore. Or try cooking. Or card duelling. And you don't have to spend ten minutes running across the virtual world to get there. I think SOE has blazed new ground for accessibility here, even more than Blizzard has.

  • Pangya: Fantasy Golf - Pangya was a good game online (as Albatross 18 when I played it) marred by an insidious cash shop. As a single player game, I think it was great. Over 150 hours on the title and counting, I more than got my money's worth out of it. I just hope it sold well enough for them to import a sequel.

  • Phantasy Star Portable - I've had a life long love for the Phantasy Star series and this installment did not let me down. In fact, I think it might be the best addition since Phantasy Star Online on the Dreamcast. It's still the same basic game. But by focusing on the single player aspect, you don't feel punished for not subscribing to the online version. I imagine that I'll keep leveling and hunting for loot until PSP2 finally comes to the US. After playing around with the Japanese demo for the sequel, I can't wait.

  • Torchlight - There has not been a better Diablo-style game since Diablo II. Instead of adding and adding systems in the hope of differenciating themselves, Runic Games has stripped it down to its basic essences. Torchlight is a pure dungeon delver, where the joy of blowing up enemies and looting their corpses is its own reward. It's nice that a developer remembers that complexity is not the only route to a gratifying experience. Sometimes, it's just better to make a game fun from the roots up.

© 2009 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Top Five: Champions Online Plot Suggestions

  • Death and Rebirth - One of the biggest recurring plots devices in comics is the death and eventual return of the main character. I would love to see a Nemesis mission or Lair that you can be complete with three to five players, but that also allows you to solo with a super-buffed character. At the end of this mission, the only way to overcome the final villain would be to sacrifice your character. There should be a cutscene funeral attended by all of your other NPCs (from the rest of these suggestions) and the Champions. Then you should be locked out of your character for 30 days! That pill would go down better if you have other alts to play or a protege (again, see below).

    But then you would be rewarded with a resurrection. Hopefully this could be tied in with your crafting profession. For instance Mysticism has an magical resurrection, Science has your character emerging from a superhealing medical tank, and Arms has the character return from hiding since they faked their death. Non-crafters would get a standard resurrection sequence.

    If the rewards are good enough, you would have players looking forward to their characters dying.

  • Love Interests - Where would Spider-Man be without Mary Jane Watson and Gwen Stacy? How about Superman and Lois Lane? Kitty Pride and Colossus? Green Arrow and Black Canary? Do you get where I'm going with this? I can't think of an MMO that has trod this territory outside of the RP community. We're talking Bioware stuff here.
    Aside: Speaking of Bioware, I wonder if SWTOR will have a romance subplot. You know they love doing that sort of thing.
    Anyway, I'd love to see options for love interests: a regular person, a heroic contemporary, or (see the next point) a reformed nemesis. Maybe the person is in love with your character or their secret identity? You know your nemesis has to get involved. Every love interest needs to be kidnapped sometime.

    And what's even better than a love interest? Any fan of Janet Evanovich or Stephanie Meyer can tell you the answer. A love triangle. Aw, yeah!

  • Nemeses Today, Friends Tomorrow - Black Cat, Catwoman, Emma Frost, the list goes on. There are any number of villains who have become the friends and confidants of their heroic opponents. How about this for a story arc: you are fighting your current nemesis in their lair when another prior nemesis another show up to fight them as well. You grudgingly work together to take down the villain as neither of you can do it alone. Eventually, your hero either comes to a truce with this nemesis (so long as they give up true villainy) or you have them come over to the side of justice fully. Redemption can make a great story. And the occasional lapse would be fun as well.

  • Protege - I originally typed sidekick there. But since Champions already uses the term, I thought I should find a good alternative. It's not appropriate for every superhero, but there is a strong tradition of characters either mimicking or wanting to help a main character. Like Batman and Robin or Captain America and Bucky, having a protege can bring something to a character. Of course, when a potential protege shows up, you should get to option to say "Buzz off, kid. This isn't a game." (Of course if you choose to do so, I'd love to see the rejected one come back as a nemesis.)

    If they also use the character death idea above, you would get to take direct control of your protege as they step into the shoes of their mentor. Heck, some people might even enjoy using the protege so much that they put off the resurrection plot indefinitely.

    Like many of these ideas, any reason to use the character creator again (especially with all of your unlocked costumer pieces) is a good thing.

  • Secret Identities - Of all the suggestions I'm making here, this is the one that, although it's the strangest, may be the most comic booky (and therefore most important) of them all. If Cryptic can step up and give our characters the options of having secret identities with plotlines to match, it might take the game into the realm of actual role playing games. How can you not want to weight the difficulty of maintaining a private life while fighting crime on the side? Who won't feel the tension over who to tell and who to keep your secret from? If the developers can give our superheroes something else to worry about beyond which villain to thwart next, then it could elevate Champions Online to a height greater than the MMOs that preceded it.

  • Agree, disagree, or make your own suggestions in the comments.

© 2009 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.
If you're reading this on a site other than Bullet Points, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.
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