Friday, February 26, 2010

Played Lately: League of Legends

  • I begin a startling number of these blog posts pointing out my personal gaming shortcomings. This post will be no different. Since I never enjoyed real-time strategy games, I never bought a copy of Warcraft III. Therefore I never had the opportunity to learn about, much less play, Defense of the Ancients. I assumed it wasn't a game for me and I happily dismissed it. I'm ready to admit that was probably a mistake.

  • Lucky for me, Riot Games helped me correct my error by releasing the League of Legends, a free-to-play DotA-style game. For those of you who, like my prior self, don't know a DotA from an MMO from an FPS, here's what you're missing. The game is played between two teams like a real-time strategy game. But instead of the players controlling an army, you control a single hero unit. You and your team shepherd your minions toward the enemy base, attack opponent heroes, and try to destroy their central barracks structure. Essentially, it is an amazing mix of Warcraft and Diablo.

  • The cool thing about the game is how well balanced the ebb and flow of the game feels. There is no way to rush the ending of the game, even if you are dominating the early skirmishes. The forced pacing means that there are plenty of opportunities for a team to switch up tactics and strike back. And even with pacing mechanics, the game never goes on too long. An ending to the fight is inevitable, only which way it swings is under your control.

  • The least cool thing about the game is that one player disconnecting mid-match essentially ruins the chances that side has of winning. I've been in matches where a team that is down one can hold its own through superior play. But game is balanced around even numbers of players, so the larger force will almost always win just because of greater numbers. Even if the player reconnects, they will be behind in levels, making them less effective and an easier target. Letting a bot take control of a disconnected player might keep that team in the match longer and make sure they don't fall too far behind in experience. Or maybe a bot would suck so bad they actually help the other team will by granting easy kills. How knows which is better?

  • While League of Legends is free-to-play, I was more than happy to dip into the cash shop and unlock a few champions. Now if Riot would finally release a new skin for Janna, I'd be ready to spend more.

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Read Lately: U Is For Undertow by Sue Grafton

  • As far as I'm concerned, the government should declare a national holiday whenever Sue Grafton releases a new book. There is no other series that I am so devoted to as the adventures of Kinsey Millhone. So when U Is For Undertow can out at the end of 2009, I was hugely excited. But I held off from buying it for various reason. My beautiful wife wouldn't let me go too long without it, though, and a copy arrived for Christmas. I immediately put down the last book I was working on (I was only a couple pages in) and started reading.

  • Then I didn't finish until mid-February. Hmm. I can't lay all the blame on the book. I've been in a bit of a reading slump. Plus with all the great games out in the last month or two, I've been distracted. Even with the excuses, though, I was up until two AM finishing the last hundred pages.

  • The central mystery of U Is For Undertow is the kidnapping of a little girl that occured in 1967. When a man comes forward in 1988 who vaguely remembers something that maybe might be related to the crime, he turns to Kinsey for help. Mixed in with the mystery are further advancements in Kinsey's relationship with her maternal family, as well as catching up with Henry, Rosie, and a few other regulars from prior novels. Thankfully Grafton does not overwhelm the novel with Kinsey's personal life, finding a better balance than prior books.

  • Following the example of new novels since R Is For Ricochet, Grafton avoids the straightforward first person narrative. This time around, she jumps between the heads of multiple characters in both timeframes. Though telling the story this way is interesting, it pulls the teeth out of the mystery. But Grafton (like in T Is For Tresspass) is telling a different type of story, one for which the structure works okay.

  • U Is For Undertow do not get under my skin the same way her prior novel did, but it's always a treat to spend time with Kinsey Millhone and Sue Grafton.

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Watched Lately: Avatar

  • Dear James Cameron:

  • I'm sorry for doubting you. I finally get what you've been talking about and I was wrong. All I got from the trailer was that the space people would be fighting the blue people, so I wasn't that excited about your movie. I was mistaken.

  • After watching the film, my wife and I talked about what we liked and didn't like. Although we watched the film in 3D, I don't think it added anything to the film. It could have switched to 2D after the novelty wore off and I wouldn't have noticed. And I know I refered to it as Dances With Wolves In Space Where The Indians Get To Win. But Dances With Wolves was a great film and your explosions are much, much better.

  • The best part, though, is that I completely bought into the experience. I actually cared about what happened to these blue people. In most other movies, mixing people and CGI characters was as convincing as Who Framed Roger Rabbit? After seeing the way characters interacted in Avatar, I get why you wanted to wait so long before making the movie. And I'm glad you did. Can't wait to see what you do next.

  • Sincerly,


  • P.S. What did you think of District 9? Are you bummed out that it totally stole your thunder?

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Random Shots: As If You Hadn't Read Enough About Cash Shops

  • I apologize in advance for any rambling that's going on here. After Wednesday's pricing post and Friday's Allods Online news, I have a lot of thoughts going through my head. I'm hoping for coherency, but I'll settle for people just making it to the end without getting a headache.

  • After the announcement of the twenty dollar bag, I logged into the game to check on a hunch I had. Sure enough, I have a level 7 quest called Almost For Free, the reward for which is a twenty-four slot bag. So gPotato wasn't kidding, you really can get cash shop items just by playing the game. I ran out the the adventuring area to try it out. I have yet to find a single quest item drop. Reading the horrible zone chat, people estimated that it took six hours of slaying quest mobs to get enough drops to finish the quest. That's when their logic set in. When staring down that awful of a grind, twenty dollars to save yourself six hours sounds like a balanced alternative. (For more coverage about Allods, make sure you're reading Keen's posts on the whole mess.)

  • In the shower that night (because that's where I do all my best thinking), I came to an epiphany. Game companies aren't trying to price their products fairly. Their afraid that if they aim for the right price and hit to low, the community will balk at any attempt to raise those prices later. (Same thing with subscription fee. Just ask Mythic.) They would rather aim high, see if enough people bite, then lower the price if they do not. And I get that. From a business perspective, I really do understand.

  • The problem with all this is that, when I like a game, I want to give the people making it money. I want to support them. That's why I dropped two hundred dollars on a lifetime subscription to Champions Online. That's why I buy printed editions of my favorite webcomics, even though their still available free online. My money is a vote of confidence in the creators that they will continue to do good work.

  • But what I'm spending my money on has to make sense. Thus, the value proposition. If game companies don't treat me fairly, I don't want to support them at all. Even if the product if free otherwise, playing the game feels like supporting them with my continued presence.

  • What I'm trying to say is there are two factors in the equation. On one hand, I'm going to evaluate games as price-conscious customer. But on the other hand, I am also a fan. I want to be excited about the game and I want to contribute to its success. Accurate pricing would let me do both.

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Friday, February 19, 2010

News Filter: Allods Online Does Cash Shops Wrong

  • This is not how I wanted to introduce Allods Online on my blog. Just two days after I post about appropriate game pricing, gPotato, the game's US publisher, decided to open their cash shop. And as we all know, bad news travels fast. Saylah of Mystic Worlds and Keen of Keen and Graev's have already weighed in with commentary. If you somehow missed the fury, here is what's going on....

  • Allods Online, although a WoW-alike, is a very good WoW-alike. With much better polish than Runes of Magic, my first days in the game have felt like just as comfortable as playing Blizzard's behemoth. I even had to restrict my play time during the closed beta so I would not burn through all the content ahead of time. But the ticking bomb under all the great content was the cash shop. No one really knew (although the developers said all the right words) what was going to happen when it was opened. As we can see today, the bomb was measured in megatons.

  • For instance, Massively is quoting the cost of a 24 slot bag at $20. Keen states that this price is about ten to twenty times too high based on the cash shop in the Russian version of the game. And that's just one example.

  • Bad pricing will destroy this game. If gPotato does not move to correct this fast, Allods Online will never reach the heights of its potential. I've really enjoyed the game so far, but I will never spend a cent for it based on such inappropriate prices.

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Random Shots: The Value Proposition Of Gaming

  • One of the oldest discussions in the gaming community is the price of our games. The reason it keeps coming up (as it did recently on the Shut Up, We're Talking podcast) is that money shapes how we game in far reaching ways.

  • One only has to look at Darren's ten dollar horse to see that cash shop business models effect people in extreme ways. When handled properly, cash shops give players the opportunity to support a game just to the extent that they care to. When handled poorly, players feel like their enjoyment of the game is predicated on how much money they dump into the game.

  • Even more telling about the business of gaming comes from game companies charging for additional services. While originally such services were limited, there has been a veritable explosion of for-pay services that allow players to overcome in game limits. There are few games where you can't cough up cash for a sex change, name change, or server transfer. And while players may grumble about the price, they happily pay rather then being forced to reroll a character just because they've changed their mind about an earlier decision. Stargrace has moved her EQ2 characters so many times that I'm considering buying stock in Sony. Since these options are all outside of the standard game design, game companies would be stupid not to charge for additional conveniences.

  • That can go too far, though. With any of these options, there is fear that developers will break their games with the intent to sell the pieces at a greater total cost. The skepticism over day one downloadable content is the latest eruption of gamers' distrust. When paid DLC shows up day-and-date along with the launch of the game, one has to wonder why it's not included on the disk in the first place. Dragon Age had the most egregious example with an NPC stationed in your base camp trying sell you an additional quest. He had to be encoded in the base game before launch in anticipation of the missing content.

  • So while selling additional services has been accepted by the community, developers are still trying to figure out how to sell content without alienating their customers. Take the recent example of Cryptic Studios. Obviously not happy with the standard box price plus subscription fees, they've found other ways to sell parts of their game. Star Trek Online has two additional character races for sale. Champions Online allows you to buy additional costume pieces and minipets, as well extra character and costume slots. And most recently, they announced the Revelation content pack for the game. While this was intended to be a paid micro-expansion, their customers fury that the content was not being added for free caused Cryptic/Atari to back away from the plan. Customers might be willing to pay for non-essentials, but will balk at playing for content that is lacking in the base game. But would the same outcry occured if Cryptic/Atari burned the data on a disk and sold it in stores?

  • Further compounding all of these questions comes from the standard fifteen dollar subscription fee required of most MMOs. There are wildly differing expectations for what should be provided for with the subscription. Fifteen dollars has been the standard for years. As long as World of Warcraft maintains that price, It is virtually impossible for any other company to buck the trend. But even Blizzard has been experimenting with additional revenue streams. Fifteen dollars may not mean the same thing to developers as it did five years ago, so microtransactions and paid services become ways of getting around that mental block.

  • In the end, customers will always evaluate the value proposition of their games. Developers and publishers need to understand that if they do not make a clear and convincing case that the benefits of a purchase are equal to the cost, they are losing a customer. So while the company may see a ten dollar horse as a colorful way to avoid the monthly subscription problem, your customer sees it as a stupidly too expensive mount. As companies continue to experiment, some games are likely to fail based on their costs instead of their quality. And the debate will go ever on.

  • Today is my three year blog anniversary, so thank you to everyone for reading, commenting, and encouraging me to continue. I can't wait to see where the next year takes us.

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Played Lately: Mass Effect 2

    Welcome to the non-spoiler section of my Mass Effect 2 post. I'm going to stay vague here out of deference to those of you who haven't finished the game or maybe haven't even started. However, the comment section will be used to blow out all the spoilers, discuss the decisions we made, and talk about the ending. So skip that for now if you must, but come back later when you finish. I'll be interested in seeing how your story turned out.
  • Wow, was that a good game. As much as I enjoyed Dragon Age, I think Mass Effect is where Bioware's best work is going on. From the improved combat to the streamlined RPG system, ME2 is a better game than the first in just about every way.

  • Shamus Young from Twenty Sided is posting a spoilerific series about his issues with the main quest line. (Do not click if you haven't finished the game!) The whole series is funny to me because everything he nitpicks is the stuff that I enjoy most in the game. I thought the story, although it took the series sideways, taught us a lot more about the Reapers and their motives. It definitely left me wanting to learn more in ME3.

  • The biggest surprise to me was the crew. Although I liked the crew in the first game, I feared that the new team members wouldn't hold up. All those fears can be laid at the feet of EA's idiotic marketing department. I should have known after their handling of Dragon Age that they're trying to sell mature games to 12 year olds. The companions are uniformly excellent (yes, even Zaeed). I should have known Bioware wouldn't let me down.

  • If I have one complaint about Mass Effect 2, it's that it is very easy to overindulge yourself. The first game was a relatively straight shot to the end. You can power through the seven mission (plus a few Citadel quests) if you don't want to get distracted by side quests. In ME2, there are fourteen main missions, but you also have eleven loyalty mission to do without even worrying about side quests and planet scanning. If you are a completionist, doing everything can really kill the pace of the game.

  • But that is a minor problem. Mass Effect 2 took just about everything from the first game and gave it a nice twist. From improved mechanics to a great twist on the story, Bioware strove to surpass it in every way. While there are some small oddities left, this is the role-playing game that I've been waiting the last couple years for and I was not disappointed.

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Played Lately: Star Trek Online

  • I first want to thank Blue Kae for hooking me up with a trial code for Star Trek Online. I got a beta invite, but I never bothered to try the game out. Now that it's launched, a ten day trial is just what I need to see what everyone is talking about. So after trying out the game, I can say that I appreciate him saving me from wasting fifty dollars.

  • Why is everyone so excited about this game? Is it the Star Trekiness of it all? Is the lack of chainmail and kobolds enough to make everyone happy? After trying the game out, I honestly don't get it.

  • It's not that I dislike the game. I feel completely indifferent about it. Any complaints I have (and I did try to type something) end up sounding mean. And I don't want to be mean about STO. I'm sure it's fine for what it is. I just don't care.

  • Unfortunately, I've already played the Star Trek game I always wanted. Only they accidentally named it Mass Effect. That's what I really want out of the Star Trek universe. STO, sadly, is not.

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Random Shots: Delay Of Game

  • This post is the electronic equivalent of tossing your football out of bounds. I'm stalling for time while I work on my Mass Effect 2 post. That's a big game to get my head around. And as that famed philosopher Winnie the Pooh once said, "I am a Bear of Very Little Brain, and long words bother me."

  • The best blog war ever has broken out between Bio Break and West Karana. I'm firmly in Team Tipa, mostly because I don't want to be crushed under her heel after she demolishes Syp and his minions.

  • I've been playing League of Legends just about every night. That game has enough depth and balance to keep me satisfied with a single match. Unless I don't win in which case I have to play again and so I don't go out on a loss.

  • It's nice to have TV shows to watch again. I don't watch a lot, but there are still a few shows I won't wait for a DVD release. Not that I'm going to share any names since none of these are high-brow shows. Go watch The Wire if you're looking for a recommendation.

  • And finally, with the best news I've had all day, The Idle Thumbs Podcast has relaunched with a new episode one. It's great to have Chris and Jake back, and Steve does a great job filling in for the missing Nick. I forgot how much I missed their banter. If you deleted your podcast feed, it's time to sign up again. Yay!

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

News Filter: Champions Online Expands With Revelation

  • According to the Champions Online website, Cryptic has announced its first expansion/patch/update/thingy. Called Revelation, it will include the previously mentioned Vibora Bay zone. And most interesting of all? The price for the expansion is zero.

  • Bill Roper states in today's State of the Game post that winning the trust of the community is their number one priorty and I think releasing this content free of charge is a big step in the right direction. Cryptic has a lot of good will to make up. But now that Star Trek Online has shipped, they have a chance to avoid the distraction of that launch and realize they have a second game to support.

  • Their plans for improving the community are pretty deep. I'm no Tweety, so I can't say for sure if these are the best steps to take. But any steps at this point are a good start. If anything, though, this might have been enough to remind me why I wanted a lifetime subscription to the game in the first place.

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Random Shots: Monday Is Not A Thinking Day

  • I'm not in a wordy mood, so my bullet points will be very bullet pointy today.

  • I finished Mass Effect 2 at 3 am last night. I'm not ready to go into it, other than to say it's a great game. I'm thinking about writing a non-spoiler post for tomorrow, but putting all the spoiler talk in the comments. What do you think?

  • On the MMO pundit front, Wolfshead brought up the immersion word again. Personally, I think immersion is the easy excuse for people who just aren't enjoying a game any more. The link comes from Evizaer from That's A Terrible Idea who does a great job getting to the heart of the issue. But the best reply is in the comments section of the original post. Moorgard from Mobhunter absolutely takes Wolfshead to school over the reality of an immersion problem. Great reads all around if you're interested. (EDIT: I initially attributed the schooling to Psychochild. Oops. That what I get for not double-checking. Plus I lost a perfectly good Psychochild joke along the way.)

  • On Saturday, Tobold made an off-hand comment about the level of polish evident in Allods Online. I had written the game off, completely irrationally, based on the screenshots as well as the voluminous posting by Keen of Keen and Graev. But that comment was enough to get me to download the client (which was quick and easy) and try out the beta. Boy howdy! Polish is right. I rolled up a League scout and was immediately struck by the storytelling in the starter zone. It's still an MMO, but they do a good job of telling a story so far. If I have a problem with the game, it's that they are handing out experience points like candy since it's the end of the closed beta. I'm going to spoil myself if I keep playing before the game goes live.

  • Finally, I've been playing League of Legends here and there. First time I've ever played a DotA-style game and I'm enjoying it. Somehow I've got a positive Win-Loss ratio. Beginner's luck, I suppose. I'm not going to talk about my Kill-Death ratio, though. A full post is impending.

  • Happy Monday, everyone. Just remember, it only lasts twenty-four hours.

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Listened Lately: Shut Up, We're Talking #57

  • It never fails. Just as soon as I complain that I don't have anything else to say about MMOs, something comes along that makes me want to blog and/or rant. This time, it's related to the long-awaited release of Shut Up, We're Talking #57. So as I've done before, I'm going to pull up my virtual fifth microphone and add my own comments on the episode.

  • The question about stickiness in MMOs in quite a good one, especially in this era of the WoW tourist. Why don't people stay with a new MMOs? There are a few things you can blame. MMOs aren't really the best games, always, especially at launch. And people can be flighty, always hopping from one game to the next. But people do stick with games if they are the right one. Just look at Syncaine and Darkfall. But looking for problems is the wrong way around. Best time I've had playing MMOs lately were during the launches of Champions Online and Warhammer Online. That may sound strange to you considering how the games have faired since launch. But the reason I had such a great time is due to the excitement in the community around them. People were talking about them and thinking about them and it was great to be caught up in that. I was caught up in the wave of enthusiam and, darn it, that was fun. You hear or read statements that its the people you play with that make you stay with the game. But that is not just true on a micro level. If other people are in the game, having a good time and sharing that experience, that's where I see the stickiness of MMOs occuring.

  • I know it was just a small part of the cast, but Karen mentioned how statistical items in microtransaction games have disappeared from Free Realms and Wizard 101. I have to agree that this is only a good thing. Considering that one the things you play for in an MMO is gear, selling that gear undermines your reward structure. So good riddence. I wonder how well +3 swords are selling in Dungeons & Dragons Online.

  • The discussion of MMOs on other platforms went in all kinds of directions, but I think that's primarily because the question was so unfocused. MMOs have a chance to go in a few directions now, especially because they are stretching beyond the standard PC client model. Yes, they can devolve into mindless clicky games like Farmville. But they also have the opportunity grow the genre in new ways beyond the standard DIKU. The question seemed to denigrate MMOs becoming single player games. That's not the problem. The problem is that they are doing it wrong. There have been some awesome single player games released in the last couple years, but MMOs are still copying the same game mechanics used since the beginning of the genre. As little attention that I give to SWTOR, Bioware does have a chance to make a game the steps out of the shadow of the DIKU/UO/EQ/WoW lineage. And if someone wants to put an MMO on the iPhone, they darn well better make a game that takes advantage of that platform.

  • I really enjoyed Michael's discussion of the MMO labels. The fact the most games are just iterations on old games instead of restarting from first principles has made the genre stagnate. In its own way, this is part of why WoW did so well. They took the EQ model, stripped it down to the fun game stuff, and threw out a lot of the virtual world trappings. And they keep throwing more of that out as they go along. New MMOs need to question the assumptions made by prior games and throw out anything that is no longer needed.

  • Wow, this was much more random and lame than I expected. If you made it all the way down here without skipping ahead, you deserve a cookie.

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Played Lately: Mass Effect 2

  • I wrote a blog post yesterday about Borderlands, but all the comments ended up referring to Mass Effect 2. If that's what everyone wants to talk about, far be it from me to stand in everyone's way. So, using my bullet points the way the nature intended (and without spoiling anything):

  • The intro sequence for the game absolutely stunned me. I knew going in what was about to happen. Bioware has been gleefully spoiling it to everyone they talk to. What that didn't prepare me for was how it would hit me emotionally. Sometimes when watching a musical, I'm overcome with emotion as the music and the singing swells. This was almost that. Closest I've come to crying at a video game.

    Ahem. Now on to more masculine topics....

  • Speaking of masculine topics, I was fascinated by the bachelor party going on in the bar in on Ilium. Asari dancers are spread more liberally throughout the universe in this game. I guess someone didn't want the model and animation to go to waste. And while this was a great bit of humor injected into the game, one of the interactions is very interesting lore-wise. The conversation between the Human, Salarian, and Turian implies that each of them see Asari dancer as resembling their own race. Does that mean that the reason they are modeled as attractive women is because they are psychic chameleons? It makes sense that a species that mates by drawing genetic code from other species would need a way to make themselves appealing to multiple species. I wonder if Bioware threw that in to deflect criticism of their blue space lesbians or it was always in the lore.

  • I don't care what anyone says: scanning planets for resources is one hundred percent better than the Mako missions. It's not amazing or anything and I'm not going to give up hours of my time to do it. However there is something primal about the tactile, visual, and auditory feedback when you hit a rich resource node. Shawn Andrich from Gamers With Jobs is right: scanning is best done with your headphones on, listening to podcasts. It's like playing Minesweeper or Solitaire. You relax and let your fingers do their own thing.

  • Who in their right mind thought Mass Effect was in desperate need of ammo. Sorry, I meant heat sinks. I thought the heat system in ME1 worked just fine. I liked that you could push an extra shot or two out at the risk of your gun overheating. I've never run out of ammo in an awkward situation. Maybe I've had to switch guns once or twice in the middle of a fight. (So much for universal thermal clips.) But even without any problems, ammo still sucks. It just doesn't suck too much.

  • I've playing an Infiltrator in this game like I did in the first game. I liked the idea of a dedicated sniper class. Sniping is still awesome. At least it is now that I know what I'm doing. At first it felt too frustrating, but my skills have improved enough that I feel like a headshot terror again. My old Shepard is back!

  • I have this feeling that I'm using Yeoman Kelly. Somehow (okay, maybe there was a little innocent flirting) she has lead Kelly on enough that the yeoman has offered to take care of Shepard's fish for her. Which gives the yeoman free access to the captain's cabin. My Shepard, the galactic hero that she is, doesn't just turn her back on the man she loves. She even keeps a picture of the man on her desk. I like having someone take care of the fish, but this is going to lead to an awkward situation down the line. Maybe I should keep multiple saves just in case.

  • One of the problems with the story is that I keep wanting to diving ahead instead of taking my time and exploring the galaxy. In the first game, saving the galaxy was all laid back. Get around to it when you can, but the Alliance has a ton of busy work for you to handle along the way. In this game, even though the structure encourages you to explore, the story is so intense that I want to rush to the next chapter immediately. Some problem to have, huh?

  • The funny thing about this game is that I don't just want to replay it when I'm done. I want to go back and replay ME1 and do everything from the beginning. The ability to carry a character over is so amazingly handled. You're not converting a set of statistics. You are bringing an entire universe into the new game.

  • The characters are really cool in this game. Bioware absolutely nailed it with the crew this time. I enjoyed the squadmates in the first game, but they pale in comparison to how well defined the new characters are. That said, one of my favorites is returning crewmember Garrus. It was so great to meet up with him again. Plus he can use all the sniper upgrades that I've been researching.

  • One final note: I believe that while stripping out all the overwhelming RPG systems, they have actually made Mass Effect 2 a truer role-playing experience than we've seen before. Role-playing is not about dice and statistics. It's about inhabiting a character and telling a story. That is exactly what we're doing here. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a galaxy to save.

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Played Lately: Borderlands

  • Back during the holiday Steam sale, I mentioned that I was waiting for Borderlands to drop to 50% off before I would buy it. 2K held their ground at 33% off and, by the end, my resolve crumbled. And I'm glad I did. Borderlands ends up being a lot of fun.

  • Even though everyone suggests playing a soldier, I rolled up a siren. What can I say? I prefer to play female characters even when you play in a first person view! The way she laughs when I pull off a head shot always makes me smile. It doesn't really matter that her gender is tied to a specific character class. I play the game with the skills handed to me and enjoy myself.

  • And I am enjoying myself. The comparisons with Diablo are for more than surface similarities. While Borderlands shares its colored rarity scale, skill trees, and randomized loot with that series, it also shares the design philosophy of stripping the game down to the barest essentials. It points you in a direction, hands you a weapon, and gets out of your way. Because the simple experience of shooting bad guys is so enjoyable here, they can build the rest of the game on the firm foundation.

  • I'm also, amazingly enough, enjoying the game solo. Everywhere you turn you hear about how you should only play the game co-op, and I understand that sentiment. They said the same thing about Diablo. But no matter how much people protest, it works just fine for a single player. Even if I do have to exploit the boss AI to get through some battles.

  • For the time being Mass Effect 2 has eaten my life, so it will be a while before I come back to Borderlands. But I will come back. There is still a lot of fun here to be found.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Random Shots: Turning In My MMO Pundit Card

  • Here's a question for you, my loyal minions: should I stop commenting on MMOs if I am no longer playing any of them? Is my opinion no longer valid if I'm not participating in the games I'm talking about?

  • I'm sure you've notice a lack of MMO content on the blog recently. Most of my ideas come from the games I'm playing so I don't have nearly as much to say. But that doesn't mean there is nothing I want to talk about. I just wonder if, somewhere down the line, I'll end up arguing a point that is no longer valid in the MMO space.

  • Honestly, that is not a huge worry for me. MMO design does evolve, but it doesn't evolve quickly. You only have to look at STO's starships filling trinity roles to see we have a long way to go. The real problem with MMO commentary is that there is only a finite range of topics to cover. Once you are over that, you're left with current events. Just look at the many, many, many posts about STO you find in the blogging community.

  • My MMO blogging is not going away. There is a long running tradition that I'm not leaving behind. I remember reading the initial rants from Lum the Mad and wishing that I could participate in those discussion. But until something interesting happens, ranting about the same old topics doesn't have the same luster.

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