Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Random Shots: No Surprises

  • It has been a long, weird day today. It's the first day of a sort-of vacation (I was told to take the time off or I would lose it). So I've got four days to see if I can't get a few things done and not just play my Xbox all day.

  • I was greeted this morning to the news that Champions Online has gone with a tiered pay model. Normally I would consider CO my beat, but what more is there to say that hasn't been covered by so many already? If you are interested check out the posts from Ardwulf, MMOGamerChick, Blue Kae, and Green Armadillo.

  • Before I got started on errands, I spent a couple hours playing through the second act of Double Fine Productions' Costume Quest. Damn this game is cute. And fun. I'm trying not to burn through it all at once, but it hard to put down at times. I actually played an hour longer this morning than I intended.

  • One of the errands I wanted to run this morning was to pick up Greg Rucka's new book, The Last Run. I have been a huge fan of his Queen & Country, both in comic and novel form, and I was excited to get a new addition to the series. Only neither of the big book bookstores in town got the novel in today. I remember having similar trouble tracking down the prior book, Private Wars. At least, I remember now that I'm going through it all over again. The silver lining to all this is that Rucka is stopping by the Mystery Bookstore in Westwood on November 6 as part of his mini book tour. I suppose I can hold out until then to pick up the novel. Anyway, I still have to finish Mogworld before I worry about another book.

  • I've been spending a lot of time lately, though not today (yet), with Borderlands. I had enjoyed it previously on the PC, but my current backup graphics card just won't let me play the game acceptably. So when the GOTY edition was announced, I picked up a copy for 360. I've already, in the few days I've had it, gotten much farther than I ever did in the PC version. I'm looking forward to seeing the end of the game and playing through all the DLC. And shooting dudes. I'm looking forward to shooting a lot of dudes. Hopefully in the face.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Played Lately: Dead Rising 2: Case 0

  • I've held a weird soft spot in my gamer's heart for Dead Rising ever since it came out in 2006. There was something unique and maddening about the experience that got under my skin. I never got very far in it. And then I loaned it to my brother and I haven't seen the disk in years. So when Dead Rising 2 was announced, I was interested to see where the massive zombie game would go four years later.

  • Better yet there was Dead Rising 2: Case 0, a small preview game that tells a prequel story to the main game. Set in its own town with its own feel and character, it's a full fledged downloadable game. Slaughtering zombies feels just as fun as before, this time with the opportunity to build your own weapon arsenal.

  • However it plays very much like the first game, only with the rough edges filed down. Not off, just down. The survivors handle themselves much better. You get bonus points by killing zombies with combo weapons instead of taking pictures of them. And quest indicators help keep you from getting lost too bad.

  • On my first play through, I felt like I was doing pretty well, at least up until the point where I ran out of time and didn't get the Zombrex to Katie before she expired. Oops. So I did what DR2 expects you to do: I restarted with my higher level and tried again. And sure enough, I was able to cruise through the game, save all the survivors, and escape from town with just enough time to spare. It was a lot of fun and I liked the story. Only I think that was enough to sate my appetite for zombie killing. I don't feel the need to rush out and buy the full game. At least, not yet.

  • If you haven't played a Dead Rising game before and are curious, Case 0 is a steal for five dollars. And if you're concerned that Capcom is making you pay for a demo, I understand. But I feel that this is a small scale, but full featured game and it is well worth the price.

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Unexplored Worlds: The Blade of Veracity

  • The Blade of Veracity is an unadorned steel short sword with a curved cross guard and leather-bound grip. The pommel is a clean steel cube with rounded edges with the only markings being two sets of initials stamped into the bottom of the cube. The weapon fells lighter than a comparable short sword although any scale would show they are of matched weights. The edge feels slightly dull and will not easily cut one's skin.

  • The sword gets its name because of its intended purpose. When the blade is held against exposed skin, the target is forced to answer any question posed to him or her by the wielder. The target has a difficult chance to resist this compulsion, though the chance goes up to highly difficult if the blade is held again the target's throat. If the wielder stabs the target and holds the blade inside the victim's body, it is impossible for the target to resist questioning.

  • Nearly four hundred years old, the blade was forged by a pair of brothers, one a master smith, the other a powerful wizard. The two had a strained relationship at that point. The wizard has grown in power over time and made many enemies. The smith, having grown disillusioned with his brother's battles, had gone in seclusion to perfect his craft. After several years, the wizard tracked his brother down and asked for one final boon, that he craft this one final weapon. The smith agreed and the two worked together to craft the sword. Neither spoke the entire time. When the sword was completed, the two parted ways never saw one another again.

  • The Blade of Veracity confers a ten percent bonus to attack rolls, though not to damage. Instead, if the blade strikes a supernatural foe who's nature is to deceive or spread falsehoods, it causes double damage on a successful attack. If the creature is aware of the blade's powers, it may cower or flee at the sight of its antithesis.

  • Unexplored Worlds is my attempt to design an RPG campaign in the open. Since I have not rolled a d20 in anger in many years, this is my way to keep playing without actually playing. All posts are written to be system-agnostic, so please use whatever keeps your interest in your own games. Just let me know how it goes!

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Played Lately: Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light

  • There are too many news posts on the blog right now, so let's get back to some game talk. Back during Xbox Live's Summer of Arcade, there were three games I was looking forward to: Limbo, Castlevania: Harmony of Despair, and Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light. I bought, played, and enjoyed the first two as planned. But by the time the third rolled out, I had turned off my console and gone back to PC gaming. Just recently, there have been a number of new Live Arcade games released or announced that reminded me that I had skipped the Lara Croft game. That turns out to have been a mistake.

  • At first, I wondered if it would work, but Lara Croft is a very interesting interpretation of the Tomb Raider games that plays like Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance. All the adventuring tricks are still there: the climbing and jumping, the grappling hook, the puzzle solving. It feels like a Tomb Raider with action-RPG combat and they mix together a lot better than I expected.

  • One of the more intriguing things about the game is how they encourage replayability. There are any number of unlocks available, although many are based on conflicting goals. The first time you play, you'll want to find your way through and enjoy the story. But then you see that you missed the speed run option, or maybe you didn't find all of the hidden artifacts. And you have to go for the high score options. But you won't be able to do that on a speed run and keeping your score multiplier up while you're exploring would be difficult. I'm going to end up playing these levels three or four times and I'm actually looking forward to it.

  • And there is so much to collect. Each level gives you a list of objectives and shows which upgrades you have found and how many you've missed. Using various artifacts as stat boosters is a nice, thematic way to gear up your character, although the statistical element is relatively light. But I still want to find every last upgrade available. And the costumes! I have to get all the costumes.

  • I'm really glad I got back to my console. In the future, I'm looking forward to playing and writing about Dead Rising: Case Zero and Costume Quest. With all these great Live Arcade games out, I won't have a reason play any games off a disk for a long while.

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Random Shots: Too Busy To Blog

  • Many apologizes for not blogging lately. I have a lot on my mind, but catching a cold this weekend did not help any. So I'm dispatching this quick post to get the blogging engine primed.

  • The most amusing new of the day has been the blog post from a self-identified soon-to-be Ex-Mythic employee calling himself EA Louse wherein he outlines, in an old school rant, exactly how he perceives the failure of Warhammer Online. There is not a lot to say about it since there is no way to check its veracity. But either way, it's a heck of an amusing read.

  • I spotted the news on Giant Bomb today that Valve will be releasing Dota 2, yet another sequel to Defense of the Ancients. Um, okay, I guess. Oh, and someone from Valve is following in EA Louse's footsteps, blowing the whistle on Icefrog and his involvement with development. What a strange world we live in.

  • I don't watch much anime anymore, but every once in a while, something catches my attention. This year, I discovered Macross Frontier. All I really know about the show is what I got out of Robotech (which I still love, but was not the real thing) and the masterful Macross Plus. Of course, you can't buy it legally in the US so I've had to resort to other means to watch the show. I'm nine episodes in, watching on my PSP when I have free time at work. Loving it so far. I enjoy the nods to the prior shows littered throughout. And the story has some great highs and lows without going to the extremes that some gonzo anime can reach.

  • Last night after dinner, I ended up playing way too much World of Warcraft. I did not expect to. I just wanted to see what the patch did to my characters. When I got to my paladin though, I had to see if I would still be able to solo the Outland instances. So I ran off to The Blood Furnace and only made it up through the first hall and up the stairs before I got murdered. Everything was going way too slow and I feared that the mechanical changes were going to stymie my plans. But then I remember that I hadn't trained any skills so I flew to Shattrath and then to Silvermoon to see what I was missing. Evidently, I had been stripped of the Parry skill. As well, I need to train in Plate Specialization for a small strentgh bonus and the new heal, Word of Glory. It was that last that made everything come together. It fills the niche that the Art of War-powered Flash of Light met before the patch. When I headed back, I made it all the way through the instance with only one more death during the gauntlet before Broggok. I enjoy the new play style a lot now that I understand it. Templar's Verdict seems underwhelming and AoE has been severely nerfed, but Holy Power mechanic and new Art of War have given the paladin a very different, very measured tempo that I appreciate.

  • This is just the wrap up, but I promise to get a post up soon about Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light as well as a couple more things that have been on the back burner while I've been lazy. Happy gaming!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

News Filter: World of Warcraft Patches to 4.0.1

  • Today is the big day. Patch 4.0.1 is going live in World of Warcraft. This is part two out of three in the run up to the next expansion, Cataclysm. Where the first part introduced the campaigns to take back the Echo Isles and Gnomeregan and part three will actually see the cataclysm occur, patch 4.0.1 is focused solely on the the mechanics of the expansion.

  • I always find this part of the expansion process fun. Playing through older content with new mechanics is always interesting. It's nice to have the time to learn how your characters play differently ahead of time so that you can just enjoy the new content when it launches. But there is also that window of time when weird imbalances occur that weren't seen on the beta servers. I remember when paladins became wildly overpowered before Wrath of the Lich King. Fun times!

  • I'm hoping the new mechanics either help or at least not hinder my perma-TBC paladin. In the past, expansion updates have helped me more easily overpower lower level content because they are balanced around the new high end. But there is always the chance that they break something and I won't be able to solo low level dungeons anymore.

  • If you're wondering whether or not now is the time to jump back in the game, I would suggest holding off a little while longer. Unless you really want to play with the new class mechanics, you're probably better off waiting until the week before patch 4.0.3 hits. That way you have one last look at the world before the big event occurs.

Friday, October 8, 2010

News Filter: Guild Wars 2 Hall of Monument Calculator

  • ArenaNet has released their Hall of Monuments Reward Calculator. All you have to do is plug in one of your character's name and you will get a break down of what awards you have earn in Guild Wars 2.

  • According to the calculator, my main character has received 12 out of the 50 available points. Honestly, I'm surprised I have that much. By the time Eye of the North rolled out, GW was already a backburner game for me. I played through the new content because I really enjoyed the game. Just not enough to play through multiple times. So I never spent much time working on my Hall of Monuments, even though I knew there would be a carry over. However now that I know what the rewards are and what I have to do to acheive them, I'm much more likely to reach a little farther. Really, how hard can it be to hit fifteen or twenty if I work at it.

  • On the other hand, my much more hardcore brother is at 41 out of 50. He might try to push for 45, but I'm sure he'll be happy with where he's at already.

  • For more info, check out Ravious's post at Kill Ten Rats.

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

News Filter: Are Chinese MMO Gamers Burning Out?

  • In a news story run by GamesIndustry.biz and picked up by Massively, Chinese games market analyst firm Niko Partners reports that Chinese gamers are starting to turn away from MMOs as they focus more on social gaming. I haven't seen any chatter about this story in the blogging community, but something about the report struck me.

  • China (along with many East Asian countries) has suffered under the stereotype as grind loving no-lifers with no taste in games who would just as soon die as turn off their computers. Niko Partners' report seems to refute the notion by showing gamers turning away from the cookie-cutter MMOs in favor of their local Farmvilles and Mafia Wars.

  • And we, the hardcore gamers of the West, scoff at the grindfests they keep churning out. But a quick look at Ten Ton Hammer lists 412 games available. (That number is inflated due to separate entries for expansions and other oddities, but you get the point.) Is it any wonder that we no longer hear about the next WoW killer? Sure, people are still chasing the MMO dollar, but it's not the wild west anymore. Only the big boys can afford play here. Anyone looking to ride the gravy train has gone to seek their fortunes on Facebook before that crashes.

  • Times are changing. If we're lucky, there is still enough money to be made that MMOs will continue to be a vibrant field where innovation and tenacity will thrive. If not, MMOs may got the way of the wargame and text adventure.

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

News Filter: Champions Online Consumed In Demonflame

  • We all knew this was coming, but Cryptic have finally released their announcement page for Demonflame, the next adventure pack for Champions Online. This time we get to journey to the Qliphothic Realm to take on Luther Black and thwart his attempt at godhood.

  • As with the prior adventure pack, Cryptic is including new costume pieces, new perks, and new pets. Oh, and there's an entire adventure to play through as well.

  • Not much else to say. I can't wait for Arcfire to have a new challenge.

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Played Lately: World of Warcraft

  • When word came out recently that Blizzard was close to launching their next expansion, I knew it was time to resubscribe. So goodbye for now, EQ2X. LotRO, I never got you installed, but I promise I will sometime next year. I'll always have Champions when I need something different, but I probably won't be back until Demonflame launches. It's time to return to Azeroth.

  • The first thing I did when I resubscribed to the game was figure out where the hell my character was. The second thing I did was figure out where I had to go to start the retaking of the Echo Isles quests. That was fun, though the final quest had the same vaguely unsatisfying buff mechanic they used for the Retaking the Undercity event. Nonetheless, I enjoyed playing through the quests. But since I didn't want to return to the daily quest and emblem grind, that was pretty much all I wanted to do with my mage.

  • Off I went in search of something else to occupy my time. Where I landed was with my blood elf paladin, the one I was saving as my original content character (which I talked about way back in April 2009). I wanted to experience the original end game content that rarely anyone uses anymore. And I was successful up to a point. I was able to solo most of the group instances by overleveling them. And I picked up some great gear that I never saw my first time through, like some Dungeon Tier 1 and 2 set and the epic Runeblade of Baron Rivendare. However as Cataclysm approaches, I could see that everything that I had come to the end of the line. The old world is going to be remade and my nostalgia tour was about to hit a brick wall.

  • But if the old level 60 content was going to be remade, the level 70 content was sitting there, just as unused and unloved. I took my paladin to Outland and I'm seeking a new challenge.

  • The Burning Crusade occupies such a strange place in the game now. When the next expansion hits, this will be the oldest content in the game. Levels 58-68 are the ones everyone sprints through now so as to reach Northrend faster. And everyone seems to hate Hellfire Peninsula.

  • But when I started playing WoW (just after patch 1.12), TBC was the promised land. Everyone was excited finally move on to the new content. And I still remember running around with my paladin, still around level 30 when the expansion launched, and dreaming of the day I would join everyone in the new world. It seemed like such an exotic place to adventure. And over the last couple of years, I've actually come to miss questing in those zones.

  • So far, my paladin has just completed all of Hellfire Peninsula and has moved on to Zangarmarsh. I was able to solo my way through Hellfire Ramparts, but I got stuck on the gauntlet event leading to the second boss in The Blood Furnace. It is amazing to me how long some I've been able to hold onto my level 60 dungeon gear into the expansion. I have been so used to getting massive upgrades with each quest because I always took soloing character through the Dark Portal with green equipment. It's nice to see that the gear reset wasn't so dramatic as I feared. (Of course, my mage was able to carry her raid gear well into the second tier of WotLK zones.)

  • To sum up, I'm back in WoW and I'm enjoying myself. I can tell that the game isn't going to eat my life like it once did. But I'm looking forward to Cataclysm and whatever new adventures I can find.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Read Lately: Lamentations of the Flame Princess

  • Have you heard about the Old School Renaissance? If you aren't into RPG blogs, it would be easy to miss. The OSR (as it's referred to by the initiated) is a call back to the role-playing games of yore, specifically the original Dungeons & Dragons and its immediate successors, like the Basic/Expert rules and up to the first edition of AD&D. They contend that game rules don't go bad just because they are old and new is not always better. I cannot help but agree. Several clones of those games have sprung up over the last couple years, works that preserve those rule systems by modifying the Open Game License.

  • Since I don't regularly play RPGs any more, I've been content to read about how people have been playing and the rule systems they've been building without diving in myself. That was until I discovered Lamentations of the Flame Princess, written by James Raggi. The subtitle for LotFP is "Weird Fantasy Role-Playing" which I think is important to mention. The real draw of Raggi's design is how he has turned away from the heroic fantasy paradigm. Instead, LotFP supposes a game world based on the weird tale fantasies of yore.

  • In most modern games like D&D 4th edition, you play as a superhero in a bright, exciting world. In LotFP, you are just an ordinary person with some specialized training who is trying to get ahead in a world that is out to crush you. You might compare it to Call of Cthulhu in the way it establishes its moods and mysteries. Which is fitting since H. P. Lovecraft was a master of the weird tale, exactly the kind of stories LotFP is looking to emulate.

  • The brilliance of the game is the commingling of its eccentric style with the stripped down and streamlined system reminiscent of the original D&D. Raggi has recreated the feel of those early rules while also bringing a modern sensibility to updating the game. From reliable new systems like target number Armor Classes to rationalizing Thief skills (now the Specialist class) with the standard skill mechanics, LotFP makes a lot of sense. It feels like the game you remember playing without all the headaches those games used to cause.

  • The game looks amazing too. The box (yes, it came in a box) has a brilliantly evocative cover, as do the books inside. There are four books inside, the Tutorial, Rules, Magic, and Referee manuals, as well as two adventures to get you started. The Tutorial does a great job of introducing you to role playing and teaching you the rules as well as the feel of the game. It also has one of the most amusing Example of Play articles ever published. That was enough to make me want to start a game right then and there.

  • Lamentations of the Flame Princess may not be for everyone (price being one consideration). But it is a game I would highly recommend to anyone interested in role playing they way they did in the early years.

© 2010 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.