Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Random Shots: Two Years After The Fact

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

  • Sending your pet back to town is useless.

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

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

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

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

© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Monday, August 29, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • "I beg your pardon?"

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 26, 2011

Admin: Post Five Hundred

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

News Filter: Go Buy Wing Commander Right Now

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

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

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

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

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

© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

News Filter: Blizzard To Launch Darkmoon Faire 2.0

  • Via MMO-Champion, Blizzard posted a preview on their blog stating that Darkmoon Faire is being updated with Patch 4.3. Originally launched with Patch 1.6, the Faire has received some small updates over time, but hasn't received the attention is deserves until now.

  • With Patch 4.3, Darkmoon Faire will have its own island with new games, quests, and shows. And there will be new rewards which I'm just going to quote here:
    We have adorable companion pets includin’ a fez-wearing monkey, a plethora of profession recipes, toys, balloons, souvenirs, delectable carnival snacks and beverages, heirlooms for the little ones, and even replicas of long-lost suits of armor that we’re offering for your Transmogrification needs.

  • Did you see that, MMO Gamer Chick? Fez-wearing monkey. You know that you'll have to resubscribe now. As will I, I suppose.

© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Random Shots: Considering A Trip To Detroit

  • It's time for another lame gamer admission: I never played Deus Ex. It didn't interest me at the time and it has not aged gracefully. So when Deus Ex: Human Revolution was announce, I shugged and did not thing about it again. That was until this week.

  • Giant Bomb livestreamed their Quick Look of the game yesterday. Damn, this game is beautiful. The near future setting is fascinating to me. I just want to crawl into that world and explore.

  • And if that wasn't enough, I saw that Blue Kae was on Steam playing last night while I was writing a blog post. No fair! It probably won't be soon, but someday I'll be buying a ticket to the dark future.

© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Read Lately: Go Make Me A Sandwich

  • The gaming community is, as a rule, pretty disgusting. From the 13 year old homophobe on Xbox Live all the way up to the developers and publishers who push sexual objectification to sell their games, gaming can be spectacularly unfriendly. It does not have to be that way, and it should not be.

  • Unfortunately, many of the blogs and websites that discuss these issues are unfriendly in their own ways. A lot of the language used and the tone of writing can feel quite exclusionary, which I find terribly ironic. I might have thought that of all such blogs until someone introduced me to Go Make Me A Sandwich.

  • Although her blog focuses primarily on sexual imagery, Wundergeek's work is a call to arms over all that is wrong with gaming. She makes strong arguments backed by extensive statistics and a multitude of egregious examples. While other blogs of its type leaving me rolling my eyes, Go Make Me A Sandwich just makes me mad that we have to put up with this in today's world. Woman are becoming much more prevalent in gaming, and yet the gaming world does everything it can to remind us that it is still a boy's club.

  • It's sad to admit, but several times I've found the example images on her blog quite appealing. No matter how enlightened I may pretend to be, the animal part of my brain cannot help but be titillated. It should not be surprising since these images are laser focused on appealing to me. But that makes me even more angry, knowing that their sexual thoughtlessness is incidental to their work at manipulating me. They are trying to sell games to me so hard that they can offend an entire sex without even caring about the consequences. And the occasional positive portrayal the Wundergeek points out are no less interesting as characters without devolving to objectification.

  • We should expect more from our community. I can't expect that we can change every idiot on the internet, but we can certainly lead by example. And that means that developers and publishers have to take responsibility for designing and marketing their games in a more inclusive way. And until they do, they can all get their own damn sandwiches.

© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Random Shots: Pandaren Possibilities

  • Because there can never be enough baseless speculation on the internet, I'm going to discuss three possible ways that Blizzard could add the Pandaren with their seemingly inevitable expansion, Mists of Panderia.

  • Hero Class - If one believes that there is some grand plan at Blizzard, the next expansion will introduce a new hero class. I hadn't considered this idea until the most recent episode of The Instance (a failure of imagination on my part). In this option, the Pandaren open up their schools to all comers, training characters of every race. So expect Goblin and Gnome monks running around the world. This seems like the most likely option.

  • New Race - Now if there is no grand plan, maybe Blizzard will add the Pandaren as a new race. There is no telling which faction they would join. But in either case, this would require a second race to be added. It would fit that ancient planning list if they did so. Blizzard would just have to figure out which classes are available, and then there would be pandas everywhere. I know that I would roll a Pandaren rogue immediately. Or paladin. Or mage. Or anything really. Giant pandas, you know?

  • Pandaren Brewmaster - This idea is off the wall, but what if Blizzard combines both ideas and makes a Brewmaster hero class that can only be a Pandaren? I'm not sure if that would make more work or less. But it does have the side benefit of preventing Chris Metzen from fabricating some lore to explain by the pandas might suddenly ally themselves with the Horde and Alliance.

  • Did I miss something? Do you have a better idea? Come to the comments and tell me how full of it I am!

© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Farewell To Ascalon: Let's Play Guild Wars - 1

  • What I remember most about that morning was the warm breeze.
  • Welcome to my first post in my Guild Wars Let's Play article, Farewell To Ascalon. All thanks go to Jayedub for giving me the idea. I just wish I'd thought of it first.

    In this series, we will follow the adventures of Khilesia Lanfier, a young elementalist, as she makes her first journey to Ascalon City. All of my
    Guild Wars characters belong to the same family, which seems strange in retrospect, but I'm not about to change it now. Just you wait until you read the story of how the Lanfier line carries over to Guild Wars 2. You're getting chills already, right?
    Before we get started, I want to take a look at our new character as we exit the creation process. Quite the looker. Well, they are all like that.

    I love ArenaNet unreservedly, but we have to talk about the character models. Complain about other games all you want, but Guild Wars was the reason the word hypersexualized was created. There is some theory that the models are a nod to NCSoft's home, Korea, where the game did meet with some success. Honestly, these characters would not seem odd if you tossed them into Lineage.

    I will vehemently deny that I bought the game based on screenshots of scantily clad women, no matter how true it may be. Enough dawdling. Let's get back to our story.

  • It was an auspicious day. My first day at the Ascalon Academy. The King put out a call for every able bodied woman and man to defend the Wall against the coming Charr onslaught. As an elementalist, I knew it was my duty, no, my privilege to serve. So I dressed myself in something appropriate for the season and made my way to the city.

  • It was there that things became . . . strange.
  • "You there," the man cried. "The woman with the heaving bosoms."

  • "Are you speaking to me?" I asked.

  • He nodded down at me from his platform. "Yes, you. Are you Khilesia?" I said that I was. "Good. Sir Tydus has been asking after you. I was worried that you might have been caught in that snarl of bodies down the road. Who knows what black magic the Charr are up to there?"
  • When you create a character in Prophecies, you start on a path in the northeast corner of Ascalon City. The problem is that so does everyone else. When I started this night, there were four characters all stacked one on top of the other, with various bits of geometry sticking out. It makes the opening camera swing down to your character unintentionally hilarious. They fixed this in Factions and Nightfall by starting you in an instance.

  • I thanked the Town Crier and continued down the road. It ran straight to the gate of the Academy. Just off to the side was my good friend, Sir Tydus. He started to greet me as I jogged up, but then he bit his lower lip and smiled oddly. "Khilesia, it's good to see you. So much of you."

  • "Oh, Tydus, I'm so excited to be here," I said as we embraced. "I'm ready to take on the Charr whenever you are! Just the two of us."

  • "Maybe more than the two of us." He took a couple steps back, looking around as though he expect a warband to pop out from anywhere. "I know what we should do. I have a friend by the name of Howland. He is an elementalist too. Why don't you meet him outside the city in Lakeside County. I can convince him to share some of his magical spells with you. Or something."

  • Nothing could have made me happier. "Tydus, you are the best. I'll go see him now. Make sure he doesn't keep me waiting." I kissed him on the cheek and ran down the path to the city gates. Along the way, I passed Tydus's wife as she walked toward the Academy. She gave me the strangest look.
  • Outside, Howland the Elementalist was waiting for me. "Tydus told me that you were going to train me."

  • His eyes narrowed as he looked me over, judging me. It was like he could see right through me. It was exhilarating and frightening all at once. I wondered what kind of magic this was. "You were up late last night. Having a party before coming to the city, perhaps?"

  • "A little celebration, maybe. But mostly I was too anxious to sleep. You can tell all that just by looking at me?"

  • "I can tell all that because you forgot to dress after you woke up this morning."

  • I laughed at his jest. "Tydus did not tell me you were so funny. No, this is what all the young elementalists are wearing."

  • If it were possible, his eyes narrowed even more. "So, young elementalist, what spells do you know? Can you summon a Meteor Shower? Do you know how to cloak yourself in the Obsidian Flesh? Do you know the secrets to assume the Form of Mist?"

  • "I don't know any of that. I don't know any spells at all."
  • This is true. A starting character has no skills whatsoever. And if you skip this quest, you can go quite a while without them.
  • "Well then," he said, his eyes even narrower. "Let's see if you can kill a River Skale Tad and bring me back its scale."

  • Tad. Scale. It wasn't heroic, but every hero has to start somewhere, right?

  • As I traveled to the river, I ran into a little girl, dancing along by herself.
  • "You dance funny!" she said with a laugh. I explained that I wasn't dancing. "Oh. Are you okay?" When I said that I was, she told me her name was Gwen and that she had lost her flute.
  • If you are coming in from a standard MMO, you're going to get a shock just moving around in Guild Wars. Click-to-move is on by default. Even though I played the game for years, I still have trouble moving around.

    Gwen is, of course, the iconic character who took on a life of her own in the community. I doubt that she would have a place in the bonus missions and
    Eye of the North if people hadn't connected with her so much.
  • It wasn't just a scale. There was the strongbox. There were the bees and the massive honeycomb. Heroism seemed like a lot of busywork. Eventually, Devona took pity on me and sent me to Ashford Abbey to speak with one of her friends. It was a nice place to catch my breath.
    And here ends part one. That implies that there will be a part two. This is where you come in. Farewell To Ascalon is an interactive experience. Whenever I post a new part, I'll add a new poll to ask what we should do next. This week's poll is to determine how much of Pre-Searing that you want to see. So please vote. If you don't vote, you can't complain about how bad the series is.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Random Shots: The Demand For Grind

  • Syp over at Bio Break has a post up about the horrendous grind involved in building up the Hall of Monuments in Guild Wars. In the post (in the title actually), he wonders if ArenaNet is going to carry the grind forward into GW2. The funny thing is that Guild Wars was never a game about grind. It's time for a history lesson for those of you who were not there from the beginning.

  • A question came up in the comments about the endgame, which I think explains a lot. ArenaNet designed Guild Wars to finish with a PvP endgame. The idea was that after people played through and finished that campaign, they would naturally want to pit their characters against one another on the field of battle. The campaign even trains you in the PvP mechanics during the missions in the Crystal Desert.

  • But a funny thing happened with their game. People started playing who had no intention of ever participating in PvP. (Conversely, there were though who hated the PvE and fought for [and won!] the ability to play PvP only. But that's a different story.) ArenaNet suddenly found themselves with an entire crowd of players who rejected their endgame. So in one of the most amazing moves I've seen from a game developer, they made an entirely new endgame.

  • New high level areas were added to the game: Sorrow's Furnace and Tomb of the Primeval Kings. These new endgame zone offered unique "green" quality weapons that came with the best bonuses available by default. Grinding these zones for green drops quickly because the new PvE endgame.

  • But that wasn't enough for most people. Everyone wanted to see bars going up, so that's what ArenaNet gave them. Titles were added with the Factions Early Start Weekend. And, oh boy, did people go crazy. In every way you might suspect. But titles were just things to help you pass the time. I gave you a goal when you had nothing else to do. And you got a nice title to wear out of the bargain.

  • But titles did not get that intense until Eye of the North was released with its Hall of Monuments. Now that grinding titles helps fill out the monument, people who had little interest in doing so before through themselves into the fray just to get the rewards in GW2. People for whom the system was not designed.

  • So when someone asks why Guild Wars is such a grind, remember that it was the players who wanted it that way.

© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

News Filter: World of Warcraft Lets You Change Your Appearace

  • The hype train is coming up to speed for World of Warcraft Patch 4.3. As usual, MMO-Champion is gathering all of the info it can track down. Remember this screen shot that I posted a few days back? It turns out to have been a teaser for the patch and the new services it will make available. Darn it. I really want to play an ethereal.

  • The two unknown services, the Transmogrifier and Void Storage, have been revealed. The Transmogrifier will allow you to change the appearance of any weapon or armor to match another piece that you own, within type and class restricitions. And since people will be saving up so much gear, Void Storage will allow players to keep around one hundred pieces of armor outside of the normal bank. (The Arcane Reforger does the same old reforging from Patch 4.0.1.)

  • Syp believes that World of Warcraft is no longer the hegemon that it once was. In light of recent moves (these annoucements along with Mists of Pandaria and the change to threat mechanics), Blizzard must agree. For many years, they have stood firm against constant pressure to add appearance gear, but they have finally crumbled. I believe that these are all signs that Blizzard has shifted from attracting new players to maintaining their current player base.

  • At this rate, can player housing be far behind? Is it already too late?

© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Random Shots: Getting It Backwards

  • I have, since the game came out, resisted playing Bioshock. Even though it received numerous raves and won countless awards, including several Game of the Year trophies, something about the game (likely its shooter roots) kept me away. I even tried the demo and it wasn't enough to interest me.

  • Then I listened to Little Sister by Miracle of Sound. Now I want to play the game. What I really want to know is if Bioshock is as good as the song makes it out to be. Does it have the same haunting tone?

  • So, yeah, I'm wondering if the game holds up to the song? How messed up it that?

© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Random Shots: You Can Lead A Horse To Gamestop...

  • As I look over the rest of the year, I'm having some trouble working up any excitement for any of the games scheduled for release. And there are quite a few games ready to go. I even made a list for you (thanks, IGN): The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Assassin's Creed: Revelations, Dead Island, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Tomb Raider, and Batman: Arkham City. And that's not to mention the sports games and rubber stamped shooters coming out. I think it was most telling when the one game that caught my eye was Chrono Trigger, off in the sidebar, already released on Virtual Console for the Wii, a system that I don't even own!

  • I'm kind of at a loss about what to do with myself. There is still The Pile to get to. Thank goodness for The Pile, I guess. Lots of good things in there. Maybe it's a good thing that I'm not excited about any forthcoming games. There is a chance that I'll get that Pile under control. (Stop laughing. That's not nice.)

  • That's not to denigrate games like Torchlight II, Diablo III, Guild Wars 2, and Star Wars: The Old Republic. I'm sure they will be good, assuming they come out this year at all. And that's the problem with them. Since I don't know when they are coming out, I'm not inclined to ride the hype wagon so early. But someday (soon, I hope), a game will come out that I can be excited about.

  • Of course, now that I'm thinking about it, there is a version of Chrono Trigger for DS. Hmm....

© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

News Filter: Blizzard Trolls The Fan Base, This Time With Ethereals

  • The hype train is ramping up as we approach Blizzcon this coming October. First there was the discovery of the trademark for Mists of Pandaria. I wasn't so sure at the time, but I'm coming around the closer we get to Blizzcon.

  • This time Blizzard decided to tease us directly. Over on their Facebook page (thanks, MMO-Champion), Blizzard released this image:

  • You can be excited about your pandas all you want, but I want to play an Ethereal. Ever since The Burning Crusade came out, I've thought that these guys were awesome. They make a great counterpoint to the money-grubbing goblins. And I love that they are such an off the wall addition to the Warcraft universe. They remind you that this is not your traditional fantasy.

  • Even if Ethereals aren't playable, I'm glad they are returning to the game. I enjoyed seeing them whenever the Consortium popped up in Outland and I can't wait for them to make their way to Azeroth.

© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Random Shots: I've Been Thinking About The Scrolls Thing

  • What "Scrolls" thing? Educate yourself, friend.

  • If your clicky-thingy isn't working, the gist is that ZeniMax Media, parent company of Bethesda Softworks, the publishers of The Elder Scrolls games, decided that they own the word "Scroll". This is pertinent because Mojang AB, the company headed by Notch, creator of Minecraft, is making a game called Scrolls. There would obviously be so much confusion between a first person action oriented immersive role playing simulation and a card game that Mojang has no choice but to change their name.

  • I agree with ZeniMax.

  • Trademark/patent/copyright law is so messed up right now as to be a joke, so I'm not supporting ZeniMax based on those grounds. Here is the real reason:

  • Scrolls is a damn stupid, boring name. Elder Scrolls is doubly so. Triply if you include The.

  • There you have it. Notch, ZeniMax is doing you a favor. Get a better name and leave the lame for the companies who deserve it.

  • Aside: This would have been a News Filter post if I hadn't written it five days after the fact. I'm not feeling all that well (ah, babies and their new germs) but I'll try to keep up with the posting here. Have a great day, friends.

© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Played Lately: Panzer Corps: Wehrmacht

  • I've never been a hardcore strategy gamer. There is a part of me that wants to be one. That's the part that reads the grognardy forums on BGG, listens to Three Moves Ahead, and owns more board games than I will ever play. But I know that once the complexity of any game reaches a certain level, my brain shuts down and I can't do anything more than look at the pretty pictures. So when Panzer General came out in 1994, I was instantly drawn to it. Easy to learn, attractive graphics (for the time), and a lot of fun, it was everything I wanted from a strategy game.

  • Time passes, of course, and Panzer General does not stack up to today's graphic and interface expectations. And the fact that I own it on 3.5" disks doesn't help either. When I heard about Panzer Corps: Wehrmacht I was unreasonably excited. Not that I rushed out and bought a copy. Not at first. What if it wasn't as good as the original? What if I spend a bunch of money on it and then just add it to "The Pile"?

  • These thoughts kept me away for a full week, but eventually I gave in. It is everything I loved about Panzer General polished for the modern era. It looks great, with a nicely textured map and attractive units. The statistics are easy to understand and easily accessible. The controls have been updated to match current conventions. The opening movie was really interesting and imaginative. And the music and sounds are perfect. The only hitch I had was with the voice over for the tutorial. It sounded like someone who does not speak English as their first language was trying to fake a German accent. Very confusing! But that is the only part of the presentation that was lacking.

  • Before I jumped into the main campaign (which I have read is not a pushover), I started with the tutorial campaign. And I call it a campaign for a reason. The silly thing lasts for six scenarios. It took me three play sessions to complete. And I actually had a lot of fun playing it. The tutorial! I really think it was a good choice to go this route. The Poland scenario in PG acted like a tutorial, so it was startling easy to roll to Warsaw in just a few turns.

  • So I have been having a great time with Panzer Corps and I haven't even started the grand campaign. I'm looking forward to starting my blitzkrieg any day now.

© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Random Shots: The Pile

  • If you play games, chances are that you have The Pile. Back when everything came on cartridges or disks, it would be a literal pile. Nowadays it maybe partially digital and spread over multiple platforms, but it's still there. It's that pile of unplayed games that mock you with their very existance. This list is off the top of my head, so there are likely two or three times as many that I don't remember or have given up all hope on.

  • L.A. Noire - I had been looking forward to this game for quiet some time. Then stuff got in the way and I haven't gone back. I believe that I'm a couple cases into the Homicide desk, so I have a lot of game ahead of me.

  • Pride of Nations - After hearing about the game on the Three Moves Ahead podcast, I decided to try out what sounded like a fascinating game. I got as far as buying and installing it during the Steam sale. And now the icon stares at me.

  • Dragon Quest IV - I love the Dragon Quest series and I've played serveral of them. But for some reason I'm stuck on DQIV. Even though it's on the DS and I have it available eighty percent of the time. I've played through all of the side chapters and I'm in the main part of the game. I just need to get my hero and his companions back to work.

  • Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12 - I was really in the mood for a golf game this year, especially since it included The Masters for the first time. I got as far as playing the first round of the first tournament and I haven't been back. Ugh.

  • The Witcher 1 & 2 - I so want to try these games out. I played a little of the first game, but who has the time to sit down and play big RPGs like this. I might as well stick Drakensang here as long as I'm listing Eastern European RPGs. So many games!

  • Starcraft II - First, I wasn't going to play this. Then Blizzard put it on sale, so I gave it a shot. I'm playing on Easy, but I'm actually enjoying myself. At least, I was for the first four missions and I haven't been back. /sigh.

  • Panzer Corps - Although it's on the pile, Panzer Corps is the one game that I've actually been trying to play recently. I just finished the tutorial (after three sessions, it's so long) and I'll probably write about it soon. Now I just to try the real campaign.

  • It's a lucky thing that there are no good games coming out for a while so that I'm not tempted to add to the pile. If it were up to you, what would you play first? What games are on your pile?

© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

News Filter: Runic Gave And Runic Hath Taken Away

  • Even though Torchlight was a great game on Xbox Live Arcade, Eurogamer is reporting the Torchlight II may be too large to fit on the service. In an interview with Runic Games CEO Max Schaefer, he said that the game would have to be significantly redesigned to accommodate the service. They still hope to bring it to Xbox someday, but there are no plans for the time being.

  • I think we all remember when Microsoft stated that the technical size limit for XBLA games is two gigabites. That seems like a lot of room unless TL2 is fabulously huge. Or maybe there is still a soft cap in place that I'm not aware of. (Google has been little help in this.)

  • Whatever their thinking, I will buy, play, and finish TL2 (and then buy more as gifts) on PC long before I have to worry about whether it makes it to XLBA or not. But I would love to have it available on both platforms.

  • If you haven't read the article, there is a lot of other good stuff in there. Don't miss it.

  • Admin Note: Yes, this news is pretty thin, but I wanted an excuse to post this: if you enjoy my Unexplored Worlds posts, make sure that you don't miss the one I posted earlier today. The RSS feed was borked due to an accidental early post, so it looks like the final post went up yesterday. So if you missed it, so check it out.

© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Unexplored Worlds: Random Crazy Person Generator

  • Gender (1d10): 1-5 - Male, 6-10 Female
    -1 is encounter is outdoors
    +1 if encounter is on an estate or in a sanitarium

  • Age (2d10+16): total indicates actual age
    For apparent age, roll 1d20-3 and add to age.

  • Hairstyle (1d4+1): total indicates number of directions hair projects

  • Manner Of Dress (1d8): see table
    1 - dressing gown
    2 - torn dressing gown
    3 - soiled dressing gown
    4 - rumpled dressing gown
    5 - torn and soiled dressing gown
    6 - torn and rumpled dressing gown
    7 - torn, rumpled, and soiled dressing gown
    8 - nothing

  • Who Is After Them (1d6): see table
    1 - Them! You know who they are! They're everywhere!
    2 - His/Her ungrateful, spoiled childred who are just after his/her money
    3 - The bugs! Can't you see all the bugs? They are all over me!
    4 - Afraid of being swallowed up by the ground (if outside)/the sky (if inside)
    5 - Cats! Haven't you seen them watching! They're always watching!
    6 - The triple headed demon goddess, Keec'klaq'clook

  • Possessions (1d3-1): total indicates number of possessions, roll 1d12 on table once for each item, roll 1d5 to determine how attached to the item the person is (5 is highly attached, 1 is not attached at all)
    1 - a bit of string
    2 - a dull knife
    3 - a stone pestle (without mortar)
    4 - half a string of wooden beads
    5 - a wooden bowl, cracked down one side to the bottom
    6 - a lady's painted fan, soiled
    7 - an iron barrel hoop
    8 - a straw brush, missing one third of its bristles
    9 - a brightly polished river rock
    10 - a treasure map (roll again on table to determine what is buried there)
    11 - an unsettling doll
    12 - something valuable (roll on Valuables table)

  • Valuables (1d10): roll once for each "something valuable" result on the Possessions table
    1-6 - a number of silver coins (roll d6s equalling the result)
    7 - a ruby the size of your thumb
    8 - a tarnished crown that fits the person's head
    9 - a talisman of magical protection
    10 - a ring of invisibility, engraved with an ancient script

  • Motive (1d6): see table
    1 - "Can you help me find my pet squirrel, Fluffy?"
    2 - "I'm really the king/queen!"
    3 - "GO AWAY!"
    4 - "The voices tell me to follow you."
    5 - "That [thing] looks very pretty. Can I have it?"
    6 - "I just want to dance!"

  • 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.

© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Played Lately: Bastion

  • I wish that I could count on you all having played Bastion though to the end because I so want to talk about spoilers. I'm not going to, but it is taking every bit of self-restraint to do so.

  • A hidden RPG - It amuses me to no end that Bastion is actually an RPG. Only they obfuscated or filed off just about every number you could find. Funny thing is that I don't miss it all that much. You have health points, but you don't know how many. You earn experience points and levels, but you have to go to the distillery to see your level. You discover weapons, but you find out how effective they are by testing them out. The weapons can be upgraded, and you can see the effects of the upgrades, but only when you are looking at them in the forge. And it works. Even though the stats are in the background, you spend your time focusing on the game and making interesting decisions, not whether you have enough Agility or Stamina.

  • So many weapons - One of the coolest things about Bastion, and one that sets it apart from other action RPGs, is the huge variety of weapons in the game. In most Diablo-like games, you have a melee weapon and a ranged weapon, but with a huge variety of stats. In Bastion, each weapon introduces a unique play style. And the beauty is that there is no bad combination of weapons. They are all effective so choose what is most comfortable, or most fun, to you.

  • Fantasy western - The tone and style of the game reminds me quite strongly of Stephen King's Dark Tower series. The game has a western feel, from the weapons and characters to the music and the story. It is so different than most games and is a welcome change of pace.

  • The end - Ugh! I so want to talk about the ending! It really is great. Supergiant mixes things up right at the end giving you new abilities and forcing you to make big choices. So brilliant. Good enough that I immediately started again with the New Game Plus option. I want to see how everything turns out if I go the other way.

  • This will probably be my last post about Bastion until you folks all swear that you've beat the game. Now get to work. I'm counting on you.

© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

News Filter: There Really Is A Borderlands 2

  • After a long week of rumors, Gearbox has finally announced that Borderlands 2 is in developement. Scheduled for release in Take Two's 2013 fiscal year (starting April 2012), it is still a way off. But at least we have something to look forward to.

  • Borderlands had been a huge surprise to me. I have mentioned more than once that I've purchased both the Xbox 360 and PC versions of the game, including all of the DLC. When I blew out the graphic card on my PC, I started over playing on the console. It's slick mixture of Diablo loot and quest with a tongue in cheek shooter made me a lot happier with the game than I expected. So I am eagerly looking forward to the new game.

  • In the meantime, I really need to go back and finish off that DLC.

  • There is more information to come in Game Informer. You can see the magazine cover image here.

© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

News Filter: Blizzard Trolls The Fan Base, This Time With Pandas

  • MMO-Champion is reporting that Blizzard, overlords of World of Warcraft juggernaut, have copyrighted the name Mists of Pandaria.

  • Epic troll, Blizzard.

  • Folks, I highly doubt that Blizzard is launching an entire expanion about the Pandarians. If anything, this will be a mini-expansion available in the Battle.net shop to add a new starting zone.

  • In the fullness of time, if there were more leaks, I will admit that I was wrong. But I just, I can't see it.

© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Random Shots: So Many Things

  • Here are a few odds and ends. I'm not really in the mood for writing a full post today, but I do have a few thoughts rattling around my head.

  • We just came out the other side of an EQ2 bonus weekend. My play time: zero. An all too common occurance recently, but I was busy this weekend. Being a grown-up sucks.

  • Since I haven't had time to even play free games, I cancelled my subscriptions to World of Warcraft and EVE Online. With the former, I really have enjoyed my time back with the game, but I haven't had the time to dedicate to playing. For the latter, I subscribed primarily to see the launch of Incarna. It launched, I saw it, I uninstalled. I'm likely to head back to WoW some day, but the chances of my playing again EVE are slim to none.

  • Despite all of my protests above, I did find the time to finish Bastion. I had to trade sleep to do so, but it was so worth it. I'm contemplating another blog post because I really enjoyed the game. Enjoyed it so much that I put it on my list of potential Top Five games for the year.

  • Although I loved the movie Firefox way back when I was a kid, I never knew it was based on a book. So when my father-in-law showed up with a copy of Winter Hawk, a follow up to Firefox by Craig Thomas. I never have been a huge fan of the techno-thriller, but I asked to borrow it when he was done. Not sure when I would get to it, but I am intrigued.

  • After a bit of trouble, I finally received a copy of C3i Magazine issue 25. If you don't know what that is, be assured that you are not alone. C3i is the house magazine for GMT Games, one of the largest remaining board strategy game publishers. It is a beautifully produced magazine with interesting articles. And it comes with so many extras that the supplemental material is a thick as the magazine itself. I haven't read a great board game magazine like this since Avalon Hill's The General. But since issues are only produced when preorders reach a certain level, I'm have no idea when the next will come out. I had better savor what I have.

  • And that's it. Not much more to say about the Diablo III thing except what I posted earlier. I am still amused that those two tweets showed up one right after the other. Have a good one, everybody.

© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Random Shots: Guess Which Game I'm Looking Forward To More

  • Submitted without comment (except the one in the post title, I suppose):

© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.