Monday, November 28, 2011

Played Lately: The SWTOR Beta Test

  • Despite what I've said in the past, I found myself wanting to try out the best test for Star Wars: The Old Republic. So as is required to keep my MMO Blogger membership in good standing, I must record my thoughts about the game.

  • It was not bad. I may even have liked it, had I the time to play longer.

  • It is not really fair to SWTOR to talk about it when I had so little play time. I rolled a Sith Warrior (the opposite of the class I would want to play when the game goes live) and, across three short play sessions, I made it through the opening quest zone to the Sith Academy on Korriban and achieved the grand level Three. And half the time I was playing one handed because I was holding a baby. It was not, I'm sure you would agree, the ideal testing situation.

  • For all that, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the game in such little time. I am not afraid to admit that I like themepark MMOs. Even playing as a Sith (woo, evil chick with a lightsaber), I enjoyed fighting things, running around, and questing. I did not get a handle on the UI, though I suspect more time with it would help. Being able to use two hands would also help.

  • And, although I was a wee bit skeptical, I actually enjoyed the talky bits. Bioware pulled off a conversation system like their single player games. Unfortunately, I was only able to take part in a few of these. But avoiding the wall of quest text was huge improvement.

  • I still doubt that I will be playing at launch. As long as I can avoid spoilers, I see no reason to subject myself to the massive crowds the game is likely to see. But I am much more likely to eventually play it instead of skipping it entirely.

  • And I just might try a character on the Sith Empire side.

© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Random Shots: Crackpot Theory of the Day - SWTOR Edition

  • Consider two items:

  • Conclusion: EA/Bioware is trying to put millions of players under NDA so that no one can talk about the game!

  • Oh, look at that. Time for my medication again.

© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Random Shots: SWTOR Is Going To Be Big

  • If there is a surefire way to determine if an MMO is going to be hit based on the amount of gold selling spam it generates. By that measure, Star Wars: The Old Republic is bound to be a success.

  • Bullet Points is a small enough blog that the spam bots (machine or human) don't even bother to try. So when someone dropped a link on an old SWTOR post, I knew that things were going EA/Bioware's way. I have a couple questions, though:

    • The spam comment was advertising "swtor credits." Is that right? I'm not in the beta, so I'm not sure if it is credits is the correct currency or not. No comment either way.

    • Who exactly are they selling credits to? The beta testers? Maybe they need to beta test their credit selling operations.

  • I hope EA and Bioware have those authenticators available at launch. If not, watch for news of an early rash of account thefts. Game safely, people.

  • UPDATE: I just had to delete a spam comment off of this very post. Hilarious!

© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Random Shots: Agreement By Degrees

  • I don't mean to pick on Jayedub (who is a really great guy), but his recent tweet perfectly illustrates a common attitude in a certain sector of the gaming community.
    How is it that everyone but this guy likes Uncharted 3? And people wonder why game reviews shouldnt be taken seriously.

  • The review he linked to is the 4/10 review on Honest Gamers by noted contrarian Tom Chick. But here is a little exercise for you. Try to pick out which of the following quotes comes from that review. (Links provided, but don't cheat.)
  • The fact that failure means you're simply sent back to the latest checkpoint turns what should be an exciting and visually compelling sequence into a game of trial and error. It's hard to get a sense of flow during the chase sequences when you're only playing the game in ten-second chunks between failures. I'd love to see the chases uninterrupted to get a feel for the rhythm and nuance of the scene, something that's impossible when you're playing them. (Link)
    Uncharted 3 is the most exciting game in the world, but only until you deviate from the script. Even in this chase the conflict between the developer's theatrical choreography and player-controlled interactions is clear. In order to ensure each set-piece is set off correctly, the game commits the cardinal sin of insinuating you have full control of your character, but in fact tugging you towards trigger points - making sure you're in the right spot to tumble over the bonnet of that braking car, for example. (Link)
    But as the spectacles get grander, the player’s interaction with them lessens. For example, there’s a visually astounding scene where you’re trapped on a sinking cruise ship. Rooms around you become flooded almost as soon as you enter them. But as long as you press forward and jump occasionally, you’ll make it through without a scratch. (Link)
    You have to participate by holding the analog stick up to move Drake forward. You are almost literally pushing him, as surely as you push a truck in one of Uncharted 3's many non-puzzling puzzles. Push him through stretches of exposition, through flashbacks, through hallucinations, through wilderness, through crevices, up walls, along railings. In the climbing sequences, which have zero sense of exploration or uncertainty, you push Drake up a wall much as you might push a child up a jungle gym to help him feel a sense of accomplishment. (Link)
    Some of the game's more tightly scripted action sequences, particularly the ones where you're running somewhere at breakneck speed, can fall apart if you don't do exactly what the designer wanted you to do exactly when they wanted you to do it. When you're running toward the camera from a giant wall of water and can't really see where you're going, one split second's hesitation or missed jump means you're going to repeat everything you just did, which is a detriment to the frenetic way these games move. (Link)

  • Did you figure it out? What is funny about all of these reviews, and several others that I looked at was that they all agreed about what they liked and did not like about Uncharted 3. What they differed on was the degree to which that swayed their opinion of the game. There are several 100 point scores on Metacritic, several in the 80s, and then there is Tom Chick with his 40. A 40 has the same problems with the game as everyone else, but could not overlook those problems like nearly everyone else.

  • If there is a reason to not take games seriously, it is because so many reviewers give inflated scores to big budget games before the deeper flaws become apparent, not because some people have different opinions. I have not played any of the Uncharted games, so I have no idea who I might agree with. But what I do believe that I would rather have a range of opinions than a line of yes men ready to stamp their seal of approval on every high profile game that comes down the line.

© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Played Lately: Dark Souls

  • It feels like accepting a dare.

  • After watching a recent Giant Bomb video of Ryan Davis playing the first couple hours of the game (which I would link, but it's subscriber only), I decided that I finally had to try out Dark Souls . Everything you have heard about this game is probably right.

  • Dark Souls is hard. And it is unforgiving about its difficulty. The very first armed enemy that you come across will kill you if you aren't careful. And you can never take any enemy for granted. No matter how many times you've killed that one undead at the top of the stairs, you can't just rush him. If you don't go in with your shield up and wait for an opening, he's just as deadly as any of the demon bosses.

  • This isn't easy to get used to. The pace of combat is slow and methodical. You might hear people complaining about being locked into animations, so they can't escape when they find themselves in trouble. But Dark Souls is not an action game; it is a game of choices and consequences. Button mashing will get you through some fights, but taking your time and planning your attacks is always the best course of action. The slower pace means that even someone as uncoordinated as I am can succeed at the game.

  • At least, I can as long as I keep the controls straight. (Attacks are on the Right Bumper and Right Trigger? Really?)

  • I've only played the game for a few days, and I have taken my time to explore, harvest souls, and learn how to play. But each and every one of those minutes has been nervewracking and thrilling. I suspect that this is similar to what MMO PvPers feel when they really get into a game like EVE or Darkfall. I'll never be hardcore enough for that, but this allows me to edge a little closer to that kind of exhileration.

  • It is a game of skill instead of stats. It is a game of exploration and discovery. It will not hold your hand, but it rewards your achievements. I didn't not even know that I've been looking for this kind of game until I played it. I wish that there was a demo available because you won't know if you like it until you play it. But if you have the chance, you might give it a try. Maybe you'll discover that it fills a hole that you didn't know was empty.

© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Random Shots: The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass

  • I briefly alluded to this in regards to the annoucement that Diablo III would be free to WoW annual pass subscribers, but I think it deserves its own post. Very likely, if reports are to be believed, the Golden Age of the MMO is coming to an end.

  • Don't panic.

  • (I've used that joke before, right?)

  • The thing to keep in mind is that this is the natural evolution of any cultural phenomenon. It is a cycle that has repeated time and again in gaming. Board wargaming had its hayday in 1970s. Tabletop role-playing games were huge in the 1980s. Collectable card games were everywhere in the 1990s. None of these genres are the colossi that they once were. Neither is the Nindento Wii. And so too will go the MMO.

  • People try to blame the games, the companies, or even their fellow players for the loss of popularity. However each of these genres exploded because they caught the attention of the mainstream for a time. People bought and played Dungeons & Dragons, Magic: The Gathering, and World of Warcraft who had no intention of looking at anything else. They were caught up in the cultural zeitgeist and were done when it passed. That is what the golden age of each of these genres looks like.

  • Some people will tell you that games in these dead genres have never been better. They may be niche games instead of mainstream, but they are still around for those of us who care about them. The same thing will happen with MMOs. We may never again see a WoW sized juggernaut. But in a way, we don't want that again. If real innovation is to take place, we need the people making MMOs to do it because they love games, not because they love money.

© 2011 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

News Filter: Grand Theft Auto V Trailer

  • It has been three years since Rockstar Games released GTA IV. So when they announced Grand Theft Auto V a couple of days ago, I was curious where they would take the new game.
  • I actually got chills watching that trailer.

  • My history with Rockstar games is not the best. I tried out all of the GTA III games, as well as GTA IV. I got the farthest in GTA IV, but never was able to get to the end. It was their other games, Bully and Red Dead Redemption, that I thought were their best. And I was able to complete each of them. I can only hope that they learn something from those games and apply those lessons to GTA V

  • After the drought that this year has been, I'm glad to have something to look forward to in 2012.