Friday, June 29, 2012

Random Shots: Gone Over To The Dark Side

  • I long resisted owning a cell phone. I don't like talking on the phone (especially since that's what I do for a living), so I didn't want to carry one around with me. But to insure my wife had phone access in the case of an emergency, I broke down and we ended up with a pair of Nokia flip phones. I didn't carry it with me (it stayed in my messenger bag most of the time), but it paved the way for the switch two years ago to the Android-based HTC Incredible. I really enjoyed that phone. But as our contract period came to an end, it was a hard decision as to what to buy next.

  • Last weekend, my wife and I switched to the iPhone 4S.

  • It was not an easy decision, though it would have been much harder it the Samsung Galaxy S III was in stock at the time. But when it came time to choose, it broke down into two reasons to switch:

    1. Curiousity - After using an Android phone for a couple years, I was damned curious to see what everyone was raving about. With all the hype, I had to know for myself if it was worth it.

    2. The App Store - More concrete though, I wanted to see it the Apple App Store, and more specifically the games, were all it was cracked up to be. After seeing game after game announced for iOS, with maybe an Android point somewhere down the line, my frustration had grown exponentially.

  • So far, I've been happy with my choice. The 4S is a sleek little device. It has taken a little getting used to. I've come to respect the openness of the Android system more than I had before. But, the games! I've already found several and I'm combing the review sites for ones that I've missed.

  • Now if someone will point me to the black turtleneck section, I'll get on with enjoying my new phone.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Played Lately: Mass Effect 3

  • After failing to play Tuesday night, I finally reload Mass Effect 3 last night. Since I wasn't aware of all the changes, I picked my last save point and charged into the game's final moments. (Actually, it crashed once and I had to try again, but this is not that story.) I'll try not to be too spoilery here, talking in code to those who know what I mean.

  • Some people, I suspect, will do everything the same just to see how their original ending would look different with the DLC. That's not me. I used this opportunity to fix some of the mistakes of my prior play through. For instance, I saved a certain somebody that I hadn't before. And when the time came, I chose a different path into the ending (blue instead of green).

  • At first, I wasn't sure much had changed during the final conversation. But the dialogue choices really were more fleshed out than before. By the time I was done talking, I actually knew how to make a proper choice. When I played the original ending, I was so bereft that I made the choice of least resistance. This time, with the knowledge I had gain since, I was able to make the choice that fit my play style correctly.

  • The cutscenes showing the extended resolution of the battle actually had me choked up. I almost couldn't believe what I was watching. Then came what I now refer to as the epilogue. The explanation of where the universe ended up after the battle was interesting at best. It did go on too long and I might have wished that the still images were more painterly if they weren't going to render them in the engine, but these are small nitpicks. By the time I turned it off (well before the end credits finished) I was satisfied with my new ending.

  • Afterward, I watched the other endings on Youtube and each one feels unique and valid, even the new fourth ending. While it is strongly hinted that there is a correct ending, I couldn't bring myself to choose it again. In all, the ending feels like a great compromise. It may not have been the climax I was hoping for, but it wasn't the punch in the gut I felt before. I no longer feel burned.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Random Shots: A Change In Plans

  • I have 22 posts in my drafts folder right now, and I'm having trouble finishing any of them. The spirit is not with me. So that's why you haven't seen any posts recently. Heck, my wife pointed out that it had been almost a week since I'd even used Twitter. For shame.

  • I would have liked to write about the Extended Cut for Mass Effect 3. Even after feeling so burned by the game, there is still the flame of hope burning. I'm not expecting much. But after doing a little reading, like this forum post at The Verge, I think I might at least be satisfied.

  • Unfortunately, my daughter had other plans. She's been sick the last couple of days. She refused to go to sleep last night, the night I wanted to return to ME3, until after midnight. She seems better now, but I must now wait until tonight and hope there are no other distraction.

  • I do have one thing I'm working on that I'll post later if I'm able. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Admin: Anjin On Buffy

  • Here's a temporary diversion while I work on a real post. I'd like to point you to a guest post I wrote for Buffy Month over at Stella Matutina. Memory, the blog's proprietor, approached my wife about guesting. She promptly passed the assignment on to me because she couldn't think of anything at the moment.

  • It's a slight little thing, with nary a bullet point in sight. But it still might be worth reading.

  • Now, back to the forges of blogging.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Random Shots: The Game Ends At Max Level

  • After reading about Leelu Butterfly's triumphant climb to the apex of LotRO leveling, I decided to take an inventory of MMOs where I've reached the level cap.

    • World of Warcraft - Ashlynh (TBC 70, WotLK 80, & Cata 85) & Kyralahn (TBC 70 & WotLK 80)

    • Champions Online - Arcfire (40)

  • Huh. That can't be right, can it? I'll right back.

  • Well, I just went over to Bio Break to read his MMO Timeline and I was right. There is not a single other game on that list where I've even approached the level cap. Unless you could Guild Wars. I don't count Guild Wars.

  • Once upon a time, I expended a lot of effort to decry the state of the solo endgame in MMOs. Now, I wonder what all the fuss was about. There is no endgame worry about if you still have several levels ahead of you. I just went back to Rift recently. My first time through, I only ever saw three zones. How many more were available at launch? And then there's Ember Isles, which was added later? And how much of Everquest 2 is there to see? I've never even been to Freeport, the most iconic zone in the game.

  • Am I alone in this? I need some insight, folks. And not just from my commenters. Everyone. I put a poll in the right hand column. I want to know how often you reach the level cap in your games. No, this is not a ploy to get blog hits. (Yes, it is.)

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Random Shots: The Sins of the Developer are to be laid upon the Player

  • I often wonder if people think I'm crazy when I go off on feminist rants here on my (spify new) blog. As I've grown older, I've become more and more queasy about the depiction of women in games. The addition of a daughter to my life has only accelerated this change. So as recent events have displayed exactly how bad this industry treats half of its fans, I find it hard to keep quiet.

  • There was a lot of the talk this year about whether E3 matters any more. While I have no doubt that it will continue for years to come, I fear what the spectacle says about us. Year to year, the overwhelming presence of booth babes serves as a constant indictment of the industry and its audience. They remind us that no matter proportional of the audience they make up, women are not welcome in gaming. And they remind us how little they think of men that the hint of female flesh is all that is needed to draw our attention.

  • Of course, we don't need E3 to tell us that women are held in some distain by developers. There are so few well-rounded, non-sexualized female characters in gaming that just about everyone can name the few that exist. (I can think of four. Four.) Gamers are treated to a long string of sex objects instead of characters. Sure, everything below my beltline is fine with that, but I'm frequently embarassed to play these games in front of my wife. And is this how I'm supposed to teach my daughter about gaming? Someone smarter than me needs to come up with a video game version of the Bechdel Test, just to set an absolute minimum requirement for inclusiveness.

  • If you don't think that there is anything wrong with this, just look at the culture that has grown up around gaming. Just look at what happened to Anita Sarkeesian. Her crime seemed to be Gaming While Female and for having the temerity for pointing out how these games could be better. I'm hesitant to point the finger at developers directly. But their continuous disregard for how women are portrayed in their games does nothing to help the situation.

  • Tesh recently tweeted:
    If we embrace stupidity and mediocrity because what we produce is “just entertainment” what hope is there of advancing the state of the art?
    We can do better. We can demand better. As a man, I don't like being treated like Pavlov's dog, with a pair of digital breasts the bell to make me salivate. It belittles me, and it belittles women everywhere. It's time for us all to grow up.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Admin: Anjin In Exile

  • Bullet Points is no more. Welcome to Anjin In Exile. I hope you enjoy your stay.

  • I would appreciate if you would pass along the news to any site that still lists the old link. I don't want to lose more readers than I have to.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Random Shots: The Best of E3 2012

  • I'm running a little behind here because of vacation. I hope you'll excuse the fact that this isn't the most timely post.

  • It's that special time of year again when all of the good little boys and girls get their rewards. It's that Christmas In June we like to call E3. As a jaded old man, most of the announcements fail to excite me. But there are a few that have pierced my Plate Mail of Cynicism +1.

  • I am, honest-to-goodness, enthusiastic about South Park: The Stick of Truth. The game looks completely authentic to the show and it sounds hilarious. This might be the one instance where I recreate myself as an avatar, if only to put myself into that world. Since it's not coming out until 2013, it will be a while. But I am anxious to see more about this game.

  • One of the biggest games I was looking forward to was the new XCOM: Enemy Unknown from Firaxis. The initial information looked interesting, but I've been hesitant none the less. But although this trailer has no gameplay, the tone and the feel of it have me very excited. If those designs for the cyberdisks, sectoids, mutons, and others are from the game, it's going to look awesome.

  • The one surprise of the show for me was Watch Dogs. It feels like a modern take on Ubi's Assassin's Creed games. That can't be a bad thing. There is a strong suspicion that Watch Dogs is destined for next-gen systems, and I can understand why. If that's what we have to look forward to, I can't wait to my hands on a new console.

  • What did you think of E3 this year? Anything you're looking forward to?

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Played Lately: Rift

  • The MMO blogging community can be a mysterious thing. One minute we're doing our own thing, next we're all turned in one direction like a herd of cattle. With the announcement of the Storm Legions expansion, it seems like attention is turning toward Rift.

  • Blue Kae mentioned on Twitter that he was thinking about resubscribing. Syp is having a good time back in the game, all the while wondering about how Trion has kept their heads down and built an impressive MMO. And Wilhelm, The Ancient Noob Of Gaming, discusses how launching Storm Legions is the ultimate sign of health for the game.

  • I have long contended that an MMO has two modes: expansion or death. If your MMO is not growing, it's only a matter of time before the servers are turned off. That's one of the assumptions about MMOs that people don't really talk about anymore. I think it's a given for most. But one of the best promises of the genre is that our subscriptions would go toward expanding the world. Everyone likes to point toward the first year of World of Warcraft as the ideal for the model, but I suspect that Trion has them topped. (Not to forget CCP. Those folks are crazy.)

  • It had been so long since I tried the game that I knew it was time to try again. So I resubbed, rerolled, and re... started adventuring. I rolled an elf cleric on Faeblight, just to give it a shot. I was pleasantly surprised by all of the updates since my last time in game. I was aware that they changed the soul system a bit, but I wasn't aware of the pre-built specs. The huge portal in the first quest zone in Silverwood was a welcome addition. And I stayed up too late fishing, a nice little update to the tried-and-true mechanic.

  • It has been so long that Rift feels like a new game to me. And in many ways, it is since I only got a few zones into the world. I'm uncertain if I'll last long enough for the expansion to matter. But in the mean time, I'm going to catch way too many fish.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Random Shots: The Brain/Paper Barrier

  • Once upon a time, I wrote a book. I can't vouch for how good it is, but it exists. I'm proud of that fact. What I wasn't a huge fan of was the actual writing. I have no patience, for anything really. So now that I have two projects rattling around in my brain, I find that inertia is keeping me from bring them to life.

  • On one hand, I still have the short gamebook that I wrote a couple years ago. I got some great help playtesting it, but I never got to the hard part of editing the thing. Blue Kae recently suggested that it might be eligible for the Windhammer Prize. The funny thing is that the book was written specifically for that reason. Only I intended to submit it in 2011. Considering how close it is to completion, I would really like to try again here in 2012.

  • On the other, I've caught the game design bug again. I suspect that many gamers are amateur designers at heart. (Just look at any MMO blog.) So, I've been formulating a card driven, simplified Paradox style game set in the far future. Sort of a mix between Crusader Kings II and Fallen London, you might say. Sound interesting? It feels like a lot of work, but it also feels like it has potential. I'm putting it out there so that you can bug me about it in the future.

  • This post is mostly about letting me clear my head space. And maybe to post a few random links. I'll keep you informed of any successes or failures soon.

© 2012 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.