That Angry Dwarf

Grumbling about Games (and more)


The Gaming Questionnaire, Part 1


Posted By on Aug 22, 2014 | 3 comments

A bunch of people have been answering the gaming questionnaire that was posted at Cannot Be Tamed earlier in the week, and I figured I ought to respond with my own. However, like Liore, I’ve decided to split out the first 10 questions into one post. This is convenient, since SPOILER ALERT we may just end up talking about the second half of it on Cat Context this week!

So, here are my answers!

  1. When did you start playing video games?
    I’m not sure I even remember. I’ve been playing for as long as I can remember, but I expect the first non-arcade games I played were in the mid-80′s on my family’s Apple IIe.
  2. What is the first game you remember playing?
    It would have to be one of the aforementioned Apple IIe games. Probably Choplifter or Swashbuckler or Hard Hat Mack. It’s entirely possible that I played something on a friend’s NES or ColecoVision, but those are the ones that stick out in my mind.
  3. PC or Console?
    I’m going to hedge here and say both. I love PC gaming, but I would not be anywhere as much of a gamer today if it weren’t for consoles. And I’ve been buying and playing console games for basically just as long as PC games. These days, if it’s a game I have to pick? It totally depends on whether I’ll be playing with people. Although I will say that sitting on the couch and looking at a large screen is pretty appealing…
  4. Xbox, Playstation, or Wii?
    I have all of them, does that count? I’ve owned a PS1, PS2 (two!), PS3, Xbox, Xbox 360, and every Nintendo console except a WiiU, so I’m pretty committed to not letting those lines stop me from playing something awesome. I’m leaning PS4 to start the next generation, though, if that helps. Even though Microsoft has the better controllers.
  5. What’s the best game you’ve ever played?
    This is basically an impossible question, but I’m going to answer GemStone III/IV. I’ve talked about this one before, but it is a MUD-style game that basically introduced me to long-term roleplaying and MMOs. I don’t actually recommend that anyone goes back and plays it now (sorry, Simutronics), but this is really my first true gaming love. And my longest-lasting, although WoW is creeping up on it!
  6. What’s the worst game you’ve ever played?
    I love this question, and wish I had a better answer, but I really don’t. I have a lot of uncompleted games, and most of the really bad ones fall into that pile before I can start to feel too strongly about them. That said, I’m going to go with Star Wars Galaxies post-Jedi/combat revamp. I seriously hated what Jedi did to that game. Seriously hated it. Star Wars is SO MUCH MORE INTERESTING when it involves the normals, and not the stupid god-like Jedi. I don’t want to know about your bullshit ability to kill people with your mind or whatever, I just want to explore what it’s like to be a struggling spice-trader who sides with the Rebellion out of convenience! Also the combat revamp and attempt at shoehorning WoW-like quests into that game was a really bad idea. What is it with Star Wars MMOs doing stupid things to otherwise fun games?
  7. Name a game that was popular/critically adored that you just didn’t like.
    Umm… Warcraft 3? Anything in the Civilization series? Basically, any RTS or turn-based strategy game. With very few exceptions, I’ve never really enjoyed my time with them, despite being totally intrigued by their intricate balance and long-term strategizing.
  8. Name a game that was poorly received that you really like.
    I’ve talked about Heavy Rain a bunch of times, so that’s the easy one. The other game that I really enjoyed, but didn’t do well critically, is Brutal Legend. There was just something so… fun about that game. And for whatever reason, I totally dug the tower defense/RTS boss battle bits, which were pretty universally panned.
  9. What are your favourite game genres?
    I have an irrational love for beat-em-ups. Like Devil May Cry and God of War. I don’t actually know if this is my favorite genre, but it’s one that doesn’t seem to get enough love in these things. I like a pretty wide swath of games, from FPS to puzzle games to Adventure games to MMOs. Basically, if it’s not an RTS, I’d probably try it. Or maybe a sim, since those have a lot longer learning curve than I’m willing to put up with these days.
  10. Who is your favourite game protagonist?
    It’s pretty hard to argue with anyone’s choice of Commander Shepard, here. I’m sure that this is in large part due to the personal investment I had in her life, but there was also just a ton of well-realized detail and depth. So I’m going with the easy answer!

That’s all for now! Hope you enjoyed, and tune in to the podcast for some more discussion!

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Struggling to MMO


Posted By on Jul 17, 2014 | 7 comments

When Wildstar first launched, I was super excited. I stayed up until 2am or so just trying to create my character(s) and play around on head start weekend. A bunch of folks were hanging out on Mumble and everyone seemed super excited – and so was I! I played quite a bit for the first few weeks of launch, and maintained a reasonable leveling pace that combined exploring all sorts of things and feeling like I was making progress.

Then, however, life got a bit busy. There was some vacation, some work travel, some heavy work weeks, etc. And, eventually, I realized that I hadn’t even logged in to the game (or any other MMO, for that matter) for almost a month. That would normally be fine – I’m casual or whatever, right? – but the problem is that, even after being back to “normal” for a couple of weeks, I still just… can’t.

I’m not sure what it is, exactly, because I still like Wildstar. And every time people talk about it, I wish I was playing. But the one time I made myself log in, I just sort of wandered around my (really sparse) housing plot, looked at the 5g in my bag and the 1g it cost to make myself a relic farm, wandered around Thayd trying to remember where my quests actually were, and then logged out.

I talked a bit about some of this on the podcast this week, but I think there are a few reasons that I’m struggling:

MMOs reward habits. Or, maybe more directly, they are specifically crafted to be habit-forming. And I think they work best when they are habitual. You get into the routine of logging in, checking mail and auctions, remembering where you are in the questing, figuring out what names all your guildmates are using this time around, and going about your business. Once you break that habit, it can be hard to start forming it again. And particularly hard if you have previously been through the cycle of teaching yourself how to break an MMO habit!

Whether it’s true or not, I feel like I’ve missed out on a crucial period. My highest level character is 21 or 22, but it seems like the critical mass of my guild is now 40+. And so I’m not going to be among them when they are first running into Skullcano and encountering the guy who wants to make them into a stew, or the giant thing, or whatever the hell this picture is showing… And that’s fine, really. It’s not like anyone should feel bad for me that I was enjoying myself on the beach in Hawaii! It’s just that what I was looking forward to the most was the actual process of learning to overcome these things with people while they were learning, too. I think I kind of hyped myself up for that, and now I am left wondering if it’s all just going to be another WoW situation where everyone “knows” the best way to run any instance I go to, or whatever.

And, actually, the fact is that I could probably push hard at leveling and join most of my group by the time the stragglers are hitting 50 and starting to do dungeons and attunement things, and then I could still get involved with the learning of some things, even if it’s not all the things. That’s pretty cool! So then I come up with feelings about how speed-leveling is annoying because I like exploring and reading the stories and listening to datachrons and all that, and then I feel like I have to make that tradeoff which kind of sucks. Or, alternatively, I look at “having” to play 50-60 hours of mostly-solo gaming for a chance at something else later. And if I was going to spend 50-60 hours on a single-player game, I might actually play Skyrim! (hah)

Anyway, I’m mostly just venting here. There’s clearly some merit to the “Just start playing again! Log in for 20 minutes, do something, and see if you keep wanting to play. Then try again tomorrow!” plan. That’s probably how I will get over this funk, even. There’s also an argument to be made that I should just sort of give up on Wildstar (or maybe MMOs entirely?) for a while, since this does feel a bit like burn-out. But that sucks since people are actually playing together!

Mostly, I’m just looking to see if I’m the only person that this sort of thing happens to, and if there are any sorts of tricks that people have used to pull themselves out of it. In the meantime, I’ll work on the backlog or something…

 

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Note: I missed posting for several episodes. They can be found on the podcast’s main page, over at YouTube, or in your podcast app. You should listen to them, because they were good!

Episode 55 of the Cat Context podcast is now available!

After a few episodes missed due to travel, I returned to the podcast to join Liore and Arolaide in a discussion about the last several weeks in gaming.

Last week, a community manager from LotRO let out what is surely the industry’s worst-kept secret: raiders are simultaneously one of the smallest and most vocal segments of their community! Who knew?! Besides everyone. But it has prompted some discussion, and we joined the conversation. We start out discussing whether raiders get more than their fair share of developer attention, but as these things go, eventually worked our way around to casual vs hardcore.

Liore quickly jumps on the hardcore-is-awesome train, despite being a filthy casual, by calling out “casuals” as more often displaying elitist attitudes. In the end, we come to the conclusion that most of the problem actually lays with the bads – especially those who know they are totally not bads, you guys. After that, we took a question from Telwyn about how our attitudes towards MMOs have changed over time (thanks for the question, these always seem to start interesting discussions!).

Also, we get around to talking about our Steam Summer Sale purchases! I whine a bit about being in an MMO funk and “falling behind” in Wildstar. Aro talks about box forts and moving tiny people across state lines. Also, she takes offense at me not thinking that watching her build her rocket house is “interactive group content”.

As always, head on over to the official episode page, hit us up on iTunes, or check out our YouTube channel! Please continue to send in ratings, comments, and questions.

 

 

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No, I’M Slim Shady


Posted By on May 08, 2014 | 4 comments

Wildstar has been available for pre-order for a while now, and release (and head start – because it’s totally a race AMIRITE) are coming up in just under a month. And while I still haven’t put in my pre-order, it’s pretty clear that I will be playing the game upon release and should probably get on that. I mean, they’re giving you a rocket-house. And an extra bag because it’s more fun to restrict the inventory space of normals arbitrarily. And the head start, which is actually sort of nice because it means you can start playing on a weekend instead of the typically awkward Tuesday release date. These are all actually incentives that are useful to me!

But, as the post title suggests, there’s one bonus that’s on offer that I probably won’t take advantage of – and that’s the ability to reserve your name ahead of time. They still haven’t actually said how this is going to work (other than that it will be available May 13 – 23), but it will be interesting to see whether you have to pick a server to go along with your name choice, or whether your name will somehow be reserved across the entire game. If it’s the latter, then I can see this being a bigger selling point. And I can absolutely see the appeal for things like Guild names.

I know there are some people (probably a lot) that carry a particular name from game to game, but I’m not really one of them. There are a few names that I have reused over the years, but inevitably, I end up picking my name at the very end of character creation. Not because it isn’t important – in fact, it can totally make or break a character for me!-  but because I never feel like I can properly name someone until I know who they are. And I can’t possibly know that until I’ve gone through the rest of character creation. And even when I’ve already been playing a game for a while and could tell you with pretty strong certainty what race/feature/gender combination I am going to pick, I wouldn’t be able to pick a name until I’m looking at the finished product.

Am I weird in this? I can reuse things like a gamer tag because it isn’t tied to a character (and is sort of intentionally not name-like), but the name “Ellyndrial”? I don’t think I’ll ever really be able to use that again. It just has too much history, and that specific character means something specific in my internal pantheon. It works okay for some of the more minor characters that I’ve had – but usually those are characters that I really was interested in playing out, but never quite made it.

What about you guys? Do you reuse names from game to game? When do you retire a character for good?

 

 

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The Elder Scrolls Online

At the end of last week, I was lucky enough to be invited onto MMORPG.com’s GameOn podcast to speak with Paul Sage, Creative Director for The Elder Scrolls Online at Zenimax Online, to discuss the first month of TESO and the studio’s plans for the future. We talked about launch issues, the challenges in designing for single-player vs MMO crowds, and what players can look forward to in Craglorn.

Overall, I felt like it went pretty well for my first serious-business interview! I hope it ends up being good to listen to. I’m still trying to find my feet, and I probably need to continue to learn how to ask more direct questions and tease out direct answers. While, ideally, not alienating people and making them never want to talk to me again.

There’s a write-up of the discussion, which you can find here, but I’d recommend that you listen to the actual interview, and let me know what you think!

You can listen online here, or find GameOn on iTunes here.

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Episode 50 of the Cat Context podcast is now available! Happy birthday to us!

This week, Liore, Arolaide, and I celebrated our two-year podcasting anniversary in style. With a listener question special!

Have any of us said anything on the podcast that we regret – or feel differently about now? Which developers would we interview, given the chance? What do we think is yet to come in MMOs? Do we find blogging or podcasting more difficult and time-consuming? (Hint: I like to talk a lot, and I don’t have to do the actual editing.)

And, as usual, we’ve been playing games. And this time, we’ve even been enjoying them! Liore is all aboard the ArcheAge train. I’m immersed in TESO. And Aro. Well, Aro likes vampire hunting in Bloodmasque. And I can’t even blame her.

Thanks so much for all of your support over the last two years! It’s great fun to do it, but if the listeners didn’t tune in, it wouldn’t be nearly as rewarding. Here’s to at least another two years!

As always, head on over to the official episode page, hit us up on iTunes, or check out our YouTube channel! Please continue to send in ratings, comments, and questions.

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TESO is… fun?

TESO is… fun?


Posted By on Apr 24, 2014 | 1 comment

Let me preface this with two (large) caveats. First, I have never really played any Bethesda games, and have a total of ~5 hours experience between the Elder Scrolls and Fallout franchises. Second, and related, I have not followed TESO at all. I mean, as much as is possible, at least – I knew a few things about it, and I knew that a lot of people had strong negative reactions to it.

So, then, it was a bit odd that I found myself picking up a copy of the game yesterday and playing it for about 4-5 hours last night. There are a few reasons that I ended up doing this, but the primary driving factor is that I may end up talking to some people involved with the game, and I didn’t want my complete and utter ignorance to show through. This clearly called for some background research, and, well, I’ve spent $60 on a terrible game lots of times before. If nothing else, I figured it would make for an interesting blog post and some ability to commiserate with certain factions of the internet.

That said, it wasn’t all bad going in. I had heard some talk about the relatively flexible class system, and that seemed like something that I was pretty interested in trying. I knew that it had some version of active combat, and I’ve enjoyed that quite a bit in TERA and WildStar’s beta. It’s heavily voice-acted, which I loved in SWTOR. And, also like SWTOR, it happens to use HeroEngine – which is a platform that was originally built by Simutronics, with whom I have a long and storied past.

First things first, the character creator is something that I could spend a ton of time with. Aside from the fact that the races consist of Humans, Human-looking Elves, Human-looking Orcs, some other Humans, and mostly-Human-looking Cat and Lizardfolk, I was pretty happy with the variety of options available. There are tons and tons of slider bars, to tweak everything from Eye Color, to Ear Tilt, to Neck Thickness, to “Posterior Size”. There are plenty of variations on hair, accessories, tattoos, and body makeup. In the end, I settled on a Wood Elf.

I'm on a ship!

I’m on a ship!

I ended up picking Sorcerer for my class, and started off using a staff (because that’s what happened to be on a bench in the starting area). But the cool thing is that, it seems like all of the classes can use all of the weapons, and you actually derive your skills from a combination of things. Which is good, because I eventually decided that I wanted to try out being an arcane warrior and run around with a 2-handed sword for a while. And then I moved on to archery. I read about some people running around with two axes and magic. That seems awesome.

Essentially, you level up in various skills separately from each other, and can mix and match skills from your Race, Class, Weapon, Guild, etc. Every so often, you get to put a point in to one of the skills, and it feels like you can really just customize them to play in tons of different ways. I have no idea if this game will end up having a ton of viable ways to play your character, but I sure hope so!

Of note: it definitely does seem like you can “waste” points early on, if you aren’t really sure what you want to do. I’ve already done it with a couple points in staves that I may not ever use again. But I also don’t care. Points come quickly enough right now, and I get the feeling that there will eventually be more than enough to go around.

And just running around doing stuff is pretty fun. I know there has been some talk about it not being open-world enough for fans of the series, and I totally get that. But that is also one of the things that has put me off of the series, in the past. Not having any real sense of direction can get super awkward for me, especially when that is the very first introduction to the game. Here, I feel like I do have some amount of guided tourism, but there are also people/events to interact with along the way. It’s a good mix that is working for me.

Hey, look, the Queen says I am the One True Hero! What are *you*?

Hey, look, the Queen says I am the One True Hero! What are *you*?

That said, there are definitely some issues. The lag I had while playing last night was pretty tough to deal with. Active combat doesn’t really work very well when you can’t actually block because you’ve already been hit… Nor does short-vs-long clicking for attack mode when the game can’t properly respond to your mouse. (This definitely contributed to my swapping out a staff for a bow.)

Some of the voice acting and writing is less than stellar, it’s true. But I’m somehow okay with that. I think the very fact that there IS voice acting is still novel enough to me that it is a net positive. And people are having issues with the fact that ESO does not necessarily look as brilliant as fully-modded Skyrim. Which is true, because you can totally do stuff like this. But, honestly, I like the way it looks. I think it looks quite a bit better than many other MMOs that I am/have played, and there are clearly concessions that have to be made because of the number of people playing it at once.

I honestly think that the biggest disconnect may just be that I’m approaching this from a non-enfranchised MMO player’s perspective, rather than a long-time ES universe devotee. I’m sure that, if I’d spent hundreds of hours with these games in the past, I would be able to find a lot of things that they did wrong – or at least, differently – that annoyed me. I even expected to find that when I didn’t have that background. But, instead, I’m finding a world that I am enjoying playing in. And maybe this will serve as an eventual gateway into the rest of the ES universe!

Who knows? All I do know is that I am pleasantly surprised and fully intend to keep up with TESO. At least for a while.

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Special Note: This Sunday, we will be recording our 50th episode and celebrating our two-year anniversary! We are taking any and all questions, so please help us out. Send in your questions via the comments, tweet them at us, send an email, or leave us a voicemail over at the main episode page. Thanks for listening!

Episode 49 of the Cat Context podcast is now available!

This week, Liore and Arolaide put their English backgrounds on display, while I simply did my best to not look like a total idiot, as we reviewed the hit novel Ready Player One!

While the book has been available for a while, Liore and I finally got around to it, and just in time for the Facebook purchase of Oculus VR to bring it back into focus. What do we think about it? It’s definitely popular – but is it any good? Liore breaks out her English degree (and attempts a pun). Aro talks about virtual car design! I… am easily amused.

We also talk a bit about WildStar’s latest beta patch, prominently featuring a UI revamp and new body type options for character creation! We chat about our impressions and try to decide whether this impacts our intent to purchase or play the game.

In What We’ve Been Playing, Liore talks about her early alpha adventures in ArcheAge chicken farming, Aro talks about the continuing adventures of OrangeLady and OrangeLady’sBrother, and I show off my totally sweet emo vampire Masque.

To listen, head on over to the official episode page, hit us up on iTunes, or check out our YouTube channel! Please continue to send in ratings, comments, and questions. It’s great to hear from you, and we appreciate the feedback.

 

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