Posts made in October, 2012


Extra-Life Post-Mortem


Posted By on Oct 22, 2012 | 0 comments

Well, that was fun! And, on the whole, the Extra-Life community raised nearly $1.9 million! That’s incredible! Thanks to everyone that was involved – either by participating, donating, or simply showing up and keeping us company while we made it through. Special thanks to Liore for a) talking me in to doing this and b) providing someone to talk to at various hours of the night.

I actually was surprised at how easy it was to stay up for 24 hours straight. I did take several breaks, to rest my eyes/stretch my legs/etc, and I think that helped a lot. I had originally planned for no caffeine, but that plan sort of went to hell at around 2am. Whatever, it ended up okay. I think the worst hours were the last two, and part of that was probably just due to the fact that I came back to Rift to do some fairly generic quests for reputation-building purposes. Maybe the quests weren’t generic, but they certainly weren’t as engaging as some of the games I’d been playing up until that point. So that, combined with the fact that I ran out of coffee – or decided I wasn’t going to have anymore – probably just lined up to cause some issues. Regardless, after only a couple near-deaths from sleep-walking off of cliffs, I finished out the night with a bit of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. And I did surprisingly well! At least in the Arms Race games I was playing in.

Details, man, details!

So what did I play, in the end? Surprisingly few games, actually. I’ve been trying to piece the hours together, but it’s not going to happen. I did a bunch of streaming, through the Machiavelli’s Cat Twitch.tv channel, and the videos can be seen here. That, plus my Steam game history has filled in most of the blanks. Here’s a rundown of what I got into (in semi-chronological order):

  • Rift
    • Rift ended up filling in a lot of the in-between times. Whether I was just running around doing some quests, doing a little crafting, or feeding inter-dimesional corgis treats to improve their “help sick kids” stamina, I kept coming back and finding something to do. I completely missed getting on to the Storm Legion beta, but I’m not convinced I need to. I’ve already pre-purchased it, really enjoyed what I saw last time, and want to maintain some level of “this is new!” feeling for when I start playing it for real. I do want to help out with bugs and the like, but I still have things that I’m interested in doing on Live, and I just didn’t get to it. Trion was an awesome supporter of Extra-Life, contributing things like special titles for folks that stayed logged in to their servers for 24 hours over the weekend, and special events like the aforementioned Corgi rifts (which rewarded the title “Of House Fluffington”!).
  • Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood
    • I’ve been meaning to return to Ezio Auditore and his exploits for a while, now, and I finally did on Saturday morning. I’m not that deep in, but the game looks great, and I’m really excited to get some more AC in my life. After this one, I have AC: Revelations, and AC3 is out at the end of the month, and should be great fun. It was actually Liore’s streaming of the start of AC2 that made me decide to break this out, so thanks!
  • Borderlands 2
    • A couple friends came over to hang out and keep me company in the afternoon, and that was awesome. I’d originally sort of planned to break out a board game or some Magic: The Gathering, but instead we dropped back in to Pandora for some more shooting and looting action. The game is always fun in co-op, and while there are some issues with visibility when playing split-screen, it holds up pretty well. Shout-out to xoanon, here!
  • Dungeon Defenders
    • Liore, Mangle, Kinch and I played some Dungeon Defenders, and it was great! This was only my second session of the game, and it was a ton of fun (again). I’ve waited so long between playing it primarily because it seems awesome to play with 4 players, and I feel like it would be a pretty different game when played solo. Either way, my monk was dropping down auras of electrical doom and confusion, while smashing goblins and ogres with his axe and magic hand-shooty things. And our Squire dropped spinning blades of doom all over the place, which were amazing. I totally look forward to playing this again – definitely glad I picked this up during the last Steam sale.
  • Smite
    • I keep playing Smite whenever I want just a 30-minute game without too much overhead. The same thing happened over the weekend, except that I played terribly (as Ymir, who I’ve seen be a truck, but apparently not under my control), my team was terrible (one person predictably DC’d 3 minutes in), and the other team was pretty solid (at least relative to us). So, whatever. It’s still fun to actually play, even in crushing defeat. I just wish I could have access to more characters than I do without dropping in real money just yet – especially since it remains in beta. But I should probably get over that, since I clearly enjoy the game.
  • Far Cry
    • I wanted a change of pace, so I broke out one of my old Far Cry save points. Turns out that a) I didn’t remember where I was or why I was there, b) it’s pretty unforgiving, and c) I should have picked it up when I had more patience for being stealthy and deliberate. All in all, I spent 30 minutes or so dying over and over again to mutant gorillas and militia dudes who were more intent on shooting me from across the jungle than the donkey kongs that were eating their faces. So, rather than get frustrated, I gave up and moved on to something else.
  • The Walking Dead: Episode 1
    • This was one of the highlights of the night. I’d heard a ton of good things about these games (which are being released as episodic content within the larger game – they are up to 4/5 having been released), but missed the boat on the last sale. Instead, I decided to buy it at full price, and I’m totally okay with having done so. It is an incredibly narrative-focused adventure game, that sort of thows back to some of the point-and-click adventure games that I used to love. Except with great writing, cool characters, and zombies. And also a tonof tension and hard choices. I don’t want to say too much about it, lest I spoil it, but it was really, really good. Episode 1 took about 90 minutes to get through, and made my dark-house coffee runs a lot more interesting later in the night. You should totally play these at some point, even if you wait for all 5 to be released and get the all-in-one version.If you want to see more of what I’m talking about, you can watch my entire playthrough (which I streamed live at the time) here on Twitch.tv.
  • I Wanna Be The Guy: Gaiden Edition
    • This is a follow-up/sequel/something version of I Wanna Be The Guy, which is just a really brutal platformer. Turns out it is also a ton of fun, and there is basically no coddling at all. In fact, I died 4 times before I even got to level 1-1. Awesome. I don’t want to say too much about it, other than that a) Liore suggested it as part of the Extra Life campaign, b) I started playing about about 5am, c) I finished level 1-1 with just under 400 deaths, and d) it was really, really fun.I guess I am a sucker for the “do this incredibly precise thing and if you mess up at all, you have to start over” genre. The Trials games and Super Meat Boy seem to scratch that itch for me, too. Even if I can only take them in small chunks. I totally recommend it. Here is a screenshot of me dying before the “Get Ready!” message has even faded out – a not-uncommon occurence.
      I streamed this one, too.
  • Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
    • I used to play a ton of Counter-Strike in college. And then I kept playing occasionally afterwards, migrating to CS:Source at some point. CS:GO is the newest installment, and they’ve done a bunch of things to update it, but it’s still CS, at heart. I am still incredibly streaky, and can be anywhere from 25-2 to 0-20 on back-to-back maps. So that’s fun. But they’ve also added the Arms Race mode, which is basically a built-in version of something like Gun Game, and you just get a new weapon every kill. It’s ostensibly a team-based game, but you mostly ignore your teammates and shoot the enemies. So, I guess, a lot like typical casual CS. Either way, it is fun to play, and was a good way to round out my night.

So that’s it, really. The run-down on what I played and my thoughts on each of the games. I had a blast, and I definitely intend to participate again next year! Thanks again to everyone that participated in any way, and special thanks to the folks at Extra-Life.org for making this all happen.

Read More

Extra Life Marathon!


Posted By on Oct 20, 2012 | 0 comments

Annnnnd we’re off! I’m about to start my 24-hours of gaming for the Extra Life event. I’ll be streaming a large portion of it, either at the Machiavelli’s Cat stream here, or on my personal Twitch.tv channel here. Aside from that, you can find me on Steam or Xbox Live. Please stop by and say hi, or drop a note in my comments!

And if you’re feeling generous, or I do something particularly awesome, donations are still open.

I’ll be starting off with some RIFT, and then I’ll go from there. See you online!

Read More

Change is Scary


Posted By on Oct 18, 2012 | 0 comments

On Saturday, October 20th, I am going to be participating in the Extra Life gaming marathon, in support of The Children’s Hospital & Research Center of Oakland. The basic premise is that I play games for 24-hours straight, raise some money, and donate it to help out sick kids. I’m taking suggestions for games to play, and will be splitting time streaming my exploits with Liore on the Machiavelli’s Cat Twitch.tv channel. Please take the time to look over my donation page, and even if you don’t want to support financially, come hang out on Saturday.

So Rift released patch 1.11, which is the lead-in patch to Storm Legion (the first expansion) yesterday. Along with it came all of the changes to the existing soul trees. There was also a bunch of rebalancing to content to theoretically keep it around the same level of challenge. That’s pretty cool, although I have no idea if it worked because once I was patched and logged in, I spent the next hour and a half panicking about how there were so many buttons and I had no idea what to press or when, and why did everything change, and but I just learned how to play, and OH MY GOD CHANGE IS SCARY!

I think Rift is sort of “known” to have tons of abilities per spec, and they’ve definitely done a reasonable job of streamlining that a bit. However, I’m still starting off in a place where I had 4 souls built out and button-mapped (and in some cases macros were built), and now I have none. A lot of abilities are no longer in the game (or now require more points than I have in their tree), but the buttons stayed on my hotbars. Several of the souls had their focus completely changed, or at least had it tweaked. Some of the time it makes sense to pair a different secondary (and/or tertiary) soul with the same primary one. Basically, I have to relearn everything all over again, and it is chaotic and daunting. So yeah, advice #1 is clear your bars and rebuild them from scratch out of the spellbook.

In the end, Trion has expanded their suggested builds (there are now something like 8 per calling/class – more will likely come with the new souls in SL) and the notes/details/tips sections for each of those builds. However, it’s still pretty easy to get lost in there. Elementalist (the one where you get to summon a rock-monster and a fire dude and an air lady and a water blobule) is still paired with Pyromancer, but I can’t tell if I’m actually supposed to use any of the Pyro spells. I know that whenever I cast a spell of a particular element, I get a buff to the next spell I cast of a different one, and there’s clearly an intended cycle to all of this. But what I found myself doing as I played around on the target dummies was really just pressing every button whenever it came off cooldown. And it seemed to be okay? But I have no way of knowing. The forums talk about using Necromancer in place of Pyromancer because of some synergy (this also indicates the probability that the Pyro spells aren’t that important anymore), so I might try that out.

The thing is, though, I had just started to really feel like I knew what I was doing. I am only a month or two into being level 50, had tagged along to a few raids (yeah, I know, can’t keep me away), and had picked out a spec that seemed easy enough to manage while also doing fairly good DPS (I think. I don’t really have a proper benchmark for this, nor do I particularly want to…). I happen to like the learning process in games, and it’s one of the reasons I felt like I had run out of things to do in Warcraft. I just also like the “now I’m going to get better” part, and it seems like that point has gone skittering off like a cat that doesn’t want to be picked up, even though it’s CLEARLY hugging time.

It’s still cool, though. The patch also lets me put ANY ARMOR in any wardrobe slot, so I will totally be able to dress up as a plate-mage. Which will go swimmingly with my completely badass Storm Legion-born melee specs! And my warrior (who was my original Rift character) gets a proper support spec, and has more reason to run around with a mohawk cat, and I hardly remember how to play her anyway, so I was going to relearn anyway! And the full expansion is only a month or so away, and everyone is feeling things out and going through similar growing pains, and I missed out on this part of the experience last time around, so it’s still exciting. It’s just… I fear change!

Read More

Welcome to Pandora (again)


Posted By on Oct 15, 2012 | 0 comments

Just a note before the main post, but on Saturday, October 20th, I am going to be participating in the Extra Life gaming marathon, in support of The Children’s Hospital & Research Center of Oakland. The basic premise is that I play games for 24-hours straight, raise some money, and donate it to help out sick kids. I’m taking suggestions for games to play, and will be splitting time streaming my exploits with Liore on the Machiavelli’s Cat Twitch.tv channel. Please take the time to look over my donation page, and even if you don’t want to support financially, come hang out on Saturday.

So I finally finished the main story of Borderlands 2 last night, and I have to say, I really enjoyed it. It took me a little while to figure out which class I wanted to play – so long, in fact, that the Mechromancer DLC came out and I was still futzing around with characters enough to try out out. And it stuck! So I’ve played through the entirety of Playthrough 1 (and done the large majority of side missions) as the self-styled and pig-tailed “greatest engineer in the world!” Deathtrap and Gaige wandered the barren wastelands of Pandora, fighting off skags and robots and crazed psychopaths (and rakks – which can all die in a fire like so many did before them) on our way to a final confrontation with Handsome Jack.

I have to say, the game was really fun. I played through in a mixture of solo and multiplayer, which the game makes exceptionally easy to do – join a friend’s game (or they drop in on yours), and everything gets a bit harder and smarter; drop out and everything gets a bit weaker. The quests generally align themselves, and although there is some weirdness there (like potentially being able to see story stuff slightly out of order), it mostly works – and better than it did in the original. Loot is abundant and varied – they’ve done an awesome job of making sure that each weapon manufacturer (I believe there are 7 or 8) feel fairly different from each other. There’s still some crossover – so you can find decent elemental weapons that are non-Maliwan branded – but in general, each one is reasonably identifiable and different. Certain types of guns also have different projectiles – I’ve found rocket/grenade launching machine guns, a gun that shoots slower-moving lightning orbs, and one that has invisible acid projectiles with a delay on them. Basically, it’s a loot-driven game, and the loot is really fun to sort through. Which is good, because you spend a lot of time doing just that.

But WHY am I killing everything that moves?

There’s sort of this fundamental question that runs through games and seems fairly important. Why are you doing what you’re doing? Borderlands 2 seems to respond (quite directly sometimes) “Umm.. because you’re a badass?” The writing is pretty awesome in the game, and certainly pokes fun at itself. Everything is taken to the extreme, and that’s awesome. But the main story this time around is at least a little more interesting. The vast majority of the characters from the first game make some sort of appearance, and you start to develop an interest in the crazy-ass people that live on Pandora.

I felt like the main storyline turned out better than it had in the first game, which is good, because I wasn’t sold on it in the first game. I felt a lot more personal drive to take the next step, and by the time that I got to the final confrontation, I really fucking hated the bad guy. And not on a “this guy wants to do some terrible stuff” level, but in a personal “my god, that guy is an asshole” way. Which is great! I think it must be really hard to walk the line between good character development and telling jokes, but I felt like Gearbox really succeeded here.

Plus, the game looks gorgeous again, and that always helps. I look forward to getting through the second playthrough, and doing the side quests that I skipped, and killing the not-Crawmerax enemy, and getting all the achievements, and yes, even playing the DLCs. The first of which comes out next week in a “TOO SOON” sort of way that I’m not sure I’m entirely happy about. But it did push me to a) get through the storyline before it showed up and b) do some ass-on-couch version of training for Extra Life next weekend.

Read More

Apparently, the answer is “no.” Everything these days has to be in “points” or “gems” or some other ecosystem-specific currency. And most of them are set up to have an awkward exchange rate. (The Psychology of Games has done several interesting articles on this, the most relevant is here.) Every time I have to buy in to one of these things, it just frustrates me more and more – especially now that I know that the science backs up my gut instinct distaste for them.

I happened across this, specifically, over the weekend, when I finally caved on buying the Borderlands 2 Season Pass (which is its own annoyance, upon which I will expand later), and figured, “Okay, these guys have made a couple of really fun games. They’ve also made a bunch of fun DLC, and I will give them the benefit of the doubt and pre-pay for whatever they have in the works.” So, fine, whatever. Here’s my $30. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. I’m playing BL2 on the Xbox, so there’s no direct way to send my money to Gearbox. I have to buy it using Microsoft Points – 2400, to be specific. Okay, that’s fine, I’ve made the decision to buy it, so let’s make this happen. Oh, what’s that? I only have 220 points in my account? Better add some! I know that I want to spend $30, so let’s add $30 worth of points to the account and then spend them.

OH RIGHT, you can’t. You can only buy them in certain pre-defined amounts (400/$5, 800/$10, 1600/$20, 4000/$50, 6000/$75). So now I have to go through two separate purchases to get the amount I want, adding to the annoyance overhead for an already-annoying purchase. There’s no discount for buying in bulk (and there probably shouldn’t be since it would make things even more confusing for consumers) and there’s no ability to just buy however many points you want. So now I still have 220 points in my Xbox balance (which translates to how much, again? Turns out it’s $2.75.) And there’s no good way to spend those points on things that I want, because most of the Xbox live games are $10/800 points, or DLC is some round multiplier of $5/400 points. I can’t just add in the extra $2.25 to the system, so now I’m either going to have to find random Rock Band tracks or buy some avatar toys that I don’t really care about. Or have wasted my money. And that sucks.

Okay, but that’s all old news…

What set this particular train of thought off, today, is an email I got from Sony about Planetside 2. I never played the first game, but I do have some friends who seem to have really enjoyed it. And, while my (very short) experience with it at PAX left me kind of confused, I’m certainly interested in some giant space marine shootouts, so I signed up for the beta/news a few weeks ago. This particular email’s subject was something along the lines of “Get Access to the PlanetSide 2 Beta Now!”, and so I thought maybe I’d been accepted (beta invites seem to be going around). And, well, it turns out that it was actually another one of the “give us cash now, you totally won’t regret it! … oh yeah, and beta access” schemes. This time, it was “Buy $40 worth of STATION CASH, and we’ll let you play this game!” The PlanetSide 2 website is unclear about whether the game costs any money or not (I had to dig around to find out that it is, in fact, F2P, although it was fairly obvious from that email), and in fact has the same offer prominently linked. Although, the wording on the page is, specifically, buy now, get beta access.

Look, I get that developers want to encourage people to give them money as early in the cycle as possible (although I’m not really sure this is in anyone’s best interest, since it just pushes the timing on the next round of “payyyyyyy meeeeeee” forward), but it seems fairly dishonest – or at least misleading – to ask people to “Buy” a game that is very specifically going to be Free. It also sucks that that money is then locked into the Sony Online ecosystem which may or may not have any other games that you’re interested in. I guess if you’re one of the remaining EQ2 players, you can get some in-game stuff if PlanetSide ends up not doing it for you? I’m not sure.

Also, at what point do we realize that we are no longer paying for beta access, but instead just paying for incomplete games with the promise that they’ll be “finished” later on? Isn’t the “beta for cash!” scheme the same exact thing as what has always happened on launch day? You give a company your money, get your game key, log in and see a mostly working product. The only difference is that the changes are happening faster, and you might have a character reset. Why not just call it an early release and get it over with?

Overall, it just leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and I’ve been avoiding participating in them as much as possible.

And now for something completely different:

funny gifs

Read More