As a quick aside before I get to my main topic, there has been a lot of discussion over the last week or so about the female character models in Wildstar. I tend to agree that they are rather disappointing, but there are a number of better posts on the topic than I am prepared to make today. Liore made one on her blog, and I saw this post and this other post that both speak about the issues involved reasonably well. Several of my friends (who were previously pretty excited about the game) are now having second thoughts about it, and that’s terribly disappointing. Not only because I would like to be able to play what appears to be a fun game with my friends, but also because having to constantly deal with artists’ choices that make people feel uncomfortable playing their games is really tiring. There are so many kinds of people in the world, and these games are so good at customization in other ways, that it just seems ridiculous to have everyone look the same all the time.
So I finally hit level 90 with a character in WoW over the weekend. I ended up picking my rogue as the character I’d go with for several reasons – specifically, I wasn’t sure how I would feel about re-opening the Ellyndrial/raiding-character box, which still feels a bit like an open wound – and I’m pretty glad I did. I had taken Katla (a female dwarf, because they are awesome and underrepresented) up to 85 in Cataclysm and gone through LFR, some normal mode raiding, and the early Legendary rogue quest steps. My friend Djoshe really helped me get a lot better at stabbing things, and I’d developed a pretty strong affection for the intricacies of Subtlety. It was the closest thing to the complicated WotLK Feral rotation that I’d played – plus I got to see my armor while doing it!
Well, I’ve been spending most of my time on the Horde lately (which is awesome, as it has always been my favorite faction, despite having mostly been a part of Alliance raiding guilds), so I took the plunge and transferred over to Nordrassil. After a couple of instances and an oddly-required name change, Jakhra was born:
So, yeah, obviously I picked an Orc female character. They are awesome, and have long been a favorite of mine. I’m annoyed that I’ve only found fist weapons so far and thus have to play Combat, but whatever, they’ll come.
So, what do you do when you hit 90 nowadays? It turns out that you skip all the rest of the quests, go to Kun-Lai summit, talk to a giant white tiger thing to unlock Vale of Eternal Blossoms, where you learn to fly, go talk to Chromie, and get sent to Timeless Isle. Timeless Isle, a place with so many nicknames and EVEN MORE loot. It’s a bit silly, really.
I’m doing my best to ignore the various maps that exist – or, worse, the TomTom waypoint list that just puts an arrow to NEXT PIECE OF LOOT in the middle of your screen – since the place is intended to reward you for exploration. Which is pretty cool, honestly. When I first got there, there are a few quests to ride around the island and check out the various places. While doing that, I came across a few different Rare spawns that I helped kill (they’ve changed everything there to shared tagging, so you only need to participate in a kill to get quest credit and LOOT), found a cave with a pseudo-quest to help out Zarhym’s spirit and get some more SWEET LOOT along the way. I also found a couple of the chests, which literally just have a BoA item that you can click to get some epic gear for whatever your current spec is.
Lootbag Timeless Isle is a great way to get some gear when you hit 90. But as a first-time 90, I’m not sure if I love it or not. Sure, it’ll help me get into LFR and Flex raiding and get all of the various achievements related with those this expansion, but it basically cuts out any need at all to go run dungeons or scenarios (I think those are the 3-man things) or finish up any of the regular questing zones. I’m not sure I really like that. I do know that I’d probably be frustrated if I had to spend 6 months gearing up and then LFRing each of the previous raids in turn for 4-6 weeks, but going from level 90-killing-everything seems like it ought to at least have a nod to the other content somewhere.
Maybe I’m just being sad that, now that I like Pandaria, I didn’t play it from the beginning. And I’m a big proponent of there being some flavor of catch-up mechanic. Plus, it’s still fun to do. It just all feels like it’s being invalidated too quickly, and while, yeah, I’m still trying to check out the instances/heroics/scenarios/etc, I feel like I’m using a single flight over Europe as proof of my vast knowledge of the continent.
But, hey, at least I get free LOOT!
The other day, I mentioned how there were still a few games sitting next to my consoles that I wanted to play but that I haven’t touched for one reason or another, and it got me to thinking. Huge mistake, I know, but I went for it anyway. How is it possible that I’ve let myself get this backed up? How will I ever catch up? Do I even want to?
I know that I am absolutely not alone in this, but sometimes the extent of my backlog is pretty intimidating. This is especially true when I know I have some quality gaming time coming up (Extra-Life was a good example of this), or whenever a hot new release comes out, or whenever there is a Steam Sale (MORE GAMES FOR THE GAMES GODS). And, well, there are just a lot more opportunities to buy games than there are to play them.
I mean, have a look at my Steam library. There are a ton of games in there that I haven’t gotten around to playing – games that have either come highly recommended, or I am looking forward to, or both – but where do I start? Do I start with the indie games (Limbo, Bastion, Fez, Spelunky)? Do I finish off the games I’ve started but haven’t finished (AC:Brotherhood, Fallout: New Vegas, SR3, Serious Sam 3)? Or do I just start with something fresh, hoping that it grips me in a way that pushes me through to the end? Where do the random endless/non-story games go (FTL, random racing game, any multiplayer shooter)?
And then, of course, there are the console games where I actually have to go to a different room (sometimes this is a bonus!). Or, god forbid, the time-and-library-killing demons known as an MMOs. And, as much as I love MMOs, I definitely think that they are a huge part of the reason I’m as deep into this mess as I am. MMOs make a great “default” game – something that is just really easy to sit down at and spend either a few minutes or a few hours on without thinking too hard. Sure, you still have to figure out which character/race/faction/whatever to play, but at that point you’re already committed to a game, which is a big step in getting through a backlog! Or, even worse, what if I want to replay an older game for <insert various totally reasonable reasons here>.
Well, I think what I need to do is to just start dropping games into buckets and then prioritize each of those buckets. Then if I’m like, “I want to just screw around and play something mindless”, I can pick the game at the top of that list (currently, it tends to be DIRT 2 or Serious Sam 3, depending on my mood) and go for it. If I want to play an MMO, that’s cool, I’ll do that. But if I just want to play something then I should really start defaulting it to whatever the current “backlog” game is. That, of course, takes discipline. But I think it would be worth it! I could even consider uninstalling everything not on my immediate/short term list, but that’s so sad…
Anyway, lists! These will clearly change, especially after people tell me how much I need to play game X over game Y or whatever. But at least they can serve as a starting point.
MMO List: Warcraft (this one is easy, since it’s the only one I’m playing right now)
Primary Non-MMO List: Serious Sam 3: BFE, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, Bastion, Beyond: Two Souls
Random Filler: Hearthstone, Magic Online (look, it’s not going away, I might as well acknowledge that)
Driving Filler: DIRT 2, DIRT 3
Streaming: Dark Souls, Fallout: New Vegas
That’s a pretty short list, I guess. But you know what it does? It gives me direction and is therefore a good place to start. It also gives me a reward (Beyond: Two Souls) for playing through a few games that I have either started (SS, AC:B) or have been putting off. The Streaming category is actually a sort-of-separate list because I have been meaning to start up a semi-regular stream, and I think both of the games listed should be interesting one to have the shared experience of streaming. I expect to be particularly terrible at Dark Souls. Or maybe not! But probably.
How do you guys approach these things? Is your backlog as large as mine (not every game in Steam is a backlog game, but the point is clear)? Do you have any methods to track your backlog or figure out what games are next? Let me know, because I could sure use the help!
So apparently I’ve been living under a rock for the last three days, and somehow missed something called VGX. Okay, fine, I didn’t miss it. I knew it was coming and simply didn’t care. But that was apparently a mistake, because something very interesting came out of it. Specifically, the announcement that Telltale Games (makers of such games as The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us) is going to be releasing two new episodic games. The first one I heard about was Tales from the Borderlands. Yes, those Borderlands. In fact, before we go on, let’s watch the trailer right now:
So, that’s awesome. This is apparently a partnership deal with 2K/Gearbox, which I think is really an awesome idea. You know what else is an awesome idea? Partnering with HBO to bring us an episodic game based on Game of Thrones. Which is the other one that is coming soon. And so is The Walking Dead, Season 2.
So that means that, at some point during the next year, I will essentially be waiting for episodes of FOUR different Telltale games at any given point. If each of the games follows with 5 episodes released (approximately) every other month, then that essentially boils down to a monthly subscription to Telltale TV for $5-10 per month. And you know what? I’m totally fine with that.
Specifically, I’m fine with that because I love the kinds of games they are putting out. While The Walking Dead has taken me a long time to get through (look, I know it’s been out for ages, but it is SO STRESSFUL! And I really don’t want anything bad to happen to Clem, and if I never play it again, it totally can’t, RIGHT?!), every time I have played a part of it, I have felt absolutely connected to the characters, story, and world. Episode 1 of The Wolf Among Us is no different. It does a fantastic job of immediately setting the stage and throwing you right into the character of Bigby. Toad is downright hilarious, and your first interactions with him are completely memorable. I’ve already had a bunch of discussions with people about just how much of an asshole they were in their various playthroughs. But, at the same time, it just feels right.
I haven’t written a post about Heavy Rain, but I’ve definitely talked about it on the podcast, and I still have an unopened copy of Beyond: Two Souls sitting next to my PS3 waiting for a break in my current WoW phase. The reason that I’m so excited by those games – as well as what Telltale is doing – is because they aren’t just normal “games”. They aren’t even just normal “story games”. They really are embracing the interactive fiction aspect of things, sometimes eschewing traditional gameplay altogether.
I love this. I think there’s a ton of room to grow, and the general video game experience lends itself to immersive, interactive story-telling in a way that movies, books, and television simply do not. And that’s not to take away from movies, either – there are plenty of stories that can only work in that sort of directed, prescribed-ahead-of-time movie experience, and it’s an art form with a lot more experience and learning behind it – but the possibilities that exist in exploring the path within the boundaries of the tale seem really well-suited for something like a PC or console game, where the player is an active participant in the creation of the story.
So bring it on! As long as they back this stuff up with strong writing and not-too-terrible-to-actually-play mechanics, I will keep buying these kinds of games, and I will keep recommending them to other people who just like stories. Hell, maybe we’ll even get more “Story Mode“s in games.
Episode 40 of the Cat Context Podcast is now available! This week, Liore and Elly welcome special guest Aurelia to talk about EQ Landmark and Hearthstone impressions.
Aurelia attempts to defend paying up to $100 for alpha access in a Free-to-Play game. Liore and Elly both agree that this is a pretty terrible idea. In the end, we agreed that Aurelia is probably wrong and went on to talk about the actual content of the game: generating sweet maps for your personal game, getting rich off of virtual land rushes, and just how long it will take for the sky to be marred by hundreds of floating penis sculptures.
Then, we turn our attention to the Hearthstone beta. Liore and Elly have been playing for a while, but Aurelia just got started! We talk about the new-to-CCG player experience, general impressions and strategies, and why even a relatively simple (compared to Magic) game that appeals to a more casual audience is actually a good thing for the genre as a whole.
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. We really appreciate them!