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Month: July 2012

Personal Journal

I had the dream again.. I was standing in a desert, sand as white as snow and sparkling under the noonday sun.  My mouth parched from thirst, my feet sore from walking, my mind tired from the journey.

In the distance I could see a city who’s name I knew not.  Surely, this was the Crystal Desert yet no cities were known within it’s depths.

And it ends as quickly as it begins but I’m left with a terrible thirst each time.

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On Superheroes – DC Comics

I commented recently on my preference regarding Batman yet I find I failed to illustrate my higher ranked alternatives.  I claimed three of them and three I have.

Wonder Woman

Metaplot discussions of DC heroes can’t go far before you start comparing them to Grecian Heros and Gods of which WW is part and parcel.  A Wonder Woman movie would be an adventure of empowerment and general ass-kickery spared the glamorous sparkle of outrageous special effects.

Green Lantern

But none of this Hal Jordan trounces the Yellow Curse crap.  No sir.  I want the post-recruitment Hal Jordan, making a name for himself and saving the day.  Give us the showdown between Sinestro and GL, a knock-down, drag-out fight between two ring packing dudes with serious Alpha Dog attitudes.  Save the Yellow Curse for another movie.

Super Man

One of those characters you can’t help but have heard the background for about a dozen times.  I never read Superman comics, I thought he was boring.  What I did appreciate was the few comics where he’s battling other brilliantly evil badasses from other planets/dimensions.  Give us the Brainiac story, or perhaps Darkseid.  We -know- where Superman came from, we know his weakness.  We KNOW Lex Luthor is evil.  Give up, those stories are done.  We need to see one of the less discussed and showcased villains get some screen time.

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Shadowrun, a GM perspective

I love being a GM.  I truly do.  I enjoy playing on occasion, but if you ask my girlfriend I make a horrible Player.  I much prefer to run things.

Very few things satisfy like the ability to incite panic and mayhem.  A well coordinated team will have a plan inside of 10 minutes and follow through.  A less-coordinated team will fiddle with the details for a while before eventually falling back onto the Run and Gun approach.

We’re taking a brief hiatus from the plot and the game in general while one of my players is out of town.  During this time I’ve offered them a chance to change characters.  Having planted the seed of possibilities, I wait to see what kind of wondrous options arise.

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Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning

I have an unusually hard time verbalizing the name of this game.  As though the mashing of words is an archaic tongue-twister.

As I play I keep making comparisons to other games it seems to have borrowed from.  Many good ideas revised slightly and remixed into an interesting RPG experience.  If i had to compare it to three games in particular I’d have to say: World of Warcraft, Fable and Darksiders.

The art style is bright and varied, the faerie forest is vibrant while the obligatory spider forest is darker.  It has an animated styling reminiscent of cartoons much like World of Warcraft or Darksiders which I prefer over the hyper realistic styling of Dragon’s Dogma and other games.  There’s only so much gritty grey and brown I can stare at before I start to long for flowery fields and brightly decorated dungeons.

You take the role of the ever-silent protagnist in talking scenes as you ask questions and persuade uncertain villagers.  While your opponents appear to have full voice dialog, you are sadly silent through any of the exchanges.  Rarely a cry of pain or a grunt of exertion.  One place I thought this could have been a lot better and likely would have been given more time.

The plot if fairly contrived as are most games, where the protagonist is that one person ruled by exception.  Though not as bad as some games <cough> Fable 3 <cough>.  Though it’s not nearly as linear as other games and so I was able to wander in the woods for nearly three hours last night before I decided it was time to move on.  In that time I completed five quests, joined a Fae house and enlisted in a mercenary company.

Combat isn’t as fluid as I’d love to see, but still varied enough that I can blend magic and swordplay around a bowyer, should i like.  Personally I’m banking on the Battlemage as I’d like to see this “Blink” power they’re advertising in action.  Combat is largely driven by conventional attacks, special abilities and spells.  Varying your attacks can net you bonus experience and periodically you can unleash a ‘fateshift’ where you move faster than your foes and can eliminate them in a Finisher that provides bonus xp.  I just use the power to put the hurt on particularly hard bosses.

The world is expansive looking with little nooks and crannies filled with loot, hidden chests, secret doors, pickable flowers for alchemy and a host of side quests.  Some of the quests come from a discarded note you might find in the town graveyard and another from a wandering wolf-turned-man.

KoA:R (as it’s known) is an interesting gem worthy of giving a play through.  I’d immediately recommend it if you like RPGs and need something to do with the rest of your summer.  It doesn’t appear to be a brief adventure, though I’m having fun.


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Secret World

The Secret World launched today, July 3rd.  I don’t plan on playing what with Guild Wars 2 around the corner and other reasons.  Those reasons being a standing World of Darkness game on Friday nights with my girl and a friend.  Though, if i didn’t have a running WoD game, I’d largely view Secret World as a great analog to some of the ideas.

If i do play, it will be after a requisite 3 months.  This is the minimum bar for any MMORPG that comes out.  This clears several key problems in new MMO properties: The Wave, The Bugs, The Game.

The Wave – Every MMO gets played by a number of people.  The question is how fast they digest the content and move on.  Ever been to a new restaurant in your area?  Even something as rudimentary as Krispy Kreme can draw lines for days on end leaving you with very rare opportunities to visit the new operation.  You see the same phenomenon in MMO’s where hundreds or thousands of players will assault the hapless rats gathered at the gates of the newly envisioned castles and will proceed to pick clean the questing fields of their native berries and wolf pelts.  If you wait a week, you see less of them.

The longer you wait, the smaller the number of people dwindles to a mere shadow of it’s former chaos.  World of Warcraft is a prime example.  Even in this day, some ten years after it’s release you’ll find people rolling new characters or progressing through the quest content at their own speed.

The Bugs – Every game, console or PC, suffers from bugs at launch.  It’s inevitable.  What surprises me is the Beta-Version experience.  Many games are left in a semi-unfinished state left for the eager fanbase to discover what game breaking imbalances or bugs ruin the experience.

It almost never rewards a player to pick up an MMO in the first two weeks.  My first week with EVE Online was met with frequent crashes.  I docked, crash.  I undock, crash.  I could fly around for minutes or hours without issue, but the moment I touch a station to escape or enter the cold vacuum of space – BOOM – Down goes the client.

The Game – Every game comes out with a laundry list of visions and ideas they hope and hoped to achieve.  Almost no MMO achieves the full list.  This gets whittled down over time and development, changed from broad strokes to smaller more precise ideas.

In some cases classes get rebuilt, powers redefined, environments revised.  Few games do this often, World of Warcraft one of the few that regularly changes how the various classes play and one of my chief arguments against playing for any lengthy period of time.

The Solution – So my solution in all it’s simplicity is merely to wait.  I wait roughly 3 months, see what comes down the line.  See if a game falters radically, collapsing under the weight of it’s lofty but unmanageable ideals.  A significant number of players will pick up a game for it’s included complimentary period, a commitment of purchase but not one of subscription.  I’ve done this myself, interested to see how a game pans out but disinterested after the experience.  Much like a trial period only significantly more expensive in the case of new games.

So in this endeavor I dodge a horde of new players competing for the same resources, I escape game and character breaking bugs and I get to see what gets added in post-launch.  It’s not foolproof.  City of Heroes radically altered power structure several months after launch.  Enough so that while I like the new changes, I’d rather have not been around before hand.

With all that in mind, I -will- be playing Guild Wars 2 at launch and I welcome anyone who cares to come join me.  Send me an email and I’ll coordinate server/guild information.


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