Archive for Gaming

The Ultimate MMO Launch

What if you built an MMO that had everything at launch?

I don’t mean every feature, expansion, class, land, etc… I mean literally, it had everything it was ever going to have. Not one thing would be added to the game (except possibly as a resolution to game bugs/problems). What if you built a game world as big as the world and filled it with all of the things?

What would you do with that world?

Personally, I’d fill it with zombies. Seven billion or so of them, scattered around the world based on population data. Then I’d build the most “real” zombie survival game ever. Players would join the game crawling out of their hiding place where they’ve just begun to run low on supplies. Randomly assigned they would be in abandoned fallout shelters or other cramped holes where they gone to ride out the chaos of the apocalypse. That would be there home to start, and they would need to go back there and lock the door when they logged off. They would need to search for food and supplies, and they would need to fight off zombies when they ran into them. The slow kind, walkers, who alone are easily handled but in groups they can overwhelm you faster than you can scream.

Players could choose to move to new locations, either new single survivor hiding spots, or more spacious group homes. And while there is safety in numbers, there is danger in responsibility. Whose turn was it to get food? Why are we out of food?

And with industry gone, so too would be the endless supply of goods. Once the stores and cupboards are bare, you better have secured some land with a fence and started farming. Things don’t respawn. Neither would you, by the way. You get dead, you stay dead. You can roll up a new character, even make it a clone of your original and keep your friend list, but your gear is gone… or rather, it’s on your body, which hopefully your friends have looted or maybe your old character is still carrying it, shambling around the wastes. And your new character might start on another continent, and you’ll need to travel if you want to meet up with your friends again – or just make new friends closer.

Then, someday down the road, when the bulk of the zombies have been laid to rest and the players have made the world a “safe” place again… you reset the server and start all over.

Bastion

BastionI picked up Bastion as part of the Humble Indie Bundle V in early April 2012. It’s a two-dimensional isometric action RPG. You play “the Kid”. A catastrophic event, referred to as The Calamity, has broken the city of Caelondia. As a survivor, you head to the Bastion, where everyone is supposed to go in times of trouble. Once there you find Rucks, apparently the only other survivor, and you being the adventurous sort he sends you off on the Skyway to other remnants of the city and surrounding lands to find the cores with can be used to power the Bastion and rebuild.

The first thing you encounter in this game is the narrator, which you learn quite quickly is Rucks. But what makes the narrator awesome is that unlike other games where narration fires off based on events or locations – i.e. you cross a certain doorway and a block of narration kicks in telling you about the place you’ve just entered – it is also based on your actions. When you first get into the game, your character is in bed. If you do nothing, nothing happens, but the moment you move the controls and the Kid gets up, the narrator fires off something like “the Kid gets out of bed”. Later, when I was in a room full of boxes, taking my time to destroy them all and collect the items the game uses for money, the narrator said, “the Kid rages around, destroying everything in his path” or something close to it. If you double back on your path too many times it might say, “the Kid wasn’t sure where he was going, but he was getting there fast”. If you run past enemies rather than fighting them you might get a “the Kid was moving fast, no looking back”. It adds an element to the game that other narrations don’t simply because the narration is based on my actions (or lack thereof) and not just my location.

Being an RPG means that you have to level and upgrade your character. You get to improve your weapons, adding extra abilities and special properties, as well as equip the Kid with things that improve him directly. And it wouldn’t be an RPG without choices, so you only get to have two weapons and one special attack at a time, which you can swap out at an armory. To augment this, in addition to the normal game levels, there are a series of Proving Grounds designed for each weapon where you can practice using them as well as earn more bonuses by beating the third, second and first place goals. I really like this mechanic that lets me step out of the story and go play a little, improving both my skill at the game as well as earning new upgrades to my weapons.

The art style of the game is beautiful. Sometimes I just want to stare at the screen. Most of the game play shots below were actually taken during my second play through, in the New Game Plus mode where you get to keep your levels and everything from the regular game, because I was too busy enjoying the game, the play and the graphics, to remember to hit the F12 key.

I made it through the first run through in a little over 11 hours, which feels about right for the story. It never got boring, the pace never dragged, and I never needed to needlessly grind out cash. That last point is important. Being an RPG, you have to buy stuff – weapon upgrades and skills and such – and while you don’t earn enough money to buy everything, you also don’t need everything to finish the game.

As I said above, once you finish the first play through you get the option to do it again while keeping your previous levels, meaning you’ll be able to finish buying everything and get to level 10 – I only got to 6 the first time around. I look forward to continuing playing the game, getting all the items and seeking to get the Steam achievements.

Another great element of the game is the music. Instrumentals, songs with voices & lyrics. When I got the game I also got the soundtrack, which can be purchased through Steam, and it’s good enough that I’m certain I will listen to it even outside of game.

All in all, from top to bottom, I really enjoyed Bastion and would recommend it to others. What a great little game. Now, before I go, enjoy these screenshots. Be warned, a few of the artistic cut scene shots might be considered spoilers.

To play, perchance to game!

Perchance To GameThe voting went well. I’m playing Bastion now, and if you are friends with me on Steam you’ve probably seen and will continue to see me sharing screenshots. I’ve also begun writing about the game, making sure I jot down my feelings as I go rather than try to do it all at the end. Most importantly, though, I’m playing.

I hadn’t realized how much I missed gaming. Going through these Humble Bundle games is going to be great fun. But in additional to that, I’ve still got a bunch of Xbox games and other non-Bundle games to play. I need to start kicking more TV shows to the curb and playing more games!

Anyway, this post also serves to just say that voting is still open, so you can still help me set my next game, and the game after that, and the game after that, and so on… And there will be more polls in the future, because I would be insane to have installed an plug-in for WordPress to just use once.

Choose My Adventure

Supercomputer-CYOAI am addicted to the Humble Bundles. I have bought them all and played none of them. I always intend to play them, but now I am faced with a giant list of games and no way to decide for myself which one to start with. So, dear readers, I turn to you.

Please take a moment, check out this list and vote for as many as 5 games. The game with the most votes will be the one that I play first, then the one with the next most, and so on, until I run out of games or feel the need to post another poll. As incentive, I promise to review each game that I play, thus giving you more things to read at this blog.

Which game should I play next?

  • Torchlight (32%, 6 Votes)
  • Psychonauts (21%, 4 Votes)
  • Braid (16%, 3 Votes)
  • Dungeons of Dredmor (16%, 3 Votes)
  • Amnesia: The Dark Descent (16%, 3 Votes)
  • Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP (11%, 2 Votes)
  • Super Meat Boy (11%, 2 Votes)
  • VVVVVV (11%, 2 Votes)
  • TRAUMA (11%, 2 Votes)
  • Legend of Grimrock (11%, 2 Votes)
  • Gratuitous Space Battles (11%, 2 Votes)
  • Space Pirates and Zombies (11%, 2 Votes)
  • Cortex Command (11%, 2 Votes)
  • Darwinia (11%, 2 Votes)
  • SpaceChem (5%, 1 Votes)
  • Osmos (5%, 1 Votes)
  • Jamestown (5%, 1 Votes)
  • Trine (5%, 1 Votes)
  • LIMBO (5%, 1 Votes)
  • Frozen Synapse (5%, 1 Votes)
  • Cave Story+ (5%, 1 Votes)
  • Dungeon Defenders (5%, 1 Votes)
  • BIT.TRIP RUNNER (5%, 1 Votes)
  • Snapshot (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Shatter (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Steel Storm: Burning Retribution (0%, 0 Votes)
  • The Basement Collection (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Atom Zombie Smasher (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Aquaria (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Machinarium (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Uplink (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Vessel (0%, 0 Votes)
  • And Yet It Moves (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Wizorb (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Shank (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Shadowgrounds (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Samorost 2 (0%, 0 Votes)
  • DEFCON (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Crayon Physics Deluxe (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Dustforce (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Gish (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Hammerfight (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Cogs (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Lone Survivor (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Lugaru HD (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Closure (0%, 0 Votes)
  • NightSky (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Offspring Fling (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Penumbra: Overture (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Revenge of the Titans (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Rochard (0%, 0 Votes)
  • World of Goo (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 19

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I’ll be playing these games on Steam, so if you are also on Steam, feel free to add me as a friend. I go by Jhaer over there.

Thank you for your time.

Is It Zafe?

The name makes me want to gently rest my face in the palm of my hand. Really? “Zafehouse”? But then I went on to read the features, look at the screenshots and watch the video. Annoying name aside, I’m in.

In the Zafehouse: Diaries you control the fates of people picked to live in a house during the zombie apocalypse to see what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real. Real World: Zombie Apocalypse! Hmm.. I just thought of a worse name than Zafehouse. Anyway, you start with your people, and you assign them tasks, and then they do them. A turn is an hour, and how successful they are depends on their own skill and their relationships with the rest of the people. When you finish, you get a nice AAR of the whole ordeal to share with your friends.

It’s available for sale now, but I’m on holiday lockdown – no buying anything for myself until the new year. I look forward to being able to give this a try, even more so if they manage to get approved for Steam, because I love having all my games in Steam.

In the meantime, seeing this reminds me that I have that pack of screenshots from Rebuild lying around that I need to do the writing for…

Dead Island: Riptide

From the people who brought you Dead Island, and more importantly the people who brought you the amazing trailer for Dead Island, I present to you, the trailer for Dead Island: Riptide.

I just want these people to make a CGI zombie movie or TV series. They could make a series of 5 to 10 minute vignettes and put them on YouTube and I would subscribe to their channel, and I would buy the DVD collection when it came out. In the words of Fry: Shut up and take my money.

City of Fallen Heroes

In yesterday’s post I said that City of Heroes was “inspiring”. But what did I mean by that?

Obviously, as linked in that post, it drove me to create a character who wasn’t a hero, just a reporter who wrote about heroes: Calvin Meeks and the Front Page. But it also heralded my first serious foray into fan fiction.

Sure, I’d written things about my characters in EverQuest, but those were just short stories, a few pages. City of Heroes inspired me to actually write an entire outline of a book, a series of intertwining stories that culminated in a cohesive plot. Sadly, when I allowed myself to get dragged off into other games, I also allowed myself to abandon that work, entitled City of Fallen Heroes.

I dug through my office the other day and found most of the outline and a bunch of jotted mini plots for the chapters. I’m going to take a stab at finishing that, if I don’t get too depressed about the closing of the game.

In the meantime, you can read the first three chapters, which I did complete and placed online way back when.

To me, it was an interesting concept. Write a story set in the Rikti invasion, the event that happens just before the launch of the game, and write about all the heroes who don’t survive. I know from the start that none of my characters will make it. Some will die “on-screen” while others may survive to take the plunge with Hero 1 into the Rikti homeworld. Or maybe they won’t, because I have to say that I developed an unreasonable attachment to the main character of Chapter 2 and actually made changes to my outline at the time to account for it. Anyway, I hope you enjoy it and I hope I can churn out more worth reading.

A City of Heroes

CalvinMeeksThis is what regret feels like.

EverQuest wasn’t my first MMO, but it will probably always be my favorite because it gave me, at the time, exactly what I wanted and what I needed. Coming off of three years of hardcore Team Fortress playing, I found a new community. The game itself was only moderately fun, but what saved it were the people. I’ve been looking for that game ever since and haven’t found it again.

But in late 2003/early 2004, I was accepted into the beta for City of Heroes. While I never found the same type of community that I had in EQ, what I found was a game that inspired me. On many levels, the greatness of the game is that, despite what some theory-crafters out there will try to sell you, every character, no matter the build, is playable if you just learn how to play it. But what really sold me on the game, what caused that inspiration, was that the game allowed me to play in the way I wanted to play, even when that was different than everyone else.

To the right you’ll see a shot of one of my characters, Calvin Meeks, writer for The Front Page. He was an investigative journalist who knew no fear, and when he got in trouble wouldn’t hesitate to call in the big guns. For his entire career he never did a mission solo that required super powers, because he didn’t have any. He followed the leads and when violence was called for he phoned up one of the heroes he’d gotten to know while working the beat and together they would take down foes. It was strange and exciting to be able to play the game this way, to join a group and follow them into enemy territory like an embedded combat journalist.

Of course, I played City of Heroes normally as well. I had a few supers who ran around pounding bad guys into the dirt, but I was most excited to play Calvin. And I’d like to think that there are people out there who really enjoyed being the muscle for me.

Eventually, I got caught up in WoW and I wandered off through a series of games, each less satisfying than the one before, mostly because so many of them lacked the basic community that EverQuest and other early games had in spades. And now it just might be too late. NCsoft, faced with losses in other areas, have chosen to close Paragon Studios and to shut down City of Heroes. Efforts are being made to try to save the game, but I don’t hold out much hope.

I logged in last night to check out the protest, and found my old friends list filled with lit up names. I chatted with a few of them and we all had the same regret. “Why did I ever leave?”

If, by some miracle, the game is saved and stays online, I’ll be back. In fact, for the three months that remain, I’ll be there. I need to get in as much of this wonderful game as I can before it disappears forever.

State of Decay

Undead Labs has been working on two games, one they call Class3 and the other Class4. The first is a regular game, the second in their MMO, both are zombie games. This week they unveiled the true name of Class3: State of Decay.

To say I am excited would be an understatement, but I’ll say it anyway. I am excited.

They’re Coming to Get You…

Zombies have been popular for a while now, to the point that some people are over them entirely. Not me though. I can’t get enough. And as long as they keep putting out Dead Risings, Left 4 Deads, Dead Islands and similar games, I’ll be a very happy camper. Which is why the following games, either already out or coming out soon(tm) make me very happy…

MineZ

One of the first things I wanted to do in Minecraft, way back in the alpha/beta phases, once survival mode was introduced, was to turn off everything but zombies. It could be done, but you had to jump through a lot of hoops. Now someone has made a server-side mod, MineZ, that allows lots of people (up to 100 per server) to play in a block laden pixel art style world of the zombie apocalypse. I haven’t had time to play it myself, but I’ve watched a bunch of YouTube videos and I’ll be carving out some time in the near future to go check it out.

If you want a little more info beyond the game’s own site, check out this article at RPS or the official sub-reddit.

DayZ

If shooters are more your thing, and you happen to own ARMA II and it’s expansion Operation Arrowhead (you can buy them both in a 2-pack from Steam for $30 – or cheaper if you wait for a sale), you can get the free mod DayZ which lets you play in a world overrun with zombies. I’ve heard it described as being a little harsh – but then, that’s what I would expect a zombie apocalypse to be like. Although, I imagine most of the people who are dicks in the game would be crying and pissing themselves if it were real. The Internet makes cowards into cock-sure braggarts.

I haven’t played it myself, because I don’t have ARMA II. But it was recently announced that DayZ will be developed into a stand alone game, so I’ll probably wait for that so I don’t have to buy the game twice.

The War Z

Last but not least, The War Z, a game calling itself an MMO and promising 250 players per map, no levels, a hardcore mode with permadeath and a normal mode where dying locks you out of the character for a period (not set, but currently intended to be 24 to 48 hours – and since you can have up to 5 characters, being locked out doesn’t mean you have to stop playing). You can read more about it over at IGN. This one doesn’t have a nifty trailer for me to show you, but their site has images. I suspect I’ll have to upgrade my PC before I can play this – my five year old Dell just isn’t going to cut it for much longer.

Of course, I’m also still eagerly awaiting the MMO from Undead Labs because it’ll be on the Xbox 360, and I won’t need to upgrade that.