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Chronicles of Bronte I: “Humble Beginnings” or “Bronte: Dwarf, Paladin, Redhead”

March 31, 2010 10 comments

Being a guild leader is serious business. I don’t say that lightly. I led a guild for nearly three years in World of Warcraft, and micro-managed quite literally every aspect of the daily operations as needed. This series of posts is dedicated to the memories and experiences of those years and dedicated to the crew I had the privilege of playing the game with.

Leading any group of individuals is a difficult task, especially when they come from diverse, distinct backgrounds, cultures and ethnic identities. This task is made all the more difficult by the fact that these individuals are paying (Blizzard – not you) to be on your team, they aren’t salaried in the same vein as traditional employees. Further, none of them are in the same physical location; they are spread out far and wide across the world, especially if you are playing on a European server. Suffice it to say that being a guild leader is one of the toughest endeavors I have had to undertake. The following is a small chapter of that story.

Humble Beginnings

Xanthus: Tauren, Hunter, Fat

I started on Bloodhoof as a Tauren Hunter on the same day the game launched. For anyone present on launch day, you would recall the excitement you felt exploring such a vast world filled to the brim with such exciting possibilities. And the goddamn lag! Blizzard underestimated the popularity of their behemoth (still in its embryonic stage). The initial number of servers was severely inadequate to manage the incoming traffic. Within 24 hours, several additional servers went live to accommodate the incredibly ravenous player base. The starting areas were absolutely drenched in newbies, running amok in their new sandbox as far and wide as the eye could see.

My Tauren Hunter adventured through the trials and tribulations of the lush green and visually appeasing Mulgore for the first 12 levels. It took me a week to get to that milestone, partially because I was learning the ropes of playing a fantasy MMO for the first time (my previous experiences included Earth and Beyond, City of Heroes and Eve Online), and also because Bloodhoof crashed endlessly during the peak hours, the only time I had to play the game during my last semester as an undergraduate student.

My Tauren then ventured into the arid Barrens, a stark and sudden change from the scenic, shamanistic fields of Mulgore. I quested my way to level 20, picking up skinning and leather-working along the way, realizing rather quickly that my inability to manage coin was beginning to adversely affect my coffers and the ability to kill efficiently due to a lack of purchased skills. By level 20, the hunter was no longer a source of fun for me, and was forced into retiring, thus ending my incredibly short stint with the Horde.

Bronte: Dwarf, Paladin, Redhead

I started Bronte on the Alliance side, a red-bearded Dwarf Paladin, conceived on the 5th of December, 2004. Little did I know then that this character would stay my main for my entire WoW career. Rampaging through Dun Modr, Loch Modan, Red Ridge and Westfall, I realized that the Paladin class was incredibly powerful, versatile and had a very high rate of survivability, even against a large number of opponents.

My First Guild

At level 20, on December 21, 2004, I was invited to my first guild. I remember I was in the Wetlands at the time, completing some quest involving artifact recovery in an archeological dig site heavily populated by rather unfriendly raptors.

Mortifer Militis was the name of the guild, Army of the Dead in Latin. I thought it was a strange name for an Alliance guild, but having quested solo for quite some time, I was ready to group up if the opportunity presented itself. So I joined the guild, and gingerly stepped out of my comfort zone to try and experience the unique dynamics of player interaction offered by MMOs. My experiences with the guild, to make a colossal understatement, fell a tad short of what I had imagined they would be.

The guild disbanded within two months of inception because the guild leader, named Raygin, enforced such frivolous activities as meetings around the pond in Stormwind’s mage quarter. The meeting started with guild members sitting in a half-U shape around the pond. Raygin, along with his two officers would then slowly walk across the district, eventually arriving at the slightly elevated edge of the pond and addressed the gathered crowd much as king would address his subjects. Especially if he was the king of Retardistan. He would then call upon everyone to recount how their week went, both in real life and in the game. Needless to say the attendance dwindled rapidly after the first meeting.

In another example, I once asked him to help me with a particularly difficult quest in the Wetlands. He responded by saying I needed to submit a written application through in-game mail explaining what the quest was about, and why I needed guild resources and help to complete it. Naive as I was, I still refused to comply to the ridiculous demand. As punishment, I was demoted a rank and my speaking privileges in the guild were revoked. By the end, nearly 95% of the guild was awarded this rank for one misdemeanor or another.

The guild leader also vehemently believed in farming for the guild, and there was a weekly quota of 10-20 gold (10 if you were below level 40, 20 if you were level 40 and above) that every member of the guild had to contribute to the guild coffers. No explanation was given as to what this gold was used for. Bear in mind that unlike the hyper-inflated economy and gold acquisition prevalent in Wrath of the Lich King, 20 gold in vanilla WoW was a hell of a lot of coin.

Understandably, most people burnt out on the incessantly nonsensical activities within the first month, leading to a rapid and uncontrollable hemorrhaging of players to other guilds, eventually resulting in complete internal combustion by the time February 2005 rolled around.

That was when I left MM, and joined CoV, a guild I would be with for the next three years.

Next Chapter:

Chronicles of Bronte II: “One Is The Loneliest Number” or “Bronte, Loner”.

“The Guild Leader’s Handbook” or “How to Get People to ‘Listen the Fuck up!'”

March 31, 2010 2 comments

Via Destructoid, WoW.com columnist Scott F. Andrews has penned a new book called The Guild Leader’s Handbook. The Amazon.com page claims that you will be able to:

  • Plan successful raids, player vs. player battles, roleplaying sessions, and contests
  • Deal with problem players and keep a lid on guild-fracturing drama
  • Solve loot issues and choose the best loot system for your guild
  • Boost your guild’s morale, reputation, and server presence
  • Promote and motivate an effective officer corps
  • Organize fun and safe real-world guild meetings and events

You know you are treating your guild as serious business if you need a book to guide you through it! That being said, maybe some will get some good use out of it. Having led a guild for yearly 3 years in WoW, I can safely say that being a guild leader is one of the most thankless, frustrating and strenuous things I have done in my life.

The book will be available in April.

Categories: Book, Guild

“Half Life 3: Silent Hill” or “In Case of Being Scared, Use Crowbar”

March 29, 2010 Leave a comment

Valve’s Gabe Newell says the next Half-Life had better be scary!

Click to enlarge

Categories: Half Life

Funny of the Day: “Ubisoft Megalomania” or “How to Make Friends and Influence People, With Nukes”

March 28, 2010 Leave a comment

Click on the comic to visit ActionTrip

Categories: Comic

“Weekly Crock Pot” or “APB, Moonlight, Torchlight, Red Dead Redemption, Ghost Recon, oh my!”

March 27, 2010 2 comments

APB Screenshots

The more I find out about this game, the more excited I get about this title. The truth of the matter is that APB is one of three MMOs I am excited about in a market that recently seems over-saturated either with shameless clones (I am looking at you Alganon) or disappointing novelty (*cough* Champions Online *cough*). The other two being The Secret World and Star Wars: The Old Republic. Click on the gallery below to check out the latest screenshots, courtesy Destructoid.


Vampire MMO

Via Massively, IGG has announced Moonlight Online, a vampire MMO. I suppose it was only a matter of time before the recent American obsession with vampires seeped into the MMO industry as well. I guess this one won’t have any day/night cycles! Oh well, at least it isn’t based in the Twilight universe. Right IGG? RIGHT?

It is slated for a late 2010 release. Considering it is almost April and we haven’t heard anything about this before, that sounds like a bad omen. Has Cryptic taught you nothing?

Light Your Torches for $5

Torchlight is on sale on Steam for a mere $5. If you still need a reason to buy this brilliant game, you are about as satiable as a Saudi Prince on Friday. You know that diet you have been thinking about? Don’t have your second Big Mac for today and buy it instead. ‘Nuff said.

Read Dead Multiplayer

Weeks before the release of GTA IV, it was announced that the game will have sixteen freaking multiplayer modes. Say what you want haters, but GTA IV multiplayer was a blast!

History repeats itself with Rockstar announcing that Red Dead Redemption will also feature multiplayer in a ‘surprising’ manner. What’s the surprise? Will there be cake? THE CAKE IS A LIE!

More details coming April 5th!

Ghost Recon Features Male Human level 80 Rogues

Just watch the trailer. It’s part cool, and part absolutely fucking ridiculous.

“Brick Breaker” or “I Have Too Much Time on my Hands”

March 27, 2010 1 comment

Inspired by Rain, Heavy.

Categories: Bronte, Comic

“Se7en Things to Learn From the New Secret World Trailer” or “Secret’s Out!”

March 26, 2010 2 comments

The new trailer for The Secret World, as seen by attendees at the GDC this month, is finally public. Rock, Paper, Shotgun also published Project leader Ragnar Tornquist’s thoughts on the trailer.

It seems Tornquist both mind-read my frustration with the painfully slim stream of information coming from Funcom, as well as my threats last week to set the Funcom offices on fire. I am glad we see eye-to-eye on this Mr. Tornquist, and it didn’t have to come to arson. I won’t even know where to get that much gasoline! Moving on…

Watch the YouTube video below in case you haven’t yet.

So what can we glean from the trailer?

One: Graphics
The graphics will never compare to Cry Engine 3’s ridiculous capabilities (I mean come on, the engine looks like it could reasonably simulate the freaking Matrix!), but they sure do look pretty! Swirling mists, a derelict boat swaying in unsteady waters, dilapidated ruins, quintessentially cliched suburban quiet towns, The Secret World seems to feature them all and then some.

Two: Atmosphere
The game will be highly atmospheric. The environments radiate with an ambiance of a world similar to ours, yet concealing something just behind the veil that makes it not quite right. The game lore suggests three cities, New York, London, and Shanghai: starter towns for the game’s three factions. Yet the trailer did not feature any urban metropolises (unless I missed something). I thought this was a bit peculiar, since the three cities are central to the game’s story, and battling out demonic abominations in the middle of Times Square sounds like a blast.

Three: Characters
The character models are sufficiently detailed, but they look a little off, and the animations look a little rigid. For all of it’s flaws, Champions Online excelled in the character creation, detail and animation department. I suppose I am now spoiled in a manner of speaking, trying to find flaws in reasonably well-detailed models because I have seen what an MMO could achieve the year prior. This propensity for well-detailed character models is even more perplexing considering I am used to the character models from WoW, and the character-less ship avatars of EVE Online. At the end of the day, the character models and animations look decent, but it must be said that the MMO isn’t even in beta yet, so there is a lot of room for tweaking and improvement.

Four: Enemies
There will be a very wide variety of monsters in the game, ranging from humanoid zombies to the lightening-infused squishy-looking, octopus-squid-Captain-Davy-Jones-from-The-Pirates-of-the-Caribbean-movies-resembling… uh, things. I am also excited by the prospect that the enemies in this game look unlike any monsters we have seen before. Sure the developers have delved into the familiar with zombies and werewolves and the like. But there are several beasts that look and feel original.

Five: Voice-Acting
The voice acting is top notch, and decidedly ominous-sounding. Once again, although I am used to playing MMOs that smack you repeatedly in the face with enough quest text to fill the Encyclopedia Britannica and every crappy Star Trek novel ever written, I find myself irritated at the prospect of having to read any more quest text in any future MMOs that I invest in. I guess BioWare is to blame for that, what with their fully and meticulously voice-acted recent RPGs: Dragon Age: Origins and Mass Effect 2. So when I see an upcoming MMO that I am genuinely excited about, and then I get the briefest whiff of quality voice-acting, I am excited. That being said, the voice acting seems a bit rushed in places. Almost as if the voice artists were hired on a per-hour basis!

Six: Script
The above is a nice transition into my sixth point. The scripts seems well-written, and from what we have seen the lore facilitates and enhances the story and background elements. The cowboy has stood out in both the gameplay trailer and the teaser for the gameplay trailer. I wonder what his story is, but I sure am excited about it!

Seven: Black Frames!
Last but not least, and completely unrelated to the game itself, Tornquist loves his carefully positioned black frames. Good god man, the screen went black about 42 times during that trailer. I know you are all about the secrets and the atmosphere, but my eyeballs hurt from rapid contractions over 90 seconds!

I haven’t been this excited about an MMO for quite some time, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

Categories: Opinion

“Proof that Farmville is Evil” or “Got Virtual Milk?”

March 26, 2010 2 comments

In the most ridiculous video game related piece of news I have come across all week, a Bulgarian official has been sacked, no I kid you not, for milking a virtual cow in Farmville. Of course the fact that he was filling his virtual bucket with milk during a government meeting probably didn’t help.

Dimitar Kerin, a city council member in Sofia, Bulgaria’s capital, had been warned three weeks prior for playing the game at work. In his defense, he said he was only level 40, whereas another colleague, who had gone unchecked, was level 46. What a douche!

Via Kotaku, the full new item can be found here.

“Gaming Brats” or “We’ve Come a Long Way From Pong”

March 26, 2010 Leave a comment

Syp’s post yesterday was quite thought-provoking. This is the contemporary age of video gaming, where we are exposed to such marvelous worlds filled with life and possibilities. With features such as life-like animations, realistic weather effects and environments that looks polished, detailed and textured to blur the line between fiction and reality, developers are pushing the boundaries of next generation games. Every week we are given newer titles to engage us, worlds to explore, threats to thwart and kingdoms to conquer. We relish in not only the complexity and atmosphere of these alternate realities, but also in the fact that the possibilities, both in terms of the choice of titles available, and the paths we choose to take in a game, are endless.

However, as humans we have an innate need to bitch, moan and complain. Having evolved from a culture that reveled in controlling a yellow mouth that ate dots and berries while being chased by ghosts who it could also devour if it were high on smaller dots, to controlling a photo-realistic character that swoons the ladies, thrashes the bad guys, and manages to look incredibly suave all the while doing it, we have gotten spoiled. Where we were once content running a frog through oncoming traffic, we’re unhappy if a flower in a meticulously detailed tropical forest doesn’t disintegrate when we fire an entire magazine of hollow-points into it. Where we were once jumping with joy having successfully evaded a large gorillas flaming barrels, we get upset if a life-like character’s lips don’t sync with the utmost precision with the audio file of its dialogue.

Somehow, despite the fact that we are blessed with an entertainment medium that provides endless hours of immersive, alternate-reality entertainment, we, myself included, have the audacity to point out, complain about and throw temper tantrums about even the most benign and insignificant flaws we can find in our favorite titles. So what if the games aren’t perfect? So what if the advanced physics failed to adequately animate an object? So what if lip-syncing is inherently an imperfect science? So what if the graphics aren’t top-of-the-line, state-of-the-art. Hell, we even find room in our infinite collective wisdom to complain about how graphically intense a game is, and how current technology cannot run it at optimal settings (I am looking at all you whiners that complained when Crysis first came out!)

Syp is right. In my wildest dreams, I never thought I would one day be playing the games I have the privilege of playing today. And I wonder, maybe this is the same conclusion Frank at Overly Positive came to recently.

Categories: Opinion

“Claptrappin’ to the Oscars!” or “Heyooooo!”

March 25, 2010 2 comments

Prior to the release of Borderlands, 2K Games released a series of videos (and I use the term ‘series’ liberally, since it entailed only two videos) of a tongue-in-cheek spoof videos about the making of Borderlands. If you haven’t seen them, here are the first and second videos.

They released a third video today, mocking the Oscars for not including Claptrap’s allegedly stellar performance in the year’s nominations. As Yahtzee of Zero punctuation points out, maybe that is because making something intentionally annoying is still annoying! At any rate, here is the third video, and worth a watch because it’s a decent laugh, if you can bear through all the way to the end! (Direct link here).

Categories: Borderlands

Article of the Day: “Heimlich Counter-Maneuver” or “GLaDOS is a Bitch!”

March 25, 2010 Leave a comment

Via GameInformerAperture Science: A History

1953 – Aperture Science begins operations as a manufacturer of shower curtains. Early product line provides a very low-tech portal between the inside and outside of your shower. Very little science is actually involved. The name is chosen to make the curtains appear more hygienic.

1956 – Eisenhower administration awards Aperture a contract to provide shower curtains to all branches of the military except the Navy.

1957 – 1973 – Mostly shower curtains.

1974 – Aperture Founder and CEO, Cave Johnson, is exposed to mercury while secretly developing a dangerous mercury-injected rubber sheeting from which he plans to manufacture seven deadly shower curtains to be given as gifts to each member of the House Naval Appropriations committee.

1976 – Both of Cave Johnson’s kidneys fail. Brain damaged, dying, and incapable of being convinced that time is not now flowing backwards, Johnson lays out a three-tier R&D program. The results, he says, will “guarantee the continued success of Aperture Science far into the fast-approaching distant past.”

  1. The Heimlich Counter-Maneuver – A reliable technique for interrupting the life-saving Heimlich Maneuver.
  2. The Take-A-Wish Foundation – A charitable organization that will purchase wishes from the parents of terminally ill children and redistribute them to wish-deprived but otherwise healthy adults.
  3. “Some kind of rip in the fabric of space…that would…well, it’d be like, I don’t know, something that would help with the shower curtains I guess. I haven’t worked this idea out as much as the wish-taking one.”

1981 – Diligent Aperture engineers complete the Heimlich Counter-Maneuver and Take-A-Wish Foundation initiatives. The company announces products related to the research in a lavish, televised ceremony. These products immediately become wildly unpopular.  After a very public string of choking and despondent sick child disasters, senior company officials are summoned before a Senate investigative committee. During these proceedings, an engineer mentions that some progress has been made on “Tier 3”, the “man-sized ad hoc quantum tunnel through physical space with possible applications as a shower curtain.” The committee is quickly and permanently recessed, and Aperture is granted an open-ended contract to continue research on the “Portal” and “Heimlich Counter-Maneuver” projects in secret.

1981-1985 – Work progresses on the “Portal” project. Several high ranking Fatah personnel choke to death on lamb chunks despite the intervention of their bodyguards.

1986 – Word reaches Aperture management that another defense contractor called Black Mesa is working on a similar portal technology. In response to this news, Aperture begins developing the Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System (GLaDOS), an artificially intelligent research assistant and disk operating system.

1996 – After a decade spent bringing the disk operating parts of GLaDOS to a state of more or less basic functionality, work begins on the Genetic Lifeform component.

1998 – The untested AI is activated for the first time as one of the planned activities on Aperture’s first annual bring-your-daughter-to-work day. In many ways, the initial test goes well: Within one picosecond of being switched on, GLaDOS becomes self-aware. The “going well” phase lasts for two more picoseconds, at which point GLaDOS takes control of the facility, locks everyone inside, and begins a permanent cycle of testing. Her goal: beat the hated Black Mesa in the race to develop a functioning portal technology. Days later, that race is lost when Black Mesa successfully deploys an inter-dimensional gate through which an alien race emerges and effectively ends the outside world.

Categories: Portal

“Manhandling Metro 2033” or “Creepy Cavern Crawling Children”

March 24, 2010 4 comments

I started playing Metro 2033 last night. From the little I had read about the game, I could glean the following:

  1. It is a very strict linear experience. Some labeled this as a negative thing, and I am not sure why. The Max Payne series was a straight line with nay a single opportunity to veer from the beaten path, and still managed to deliver incredible atmosphere and story. More recently, even groundbreaking and blockbuster titles like Modern Warfare 2 featured a story campaign that bee-lined from beginning to end, no side missions, just powerful storytelling.
  2. It is highly atmospheric and entire sections/areas have been constructed just to create a better sense of the world.
  3. It is a mediocre shooter.
  4. It is based on a Russian novel.
  5. The world is post-apocalyptic with the remnants of humanity residing in underground subway stations, passing the days till the surface becomes remotely habitable again. You could say it’s a Fallout ripoff, but the damn book came first, so suck it Vault-dwellers!

All of the above is more or less accurate.

Like a Bull to a Matador

The game is painfully linear, to the point that if you are traveling with companions and they start marching off to the next checkpoint, they will not stop to check on you if you decide to sprout adventurous wings and go about exploring the area for scarce ammo and other supplies. In fact, the AI-controlled teammates will cross a digital threshold that triggers 6 mutants to be unleashed in the area, and will calmly keep on marching ahead, oblivious to your frantic cries of help as you hobble about trying to ward off and shoot the creatures with starter weapons that can only be compared to glorified slingshots. In a way, this reinforces the concept that you need to stick with your team if you don’t want to end up in the mutants’ crock pot that night, but it does break realism in that the AI will very strictly follow pre-determined paths and objectives of the woefully linear mission.

There is some room for exploration. Deviating from the path, while mostly hazardous and, for the lack of a better term, lonely, does net considerable advantages in the form of much needed and increasingly scarce gas mask filters, ammo and even upgraded guns. My favorite gun so far is a revolver, modified with a rifle barrel extension for increased accuracy and a silencer to pick off targets without attracting unwanted attention.

A Rich Back Story

To say that the game is atmospheric would be sort of like saying Avatar was quite under-hyped. There are little snippets of information strewn about in the form of pre-nuclear-winter memorabilia, random conversations from individuals in the populated stations (I use ‘populated’ loosely, ‘crammed’ would be a more apt depiction), and vestiges of lost civilization the NPCs cling on to for dear life. People are jam-packed like sardines in these nuclear shelters, claiming improvised shacks, even cupboards and benches in old, unused subway cars as their new home. The show, as they say, must go on. There are entire sections of the game world that offer no plot advancement, trade or combat; they have been created just to portray the harsh underground existence of these doomed denizens. It is blatantly obvious to anyone who spends more than a few minutes just exploring a locale to realize this was a labor of love for the developers, and they have poured their collective creativity and meticulous attention to detail and subtext into virtually every nook and cranny in the game. Sheer brilliance. 11/10 for atmosphere.

So-So Pew Pew

It is not a mediocre shooter, it’s actually below average. Gun don’t pack the satisfying punch that brings with it an unsaid level of comfort. The recoil is too mathematical and under-compensated. In the time it takes to reload, I could probably read the book the game is based on. The enemy AI seems cunning on the surface, ducking out from behind cover, darting between different areas to keep you on your toes, but if you sit back and observe, you realize they are darting about primarily for the sake of darting about.

No one is flanking you, they seem to be determined, programmed one might say, to move about haphazardly, to create a false sense that you are up against an enemy that is responding to your attack logically. All said and done, if you are looking for a great shooter, you will find the makings of one here, but it falls quite short of the precedent set by MW2 and ME2.

Did It Just Get Cold In Here, Or Is It Just Me?

Some may claim the game is not creepy, just radiating an ambiance of dread, uncertainty and a few unintentional cheap scares. I wouldn’t disagree entirely, however, there were some moments that jolted me. One of these moments came quite early on. A party of four, myself included, were pushing a hand cart down a subway tunnel with the intention of reaching the next station.

As the cart rounded a corner, I saw the shadow of a little kid, 4, maybe 5 years old, donning a military helmet walking down the track directly ahead of us. I though to myself, this is a throughway, there are bound to be traders or migrating families moving about within the metro system. Except I could see no one else with the child. And then I realized I couldn’t see the child either. It was just a shadow, a silhouette that eerily marched down the tracks, got larger as the light from our cart approached it, and then simply disintegrated into nothingness as we moved past it. Color me creeped out!

Conclusion

All in all I am thoroughly enjoying the experience. It has its drawbacks, but the void Mass Effect 2 has left is at least partially filled with the atmospheric work of genius that is Metro 2033.

Categories: Metro 2033, Opinion, Review

“Tornquist’s Teasers” or “Witcher Harder”

March 23, 2010 1 comment

I came across two videos that I was quite excited about.

The Secret World

I have been anxiously gobbling up any pieces of information offered by Ragnar Tornquist over at Funcom, developers of Age of Conan, about their upcoming MMO, The Secret World. Two teaser trailers have been released in the last two years, short CGI flicks that show ordinary-citizens-turned-heroes battling terrifying monstrosities and abominations. We also saw a website about Kingsmouth, a fictional town in The Secret World‘s universe, that featured, surprise surprise, a teaser for the Zombie infestation that has ravaged through the town’s population.

Now there is a new teaser (sigh), a short 40 second video (32 seconds if you don’t count the compulsory logo at the start – yes I am that obsessive!) shows actual in-game footage of a gruff-looking cowboy with an ominous sounding statement: “I thought I had the measure of the darkness of this world. I was wrong.” Are people like you ever right about these things? The short video also teases the viewer with March 25th, a day when secrets will be revealed. I’m hoping those secrets aren’t more teasers. I just might burn down Funcom Studios.

The Witcher 2

The second video is a bitching new trailer for Polish-based CD Projekt‘s 2007 smash hit, The Witcher. You know what the trailer for the second game is blissfully devoid of? Teasers! Yeah, take notes Tornquist, ya wanker!

The original game won over 100 game of the year awards, a feat that is made all the more impressive by the fact that it was CD Projekt‘s debut project. The trailer features some vicious combat, some fantastic graphics, and pixelated pre-coital bathing.

No, I am not kidding. Enjoy!

“Massive Side-Effect” or “Shepard’s Shanenigans”

March 22, 2010 6 comments

A ton of news regarding Mass Effect 2 has been circulating in the last few days.

Appearance Pack DLC

BioWare tweets about a DLC getting released tomorrow, March 23rd, that includes new costumes for Thane, Jack and Garrus. Although the change is purely cosmetic and does not include any new gameplay, story or lore elements, it does add some much needed flair to the characters, especially Jack, with her S&M leather straps, and Garrus with his shattered armor after the gunship fight. I do wish they would release a costume that would get rid of Thane’s coattails though. The DLC also reinforces BioWare notion of consistent and varied DLC for their space opus.

Too sexy for our pants!

It seems developers these days apply an increasingly loose definition of what constitutes as a ‘DLC’, especially if it is free. I am not complaining about the DLC, I just don’t understand why simple costume pieces were held back only to be released as DLC later in the year. Or a gun that shoots electricity. Or a bigger bulge in Shepard’s pants. Actually, come to think of it, I’d probablypay for that bulge.

I digress. In contrast, Borderlands’ DLCs, although far from perfect, and certainly not free, added a significant amount of additional content, gameplay, weapons, story elements and lore to the game. Is it just me, or do you also prefer strong meaningful content for a price, instead of additional character costumes for free?

Firewalker DLC

Of course BioWare being the mind-readers that they are, decided to give players the best of both worlds by providing free content that adds the hovering Hammerhead, new missions featuring the vehicle, and new locations to explore in yet another DLC that will release tomorrow as well.

Let's hope this one doesn't bounce.

As I am sure you would agree, a horse carriage with square wheels, being dragged by a crippled horse, piloted by a dyslexic mad man would likely handle better than the ever-bouncy Mako from the first game. So the Hammerhead sounds like a welcome addition (I think). I suppose we’ll find out tomorrow how well the damn thing actually handles.

Dark Horse Comic

Via Joystiq, following the immense success of Redemption, Dark Horse has now announced a new monthly Mass Effect comic series, penned by Mac Walters and John Jackson Miller, writer of the original comic mini-series.

Redemption - Cover Art - Issue # 3

The plot of this new series will follow the second game. I am not sure, and neither is Joystiq, if the events will run parallel to the game, precede it, or take place after the main ending of the game. Perhaps it will be a combination of all three.

At some point, I would love to see some of the historic lore depicted in the comic series, such as the Krogan-Rachni wars, the Batarian conflicts, and especially the Geth destruction and eventual occupation of the Quarian homeworld. That’s the great thing about the Mass Effect universe: its background is rich and complex, ripe with stories that can be expanded further and elaborated upon. I for one am really looking forward to the new comics.

BioWare Mission Statement

Stephen Totilo of Kotaku recently sat with the team over at BioWare to try and ascertain the vision behind the design of some of the most visceral, engaging and complex RPGs ever created. In two words, that vision was “emotional engagement.” BioWare says they try their earnest to provide the players with a believable world that pulls you in at an emotional level, and constantly challenges and tickles your moral compass. Adrenaline during intense firefights, sadness at the loss of a squad mate, anger when a team mate has been wronged, excitement at facing an increasingly difficult challenge, connecting with the sacrifice needed to complete the final suicidal mission; all of these are emotional bridges built to immerse the player in the universe.

I can certainly attest to this. One particular example stands out. In Dragon Age: Origins, I decided to play all the origins stories prior to playing the main campaign as it picks up from Ostagar. I finally settled on the City Elf background, because it was such an interesting take on the perpetually noble, elegant and immortal elves as seen in just about every fantasy universe ever constructed. Upon reaching Orgrimmar, I had to choose which tasks to undertake to ensure a king of my choice would succeed the recently deceased ruler. Having played the origins stories, I was aware of the ruthlessness Bhelen was capable of through the Dwarf Noble origins story. However, logic, at least for me, dictated that he be made king. I remember saving the game and quitting for the day, just to mull over who I should put on the throne.

If engaging players in choices and events that trigger complex emotional responses is BioWare’s vision, then that is a vision well accomplished!

Categories: Comic, DLC, Mass Effect 2

“Zombie Flowchart” or “There is a High Chance You Won’t Make it”

March 21, 2010 2 comments

Via Digg, GameInformer has an awesome flowchart on zombies and your odds of survival against throngs of the undead.

Categories: ZOMG Zombies!

“Alan Wake Already” or “The Next Duke Nukem?”

March 20, 2010 Leave a comment

And now, for our random question of the day!

As much as I appreciate lengthy development cycles to ensure a title is as close to a perfect gaming experience as possible, Alan Wake is nipping at the last remaining vestiges of my patience. Is anyone else sick of an endless barrage of Alan Wake screenshots and watching him dodge farm equipment or leprechaun testicles or whatever else gets tossed at the tosser?

Categories: Uncategorized

“Massively Sneaky” or “Cryptic’s Cryptic History”

March 19, 2010 5 comments

Massively, in their regular segment The Daily Grind, asked players what they thought of Cryptic, developers of the superhero simulator Champions Online and the space-based Star Trek Online. You can find the user comments here. Here are some interesting snippets:

  • “After 3 MMOs, I firmly believe that they do not make good games. I think of them as the “bench players” and BioWare or Blizzard are the “star players”.” – gerkshz. [Bronte: I agree with the fact that they don’t make good games for the MMO genre. But I think it is unfair to compare them to BioWare. Although Star Wars has a rabid following and astronomical hype, I still don’t think it is fair to judge a book by its cover. Especially if that book isn’t out yet!]
  • “They are good at giving players customization options and individuality. They are bad at putting in interesting content to keep those individuals engaged. They are good at making visually appealing worlds. They are bad at hiding the real reason they make their games is to squeeze every penny they can out of you.” – FrostPaw. [Bronte: I think this encapsulates my feelings on Cryptic the best. Cryptic is all about sticking to harsh development schedule without paying nearly enough attention to what the players may want. Also, although I only played Star Trek Online beta, I think this review from PC Gamer sums up my experiences with the MMO the best.]
  • “Cryptic are the “own brand diet cola” of dev houses in my experience. They make pretty enough games, but seem convinced that writing a handful of missions and then vaguely re-skinning them is enough to keep people long term. It’s not, and at least for me I’d rather go back to “the real thing” after a couple of months in a Cryptic game (CoX, CO, STO… the similarities are glaring… and not in a good way).” – whitcombe. [Bronte: This is precisely the kind of thing I addressed in my experience with Champions Online on Are We New At This. Read up on some of my past posts on CO here.]
  • “When Cryptic makes a mistake (and they do that often) they hold up their hands and admit to it. A lot of other MMO companies could learn from this.” – Renko. [Bronte: I agree. Cryptic may push unpolished content out the door, be insidious when it comes to squeezing every dime out of your pocket and may provide uninspiring gameplay and rehashed content, but they always admit their mistakes. That being said, what’s the point in accepting a mistake and having an open dialogue on it, if the next iteration suffers from the same inherent issues?]
  • “I think Cryptic needs to take their in their development and not rush. Two years of development for STO is not enough, they need another three or four years to develop the game. For Champions, maybe another two or three years. Both of those games still feels like it’s in alpha and beta.” – Vlo. [Bronte: That is one of the biggest concerns I had with CO. It always felt like the product was in beta stage, being tested live, but with paying subscribers.]
  • “Personally, I think they make solid games but not good subscription MMOs – nothing they’ve made (including CoH) has had any lasting appeal for me.” – Vulturion. [Bronte: Again I have to agree here. Champions Online could have been a great single player (or even multi player) game. It had decent lore, an incredible costume creation tool, and other innovative elements. However, it was a terrible MMO. Social interaction was limited, you could solo 95%+ of the content and the zone chats were densely populated with crickets.]
  • “Having experienced Cryptic at its finest, I will never waste my money on a cryptic product ever again.

    (I) Massive game changing patch with no warning => i.e. the infamous Champions Online launch day patch. Way to break player trust from the very beginning.

    (II) Perception of greed. Full sub + item shop for a game that offers significantly less launch content at launch than its competitors? Now that’s just silly. Every announcement about cryptic seems to be another money grubbing news item, Charging for ‘mini expansions’ which most other games include in the cost of subscriptions, charging for races like the Klingons and Ferengi, what a public relations nightmare.

    (III) The perceived firing of Community managers. Once upon a time Cryptic had a pair of very excellent community managers. In spite of seeming to receive contradictory messages from their superiors, they worked very very hard and maintained a positive outlook. Then one day they disappeared without warning! What did the big bad Cryptic do to them? We will never know children. we’ll never know.

    (IV) Lack of content. One should never have to chose between grinding mobs or completing every single quest in the game. *cough* Champions

    (V) Some bugs should be caught and addressed quickly. If you have a bug that causes player mail to be eaten, it really should not still exist two months after launch.

    (VI) Dismissive attitude towards players => certain Devs are more responsible for this than others.

    I’m just going to stop the list right there. I went from a player who had been following STO from its development at Perpetual and prepared to plop down the cash for a lifetime sub product unseen, to someone who will never touch another Cryptic product ever again. If the two months that I played out of my 6 month Champions online subscription was worth anything, it taught me two things: That first that customization is something that every MMO company should put more effort into, the second is that I now know the true value and quality of a Cryptic product.” – marquis.montrose. [Bronte: I think this guy absolutely nails it. Well said sir!]

“Two Impressive Trailers” or “Space Cowboys!”

March 18, 2010 Leave a comment

Bronte: Watch out EVE Online, Black Prophecy’s latest trailer looks damn impressive!
Pantheon: As did the Champions Online trailer. Look how that worked out.
Bronte: Oh shut up! Also, there is the Red Dead Redemption trailer. Giddy up!

Categories: Black Prophecy

“Captain Obvious in the Hizzouse” or “You Need a Study for That?”

March 17, 2010 5 comments

BoysStudy finds that video games distract young boys from schoolwork.

Another study finds that taking a huge dump is actually quite useful for clearing out your bowels.

Categories: Article of the Week

“5-Word Reviews” or “This Title is Not Five Words!”

March 16, 2010 Leave a comment
Categories: Bronte