Alright, so Trion has rolled out a recruit-a-friend program for early adopters (founders) of Rift, and you can gift a free copy to one of your friends, and Ascend them.
For every friend you gift, you get Courage, a (vanity?) pet, then a spiffy hat for the second, and a kick-ass mount called the Ember Steed for your third. You can find additional details here.
So: who wants to be my friend?
Read this post.
Then read the following comment (incidentally also the first response to said post).
“Instance Control. Champion Heavy Six Zero. Requesting permission to dungeon run.”
“Roger Champion Heavy Six Zero. Please change your character level to six five and then proceed on instance two three.”
“Level six five, and instance two three. Thank you. Champion Heavy Six Zero”
“Champion Heavy Six Zero, be advised you have a Guardian and Minstrel ahead of you at a level of six five, please maintain separation and do not attempt to join their formation.”
“Roger. We have them in sight, will maintain separation. Champion Heavy Six Zero.”
“Instance Control. Hunter Medium Four Five. Requesting permission to join formation.”
“Ah ha ha ha ha ha ha Hunter Medium Four Five. Ah ha ha.”
Article of the Week: “Anisotropic Filtering? Anti-Aliasing? Tessellation?” or “Here is What Those Terms Mean!”
If you have ever struggled with terms like anisotropic filtering, anti-aliasing or shader models while tweaking the graphical settings mid-game, this post is a great beginner’s guide to what these terms mean. In short:
All modern games use mip-mapping, which renders textures farther away at lower resolutions to help frame-rates, anisotropic filtering helps reduce the blatancy of the visible between the hi-res texture close to you, and the lo-res texture further away.
Ever notice how slanted lines in graphics can seem jagged and pixelated. A higher multiplier in anti-aliasing helps reduce this jagged edge and renders a smoother line.
High Dynamic Range Lighting
HDR lighting increases the level of brightness rendered, so the game world presents it’s varying contrasts a bit better, as would occur naturally to the naked eye.
Shader model the shading language used to program shaders. It is constantly evolving and older cards may not support all the features of the shader model being used by the latest game.
Think of this as anisotropic filtering, but for polygons. Polygons closer to the player are rendered with high details (the count normally remains the same), whereas polygons much farther are rendered at a much lower detail-level.
With a severe lack of MMOs in my life, I am finding my guilty gaming pleasures in several multiplayer co-op and single-player titles these days. I wait anxiously for the day new-generation MMOs like Guild Wars 2 and The Secret World come out, but until then, I just can’t bring myself to engage in the same old cyclical redundancy that is the bane of the contemporary MMO experience.
My last post detailed the multiplayer co-op games I have been playing of late. This post details the single-player titles that have kept me occupied
Witcher 2: Pros and Cons
The Witcher 2 is simultaneously one of the most amazing and annoying games ever build in the history of computer gaming.
On the positive side, it is a complete RPG experience, rich with lore, dripping with ambiance and executed with style in a lush, beautifully crafted world. The lore is especially well-planned, originally based off of the books of polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, and details a fantastical kingdom with geopolitical tensions, royal assassinations, political espionage, magic, dragons and civil war in the lands. The game world has perhaps the best-looking environments I have seen to date in a video game. Lush foliage, towering castles, painstakingly detailed ruins and winding dungeons seamlessly blend together to create one of the most visually rewarding experiences I have had in a virtual world. The combat system, though initially baffling, can vary dramatically depending on your specialization, and can prove to be incredibly rewarding and challenging.
The game is not without its flaws. The combat starts very tough, with no clear direction as to what you’re supposed to do or how you are supposed to fight. Over the course of the game you actually become powerful enough to decimate anything in your path regardless of size, health, disposition or strength. Read that again. The combat starts really tough, and gets really easy. That’s dumb. The inventory management was a colossal pain in the ass. You only have 300 units of items you can carry. Given that the game throws cloth and leather and creature parts, and swords, and axes and pikes, and war hammers, and random junk, and herbs, and quest items, and beast trophies, and elemental stones and diamond dust and silver ore and iron ore and timber and the kitchen sink (to name maybe 1% of everything there is to pick up in the world), you run out of inventory space quite quickly. And god help you if you run out of space in the middle of a dungeon crawl, because the game will encumber and slow you down to a crawl. Add to this the fact that you will pick up recipes throughout the game and you never know which materials you might need later to craft that epic silver sword, piece or mail or armor kit, it can result in a very frustrating experience. The upcoming patch 1.3 promises to deal with both these issues, which is a great thing, I just wish they had done this when I was going through it myself.
Witcher 2’s Divergent Chapters
But Witcher 2’s greatest strength isn’t all of the fantastic gameplay elements, graphics, or mechanics that I listed above. In Witcher 2, one of the coolest things, that I only realized after reading up on it online, is that a binary choice in Chapter One completely changes the way the rest of the game plays out.
This isn’t necessarily a spoiler, but read at your own risk. The game will ask you to choose between Roethe or Iorveth during your first showdown with the Assassin of Kings. Either choice is permitted, but the game divides into two completely separate paths after you make this choice. Allow me to explain. The binary choice results in different NPCs dying, different fate of the town of Floatsam, a completely different Chapter Two and Chapter Three, including missions, NPCs, objectives, story, monsters and side-quests. Allow me to rephrase, playing the game after siding with Iroveth is a completely different lore and storyline experience from that moment onwards, than if you sided with Roethe. For example, Iorveth’s side leads you in Chapter Two to the Dwarven town of Vergen, which is preparing for an invasion by King Henselt’s armies. Whereas if you sided with Roethe, you actually play Chapter Two in King Henselt’s camp, as he prepares his advance against Vergen.
That is true choice, where your decisions matter and effectively change the entire direction and disposition of the game.
If you haven’t yet, you must play The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings.
I am playing no MMO these days, which is odd because I started this blog as an MMO player. There are a number of reasons for why I am not playing any existing MMOs, but suffice it to say, I am just tired of the endless cycle. I am tired of never being able to “properly” impact the world for the better. I am tired of killing the same old ten rats, albeit with a new look and mechanic. I am tired of grinding. I am tired of farming. I am tired of competing for gear because having gained 85 goddamn levels means absolutely nothing in this day and age of the perpetual endgame gear grind. I am tired of all this.
I am not saying MMO’s haven’t evolved, the latest cross-realm raid pugging and Real ID grouping features from Blizzard are ground-breaking features. Eve Online set the bar for player-defined market economies and territory control very high, but suffers from its inherent complexity and that the oldest players are over 100 million skill points ahead of the competition, which, to say the least, is ridiculous. This is but two of many example.
I am looking for the second wave of MMO ingenuity. I am looking for the world-impacting mechanics of Guild Wars 2. I am looking for the level-less scope of the Secret World. I am waiting for light-sabers. And in the meantime, I am, keeping myself busy with a host of other quality multiplayer games, that are just not as massive.
Magicka’s Mutually Assured Destruction
I am playing Magicka these days with three of my friends, and it is a treat to play. There are no levels, no skill points, no game-breaking gear (there is gear), no additional spells or abilities to learn. Everyone starts off on the same foot and finds their preferred way to play. There are eight spells in the game, and five spell slots. You can mix and match the skills in Magicka in those five slots (or less, if you are pressed for time) to create unique spell-combinations. You can cast Fire with Healing to simultaneously heal and dry yourself. You can cast frost to freeze a water surface to walk across. You can sling earthen boulders, or add a dash of Fire to hurl fireballs. You are only held back by your imagination for how you decide to take on an obstacle.
Then you add three more players, and it gets a lot more fun.
There is friendly fire in Magicka. This means that if you are casting a death ray of Arcane energy, an ally who walks across that beam will also be instantly zapped. Given that all spells are both area effect, conical directional, and focused, the possibility of getting hit by an ally’s firepower gets multiplied astronomically. Battles are careful strategic endeavors, because your enemies will come at you from all directions and shooting any combinations of magical energies at them imply you have to ensure your allies are not caught in the spells’ wake. This adds incredible depth and scale to an already exciting game, and results in some of the funniest, and at times frustrating moments in my recent gaming history.
Borderlands Badass Co-Op
I played Borderlands a while back with a friend on the Xbox, but we got bored after about 15 levels. Partially because the vertically split-screen was headache inducing, and partly because I am not used to playing shooters on an Xbox controller. Two years later, Steam decides to have a massive sale on a Borderlands 4-pack. Two of my friends purchase it, and off we go, into the world of Pandora, in search of the 17+ million weapons the game has to offer.
It occurred to me very shortly after playing it with two other players that Borderlands’ Pandora is a cruel, gruesome and tough world. Enemies got tougher, tougher enemies got impossible and we learned what it was like to play a cooperative shooter where your combined abilities can result in the difference between life and death. It is not as intense, nor as teamwork dependent as Left 4 Dead but it does require skill, and planning and watching each others’ backs through the tougher moments.
The bottomline is that Borderlands, even two years after release, has turned out to be one hell of a game, especially when played with several players cooperatively.
Next post: The single-player games that are keeping me busy till a better MMO comes out.