Via Joystiq, Blizzard confirms that players in Iran have been denied access to Blizzard servers to play any of their games. This is allegedly part of a larger strategy to make the company, based in the US, more compliant with US laws and regulations. The US currently imposes various economic and political sanctions on Iran because of its controversial nuclear program. As such, Blizzard is refraining from engaging in any trade or economic activity with residents of the country.
Can you imagine how many WoW players just put their fists through their monitors?
This is probably smart move, but there is a part that really annoyed me. Big Blue is unable to provide “refunds, credits, transfers, or other service options to accounts”. For a company that made a hundred billion and stupid thousand dollars from its games, it seems strange to me that it was OK to take money from people when they were buying your games. Was that not engaging in economic trade with Iran and its residents? If that too was wrong, shouldn’t you return said money? Note that I am not trying to support the dickhead regime that believes the holocaust didn’t happen, just saying it isn’t really the players’ fault.
I just finished Deus Ex: Human Revolution after my second time through. My save files were corrupted right after I completed everything in Hengsha the second time around (about 80% of the game completed). As much as that had sucked, that actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because it turns out I had made some fairly silly augmentation choices.
- The various augmentations. Despite there being some really foolish augmentation choices, the overall system was well-thought out and true to the Deus Ex experience.
- The stealth aspect was superb. I learned to take out entire groups of enemies using just single takedowns and the cover system (no double take-downs, no noise reduction, no forced distractions, no invisibility). You can upgrade your abilities to further augment the stealth play-style, eventually turning into an invisible killing machine. But I loved the fact that you could use stealth to your advantage from the very beginning.
- The game offered multiple paths to reach your objective. I think it is a little misleading to say the game offers multiple options to complete an objective, because at the end of the day, you just need to get from point A to point B. The game does offer multiple paths to get there though. You can run and gun. You can use lethal takedowns and stick to the shadows. You can use non-lethal takedowns to pursue the path of being a pacifist. You can bypass most enemies en route to your objective.
- The moral dilemma upon landing in Hengsha the second time. I had played as a pacifist the entire game, and I had to choose to remain a pacifist or to save a character’s life. I ended up choosing the later. It is moments like these that make great video games, when you are forced to make genuinely tough decisions, where the option you choose isn’t the easiest or the most moral of the presented outcomes.
Did not Love:
- The damn boss fights. They sucked. They didn’t offer “choice” in how to handle the boss. Each boss fight was “pump boss full of lead till it keels over”. As a stealth player, I was sorely disappointed.
- The story, though well-written, can be summarized in about seven sentences.
- Stealth gameplay adds artificial length to the game. If you shoot your way through and don’t engage in side-quests, I don’t think the main story would take you more than 5-6 hours. Which is a little lame.
- The choice at the end was to literally press one of four buttons to see a different ending. I felt cheated at the end. I felt like the game had engaged me to make all of these decisions during my adventures, and none of those decisions eventually mattered because in the end I could simply flick the switch for whichever ending I chose, regardless of the logistical or moral choices I had made up to that point. I didn’t like that one bit.
Overall it is a great game, and one I would recommend for any RPG/Stealth lover. It has it’s flaws, but they can be (largely) overlooked. Give it a try if you haven’t yet.
Online Gaming Overload
I had slight MMO overload over the last few days. I played WoW almost compulsively, because it was so easy to invest just another half hour into it and get another level for your character. I had a small episode of a burnout, so I decided to purposely stay away for a few days. It worked. It has been three days and I am itching to play it again.
I have been dabbling a little into Champions Online. I am level 11 now, but the I am not quite happy with the Archetype I picked. I also read that this was probably the most balanced of the offered Archetypes, so if this is the best they have to offer without paying, then maybe I ought to focus my attention on City of Heroes, which has recently transitioned into an F2P model as well.
Good game to start off in, the tutorial levels are very well laid out, and I had a lot of fun with the smaller skirmishes. But I have my hands rather full these days and something’s got to give. That something has turned out to be Global Agenda. Not that it matters, because where I dropped Global Agenda, I picked up…
…League of Legends
God damn whoever made this game because it is addictive as hell. I have only played two games so far, but my DOTA flashbacks have effectively ensured I will be screwing around in this title for a while. I am going to try out all the free to play characters for now, just to get a better handle on the game, and I am not touching Dominion yet, simply because I must wrap my head around the basics first. I will also continue to research the paid characters and see which one best suits my play-style. All in all, good game, and I am glad (wroth) that I got coerced into giving it a try. Because now I am hooked. Damn it.
I am steadily getting better as a Protoss player. I have made it a rule to get at least four to five 1v1 matches in a week so my macro game continues to improve. But my true love in StarCraft II right now is playing with a friend in ranked 2v2. It is a treat to play and I am very happy with everything it has to offer so far.
Note: I know this post is very late, but hey, I started putting it together about two weeks back and constantly got sidetracked. The following are some gaming moments in 2010 that had me sit back and just marvel at the developers for putting together such incredible set-pieces.
Mass Effect 2 – The Ending Sequence
Despite a lackluster final-boss (what the hell was that all about anyway?), the ending of Mass Effect 2 was one of the greatest moments crafted in any game ever made. Granted the final cut-scene had zero input from the player, but you could see all of your actions over the course of the game reflected in that sequence. The fate of your teammates, crew-mates, and even your own survival would be revealed in a cut-scene that was crafted out of the very choices you made throughout the game. The final cacophony that leads to Shepard’s breathtaking leap of faith was the icing on the cake. Topped with a stellar musical score and superb dialogue, the ending of Mass Effect 2 continues to live on in memory as one of the most powerful video game endings in history. I had goosebumps!
World of Warcraft – Killing the Lich King
Nearly eight years in the making, the final blow to the Lich King was a triumphant moment in 2010. Even since his betrayal at Stratholme, and subsequent departure from humanity, every Warcraft fan prayed for the day when we would stand toe-to-toe with the arch-villain and sink in his fine-honed blades. Now I didn’t get to experience the moment on my main character, and I wasn’t there for the three week struggle against the fight that led to the eventual kill, but the moment was nevertheless cathartic. We had killed Arthas, and all was right with the world.
Little did we know…
StarCraft II – Fight To The Death
StarCraft II had very intelligent missions. I don’t think I have ever played a pure RTS where I never felt like I was playing an RTS. Allow me to explain. StarCraft II, for all intents and purposes, is a true RTS. You collect resources. You build a base. You pump units. You annihilate the other side. However, despite the fact that you do this in nearly all missions, each mission felt different and played out in a distinctly different tone. In each mission there is some gimmick or some additional obstacle that you must overcome to advance, and the RTS underpinnings are silently turning in the background, almost as if you aren’t even playing an RTS. When the truth of the matter is that you are playing an RTS all along! Do you see? Oh forget it! One of the most memorable moments in 2010 was a Protoss mission.
This is the final Protoss mission, a vision of the near-future where all intelligent life in the universe is being systematically annihilated. The Protoss make their last stand, with the Zerg pouring into a massive base from all directions. Your job as a player however, is not to win. Your job is to lose. You need to hold out the assault for some time, but eventually it will overwhelm you no matter how you do it, and then you need to fight till the last Protoss is alive, including the most iconic figureheads of the enigmatic race. The winning condition, you see, is to fight till the last Protoss and this eventually lose the base. That is awesome. I had a blast in that mission, and I had adrenaline pumping through my veins as I tried strenuously, albeit foolhardily, to stand my ground. Well done Blizzard, well done indeed!
Red Dead Redemption – Rescue my Wife
Red Dead Redemption was a jewel in the gaming line-up of 2010.
I am riding on my horse down the dirt-path carved into the terrain by frequent travelers. I am minding my own business, on my way to meet a new contact who goes by the name of Irish. I am contemplating if I should just fast-travel to the location; in retrospect, I am glad I didn’t exercise that option. You’ll see why in just a second. Suddenly, I hear someone in the distance say:
“Please sir, would you help me? They’ve taken my wife!”
I pause, wondering if this was a mission marker that I missed on my map. The rider who has sought my help turns up as a blue circle on my mini-map. As I contemplate my response to this stranger’s query, he simply takes off in one direction, eager to get to his wife. As the blue circle grows distant, I get a message on my screen suggesting I follow the rider. I think a second longer and decide to follow the poor guy, and see what this random encounter has in store for me.
The man rides at top speed down bushy knolls and grass highlands for a little bit, and then he stops short of a posse of hooligans. His wife sits atop a horse, with a noose around her neck. Before I can even so much as gauge the situation, a firefight breaks out. I take out my trusty Winchester Repeater, and over the next few seconds, gun down the three perpetrators.
Then I realize I was too slow. They have already killed the husband, who lays crumpled next to his dead horse. I look over at the wife. The shooting has scared off the horse atop which she sat, and she is hanging from the tree branch. I panic. I run over to her increasingly limp body, but even as I am closing the distance I get a message on-screen that says matter-of-factly: “The victim has died.”
I am utterly devastated. Had I been a few seconds faster, both in the decision to follow the man and in the shootout, I could have saved their lives. I know they are digital beings in an artificial world, but the sense of loss is still palpable.
I came across this encounter a second and then a third time. The second time I ignored it altogether, because it was late and I just wanted to finish one last story mission before calling it a night. The third time I immediately followed the man, this time to a different location, with the kidnappers using a cart as cover, and the wife already hanging. I managed to save the husband, but the wife perished. The husband collapsed at the hanging, limp body of his wife and wailed.
A few things to remember:
- The mission was completely optional
- If you chose to take on the quest, you simply followed the husband, there was no mission log to keep track of the mission, and no prompt saying that you were now on this mission. In fact, you could abandon course at any point and just go your way if you so chose.
- There were multiple outcomes: you could save both husband and wife; you could save just the wife; you could save just the husband
- In any of the scenarios above, you weren’t penalized for failing (unless you take into account being emotionally penalized); if you failed, that family was dead, you were responsible for it, and there was nothing you could do to change that
A living breathing world indeed.
Lord of the Rings Online – The Joy of Deeds
In 2010, I also returned to LOTRO, after a brief stint with the original beta and a briefer stint with the live game. The game seems to be much more streamlined and the option to play for free is extremely tempting. After finishing the starter area for elves, I was questing near a lake when something popped up on my screen: “New Deed Unlocked”, it said. I was confused. Since I had not played the game in so long, I had no idea what they were talking about. When I looked it up, I realized how that tied into Turbine Points, and how much I actually enjoyed the idea of pursuing deeds to not only earn rewards, but also Turbine points for the store. As I have mentioned on a few occasions, I have a penchant for completing every last objective, title, achievement and knick-knack a game throws my way, so the discovery of deeds was a very joyous moment for me.
Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood – My First Kill Streak
The third major installment in the series featured several improvements over the previous iteration, the most significant of which was offensive combat. Instead of sitting there with the block button pressed, you could actually attack offensively at will, and killing an opponent allowed you to unlock chain-killing enemies in rapid succession. When I first came across this ability, I couldn’t figure it out. The in-game prompt, and even websites where other people had posted their frustrations with the mechanic, suggested that I press LS to kill the next victim. I took me a whole week to realize that “press L2” does not equal “press L2 down”. You simply had to swivel the stick in direction of the opponent you wanted take out next, preferably close by, and then execute. The first time I accidentally figured this out was during a rescue mission where you engage a large army of guards to buy Catarina Sforza some time to get away. That first kill streak was orgasmic, because once I figured it out, I took out over 30 guards in a series of quick, fluid and outright sexy maneuvers without having to play defensively.
Alan Wake – The First Miniboss
Alan Wake was not on my top list for games in 2010, mostly because the game became too formulaic with its gimmicks after the first hour or two. That being said, it had some truly eerie and at times downright creepy moments. One of these moments was the final ‘boss fight’ at the end of Chapter One. This was the being that zipped around at a frightening speed, only to stop a mere few feet from you, when your eyes haven’t even adjusted to the sudden change in momentum, and attack! That was a terrifying encounter, and set the mood for several of the following hours of gameplay. Aside from Dead Space, that is the only game to date that truly shivers me timbers!
That’s my list, what were your favorite gaming moments in 2010?
“Se7en Favorite Games of 2010” or “Sheppard Plants Assassins Northrend Explosions Protoss Bada-Bing-Bada-Boom!”
Note: Sorry this is a day late, I got caught up in some work stuff / my cat swallowed a hairball / my dog ate my blog post.
2010, much like everything else in life, had it’s ups and downs. The gaming industry continues to grow, and with growth comes more variety and better quality games. On the flip-side terrible games also stick out like sore thumbs when juxtaposed against lauded AAA titles. All in all, I had a blast in 2010 playing video games, and despite some fairly horrid titles, botched reboot attempts, and sub-par production values in some otherwise solid titles, I was quite pleased with what the industry had to offer.
I didn’t play as many MMOs in 2010 as I did in the years prior. I quit Eve Online. I finally said goodbye to World of Warcrft, despite a stellar new expansion (I was in the beta). I started dabbling into LOTRO and realized it was a completionist’s wet-dream, and I have been having a blast on my novice Elf Hunter (yes, I know that race/class combo is real original). I tried out Perpetuum and was turned off by how similar it was to Eve Online in terms of systems, UI and looks, and how much it paled in comparison in actual execution. I also tried my hands at World of Tanks, a game that really took a lot to get used to, and so far it hasn’t been entirely disappointing. SynCaine’s ramblings finally made me cave in to Darkfall and I have been getting my ass kicked ever since. But all things considered, I spent the least amount of time with MMOs in 2010, especially when you contrast that against 2-6 hour daily sessions with World of Warcraft and EvE Online in prior years.
At any rate, the following are my favorite games of 2010, in no particular order:
Mass Effect 2
What a stellar experience this game was. I found myself thinking of the game weeks after I finished it, always intrigued by what could have happened if I had played a particular fight with another set of allies using different tactics. Mass Effect 2, of all the games I have played in 2010, had the most powerful ending I have experienced in a video game, despite a terrible “final boss” fight and holes in the story regarding the final set pieces. Mass Effect 2 gave me goosebumps, and I am ever thankful to BioWare for making such a fantastic title. It speaks volume for a title that has quite a few flaws, but those flaws completely pale in comparison to the rest of the package.
- “Scared Shepard” or “That Scar has a Very Specific Shape”
- “Mass Effect 2: A Matter of Numbers” or “I’m Special!”
This game is the primary reason my MMO habits suffered so greatly in 2010. (The other reason being a lack of interesting MMOs to play in 2010 – just my opinion, disagree all you want). Twelve years in the making, this title had the kind of hype that eventually leads to inflated expectations, which, inevitably deflate with rancid disappointment because no title can live up to such high hopes. Starcraft 2, however, shocked fans and critics alike when it launched, not only meeting, but in some cases exceeding expectations. Couple this with the fact that the title shipped with no LAN support despite resounding disagreement from the core fan base, and that this is only a third of a trilogy that will be released over several years, and still the title did so well both commercially and critically. The single player campaign was phenomenal, and there was a hardly a mission where I felt like I was playing an RTS. It was immersive, innovative, the missions were varied and featured a plethora of objectives for you to accomplish and the production values were incredible. It took me nearly 40 hours to get through the single-player portion of the game. But the multiplayer is where I find myself losing hours on a daily basis: 386 hours to be exact (that’s over 16 days in real-time – sheesh!). I love the 1v1 match-ups and a friend and I have been tearing through the 2v2 rankings for several weeks now. This is a game I will be surely playing well into 2010.
- “Blizzard Name-Change Induces Irony” or “Retarded Retort”
- “Shouldn’t Customer Loyalty Warrant Beta Spots?” or “Wisdom From Milamber”
Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood
Talking about completionists’ wet-dreams, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood hit the (digital) shelves in November. I have already shared my thoughts on the title, so I will spare you the re-iteration, but suffice it to say AC:B was hours upon hours of fun, featuring huge improvements over the previous titles, and kept me happily occupied for days.
- “Assassin’s Creed MMO?” or “Rome Might Need Saving… From Assassins!”
- “What MMOs Can Learn From Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood” or “The Themepark vs. Sandbox Debate Continues”
- “Assassin’s Creed: Awesome” or “Offensive Combat, Deadly Assassins, Same Old Stupid Voice Acting”
- “Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood” or “Multi-Stabby Stab Stab”
A racing game? Yes, I was surprised as well. A colleague at work first recommended this title and then demanded that I play it. I have never been a big racing sim fan, so I was a little skeptic. But then I lost a bet the following week to the same colleague and my “punishment” was playing this title. God I wish all punishments could be like this. Expecting a racing sim with questionable production values and a botched, convoluted “career mode”, I was completely blown away (pun-intended) by what I saw. One of the most satisfying games I have ever played, Split/Second is a fictional reality TV show in the ‘near future’, where drivers compete on tracks laden with explosives and traps. These obstacles can be triggered by any of the drivers as long as they have power, which is earned through air time, drafting and drifting. There was no major car customization, no excessively ‘real-time’ mode, just the directional pad, an accelerator, a brake and two buttons for small and large explosions respectively. It is deceptively simple and shockingly involved and deep. You can win/lose in the final few moments, and the music is so well done, it actually gets your adrenaline pumping for those final precious few seconds of a hard-fought race. Check it out if you haven’t yet, and look on YouTube for some of the soundtrack.
World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King
My love-hate relationship with WoW continued to grow/dwindle in 2010, but finally fizzled out towards the end. Despite the fact that I am no longer playing it, I had a lot of fun playing WoW casually in 2010. I learned what it was like not to raid for 4 hours a night, 4-5 days a week. I learned the fun in creating and pursuing your own little goals, such as going after a particularly elusive reputation, or earning the Chef’s Hat. I ran heroics with strangers and 10-mans with old friends and guildies, and I had a blast. I was also in the Cataclysm Beta from quite early on and played it for nearly three months. I experienced most of the new content and enough of the revamped world to know what Cataclysm had to offer. Eventually I realized it wasn’t enough to keep me around, but I had a great time nonetheless. And who knows, maybe I will find a reason to go back at some point in the future.
- “Further Proof that GS is Overrated” or “The Most Fun I’ve Had In a 5-Man Recently”
- “The Race to Level-Cap” or “Skipping the Best to Get to the Rest”
- “Avoiding the Cataclysm” or “Off the Beaten Path”
- “Dealing With the End of the World” or “Four Weeks to Cataclysmic Events”
- “Gevlon Will Appreciate This Level of Stupid” or “Spiked Greatstaff of Stupid”
- “The Biggest PvPenis” or “Static vs. Dynamic”
- WoW Memoirs – Part I: “Sproll, Gnome, Mage” or “The Great Arathi Basin Battle”
- “Why Gold Farmers are Stupid” or “The 20K Gold Rush”
- “Bringing Civilization to Azeroth” or “Bringing Azeroth to Civilization”
- “Mission: Account Hacking” or “Bronte’s Tips for Sifting Through Bullshit Emails”
- “What MMOs Can Learn From Borderlands” or “Twice the Hogger”
Plants vs. Zombies
PopCap hit gold with this title. This game seems so simple on the surface, but as the levels progress and the various types of zombies and plants unlock, it turns into one of the most complex, strategic and exhilirating titles I have had the pleasure of playing in recent memory. I was initially skeptic of the title, Bejeweled and Peggle (the other smash hits from the developer) aren’t exactly what you would call my cup of tea. So imagine my surprise when I played the game and realized what an incredible experience it was. Not that the title needed any additional critical acclaim, but it has now been immortalized in WoW as a series of quests in the Hillsbrad Foothils starting with Brazie the Botanist.
And finally, we have the crime drama. The game didn’t get very high reviews from most gaming authorities, getting an average rating around the mid-70s. I am not disagreeing, I don’t think it was as good as it could have been. But the original Mafia, a game I played start to end three times, holds a special place in my heart. And even though the characters didn’t have much cross-over between the two games, I loved every minute of Mafia II, even the abysmal driving controls and the long rides between mission points. Mafia II didn’t live up to its predecessor, but it was a hell of a ride, and I am glad for it.
- Metro 2033: Great game, supremely atmospheric. Horrendous AI that breaks the game in my opinion.
- Call of Duty: Black Ops: Excellent single-player campaign, especially when juxtaposed against MoH. Awful PC multiplayer ruined my experience.
- Borderlands: Released in 2009, I kn0w, played it well into 2010, lots of good DLC content, had a blast.
- Darkfall: SynCaine was right, it is difficult to go back to WoW after experiencing Darkfall in all it’s brutal, unforgiving glory, still learning, still trying to wrap my head around it.
- Machinarium: Actually can I have eight favorites of 2010? Yes, it’s that good.
Blizzard announced almost a week back that Starcraft II players could change their name, if they so chose, and for free. While this isn’t exactly worthwhile news to report on, I thought what followed was pretty entertaining. On the official website, I came across the following comment to this announcement:
If this is the first time you are hearing about it, here is the information you need to get your free account name change:
All StarCraft II accounts have been granted one free name change. If you’d like to change your character name, log in to Account Management and choose your StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty game license. On your game license screen a “Character Name Change” button at the bottom will initiate the request. After confirming that you’d like to change your character name, simply log in to StarCraft II and you’ll be prompted to select a new one. Please be sure to use this name change wisely.
A close friend of mine recently got invited to the StarCraft II Beta. He is a Blizzard fan to an extent, but does not hold the developer in a particularly high regard or another. He believes they make good video games, and enjoys their work as much as the next guy. He used to play World of Warcraft up until 2005, and it is currently the only game he own on his Battle.Net account.
Let me rephrase. A guy who has owned only one of Blizzard’s many fine products, which he last subscribed to five years ago, got a beta invite to StarCraft II.
I know players, including myself, who have played WoW for nearly six years now, paid our dues, and bought out every game and expansion pack Blizzard has released since Orcs & Humans. Yet none of us have ever received a beta invite, and then there is this guy, no interest in anything Blizzard currently has to offer, and he gets to boast about his shiny new StarCraft II Beta invite key.
Milamber, a guildmate of almost 6 years, also remarked on the trend. He has been playing WoW, without taking a break in subscription, since November 2004. It is now May 2010. He has yet to get into a Blizzard beta. I understand his exasperation, and quite frankly I sympathize with it. It is utterly ridiculous that some who has paid $50 for the original game, than $40 each for the two subsequent expansions, and then yet another $15 x 65 months, for a whopping total of $1,105 can’t even get a beta key thrown in his general direction.
The way I feel, if you have had a continuous subscription for over 5 years of WoW, you should get some sort of incentive for being such a loyal customer. Not too mention if they have also purchased SC1 (and will buy SC2), Diablo 1 and 2, and regular Warcraft.
I really like when companies give stuff to older customer, like in TF2 I have a platinum medal for preordering and playing from the start. It doesn’t give me an unfair advantage, it’s just there to show how long I’ve played.
And shouldn’t those who have been around the longest play beta? I more than anyone know how this game functions and I think I’d be a very helpful tester.
His opinion on the subject has a lot of merit, not only from the point of view of incentivizing games for loyal customers, but also in that players who have been playing your games the longest are likely to be their best critics. Why Blizzard doesn’t have a policy in place for giving betas to their oldest, most loyal customers, is quite franly beyond me.