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“DayZ of our LiveZ” or “Seriously, Are People Still Playing?”

September 18, 2012 2 comments

The DayZ craze for me wore off almost as quickly as it engulfed me. There was a point when I played DayZ for 16 hours straight. At the end of those 16 hours, I had a character with damn near nothing, having recently spawned on the coast. Even then I couldn’t get enough.

I have not played DayZ in several weeks, and I haven’t thought much about it either. The reason is fairly simple. With the announcement of the standalone, and the obvious diverting of resources, including the mind of Dean Hall, into its development, DayZ has sort of died. There used to be patches in quick succession, tweaking with weapon ranges and accuracy, fiddling with items, adding new content, experimenting with new ideas. That core philosophy seems to have taken a back seat, as the team behind the mod is working hard to create alpha build of the standalone.

I suppose subconsciously I made the decision that I will just play the standalone version when it is out, instead of suffering through an alpha that the developers have little to no reason to invest in any longer. Are you still playing DayZ? How is Chenarus faring?

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Categories: Arma II, DayZ, ZOMG Zombies!

“DayZ: A Mod After My Own Heart” or “The Most Fun You Can Have Online”

July 9, 2012 2 comments

I never really played Arma II, the hyper-realistic military simulator from Bohemia. I was a big fan of Operation Flashpoint, and played the many mods it spawned, but somehow I never got into Arma II. I think part of the reason was my obsession with MMOs, and that fact that at the time of Arma’s II’s release (summer 2009), I was having a great time with WoW and an assortment of other MMOs. Boy did I miss out!

DayZ is an independent and (so far) free mod for Arma II, and although it is still in Alpha, the mod is very playable. In fact, it is gained such an amazing amount of momentum in such a short period of time, that it is single-handedly responsible for boosting Arma II Steam sales to the top of the list, over three years after the game’s release.

The concept is very simple. You have 225 square kilometers of land, complete with roads, railways, ports, two major cities, smaller towns and settlements, military bases, airports and … zombies. An unknown infection has wiped out the local population. The husks left behind are brain-eating monsters who will react to your presence, and come at you with astonishing ferocity. Your job is to gear up, find critical supplies, food and water, and survive. That’s it. There is no magical solution to the infection. You are not waiting for rescue. There is no light at the end of the tunnel. It is a massive world ripe with opportunity, and fraught with danger, and your only job, is to survive.

DayZ is hyper-realistic. When you spawn, you have no map, no compass, no sense of direction, no weapon , no gear (save a small backpack, a bandage and a flashlight), and no additional information. All you have is the ocean to your back (you always spawn at the coast) and, for a split-second, the location of the nearest settlement (but no sense of which direction it is in). You need to drink and eat every once in a while or you will die. You need to find shelter when it pours to avoid hypothermia. You can get an infection from your wounds. If you get hit, you bleed, and must take steps to stem the bleeding or risk an untimely death. You can get broken bones, limiting you to crawling on all fours. You can faint, causing a timer to appear and you cannot do anything else unless that timer goes away.

Supplies are found in settlements, as are zombies. You need to learn to sneak, because they will react to your presence, and if detected (it is very, very easy to get detected), they will chase you to the edge of the map to get a bite out of that fresh meat. Once you get a weapon, you cannot go on a rampage. Weapons and ammo (unless you are in a large, organized ‘farming’ squad’) are scarce. Aside from a handful of firearms, they all make a lot of noise. Even a small pistol will attract zombies from all across town.

But this is not the best part (or worst part, based on your experience and perspective). The best part is that since this is a realistic game, friendly fire is on. There are no guilds, or headquarters, or cabals, it’s every man for himself. This has created an emergent gameplay experience, where if you come across another player, you don’t know if he is a friendly, a bandit, or someone who will shoot you simply to ensure no harm comes to him. Major settlements have turned into heated PvP zones, as survivors flock to these locations to search for supplies and equipment. Bandits raid along smaller settlements, often camping prized loot points (such as downed choppers), to pick off anyone trying to get at the goods.

Different people view DayZ in different ways. Some see it as the ultimate post-apocalyptic survival title. Some see it is an adventure game. Others see it as a shooter. More hardcore teams treat it as a military simulator with ‘an added variable’. For me, DayZ is a massive social experiment. If everything goes to shit, and you are forced into a corner, what will you be willing to do to survive?

If you are looking for additional information on DayZ take a look at:

Categories: Arma II, DayZ, ZOMG Zombies!

“Aaaaaand I am Addicted to Minecraft” or “Never Thought That’d Happen”

April 29, 2011 4 comments

So I am addicted to Minecraft now. I never thought that would happen. The game looks weird, the graphics looks straight out an alpha version of the original Doom. The mechanics sounded odd and there was no storyline, no rails on which to merrily travel and no “endgame scenario”. yet I am addicted. I can’t get enough, and I look forward to the next play session.

Here are a few things I love about Minecraft:

  • Even sitting at work, I am trying to build the logic gate circuits for fully automated minecraft subway system for my mining needs
  • Even though dying has no penalty aside from losing your inventory, the game is so well designed that I absolutely abhor dying.
  • I kept expanding my house by a little bit every few nights. Then I realized I needed to mine to get the better materials. So I build a tunnel with a glass ceiling to the nearest mountain for digging through it (took 8 in-game days). Then I realized that I could have stayed where I was and just dug down to the bedrock (which is allegedly 64 blocks below sea level) and I didn’t have to mine a mountain to do it.
  • Despite the realization above, I am in a new, carved-into-the-mountainside abode, merrily mining away underneath.
  • I don’t have a long-term goal with the game yet, and I am OK with that.
  • Yesterday, I build an extremely efficient mob trap around my house. Water streams from all around dragged mobs from up to 20 blocks away to a lava trap that killed them and transported the drops down a 1-block feeding passage into a trench built around my house, but covered completely, so even at night I could walk around it once in a while and collect leather, pork, bones, strings, gunpowder, and arrows to my heart’s content.
  • And finally, despite being some of the most unconvincing looking enemies, the Zombies in Minecraft give me the heebie-jeebies like no other digital Zombie ever has!
Categories: MineCraft, ZOMG Zombies!

“Our Obsession with the Living Dead” or “Where are all the Zombie Children?”

March 22, 2011 8 comments

Us gamers in general, seem to be obsessed with zombies; a genre that has seen some remarkable attention in the last few years. From Valve’s Left 4 Dead forever raising the bar on cooperative shooters to the various zombie mods in the Call of Duty franchise, the living dead have invaded our monitors and TVs across the world. Then there are the (mostly awful) Resident Evil movies, the George Romero classics and modern blunders, as well as comedic takes on the genre such as the excellent Shaun of the Dead. Most recently AMC’s series The Walking Dead, based on graphic novels that I have been following and reading for the last eight years, has taken the television audience by the horns and isn’t letting go any time soon, stark deviations from the plot notwithstanding.

The point is that Zombies have somehow clawed their way out of their graves and become staple of modern pop-culture, perhaps much more so than any other niche that has emerged in the last few years. Most recently I came across Dead Island, a title that has been in development for some time, and one that had piqued my curiosity in the past, but then sort of faded from the limelight for several years. Well years later, the studio has come out swinging (or shambling, if you want to be genre-appropriate), with a trailer that was both a fantastic work of chronological art and a horrifying piece of brutal cinema. You can watch said trailer below:

Since then I have viewed the trailer numerous times, including the re-engineered chronologically sound version, and I can’t yet decide if I love it or hate it. The CGI is very well done, there is a palpable sense of dread and hopelessness and desperation in the trailer. Yet the ending (or beginning, depending on your chronological perspective), was disturbing, so much so in fact, that I had trouble sleeping that night. The one thing I kept thinking about was if we, in our quest to constantly create shock value and incredible visuals, take the subject matter a little too far. Yes I know that little girl was a digital creation of a skilled CG-artist, and yes I know that even if she was real, the whole scene was simulated, but I just can’t come to terms with a trailer that shows an 8-year old girl, zomebified, no less, falling several stories to her death. It was crude, it was morbid, and it gave me a sinking feeling in my stomach.

Understand that I am still looking forward to the title. A disturbing trailer aside, the setting, the mechanics and the story all sound quite intriguing. The issue, for me, isn’t at the genre, it is the unforgiving portrayal that comes with it. Lobbing off body parts and disintegrating opponents in a victorious shower of gore never had this odd tinge of trepidation that one of my victims in the game may, in fact, be a little girl with pigtails who is trying to gnaw on my flesh. This aberrant thought made me realize something quite odd in the recent batch of zombie shooters I have indulged in.

None of them (to my knowledge) have children in them.

Consider the No Mercy campaign from the original Left 4 Dead. The campaign has five chapters, the first set in apartments leading to a subway station. The second in the subway leading to a warehouse. The third on the streets in an industrial backyard and through sewers to the hospital entrance. The fourth through the hospital itself. And the last chapter serving as the penultimate fight in a bid to escape the infested city on a chopper. Regardless of your skill or experience, you will get absolutely thrashed by the seemingly endless hordes of zombies that seem to pour in from all directions, especially when provided the ever-inconvenient aphrodisiac of a Boomer’s bile. Yet, in all your travels through these densely populated areas, you never, ever, see a child. Not one. It is as if this world was filled with just adults of varying ages, but never below the upper adolescent years. And this begs the question: where have all the zombie children gone in video games? And why is Dead Island one of the only zombie survival games to show children first hunted, then turned, and then brutally killed when all hope is lost for their salvation? My own issues with the trailer for this latest game aside, why is it that most of these games are quite alright with you acting as a survivor (read de facto mass murderer) leveraging all manner of weaponry from shotguns for evaporating a zombies’ melons (the ones above their heads, you perv.) to katana swords for decapitations and amputations to Molotov cocktails for human barbecues, but they never present a child in peril, or, Lord have mercy, as a flesh-crazed member of the walking dead?

Recently, I also read an interesting article on Psychology Today that attempted to identify why even a shambling zombie (as opposed to the obviously terrifying zombie already feasting on someone innards) can cause a sense of fear and trepidation, despite being significantly below your intellect and superior reflexes. The reason from this comes from the simple concept of pattern recognition and the the amalgamation of the known with the unknown.

An extended example: A body staggers by. Your brains realizes this is not normal, and then tries to rationalize: perhaps he is drunk. But then he has blood on his face. Your brain realizes this too is strange. But if he is really drunk, he likely stumbled and fell, or got in a bar fight. But wait, there is a kid shambling in the distance. This is where your brain will realize something is really off because unless drunk kids are a socially acceptable phenomenon in your part of the world, there would be no immediate logical reason for it. Now you see three bodies shambling. Your brain goes off of auto-pilot and you take manual control, because you can no longer rely on your pattern recognition to help define the irregularities in the world. Now your brain is mixing known with the unknown. You see a person with a huge chunk of flesh missing from their neck. Your brain argues that the person should be in a lot of pain. But the evidence suggests that he is just walking along, completely oblivious to the potentially mortal wound. This is another unknown. But wait, now he attacks a lady and bites her arm. There is blood. The lady starts screaming. Your brain realizes that this is normal under the abnormal circumstances. When you are bitten, there should be pain, and as such you will cry out. But this just adds to the confusion as you are increasingly mixing more and more unknowns with strange knowns. Then, to quote the article:

“And fear sprouts from the depths of your brain, your primitive cortex freaking the hell out and your frontal cortex madly searching the hippocampus for anything even remotely familiar.

“And this is where you experience horror.”

This got me thinking, that perhaps the reason I had such a strong negative reaction to the video for Dead Island was because my brain was used to seeing normal images of zombies eating humans, or humans decimating zombies, and my frontal cortex has gotten used to these images and concepts as knowns, which is why they seem normal under most circumstances. But the moment an unknown is introduced, i.e. an innocent girl who is first hunted, then she turns into the mindless undead, and then is flung by her own father to fall several stories to her (second) death, my primitive cortex freaked out, and resulted in the strong reaction I had to the video.

Weekly MMO/RPG Crockpot: “Mummies, Super Heroes, Jedi and Revamping Jumpgate” or “BioWare Bonanza, Trine Sequeled and Dungeon Siege 3”

June 12, 2010 1 comment

That’s MMO slash RPG, not MMORPG. Every week all the random bits and pieces of news that I come across regarding my favorite MMOs and RPGs (or at least the ones that have piqued my curiosity) start piling up in the ‘temporary’ section of my bookmarks toolbar. This is an attempt to clean up my bookmarks.

The following is a quick list if you want to skip to something in particular:

MMOs

  • DC Universe Online Videos
  • Dawntide Beta
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic Dialogue Choices
  • The Mummy Online
  • Jumpgate Evolution Revamped
  • End of Nations Trailer
  • Lord of the Rings Online goes F2P

RPGs

  • Dungeon Siege 3
  • Mass Effect 2: Overlord DLC
  • Fallout: New Vegas Pre-order Bonuses
  • Trine 2!
  • Mass Effect 3 and Dragon Age 2 at E3

Here we go!

MMOs

DC Universe Online Videos

The developers of DC Universe Online, recently announced to be set free upon the masses in November, released more videos this week than BioWare, and that is quite a feat to accomplish. To start off, we got the DC Universe Online – Inside the Studio – Episode 5 this week, which addresses some key questions about the upcoming MMO, such as, can players create kid heroes in the DC Universe, e.g.: Teen Titans. Not exactly my cup of tea, if you know what I mean, but the video is embedded below for your viewing pleasure.

Next up we have a short video misleadingly titled “Life on the Streets”, where the game’s creative director Jens Andersen walks us through the “super speed” power and how it plays out in both traveling through the world, scaling walls and combat. It’s very short, barely under a minute (if you take out the time for the logos etc.), and doesn’t really tell us much of anything. Worth a look, especially if you are a Jay Garrick fan! I thought “Life on the Streets” would be about the living, breathing world. Guess I was wrong!

Finally, we have “The Suicide Slums Travelogue” trailer. It has to do with The Suicide Slums, and it is in trailer format. How apt. Chris Cao, game director, walks us through the ghetto of Metropolis, that location in every major city in the world that the so-called “civilized folk” dare not trespass.  There are a few threads of storyline and lore as it pertains to this section of the city, along with some fairly obvious information such as “villains can use the slums’ shadows to hide, whereas heroes can come to the slums to fight crime.” No shit. Trailer is below, it’s two minutes long, enjoy!

Dawntide Beta

This is old news at this stage, considering Eliot Lefebvre already posted about it well over two weeks back. But I caught wind of it just now, so I am going to talk about it. If you have a problem with it, go read another blog you pansy! (Yes I am having a weird day.) On May 31st, that would be exactly two weeks ago, the game went into open beta.

Dawntide stands out from the crowd because its central premise promises the creation of towns, cities, societies, cultures and the whole world of Dawntide based solely on player input. This concept is very intriguing to me, and I have yet to come across a game where player interaction shapes the world categorically. A small example would be the manner in which the Wintergrasp battle is fought in Wrath of the Lich King. One team defends the fort, whereas the other assaults is with siege vehicles, trying to take down the walls which will allow them entry into the inner sanctum. Once the final wall to the fortress itself has been breached, the game is over. The tower cap also works, especially if your faction far out numbers the enemy.

Battles of this scale and scope occur all over WAR, I am sure, as towns are captured and bases razed, but as Eliot points out, “PvP” is far too often regarded synonymous with “sandbox”. I hope Dawntide focuses on player input through social interaction and world questing to shape its lands, and not how hard can you stab the next guy. Whether it actually happens remains to be seen.

I will be trying out the Dawntide open beta with in the week, and post more thoughts here.

Star Wars: The Old Republic Dialogue Choices

BioWare has long touted story and character development as the fourth pillar in MMOs as one of its major strengths. Well that is until Derek Smart came along, and left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. Way to go douchebag.

Anyway, in a prior developer walk-through, BioWare explained how their NPC dialogue options were deep, engaging and laden with all manners of choice. These choices, they have now revealed, go beyond the cookie-cutter good and evil, and also delve into the flirty, whimsical, or purely cosmetic to accommodate for a greater set of play-styles and personalities. What I find really cool about the whole affair is that the dialogue options will vary for each class, allowing specific responses that may be tailored to reflect the class and lore. In addition, when grouped, multiple players will be able interact with the conversation, advancing the structured and segmented dialogue tree.

We already know SW:TOR has over 50 novels worth of dialogue and story written for it, and more is being added every day, and that every NPC in the game is fully voice-acted. So this comes as an added benefit, and one that I am really looking forward to.

Here is a quick poll, and your participation is kindly requested.

The Mummy Online

Branden Fraser is to mummies what Francis, Louis, Zoey and Bill are to zombies.  With three movies shot on the premise of ancient mummies, and a spin-off starting he who dares you to smell what the rock is cooking, I suppose it was only a matter of time before there was an MMO spin-off. The game will be set in the 1930’s and feature both player versus environment and player versus player opportunities.

Universal’s Bill Kispert had this to say:

“The Mummy franchise is chock full of exotic settings, supernatural enemies, exciting quests, and over the top action. It is ripe with gameplay possibilities, and we look forward to extending our relationship with Bigpoint to bring the world of The Mummy to life for gamers.”

There you have it, as generic a launch statement as it gets which can be summed up as follows: “We think this is a cool idea, you should too.” For the record, unless I see something groundbreaking, and despite my affinity for mummies, this is likely the last time I will post about this title!

You can find more about the game at it’s official website.

Jumpgate Evolution Revamped

I am a huge fan of the Jumpgate series, so it always pains me to see the game go through so many delays. In fact, next month will mark a full year since the original estimated release date of July 2009. With deafening silence from the developer for the last several weeks, fans of the series were finally given a questionable ray of light. Executive Producer Lance Robertson wrote a detailed forum post on the game’s development.

So what is with all the delays? Apparently the development team has scrapped most of the gameplay elements in the game and replaced them completely with a new vision for what the game should act and play like. Good news I suppose, considering it will always be better to have a game revamped and restructured prior to release and not after (*cough* Alganon *cough*). This does, however, imply that the game will be inevitably delayed even further.

*sigh*

End of Nations Trailer

Here is a novel concept: an MMORTS. Developer Petroglyph has been working on this game for a while, and there was an interview I came across on Bitmob that shed some much-needed light on the title. Petroglyph’s Mike Legg, alongwith the core of Petroglyph, has been working on the RTS genre tracing back to Westwood’s genre-defining Command and Conquer series, and even as far back as Dune 2.

In true E3 fashion, and in order to create some hype for the title, a launch title was revealed. The title itself sets up the storyline of the game, but does not give actual gameplay footage or indication of what to expect. Good watch for the lore and background buff, terrible watch for the anyone looking for massive armies wreaking havoc on the battlefield. I fall squarely in the former category, so I thoroughly enjoyed the trailer, lack of in-game footage notwithstanding.

Lord of the Rings Online goes F2P

This is likely the biggest news in this bunch, but it has been covered to death by Rubi Bayer over at Massively, so head on over to get all the juicy details. They also sat with the development team over at Turbine for an in-depth interview.

RPGs

Dungeon Siege 3

Dungeon Siege holds a special place in my heart, and that is because I absolutely loved the first one, and absolutely detested the second one. The first one needs to be put on a pedestal with a Parabolic Aluminized Reflector spotlight above it, whereas the second one needs to be fed to a pack of wild dogs, pissed upon, and buried six feet under. The first was a work of art, set in a unique world filled with mystery and twitch-based combat, whereas the second was a piece of crap so vile I couldn’t bear to get past the first few hours without throwing up. The first… well… you get the idea.

Anyway, DS3’s developers released some screenshots from the game that look suspiciously like artwork. You be the judge.

Mass Effect 2: Overlord DLC

In three days, that is June 15, 2010, the Mass Effect 2 universe will see it’s latest DLC addition in the form of Overlord. The DLC features a rogue AI and Commander Shepard’s race against time (why is always against time?) to stop it. The DLC will feature five missions set on the same planet, interspersed with more driving in the Hammerhead.

Shepard’s latest exploit will cost you a whopping 560 points, which is approximately $7. Pricey? You betcha! Worth it? I guess we’ll find out tomorrow!

Fallout: New Vegas Pre-order Bonuses

Walmart, Best Buy, GameStop, Amazon and Steam are all offering some extensive lists of exclusive content if you decide to line their pockets with your hard-earned doubloons. Here is a full list:

The Classic Pack, available when you pre-order through GameStop, contains:

  • Armored Vault 13 Suit – Extensively patched up and dotted with piecemeal armor, this outfit is an homage to the classic ending of the original Fallout.
  • Vault 13 Canteen – This handy device is useful for staving off dehydration and providing a small amount of healing in the Mojave Wasteland.
  • Weathered 10mm Pistol – A well-worn 10mm pistol that packs an extra punch despite its modest size.
  • 5 Stimpaks – Food and water are good for long-term healing, but when the fighting is fierce, Stimpaks help keep Wastelanders upright.

The Tribal Pack, available when you pre-order through Amazon, contains:

  • Tribal Raiding Armor – Pieced together from scraps of armor, this outfit provides protection without impacting mobility.
  • Broad Machete – This heavy-bladed melee weapon does high damage against limbs and can quickly deal out a flurry of attacks.
  • 5 Bleak Venom doses – Useful on any Melee Weapon, Bleak Venom makes short work of most living targets.
  • 10 Throwing Spears – If you would like to silently pin an enemy’s head to a wall, Throwing Spears are the way to do it.

The Caravan Pack, available when you pre-order through Steam and Walmart, contains:

  • Lightweight Leather Armor – This hand-modified suit of leather armor reduces its overall weight without impacting its ability to protect.
  • Sturdy Caravan Shotgun – Despite its rough appearance, this Caravan Shotgun will reliably fire 20 gauge shells until the Brahmin come home.
  • 4 Repair Kits – Useful for repairing any outfit or weapon, Repair Kits are a valuable tool for any caravaner.
  • Binoculars – The Mojave Wasteland is a dangerous place, but with these trusty Binoculars you’ll be able to spot trouble coming.

The Mercenary Pack, available when you pre-order through Best Buy, contains:

  • Lightweight Metal Armor – Modified for long-range travel, this Metal Armor sacrifices some protection for mobility and overall weight.
  • Mercenary’s Grenade Rifle – Though similar to other 40mm Grenade Rifles in the Mojave Wasteland, this model has a faster reload cycle.
  • 3 Super Stimpaks – When you absolutely, positively, need to keep your blood inside your body, Super Stimpaks fix you up in no time.
  • 3 Doctors Bags – Mercenaries and broken limbs go together like Iguana-on-a-Stick and Nuka Cola. Thankfully, these Doctors Bags take a bit of sting out of the inevitable crushed skull.

I personally like the Mercenary Pack, but considering there is no best Buy within, well, a few countries of my geographical location, I suppose my doubloons are only good enough for Steam’s Caravan Pack.

Trine 2!

Trine was a fantastic platformer. It was innovative, varied and presented you with a plethora of challenges that tested both your wits and your ability to pay attention to your surroundings. Despite the obvious solution, the game actually allowed you multiple solutions to almost every puzzle situation, which is why it stood out from the crowd.

Trine 2 has now been announced. That is all I have to report now. I will post more as more is (inevitably) uncovered at E3, but this title has my undivided attention. I just hope it isn’t like the Dungeon Siege sequel.

Mass Effect 3 and Dragon Age 2 at E3

Take a look at the following floor plan from E3 2010, courtesy of Kotaku. There really isn’t any additional information, but I am siure more will surface as E3 marches on.

“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!