Retraction

Last night I wrote a post about the multiplayer component of Dragon Age: Inquisition which was scheduled to publish this morning.

The post was primarily aimed at pointing out how at launch I wrote off the MP as “it sucks,” only to come back to it the past couple days and decide maybe I’d been too hasty–I was suddenly having fun this time. Screenshots and everything.

In doing so I also casually highlighted that my circle of friends takes “noncommittal” to a whole new level, always hemming and hawing, and while I mentioned all four involved, I called out one in particular. Totally just in a “friends giving each other shit” kinda way, or at least that was the intent. I didn’t mean to sound like I was putting blame on him.

Fast forward to this afternoon.

I started my final probationary training today to see if I get to keep my new job, so I only had a couple moments to check social media. Turns out the friend I mentioned didn’t read it as just “talking shit” and felt I’d made him come off like he’s a huge asshole for every Blaugust participant to see. I value my friendships way more than some stupid blog post, so assuming I tapped the correct things on the WordPress mobile app, the offending post should be removed. If not, I’ll remove it in a few days when I have access to a real PC.

I offer my sincerest heartfelt apologies for upsetting the person in question. I had every intent that what I said was just joshing and for that matter applies to all of us. I was giggling the couple times I said anything about our little group of noncommittal gamer buds, certain they’d see the humor as well, but as sometimes happens with text, the actual intent and emotion doesn’t come through. So it’s gone. I hope this retraction and apology comes off correctly as I’m intending it so we can begin mending the fence I broke.

—–

As a side effect of this, it’s rather soured any remaining enthusiasm I had for the whole Blaugust thing. I’m not tagging this as counting and I think I’m just done with it. It’s been nice hitting that Publish button every day but I feel like I’ve only been doing it because of the Blaugust quota not because I actually felt I had something I wanted to say. Certainly not using a quota to hurt a friend’s feelings.

Categories MMO

Thoughts on DriveClub

#Blaugust 2015 Day 15

DriveClub is the Dark Souls of racing games!

If I had to sum up DriveClub in a sentence, it would probably be that. Frustrating and unforgiving, a single tiny mistake spells failure but success can be incredibly rewarding.

Due to the unfortunate launch debacle and taking forever and a day to get the promised PSN Plus version out, Evolution Studios really has something on their hands, despite this type of game not normally being my thing. DriveClub is somewhat more on the arcade racing side of the spectrum, though not totally over there like a Need For Speed.

VW Club Paint

I would consider DriveClub the premier driving game on the PlayStation 4 at the moment, for sure. It’s absolutely gorgeous, very smooth to play, fantastic performance and even has the neat option of using the DualShock 4’s motion sensing to drive by “steering” the controller. It definitely takes practice to use that, but as I mentioned above, DriveClub is very unforgiving and takes practice no matter what.

Why do I say that? Primarily because the controls are just slightly too sensitive so one tiny flick can cause you to oversteer. Add to that that many of DriveClub’s courses are ridiculously narrow with very little margin for error.

There’s no tweaking your cars at all, unfortunately, either. I’m actually not a fan of doing car upgrades and tuning — in Forza Horizon 2 I just do the Auto Upgrade feature with every car and that’s fine by me. In an online race, I only have an “advantage” over someone who’s using the same car if they did not do any upgrades, though a skilled player will still beat an upgraded car driven by an unskilled player. So I guess all things considered, it probably doesn’t matter that there’s no upgrade ability in DriveClub. Everyone is on an even playing field totally determined by skill.

Cockpit Cam

I’m happy to say that at least for the online racing, I’m slowly seeing some improvement. I even won my first race last night, fair and square! Offline, I’m still at an impasse: to progress I have to complete some Drift Challenges and I have yet to learn how to drift at all in DriveClub. Not even by accident. Forza Horizon 2 I can drift all day. Not accurately, but I can drift. I mean, there are tutorial videos on YouTube for DriveClub drifting, that’s how difficult it apparently is. Certainly for me, anyway.

If I had to classify myself, I’d consider myself a Forza Horizon kinda guy. I love that open world and just being able to drive the cars, do what I want and do the races at my own pace. DriveClub is purely “do the races,” but I really can’t slam it for that — every other game except the Forza Horizon series is “do the races,” too. But I’m really pleased that I decided to pick up DriveClub; I’d certainly recommend it!

Fat Chance but Defiance

#Blaugust 2015 Day 14

So, I’m of the opinion (someone on the internet has an opinion? Ya don’t say!) that Defiance would be better off if Trion would make one final business model conversion: Buy2Play (B2P). I doubt that will happen, because Trion is Trion. But the game always had potential. It was a third-person Destiny before anyone had ever heard of Destiny.

I played pretty seriously a couple summers ago then got caught up in other things, which led to other things and… well, we all know how that goes…

ATV

I even questioned if the game was still active or not. The forums are the typical cesspool of toxicity so I jumped back out of there just as quickly as I’d jumped in yesterday. But Trion is broadcasting their Defiance stream as I write this talking about the patch coming to the PC live server next week, so the team is still actively working on the game.

I could be off-base since I’m going to make this statement based on my experiences two summers ago and haven’t kept up with the goings on, but one could make the argument that despite Trion labeling Defiance as Free2Play (F2P) it’s actually Buy2Play already. Last I played there was very little you’d “need” to spend real money on in the store; lockboxes could be bought with the in-game currency.

My only real gripes with the game were with the camera — it’s slightly “off” too far to the side, and can cause the reticule to appear to be hitting your target when it’s actually hitting the object next to you — and the terrain design in the San Francisco area was incredibly annoying. That’s it really. Sure, the Co-op Missions got old, as all scripted co-op missions of that style do. But damn, Arkfalls were awesome and so much fun in their simplicity but also their attraction to bring so many players together to shoot the crap out of giant monsters. That’s the reason we all started playing MMOs and online games to begin with, right?

Looking towards Top Notch Toolworks

As I said, Defiance was Destiny before there was a Destiny. It has the whole “megaserver” tech going on where you just get the game and play. It has the whole “phase between public and story session on the fly” tech. It has better story narrative than Destiny.

What it needs is to shed the F2P stigma and compete directly with Destiny and just go Buy2Play with DLC. They can keep their optional store as-is just like Elder Scrolls Online does, and because Trion isn’t in the same league as competing with Activision and Bungie. But on that note, in order to continue competing on PC and consoles, Trion needs to get the game out on the current-gen consoles.

Fingers crossed, but fat chance. Because Trion.

 

What am I Looking Forward to?

#Blaugust 2015 Day 13

While playing Destiny yesterday, Aaron asked me what games I was looking forward to. Sounds like he’s got quite the big list of mostly open world games he’s anticipating. I’ll admit, when he first asked I came up blank. Just for a moment. But still, my brain did the “but wait, I’m a gamer! Surely there’s something I’m looking forward to!” thing and came up with a couple. But it’s a much shorter list than I would have thought.

The Division

Ubisoft Massive’s The Division is still pretty much at the top of my list. I don’t know that it will live up to the expectations, nor do I know if it will have the legs to last the long term but I’m hopeful. I’ve always been a fan of Massive Entertainment, from their Ground Control series to World in Conflict, and I’ll admit I’m riding a lot of my hope on that fandom. Meanwhile I’ve also learned my lesson a long time ago that just because any given studio’s name is on the label doesn’t mean that the people who made its great games in the past still work there.

Ghost Recon: Wildlands

Another Ubisoft title, and another Tom Clancy franchise title, but c’mon open world co-op hijinks has my name written all over it and that’s what Ghost Recon: Wildlands is promising.

Crackdown 3

Holy crap! If anything screams “open world hijinks” it’s the Crackdown series. The first game in particular was non-stop crazy laughs with 4-player co-op and no tethering. Crackdown 3 looks to be even crazier with cloud servers handling the destruction calculations. Bring the buildings down on the bad guys? Or my co-op partner? Hell yeah, count me in!

 

Favorite Game I’m Not Playing

#Blaugust 2015 Day 12

I think it was another of the Blaugust Writing Prompts that asked “what’s your favorite game that you’re not playing?” For me, the answer was automatically The Lord of the Rings Online.

I was with LOTRO from beta, and did the Lifetime Subscription at that time as well.

Home

LOTRO was my first major return to MMOs after my World of Warcraft burnout on the launch day of The Burning Crusade whereupon I deleted every character on every server to ensure I’d never come back before canceling my subscription. It worked, by the way: I never went back.

LOTRO was slow-paced enough that the launch-tourists-kiddies didn’t stay, so the remaining community was pretty damn awesome! Especially compared to what I was used to from WoW. I found a great kinship that was active and talkative and soon got into running groups in those “elite world quest” areas they used to have. I think those got toned down and made soloable later on?

Soon enough, that kinship turned to dungeon-running first, then later raiding. A lot of us were former hardcore World of Warcraft raiders, and I used my experiences from having a “raid group” of talented members of multiple smaller guilds to encourage my kinship leader to do the same. We were too small a kinship to raid ourselves and we knew many other people in the same situation.

Thaurlach, Glathirel's Bane

Aw man, the memories that screenshot brings back! That’s us fighting the balrog Thaulach in the Rift of Nurz Ghashu raid. It took us so long to figure out the mechanics and get this guy down, and it was such an incredible feeling of accomplishment and community when we finally did it!

Then of course was the first expansion: The Mines of Moria. In the summer of 2008, leading up to the release of Moria there was a game-wide event to unlock Eregion as part of the Book 14 epic quest line. Each server had to collect 70,000 Ring-lores. A single player could only collect 5 every 12 hours, if memory serves? It took a month for all the servers to finish up, Brandywine finishing first of course because it’s always been the biggest server. I’m thinking my home server of Arkenstone took maybe 3 weeks?

As the countdown to unlock was happening, it seemed like practically the entire population of the server was partying at The Last Homely House in Rivendell. Of course, a bunch of players ganged up and used the music system to play a LOTRO rendition of 80s anthem The Final Countdown by Europe while we Lore-masters kept throwing out colorful wards all over the ground.

Ring Lore Party

Ugh, my frame rate was painful during all this!

My good times continued through the Mines of Moria era. I was doing dungeons practically every day on my Lore-master, often leading public groups just as I’d co-lead the raids. Side note: I’ve mentioned this before, but I still don’t “get” why these days groups rely on the tank to lead them. Dude’s busy and boss is in his face! It was always so much easier for me to lead while playing a support character so I could see the whole battlefield than with my tank who’s face-first in the boss. I’m also not a fan of having to scroll my camera out into orbit. Anyway, there’s my Get Off My Lawn sentiment for today.

Eventually, though, people’s enthusiasm began to wane as other MMOs started appearing and MMO Tourism started to become a thing. Initially, many of us started simply touring but would always return home to LOTRO. Slowly, those breaks were longer and longer as new titles had any number of random attractions plus their newness and finally things just weren’t the same anymore.

I’d still love to go back, but it’s been so long that I’d have to put in a lot of effort relearning the game plus finding a group of people to fit in with, which can often be a more stressful and time-consuming undertaking than anything else in MMOs. Especially with Turbine’s recent woes the past few years and now news that there’s about to be a major consolidation of servers, the desire to return is not only fueled by nostalgia but also by fear that it won’t be there to return to much longer. Yes, I did a little Happy Dance when I saw Arkenstone was not on the hit list! :)

 

Fun While it Lasted

#Blaugust 2015 Day 11

All of July, I pretty much had the crashpad to myself. Which was great, because I’d bring up the PS4 or the XB1 (never again!) and play games if I wasn’t being called into duty at work.

But this month, two of the guys who were never around left so two new guys are in, plus the guy who was on vacation 5 weeks is back. There’s 5 of us here tonight as I write this, out of 8 total occupants. Sounds like they’ll be here at the pad more than the previous two guys were, so I guess this was the final trip for the PS4 for awhile.

Last night I did try the Remote Play function on my Vita and that worked remarkably well! I played a little bit of Dragon Age: Inquisition while some of the guys were watching the news and sports. Trouble is, DA:I was not designed to be played on a screen that small, so it was very difficult to see objects in the world or read the icon text or anything else. So unfortunately, I don’t think that’s really an option either.

It was nice having the place more or less to myself last month. I’ve discovered that I really dislike gaming on a laptop but who knows, maybe I’ll do a little here and there. Otherwise, I almost always travel with the Vita so that will likely become my main gaming source while I’m up here.

My “Evergreen” Game

#Blaugust 2015 Day 10

One of the Blaugust 2015 “Writing Prompts” was to describe your “evergreen” game; a game you continually come back to.

I’ll admit, the term threw me at first. An evergreen never loses its leaves, whereas a deciduous totally loses its foliage then regrows it. So would an evergreen game be a game that I always play, even a little, even if I’m “mainly” playing another game? Or oh! Oh! Would an evergreen game simply always “be there” while I’m a deciduous player, only playing that one game awhile then leaving it barren until my next return? Deep, eh?

No? Not really? STOP MAKING ME BRAIN BEFORE COFFEE!!!

I had to give this totally, like… SECONDS of thought before I decided on the answer! Um. What was I talking about? Oh, coffee. Morning. Coffee good. Morning bad.

Evergreen Game! I’m gonna have to go with Star Trek Online. I’ve been a lifetime member since shortly after launch and while this summer I’ve been on deciduous leave (see what I did there? Ha! Double Ha! Yeah, need more coffee still…) I am looking forward to returning this autumn and catching up on the whole Iconian War story line. Star Trek Online has been dropping bits and pieces of Iconian involvement in the goings-on in the universe since launch. Season 10 finally brought them into the game for real, but I’ve been holding off. I really want to do a PC upgrade, which I’ve been talking about for well over a year. I get a raise in September, so I think I’ll use that as my timeline to start thinking about parts to build an upgrade. In the meantime, I’ve been reading the Lootcritter and apparently condensing all those sector instances into three large space sectors in Season 10 has brought a ton of lag and other infrastructure problems so while I miss the game, I don’t mind missing out on the negative server effects.

Season 11: New Dawn was just announced, and sounds very cool, and promises the end of the five year in the making Iconian story line.

Why is Star Trek Online my “evergreen?” Because it’s different. It’s not same ol’ same ol’ MMO, nor is it the new “action combat” MMO. I have not only my Captain to play and roleplay, but also her crew. I can play solo, I can just fly around and sight-see and check out other players in both space and ground. I can queue up for group ground or space instances of varying difficulty levels. I can try different ships, different playstyles, different loadouts all without changing character or needing to respec. There’s only one “server” to join so there’s always people online worldwide 24/7 to chat or play with. I can play to relax and escape and enjoy the Star Trek-iness. I can play to progress my character. I can play to progress my fleet (guild) and its holdings. A common sentiment back in the day among we fans of Lord of the Rings Online was that it was perfectly acceptable to simply play the game to “be” in the game. The same can be said of Star Trek Online. I enjoy simply logging in and checking out my captain and her crew, her ships. I can mentally roleplay little stories for them. I built this captain and crew from scratch so I have that extra bit of investment that I wouldn’t feel for, say, a companion in Star Wars: The Old Republic because that companion character was created by BioWare. It may well be an excellent character, but in the end it’s still someone else’s character rather than one of my own creation.

I’m hoping that when the weather starts to cool off and I build a new PC that some of my fleet-mates will return at the same time. Seems we’ve all been on Trek Break this summer, so it’ll be nice to return together for more Fleet Nights and just general chatting, grouping up, and having fun.

 

DAI: Here Lies the Abyss

#Blaugust 2015 Day 9

ALERT: Spoilers Ahead!

I wasn’t sure what I was going to write about today. Had a couple barely-formed thoughts early this morning before coffee, but those were like dreams — once the coffee kicked in and I was awake, I couldn’t remember what they were.

I spent a lot of yesterday continuing my Dragon Age: Inquisition on PS4. A little today as well, doing a few side quests and operations, reaching level 17 on my Inquisitor. Then I decided to go ahead and tackle the next story mission: Here Lies the Abyss.

I’ll admit I was not looking forward to this, because I’d read somewhere that it involved the Fade. Out of every part of Dragon Age: Origins, the Fade was by far my least favorite. I’m not usually one for replaying RPGs anyway, but the Fade section of that game has been enough to keep me far from even entertaining the notion. I didn’t get far in Dragon Age 2 to even remember if there was a Fade section in that game or not.

Now, as I mentioned I’m playing on PS4 but Origins and 2 I played on Xbox 360 so there was no “import” available as I’m on a different platform now. So my Inquisition game mentions things that maybe didn’t happen in my own playthrough. Plus, in DA2 I had a female Hawke while the default DAI Hawke is male. So when I had to make some tough choices in this quest, it wasn’t as emotionally impactful for me, as this wasn’t “my Hawke” I was concerned with.

I’m happy to say that my hesitation towards this quest was unfounded. Indeed, Here Lies the Abyss is probably one of the most satisfying quests I’ve done in the game so far, at least that memory deigns to serve as I write this. First the battle with the Grey Wardens under the influence of Livius Erimond, a Venatori magister. He summons a dragon to deal with the Inquisitor and his party. This whole sequence was amazing, and very exciting. I especially loved the sequence where you’re running along the balcony upstairs and the dragon momentarily lands on the side of the fortress, sticks its head into the balcony walkway and blasts his fiery breath! That was straight up cinematic action during live gameplay and it was awesome!

In the next sequence, we’re in the Fade and it’s nothing like Origins. Plenty of exploration (and getting bonuses to your attributes!) aside from chasing after the main quest, and fantastic architecture and lighting. Huge Pride Demons to fight, those are always fun! Along the way, the Inquisitor regains his memory of how the game began in bits, and at the end he realizes it was Divine Justinia V who’d helped him, and his Mark came from the orb Corypheus was killing her with, not from the goddess Andraste. To escape the Fade, I had to sacrifice either Hawke or Stroud. I don’t remember Stroud from Origins but I figured the Grey Wardens needed to be rebuilt and start fresh, so I sacrificed Hawke. If I’d finished Dragon Age 2 (it’s on my to-do list someday) and this had been my Hawke with the decisions I’d made in that game, I’m not sure how I’d have felt or if I’d have even made the same decision at all. As it was, since this was Default Hawke not my own Hawke, I was able to use reasoning and roleplaying and not be hamstrung by pure emotion of possibly sacrificing a character I’d invested in the previous game. Either way, though, kudos to BioWare for having an exciting and engaging quest that also carried a major decision with emotional impact.

Oh, by the way, I did the Specialization operation at the War Table yesterday and chose the Templar specialization for my warrior Inquisitor. I normally use Cassandra as my tank while I use two-hander myself so Templar seemed the best route for me. So I can buff my party and have a two-skill combo for massive damage then my normal two-handed skills while those are on cooldown. It’s making for not only massive damage, which is always fun, but also a major change from how I’ve played the game up til now.

Looking forward to seeing how things go from here on out, and also to gathering more schematics and materials to finally go dragon hunting!

 

Return of the Inquisition

#Blaugust 2015 Day 8

I’m still very much in the Honeymoon Phase with my new Xbox One, with Destiny taking up the bulk of my time there. I only have 5 weeks remaining to finish the Year One: Moments of Triumph. All I have remaining is Vault of Glass on Hard Mode, which will be easy to get a raid group for, then finish the House of Wolves missions, again easy, and finally complete Prison of Elders on Hard Mode. Not so easy on that one because I’ll need to be level 34 which will take roughly two weeks on its own collecting the materials to upgrade light level.

However, I don’t want to ignore my PS4. Last month I had the idea to try bringing the consoles up to the crash pad in Philadelphia. The PS4 is very easy to travel with. The Xbox, on the other hand, is not. The thing is heavy and huge and I’m not traveling with it ever again.

So, this is great because now that PS4 Destiny has been taken care of already, I can get back to Dragon Age: Inquisition! I spent most of yesterday playing, but mostly doing more side quests and opening new zones to adventure in.

The Campaign

The last actual story campaign quest I finished was In Your Heart Shall Burn, where my Inquisitor closed the Breach and acquired his final companion, the assassin Cole. I had been delaying that quest because I wasn’t sure if I’d done everything in Haven or not, and because I thought I was supposed to have acquired Cole beforehand and was panicking, thinking that I’d screwed something up already. In Your Heart Shall Burn is a “Point of No Return” for the game where many Operations become unavailable the rest of the game. Problem is, I’d taken enough of a break before coming back to it last month when I did that quest that I still have the concern that I should have waiting and done researched my Haven progress before continuing. Oh well, what’s done is done now.

DAI-Hinterlands-Dragon

Before quitting last night, my Inquisitor just barely reached level 14 and his companions 13. I still haven’t taken the time to figure out crafting but I might just wait until I’m higher level and getting Tier 3 schematics and materials anyway. Hunting the High Dragons, or any dragons at all, is still a ways off for me. I encountered the Ferelden Frostback in the Hinterlands yesterday when I was trying to find the final landmark and get 100% completion in Hinterlands. I had no idea there was a dragon over there! Needless to say there were repeated party wipes before I decided to go work on other stuff and hunt dragons when my party is more powerful.

The Desire for Co-op?

I have a post topic about my ideal co-op but it’s still brewing in my head. I will say that initially when BioWare was hyping up Inquisition, I was hoping for a co-op mode. Not the awful (in my opinion) multiplayer mode that ended up shipping with the game, but actual co-op adventuring with friends. I almost immediately changed my mind upon playing the game at launch, and that thought came back to me yesterday. Inquisition was BioWare’s first attempt at using DICE’s Frostbite engine and while they mostly did an amazing job (far better than Mass Effect, their first attempt at the Unreal 3 engine) the jumping and hitbox collision between characters is janky at best. That jankiness was my major turn-off for the multiplayer mode. Secondly, BioWare is known for crafting stories. That’s just what they do. I can’t be the Inquisitor then a buddy joins my game and who is he? He can’t also be the Inquisitor. Sure, some games let you join just for fun playing as one of the side characters (playing as Hurk in Far Cry 4, for example) but players want their own progress to carry over and to matter, not just playing some flunky character they’re not invested in. I’m not sure that any developer or studio has ever solved the problem of having compelling co-op play and a compelling narrative. That seems to still be one of gaming’s Holy Grails. For me, anyway.


Interested in Blaugust? It’s never too late to join in. Visit the Blaugust Initiate Page or take a look at what is going on in the Blaugust Nook!

Scalebound: Shut Up, Drew!

#Blaugust 2015 Day 7

The 2015 Gamescom Xbox presentation had a lot of great material. One of the coming Xbox-exclusives is Scalebound, by Platinum Games. The elevator pitch for Scalebound is certainly appealing: open-world action RPG where you can ride and team with dragons! Oh, and four-player co-op! Both of those have my full attention.

Then came the actual gameplay presentation:

Scalebound is still over a year from launch so I’m hoping that this isn’t representative of the final product. Right now, I feel the overall gameplay is a bit on the generic side. It needs something to spice it up. You’d think having a dragon for a teammate would be plenty of spice but not so in this case. I also don’t see the need for floating damage text in this particular type of Action RPG.

However, the elephant in the room is the protagonist, the playable character, Drew. Specifically, Drew’s annoying and constant chatter. I mean, OK, despite all the graphics (so far) looking totally Western, this is an Eastern studio accustomed to appealing to the Japanese audience. I’ve learned to barely tolerate a handful of Japanese games on my Vita but I still find the anime voice acting style to be melodramatic in the extreme, and that’s what I’m seeing here as well. Except it’s in the form of an American male teen. They don’t talk like that! Maybe this is how the East thinks American teens-to-twenty-something’s actually act, or maybe it’s just a result of how the West has irreparably damaged Japanese culture but I don’t think I can play Scalebound if I have to listen to this asshole douchebro constantly yapping in my ear.

Hopefully over the next year, Platinum Games gets enough serious feedback — and therein lies the problem; they’re liable to be inundated with fanboy adulation — to reconsider Drew’s personality and voice acting.