Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sunday Reading: Expansions, DoTA, and Dragon Age 2

I've been thinking lots about grabbing Cataclysm when it releases and in the meantime I've been playing the descendants of DoTA to fill my gaming time.  In that vein I found some great articles about the upcoming WoW expansion and DoTA too.

A new Dragon Age 2 trailer that got me excited.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Stress Level and the Feel of a Game

 She just lost a game of StarCraft 2.

Lately I've been playing StarCraft 2, League of Legends, Minecraft, and Fable 3.  I've noticed that the game I play is dependent on the feeling I get while playing the game.  Let me try to explain.

I was playing a lot of League of Legends last week and I took a break to play some SC2.  When I jumped into the 1v1 ladder I felt an enormous amount of stress while playing.  Because of the ladder system I constantly know that I'm being judged and only I can do anything about it.  In a 1v1 I have no back up, no help, no one else to blame my flaws on.  On top of that, in SC2 I have to manage my base, my resources, build my army, control my army, and execute a strategy all at the same time.  It's extremely hard to do, which is why the game is interesting, but it's also stressful to juggle all those tasks simultaneously.

Stressful but interesting to play.

I switched back to League of Legends and instantly my stress level decreased.  In League I only control one character and I'm part of a team.  The one character means I don't have to keep my attention on 10 things at once and having 4 teammates spreads out the pressure to perform well.  League has been my favorite game lately because it's competitive but my stress level is minimal.

I've also been playing Minecraft and Fable 3 where there is absolutely zero pressure to perform.  That's one of the greatest parts of single player games, no one knows if I fail or succeed. In Minecraft I build and explore the world in whatever way I want to.  In Fable 3 I can mess around with townfolk or continue an epic quest for vengeance and freedom.  They can be played on my own time and at my own pace.  Single player games are the most relaxing type of game because of it.

All four are great games that I plan on playing regularly, I just thought it was interesting that the tone of the game is so different for each one.  Maybe that's why I always like to have a few different games that I'm playing, I never devote my time completely to just one.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Holiday Gaming Season

With Halloween on the horizon you know it's almost the holiday season.  In the world of gaming this means tons of new releases, holiday marketing pushes, and special events in our favorite games.  MMOs especially love to celebrate holidays with their own versions of real life holidays.

There are a lot of games that I want to try out this release season.  We're finally in the opposite of the summer slump.  The holiday release season was kicked off by Halo Reach late last month and is followed by Fable III, The Force Unleashed II, Assassin's Creed Brotherhood, and World of Warcraft Cataclysm.  Those are the main games I want to get my hands on in the next couple of months.

Those are just the games on my personal list, there are many other titles hoping to get their fair share of holiday spending.  Playstation Move is out and the Xbox Kinect will be released on November 4th.  Those new motion control systems should both be huge with the younger crowd, if not the hardcore gamers.  Kirby's Epic Yarn, Castlevania Lord of Shadows, Medal of Honor, and Call of Duty: Black Ops are just a few more offerings on the table that should do well at retail.

 WoW's Headless Horseman

Virtual worlds and MMOs are gearing up for the holidays with their own celebrations.  World of Warcraft has already had Brewfest and All Hallows Eve is just around the corner.  Most well established MMOs have some form of holiday festivities.

Last night when I logged in to League of Legends I was surprised to find a Halloween tileset for the main 5v5 map as well as all of the lesser minions having pumpkin masks.  It was awesome!  Not only that, but they introduced a new hero as an added benefit.

The holiday season is a great time to be a gamer.  With a mass of new releases and celebrations happening in our favorite virtual worlds which part of holiday gaming are you most looking forward to?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Cataclysm Hype Rising

A lot of my friends have been talking about World of Warcraft.  The pre-expansion patch was just released which apparently changed a lot of gameplay mechanics.  Events leading up to the Cataclysm are happening in game and there's a general excitement for the impending expansion.

Discussing WoW has gotten me excited for it again.  I haven't touched the game in over a year now but my resolve is weakening every day.  A side effect of my account getting hacked is that there is still some pre-paid game time on it from the gold seller.  I might use the couple free days that I have to give WoW another try.

I would probably have to get a server transfer to play with my friends again, which would suck.  I might even just start from scratch when Cataclysm rolls out.  I love my druid though, so I don't want all the effort I put into him to go to waste.

Along with the peer pressure from my friends, Blizzard just released the awesome introduction video to Cataclysm.  Seeing all those well know locations get owned makes me want to go explore the new world.  I'll let you know if my willpower gives out.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

No Tolerance for Rude People

I was playing a bunch of League of Legends yesterday and having a great time until I got into this one game where a teammate would not shut up about the way everyone else on the team was playing.  He was trying to micro-manage everyone else while at the same time telling us and the other team how much we sucked at the game.  In less then a minute I had him on my ignore list.

I realized that I used to have a much higher tolerance for rude people.  I would try to work with them, or be nice to them and make them understand that some people are still learning a game.  Now I just ignore them.  I have better things to do with my time.  If someone else is ruining my gameplay experience why should I bother listening to them?

It isn't only League of Legends either.  When people are whiny, complaining, or making fun of teammates in Halo Reach I'll mute them as soon as possible.  I'm sure if I went back to WoW and started running dungeons I wouldn't want to listen to any rude group members either.

I don't know if it's an age thing or if I've simply seen one too many assholes in all my days of gaming, but I'm done putting up with them.  What about you readers?  Do you still try to work with rude people or have you given up on them too?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

League of Legends is Still Sweet

League of Legends is my favorite game that you've probably never heard of.  It's one of the games that I come back to time and time again when I'm not playing the newest releases.  Team Fortress 2 falls into this category as well, but that's not what I want to talk about today.

League of Legends is based off of DotA, a custom map from WarCraft 3.  In League two teams of 5 players fight each other across a map while eventually trying to destroy the enemy's base.  Unlike in a RTS you're only in control of one unit, your hero.  Heroes gain levels, buy items, and gain abilities as the game goes on.  Along with the 10 heroes there are also "creeps."  These are much weaker and only walk a set path between your base and the enemy's base.  If the heroes didn't do anything then the two forces of creeps would cancel each other out.  With the help of player-controlled heroes the creeps are able to "push" a lane and slowly take down the defenses on the way to the enemy's base.  In a 5v5 game their are 3 separate lanes to push which makes lane management interesting because one lane is always going to be weaker than the other 2.  All of this makes for a unique experience unlike an other genre out there.

On top of the gameplay there's also a meta-game where players are given levels, masteries, and runes.  Levels unlock more mastery points and rune slots.  Masteries function similar to talent trees in World of Warcraft.  They give slight enhancements that can be customized to suit your play style but none of the masteries is game breaking.  Runes give even smaller tweaks, but enough of them together can make a difference.  Multiple rune pages can be set up for different types of heroes.  For example I have one dedicated to spell casting heroes and one set up for physical attack heroes.  Players also gain IP by playing games which can be used like cash in the League of Legends cash shop.  IP can buy new heroes and runes.

League is one of my favorite games on the market right now.  I've talked about it before, but I wanted to bring it up again because it just won a bunch of awards at GDC.  Not only is League of Legends awesome but it's also free to play.  There is also an optional cash shop but everything can be unlocked with in-game points if given enough time.  Now is a great time to try League of Legends because a lot of new players are joining with the announcement of the GDC awards.  With such a great game being free to play why not give it a shot?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Turbine Entertainment has done it again with the LotRO switch to free to play.  They are amazing at making the free to play plus an option cash shop pricing model work for them.  Their revenues have doubled already.

After the success of DDO's switch to the same pricing model I guess it was a no brainer to do the same with their other MMO.  Turbine is a great example of free to play done right.  I hope more MMOs follow their example in the future.

Subscription MMOs seem to be the exception lately.  When so many games are launching or switching to a free to play model why would MMO players still want to pay $15 per month to play a game?  World of Warcraft is the exception since they have market dominance and a 6 year track record with players.  Almost every other subscription MMO on the market is struggling.

I think that the free to play model with an optional cash shop is the future of MMOs.  With the occasional exception, we should see most MMOs using that pricing structure in the near future.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sunday Reading: Team Fortress Dance Edition

Time for another edition of Sunday reading!  I haven't posted one in awhile, so I have a bunch of links for you today.
  • Spinks strikes again with a few thoughts on achievements and Cataclysm.

Here are some TF2 characters dancing.  Enjoy.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Cataclysmic WoW Thoughts

After 6 years World of Warcraft is still going strong.  Blizzard just announced that WoW has reached 12 million active players.  Last time they did an announcement along the same lines was when they reached 11 million.  This means that WoW is still gaining more people then its losing.  I think that's amazing for a game that was released in 2004.

Cataclysm now has a December 7th release date and I've been thinking about resubscribing to play the newest expansion.  I love exploring new content and leveling up my characters, even though I've never been big into the raiding scene.  I like to jump online at my leisure and explore the world.  Cataclysm's revamp of the old world levels 1-60 plus the new content for levels 80-85 was designed for players just like me, which is why I'm so interested.

I also love new expansions because they completely level the playing field for max level players.  This means that after only a few levels my 80 druid that's been inactive for a year will be just as powerful as another person's who has been raiding the entire time.  Everyone gets a clean slate.

I still haven't played since they introduced the dungeon finder, which I would love to try out.  Running quick dungeons with people was one of my favorite parts of Wrath of the Lich King.  The streamlined process in addition to new dungeons in the expansion is very appealing to me.

My problem, at the moment, is that apparently my account just got banned.  I got an email last night from Blizzard (not a phishing scam) that said my account was permanently banned because of gold selling or something along those lines.  I don't understand how that could possibly be since my account has been inactive for almost an entire year.  I submitted a ticket to try to get my account and characters back.  If I can't get my level 80 druid back then I'm not going to ever play WoW again.  I like that character a lot and I don't feel like re-leveling a new one from scratch.  It may be the determining factor when it comes to buying Cataclysm.

Anyway, that's where I sit at the moment.  We'll see what happens with my account and all the Cataclysm hype in the next few months.  Maybe I'll resubscribe, maybe I won't.  I'll definitely let you know.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Progressing a Franchise

Bioshock Infinite looks sweet.  It's strange for me to type that because I loathed Bioshock 2 because of the shear potential that was wasted in it's creation.  Bioshock 2 was a complete rehash of the first game without compelling advancements or changes.  On the other hand, Bioshock Inifinite is absolutely the correct way to handle an intellectual property.

Do you remember what I wrote about the importance of developers?  Well, I just learned that Bioshock 2 had a completely different developer than the original.  2K Marin handled that game instead of the original developer, Irrational.  That explains the feeling of sameness that permeated the game.  Irrational is back at the helm for Bioshock Infinite and they're taking the series in a new direction.

 Our New Playground

Gone is the underwater city of Rapture.  Instead, Columbia is a floating city in 1912.  It's an American city that has taken nationalism too far.  Big daddy's are nowhere to be seen but a giant mechanical monster called "Him" is trying to keep your companion character, Elizabeth, confined to a tower where she's been trapped for the past 15 years.  It's your job to get her out of Columbia.

There are many similar veins to be seen in Bioshock Infinite, but it truly looks like the developer has gauged the strengths and weaknesses of Bioshock and built from there.  With no reused assets and a brand new game engine it seems that Irrational wants to keep this game feeling unique.  Taking the central feelings and themes of Bioshock and building an entirely new game from scratch is an amazing way to keep the series fresh.

I can't even do it justice, but I'm extremely excited to see how Bioshock Infinite turns out.  It just goes to show how much the developers really matter in game creation.  If you haven't seen the gameplay trailer you should watch it right now.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Digital Downloads Reign Supreme on PC

Well, maybe not supreme, but the future is officially here.  PC games sold via digital distribution finally overtook boxed copies last month.  I, for one, couldn't be happier to see more people using digital distribution services.

I've been a long time supporter of Steam and they are, by far, the main reason that digital distribution has taken off for PC gaming.  They have a massive catalog of games that can be bought with the click of a button.  Not only bought, but linked to your account forever.  With Steam there's no need to worry about losing a CD or DVD or losing that string of alpha-numeric characters that lets you access your games.  Steam stores it all.

They also have fantastic prices.  Steam prices are almost always cheaper than finding the game elsewhere and they constantly have sales and specials.  Their collection of games under $10 is always worthwhile when looking for a cheap new title to try out.  And these are good games, they aren't cast off crap fests.  Developers see their game sales explode when they drop their prices and start selling via Steam.  It makes me think that the current price point for most games ($60) is way too high.  I bet companies could make more money selling games for less, simply because so many more people would buy their games.

For the record Steam isn't the only digital distribution out there.  Direct to Drive, Impulse, Good Old Games, and Blizzard are all viable distribution platforms as well.  Each of them has titles exclusive to only that service, but most games can be found a few different places.  I've just found Steam to have the best deals, interface, and game selection which is why it's my platform of choice.

Hit up some of the links above to see what you've been missing out on if you still buy your PC games at a brick and mortar store.  In the meantime I'll be celebrating, because the future is here now!