Thursday, 4 June 2015

Hey Anubis, know any single player games?

May was an odd month that presented much more multiplayer game time than usual. The roommate who works normal everyday 9-5 office hours had broken his arm, and as an animator, this left him unable to work for a few weeks.

While terrible, it meant we got a whole lot of good gaming in when I wasn't at work. Player 3, the other roommate has a bursary that will pay for the entirety of his schooling for this year, as long, oddly enough, as he is unemployed for the summer. Player 4 would alternate between roommate 3 and friend B.

That unfortunately is ending. Roommate 1 is back to work 9am-5am and as of next week my shifts are changing to 5pm-1am. Disclaimer, with my sleep disorder these hours will do wonders for my health and I'm very excited work has agreed to push me into the evening. But my spree of multiplayer is over outside of weekends.

So it's time to return to solo gaming and find something to immerse myself in. Two games that I can play either with friends or solo are Smite and Heroes of the Storm. When I first entered the Smite Alpha, there were 10 gods. Far fewer than the 66 available today. One of those 10 was Anubis, he was my first main, one I still returned to now and then.


However, he has remained unchanged since that day. Despite the game NUMEROUS graphical updates and style changes, Anubis has always been the same, until now.

Anubis finally got a visual overhaul, and I actually really enjoy it. He plays the same, but the new modal and animations make him feel far more responsive and he's been a blast to return to.

In terms of Heroes of the Storm, I've taken a liking to Falstad. Heroes feels different enough from Smite that I can play one without getting burned out on the other, like how I used to swap between WoW and City of Heroes they both have different aspects I like while being vastly different flavors. I feel what it does different has been talked about to death at this point, but it fixes everything I hated about conquest mode from Smite.

When I feel like a game with lanes and towers, It's heroes, when I want 3rd person combat arena, Smite.

But this post is about wanting a single player game, Heroes and Smite can be played alone, and I do. However, they are both far better with friends, so what to play on my own time? Should I return to WoW and try to find a late evening social group? Should I try and get on Ark: Survival Evolved?  I'm very open to suggestions at the moment. I want to sink my teeth into something and I'm frankly drawing a blank when I try to think of where to go so... thoughts?

Saturday, 30 May 2015

GTA Online is Pay to Win! Only, just kinda... but not really at all...

So today I learned GTA Online can be seen as pay to win. How? Well, you can buy in game money with real money. How did I not know this? It's not really advertised! Never once have I had a pop up or message tell me "Hey, why haven't you given us more money for these things yet?"

How much does this anger me? Not by much actually, because it's not really pay to win. Sure you can buy money, but most things regarded to as 'power' are actually restricted by level. Want the (nothing mini about it) minigun? Well you need to be level 120 to buy it. Right now the only boost you can get for experience is applied by playing with friends and/or your crew (guild)

Money isn't exactly hard to earn either. Set up missions for the third heist pay crewmen $20,000 upon completion. The set up missions, not the big heist itself. The average set up mission length is 10-15 minutes and even winning a 1 minute long race can earn you $3000. Earning money that quickly, the $575,000 bullet proof car doesn't look so far off. I'd know because I got the bullet proof car and the high end apartment without feeling the need to spend any real money on it.

Upgrades for vehicles aren't even locked by level, but by achievements. Want a better engine for your sports car? Then you need to win races in a sports car, which unlocks only the sports car related upgrades. If you want to upgrade your motorcycles then you better start winning races with motorcycles! So regardless of buying money and trying to power grind xp, you still can't just buy the best parts for you cars without work earning it.

I'm sure there are some loopholes somewhere, but GTA Online continues to prove to me that progression comes from playing rather then playing being about progression. The Warcraft devs have always said that progression is important in an MMO, I believe it. I just don't believe it needs to the point. For now, I'm going to continue my ride in GTA Online.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

GTA Online: Don't buy guns you don't need! (At least not at first)

I've been good about my money in GTA Online up until this point, honest! To be able to start heist missions, you need to be level 12 and own a large enough apartment to have a planning room. The cheapest of these apartments is $217,000. All my friends were buying these so it's not like I needed to buy one myself, I can still be hired to work in other's heists without. I bought myself a little middle level apartment with a 4 car garage and that served me quite well. (pictured below)

Being a simple crewman is/was quite profitable. As everyone is trying to get through all the set up for the big payoff at the end, I'm making money on each mission. I've even been working some jobs for randoms and they seemed to like my driving skill. I saved up and bought something more expensive than the most luxurious pieces of property. A bullet proof car for $575,000. Now 'bullet proof' seems to be separate from other 'tough' vehicles. I will declare I've driven this thing into the middle of a gang war of 30 guns shooting and never saw it take damage. That being said, explosives can still end the car and a really well aimed shot into a window slot can end the driver. It's not god mode, but it has become an invaluable asset that has helped considerably in completing heist missions.  Car pictured below complete with Time Stalker crew logo.

Making money as a crewman helped me save up for my own high end apartment afterwards. I won't lie, for no reason or benefit what so ever I got the most expensive property for $500,000 that has the exact same perks as the one for $217,000. That wasn't the trap though, after that I was still making quite a bit of money.

The issue arrived when I bought guns. GUNS were the trap. My carbine was working well, but I felt like some options would be nice. Got a sniper for long range, a rocket launcher for taking out helicopters quick, a nice machine pistol for when I'm in a vehicle and then said 'what the hey' and bought more. This is not why I am broke so often now.

GTA Online has this nice button, an excellent quality of life button. While setting up for a mission you can buy ammo for specific guns or hit the button "BUY ALL AMMO". Your shooting skill determines how much ammo you can carry (as well as general accuracy and recoil.) Every time my shooting skill raises a bit, "BUY ALL AMMO" equates to a few thousand dollars, by few I mean in the 6-9 thousand dollar range.

The answer SHOULD be easy. Don't hit the button right? Here's where it's a bit more complicated than that. That first portion of the mission set-up screen doesn't have a ready button, when playing with randoms it's buy all ammo or nothing because the host nine times out of ten will hit go as soon as the last person loads in. Secondly, when you fail and vote whether or not to reload at the checkpoint, buy all ammo is the only option. You can't say 'just refill on the gun I used'.

It's seriously draining my funds, but thankfully will not last forever. My shooting skill is now somewhere in the 80's, with the max being 100. Once I hit max shooting skill, "BUY ALL AMMO" should only replenish bullets I have used or fill ammo for guns recently acquired.

The moral is to only buy the guns you need in GTA Online until you get to max shooting skill. If you have that need to 'collect them all', divert that to clothing or vehicles, or you'll end up homeless, living on the roof of a tower at a water treatment facility huddling next to the roof's ventilation system for warmth in the rain. (To my knowledge you can't actually loose your house)

Below are some extra screenshots that I'm fond of

Sneaking into the golf course without paying for club membership.

Checking for survivors in a freak accident involving a miss-aimed homing rocket launcher.

This was apparently appropriate attire for what ended up being a mission largely about gun fights.

Waiting outside a friend's apartment for non-nefarious reasons.

Stunning countryside.

Stranded in said countryside.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Is GTA Online the MMO I've been looking for?

It sounds ridiculous, how could GTA 5 be the MMO someone like me has been looking for? More and more I find myself hanging out in GTA 5's online mode in the same way I used to hang around Paragon City in City of Heroes or even Vanilla WoW! Note, I am playing the PC version which only released about a month ago. 

1. World
The map of GTA 5 is large and sprawling. Driving from end to end doesn't take as long as say, driving from Tanaris to Winterspring in WoW, but Azeroth does not have highway infrastructure or sports cars.

A good world is one where there's non-goal oriented reasons to be places you've been before. In many games, once you finish an area and then... well... that's it for that area. 45 hours into GTA Online and I'm not 'done' with anything.

2. Character Creation/ Stats
Character creation is not standard, you don't click through a bunch of face types to find one you like. Instead, you cycle through presets for your parents, and on a slider, decide whom you most resemble. After that there are some basic sliders to customize a bit more. Brow size, cheek bone depth, it's serviceable. My only real gripe is the complete lack of customization for body sizes, everyone is the same stocky build. But, again, that's a bit of a staple of the genre, few online games go that in depth.

What did impress me is the stats. You are given a basic spread of stats and are free to remove/add from each stat to a point. There are restrictions on that, I was not allowed to bring my flying stat any lower than 10, and there was an upper limit to where I could set my stealth. While many may have gone for all around balanced sets, I ended up with a character that had set strengths and weaknesses. To a degree, your beginning stats are irrelevant, as everyone can raise every stat to max. They increase in an Elder Scrolls fashion as you use them, however, stats actually decrease as you're offline or don't use them. I'm not sure how fast the degradation is, but the idea that a person's higher stats are the ones they actually use is one I like. Never fly planes? Well you're not going to keep a max flying skill then. I think the hope is that the stats would balance out based on someone's activities.

Stats have a tangible effect that in no way limit you. There's nothing in the game telling you "You're flying skill is not high enough for this." Your skill won't even have an affect on the abilities of any vehicle. A driver with 0 stats and a driver with 100 stats in the same car will have the same max speed. The cars will even have the same turning and breaking ability. But the player with high stats won't spin out as easily. A low flying skill means cross winds are incredibly powerful and force you to constantly adjust your bearing whereas someone with max flying will basically have no crosswind interference.

3. Playing Solo
I've had a surprising amount of fun playing alone when my friends aren't on and I don't feel like playing with the randoms. (There's been a few instances of being stuck in a match with exploiters.) Just touring around has been very enjoyable. I've been trying to complete the missions/lessons from the flying school to help raise flying skill, robbing stores, parachuting and sometimes just taking a bike and going across the beach.

4. Playing with others
The online races are best done with more players. Some races support up to 30 vehicles, and before you think that must just turn into one massive pile up, you may turn off collisions and turn everyone into a transparent ghost. Having other players around on the map has been rather entertaining. There can be 30 players in any 'instance' of the map. Few enough to not be constantly bothered, enough that you still run into players naturally. If someone is being a dick, their 'mental state' raises. The color of their marker on the map changes as this raises and, once they've been a dick long enough, they become worth more experience to kill. Players can even place bounties on others if they become fed up with each others dickedness. Bounty hunting has actually become a bit of hobby of mine now.

5. Playing with friends
Now here is where the game shines for me. I've actually got some friends and roommates into the game and I started a crew (guild) called the Time Stalkers. Co-operative missions are a blast with the others as are the races. The real gem of the game however, are the heists.

Heists are a string of missions started by a player. The leading player needs to 'buy into' it, they pay the cost of all the set up. There are then NUMEROUS 'set-up' missions. 5-6 depending on which heist you're trying to do. We tend to do all of these as one group but the leading player can hire anyone to do these. The catch is that the leading player actually doesn't earn anything from these set up missions, for him, it's all about the set up. The participating players earn money, so you don't need to worry about asking others to do missions for free. Many missions actually split the players into separate roles. It seems odd, but the splitting of players into these roles creates a greater feeling of teamwork than in Payday 2. After all the set up is done, it's HEIST TIME! The leading play can decide how big everyone's cut is here. In our group, we normally agree the leading player gets the biggest cut as they paid for the buy in and earned nothing in the set up.

The most satisfying thing however, has been how challenging these have been. Giving multiple tries to get through a mission, trying different strategies. Should we start to find these easy, we can even turn up the difficulty.

6. Endless content
Some may ask "But won't you run out of races, missions heists?" Maybe official ones, but the game has player created content! An entire creator inside to make missions and races yourselves. So long as I continue to find the act of racing fun, theoretically there is no end.

7. Summing it up.
Overall my time in game has been spent well... just enjoying being in game! I'm not overly worried about goals, progression, or numbers. I just go around doing things while progression happens, and well.... that's how I like it.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Life after Death

So not all of Massively/Joystiq/WoW Insider died. Specifically the WoW Insider portion is being kept alive. Or even more specifically, transplanted, or even more technically correct (which is the best kind of correct), removed from its host and growing in a petri dish.

The staff from WoW Insider have decided to stick together and form a new site called Blizzard Watch. I really wanted a weather pun about it as my title. I’m from Canada, I love the weather, but nothing came up that didn't make it sound like I was also a part of it. Look out, we’re on a Blizzard Watch! See, had to use the word we’re, and neither I, nor 99% of you who read this, are on it.

To fund themselves, they've turned to crowd funding on Patreon. The site is kind of like Kickstarter for ongoing projects. While Kickstarter says ‘Give me $1000’ to make one thing, Patreon says ‘Give me $10 per month to make a thing every month’.  Like the donate banners from webcomics in the internet of old before ad revenue. I've personally pledged $10 a month, it’s not much. But with everyone else who also pledged, Blizzard Watch is now looking at a monthly budget of over $9000 not even 12 hours after its founding. Well over their old $8000 budget they were given by AOL for WoW Insider.

I’m personally excited about this. This is not a site that will be click baiting for Add Revenue, I mean, there will be ads, but their money comes from the very people who want their articles. It’s not a parent company who looks down and says ‘Kids like x, write about x, here’s a budget that it better make back’ It’s 300 kids running up to the author and saying ‘here is money, please write about x for us, do what you can with what we can provide’. Perhaps the metaphors don’t hold up, this could be incredibly flawed. Perhaps I’m losing sight of reality in the novelty of the moment. Perhaps $7000 of funding is cancelled before Blizzard Watch even gets any money because $7000 worth of donators thought they would be sneaky and cheat the system to trick them into hitting and promising milestones without actually paying. 

We'll have to wait and see how it all plays out, but I think the community is actually coming together on this one. Like City of Heroes, the internet just refuses to truly let some things die.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Encrypted Odes to Massively

So as of today, Massively/WoW Insider/ Joystiq is gone. It may have been opinionated, the comments may not have been the best quality, but you know what? They spoke about games, and everything relevant to them. They spoke about the status of all the pre-alpha games, issues with current ones, updates to old ones and even had a segment about what it was like to go back to previous ones. Ever wondered what Age of Conan is like today? They probably have the most up to date piece on it.

I will miss that network, the network that did not follow the press kit formula of IGN and others consisting of:
-Announcement trailer
-Analyze Announcement trailer
-Hype interview with little substance
-New Trailer
-Article about 5 reasons to be excited about X
-Possible article on scandal afterwards (Ubisoft Unity)

In memory, and in not mentioning how long it’s been since the last post, I am going to do a piece about rogues in WoW not unlike the old Encrypted Text series from WoW Insider.

Fellow Rogues,

We need to talk about Burst of Speed. You use it, I use it, but like flying it is a detriment to our game. Burst of Speed opened a can of worms better left shut. Non-rogues, this affects you too, as the sprint/snare arms race ever rages on.

If you don’t know, Burst of Speed is a talent that rogues can pick at level 60. And by can pick, I mean do pick. Sure Shadowstep has its place in raids and arenas, but for questing, battlegrounds and world pvp there just isn’t another option. For 30 energy, you move 70% faster for 4 seconds, removing all effects that slow your character. There is no cool down. Use Burst of Speed, get snared, use it again, wears off, use it again, anything at all, use it again. Rogues pretty much just run 70% faster than everyone else at all times. That is faster than the travel form of a druid or ghost wolf for shamans.

There is another talent rogues can take at level 15 called Nightstalker, move 25% faster while in stealth. This STACKS. A rogue using Burst of Speed while in stealth is faster than someone on an epic mount, and it works indoors, where mounts can’t be used.

Fellow Rogues… this has to stop!

We already move unseen, past enemies, past players, past all defenses. We already bring quite a bit of crowd control with stuns, silences, blinds, crippling poison, bleeds that prevent other rogues from entering back into stealth. We also have great defenses in the forms of Evade, Cloak of Shadows, feint, the talent combat readiness, and the talent choices between Cheat Death, leeching poison and Elusiveness. Oh yeah, AND STEALTH.

Is it any wonder the other classes find us so annoying even without a constant 70% speed increase? Now to be fair, Blizzard IS applying a nerf in the next patch. A 3 second cool down on what is otherwise a 4 second ability. Basically, we will still be able to be slowed 3 seconds at a time. But frankly the entire ability needs to be overhauled in my opinion. Something more reasonable would be a standard 30% speed increase like feral druids get in cat form. Or perhaps a burst of 70% speed whenever we exit stealth. Or instead cuts the duration of snares in half while also giving a speed boost whenever a non-snare crowd control effect ends. This would still be great for catching people and running flags in battlegrounds without the exercise in frustration it is for others to deal with. To me that feels more like a rogue. Getting an opportunity to do something, rather then what we have now, constantly running marathons in stealth because we have no use for ground mounts.

Feel free to disagree, but to me the feeling of the prepared methodical assassin is gone. We don’t wait in stealth for the moment to strike. We run faster than anything else in the game in stealth into someone’s face to continue running faster than anyone else in combat. I’d like stealth to be a bit slower, and to have more snares. I want it to be about striking and disabling my opponent.  Some may say no one is forcing me to use Burst of Speed, but that’s like the pre-expansion talk of no one forced me to fly.

No, no one forced me to fly in WoW but it was still bad for the game overall. Blizzard removed it in Warlords of Draenor. Rogues, this is the same. While no one is forcing us to use Burst of Speed, it is there, and it is bad for the game. Frankly, the entire stun/snare arms race needs to be looked at, but that's for another time.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Would dynamic classes ever work?

Certainly not in a WoW or Wildstar environment, but an idea that I've been kicking around for a few days. This is purely more of an RP / sandbox idea.

What do I mean by dynamic classes? I'll start simple, with ideas based on a game that includes real world day/night and season cycles.

Imagine a Moon Mage, who's power was tied to the moon cycle. Based on the stages of the moon, he would fluctuate between +10% and -10% damage. On actual full or new moons, he would gain another +10% or -10% respectively.

What about a druid or nature mage where the powers themselves changed over the seasons? Plant summoning in spring,  animal summoning in the summer, etc. Not just visual changes either, in the transition from spring to summer they would change most of their abilities for new ones.

While I personally love the ideas behind these, I'm aware a greater player base would never latch onto it. Forget who would even play the classes (I would), but how they would be reacted too. How many Moon Mages would be kicked from a group because 'it's not their time'? How many nature mages would be told to 'enjoy fall, because you won't find a single group that will take you in winter'?

Even if every class was dynamic in such a way. 'Ugh, I want to play my Moon Mage but it it's a new moon, guess I'll play my alt for two weeks until my main is strong again.'

Such classes will never happen, but if somehow, some way such things ever came to be.... I think it would be a huge step to placing back the RP in RPG, let alone MMORPG.

For now it'll just remain some pipe dream.