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I've been giving Sanctum a proper playabout over the course of the last week, after an initial evening back in July chasing after the Steam Summer Camp award related to the game. It's a first person tower defence game made by indie developers Coffee Stain Studios, and it's main schtick is that when the building phase is over, your character (Skye) leaps into the fray with a choice of firearms and helps with the defence. The multiplayer function is co-operative and good fun to boot.

Sanctum Screen

You are placed on a map that has a mixture of fixed components like ramps and walls, with entrances on one end where aliens will swarm from and a big glowing core on the other end which is what the aliens are trying to destroy. The open space is mostly given over to sites where you can choose to construct blocks to house towers or place something on the floor. The strategy comes from how you choose to herd the aliens through block placement and kill them through strategic tower use, bolstered by your own FPS skills. The FPS aspect isn't hardcore - you don't have HP and the aliens don't care about you though if you get in their way you will get bounced about. Each wave of aliens you successfully destroy (before they destroy your core) gives you a money reward. Towers, floor items and weapon upgrades all cost money. You have to choose whether you want to spend your earnings on upping your own personal combat capabilities, for example upgrading your sniper rifle, or on upgrading your existing tower/floor structures, or in placing new basic ones. Towers act on their own initiative, either going for the closest target or else choosing targets randomly. Flooring acts on aliens that run directly over them. You can run and jump about to shoot and the placement of Televators (teleporters combined with elevators to move up to the top of the block layer) gets to be critical to avoid getting yourself stuck out of the way with a long run back to the action.

Building Screenie
Chargin' mah lazorz...

Examples of the sorts of towers and flooring you get:-
  • Gatling Guns which are cheap, high rate of fire, low damage and target the nearest ground units
  • Scatter Lasers which are more expensive, have higher damage and lower rate of fire and randomly targets both ground and air units
  • Slow Fields that snare enemies passing over that square
  • Amp Fields that decrease the armour of the aliens passing over the square
Alien types are specialised and swarm in numbers without much in the way of AI. Some examples:-
  • Bobble Heads that are immune to all damage except to their tiny, fragile, waving bobble-heads
  • Chargers that move very fast in straight lines but slow down considerably at corners
  • Dodgers that fly and move in random jerks
  • Spore Pods that don't do much of anything beyond fly slowly and die easily, except that they come in large numbers

I became quite the sniper rifle and assault cannon fan. Sniping the bigger and tougher aliens to thin the ranks before they come into tower range, then switching over to the assault cannon to spray the smaller, faster things. At the lower difficulty ranges, you can easily out-DPS your towers and go all rambo. At harder levels you are the emergency backup.

Combat Screenie
Getting up close and personal in multiplayer


The three bits I don't like are as follows:
  1. The difficulties are shagged. That is to say; the difference between difficulty levels follows abstract mathematics as yet unknown to modern science.
  2. Occasional bugged (or possibly just ludicrously unbalanced) mobs. An example of this is sometimes found in the Big Walker waves. Usually when found in a wave, these aliens have got a wodge of HP that means they take a good pounding before keeling over. Once in a while, there will be a bugged one (or perhaps it's some sort of special invulnerable one) that will take the combined firepower of all my turrets and myself sniping for 4-digit damage in the weakspot for the duration of the entire pathway to the core, and STILL doesn't fall over. It's taking damage, as the mass of orange and red numbers can attest to, it's just not dying. Exceedingly frustrating.
  3. Occasional bugged Achivements, though that's hardly unique to this game to be fair. Still irritating when you've got to that last awkward strawberry fish and shot it in the head at point blank range and it squeals in its death throes and... no record of it.

It's a really well presented game, in my opinion. I love the aesthetics (even if the 'futuristic' UI style has been done to death) and the soundtrack is great too. There's been some free updates and also some cheap DLCs (a couple of dollars for the lot in a recent Steam sale) consisting of new maps and tower/flooring types. If you Steam it, there's a ton of achievements as well ranging from the usual 'kill X of Y using Z' to uncovering hidden easter eggs. And boy, that's a lotta easter eggs...


The icing on the cake

There's a veritable ton of hidden bits to find, from random items tucked away in obscure corners of the map you didn't even know had pathing to whole other areas and layers to explore. Hardly any of these have to do with building towers and pewing aliens but the amount of work that's gone into some of these secret parts is quite mind-boggling. 'Voyage au centre de la Terre' is one such example with a whole other section of labyrinthine tunnels, unique script dialogue and such. Masses of guides on how to access everything can be found all over YouTube. The various additional levels haven't skimped on the hidden bits either. All in all it adds plenty of extra goals to pursue and extends the longevity of the game. For once, in a break with recent gaming tradition, there are no cake references either.
It's been a long time since I've played a game with so many random extras that have nothing whatsoever to do with the gameplay, the genre, the setting and so on.

Sanctum is not too expensive on Steam at the best of times but when it comes up in the sale rotation, it definitely gets a recommendation from me.
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It's that time again for Indie game developers to band together and release their offerings packed together for whatever you, the buyer, wants to pay. The Humble Indie Bundle concept has been a massive success so far and the next installment is already on the go.

Humble Bundle 4 Logo

The offer is on for another 12 days from today, and you can choose whether you want ot DL the games directly, or go through another medium such as Steam. The games are available for Windows, Linux and Mac OS though there is a warning about some games not working with the cheaper integrated graphics chips found in lower end laptops or netbooks

As with the previous offers, there is a basic pack on offer and if you pay more than the average donation amount, you will get a second set of games added in. In this instance, the additional games are more offerings from the Frozenbyte studio. This Finnish company made it's name recently with the multiplayer physics-driven platformer Trine and it's successor Trine 2, both of which were popular on Steam. What sets this bundle apart slightly is that there is only one core game in the main pack: Frozen Synapse. This turn-based strategy game has done the rounds, being a fairly recent release, and has had good reviews. The rest of the games are the over-the-average bonus material, with two bonus bonus unfinished game betas.


The haul

The games found in this bundle are a mix of finished products, some of which have released previously, and two unfinished games.

The basic bundle:-
  • Frozen Synapse which, as mentioned above, is a multiplayer take on the RTS genre offering simultaneous play. Tactical planning and a dose of good luck are key here.
The extras:-
  • Trine, as also mentioned above, which supports up to 3 players in a side-scrolling platformer with very fine graphics. Pick from a choice of Theif, Knight or Wizard and by switching between them or working together with friends you can progress through the levels.
  • Shadowgrounds, a fairly old top-down shooter with a Doom-esque story that's fun to play if lacking in polish.
  • Shadowgrounds: Survivor, which is the sequel to Shadowgrounds and is set after the original game. It contains many of the same elements as the original game and reminds me of Alien Swarm.
  • Splot hasn't yet been finished so it'll be Downloaded later on. It looks to be a surreal physics-based platformer.
  • Jack Claw, which was canceled during development and remains unfinished. I don't know much about it yet other than it looks to be an action game involving someone named Jack who has a mechanical claw-like appendage that can be used to grapple, throw etc.

Hopefully I'll get the chance to spend some quality time on the games this weekend and can report back later on how they pan out. The current average donation is under $5 so for $5+, you get all of those games above which is a pretty good deal in my opinion.
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I keep a few links on my blog to other sites of relevance: gaming sites such as Rock, Paper Shotgun and Massively; general gaming interest such as Overclocked Remix and Steam; related blogs from friends and acquaintances such as Femme Gamer and XBox Banter.

The first two are easily found by Google and chances are anyone with an interest in gaming will have swung by the big name sites at some point. The latter is more a case of hearing about through someone else. To this end, I am passing on the pimpage.

In no particular order, I present the following:-


Femme Gamer is a shared blog looking at gaming and geekery in general as written by a group of girl gamers including Kostika whom I've known for years and years. It showcases reviews, trailers, opinion pieces, commentary on gaming in general as well as gaming from a girl's perspective and wider related topics.


XBox Banter is another shared blog with a particular (though not exclusive) focus on XBox games, written by a duo comprising OneAngryBlogger and WeirdWalthamstow, the latter of whom is a man I've gamed with for many a year and lurks about here as [livejournal.com profile] jon_a_five.


Random Rants & Ramblings is a gaming blog in a similar vein to mine, with game reviews, ponderings and discussions on a wide variety of games-related topics. It's written by one Quilluck, a spurious Norwegian I game with fairly regularly.


Delusional Hallucinations is a blog that's not exclusively gaming focused, but when the theme is gaming it looks at home-made level design - particularly of the Source SDK variety - and FRAPS footage of various games. Written by an occasional lurking Razzad, whom I have MMO'd with for many years.


IF Connected is focused on technology and its innovations, particularly in the mobile device arenas. iPads as gaming devices: it's more likely than you think (the post is in the works). The author is one Ian Fogg and I've both fragged and been fragged by him many times at LAN games through the years.
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This last week has seen the release of version 1.8 of Minecraft after much anticipation: the Adventure update!


Update logo

Villages, NPCs, mines, levels, proper dungeons and food playing a bigger role have been promised and so I set out to see how it actually holds up.


It begins

The first hurdle I encounter is a lack of a craftbukkit update (it's apparently tricky to code). Never mind, thinks I, I'll just run a vanilla solo map. If I can remember how one of those goes, and cope without a teleport to home function. And so after generating a new world I was thrust into the thick of it. Immediately there's UI changes to note: an XP bar and a food bar (that jiggles now and then which I find to be fairly distracting actually). I spy a cow and after punching some trees to make a sword, I get my psycho on with some leather armour in mind. First thing I notice, animals panic and run away when you start to attack. Second thing I notice, sometimes I one-shot them. Critical hits are now here.

Killing animals drops little greenish yellow bead thingers that's actually your XP, and other animals besides pigs drop raw meat too, all of which can be cooked ot increase the food value. Food means your HP regenerates. After killing everything that moves for a bit, I have absolutely no idea what level I am and I can't seem to find anything in the UI that tells me, though I understand that at the moment it's irrelevant.

Time to build a boat and cross the oceans. I also notice that clay is now more readily found in watery areas such as lakes and seas. No more cheating for that brick fireplace! I spy what look like Vines hanging off trees but I suppose I need some shears before I can do anything with them, like leaves. I noticed another little change: water now has little dots of stuff floating in it so it looks like there's actually something there.

Finally I spy what looks like it could be a cave system and head on in hoping for a mine. Another discovery is that torch light giving things a slightly yellow hue as opposed to daylight which lends a slightly bluish cast. Sadly I find nothign else new in the sprawling mass of dead ends and tunnels filled with lava tubes and running water. At this point, I've spent over an hour exploring this ocean planet biome with mountains for islands and found absolutely nothing of interest. None of these mines or villages or dungeons. Perhaps I picked a rubbish seed word so I gave it another go. Another oceanic biome with mountainous islands popped up. A large cave system was all of interest I could find here too. Bah!


If at first you don't succeed, cheat like a bastard

At this point I cheated and asked some friends for seed words for the biomes that'd given them the new fancy stuff in the hopes that the third time's the charm. Well whaddya know? It works. I spawn in an NPC village right next to a smithy. There's a well there too, a guard tower, houses with tables and chairs and windows, irrigated crops, lampposts and a workshop with what looks like a library. There's even a small cave out back to explore. This is more like it!

Some experimentation revealed brick stairs, glass panes and iron grills now existed, so after claiming a spacious pad as my own in this eerily uninhabited village and installing some chests (now with opening animations) I set off to find myself a mine. After stumbling on a second village, very similar to the first in terms of building design and contents and how many of each are present, I continue onwards and fall down a chasm into what looks like an underground building with a new kind of stone brick and iron doors. Sadly it looks like this one was malformed as the walls are more like hanging pillars, there's no flooring to separate it from the caves below and there's nothing else there. Still, it's all progress and it looks to me like it's a proper dungeon but I'm told it's called a Stronghold, and thus I can tick that off the discovery list.

With only Mines left to find for the meat of the additions, it was time to set off once more. Following a tip I find a hole in the bottom of a lake and riding the waterfall down I land squarely inside what I assume must be a mine: wooden supports lining a tunnel, cobwbs that give string, random sections of minecart track, torches here and there and so on. Something else new to play with are melon seeds found in one of the chests in said mine, but I don't appear to have much in the way of a green thumb when it comes to growing any. Ah well.


Fin

So with all the major additions checked out and a bunch of smaller tweaks noted, I'm all minecrafted out for the day and I shall now await the coming of the Craft Bukkit update so I can fire up my usual server maps and see about wedging in some of this new stuff.
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When I write my journal entries, I keep them as Private drafts because I tend to add to them from a variety of different places and devices. When it's all put together, I publish the posts as Public.

However, the way that LiveJournal does dates through Friend's Pages or RSS feeds is that the date and time the entry was created determines where it sits in the feed streams. This means if I've published a post I started 3 days ago, it'll appear 3 days back.

Manually editing the date/time in the post only affects where it shows up on my own journal, not through feeds. This is actually a good thing as many people will use a future date to keep important posts at the top of their journals, such as contact details.

All of this means that my posts will usually appear partway through a feed rather than at the time of publishing, unless you happen to be reading my journal directly.
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... on my PC and on my Android.

First of all, it goes without saying that I hop onto Champions Online now and then, usually to faff about with the character creator. Cryptic recently had a birthday event to celebrate 2 years of the game, and there were presents and suchlike which I had a blast pewpewing for.

Champions Online logo


Pity the costume items were random from presents but so it goes.


For the Commute

Recently I have discovered the nifty little Android Game called Alchemy (see prior entry). My first real foray into Mobile gaming and it's not even a Gamer's Game: no flashy graphics, no kill count, no online play etc. It's simple, fun, quite the battery hog and keeps me entertained when I'm not busy.

In summary: start with Fire, Water, Earth & Air. Combine them up into new items such as Metal, Sand, Sea and Life. Continue on until you invent Locomotive, Werewolf, The Beatles and Borscht. There's a current total of 380 of them to uncover and there's a free version of the app that works well enough.

Alchemy/Android image

For a detailed look at the game, read my previous journal entry.


For the Horde Telara!

On the PC, I have recently got back into the Trion Worlds MMO Rift in a big way. I was out of the game on anything like a regular or serious basis for some time, keeping only a vague ear to the ground on what was developing. With pretty much everyone I played with having moved on for a variety of reasons, it got dull and difficult to keep my characters in good equipment on my own (and one thing I can't stand is allowing my characters to become gimped and a burden).

Rift logo

The recent months have seen a fair number of updates to the game; redesigned graphics for some models, lots of new NPCs and quests, some very nifty UI tweaks (my favourite of which is the new Quest Item bag that saves on your very limited inventory space in a massive way), new encounters and dungeons, redesigned encounters and dungeons and a lot of tweaking of the various souls. All of this comes as part of the world event-driven storyline expansions that are released every month or two. Version 1.4 was released recently and in honour of the game's 6 month anniversary (half-birthday they call it, cheesy but there we are) there was a round of free game time and various ingame freebies available including the obligatory references to the cake not being a lie, which coincided with Champions Online's 2nd birthday, as mentioned above, that also proved the cake was real.

Whilst there is always argument and debate about the changes that are made, and they're not always for the best, overall I think Trion Worlds is getting it right in terms of the optimisation, bugsquashing and playability. Best of all, there still isn't a sodding cash shop for power items: it's still a sub-based game that isn't pay-to-win. To me, this is a HUGE point in its favour.

A couple of current niggles include throwing so much XP at the characters over the recent half-birthday celebrations that everyone overlevels much too fast and you end up fighting grey mobs in sub-par gear with the zone quests only half finished (yeah, I make a lousy powerleveler). The other is the removal of the soul quests because apparently newbies found it too confusing to have to quest for other souls or something. Now you just buy them from a trainer and in the process lose a chunk of the darker side of the characters' stories: where do you think those souls stuffed inside of you came from in the first place? They could have left both options in IMO.

Rift Bahmi on a Tartagon
Do not mock the turtle.

I'm currently splitting my playtime primarily between lowbie Defiants on Argent and highbie Guardians on Icewatch. Still not hit 50 yet for the raiding but I'm keeping my main characters in Artisan Mark-made blues and Zone-Puzzle Purples as much as possible so as to be solo/duo capable and not a gimp.


If anyone is interested in giving the game a free trial, let me know. I can Ascend a Friend, which is a cheesy way of saying I can get you a free copy of the game + 7 day trial. For that I can get a hat and you get to put up with me popping up at random intervals.
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I'm being rather slow on the uptake of mobile gaming on the Android platform, despite having a very capable handset. Partly it's because I'm focused on other game-playing media and partly it's because I see the phone's touchscreen interface as a rather limited sort of DS that has no alternative control options like buttons and only the one screen. I've yet to make that paradigm shift into games designed specifically for the screen types and sizes of modern smartphones (and no, Angry Birds does not interest me). Sudoku and the like notwithstanding.

With all this in mind, I've generally avoided games on my droid.

It was only the result of lunchtime surfing on friday that I happened across a mention of a game for the Android named Alchemy. The concept is very simple: starting with the 4 Classical elements of Fire, Water, Air and Earth the aim is to combine up pairs of elements in order to create more. Air + Air = Wind, for example, and Wind + Stone = Sand. Eventually you end up with things like Time, Zombie, Sex, Quetzacoatl, Toast and the Ghostbusters.
Alchemy logo
As of writing this, there are 380 different 'elements' to discover. Elements being items you can make and then use to make other things with, rather than elements in any classical sense. Not everything can then in turn make something else, and these top-of-tree items are called Terminal Elements. Examples of such things include Transformer (of the robots in disguise variety), Explosion, Island and Lichen. There is frequently more than one way to produce an item and if you have the option to ignore previously discovered combinations enabled, it will still trigger production of previously discovered items if you're going about it in a different way. An example of this is Ash which can be made in many different ways including Dragon + Man, Vampire + Light, Tobacco + Fire and Dust + Dust.

As you can tell, there is a degree of internal logic as well as phrases, proverbs and pop culture references. Sometimes it can seem rather incongruous, however, and if an extremely obvious combination seems to be missing then chances are it will exist but require an item you hadn't thought of and will then become blindingly obvious once you've found it. There's a slew of guides floating about as apps, as webpages, as Facebook discussion groups and so on. Personally I'm avoiding those as it spoils the fun of accidentally combining things and getting unexpected surprises.

It's surprisingly addictive. I play it when bored and away from home, or on public transport, or waiting for the kettle to boil... Up to 210 elements so far. I might look at other alchemy games once I'm done but it would mostly be for comparison, given that they all seem to share a large chunk of the combinations and after you've done it the first time the novelty wears off.

Alchemy screenies
Old screenshot is old, unfortunately.


And now the parts I don't like:
  • The fact that the game doesn't suspend unless you quit to Home, chewing up battery at an enormous rate even if the screen is off and locked.
  • The free version of the app has an adbar at the top which displaces the whole screen down, meaning that items which end up at the bottom fall off the screen or superimpose over the add/trash button and thus you can't do anything with them. That's just poor design IMO.
  • There's an option to shake your phone to mix up the items on screen in order to discover new combinations. This has never once worked for me, no matter whether I leave combining to dragging one on top of the other (default) or switch to tap 1st then tap 2nd.

There's a number of similar games floating around, both using Flash and on various smartphone and tablet platforms. Doodle God is a rather chill attempt for the PC, and Alchemy Classic which exists for a variety of phone and tablet types.
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At the end of July, Nintendo decided to try and stimulate the slow-moving 3DS market by introducing a hefty price cut to bring the console out of the range of second-hand XBox 360s and PS3. This was accompanied by many executives taking voluntary salary cuts, and promises of a loyalty reward scheme for those customers who had already bought a 3DS at its initial retail price. (A news article can be found on Videogamer.com.)


As of the 1st of September 2011, UK Nintendo 3DS owners that had previously registered with the eShop were entered into the Nintendo Ambassador scheme.

Ambassador Program Logo

If you had bought a 3DS before the big price cut, you're rewarded by being given free copies of various NES and GB/GBA game releases through the Virtual Console. Naturally as soon as I got wind of this scheme (it was sent as a streetpass notification to my 3DS some time in early august) I visited the eShop to sign up.

20 free games over the course of September and October as compensation? Yes please!

Over the weekend, I visited the eShop to claim the first half of my games: the NES Virtual Console releases. The 10 games released so far are as follows:
  • The Legend of Zelda
  • Zelda II: The Adventure of Link
  • Metroid
  • Super Mario Bros.
  • Wrecking Crew
  • Ice Climbers
  • Mario and Yoshi
  • Donkey Kong JR.
  • NES Open Tournament Golf
  • Balloon Fight
I've had a quick test play with most of the titles so far. They're faithful reproductions of the orignal games without much in the way of added functionality (Circle pad is enabled and that's pretty much yer lot): clunky controls, beepy sounds and all.

On the one hand it means you do get the full classic retrogaming experience, and the games will suspend properly, but on the other it means that games without save files still don't have them. Metroid uses a password system for example, and whilst the 3DS does have an inbuilt notepad for scribbling down bits and pieces it gets clunky to do this. I'd have preferred it if they'd added a proper save system as well, personally.


The nitty gritty

The way it works is as follows: connecting to the eShop before the end of August meant that your 3DS had been flagged as an Ambassador machine and your account noted for Ambassadorship. As of September 1st, the flagged accounts connecting to the eShop will be able to view and download the Ambassador Certificate, that also allows Ambassador program streetpass notifications. The 10 NES games are registered as having already been 'bought' by that account and so you "re-download" them to the SD card that came with the console. The games aren't too heavy and so they download and install quickly, appearing as unwrapped gifts on the Home menu.

No word as yet on the release dates of the GB/GBA games half; even the titles in the release are not fully known yet. So far Nintendo has listed Super Mario Advance 3: Yoshi's Island, Mario Kart: Super Circuit, Metroid Fusion, Mario vs. Donkey Kong and WarioWare, Inc. They have been promised for release later in the year.


What's next?

Given that we've just had 10 new games landing, however, I don't think there's a huge rush to get the remaining 10. I'm certainly rusty enough at the NES games I did play (which wasn't many - I'm a SNES generation gamer) not to remember much and I envision plenty of hours of gaming ahead of me.

3DS and Ambassador titles
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During a lull at the Notting Hill Carnival yesterday, there was a comment in the conversation about quests in games and how unoriginal they generally are. Whilst MMOs were the broad topic, this runs through pretty much all game genres that have such concepts such as RPGs with side quests, RTSes with multiple objectives and FPSes with missions.

Quests/missions ostensibly exist to provide gameplay variety and as a source of rewards but from various chats I've had over time, player opinion seems divided and runs the gamut from from those that thrive on goal completion to those that would rather uninstall the game than kill another 10 bloody rats. Games designers too seem to be divided on the subject, if the wide range of implementation I've seen is anything to go by: some games have side quests tacked on almost as an afterthought because it's needed to tick some obligatory box or other, whilst others tie the progression of the game to a questing system to such an extent that you cannot avoid the majority of these objectives.

It's rare that I find a truly innovative or original quest in a game. The current height of quest system design is one that allows for a successful completion of objectives by following more than one path, and where your choices in doing this have repercussions later on. MMOs have been very slow on the uptake here whilst RPGs and first-person games have led the way, a classic example of which is the Deus Ex series in which you can choose to sneak and hack through the game rather than kill and destroy all that you see.

So, I'm curious as to what people think about the topic. Love 'em? Hate 'em? Game makers? Game breakers? Couldn't give a flying monkey's?


Oooh what's over here?

Personally, I see quests and missions as a means to an end rather than a thing to focus on in and of itself. I'm a great explorer of game worlds and maps, and I like to see what's over this hill or in that hidden bunker. I like to click on items that look interesting and potentially clickable just for the hell of it. I'm insatiably curious about how the settings work and where the boundaries of what I can do are set. Quests are a way of getting things done while I'm indulging in my exploratory nature. I reason that there's now a good excuse to travel across the map to a part I haven't visited yet and poke around because in doing so I'll end up killing things and picking up objects and I might as well pick up extra credit and advance the plot/unlock new areas/watch new cut scenes while I'm at it. Whether I read all the text associated with the objective or even care about it depends a lot on how the story of the game has grabbed me. Generic fantasy game #1634 will have me reading only the bolded bit where it lists the mob name I nave to slot or what zone to travel to to follow the waypoint on my map. Something intriguing like a plot twist centred around a character I'm interested in will have me paying attention and eager to see what comes next. Another thing I consider is that because I am very easily sidetracked by exploration, timed quests are horrible for me and as a rule I loathe them.

Going off into new areas often means I find myself in situations which wouldn't normally be encountered until much later and this can often be rather lethal. If I've been given a specific task to in an area at a certain point in the game, it hopefully means that what I'm likely to encounter on the way is appropriate for my current in-game capabilities. Of course this isn't guaranteed, as anyone who's ever run a mission in Anarchy Online knows all too well, where low level characters end up having to travel through areas containing much higher level mobs to get to their low level destination...

All of this does mean that when I'm done with an area and want to move on, if I keep getting sent back to old territory with missions then I'll get annoyed and either sod the mission until a later point or, if I can't do that, I'll sod off and play a different game for a while. Endless back and forth between the same areas on errands gets to be tedious. Tedious tasks put me off, and thus the dichotomy of the quest question continues.
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Some months ago, Atari announced it was getting rid of it's Cryptic Studios subsidiary, the company currently responsible for Champions Online and Star Trek Online, and the upcoming D&D Neverwinter game.
Naturally there were concerns throughout both playerbases about what the future would hold for the two games. As a part-time Champions Online player, I too was keeping an eye on these developments. At the end of May it was announced that Perfect World Entertainment would be purchasing Cryptic Studios as a wholly-owned subsidiary. PWE has many other MMOs; predominantly produced and operated by it's Beijing and Shanghai arms such as Forsaken World and Perfect World International. It's also the company behind the Torchlight series. The deal was completed mid-august and information is now starting to filter through about how this will affect their products.
Whilst the company itself began in America, its growth and rise to a position of major player in the asian MMO markets has been thanks to its Chinese operations and the tailoring the PWE's products to its primary audience this is reflected heavily within the MMOs themselves. As an example, within Forsaken World the english translations are hit and miss and quite often the text in english fits very poorly within an UI that was clearly developed around Chinese or Korean scripts. All of this has, of course, brought speculation on whether the CO and STO games will have their development and progression influenced by the models used by the existing PWE games. They are, for the most part, your standard free-to-play, pay-to-win model that dominates the asian MMO scene.

My experience with STO is limited but I do know that like CO, it already has a cash shop and there has been controversy over core parts of the promised game play during development being held back and then released in said cash shop only if you pay extra even as a subscriber. Given that such things are the reason for PWE's financial success, there is something of a consensus through the various playerbases that more of the same is incoming.

CO would be somewhat buffered by virtue of the fact it already operates a dual subscription system with a choice of paying a fee and getting most things thrown in with it, or else playing a basic version for free with that you can then pay to gain access to the restricted content. Even so, a shortcut to power items with $$$ is not too popular particularly among its paying customers. There is better news, however. The FAQs about the deal have indicated that the development teams aren't going to be changed or reduced in size and at present it looks as though Cryptic still has control over those two products. Cryptic are finishing off the switch over from Atari-branded logos, items and cash shop, and it looks as if there's minimal disruption for players for the foreseeable future (yes, lifetime accounts are being upheld).

Ultimately, only time will tell if the directions of the two games will be influenced by the asian MMO position of their new parent company and it is something I shall be observing with interest.
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I've been keeping an eye on what's being hyped for release in the future and whilst most offerings end up being the sort of thing I'd glance at if a demo or free trial comes along, there's often a game or two in the midst of the release schedules that I pay attention to.

Right now, I've got my eye on Borderlands 2 and The Secret World in particular.

Pandora's Vault

The original Borderlands was an FPS with RPG elements and co-op play game that initially passed me by. I saw a friend play it at a Halloween LAN party a couple of years back and whilst I do like post-apocalytpic-esque settings and sniper rifles that set stuff on fire, it just didn't interest me all that much. I acquired a copy of the game on Steam eventually after various parties had waxed lyrically about it and after a bit of a rough start (I absolutely loathe the jumping mechanics in the game) I finally got the hang of the thing and decided that sniping skags in the mouth from half a kilometre away was where it's at.

Whilst it can get grindy trying to find decent weapons, the game is more fun in co-op mode than solo and there's plenty of entertainment to be had from the NPCs and antagonists even if the quests missions are the usual 'go here, pick up this item, kill that guy'. Whilst my interest in the game waxes and wanes, it's one of the more popular cross-platform games out there and when Gearbox announced a second game, there was much excitement.




The story continues where the first game left off with a new set of player characters (the original Vault-hunters are apparently lurking about as NPCs). Thusfar one of the new character types is the dwarfish 'Gunzerker' pictured above, going by the name of Salvador. It seems to be something of a cross between the berzerking close-range Berzerker and the gun specialist Soldier by going up close and personal with a pair of heavy guns. Another confirmed character is some sort of variant on the original Siren by the name of Maya, who won't have the Phasewalk ability. Further Power details haven't been released yet.

Gearbox has stated that the interactions between the players and the world have evolved, and that choices, time taken and actions performed will all have story-changing consequences. NPCs will react more, the characters will interplay (in the style of Left 4 Dead series characters) and the game equipment will be given a more differentiated look so you can tell roughly what sort of weapon it is without having to read the fine print on the stats. Screenshots so far hint at the iconic graphical style being retained and ramped up.

The game is slated for release sometime in 2012 on the PC, PS3 and the XBox 360. More information can be found here and there's a short trailer for it here.

Begin the Beta Tests

The Secret World, formerly known as Cabal and The World Online, is about to start sign-ups for beta testing and was recently one of the featured titles at Gamescom 2011. It's another FUncom game, which means I'm wary indeed: not about the storyline, which is in the safe hands of Ragnar Tørnquist, but about everything else.




The inital viral marketing for the game was quite successful with the message "Dark Days Are Coming" and a faked tourism webpage for Kingsmouth, one of the in-game locations. Pitched as a modern-day conspiracy/supernatural 'horror' MMORPG (yes, FC are trying to pimp the RPG aspect), there is much hype surrounding the fact that characters are not restricted by a class or level based system and that there are three mutually antagonistic factions they can choose from; the righteous crusading Templars, the corporate puppet masters of the Illuminati and the chaotic and mysterious Dragons. Set in various locations throughout the modern world (and perhaps the near future and near past as well), the game world focuses on battles for dominance between the three factions and at the same time in dealing with monsters, demons, parallel dimension entities and other weird stuff that the rest of humanity has no idea about.

There's plenty of screenshots and snippets of data about the game so far through the official website linked above, with interviews and community speculation about how the game play will work, and recently there has been a reveal about large scale PvP zones. Combat mechanics are unclear at this point.

Electronic Arts is going to be handling distribution of the game, which has caused some concern over a possible Origin requirement. Origin is horrid along the same lines as Games for Windows Live so I sincerely hope that this won't be the case. Still, I'll toss my hat into the ring for the beta testing because I like the premise and it'll be a long time before the World of Darkness MMO shows up or the Anarchy Online revamp hits.

EDIT: The latest TSW trailer has just been released and can be seen here:


Animations look dodgy but the setting is coming along nicely.
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So what am I playing?

Mostly, I've been playing lots of games for a short while each: grazing, one could say. A mixture of being busy with other things, low attention span at present and drifting from game to game.


On the PC

Aside from the various contents of the Humble Indie Bundle, my PC gaming focus has been scattered with the usual Minecraft making an appearance here and there, particularly when I'm semi-distracted and thinking about/watching other things (mostly I'm invading others' servers to poke around their creations).

For a bit of destressing and distraction, I was playing a bit of Zen Bound 2. It's an indie 'puzzler' game that's meant to be something calm and relaxing to play. I say puzzle game in the loosest sense: you have a wood carving of something that has beads of paint on nails sticking out at various points. Attached to it is a rope which you wind around it (by spinning and rotating the carving with your mouse) that splashes paint where it touches the surfaces, and also triggers the paint blobs. You complete a level by covering a carving in at least 95% paint. It's a weird little game that doesn't hold my attention for too long but for a change of pace it's very nifty. Out now on Steam.

Zen Bound 2


On the other end of the spectrum is the action-packed and fast-paced Diablo-clone dungeon crawler RPG known as Torchlight: it has a cutesy graphics scheme, game play and music almost entirely ripped off from Diablo II but overall is quite polished if somewhat easy. There's a mod to allow multiplayer but it's quite buggy, sadly. Where Diablo II is hardcore, Torchlight is much more casual gamer friendly. Where Diablo II has 7 classes, Torchlight has 3. Where Diablo II has hired mercenaries, Torchlight has pet wolves/lynxes that can nip off to sell your junk whilst you continue to bash through a dungeon. It's a nifty little game but it's nothing groundbreaking. A native multiplayer option would increase its interest and longevity enormously.


Torchlight Logo



Finally, I seemed to have acquired a copy of Breath of Death VII through Steam and after ignoring it for a while decided to fire it up on a whim, not having read anything about it. Immediately I was entertained at it's faux-8bit (with bits of up to 16bit!) graphics, the tropes and stereotypes that are at once both gleefully hammed up and spun on their heads and the incongruously modern music. The gameplay is classic RPG with convenience added, like being able to run without having to collect a magic item, being able to pick a fight whenever instead of running round in circles on the world map waiting for a random encounter, MP regain being a function of how few turns it takes to kill stuff and leveling up giving you an option to pick one of two extra sets of stat bonuses. The dialogue is brilliant and every moment (so far) has been a giant tongue-in-cheek parody of every 8 and 16bit RPG I've ever played. Absolute gold and well well worth the price on Steam.
 
Breath of Death VII



On the 3DS

I have to admit that in my 'ooh shiny new toy!' phase of Droid ownership, my poor 3DS has taken a back seat. Aside from regular maintenance of my Streetpass Plaza and Pokedex, I've had a bit of a play with Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation, one of the first Dragon Quest games released outside of Japan. As I got past the pompously orchestral opening theme it brought back that warm 'n' fuzzy retrogame feeling as it harked back to the 16bit RPGs of yore. None of this was a surprise, however, given it was originally released for the SNES back in 1995 and re-released for the (regular) DS in May 2011. It's a classic Japanese RPG and so far has been quite fun to play.


Dragon Quest VI



On the Android

My Snes9x EX revival continues almost unabated, hampered only by the slight awkwardness of the sensitive touch controls. I'm slowly getting the hang of it but it's taking time as I'm used to lightly resting my thumbs on the controllers as default with button pressing being the application of a bit of force. I'm avoiding twitcher games for the moment for this reason.


To the future!

I'm eying up the potential expansion of Minecraft for the 'Droid. Currently it's only for the Sony Xperia Play phones which is a huge shame as there's plenty of Android phones out there that have the power to pull it off and it's all because of this exclusivity deal that the rest of us have to wait. No word on an iOS version as yet.
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The gamer war of Consoles vs PCs has been around since the earliest days and that is a topic worthy of a post in itself. By the mid-90s, the cost of a console was peanuts compare to the cost of a PC that could run games and in general the two markets preferred a different spectrum of games. Of course, the PC gamers didn't want to lose out on anything tasty the consoles could produce and so Emulation was employed to allow software written for specialist consoles to be run on computers.

Software that Emulates game consoles in order to play ripped versions of the games on other formats, most commonly PCs, took off in the 16-bit days and was predominantly focused on the SNES, with other consoles such as the NES, Game Boy and Megadrive coming along fairly soon afterwards. A peripheral named the Super Magicom was built in order to rip the SNES game ROM files onto floppy discs that could then be read by the emulation software on a PC. All you needed was a reasonable joypad and you were set.



With the advent of home internet, acquiring the rom files to run through an emulator was child's play and it meant you could have access to a huge catalogue of excellent games (and a plethora of rubbish) for nothing without having to buy a new console either. Naturally, this is game piracy and there's been long-running wrangling of exactly what you are and are not allowed to copy, rip, emulate etc. Is having an emulator containing a ripped copy of the console's BIOS to play ripped copies of the games piracy when you actually own the console and the game in the first place? What about backups? As a SNES owner with at one point a considerable library of games, was I pirating by also having those games on an emulator on my PC?

Anyway, plenty of competing emulation programs popped up at the end of the 90s, each with their own way of organising everything from sprite layer display to save games. The biggest names included NESticle for the NES, (Kega) Fusion for the Megadrive and other Sega systems and as the next generation of consoles took off, emulators for the Playstation started to pop up as well. This was made easier by the fact that some fo the developers of the systems were making notes to allow for easy emulation later on; this most notably occurred with the Nintendo64 and lead to the likes of Project64.


For the SNES, the eventual winner in the race was the Snes9x series which had the best performance in terms of correctly replicating the S-SMP sound system, Mode 7 scaling and additional chipsets that were included in special game carts (such as the Super FX chip and it's successive iterations as seen in Starfox, and the DSP maths co-processor as seen in Super Mario Kart). I tried plenty of others in my time (an honorable mention goes to ZSNES) but in the end the most complete and least buggy version I found was Snes9x, and knowing the original cart versions of the games meant I was particularly keen-eyed/eared for emulation errors. Snes9x is still going strong today, in fact.

Snes9x Logo

Retro gaming and Smartphones


All of this brings me to here and now. I got myself a shiny new Android phone recently and in a frenzy of app hoarding I went after a good SNES emulator. I was pleasantly surprised to find several free versions available through the Market. After trying out the rather awful SNESlator Lite and discovering it didn't work with 90% of my ROM collection, I was pleased to uncover Snes9x EX. I'm still getting the hang of a touchscreen for the D-Pad controls but aside from that it's great. It runs fine with the games I've tested and whilst the sound reproduction could be better, a crappy mobile phone speaker isn't giving it a fair chance in the first place.

And now if you'll excuse me, Secret of Mana shall be keeping me sane on the tube ride home...
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Logo


The third of the Humble Indie Bundles was released to great acclaim on July 26th and was available to download for as much or as little as you wanted to pay the developers until August 8th. In it, there are a variety of short and sweet games produced by small independent developers crossing a broad spectrum of genres and the third's contents were as follows:-
  • Atom Zombie Smasher wherein you attempt to save citizens of a city from an oncoming zombie invasion in realtime strategy.
  • And Yet It Moves which is best described as a Paper Mario-esque platformer where the player can rotate the world as needed to turn walls into floors etc.
  • Crayon Physics Deluxe that, despite the name, isn't about the physics of crayons but rather the physics of a ball that you guide by drawing out a course with crayons.
  • Cogs which is a simple sliding-blocks puzzle game with audio and 3-dimensional components as well, all presented in a cutesy steampunk style.
  • Hammerfight is a physics engine wrapped in sword-swinging combat that aims for more realistic melee fighting than the usual 'press button, do the same attack as the last 6478 presses'.
  • Steel Storm was introduced after the initial release and harks back to the old shooters of yore with the player controlling a hovertank, blasting enemies and grabbing powerups (also supports multiplayer play though I haven't tested it).
  • VVVVVV has the silliest name of the bundle and looks like a pre-8-bit platformer but is in actual fact a puzzler where you have to flip between floor and ceiling to progress through each screen.

Though this release is officially number 3, there have been 4 in the series so far: Bundle #1, Bundle #2, Frozenbyte Bundle and of course Bundle #3.

The idea behind the series of bundles is to cut out the games distributors and offer them directly from the developers at a cost of whatever you, the purchaser, wish to donate. It can be obtained for as little as 1 cent, and if you are on Steam you can be given a key so that Steam will download, install and manage the games for you. There's often other freebies thrown in as well, such as those who grab a Bundle before a certain date get another game free of charge on top, or access to Minecraft for a while. For Bundle #3, there was a promotion whereby if you paid above the average donation, you'd get further games added in: Braid, Cortex Command, Machinarium, Osmos and Revenge of the Titans.


For 1 cent, you say

Financially, the Bundles have been a huge success for the game developers in combining lower costs by dealing directly with the playerbase and the donation system meaning those who wanted to support the teams behind it all could give more than what would have been the full retail price of the games on store shelves (estimated at approximately $50 all in); for example Minecraft's Notch tossed in $2000. This is despite the rampant piracy of the games, made easier by the intentional lack of DRM within the Bundle's games. Proceeds go to the developers and also to nominated charities such as Child's Play and Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Personally, I think this is a great initiative. If you don't pay $50 that's fine because it wouldn't have cost that much anyway, given there's no packaging, shipping or retailer involved: just some internet bandwidth costs and a website.

Of course, you'll get people that complain and whine about the games and it's funny to note that most of those paid the minimum of 1 cent for the lot as well. Perhaps they feel that as they haven't made much of an investment in it, they're not prepared to give it a proper chance or to overlook little imperfections. But enough about people's sense of entitlement! I'd expect Bundle #4 to be in the woorks soon...
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Minecraft is a bit of an indie phenomenon in the PC Gaming world. Conceived and primarily written by Markus "Notch" Persson, it's technically still in beta and is a first-person game with a purposefully retro blocky style that revolves around doing whatever you please. The game is based around the concepts of acquiring resources in the game world (mining, punching trees, killing stuff etc) and building things (castles, piston-driven TVs, reproduction works of art etc). There's also dark-loving monsters that like the taste of your blocky pixel self such as zombies, archer skeletons, giant spiders and creepers (which are best described as suicide bomber ninjas).


How I mine 4 fish?


Minecraft Launcher screen


The game can be played in several ways and there is no end goal as such. There is no story or setting, no protagonist (though your character is a regular bloke called Steve) and no evil villain (Creepers don't count). It's a sandbox world where you are given potential and it's up to you what you want to do with it. If you like, you can turn off monsters, spawn all the materials you want out of thin air, break the game's own laws of physics (which are like the real world's laws of physics, except when they aren't) - in other words you can God Mode if you like and the game becomes a creative building simulator; like Lego without so many of the gravity worries. Or you can play on a player-made custom map where resources are scarce and the goal is to survive as long as you can in a bleak world with a lot of hungry monsters. Or perhaps an adventure map with quests and objectives. Or gather some friends together and compete to see who can do the best. Or you can load up one of innumerable custom-made mods that add everything from new materials to new rules and functionality to completely new realms.

The game is written in java and as such is incredibly customisation-friendly. The modding community for Minecraft is huge and the ability to easily re-write core chunks of the game has surely contributed to its incredible success. Examples of these can be seen in the Yogscast clips that showcase the more elaborate mods with humorous commentary on YouTube.

Yes, the graphics are blocks with texture maps 16x16 pixels big. That's the idea. There's mods about which will reskin the game if your eyes start bleeding but I think it'd lose a lot of its charm that way. Sound effects are amusingly basic with rough 'n' ready sound clips pinched from the Freesound project for cows mooing, thunder etc. Music is the complete opposite with a mixture of simple ditties and very high quality ambient tracks that play at seemingly random intervals. Notch even stuck some achievements into it, whose poor grammar has spawned the low-flying meme of  "Achievement Get!"

Achivement Get


The game is often compared to Terraria because the themes are almost exactly the same: start with diddley squat, mine/harvest yourself stuff to make better stuff including shelter, weapons and armour. Watch out for zombies, slimes and other foul creatures lurking where it's dark. However Terraria is a 2d affair with more monsters including bosses and less focus on building creativity; it appeals more to those that prefer their games with some action.

I've noticed that most people who start with Minecraft then try Terraria find the lack of creative freedom in Terraria to be annoying for a minecraft clone. Folks that start with Terraria find Minecraft to be lacking the action and adventure of Terraria and contains too much pointless building.

My own experiences with Mojang's merry little Minecraft world have been mixed. Initially I didn't get what the fuss was about and the mad frenzy of seemingly everyone I knew in the world ever had passed me by. It looked eyebleeding and boring and almost a year went by with me ignoring all these stupid videos of blocky things making more blocky things that were popping up everywhere I ventured online. It wasn't until I was gifted a copy of the game and one evening ended up bored to death because my mother was visiting and hogging my room, that I finally caved in to a friend's nagging and hopped onto his minecraft map to see what all the fuss was about. Initially I was wandering about just doing random stuff, poking random things, seeing what I could make out of what. The open-ended world tugged at my inquisitive and exploratory nature, and I was full of questions about what you could and couldn't do, what did and didn't exist. A couple more outings onto my friend's map later and I decided that actually this was a right barrel of monkeys.

After picking some brains I found the best way of going about playing was to load up on CraftBukkit tools to host my own map servers and after an evening of trying to get the damn thing working, then talking to the router, then figuring out how to let others on, I had my own world to play with. A beach house, sauna, cavern of doom, netherworld holiday camp, armed and armoured airship, sekrit underwater observatory, railroad, giant tree house, floating lookout, lava tank, lots of dead zombies, custom skins for Steve and an invasion of friends later I realised that yes, this game was worth the hype I'd ignored previously.

I did give Terraria a try, incidentally. My knowledge of Minecraft served me well enough but I have to say I got bored of it fairly quickly ended up going back to Minecraft.

News in the intertubes is that there's XBox 360, Android, iPad and iPhone versions on the way - the XBox version allegedly using Kinect. This will either be freaking hilarious, or a total failure.

Anyhow I shall leave you all with this: evidence that it's like lego with zombies...

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LJ finally allowing me to write, format (sort of - sorry about the font) and edits posts, over a week later than intended...
With the previous post looking at the original soundtracks of video games through the years, this one is aimed at the other side of the coin: alternative versions of original tracks such as techno remixes, orchestral performances, inspired-by albums and so on.



ReMixes, ReArrangements and ChipTunes; oh my!

I first came across remixed music during the latter part of the SNES heydays. It was early stuff - the SPC soundfiles were ripped to Midi tracks and then rearranged, distributed by BBS. They were small files by today's standards but I remember DLing them on our shiny new expensive home PC with 56.6k modem sometime in 1996 and wishing they'd hurry up. I was completely taken by the idea of redoing some of my favourite game tunes.

By this point some game producers were making their own rearrangements and selling them worldwide. F.F. Mix is one of the early ones I'd acquired on import and one of the very few physical CDs in a case I still own.

WinMX took over as being my main source of music remixes when the BBSes closed or were abandoned, and this continued for some time.

Then I stumbled upon Overclocked Remix, way back in its early days. I was hooked: tons and tons of remixes of all different kinds for a huge variety of games, each one personally vetted by a panel. The brainchild of a part-time music remixer DJPretzel, the idea behind the site was as a spin-off from a game emulation community comic that went by the name of Overclocked. It was to create a community around game music and the rearrangements thereof focused on forum boards where people could post work-in-progress MP3s and discuss concerns and ideas. Once finished the tracks would be submitted and reviewed. If good enough, they'd be 'released' by the site and anyone could download it for free. As the WinMX scene died away, I moved more and more to the source of many of the tracks I'd found through it.

OCremix logo



I was a lurker more than a participant but I did debate and discuss now and then. I lacked the sort of hardware needed to make any of my own (yes even a demo version of Fruity Loops was beyond my old computer) but I was taken by the masterful abilities of the some of the remixers. Big names and personal favourites include The Wingless, Big Giant Circles, Protricity, Dr Fruitcake, Star Salzman and so on. Remixers have come and gone, and the site too has waxed and waned. At one point they were doing regular streamed radio shows with a jukebox when no one was presenting live; this was the OCR Radio that 
grew from Larry "Liontamer" Oji's Atlanta-based broadcast shows and became known as Ormgas: including interviews with remixers, game music composers, broadcasts from events and suchlike. It was a great way to listen to tracks that I would not ordinarily have been interested in based on the game/track/review too. I can personally thank OCR Radio for keeping me sane through a couple of particularly mind-numbing work contracts. But all good things must come to an end and the radio stream was sadly no exception. Now it operates as a jukebox with occasinoal playlist updates from the newer submissions.

Still, the site is doing well having far eclipsed the original emulation community it grew out of. It has its own merchandising and runs regular music-based events such as the 'album' events where one game is chosen and remixers pick a track or two to do up in their own way.

It's an interesting observation that more OC remixes are being made of older games - 16-bit and earlier - than newer ones. Is it because of nostalgia? That simpler, cleaner tunes are easier to bend and chop and change? There's some fabulous stuff based on newer games out there (see the Halo: Combat Evolved track Insurrection for example) but there seems to be console generations' worth of time lag in terms of game popularity for remixing. The games with the highest remix counts are retro: in the top 10 most remixed games, 6 of them are SNES games, one is on the Megadrive, one is on the NES and two are on the PS1. The number one is Chrono Trigger, in news that will surprise no one who's ever come across game music remixes, closely followed by Final Fantasy VII and VI. By comparison the fourth most popular game (Mega Man 2) has half the number as Chrono Trigger. Says a lot about the talents of Yasunori Mitsuda, Nobuo Uematsu et al in creating tunes people want to engage with (not to mention the personal interests and biases of the OCremix community, of course).

Other sites haven't been as lucky. In the early 2ks, OCremix had a rival site known as VGmix. The origins were debated but the consensus seemed to suggest it was a break-away site founded by one remixer that went by the nick of Virt who didn't like the level of control DJPretzel had over OCremix, including the idea that tracks would be vetted for quality. If OCremix was the regulated big city, VGmix was the Wild West frontier town where anything went. This being the internet, there were flamewars and geek epeening all round, and of course a lot of remix competition. The throughput of MP3s on VGmix was much, much higher, with anyone being allowed to upload whatever they liked and I'd end up spending ages trying to sift the finished products from half a dozen unfinished builds, not to mention atrocious tracks and a lot of random non-game music rubbish uploaded as a trolling attempt or in genuine error.

Whilst it's fair to say OCremix tracks were of a better standard in general, I found a fair few absolute diamonds through VGmix that for some reason were never submitted to OCremix. (Gamer politics? Perish the thought!) Eventually the site ended in a series of firestorms and hacks, with attempts to resurrect it being mostly unsuccessful beyond keeping it around for posterity reasons, and much of the earlier MP3 archives were lost *. Regardless, VGmix as a concept is still alive and kicking as the IP of Virt who has become an industry figure and ultimately even made peace with OCremix.

ReMix:ThaSauce is a site that goes back to the roots of OCremix by way of the VGmix proposal that what defines a 'good' song is less about technical perfection and more about feel which is an individual and subjective thing. This site publishes many of the rejected tracks from OCremix.

OC remix has even sprouted a parody music site: Overlooked Remix. The idea behind it is one of parody remixes poking fun at just about every aspect of games and gamers the remixers can find. Some of it is very cleverly done and well made, others are... best described as trolling your ears.

Other remix-related sites include Kwed which focuses on C64 games and Amiga Remix which doesn't take an expert to decipher.

Got a site for me that I've missed? Let me know in the comments!


Genre notes


Genres of remixes come in two sorts of variety. One is the regular classification of a track by its style, such as an orchestral rearrangement, a techno remix or a metalthrashskapunkdancecore with vocals. For a while I attempted to classify the tracks I heard along those lines but I quickly realised how futile this would be because of the sheer diversity found in even a single compilation track. As with all other varieties of music, it can be argued 'til the cows come home. The other way genre can be presented is how the music is made. Is it a literal philharmonic performance? Was it knocked out in 5 minutes on a Casio keyboard? Was it created using emulated original sound chip hardware? The last example in particular is a popular method by which remixes are made and those tracks are known as chiptunes. These go beyond a musical equivalent of retrogaming by taking newer tracks and reverse-engineering them to fit into old school consoles such as the NES or the C64. Keeping them recognisable and catchy is key, and there's some amazingly well done examples out there.
As a note the term 'chiptune' is sometimes also used to refer to the original sound file from a game, such as a .spc ripped from a SNES cartridge.

And of course, there's the commercial remixes. Dr. Spin's Tetris anyone? The term Nintendocore gets bandied about now and then too. Remixing can sometimes make it BIG...


tl;dr

Remixes of video game music can be just as diverse, if not moreso, than the originals and it's a big fan-made business not done for the profit but for the hell of it. There's a lot out there if you know where to look and, conveniently, there’s a couple of big websites with large archives.



* I've got a Gig worth of tracks from VGmix that never appeared elsewhere (that I could find). Naturally I won’t be the only one but to this day I haven't found any sort of rebuilt archive for that place, so I back up my hoard carefully to ensure a HDD failure never takes away that which I cannot replace.

 

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Back at the keyboard after a busy week, I'm going to move onto something of a tangent and look at the audio component of modern video games complete with Wikipedia links for further general reading without having to wade through a ton of different sites. If you want to read a much more technical retrospective on the evolution of sound in video games, read up on it right here. My post is not about tech specs, but instead looks at the evolution of the sound concepts over time and the directions the industry as a whole has taken.


Whilst it is true to say that the visual impact of a game is the greatest in terms of aesthetics, the sound and music can enhance or detract from the experience to a degree. Consider games that you turn the music off and substitute some of your own: how long did it take before getting fed up or simply bored of the soundtrack? Has a game's sound or music ever put you off to such a degree that you stopped playing? Has it ever been so good you want to listen to it on its own merits?

Personally I prefer to have both the game sound effects and background music on unless I've grown tired of it or it's irritating. I'm fairly sound-oriented so to me, video game music is srs bznz.

In some games such as Eve Online, it can negatively affect performance and turning it off comes with a noticeable improvement in client-side lag. Doesn't matter how nice it sounds, if it means the difference between losing my expensive battleship and claiming phat lootz as the victor, it's getting turned the hell off. Of course, this is mitigated somewhat by the usefulness of audio cues alerting you when something is going on that you might not be able to see too clearly, perhaps because a ship behind your field of view has targeted you or there's too much happening on screen at once. Eve is a tricky balance because the music can be very relaxing, if a little inappropriate for a heart-pounding fleet fight unless you switch the in-game jukebox over to one of the Drone tracks, or some Caldari techno.

The flip side of engaging music is in the game Rift. Whilst it's not horrible and doesn't provoke a 'turn it off right now' reaction, it's extremely dull and unmemorable to the point where I don't even notice if it's playing or not. Attempts to make it quietly fantasy-epic haven't succeeded, to my mind. This is quite unlike the music in Anarchy Online which is very fitting and memorable indeed and likely to provoke bouts of nostalgia within the first 3 bars when I hear it, and had me running around various locations just to trigger certain tracks playing like outside Baboon's nightclub in the Omni-1 Entertainment district.



Scores old and new

These days, sound in games is big business rather than the hastily tacked-on blips and bleeps of the 8bit days and earlier. Full orchestral scores with composers; popstar singers with a CGI video release; studio suites dedicated to blending a medley of sounds into a single door-opening hiss and so on. Whilst some earlier consoles had sound chips that were advanced for their time, with memorable soundtracks to boot (the Commodore 64 being a famous and notable example of this) it wasn't until the 8bit generation was in full swing that gamers developed the expectation of a good aural experience to complement good graphics and good gameplay. The sound of claiming a coin in Super Mario Bros. on the original Nintendo Entertainment System has become iconic and can even be heard nowadays coming from a Blackberry near you.


The 8bit days were about a catchy repetative loop of background music that changed every so often, perhaps even every level or when it was time to fight the big boss. Sound effects would mimic the characters' actions and were meant to be distinguishable from the music track and perhaps related to the action they were attached to, but little else.


By the time the 16bit consoles rolled out, some publishers were being more adventurous in their use of sound as everything from enhancing the atmosphere to providing audio cues for something off screen or about to happen. An excellent example of this is the Delphine Software game Flashback (released in 1992 for various consoles including the Amiga, Super Nintendo and Sega Megadrive, and since re-released periodically on newer formats). The background music was intermittent, triggered by entering certain areas, or when enemies were due to appear. Sounds for enemies and traps off-screen would be heard quietly and by listening to the sounds growing in volume and if you had stereo speakers or headphones, the direction they were coming from, you knew to get yourself ready for what was about to appear. All very basic stuff that we take for granted now but in the early 1990s this was new and groundbreaking.

The 16bit days also marked the popularisation of the idea of releasing game soundtracks on CD for retail. As an example, Squaresoft produced and sold OSVs (original sound versions, also called OSTs or original sound tracks), arrangements of OSVs and 'music inspired by' OSVs for their RPGs such as Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI (known as Final Fantasy III in the US). The Super Nintendo was blessed with an excellent Sony-produced sound chip of the SPC-700 series making up the core of it's S-SMP sound processor, which would later find an upgrade inside Sony's original Playstation. This allowed game music composers to really flex their creativity as the consoles were capable of more than a series of bips and boops. Some of the most well-known, remixed and replayed game tunes of all time came from these 16bit games and their writers have become legendary figures in the video game communities; for example Nobuo Uematsu and his work on the iconic Final Fantasy soundtracks or Yasunori Mitsuda and his Chrono Trigger, Shadow Hearts and Xenogears series (he's a particular favourite of mine with a distinctive style that can be spotted even through heavy remixing).


When the next generation of consoles hit, the 32bit Playstation and Sega Saturn in particular, video game music had become integral to the whole playing experience. Music composers led teams of dedicated sound engineers and musicians to produce polished and original works of sound art that would be marketed as products in their own right, and sometimes even made the music charts. An example of this can be seen with Final Fantasy VIII's Eyes on Me which was sung by Faye Wong, a popular Chinese singer and released as a pop single in Japan where it did extremely well, selling over 400,000 copies. The famous Wipeout series of futuristic racing games began life in 1995 with the original Playstation and it's heavily-pimped soundtrack was written by CoLD SToRAGE featuring tracks from the Chemical Brothers, Leftfield and the Orbital.


Since then, collaborations between musicians and game publishers have become commonplace with soundtracks and albums of music inspired by game soundtracks charting commercially worldwide, exclusive tracks appearing inside games, soundtracks partly or wholly written and performed by popular bands and so forth. In 2010 the Ivor Novello Awards introduced a category for Video Game soundtracks and from 2012 the Grammy Awards will have a section for game music as well. There's even college and university courses that include or specialise in game music composition in the US and Europe.

Current examples of video game music crossing over with more traditional avenues of music include:-

There's an ever-increasing number of games that integrate sound into the experience in a fundamental manner by essentially dictating the gameplay based upon the player's interactions with sound-generating mechanisms. These games include the rail shooter Rez on the Dreamcast, Playstation 2 and XBox 360; the freeform music game Electroplankton on the Nintendo DS; and puzzle-racer Audiosurf on the PC. Whilst they've enjoyed mixed success, the ability to play your own music instead of the in-game soundtrack with XBox 360 or PC games is popular and I wonder if we'll see more games that wrap themselves around the player's choice of music.


tl;dr

Game music has evolved from tinny beeps meant to fill the silence punctuated by clicking keys and thumbs on pads into a multi-billion dollar star-studded industry with global recognition and awards. It's not just for us saddo obsessives any more...




* Flashback was groundbreaking for other reasons, including the hand-drawn backgrounds, the rotoscoped animation, the Conrad sprite using a real person moving as it's base etc. A personal favorite of mine.
achtungexplosiv: (Default)
Another weekend, another round of games being played with.

3DS gaming

On the 3DS, I've completed Ghost Recon as far as I can without doing the Multiplayer maps, mostly because I don't know anyone else who has the game. I quite enjoyed it, because I do like turn-based tactical squad games. For some reason it made me miss playing Vandal Hearts on my PSX. I might have to dig it out again and see if I can persuade the now-ailing and cantankerous console + TV combo to work in order to play it. Either that or figure out why my PS emulators don't work.

Cover of Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars

Overall, I enjoyed Ghost Recon a lot, though it did take me a little while to get into. The very beginning throws you in at the end of the game (literally) which was confusing and irritating because I didn't have a clue what was going on, what the two characters I had could do etc and as I was about to get my arse handed to me, it faded to black and the game proper began. The game proper is the complete opposite, slowly introducing you to the various gameplay concepts and abilities of the team, who are also slowly introduced. It's an excellent game for stop-start play because of its turn-based nature and the 3D isn't absolutely critical to the game, so in a bumpy tube train scenario there's no issues judging any distances. Some of the scenarios are utter sods, with random surprise spawns that will turn a convincing win to a crushing defeat if you happen to have the wrong unit in the wrong place at the wrong time. There's also a couple of maps where the instructions are surprisingly poor and I had no clue wtf was meant until I'd stumbled through by trial and error. Still, if everything had been completely obvious it would have been a bit dull...


Onwards and upwards into the next game. Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D was a bit of a no-brainer, given it's the first killer game for the system (and hopefully one that will spark more interest, with sales having slowed considerably). This one was a bit of an effort to get hold of. Two hours going from place to place in the Square Mile only to find no copies left anywhere until the HMV at Moorgate made for a frustrating afternoon...
Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D cover

So far, so good. I played the original on my N64 but after I completed it once I didn't go back to it, and that was more years ago than I care to remember so I'm pretty rusty about the whole thing. It's got plenty of rave reviews and I can see why: the graphics are very nifty indeed, the 3D aspect makes negotiating jumping and distances much easier without having to wiggle the camera, the 3DS gyro being used to move the camera is a smart move and they've toned down Navi's interruptions (thank the gods, she was a PITA). I'm also told that the dungeons are the revamped Master Quest versions rather than the original. Given I recall next to nothing about the original, I doubt this will bother me much. Master Quest version dungeons are supposed to be less annoying and more challenging anyway. Unlike Ghost Recon, it is not a stop-start and bumpy-transport friendly game, so progress is very slow. I do like it, although I have to be heretical and admit my preferred Zelda game is A Link to the Past (Zelda 3 on the SNES).

I'll do a review of it once I'm near the end. Currently I'm pottering around getting into all sorts of places I'm probably not meant to until later. Haven't even done Death Mountain yet...


PC gaming

With the Steam Summer Camp on I've been looking over the activities and games now and then, although this year I've been extremely slack compared to last year because my attention has been elsewhere. One game I was given in the Summer camp sale is Sanctum, an excellent little indie Tower Defence game with bold graphics and a nifty soundtrack. I've not mucked about with it too much yet (a multiplayer game with a friend for the Summer Camp Achivement that evolved into a full-on go at the Mine level) but it's definitely something I'll be going back to when I have some time.

Sanctum Game cover

I've played a bit of Minecraft and Left 4 Dead 2 here and there, and next up is giving Terraria a go, a game several of my friends have been sucked into, though I'm not sure how into it I'll get given I've gone off the 2D platform genre over the years, even if it is a 2D minecraft-meets-mario.


MMO Gaming

It's the 10th aniversary of the launch of Anarchy Online at the moment and as I was given a 14 day free account reup on my main paid account, I've been checking it out and catching up with friends and orgmates who'd also got the free reactivation for a bit of a reunion. I have to confess that I miss the game and the people I played with. I hope the project to rework all the professions and the new player experience picks up the pace so that it can all be released with the new graphics engine and breathe some new life into it. I know Game Director Means has only a small development team so its taking a long time but the game desperately needs the rebirth and population boost. Sadly it's FUncom and they don't want to market it which is such a shame because it offers a variety of experiences that no other MMO out there does. There's a reason it's lasted 10 years when other newer games have folded after 2. The population dropped below critical mass for me some time ago once virtually all of my friends and orgmates had migrated to other games or other hobbies entirely, one by one over time. It's even quieter now (aside from all the temporary reactivations for the birthday shennanigeans). At some point I'll do a full write up of the game.

Anarchy Online cover

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some Desert Nomads to kill...
achtungexplosiv: (Default)
Well alright, it's now known just as Rift but the subtitle was originally part of it's official name before launch.

Rift game cover

So, what's the deal with yet another WoW-clone? And who are Trion Worlds anyway?

Trion Worlds don't initially appear to have much, if anything, to do with a fantasy MMO. Their homepage is all about their MMO shooter/RTS games DEFIANCE and End of Nations. They're also an american company, rather than Korean or Chinese, and don't have anything like the reputation of Blizzard. Yet here they are with the closest thing to a World of Warcraft competitor since, well, WoW.

During Beta, a lot of hype was generated by the MMO playing community as well as by it's publishers. It was touted as a Wow-clone that offered something new; the eponymous Rifts and the soul system. It was generally claimed that if you were bored of WoW and looking for a new challenge, you'd like Rift. If you thought WoW was dull and simplistic, you'd like Rift. If fantasy MMOs weren't your bag, well you might still like Rift.

At release, as with plenty of hyped MMOs, there was a lot of interest and plenty of people I know went over to give it a go. At release, I had zero interest in the game: I don't like the standard fantasy MMO tropes, I can't stand magic pixie settings with dwarves etc and I loathe large chunks of the core WoW mechanics. It took a concerted and co-ordinated effort by various people from various angles, culminating in being bought a copy of the game, for me to even consider it, so reluctantly I signed up and promised I'd give it that first month. All in all, I'm quite glad I did.

Initially I was skeptical. My friends were all Guardian side on Sparkwing so even though the magi-tech obsessed and exotic Defiants appealed to me vastly more than some tedious religious nutjob elves/dwarves/humans, I rolled up a Cleric from the enormous choice of four classes. 3 Races per faction, you can't mix and match. Thusfar, I wasn't too impressed. Character customisation was limited from my perspective, although I had just come from many many hours lost in the Champions Online creator which is hardly a fair comparison, and with only 4 rather standard classes to choose from (Cleric, Mage, Warrior, Rogue) I honestly thought I wouldn't last the week. However my friends rolled up some new alts to play alongside me through the newbie experience and I signed up to their Guild at the first available opportunity.

My first impressions were along the lines of 'oh god this has all the horrible WoW mechanics I loathe and despise in it, but at least it doesn't look like a dated cartoon, just a dated fantasy MMO'. The graphics aren't much to write home about given it's a 2011 release; they're not bad as such but would be more fitting in a 2008-9 game.

After bombarding my friends with questions (in between sarcastic comments about asking wow players how it's done in WoW and then assuming it'll be the same in Rift) I started to realise that whilst there were only 4 very traditional classes, sorry - Callings, they all played very differently from one another. Even down to the way their snazzy powerz were managed. Clerics and Mages use mana; no big shock there. Mages additionally build up a combo meter that is used to do certain other things such as recharge mana quickly or give a damage boost. Warriors build up persisting Attack Points in order to unleash special moves and have a power bar that limits how many funky abilities they can chain. Rogues accrue Combo points on a per-enemy basis that are spent on finisher moves, having a similar sort of power bar system as the Warrior that limits how many abilities they can chain together. This means management of abilities has to be done differently per class. There are mana potions, for example, but nothing item-based that can quickly fill a Power/Combo meter or award Attack/Combo points. Coming from other games that are simpler or older where all classes have HP and some kind of magic power meter and that's yer lot, it made a nice change.

The much-vaunted Soul system kicks in about halfway through the newbie area when you've acquired 2 of your basic 3 and you have to start making decisions about where to spend the soul points you get at level up. Souls are just a fancy way of presenting a skill tree system. They even use the tree analogy to explain Root powers and Branch powers. You make choices about where you spend points in your branches, and the root powers are awarded when you reach a certain number of spent points, regardless of branch. The nifty thing here is that once you hit level 13 or so and can quest for the rest of your classes' souls, you can create any combo of any 3 souls to form a Role, and you can buy more Role slots to swap to in a matter of second, thus enabling an entirely new build on the same character without having to level up an alt.

All of this is further sped up by the ability to write in-game macros to do things like swap equipment instantly, or to fire off whichever ability meets the 'able to fire off' criteria from a selection of abilities your current soul configuration has unlocked. I was slow on the macro uptake, having an innate dislike to anything worded 'macro' in an MMO given how 3rd party macro tools are omnipresent and used ot abuse game mechanics in pretty much every other game. Rift is fairly restrictive on what you can do and ultimately what Rift macros do is reduce the variety of buttons you have to press, rather than reduce the number of actions you have to take, at the cost of not being able to finely hone your twitch responses. Macros can lose you a fight vs a skilled PvPer because you didn't make a manual decision to use ability b over ability a and a was the one that came up first in the macro's list when you pressed the button.

Once I got the hang of Souls I decided that actually, for all it's ripped-off WoW mechanics which I dislike (not being able to select to autoface a fighting target is a pet hate of mine, also excessively harsh falling damage particularly where terrain mapping and terrain textures don't match up), I liked the character system in this game after all. Particularly given the diversity amongst souls which meant you can have 5 Rogues in a group and all of them are wildly different: for example a team buffer/healer support Bard type, an assassin type that pops out from the shadows for a huge alphastrike, a ranger type flurrying arrows as it's direwolf pet mauls the enemy, a saboteur type rigging up traps and explosives etc, all while blending a bit of other flavours in to patch up weaknesses left by the fact that souls are all fairly specialised.

Player-made item building in Rift is actually very much worth it to pursue, and each character can learn 3 tradeskill abilities. There are 3 gathering and 6 crafting skills. The items that players can make are better than the vast majority of the items players can loot, particularly at the level an item becomes equippable at (items are level locked as in most MMOs). People go two ways in terms of tradeskill choices: grab all 3 Gathering skills and then either use alts or guildmates for the crafting skills, or else pick 2 crafting skills most relevant for their calling and then the gathering skill that provides the majority of the base resources required. As an example, a Warrior will most likely be using swords/axes/spears and plate armour which are all metals-based: this means Mining as a gathering skill and then Armoursmithing and Weaponsmithing as craftting skills. Of course you'll need bits of things from the other gathering professions but that's a minority and what you get out of building your own is well worth the extra investment of time or money to acquire the missing parts. Given the Role/Soul system means there is rarely a need to make more than one of any class, 3-4 characters is the most you'd get much use out of and that will cover all 9 craft skills with a nice overlap for Gathering too.

Questing makes up the majority of progression through the game in terms of XP, money, exploration and to a lesser extent gear. There's a lot of quests. I mean a veritable buttload, not including dailies even. It's both a strength and a weakness in my experience: fun the first time around but with alts it gets to be very repetetive and 'oh god here we go again'. At least the quests don't nag you in terms of time constraints, leaving you free to go off and spend a few days hitting random rifts, crafting stuff, going overe here, poking something over there, chasing achivements (did I forget to mention the fact the game as achivements? Well it's not that original nowadays but some of them are plenty fun) and generally exploring and doign your own thing. This, to me, is a huge plus point because I hate feeling forced into a narrow and pressured path.

As with any MMO of this kind, there are instanced dungeons which are available in varying degrees of difficulty, the highest difficulty beign the source of the best Tier 1 & 2 phats in the game (read: epic lootz/purples). Some of them are pretty run of the mill 'kill trash mobs, kill boss, click thingy, rinse repeat' whilst others require better planning and trial and error-based learning what does and doesn't work. I didn't get much of a chance to hit dungeons up because I lagged behind in the levelling curve having come to the game late, so this is one area I'd like to explore more.

The biggest part of the game is, of course, the Rifts. There's a fair bit of background and story to the game and whilst Guardian-side it's pretty cliché and fantasty standard, the Defiants have a bit more originality. The world is called Telara and it's having a spot of bother with Rifts opening up to elemental planes allowing invading forces form these planes through to cause all sorts of trouble. By spot of bother I mean all hell breaking lose more or less constantly and if the Telarans don't get their act together and sort it out, Telara will fall in 20 years time. Play a Defiant and you get to see that fall for yourself. Rifts are open group activities that essentially funciton as mini impromptu raids. The game will create a raid interface and invide any characters (within the same faction) to the interface, allowing teams to merge etc. There's a huge variety of rift types, both in terms of element (fire, death, water, life, air, earth) and in terms of steps required to complete, from just killing everything that moves to performing certain actions, finding certain items and preventing certain things from happening. The better you do, the fast you progress and the more stages of the Rift open up offering more phats. These Rifts can pop up almost anywhere and at no notice. All in all I found these to be enormous fun - from soloing a quiet one out of the way as a challenge to test my skills, to piling into huuuuge elite rifts with tons of other folks and having to adapt to disorganised tactics with random strangers on the fly. The XP aint half bad either.

In addition, there's zone-wide special rift events fairly frequently. Some of them are minor and you can go abotu your own business with a minimum of fuss. Others completely take over a zone and within seconds you can find yourself trapped between a rock and a hard place... These are quite a mixed bag with some of them being exhilarating fun if you find some good people to do them with, and others can leave you stuck unable to do anything at all on your own until a passing raidforce comes by. Mostly I've enjoyed these but there have been occasions where I've said f*ck it and logged to an alt somewhere far faaaaar away.


Personally, I've had a lot of fun within the game. My cleric is an AoE DD-whore rather than a healer most of the time and very solo-capable, but I can keep a small raidforce alive with a switch to a healer role when needed. My warrior wades in with a spear and a battlecat to melee DD the hell out of stuff until a tank is needed, then he gets out the shield and swaps roles and becomes indestructible tank-o-rama. I've even done the switching mid-rift as situations change. I've explored all sorts of weird and crazy places, ran into well-hidden zone puzzles, snuck lowbie alts into high level locations to see what's there, created all manner of bizzare soul combos and play concepts and participated in zone events and rifts way beyond my levels for the sheer hell of it, considering survival the greatest achivement.

On the flip side I have had a bad time with some poor UI mechanics, gold seller spam, stupid quest requirements (killing an elite zone boss that spawns once maybe twice a day at a random time and location within a zone - and usually gets swamped by everyone else with the quest and dies before I can log the right character and get there after finding out about it), the cost of traveling by using portals and the grind to build up points for hundreds of different things such as crafting skills, NPC factions reputation, zone-specific source shards to exchange for powerful items, multiple currency types etc.

For me, the game won't have the longevity that I found in Eve Online and Anarchy Online, but it's been far more fun than any fantasy MMO has any right to be and I don't mind paying £9 a month sub at all, particularly as it doesn't (yet?) have a power items for cash shop which is the bane of my MMOing existance.


I'm still on Rift although a bit stuck at the moment. My Guardian mains are still on Sparkwing, which has now been designated a trial account server (stupid idea in my opinion, having only newbies together without higher level characters to go oooh and aaah over and experienced players to answer basic questions). My guild has gone inactive and as yet have not moved to a new server. I'm hoping to persuade them to pick somewhere to go... I have lowbie Defiant alts all over the place but have no particular ties to any server with those and they're all Freemarch-level nooby. So at the moment I am in limbo and not currently playing although my account is open.
achtungexplosiv: (Default)
First off, this is about games I have tried at various points and for some reason have not stuck around in. They are in no particular order.

Secondly, it's a bit long. You have been warned...

Tidied behind a cut for legibility (click here) )

Future MMOS:
Everyone's going nuts over the upcoming WoW-a-like with the Starwars IP (Star Wars: The Old Republic). I know it's Bioware but I'm not convinced the gameplay will appeal to me, not being an obsessive over the Star Wars franchise. The Secret World could be interesting too with it's mostly-modern-day conspiracy and supernatural themes but it's FUncom. CCP Games may or may not survive to see the release of their World of Darkness MMO. If they do I'll be mildly curious about it, given that they've decided to revisit the old WoD rather than the new one, but I don't hold much hope. Dark Millennium Online (the Warhammer 40K MMO) might be interesting but I have only a passing interest in the setting so I won't be rushing out to pre-order it any time soon. Guild Wars 2, likewise.

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achtungexplosiv

May 2012

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