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Ian O'Rourke
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Level 28. Tomorrow We Raid!
Keywords: Video Games; Destiny.

I reached ‘peak raid’ point in Destiny a few weeks back.

This has meant playing has had ever diminishing returns. I’ve been hitting the strike play list to earn my 100 marks a week, which is also churning up the reputation level (and it’s now at level four). This process has allowed me to round out my raid ready weaponry: a half-levelled primary auto rifle, two fusion rifles as secondary weapons (one has the much needed void damage) and my heavy machine gun.

It looks like we’re going to hit Vault of Glass on Monday evening with the four people in The Geek Collective guild and two extra members (which other people know, but I don’t).

I’m looking forward to it.

Permalink | Comments(0) | Posted by: Ian O'Rourke on 19/10/2014 Bookmark and Share
 
Level 28. Guns, Currencies and Exotics
Keywords: Video Games; Destiny.

I have crept into level 28. The highest level you can get to without raiding is level 29 which takes fully upgraded legendary armour as well as the one exotic armour piece you can wear being fully upgraded. That’s a lot of work as it demands legendary drops. There is a valid argument being made that unless you are really into the raid don’t bother gunning for 29 and save your legendary materials for equipment that might drop in the expansion in December. This argument also rings true for not pursuing the raid on hard to get to 30. This is assuming they don’t invent new materials for the equipment. It’s also highly unlikely any new content will need level 29 – 30 to do it, otherwise accessing it will demand getting over a solid grind and the raid. Unlikely (or getting to the upper two levels will be made easier).

There comes a time when your MMO experience is less about playing content but instead doing scheduled activities. In this case a weekly heroic strike for the strange coins then the level 26 strike playlist for my hundred marks a week. There is other things, but the odds are against me. So, unless other people need help, accruing these things will by my Destiny experience.

It also means my improvement focus is the offensive side of things: weapons. I have only one legendary weapon and that’s a heavy machine gun (I have both Vanguard ones, and have dismantled a third, it seems it drops a lot). This also raises dilemmas about legendries, what exotic weapon to use and handling.

I’m really attracted to Suros Regime exotic weapon, partly because it reminds me of Mass Effect and partly because it has a very high stability. To get it I need 23 strange coins, which involves doing weekly heroic strike three times at its highest difficulty or four times at its middle difficulty. I’ll have the coins this week. It also needs the enigmatic vendor who appears every weekend to be selling it at the end of the week. Regrettably, it was available a week ago but there was no way for me to get the coins in time and, yes, this was infuriating. Very infuriating as it may not appear again for ages. I’m not even getting into the opportunity cost of upgrading it once I have it.

This waiting game means I probably need to buy my legendary weapon and go with that until it turns up. It’s a bit frustrating doubling up, but there is no guarantee as when the enigmatic vendor will have it available.

The whole gun selection business is fraught with a certain level of risk. It was easier in Warcraft as all you had to worry about was the numbers. If the maths was higher and your DPS, etc, went up. Win. It’s different in Destiny as it’s entirely possible to get a great weapon in terms of DPS but hate the way it handles. Does it have too much recoil? Is the sight a bit of a pain? The play model of Destiny is not maths, it’s player skill and reaction. This will even lower your DPS depending on how accurately you hit the target: an auto rifle continually impacting the head will cause more damage than 50% missed body shots. The choice of weapon also involves accepting a mini-grind as the weapon isn’t all it can be until it has been fully upgraded. In some cases those very upgrades may alter the handling turning it into a weapon you don’t like (though there are only few like this it seems, ironically Suros Regime is one of them for some people).

For instance, Suros Regime, with an early upgrade fires slowly and the damage increase doesn’t fully compensate suggesting the slow, steady and stable fire rate is meant to facilitate regular head shots. The two legendary weapons I can buy are a more stable, smaller magazine auto rifle and a larger magazine, ridiculous fire rate, but lower impact weapon with very low stability. I'm finding it hard to choose between either of these.They also don't excite me much as they look like a lot of other weapons, the Suros Regime feels a lot more desirable.

This should be one of Destiny’s new features. Since they’ve made getting the gear very reliable, and predictable down to the day, they should also make available firing ranges were you can test the guns with various upgrades turned on.

Only way to be sure.

Permalink | Comments(0) | Posted by: Ian O'Rourke on 07/10/2014 Bookmark and Share
 
The Event Experiment
Keywords: Role-Playing Games.

So, I’ve started experimenting with constructing a Marvel Heroic Role Playing (MHRP) event. It’s a bit different, in that I’m using the concept of the event but it’s not a Marvel one. It will involve pre-generated characters as it falls into one of the three modes of delivery I’m going to use moving forward (time limited: one shot or mini-series; flexible: episodic) should I ever get around to it at all.

I’ve stared to pull together the easy bit, the skeleton of the event which comprises three acts. It’s all a bit Marvel Cinematic / Ultimate Universe mixed with the Fantastic Four. While pre-gens are being used, which may limit it to a one shot, there is an element of the event that sets things up for ‘the further adventures of…’ should it go well (but that’s a side issue and not a focus and it certainly wouldn’t be ‘regular’). I'm not revealing any great spoiler by revealing part of it is the potential set-up of a UK super team.

I’ve loaned the old Golden Heroes scenarios off a friend and I’m mining them for stuff. In all honesty, I’m not using them as much as I thought at this point, but there is the odd thing I’m picking out. Some sort of loose adaptation of Green Victoria and the Holy Grail would be cool I guess, but not for this.

This is the easy bit because the three acts obviously fall nicely into opening, middle and close and you don’t necessarily have to have everything proscriptively written down. It’s a skeleton in that I have the major action beats (which are scenes) established, then you fill that with some ideas on what can complicate those scenes and then, due to the nature of the system, you sort of rely on the dice to generate everything else as people generate opportunities and stuff.

The bit that’s going to take a bit more effort is applying the system to the skeleton.

In the first instance, I have to decide how I’m going to use the system to implement the narrative of some of the scenes as there are often numerous choices. I suspect I’m going to err on the side of using the Fate fractal, which is present in MHRP, I believe, and have a lot of things effectively be characters. This means there will be quite a few datafiles to create and challenges as datafiles. We shall see, bit to think about on that front.

The bit that is going to take the most thought is the interaction between the pre-gens, the milestones and how that works as a pull / incenstive to drive things forward. I want to try and ensure the game becomes as much about the relationships between the characters as it does the action. Try and integrate them. A lot of this will come down to actual play but some of it will be driven by backstories, aims and milestones. Milestones are the thorny one, they still remain something that seems awesome, but never seems that awesome when you see a lot of them written down. I’m going to have to experiment with nailing them I think. I’ve thought of extending the system to include relationship traits, but I’m going to see how things hang together without them first to see if I can just happily use the system vanilla.

The final issue is the spending of experience, which sort of has to exist to drive the milestones (unless I find a way to make milestone pursuit a separate issue from earning experience). I’m not convinced I want the powers levelling up so it’s going to come down to unlocks that have a shelf life of the event. This has the advantage of keeping powers stable and allowing for the XP spends to be event related.

We shall see. It is an on-going experiment and, knowing me, I’ll probably fiddle with it for a while.

Permalink | Comments(0) | Posted by: Ian O'Rourke on 04/10/2014 Bookmark and Share
 
Level 27. The Legendary Weapon Hunt
Keywords: Video Games; Destiny.

I am about 60% of the way through level 27. I am fully armoured in legendary gear. This legendary gear is fully upgraded but for the final upgrades that need materials as rare as the legendary gear itself. I am now in pursuit of two things: legendary weapons (I only have two heavy machine guns which dropped randomly) and the rare materials to complete my armour upgrades.

Luckily, I recently got my Vanguard reputation at rank 3 so I can happily buy weapons as I like once I have the marks. Getting the marks consists of: public events, doing the level 24 strike playlist and the weekly heroic strike. Due to the new loot setup the best method is the level 24 strike playlist as I get marks and potentially legendary loot (most of which gets dismantled into the rare materials I need for upgrades). A strike needs a fire team, which gets assembled dynamically for you. Tried that, can be a bit random, moving from elite participants one moment (to the extent I might as well not be there) to random drop outs the next. The best method seems to be to get one other trusted person and go in as a fire team of two, then you only have one random.

Public events are largely for when you don’t want to experience the random fire teams, they also have the advantage of being able to pick up the generally available materials needed for the upgrades while you wait for them to happen. If some of the public event timers available on the web work it may actually be a surprisingly quick way to do it! I’m hoping to do a lot of the level 24 strike playlist to get my 100 marks a week as they take 15 minutes a shot (courtesy of my online stats I know this to be true). Each weapon is 150 marks. Regrettably, I can only get to 140 this week. I need to max out my marks and buy in turn the legendary auto rifle, fusion gun, sniper rifle, shotgun and pulse rife to round out my arsenal.

I don’t need all of those, but what the hell? I might as well be getting something. It’s a bit annoying that I can only get a weapon every 1.5 weeks though, but that’s assuming something I haven’t got doesn’t drop while on the strike.

That’s it until I hit the raid, it’s sort of a holding pattern. It’s surprisingly quite casual play. It’s hard core in the sense that true casual players haven’t even done any strikes, but it’s casual in that it’s not hard. You play. You chat online. The marks and loot tot up. It’s a social occasion.

Will we ever get to the point when we’ll be regularly hitting the raid? Have to admit, I’m not sure I see the family and friends cohort getting around to it. We don’t have six at the right level and it’ll take perseverance and dedication and set timeslots (of some length) in order to pull it off. I suspect interest is waning due to the progression wall, rather than any sort of mental preparation for the raid. If it happens it’ll probably be through loose groupings of players we know or have come to know who can’t manage six. It might happen.

Obviously, there is exotic gear. I think you can only have a single armour exotic and a single weapon exotic active at any one time. That comes down to strange coins, which you get from the weekly heroic strike (3 coins for each one at the different difficulty levels). They are quite hard, though I enjoyed the one we did a few times last week utilising our two Titan Ward of Dawn powers to handle the periodic and difficult adds and our associated revivals from death. Should probably be doing that, but one thing at a time.

Does this all make the legendary loot acquisition in Destiny very predictable? Yes, it’s ridiculously predictable. It can be timed to the day, there is no random element and, with a bit of thought, you’ll know exactly what you are getting and when.

You wouldn't think that with all the complaints about random drops and loot caves.

Permalink | Comments(0) | Posted by: Ian O'Rourke on 03/10/2014 Bookmark and Share
 
Tyranny of Dragons S2
Keywords: Actual Play; Role-Playing Games; Dungeons and Dragons; Tyranny of Dragons.

This one was a tale of two camps! We were sent to find out where the raiders who had attacked Greenest were holding up and, as it turned out, also seek out a Monk who had been investigating the cult.

The session ran short, which isn’t a problem only in as much as what it may infer about the content in each ‘adventure’ within Tyranny of Dragons. The first one ran for a good length, but this may have been due to its many encounters. All the encounters were of a nice length but there was a lot of them. The ‘content’ of this second one was less clear, it seemed to be split into three elements: the beginning at the keep, an encounter with a straggling group on the way to the camp and the cultists ‘army’ camp.

I was playing the new character this week: a distant relative of the first one (several generations distant), a non-human (a half-fey) and a Warlock. Seems okay. I like what I’ve put into it, didn’t really get much chance to play with it much encounter wise. I like the class though and I’m looking forward to playing around with it some more. The outstanding issue is having reached third level is whether I go for the route that gives me a familiar or some extra spells? While I’m sure the extra spells is the best one I need to ponder it a bit more.

We also had our first cut scene in this session, which was pretty cool as Waylan’s ashes were taken away by some fiery creatures of some sort. I have no idea what’s going. It is no doubt part of the mystery that will allow him to come back later.

The centre piece of the adventure was undoubtedly the cultist’s camp. It had a map you see, so it was obviously important. It was a strange place. Strange because I got the impression, on the outer edge of my dramatic radar, that is was an evocative place of danger, skulduggery and competing factions? Sort of like a non-permanent Mos Eisley? Exciting. But if that’s true you have to put the situation to the players. Challenge them with NPC’s, situations in motion, etc. If that isn’t offered one of two things happens: the players become white middle-class blokes trying to be adventurers rescuing someone or they take the shortest route to success and get out of the situation as fast as possible. I think we became aware of the former and took the latter. I’m convinced there was more interesting content in the camp that just didn’t present itself. Which isn’t a criticism, it’s just a pity! I wanted to see and experiencing it by not having it handed on a plate but by being given a bit of a driving reason to engage with it (assuming I knew it existed).

Overall, I think the module had designed this part as shorter and there was an assumption role-playing would spontaneously fill the void. The spontaneous filling is probably the reason for it running short.

Role-playing doesn’t just spontaneously happen every time a vacuum appears. That is to say it can do, but that depends on the group. I’ve found there is a particular ‘traditional’ and ‘D&D’ role-playing that exists, which sort of erupts to fill any part of the game between encounters. It used to happen in the NWN campaigns we used to run, all of which were played by old, traditionalist D&D players. They’d do the adventure and the encounters and in between they would role-play. This wasn’t a function of the NWN computer game platform, it was embedded from how they played D&D back in the day. They viewed the two as quite distinct activities: one the professional adventurer ‘doing the module’ the other akin to talking by the fire. It would consist of regaling stories of past adventures or playing up their personality traits (and don’t get me started on personality trait role-playing). It was not conflict driven, a bit self-centred and a bit, if I do say so myself, like an exercise in self-indulgence.

Is the module relying on this form of vacuum filling, old school D&D role-playing? No idea, just total speculation.

Either way, I suspect this won’t fill the vacuum with role-playing in the group. We’ve had games that consist entirely of role-playing with little physical combat. We’ve had whole games based on non-physical combat, but conflict in the dramatic sense. This conflict provides the reason to role-play, without it why would it happen? You have to have conflict or at least some context. Anything else is just a bit self-indulgent and odd. Why would you tell your back story unless there was a driving reason and it felt organic, fit to context and having a purpose? Why would you engage with the leader of the Keep unless there was an intriguing mystery, dramatic conflict or a contextual situation to drive you together? Without this the only role-playing left is doing it for the sake of it totally devoid of context or conflict.

It’s probably not going to happen much due to the nature of the group, hence the group looks for the connections to the next part of ‘the module’ and it runs short. We skip the vacuum, rather than fill it, as there is truly nothing there (as far as we can see).

Anyway, we managed to leave the camp with the prisoners and the half-elf monk we had set out to rescue. It seems we are going back to the camp next time to investigate more, no doubt related to the rumour they have dragon eggs! It may also involve tunnels and other dungeon-like constructs! Then no doubt a long debate about destroying or stealing the dragon eggs. Possibly.

Permalink | Comments(2) | Posted by: Ian O'Rourke on 01/10/2014 Bookmark and Share
 
Level 25. The Queen's Wrath
Keywords: Video Games; PS4; Destiny.

I'm making a lot of firsts with Destiny. I'm farming and I hated farming in Warcraft. I hated farming so much it actually cast a shadow over the raiding, which I did enjoy. I detested crafting in Warcraft and completely avoided it. Hell, I didn't even grasp what people got out of it, and found those 'in the game' for the crafting as a bunch of madmen. Events. Okay, I got events in Warcraft and understood how they could be neat but they either ended up being trivial or epic reputation grinds with a time limit. I never invested my time in them.

In Destiny, I've done all of the above. I am farming to upgrade equipment. Upgrading equipment is essentially crafting in reverse. I've now taken part in my first MMO event in a serious way and it's been great.

The Queen's Wrath is a quintessential MMO event. Someone new visits and sets up their stall and you can earn reputation and do bounties to open up variations on existing missions with new rewards. Basically, there isn't any new content, which was always my problem with events, they invariably just pulled you into doing stuff you've done before. This is no different. Yet, for some reason, this time it works. I've done six bounties which has allowed me six completes of the Queen's Kill Order, which is essentially a random story mission in a substantially harder mode.

I've ran five of the six Kill Orders (they table about 20 - 45 minutes) and it seems to guarantee a legendary as I got the Titan chest piece four times and the helmet once. I understand, from the stats Bungie have, that players are not progressing and only a miniscule amount of people have done the raid. It’s early days, but this sounds very similar to Warcraft and Destiny has the issue of not attracting a typical MMO audience. This is obviously a way to get a legendary into the hands of players. You can do one bounty, one of the easy ones, get a Kill Order, run it once and have a legendary drop. Win. That minimum, efficient and quick commitment bags you an awesome piece of gear.

I needed the helmet. The chest piece is a bit of a pain, as I purchased the Vanguard chest piece with some Vanguard marks when I should have purchased the boots as I'd have got an equivalent chest from Queen's Wrath. It's not the end of the world, but it would have been more efficient. It would have meant all my armour pieces would have been legendary, which would have been nice.

So, why are the usual MMO tricks working this time?

I think part of it is the immediate, FPS nature of the game. As a shooter it's pretty much perfect. It's exciting, well paced and has a visceral, rewarding feeling of weight and sound. The guns feel great and it plays as smooth as silk. Destiny may have fallen short on some other things, such as story and characters, the lack of variety in the strikes, but its shooter mechanics can't be faulted as far as I'm concerned.

It's great fun playing with friends and family. It doesn't really matter that the strike, mission or landscapes you are playing in aren’t 'new', as it's as much a social meet-up as it is a game. You know, some people go to the pub, others meet up in an MMO. Plus, depending on what you are doing, the game is still challenging. For example, the Queen's Wrath Kill Orders we did this evening were not easy. We had to make sure we have people using a spread of weapons, allocated focus fire on fast moving, heavily shielded mobs and so on. Even dying was challenging, some sections becoming an exercise in ‘revival tag’ to keep the machine going. It made it a 'good game'.

You don't spend ages flying or travelling somewhere. You zip around in your spaceship and overland on your hover bike. There is no death penalty. You just respawn and continue (though key mission and strike points place limits on this). It's not all a numbers game, it's reaction and coordination based. The very console nature of the game takes you straight to the actual game.

It’s also low commitment in terms of people: three for a strike, six for a raid. There is no general chat or way to form ad-hoc groups (though strikes will auto-group you, raids don’t provide any grouping service). This means it’s easy to have people you physically know doing the harder content. Join up with a view real life friend’s guilds and you don’t have a problem.

It feels like it has less barriers to play.

I'm really hoping the expansion of the game goes in interesting directions and starts to address some of the weaknesses while holding onto the strengths. If they up the story content and vary the play a bit (outside of the raids) as they expand the game it will go from good to great.

Permalink | Comments(0) | Posted by: Ian O'Rourke on 25/09/2014 Bookmark and Share
 
Level 25. Reputation, Materials and Gear Rating
Keywords: Video Games; PS4; Destiny.

I am now 50% of the way through level 25. Sounds great, but my nephew has his second character at level 25! Still, it’d be interesting to see his actual play log, I suspect he’s put a lot of hours in (albeit he does play more efficiently and with more dedication than I).

It’s clear now that, as hypothesised, the ‘levels’ above 20 are actually a gear rating. I’m still not fully sure how +light factors into things (I suspect it’s just a broad marker similar to tiers in Warcraft) but I’ve managed to figure out how some of my levelling has happened despite not adding more +light.

Basically, as you’re gear gets better your level goes up. This isn’t just about +light, the other variable that seems to influence it is when you upgrade your gear, specifically upgrades that add more armour. This is a basic gear rating mechanic, with level probably being linked to specific armour ratings which in turn links into what’s required for specific strikes and raids. This could be quite clever if all people have to assess is an individual’s level? Rather than level and then a handful of other stats and criteria.

At the moment, I’ve got myself two legendary armour pieces: gauntlets (which includes arms) and a chest piece. These have upgrade trees. As you work your way down the upgrade tree it invariably asks for rarer materials. Initially, my gear upgraded on ‘money’ alone, which always seems to be plentiful as there is not much you can do with it (there is not player market in the game). Now I’ve had to farm spinmetal to upgrade the legendary gauntlets. I’ll need to farm something on the moon for the chest piece (I can do that while killing stuff and doing missions for reputation). The ends of the upgrade trees involve even rarer materials that can’t just be ‘picked’ up. You have to dismantle legendary gear, do public events really well or the strikes on the upper difficulty settings. It’s sort of like crafting in reverse, instead of haunting the game for materials to build something awesome, you get something pretty awesome and then farm for materials to make it more so.

Have to admit, I prefer it the way Destiny does it. I’d never craft stuff in an MMO, but I find upgrading stuff more amenable to my way of thinking. I realise the actual activities are the same, but that’s human nature, I guess.

A final note, on the second character thing. Destiny has zero replay value. There is no reason to level up an alternate character. Okay, they do play differently, but you’d still spend a lot of your time shooting at stuff. The content is exactly the same. It’s not like Warcraft were you could level up in different zones, on a different content or within a different faction or combinations of all three. It’s not like Mass Effect were you can make different decisions that result in different fates for your protagonist, colleagues and whole races. You can even dynamically switch between the two subclasses so that varies it up a bit (handy since I have a DPS and defence / support subclasses).

I am sure people have done it. But they must be mad.

Permalink | Comments(0) | Posted by: Ian O'Rourke on 24/09/2014 Bookmark and Share
 
Level 23. Welcome to the Loot Cave
Keywords: Video Games; PS4; Destiny.

I have now been playing the game for 32 hours, with 13 hours on the story missions (some may be post-completion), six hours on strikes and 14 hours patrolling. I've not dedicated any time on PvP, which still sits at 13 minutes. I really don't like the PvP. Due to farming reputation I am close to having spent half my time on patrols.

So, I am three levels into the level grind. It's not been as painful as I thought, while not being as exciting as the story missions. The odd thing is I seem to be levelling without fully understanding why. I believe I level based on the amount of +light gear I have, but there is some oddities in how it is happening. First, I am pretty sure I went from 21 - 22 without gaining anymore +light, I could be wrong, but I am pretty sure I didn't add any gear at the point I levelled. The other strange thing is when I do have new gear with more +light I am not fully sure how I'v got it.

It just gets mailed to me? Which is nice.

I've also been introduced to the 'Loot Cave'. Basically, you can do all the story missions at multiple levels from a certain point in the game. It's harder. It drops more loot. I either didn't know you could do this or I did and I forgot, it was probably the latter. I've not used this feature in my post-20 gameplay yet. So, you take this feature and then find a spot with a rapid respawn rate. There is a place in Old Russia, funnily enough a cave, which spawns three enemies every fifteen seconds. You shoot them before they even get out of the cave and they drop stuff: green, blue and purple (the infamous legendaries) engrams. You farm them, have them produced to up your engram reputation and either use the gear or trash it for materials.

I farmed the 'Loot Cave' for 30-minutes and got 2 legendary items. Regrettably, one of them was a Warlock helmet I could not use, but the other was an awesome Heavy Machine Gun. Great stuff. I may not always be that lucky, but the fact Destiny has individual loot streams makes this even more useful as you’re not in competition for loot. If you’re in a fire team it’s even better as I believe one player can shoot into the cave and loot drops for everyone….I think. The downside of the 'Loot Cave' is it's as boring as hell. I also suspect I will not normally be that lucky.

The strange thing is about the 'Loot Cave' is it's on Earth. There is a theory the loot drops don’t vary based on difficulty, I assume they do above, in which case you can blast away at level 6 enemies and get the same loot. I tried doing a harder story mission on Venus and did on a harder level. I got halfway through the mission and it dropped no engrams. A bit odd. Apparently, there are numerous high spawn locations dotted around the planets that people camp out on. I understand people have burned through levels this way.

It's not all great though, you look at the vendors selling the legendary equipment and the number of marks you need is pretty shocking. As an example, I need to be reputation level 2 before I can buy anything (and 3 for the weapons, I believe). I then need 120 marks for one piece of equipment and so on through the rest. You cap out at 100 marks a week, not that I come remotely close to that. In short, it's a lot of strikes being done one after the other. A lot of strikes. I seem to have got to 23 without hitting this wall but I'm not sure to what degree this is going to continue.

The reports coming back from those hitting Vault of Glass the first, recently opened, raid is that it's pretty good. Varied. Challenging. It breaks the tired structure of the strikes and offers something different. This is a good thing and I want to at least try it. A small part of me wants to beat it and see it through. I am certainly interested to know if it adds any narrative elements to frame the action. I am intrigued by how long I'll be playing Destiny as the story is planned to expand out for a decade (though it hasn't got off to a great start). It's a sort of will I play it as long as World of Warcraft thing.

The intriguing question moving forward is where will the DLC be pitched at? They've already got two planned. Due to the level grind between 20 - 26 it is inevitable that it will create a barrier that some people do not surmount for one reason or another. If the DLC is for level 26 only it leaves those people behind? If it's for level 20 then it will not challenge those hitting the raid? I guess they'll provide a mix of content. They could also provide easier ways for people to get to 26 ahead of the DLC, but games that do that normally have a lot longer between expansions, like years. I am guessing this DLC is going to come a lot quicker.

And, yes, despite the nature of these games, amassing the legendary items with their interesting names and awesome statistics still offers a sort of excitement.

Permalink | Comments(0) | Posted by: Ian O'Rourke on 22/09/2014 Bookmark and Share
 
Tyranny of Dragons S1
Keywords: Actual Play; Role-Playing Games; Dungeons and Dragons; Tyranny of Dragons.

We started Tyranny of Dragons last Sunday playing through what I assume is the first ‘adventure’, though I don’t know if this is true. It was great fun, but also quite combat encounter intense with our characters rolling into one after the other. One of the characters died, but it wasn’t under the vagaries of the dice. We’ll have more on that later.

I’m conscious many people are playing through Tyranny of Dragons at the same time so anything else involves serious spoilers.

Warning: Serious spoilers beyond this point.

The characters arrive at Greenest to find it under attack by unknown forces with the backup of a Blue Dragon! This raises the adventure’s first potential stumbling point: why would any sane set of first level characters rush into a town being sieged by a Blue Dragon? Unless the characters have very strong reasons to rescue or obtain something from the town there is going to be a lot of ‘for the sake of the adventure decisions going on’. Which is fine by me, as that sort of player-driven authorial and meta-decision isn’t a problem, but you’d prefer it to be for other reasons and many a GM would hate it. Our group had a character looking to eventually kill a red dragon due to his people being brought low by it and a second in the full, naive heroism of youth so that got us moving forward.

There is a risk some groups fall at this hurdle or have a major disconnect.

The adventure after this point is a series of encounters one after the other without a chance for a short rest due to the new compromise rule that has per encounter powers shunted into being ‘short rest’ powers that involves having to rest for an hour. This makes the six or seven (I’ve forgotten how many) encounters a drain on resources. We did really well though. The combats were quick. We had characters go down but I don’t believe anyone was in danger of dying due to quick stabilisation. We seemed to cut the enemies down quite fast even to the point some support abilities, such as the Bards inspiration dice, got assigned and then not used (since you add the D6 after knowing what you rolled). We probably could have avoided some of the encounters through stealth or showing less moral character.

It had the potential to be ridiculously hard and dangerous as many a group had hinted, but we must have rolled very well, the GM’s strategy wasn't as aggressive as it could be or something about our group composition (five players: fighter, rogue, bard and cleric x2), which covers many of the bases and doubles up on the healing, helped us out.

I’ll say at this point the new rules on how ‘per encounter’ powers work could get quite frustrating. I see it as a compromise to retain them while pandering to those with a simulative bent. We didn’t have a character reliant on short rests, like a Warlock or Monk, but we will once the Fighter chooses Battlemaster, which was probably good. It strikes me characters who regain powers after a short rest refresh their powers on that basis for a reason (they have less of them and / or they aren’t as powerful as those demanding a full rest) so having the refresh taken away would be annoying. It also feels false to me, as the argument is you’re under time pressure so you can’t have a short rest? But this is false logic, the powers are balanced to a short rest so why take them away? The feeling of tension due to time pressure should be enabled in other ways, primarily the attrition of daily / long rest powers, not by limiting encounter / short rest powers. After all, the more powerful daily / long rest powers aren’t impacted by this ‘time pressure’. It’s not a major thing, but it is one of the principles of the game I find a bit incongruous and mildly annoying.

Two great rules though are: advantage and bounded accuracy.

The advantage and disadvantage rule is just pure genius and you almost imagine the grins on the designer’s faces when they fully realised what they had and the scope of the rule. It’s a simple concept that gets rid of almost every contextual modifier to a dice roll. You just have advantage or disadvantage which seems to result in a +5 to +1 (or the negative in reverse) depending on what you need to roll. It is very clever. Love it.

Bounded reality is also a core rule of the game and makes it an absolute joy across a number of areas. Basically, the game is constructed to keep attack and defence bonuses within a certain ‘bounded accuracy’, this removes the ridiculous to hit bonuses and high defence bonuses of previous editions and things like ‘auto hit’ or leaving enemies behind who could ‘never hit’. This rarely, if ever happens. It’s quite possible for a character in plate with a shield to have the defences of a very dangerous monster. In reverse those low level monsters may die quickly, but if they swarm you they can still hit you! As an example, we could hit the Blue Dragon in this adventure despite being first level because it’s defences fall within bounded accuracy. The other interesting wrinkle is it makes the pursuit of ridiculously high stats less…necessary. This is great because it’s just very relaxing. Having a 14 that gives you a +2 and be happy with it is great. It also makes shields, with their +2 defence, awesome and that’s a personal awesome.

So, the important thing is I died!

It was a bit of a strange one as it didn’t come about due to the randomness of the dice. The second to last scene of the session featured the forces of Greenest and the players facing the Blue Dragon on the top of the Keep. I chose to cast a spell that gives me a God-like voice and challenged and insulted the creature. After all, a dragon almost destroyed his people and here is one doing it again to a town.

I must admit, I probably miss-read the scene. I may have also not done enough to articulate intent and my understanding of the framing and the stakes. The dragon seemed to be pitched as a special effect, after all, if it really wanted to it could kill anyone on top of that Keep as soon as it wanted to (but it obviously wasn’t going to work that way so a different set of rules were in play? Wasn’t it?). So, while there was no explicit framing the implicit framing fooled me into thinking I could get away with a bit of cool challenging. I also didn’t realise we’d entered combat rounds. I thought we were in cool, role-playing mode and in the worst case I’d narratively be taking out of the fight after heroically trying to dive out of the way. Apparently not, it attacked me directly on its first round and blasted me directly with its lightning breath which, I believe, was death as soon as the decision was made (as even I succeeded on the saving throw half damage was very large).

So, alas Waylan Stormlord, future hope of the clans and tribes of the Sunset Mountains and seeker of the Red Dragon ‘Red Eye’ was electrocuted to a husk. This isn’t a problem, it does mean I now have to decide on whether I create a new character or have Waylan return in some way by ‘The Gods’ due to some divine purpose (which is sort of hinted at and due to the way he died isn’t entirely stupid). Difficult choice. I’m not against bringing the character back but him coming back straight away I can’t get my head around. I can’t see how it will be anything but cheesy and ‘oh you are back, let us move on’ with everyone feeling uncomfortable. Also, it’s early days so it doesn’t’ feel like that sort of divine intervention would feel narratively right at this point.

The GM would like the character to return as would I, so I decided to pitch a delayed return and we are going with that. Waylan is going to stay ‘dead’ so we can (1) build up to the character returning and (2) have it be an adventure to return him. This avoids the ‘cheese’ and integrates it into the campaign. I’m going to play a different character in the interim who will be part of larger surrounding fabric that is part of Waylan’s set-up. This character can then act as a bridging mechanism between the dead Waylan and the forces he was meant to become embroiled with. I’m thinking at this point he died but his journey has been waylaid by nefarious forces affording the opportunity of a rescue.

We shall see, whichever way it goes there is interesting options. I am enjoying the game, though I have to admit it is the sort of game that I find difficult to shine in (minimal scene framing, aggressive editing to the combat map, little use of NPC’s to drive the drama) as it demands a sort of disembodied ‘act out your character now’ sort of role-playing rather than a ‘add some contextual, conflict driven writing to this scene’ sort of role-playing. That’s a preference not a qualitative thing. This is fine, different approaches for different folks, and it is very early days, but the risk is I’ll be slightly more subdued moving forward as the ‘act out your character now’ thing just never feels right. I also maybe need to just take a bit more into my own hands once I get the cadence of the game (it’s very early days!).

Onward…no idea what happens next which, I must admit, I wasn’t entirely convinced was the case in this session (I knew a Blue Dragon featured, thanks to Twitter, I have a sneaky feeling spoilers had alerted the odd player to so some other things as well).

Permalink | Comments(0) | Posted by: Ian O'Rourke on 15/09/2014 Bookmark and Share
 
19 Hours. Level 20. The Grindiose Endgame Begins
Keywords: Video Games; PS4; Destiny.

I have reached level 20, the sort of level cap in the game. It’s best not described as a level cap though, it’s more the point at which levelling changes. It’s a transitioning level, signifying the end of the ‘game’ and the beginning of the ‘endgame’. It’s not the end of all the content though. I still have to do the last mission on Mars and a few strikes.

Looking into it a bit, the endgame is a typical gear and reputation grind. The levels your character has post-20 seem to some sort of reflection of how much +light you have on your gear, so unless I’m missing something the post-20 levels are essentially a gear rating? Anyway, you seem to get this gear from strikes set to their higher difficulty level (as I’ve had some from the two I’ve done) and through buying gear which can only be accessed with the right reputation level.

As previously guessed at this is going to mean patrols and the daily strike list which fills fire teams and assigns them to strikes. All the time. Repeat endlessly until I have enough +light gear to denote me as 26 level and then I can raid. The one raid, when it becomes available. If I continue with this I’d like to find time to unlock the powers in the Defender subclass, which I’d have to do through patrols as I am weaker while I do it. At least you can swap subclasses on a whim. Have to admit, not really sure how that's going to fit in.

I can see Destiny being one of those games were people really get into the lore. I hate that word when applied to role-playing games be it computer games or traditional role-playing games. Why? Because it always seems to come with a load of baggage involving lots of things you don’t know and that someone, and there is always someone, seems glad to bore you with or gleefully tell you things you don’t know as if it is the most awesome thing in the universe. Destiny, and games like it, have a special ‘lore sin’, they obfuscate things in the game but then build a log of some sort telling you about all this glorious lore they’ve written.

What is the point unless they show it as part of a dynamic, exciting and epic narrative?

Destiny doesn’t, it keeps it all in the log. What is the point of that? Okay, Mass Effect did the whole log thing as well, but at least it did it in a way that was like an extra appendices you could read for more detail (and I never did and was enthralled by the evocative nature of the drama and backdrop). Everything was in the story, this just fed the lore geeks who like to absorb these things. The Destiny approach results in a hollow, unintelligible ‘plot’, though really it’s just exclamations and links between missions, and then a log full of lore. Ridiculous. Poor old Dinklage must have really felt like a right idiot saying most of the lines. Still, it may have been easy money.

So, I’ll be taking a break away from the game (by which point 'everyone' will probably be raiding) for a bit as other things will be impacting on my time. But I am there at the gloriously, grindiose endgame.

Permalink | Comments(0) | Posted by: Ian O'Rourke on 13/09/2014 Bookmark and Share
 
17 Hours. 18 Levels. Areas to Improve
Keywords: Video Games; PS4; Destiny.

I am now less than 2 levels away from the (not so) max level. I am on the final planet: mars. I will have done all the story missions soon and then it’s a matter of going back and hitting the strikes I’ve missed. At that point I’ll have consumed all the content.

I’ve discovered patrols and completing bounties are an excellent way to level. This is made even stranger by the fact this seems to hold up even when doing a patrol area ten levels below your ability. The enemies are easier to kill, but you zoom up the levels. It seems way faster than actually doing the missions. Very strange. Still, it’s got me 2-3 levels and it’s a good way to play if you have smaller moments to fit some of the game in.

Is it just me or does the story make no sense? It’s almost incomprehensible. Dinklage waffles on about some space fantasy bollocks that offers the most tenuous of links to go from one mission to another but it doesn’t seem to be adding to an overall narrative or enhancing the drama. This is unfortunate. While I realise it would have been difficult to make it the new Mass Effect, the effort they have put in is risible. It’s not even a tenth of the way as good. Even with your ‘silent hero’ they could have put some great NPC’s in, better dialogue and some narrative to give it an epic feel. The story is so basic I’m almost not sure why they bothered? They may as well have just gave you a mission list.

I’ve completed three strikes now one on Earth, the Moon and Venus. I’ve come to the conclusion they really are going to have to do something with the strikes. They all involve very similar elements. Fight your way through trash. Hit a point that delays you but involves fighting off waves of enemies. Fight a boss that has some sort of restriction on hitting him (a sensitive spot or a rotating shield) while occasionally being hit with waves of adds. That is it. Possibly it gets different later on but I have a feeling it probably doesn’t. It shows a distinct lack of imagination.

I’m also not entirely sure what your character level is doing? It obviously does something, as things definitely get easier, your various powers seem to unlock independently and the subclass you get at 15 arrives without any of its powers unlocked. Equipment also levels and unlocks better capability. I suspect the following will be true: I’ll hit level 20 but I’ll still not have all my Striker subclass powers unlocked so I can only assume they keep unlocking? I’ll still have the entirety of the Defender subclass’s powers to unlock, which I suspect will take a while. You can also level past 20 through gear and some wacky thing called motes of light. So basically, to say 20 is the level cap is true while being slightly odd and players face a complex post 20 levelling situation. This is not helped by the fact all content will have been experienced at this point. So there is a lot of post-20 work (filling out your second subclass could take almost as long as the first!) to do, but no new experiences to help you along.

Big mistake.

The raids are a complete mystery, but they are really going to have to shake things up. Technically, there are no raids at the moment as they’re coming later this month. The rumour is you need to be 26th level to do them (so grinding through the complex post-20 levelling situation). If true, this means you have an equipment and mote grind to accrue 6 levels and a barren field of new content to do it in (it’s an exercise in repeated strikes). If a raid turns out to be exactly the same structure just with three more people it will be a serious weakness in the game. The raids are the tent pole of the endgame. If they are challenging only in the sense of the amount of enemies and the number of hit points it shows a level of uninspiring game design on an epic scale.

All this sounds really negative? Which is true, but it’s more that it’s disappointing. It doesn’t really tread much ground into the exciting realm of the possible, just the banal world of the traditional done in an average way and complex way. The weird thing is this doesn’t seem to matter at this point, the mechanics and flow of play of the game as a shooter continues to drag you back in to play the game. The rhythm of it is almost hypnotic and therapeutic. As usual, the test is going to come when level 20 is reached and there is less than two to go (the ability to grind for the post-20 gear has already opened up for me).

For all of Bungie’s wish to avoid the MMO tag, they’ve pretty much designed a very average one, albeit with killer FPS mechanics. I’m enjoying the game and even if the post-20 game grinds me down and I exit stage left the price I paid (nothing) for the game means it’s worked really well as a boxed, non-MMO shooter.

Still, it’s a game that is supposed to have a long life, audience allowing, so we’ll see how it morphs and changes because some of it needs to.

Permalink | Comments(0) | Posted by: Ian O'Rourke on 12/09/2014 Bookmark and Share
 
648 Minutes. Some Patrols and a Strike Two
Keywords: Video Games; PS4; Destiny.

648 minutes in (300 minutes on from last time) and I’m thirteenth level. I’ve experienced the concept of the ‘Patrol’ (138 minutes), progressed the story a bit (380 minutes in total) and I’ve done the second Strike (115 minutes in total), but not succeeded at it, and done the first strike again.

No more PvP.

The structure of each planet is similar. A number of missions which should be done in order as they are connected by a story, a patrol mission and a strike which I suspect may or may not cap the story on the planet. Patrols..they’re basically farming. You get experience and reputation. There also seems to be some stuff to pick up, though I’m not sure there is a whole crafting thing going on. This isn't a bad thing. The patrol area is full of enemies that re-spawn as well as mission beacons. These missions are the sort of basic MMO quests you see across the board: kill this many, scan this, stand at a point and observe that, collect these drops, etc. You do these repeatedly. I did spend a bit of time in the Patrol area of Venus. Quite enjoyed it. It got me some way through level 10 and into 11 as well as 50% of the way through 13. It’s handy for if you pop in for a short period knowing you’re going to quit soon.

It’s not something you’d want to constitute your entire Destiny experience. It’s obviously the solution to the Destiny ‘world’ not being one you can wonder across from coast to coast killing things on beaches, across plains, in woods and high up the mountains.

The second strike? Oh boy. It’s shorter than the first one, in that it doesn’t seem to take as long to progress to the boss. It was very hard when we got there and that was with characters levelled to circa 11, 14 and 16. Two of them being well above the entry requirement. The boss fight is a bit alarming.

It’s alarming because it’s very fluid and there is only three characters present. Possibly too fluid for my inefficient fatal thumbs to deal with.

At the end of the strike you have to kill the eponymous, and very large, Phogoth the Summoner in the dread Summoning Pits on the moon. The fluidity seems to be a product of the small player count in the strike and the complete lack of ability variation that allows for numerous roles. So, an MMO would normally construct it’s ‘dungeons’ and ‘raids’ around a party of 4-5 with a varied ability spread to facilitate tanking, DPS, healing, support, AOE, kiting and whatever else. In short, there is quite a lot of abilities to construct the challenge around. This is not the case in Destiny as far as I can tell. This means the first two strikes have been similar. This second strike is an exercise in being inundated with periodic waves of enemies during which, or in the brief breaks, you’re supposed to wear down the bosses health with constant shooting.

Funnily enough, this was a similar procedure within the first strike. Except this one is much harder as the number, variety and power of the adds thrown at you is significant to the point it’s very hard to battle them all down never mind the constant firing of Phogoth’s epic eye blast. I’m sure it’s beatable and there is some approach we are missing, though the ‘guides’ are very vague, suggesting the fluidity and the ability to deal with it is all that is present. It’ll be a bit of a sad affair if this is the solution to all strikes, just with more and difficult adds and a boss with more hit points and a sensitive spot to hit him at. Will it just more of the same in the raids?

Even without the varied abilities available to typical, small traditional MMO parties I can think of a few things that can be done to liven up strikes and raids – splitting the team and giving them different objectives? Take the fight away from just hitting the boss by ensuring other tasks have to be competed at the same time which doesn’t involve add waves. Use the reactive nature of the game to inject tasks of agility and the jump powers (or the super abilities) to integrate interesting, narrative driven challenges as the fight unfolds.

I guess all this comes down to using the narrative and the environment to inject the awesome.

In terms of the story, I am progressing through Venus and have one last mission to do. I like Venus, it's more lush and has better colours. It also has better aliens as I'm liking the Vex, who are basically like the Geth in Mass Effect. Mechanical life forms. I get a strange thrill out of shooting up their mechanical bodies for some reason.

Finally, one of the family members I play with hit level 20 while groups of us were playing today. Strangely, he's not done a lot of the story. He's been doing PvP and helping other people level as he's always been quite far ahead (so he's done some missions a lot but not consistently done them all).

Permalink | Comments(0) | Posted by: Ian O'Rourke on 10/09/2014 Bookmark and Share
 
320 Minutes. 10 Levels. One Strike
Keywords: Video Games; PS4; Destiny.

So, far Destiny has consisted of 320 minutes of play, nine levels and one strike (dungeon). It’s been played almost exclusively in a fire team. It’s all been spent doing story (259 minutes) and strikes (34 minutes) and a smidgeon of PvP (15 minutes). Some of those hours being between 00:00 – 0400 on the morning of the launch, it being only the second midnight launch I’ve been to, the first in eons and I can’t even remember what the first one was. It’s also worth noting I’m halfway to max level (and some people have reached it I am told), though ‘max level’ might be slightly different in Destiny due to levelling equipment.

So, Destiny, how does it stack up?

It plays like a combination of Halo and Mass Effect. This isn’t a bad thing. It obviously has less of an engaging, sweeping and character-study orientated story than Mass Effect, but there is one. At the moment I can’t say I fully understand it. It did seem to gain a bit more personality once I hit the first mission on Venus. There is some Bungie staples in there, in that you’re the eponymous, mask (well, helmet) wearing hero most of the time (in game, though your mask comes off in the social hub), complete with a ‘digital’ companion. Though, it has to be said, your ‘Ghost’ is way less intriguing than Cortana despite being voiced by Peter Dinklage.

As a shooter? It’s brilliant. It manages to play fluidly. It looks great. It is just the right side of frustrating that even my lack of fatal thumbs can play without throwing the controller at the monitor. It’s not a twitch-based shooter, though it is run and gun. It has a pace. It’s not frenetic all the time, demanding preternatural reflexes and other skills I don’t have. You can control your environment to a degree. The weapons look great, adopting a realistic art style that worked so well in Mass Effect. As far as I’m concerned it is an amazingly well designed game in this area, but it’s probably true to say it doesn’t do anything astoundingly new.

As a role-playing game? It’s a strange beast. It’s a role-playing game in the narrow sense you can level things up, that’s about the long and the short of it. You don’t have a character, albeit they call it that, in truth it’s just an avatar that happens to have a race (though there is no reason why) and a class. You can’t even name the ‘character’ as all your avatars are named the same as your Playstation Network account. As you can imagine, this leads to some strange names. I have no idea how levelling works at the moment. Currently, it’s doesn’t involve much choice as what’s gaining experience seems to be being selected for me based on use or a pre-destined order, though a few seem mutually exclusive such as only being able to have one type of grenade active. You can also level up equipment, which is great, but in the first ten levels it’s safe to say you don’t really have long enough to fully appreciated that in a lot of cases. I do have an auto rifle currently that is fully levelled up and I am really liking it (reduced recoil being a big thing for me). I can see the equipment levelling being great if higher end equipment has less churn and longer trees.

As Massively Multiplayer Online game? Even stranger. It is massively multiplayer. It is permanently online. It meets the definition, what it doesn’t meet is the baggage and expectations of the name. This is probably why they’ve been avoiding it. There isn’t a persistent world you can traverse, such as being able to ride or fly across a continent from coast to coast. This was expected. In truth there is just locations in which missions are set. Notable multiple missions. It’s hub (the city, which is like a MMO city) and spoke (the mission location) with your ship acting as the teleporting mechanism between these elements. I believe the various locations are instanced to distribute the player-base, so not to you, but to player load - I am guessing here (or the game is empty). The various mission locations aren’t instanced, so other players are doing their thing and spontaneous cooperation is a cool part of the game. You do get maps of say, the moon, but again it is more a representation to facilitate mission selection. In truth, Destiny has less of a ‘world’ in the geographical sense than Borderlands.

Is this a bad thing? Not really. The size of it might be though and how this relates to how the game is expanded. I suspect expansions that add more missions to familiar locations will have to be cheaper than expansions that add new planets or whole new areas to existing planets. Earth has a lot of expansion space, for example, unless the initial game opens up an area beyond New Russia (hell, even New Russia could be expanded) later in the game.

In the first ten levels variety of play hasn’t been particularly diverse. This doesn’t seem to be a big problem as whatever the game is offering still has that essential ‘just a bit more’ feel to it. So, it’s hard to categorise it as a complaint. Since the game is supposed to last ten years though as it is expanded this will probably need resolving. Once you reach the max level and the ‘extra widgets’ are less forthcoming (the whole equipment levelling thing aside) variety of play, rather than character widgets, will become more important. This will be particularly true of the strikes and raids. At the moment there wasn’t really that much to differentiate the strike from playing the rest of the game other than they’d just to call it one and it mandated a fire team. It didn’t feel special, with its own unique location, atmosphere and narrative (like a Warcraft dungeon).

PvP? Nothing much to say. I’m sure it’s great but I won’t be doing much of it.

There is already an expansion pass that can be purchased for £34.99, albeit the expansions are not released. I am assuming at this point this is a reduced price. The nature and rate of expansions is going to be the tricky part of Destiny. How many? How much? How big? I am sure there will be a variety of them, possibly at different prices, some might even be free. I suspect they are going to have to trickle in a type of free content. If it starts feeling too expensive, it’s going to be a problem. You have to factor in the console audience, who are just used to anaemic DLC, and generally dislike it. As an example, the typical £15 DLC doesn’t often offer a vast amount of extra hours of play? This can’t be the case with Destiny, If they’re going to keep people playing it for the 10-year projected life of the console. Okay, some might say you have to compare it to a possible £8 - £12 a month, but I don’t believe so. Subscription-based MMOs are on the way out, it doesn’t have a lot of the persistency you expect in such a game (such as the world offering something to ‘play’ in) and you can always cast your eye over to the model adopted by, say, Guild Wars 2.

Renewing, extending and keeping the game fresh within an acceptable economic model is going to be challenging.

Overall, really enjoying the game. It doesn’t do anything special, but what it does do it does superlatively well. You want to keep progressing. Expand your character. Experiment with new weapons. See new places. The variety in missions and end game (based on the experience so far) will be a long-term issues for the expansion, as will the economics of it.

As a boxed game to play to whatever virtual conclusion it offers: a winner. The rest will be a case of seeing how it plays out!

Permalink | Comments(0) | Posted by: Ian O'Rourke on 09/09/2014 Bookmark and Share
 
A Kick in the Gaming Arse
Keywords: Role-Playing Games; Video Games.

I’m giving myself a kick in the gaming arse. I’m really bad at utilising my spare time effectively and by effectively I don’t mean writing a novel or anything amazing, just not letting it drift away having done very little! It’s one of the main reasons I did the MBA, as it provided me with an all-consuming passion that lasted 3.5 years. It certainly solved the free time issue. Since the MBA ended at the close of 2011 it’s been a bit hit and miss again.

That’s 2.5 years since I finished the MBA and the problem of what to do with my free time has largely been avoided through being on two, long-term, very intense projects that often involved working ridiculous hours. I mean ridiculous, like 10 hours being normal and 14 being the extended day. That leaves zero time during the week and you’re knackered on the weekend.

This hasn’t really been the case since June, yet the time still wastes away. I need to sort it out now by giving myself a gaming kick in the arse.

Console games. It’s entered a bit of a death spiral, largely because there isn’t any really interesting and engaging games out, like Mass Effect, Tomb Raider, Uncharted, etc. I had Diablo III, Borderlands 2 and Elder Scrolls V on the shelf, though only Diablo III has survived some trading in. They’re solid games, but lack that essential ‘magical draw’. Diablo III and Borderlands 2 are sort of dip in games and Elder Scrolls is just one of those ‘way too much stuff’ console role-playing games.

In search of something big, bold, and full of cinematic awesome, action and great visuals I’m going to give Destiny a serious go on the PS4. It’s arriving on Tuesday, we have a ‘guild’ set-up with some family and friends and we’ll see how it pans out. It looks like Halo and Mass Effect mated and had some sort of weird, shooter, MMO-related baby so I’m looking forward to it. It’s got a story to investigate and all the MMO-like side of things as well. It was inevitable a game would spur my decision to get a PS4 at some point, it just came a bit earlier than expected.

We then have Dragon Age: Inquisition before the year is out, allegedly, so that should keep me busy.

PC Games. I’ve separated out this one as I’ve not been seriously involved in PC games for years, since dumping the gaming rig eons ago and deciding not to get a new one and a PC and tablet combination when I last invested in a PC. A large part of the reason for this was, as far as I was concerned, the death of the games that made the PC THE platform. Where did the military sims go? The big space sims? As far as I was concerned there was no reason to stick with the PC since I wasn’t a hard core FPS player.

The shape of PC gaming seems to be changing now, it’s becoming a specialised activity. A bit like vinyl records are to compact discs. The whole Kickstarter thing is helping with this, as it’s getting the games that used to exist funded that publishers no longer seem to want develop, market and sell. We have Star Citizen and Elite filling the big space-sim genre and they look glorious, so hopefully the quality and depth of games will hold up. We also have some great military sims coming out as free to play that hope to provide engines to simulate battlefields with people flying planes and controlling ground forces in the same theatre. These things demand add-ons, like flight sticks with thrust handles and whatever else but that’s part of the appeal. Specialised, but fantastic.

Once the next work project has settled in I’ll probably be investing in a gaming PC if Star Citizen et al look to be worth playing.

Role-playing games. Sit back, relax and let others take the strain. I’ve got a batch of games I’m happy with, the first time in a while, so I know what my toolbox is. We’re concentrating on playing Dungeons & Dragons 5E and the first official campaign Tyranny of Dragons, which is probably going to be an 18 month affair. That puts a main game slot way out into the future and that’s fine as I’m in no rush to take it. I suspect never. I’m taking a relaxed approach to it as we ease back into gaming regularly again. I still think I’ll run something again but I suspect it’ll be in one of three two formats: (1) games constructed exactly like convention games, they just get played by the group; (2) episodic games that aren’t heavily serialised and are potentially mission-based so they can slot in; and (3) mini-series games that run for 2 – 4 sessions that can theoretically fit between seasons or game transitions. At the moment, they’re probably in order of likelihood.

We shall see, it’s entirely possible I’ll never get around to it.

This also sees the re-initiation of Mega Gaming Sunday, in which I spend Sunday afternoon doing something gaming related and, obviously, bi-weekly this will be Tyranny of Dragons.

Permalink | Comments(0) | Posted by: Ian O'Rourke on 08/09/2014 Bookmark and Share
 
The PS4 Era Begins
Keywords: Video Games; PS4; Destiny.

I have taken the plunge. As of Tuesday 9th September I shall be the owner of a PS4. What has driven me into this new console era? One word: Destiny. It’s all resting on that game at the moment. If that game fails to entice it will be a block of plastic and electronics that does exactly the same job as the PS3.

Well, until something better comes out like, say, Dragon Age: Inquisition in November (allegedly).

The signs are good. I liked Halo. I like gunning and looting in the form of Borderlands. I like grouping up for ‘dungeons’ and ‘raids’, though they’re obviously called something different in Destiny and kept to 3 and 6 players respectively. I like epic space fantasy imagery and storytelling that Bungie (and Blizzard) put out. In short, the space fantasy shooter with MMO learnings is about a sure thing as can be divined in advance, but you never know. Hell, these things, along with the odd other influence (the Fading Suns tabletop RPG, Mass Effect) lead to the damned fool crusade that was Fate Fading Suns.

It's also the source of the strangest, most oddly acted live action 'advert' to hit the web.Oh dear.

There will, no doubt, be more later. Lock and load.

Permalink | Comments(0) | Posted by: Ian O'Rourke on 06/09/2014 Bookmark and Share
 
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