How I like to play Deus Ex

Deus Ex, for me, has always been something that I loved. Waaaaay back in the annals of time, back when my Playstation 2 was my primary games machine I played the original Deus Ex. And I played it… badly.

Back then, I was a rampant cheater. I cheated my way through every game I could. And I loved it; games weren’t about the challenge, they were about having cheap fun. And I enjoyed blasting through whilst being invunerable, or completely invisible all the time. Perhaps it led to my current laziness. It would certainly explain a lot.

But that was the first and only time that I ever played through the original Deus Ex, the whole way. Since then, I’ve done as many have, and played the first level over and over again. It’s a yearly ritual that must be observed by certain members of society, like Easter, Christmas and the dreaded annual Cleaning of the Heat Sink.


And since I stopped using cheats, I stopped playing the way I did then. Granted, I did play in a manner unlike any other person playing Deus Ex; berserk charges with the Dragon Tooth Sword. But now I play all sneaky-sneaky, with non-lethal takedowns.

It was slow-going, and sometimes I hated myself for choosing it, and sometimes it just plain didn’t work – I’d leave an area, dragging myself by my one barely-functioning arm, leaving a trail of blood from my shattered limbs. Often, the reason why I quit was because I couldn’t face the sheer amount of energy that it took to play through the levels. It was totally exhausting. And I loved it. There was no game like it. None at all.

I aimed to play Deus Ex: Human Revolution in the same way. I’d seen the trailers, and I’d chosen the stealth/social route. And I aimed to be non-lethal throughout it too. Not, because of the achievement that I later discovered, but because I’d always played it that way.

It started well. I worked my way to about the halfway point in the game, and apart from a single guy I’d killed in the prologue to test the shooting, I hadn’t killed a single person. I ghosted from one area to another, taking down criminals with arm-wrenches, neck blows and just plain-old punches. I was the silent predator. I was the shadow in the night. I was the mother-fucking Batman.


And then those invisible bastards showed up. The first time I tried to get through them, it went badly. They noticed me early on, and I spent fifteen minutes in a vent, desperately trying to tranq enough of them so that I could get through. But those invisible bastards just kept shooting me whenever I popped my head out.

I wasn’t Batman any more. I was too pissed off to be Batman any more.

I’d put some points into hacking earlier, and revenge was best served cold. I reloaded, snuck into the room adjacent and hacked the console. I had control of their robot, and I turned it on them. I watched through the cameras as their previously loyal robot tore into them, blowing them apart. It soon relented to the sustained assault of their weapons, but it had felt… glorious.

I was unleashed. And it felt good.

I could use the pistol that I had been patiently upgrading throughout the game, and I did. Those invisible bastards troubled me no longer.

And that was the end of my non-lethal playthrough. It was just too much. Although I stayed stealthy and used non-lethal takedowns when I could, I had more options now. The game got a lot easier.

Of course, not everything was as good. The much maligned boss battles were a pain. At least, until I realised what worked. And mines worked.

My final battle with the snake-dude went something like this:

  1. Throw EMP mine.
  2. Throw frag mine.
  3. Throw frag mine.
  4. Throw frag mine.
  5. Win LIKE A BAWS.

And that was it. Whilst I’d struggled against the first boss, now I had an obvious routine. Which was ironic, because so did they. I didn’t view them as much of a problem, once I had my technique down. They were just an annoying break in the middle of the game, like an unusually-interactive loading screen. They advanced the plot… but that was about it. They weren’t fun, they weren’t clever, and they weren’t Deus Ex. They really dropped the ball with the bosses.

But apart from that and the constant golden-filter over my screen, I really enjoyed the game. I played it from beginning to end and had fun the whole way through. I might have lost my morals, but I gained something else, something very important. A psychotic viewpoint towards life.

Next, full on Batman playthrough. Oh fuck yes.

Been a long time, been a long time

Been a long, lonely lonely lonely lonely tiiiiiime!

It’s been a while, blog-readers! Since I’ve been away, I’ve gotten a job (writing news articles for Latest Choice – look! You can see my articles on the front page, look! I’m famous!) and started a new blog site.

Since I was doing news for pay, I found that I was really enjoying writing short and informative news articles. So I decided to start a new blog to report my own games news – stuff that I’m interested in. Sure, it’s mostly mainstream games stuff, but it’s a lot less formal than the stuff I write in my job, and it allows me to really go to town with my opinions and gives a way to write when I don’t really want to write such long posts as I do on this site. And that was the problem with this blog; I don’t always want to do such long posts.

But I’m not abandoning this blog – oh no, not at all! For one thing, I still have almost a year left on this domain name. But I will be spending a lot of time over at my new(s) blog; which you can find over at Blogspot. I aim to make the updating on that site daily with new articles, about hopefully different games.

Hopefully I’ll be able to update this blog more often, but finding something to write about, and the muse to continue writing the post, has proven quite difficult recently.

Oh, and I have a Technorati profile now. The ED News is doing well, but sadly this site really needs to be updated before it can keep rising.

Coming soon: Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

Why I Love Team Fortress 2

Team-based shooters have always been something of a no-go area for me. I had played Counter-Strike: Source enough times to know that it wasn’t for me. Apart from the occasional GunGame map, I tend to steer well clear of it. And why? Because I’m a noob. I’m not much of a shooter. I’m competent and I always have been. But I lack the fast-twitch skills and the hair-trigger mouse finger to really rise to the top. Perhaps my easily-distracted nature has gimped me, and all I need is practice, but I’ve never been one for sticking with a game when I’m rubbish at it and not having fun. I’d rather go play a different game and have fun than stick with a game I’m not enjoying. Judge me if you like, but I know what I like.

And that’s where Team Fortress 2 comes in. When it was released, I scoured the review, and the details of the combat enthralled me. The options! The taunts! The characters! Everything pulled me towards this game; it was shiny-central for my short-attention span.

As soon as I had a PC that could run it (my old laptop was dying a slow and painful heat-death), I bought The Orange Box and installed it. Heaven was mine! Team Fortress 2 was as good as I thought it’d be and I loved it! I’d arrived just as the Gold Rush levels were released and those levels were my Mecca. They still are, in fact. With forays into custom maps, I loved everything about it. The maps, the weapons, the community… everything was great. I even dragged large amounts of my clan into it, and they play it to this day.

That looks quite painful. With the gunshot wounds, of course.
And then I got bored and stopped playing.

This happens with a lot of games, as regular readers will know. Hell, non-regular readers should have figured it out by now. But Valve were on to me. With nano-cameras no larger than the dust particles in The Orange Box, they watched me and millions of other players become slowly bored and start switching off hl2.exe.

What happened next is detailed in the Not-So-Elder Scrolls(TM) as held by Markus Persson:

Gabe Newell did arise and proclaime: ‘THIS SHALT NOT BE!’
The Valve offices and pie shops shook with his wrath, for his was this game, and he foresaw the immenent downfall.
And the great chjinn bellowed and smashed and there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Until the Great Prophet Walker did arrive, and with a calm voice did he quiet the great beast.
And ‘lo, was Hatdora’s Box opened, and unlocks were unleashed upon an unsuspecting world.

Valve released the unlock system and people came flooding back. Or maybe they’d been there all the time, and it was just me who arrived like so many Noahs. My playtime with the Medic was tiny, but I came back anyway. I joined the mad-Medic rush that consumed servers like a healing wind of needles. Whilst I got few of the unlocks, perhaps one – Valve had intrigued me, and I waited for the next class update with bated breath, knowing that it was sure to be a class that I played.


And boy, they didn’t disappoint. The Pyro Update rocked my world and set it on fire. Much like a girl you might pick up in a seedy bar, the Backburner granted guaranteed crits from behind and left afterburn. Only in TF2 would that be a good thing.

Drops came much later to the game than unlocks. Originally, the only way to get new items was to earn them through the achievement system. Later, that changed when the drop system was implemented. Now there was a way to get items without earning them! You simply played long enough for stuff to drop. So I played. And played. And played. And fuck all dropped. Valve had made it pretty damn hard to get items. Hats were even harder to get. The chances of me ever getting a hat from a drop weren’t great.

And thankfully, they changed that. Now the drops come pretty often, and although hats aren’t any quicker than they used to be, they’re only cosmetic items anyway, so who gives a shit? It’s the shiny new weapons that I care about!

And wow, aren’t they fantastic. Even now, Valve are adding more and more new items. And despite the age of the game it’s still fun to get a new weapon to play with. TF2 isn’t like an MMO, where a new weapon generally means an upgrade to your existing skills. In TF2 it’s so much more; it’s an addition of skills and a change in playstyle. When the Engineer update released, I ran around with a Gunslinger, punching people in the mouth. It’s not how the Engineer should be played, but who cares? I could punch people with a robo-fist! This new item made melee a fun and viable alternative to playing the Engineer in the normal way. Some changes are obviously more blatant than others, such as the Demoknight becoming the unofficial tenth class, but I’m sure that Valve were looking at me personally with their Valvebots when they designed the Enforcer. Or was that community-designed? Either way, it fitted beautifully with my Spy playstyle of ‘run-and-gun IN THE FACE’. And whilst it might mean that creepy teenagers designing TF2 weapons are spying on me, I’m fine with that, because it fitted into my niche (ooh err). Each and every new weapon has opened new options in playing TF2, and exploring the new niches of each class is a blast. Literally, in some cases.

More importantly for me, the drop system has kept Team Fortress 2 alive. Valve have done much the same as major MMOs in offering new content to keep the audiences, and best of all, Valve did it all for free. I’ve never had to pay anything past the box price for The Orange Box.

I love you, Valve. And I love you, Team Fortress 2. Long live you both.

Much love to Gabe Newell and Robin Walker, despite my ribbing. And the same to Bethesda, despite their suing of Notch aka Mr. Minecraft. Team Fortress 2 is already in your Steam list since it went free-to-play, so go play it!

The State of the Blog and Other Things

So I’ve been suffering something akin to writers block recently. I’ve been starting posts and getting about halfway through, then losing the will to write anything more after looking over my work. I’m starting to think I haven’t been writing in the way that I like to write, and that I’ve been trying to become too ‘professional’ or something. Having applied for a few writing jobs over the summer, I’ve been trying to spruce up my standard of writing, and that’s obviously been bleeding over into the blog, and for the blog that’s just not working. Shit sucks.

And that’s why I decided to write this post, and to write about the way that things have been going. The blog seems to have been having a good time since I’ve been gone. It recently passed two thousand views overall, which whilst being a large number, isn’t that impressive considering that it’s been running for over two years now. But hey, I’m an unknown who writes for fun; I could be doing a lot worse. I like to think I’m not the type of blogger that’s all about himself; I hope that what I write is entertaining and fun for other people to read. I certainly write for other people, and many posts have come from wanting to increase the reader’s satisfaction.

And hell, the readers really do seem to exist. The My Craft post is close to passing five-hundred and fifty views, and whilst it is by far the most viewed post, and by a margin that makes it the exception rather than the rule – second place, Crack, And Why I Love It So, has only sixty-four views – it still makes me happy that I’ve been able to rack up that many viewers.

And Germans at that.

I have no idea why there are so many Germans viewing this blog, but they do seem to visit an awful lot. Perhaps they’re able to pick up on my German heritage (passed down from my recently deceased Opa), but that seems like a long shot. Perhaps cruising Blogger for random blogs is a national pastime in Germany. This is the country that loves David Hasselhoff, after all. Whatever it is, the Germans have surpassed British residents as the number one country reading my blog. And that’s a strange thought.

Perhaps the view sources behind the Minecraft article hold the answer. According to the stats page, the majority of views on that post come from Google Images (this picture in particular). From this, I can safely say that posting images is the best idea when fishing for readers. Large amounts of my views (I hesitate to say readership) comes from Google Images, and that’s great. I certainly aim to post more pictures in the future. Free advertising via Google Images is fantastic!

With that said, I certainly don’t want to make it thought that I’m simply going for views. Views are mainly the means to an end; that final goal will be to have an active and avid readership. Views means next to nothing – they show me how many times my page has been viewed. I’m simply trying to extrapolate if I have a readership from the numbers. And I think I do. They might be small and comprised mostly of my Facebook friends (and Germans), but I am no less thankful for them. All I’m trying to do is to entertain them, and I hope I’ve been able to do that.

Because if I think I have a readership, then my writing will only continue. I will want to entertain those readers and continue to do so. That’s certainly my goal with this blog and I hope I’m inching ever closer to that. I sincerely thank everyone who views this blog.

A return to the posts about games soon, I promise.

RIFT

I’d done the whole RIFT free trial thing before, but I’d stupidly activated it during my university exam period, so I couldn’t totally commit myself to the game and I lost my seven days before I knew it. And I didn’t really care. As it turned out, I was bored halfway into level five anyway; the old style of quests and the rather dreary Defiant opening area just bored me to tears. I knew that the eponynmous rifts were going to be good, but I just didn’t have the time, and what time I did have I couldn’t be bothered to use getting through a shitty starting area.

Since I’ve been playing an awful lot of World of Warcraft again, I decided to give RIFT another go, mainly because I could see my life disappearing into an Azeroth-shaped hole of archaeology. I started another free trial account (don’t tell Trion!), and decided to kick things off differently thsi time. First of all, I chose to become a Guardian, the religiously inspired faction of RIFT. I’d originally avoided these god-botherers because they were so uncool when compared with the machine using Defiant, but I wasn’t planning to keep this account even if I bought the game and I wanted to see how the Guardian opening held up to the Defiant.

What immediately struck me on choosing my faction was the tiny differences in race between the two sides. Both sides have a human and an elf. Granted, the third race does mix it up a little (Dwarf and Bahmi), and each is completely different since one is tall and stocky whilst the other is short… and stocky. It really seems like creators of fantasy MMOs have run out of ideas where races are confirmed. It really came to a head in FFXIV when I was asked to play a ‘Hyur’, or whatever stupid name they’d chosen to fill the role of ‘human’. Everyone just seems to want to take the archtype and then change the name so that they can make stab at originality. I don’t know whether they’re too scared to move away from the stereotypes for fear of alienating people, or whether they’re purely lazy. I really hope it’s the former, but this halfway-house of creativity just isn’t cutting it. I really don’t have a problem with playing a human, or an elf, so if you want to put one in your game please stop changing the damn names and hoping we don’t notice, because we do. Fucking ‘Elvaan’.

Anyway, I’d chosen a Bahmi mage for my last character, almost entirely for the pleasure of making a huge and hulking avatar into a physically frail magi. The spells had real bite and impact to them, but the change in the spell themes across the sub-classes was quite off-putting – one minute I was throwing fire, and the next I was calling the forces of nature. Perhaps I was choosing the wrong schools when I picked a healing school next to the purely offensive pyromancer class, but it didn’t feel quite right, especially when compared against the rigidly organised spell schoools of Azeroth. We most certainly weren’t in Azeroth any more.

That attitude reflected in the quest structures. Over the months since Cataclysm‘s release I’ve grown accustomed to the much easier structure of new-WoW‘s quests. Quests in Cataclysm generally have a nice gloss over them to disguise what would otherwise be a boring ‘go-here-and-do-this’ experience. For instance, an otherwise boring go-to mission to get intelligence on an impending alliance between two enemies leads to hiding in a wardrobe and spying on the meeting itself. Instead of telling you what’s happening, new-WoW prefers to show you, and this adds a whole new cinematic experience to otherwise boring MMO questing. RIFT, for some god-awful reason, has decided to stick to ‘fetch-this’, or ‘kill-this’ quests, and this really kills the opening scenes of the game when you’re stuck doing the worst part of an MMO for far too long. I just wanted to kill some god-damn rifts!

Once you get past that though, as I finally did with my huma- sorry, Mathosian rogue, the rift mechanic was as good as I was expecting. Whilst I initially had to do some boring quests to get my levels up, the first time I ever came across a group of players battling to seal a rift it was an exhilarating experience. Obviously, I dove right in and at the end of the event I received a small amount of loot all to myself. From that point on I was hooked on rift warfare, and I happily trotted across the map to help seal rifts. As an ascended (a person able to house multiple souls – read, ‘classes’), you also have the option to open a tear and let the rift through. I assume this is so you can start the battle on your own terms, and the tooltip for the ability even hints using it against enemy territories. Whilst this adds a whole new level of strategy to the game (I imagined opening a rift, defending it until it got really big, and then letting it loose) I just used it just to have a good fight. And that was great, because most people seemed to have the same idea as myself, and not long into the first phase I was often joined by other players, eager to gain their share of the loot. Sealing a rift comes in several phases, the earlier stages being easier than the later ones, and each have their requirements to finish, and each has their own amount of loot. This is meant to give everyone a chance at some loot, even if they can’t fully seal the rift by themselves. With this, I was able to start a rift without worrying about not being able to finish it as I knew people would usually be on their way to help me, and even if they weren’t, I could still slip away with some loot.

With this happy little side-quest open to me all the time, I did much less questing and my progress through the levels slowed down. Oddly enough, I found this to be a tremendous boon as during the first day I had already hit level eleven. Since the free trial only lets you level up to level fifteen, I saw my prolonged exposure to be a good thing and ever since I started doing the rifts ‘full time’ I never really bothered to go back to doing quests. At this moment in time, I would still happily level up purely on the backs of those rifts.

Not much compares to when a rift bursts into the world. The ground shakes, the land around you warps and changes, and… things come through the epicentre of the rift. You actually feel that there’s an event you have to take part in, and you genuinely feel a threat towards the world. If left unchecked, they can and will spread across the zone. The first time I encountered a full-scale invasion it was an amazing thing. Multiple rifts opened across the zone all at once and each spewed forth their share of invaders to attack the nearby towns. These too come in phases – defeat the invasions, then the rifts, and then the large boss who comes at the end. These bosses are huge, and whilst it takes away from the game somewhat to just have to hit it for a good fifteen minutes until it drops, without having to use any tactics, it’s still fun and really great to see so many players co-operating for the world’s good.

And the loot of course.

The bottom line is I got bored, again. But this time I came away with positive feelings towards the game. I played the trial until the end, and I actually felt like I’d enjoyed myself this time and experienced something different. It’s not a WoW-killer; it’s too different in too many ways. But isn’t that what the market needs to have: not stuff that’s trying to beat WoW, but better it? Bring new stuff to the table and stop trying to be WoW. Be your own game, and succeed on your own terms.

I was happy to not be in Azeroth any more, but being away from WoW didn’t really come into my mind whilst I was there. Instead of playing a WoW-killer, I was playing RIFT. And that’s good.

Adios.

I forgot to take any screenshots whilst playing, so poo on me. The free trial can be found on the RIFT website. It’s subscription-based, but the trial is long enough to decide whether you want it or not.

Hacker Evolution – or ‘how I made a mistake’

Alright, I’m more than willing to admit when I’ve been wrong and/or talking out of my arse.

So my last post railed on the evils of the Hacker Evolution series, and how the new game wouldn’t be any good. I was slightly more subtle than that, but I think you got the message. Well with almost clairvoyant skill, Steam decided to put the two preceeding games on sale for a stupidly low price. Despite not really having any cash, how could I decline when Fate obviously wanted me to play the games? Sadly, it seems that rather than giving me ammunition to support my last post, Fate decided to kick me in the bollocks instead.

The games are actually pretty good. Cringe.

Hacker Evolution is not as adrenaline-fueled and paranoid as Uplink; you aren’t constantly wiping logs and watching the trace at the bottom corner of the screen. But it still has its own charm. It takes a more sedate pace that still awards speed, but doesn’t require that you be fast in order to pass the levels. Yes there’s a good amount of clicking on boxes, as I feared from watching the trailer, but the fact that the game uses a command prompt-style interface gives it a more authentic hacking atmosphere. Whilst Uplink required you to use programs from a GUI, Hacker Evolution has you looking through servers for files, finding extra servers from those files, and then using both to complete the objectives. It actually feels like you’re using a computer and your own ingenuity to hack, rather than a sophisticated program that simply followed the right steps.

It’s not as free-form as Uplink either; each level has its objectives and a timer, and to get to the next level you clear the objectives. Pretty simple, but next to Uplink‘s do-anything approach, it’s still a little lacking. Certain servers aren’t available during certain missions, like the massively helpful dot-hackers.net server in mission five, and this wounds the immersion. But despite this, there’s enough challenge that you really won’t mind.


It’s also a complete bitch. Uplink was too, but in a different way. Uplink forced you to save money to get the right upgrades at the right time, so you could keep progressing. Hacker Evolution is very similar, but unlike Uplink, reducing your trace percentage requires money, so it can be a delicate balance between reducing your trace and getting new equipment. Money is a finite resource in Hacker Evolution, and if you intend to play the game keep that in mind. If you get your balancing too wrong, you must either downgrade your equipment, retry the mission, or go back to earlier levels in order to improve it and reduce your opening trace level and/or increase your cash.

Bouncing works differently too. For those without ‘hacking’ experience, bouncing involves sending your connection through different hacked computers to make it harder to trace the original machine. In Uplink bouncing was essential, and killing the logs in at least one part of the chain was even more so to avoid the hack being passively traced back to you. In Hacker Evolution the only reason to bounce is to slow down the active trace, and there are no consequences after that, except a 15% increase to your overall trace level. If you can do something without bouncing, don’t bounce. Bouncing can only happens off a server three times, after which the server is permanently locked for the remainder of that level. Choosing when you need to bounce, and correctly gauging the capabilities of your hardware is the key and finishing a hack with 0.2s is possible and nerve-wracking.

My point is that I may have been a little hasty in condemning Hacker Evolution Duality without at least trying the series. Whilst it lacks the fast-pace and paranioa that make Uplink a real classic, it’s still a clever exercise that’s really good fun. Don’t go into this expecting Uplink. I did and I was shocked. But I’ve exjoyed myself and I’ve changed my mind about the series. I might not go straight out and get Hacker Evolution Duality the moment it releases, but I’ll keep an eye out for sales.

Consider me chastised, Fate.

Hacker Evolution can be found here on Steam, whilst Uplink can be found here. It’s actually on sale at the moment! Why not get the pack that has both that and Darwinia?Both are good games.

Hacker Evolution Duality

I’m a fan of hacking games, and I have been since before Uplink was released. I think a lot of the pull of hacking is the nerd-glamour in being someone who can slip through cyberspace like a ninja. Never disturbing anything and taking whatever he/she wants. Considering the furore that LulzSec have inspired over this past month, I’m glad I’ve never looked at it beyond a brief daydream and the fascination with Neo’s hacking in the Matrix.

But I digress. Video games about hacking have always been my only option – law keeping paragon that I am. So when I found Uplink, I was overjoyed. Uplink was the kind of game that I needed; complex, yet simple enough to get in to. The later jobs required you to know exactly what you were doing, but I never considered it cheating to look at Google. It was never metagaming, as I could imagine a ‘real’ hacker doing the same. Uplink was an amazing game.

But like all games, it got boring. Uplink got boring around the time it asked me to either save or destroy the internet by siding with one of two corporations. I chose to bury my head in the sand and hope the problem went away. It didn’t, and my game ended with the internet being destroyed by a virus. Shit. Never let it be said that my neutral outlook on life has never gotten me into trouble. My options in further games were to get a lot better a lot quicker, in order to actually do stuff for one of the two corporations. And that just seemed like hard work I couldn’t be bothered with.

So when I saw a Steam advert for Hacker Evolution Duality, I was excited. I checked out the page and it looked good. In fact, the GUI looks awesome. Something like the interface Boris uses in GoldenEye, but swankier. It was coming out soon, but I had little cash, so I dismissed it for later. Today, I decided to take another look, and decide if it was worth buying or not. So I watched a video I found on YouTube.

Doesn’t it look exciting?

I know it’s Alpha footage, but I still expect something that the developers themselves show on their website to be something that actually excites me. Frankly, that looks about as compelling as clicking on a menu screen. A menu screen that takes 17 seconds to register each click. I really hope that there’s more to the game than that, and I cannot afford to spend £11.96 finding out. Sadly, it doesn’t seem like any major gaming websites have even looked at it, and that’s a shame, because this could be big. Granted, it might not be the best time to release a hacking game, for obvious reasons, but it could at least try to ride the controversy wave.

I’ll be keeping my eye on this one, but I’m not hopeful. I assume that Hacker Evolution was the preceeding game to this one, and that didn’t fare very well. Perhaps they can learn from their mistakes and pull an Uplink-beater from the bag. But they’ll need a lot more than was shown in this video, and it needs to be more than just clicking. I expect my hacking games to have much more involvement than that. Even if it’s just a screen that says TYPE VERY FAST NOW.

I’m sure I could beat that.

Uplink is available on Steam for £5.99. Hacker Evolution Duality is currently 20% off at £11.96 and is released on the 30th of June. Preordering gets you into the Beta, so if you buy it, let me know how it is.

Retrospective: Dragon Age: Origins

I meant for this to be part of a larger post where I explored a bunch of games and explored why I would or wouldn’t want to play them. However, the content for some of the games got a bit too large, so I thought it’d be better to split them into seperate posts. These are retrospectives, and will be mostly concerned with negative aspects of the game, as the reasons I stopped playing them will usually be the most fresh in my head.

I’ve owned Dragon Age: Origins since it released on Steam. I downloaded the character creator tool before it came out, and designed my character completely. I spent hours on their face. I planned out their backstory. I couldn’t decide which voice to choose. I was waiting for this RPG to blow me away like nothing since Kingdom Hearts.

And it was… meh. It certainly wasn’t what I was expecting. It was the biggest anti-climax since Final Fantasy XII.

Whilst the story was entertaining enough, I found something really lacking. I couldn’t stay addicted to the story. It didn’t pull me along like it should have; it lacked a compelling hook for me to care about. I’d met the Teryn, and I kinda liked him. The king was a complete fool and the Teryn seemed to be the most sane person in the camp. When he failed to show up at the battle, I thought it was a fair assessment of the fact that the king was fucking bonkers. I didn’t blame him for leaving, even though I’d totally expected it. I didn’t feel anything for the slaughtered soldiers or the Grey Wardens; and why should I? I didn’t know any of them except Duncan, who whilst a nice guy, I’d just seen him murder one of the two guys I had formed a connection with earlier in the game. It’s a good way to start a game; a political-revenge hook to an adventure, but I felt that I had need intent for revenge. A lot of the time I was playing simply to speak to my companions, whose acting and characters were sublime. Mass Effect had almost the same problem. Saren was a dick, but he wasn’t enough of a dick to cause me to hate him and want to kill him.

However, Mass Effect had something that pushed me onwards; that made me actually want to complete the game and laugh in Saren’s stupid face. A protagonist. ‘Jane’ Shepard was actually a character, much unlike the emotionless statue-esque avatar I controlled in Dragon Age. Towards the end of the game, I loved Shepard. I loved her little foibles and the way she said things. I loved her take-no-nonsense, yet tender attitude. It was me the entire time, but it really made a difference that she had her own voice and her own way of phrasing my dialogue choices – she had emotions, and they showed. She was visibly upset at the loss of one of her team (Ashley, the useless bitch). She was the leader of the team – and it showed. In Dragon Age… I’m a camera. I got to choose a voice at the start of the game, but my character didn’t talk. Alright, it would have added hundreds of hours of time to add all of those voices for each of the races and each of the genders, but in that case why let me choose different voices for what would anyway be the same damn character? It’s not like I ever hear them say anything outside of a ‘yah!’ or ‘ha ha!’ in combat. After Mass Effect‘s totally immersive and believable main character, this static and pointless main character completely lost my interest. I could have forgiven Bioware this had it not been for Mass Effect showing what could be done. By the same damn company! In Shepard, they gave me one of my favourite characters of all time, and they even made her unique to me. In Dragon Age, they gave me a camera to watch the other characters interact with. And that’s what it felt like. I loved the other characters; Alistair, Morrigan, Sten and the Mabari were my favourites, but it seemed obvious that I was a spectator to their story. I didn’t feel involved, and I didn’t feel my character’s urge to defeat the Big Bad, unlike Shepard’s quest to kill Saren. The other characters deferred to me as the leader, and I still have no idea why. I’m on a mission to save the world! Who should we pick as the leader? The stony-faced mute proficient with the many weapons/magics he keeps on his person? Frankly, that seems like somewhat woolly logic, and would lead to picking a total psychopath. Not to mention that they seem to have known him for about five minutes before choosing to follow him. It’s actually rather perplexing, almost a Doctor Who effect, but without the charm or, ironically, the humanity.

So whilst Dragon Age seemed to give me so much creativity with my character, and so much choice, I actually felt a lot less than I should have, due to the lack of basic human interactions. I’ve heard it’s an amazing world, with an amazing history. Obviously it’s filled with great characters, but I find it hard to get past my character being… well, not a character. And that brings me to the crux of this post; I do want to play this game again. But I’m so lacking in motivation to do so. If it came up in my game lottery I’d be pretty happy with it, and I’d probably play it for the whole week and enjoy myself. But I still feel as if Bioware slipped up with the game on a basic level that they had already shown themselves capable of hurdling with ease and flair.

This is, of course, a retrospective based on one aspect of the game that stuck hard into my head, and I do actually enjoy the game. It’s just not what I expected it to be at all. Basic human interaction I saw in Mass Effect is just not in this game. And it shows.

Damn, I really want to play Mass Effect now.

Blog Wonderings, More Lent Stuff, And What I Plan To Do Afterwards

After looking through my blog stats, it seems that my most popular blog post has been the ‘My Craft‘ post about Minecraft. With almost three-hundred views, it soars above the rest of my posts, the closest being twenty-eight. Not twenty-eight views difference, just twenty-eight views. That’s pretty damn impressive. And it makes me wonder what I did in that post that makes it so different to the rest of them. Was I simply pandering to a more popular game at the time? Or was it the easily found nature of the post itself? I assume a lot of people Google ‘Minecraft‘, and quite a few of my hits come from Google (slightly in front of Twitter and Facebook), so it seems that more searched games equals more hits. ‘What a surprise’, you might sarcastically comment. Well, it sort of is. I thought I already was talking about popular games, but there seems to be a difference between ‘popular’ and ‘most searched’. Minecraft is obviously well-searched for as it lacks a tutorial, and has taken the internet by storm recently. It also seems a lot of hits came from the images used in the posts. Still, despite the slightly obvious nature, it gave me some food for thought about future content, especially about what my readers want. What do you want to see in these posts? Does it even bother you? You might just read this for shits-and-giggles for all I know. I dunno why you read it, but as my readers I see you as important. So what would you like to see more of?

Away from that, Lent is going as you’d expect it to, with a few exceptions. I suffered a family bereavement recently, and that almost caused me to fall off of the wagon, so to speak, but I’ve managed to keep my willpower thus far. That said, the funeral is not out of the way yet, and I’m presuming that will be the most stressful time. With the addition of an application on my phone that allows me to play text-based MUDs anywhere with a phone signal… I can see that it’ll be difficult, even though I’m sure that no-one will hold it against me if I really need to escape that much. I don’t think I’m that much of a slave to games though, or at least I hope not. I guess I’ll have to ask Master Warcraft about that later, after my daily flogging.

So, I briefly mentioned some form of game lottery in my last blog post and I’m sure you’ve all been chomping at the bit in anticipation for more news. Or you’ve forgotten all about it. Either way, I still don’t have full details. This is partly down to the aforementioned bereavement and my own personal laziness, but I do have some more details to share:

I. The games will be selected from my current PC collection. No games from consoles will be considered, as it’s just far too much hassle to cart them around with me. At least the majority of my PC games are on Steam, or already with me.

II. All applicable games be entered into a hat and chosen at random at the start of whatever slot. I might change this and set out a schedule before I start, simply for ease and a grim acceptance of the trash to come – I own The Matrix: Path of Neo; I really, really hope that doesn’t come up.

III. No MMOs of any kind. Pretty obvious why not, really. I don’t want to needlessly spend money on subscriptions. So Champions Online, Lord of the Rings Online, World of Warcraft etc., shall not be entered. Even if I already have an active subscription (as in WoW‘s case) I simply cannot be bothered to make an exception. Even free-to-play MMos like LotRO won’t be entered, due to the relentless patching and sheer bollocks that come with it.

IV. Once the game has been chosen I play that game, and only that game, for the time period (more on that later). Should the game need to be downloaded, and cannot be downloaded within a decent amount of time (or restrictions on bandwith), it shall be passed over to the next free slot and another game be drawn.

The time period issue has been giving me a bit of a headache recently; I cannot decide which amount of time would be best. My collection of PC games is extensive – one hundred and thirty-nine games on Steam alone. I generally buy things if they’re on offer and sometimes never play them. Playing through my entire collection of games, even if it’s a game a day, will take the better part of a year. Doing it weekly will result in several years worth of gameplay from those games alone. And that’s without buying any new games. And that would also make me more than slightly misanthropic. My main options at the moment are: daily; three days at a time; and weekly. Daily, whilst giving me a much larger range of games to play, doesn’t offer me very much scope to play the game, and very little time to do other stuff such as university work. Weekly, however, gives me time to play the game, do other stuff, and crucially, gives me time to get bored of it. One of the major points of this exercise (apart from to actually play some damn games) is to test myself, and to see how long I can play one game without going completely mad or actually getting addicted. At the moment, weekly seems like the best idea. Three days seems like a more extended version of the problems with the daily schedule, and probably won’t be chosen. Not to mention, during a weekly schedule, I can have Sundays off to relax and write up my post on the game, even if I don’t update throughout the week. Expect tears and insanity from this.

These rules are somewhat flexible, at least until I start the lottery, and are likely to be changed. For instance, I may allow myself to play certain MMOs like Achaea or Wurm. Mainly because getting past a weeks play in either game will be hell. I’m beginning to think that I’m slightly masochistic, or that I actually hate myself. And at the moment, it seems like the littery won’t be a running a running thing. I’ll likely do a week of it whenever I have the time, due to university demands, girlfriends, social life… all those meddling things that interfere with playing games whenever possible.

I will be writing a post about the games I’d most like to play and those I really wouldn’t, and the reasons why, soon. And I promise it’ll be a lot more fun to read than this post has been. Hell, Lent hasn’t given me much to write about, except the odd craving for an unexpected game. Actually writing about games again from a retrospectice viewpoint should be fun.

And that’s How, for now!

Lent, why it sucks, and cravings

First off, I’d like to start this post in a beautifully stereotypical manner: yes, I’m going to apologise for my lack of posts within the last six months or so! What a unique way to write a blog! Anyway, I’d love to be able to only blame university work for my lack of writings, but that simply isn’t the case. Sure, recently I’ve been pretty snowed under with deadlines, reading and work, but the majority has been pure laziness on my part. And I haven’t really had much to say. Usually when I play a good game, a blog post will just start in my head and I’ll have a fairly good idea of what to say. That just hasn’t happened. Perhaps the games recently have been as boring as fuck. Since these have included Bulletstorm, Europa Universalis Rome and Battlefield: Bad Company 2, I somehow doubt it.

Anyway, I won’t be posting anything strictly game-related any time soon, as I’ve been convinced to give video games up for Lent. I’m not a particularly religious person, at least not in the sense of Lent, but doing something like this is a challenge, and one I was sort-of happy to accept. Hell, it gives me more time to read, which is a relief; my ‘to-read’ list has been steadily rising since Christmas.

It’s also given me time to think about stuff to do for this blog. For a while I’d been looking for a project to help this blog stick out in the blogosphere, and whilst I’ve had a few ideas knocking about, nothing has really stuck. This time though… this one might actually work, as it hinges on the very thing this blog was named after: my legendary propensity to be distracted.

I have a rather large collection of games, considering my relative youth in PC gaming. Some I bought because they were genuinely wanted, and then got bored of (Dragon Age, Saints Row 2, Red Faction Guerilla etc). Others I bought because they were cheap on Steam or Gamestation, and have never really played (ARMA, Hitman: Blood Money etc). My idea is to take this list, and to play them. In a random order. From a hat. Possibly of the camp-cowboy variety. The basic idea is for me to learn some form of patience and sticking-power with games, and to actually play the games that I seem to have wasted so much money on over the years. Hopefully, this will work.

Hopefully.

Anyway, there’ll be more on that story later. Back to Lent, and why it sucks. As mentioned, I’m off games for fourty days. It’s really nothing other than a pure willpower exercise and competition against my girlfriend, who has given up something she adores in compensation (chocolate). It’s not going too badly, other than occasionally being tempted by seductive sultresses of games. Two vixens in particular (which I hadn’t expected to be attracted to) are Wurm Online and the MUD Achaea Online. Both very deep games, and both are total bastards to get into. Somehow, my almost sexual lust for gaming has landed on two of the ugliest motherfuckers around. For some reason, these are the ones I really want to play again. Yes, despite almost everyone in my student being entraced by Minecraft (and making some rather impressive structures) I am instead craving two games which I have taken up and given up several times before. Gah!

I have played Wurm Online before, and I always meant to write a post about it. Unfortunately, once I’d stopped playing the game and had actually sat down to write the post I was on the waning edge of my obsession and writing about the game in a positive light seemed like a nigh-impossible task. Another chance to write a post would be nice, but… to put it in perspective, the last time I played Wurm, I spent eight hours in a hole, mining myself a safe haven. That’s eight real-time hours, not in game hours. In a hole. Mining. I passed twenty-four hours of gaming within three days. For me, that amount of game-time is ridiculuous. I was hooked.

It seemed like the key were the goals I’d set for myself. See, Wurm places you into a fantasy setting, complete with goblins, and gives you one task; to survive. You’re on the frontier, and you are the first wave of civilisation into this wild area. It’s up to you to ride the wildness and to tame it. It’s a very compulsive idea, and I soon found myself grabbed. My short-term goal was to build a house. And I was hours away from doing that, even several ideas into the game. And I wasn’t even going for a mansion: I was aiming for a garden shed-sized building. One block in size. Even something as small as that was many hours work away, because of the skill system.

The skill system in Wurm is deep. And I mean deep. For instance, Carpentry is one of your main skills that splits into other sub-skills: Fine Carpentry, Toy Making, Fletching, Bowyery, and Ship Making. Each one levels up differently, and each is needed for different items. To gain points in a skill, you must create items, knock down trees, kill things – whatever ties into the skill. Sounds simple, right? Wrong. To create a simple mallet, you first cut down a tree, chop that felled tree into logs, carve that log into a wooden shaft and mallet head, then try to put them together. If you’re lucky, now you have your mallet. Should you be mortal like me, then it’s more than likely that you failed at some point along the chain and are now sitting in a pile of scrap wood, weeping at your inability to carve a simple wooden shaft. To begin with, each link along this chain has a chance of less than fifty percent of working, and combining the mallet would be much lower. Obviously, this goes up as your level increases, but the differences are slight, especially in the early stages of the game. To add insult to injury, your shaft may have gone into the head, but might now need filing, sanding or even, hilariously enough, bonking with a mallet to finish it off. Catch-22 scenarios like this are fairly common and this is very much a game for the hardcore and/or stubborn.

But anyway, enough of that tangent. I’m sure an actual post for Wurm will follow at some point. The ironic thing is, writing this has only made me want to play it even more. Fuck.

On that note, I’d better leave before I knaw my own arms off in lust for gratification from an interactive-visual medium.

Farewell!

Should you be the self-hating type, or just curious, Wurm Online can be found at http://www.wurmonline.com.