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I’ve relocated.  For the time being, try http://geldonsgaming.blogspot.com

An (Even Better) Scheme For Easy Content Production

A few days ago I decided to post up “ignored forum posts” and “critical game reviews” on the grounds that nobody takes the time to read the first (when I may have thought they were rather good) and the later because I play a lot of games with a rather unusual perspective of somebody who has been playing games habitually for decades.

In retrospect, I’ve decided to limit “ignored forum posts” to the subject of computer games.  After covering the topic of Eugenics, Insanity, and Intelligence vs Age, I realized that I’m just coming off as pretentious and overly self-interested.  Besides, I’ve already a fairly formidable stake in covering gaming, which is my primary hobby anyway, so I’d best stick to the subject of games alone.

While I’m at it, I think I’ll jump back over to my blogger spot over at geldonsgaming.blogspot.com.

WordPress.com is a very effective hosting solution for blogging, their Digg integration was one of the many features that brought me here, but I am a bit bothered that they won’t let me edit my CSS without paying, nor monetize in any way while inserting their own advertising.  The WordPress guys might be the coolest cats on the Internet but, dude, 100% of the take plus pay you for most customizations is not a fair trade for content generation, even factoring in hosting and the WordPress software.

I Want To Quit You, Internet

I managed to land a probation on The Escapist the other day.  Though I question the logic of nailing me with “trolling/obnoxious behavior” over a post that largely endeavors to get the other party to stop with the trolling/obnoxious behavior, I nonetheless interpret this as a sign:  I’ve become a surly, surly man.

I blame you, Internet.

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Late Feb ’10: The PC Gaming Well’s Run Dry

Thanks largely to Bioshock 2 and Mass Effect 2, the beginning of the month was highly enjoyable.   Unfortunately, the tail end of the month as not fared as well.

If I owned a PS3, then there would be Heavy Rain.  No big loss: I’m not sure it does anything that Shenmue didn’t already do better (except graphics… and that’s hardly surprising considering Shenmue was originally developed for the Dreamcast).

The two big PC games to be excited about over the later half of the month were M.U.D. TV and Supreme Commander 2.  I’ve played the demos of both games, and I’m not impressed.

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A Criteria For Excellence

As far as getting some quality entertainment is concerned, it’s been a fairly fruitful few weeks.

  • Two weeks ago, Star Trek Online was released.  I had voiced earlier that I was concerned it lacks a sense of “fundamental purpose” that makes a MMORPG interesting.  Recently, I decided that this is due to a lack of immersion.  I’ve asked for a refund for my lifetime subscription and hope that Cryptic Studios is willing to oblige (if not, it will at least linger as a powerful lesson).
  • One week ago, I had finished Mass Effect 2.  I spoke at length about it: good enough to finish, a qualified continuation of the original, but with some design decisions that made have soured my optimism for Mass Effect 3.
  • I then moved on to BioShock 2, which was eagerly consumed in the space of a couple days.   It was a enjoyable experience that managed to upgrade the original BioShock in nearly every single way.  I only wish there was something left of it to play.  (The multiplayer was ambitiously executed but passe.)
  • This weekend, I purchased Fort Zombie (discounted to $2.50 on Direct2Drive at the time of this writing) and S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call Of Pripyat (fresh to Steam this weekend).  These turned out to be excellent acquisitions whose use of dynamic content and immersion (respectively but not exclusively) put MMORPGs to shame.

I called this entry “A Criteria For Excellence” because I think that being exposed to all these games lately has sort of solidified a better-than-usual understanding of the kind of games I’m genuinely interested in playing.  Games which take themselves seriously, with reasonably deep and satisfying gameplay, and ideally with dynamic content that enables a good amount of replayability.

Consequently, the number of games I’m willing to purchase has drastically decreased.  I’ve a mental lens that only picks out a specific kind of diamond out of the rough now.  Most modern MMORPGs lack adequate immersion to be virtual worldly enough to be worth a monthly subscription.  Games in general are simply affairs whose casual player focus excludes me handily.

Games like Spelunky, Dwarf Fortress, or Fort Zombie have shown the way.   Without enough alternatives, I should really return to my own game development.

Speaking of which, while BYOND is generally where I want to be (a tile-based multiplayer native platform) I recently made good on purchasing a Student Edition of Above Creative Suite 4 Web Premium while I was still in school.   As long Adobe’s educational activation department doesn’t find me disqualified for it somehow, I’ll soon have a very powerful professional suite of game development to look forward to learning the ins and outs of.

Mass To Energy

This weekend I finished up Mass Effect 2.   I was reasonably satisfied, but also somewhat disappointed.

While Mass Effect 2 is generally lauded as the superior product, I would say it’s more of a matter of give and take between the two games.

  • One annoying aspect of Mass Effect 1 was the cumbersome inventory.   Mass Effect 2 compensates by eliminating the inventory entirely and replacing it with an upgrade mechanism.  I’m grateful for the lack of bloat, but disappointed in the resulting hit to depth.
  • Traveling the planet surface in Mass Effect 1 involved a great deal of cumbersome driving.  Mass Effect 2 removed planet travel entirely.   You take a shuttle directly to your destinations, and ore is recovered via a simple mini-game.   It feels as though a substantial mode of play is missing, making Mass Effect 2 feels like half a game compared to the first.
  • Mass Effect 2 improved the ground skirmish experience via a locational damage and reloading mechanic.   However, it changed so radically that it feels like a different game entirely.  The underlying RPG mechanics are as comparatively dumbed down as the new inventory is.
  • There’s an overall shortage of content.   I completely exhausted the content of the game (there’s nothing left to do at all anywhere in the game universe) with all the current DLC available installed.  It took a little less than 21 hours.(Exploration missions are very minimal, with only about a half-dozen separate arcs of 1-3 missions to be found.   Most of the content is related to the recruiting and loyalty missions behind party members.   The main quest in Mass Effect 2′s is actually pretty short and forces the player to go through the party recruiting/loyalty arcs to compensate.)
  • As a consequence of the main quest being so short, Mass Effect 2′s story is not as nearly as deep or gripping as the original.  Though I’ve read reviews that praise the ending of Mass Effect 2, I felt it was barely satisfactory.

Overall, Mass Effect 2 flows better, but it lacks substance.  Compared to the first game, the experience has less sense of exploring virtual space and more simply hammering through scenarios.  If this is what we have to look forward to in Mass Effect 3, the magic of the original may have been lost forever.

Gone In An Instance

So it is that I plopped down $240 on a Star Trek Online lifetime subscription.

  • Was it because I’ve enough geek in me to have a thing for Star Trek?
    No, but I’m sure that helped.
  • Was it because the gameplay is fairly tolerable – a rarity for an MMORPG?
    No, but this, too, probably helped.
  • Was it because I have great and unwavering faith in Cryptic Studios?
    No, after Champions Online, Cryptic Studios /cons dubious to me.
  • Was it because I believed I would honestly get ($240 divided by $15/mo) 16 months of play out of this?
    No, that would really surprise me.

Honestly, it was mostly a combination being curious about what owning a lifetime subscription to a major MMORPG would be like and having mentioned (both here and on the official forums) that I’d never pay a periodic subscription for an MMORPG again.

I knew exactly what I was getting to, and yet, I still have some buyer’s remorse… the main trouble is that this game lacks so many of those important, yet subtle, MMORPG touches.

  • There’s no real virtual worldly landmarks – even where you can find landmarks, there’s an infinite number of copies to make each landmark feel insubstantial.
  • Lacking landmarks, I feel as though I’ll never really bump into other players as I would in an old fashioned MMORPG.
  • The other players’ presence is quickly mentally streamlined out of lack of necessity.  Perhaps because the balance is set in such a way that you need them for nothing.
  • As is usually the case, there’s no real dynamic content: barring developer additions, the universe never changes.  The only thing that changes is your character as they climb to the maximum level.  As far as a true RPG narrative goes, it lacks.

The above video, which is a parody of MMORPG gameplay, demonstrates how a sort of camaraderie builds in a true virtual space.  That I feel this is missing is the true source of my buyer’s remorse: it’s just not as fun having a lifetime subscription to a game that lacks the essential point of what makes an MMORPG feel like one.

So, knowing that they have obliged requests in the past, why don’t I go ask Cryptic Studios for my money back?  It’s because there is no alternatives to look forward to.  Take it or leave it, this what all new MMORPGs are like these days: heavily instanced, completely static, and casually accessible to the point of losing themselves.

Maybe it’s not true buyer’s remorse.  Maybe I’d make the same choice again now.  $240 for a lifetime subscription?  What an excellently frugal idea – an extra expensive subscription whose main purpose is to powerfully remind you why you need never purchase another MMORPG subscription in your lifetime.

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