[IRL] Wattup?

Busy working, which is good. Loving it.

Outside of work it’s been family stuff, reading and a light smattering of gaming.

Last week I completed Starcraft 2′s Heart of the Swarm expansion. It was pretty good, though short if you’re only into it for the single player. Well done though and pretty stable. No problems logging in to play – unlike some other game which I avoided entirely.

Been playing a little WoW. Started leveling my Deathknight to 90, but stopped and switched back to my Warrior who I leveled up to 85 before Christmas – which was the last time I played prior to poking around with the Deathknight. It’s been fun. I like the Warrior’s flow, pace and durability. While the Rogue and the Hunter have a number of escapes, not quite for the Warrior. Oh, you can great leap away or pop up that 100% parry buff but you still have to high-tail it to get out of combat. I like the impact of the class – feels very solid. Playing Arms.

Prior to that I was playing around with Mass Effect 3 multiplayer with a guy from work. It’s fun, but there is little point to it other than it inflating your Readiness in the single player, achievements (which I don’t tend to chase) and the short bouts of fun shooting enemies cooperatively. I did do a complete play through of Mass Effect 1, playing as an Engineer. Imported to Mass Effect 2 which I played through as well. And finally into Mass Effect 3 where it was awesome to see the impact of all the decisions I made throughout the games. If you haven’t played through then you get a lot of the default decisions or characters which means you have some tougher choices – usually one thing against another. If you played all the way through and your crew from the second Mass Effect survived then they’re present to turn those tough choices into positives. Pretty cool.

Otherwise I’ve been reading, watching some training videos on C# and taking a peek into ASP.NET MVC and a little fiddling with WPF (making a little Minecraft properties app for the kids to use with their server).

Fun times – no time for blogging except when I make the time. Sorry folks!

MMOs I’m eyeballing: Neverwinter and The Elder Scrolls Online.

Neverwinter has my interest because it’s free-to-play and has a toolset. The toolset doesn’t look to be all that powerful but it might be fun to play with. If there is any investment required, I’ll pass. Sounds horrible, but it’s the difference between them not getting my money or having a chance to convince me to invest.

For TESO I have a lot of reservations about how well Bethesda will be able to create a decent scale-able system for just about everything; levels, crafting, gear, dungeons, enemies – really, just about everything. Their single player games are just so fragile as far as balance goes, I worry it’ll be a game filled with flavor of the month type builds.

Playing some XBox 360 lately too. Black Ops 2 Zombies with the kids, some Borderlands 2, a bit of Crysis 3 and lately some Fallout New Vegas. It’s been fun. I may have already mentioned it, but I’m shifting the kids more towards console gaming – buying one copy of the game and both of them being able to play it just makes more sense than trying to maintain multiple PC copies through Steam or Origin or whatever distribution software the game uses.

Out!

I’m Getting Soft…

… and I blame it on MMOs lately.

The last two MMOs that came out recently seemed to have built QuestHelper into their compass/minimaps. Okay, so it probably didn’t start with QuestHelper because before that I saw EQ2Maps in EQ2. Though you might say it first showed up with the Legacy of Guk maps in EQ1 and all the custom maps people developed. It’s just gotten a lot better and more user friendly.

Which does mean the user doesn’t really have any thinking, reading or exploring to do.

Is this a good thing or a bad thing?

I think a lot of the choices players make and the sense of freedom in a MMO is negatively impacted by this. Instead of exploring and completing quests as you go or even reading the text to find out where to go gets lost in this. You go from having to explore, find things or asking others to simply following the arrow on the compass.

I’m not sure how this differs from being forced to go in some direction or being led around by the ear. I’m starting to think that MMOs are moving away from playing a game and towards being a time filler.

Zubon made a good post about this sort of thing, though less specifically aimed at quest helpers, take a read.

Sad thing is, going to pick up some groceries for the wife is more challenging than MMOs lately. I can wander an aisle for ten minutes looking for something that is supposed to be there because the sign over head says “Baking Needs” but in recent MMOs, everything is laid out for me and I have to actively try not to find it to explore.

Oh and I’m getting soft because there is a quest in Fallout 3 that I found myself lost with. It’s a part in the Blood Lines where you get to Arefu and are supposed to find these “Family” guys and Lucy West’s missing brother. I can’t find them for the life of me. I wandered for hours and checked the locations specified, still nothing.

QuestHelper? Where are you?!

I actually like that I’m stumped on a quest… does that make me a masochist? Or do I simply like some challenge in my games?

Vault 112…

Why the heck did I get into the chair?

I had a killer Fallout 3 night on Saturday, or rather Sunday morning which is when I stopped. I’m up near level 15 and I’m following the main quest line around to Vault 112. It’s interesting so far but I’m not too keen on the VR bit. It’s an interesting idea, I’m just not a fan of Leave It to Beaver.

The rest of the game has been pretty good, lots of fun and pretty stable though I seem to be entering the area where it’s less polished than the earlier levels because I have had a few crashes. Some of that seems to be due to playing it in full screen and stupid apps like iTunes and Quicktime decide that right now is a good time to disrupt my play time and prompt me to upgrade. Yeah, there are probably some settings I should adjust to avoid that.

Super Mutant Behemoths are my bitches.

I Survived Fallout 3…

I managed to get it installed and I played it for about two hours. I probably wouldn’t have stopped but I died in game and turned to check the clock.

How did I die if I’m so awesome? Well, a guy with a flame thrower really messed me up and I backed into a hole that was in the overpass I was standing on.

Falling damage is in.

Like I said, I only got to play for about two hours so I haven’t gotten very far. What I’ve seen so far was a lot like Oblivion in the sense of graphics and interactions. Dialog trees are there as is voice acting – really, this should be a staple now – including some voice acting by one of my favorite actors, Liam Neeson who plays your dad.

The character creation has a built in tutorial for moving around and using some of the combat features. You start off being born where you pick your gender. You then pick your ‘future’ appearence by viewing a device that generates an image of what you will look like based on your genetic make up. Your mother then dies and you’re carted away.

Light/glow transition to one year later. You learn to walk, interact with things, pick up things and even pick your stats by using a book that is on the floor. The book explains your attributes page by page and allows you to spend points on each page. At the end of the book, there is a complete list of the attributes where you can finish making adjustments.

This isn’t like Oblivion. Some of the stats sound the same, but the scale is smaller. I don’t believe they’re tied to skill caps. Honestly, I suspect this system would be familiar to Fallout 1 and 2 players, which I am not (unfortunately).

You then follow your dad out of the room and down to a halle.

Light/glow transition and you’re now nine (I think it is?  maybe 10.. cut me some slack, I played it once for two hours!) and it’s your birthday. First thing you’re given is your Pip-boy 3000. It’s a computer device that sits on your arm. This is your access to everything. Press TAB to view it or press and hold TAB to have it turn on a light for you. You can pick Apparel, Data, Misc and a few other options which all have their own options as well.

This is the stage where you fiddle with that. You also go around the room collecting things from people for your birthday. You also get to know some of the characters that live in Vault 101. Your dad’s gift is the best. He takes you down to the reactor level (where Jonas is waiting for you – he helped make the gift) and you dad gives you a BB gun (rifle).

Yup, this is where you learn to equip things and do some shooting. There are some practice targets and even a Radroach appears for you to kill. They got into the VATS system and given a quick explaination of how that works. It’s kind of neat.

A bit more on the game’s underlying system being different from Oblivion. You do not gain skills by using them so you also do not gain levels by raising a bunch of your primary skills. You do pick skills (later) and get to pick a Perk (think Feats from D&D or KOTOR; they give you bonuses to certain things) and you can increase them by points when you level. You level by gaining XP. So far, I’ve seen XP mainly from killing stuff but I suspect it comes from completing objectives/missions/quests and for discovering areas.

Back to character creation… you get another light/glow transition after you’re done messing around with the BB gun – this zips you up to age 16, I think. You’re now in your dad’s office (he’s a doctor) and trying to fake being sick to avoid a test: G.O.A.T. I can’t remember what it is, but it’s a series of multiple choice questions that direct you towards a ‘profession’. I’m not sure if this is really a class or just a matter of preset skill primaries. I ended up with “Chaplain” and was presented with the skill lists where I could reassign the primaries (they tend to be in rank 30 instead of 15ish like the others).

Oh, I also didn’t RTFM… sue me. Most games can be played without reading it. I barely had enough quiet time to install the game let alone read something. I think I’ll restart when I get a chance. I’ll probably go with Repair, Light Pistols and maybe Speech or Science. I went with Melee, Big Guns and I can’t remember the last item. Repair seems pretty important because most things you find are in rough shape and, like in Oblivion, the more damaged the item, the less effective it is (i.e. damage rating goes down, armor rating goes down, value goes down and the cost to fix it goes up).

Once that is all done, you get another light/glow transition and I think you’re now 19. Your dad has left the Vault and the guy in charge has lost his mind. He killed Jonas who helped your dad and now he’s looking for you. His daughter warns you and gives you gun which she suggests you don’t use unless necessary.

It’s a gun in a game… it’s ALWAYS necessary.

I collect a few things nearby and step out into the hall. It seems the radroaches have been breeding over the years and they’ve come out to attack. You squish some of these on the way out. There are a bunch of other things you can do and you witness but I’m not going to completely spoil it for you.

Let me tell you that it is quite neat when you do get outside.

I explored the nearby buildings, made some cash, went to Megaton, talked to people there, found a hireling that I was too good for him to follow – he says as much and there is an on screen note saying that my karma was too high for him to follow me. I picked up a few missions and advanced the one where I’m looking for my father.

Some neat information comes out and I really found myself immersed. One thing really struck a chord with me. Is my guy really naive and was he brainwashed by people in the vault? It’s something they comes up soon and leaves you wondering if it’s true of if the guy is just saying it to manipulate you.

I ventured out and explored a little. I discovered some Raiders set up camp in a nearby (ruined) school. There were some more up on the overpass you see to the north and west when you come out of the vault (that’s to your left) and that’s where I plummeted to my death.

There are a few things I didn’t touch on, like ‘Rads’ which is a rating of how much radiation you’ve been exposed to. If it gets too high you will die and most things seem to have ‘Rads’ attached, even food and water which you need to use to get HPs back. I’m not sure if resting reduces ‘Rads’ or not, I didn’t rest in game heh.

The VATS system seems neat, it appears to take cover into account so be careful using it when the enemy has cover. I’m not sure if it works with melee weapons, I honestly didn’t think to try it since I thought it was aimed at ranged weapons. It works by pausing the game and giving you a look at your target (you can switch to a different target) divided up into sections (like torso, head, legs, arm, and other parts for non-humanoids) with percentages showing how easy it is to hit them there. You then spend action points to fire at specific areas. I believe the costs are less for the places that are easier to hit but I’m not sure. You can click on the same place several times or different spots. It’s a neat system.

Firing weapons feels like a FPS for targeting but actually being a RPG, you don’t always hit the mark since it is skill based. It’s going to take a bit to get used to.

Very cool game so far.

Nuclear Explosion Incoming…

… because I picked up Fallout 3. I’m eagerly awaiting my time with it after I watched a few of the narrated gameplay videos.

I ended up getting the lunchbox version (collector’s edition) simply because it didn’t look like they had a regular PC version.

I won’t touch a console version of a shooter game… it just feels wrong playing without a mouse and keyboard. Opinions will be coming sometime this week.