Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Uninteresting Files

That's pretty much what this blog is fast becoming, the more I play WoW. The funny thing is that I haven't spent all that much time playing WoW, it's just been a disproportionate amount of my gaming time, altogether. As far as I can recall since last I wrote, I have made it to level 45, done a bunch of exploring around the world, and dropped Blacksmithing as a profession, replacing it with Skinning, instead, in an effort to both make more gold and to streamline my play experience. I'm not that into combing the AH for mats to collect for big complicated recipes, but I do like going out and killing and looting stuff!

I got that Green Hills of Stranglethorn achivement, finally finished the Warrior quest to get my Whirlwind Axe (long after twinks would have discarded it, no doubt), and did a bunch of other quests in random places. I finally visited the last Horde city, Silvermoon, in the blood elf starting area. Leaving from there I discovered a handful of other zones I had not yet been to, including The Hinterlands, The Badlands, Loch Modan, and Searing Gorge, I think. I had about half an hour of a podcast to kill last night, so I thought I'd jump into WoW to do it. I wasn't really feeling it, though, so after just one short quest I was done for the night. I might shelve it altogether until the weekend.

I got back into Far Cry 2 a couple of nights last week, doing a couple of missions and taking over some safehouses and finding some diamonds. I can see that there's a ton of fighting checkpoint guards and roaming death squads in the game, but it hasn't really bugged me yet. I get the same thing from the leapgate hacking in Galactrix. I've heard all about how much of an annoying hassle it is, but it just hasn't gotten to me yet. Similarly, I'd heard that the ending of Assassin's Creed was a huge letdown, but since I knew to expect that, I was strangely accepting of it. I think if you go into something with your expectations tempered a bit, your reactions aren't so volatile. I really dig Far Cry 2 so far, though. I'm still just like 3% into it or something ridiculous, though.

I just downloaded a free iphone game, Dark Nova, to get me through some idiotic training meeting thing at work. It's a kind of space trading thing.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Week of World of Warcraft

I spent the last week playing WoW almost exclusively, but I can hardly remember what I did in the game. It all just seems to blur together. I spent a bunch of time in Stranglethorn Vale doing quests and a little PvP here and there. There was this one poor Warrior a few levels below me that I ran into and killed repeatedly. Another time I was drafted into a ganking party, which basically just amounts to griefing people. I left pretty soon after I realized we weren't going to get any honorable kills doing that.

It's so hard to think of specific things I did that warrant mission in the game. It's kind of amazing considering the amount of time I spent playing it over the last week. I'm halfway through level 43 now, and almost have the Green Hills of Stranglethorn achievement. Basically, I did a lot of running around killing stuff and taking the proof of that work back to people who would shower me with silver pieces and experience points. I also messed around with some mods and checked out a lvl 4 Draenei warrior that was left on my account from it's previous steward. It's more fun than it sounds. It's like a treadmill, but a really good one. I guess. At any rate, I'm going to be playing a larger variety of stuff this week.

My DS backlog is fat and bloated and disgusting, so I whittled a few games off of it this weekend. I briefly tried them all out just long enough to confirm that I'd never play them again, and once or twice wondered why I ever bought them in the first place. Gone now, are: Ninja Gaiden Dragon Sword, Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime, and Lunar Knights. Each of these must have been on my shelf a year or more. I'm trying to get away from the buy-and-sit-on-it thing, and move toward a buy-and-play-it-right-away model. Strike while the iron is hot and all that. Which is one reason I want to play more Far Cry 2 and Galactrix this week.

The other games I played just a little last night were Peggle and Pixel Junk Eden. I'm working through the adventure modes of both Peggle Deluxe and Peggle Nights, and I'm still just barely into Eden, as well. Cool game, though.

Monday, April 13, 2009

I'm On A Quest!

I spent almost all of my game time over the last week playing World of Warcraft and Puzzle Quest: Galactrix. I acquired a lot more though: Peggle Deluxe and Peggle Nights in a half-off deal on Steam, and then Super Stardust HD, Pixel Junk Monsters, and The Last Guy via gamesharing on PSN. I only really tried out Stardust, and that was just one round of it. I'll have to get around to all of those sometime.

The big new thing for me is, of course, Galactrix. I've been waiting for this game for at least a year, from the time the first screenshot was posted online. I was a huge addict to the original Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords, the XBLA version. After a few hours with Galactrix (also XBLA; I hear the DS version has issues), I can say that I like it a lot. They had a killer combination to begin with, combining an addictive puzzle-battle game with the inherent hooks of character and story progression. They didn't need to change a whole lot, and wisely, they didn't.

The big differences, apart from the stock fantasy to stock science fiction swap, are the zero-gravity puzzle grids and greater character re-spec ability in place of different classes. Matches are now made vertically or diagonally (the hexagon pieces have no left-right oriented faces), and new pieces fall into the board in from the direction that the last move was made from. Also, you can have up to three ships to switch between, each outfitted with different equipment and abilities. It has that same variety of puzzle games to fight battles, craft items, mine resources, haggle with traders, and open leap gates for faster-than-light travel.

This brings me to the one major gripe people seem to have with Galactrix, the leap gate hacking. You need to hack a leap gate in order to access it to jump to the next star system. You do this a lot. This is also the only timed puzzle variant, and the only one that can really stop you in your tracks if you are unable to complete it. I haven't had too much trouble with the gates yet, myself, but I can see it getting repetitive (but the same could be said of every other puzzle variant, too), and I haven't had gates close on me yet, though I hear it happens after some time. We'll have to see how that shakes out, but so far I'm totally into the game. It's more or less just what I was expecting.

This weekend was another spent on mad questing in WoW. I spent a bunch of time in both Stranglethorn Vale and Arathi Highlands doing a bunch of quests, and went and did my first battleground PVP in Arathi Basin. It was a lot of fun. I went from level 38 to 41, and also got my first couple of world honorable kills in addition to a ton in the battleground. It's amazing how so much time spent can be summed up in so little writing.

Monday, April 6, 2009

"I'd like to get my hands on the guy responsible for all of this."

I believe it's considered dramatic irony when one of the Barneys, Half-Life's ubiquitous security guards utters the phrase above. This may also be the first little inkling of trouble coming with the mute protagonist convention. I realize why they do it, but I'm never really put off when the Master Chief contributes to the conversation as any normal human being would. I don't feel disconnected or at odds with the way the narrative is unfolding, even when the speakers are lunkheads like Dom and Marcus. I may not like the character very much (Altair), but them having a personality adds to the experience in a way that, until speech recognition and AI are improved dramatically, casting myself as the main character cannot.

The mute main character bothered me in Chrono Trigger, Dragon Quest, and others. It can be said to have worked in Portal, but how many characters are there in that game that are trying to have a conversation with you? A Portal with a character who wisecracks back at GLaDOS wouldn't have had the same charm, but grunts and sighs and exclamations of "a ha!" may have added something used sparingly. Think Samus Aran in Metroid Prime. By contrast, some of the most awesome main characters are the ones with a lot of dialogue; Solid Snake, Kiryuu Kazuma, Leon S. Kennedy, the Prince of Persia, even Lara Croft and the aforementioned Gears.

I completed Half-Life: Source this weekend. I'd heard that Xen was really frustrating because of the platforming, but I didn't have much trouble at all with that. It was those flying big-head bastards that got to me the most. I thought the big headcrab boss battle was cool as a level of its own, but the final boss was kind of frustrating in how he could kill you with outright with one of his attacks, and how he kept teleporting me away to annoying places where I'd have to make annoying jumps to get teleported back to continue fighting him. I fought him for probably half an hour before I realized he was absorbing energy from the crystals in on the walls of his chamber and blew them up. The thing is, I'm not sure that even really helped to kill him, since there wasn't much indication as such. It didn't seem to stop him from using his most annoying attacks, that much is sure.

I never knew that Half-Life had more than one ending, but I discovered both. The bad ending gave me flashbacks to the end of the shareware version of Doom, where the final telepad takes you to a room of demons that rip you to shreds. You buy the full version and the telepad then warps you to Deimos as it should. I never knew that Gordon Freeman was supposed to be "hired" by the G-man, either. I know next to nothing of the Half-Life 2 story, so I'll be interested to get into that series later on sometime. I think my next FPS has got to be Far Cry 2, though.

I messed around some more with Crysis last Friday night. I decided to bump my resolution one level down to 1920X1080, I think it is. Before it was 2xxxX12xx or something. I'm not great at remembering resolution numbers. At any rate, I couldn't tell any difference in looks, but the frame rate seems better, and there seems to be less v-sync issues. I think I'm sort of getting the whole power suit thing. I've been taking a stealthy approach so far, but setting the suit to strengh mode and then going and punching down buildings on top of enemy soldiers is fun, too. I get the feeling the game is meant to be as much an open playground as a linear progression through specific battlegrounds.

Finally, I played some WoW, levelling up to 37 and into some kick-ass new gear, a nice scarlet helm with bull's horns on the sides, and a viscious looking new two-handed axe. When I first concieved of my warrior, I intended him to be a tank primarily. Extreme damage seems to be the way to go for solo play, though--the quick way, at the very least. Just being a warrior grants me a suite of abilities to call on when facing multiple mobs at once, so that I can pretty easily survive 2 and 3-on-1 encounters with mobs at or around the same level. My cool new axe actually has a chance at striking nearby foes in addition to the one I'm fighting at the moment. Both of these drops came from Scarlet Monastery, which my brother-in-law ran me through alone several times and let me take all the cool stuff for myself. It was easy as breathing to his 80 rogue.

I did some exploring around Desolace and got the achievement for that, also did a bunch of mining and smithing. I have a problem--too many quests. My log is full. I think I'm going to go over to Hillsbrad and do all of those and maybe come back to Desolace or another appropriate zone later. There's just too much to explore! Since I don't see myself hardcore raiding at 80, I've been thinking I might roll and Alliance character and see some of the other stuff in the game. God knows when that'd be. I might want to try some other MMO by then.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Playlog - last week of March 2009

I played a bunch of different things lightly over the last week, spending some time in TF2 playing on the new (to me) Egyptian-themed map, and messing around with the two Peggle variants on my system (a demo and the Half-Life themed one).

I also finally got a chance to play some Far Cry 2, having picked it up for the nice price of $15 on Steam.  I pretty much love that service.  I only played with it for a couple of hours, but it seems pretty cool so far.  I started out as the Irishman, but I think I'm going to go back and choose the black guy instead.  I like his suit.  I want to get more into this one soon.

I accidentally purchased Aurora Feint II: The Beginning on iTunes (clicked the wrong link).  That's cool, because I probably would have bought it anyway.  It's a tile-match puzzle game with a sort of meta element where you earn crystals and then can purchase character upgrades and stuff.  It's sort of like Puzzle Quest, but only in that it's a puzzle game with a little something else to it.  This is more of a Tetris Attack/Puzzle League game than PQ's take on Bejeweled.  Also, you can apparently battle with other players.  You might have to buy the more expensive version, though.  This one was only $1.99.

The two games I played the most in the last 7 days were WoW, and Half-Life.  I got my Warrior up to almost 37, and did a crapload of quests in the Thousand Needles zone.  I downloaded an awesome mod for the game called ArkInventory which lets you pool all your inventory bags and then have stuff autosort into different columns.  This should totally have been in the game from the beginning.  I can't fathom why after what, 5 years, it isn't, other than the fact that futzing around with your bags is another form of timesink, which we all know MMO developers would sacrifice their very souls for the sake of.  Which reminds me, I need to check my auctions.

So, Half-Life is the game I made the biggest strides in this week (relative to game size, of course, since I played WoW for much longer).  This is an extremely long game, by modern FPS standards.  I remember the days of Doom and Quake, and those were long games, to be sure, although I'm not sure they were this long.  Those games were neatly divided up into levels and chapters, though, so they may be easier to wrap your head around than Half-Life.  I made it from some part just after Gordon gets ambushed and left for dead with no weapons to another part after killing a helicopter and fighting my way through an alien/paramilitary conflict.  I think I'm on chapter 13 or 14 of 19--around 60-70% of the way through.  I got stuck once where I needed some ammo to set off some of those laser-triggered mines in a crawlspace.  I had used it all up sometime in the previous 20 minutes since, and I really didn't want to replay that stuff, so I looked up how to cheat and made the game give me a clip of 9mm ammunition to allow me to clear my path ahead.

Half-Life continues to surprise me with how unique and novel it feels compared to modern FPS.  Valve created these situations and scenarios for you to work through, totally unconventional for the time (and indeed, now), and trusted that you'd find your own way through.  Contrast this to the clear and unmistakable indicators of modern games and that most blatant man-behind-the-curtain phenomenon, the quest arrow--used even in titles so lofty as the mighty Bioshock.  It's not that I feel like a genius for solving Half-Life; it's that I don't feel like an imbecile who needs to be led around by the hand.