Friday, June 29, 2012

Deep Thoughts: Peaks and Valleys

Thursday is the night scheduled for Amanda's D&D sessions and she even lets me play. It's a night I look forward to every week because not only is it fun to play with my friends but I get to see the creative geek side of my wife. Far from romantic, as the Dungeon Master (should it be Mistress?), Amanda's goal is to almost-kill the party of heroes made up by our friends and myself. It's this 'almost-kill' that always seems to be the high point of our adventures and, in my humble opinion, the high point of any video game or movie.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

DayZ: The Tension Builds

In a bit of a continuation from my last post on the paranoia over other players in the ARMA2 mod, DayZ, I'm going to talk some more about those jerks. Specifically, being one. My two buddies, Schwartz and Wamdoodle, and I were moving through the forests of Chernarus, going to  investigate some gunshots near a large factory building. While not necessary for survival in DayZ, the factory areas contain things like toolboxes, razor-wire kits, and car parts, which can be used to defend areas  and repair vehicles, which in turn, makes life a little bit easier. We take our time to get there, keeping on the other side of  a hill, hiding in the shadows of trees, and generally doing our best to be stealthy survivors. Laying out on a hill, we spy down on the factory, with two unmoving bodies of survivors on the uncovered upper level.

"Let's watch for a bit, see if anybody else is there."

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

ME3 DLC Impressions

Well, though the reviews are mixed, I must admit that I truly enjoyed the Extended Cut DLC for Mass Effect 3.

Several questions were answered (like HOW ON EARTH did my ground crew get back to my ship!?), some loose ends were tied up, and at the end of it, I could sit back and simply enjoy a fabulous end to a much-loved video game icon.

Some people disagree. They enjoyed the mystery and ambiguity of the original ending because it allowed them to create their own without having an ending that they didn’t necessary want shoved down their throat. I would dare to say that they are, by far, in the minority. The collective outcry for such a downright disappointing ending was staggering, and I don’t believe that Bioware could risk alienating such a large portion of their fan base. Do I think they were happy to have to back-peddle and say “Oh! Just kidding, guys. Here are the real endings!”? No. Not even a little bit. Even when their fans rallied together to send multi-colored cupcakes to Bioware’s office in protest of the endings, Bioware pulled one of the nicest jerk moves I’ve ever seen and donated every single one  to charity instead.

But I digress. Let’s get back to what Bioware has done right, shall we? Let me just start by saying that I didn’t want a “happy ending” for this series. I wanted one that gave me answers and closure for Shepard. And the DLC delivered. I chose the destruction ending because I wanted to leave my galaxy with a clean slate without the imminent threat of reapers. Sure, they would probably reach conflict with synthetics in the future, but they were given the choice. That’s what I feel that my Shepard would want to give to people. You see civilizations cheer as the reapers are shut down. There is even a touching scene where your squad places Shepard’s name on Normandy’s ever-growing board of casualties. This is what I wanted the first time around.

Hats off to you, Bioware. I’m going to go make googly eyes over baby Krogan. Seriously…. Tons of baby Krogan.


DayZ: People are jerks

The internet is full of trolls. If you're reading this, you know this is just a fact of life. It applies to many video games as well, with players attacking teammates that get vehicles they wanted or the amazing con-jobs done on EVE Online. In general, with anonymity and the sheer masses on the internet, many people let the manners and etiquette they were taught (hopefully) and games can turn into bloody free-for-alls. DayZ is no exception, but rather than attempting to try and keep these trolls and jerks under control, DayZ feeds the trolls.

Because DayZ forces you to eat and drink, you have two options: scavenge or steal. Though stealing usually results in dead bodies. You could ask somebody for food and water, but there's nothing that will ensure they won't just shoot you as soon as your back is turned and vice versa. There's no police, there's no laws, it's the zombie apocalypse. Occasionally you might find people who are friendly, but this is a rare event and tenuous at best. Let me give you an example:

Monday, June 25, 2012

DayZ: Nights of Terror

Continuing my discussion on the DayZ mod of ARMA2 and its survival horror aspects, we're going to talk about things getting dark, but first I need to say this: ARMA2 is rather pretty all things considered. Released in 2009, with Operation Arrowhead (the expansion required for DayZ) released in 2010, it's had two to three years to fall behind in the graphics department but it still looks amazing. See for yourself:

He wears his sunglasses at night.

That's my teammate and gamer buddy, Wamdoodle. He's helping show how good this game looks. The models are a little dated and I've turned off some of the post-processing and shadows to help improve how smoothly the game plays but as you can see, it's a long way from DOOM or the original Resident Evil. As Wamdoodle is nice enough to point out in the photo, it's 6:50 server time, so there's a good bit of daylight left.

Will Bioware's Mass Effect 3 DLC Be Enough to Satisfy? We Hope So.

So, tomorrow is the day! Are you prepped for Bioware’s DLC for Mass Effect 3?

You know, just two years ago if you had asked me what my favorite video game series was, I would have been able to tell you, hands down, Mass Effect. It offered a world where the plot felt tailored to your character and sported a supporting cast that was, let’s be honest, pretty amazing. But since Mass Effect 3’s release, the choice isn’t as clear.

I’ve wracked my brain since the game’s release trying to figure out why on earth they would take this series and offer such a lackluster ending. Why couldn’t they offer truly diverse endings? Why didn’t they really make our choices have a true and lasting impact other than, “Oh, you saved this particular group of people? Well, here. Have some more points on your score.”

Well, we’ve already be clued in that there will, in fact, be other games set in the Mass Effect universe. Considering this, it makes sense that the endings would be rather static and I know this, so why do I still feel so cheated? I think I attribute this to the fact that while I enjoyed the Mass Effect universe, I was far more attached to the growth of the characters that I encountered than the planets I visited. The cultures of the Asari and Salarians were undoubtedly interesting, but I would much rather see an ending that honors these past six years of gaming than get another, mediocre addition in two years.

Well, here’s to hoping that the DLC offers us a bit of what we’re longing for: Closure for one of today’s most iconic figures in gaming. Keep trucking, Shep.

DayZ: Survival Horror Done Right

Creepy ambient sounds, darkness, a flashlight, and zombies. The mainstays of a survival horror game but so many of the mainstream games are moving away from that creeping terror to have a more action-oriented and 'engaging' game. Enter DayZ, a mod from the combat simulator ARMA2.

I say combat simulator because ARMA emphasizes realistic combat and tactics. One or two bullets and you're dead. Groups organize realistic scenarios with actual objectives rather than a flag to capture or bomb the objective situations. I've not played it personally though, I bought the game and it's expansion (together called Combined Arms) just to play the DayZ mod. I suggest you check out DayZ Mod for more information on the alpha of this fantastic total-conversion mod.

DayZ discourages you from running because the Zed spot you easier the faster you move and the taller you're standing. And hear. See zombies only look forward in about a 60° arc, but they can hear in all directions. So this emphasizes your desire to move stealthily and not attract zombies. Gunfire attracts nearby zombies, and the bigger the gun, the louder, the farther they can hear you. Also, these aren't Romero zombies, they know how to run. In fact, they run at a full sprint, the same as if you were standing up and sprinting. Of course, they aren't worried about alerting nearby zombies, but you are. So if you alert a zombie, they come at you SCREAMING, they don't always run in a straight line (some of that may be pathing issues, but I like it) so you can't always line up an easy shot before they get to you. So you have a focus on avoiding zombies and to not just pop a cap in each one of the undead that you see. And that's if you have a gun.

See, when you start up in DayZ, you spawn on the shore of a 250 square-kilometer zone with a backpack, a bandage, painkillers, and a flashlight (We'll talk about that little bit of terror in the next post!) and anything you need or want beyond that, you'll have to scavenge. Sneak through towns and check inside sheds, some homes, even outhouses. Of course, all these places have zombies nearby. In fact, any place that spawns items also spawns zombies, the system is tied together that way. And this isn't to say every place has worthwhile loot. Often you'll find empty cans or whiskey bottles and some road flares. They have a use, but you can't eat or drink them and they sure won't let you kill any zombies or other players.

Tomorrow, we'll talk about the nighttime and flashlights!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Oh dear...

So no, it looks like I wasn't able to keep a running blog going, was I? School, work, family, the whole thing just getting all up in my business, the nerve of them. Anyhow, I'm back, sort of. Unemployed, looking for a job, with a loving wife working full time. Figure I can throw myself back into the blogging, see if I can make any progress. Going to try and talk about gaming news, the three running D&D campaigns I'm in (playing in 2, running the third). Love to hear your comments and such. Gonna see about posting on Screwattack (a fave gaming community site, lots of love for those guys) that links back here or something. Also, the possibility of video blogs and gaming streams are possible, we'll see. Just a new experiment.