GW2 – Living World Season 4 Announced

I’m in another “there is nothing to blog about”* mood so this is a brief update to tell you that I finished the GW2 Living World Season 2 again. It was more entertaining the second time. Except for every combat encounter, of course. But it felt considerably easier the second time through, and I only remember wanting to punch my monitor on two of the bosses. That’s an overall smaller monitor-punches-per-episode rate than Living World Season 3 was. (I used my Revenent character.)

In more interesting news, ArenaNet announced Living World Season 4 will begin on Tuesday, November 28, 2017. I’m actually looking forward to it. Being completely caught up on an MMORPG’s story really helps ramp up my interest in newer releases at launch time. Also, you know, it’s free!

The trailer is awful, by the way.  Roughly 98% of it shows scenes from Living World Seasons 1-3, and I’m pretty sure the remainder came from the final cut scene of Path of Fire. In other words, there’s nothing in there that shows what to expect in Living World Season 4.

Whatever it is, I’m anticipating it will be crushingly difficult to make up for Path of Fire’s relative walk in the park storyline.

* Note: Nothing that I’m aware of, at least. Admittedly I am not very well-informed right now as I only just learned tonight that Marvel Heroes has “gone dark” for a month.

WoW – Battle For Azeroth

From the media assets on the Battle for Azeroth web site.

In general, I don’t think about WoW very much, but when Blizzcon comes around every year, Twitter explodes with chatter about this game. Even more than the moderate level of chatter that persists year-round. It continues to amaze me how many people seem to live completely inside a Blizzard bubble.

I guess there’s nothing wrong with focusing completely on WoW, but, to me, WoW is just one game out of a hundred, a game that remains dormant roughly 22 months out of every 24 months.

But Friday, we learned there’s a new WoW Expansion Coming Soon, so it’s time to lavish attention upon it! (Incidentally, this expansion announcement comes about two years and three months after the Legion announcement.)

I enjoyed the last expansion, Legion, but I only played for a month. Actually less than a month, because half of my subscription fell during the pre-expansion Invasions, which were arguably more fun than the expansion (to me). I took a lot of screenshots in Legion, leveled exactly one character to 110 (another to around 105), and then stopped. I haven’t thought about WoW since.

So what’s in this new expansion? I actually wouldn’t know very much about that from Twitter chatter, so I consulted this post on MassivelyOP.

  • Level cap increase to 120! Yay, stuff for me to do! Leveling one or two characters from 110 to 120 will probably be the only thing I do in the expansion.
  • New races! What, I’m supposed to start a new character? From level 1? Are you kidding me? No thanks.
  • Jaina is back! … who? (Actually I think I vaguely remember this was the woman who inexplicably stormed out of some meeting near the beginning of Legion. I only remember that because a lot of people at the time wondered why she did that and speculated about whether it was SOMETHING. REALLY. IMPORTANT.)
  • Island Expeditions! Um, okay. Probably won’t be doing that.
  • Warfronts! Nope.
  • The Heart of Azeroth! What the what? If it’s anything like the Artifact thing I hope I won’t have to deal with it much from 110 to 120.
  • 10 New Dungeons! Okay. Unless they are similar to Legion, where there’s one at the end of each zone, I probably won’t be seeing these.
  • Level-Scaling! Yuck. Though it sounds like it won’t be full-blown yucky forced level scaling, but more of a compromise between yucky and good. “You won’t ever out-level the zone you’re in.” I don’t remember where I read that, but I like the idea of that statement. However, wouldn’t it be easier to just give out less experience for quest rewards? I guess they want people to experience the rest of the zone if they *want* to, but still give hardcores the option to zoom to the next zone after only completing 10% of it.
  • PvP! Nope.
  • Legacy Servers! I’m sure I will take a look at it out of curiosity, perhaps even record some videos, but it’s extremely unlikely that I’m going to pay a subscription to re-experience the days of taking 40 levels to get a slow mount.

I guess the all-important question is: Will I buy it?

Probably. Although at this particular moment, shelling out $50 (a guess) plus the $15 for a month of subscription seems like a fairly big ask just to write a few blog posts and record a few videos. When I think about how much I played the last expansion (less than a month), I’m not entirely sure it was worth it.

Subnautica

Last night I tried out an early access survival game called Subnautica. I bought it for $9.99 in the last Steam sale.

The premise of this game is unlike other survival games in that you play a big part of it underwater. The game begins with you scrambling into a “rescue pod” while your ship blows up around you. (I assume it’s some kind of spaceship.) The rescue pod lands in a big alien ocean and then it’s your job to survive, while your ship looms in the distance, burning and giving off radiation.

You start with something like SCUBA gear, so you dive underwater to locate resource nodes to build things, just like other survival games. Initially you can only stay underwater for about 45 seconds before you have to come back up for air. (The starting area is very shallow so it’s fairly easy to get back to the surface anytime.) You can build bigger air tanks so you can stay underwater for longer periods. In the few hours I played I upgraded my air supply twice and got up to something like 135 seconds, which is a fairly long time, at least in the shallow areas.

You have the standard food, water, and health indicators. Food and water is a bit trickier than other survival games because you have to catch fish and then “craft” the consumables. Catching fish can be a little frustrating because you actually have to swim after the fish and left-click on them to get them into your inventory, and they don’t sit still to make this easy. Once they’re in your inventory you have to swim back to your rescue pod and use the “Fabricator” (a crafting station) to convert them into things you can eat and drink. Catching “bladder fish” allows you to make water bottles to drink from. Other kinds of fish can be cooked up into a tasty meals. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense and it can be a bit tedious but it’s at least a different mechanic from every other game.

I haven’t done much with combat because I haven’t yet crafted a knife, so I can only run away from hostile encounters. There are a few fish that launch themselves at you from pods attached to cave walls, and I saw another big, hungry-looking fish swimming around at night, but so far I haven’t encountered anything that outright killed me. Presumably the farther you get from your rescue pod, the more difficult the game gets.

Once you repair the radio in your rescue pod, you get radio signals that give you “quests” to do. The first one I got marked a location to investigate. I haven’t yet seen what happens when you get there because it’s in a location near the wrecked ship that’s inside a radiation zone. Apparently I need to craft a radiation suit before I can go there. (The wrecked ship is deceptively far away, too. It takes a long time to swim there and the water gets very deep and menacing around it.)

There is also a scanning mechanic where you can build a hand scanner and scan the underwater plant life and fish for information. I’m not quite sure what the purpose of this is yet but it’s kind of fun to try to scan fish while they swim around.

The biggest problem I’ve seen so far is–of course–inventory management. Every game ever has problems with inventory management so this shouldn’t be a surprise. You don’t get a lot of space to gather resources, and it quickly becomes apparent that you can’t just grab everything you see and stuff it in your backpack. You can make floating storage boxes but they don’t hold much either.

The second biggest problem is having to return to your rescue pod to craft things. Most survival games you can craft the basic, starting items on the run without the need for a crafting station. Not so in this game. You have to return to the fabricator and work through it’s somewhat tedious interface every time. It’s neat to see it working the first few times, but after that you don’t want to wait through the animations anymore.

I’ve played for only a few hours, but I have to say I’m intrigued by it. I like that they’ve put a different spin on the survival genre, and this seems to be the most evolved of the handful of underwater games I’ve seen. The game is very pretty, and it runs fairly well. It’s more polished than a typical early access game, and it’s obvious that it’s been in development for some time. I don’t know how much depth is here over the long haul, and I have some issues with the inventory management and the fabricator, but at least initially it’s worth checking out for $10.

Far Cry 5 Outrage Hype!

Hey look, I downloaded the fan kit with ready-made images for blog posts!

There wasn’t much happening Friday the 26th except some kind of Far Cry 5 reveal, so I’ll see if I can summon up some words about it.

From what I can tell, Far Cry 5 is going to be essentially the same gameplay as Far Cry 2, 3, 4, and Primal, except it will be set in America with a Christian cult as the bad guys, and of course, that’s where the controversy begins.

The controversy seems to be the only reason anyone is talking about this game, though. And actually I’m only assuming there is a controversy,  because I’ve read repeated headlines which have told me something to the effect of, “You won’t believe how much controversy Far Cry 5 is stirring up! Click here to find out!” (I haven’t clicked on any of them.)

I admit, though, that I personally have not seen anyone in my circles arguing over this game, which makes me wonder if the “controversy” is made up out of thin air just to sell more games. (It’s probably just that I’ve successfully curated my social circles to exclude the kind of people who would get upset over this kind of thing.)

Late-breaking news: I saw someone retweeted a Change.org petition to cancel Far Cry 5. It’s probably legit, but would I be surprised to find out that Ubisoft PR was behind that? Nope. We live in a time when it’s incredibly easy to social engineer people.

[Note: I tried to look at said petition Tuesday night, but Change.org was down. Did somebody DDOS the petition to death? I think the petition is silly, but I think trying to DDOS away unpopular viewpoints is worse.]

I watched the reveal trailer. I’m guessing Ubisoft has taken the Branch Davidians–David Koresh’s heavily-armed Adventist sect from Waco, Texas–lifted them out of the headlines of 1994, and put them into Montana under a different name. Supposedly we’ll be playing a character trying to “infiltrate” this sect, and there will be local residents which form a sort of resistance to the sect, who will fight by our side.

What do I think? The short version is I find it a bit unrealistic as a setting (I’ll explain that later), but I’m willing to give it a shot. I doubt if I’ll buy it on day one, though. Far Cry is an easy series to wait for. Once you’ve seen one Far Cry game, you’ve basically seen them all.

As an American, what do I think of making Americans the bad guys? It doesn’t bother me in a broad sense, since I’m well aware of the extreme diversity in cultural opinions across these United States. But I don’t particularly enjoy the prospect of being lumped into the same category as a bunch of zealots. It should be really obvious that folks of the Branch Davidian ilk do not represent mainstream America in the slightest. (Even mainstream right-wing America.) But I suppose it depends on how the game handles it.

I mentioned that I thought the Far Cry formula was “unrealistic” in an American setting. That’s because, if we go by previous Far Cry games, the bad guys have always taken over the section of the country in which they reside, essentially replacing or becoming the government. They allude to that in Far Cry 5, too, since your character will be meeting part of a “resistance” fighting against this cult militia. It appears that this cult has taken over the entirety of “Hope County.”

That formula works if your setting is in the Third World–in a lawless country where whoever is in power is the one with the biggest guns. But that does not work for me in an American setting, certainly not in a post-9/11 setting. Here’s a hint: The U.S. Government always has the bigger guns. Not to get too political here, but we live in a near police state these days, at least when compared to our past.

So I’ll be curious to seehow they’re going to spin this story in a way where it makes logical sense for a (presumably) criminal militia to control part of Montana.

Montana is a huge, remote wilderness, but they still have laws and law enforcement there. The only thing that a militia could actually control–anywhere in the U.S.–is their own “compound” (ie. private property). But the idea that there might be a “resistance” on said private property, or that the militia’s influence extends beyond the borders of said private property to a whole county–that’s very unrealistic. If there were armed militia gangs roaming the streets of Montana in the way that they tend to do in Far Cry games, I imagine the Feds would get involved pretty fast.

On The Radar For 2017

Here’s my annual summary of MMORPGs that are on my radar for the new year 2017. Here is last year’s post. I am only considering “classic” style MMORPGs in this list, not things like MOBAs or brawlers or Diablo-clones or whatever else people call MMOs these days. If it’s not on this list I either forgot about it, don’t know about it, don’t count it as an MMORPG, or haven’t heard enough good things to bother investigating. Unless otherwise noted, I have not backed or bought any of these games yet.

Note: Syp’s MassivelyOP post on what to look forward to in 2017 was a big help in bringing upcoming titles to my attention, since I hadn’t been paying much attention in 2016.

Games I’m Looking Forward To

These are games that I’m genuinely looking forward to playing, as of now.

Shroud of the Avatar. I’ve bumped this game up into the “Looking Forward to” category because I keep hearing good things about it. I’m a little concerned about the staggering prices of things in the store, though. If there is ever a sale that brings it down to $10 or less, I’ll buy it early, otherwise I’ll wait until launch.

Project Gorgon. Elevated to the “Looking Forward To” category as well. Due to the small development team size, I expect this to be a small game with about a week’s worth of content, but the little I’ve seen has been fun. This is one of the few games on this page I’ve actually played, as you can download the client and try it out as a guest.

New World. We have yet to hear a single thing about what this game is, so we can still imagine it will be a great game and fun to play. We won’t see it in 2017 though.

Revival. I thought this one had been cancelled, but the web site is still there. No blog updates for nine months though. I’ll just leave it here in case it ahem revives itself. Even if it does, it won’t release in 2017.

Games I’ll Probably Buy

These are games that I will probably buy, but only to be part of the “in” crowd, because I doubt I will play them very long.

Crowfall. It’s not my kind of game, plus I’m frankly sick of hearing about it as if it’s a “current” game. It doesn’t feel like a game that’s coming soon anymore, it feels like a game that’s already launched and now is old. I’ve only seen about one gameplay video that actually impressed me. Others have made me cringe. Still, I will probably buy it at launch if for no other reason than to start accumulating skill points or whatever. I can’t be bothered to parse the Internet for their release schedule, but I doubt if this will be ready in 2017.

Camelot Unchained. Ditto above, to a lesser extent. With this game, I just don’t think it looks very good. They seem a lot more concerned about the tech than the artwork. As a programmer, I can respect that, but as a gamer, I want my character animations to look cool and modern. But everybody will be talking about it, so I’ll have to at least take a look at it. I doubt this will be ready in 2017.

Games I’m Undecided About

Pantheon: Something of Something. I’ve elevated this from “not interested” to “undecided.” Here’s CohhCarnage giving the developers a massive PR boost in December. I’m concerned about the group focus, but as long as there’s something rewarding for a solo player to do I can live with it.

Shards Online. I haven’t heard much of anything about this game in 2016. Is it still alive? I don’t even remember why I put it here in the first place. Here’s a “Community Roundtable” from December which shows some gameplay (and a lot of audio hiss). It looks suspiciously isometric.

Revelation Online, Bless Online, and Chronicles of Elyria. I keep hearing positive things (or at least “things”) about them, but I don’t know enough to make any decisions.

Peria Chronicles. Neat idea, but probably too anime for me. But if I can try it for free, I probably will.

Moonlight Blade. Probably too Crouching Tiger for me. But if I can try it for free, I probably will. Here’s a first impressions video from a Brit (I think the same guy that panned Otherworld in last year’s post).

Worlds Adrift, Lost Ark, Sea of Thieves, Saga of Lucimia, and Twilight Spirits. I literally just read about these games. They did not immediately alienate me but otherwise I have not developed any opinion on them.

Games I’m Not Interested In

Destiny 2. Unless there is definitely going to be a PC version. Right now it’s “maybe,” so I’m not interested.

Star Citizen. I didn’t back it and I still don’t care. If it ever comes out, maybe I’ll buy it, but I don’t expect to see it in 2017. You can safely bet that I won’t be buying this until after some reviews from non-backers start coming in, though.

Life is Feudal. A slimmed-down “Your Own” survival version of this released on Steam Nov 17, 2015. And there is a seperate Banished-like “Forest Village” game available, too, which looks kind of interesting. Supposedly there is still an MMORPG coming but I’m not holding my breath anymore. The Steam Early Access version seems to be gone. The way they kept shifting and changing focus in 2016 did not make me feel better about this game.

Gloria Victis. Still don’t care. It’s available on Steam Early Access, but since it has never generated any buzz and never been on sale below my take-a-chance price point of $10, I haven’t purchased it and probably never will.

The Exiled and Albion Online. Still don’t care. I’m just not interested in isometric MMORPGs. I can’t stand not being able to see what’s off the side of the screen, because my character should be able to. Then again, if these games develop a huge groundswell of buzz, maybe I’ll take a closer look. Most of what I’ve seen so far is people looking at them, then never talking about them again.

Ever, Jane. I give them points for trying something new, but I’m just not interested.

Tree of Life. I saw some buzz about this when it first came to Early Access but have not seen much of anything since, which makes me think it’s not yet ready for prime time.

Lineage Eternal. If you can play it without click-to-move I might bump this up to “Undecided,” otherwise it’ll probably be a pass from me. I think it’s more of an ARPG anyway. I have no experience with any of the Lineage games, except enough Lineage II experience to know that I couldn’t play it because it was click-to-move.

MapleStory 2. Probably too cute for me. (Although “jamming with a band” did catch my eye.)

Darkfall, any remake. The original wasn’t that great and I assume the remake(s) won’t be that great either so I don’t plan to play them. Unless I get free access because I had an account in the original. :)

Nostalrius. Ha! The very thought makes me go, Ha! Even if Blizzard opens their own Pristine server I doubt I would play it.

Games I Already Bought

The Repopulation. I splurged on it for ~$20 in 2015. Currently dead because of the folding of the HERO platform. I have no idea what it’s future is. It had potential but it had a long way to go last time I saw it.

Wander. It’s still in Early Access. I bought it when it was on sale in 2016 for about $5. It’s a neat idea, but the implementation isn’t very good, and it looks like development completely stopped in 2016.

Removed Games

These games were removed from the radar this year:

Black Desert. It launched in 2016, and I bought, played, and liked it.

Blade And Soul. It launched in 2016, and I played it.

Das Tal. It was renamed to The Exiled in 2016.

EQNext. It was cancelled in 2016.

Landmark. It launched in 2016 as a consolation prize for the cancelled EQNext.

Otherland. It launched in 2016. I didn’t buy it, and I probably never will, and this game will probably die out in a couple years.

UPDATE 1/11/2017

Ashes of Creation. I just started hearing about this game in the past few days. It sounds interesting, but it’s too early to tell. My first impression is that they are promising more than they will be able to deliver, but I’d love to be wrong.

Snap Judgment – Novus Inceptio

I should be really excited to play Rift: Starfall Prophecy but to be honest I couldn’t care less about any MMORPG right now. I’m just in one of those moods.

Instead I installed one of the many games on my Steam list that I’ve never tried so that I could bring you another (cue huge reverb and echo) … Snap Judgment! .. judgment .. ment .. nt.

vlcsnap-error851

Novus Inceptio is yet another Early Access survival sandbox game. You gather materials and craft things and explore. Currently it appears to only have a single-player mode, but multi-player is supposed to be coming.

I played it for about 30 minutes. I like the overall concept. I like the direction they are heading. I like the UI. I like the realistic art style. I like the complexity of the different crafting resources you can gather. I like the plump rabbits that look like roasted turkeys with bunny ears.

However, they have a long way to go yet before they reach the point where this game will be truly enjoyable. The key bindings are not yet configurable. The frame rates are slow, and everything has the look of the generic sets of free textures and models that come with game engines. The sound effects are somewhat jarring (I swear there is a Tivo blip-blip sound in there). It feels like there are just programmers working on this game, and no artists.

Perhaps a year from now the game will be in better shape.

Overwatch Snap Judgments

I finally have a chance to talk a bit about Overwatch, which I played for roughly an hour or two during the open beta.

My first impression was horrible, because I played it on a Sunday night, which is usually my least favorite time of the week, considering that it’s the time when I’m forced to face the reality of going back to work the next day. Last week was a particularly onerous week because it was my last one on the dying project, so I was anticipating a horrendous week of panic and anxiety from me and everyone else who would be left behind after I’m gone.

The point is that there were no circumstances in which I would have enjoyed Overwatch or any other game when I played Sunday night. And indeed, I did not like it when I first played it. I found it too cute and every character annoyed me in some way. As far as gameplay, all of the worst aspects of FPS “advancements” over the years are all right there, easily accessible–snipers, grenade spam, insta-kills. Basically, in the modern shooter, all the emphasis is on killing other people without any regard to whether you live or die. In the old days, there was value in staying alive because the longer you stayed alive, the more ammo and powerups you collected and thus the more enemies you could defeat. Not anymore. Now there are no more health and armor powerups laying out in the level. Now it’s all about spawn, die, spawn, die, spawn, die, and if you’re lucky sometimes you can one-shot kill some other people in the back before you die.

Yes, I’m very cycnical about modern shooters.

So yeah, I didn’t like Overwatch at first because it’s more of the same bad things that have crept into shooters for the last twenty years.

I was completely prepared to never play Overwatch again, but then they extended the beta another day, and I thought I should probably give it another try on Monday night, when I wasn’t in such a terrible mood. Everyone on the Internet was saying it was great, after all.

Well, I’m still not going to buy it, but my second opinion was better. The game became 100% better as soon as I turned off the character voices. I tried some other classes and some of them were fun. However I noticed that most of the fun involved things like turrets and grenades and basically all of the cheesy tactics that I hate in shooters. The rocket launcher class which I should have loved turned out to have a crippling flaw of having to reload, which of course leaves you 100% vulnerable during that time.

I did not find the game modes particularly innovative. It was your basic capture-and-hold and escort maps. I didn’t see any capture-the-flag, which in my opinion is still the best esports-style game mode around. It seems criminally negligant to leave it out of a game that’s supposed to be totally focused on esports. (Why would you NOT include a game mode that is so easy to watch for viewers??)

Of course I have to insert the obligatory comments about how pretty and smooth the game runs. But that’s not a stand-out feature in a game these days, especially a shooter.

I find the reactions to Overwatch very interesting so far. I’m utterly blown away by how many traditional MMORPG players are jumping into Overwatch. I can only assume it’s because they think that because Blizzard made it, or that it started out as Titan, there must be some RPG elements. Perhaps predictably, though, most of the responses from those people, while positive overall, are focused on how much they want to know about the stories of the characters and the world in Overwatch. Those kinds of things just don’t exist in team shooters, and it boggles my mind that people thought it might be otherwise. When I played Overwatch, it never even occurred to me to wonder or care anything about my “character.” Honestly character classes in shooters just get in the way. When you’re playing Overwatch there is little or no indication that you’re even playing a character. I mean, it’s first-person. You can’t even see yourself.

I am curious about all the comments about how “approachable” Overwatch is. I can only assume it’s the artistic aesthetic that makes it approachable, because it doesn’t look like a typical military shooter. From a gameplay perspective, however, it did not appear any easier to play than any other shooter. Old folks are still going to get owned by college kids who spend all day honing their muscle memory, and probably after Overwatch has been out a few weeks, it will be utterly pointless to try to catch up to the power curve. (There was an aimbot mode on the Soldier 76 class though. :) I saw nothing in the game to deal with that particular issue, which is the number one issue that plagues all shooters in my opinion. The idea that it has support classes is not going to change that, either. From what I saw, there is no doubt that the support classes are completely superfluous. A healer or two is not going to do anything to stop a team with a lot of aggressive players on it, and the good teams are almost guaranteed to be based around offensive classes.

Speaking of teams, let me talk about another trend I saw continuing in Overwatch. I’ve seen this in many other shooters, too. When I’m playing, I don’t care one whit about whether my team wins or loses. There is no incentive whatsoever to think strategically or help my team win when I’m playing with a bunch of strangers. The only thing that matters is my own individual performance, and I saw nothing in Overwatch to change that basic tennant of team shooters, which has been a problem (for me, at least) since the late 1990s.

I suppose it’s possible that if you’re on the winning team, you get more experience points or something, but I just can’t bring myself to care about experience points in a shooter. That’s not what shooters are supposed to be about. Shooters are about shooting, and working together with your teammates to score more points (or whatever) than the other team. At least, until COD came along and corrupted everything with their progression systems and unlocks.

That’s probably a different tangent though. But hey I’m sitting here at work with nothing to do, and now I have a Bluetooth keyboard hooked up to my phone, so I can just type and type and type all the live-long day. Editing is still a bit of a problem though.

To wrap up my thoughts on Overwatch, I would say that if you’re new to team shooters you could do a lot worse. It’s colorful and fast and exciting. However if you’re a team shooter veteran, you’re going to run into the same problems you’ve seen a million times before. I myself will not be buying it unless it goes on sale. There are plenty of cheaper or free-to-play options out there for getting a quick shooter fix.

Snap Judgment – The Division Open Beta

The Division isn’t for me.

It’s a very beautiful-looking game. The graphics are fantastic, and the urban environments are very realistic and detailed.

Unfortunately I didn’t see anything new or innovative in the gameplay. The whole time I was playing, I kept thinking, “This plays just like Defiance, and Defiance is free.” The only thing The Division has is the cover mechanic. And the fantastic graphics, of course.

I also couldn’t help but notice that there were very few other people around in this alleged MMO game. Perhaps that’s why they keep talking up the Dark Zone–because that’s the only place that has any people in it?

Anyway, I recorded my impressions in a video.