I am me. I grew up gaming and now am pretty much stuck with it. Graduated with a B.S. in Computer Science. Looking for a job. I am hoping to one day break into the gaming industry and leave my mark upon it.
I also tend to have insomnia and will end up ranting with various degrees of clarity.
Feel free to give me a shout if you are bored. Just let me know who you are first.
Okay, bear with me. I know that this is a rather broad topic, but as a person who's been playing games since he was 5 (giving me 20 years experience), I have a lot I feel bitter about. Since about 2004 or 2003(I am honestly not sure which) to the present, watching the video game industry has left me a bit sour. I'm not saying that nothing good happened in this time span, but for the most part, I am left disappointed by the direction the industry has taken.
Now, this seems like a difficult topic to discuss, and by all rights it is, so I am going to focus on three things I feel have been the chief offenders to me, personally. The list may be different for you, but this is not your c-blog, so feel free to argue what you hate there. Any rational discussion on my points, I will welcome. That being said, here are the sources of my hate; shooters, multi-player focus, and the need for “innovation.”
Shooters can be fun, interesting games that can keep you occupied for hours at a time. However, if there is one thing I learned from gaming in the 90's, there can be too much of a good thing. Back then, a little game called Street Fighter II came out and shook things up. It was not long before other companies tried to cash in with various degrees of success. I love fighting games, and for a while there, they looked like a dying breed. Once the 16-bit era ended and the focus shifted mostly onto the Playstation, the 2D fighter became some kind of horrid fossil that people didn't want to talk about. That, and the limited RAM on the Playstation made it hard to port arcade hits like the Marvel vs Street Fighter series to home. 3D fighters were lack luster and felt clunky to me. It wasn't until Soul Calibur on the Dreamcast that I felt like someone had got it right finally. Now there are good fighters again and the market is seeing less and less crap fighters.
I bring this up, because the market seems to be flooded with first and third person shooters currently. Most of them follow a similar formula; create a gritty, often foul mouth protagonist who borders on being an anti-hero, have him face off against legions upon legions of bullet fodder, use the same weapons every other game uses with one or two original ones thrown in, and always leave the game open for the possibility of a sequel. Toss in some muted, gritty colors (the grayer/browner the better), lots of pretty explosions, and a barely there plot and you've got yourself a game. Not necessarily a good one, but a game people will buy none the less because they are uninformed and the box art looked cool, or they just wanted to shoot something. To me, this is more than disappointing. Has the industry forgotten about its past mistakes, or are they too busy trying to one up each other that they can't see that eventually the bubble will burst and all these high budget shooters will be recognized as derivative drivel?
I can't say for certain, but eventually the bubble will burst and true fans of shooters will be left aching for a good one.
Of course, lately a game is not a game with out an online multi-player mode. Now I can understand the appeal of this. Many of us had at least one or two friends we would play 2 player games with growing up and long for that feeling. Many of us no longer have that near by friend to back us up, so online gaming seems like a wonderful solution. In many ways, I agree, but there are two major problems with it. The first being that people as a whole are complete assholes online.
Let's face it, its hard to schedule an adult life so that you and a friend in another time zone will regularly have time to play a game with each other. Things come up, people forget, and a lack of physical presence can get in the way of committing to a regular schedule. You are then left to play with the hostile hordes of the internet. Obi-Wan was wrong about Mos Eisley Cantina, as you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy than the internet (yes, I realize I am posting this online, smart ass). Its doesn't take long while playing an online game for you to find someone who makes you lose whatever shreds of hope for humanity and the future of our world, especially with the advent of voice chat in games. Given enough time you will hear some of the most racist, sexist, ignorant things you will ever hear that will have nothing to do with the game you are actually playing. I really don't have a way to end this particular rant other than by saying some parents need to put their kids into therapy.
As for the other aspect of the multi-player focus that bothers me is the fact that many games are looked down upon for having little or no multi-player experience. This greatly confuses me, because there used to be a large market for single player games. You don't need anyone else to play with, you don't need the internet, and you don't have a twelve year old spouting racial slurs at you. This push for multi-player gaming is so bad that is a console game that are nothing but multi-player (in the form of Shadowrun). Even games with deep stories and heavy focus on gameplay have been criticized for lacking multi-player (BioShock, for example). I find it ridiculous, as someone who would very much like to view games as an art form that multi-player should be such a selling point.
Finally, I move to the one thing that I feel is utterly ridiculous. Innovation has become the buzz word to use when selling games and asking for more out of them. I've heard the word so many times lately that I want to vomit. Granted, some games are truly innovative. Take Protal for example; it's a quirky, stylish first person puzzle game that many people would think is a first person shooter at first glance. Aside from that, off the top of my head, I cannot think of a single game that actually is innovative that has used this buzz word. I see it a lot when people attempt to describe Mirror's Edge, but to me, it looks like a 3D platformer with the camera lodged in the character's head (which for many third person platformers, happens if you get too close to a wall) and some pretty graphics (let me add, thank GOD there is color. The gameplay footage I have seen looks like someone really wanted a Prince of Persia game with out all the complicated fighting, puzzle solving, and teen angst. Granted, I say this as someone who has not tried the game, so if I got my hands on it it could blow my mind. As it stands right now, however, the only innovative feature I can see in this game is that for the first time in the history of first person gaming, the protagonist will be able to climb walls and hang onto ledges. Of course, its only a matter of time before someone sees things and tries the through a grunting hulk with guns into the mix.
So there you have it. I feel I have wasted enough of your time, as well as my own, ranting about how the industry has got me angry. I welcome serious discussion on these points, and look forward to reading your own little letters of hate. See you in the comments.
A while back I made a post in which I reexamined my view on Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition and promised to make updates on the game I would take part in. After three sessions, we finally have a stable group of players and I feel confident I can now tell you about our first level experience. I'll start by introducing the player characters and work my way into what actually happened.
I'll start off with my character briefly. In the previous write up, I went through the character creation process when making my half-elf cleric, but I thought I would use this space to describe how the game mechanics worked out. At first, I attempted to use my melee powers to confront enemies. The powers themselves are not too shabby, however since I did not place strength highly on my ability score priorities, I would miss more often than not and soak up a considerable amount of damage. That is when I switched up my tactics a bit. I decided to rely on my ranged attack power that has a secondary effect of allowing my allies to hit my target better, and battle flowed more smoothly after that. Also, since I am the main source of HP recovery, I am more often than not burning through my healing powers in order to keep my group up. The down side to this is my "best" healing power requires me to hit a target with a melee attack, so I often leave that as a last resort. Over all though, it is pretty fun playing a cleric and directing the targeting of enemies by granting other characters bonuses.
Next I will move on to our half-elf ranger. The player is completely new to D&D, so often we have to remind her of the mechanics of the game. Its no real big deal, but we had to help her figure out how to use her powers. She's a "twin-blade" ranger, since she specialized in the use of two melee weapons rather than the more traditional bow ranger. She can be pretty effective when she is not missing, but her low AC often leads to me having to heal her. Though her powers seem to have rather limited use other than allowing her to make two attacks in one round. Also, her hunter's quarry ability is really nice for the extra damage.
Now on to the tiefling fighter. She's got some experience, but often forgets to utilize her class abilities to the fullest. I am often whispering over the table for her to mark (a condition that grants a penalty to the marked creature when it tries to attack someone other than her) her targets. She also often forgets her role of defender and sits back going through crossbow bolts like its fashionable. When she is in melee combat, however, she has a number of powers that prove useful, such as a strike that deals one damage even if it misses.
On to our dragonborn paladin. He is by far the most useful member of our little party. He has a multitude of abilities that help keep targets on him, including his Divine Challenge power, that marks a target and causes it to take damage should it attack anyone other than him. He is limited to melee combat, but that is typically not a problem. He works well with my powers that grant attack bonuses, and between the two of use, we usually take down the toughest of our opponents while the others keep things off of our backs. His powers also focus more on inflicting penalties to his opponent so they have a harder time succeeding on attacks, which has saved our party a number of times. Also, with the most HP, he benefits the most from my healing abilities since he is often taking the bulk of the damage.
Now that I have finished describing the original members of the party, I will briefly describe how combat works. Much like 3rd edition, the encounters start with everyone rolling initiative. On tied rolls, the character with the highest initiative modifier acts first. Each character gets three actions in a round: move, standard, and minor. A standard action can be swapped for a move or minor, and a move action can be swapped for a minor action. Movement is now handled by squares rather than by feet. A major change from 3rd edition rules is that a diagonal movement is always one square in size, so characters are now more mobile than before. This leads to some interesting mechanics since blasts and bursts now act the same way (any area effect is now square, in other words). Character powers all have their action type labeled in its description, so you can know exactly what you can do in one round. There is now only one saving throw, so if you get hit by something that a save ends, you simply have to roll a 10 or higher to end it at the end of your turn. Powers can target one of four defenses: AC, Reflex, Fortitude, and Will. AC tends to the the higher value for most creatures, so having a balanced selection of attacks is highly recommended. Rolls to hit are still done with a d20, so there is no change there. Overall, battle flows a lot faster than in 3rd edition.
Our party was plagued by bad roll and almost died on several occasions, often saved by a luck critical hit or a max roll on my healing skills. Criticals, it should be noted, are handled differently. Unless there is a critical modifier, the attack simply does the maximum damage it can if you roll a 20 and if the resulting total (20 + attack mods) would over come the targets defense. If the roll can't over come the defense, the attack still hits, but does normal damage. It should be noted that we have yet to fight a creature that we did not crit with a roll of a 20. If there are critical modifiers, you would add the rolls for them to the maximum damage the attack normally does.
We have reached level 2 with our character now and are in the process of leveling up. This was accomplished after fighting many a best that seemed almost too difficult to over come. In my next update on Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition, I plan on discussing how monsters have changed and how it makes combat all the more brutal.
Also, I need to find better images to break up text.
A while back, I was quite upset about the announcement of Dungeons and Dragons 4th edition. Understandably so, since Wizards of the Coast boasted that it would play significantly different from 3rd (or 3.5) edition. I had really liked that version of the game, despite many people's complaints about it causing massive slowdown (I never really experienced it), and was a little upset that they would overhaul the whole system again.
Well, that was a while ago, and now I have copies of the latest book and I have to say that I am surprised. Reading some of the teaser content they revealed before the release, I kept my pessimistic outlook, but when seeing everything, this edition is pretty solid. To help explain what I mean, I will go through the process of character creation (which I am doing for an adventure my friend will be running).
The new edition suggests that you start by determining your race. In this edition, they have significantly changed the core player character races. While the traditional Elf, Half-Elf, Human, Halfling, and Dwarf are still present, the Players Handbook replaces the Half-Orc and Gnome of the previous edition with three "new" races, Dragonborn, Eladrin, and Tiefling. Each race has their own distinguishing features and racial skill bonuses and powers (more on powers later). Dragonborn are what they sound like, tailless humanoid dragons that have a the traditional breath weapon as a power. The Eladrin are Fey creatures that can basically be summed up as super elves. Tieflings are a lesser known race that are humanoid descendants of demons and devils. The Monster's Manual offers an appendix with other race choices similar to the 3rd Edition counter-part. However, the races are balanced so there is no longer any need for the "effective character level" system from 3rd edition.
For my character, I am choosing half-elf as my race. The reason behind this is that they are painted as natural leaders. Since the group I will be playing with will be mostly new to D&D in general, my friend wants me to try to take a leadership role. The half-elves also have a unique racial power in that they can take a level 1 at-will power from another a character class and use it as an encounter power (again, bear with me, power explanation to come). This is what helped me choose half-elf over human (who are more focused on being better with feats and skills).
Next I am to choose a character class. The classes this time around are a bit different from the usual D&D affair. Returning classes are Cleric, Fighter, Paladin, Ranger, Rogue, and Wizard. Each class is slightly changed to fit better in the new rules set, for example a Paladin's alignment is determined by deity alignment (meaning they don't have to be Lawful Good). The new additions are Warlock and Warlord, which play more like an offensive arcane caster and a strategic fighter, respectively. Each class eventually branches off to paragon paths, which are enhanced versions of the base class focusing on some aspect of it. Each class also has an assigned role in the party: defender, controller, striker, and leader. Since I am being cast as the leader, I have chosen the Cleric class. While the other leader class, warlord, sounds appealing, but the cleric's healing abilities won out.
But what is a Cleric without a deity. The Player's Handbook offers a limited choice of deities, which came along with another massive change in the alignment system. I'll touch upon that first.
Gone is the law-chaos, good-evil system. It is replaced with a simplified version of the alignments in the form of Good, Lawful Good, Unaligned, Evil, and Chaotic Evil. This removes people from playing obscure alignments like chaotic neutral and neutral evil. For the sake of being a somewhat flexible hero, I chose Good as my alignment. That way I can go about my business helping those in need without having to be a tool of any specific civilization.
Which is really helpful since the god I chose was Avandra, Goddess of change, trade, travel, freedom, and luck. Envisioning my character as a free spirited wanderer, this works out well, since Avandra's faith is based around roadside shrines.
The book next suggests that I assign ability scores. I would do this now, but my friend has not specified how he wants that done yet. So will skip that part for now. The book offers a number of ways of doing it, but they are all pretty typical.
Skills are now only trained once, and grow along with your character. You choose a small number initially, and are presented a chance to train others as you level. Since you only have to train a skill once, you don't have to worry about upgrading your skills. My cleric will have Diplomacy, Heal, Insight, and Religion trained. He will receive racial bonuses to both diplomacy and insight.
Feats remain largely unchanged. So they barely warrant mentioning. I will be taking Group Insight, which will enhance my allies.
Now on to powers (finally). Powers are effectively actions your character can take. They come in three varieties; at-will, encounter, and daily. At-will powers are actions your character can take in combat in place of your basic weapon attacks. This is a big change in spell casters, since they will not run their resources dry, making them as big of a liability in combat as they are an aid. Encounter powers are usually only available once per encounter (fight) and require a small five minute rest to recover. Daily powers are much more powerful and can only be used once a day, requiring a 6 hour rest to recharge. This system makes characters a little more interesting and lessens the difference between spellcaster and melee fighter. Utility powers are a mix of encounter and daily powers that various effects from buffing, hindering, healing, and harming that come into play at higher levels. My character will handle healing, so the majority of his powers will be chosen as such.
Equipment is slightly different. Any character can use any weapon, but gain an attack bonus if they are trained in its use. Wearing armor requires training, and the types of armor are pretty much the same. For my gear, I have selected leather armor, a dagger, a quarterstaff, and a crossbow. I could have selected heaver armor and more traditional weapons, but I felt these better fit my characters personality. He also has a backpack full of typical adventuring supplies.
All that is left now is to fill out the numbers. I am going to go more into that when I have ability scores settled. For now, I would like to conclude by saying I really am looking forward to exploring this new edition, and I will try to keep track of my feelings about it here. I am also sorry for any incoherence in this entry, but I had numerous interruptions and am quickly developing a headache. I hope you all enjoyed my scatterbrained look at 4th Edition D&D.