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Older gamer-turned-developer. Currently working on Dystopia, a Half-Life 2/Source modification.

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So, I've been playing Vanguard lately (if you can believe it, it's actually turned into a decent game), because SOE gave free access to it along with EverQuest and it's sequel for a time. The only reason this is worth mentioning in regards to this post is because it means I have the "Station Launcher" installed, SOE's answer to a Steam-like application for managing all of their MMO's. It's quite handy, actually - downloading any of their games is a click away (give or take 8 hours of downloading).

I inadvertently start reading EverQuest patch notes out of sheer boredom. Something catches my eye: they've redone "Lower Guk", one of the original dungeons of the game which included most of the early "phat lewt" including the game's first haste item - a type of item that would not only become essential to any aspiring melee class but also become the base item for which the entire early economy was based on; and the daggers that my rogue wielded for ages - the Serrated Bone Dirks, which brandished a very respectable "8/27 ratio" - 8 damage, 27 delay.


This used to be uber!

Included in this revamp of "lguk" as most know it (as there is, of course, a much less exciting Upper Guk) are, as you could imagine, updated items. Where once was the haste item in question - the Flowing Black Silk Sash, there is now the Darkened version of the same. Where once was my beloved dirk, there is now a darkened version with the same 27 delay - but a fairly incredible 34 damage, along with a slew of attributes and effects. The rogue "epic" weapon was merely 15/25, and this was an item that - at the time - required a guild to help you acquire it.

Of course, the dungeon is now for levels 75-80, rather than it's previous 45-50. Obviously, quite a bit has changed in the course of the game's 14 expansions. I was happy, however, that they decided not to attempt to "enhance" Guk's visuals - one of the main reasons I stopped playing EQ was because of them ruining (in my opinion) the graphics with the Shadows of Luclin and subsequent expansions.


Crysis it is not, but it has it's charms

Lost in a frenzy of reminiscence, I mindlessly clicked the EverQuest button rather than log into Vanguard for some more monk action. I've done this a few times before - get free access, log in, be hopelessly lost, jaw drop at how much the game is changed, and then log out for a for a couple more years.

After finding out from the EQ website that one of the "hot zones" - areas with enhanced experience rate - for my rogue's level range was the "Bastion of Thunder", I proceeded there and turned /lfg on and explored a bit (one of the nice things about being a rogue - you can basically explore wherever you'd like, unseen). I didn't announce to the zone that I was LFG, which makes the fact that I got a /tell asking if I would like a group within 5 minutes even more incredible - being a rogue, one of the things I usually don't get nostalgic about is waiting at a zone line with /lfg on for hours, waiting for a group.

After finding the group, which included a level 78 ranger, we began doing what people often find themselves doing in an MMO and slaughtering whatever we can get our hands on. It was fun to see the experience bar go up, and if we had stayed at it a little longer I probably would've gotten the first new level my rogue has seen in many years. As we ground, the group's collective guild tag caught my attention more and more. I knew it from somewhere, I just couldn't put my finger on it. I began thumbing through my old screenshots that happened to be handy on an external drive and ended up finding out why I knew the tag: it turns out it was actually one of my first guilds! Seeing screenshots of myself in this guild doing low-level raids on places like Mistmoore (we're talking old) was much like opening an old scrapbook.



It was a pretty weird experience, especially so because this wasn't even my most favored guild experience - it was simply one of my first, which is most likely why I didn't immediately remember it. Ironically, my more successful and long term guild which I often reminisce heavily about (and is usually the reason I reinstall the game, as I still post on their old forums very rarely) wasn't around anymore.

Of course, throughout all the years, it's unlikely any of these characters are even being played by the same people I knew - and even if they were, it's been such a long time that I surely wouldn't even have anything meaningful to say. I opened their website and looked around but at that point decided it best not to delve in such an old chapter of my gaming history, and that it'd be silly to act on such a coincidence.

It was a powerful experience, though. I know the story is similar for many, but to experience it first-hand and so accidentally: the fact that I've been playing the majority of all MMO's to come out over the years, and to come back to EverQuest on a whim and find a group that denotes one of my earliest experiences yet still playing the game. And EQ is very much a game that demands such nostalgia, with unique experiences and equipment and a truly "player versus environment" feel: forcing players to band together and help one another, creating relationships and scenarios that not only simply do not happen in newer MMO's, but probably will never be allowed to happen again as they are considered counterproductive to what makes a current-gen MMO successful. Yet still, these features and gameplay mechanics lend themeslves to situations that continue to stand out in my memory above all else.








I know this is just going to get me flamed to hell, although I am genuinely curious if there's anyone out there who agrees with me. Also, if you're a hardcore fan of the game I simply wouldn't read any further because I don't really want to step on anyone's toes. As if you couldn't tell from the title, I don't have many nice things to say.

I never played Melee, so my only experience was with the 64, which I honestly can't remember if I enjoyed or not. I think it was pretty fun to play with my cousin and friends though.

Anyway, I figured millions (?) of people can't be wrong and that Brawl should be good. However, it seems to go against every core principle of game design not only set in stone today - but ones that were invented back in the old days that this game seems to want to keep paying homages to. If you're going to pay homage to the old days, why aren't you at least making sure not to repeat horrible mistakes?

I'm talking about Cardinal Fucking Sins of game design here. From having different things be too graphically similar (is that a MegaTomato or one of those stupid red things that blows up and kills everything one around it?), to not informing the player nearly enough when important things are going to happen (oh sorry, we figured you would just know that the entire level was about to suddenly fly upwards and that if you're not on the right platform, you're screwed), to simply having horrible, horrible control over things like jumping or facing the right direction. I know that the floaty "jump, jump, special upwards, grab the ledge" is one of the core styles of SSB's style, but it's just bad gameplay and should've been abandoned.

Past that, the balance is just awful. I can easily see why "no items final destination" is such a common phrase because the items are horrible (and, as touched upon, the levels are newbie-punishers - this is a party game, you're supposed to be able to just jump in and play, not jump in and die repeatedly due to idiotic level design). It makes me rage beyond all control when I work my ass off trying to get someone to 75% or something only for them to get an item that does the same amount of damage in one shot, or, god forbid a final smash (which seem to be entirely random in their usefulness - some may just hurt people, some will insta-kill someone in front of them, and some will literally kill every single person on the screen - where the hell is the balance?).

Past that, they should've kept it as a simple party fighting game because the Embassy mode is goddamn awful in every way, shape and form. The light RPG mechanic introduced with the stickers is appreciated, but falls way short of making up for - again - levels that are designed with the very anti-thesis of what gamers have grown up to expect in good level design. Hey, a glowing door. Must lead to the next area, right? Nope, it fucking sends you into a pit of lava. Hey, a bumper that sends you flying forward, ok, this has to be a good thing. Sorry, it throws you into a pit of death. Or even worse if you're playing co-op, every bumper sends the other player off-screen so fast that he instantly dies and takes up a precious life. Awesome. The camera also doesn't give a rats shit about the second player either, and let me tell you, I've been that second player and Embassy mode basically boils down to just smashing start (or plus, as it were) to keep teleporting to player 1.

There are other things I could complain about (the games style not being cohesive at all even though reviewers are apt to say "they did such a good job making the styles fit together" - sorry, Wario and Snake fighting on Pictochat is a mess and you know it), but really, the core gameplay is just so hideously wrong that, for me personally, I don't need to. This is supposed to be a party game. Why is it making me throw the controller in anger? I can't help but think that nintendo simply got too much of an ego with their initial success and made the mistake of not thinking they had to change the formula. This game looks like a Wii game, but plays like a horrible first-generation-3d game. I'm fairly sure if it was named differently and had different characters, we'd be making fun of it and laughing at the horrible scores and reviews it would be getting.








So, out of sheer boredom I installed a file that has been on my desktop for about a month and a half. Crysis_SP_Demo.exe.

Now, ever since I played the Crysis fileplanet beta I've pretty much purged the game from my memory. I went and canceled my preorder and told my friends that there's no way this game is going to come out playable, yadda yadda. I knew it was a beta so I made sure to end my opinions in "but who knows", though that didn't change the fact that for me the game was pretty much ruined (note that up until that point I had been a pretty huge fanboy). Every time I thought of it I thought of the horrible FPS, the crazy bugs and all sorts of crap. And this game is going to get fixed in a month?

It's not like I'm a bad beta tester. I think my record so far is something like 142 bugs reported from Lord of the Rings Online's alpha/beta tests (counting from the spam in my email account). I'm willing to test, but when it's a little download box from fileplanet and I know that in reality it's just a hype-generating "early demo", I don't see the point if it's going to be ultra-shitty. Half of the time these "betas" don't even have normal functions that every beta should have.

In any case, I've had this happen to me before. Betas become available via fileplanet, completely for hype as they're coming out in a month and anything you do really won't matter since the game of course goes gold long before the release. So it's just for hype, and maybe nailing some bugs that they'll be able to patch as soon as the game hits. I play the beta, and it's just terrible. I mean, at least with a demo they could quietly release and not make much hype, then when it's fixed up a bit go "HEY! A demo!" and catch everyone's interest again.

The only reason I can possibly think of to do a crappy "public beta" instead would be to ride on the hope that people actually think of it as such and believe me, they absolutely do not. Even I have trouble with that at times and I'm usually very good about NDAs, bug reporting, accepting my responsibility as a tester etc. I've had people bugtest my stuff before, I know the importance of it. Most people don't even take closed betas seriously even if the game isn't coming out for another year or something.

Of course, with EA being the publisher they probably had all of this worked out while the game was in it's infant stages, so there probably wasn't even a choice behind it all. It's just pretty hard to take seriously when fileplanet has a giant flier advertising a beta like it's a two-dollar whore. That's what betas are seemingly becoming though, after all we all saw what happened with Crackdown.

In any case, after completing the demo I'm left wanting to go buy the game this very moment. I was very impressed, and it ran quite nicely and of course looked absolutely fantastic. Granted, I have no idea how the MP is, and that is what the fileplanet beta encompassed - but I'm not really that interested in it anyway. It's normal for MP to run worse than SP, but the difference between the two games I played was staggering. All I'm left feeling is - why did they bother?








There's nothing like playing an epic game like Bioshock and then playing something like... TimeShift. Wow. I guess there's a reason I completely missed the news post on this one. Full of rehashes (regenerating healthbar? exploding crossbow bolts? really?), an impossible-to-follow "objective system", gameplay situations that can only be solved after you've been killed by them once, and random suit messages as spoken by a depressed 10 year old girl. Or boy (it's kind of sad when I actually prefer the original half-life HEV suit messages to a game released a decade later).

The whole game screams of "doing what other games have done, only poorly". I think they even tried to go heavy on the saturation/color correction to get a "Gears feeling", but it was so washed out and bland that I could hardly even tell enemies apart from the environment, let alone friendlies. And on that note, why were they friendly, anyway? There was a distinct lack of something called story. If I was a bunch of half-life 2 style rebels being oppressed by the man and some guy in a crazy high tech suit started warping around, I'd probably shoot first and ask questions later.

Oh well. At least the trailer was cool.








Didn't see this posted/cblogged on dtoid yet.

You can find the post from Elizabeth Tobey here:

http://www.2kgames.com/cultofrapture/home.html

In addition to the "bigger" issue that has recently exploded regarding SecuROM/DRM, they also mention and tip the hat to Racer_S for his amazing widescreen fix and say that - as expected - an official patch is in the works. Good stuff.







twincannon
10:34 AM on 08.19.2007

Well, I've been wanting to stop lurking and write an introductory post for a while, and what better time to start now, when there will be a flood of new blogs, so if I embarrass myself it'll probably just be whisked away by the internets!

So, a little about myself. I started gaming back on a 386 and, aside from a very sensual fling with the SNES, I've pretty much been a PC loyalist ever since. Consoles are fun, but I've always liked being hands-on and spending more time with my games than is par the norm for consoles. As well, I've always been a big fan of first person shooters, and I'm not too keen on playing them with an analog stick (remember that whiny kid during the N64 007 games who would say "if only I had a mouse" - yeah, that was me). I'm also big into fighters, though, and of course you can only do that genre on arcade machines and consoles. Tekken, Soul Calibur and Guilty Gear mark my favorites (although it seems the GG series is crashing and burning, sadly).

I mentioned the appeal of being "hands-on", and by that I mean modifications. I've been experimenting with making stuff for games since Doom - with applications such as doomED and DEhacked, but only recently have I really turned it into a passion. Lately, I think I'd consider myself more of a developer than a gamer, especially so considering I spent the better portion of '06 working on a Half-Life 2 mod called Dystopia. I eagerly await the next generation of engines to become available to start playing with - CryEngine 2 and idTech5 look very juicy in particular, although I must admit the Irrational boys have done an absolutely superb job with UnrealEngine 3.0 with regards to Bioshock. It looks much, much better than Gears (although, Gears PC seems to remedy a lot of the 360 version's problems).

As well with mods, I'm pretty huge into independent games and indie communities in general, so you could understand my attraction to the D. It's about as "professionally independent" as you can get (if by "professional" you mean robots and "independent" you mean cocks, anyway).

So, now that I've started, you can probably expect me to start yapping about obscure stuff no one really cares about: that zany Carmack and his new shader tech, how Bleszinsky can develop games by simply staring suavely at a monitor - that sort of thing.