17 September 2014

Sword Art Online

Possibly the only acceptable use of YOLO.
But I still feel dirty.
When you want to write a story about your Online Avatar, you want to make it interesting.  Put some risk into it.  But lets face it, the only real risk is Carpal Tunnel.

Sword Art Online put in proper risk into such a story.  Starting off with a Virtual Reality, wearing a helmet that puts your body into a catatonic state while you play.  In turn, the developer of the MMO and the VR Headsets adds in a Mortality feature.

Players whose HP drops to 0 in-game will die in real life.  And to make sure they do stay in game, anyone whose helmets are removed are also killed.  The only way to leave was to finish the game, which has 100 levels, each of which are apparently the size of large cities.

It's a bloody cool concept, and the features of an MMO are numerous.  So Factions and Guilds are formed, and people take on various roles to their tastes.  It becomes a very real society, with players helping each other between NPC's performing basic functions.  It shows some of the naivety of newbies, and the arrogance of experienced players.

However as this is an Anime it falls into tropes.  And they're ones that irk me.  To start, the main character walking with a wake of love-sick girls.

Now, I appreciate there being a love interest.  Asuna is a pretty cool character, too.  But then there was his Adopted Sister, the little girl he rescued, blah blah blah.  It's a bit annoying, especially since it was layered on so thick, with the fanboyisms riddled throughout to boot.  It became the main part of the story, and that's my other problem.

Yes, Kirito falls for Asuna.  Yes, he establishes a life with her and have their vacation.  Yes, they flesh out the implications of not doing what most MMO's are about: Fighting.

What irked me about all that is that they had a handful of other things they brought to the surface, but didn't go into very much.  Like the Murder Guilds.

There were a few players that popped up as part of the Laughing Coffin.  Their sole purpose is to kill other players for the sake of killing other players.  If there was any other ulterior motive, I don't know what it is, whether it was that they wanted to stay in SAO, or just were psychopaths that wanted to kill.

They could pop up anywhere.  They could be part of your guild or be following you around.  Why?  I'm not sure.  They really didn't go into it very much, mainly because they didn't spend enough time on it.

Which brings up my third point.  The story is they were in the game for about 2 years.  Thousands of players having their lives in the hands of medical facilities in the real world while being cradled in a video game, trying to reach a hundredth level so they could leave and return to their real lives.

... That was completed in half of a season.  That is my Irk.  You create an immense world, with potential up the fkn wazoo, and you drop that potential in less than 20 episodes.  Then the rest of the season is sent back into another game to save Asuna from a creeper who has her stuck under the same pretences, but with the motive of keeping her for himself for some political reason.

It's all a bit ridiculous, and a little unnecessary.  But whatever.  The first season is over and done with now.

I've moved on to the second season, and I went into it sceptically.  With all the tropes that saturated the first game, I thought it would be just as bad.  But while it still has it's dumb points, mainly the Main character capable to handle things that an experienced player couldn't, it goes into implications.

For one, the first side character you meet suffers from PTSD and subsequently goes into a panic attack whenever she sees a gun.  However, she plays a game called Gun Gale Online (A rather cool name in my opinion) and the lack of reality or consequence seems to help with her trauma.

The other thing that the story shows is the return of MMO players being killed seemingly in-game and then in real life, not in the same way as the original SAO though.  I've yet to find out how, the story hasn't progressed that far, but it'll be good to know once it comes around.

But now Kirito has begun an investigation into this character, Death Gun, and has to deal with his own PTSD, as this murderer seems to be from SAO as well.  I'm hoping it doesn't layer on the tropes thickly, but all well.  It may be one to look up the actual Manga for.

16 September 2014

Destined Tuesdays

Rockin out with my Rifle out
With Destiny now out and the regular changes it makes, I can really start talking about it. And I must say, I'm a little disillusioned with it. It's advertised as an enormous game, like no other before... But it's not that big?

Yes, there are several Zones to the game, and they're very big and intricate, knitted together like your mums crochet blankets, and a seemless transition of instances that can only be noted by the loading or disappearance of other characters. But...

My friend Scotty explained it best. "For a shooter, it's pretty big. For an MMO, it's tiny." And it's true. Though I may be a little spoilt by Borderlands, which I think might be a little bigger in area.

The there's the range of enemies which feel a little limited, and certain ones are very limited. Like Devil Walkers, a fat spider tank that the Jacka- Fallen use. It's pretty badass. But I know of three instances where I can fight one. I would very much so like to fight these mo' fuggas more often. Otherwise, there's about four or five variations of enemies within each of the four factions, not including Elite Units.

But, I shouldn't hold that against them. What I should hold against them is the annoying fucking snipers. Fallen will have Vandals that'll park themselves in the most convenient of places for themselves and while Im busy taking on all the Dregs, and suddenly get clocked in the side of the dial. Same goes with friggin Hobgoblins. Sure I can dick punch them with some counter sniping, but then I have Goblins and Minotaur encroaching and while they may act like Imperial Battle Droids, they're still a bad day in Kalamazoo.

The most fun I've had have been taking down the Bouncy Space Mar- The Cabal. They're big, they're only a little dopey, and seeing their helmets explode off like a Texas Tea Fountain when you Crit-kill them never gets old.

Actually, I lie. The most fun I've had is the Sword of Crota mission, on the moon. Becuase for just a small part of the mission, you run around with a mo' fuggin Sword, kicking Floo- Hive arse and taking names. The sudden change of weapon changes is seemless, because you're still using all the same buttons, but now you're slicing and dicing like a Barbaric Gordon Ramsay at the local Butchers.

I had such a blast, and I'm happy to do that again with friends.

But that's the problem. I'm still in the dark age, so to speak, roaming through the solar system on my Gho- Sparrow all on my lonesome because my friends have the Playstation 4 version. They've even made a clan that I can't join because I don't have a Playstation copy of the game.

But good thing though, the game has been pretty good in terms of friendly players. They've been as determined as I have in completing goals and turning bosses Swiss. I've even friended a couple because we had this awesome rampage going on doing Strike Playlists.

I should really complete one of those soon.

With this though, along with a 10 year commitment, I do hope they severely expand out the game. Not only with more enemies and environments, but more interesting encounters. That's the most important thing. Because as much as slogging through enemies after enemies can be fun, it's still limited in how much fun can be yanked out. The raids being made available this week should be a nice change of pace, I hope, but I don't know when or how I'll be able to play one of those.

10 September 2014

Her name is AN053, and she's a Robot Tank

Firepower comes separately
I've been waiting patiently for a chance at Destiny for a long time now, especially in the week Scott Hyped it up for me while he played the Playstation Beta. It got to the point where I publicly declared on Facebook that I would do anything to get a Beta key for the 360, my one and only console.

Sadly, my cries were ignored. But that doesn't matter since the game became publicly open.

What luck! All I had to do was wait for the download and go on with it, making my characters and classes that I had planned out and testing every inch of the game until it ended on Sunday.

I danced around in excitement as it downloaded, all the while Jenny laughing at me and my giddiness.

But at 11pm, while Jenny was fast asleep, it was done. I put on the headphones and got myself comfortable for the long haul to level up at least 3 characters to the Beta Limit before it ends. And hopefully, they'll rollover if and/or when I get the full game.

So I run through the tutorial and start analysing it. Everything is so very clean and clinical when it comes to the User Interface. Icons and frames with soft colours and clean sillouettes. The rest of the world looks more detailed, the Tower being much more Science Fiction than Old Russia, the playable PvE field in the Beta.

It uses a cursor when interacting with menus, rather than something like a D-pad. It's a very clever move, because there's a heap of stuff to go through. If I were to make a suggestion with the menus, it would be to lose the shaded background when viewing the character. Just use the environment as the background, and the model would just be the toon as it is at the time.

The one thing that has Irked me the most is the Blip-dar. I say Blip-dar because it's not so much a Radar as you would think from a Bungie Developer. It's got a different method of execution than what Halo does. Halo has a Motion Tracker, meaning if anything moves within the radius of your radar, you get a dot of them showing up.

This takes 17 different pieces to show you there are enemies nearby. Friendlies pop up as little triangles as normal, so you know where they actually are. But enemies? Forget about it. They're in one of 8 directions, or on top of you. But be sure to spend a moment spinning around trying to find those last ones.

Otherwise, the game plays very much like Halo. Jumping, hiding, dodging; Needlers are chasing you between dodging light rifle fire; you speed along the terrain on your own personal ghost; and your own sexy robot intelligence is talking to you constantly. The comparisons are very literally endless.

The RPG factor, now that's a corker. Everything levels up. You're gaining experience for your weapons and armour so you can take advantage of their special features down the track, features of which are rarely the same between two weapons. I imagine that'll get tiresome after a while, having to restart levelling your equipment each time you get a new pair of shoes, but it would pay off, surely.

I mean, I have Automatic Rifles that deal additional damage on the second half of the clip. I have Sniper Rifles that have a near-instant reload if I kill with the final round. I have Rocket Launchers that fire three projectiles at the cost of 1 ammunition. Each weapon will always be different, and I can't wait to see higher level weapon shenanigans.

For the time of the Open Beta, I flogged the shit out of Old Russia's Cosmodrome. I played all three classes and though I didn't fully level up their abilities, I had so much fun. Especially the Hunter. The THUNK of his knife backhanding everything (And I mean EVERYTHING) in the face before just chucking it at the next sod in line had me giggling in my sleep deprived state at 3am.

But though I had fun with the Hunter I'm going to stick with my Android, with her busted open forehead and the splash of red paint over her eye. Her and I circled around the Cosmodrome and mowed our way through encounters with Fallen, Hive, and Spider Tanks, laughing our way around town. And I hope to continue doing so when I get the full game.

03 September 2014

Game Evolution

And that's when he realised they did nothing at all.
I was on Kotaku and they showed a video of and updated Halo: Combat Evolved done by Modders.

I watched it and thought "Yeah, that's pretty cool.  It's nicely detailed and has a heap of additions that would mix up the game nicely."

Then I was thrown back to the Halo Master Chief Collection, that Tetralogy being released by 343 Industries and how I want them to remake the older games to match the current system iteration of the game.

After watching a presentation video of the MC Collection, showing the Menu and options available to players and one of the cooler features was a Playlist creator, allowing players to cater the entire campaign to playing as Master Chief, and exempting the handful of Arbiter missions.

Conversely, you can play the Arbiter levels.

That's pretty cool.  But as I said those few weeks ago, I would like to see those older games modified so that it used the same system as the latest game.  Assassination moves, Weapon and HP interactions, Sprinting.  It would refresh the original game, and improve things further on.

And because it's a Campaign, why not give it a more permanent feeling?  Find Armour Abilities, like Active Camo, and keep them for your loadouts.  Gain particular achievements and you can claim Tactical Packages and Support Upgrades, and maybe even weapon skins.  Heck, give Armour customisation a point and allow it to improve something.  Add in effects to weapons by customising each weapons loadout, increase Magazine size or a more efficient battery on plasma weapons.  Things like that.

But lets face it.  That sort of thing isn't going to happen.  Honestly, this is the sort of thing you hear about in something like Halo: Reach, probably my favourite spin off of the series.  The problem there is that 1: Halo Reach came to a pretty solid ending, so regardless of how customised your Noble Six was, they were NOT coming back.

What really appealed to me about Halo: Reach was that you weren't Master Chief.  You weren't one soldier leading the fight against the Covenant and Company.  You were part of a Squad, either NPC or actual players in Coop.  You were Haloguy, so to speak.  Same goes with Spartan Ops in Halo 4.  You were part of a Squad having their own encounters in the Halo Universe.  I want to see more of that sort of thing, and have a much larger campaign too.  Sure, 50 levels is pretty epic, but they were still lacking a few of those personal touches.  Especially since it was reused multiplayer levels.

But happily, there's Destiny.  Destiny is everything that I imagine a Halo MMO to be, though without actually being Halo.  More on that next week.

27 August 2014

Backwards Consideration

PlayStation probably have the highest consideration for their enormous catalogue of games over the last two generations. What they're doing is a streaming service called PlayStation Now.

Its going through Beta at the moment, and they're primarily focusing on PlayStation 3 games. I think that's fair since that will have the largest workload to it for streaming.  Once you have the biggest problem overcome, everything else is a cakewalk.

I watched the video above and I immediately have my problem with it.  Its an online hiring service.  Paying to play a game for a short period.

Its not an unfounded idea. Go down to the local V2 or Blockbuster, and you'll hire out a game for the week (if they offer that, its usually a few days) and for a pretty cheap price too, usually about a fiver.  Then for that period of time, you can play to your hearts content, possibly flogging the shit out of it if it's a big game like Grand Theft Auto.

But there's a physical disc involved. The store needs insurance that it'll come back.  And that sort of thing happens all the time.  Even I'm guilty of that, having been charged a large amount for a game I forgot to return.  So it's fair enough that it can get a bit pricey.

But judging from the prices on Playstation Now, they're expecting you to start reselling the game and making a profit from them!  I'm not the only one who thinks this, I've spied many other articles regarding this saying their largest problem is that the games are simply too expensive for such short time periods that you may as well buy the game itself.

Just to point out the obvious though, this isn't "Send this disc to your front door".  But you don't have to download it either.  It's streamed.  So you send the commands to a server and sends the image back to your console.  It's a fantastic concept.  It saves on having to worry about backwards compatibility hardware, because it's just done from a server room.

But...  it doesn't absolve my biggest worry.  I've purchased a handful of games from Playstation Network.  They're all designed to be played on the Playstation 3.  So what about those purchases?  Will I be able to download and play them?  Would I be able to stream them?

What about my old games?  Could I slot them in and have the system detect what game it is, then stream it from the servers?  Because that is the dream.  To get replace my consoles.  To have a reason to go into a Brick and Mortar Store to get a discount on a new console by handing my old console to them, to send back to Playstation so they can recycle the parts to make more current gen consoles or whatever you can do with them.

And yet, they'll never change.  I'll have museum pieces for years to come because of their inconsideration.  Bastards.

20 August 2014

Airmech Arena

"Transform and Roll Out"
What can I say about Airmech Arena? I keep getting told it's a spiritual Successor to Herzog Zwei, a game that I have heard occasionally throughout my life.

But if I were to describe it, it's like playing Z with a Transformer Commander. Because you don't build structures, you capture them with your Units.  You choose what Units you can build in your encounter, choosing from a variety of Infantry and Vehicles, Gun Emplacements, and Support blocks.

Your Airmech is who you control.  It's your Soldier, your Cursor, and your Transforming source of victory.  You begin with 2 Airmechs but you can purchase more.  They all have a handful of distinct features that will change your playstyle.

I've had so much fun though in the short time between discovering it and now.  I've been blown up by an enormous volley of rockets, shot the ever loving crap out of enemy Airmechs until they begged for submission, and hoped that spamming turrets around a structure meant that no enemy creeps would get anywhere near capturing it.  The last of those ended up being true for the most part...

It's great and quick fun changing up strategy by having different Units to deploy, whether you want an entirely heavy army or pack of specialised robots, and additionally changing your Airmech itself since they all have their own methods too.

If I were to say there was a problem with it, it would be the limitations of the game.  Namely the maps.  There are only a few of them and more of them would be a very appreciated addition to the game.  Not to mention, the option of more players in a Free For All.  That would be fun.

The other thing is that it doesn't seem like you can constantly earn Kudos, the currency of the game.  I've played several games over and over, and I eventually just stopped getting Kudos.  So I don't know what the go is, whether I have to complete quests from now on or what.

I'm going to continue to play the hell out of it.  It's good and cheap fun.  And by cheap, I mean it's a free download and play.  Now I can't wait to see how they expand on it more!

13 August 2014

Speaking Aesthetically...

Gobble Gobble, Bitches
One of the things about games lately is the customisation options. Sure, customise your equipment loadout and such, things that can actually change the way you play the game, but that's not what I'm going to focus on.

Jetpack Joyride has little more to it than it's Gadgets, outfits, and jetpacks. The player can play as much as possible, earning as much coin as possible just for the goal of changing outfits. Then you have the three options of "Random Head", "Random Outfit" and "Random Jetpack". Every time you load it up, you get random options out of what you have purchased.

I like that. I don't particularly care about the Aesthetics of my character, so long as they play that way. I've had Wonder Woman with an Indiana Jones Jacket and Whip with a Golden Pig Jetpack that propels the player with cash.

I don't see why it can't be implemented into something like Borderlands, where I have dozens of custom aesthetics for my characters, and I don't see why Axton can't rock up in bright Eridian Pink with a Head like the Ravenous Wattle Gobbler.

With something like the Halo series, then sure. It's a fair cop that there isn't a random armour generator since as you gain levels an achievements you unlock pieces, which makes it a sign of achievement. You could still look like a Recruit once you reach Spartan Rank 100, but you can always go ahead and change that look as you please.

But hey, I want randomness. I don't care about what Armour I rock up in. I could be in a Gstring and a smile and it would mean diddly for gameplay because the armour is all aesthetics. So send me in wearing whatever, even if it doesn't match.

Not that anyone can really care anyway, it's not that they're going to look down their Sniper Scope at me and say to their teammates "That chest piece with those leg braces? Bitch please."