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The Secret of Real Characters

Posted by Segun777 Saturday July 28 2012 at 8:38AM
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I’ve been playing Secret World a lot after playing the final Guild Wars 2 beta; I’m trying to get to the final area before the first content patch drops and the inevitable nerfs and changes. I’m constantly struck by how good the characters are. Story is always something I look forward to seeing in games but the Secret World is the first MMO where the characters are even memorable. Certainly TOR had great companion characters with pretty good back story but those characters were made to be good from the ground up, aside from a few cool characters (here’s looking at you, Thana Vesh), most NPC’s were completely forgettable. Guild Wars 2 NPC’s are up in the air, but likely to be as memorable as cheap vanilla ice cream, but Secret World dares you to care.
Secret World has the quiet shop owner, who saw the outsiders coming with trouble in their wake but who was an outsider herself and didn’t know how to alert people to the danger. There are the two gay archeologists who aren’t stereotyped as absentminded professors nor used as a blunt weapon by the developers as a sign of progressiveness. They don’t know everything but for normals they have a pretty good lock on the situation and are perfectly capable of defending themselves. There is the student at the Illuminati equivalent of Hogsworth, in a school full of weird she stood out as weirdest of them all. Flanked by the brutally honest principal and the kindhearted but strict teacher who just wants to survive the horrors; they’re wonderfully memorable. There is the Indian tribe with the decade’s long rift that split a family after the murder of a loved one. The two orochi scientists who are the best of friends, both striving to keep their heads in their own separate ways in troubled waters.

If TOR did one thing wrong it was that it voiced the mundane. No matter how well written or spoken, the tenth or hundredth kill/fetch quest is still the tenth or hundredth kill/fetch quest. Secret World plays to its strength, story and quest wise. In any other MMO the answer would be ‘that quest is so bugged’, in Secret World more times than not the answer is ‘you’re not thinking hard enough or you’re missing the obvious’. In Secret World less is more, Kingsmouth has a total of just over fifty quests, a large portion of them being the green one shot variety. It all allows for a short but robust area, that lends itself well to daily quest runs if you want to over-level. In the end the strength of the voice over in Secret World lies in the fact that most of the time is spent on the characters themselves. Little clues about the quests are sometimes dropped but mostly the voice over serves no real purpose other than to flesh out each and every character. Secret World is much more concerned with substance than style, and the game is better for it; proof that a dark horse can still teach the big boys a few tricks

A Better Sequel

Posted by Segun777 Wednesday July 25 2012 at 3:39PM
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I watched The Dark Knight Rises today, it was amazing. I was awestruck after that movie, Christopher Nolan made comic book movies incredible, he probably singlehandedly legitimized them as serious movies. I was struck the most by how good the story was and how uncompromising his vision was to the trilogy he forged. I don’t often get that feeling with video games, I’m passionate about them but they don’t always instill passion in me. 

The Dark Knight Rises had the highest grossing non-3D movie weekend. 3D is the movie industries newer, better, graphics equivalent to video games. They hold 3D like it’s the Holy Grail and why not it makes them a lot of money they wouldn't have made otherwise. There's a whisper though from a few in the movie industry, wondering if the new 3D craze won't hurt them in the long run, that the 3D they're putting forward isn't good enough, that it isn't true 3D.
There’s urgency for the new generation of consoles out there. You may have heard the head of Ubisoft talking about next gen and new intellectual properties but what it really seems to come down to is new shiny graphics. I’m not dismissing the idea that gamers are more ready to accept new IP at the start of a generation. Look at Mass Effect, Assassins Creed, and its ilk. Mass Effect had a fairly bland E3 showing but since it was a RPG at the beginning of Microsoft’s cycle, people were willing to play the wait and see game. It also didn’t hurt that Microsoft had a dearth of RPG’s in the original gen Xbox.
While I’m not necessarily a fan of sequels, I don’t particularly knock them either. The fact of the matter is that most new IP’s crash and burn spectacularly, even if they weren’t one shot affairs which they can often be. It’s dangerous and risky for companies to have new IP’s and as we’ve seen this generation that hasn’t particularly worked out for a lot of studios that have either been bought and then self destructed or have been thrown out in the cold by their publishers.

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that the industry needs more The Dark Knight Rises and less Katy Perry movies. I want this industry to grow old with me; I see no reason that it shouldn’t. Maybe we’re just as stuck on sequels as the movie industry but when I see the final Dark Knight movie I see a trilogy stand triumphant in epic scale. Sometimes it feels like the industry isn’t really comfortable in its own skin. A sequel doesn’t mean that you can’t innovate, can’t be great, can’t be magnificent; truth is perhaps we simply lack the imagination. Each Dark Knight movie was better than the last and the world did not end, perhaps instead of new IP’s what we need are better sequels.

A Primer to Guild Wars 2: Hype and Reality

Posted by Segun777 Monday July 23 2012 at 9:16AM
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You will give the people an ideal to strive towards
They will race behind you, they will stumble, they will fall
But in time, they will join you in the Sun
In time you will help them accomplish wonders
  Jor-El, Man of Steel
Let me preface this by saying I bought the Collector’s edition of Star Wars The Old Republic, I bought the Lifetime Subscription for The Secret World and I Prepurchased Guild Wars 2.
Guild Wars 2 is coming out at the end of August and a lot of people are wondering if the juice is worth the squeeze, if the game is as good as the hype around it suggests. Guild Wars 2 is the last of the ‘Trinity of Story’, by which I mean to say that Guild Wars 2, The Old Republic, and Secret World have all trumpeted story as an important part of their games. While certainly other games including Wildstar, Blade & Soul, and Elder Scrolls Online are talking about story, they’re far enough from launch for it to be superfluous. This primer than is for people to compare the games and try to understand how Guild Wars 2 is similar and different from each of the other games and make informed choices about whether or not to play it.
Guild Wars 2 employs the same basic technique of storytelling that both TOR and TSW use with fully-voiced quests. Just as with TSW but unlike TOR not every quest is voiced, some quests can be gotten simply by passing through an area. Unlike TOR and TSW, Guild Wars 2 characters don’t move around. A complaint about TOR often related about how the NPC’s weren’t doing anything, that they were pretty stationary; all three games employ the same basic techniques in this regard. The biggest problem with Guild Wars 2 application of story is that is feels like the weakest of the three MMOs. Bioware is Bioware and they can tell a good yarn. TSW feels like Dreamfall: The End of Days; it feels short but robust. Guild Wars 2 has a hard time finding its stride story wise and I’m sorry to say it’s the presentation that hurts the most. It has a hard time making the player care more about what’s happening around them from moment to moment but I feel as if the blandness of the story helps make it remarkably replayable.
Guild Wars 2 like TOR and TSW uses its own engine, and the graphics are both spectacular and mundane for it. I liken it to impressionism, which is painting by dots up close but when seen from far away the vista is magnificent; that’s basically Guild Wars 2 in a nutshell. Guild Wars 2 also employs the ‘bloom effect’; you know it well as the bright sunlight effect from Guild Wars 1, or from any number of Asian MMOs. The pretty graphics then don’t seem to strain the systems and servers as much as either TSW or TOR, but only time will tell.
Combat in Guild Wars 2 bares much more similarity to TSW then TOR. While Guild Wars 2 employs an auto attack option and a hot bar like most MMOs there are significant changes to how it is implemented. Guild Wars 2 allows on the fly weapon swapping which instantly changes most of your skill set pretty much just like TSW although more casual friendly. While you do have to break new weapon types in no one class has that many weapon types to use and it’s fairly easy to handle. Much ado has been made about mobility in combat, and while it’s true you are more mobile than say TOR, you’re much less mobile than say Tera. Also rather than mobility the combat in Guild Wars 2 is more accurately described as a mix of WoW PVP and kiting mobs. While the complaint has been given that ranged combat is easier than melee combat I believe that those who have played TSW will feel right at home as a melee character. Melee combat is not about kiting and more about watching attacks and then dodging rather than jumping around like ranged combat. It’s a subtle difference but it’s obvious that ranged combat will be the favorite of the more casual players. Dodging in Guild Wars 2 like TSW is an option and is much looser than TSW, with a quicker timer and the ability to multiple dodges in a row.
Quests in Guild Wars 2 work much like they do in TSW rather than TOR, which is to say your main story quests are tiered and must be done sequentially, the events that you read about are much like the tiered quests of TSW but again more casual friendly, events are given and finished without talking to the actual quest giver, it gives it an easier more organic feeling and frankly it beats tracking down quest givers. One obvious difference is that it also means that you lose the initial charm of the quests that TSW and TOR have in listening to the quest giver tell a story but they also work better as daily missions in replayability.
Guild Wars 2 like TSW but unlike TOR (yet at least) employs a cash shop. While TSW carries a cash shop in conjunction with its subscription, Guild Wars 2 is entirely free after the initial sale. If you’ve played any F2P games originating in Asia you have an idea of what is in it. In US dollars the ratio is basically the same as Microsoft Points; 80 to $1. In the shop are cosmetic items to make you look cool in town, plus items to give you more space to put bags for your inventory and bank or items to give you bankers in the field, there are also items that give you’re a slight advantage in gaining experience for leveling and such. For now the cash shop is mostly cosmetic, in that nothing sold is particularly game breaking; while you’re sure to hear whining about it after launch for now it’ll be just that whining.
Let me remind the reader that I don’t play much PVP but what I saw of Guild Wars 2 was impressive. It has the persistent PVP grounds that TSW and TOR have, but everything is bigger and better. Best of all there’s no windup for PVP as everyone gets bumped up to level 80 for PVP.
Guild Wars 2 seems to want to have a system of raiding more accurately called R.B.O.M. or ‘Raiding by other means’ whether or not that works for you is highly dependent on whether or not you like to raid. Keep in mind that raiding is only popular with a small but loud minority. Personally I couldn’t care less about raiding but I do now that a lot of hardcore players love the stuff. I can’t see Guild Wars 2 appealing to them without raids. From a business standpoint having something is always better than not having something. I see the raiding issue, therefore, like the group finder issue from TOR, if players want it enough it will come.
Most impressive to me are the intangibles in Guild Wars 2. Certainly being able to send gathered items to your bank from anywhere in the world giving you valuable bag space is a nice touch. Much like WoW many years before it, Guild Wars 2 seems to have mastered the art of doing nothing badly and everything at least fairly well.
I came into the last beta feeling that Guild Wars 2 really had nothing for me. I’m not a huge PVPer but I could see how this game could and would appeal to those who were. I like to solo a lot and this game really goes all out for those who don’t like to get into parties. The combat is growing on me and as I play TSW more and more I see the possibilities. If WoW made grinding fun, than Guild Wars 2 makes playing with other people enjoyable; it takes it upon itself to make sure that people can and will play together even if they never say a word to each other. No more kill stealing or loot hording, everyone can be involved without the waste of time that parties can be. You’re encouraged to play however you like. At the end of the day I’m most concerned about the story, I don’t know that it has enough oomph to make people care, and 80 levels is a lot of grinding. The best thing for Guild Wars 2 is the no sub fee, players are enormously fickle these days, now more than ever, Guild Wars 2 can afford people to only play five or ten days a month. It’ll likely sell five to ten million in the first year and then keep healthy on the cash shop. All in all, Guild Wars 2 takes some of the best parts of both worlds with TOR and TSW. The combat is more fluid and looser than TSW but not as open ended even with weapon changes, but obviously more so than TOR. The story is less engaging than either TOR or TSW but that helps enormously with replayability. Best of all, Guild Wars 2 lowers the threshold for people to play every facet of the game, and playing MMOs with other people is what it’s all about. If you’re worried that Guild Wars 2 doesn’t have the legs don’t be. If you think this is the second coming, tone that down a bit you’re bound to be disappointed. However, Guild Wars 2 will appeal to alt-makers in a way that TSW is unlikely to and even more than TOR does. PVP is seriously fleshing out to be the best yet and one can see that endgame and raiding is likely to be the first new content on the list.
Post Script: I’ve been listening to the Man of Steel Teaser w/ the Russell Crowe voice over and over again and it’s amazing.

Enter the Villain

Posted by Segun777 Thursday July 19 2012 at 1:39PM
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Where have all the good villains gone? I say that with the full understanding that a good villain is one of the hardest roles to write, a villain has to have purpose and conviction. But so often in video games what we get is little more than the mustache twirling man with an evil laugh. And even those villains are nothing more than shadows compared to Kefka of Final Fantasy VI. Kefka was a mad man who cut swathes through wannabe heroes and villains alike; even going so far as killing his own Emperor. The best heroes have great villains to battle. Where is Shepard without the Reapers, Master Chief without the Covenant or even the Dark Knight without Heath Ledger’s Joker?
I played Asuras’ Wrath, a while back. Combat was forgettable but the story was impressive. These demigods had protected mankind for thousands of years. A few of them get the idea that they can rule better than their Emperor and so murdered him and framed one of their own. It’s not exactly a new story but the villains themselves were so nicely nuanced. Some of them merely lusted for power, while others wanted Evil vanquished no matter the cost. One followed out of loyalty, while another just loved the fight. Asuras’ struggle is reflected in the mirror of each villain’s desires. The best fight is against his best friend. Wearing a mask in shame, the friend makes the argument that Asura has already lost, and that a further struggle is pointless and will cost more human lives. While he acknowledges that the things done to Asura and his family are unforgivable, he tells Asura “next time stay dead”. His fight becomes more than just another revenge story, and become a fairly intelligent thesis on what drives us.
It’s perhaps not entirely surprising that villains are so forgotten when stories are written, but it’s always to the detriment of the story and the heroes struggle when it’s done. Heroes and Villains are always defined by each other; for without struggle victory is meaningless.

Hypocrisy in Writing

Posted by Segun777 Thursday July 19 2012 at 1:28AM
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I’ve noticed something for a while now, a hypocrisy that at the same time amuses me and rather irritates me . I’ve said before how the game media loves to beat the drum about one issue or another. One issue that is coming up again and again lately is sex in video games, by which is meant the sexualization of women in video games. Whether or not I believe that video game writers even have a true concept of what is wrong in the industry in terms of that issue I am struck by the complete lack of recognition of the irony of the argument.
Video game writers love to get on the high horse and talk about the sexualization of women is killing the industry both as it regards to games and those who make games. Let me say again that I believe that this is a very real issue facing the game industry, there is a need for more women in game development and publishing from the top to the bottom. However, for all of the reality of the issue every year the same hypocrisy happens. Every time there is a big convention, E3 or Comic Con, or any number of the other big conventions we see pictures of scantily clad females. When we see images of video games, fighting games, action games, first person shooters, what do we see then but scantily clad females. While I disagree with the idea that clothing is the main issue in regards to the sexualization of women in the industry, the idocy of with one hand crying foul about the issue and then the other hand using imagery of women as nothing more than sex objects is not only arrogant but speaks to a complete lack of will power. Any way you cut it, the message is clear, we care about the issue except when it hits the wallets of ourselves or our companies. Consider the idea of a politician decrying another politician of having an affair while himself having one too; we’d burn them at the stake… figuratively at least. Somehow we have let video game writers get away with a complete lack of the fundamental skills of journalism because ‘its only video games’. Until we hold them to a higher standard any real discourse of the issues facing the industry of which there are many will be impossible for them to moderate with any authority.

We all lose. There are serious issues facing the industry, women and minorities in gaming, the death and closure of many mid-level gaming studios, the advent of mobile gaming, legislation and censorship of video games; the industry faces real growing pains in the next decade. As we step forward then we need clear lines of communication with the least possible amount of chaff; we need video game writers to be the center of the web that connects us all and we cannot have them be that if they cannot be trusted. We need change people and we need it now more than ever.

Where Art Thou, My Game Manual

Posted by Segun777 Tuesday July 17 2012 at 2:19PM
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Where art thou, my game manual? I know, I know, game guides are paper eating waste of spaces, they have no real use and they’re not environmentally friendly. So what? No one is advocating the end of books are we? End all homework assignments… well maybe homework. It used to be that one of the pleasures of buying a new game was reading and smelling that freshly printed manual. I bought Gravity Rush for the Vita a couple days ago and it’s a fantastic game, I’m sure I’ll write about it later, but it has no manual. My freshly minted first Vita game and it has no manual. I have such found memories of my most treasured games and the manuals that came with them. Knights of the Old Republic, Final Fantasy VI, Halo, in the time before the game guides and the FAQS on the internet, manuals were the link between the game maker and you. They were the treasure trove of the ‘I didn’t know you could do that’ moments and I’m sad to see them leave. This is the digital age, in a decade or two most everything we do will be electronic, no more paper for most anything. And I know that’s progress, but no matter how much I welcome change the memories of reading a good book on the sofa is unlikely to be superseded by reading the kindle or iPad on the couch; some things just don’t translate. It’s the small pleasures in life; I leave you with a paraphrase from the 1985 John Cusack movie Better Off Dead ‘manual, manual, I want my manual’.

The Power of the Passive

Posted by Segun777 Saturday July 14 2012 at 4:51PM
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This week in The Secret World I’ve focused on getting some of the passives I thought would strengthen my character. Since the last article I’ve focused entirely on my DPS Chaos/Sword deck. I changed all my gear to critical hit chance and penetration. In Secret World the better the gear you have, from green to blue to purple the more specialized it becomes, so that a fully DPS decked character might actually have less HP than when he first started with all greens. It means playing smarter and insuring that the solo or team deck you have has a lot of DPS, because it’s killed or be killed and your margin of error is practically nil.
My deck is a mix of single target high damage skills with a couple of AOE skills with a damage plus skill and the green selfheal not tied to my healing rating. It’s a solo build designed to have a high rate of critical damage hits, penetrations, and debuffs that can clean up trash mobs and give me a real HP level that is approximately 1/3 more than I actually have, and it works pretty well in truth. Much ado has been made about the combat in Secret World, and how much it resembles every other game. In all fairness I would say the combat is somewhere between World of Warcraft and Guild Wars 2, but quite obviously not to the standards of Tera Online.
 In Secret World, Critical hit can only be glanced or evaded, glanced is the same thing as the near miss in other games. Penetration is as it sounds and is how much damage you can get by the magical and physical protection and defense rating the mob/player has up. I’ve always enjoyed passives, especially in Secret World. While actives have to be for the two weapons you use at any one time, passives can be used with any weapon combination. I’ve focused on counters. Counters are just what they sound like a counting counter that counts things like my hits, crits, and penetrations. I’ve been working steadily and am far from done but I have managed to compile a passive deck that has my hits causing crits and penetration and my crits and penetrations causing hit rating to go up which causes it to become harder to glance my crits, not only that I have an impaired and afflicted passive as well. Impaired stuns the mob for three seconds and my afflicted has a three second damage over time.
One of the best things about playing Secret World is finishing a deck build that you have been putting together for days and finding it works as you intended, nay better even and there are still things to be done. As I was playing today I noticed that with one switch of a passive, I could completely throw out my two AOE skills and still have the ability to throw out AOE damage. I will likely throw in two hard hitting single target skills that can be used independently. In all honesty I believe that there will be players who have maxed out the ability wheel or nearly so by the end of July, but in the Secret World getting the skills is only half the battle; it’s finding the right synergy and using it and adapting it to not only your play style but the situations you find yourself getting into that makes all the difference. In the end the game that Secret World reminds me most of, is Magic the Gathering. Secret World plays like I imagine most of the people who played that game would describe Magic; simple to understand but difficult to master.

The End of the World As We Know It

Posted by Segun777 Monday July 9 2012 at 10:10AM
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As I sit before my computer I am forced to realize that something amazing has happened, I am enjoying The Secret World. It’s not just that the story is driving me forward, it’s not just that I listen to the launch trailer before I start playing every day, it’s not even that I am thrilled with the skill system  and thus character development in a way I haven’t been in a long time; I am enjoying the Secret World for the sum of its parts. And what parts they are! From the undoubtedly eccentric mission system, to the unbelievable this-isn’t your-usual-MMO Dragon opening shot across the bow (Dragon 4 Life!), to the skill system that will take days to understand and years to master; The Secret World is constantly shaking the way MMOs can be played. The Secret World is unwavering in its commitment to let you go the easy way. Yes like any good spoiler you can Google things and get a bit of a cheat sheet but there are times when you are just awestruck that it even works, that you even care.
When I first started playing The Secret World I started with the Rifle. I had played a little in the various open and closed betas and I had a pleasant time with the Rifle, so it was my first weapon or skill set of choice. In The Secret World you can play with any two weapon combinations you like, there are three classes of weapons, each with three categories; melee, ranged, and magic round out the categories with a final weaponless skill set devoted to party play helping you gain or lose agro or help support your team. However, while they do have some similarities across the board they play different enough to feel unique. That uniqueness is a feeling The Secret World quickly fosters. While it may appear that the skill set is easily understood one would be in error to assume such, because they are so many choices.
I was a DPSer, strictly 9 to 5 straight up DPS with a side of AOE. Then I added a little selfheal for the boss fights and to have a better solo experience. Now I'm working on getting better damage that not only kills mobs faster but will heal me based on how much damage I do. And that's just for starters. If I go down the melee skill list I can pick up some nice damage mitigation passives. Just perusing the Rifle skillset I find myself almost halfway to a pretty good healer deck just by accident. This game allows you to play however you like, and even now I know I haven't even cracked the surface of it.
I quite quickly got disillusioned with the rifle though I was looking at other skill sets and thinking that sounds rather cool, right before I stopped progressing further I realized that I had only played lip service to my second skill set Elementalism and I wasn’t utilizing it to the fullest. I went back and thought, right around here is where I would start making alt characters in other MMOs. The new game shine has worn off a bit and now I want to play something different. Except the Secret World says not so fast, you want to switch play styles, fine do it. I could both keep playing with the Rifle skill set and garner enough action and skill points to make a quick change or I could go get a basic weapon and start from scratch. And I did, I had the benefits of some decent gear and so that helped obviously but even then the Secret World doesn’t penalize you for changing your mind or making weak decks (7 active and 7 passive skills); if you can think it up then you can make it happen. There are no cookie cutter builds, and you can play however you like.
The Secret World is adept at sound better than just about any game I’ve played in quite some time. Not only does it have hauntingly beautiful pieces in game, see ‘Siren Song’ as an example, but it has beautiful music outside the game. The launch trailer alone would win an award in any other industry. In game, music aside however, where the Secret World shines brightest is the sound of the world. When pursued by monsters, there is the rush and crescendos of the music crashing all around you, as you run for your life. When a big behemoth is merely stomping around you hear the Titan-like steps as you feel the earth rumble and shake. All of this is helped immensely by the idea that the Secret World fosters that you’re not ever safe. Even the mightiest can be brought low even in Kingsmouth, the starting area. It should feel cheap at times but in a way it feels right, the idea that while you might be a superhero in your own mind evil is always waiting for a little mistake to throw down a body slam. 
As Lavar Burton once said, ‘Don’t take my word for it’; The Secret World is here and it is simply amazing. It is unabashedly everything you never thought you wanted. Yes I know you’re waiting for Guild Wars 2 to drop, its free I get it. Maybe you’re looking ahead at Blade & Soul, Elder Scrolls Online, or Wildstar; but take a quick look at The Secret World you just might not ever leave. A MMO that makes you want to keep playing, keep improving at it; maybe it really is the end of the world.

The Value of the First Impression

Posted by Segun777 Thursday July 5 2012 at 3:21PM
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It's a natural thing for humans, for all animals for that matter, to put a lot of stock in their first impressions. It's not entirely surprising; sometimes life and death is decided in only a few seconds. The deer decides whether to stay still or run from the wolf, as does the antelope from the cheetah, even humans have fight or flight responses; they all depend on the first impression.
In the month of April I played four games in particular after the excellence that was Mass Effect 3; The Old Republic, Witcher 2, Tera, and Diablo III. Every game came up wanting for one reason or another; Republics' story wasn't as deep, Witcher 2's combat was a tad wonky, Tera's story was non-existent, and Diablo III was just a shade weaker than expected. Those were all my first impressions. Then came Guild Wars 2, a game lauded for its combat, and I was unimpressed. I found it wanting versus the brilliance of Tera's combat and it made me pause. Earlier in the week I had been sure that I wasn't going to play Tera based on the fact that other than its combat I was bored, sure it doesn't do anything wrong but it didn't feel like it would be enough. When I went to play the Guild Wars 2 beta I realized that my first impression of the game, while not complimentary shouldn't be enough to stop me from playing some more, in this I realized that I had to give Tera more time to pass or fail. 

Still it made me think, so much of life based on our first impressions. With MMOs' we usually get five or ten years to go back and see if we were wrong, but games are different; so to is life. How many times have I not done something, or traveled down a road based on the first impression. It's something to ponder, time is precious to us its true and yet how much sweeter would life be if we took the time to take a second impression or a third.

Miracle Day

Posted by Segun777 Tuesday July 3 2012 at 9:47AM
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‘These are the times that make men stride across the skin of the world’
-          Torchwood: Miracle Day
When I heard those words, while watching the trailer of Miracle Day for the first time I swear I had goose bumps, such words they were. They were full of greatness and awe-inspiring, like the words of the poet Lord Tennyson’s “Ulysses” ‘Death closes all: but something ere the end/ Some work of noble note, may yet be done,/ Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods’. While it wasn’t quite as great a season as the legendary Children of Earth season, it didn’t disappoint me; those words were a promise fulfilled of the greatness that the fourth season of Torchwood would unveil.
I’ve started playing The Secret World; it’s an odd duck as an MMO. It’s not really following the recent and no so recent trends of MMORPG’s. It doesn’t follow a familiar generic genre of fantasy or science fiction. It doesn’t rest upon an old standby IP, certainly although there are echoes of Dreamfall: The Longest Journey that wouldn’t even help, not many people even remember that game or played it. Most of all it’s not afraid to start small and work its way into something bigger. You can see a much more refined approach to this game than Funcom had with Age of Conan.
In the first hour of playing you find yourself in New England, a town called Kingsmouth. The first person you meet is a cowboy, talking with a voice straight out a western he tells you to put aside your childish ways, evil has come to Kingsmouth and he wants you bring down a reckoning on whoever brought it here. I had a chill when I heard him say that, the emotion the words evoke is right out of a good book or a great movie, the idea that a MMO can evoke emotion in a simple quest is relatively new. Certainly MMOs have always tried to make us laugh with one ridiculous quest or another, but real emotion hasn’t been something MMOs really deal with. Even more than The Old Republic, this game has the ability to make it all seem worthwhile. It is fully voiced but not every quest is talking. Sometimes you find a scrap of paper on the ground and it’s a test of your investigation skills. Sometimes it’s a simple fetch quest dressed up as Armageddon round one; more than any other MMO I’ve played Secret World isn’t shy about showing not just telling you you’re all that stands between humanity and the end of the world.
Even the way leveling up is done is simple and yet complex. Get points from experience and then use them on skills. Unless you research extensively you probably don’t really understand the leveling system. It seems relatively simple and yet it’s far more complex than is obvious. In Kingsmouth there are places that will eat you alive at first. Fighting more than a few monsters at a time is unadvised and yet slowly as you understand the game more it becomes obvious that you’re going more powerful and that the game wants you to think for yourself on how you want to play rather than follow any cookie cutter build; though if you want they allow you the choice of that as well.
Some people are of the impression that Bioware didn’t innovate anything by having the first fully voiced MMO, I’m sure that the same people don’t think that Sony changed the industry by Disc format games, or Microsoft didn’t change the game with online console gaming or the hard drive. Ten years from now we won’t even be able to imagine playing a MMO without it having fully voiced and fleshed out NPC’s; we’ll scoff at anything less. In my opinion it is story and world building that will change the landscape of gaming in the next decade not the latest graphics engine. The Secret World impresses me; I hope I’m not the only one but either way I aim to stride across the skin of its world as long as it will let me.

DLC on Disc is it an Evil or Necessity of Fair Gaming?

Posted by Segun777 Sunday July 1 2012 at 9:39AM
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Recently the Japanese publisher Capcom came under fire, for amongst other things storing DLC (Download content) on the disc for the game Street Fighter X Tekken that was sold to consumers for sixty dollars. Not the first company to practice this, Capcom was the latest company to do so at a time when gamer frenzy seems to be at an all-time high. Long time fighting fans were aghast that Capcom had the temerity to sell them finished DLC on the disc. I suppose if Capcom had simply put the content online available for download a week after the launch of the game everyone would have been happy. Which begs the question what is acceptable?
Capcom and other developers have made the contention that games take a long period to develop and it is only feasible to make DLC for a period of time after the game is launched. No matter how long a shelf life the game has, it’s finite. The argument is made that the game content is a finished game and thus any extra content is fair game as DLC. My personal preference is that I don’t enjoy buying or even playing sports games every year, but there are legions of Madden and NBA 2K fans who would disagree with me. The NBA 2K11 game was considered the best Basketball game ever and the 12 version was considered quite excellent as well. The question then isn’t if games should release every year but how much content can be put into a game and still ask for full price. 
Call of Duty games rarely run more than 10 hours single player, and yet because of their perceived value in multiplayer, gamers have no problem shelling out sixty dollars every year for what is fundamentally the same multiplayer experience. Call of Duty just hit all-time records of more than 20 million games sold which is more than a billion dollars of revenue. In my mind then, this is proof of the truth that what this really comes down to is perception. Fighting games are singular in that they are primarily multiplayer affairs. Fighting game enthusiasts play online against others to see where they stand, much like the video game arcades of old, thus the single player elements are little more than practice fields to test out strategies for use for online play.
So what is the answer then? Game companies have to be cognizant of the fact that there are times when perceptions trump reality. Perception said it appeared that Capcom was trying to sell gamers half a game for sixty dollars and then charge the other half for twenty dollars more. It’s an old trick, give them the razor and sell them the blades. It wasn’t that at all. Reality says that Capcom sold thirty-eight characters in the fighting game and twelve characters as DLC. Yup, more than three times as many characters as regular v. DLC. Part of the problem is that gamers reacted badly from the get-go with little to no information. And not only that a fair amount of people reacting to the brouhaha were never planning to buy the game anyways.
If there’s a lesson to be learned, it’s that perception will sometimes trump reality. Capcom could have headed off the fracas at the bend by being clear and upfront about this issue. There was no way that gamers weren’t going to find out about this sooner or later. Not only that, it was entirely foreseeable as this wasn’t the first time the issue had come up for game companies. Could both sides have acted a little more wisely, of course? But this is something that’s likely to be repeated so it’s best to take the most important lesson from this, don’t put it on the disc you mor… I mean common sense first people.

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