Rambilicious 100% Ramble-y Goodness

12Dec/110

Star Wars Galaxies – Best. Skill system. Ever.

Posted by Mythor

If you've played Star Wars Galaxies in the past couple of years you could be forgiven - barely - for thinking the game is nothing but a World of Warcraft style MMO when it comes to selecting and playing a class in that galaxy far, far away. It hasn't always been so.

What you've experienced is what Sony Online Entertainment dubbed the "New Game Experience", commonly abbreviated as the NGE, introduced in 2005 in a misguided attempt to recapture player interest in the game.

But what came before the NGE? How did players develop their characters before the dark times?

26Oct/110

Hey Myth, Is Dungeon Defenders Good?

Posted by Mythor

Short answer: Yes. If a multiplayer tower defense game with third person action RPG trappings sounds interesting, Dungeon Defenders is that and you should buy it.

Long answer: For some reason I occasionally get people asking me if Game X is any good, especially if I have the Steam Community logged in while playing something. I don't know why anyone would ask me, I play all sorts of random crap!
But never have so many people asked after Dungeon Defenders. There's been a few questions on Twitter and a few via Steam Chat and rather than answer any more individually... BLOG POST.

2Oct/110

Better Late Than Never: Dungeon Siege III Rambling Review

Posted by Mythor

The original Dungeon Siege was released way back in 2002, with Dungeon Siege II following in 2005. With no sign of a sequel for many years and the original creators, Gas Powered Games, busy developing a number of other titles it didn't seem like a third in the series would ever eventuate. Having been a fan of the series since the original was announced, this was almost as sad to me as the long delay between Diablo II and III.

But at long last Dungeon Siege III (DS3) was unleashed upon the world this year. It wasn't developed by Gas Powered Games, it wasn't going to be as party-based as the previous two titles, the skill system wasn't going to be freeform anymore and it wasn't going to be a PC exclusive - perhaps the most egregious of all the changes, in some circles. Obsidian Entertainment have brought a lot of changes to the formula for their version of Dungeon Siege.

Fortunately, some things never change.

25Jun/112

Team Fortress 2’s Sneaky “Strange” Weapon Update Is Good For Everyone

Posted by Mythor

´╗┐´╗┐Taking a leaf out of the book of a variety of MMO developers, Valve have stealthily added something to Team Fortress 2, alongside the other announced features that came with the Uber Update.

For a while now the game has had "Unusual" hats available. Obtainable only through opening mysterious crates - using a key that costs $2.49 - these Unusual hats are blessed with cosmetic effects, such as confetti falling from the brim, a swirling holographic Team Fortress logo or unearthly glows in a variety of colours, among many other neat effects.
But the chances of finding one of those Unusual hats has always been quite low, with the chance of a regular version of a hat not being much better. Couple that with a general reluctance of players to spend even more money on a game they've already paid for and the mysterious crates are not as enticing as they once were.

And so now mysterious crates can be unlocked to reveal... "Strange" Weapons.

Fortunately these aren't dolled up with particle effects, as are their Unusual Hat cousins.

Instead, the "Strange" version of any given weapon looks and performs identically to the regular version but with the addition of a Kill Counter in the item information. Each time you kill an enemy player with that weapon the counter will increment by one. As the count reaches certain predetermined numbers the weapon will update its name.

So you may start out with a "Strange Shotgun" and once you've recorded 10 kills with the gun it will update to a "Unremarkable Shotgun". Score 25 kills in total and it will become a "Scarcely Lethal Shotgun" and so on up the ranks.

It's a completely cosmetic change - the effectiveness of the weapon never changes, nor do any bonuses or maluses attached to the weapon. But as you attain each milestone with a weapon it will announce the update to the entire server. Which is a bit of extra fun.

The benefits here for Valve are fairly obvious - people will need to buy keys to unlock the crates to get more base level Strange Weapons. More keys sold means more money for Valve!
And by having the items announce their milestones on the server they naturally spark conversations between players wondering how they, too, can have an item like that. Increasing the chance people will go ahead and buy a key.

The players of Team Fortress 2 benefit from this a little less obviously. Assuming you discount the "cool factor" of a fun new mechanic in the game.

First and foremost, people are going to have a reason to use weapons they may not ordinarily choose. The first Strange Weapon I found was a Soldier's "Direct Hit" rocket launcher, my least favourite of his weapons because I am simply terrible at using it.
But because I could "level up" that launcher, I was giving it another chance. And I even found myself coming to like it... from time to time.
People who do not ordinarily play Scout might choose to give it a shot when they unlock a crate and find a Strange Scattergun inside, or someone might swap to Pyro when the team needs one, just so they can try that Strange Backburner they just uncrated.

Someone might use the Heavy's Brass Beast for a reason other than not knowing any better.

Secondly, and a little less obviously, if Valve sell more items, be they keys or hats or anything else, Valve are obviously going to be motivated to create more new items for players to collect and kill each other with.

And it's that new stream of revenue from an old game that has made things like the Uber Update possible. Very few FPS titles have such a strong following this long after initial release and Valve's continued support has played a large part in Team Fortress 2's continued success.

So when you see someone's Strange Weapon update come up on the screen you can see it as "another way Valve is ruining the game" or even "another cash grab by Valve" but in the end the reason you're still playing the game is because Valve have continued to support it so well.

So just shut up and play the game. It's supposed to be fun, remember? :-)

22Jun/110

A Game Unfinished: Medal of Honor

Posted by Mythor

This is not a comprehensive review. It's not even a review as such. I uninstalled the game after around 25 minutes playtime. This is just a bit of a rant on what I observed in my short play time. Maybe it doesn't match your experience, maybe the game breaks away and gets better, I didn't care enough to find out. I took a punt and bought it for $10 and it was still a disappointing experience.

You start the game in a helicopter, flying to who knows where in the middle of the night. As you're about to rappel out of the chopper it gets shot down and just before your face hits the ground the game fades to black and takes things back to... six months prior to the chopper. Do I die in six months? Is that actually someone else entirely? Not Epic Beard Guy from the trailers, surely he can't be dead? Anyway...

Now you're watching the Earth from way up high! Oooh, pretty lights. And there goes a plane. And the camera moves down further and eventually you see a Predator drone, which you then see through the camera of as it tracks two trucks along a road in some desolate looking country. Do I get to blow up a truck with a Predator drone? Already?

No, now I get to sit in one of those trucks, driving through the night. And my viewpoint is locked in place so I have to look wherever the game tells me to look. Well, okay, it's a bit dark but I can admire the scenery for a bit. It's not like I loaded this to actually play or anything.

There's chatter about Tariq. Tariq's our target. We've got to go get Tariq. Some informants told us Tariq is here. These dudes at the roadblock are Tariq's men and they sold him out. So let's go kill Tariq! Tier 1, woooo!

No, wait, first we have more driving to do. Though now it's through streets of some vaguely Middle Eastern looking and run down town. And I still can't look at whatever I want...

This on-rails feeling is something I should have gotten used to as when our trucks are inevitably ambushed and I am finally allowed out of the straitjacket of the "cinematic" intro... It's still very much on-rails as you move down corridors from one set piece to the next.

Fight off the initial attackers. Move up. Fight off some more attackers. Move up. Toss a grenade. Move up. Vault over a convenient barricade. Keep moving.

Get to a 6-7 foot wall my companion climbs up with ease, wait around below till I can hit F to have companion lift me up.

I'm not a Tier 1 operator but I can sure as hell clamber up and over a six foot wall.

Anyway. Move up. Shoot some more dudes. Move up. Shoot some more dudes. Move up. Get helped up another wall. Cover the other two dudes. Move up. Cover the other two dudes while they move up.

Then we finally find the door behind which Tariq is waiting for us. Fuck yeah, lets bust this door down and smoke this guy!

Hey... Tariq? Buddy? You're not looking so good. Tied up to a chair with some bullet holes and whatnot. How are we going to rescue you now...

Yeah, that's right. We're supposed to be rescuing him. Not killing him. Good to know, thanks for that.

Also, it's not actually Tariq. It's some other poor sap. Who looks like he might be dead, though it's hard to say.

His body/corpse is rigged with an explosive though, so if he wasn't dead before he's very dead after we kick him off the balcony to avoid the explosion.

So, no Tariq? Time for more moving up, shooting bad guys, moving up, shooting bad guys, flanking the heavy MG, shooting bad guys, move up?

Bet your sweet ass it is!

Bugger it. I've no idea why we're doing what we're doing and I don't care. I didn't even feel bad when I accidentally shot that "Mother" guy in the back because he's just some bland military guy being tough and efficient and... military-y.

Also, at one point, it told me to right-click to use "iron sights". My M4 came equipped with a red dot sight...

And if you think that was boring to read, well, it was even more boring to play. Thus it has been uninstalled in record time!

(I just said on Twitter that I wasn't going to do this... but consistency is for custards and creams and such. So I did.)

1Apr/111

An XBOX Live Gold Membership Cautionary Tale…

Posted by Mythor

Recently I had cause to cancel my credit card due to a failure in an online retailer's security measures potentially exposing my details to various ne'er-do-wells.

Shit happens. I didn't lose any money and a quick round of updating records made sure the important bills (INTERNET!!!) would get paid with my replacement card. No drama here!

At least, no drama until recently. I started getting emails from Microsoft telling me that my Gold membership couldn't be automatically renewed as the credit card funding it had been rejected. I didn't think much of it at the time since I haven't touched my XBOX much since finishing Fable 3.

I thought, quite reasonably, that since Microsoft couldn't charge me for Gold they would revert me to Silver and that'd be an end to it.

Oh, how silly I am.

It seems that when Microsoft can't charge you for an auto renewal they will try again. Which seems sensible. And a third time, which is still pretty fair.

But then they'll just keep on trying and telling you it's failing and trying and telling you it's failing...

Still no big deal, right? They'll give up after X attempts and all will be just fine. They'll revert me to Silver and I won't care because I don't need Gold right now anyway.

Well, no. At some point some system in Microsoft twigs that you've not paid for your Gold membership and so your account becomes S... Suspended?

Son of a bitch!

It used to be that you could click a button on the website to switch autorenewal off, but that went away during one of the site "upgrades". These days you have to call them up on the telephone to cancel it. Which is no mean feat in itself - out of a dozen attempts I only got through to an actual human once, today, finally.

After muddling through an explanation of what I wanted done and a very long time on hold - presumably while a manager was consulted - I was told that my account will remain suspended until I settle the outstanding Gold membership fee.

So, if I want to get back to Silver membership, the guaranteed basic free level of XBOX Live, I have to cough up the $79.95 (Australian) Microsoft were trying to charge for my yearly renewal. Even though I don't want it and have not received any benefit from the Gold membership in the time period I was in arrears.

Oh, but if I do pay the amount? Then the autorenewal will be cancelled and when my membership expires next time it won't try and charge me again. Or so they say...

Sigh.

Lesson learned. If you paid for your Gold membership with a credit/debit card and you want to cancel the membership or your card becomes invalid for any reason, you must call XBOX Support before it comes up for renewal. Else you find yourself, like me, in the land of Suspended Accounts and Unexpected Bills.

29Mar/110

Homefront – This Review Is Longer Than The Game…

Posted by Mythor

Homefront is Kaos Studios' second entry into the crowded FPS genre, their first being 2008's Frontlines: Fuel of War. Both games are set in a possible near-future war, with Frontlines' conflict based around the inevitable exhaustion of the world's oil supplies and Homefront exploring the possibility of an aggressively expanding North Korea.

Homefront's singleplayer campaign takes place as the western half of America has been occupied for a few years by an army from North Korea. The living conditions for the average American are pretty grim. Either they eke out a living on their own among the shattered remnants of their cities, or more likely they are conscripted into forced labour crews, toiling endlessly for the occupying forces.

As the game gets underway this seems to be the fate that has found you. You've been rounded up by the Korean People's Army - the KPA or "norks" - along with some other poor unfortunates and shepherded onto a converted school bus. It emerges that this group consists of people with some level of flight experience, with the assumption you're to be put to work. After some "re-education", of course.
As the bus winds through the streets of a shattered American town you look out to see KPA troops harassing civilians, arresting them in some instances, beating them with boots and rifle butts in others. As one runs away from the troops he is, quite casually, shot in the back of the head, leaving a wet splatter of blood on the window ahead of you.

If that's a little too grim for you, this is the point you should stop playing. Because the game goes to much darker places than this before the end.

28Mar/110

My first “First” – And Rift is pretty cool

Posted by Mythor

I play a lot of MMOs. Not all at once, of course, but I've generally dabbled in most of the more popular ones.

Rift is the latest of these dalliances and while there's definitely some similarities to other MMOs, it's got enough original concepts to be interesting.

But that's not what I'm here on my blog to talk about. Not at all.

Many MMOs have been recording who was the first player to achieve certain goals in the game or the first to find certain items. Ordinarily I am not someone who ever finds any of these things because I'm either coming into the game late or just not playing it 18 hours a day, as it seems some people will do during the launch of a new MMO.

Until the other day, when I was the first to find... Err, some "rare" bow that really wasn't that useful to my Warrior. But it was announced to everyone that I found it first, which was pretty cool!

What was even cooler was the way in which I found the bow.

A few days prior to my discovery I had stumbled across a Travelling Vendor, Buckley, out in the middle of nowhere in particular. I thought it a little odd and decided to see what he had for sale. I managed to pick up a much nicer shield and some other item I've since forgotten or replaced. All in all, a nice little discovery. I wondered if I'd run into the guy again later, or one of his friends in another zone.

Then, while riding back to town to turn in some quests, a portal opened beside the road. I stopped my mount and waited to see what would happen next.

Out strolled Buckley the Travelling Vendor!

He hailed me and said he recognises an item he sold to me, is it serving me well, etc? Then says he has another stash of items nearby and he'd be happy to offer a discount to his best customer.

So I follow along after him, sort of expecting a trap or a quest or maybe just some new shinies to buy.

We get to where his stash is supposed to be and - surprise! - it's gone. Buckley scurries back and forth trying to work out where it's gone and then requests my patience while he tries to locate his items.

He starts casting some kind of spell, which I figure is the prelude to him finding the treasure and sending me on a quest to retrieve it. I had nothing better to do at the time so I was curious to see where this was leading.

Then suddenly Buckley the Travelling Vendor is gone and in his place is Buckley the Travelling Vendor big-freaking-troll-ogre-thing, who immediately tries to eat me. :-D

After a bit of a battle I emerge victorious, of course, and get to loot him. He had a ring named after him and the rare bow I was the first to find, plus some cash. Score!

Turns out he'll randomly reappear when you're riding through the Gloamwood, both in the "It's a trap!" mode and as a vendor you can buy some random goodies from. So it's a dynamic and repeatable sort of "mini quest".

But that first time is definitely the most fun. :-)

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1Jan/112

What I’m Playing – Dragon Age: Origins

Posted by Mythor

Dragon Age: Origins

One of the seemingly inexhaustible supply of games I still haven't played enough of - or played at all, in some instances - Dragon Age: Origins is where I've been spending a fair portion of my gaming time over the last couple of days. With the sequel due early next this year I decided it was time to get stuck into the meat of the game, rather than the dabbling I had done previously.

The first time I started playing Dragon Age I chose the Dwarves as my starting race. Their introductory story and gameplay was interesting but I'd developed my character to be the "tank" of the group, unaware that three of the earliest companions you recruit can serve in that capacity, to greater or lesser degrees.

This time around I've been playing a Human Rogue. The introductory areas when starting as a Human noble are more satisfying than the Dwarven commoner. Whilst events do conspire against you to push things along, the human storyline left me wanting to save the world from the Darkspawn where the Dwarven story just left me wanting to get into the "game".

From here on in, there be spoilers.

31Dec/100

Hello? Is this thing on?

Posted by Mythor

Well, seems I have a blog again. They're still called blogs, aren't they? I certainly hope so, else I'm already off to a bad start.

Why is my blog called Rambilicious? Your guess is as good as mine. You've got to call your blog something and as I do enjoy a good spot of rambling it seemed like a reasonably descriptive yet somewhat made up word.

This is where I would tell you what this blog is going to be about. But I have no set agenda to fulfill. I'll float between gaming and television, science and hilarity, website tips and a smattering of politics.

Why now? New year, new start.

My one clear plan for my blog is to keep a record of the various games I complete. I always mean to keep track and never do. I always mean to let people know what I thought of the games I finish, but I never seem to get around to it. With a blog I can do those things and bitch more extensively about the games that need it, to boot.

Those "SEO Experts" deserve a kick in the pants and I may just give it to them.

I'll still be on Twitter and I'll still be recapping the new Australian season of The Biggest Loser, so if you've followed me from either of those places, never fear.

For better or worse I need more than 140 characters to express some of my opinions. Whether that is a good thing remains to be seen.

Stay tuned?