Happy 4th birthday, Guild Wars 2!

I remember having no desire to play Guild Wars 2. My friend Peter hyped it up to hell and back, but I would have none of it. Eventually on the day before release, I dropped the money on it. I figured that if Peter enjoyed it, I could play it with him and maybe have fun by extension.

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That was the first character I created for the game; a human something or other I think it’s an Engineer. I created him, got lost in another race’s zone, and gave up for a day or so. I came back, created a big Norn Warrior, and set about exploring the game at my own pace and enjoying it.
My friends all joined the game and played it solidly for a month or two, before dropping off gradually. I had fallen in love with the game though, and proceeded to be the (at the time) only one of us to hit max level on any character. It remains one of only three MMO games that I have done so on 1. Games like World of Warcraft and Rift just don’t have the same pull as Guild Wars 2 for me, but that seems to be the way of things; most WoW players don’t like GW2 either.

Fast forwarding to now, four years after all that started, and I’ve played the game through most of it 2. It’s gone through quite a lot and is a vastly different game than when it started, but the majority of changes have been for the best and it’s great.
I’ve really enjoyed the idea of the story (not so much the initial execution, though), and with another dragon potentially on the way it’s going to be fun. The way the story is tackling not just saving the world from the dragons, but also the consequences of upsetting the balance of nature by doing so.

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This is really meant to be a thank you note of sorts to ArenaNet. They’ve made some questionable decisions over the past four years, and I’m still waiting for the next World vs World Tournament, but I have to say I am still enjoying it after having “played for 1,854 hours over the past 1459 days”.

Here’s to the next four years, right guys?

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1. The other two are Final Fantasy XIV: Realm Reborn, and Marvel Heroes 20XX.
2. I had a break or two, because believe it or not I got burned out

Review: Infestation World–Déjà Z

imageYou would think that Infestation: Survivor Stories had for lack of a better term, finished it’s story. Starting off as The War Z, the game had nothing but negative publicity with copyright infringements, lazy development and outright lying to customers as just a few of the issues that arose.

 

Nearly 4 years after the release, and things looked quiet from the outside; the game is still mostly disliked, and SteamCharts reports an average concurrent user base of around 50. That last point of course saddens me, given there are much better games  that deserve these people’s attention.

Of course, this turns out to not be the end of the story, and we have a new chapter of sorts in the form of Infestation World.

So what is Infestation World? It seems to be one of three(!) spiritual successors of the aforementioned Infestation: Survivor Stories. In this case, Electronics Extreme bought the license off the original developers to bring their “vision” to the world.

Upon loading the game, I was unsurprised yet still disappointed to discover it is literally the same game. If you have seen Infestation: Survivor Stores/The War Z before, then you have seen literally all that Infestation World has to offer. There is no difference bar maybe some tweaks to zombies, weapons and loot.

download (1)The game won’t let me take screenshots, so here’s someone else’s screenshot of Infestation: Survivor Stories 1.

Much like it’s predecessor, Infestation World isn’t necessarily a bad game mechanically. There is a firm basis for a good survival simulator. The biggest issue really comes down to bugs and polish. The game looks and feels severely dated and sketchy, and the bugs really break the immersion. There should be terror when I am being chased by multiple zombies. Instead I feel glee as I strafe slowly to the right, rendering myself impervious to their attacks and bash them to death with a baseball bat.
For that is the underlying issue that still needs to be addressed. If the threat in your game isn’t scary in the least, your game isn’t interesting. It becomes a slow slog of trawling for loot and shooting at the equivalent of wet mobile bean bags.

Of course, that might not be too much of an issue if the game’s PVP is solid. If the zombies are just meant to be a backdrop then that would make sense. However, the game locks “beginners” out of PVP servers until they have played at least 6 hours of the game and killed 500 zombies. That’s a lot of time investment in a boring grind before getting to what could be the meat of the game. With those, the “Official Servers” and “Battle Mode” each being locked behind ridiculous requirements I doubt I’ll ever be able to push myself to unlocking them.

Really the only big selling point for the game is the fact that it is indeed Free To Play. This was something Infestation: Survivor Stories tried for a week or two before cancelling the idea which was a bad idea on their part. By going the free route, they jump a hurdle that many lower profile entries into the genre fail to get past and will probably enjoy the small community that travels over from I:SS.

With some critical bug fixes and some polish to the new user experience I’d be willing to recommend this game, but as it stands you’d definitely be better off looking elsewhere if you want a meaningful use of your time. If you still want to play it, you can get Infestation World here.

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1. Yes I know it’s not the same game technically, but really you can’t tell the difference!

I bought a physical copy of a dead game because I could.

Enemy_Territory_Quake_Wars_Game_CoverSo I received a package today that I did not expect. Apparently I had ordered a copy of Enemy Territory: Quake Wars.

I don’t remember ever ordering it, but here it is. This is the one Quake game I haven’t played before, but wish I had. The first game in the ET series, Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, had been one that I obsessed over for a while. I spent hours after school every day playing it online.
Enemy Territory: Quake Wars took it in a super cool direction, offering a prequel to the Quake II and IV storyline, but I never got to experience that. Nowadays, Steam says almost no-one is playing through the client. As I look now, there is only one person on. I don’t know how many people outside of Steam are playing, but it doesn’t look like the game is alive.
I’m going to install it later, and hopefully there is some sort of single-player element of the game.

I have bought Elder Scrolls Online

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series An Epic Saga Of Personal Growth

For those following the epic saga, I finally decided to put down the money for the game during the Steam QuakeCon sale, while it was $20. I also used some of the money saved to buy a couple of months of Plus to get the “full experience”. I’ve been playing it here and there, and it seems a lot better than my experience playing the beta all that time ago.

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We’ll see in time if I stick with it, and if it will become one of the few MMORPGs where I actually enjoy it enough to hit max level 1.

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1. Currently the only games to achieve this are Guild Wars 2 and Final Fantasy XIV: Realm Reborn.

I am kickstarting Diabotical

Diabotical is an uncertainty for me. Anyone who knows me can tell you I absolutely adore the competitiveness of arena shooters. I am ready for Unreal Tournament to come into a public beta so more people can be exposed and get hooked, and I have hopes for Quake Champions if the trailer is anything to go by.

diabotical_logo_fullWe aren’t talking about Quake Champions though. That was the last article. Focus.

Diabotical aims to be an eSports level arena FPS, developed by The GD Studio. The Kickstarter states that the game is being “developed by former Quake and eSports professionals”, which is cool and means they are going in knowing exactly what their goals are.

Yet I am always nervous when someone develops a game with the assumption it will be a competitive sport. Many games have tried that, but unless you have the players already hooked on the game, there’s no audience. This isn’t me saying it’s impossible, just that past cases make it look like a challenge.
In addition, arena shooters have already been struggling in the past few years; with Quake Live changing a lot and other efforts like TOXIKK just not managing to retain any players, it’s obviously a challenge to be successful in this niche. Hell, Warsaw is a great and completely free arena shooter, but it just can’t seem to break out and get popular.

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Clearly Warsaw was missing the pink cat decals. They’d be successful with cat decals. Trust me.

So with that said, I obviously have my doubts about Diabotical and their goals with it, but I am kickstarting it mainly to see how they approach making it sport-worthy, rather than hoping it is (Though I do). Balance and gameplay are only a small part of what makes a game viable. The game is being built to make getting into the scene easier, with an automated tournament system inside the game itself. However, what about the other side of the equation? A major part of games as sports, is the audience. I want to see how they go about making the game watchable for spectators. Will there be a unique way to watch matches, or a replay system? I assume there will be special broadcasting tools in game, but all this together is what will make or break the game. Will people want to watch it?

Hopefully, yes. But we’ll see as the game won’t be out for another 10 months, and there will be much more information to be teased over the coming year.

Quake needs to change.

So after the E3 teaser, I was so ready for a new Quake game. We’ve just come off two consecutively successful reboots of id software games, with Wolfenstein: The New Order and DOOM both being very successful, and hitting the third would be perfect.

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Afterwards however, interviews and extra information surfaced that made it seem as if Quake was moving away from it’s roots and instead trying to chase after Overwatch. Overwatch is a great game yes, and a new hero-shooter wouldn’t be the worst thing, but it wouldn’t be Quake. Quake is about speed and is an arena shooter in the purest sense. Right? I’m here to suggest a Hero-Shooter would actually be fine, all things considered.
There are 5 titles in the Quake franchise to date, and each one has been significantly different in some way. Quake and Quake II were both single player focused, and while the latter is a sequel, it is in no way related to the original. While Quake has the player travel through portals in a world full of Lovecraftian references to defeat an enemy only known by it’s codename of “Quake”, the sequel has us attempting to stop an alien invasion by a species known as the Strogg. Despite the complete 180 in story, both games were commercial hits and are still beloved to this day.

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Not looking too good there, buddy.

Quake III changed everything though, ditching a single player story completely, and being a dedicated multiplayer arena shooter. The game became a sport, and is still played and enjoyed today in both it’s original form, and as Quake Live.
Quake 4 is the last in the numbered series of games thus far, and is the first direct sequel to any, following on after the events of Quake II. This game set itself apart by being much more heavily story-driven. While the first two games had story “if you read the manual”, they were fairly simple “Run, shoot, run while shooting” style games where the plot didn’t matter. In Quake 4, story takes a much stronger grip, with the game being built in the Doom 3 engine, and having NPCs and friendly soldiers and medics who talk to you and can even in some instances join you and give you their medical services.
Finally, while Enemy Territory: Quake Wars wasn’t a hit, and had been shut down before I ever got around to playing it, it still is in the franchise and offers yet another wild change of gameplay.
From what I understand of it, it was a class based team multiplayer game played on large maps, where one team has to complete certain objectives while the other team attempts to stop them. These features set it apart completely from the multiplayer from all it’s predecessors.

It does now appear that they are returning to their roots, though.

With all that in mind, if Quake Champions merely returned to the franchises previous arena shooter ways, in a way it could be doing itself a disservice. Quake is a series that doesn’t do the same thing twice, and that can be a good thing.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a bad thing if it stuck to what we knew, and was just a revamped Quake 3. I’m still excited either way. Just saying the opposite isn’t so bad, when you think about it.

Old Friends: Loadout – Cool guns on life support

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Old Friends

I played Loadout a bit two years ago, but the loss of Oceanic servers and other issues lead to my letting it go for a while. When I saw the state of the game and the developers at the time, I uninstalled it. It’s been ages, and I thought it is long time to revisit it, and see how this old friend has held up.

Come to now, and I had long forgotten about the game, and even thought it had been shut down. Well, upon reinstalling it I’ve found the game is actually still going, and according to SteamCharts the game seems to sit around the ~100-300 player count. While this isn’t as healthy as games like Warframe, it means the servers aren’t completely empty…hopefully.

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Upon loading I was reminded of all the things I loved about Loadout; the TF2-esque cartoon style, the music, and the focus on weapon customisation are all just perfect.
At the same time, I saw justification for leaving the game when I did; the last balance update was over fifteen months ago. The game has clearly been left to it’s own devices, to only finally be shut down when server costs outweigh the remaining bit of money the game is producing.
As pessimistic as that thought makes me feel, the SteamCharts numbers gave me hope, and I jumped into the Fight queue.

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While waiting, I decided to look at the Weaponcrafting sections and saw the sorts of weapons I had created before abandoning the game. These included a big rocket launcher called “Oppressive Mass of Shitlord”, which is awfully brilliant of past me.
After about ten minutes of queuing, I came to the realization nobody seems to be playing Ranked, and I had to abandon playing Annihilation mode. Three minutes into queueing in Casual, I was thrown into a match.
It played exactly how I remember, with all it’s mayhem. My alternative gun to the Oppressive Mass of Shitlord is a healing pulse rifle called “What is it with you and dicks?”, so a lot of my game was spent being a support, because I do enjoy thwarting the enemy team’s efforts to eliminate us, but even as a support the game felt action packed and exciting. Probably the only notable thing I don’t remember from when I used to play, is the robotic announcer voice that sounds like the default female voice that comes default with Windows.
The games of Capture The Flag (Called “Jackhammer” in Loadout) and Blitz (Capture Points) that I played were entertaining, and I was faced against people of varying skill. One of my fears were that the few hundred people who still played this game may have been predominantly the sort of people who live and breath a single game and are unquestioningly superior at it. Instead, there were enough people of around my skill level to make the experience something devoid of frustration. I don’t know if this experience would be the same for everyone, but for a guy like me this is all I need.

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I blew a dude up.

Ultimately the game is still really solid and still remains playable with other people. But, obviously that can’t last forever. Looking into it, it does seem that the game’s developer, Edge of Reality, has actually closed down and doesn’t exist anymore. Without them, there doesn’t seem to be any avenue for a resurrection. I pose a question; who has the rights to the game, and what do they plan to do with them?
So at this point, the only probable reason Loadout is still here is because there is enough revenue to justify keeping the servers running. We’re playing on borrowed time, and that’s saddening.
I hold a small hope that some budding Loadout fans will get together and create the stuff required to be able to create private server stuff so people can keep playing Loadout years after the official servers power down. It feels unlikely, but it’s happened for multiple old games of the past so it is at least possible.

I think I’ll spend bits and pieces of the next few weeks playing Loadout, and taking what entertainment I can out of it before it shuts down. Loadout is fun and deserves more than what it got.

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If you’re reading this, you can still download Loadout for free, and if you need more convincing and need to see more, you can see my gameplay videos here.

You have your orders, soldier; shoot to heal.

So I am a little late to the party, but today I got to feast my eyes on Ana, the soon to be newest addition to the Overwatch roster.

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Ana is really cool; she takes her place as our 5th support character, but she has defensive capabilities too as a sniper character.
Her rifle will heal any ally shot with it, and a grenade that will do the same while also simultaneously damaging enemies and preventing any healing for a short time. When needed, Ana can also deploy a sleeping dart that makes an enemy “unconscious” until they take damage (or I assume after a time to wake up). As for her ultimate, she can give everyone around her a boost to speed, damage and resistance to damage.

I can honestly say I like this from a gameplay perspective, because it’s both different and yet sort of the same. The character can serve as a Widowmaker with what I assume is reduced damage, and the ability to heal people who are a bit closer to the actual fight. Her ultimate sounds good for pushing without being totally overpowering, assuming the damage resistance she grants isn’t too severe.
I haven’t seen much about her, and have a few questions about how she works, like if headshots will damage/heal for more and the aforementioned damage resistance numbers, but she looks like she will be a lot of fun later down the line.

To finish off, I want to say I just realized I should be looking at learning Symmetra or Zenyatta, since I’m no where near competent with either.

Evolve is fun.

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So I’ve had a few days with the beta for Evolve Stage 2, and it’s been pretty intense.

While the game apparently had a revamp, I have never looked into the original version enough to be able to tell you what changed exactly. As such, I can say I’m looking at this game through fresh eyes.

The game consists of just one game mode called “Hunt, which has one player assuming the role of a monster who is trying to kill the other four players who are in turn tasked with killing the monster. If the hunters take too long to track the monster, he can eventually “evolve” and get more powerful. This hunt or be hunted gameplay is really compelling to me as an idea, as depending on execution it could lead to lots of interesting interactions between teams from match to match.

Each human player must be from one of four classes; there always has to be a medic, a support, a trapper and an assault character. A player is assigned one of those roles at the start of the match, and can then select which character in that category they want to play. Further gameplay customization comes to being able to select perks that affect your character for the duration of a match, things like health regeneration and jetpack control.
There is around six monsters for a player to choose from, each with their own variety in attacks and abilities. As with humans, the monster has a selection of perks he can utilize in a game depending on the strategy he plans to use and points can be placed in the monster’s attacks.

The games I have participated in have all been fairly similar, with the humans chasing down the monster, who is trying to both outrun it’s pursuers and eat other creatures to get more powerful. Eventually the monster gets domed (trapped by the hunters in an enclosed area) and the fight ensues, ending only when one side is downed, or the dome disappears and the monster can escape to repeat the process again.
While this sounds like something that would get stale after a few matches, I don’t think this is going to be the case. Between all the different characters and their individual abilities I feel that there’s a lot of opportunity for depth of strategy n this game. Already I’ve encountered several different monsters which seem like they will require individual strategies to beat.

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With the game being free, I’m expecting we’ll see more additions to the game as time goes on to add variety and slow any feeling of the game growing stale. Apart from balance changes I’m expecting more game modes as I’m expecting some of the removed modes to be retooled and put back in, hopefully some more maps and characters as well as obviously skins. They’re obviously hoping to push the longevity of the game, so the plan is hopefully long term.

Monetisation seems to be non-existent at this point; everything in the game at current is available for the in-game currency “Keys”, including skins, characters and perks. I have looked around and it seems there’s no way to actually purchase anything for real money. This is kind of neat, but has me wondering what their plans for the future are. Are we getting lots of Steam DLC packs? Or will Turtle Rock eventually implement micro-transactions that can be bought with real money.
The “Free To Play” aspect of the game has us restricted in a lot of ways initially. Your choice of characters is fairly limited at the beginning, with only one of each class and monster available. They are rotated each week so every week you can try something different, and if the tutorial is completed, you can unlock a monster and one hunter for free, permanently. After that all skins for hunters, monsters and weapons cost Keys, as well as any perks you want to own or upgrade.

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I’m worried as to how they plan to make money on the game going forward. The obvious two choices that come to mind for me are either allowing people to purchase packs of Keys for real money, or selling additions to the game in DLC packs on Steam.
Both have their pros and cons. Addressing the latter first, DLC packs only serve to split a community as they become either the “Haves” or “Have Nots”, with the Haves having access to maps the “Have Nots” do not and leaving them unable to join in.
Purchasing Keys seems like a great method, but then you have a group of people who are able to just buy all the perks for all the characters from the get go. While I don’t consider it “Pay To Win” because there’s still a level of competency expected in your play, this still creates a system where one person has more access to advantages than another.
This might seem like pointless nit-picking, but I really like as fair a playing field as possible. The monetisation of a game is something I seem to be particularly sensitive to, if my past posts on this website are anything to go by.

As it stands, I’m actually glad this happened to Evolve. If they didn’t have such a terrible release, we might not have had the game in it’s current form and maintaining high player counts. As such, I might never have gotten to experience this.
While I’m cautious about the future of the game there really is no denying it is fun, and the game both looks nice and runs smooth even on my somewhat dated machine. The best case scenario for me would be that this game continues to grow, and maybe even form a bit of a competitive community. We’ll see.

Getting to my first taste of Evolve.

I’ve been sitting here for the past few hours waiting for this to go live. I’m typing this before even playing it, I am kind of excited.

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In less than an hour, I’ll be downloading the free to play beta of Evolve. I remember when Evolve was first coming out, I was hyped for it. As time went on, it became obvious the game would be very DLC dependent, and I didn’t feel comfortable pre-ordering it. After release, it turned out that was a smart thing to do. The game was blasted for it’s micro-transactions and DLC and has dived from a 9,000 player count at release to just over 100 average at present, and seemed to be on the cusp of being forgotten.
I am really excited to finally get to play the game without the daunting price tags, as all things in the game pre-F2P are now unlockable through normal play. I’ll be writing this as I go through the night, expressing opinions on the whole thing.

1:30am: Well the countdown ended, and resulted in a website crash. Now the main Evolve website produces nothing but a “Database Error”. Eep.

1:40am: Website was up for the briefest of moments, and I got to see this cool image before the site went down again.

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Now there’s a tweet saying it will be live around 10am PT, which is an hour away. Time to relax.

6am: Game is finally letting me download it’s 20GB on Steam, after a few failings and a nap. Back to having a nap…

10:30am: “Nap”. Turns out I’ve ruined my sleep pattern, and I shouldn’t try to commit to blogging while being intoxicated. I have the game downloaded though, and will probably be streaming and recording it in a few hours.
Next time I do something like this it’ll be a bit more organized. For now, I’ll have more to say when I finally get to play!