Saturday, March 15, 2014

Game Review: Shufflepuck Cantina Deluxe

So Thursday i had reviewed a game called Redshirt a Narcissistic view on the Star Trek universe, well today i'm going to review a tongue in cheek satire to the Star Wars universe just so i can keep all of your fanboy knickers twist free. If there was a doctor who, Lexx, Stargate, or Battlestar Galactica video game worth playing i'm sure i would have to make a whole series out of this type of thing to quiet the masses. But alas, Doctor Who has not been adapted to video game, thankfully; Lexx was too R-rated at the time to be made into a video game, i don't care enough about stargate to look for games and Battlestar Galactica Online is a sorry excuse (in my opinion) for a game that fits into the canon of the re-imaged series.

I digress. Shufflepuck Cantina Deluxe knocks out two birds with one stone, for those who have always said "man, i sure love star wars with such a firey passion that i still own the star wars white-y tighties that i had when i was 4." and the people who have always said "man, i sure love air hockey, the video game industry is really missing out on something special by not making an air hockey simulator!"

Yes folks, that's right. This game is a science fiction air-hockey simulator, featuring low-poly high res models of parodies of all your favorite star wars characters and even some they made up on their own.

Overall the game is very fun for a short period of time. Depending on how quick your reflexes are and how much time you want to invest into the game will determine how far into the "story" you get before undoubtedly walking away from the game or downloading Cheat Engine to just get the game over with already.

Basically you are a United States astronaut who crash lands his command pod onto the surface of an alien world whose only building appears to be a multi-story space casino. Instead of the normal earth casino games they have one game and it's a matter of pride for everyone, even a negotiation tool at times. That game is Air Hockey or Shufflepuck as they call it.

The objective is to build a new space ship to get the hell off this strange planet but in order to do so you need to play and win at air hockey against 13 different opponents spanning across 5 floors each opponent has their very own special move that they can employ upon you. When you beat them you gain reputation, credz and sometimes tokens. Tokens are for these machines that potentially give you credz, reputation, tokens, pucks, mallets, biographies and artwork. With the credz you can buy pucks, mallets, artwork, or biographies on the characters. The biographies are the most important piece to the game as every time you manage to unlock/purchase all 19 biographies of a certain NPC, you unlock their final quest which always involves dueling someone else, when you complete that, you get one part to the space ship.

Overall the game was pretty cool. there was an interesting variety of characters inside the Cantina that represent all of the major character from Star Wars as well as some superfluous ones that have nothing to do with Star Wars.

As i stated earlier, the amount of fun you get out of this game is strictly dependent on how much you're willing to do the exact same thing over and over and how much time you wanna blow on one of the more obscure simulation games out there.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Game Reviews: Redshirt

Space... the final frontier. these are the voyages of some random space station and it's 160-ish day mission to detonate with all of it's crew still aboard except for senior officers.

In a land where social media is the most important meal of the day and your friend count is all that matters, Redshirt is the definition of casual gaming and satirical work on two things the world loves equally, Star Trek and Facebook. With that being said, is this game worth a buy? I'm not entirely sure what it's worth but it sure amplified my Narcissism for the 12 hours it took me to play it twice to get the desired victory outcome that i wanted.

In redshirt you play a generic redshirt in a faux-star trek universe. You're deployed to a station out in the middle of space and one of it's most important features is spacebook... oh yes, you best prepare your anus, because this game is going to throw all manner of Space-puns at you in record speed. Anyways, in the game, you have a job, you have friends and you have activities to do with your friends. How you decide to balance all three of those is entirely up to you and will probably define how your endgame looks.

My first playthrough i decided to climb the social ladder a little more than i wanted and the career ladder a little less than i wanted, what ended up happening was i was 1 day away from the end of the game, without a girlfriend and i was 1 step away from the cushy position that guarantees you get off the station alive. My second play through i went with the fuck bitches make money route and ended up in the highest job in the game with another 70 or so days left before the station explodes.

The game has a tiered job system, each tier except for level 0 and level 7 (the minimum and maximum) have at least three jobs, and levels 1-6 all have 6 jobs, those would be the lowly peasant jobs and the managerial jobs for those lowly peasant jobs. Each job requires a different set of skills which you can acquire through personal activities, purchased goods and other jobs. Each job has a hiring manager that you can get in good with and they'll hire you so long as you meet at least one of the criteria, but be careful how you tread because you could very well end up going out with someone who is the hiring manager for the position you want and achieving that 100% positive relationship only to apply for the job too soon and be told that you're a horrible person for trying to sex your way up the career ladder and never have a chance at that job again.

The entire game runs of karma credits which are the game's currency and with them you're faced with a lot of equally silly named purchased goods that give you certain bonuses. Like, for instance, the robocat which gives you experience in handling small animals and children and comforting voice. But it also increases your happiness daily which is good, because if you're sad you make less in your job.

I think overall to fairly evaluate this game i should probably just tell you that for a better and more grounded life simulator, you should probably aim for Kudos 2 which in my mind is far superior and much more challenging but equally as addicting and capable of wasting your time.

So should you buy this game? probably not. The humor is too exaggerated to be funny to most normal people and the gameplay is narcissistic to say the least.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Video Game Review: Elder Scrolls Online Beta 2/28 - 3/2

So recently i wrote a review on the Elder Scrolls Online Beta for last month shortly before the PVP beta. This week i'm going to write a review for the beta that took place on Febraury 28th through March 2nd. And to tell you the truth not a whole lot has changed in the game itself but what has changed is how much of the game i have experienced myself.

To begin with i'm a huge crafting fanatic. I love crafting with a burning passion and this game does it in a very unique way that feels right and comfortable. It's interesting now because i actually took the time to look at all the dfferent styles of gear, of which they added a few more from the last beta that i reviewed, and they've finally implemented more than one tier of crafted equipment, so i looked at all those, and this is what i can gather. They've removed recipes and tiered equipment knowledge. There are no "let's hunt the world for how to make *Insert item name here* and there is no "oh man i can't wait till i get 3 more levels in *insert craft here* so i can make the middle of the road version of *insert piece of equipment here*. This is an amazing revelation in the crafting world because you're not blowing your incredibly limited crafting supplies in an attempt to reach maximum level so you can start farming recipes/blueprints/whatever to make the not-fail versions of the equipment you want. Everyone starts off with the knowledge of how to make all basic armors which means there's none of the WoW style questers that obviously try to craft their gear (where they're running around with 2/6 pieces from a craftable set because they either don't know how to make the rest or they're too low of a level to wear it.

This raises me to another point i'd like to make: You can fully gear yourself at any level you like granted you have the materials. All Tier 1 armors (iron armors) come in almost every even level from 1-14 the only difference is the number of materials it requires to craft and the stats on the actual armor. This, i believe, is incredibly important, because i actually spent 2-3 hours of solid game time just hunting for iron ore veins so i could craft. And you know how many i found? two. And you know how much ore that gave me? 6 pieces. When it requires 10 to even craft a set of ingots, those numbers mean every resource you have is valuable.

Seeing as i covered crafting pretty extensively in the last blog about it? I'm just going to move forward from here without hesitation.

Combat in this game is very fluid. It has the appropriate look and feel of an Elder Scrolls game. you can traverse the world in both first and third person to your hearts content. There are "recommended" weapon and armor categories for each class but that doesn't stop you from playing a rogue using a restoration staff if you wanted to. The downside to that is: the skills you get are dependent on the class you take, so while you could be said rogue using said restoration staff, it wouldn't do you a damn bit of good because the damage is terrible, the swings are slow and all you skills expect you to be normal and use either a bow or dual-wield 1h weapons of some form. I think this is also equally fantastic because it pays a huge homage to traditional Holy Trinity style gameplay without defiling it and bringing a new balance to the new style of MMO's that are quickly taking over the market by storm. No one person can be proficient at every single thing as it has been in RPG's since the dawn of pen and paper and should be until the day the genre dies.I say this because if everyone could be proficient at everything? you'd just be better off playing the non-MMO version of Elder Scrolls. Where there are no real classes you just pick up some magic and magic away with a sword in the other hand.

Questing is also equally fluid which is perfect for an elder scrolls game. While wandering around the country side for quests, i managed to stumble across a small hamlet who's chief production is mining. Well sure enough there was a quest in the town, picking that up, i followed and entire campaign-sized quest line puts you in the middle of a sticky situation with the plague and a pair of questionable alchemists. This was all just looking for resources. Aimlessly wandering some more i found a cave that was inhabited by insurgents of a renegade High Elf syndicate. Fighting my way through those masses i managed to discover a note on a dead body that sent me on a quest to another major city in which i actively took a part in thwarting some major war between the true high elf monarchy and this renegade syndicate. The world is as close to living as they could possible get it in an MMO that demands structure and i think that will majorly benefit them in the long run.

The official game comes out on 4/4/14 and for those who pre-order the game they will get early access to the game which starts 3/31/14 and as with all traditional pay structures, you get 30-days free with that purchase. They've got two different versions of the pre-order. There's a standard edition, and there's a imperial edition which unlocks the race of the imperials for you to play in whatever faction you choose AND some additional cosmetic features that are not normally offered. None of which, i felt, justified the additional 20 bucks that they're asking for the imperial edition. I would highly recommend this game to anyone who's willing to shell 60 for the game itself (i know it's total bullshit [if you've read my other blog post about the price of video games]) and another 15 a month for the account. I imagine the game will eventually become free to play, and i'll welcome you just as happily when that day comes, but i would love to see you all on release day so we can play it up together.

Questing is another big thing of interest

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Game Review: Trine

Once again i'm waay behind the the curve on this game review, but i figured why not? I just finished playing the game for the first time and i figured it inspired me enough to write a review on it.

Trine is a side scrolling platformer with mild fantasy combat and full 3D effects with some wonderfully basic sprites that actually go pretty well with the overall art style that the developers went for. Basically you play a trio of people whose souls are bound together by a magical artifact called the trine, and together in the process of trying to get their souls unbound, they stop some evil plot to destroy the world. pretty run of the mill but it is strangely addicting.

The game doesn't take itself seriously. There's a lot of tongue in cheek humor referencing to previous stereotypes of the fantasy genre as well as a lot of the characters don't take themselves seriously. The whole story starts off with a thief, attempting to steal some magical artifact from the mages guild which just happens to be the trine. Then a mage overhears a ruckus in the other room, and comes out to investigate. Well the knight comes barreling in... well... because he's a knight and he likes to come barreling into places. they all touch the trine at the same time and their souls become bound.

SO, what of the gameplay? Each character has 3 abilities that they  can use in which you need to unlock as you play through the game by discovering secret and plainly obvious chests. Each ability has 3 levels with which you need to level up, each level has an level cost of either 1, 2 or 3 points. You gain those points by killing skeletons of different armor quality and armament, and finding earlier mentioned secrets and random XP bottles that happen to just by lying around.

Overall this game was addictingly fun, and for only having about a dozen or so levels, it managed to keep me entranced for a good 15 hours. That combined with the special bonus level they give you for completing the game which is a mirror of the final level in the primary story line only with different obstacles and no fancy ohh-ahh's at the end was a pretty neat little incentive package.

I did however find most of the puzzles to be a little less than challenging. Once you got certain items and certain skills the obstacles became more routine than anything. Like a scale that lets one of your characters breathe under water indefinitely. skeletons die when they hit water. So solution = jump into water and keep bobbing your head out from under to trick the AI Pathing into the water. Skeletons are dead, you're untouched and 5 experience up. All in all it was a fantastic game and i enjoyed it, but now that i've lived and seen the first game, i'm having a hard time playing the second game, but i'm sure i will get to it eventually. The humor in trine 2 seems to be even more cynical and more tongue in cheek than the first as well as a stepped up compliment of graphical enhancements.

I would recommend Trine for anyone who happens to come across it on sale and curious about it. It's definitely something you want to experience at least once and at a discounted price lol.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Pathfinder: The game of finding your own path

In the last year of me going dark (before my resume to posting last month) i had taken to a hobby that i always wanted to try but never had the time or the courage to do. Tabletop RPG's. we're talking classic pen and paper D&D shit. The game that most people would picture a bunch of 30-year-old pimple-faced nerds living in their mothers basements and working at some retarded, dead end profession like Mall Security playing. But truth be told that's only like 95% of the community and while it takes some digging and soul searching to find the other 5%, they are there and i want to write this post now because i think i may very well have finally found them.

When i originally started playing it was a lot of research trying to figure out which MMO i wanted to play.because since the dawn of D&D, the market has become somewhat diverse. After some heavy duty research i decided that i wanted to stick to Pathfinder. And i'll give you the reason why in the form of some superfluous backstory that you don't necessary need or want.

D&D, the original pen and paper rpg debuted in 1974 by Gary Guygax and his friend Dave Arneson. Together they continued to improve upon the original idea of the game until 1997 when TSR, the company run by the two original creators was purchased by Wizards of the Coast. WOTC continued to produce for D&D and came out with their very first D&D product which was now Dungeons and Dragons 3rd edition. 3rd edition did some thing radical in the sense that it unified both the basic D&D and the AD&D (Advanced D&D) rules into one game and did a lot of refinement to the systems to improve gameplay as well as releasing the entire backbone of the game on what is called an OGL (Open Game License). This meant that third parties could take the system that was set in place by 3 and 3.5 edition of D&D and create their own works out of it without any hassle.

One company that decided to create content for the D&D Game system was Paizo Publishing. They had created their own universe for the game as well as a large supplement of modules and apocrypha for this new world that they created. When paizo's products got wildly popular, Wizards of the Coast pursued them for copyright infringement which angered paizo as they were doing nothing wrong acording to the OGL. Paizo decided to break away from the D&D scene, taking with them all of the content that had made them famous, rewrite all of the rules for D&D 3.5 and release their own pen and paper which they titled Pathfinder. Pathfinder, as such has taken the world by storm and has become one of the most popular pen and papers to date and with good reason.

I digress though. Since i've started playing Pathfinder i've been playing both roles, the role of DM (Dungeon Master) who creates the story, atmosphere and direction for the players and the role of the player, the one who creates the dialog and interacts directly with the world that the DM sets up. The player side is pretty easy, the hardest part is mustering the courage to actually have a conversation in character with your fellow players who are all doing the same. But as a DM it gets very difficult you have to keep track of the players stats, the monsters, the monsters stats, the initiative rolls, the dungeon itself, creating unique and engaging prompts for each room and making it all challenging and have that fun factor that keeps hem coming back for more. For people who are less on the creative side, there are the paizo official modules which offer you a linear quest line that has suggestions on monsters and prompts premade for an engaging experience that if you follow them will make for a successful session. But for people like me? i hate that. i can't sit down and study a dozen rooms, then recite them verbatim on game day. I prefer fluid experiences for my players and to do that i've discovered that i just need to make out maps, with named locations and maybe a prompt here or there and just fly everything else off the cuff. to me it becomes a much more organic experience for me which translates to a much more organic experience for the players. Best yet, i'm currently making my own campaign which is a series of modules strung together in a linear story. 

It's important to get a feel for how you can DM Successfully. or play successfully for that matter. What is fluid for you to have a great user experience is crucial in a pen and paper because it really is all left to the imagination and without that you'll find your experience lacking and thus unenjoyable in the end.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Rise and Fall of Hobby Shops

Recently one of my favorite game shops (and by favorite i mean the only privately owned one that was even remotely close to me) closed. It's kind of a sad occasion because in this specific instance it wasn't even a case of they couldn't make the bills due to lack of sales like most other hobby shops. In this case it was a conflict with the property manager which caused the owner of said shop to decide it was no longer worth it to keep the store up and running and thus decided to close up shop of all their locations indefinitely.

So why exactly do local, privately owned game shops close so frequently? we see it so often and it's kind of disappointing to the participants of the hobbies. I am a firm believer that for whatever reason there is generally not enough activity. Unfortunately for it to be financially feasible to run a hobby shop you need to consider the market you're going to be tailoring to and then consider the largest trends in that market. You  can't afford everything under the sun so at this point you need to pick and choose what product you will stock and what product you won't. Card shops that focus on the holy trinity of card games: Yu-gi-oh, Magic and Vanguard tend to be very successful with a stable income but that income is not to the point where the company could safely make an expansion into any other market for fear of losing a large chunk of change on product that wouldn't sell. Other hobby shops tend to do alright, but most other hobbies are so incredibly expensive that the purchase rate at which these items are moved is almost detrimental.

Also, with other hobbies there are no randomized packages of items that can all be used in unison to create something successful. Generally things like Miniature War Gaming have boxes that contain only one or a small quantity of like models and they generally tend to be extremely expensive. Which leads to a lower purchase rate. Because, where you could go to walmart and drop 20 bucks to buy a deck-builder's box full of 285 magic cards and have all the essentials you need to get started in the hobby, you would need to go to an actual hobby store or a games workshop and buy a boxed army which costs 120-200, then any additional "units" you wish to purchase would range from 20-120 bucks by themselves. The investment is colossal and just that starter army is enough for a 500 point army when most regulation tournaments are run at 1500 points or 2000 points so even if you bought all starter armies and played with all the mediocre units that provides you, you'd be looking at a minimum of a $360 investment to get started.

So where does that put hobby shops? it puts them in the grave, that's where. Nobody can thrive because hobby companies hijack the prices on their product to the point where it is the epitome of a luxury item and then people shop for items from third parties with discounted prices or ebay for pre-purchased items and the same hundred thousand models get cycled except for the elite who have too much discretionary cash and too much free time. This in turn puts companies to their death.

Now granted my hobby shop closed it's doors after a long run because the dispute they were having made it no longer a feasible business model in any respect to remain open, and that's a disappointment and also an outlier in the graph of why hobby stores close. Generally they close because the primary companies price their products so that nobody can survive except for the mother shop and it's little spawn.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Game Review: Bioshock Infinite

HEY LOOK EVERYONE I'M REALLY CRAZY LATE TO THE PARTY!" i screamed one time as i barged into where a party had been only a couple hours ago, and now i found myself standing in front of two of my very close friends doing the nasty on the floor about 10 feet from me. That's kinda how i feel about Bioshock: Infinite. I'm really late to a really amazing party and boy am i embarrassed that it took me so long to get there; but what i saw when i got there was really kinda hot.

So, with all of those disgusting images tenderly laid out in your head let's get on with the review! Bioshock Infinite is a wolf among sheep when it comes to the bioshock series. A series that has constructed itself on the idea that your choices mean something in the overall scheme of life and your personal and direct effect on certain situations has been thrown out the window for quite possibly the most "on-rails" experience you will ever know in a -shock game since maybe System Shock. But this isn't a bad thing for the game and let me tell you why.

The story itself is compelling enough to grab you by the nipples and jerk you into the story quickly and it keeps giving you occasional purple nurples just to make sure you're still paying attention. So it doesn't really feel like you're on rails any more than you were in the last super compelling game that you played where the story captured you deeply and spoke to you on personal levels.

Don't get me wrong, there are "choices" but they don't bear the same weight as they have any any of the previous games in the bioshock series, and by not bearing the same weight i mean they don't bear any weight at all. It was almost like Irrational was just making Bioshock 3 and then decided half-way through that they didn't want the same thing they had in the last few games so they rewrote just the ending of the story to help you understand why you're not getting 3 different endings.

So to help put all that i'm saying into context here's a brief synopsis (totally not giving anything away by the way):

You play as a Private Investigator named Booker DeWitt who apparently has a gambling problem with the wrong people and also has previous military experience because the game opens up with you on a rowboat being dumped out at a dock leading up to a *drum roll* lighthouse! Oh but wait, this is totally NOTHING like the last lighthouse. This one is all 1912sy and marion harris and will the circle be unbroken. oh and you go up in some rocket that's way ahead of the technology curve for 1918 than is logically safe to announce but whatever. TOTALLY not the intro to Rapture in the opposite direction. Anyways, your one cryptic objective is to navigate this pre-equal rights city in the sky called Columbia to locate a girl. Of course, there are some complications that come in the way and the society ends up being so much more technologically advanced than the rest of the world you wonder why they haven't taken over yet and of course you've got your 1910's versions of big daddies as well as pretty much all the special splicers from rapture turned into new 1910's versions of the splicers and oh they're not plasmids now, they're vigors which have really cool bottles that you can buy online in limited supply for about 400-600 dollars.

This game despite being bioshock in the opposite direction had some really cool mechanics added to it which gives the game a new breath of life to combat as well as the delivery of the story which i thought was incredibly cool. Right about the time you get 80% done with the game your head will be full of the irrational games industry standard "full of wat". But around the last 5 minutes or so of the game they'll take that and break it like they're shooting for the moon. You'll feel yourself lost and confused and a little bit disappointed at the ending until you spend another 5-10 minutes reading some dude's review on the game which will explain everything to you perfectly then your mind will explode you'll instantly want more.

Thinking that Burial At Sea would just be a continuation on the Infinite storyline during the days of rapture you'll probably drop the 20 bucks on the season pass and play it only to find out that if you think of the ending to infinite and what the whole game was about, burial at sea kind of awkwardly fits in but in reality has nothing to do with Infinite itself except for a few cheeky puns. Still worth the play though if you can separate Burial at Sea, the DLC, episodic "expansion" to infinite from infinite itself which is counter intuitive but whatever.

Definitely recommend Bioshock infinite. It was a fantastic 15 hours of play for me that proved to have some challenging points and the ending was mind blowing as usual but in a different way.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Burnout Point

Back in April of 2012, i posted a blog post that outlined some useful tips and tricks for people who were new to college. I made a Brief reference to something called the burnout point and said it was a discussion for a later time and i feel like it's time to hold that discussion.

I think part of the reason i never really wrote a discussion about the burnout point before now is because i had never really hit it until this final semester. I think it was culmination of things that led to my discover of this. First off, i have never had the unique opportunity of trying to work full time and go to school full time at the same time. another thing is after all the push-backs and delays that my college has placed in front of me with no hope of maneuvering past them quickly, i feel like these two associates degrees that i will be graduating with in 3 months have been long overdue. And i'm a little emotionally and mentally exhausted about the whole mess.

There have been a lot of changes to my life. My old car broke down to the point of no return, i bought a brand new car with 161 miles on it. I needed to get a full time job to ensure that i was able to pay for said car, but i discovered that washing dishes for just a little over minimum wage for 20-30 hours a week wasn't exactly going to cut it nor was it my preferred type of job. I've also gone from being single to being engaged and attempting to plan a wedding. Fortunately the powers that be saw me worthy to get a job in computer repair and while i'm technically making more than i did washing dishes, i'm bringing home less because i now have a comprehensive benefits package that includes a pretty nice pension and all of the medical insurance benefits. With travel time included i've ended up working over 50 hours a week trying to get this very last semester finished and all i want to do is either give up and quit or be done with it all tomorrow.

It never helped that my college board kept adjusting the class requirements for my degree so that almost every semester i had some new and usually shitty change to look forward to working out with my degree. But i think it's safe to say i'm burning out. It suck to feel so close to something great and yet so far, and then to look behind that something great and see it's only paper thin and that to get the real something great you've got another journey, equally as long, ahead of you again to do it all over.

Unfortunately this is what our country's education system has become. To be able to do anything that's not entry level you need a degree or to at least be working TOWARDS a degree. And you have to have plans of actually finishing it too.

It might just be a case of senioritus that i'm contracting because i never really hit that wall when i was in high school but it's hitting me now and it's hitting me hard. between my job, my school and my fiance and all of my previous commitments there's no time for me to just sit down, and stare off into space. Since i'm getting 6.5 hours of sleep every night on a good night, and most nights i'd be lucky to get 5.5. i'm running on fumes and low on want to.

So back to the original topic. What is the burnout point? The burnout point to school faring people and blue collar workers is the wall, not unlike "the wall" you hear runners talking about all the time, you hit when your plate is so full it affects your sleep cycle and all you want to do is give up. So how do you fix it? The unfortunate thing is, you've got to piss some people off, say you're sorry but you just don't have the time this week to do that thing they want you to do with them. Don't obligate yourself to anything else instead unless it's yourself. Spend that one day just doing whatever it is that gets you relaxed. Whether it be watching tv and eating popcorn with no shirt on, or taking an easy-paced hike through one of the local parks. Then when you're done doing that. go to bed early. get one good nights rest and monopolize it.

This can be your little micro-vacation to yourself. It's unfortunate but i think sometimes we, as humans, tend to load up our plates too much trying to satisfy others and we quickly forget about ourselves in the mix. When that happens and you've ended up with nothing left for yourself? you start to burn out. To quote bladerunner "the candle that burns twice as bright, burns for half as long." It's important to remember than when managing our time because it is the only precious resource that matters to the individual.