Monday, June 20, 2016

Some Hate on MMO Cities

After the hundreds of days worth of playtime I poured into WoW, I told myself to stay away from other MMO's for a while. I've been doing so-so on that front, since there are a ton of them nowadays and some seem truly interesting and like there is a fun game there to play even for someone who has no actual multiplayer interest in it, like me. Eventhough I've hardly tried many - I've managed to stay clear of both Rift, Wildstar and Final Fantasy XIV so far - the ones I have tried have horribly failed to keep my interest. And it's turned out it's not for lack of social sphere like I thought it would be.

Funnily enough, the only MMO I've played other than WoW and actually really enjoyed I played while I was playing WoW - Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. The only reason I didn't stick with this one was the one I thought would be a problem for any MMO other than WoW, that I simply didn't have enough friends playing it at the same time. In the end, eventhough I had fun with it and managed to even get my then bf to play a bit with me, the pull of the social life on WoW turned out to be too great. Once WoW was over and done with for my part, I thought that I might be able to enjoy other MMO's uncrippled by this fact. In fact I was intent on it (the lack of social sphere in the game) not being allowed to cloud my judgement of an otherwise good game, because I always felt it was unfair towards other MMO that WoW would always have the bigger playerbase. Once WoW didn't have the social bit to keep me tied to it, I hoped I'd be able to enjoy other MMO's freely eventhough I feared the opposite.

Nothing fun to do here... -

So I tried Guild Wars, admittedly this was also while I was still playing WoW, but this time the problem wasn't the lack of friends to play with. I got to some sort of quest hub, and I'm not even joking, I couldn't find my way out of it. I thought that maybe I was just being stupid for that particular game, but it turned out this would be a recurring issue for me with other MMO's I tried. Ok, so I wouldn't necessarily fail so horribly as to not even manage to make my way out of a city. But the city, usually a massive main hub with not only quests but anything the player might need in terms of interaction, crafting and general restocking is where I end up logging out for the last time.

I tried Guild Wars 2 because everyone said it was such a masterpiece of a game, some said it was really even better than WoW but most players just didn't realize because they had their noses too far up WoW's posterior. And it was quite fun, I actually played it for a couple of hours before I ended up in yet another darned city and just... lost interest in the game completely. Because I had professions, or tradeskills, or whatever Guild Wars 2 calls it, and I had things to sell and probably a lot of other stuff that the city could provide me with. But I just got utterly lost and the entire thing was so boring because running around for an hour just trying to find things is not my kind of fun. And I realized I would have to do this many times before I finally had it all in my head and didn't have to think about it or google names to find the blacksmith and even then I would still have to spend a lot of time just travelling around in the city doing all those chore stuff that is often required in any game that has all that gear and item tinkering going on.

Yet another vendor

I tried Neverwinter and ended up having the exact same issue. The game itself was actually quite fun, the battles were fun, but then I had to run around in the city talking to quest givers and finding vendors and all the fun I had just blew right out the window. I realized yet again that any fun I might have inbetween the city-visits would just not be enough to make me want to go through it over and over. (I also tried Star Trek Online but that was just weird).

It's the size of it. See, I have this issue with cities in any old RPG, not just MMO's, but most of the time they're fortunately not big enough for it to become big enough of a problem. It does happen though, Final Fantasy XII was right on the threshhold for what I can endure. I've realized I pretty much detest having to run around in a city or village and look for things. Maybe I enjoyed Warhammer so much because I don't even remember it having cities!

Just loads of characters I don't care about -

I don't know if this is something that has come with age, or if it's the times - the instant satisfaction times. Maybe me not knowing exactly what to do and where to go frustrates me too much or maybe... it's because I remember the first time I stepped into Orgrimmar and I was completely blown away. Running in through those gates I pretty much gasped at the massive city that lay before me. It was something I had never seen before and I was amazed at everything there was to see and to do. Eventually I learned where everything was by heart in pretty much any city in WoW and barely had to even look to get where and what I wanted. The more I played the more the amazement wore off and everything just needed to be as effective and fast as possible. I lost interest in the exploration for explorations sake, something I loved to do in WoW, and just wanted to get to wherever would get me the next piece of gear or level as fast as possible.

But that was because I had done pretty much everything there was to do in WoW many, many times over. Somehow I've transferred those feelings over to other games I play and other MMO's are hit especially hard because you spend so much time in cities doing the tinkering and trying to find people to talk to.

There are still MMO's I am interested in trying however, like beforementioned FFXIV or The Secret World. We'll see if I get around to it and if I end up logging out in another city.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Some Awesome Old Computer Games

As I am sure a lot of you do, I have many fond memories of my video gaming youth. Other peoples stories often goes something along the lines of "I had an older sibling who played and so I started to play..." or "my parent was really into video gaming..." or "I got my first console/computer when I was four..." and so on. It wasn't really that way for me, I didn't own my first console before I was 12-13 something and we didn't get our first computer until just some years before that. But I came across video and computer games every now and then and managed to build up an interest and love for them. My earliest memory is probably from playing Lemmings on some computer owned by a friend to the family. I must've been around five or six at the time.

Most of the games I came across growing up are still around in some way today. Even if they're hard or expensive to come by, there are often ways to get around that, at least until you've saved up enough to get your own copy (Symphony of the Night, you will be mine!). But then there are those that seem to have disappeared, sometimes so utterly I question whether I ever experienced the game at all or if I just dreamt it. This seems to more often be the case with computer games and I have many memories from games that I've spent tons of hours on back in the day that I've found difficult to get working nowadays.

I remember a marble game on our Mac (no, not Marble Madness) that I used to play with my mom. I loved it but for the life of me I can't find any information about it anywhere. It doesn't exactly help that whenever I try to find anything about a marble game on a Mac, all I ever find is Marble Madness. Damn you Marble Madness. However, when researching this post I finally found the game! It's Oxyd - this seems pretty impossible to get working.

Then there was a game I used to play with an old friend of mine - Monkey Shines. It was a simplistic platformer for the PC (if I recall correctly) and we played the hell out of that game, just like we played the hell out of a lot of games together on the PC, her and I. I'm greatful Youtube is around to provide proof this game ever existed, but look at it. It's ugly as hell and the gameplay looks abysmal, a 6-year old could probably produce better in Game Maker. Yet I clearly remember how much fun we had with it. It wasn't like we were completely out of options either, at this point we both owned an N64. But maybe our standards were lower? The music isn't half bad though.

Asterix & Obelix was another one we played for hours. We really sucked at that game I recall, it was SO HARD! But we inched our way forward slowly but quite surely. We played it two player and I remember crowding around the keyboard trying to get a good fit. I don't think we ever beat it and we probably didn't even get very far. This is the case with most games I played around this time, a lot of time invested but little to show for it except good memories. But that's all that matters really.

And last but not least for this post one of my favorite shareware games, and there were many good ones! - Escape Velocity. I have probably mentioned this game before, but it deserves mentioning again. I started out playing just Escape Velocity, but then there was a version or sequel or something (I'm not quite sure what it is) called Escape Velocity Nova. The core concept is simple, space trading and exploration - something which seems to be all the rage nowadays. Imagine No Mans Sky with less procedurally generated content and typical mid 90s PC graphics and you're pretty damn close. Just read this information on the game from the creator Ambrosias own homepage;

"Escape Velocity offers a rich and open-ended environment that evolves as you play. Over a hundred worlds occupy the galaxy, each with its own technology, alliances, and commodities. As you earn credits and gain fame, Confederation peace keepers and Rebel patriots struggle for power, leaving you in the middle.

Numerous sub-plots fill Escape Velocity's world; your choices affect the story's development, guaranteeing that each game will be different from the last. You'll have the opportunity to infiltrate hostile military bases, ferry emergency supplies to distant star systems, rescue passengers from stranded cruise ships, stop alien invaders, and more."

Doesn't that sound awesome? I can't recommend this game enough, I remember not too many years ago when I was talking about it to my then bf and a friend of his and they decided to try it out (the Nova version). They both got completely hooked and played it to the ground over a couple of days. Just looking at a video of it now makes me want to play it again.

What are your favorite computer games from back in the day?

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Odds and Ends - On Wolf Hall, Castlevania and Suikoden

Just a couple of bits and pieces for this post;

I just finished Hilary Mantels "Wolf Hall" today and must say I am quite underwhelmed. It has been hauled as a masterpiece by... people. I'm not really sure who says so, but she did receive the Booker Award for it so clearly there is someone who likes it. For some reason I came across the TV-series first and then found out it was based on a book. As I quite like historically based fiction I decided to watch it and absolutely loved it. Mark Rylance, whom I had never heard of nor seen before, was great in it and I immediately started watching a load of other movies he's been in. I also decided I wanted to read the books the series was based on to see if it had more to offer, as is often the case when books become series or movies. Unfortunately that is not so here. If you have any interest in the era or historical stories overall, I definitely recommend the TV-series over the books as it is more comprehensible and as such a lot more enjoyable. Mantel simply employs a writing style which might be commended for it unconventionality, but it often left me confused as to what was going on and who was doing what. Apparently this is something other people have found a problem as well, so it wasn't just me being slow-witted (this time).

Overall the story is a good one though, based in facts but Mantel has of course taken some liberties with the characters and she's done a fairly good job there. The little quirks she's given these historical figures may be somewhat founded in actual sources, but either way they feel believable and justifiable in the context. Apparently she aimed to set the reader directly into the event of things, to make you feel like you're there. I do feel like she has succeeded in this but some of the comprehensibility has been lost instead. She's removed too much exposition, and I'm usually the last person to want more exposition. Commendable effort but still, watch the series rather than suffer through the book is my recommendation.

I also just finished Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and that on the other hand was just as good as I've been told it to be. It had a few very minor issues, so small they barely even deserve to be called issues to be honest. For instance the way to use items is a bit round-about and I missed the slide move that is in some later Castlevania instalments. But overall it's the masterpiece it's being hailed as, especially considering it was pretty ground-breaking when it was released. There isn't much to dislike actually, except maybe the dialogue in general and the voice acting in particular. The artstyle is great, the music is absolutely phenomenal and the gameplay is great fun. If you haven't played it for whatever reason you really should. It's just too bad it's so expensive to get hold of nowadays.

One of the VGM podcasts I listen to mentioned Suikoden 1 & 2 and I realized I've only ever played Suikoden 5 which I've tried to get into several times without succeeding. I can't even put my finger on what it is that makes me lose interest only a few hours into the game, but it has a slow start (although not as torturously slow as Star Ocean 3), boring characters, story, gameplay... well yeah it doesn't really have much going for it. I've only gotten 1,5 hour into Suikoden at the moment but so far so good. I already like the characters better, the story seems pretty standard so far and the gameplay is promising. I definitely prefer the Playstation sprite work over the ps2 polygons, there is just something about the ps2 era RPG polygon artwork that really turns me off playing those games. Star Ocean 3 as already mentioned is another game where the aesthetics really don't appeal to me, Breath of Fire Dragon Quarters had this issue too somewhat. Final Fantasy X just barely gets away with it, but it has so many other issues... well I digress.

I intend to check out at least Suikoden 1 & 2, and if they are fun I'll see if I'll move furher down the list until I hit 5 at which point I might give it another chance. Who knows, maybe having played the other games will make the fifth one more enjoyable?

I've also hit a metaphorical brick wall in Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor. I've come across a boss event that is silly difficult, especially compared to the challenge so far, and I was certain it was the final event. I thought it would make the game a bit short so I decided to see if I was right. I was not, of course. Turns out this event is just barely half way. There is still loads of game left to play and I want to get there! But ramming my head against this boss, which has to be killed in a very specific way, is wearing a lot on my patience. What'll happen though is that I'll stop playing it for a while, get back to it, one-shot the boss and wonder what I made such a fuss about. I've also got SMT: Devil Survivor 2 and SMT: Digital Devil Saga 1 & 2 to play after that but that feels like far off in the distance now.