Thursday, November 13, 2014

So Warlords of Draenor is here...

Apparently the new expansion to World of Warcraft, Warlords of Draenor is out, and for the first time since World of Warcraft was released, I'm not there to jump in from the start. Or possibly, probably, ever.

My Twitter feed is currently flooding with glee (and quite a lot of frustration) about the new expansion , it's quite contageous to be honest. It's not like I don't think about WoW almost every day as it is, I have been seriously considering getting this new expansion eventhough I most likely won't be able to play it. Ok, that's only a half-truth. There are tons of things you can do in WoW even if you don't have time for raiding or even dungeoning. You can do all the quests for instance or challenge yourself with some odd form of Ironman. It's not like I don't have any spare time, I am using some of that to write this after all. Time I could spend playing WoW of course! I've spoken to the better half about dividing baby time so that we could allow eachother (because he wouldn't mind playing a bit again) to do a dungeon or LFR every now and then. But it's stayed at talks so far because quite frankly, even though I really want to play WoW again - I actually don't want to play WoW again. I've said it before and I am going to say it again. I know WoW will take up all of my spare time and I still have a shit-ton of other games I want to play. I think "you know what, let's just install the damn thing again" and then I immediately go "no, I won't. I still want to play Baldur's Gate, Thief 2, Legend of Grimrock, Pokemon Omega Sapphire, Koudelka..." and so on and so forth. If only I could trust myself to only play WoW occasionally and also give time to other games. But I wouldn't. I am too cheap. Since WoW is subscription based I know I would want to get my moneys worth and try to squeeze out as much time with it as possible. So for now, no WoW. We'll see how long I'll last. But enough of this, what I really wanted to talk about were WoW expansions. Because I've seen them all.

There have been better and worse expansions but overall I really don't think there's been a bad one. I mean, what would that have been? Really boring quests and instances/raids I guess. With every expansion I thought there was something really fun but I also feel like my level of fun was closely connected to my commitment to the game and the quality of my surrounding social life. This is an mmo after all and there is only so much fun you can have on your own, as I quickly learned in Vanilla.

Burning Crusade
Admittedly I wasn't there for the launch of WoW, I joined the WoW crowd some half-year afterwards, but I have been eagerly at the gates for every expansion. With Burning Crusade I was still a mere fledgling, eventhough I had played the game for over 1,5 years at that point (don't ask me what I was doing with my time). I didn't find my role in the game properly until BC was released, that is when I first started raiding and also decided on actually maining my priest (although I had already played her quite a lot beforehand). But there is nothing like the very first expansion, and Blizzard got everything damn right. I remember the feeling of the pre-patch leading up to the expansion and the mayhem that was the Opening of the Portal. It was a clutter so full of Horde and Alliance and death and kill-steals it was glorious. To then run through those portals and have the vast landscape of Hellfire Peninsula in front of you was such an amazing feeling. It looked massive and it looked like loads of fun and most importanly it held so many new things we had never seen before. New races, new mounts! New everything! With Burning Crusade Blizzard managed to make everything fun - this is where they got dungeons, raiding, pvping and questing absolutely right.

Just looking at it I can hear the tune -

More importantly however, it managed to make me feel included, like I was part of the gang. All through vanilla, and like I mentioned I played it for quite some time, I had had the feeling that I was part of someone elses show. I was invited to their groups and their raids, but only when they desperately needed someone. It could've been anyone. And I wasn't part of the team, I was a guest - if even that. I was in guilds, but they didn't feel like home yet. I don't blame the people, this was during a time when I still hadn't decided to take part of endgame simply because I thought a lot of it was quite boring (40-man raids? What were they thinking?). But that meant standing outside and watching everyone else having all the fun. Also, I constantly had the feeling that I was late to everything. Whatever I wanted to do, most people had already done and it wasn't cool any longer. There is a huge difference between being in a raid where everyone is enthusiastic and where everyone just does it because they don't have anything else to do, as frequenters of LFR will know.

People complain about Blizzard making WoW too accessible, heck even I have. But BC made WoW accessible to me and I definitely encourage any steps Blizzard take to make as many people as possible feel like they have a spot (which is not the same as saying that I agree with every change they've done).

Wrath of the Lich King
Once Wotlk was released my priest shoes fit me well and I decided to plan ahead and come prepared for this launch. BC I had just sort of experienced in full awe, Wotlk I was going to get in and own. I took my gaming way more serious for this release than I did for BC and I had raiding that waited for me at the other end of the leveling. I stood in line in the middle of the night for hours to get my Special Edition set. I remember stepping off the zeppelin in Howling Fjord (I was lucky enough to choose that starting area rather than Boring Tundra) and immediately loving it. The setting, feeling and music was great and the area was beautiful. This was another expansion Blizzard did extremely well, basically perfecting gameplay elements they had implemented in BC and trying out some new ones (different difficulties on bosses in raids was one of my favorite features that I really wish they would've kept). I loved every bit of Burning Crusade, Karazhan is one of my favorite raids, but by golly if Wotlk wasn't even better. I think every raid in Wotlk was fun and well done (yes, even TotC!) and I had a good and steady guild to raid with. Unfortunately towards the end of Wotlk, like Ikarus to the sun I wanted more and decided to leave the awesome guild I was in for one that was more raiding oriented. Things kind of spiraled downward for me from there.

That frost wyrm was really annoying though -

For Cataclysm I decided that a digital download would be the fastest and smoothest way to get into the game. Time was of the essence because I wanted to be among the first to get into the end-game instances so that I could be geared to raid as quickly as possible. But I still didn't want to play through the quests so quickly so that I missed out on the experience, I tried to find a nice middle-path and managed to level fairly quickly (especially considering I did it as a healing priest, just as with the previous two expansions), taking a couple of days to reach the new max-level. I liked the questing experience of Cataclysm quite a lot. Eventhough I understand why they had to give the old world a face-lift, I wasn't too happy about it, but the new areas were fun (yes, even Vashj'ir!) and I liked the first couple of raids as well. Firelands was pretty meh and Dragon Soul could've been better so to me Cataclysm ended on a bit of a low note, compared to BC and Wotlk that definitely went out with their flags raised high. But maybe this coincided with me having issues with my guilds and eventually also on a personal level where I had less and less time to raid and play overall. I probably would've enjoyed Cataclysm all the way to the end if the conditions had been the same. Even still, BC and Wotlk were definitely better expansions, I think most people agree on that (right?).

Actually Dragon Soul wasn't that bad -

I'd say early Cataclysm is probably when I took my gaming the most seriously. I had done some pretty heavy raiding all through Wrath (and BC actually) but for Cata I was in a raid-oriented 25 man guild whereas previously I had "only" been in a casual-raiding 10 man guild. I blogged a lot about priest healing (and other things WoW) like changes to the class, specs and loved trying different tactics and gear to see how I could optimize my healing. Sometimes I wonder if my quest for glory got in the way of having fun, and on a guild level I think that might be true. I think a lot of people can recognize themselves in the problem with trying to balance fun with progress in any progress-oriented guild. A lot of the time progress = fun. Finally downing that boss makes all the wiping, farming and grief worth it. But only if you can acknowledge that success and not just feel like it's not worth anything unless you also down the next boss. And the next, and next and so on. There is a lot that could be said about that for sure.

Mists of Pandaria
Another digital download but this time a slower pace of leveling. To be honest, eventhough this is the most recent release (not counting the current one) this is the one I remember the least of. I remember being frustrated about disconnecting, quests not working properly and not being able to click quest items/givers because there was a literal horde of players standing in the way (on their mounts just to be extra much of a nuisance). I am sure that didn't differ much from any of the previous releases, but for some reason I remember the annoyance part a lot more than the awed part. MoP did not sweep me off my feet like all the other expansions had. Maybe at this point I was already too roughed up and the stars had been dusted out of my eyes. Maybe I was getting old and bitter.

MoP was nice, but I never got into it. I didn't catch on to the lore and I just wasn't very excited about the whole process again. It's really not the games fault, at this point I didn't have as much fun in WoW as I used to, for reasons I've delved into in this blog several times before. A couple of things bothered me about MoP, something that had started already with Cataclysm. I felt like it had a lot less content than BC and Wotlk. Less instances primarily (I don't know if this is actually the case though) and having to trudge through the same two (it always felt like they came in pairs) got tedious and boring very quickly. Also, as mentioned, the story about the Pandarens didn't interest me anywhere near as much as the demons, undead and Old Ones of BC and Wotlk had done. Even the dragons of Cataclysm were more interesting.

At least no more dragons -

But like I said, I think this has a lot more to do with the fact that I didn't have as much time to raid and had swapped guild a couple of times at this point. I ended up in nice guilds every time (eventhough they tended to crumble pretty quickly around me) but not knowing the people you raid with still makes a difference. In a way I guess I had come full circle, feeling like an outsider again. Joining in as a guest when desperately needed, just like back in the Vanilla days. I felt like I needed more to fully enjoy the game back then and I still do so if I ever decide to actually start playing WoD it would have to be in a completely different way to what I have been. But maybe that's not as difficut as I think it is.

What are your experiences with the different expansions and which one do you think was best? (Hint: It's WotLK)

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Five Hidden Laws of WoW

Doesn't it feel like sometimes games claim to use one kind of rules but in reality they run by a hidden set of rules designed to mock and frustrate you? A lot of this comes from biased thinking, meaning that when something has started to annoy you is when you'll start noticing it and you'll think that it stands out. You rarely recognize when things go your way but more often when things go bad. I swear that some games just seem to know how to tease you though. I don't know how many times I've said I'll give up grinding for something in WoW only to have it drop the minute later (proving I did not quit grinding after all, but I would've! Eventually...).

Continuing on with another post based on some notes I found in an old notebook of mine, this one is about video game logic or lack thereof. These notes (this post and the previous one) were written closely together so clearly I was in something of a pissy mood, hateful about players in general and my game luck in particular when writing these. Remember that these are written tongue in cheek, are based on my experiences alone and you might not agree at all. Also I use words like "always" very loosely. At the time they were probably just an attempt to vent some anger from my side. After (at that time) five years of playing WoW I thought I had its tricks pinned down - I knew that it worked around hidden rules that were designed to lure us into trying just one more time. Fake instant gratification!

1. In a group, whoever plays the worst will always get the loot.
All the entries on this list are frustrating, but I wonder if this one is not the worst one. I was ok with people who played badly (aka did bad dps/healing/tanking and/or a lot of mistakes) to get some loot. In fact this "rule" even worked to my favor on occasion. I clearly remember bringing my lock to Vault of Archavon once, playing utter crap and being the one to win the loot out of at least a handful of rollers. Playing badly is one thing, it can happen to anyone. But the amount of times this seems to have worked in the favor of the jerkwad of the group, I can't even count. You know, that one person in the group who seems dead set on ruining the day for everyone unlucky enough to be grouped with them. Numerous times have I've had people like that in my group, seen something really cool drop (even random epics, mounts or the like) and 9 to 1 the Ruiner of Fun would win it. Just to write "Lol! Screw you guys!" and leave with a digital finger aimed at the rest of the group. Oh sorry, I mean "LOL!!!! SCRUW U GUYZ!!!!".

Every... time... -

2. Percentages are not what they say they are.
This might take some explaining so bare with me, but this is true as day. Imagine yourself fighting some kobolds in Elwynn Forest, chuckling at their cries of "No take candle!" and having a generally good time. Say, just hypothetically that you've got 100% hit chance and 10/10 swings are actually landing. Now imagine further that you somehow get a debuff that reads "10% reduced hit chance". "Ok" you might think. "So I'll only hit 9 out of my 10 swings, no biggie", shrug and move on to the next Kobold. The Kobold end up being the one laughing however as you stand there, wildly flailing your weapon at them, suddenly having a hit chance that seems closer to 1/10 than anything else. What am I trying to say? I always felt, nay unconsciously known, that debuffs that reduces stats had more than twice the actual impact than it claims to have.

It's like the game can't handle statistics and probability properly. I know this is how the human mind works (hence the existance of this list), meaning that we often think in either/or rather than in actual probabilities. But I thought a game, based on solid, programmed numbers would be better than that! As it is I often wonder if the game just runs by the commands "doesn't miss much" or "misses a lot", rather than actual percentages.

3. You always get dazed when you want it the least.
Which usually is always. But sometimes you're lucky and don't seem to get dazed much at all. You can bet your life (and it will be your life) that whenever you're being chased by a ganker you will get dazed by a mob. Or when you pull an elite. Or when you try to ride out of Zul'Farrak after having pulled half the instance.

4. If you run between mobs to avoid aggroing them you will pull both and their stealthed friend.
See point 3. on this list for what will happen next by the way. This is just classic irony or perhaps Murphy's Law. By trying to avoid to get into trouble, you'll actually end up in trouble, and a lot more of it than if you had just wo/manned up in the first place and dealt with it rather than trying to chicken your way through. But I just hate it when I am simply trying to get smoothly from point A to point B (which happens a lot in WoW), I'm not in the mood for any skull bashing and this Gnoll just knows he has to ruin my day. So he brings his friend. And where the hell did THAT guy come from?!

5. It doesn't matter which class you bring, stuff for your other class will always drop.
This one is for all you alters out there, you know my pain! At one point I was juggling quite many, and did some 10 VoA runs each week (day? Don't remember how often they reset). And I swear, the more alts I had the more it felt like I lost out on loot. Which you know, makes sense, because every loot that dropped was something I could've used on one of my other alts. And I guess the more alts I had the more I got the sense that loot dropped just to mock me. Ok, maybe I can scratch this one and just write it down to me being damn unlucky. Or probably averagely unlucky.

Well this person had no trouble finding gear! -

Bonus entry!
6. If you get jumped by someone while questing and you're about to own him, a paladin will come out of nowhere and kill you when your opponent is at 5%.
I think the title speaks for itself and I think this just happened to me when I wrote this list.

Ever felt particularly out of favour with the WoW Gods? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

Friday, August 29, 2014

10 Signs You Should Leave The Raid

One of the many very good things about playing WoW was what a good source of blog material it turned out to be. I literally had notebooks filled with ideas to write about, based on pretty much anything that happened to me in the game. I'm not saying that life in general can't be a good source to write about if you just think about it, but to me WoW always worked like a charm. The fact that I don't play it anymore is a small reason to why I write blog posts so rarely nowadays, but turns out I've got a load of WoW posts actually lying around. The other day I was checking through an old notebook I found and I read through some of the ideas I had that never made it into a proper blog post for whatever reason. Most often I am guessing I didn't think it was much enough of an idea to become a post but sometimes it might've just been lack of time. This post is one of the latter I am guessing, as it was basically done in my notebook and just needed to be written down digitally to be bloggified. Since I haven't played WoW for over a year now I don't know how much any of these hold up, all of them aren't exactly laugh out loud material either, but it might at least put a smile of recognition on your faces. So here it goes;

1. The hunter says he's a melee hunter

People have been making fun of hunters throughout the history of WoW for many reasons. From "everything is a hunter weapon" to the fact that you could just sic your pet on an enemy and roll your thumbs to profit. Fact is that really early on in the game I could swear that Blizzard at least thought about making melee hunters a viable choice, the same way they sort of tried shaman tanks. So maybe we can cut some confused hunters out there some slack. To someone well versed in what WoW is all about, the mere idea to play your hunter without a ranged weapon sounds just about as ludicrous as playing a melee boomkin. Yet there were some rebels out there that thought exactly that would be a good idea. At least there is kudos on them for trying to up the difficulty on the hunter class.

Even Blizzard agreed it had to stop -

2. Raid Leader only knows how to speak in /s

I encountered a lot of people who didn't seem to fully understand how to use the chat system properly, or more often how to turn off caps. In the early levels this is forgivable. But if you've made it all the way to raid level, it is time to learn. Especially if you hope to lead.

Or if this happens -

3. Main Tank says "mom says dinner is ready"

It's easy to make fun of young kids parents that don't understand that WoW isn't pausable and what tremendous issues it can cause a lot of other people when their kid has to come to dinner right that second. But maybe the kid is at fault for not warning the parents about their commitments and keeping a dialogue on game time vs dinner time.

4. People try to lose aggro by running away from the tank

I find this funny because it's such a rooted reflex in human behaviour. To get away from danger you need to run from danger. Unfortunately this means also running away from the person that could possibly save you and when raiding this can be especially troublesome. This got frustrating enough for Thoryana to write a pretty good song about it. Yet I've done this myself many, many times.

5. The Raid Leader isn't part of a guild

I don't know if this is still true, but there was a time while I played where being part of a guild was the way to check if someone was morally ok or not. If someone wasn't part of a guild they probably didn't care about people! And if they don't care about people they will greedily ninja everything they see! Also if they were part of a guild they could be punished by that guild when they did something wrong, so obviously the fancier the guild the more trustworthy you'd be. Obviously this system didn't work too well since it's easy to just create your own guild to be in all by your lonesome and I came across plenty of huge guilds where everyone was basically a douche (Ye Olde Goone Squad, I am looking at you!).

6. Main Tank/Healer uses the Jenkins title

When titles were introduced, one of the easiest to get was the Jenkins title. So of course, having it up came to symbolize someone who didn't try very hard and/or didn't know much about the game. Then came the people who used it "ironically". And then we stopped caring I think.

Just one step closer to getting his own game -

7. The paladin only uses minor blessings

Paladins have been changed so much I can't be completely sure what I meant when I wrote this one. It was probably when minor blessings were 5 minutes whereas major were 30 minutes. But then they changed it so that everyone of the same class shared major blessings which meant that some people needed to get minor once to get the right blessing, and that's totally legit of course. I have no idea how it works nowadays.

8. The Main Tank only uses BoA gear

I'm going to guess that LFR has become easy enough that this might not be much of an issue, but a couple of years ago or just after BoA had been introduced, you did not want to see any of that gear on the person who was going to take big hits from the big troll. This was especially true before BoA tank gear was even implemented.

What I get for Googling "boa" -

9. The Moonkin hasn't specced moonkin form

In line with the melee hunter, it always fascinated me how some people could misunderstand their class and their talents so tremendously (eventhough I've been there myself!). I'm not talking about nitpicky stat optimizing, but somehow not looking at your fellow players and seeing they are all doing it one way and you're not. Doesn't that make you wonder? I'm all for trying new things (and did occasionally), but unfortunately that is rarely rewarded in WoW.

A good reason not to spec moonkin -

10. Tank Healer says "I have really bad lags"

This is just one of those famous last words kind of phrase that probably doesn't need much more explanation.

I knew it! -

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Baby & Game

Whenever me and the bf have some free time, we pretty much use it to game. We do watch the occasional series or in my case write a bit (reading has unfortunately been put on the back burner for now) but for the most part we try to get some game time in. It's funny how we try to maximally utilize the baby sleep time by pretty much cutting out anything remotely irrelevant and cram in more game time. Make tea? No time. Go to the bathroom? Not now! God forbid he falls asleep while we're out. Run home and maybe there is still time for some minutes of gaming! This is not the actions of addicts, but of gaming deprived individuals (that's what I'm sticking with at least).

Which is why I don't play sim-games -

It's inevitable however that we go bold enough to try and do something gaming related while the little guy is awake. As much as I love playing "spin the shiny thing", "rattle the plastic thing" or "bang the hard thing", every now and then you need a break from those thrilling games and do something mommy wants to do. This is when the hunt for baby entertainment begins. And I've made some nice discoveries.

Growing up owning a Nintendo 64, I was one of the people who never liked it when other people said that Nintendo only made "kids games" like it was a bad thing. They didn't get it all wrong however. The N64 games are perfectly suited for infants and toddlers!

Watching a Let's Play of Banjo & Kazooie, a game I always liked but found way too difficult for myself to ever finish, I noticed how my little son (currently 8 months old) loved to watch it with me. And not just Banjo & Kazooie, but pretty much anything with big, colorful sprites/figures and not too quick movements. The whole mid-90's segment of video gaming is filled with games that fill that criteria - games like Croc, Spyro, Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster Busts Loose and Lester the Unlikely. These are examples of games at least my kid thinks are absolutely hilarious to watch, often having him even laugh out loud at the funny sound effects and animations (or whatever it is that amuses him, I don't actually know!).

Giant carrots are hilarious to a baby -

My bf who is a massive Sonic fan was also happy to notice that our son loves to watch him play Sonic. At least Green Hill Zone and definitely the bonus stage - especially in Sonic & Knuckles (I guess he likes the "booap booap" sound effect the balloons do). He snaps his head towards any direction he hears the Sonic tune from, his entire face turning expectant, hoping to see some Sonic action.

In non-gaming but still baby-related news we've also managed to identify at least two songs he enjoys listening to, not counting all the actually-designed-for-children-but-nauseating-for-adult-tunes he likes;
Psy - Gentleman, which almost always silences him when he's cranky and
James Blunt - You're Beautiful, maybe that is mostly because of how horribly highpitched the bf tries to sing along.

Me and the bf have discussed how we want to introduce video gaming to our son, when the day comes that he actually wants to play some himself. He is already curiously investigating our controllers (admittedly he is curiously investigating pretty much anything at the moment) and it's not too far off before he hopefully wants to give gaming a try. We both feel that starting out on the older consoles could be a good thing, as the games often are straight forward and designed with small children in mind - Sonic again as an example. Really older games, talking about NES here, might be a bit too unforgiving and difficult for a really small child to enjoy (or maybe that's just my impatient ass who thinks that, the kids back in the 80'd didn't complain!), but the SNES/Mega Drive era could be perfect for a small kid to start with (although in all honesty a lot of those games are pretty tricky as well).

This is where anger is born -

Maybe the most important thing I hope to teach him is a respect for where gaming is coming from and different styles of designs - a time when instant satisfaction and reward wasn't as prevalent as it is today. Just looking at my own gaming experiences I can see how the instant gratification system has affected me. I don't want to be one of those people who needs a game to be super fun the first 10 min or throw it out, and I don't want my son to be like that either. It's always easy to think you'll do things one way of course, but we'll see how easy it is to put into practice once we get there. Most likely it is something that'll come naturally. Either he will show an interest for the old consoles or he won't. I just hope I can fill his head with some classics before he gets to the age where he feels the need to play whatever his friends are playing. I have really fond memories of watching my mom play games and I hope I can share the same thing with my son.

It'll be very interesting to see what kind of games he eventually enjoys playing, as me and the bf are quite different in tastes. He likes the late 80's-early 90's console platforming games the best and I prefer the late 90's-early 00's pc games the best. It'd be funny if he decided to fill out some genres currently unrepresented in our household - racing and sports games. Time will tell.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Are Video Games Going Full Circle?

My father, who's never touched a video game in his life as far as I know, helped me realize something regarding the video game industry and the state it is currently in. The reason for this post was an article I saw in a magazine regarding the massive interest people are having in Early Access, games that in essence are unfinished. Then there is also an interest in indie games big enough that Steam feel obliged to create something like Greenlight. We also have a sentimental wave going through the video gaming community allowing for a page like (that's good old games) thrive (as I assume they do, they sure seem to). To this is added an equally big interest in Kickstarting projects, aka throwing money at things that don't even exist yet and possibly never will. All this points at an increasing distrust in the big companies being capable of creating games that are going to be fun. Although the furious kickstarting has subsided a bit, it seems every other game I check out on Steam nowadays is Early Access. I'm personally not particularly keen on buying an unfinished game (although I have) but there is no denying that there is a big interest in these games, and in all honesty it looks like the more broken the game is the more people want to play it, how else can you explain why so many people have paid for a game that is still as broken as DayZ? There is something alluring about the concept and I have been trying to figure out what it is.

Back to my dad, who doesn't care for video games but has a huge interest in music instead. He told me a while ago that vinyls were back "in" and he was very happy about that since he had always preferred those anyway. But there was a time when vinyls were uncool and casettes were all the rage (remember those?! My entire childhood was all about casettes). That didn't last long though until cds were all the rage. And now I wonder if anyone still buys cds anymore, although they're still sold in stores for some odd reason. Nowadays you either get music on mp3 or if you're a connoisseur on a vinyl. There are systems even older than the vinyl, but there is something about the vinyl that eventhough it has its flaws (size and storage capacity) it still perfected some areas that true music lovers hold in high regard (sound quality I think). Sure with vinyls you get some raspiness, but I think that adds to the charm. (Then with a vinyl you get a nice big case, the slip and something substantial to hold and look at. You don't get that with an mp3 and you barely get that with a cd).

And they come in funny shapes -

But what has that got to do with the video game industry? I believe the video game industry has been around just about long enough now to start making its own cycle, just like the music storage industry. An old system has gotten a renewed life because people were bored or otherwise unsatisfied with the modern option.

Eventhough there were systems older than the NES, I think most people would agree that the 8bit era, and particularly the NES 8bit era got a lot of things right. Some people would maybe say that things were truly perfected in the SNES era, when 2d gaming was done absolutely right in terms of inventiveness and boldness. Or was it? At the time people were clearly not satisfied. The 3d revolution had to come and some games benefited from it and some games not so much. Few were the developers however who dared to stray from the 3d path, everyone seemed dazzled by it and many games were forced into it although they definitely should not have (I am looking at you poor Sonic). Fortunately 2d wasn't completely abandoned thanks to the Game Boy consoles and the success and incredible library of the Game Boy Advance show that many people still harbored a great interest in this type of games. The GBA was released in 2001 or just about when people would have started getting over the initial 3d hype. On the PC and stationary console market however, the quest for the best graphics and most frames continued.

Not like 16bit Mario to 64bit Mario -

Graphics has always mattered to the video game market, I'm not saying this is something new. All the way back in the 80's companies were talking about how many bits their consoles could produce or how fast their consoles were (I am looking at you SEGA). But after a while I got the feeling it started getting more important than good gameplay and when the ps3/xbox360 were released it felt like they talked more about how pretty their games were going to be rather than how fun they were (although that might be because "fun" is difficult to put down in simple numbers). I don't think I was the only one who looked at the new gen (now previous gen) thinking "yes there is better graphics, but not enough for me to be wowed anymore".

Before that the console gens had enough of a step up in graphics for us to be amazed and probably a bit blinded by the difference, allowing otherwise shitty games to make it into stardom (I'm not going to name any names because I am sure to step on some toes) - NES/MS to Snes/Mega Drive to N64/PS/Dreamcast to Gamecube/PS2 were still big leaps graphic wise. In the details there is a big difference between a ps2 and ps3 game I am sure, the amount of hair on the head/pebbles on the ground/leaves on the tree that you are able to show or the frame rate differs of course. But it's just not enough to cover bad game play or yet another sequel anymore.

Can we even see that many colours? -

People started to look elsewhere for what the big AAA titles lacked and indie developers suddenly found a huge following in their type of games (which sort of coincided with better game creating tools and better ways of disitributing for indie developers). Games that because of lack of funding often had to cut back on the expensive things like graphics. Instead they could offer something that was free and in fact desperately difficult to pay your way into - imagination and inventiveness. Gamers were even willing to pay up front for not-yet-created games just so they could get something else, something different or possibly something that reminded them of what they played many years ago. And they were willing to play these games before they were even finished just to get into it as fast as possible.

Eventhough Early Access might have started as a way for the small developers to get feedback on their games (Minecraft might have been one of the earliest and most popular examples of Early Access) I don't think that is the reason for its popularity today. To me Early Access is a way to get to play a game that is still in changing, where I might have one experience one day and get a new one the next. There is something attractive about a game in change and about being the pioneer who gets into the grit to sort out the issues. It turns into team work where I get to have fun and play a game all the while helping someone at the same time. And who didn't dream of getting to work as a game tester as a kid (I know I did)? It allows for a completely different kind of gaming, one that is somewhat similar to what mmorpgs offer with their patches that often change gameplay a lot. It seems like people enjoy the idea that what they have is not all there is but that there will be new things to learn and discover as time moves on. It is definitely one of the things I can see is fun about Early Access.

Something I've also seen on the rise are people who actually enjoy the Early Access games because they are broken. Games like Rust and DayZ seem to be so popular because of their unreliability and unpredictability and the whackiness that comes out of it. I honestly wonder if these games will retain their popularity once they are done - if nothing else people might feel like they've played the game enough at that point and we'll get the weird situation of a game being abandoned when it is finally finished. This is something that must be insanely difficult to try to replicate, as actual broken or otherwise horribly bad games like Ashes Cricket 2013 or Day One: Garry's Incident just seem to get a really bad reputation and then no one gets near them. Although maybe in those specific cases there is a difference between broken and unplayable games vs broken games released by nice game developers and broken games released by douche game developers. 

That looks painful -

In any case it seems like the playerbase wants to revert further and further back into gaming history. There doesn't seem to be much of a limit to how scaled down the graphics can be, just look at a game like Nidhogg or Minecraft, as long as the game play delivers. 2d, pixel or otherwise retrostyle graphics and now even broken games, linking back to trying to get your games to work or badly coded games from the AMIGA era and similar, are making a huge come back. Will it stop at this however? Or will the next big thing be everyone playing MUDs? Because that would be pretty cool.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Why Can't I Finish My Games?

When I stopped playing WoW, the fact that I couldn't commit several hours a day to raiding and farming anymore was part of the reason. Another part was the endlessness of the game, the fact that I had ended up in a cycle of repeating actions over and over just to see if I could do things slightly different, slightly better. I loved the feeling of trying out new ideas in old surroundings, finding out new things about myself as a player as I went along. After having done that for 8 years, I finally felt like it was time to take on a different style of gaming. I really felt like I wanted to simply be able to start up a game, go from A to Z and reach an end somewhere. something that would allow me to eventually put the game aside and feel like it was over and done with, and then jump onto the next. I knew there were tons of games out there that allowed me to do this, all of which I had neglected for the sake of all that was WoW. I didn't mind a game being long, but I needed to know there was an end somewhere and that my time invested into the game would lead to me eventually being able to quit it so that I could experience another game. Time for me to take on all the RPGs, FPS and Adventure games out there that I had missed.

I do miss tanking though...

I think the gaming universe is out to get me though, as the new big thing seems to be to make huge games without and actual ending and I just recently noticed how they are basically piling up on top of eachother on my computer. I have this idea that to not bog down my poor computer too much (it's a couple of years old now after all, sweet thing), I'll only ever keep a set amount of installed games on it. At the moment that number is around 14, depending on whether you count emulators or not (in this case, not counted). I try to only install a game whenever I've uninstalled one, a sequence of events which often takes weeks, if not months, before I finally go through with as it normally pans out something like this;

"Hmm, haven't played that game in a while, maybe it's time to get rid of it? But I haven't really finished it, and if I uninstall it I lose my save and have to start from the beginning again, I'll never have the energy for that. Or I save the save file and it will be yet another thing that fills up my computer memory while rotting away in forgotteness... Nah, let's just keep the game a bit longer".

And for the record, I do talk a lot to myself. Not out loud though, 'cause that would be weird right?!

And that's just for the games that do have an ending, imagine how much harder it is when the game is endless! In fact it's virtually impossible for me to get rid of the endless games because there is always a reason to play it sometime in the future. I am really bad at getting rid of things outside of my gaming, it's not any easier when it comes to my gaming. Whenever I install one, it will surely end up lying around in my computer for a very long time to come, making it hard for me to move on to new games I want to try and it bugs me.

Just another turn! -

For instance, at the moment I have a couple of oldies but goldies installed that I know I will probably never want to get rid off, because eventhough I play them quite rarely, I do want to play them every now and then and they always give me hours of fun - these are Heroes of Might and Magic 3 and Settlers 2. MtG: Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 is another one I like to jump into occasionally for a quick game of MtG and eventhough that happens maybe once a month I would miss it if I didn't have the possibility to anylonger. Or would?! Maybe I wouldn't but I am too chicken to take the risk. Hearthstone on the other hand didn't really stick with me, but I keep thinking I need to give it another chance and then it totally will blow my mind and be my next favorite thing because this is what everyone else keep telling me. Therefor I keep it around, but I should probably just let it go and replace it with a game I actually want to play now and not in an hypotethetical future, like Half-Life 2. I can always get back to Hearthstone later after all (although I am always worried something will happen to Valve or that will make my games libraries vanish).

Faster Than Light and Steam Marines are endless games (damn rogue-likes) that I am actually playing actively at the moment, so they at least are earning their keep on my hard drive. But even if I am enjoying those games, I am a bit stressed out by the fact that they might be hogging my attention for months to come. I mean, that shouldn't be a bad thing at all because they are fun games! But it's just WoW all over again, I am having fun but still think I might be missing out on something. My gaming time is very limited and any time put into one of the endless games isn't putting me any closer to it's end or to me feeling like I am done with it. In the case of those games I just have to wait until I get bored with them and who knows when that is?

Dem graphix -

The problem is that eventhough I never regretted any of the hours I put into WoW or any game I enjoy playing, I then occasionally stumble upon a game where I think "why the heck haven't I played this sooner?!". Thief The Dark Project and Planescape: Torment are good examples. They remind me that there are so many other good games out there I have yet to try (my list is now very, very long) and here I am just playing FTL all over again or sinking another six hours into HoMM3 which I've already played ridiculously much. When I played WoW all that time I could find myself wondering whether I was actually having fun or just thought I did. If I never played another game, then what would I know what true fun would be like?

It's like that first real relationship where after a while you start to wonder whether you are actually in love with the other person or if you just think you are - how will you know if you never experience another relationship? But then you don't want to give up what you have because as far as you know you're having a good time. But how do you know for sure you are? Yeah you see the dilemma...

Just as with life, my gaming has to enter that perfect balance between not feeling stagnant and at the same time not feeling like you're risking losing anything you like. It's not an easy thing to do, in the end I wish I just had more hours in the day so I didn't have to choose but could do ALL the things. Or maybe I should just accept that as long as I am having fun I'm not doing it wrong.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Why Sonic is too cool for his own good

Considering what a gamer I've turned out to become, I wasn't exactly spoiled with access to video games when I was a kid. You hear a lot of people nowadays go on about how they started gaming just about when they learned to grasp things with their hands, me on the other didn't get proper into gaming until my teens. I have vague memories of the odd computer game here and there - watching my uncle play Railroad Tycoon on his Amiga when I was 5, playing Lemmings on the computer of a friend of the family when I was around 6, Shufflepuck Cafe on an old Mac at school when I was 9 - nothing fancy and definitely not for any extent. A neighbour of mine had a SNES however, and this was the closest I got to some good gaming as a kid. He was stingy with letting us play though, at least that is how I remember it, but we got some good sessions of Killer Instinct, Super Mario World and Tiny Toons in before his mom sold it. Then eventually I bought my own first console, a N64, and the rest is history.

So pretty... -

What I can't recall ever playing as a kid however, was a Mega Drive (Genesis for you Americans). I knew of them, obviously. I had heard about Sonic and... that was about it. I didn't know much about SEGAs consoles to begin with, I didn't know anyone who owned one of their consoles and by the time I got around to caring SEGA was almost out of the console business anyway. It makes me wonder when I actually got around to trying a classic game like Sonic for the first time, but I am thinking it must've been well into my late teens. I recall my first impression of it vividly however - I thought it was pretty shit. Don't get me wrong, I'm not some sort of Nintendo fangirl who automatically disliked everything that wasn't Mario. I am in fact not overly fond of most of Marios platforming games either (as it turns out I'm not very fond of platforming games overall), but Sonic disappointed me in being nothing like everything I had heard about it being. Sonic was supposed to be fast and cool, he definitely got the cool factor over Mario but I thought the levels were just confusing and silly. Sonic seemed to run randomly across the place, the level design was pretty much the opposite of the straightforwardness of the Mario games (which were pretty much the only platforming games I had as a reference point at that time). Eventhough I wasn't a big fan of the Mario games I could get around getting from A to B via pretty much one route. In Sonic however you got from A to B via what felt like fifteen different routes and it just had me pressing the buttons wondering what the heck was going on. Did I call the shots or did Sonic? Half the time Sonic was either running too much or not running enough.

Actually not an intestinal tract -

I could go on about the issues I have with the Sonic games, and I would probably still think that way if my bf wasn't a massive Sonic fan. That alone did not sway me, but he nagged me into giving the game a second chance. I played it and still disliked it, played it again and felt like I understood the levels a bit better, played it a third time and thought I could see some of what my bf loved so much about it. The levels weren't confusing, they were open and inviting to exploration and experimentation. Sonic wasn't running aimlessly, the speed was part of the platforming challenge and knowing when and when not to use it was the difference between a skilled and less skilled Sonic player (ie my bf vs me). It's not like I love the Sonic games or anything, but I've gone from dislike to respect and understanding regarding them, and it made me think a lot about how SEGA ruined the franchise so badly with the later games. How come the Sonic games failed so hard to live up to old glory when the Mario games clearly had no such problems? It can't have been introducing the series to 3d or implementing new gameplay elements, all of which the Mario series have also done. But whereas the Mario games generally go from victory to victory, every new Sonic game is always anticipated with a shred of hope and a load of fear. I'm amazed the Sonic fan community never seems to truly give up on their blue hedgehog - even the latest Sonic Boom debacle seems to leave people going "but at least maybe the games will be good" - and maybe that says a lot about them.

I like lamp! -

I read about how the Mario fans complain about how some new transformation in some new Mario World game isn't "as cool and useful as it could be" all the while the Sonic fans go "at least in this game there is a level that isn't completely awful, so there is that!". The Mario fans are spoiled with awesomeness, great level design and ingenuity, the Sonic fans are wrecked with too much of the opposite - how could these two series develop so differently?

As I started thinking more and more about it a thought popped into my head: Maybe Sonic is too cool for his own good? Maybe that fact points toward a design idea that simply wasn't made for good gaming in the long run. It points towards the fact that Sonic was designed around not being Mario, whereas Mario was designed as being a tool to get through a game. As far as design goes, pretty much everything about Mario was work-around solutions designed to cater the game. With Sonic however, it seems to have been the other way around. The Mario games were never created with Mario in mind, he was just a character Miyamoto chose to use after he had designed the levels. Sonics games on the other hand must have (this is my own conclusion) been designed with Sonic in mind, and the amount of times a game has come out good when the characters were the starting point I feel like I can count on my left hand fingers (case in point: just about every movie license game out there). Thinking of it that way I'm amazed the first four games on the Mega Drive turned out as well as they did. Kudos to the game designers for managing to turn a Sonic character trait spreadsheet into some really good games.

Unfortunately for Sonic this seems to have meant an over-emphasizing on Sonic as a character as time went on and less focus on the games he starred in. Sonic got a whole bunch of tv-series, some of which I swear people remember a lot better than the games themselves (I'm one of those people) when asked. Who on the other hand remembers the Mario tv-series? As far as I know it was barely even aired in Sweden where I live, and eventhough Mario got a Live-Action-Movie (and Sonic was at least spared from that), Mario was always about the games whereas Sonic was about the image of the character, for better and worse (some of the tv-series are actually really good). Going back to the new Sonic Boom again it just shows this exact mentality at play yet again. Mario doesn't have a new tv-series and design overhaul coming out, but Sonic does. If SEGA put all that effort into making just one awesome Sonic game, rather than splitting up their efforts into "Making-Sonic-Look-Cool-For-The-New-Generation"-team and "Creating-Yet-Another-Series-About-Sonic & Co-Shenanigans"-team, I'm sure it might actually turn out alright.

At least Knuckles didn't get a green mohican -

Of course I don't actually know anything about the actual design process regarding neither Sonic nor Mario, and I wouldn't go as far as calling the first four games on the Mega Drive just lucky shots. There are obviously examples of character based games gone good just as there is the opposite. To me it just feels like as the Sonic series moved and new teams got their hand on the Sonic idea, maybe they didn't have a clear framework to work with. The Mario gameplay concept seems clear enough whereas game creators have struggled with Sonic. "So he runs a lot, then what?" seems to be what have gone through their minds. "What about story?", "What about more characters?", "What about fleshing out the characters we have?", "What about putting a lot of really annoying sound effects into the game that gets repeated every two seconds?". Ok the last one is on me. You don't see any of the Mario games putting any dimes into those buckets however. "So you can play 4-player in this game but we only have Mario and Luigi..." "Uhhh... how about letting people play as one of the mushrooms?" "Yeah, and maybe as the princess or Bowser?".

Shots were fired from both directions -

In the Mario games the characters are the means to an end, and when Sonic was introduced SEGA knew they could use that to their advantage. What kid thinks a fat plumber is a cool mascot? I totally agree that Sonic is way cooler than Mario, and a lot more interesting as a character - hence why the Sonic tv-series have become so much more popular than any Mario equivalents. But in the long run the focus on Sonics persona seems to have gotten game designers confused, losing focus of what really matters in any good game - great gameplay.

I don't think making a good Sonic game today is impossible, and there are even a couple of fairly new releases that aren't too bad. Overall it just seems like Sonic himself has been allowed to overshadow too much of most Sonic games design ideas, leaving the rest of the game hollow and but a faint echo of their former glory.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

My Top 5 Favorite Books

When I decided to have a child and started imagining what it might be like, I kind of understood that it would take a lot of time from all the things I used to put a lot of time into, like gaming and writing. Interestingly enough things didn't really turn out that way when work came in and ruined most of the time I had for gaming and writing long before my son did, meaning when he turned up I didn't really have to change much or sacrifice much in my routines - my son basically replaced the time I had put into work. So everything was just fine until I slowly realized something else was suddenly missing in my life, something I hadn't really thought about but that I actually had put a whole lot of time into - in fact more time the more I worked. I am talking about reading.

I've always loved to read and started out young when my overambitious parents gave me books way beyond my age that I struggled through to make them proud. Because of them I read books of for example HP Lovecraft, Orwell and stuff about philosophy well before my teens and in all honesty I don't think I actually understood much about them (I reread most of them later though, and they were at least good books). It's not like my parents efforts turned me into some sort of literature mastermind, but I at least did find a love for reading that is with me still today.

If someone were to ask me what my favorite genres were I'd probably say sci-fi, historical and factual books (the sci-fi most likely from my mom since she's a total sci-fi nut). To me, reading has always been somewhat like doing quests and completing a book and starting a new one is something I find immense satisfaction in. For this reason there are few books I've given up on (but there are a few, probably enough for their own list eventually!). At work I was known as "the girl who always reads" as I made sure to always have a book handy to fill out those little spaces of time when you have nothing to do and most people play Candy Crush Saga on their phones (nothing wrong with that, except King are total asshats). In my line of work, psychiatric care, there are many holes like these to fill and they allowed me to do a whole lot of reading. Time and opportunity I no longer have and my reading has taken a massive plunge, which definitely saddens me a bit.

My problem at the moment is that eventhough I love reading, I love gaming just that tiny bit more, so the few times I have to do whatever I like are often turned into gaming sessions. Lately I've tried to end the day with some reading in bed however, both because reading makes me sleepy as hell and because I just want to squeeze in some reading somewhere. In the light of not reading however, I have been thinking a lot about books I love and wish I could read again. So here is my top 5 favorite books! All the books on this list are books that are my personal favorites (obviously), books I've read several times and could read a hundred times more without getting bored of because they're just that great. But first I thought I'd start with some honorable mentions, this is not something I normally do for my top-lists, but these are a couple of books that deserve to be mentioned, and if you're into reading a check out, eventhough they didn't make it onto the list.

Honorable Mentions
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco - I actually saw the movie before I read the book. I loved the movie, decided to read the book and loved that one even more. It's a low tone murder mystery, a bit in style with an episode of Murder She Wrote or Midsomer Murders. Set in a historical mileu, the atmosphere and storytelling of this book is just great.
Musashi by Eiji Fushikawa - A grand story about honor, betrayal and love set in rural Japan. Obviously based on the sword master Miyamoto Musashi this book has a pretty epic feel to it.
Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden - I feel like the character portrayal of the main character Chiyo, and actually all the characters around her are just so good in this book. You really care and feel for them and eventhough they're entirely fictional they feel like real people you wish you could've known or met.
To the Edge of the Sky by Anhua Gao - I am a huge fan of reading about Mao China, because it's such a fascinating and horrifying telling of what man is capable of under pressure and extreme circumstances (much like Nazi Germany). Biographies from people who experienced it are my favorites since they're written by people who made it (obviously) and so offer some silver lining to all the gruesome.

5. The Keeper of the Isis Light by Monica Hughes
As far as sci-fi stories go this one isn't bombastic or grand in any way. Unlike for instance the Isaac Asimov series it doesn't stretch over the entire galaxy but takes place on the planet Isis, where the orphaned girl Olwen lives alone with her guardian Guardian (yes that is his name). Olwen is basically a lightkeeper on Isis, guarding it for future settlers which arrive on her 16th birthday. The story that unfolds between Olwen and the new settlers is so greatly written, with a neat twist that I at least did not see coming when I first read it in my early teens, I just love coming back to it over and over. It is the kind of science-fiction story I wish I had written myself. This book is the first in a series of three that further explores the interaction between the settlers and Olwen and eventually as time passes also how the settlement evolves into its own society with religion and laws based on things that occur in the first and second book. It's really interesting to see how ordinary things in the first book turn into mythologies, rules and laws by the third book and how the people reason around it - it makes you think a lot about how these things might have come to be in society around us.

The first book is definitely the best in the series, although they're all well written and worth a read as they explore different aspects of human interaction and social development, subjects that really interest me.

4. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
As far as I know, Ken Follett is mostly known for writing thrillers, but The Pillars of the Earth is nothing like that. Set in 12th century England, it's about building a cathedral and weaves in the life stories of families around it. It's extremely well written and also has some very naughty sex scenes in it which made me all blushy when I first read it around 14 or so. As with most other books on this list, the characters are well developed and it's just like a really good tv-series where you just need to know what happens next and really feel for the characters. In fact, it's a lot like Game of Thrones, but with a lot fewer people (something I think some people would welcome). In fact, this book sports a character mean enough to rival Joffrey. I just recently found out it was actually turned into a miniseries (and a board game!), that I have to watch now of course.

3. Robots & Empire by Isaac Asimov
I like basically everything written by Isaac Asimov, but I've got to say that his entire Robots, Empire and Foundation series is truly epic. There is the occasional dull book in that series (which spans 14 novels, not counting short stories!), but in total it tells of one of the best and most fascinating science fiction universes I've ever read about. Originally these three series (Robots, Empire, Foundation) weren't connected, but eventually Asimov decided to write a couple of books that would bridge them. Robots & Empire serves to bridge between the first three Robot books into the later four Empire books. It continues the story of the three novels in the Robot series which follows the detective Elijah Bailey, who in this book is long dead. This book follows two of the main robots that also appear in this series, and explains a lot of the things that are later referred to in the Empire series in a very satisfactory way, by giving us the unknown fourth robot law, which is why the book is called "The Unknown Law" in swedish. The Robot series was always my favorite in the entire Saga for characters, and reading this closing novel was actually quite emotional and without giving away too much of the story I will tell you that this book made me cry.

2. Black Holes and Time Warps by Kip S. Thorne
This book is actually not a novel, but a factual book about pretty much exactly what the title says - Black Holes and Time Warps and everything around it. The one thing I love about this book, besides the mind boggling "I am a tiny speck in the Universe" kind of mentality it manages to put me in, is that no matter how many times I read it I always seem to discover (ie understand) something new about it. Although it is written in a very understandable language, even for someone like me who only really has a big interest but no real knowledge about the kind of physics in this book, the themes are totally mind blowing in a way few novels can be. This book proves the old saying that the truth always outshines imagination.

1. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas
You've all probably heard of this one, and if you haven't read it, I couldn't recommend it more. I had something of a "read all the classics" phase a couple of years back and went through a lot of the Old Great Ones - one of which turned out to be on my top 5 most disliked books (a list that's probably coming in the future)! And then there was this one. The first time I read it I was truly glued to the pages, it was one of those page-turners I just couldn't put down. The story of how Edmond Dantes becomes set up, spends years in prison only to come back and exact his gruesome revenge is so darn good, after I had finished the book I felt I needed to see every version of the story that was out there. I watched several movie and series adaptions, all of which came nowhere close to being as good as the original book of course (the best one was actually an anime called Gankutsou, the worst one is the movie from 2002). I definitely don't want to ruin any of the story here, but Dantes doesn't just have one person to get his revenge on. The intricacies of the way he goes about it means you can't tell what's going to happen next, his plan is executed in many stages where some people are punished and some people are rewarded. It's without a doubt the best revenge-story out there because it's just not as simple as the bad guys getting what's coming for them. No matter how many times I read this book, I never ever tire of it.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

R.I.P Leia (070997 - 080214)

The more you love something, the more it hurts when it's gone. That's something I am pretty sure all of you have experienced, hopefully not too often. I am sad to tell you that my lovely little cat girl Leia has passed away, she would've turned 17 this year. I am writing this post because I feel like she, just has her brother who passed away 5 years ago, deserves it and because everyone should know what an awesome little cat lady she was.

Leia and Luke were the only pets I ever had (yes, named after the Skywalkers!). When I moved from home, one of the hardest things to move away from were definitely these two little rascals and I knew I would even miss their pain in the ass rummaging in the middle of the night.

Leia was so very curious, she loved running up to us when we came home just to see what we might have in your bags. She climbed everything she could see and I can't even count the amount of times we had to pull (yes, pull!) her down from the roof of my dads balcony because she couldn't get down herself. Our curtains took their share of her escapades as well. She quickly learned how to open doors around her which forced us to take counter measures to make sure she didn't let her brother out. In fact she hated closed doors and always made sure we knew that she wanted us to open them when we had them locked. Leia never shied away from vocalizing her thoughts or needs, but she gave twice as much love and attention as she asked for. Countless are the times she came comforting me when I was sad, it's like she knew.

Leia loved socializing and never went out on her own, she always wanted company. Taking a walk she used to run after us, meowing along to make sure we wouldn't forget her. When something happened at home she made sure to get a spot where she could sit and observe. She hated loud noises and would meow angrily if someone sneezed or did the dishes. She was playful and loved playing fetch. Her favorites were crumpled little balls of plastic bags that she wanted us to throw so that she could run off and bring them back to us. She'd drop them at our feet, look up expectantly and meow. She'd go crazy if there was promise of mince meat or chicken.

My sweet, lovely, beautiful little girl - I love you so very much and I hope there is someone to play fetch with you, talk to you and hug you wherever you are now. I will never forget you and I will always miss you. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Top 5 Games I Regret Buying

I've been talking a lot lately about all the games I've bought and that I am currently trying to work my way through, this got me eventually to thinking about a couple of games I've bought throughout my life that I actually regret buying. It happens a lot less frequent than you'd think. In fact, finding 5 entries for this list was difficult and I just barely scraped enough of games together. Obviously, before there was massive Steam sales, each game I bought was most often carefully scouted beforehand, to make sure that the money put down on it was going to be worth it. Not only were the games pricier, I also had less money to spend on games and if I bought a bad one that was what I had to live with until I had saved up enough money for the next one, something that normally took a couple of months. One benefit to this was that I gave each game more time and so an initally boring game could grow on me, something I miss about the fast paced flow of games that is common place now. If a game doesn't amuse me within the first 30 minutes, I have 20 other ones to take its place instantly and sometimes I find it hard to motivate myself to pain through something I'm not enjoying when I could be doing something fun instead. But I digress, and that feels like material for a different post.

My point here however is that the games on this list aren't necessarily games that I simply didn't enjoy but rather a combination of a game I really looked forward to trying, was quite disappointed with and subsequently felt like I had spent a lot more money on than I thought it was worth. If I pay a small sum for a moderately fun to boring game, I probably won't regret that buy much. A good example is Skyrim, which although I ended up not liking very much, I definitely don't regret buying it, and it was still among the most expensive games I bought that year. The difference between Skyrim for instance and the games on this list is that I wasn't expecting too much from Skyrim, although a lot more than I got, and I think I got my moneys worth out of it in the end after all. For the following games however, not so much.

5. Rayman Origin (N3DS)
This game is only fifth on this list because it's actually a really good game and I can appreciate it as such eventhough I ended up not liking it. After having played a lot of Rayman on the GBA, I decided to grab this game on a whim when I was on something of a shopping spree in a Game store. It was on sale already and since it was marked up in pounds, which are worth ten times the swedish krona making the price look ridiculously cheap, I didn't really think much about it. Unfortunately it turns out that A. I really suck at platformers and B. Platformers are just not my thing (these are probably connected somehow).

Impending doom -

Sure, I had had a lot of fun with Rayman on the GBA, but Rayman Origin wasn't enough like it for me to enjoy it in the same way. Because of this I was quite disappointed when the gameplay wasn't exactly like I remembered it and even more so when the game kept kicking my ass way more than Rayman on the GBA ever did. To put it simply, Rayman Origin was way too difficult for me and my tendency to get easily frustrated did not help. I was hoping for some simple platforming fun, but I realize this was just not the game to choose for a newb platformer like me. In the end I don't regret buying Rayman Origin too much since it's not a game I mind owning, but it does make me sad knowing I will most likely never finish it and I really wouldn't have minded never having picked it up either.

4. Suikoden V (PS2)
Two of the games on this list I've bought purely based on someone elses recommendation without much prior knowledge of it - Suikoden V is one of those games. I was up visiting my parents, walked into a game store and found that one of my old childhood friends was now working in that store. I couldn't stand the guy when we were kids, he was an arrogant prick to put it nicely, but he had turned into a really nice guy as an adult. I asked him if he could recommend some game for me and he suggested Suikoden V. Since I quite like JRPGs and was in a bit of a slump not having played any good ones for a while, I was eager to get my hands on something interesting. I had heard of the name Suikoden, but never played any of the games. The case looked interesting enough and the back description was just as vague as you'd expect from a fairly generic RPG of this style.

Nowadays I always check the internet for metascores and/or reviews before I buy anything I don't know much about, if there is a larger sum of money involved, just so I will have a rough idea of what I am looking at basically. But at that point smartphones weren't a thing yet so I had only his recommendation to go of.

I wish I was this happy playing it -

I've tried to play Suikoden V three times, and each time I get tired at about the same place, roughly 2 hours into the game. I'm not entirely sure why I lose interest at this point - I just don't care about the characters, the intro part is too long and too boring and I guess a lot of it is just stuff I've seen before without it being engaging enough to want to do again. I will most likely give Suikoden V yet another try in the future, maybe it's one of those games that gets a bit better if you give it some time.

3. Might & Magic Heroes VI (PC)
I am a massive fan of Heroes of Might and Magic 3, and because of this I've felt compelled to at least check out all the other parts of the series. First up was HoMM 4 and initially I didn't check it out at all, I assumed it would at least be somewhat as fun as HoMM3. Even if it was only half as fun it would pretty damn fun, I decided. Oh how wrong I was. I don't remember much about HoMM4, I only remember that they had massively changed the map and I was completely confused about what anything was when running around. In HoMM3 most things are very clear whereas in HoMM4 I couldn't separate background objects from important ones, and that was just one of the problems I had with the game. It wasn't half as fun as HoMM3, it was maybe a 100th.

Pretty does not a fun game make -

After the mistake I did with HoMM4 I decided to make sure any subsequent games looked decent before I paid for them - I didn't even buy HoMM5 because it seemed like it was too much like HoMM4 and not enough like HoMM3. When what would essentially be HoMM6 was released, although they then felt the need to rename it to MMH6 for some reason, I actually thought that they might've gotten it right this time. I didn't think it would be as fun as HoMM3, I realized that game would be pretty damn hard to beat, but maybe it could at least come pretty close. The combat system looked fun and I liked the better graphics and updated models.

So I bought it and I really, really wanted to like it. It was far from shit like HoMM4 so at first it reeled me in and got me really hopeful about being quite fun. Unfortunately it quickly turned out it wasn't, I guess I just couldn't come to terms with the changed style of town building and other changes they had made to the winning HoMM3 formula. I think my disappointment with this game is the reason it is on this list rather than HoMM4. It really got my hopes up and crushed them pretty badly, and still to this day I wonder why it's so hard to make another decent HoMM game (and do you really need to rename it?). HoMM2 was great though.

2. Bastion (PC)
Another game I bought because someone recommended it to me, and not only that person but pretty much any reviewer on the internet said that this game would be so much fun and worth buying. Obviously you won't always agree with reviewers, for instance my bf thinks The Walking Dead games are shit whereas everyone else in the world seem to think they're ambrosia for the mind. To me it was just about running around shooting stuff, which can be fun - but it wasn't. I didn't get passed the first stage, I think, before I decided that clearly this game was just not for me.

Why was this so fun? -

I guess my problem with Bastion is that not only was I disappointed in how much I didn't enjoy it, but because I didn't listen to my inner self when I actually knew I wasn't going to like it. I bought it simply because it was recommended and I wish I would've given it more thought. It's not about the money, because it wasn't very expensive, it just annoys me to think that I had no reason to buy it and did it anyway because I was stupid at that particular moment. Hopefully I've learned something from that experience.

1. Unlimited Saga (PS2)
This is another game on this list put here mostly because of the emotional attachment I have to it, in a negative sense (just as with Bastion). I was maybe 16 and had seen Unlimited Saga on the store shelves. I don't know if you've seen the case, but at the time I thought it looked amazing. Someone should've stepped in right then and there and told me not to judge a game by its covers, because I was completely awed by the game based on nothing but how the case looked. This was during a time when most of my games would come from my parents during birthdays/christmas, so naturally I wished for it - and got it.

It just screams "buy me!" -

I was thrilled and overjoyed, as you are when you get a game you've really wanted to play and immediately popped it into my ps2 to give it a go. I was expecting something along the lines of Final Fantasy, at least and was completely confused and utterly disappointed when what I got was nothing like it. Not only was it nothing like Final Fantasy, it was nothing like any RPG I had seen before. I played for an hour or two, not understanding what was going on or why the game was so weird. I turned it off and haven't played it since.

That would've been all well and nice if not for the fact that I had known that I had begged my parents to buy it and they had spent a good chunk of money getting it for me in the hopes that it would make me happy. Of course my dad asked me if I liked it and I had to white lie something along the lines of "yeah it seems interesting" or whatever I might've said while silently hating myself for not loving it. If I had bought it myself I would've been the only one to suffer, but now I had fooled my parents into wasting money on that piece of crap for me, and that made me feel so awful.

Even more annoying is the fact that I've lost it since, and now I sit wanting to give it another go, thinking that I might enjoy it at this age. In the end that game will always be a bother for me, for the massive hopes I had for it, the massive let down it turned out to be, how it made me feel like I let my parents down and how it's gone now that I want to give it another chance. That game is one of those things on my mind when my brain feels like it wants to torment me about thinking about things that make me feel bad. I know it's just a game, but damn that damn game.