Monday, February 16, 2015

Best of 2014 Gaming No-Shows

I stumbled upon a Swedish PC Gamer magazine from early 2014 the other day (practically a relic by now) and found a big list of games to look forward to in the upcoming year, that is 2014. As I read through it for the second time, I recalled reading it a year ago and reading about some games that I got really interested in but never heard from again. As the year passed and my brain got filled with other stuff, so did these tiny fragments of information get pushed out for other ones. Re-reading it however I got curious as to what had happened to these no-shows. Had I simply missed their release, were they delayed (as seems to be the cool thing to do among game developers nowadays) or did they just vanish into obscurity? Here's my pick for the best 2014 no-shows;

This point-and-click adventure game caught my attention when I saw that it was created by none other than Doug TenNapel, the guy behind Earthworm Jim and The Neverhood. That's got to be interesting, right? I don't know much about The Neverhood except that it has a pretty cool soundtrack and an even cooler graphics style in claymation (love claymation!). Armikrog looks to follow this idea and looks a lot like The Neverhood. It was said to be released in July 2014 in my magazine, but the homepage now states a release for 2015, though not further specified when. At least it seems to still be in the works, but it also looks a bit like another Kickstarter take-foreverer (that's a word). It's also worth noting that the Wikipage says that Rob Paulsen, whom my bf has a huge man-crush on, will do one of the voices in the game. Rob Paulsen being the guy who voiced Raphael (1987 TMNT), for some inexplacable reason Donatello (2012 TMNT) and Pinky in Pinky & The Brain.

I swear something is behind you! -

A Hat in Time
I only mention this platformer because it takes its inspiration from some games I think are really cool, like Banjo & Kazooie and every other 3D platformer on the N64 basically. Otherwise I'm not so fond of platformers, but the N64 era is just special to me for some reason. There is something about that blocky graphics... A Hat in Time seems to smoothen out the graphics a bit but I swear some of the animations look like they're taken directly from Mario 64. Although my magazine says it was to be released in Q1 of 2014 this game is still in its Alpha build. There has been talks about a release on the WiiU but as of now it's only been greenlit for a Steam-release. Apparently initial previews have been positive so I am definitely still looking forward to this.

Suits on the beach? That's crazy! -

Hyper Light Drifter
HPL (as I am going to call it because I am lazy) is another one of those games that owned it's own Kickstarter and got more than 23 times the money they were asking for. No wonder, just reading the first few lines about it on Wiki makes me reach for my wallet;

"The game is a homage to 8-bit and 16-bit games of the late 20th century, and is considered a combination of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Diablo. ".

Unfortunately, all the extra money expanded the game enough to force the developers to delay it for more than a year. Health issues also came into play. Not much you can do about that, just keep your fingers cross this baby is as awesome as it seems to have potential to be.

Pixel graphics at its best -

This is just the kind of game I could sink endless hours into. It's about building colonies and it is set in space. I love it already. This one is actually on Steam (yay!), albeit in an Early Access form (boo!). The initial reviews are mixed, which I am going to put down to it being in EA, without even reading them. I am definitely going to keep my eye on this game, but it still seems far from complete.

First thing to do, get better lighting -

Radio the Universe
I can't find much more information on this top-down sci-fi RPG than this other article from PC Gamer from early January this year stating that it is indeed still around. People are falling between hope and despair however because of how silent the creator has been and how little progress there seems to have been made. By the looks of it it's expected somewhere in the middle of 2015, but I think it's probably best to not hold your breath. I really hope this isn't going to be another one of the Kickstarter failures, because it really does look like fun.

Missiles on the dance floor? -

This isometric 2D adventure game reminds me of some classics like Planescape: Torment and the Fallout games. According to its homepage it will also be scored by Mark Morgan who did work on Fallout and Wasteland 2. It's still in development and seems pretty open with its progress, so I've got high hopes that this will come to a release. Cleverly enough, no release date has been set on the homepage however, so it's yet another wait and see (or wait and forget about in my case).

Seriously though, why so dark? -

The world doesn't seem to be for want of awesome gaming ideas, nor the money or people with money to create them. What really seems to be lacking is the actual people creating the games (which is interesting considering I know so many who say they want to be game designers). Another lesson that should've been learned by now is to never underestimate how much time and work it takes to complete a game, this seems to be a mistake that far too many game developers do all the way from the one man studio to the big AAA game developers. It still baffles me how, especially the game developers who by now should know better (I am looking at you EA and Ubisoft), they still either release incomplete products and hope no one will notice (?) or push the release date over and over again. Wouldn't it just be best to give yourself more time and if you happen to complete it sooner you'll make everyone happy, rather than make everyone disappointed with the opposite? I don't know, seems like simple logics to me (although I realize it's probably not that simple in the world of money).

Friday, February 6, 2015

To WoW or not to WoW

So I started playing WoW again. I had decided somewhere in november, actually just after the release of Warlords of Draenor, that I was going to make a come back come the new year. My bf was sceptical, worried that I might get sucked in when I don't really have that much time to put into playing anymore. I was worried as well, not that I might neglect my daily chores but that I'd neglect other games. Because that was the one issue I always had with WoW - it was all or nothing with that game. Every other game had to step back. So when I finally took the step to quit, a process that in itself took several months for me to actually go through with from first thoughts to cancellation of account, it was sad but also somewhat relieving. I would finally have time to play other games.If I felt that WoW ever made me miss out on anything, it would be that. It was worth it of course, I regret very few things about WoW. Some harsh words said on occasion perhaps, but not the time invested.

When I heard that the new expansion was everything everyone had hoped for (albeit the launch was a shamble as always) and a bit more, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to jump back in. I knew of course that all the things that had made me quit in the first place were still a factor. The fact that I don't have time to raid, the fact that most people I used to play with don't anymore or that I don't really have contact with them anymore. But I thought I had come to a point where I could go in and not need those things anymore. Turns out I was right and wrong.

I remember back when I started playing WoW, it was definitely the social aspect that got me hooked. I got interested because the game is very well designed and extremely rewarding to play, but what made me stay for 8 years and countless hours (seriously) were the people and the interaction - the good and even the bad times. Early on I didn't have those things yet, I was just another scrub questing around I recall playing for an hour or so and feeling like I was done, like I was bored and wanted to do something else. In my heyday I could literally play all day and not be bored because there was always something to do with someone. This "someone" was the key, I realize now. Even if I did random dungeons on lowbie alts with strangers, it was still the interaction with the group I enjoyed. I loved tanking or healing, because making the party run smoothly was the whole challenge to me. Even if we never said a word to eachother (which rarely happened, I loved to chatter), the silent actions of people spoke plenty.

With changes, streamlining and simplifying many things a lot of the challenge for me disappeared. As I've said many times before, I never felt like these changes made WoW a bad game, but we've grown apart. When I saw other social aspects around me going away as well I felt like WoW had turned into just another game to me - and as such one I had spent way too much time on. It was time to move on and try other things.

But I missed it terribly. The olden golden days of raiding, sure. All the fun in guild chat, of course. But mostly just running around in Tirisfal Glades and listening to the ambient music. Swimming in the waters outside of Stranglethorn Vale and killing pirates. Questing in Howling Fjord. I miss Shimmering Flats, Desolace, Duskwood, Blasted Lands, Zul'drak, Barrens and almost every other place in the game (Borean Tundra not so much). I wanted to go back and reminisce about old times the same way you go back to where you grew up as a kid and think about all the fun you had running around in the fields, forests and playgrounds. Although I don't need those things anymore, I want to go back and remember what it was like. For this, WoW is still brilliant, although I am a bit sad that Cataclysm had to change so much of Azeroth.

In every other aspect however, WoW has failed to draw me in. I can see how the Garrison is addictive, and sending your followers on missions is definitely fun. Questing is still an entertaining past-time, but I still feel instancing is too easy to be very rewarding. Raiding, even LFR is still something I just don't have time with, and frankly the thought of LFR (which is the only raiding option for me) doesn't attract me at all. The fact that WoW doesn't make it easy for you to just up and leave at any moment makes it further difficult for me to find a good time to play. They've made a couple of changes to the game that I find quite neat though, like the rare mobs you can find around the map and the way you get loot in instances. I can see what everyone loves so much about it, but somehow I just feel like I am part of it anymore. It reminds me of when I tried other MMOs while playing WoW. Be it Guild Wars, Guild Wars 2, Warhammer Online - I always felt like I was a visitor. WoW was home, I knew that place inside and out. Every other game was like going on vacation - at first you were excited about all the new things and how they did things differently, but I always ended up missing my own bed to sleep in. To me I get that same feeling of being a stranger when playing WoW now. Like I don't really belong.

Now I am torn between two places - the one that wants to leave and the one that wants to stay. Now I log in maybe every third day, send some followers on a mission, do some quests, maybe an instance if I have time (with 30 min queue time that is rarely so). I don't feel like I need WoW as a game. But I do feel like I need WoW as a memory. I still want to be able to log in just to be able to walk around areas and relax. I need WoW as a place to visit. There is no other game I can do that in.  Does that warrant the monthly fee though? I haven't decided yet.