Monday, January 28, 2013

Sha of Fear 10 Man Disc Guide

Here's my texted video guide to healing Sha of Fear on normal 10 Man. Personally I quite like the fights in ToES and this one was actually a lot of fun to heal. I had never done the fight or even heard of it before last night, but my guild allowed me to read up on some tactics during a break and we went and downed it. It's not an easy fight at all, but I feel that this fight takes more skill and less luck into consideration (at least I like to think so ;) than most raid fights. It's some hectic healing, it requires quick thinking and quick decision making which makes it all the more fun when you succeed. We nearly wiped at the end since we were all hit by Breath of Fear for reasons unknown to us. Fortunately we made it anyway!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Elegon 10 Man Disc Priest PoV

Just a video of a kill me and my guild did on Elegon ages ago.This one won't be a guide since the content is getting old, but if there is interest I can add some information about what I think is worth thinking about when healing this fight as a discipline priest. Questions are always welcome of course.

Overall I am not very fond of this fight, I find it one of the more boring ones to heal in MV. There is a lot to heal admittedly, it's not boring because of lack of challenge. I think it is because it is pretty rinse-and-repeat in style, redoing the same thing over and over. I usually prefer the fights that require more of a quick think and reaction style of healing, maybe with some running around. This fight is quite stationary and timing of cooldowns and mana management are the two challenges here (although that goes for most fights). As a healer there isn't much to think about except that, and it gets kind of dull after a couple of wipes.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Games and Movies - The Faces of Evil

Last time I went to England I made sure to bring an issue of Edge, a video game magazine that I am sure many of you have heard of. I think it's quite good, but it's nigh on impossible to find in Sweden, and if you're lucky to find one of the few places that do sell them, it usually costs about three times as much. This particular issue had actress Ellen Page on the front, you know, the girl from such movies as Inception and Juno (the first movie I saw with her was Hard Candy though, which was just weird). Although she's probably quite popular in Hollywood right now, I was not expecting her to be on the front of a video game magazine. In fact, I was a bit annoyed. I usually want video game characters, or some cool screen shot from some of the latest games to be on the front of a video game magazine. When I opened up and read the article about her, it turns out this would actually fit the latter category, but somehow that only made me more annoyed. A video game with a Hollywod actress in it? Not sure I want that.

It's a pretty face though.

But maybe we should take a little step back here. Movie actors in video games are far from a new thing. Most movies and tv-series have some sort of licensed video game version starring the same main character from the movie/series- most are bad (can't help but mention E.T here of course), a few are good (hmm, how about... actually I can't think of one right now). And the video game industry have been trying to creep closer to the movie industry since forever, not just by releasing games based on the same stories and with the same characters, but also in concept, by making games that are less interactive and more movie like (like Dragon's Lair) or just contain a whole ton of FMV (like some Solid Snake games).

I can even remember the first time I played Dragon's Lair on a friends computer, literally thinking "how the heck is this a game?". It might've been cool when it was first released in 1983, but when I played it around mid 90's there were a lot more interesting things to spend your time on (and I bet there was 1983 as well). And the Solid Snake games are generally considered good games, but I know one big complaint often aimed at them are the overly extended cut-scenes. Hideo Kojima really wants to tell his story and build his characters, but many players don't agree that lengthy and often occuring cut-scenes are the right way to go about it in a video game - something people spend time with to actually be part of the action rather than just stare at the screen. And I totally agree. My patience with cut-scenes limits itself to either short or not often occuring. And even then I want them to have relevance, not just to show off some fancy effects. This can obviously be done in a good way, just look at the Walking Dead series (although if you ask my bf they are shit as well).

But other than stealing characters and concept from movies, some games have tried using real people - in some cases actors - to make their games seem more real and lifelike. One of the first examples I can think of is Mortal Kombat (and many MK clones) that sort of has the characters looking like moving pictures of actual people - frankly it looks like shit if you ask me. I find Street Fighter 2 way more eye-pleasing and fun to play although it's cartoony and therefor less realistic in a way. And then you have cut-scenes using real actors, like some Command & Conquer games. Maybe MK is a bad example, since part of the issue there is that the animations are so bad (or so I think). Today you can just model your characters around human motions, making them move more life-like and realistic rather than by just using CGI. Just look at what they did with Gollum for instance, that's pretty cool, right?

Even Sub-Zero doesn't look cool.
Sure, I find using actors to help you model realistic human (or human-like) motions is totally ok in both movies and games. I don't mind that at all. In fact, just imagining what it must be like trying to program and animate realistic facial expressions, when even acting them with your own face isn't particularly easy, makes it look like only good can come from using actors in games. We might forgive stiff and hilarious facial expressions on a face that only is comprised of twenty pixels, but now that we can actually animate really realistic faces, we might ask more of what they look like when they act in our cut-scenes. Soon reviewers might not just complain about bad voice-acting, but also bad actual acting in games (maybe that has already happened). Only good then, isn't it? No, I have one issue with it, a big one.

Eventhough I don't mind using an actor to base your animations off, I do mind using an actor as the actual character. Small difference you might think? Huge difference, really. Imagine if, if graphics had allowed obviously, Link had been played by Christian Bale or Lara Croft in the games really had been played by Angelina Jolie. It might sound awesome to some of you, I think it sounds horrible. A video game character is made special by the fact that it is itself. It is created and born if you like in the universe of the game and before that first game it didn't exist anywhere else. When we first pick up that game and play that character we normally don't have any attachments or predisposition towards that character. It might have backstory and personality, it might not. It doesn't matter, either way it will be something new for us to discover. If I pick up a game and play as Kirsten Stewart on the other hand (yeah, that got your attention, didn't it)... actually I probably wouldn't pick up a game where I played as Kirsten Stewart in the first place, but that's just pointing out yet another issue with using actual people in video games.

Real actors have real lives and personalities, and the more we know about them the more we will expect when seeing them. This is a good thing if I am playing a game based on a character that already exists. If I play a Terminator game I would love to play as Arnold Schwarzenegger. But every other time, I want the character to build itself and I want to have as few preconceptions of it as possible. I have this issue with movies as well, which is why I get annoyed everytime I see yet another Tim Burton movie with Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham-Carter, when in fact most of the best movies he's done the last 20 years don't actually have any of their faces in main roles (Nightmare Before Christmas, Big Fish, Mars Attacks, Batman, ok that is 1992 but close)! When I see Johnny Depp in some weird ass roll I know exactly what I am going to get, no matter if he plays a pirate captain or a chocolate factory owner. Sometimes the role fits him, most of the time I wish I could see a new face already. I might have expectations on a new Final Fantasy game, but I definitely don't have expectations of the characters in it. And I definitely don't want my group to consist of Bruce Willis the knight, Jennifer Aniston the white mage and Nicolas Cage the red mage. Think I sound ridiculous? IT COULD SOON BE REAL!

No, but seriously. It will probably never go that far (I pray), but that is what I pictured in my head reading an article about a game that made one of its biggest points being that it used a real actor as the main character. One of the advertisements even said "Starring Ellen Page" in top. No no no, I am the star here! Me and the character together discover this adventure, but some Hollywood actor sure as heck isn't going to steal my glory. In a way, anyone playing that game (called Beyond btw) will actually be playing as Ellen Page. We will get to control her, but in any cut-scene and in most of the game I will probably think more of Inception and Juno and Hard Candy and less of what is happening in the story of the game. This isn't even a new thing, games like Onimusha has done it already. It might be a good game but I really don't like that concept. Real actors change, they age and they die. A video game character is eternal, it might be forgotten but it will always be what it is and therefor always true to its game.

Maybe this is just a problem I have with faces - I connect them to everything else I know them from. Usually that is a good thing with video game faces. Seeing Mario, Metroid, Sonic, Thrall... any video game character really I can connect them to the different games they come from and their very own personality (as shallow as it may be) from those games. When I see Thrall I see Thrall, and not The Rock playing Thrall. It does matter, to me at least. So please - don't put actors into video games any more than you need to.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Zinn's Nostalgic Instances - Ramparts

Name any BC or Classic dungeon and I've probably done it about 100 times by now, with few exceptions. The Wrath dungeons are closing in on that amount. Whenever they change one of the old instances, and in the case of the Classic ones they've basically remade them all in some way by now, I both get happy and sad. Sad that the old instance is gone forever, because in a way it is, and happy that they're adapting it to the style of the new times so that more people can enjoy it. I think this is a reason I quite like the BC instances so much. They've been simplified almost beyond recognition, but overall they at least still look a lot like the originally used to.

By doing these instances on my alts, mostly burning through parts and bosses that used to be incredibly difficult, I chuckle to myself as I remember the olden times and think about the massive difference in challenge that the instance now holds compared to when it was current content. I think about boss skills and mob groups that used to require a massive cooperative effort from the group to pull off, and compare it to the mass-pulls of the runs I do today. Of course there is a difference in difficulty because I am doing normal rather than heroic runs on my alts, and I wouldn't even want the instances to be as hard as they used to be when I am only online for 30 min to do a quick pug run. Eventhough some of the old instances hold some challenge still (when done in the appropriate level) even on heroic most of them are something you just dance through without any thought.

But doing the pug run makes me remember how much fun I had struggling through these dungeons and I wanted to commemorate those memories and share them, somehow. So how should I put this. For anyone who was there I am sure you've got your own set of horrible and awesome memories connected to any or all of what was the dreadful heroics of BC. I hope this can be a little trip down memory lane for you. For you who weren't there, maybe this can be a tiny glimps into a world that just doesn't exist anymore. A ruthless, unforgiving time when Blizzard wanted you to sacrifice a lot more of your time and sanity than they ever do nowadays. They new they could ask for it because we were ready to give it to them. Over and over we bashed our heads against these walls and only rarely did they crumble. Only with the best of teamwork and group effort. Which only made it feel all the more rewarding. Like those rare times when I end up in a pug today who does well in an instance not because of overgearing it and steam rolling through but because everyone does their best and actually tries to help eachother. I'm not sure if you're familiar with that feeling, but to me it's like everyone in that pug just became my very best friend for a short moment in my life.

I don't know if this is something that will interest anyone else, but to me that kind of what a blog is all about anyway.

Unlike heroics nowadays, most mobs were pretty annoying in old heroics. This isn't necessarily a good thing, hence the use of the word "annoying" rather than "challenging". The BC heroics inherited stuns and fears that lasted more than five seconds from the Classic dungeons, back when Blizzard still thought it would be hilarious to see players struggle to keep aggro and eachother alive when being incapacitated for what seemed like an eternity.

The key for these instances was crowd control, and that is what I do like about them. Eventhough I think Blizzard overestimated how much puggers are willing to put into a group filled with strangers they'll never meet again, when it did click and everyone just felt like helping out it was one of the best experiences ever, like I already mentioned. You did need a lot of patience (and back then not only for the instance but for the whole group forming and gathering as well), and very few puggers had it which Blizzard soon realized.

Nonetheless, players are prone to look back even at the worst of times with happy nostalgic memories glinting in their eyes, including these. It's easy to forget all the struggle and frustration behind those horrible pulls, mobs and bosses, but this was back when we had the time for it and just didn't know any better.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Top 5 Horrible Resident Evil Bosses

I've been playing a lot of Resident Evil lately. Well, in all honesty, I let my bf do most of the actual playing while I watch and we try to solve the puzzles (which are quite simple really) and scream together. I take over occasionally when we get stuck or he gets too frustrated, but he does most of the playing. Nevertheless, we've decided to play through the entire series, from the beginning to the end and so far we've gone through Resident Evil (PS), RE2 (PS), RE3:Nemesis (PS), RE: Code Veronica X (PS2), RE: Survivor (PS) and are currently playing RE: Zero (which I've played half way through before). Next up is the RE Remake for GC (which I've played through a couple of times) and then onward to the newer games like RE4, 5 and 6.

Since I've been spending so much time with these games, which also happen to be among my favorite game series all time, I thought I'd make some sort of post about it. I could make a post about why I love the RE universe so much, where the first game really is my all time favorite (although I actually prefer the remake), which games I like the most and why, and I might do that some day too. But instead I thought I'd make a post about some of the bosses in the game, specifically the most horrible bosses. The RE universe has a butt-load of bosses, most of them are decent, some are lame (a giant moth, really?) and some obviously harder than others. By horrible, I don't necessarily mean overly hard or scary, but in some way really annoying. I'm sure you can all guess at least one boss on this list.

Since this is a list of bosses I can unfortunately not add some of the more annoying mobs, like the Crimson Heads from the Remake of the first RE and the Hunters from various games. This list will also just hold bosses from the classic games, the ones mentioned above, simply because I haven't played the newer ones yet (and maybe it's suitable considering the newer ones took a different direction). So let's get started.

5. Gravedigger (RE Nemesis)
The Gravedigger actually occurs in Code Veronica as well, or at least a similar version of it, but then it's called something else. The fight I am thinking of in Nemesis you don't even have to kill it, all you have to do is push two buttons to open the locks to a ladder and run away, sounds simple enough, right? No! To get to the buttons, you have to run dangerously close to the holes from which the Gravedigger emerges, and you literally only have a split second to push the button before he comes out and starts chewing on you. Once he's out, it's almost impossible to get to the button and you have to lure him away and try it again. This is true when you need to leave through the door as well, meaning you can die only because your character isn't facing the exact inch it needs to face to be able to interact with the ladder. Just watch the video and you'll see what I mean.

4. Nemesis (RE Nemesis)

You knew this bastard was going to be on this list, it's impossible to make a list like this and not include what is possibly one of the most annoying bosses in the series. Now, Nemesis isn't actually that difficult, the fact he's so annoying is because he refuses to stay dead. I've lost count on the amount of times he pops out like a jack in the box, screaming STARS!, that horrible music starts and he comes charging after you. Those times he's not even killable, trying to do so is just a waste of ammo. At best you knock him down long enough for you to be able to escape, but trust me - he'll be back. Every now and then he comes at you as a proper boss, and at those times it's not that bad actually. He's difficult but not too difficult and those encounters are generally decently made boss fights. Every single time you end up wasting him, thinking that's the end of him, but of course you'd be very wrong. He adds a stressful element to RE Nemesis that I am sure the creators are very proud of, and personally I can't decide whether I think it's great or horrible. Since he's on this list, it's probably the latter.

3. William Birkin, Second (Dog) Form (RE2)

You fight Birkin several times during RE2, and the first time you fight him he's pretty bad ass, the last time you fight him he's just weird. The second time you fight him however, he's turned into this dog like thing and this fight is annoying for many reasons. First of all, you fight him in a really narrow and enclosed space, where the locked camera angles of the older RE games really do their best to make sure you don't have any clue as to where the boss is or where you need to aim. Furthermore, the Birkin-dog is very fast, jumps around all over the place and if he gets to you and starts chewing you, you go from fine to danger at best. More likely you're one shot.

2. Alexia - Queen Ant (RE Code Veronica X)

The Queen Ant, actually a transformed Alexia Ashford, has a couple of phases as is a common theme for the bigger bosses in the RE games. The Queen Ant actually has two forms that are really annoying, although none of them are overly hard. First off, she threatens to kill Chris' sister Claire, and you have around 1 second to save her. This is simple, just shoot Alexia in the face. But the first time you do this fight you don't actually catch on quick enough and by the time you figure it out, you're way too late. Alexia has killed Claire and it's game over for you. That's such a mean thing to put into a game. Shooting Alexia will have her transform into her first proper form. This form isn't too hard, but it's very annoying for two reasons. She keeps spouting little insects that bite you. If you don't continously kill them, they will basically hump you into a corner and kill you, simply because you won't be able to shoot anything while you're being bitten.

Secondly, Alexia doesn't seem to have a regular hp bar in this form, but rather you need to shoot her as much as possible. If you have a hard hitting but slow weapon like the Magnum or the Shotgun, you're worse off than if you have a faster but weaker weapon like the sub-machine gun. There is no way to know this except by trial and error, and most people will equip their usual go-to weapons for boss killing which only makes this boss harder. And those little things are so very, very annoying. But it gets worse. For her last form, she starts to fly around the room throwing fire at you. Avoiding the fire is quite simple, but now you're supposed to shoot her down using the Rocket Launcher in the vicinity. Trying to target her is almost impossible, because not only does she fly all around the room, she also actually dodges your shots when you fire at her. That means you're only chance at hitting her is when she's close enough so she can't dodge. To shoot her you have to aim with the Rocket Launcher, which means you can't move or see anything since you're looking through the scope, which by the way is a bastard trying to control. I don't know, maybe we were just particularly bad at this, but this boss is definitely one of the most annoying ones we encountered so far.

1. Tyrant on a plane (RE Code Veronica X)
In Code Veronica X, not only do you have to deal with what probably is the most annoying character of any RE-game, Steve Burnside, but also what probably is one of the most annoying bosses of any RE-game - the Tyrant on the plane. When you get to this point, it's quite possible that you don't have any heavy weaponry and/or larger amount of healing still on you, in which case you're basically screwed (almost, I'll get to that). This boss is on this list partially because he's annoying, but mostly because he is damn difficult. There is no way to just kill him, you need to wound him enough to be able to throw him out of the plane using the crate-launcher in the cargo hold. To do this you need to shoot him, a lot and position him in the right place, in the middle and in the back of the plane. The cargo hold itself is tiny, the Tyrant will charge at you if you're too far away and slam you down if you're too close. He knocks you down from charging at which point you have a couple of seconds to get up and out of the way before he slams you. If he does slam you, you're basically DEAD. And the knocking and flailing about he does, does a lot of damage to you.

When me and the bf got to this boss in the game we had basically exhausted most of our stronger weaponry and had only three or so healing items. We had something like 12 grenade shots, which is way too little to do any good damage to this boss. We tried fighting him so many times, failing and failing. Eventually we took a break from the game and none of us had the energy to pick it up for several weeks. We had basically given up on the game, thinking that we would probably have to replay it and save some better items to be able to progress, when I read a tip on the internet. If you were out of the stronger weaponry, your best shot would be to knife the sucker down. Yes you read that right, the Combat Knife turned out to be our savior against this mofo. We tried it and managed to down him on the second or third try, unbelievable, or so we thought. But I still shudder at the thought of this fight, it's horribly difficult and unfair if you're unlucky enough to not have saved your very strongest weapons.

It'll be interesting to see what bosses RE 4, 5 and 6 hold in store, maybe I'll return with another list then.