Super Brief Mass Effect 2 Impressions (for now)

This is Victor Shepard. I tried to make him look like me, but I can’t make his face any fatter (BOO!).

Playing an Infiltrator after trying out the Sentinel, and loving the Sniper Rifle (YAY!)

Sniper Rifle has so few shots, it’s not funny (BOO!).

I can color my armor blue (YAY!).

My free mercenary Zaeed is a heartless bastard. (BOO!)

Archangel, who is also a sniper, is wearing blue (YAY!).

Did I mention that playing an infiltrator in this game is tough work? (BOO!)

Headshots very Rewarding (YAY!).

Am Confused as to where to go. (BOO!).

Current Boo/Yay Ratio 5:4

Tentative Booyah score: 3.5/5 BOOYAHs

On In-Game Bastardry and Levels of Morality

This write-up was inspired by a comment by mbp (the second comment) on Tobold’s Blog, which leads to Syncaine’s Blog, which leads to Darwoth’s account of 20 clan vault heists he did during some time he spent in Darkfall.

In mbp’s comment, he asks, “Can nice people role play villains in a hardcore game like EVE or Darkfall where villains really do upset their victims or do you need to be a b*stard in real life to be a b*stard in game?”

While I probably can’t serve as an example of a nice person who roleplays villainously, I will say that, in the most general of senses, nice people can be evil bastards.

There’s probably a distinction that needs to be made regarding a person as he interacts with people in the world, compared to when he acts in a game. Each person has his own sense of right and wrong, but I suppose one can say that there are levels to the reasoning behind why a person does right over wrong or vice versa.

We can call this content (the action done, whether moral or immoral) and context (the reasoning or the WHY behind the action done).

The context behind certain content (eg. Some people do good/bad things because…) may lie in the fact that they really do feel that doing good is the way to go. Some others might simply do good things because doing the opposite can have severe consequences in real life.

Now, take someone who does good things out of fear of the law or repercussion and place him in a world where the any sanction is essentially just a slap on the wrist relative to the “fun” that can be had at other people’s expense, and you have someone who is more readily tempted to play a really bastardilicious (I’m trademarking that!) person in-game.

Of course, I’m not saying every person is like that. It is, however, one possible way in which a nice guy can be a bastard in-game. There are also people who can be psychopathic (lacking empathy or conscience), nice-seeming people in real life who simply play the game the way they live their lives, only more overtly. Or people who ignore their conscience (rather than lack one).

Much more can be said about nice people, evil people, bastards, thieves and whatnot, but I suppose that’s enough negativity for one day. It’s a nice food for thought though. The in-game worlds we play in aren’t completely analogous to the real world, even if we try to make connections between the two.

Ponies and Kittens (or Remembering my old job)

One of the very first short-lived memes I started back in my old video game newswriting job was positing the idea of a specific non-hardcore looking piece of PSP homebrew as completely hardcore. That homebrew game was called Ponies and Kittens, and developed by a homebrew maker named HardHat.

As I remember it, the premise of Ponies and Kittens was that you were a pink pony who was tasked with finding kittens and pairing them up, presumably in non-sexual terms. It was a platformer and puzzle game idea combined.

I thought it would be funny to coin the phrase “as hardcore as ponies and kittens” or something to that effect (it’s been nearly four years since that original post), and some people thought it was funny too. So I used it a couple of other times in other posts, until I decided to retire it.

On a whim earlier, I decided to check and see if that article was still up and, what do you know, it still is. The only thing about it, unfortunately, is that my name as author of the post has been replaced with a website staff terminology.

While I feel bad that my byline was replaced, I don’t feel utterly bitter about it because I understand the tech and behind their system. When a writer leaves the staff, they have to essentially save his account from tampering by newly-hired writers, so they either lock it or, as what appears to have happened here, replace the name of that old writer with a general staff term to signify that the writer has moved on. In the early days of my stay with that company, they’d reuse old accounts, essentially transferring the byline of an older writer onto that newer writer’s name, which is a rather stupid technical limitation on their system.

I miss being paid to write about games, but I suppose that can’t be helped. It was my first full-time job, and though the hours were weird, the pay and atmosphere was good enough. Sometimes, I still wish I could write for Kotaku or Destructoid or Massively, but do they even need someone who’s based in the Philippines on their staff?

I suppose I’ll just be happy I got to do something videogame related in my lifetime, that I enjoyed it, and that, even though I’m clouded right now by a sense of nostalgia, it was a time I remember fondly.

Picture Source

Leaving Astral Ships for Spaceships (AKA Allods vs Mass Effect 2)

I can’t put my finger down on why I did it, but I did something I said to myself I wouldn’t do.

I plopped down money for Mass Effect 2, even though I hadn’t played the first game, and I was saving that money for White Knight Chronicles on the PS3.

I was hoping Allods Online would curb my gaming needs for a little while, but as polished as the game happens to be right now, I had to leave it. It felt too much like WoW and Warhammer Online, and even though I loved the price point of FREE, I feel like I don’t want to play WoW or WAR right now.

Instead, what I wanted was either Everquest 2, or something completely new. Apparently, that meant an impulse to go to the local gaming store after my night class and purchase Mass Effect 2 before closing time.

I’ve left Astral Ships behind for Spaceships, and I think I can be happy with that. I actually never got to finish Dragon Age: Origins, but perhaps this game will be a little more engaging for me (and with the free Blood Dragon Armor, I’m hoping I like it even more).

On another note, I also found out that Yvonne Strahovski, who plays Sarah Walker on Chuck (one of my favorite shows on television right now) actually plays a part in Mass Effect 2. If the cover art is any indication, I’d say she’s playing the Miranda Lawson character who’s on the front of the box.

Super Street Fighter IV gets Anime


I don’t normally like fighting games, but I do like anime, hence a little bit of anime geekery here.

I found a report on Angry Zen Master saying that there will be a new Street Fighter anime coming out, and this time, it’s based on the upcoming Super Street Fighter 4 release, with a special emphasis on Juri, one of the new additions.

In any event, the production values look good, and it’s exciting and all. There’s just one thing: it’s exclusive to Japan at the moment.

Sadness. 🙁

An Interim Game

I’m going to dispense with the puns, and just say it straight. I’m going into Allods Online blind, with no idea of the game other than the fact that there’s a race that fights in threes here.

Brannagar of Corpse Run was offering beta keys for the game, so I decided to take him up on his offer. Since my Everquest 2 trial is done, and White Knight Chronicles and the EQ2 expansion won’t be out till next month, there wasn’t really anything to write about on the blog unless I played something else.

Hence, the attempt to download Allods.

Here’s to hoping the game plays well, and I hope to catch a bug or two, just so I can be responsible and be a part of the noble effort to make a game better than it already is.

My Favorite Star Trek Series Turned 15 Last Week

I only found out an hour ago that my favorite Star Trek series had actually turned 15 last week. Unlike most people, who probably thought the original series or the next generation series was awesome, I find myself more attracted to the circumstances surrounding the USS Voyager.

For one thing, they were stuck on the other side of the galaxy, with a long trip home ahead of them. They had seven seasons in which to pull this off, and they miraculously got through the voyage intact, save for some main character changes and red-shirt deaths.

What really struck me about Star Trek: Voyager was the way it tried to place complex social issues in the spacefaring framework, and for me, I appreciated that. I liked watching the crew (especially Janeway) struggle to maintain the ethics of Starfleet’s code even in the direst of situations.  I liked seeing Robert Picardo’s character, The Doctor, grow to become more human along with all the emotional turmoil that brought. I liked seeing the seemingly heartless cyborg Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix Zero-One banter with the all too human Doctor.

Whether it was the topic of what made a being human or the medical ethics of triage, or even just fighting the borg (or staring at Jeri Ryan), it made for great television for me, so much so that, when the series ran here in the Philippines, I saw every episode as it aired on the Hallmark Channel, on midnight without fail.

Alas, I doubt I’ll see much of that these days, unless I want to relive Trek feelings by playing Star Trek Online, but I suppose I’d rather just have the nostalgia for now.

In any event, after the cut is a video of the opening, just for you!

Original Picture Source: Starfleet Modeler

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The Everquest 2 Verdict

My Final Kill was a Giant Spider

My last kill before logging off for the EQ2 trial was a huge-ass spider that got between me and my intended destination. Needless to say, it died.

As it stands, I’ve played a Sarnak Bruiser to level 10, a Froglok Monk to 24, and a Sarnak Shadowknight to 23, and I’m really loving the Sarnaks. Even if they’re supposed to fall under the evil banner, they seem more neutral than anything else, and I can live with that.

One thing I noticed was that the first 20 levels felt like easy mode, and then the difficulty of the mobs ramps up some due to fighting linked goblin fellows in Butcherblock Mountains or undead in the tombs below Qeynos. Couple that with my inability to really master my class just yet, and you have the makings of a tough set of battles.

Overall though, I quite like Everquest 2. The blogger friends I’ve made here are quite friendly, the housing, decoration, and crafting systems are superb, and it’s a whole new world to explore.

I want to make it my home for another month or two at least, in order to have a better opinion of the place, but I think I’ll have to wait for the expansion to come out before I do anything.

There’s a free trial for those of you interested in playing the game. Just download the client, make an account, and have fun! 😀

Beatrice Portinari is Not the Whore of Babylon

Why is Beatrice in Hell?

So… according to the upcoming Dante’s Inferno Blu-ray animation release, the above is Beatrice Portinari. She’s being carried in the hand of Lucifer, who apparently escaped his icy confines in the ninth circle of hell. The two of them are being pursued by Dante, who is riding on the back of a giant. Alas, Lucifer fires a blue laser at the giant, and the giant falls to his apparent doom, forcing Dante to jump off the beast and stroll into hell with Virgil right behind him as his guide.

I do not like this depiction of the Inferno. Not because of the obvious walking away from the source material in this case, but mostly because of the way they’re treating Beatrice.

Beatrice is only supposed to show up in Purgatorio and Paradiso as a guide who takes over for Virgil when Dante needs to move forward in his allegorical journey. She is supposed to embody beatific love, in addition to being the one woman Dante loved.  In the animated epic, it seems, she looks like an anime-ified brazen hussy, with her boobs popping out of her non-existent clothing.

I would play Dante’s Inferno, were it not for the shoddy depiction of Beatrice. Like it or not, she’s a wonderful and timeless plot device to usher Dante through to Paradise, but I choose to see her as a plot device created by Dante’s love for her rather than a plot device made just to turn Dante into a bad-ass scythe wielding mofo who has Marioriffic tendencies (I’m Sorry, but your Beatrice is in another Circle of Hell).

If you’re wondering why I’m so caught up in this thing, it’s mostly because I thought Dante was a cool guy back in Grade 6 when I first read Inferno (with a lot of notes… a LOT of notes for understanding) and Beatrice was basically my first impression of how powerful love, even unrequited, courtly love like Dante’s, can be. I really wish Dante’s Inferno wasn’t happening in this case, but I can’t exactly stop them from making a mockery out of the source material.

Anyway, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go find my own lady love now… wherever the Hell she might be.


Picture Source and inspiration: Kotaku

On Creating Rise of the Leet King

Dear Tigole,

Some time ago, you wrote about requiring my assistance as regards creating a more difficult Blizzard game, which you are now branding as Rise of the Leet King. I have come up with some worthwhile suggestions you might use for this endeavor, though I must warn you that these are not original. Instead, I would suggest that, to make a difficult yet financially successful RPG, you would take the most intriguing parts of different RPGs and incorporate them into your worldview.

My first suggestion would be, as you wrote, to “entice” people to level in groups (as in Final Fantasy XI) so as to make the opening months of your RPG more “friendly,” in the social interaction sense of the term. This opening salvo would be supported by the creation of monsters that required  at least groups of three of equal level to the monster to kill, as well as the use of a Group EXP + buff that ups experience gain by 1% when in a group of three or more and scales to the number of players (up to 5%).

As a corollary to this, I would also suggest that you implement a slower leveling curve during the beginning of the game’s life cycle so as to keep people from eating through your content too quickly. Do not make it as bad as Aion’s later levels, but make it intolerable enough to force people to group (or multi-box) to speed up leveling. This has the added bonus of giving you more time to create new content.

To make the game dynamics even more interesting, do not create a PVE world and introduce friendly fire into the game mechanics to force people to coordinate better or die trying. Create a moderately annoying penalty for death, such as EXP debt from EQ2, only make the debt 1/3 of a level large per death so as to make people still want to group together even if they aren’t good at it. If your developers can create it, ensure that there is integrated voice chat on release so that the screams of the dead and dying can be heard on YouTube.

To offset friendly fire, do not give anyone AOE abilities as an inborn skill, but as a result of completing an almost unbearably long quest chain (like WoW’s attunement quests before). Anyone who doesn’t have the (potentially overpowered) AOE ability but still hits a teammate can then be called either a newb or a griefer, and create a completely new system of elitism and player killing within the game sphere that will entice researchers to use up grant money to study the social dynamics of your game, allowing for added revenue and buzz for  RotLK.

My next suggestion would be for you to introduce the idea of lifetime achievements. Much like WoW’s achievement system, the lifetime achievement system would actually refer to things that your character has done which have become obsolete due to upgrades to the game or player choice. For instance, a player who has crafted his way to the maximum level of a tradeskill can earn a lifetime achievement award after either changing his tradeskill for a new one (and thus, losing all his progress but retaining a status title) or introducing a new tier into the game with an expansion pack. This allows players to maintain a semblance of a connection to his character, while inspiring him to grind through the tradeskill tiers of a different trade by buying stuff through the auction house.

In relation to this, I would also request that use the business principles outlined by Gevlon on his blog to create a harsher trading environment on the auction house. Better yet, it may be to your benefit to hire Gevlon full-time as a consultant on all things business related for RotLK, which can include the creation of an auction system AS WELL AS a stock market that determines the value of in-game currency and vendor trash every two weeks based on the flux of items within the auction system and trade NPCs.

Next, as a concession to people who may want to do something other than questing and becoming powerful, introduce player villages into the game world. Have the depth of housing in EQ2 with the instanced villages of LOTRO and you’d have yourself a very good time sink. Allow people to also be able to own non-instanced guild housing, such as castles, which can be stormed by other guilds at their leisure.

Lastly, in an attempt to create an ever-changing landscape for your game, it may also be good to incorporate a stunning idea implemented in Archlord: the literal rise of a Leet King, who will have the ability to make changes to the game system for good or ill. This Leet King will have the power to alter the strength of all monsters (and their accompanying loot tables) to make them all stronger or weaker server-wide, introduce weather effects in certain lands that will spawn different creatures (and their accompanying loot tables), alter the prices of commodities in the stock market and auction house to a certain tangible yet miniscule degree, and temporarily disable non-Leet King storming related or battleground-related PVP across the whole server. The Leet King system can be introduced in a content patch six months after the game has launched, with chances to storm the Leet King castle available two weeks after a new Leet King has been crowned.

The very first Leet King will be played by a developer and can only be accessed after storming his castle, which will have a multi-wing scope similar to Naxxramas. Only after all the wings have been cleared can one head to the throne room where the Leet King sits. As there can only be one Leet King (or queen), however, this poses an interesting question: how do you choose the Leet King?

The answer is simple: the new Leet King will be the player who strikes the final blow against the previous Leet King. While this may be unfair for most people, especially healers, I think this will be well-received by players looking for a sense of ultimate power. You can make allowances for backstabbing your friends or guildmatesthrough the Leet King system by forcing people to fight each other once the previous Leet King is down to 4% health (turn him invulnerable for three minutes as part of a Kingly power influx, lore-wise), but honestly, forcing people to make a choice in their guild as to who would be Leet King would make for interesting stories on the magazine you’ll eventually publish for this game.

In any event, these are only suggestions for you to make a compelling, difficult, yet potentially financially successful MMORPG. I wish you the best of luck with these endeavors, and hope that Rise of Leet King becomes the new standard for harcore PVPers and raiders alike.


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