A thoughtful and personal exploration of games

Latest

Increasing Difficulty, Doesn’t Feel Like It – Diablo III

I played a ton of Diablo III this weekend, but the key thing that happened was I kicked the difficulty up from Torment I to Torment III and I didn’t really notice much of a change (other than the random death that was considerably more rare in Torment I).

What happened to push me into higher difficulty settings? Well it really only took one legendary sword.

I was playing along, using my Blackhand Key wand and I stumbled across this sword, Thunderfury. The version I have is far better than the one in the link, but essentially, that’s what it is. I slapped a Flawless Royal Emerald into the socket and immediately noticed a significant damage increase. Why? It turns out that when you have a near 50% critical hit chance (like I did), increasing your critical damage by 130% has a really big impact on your damage output. To the tune of making Torment I so easy I was getting bored and Torment II was almost as easy.

After that, the special equipment just started coming my way. Long story short, I now have three of the five pieces of Tal Rasha’s Elements, Mirrorball, and I’m well on my way to finishing out two other sets that I may use depending on my whimsy.

I even adjusted my build. No longer do I use Arcane Torrent, I now pelt enemies with Meteor Shower. I replaced the passive Evocation with Elemental Exposure. So now I’m hitting with ice (from Glacial Spike), lightning (courtesy of Thunderfury and Supermassive Black Hole), arcane (thanks to Cannoneer), and fire (from the meteors). That gives me and my allies a 20% bonus to damage (optimally if I’ve connected on an enemy with all four elements) thanks to Elemental Exposure.

Another reason for dropping Arcane Torrent: while it WAS doing tons of damage, it forced me to stand still while dumping my arcane power. Too much standing still doesn’t allow for a lot of survivability. Also, it just didn’t feel super satisfying to hit things. Glacial Spike is incredibly satisfying with how it smacks into things. Black Hole is very satisfying with how it just pulls most of the enemies into it, allowing me to fire Glacial Spike/Cannoneer into them or even Meteor Showers.

Here, take a look at my character (if you can, I’m not sure how well it works). While the sheet says my damage is in the 700k range (right now) I can regularly get that number up to over 1 million. I often crit for damage in the range of 2.5 – 4.5 million per hit (give or take) so I’m not sure how accurate that sheet number is, but there it is. I’m still enjoying how much damage I do and Torment III is just as easy as Torment I was before this windfall of equipment (pretty easy).

The take-away here is I’m having so much fun in Diablo III and I’m looking forward to the new patch and introduction of new things (which I talked about a few weeks ago).

Until next time!

- Thomas

P.S. Enjoy this old Blizzard joke.

Too Old? Never!

Today I was talking to someone at work about how they’re redesigning Batgirl and she’s looking really great (and practically dressed which is a plus with me). Another person mentioned that they thought I was too old for comics and I said something to the effect of “I’m a Toys R Us kid! I’m never growing up!”

Obviously, such a statement, “you’re too old for that,” is thrown around by people who aren’t aware of the breadth and depth of mediums such as comics and even video games. As this is a gaming blog, I’m going to tackle the game portion.

First, let’s look at the games themselves. Do they have an age ceiling? Nope. Do they have a minimum age? Some do. So, some can’t (well, SHOULDN’T) be played too young, but they’re available to anyone over that age up to the limit of our natural lives. Cool.

Although, I’m sure she’s not referring to LEGALLY aging out of them though. How about maturing past the content?

Sure, there are some games that I’m way too old for and I’m definitely not the target market any more. I grew up playing Number Munchers, Mixed-Up Mother Goose Rhymes, Where in the USA is Carmen Sandiego? and several others that were obviously designed with children in mind. I don’t really have a desire to play them today and they’re all far too easy for me now. No real challenges there (except maybe Carmen Sandiego). How about the other games I grew up with? Well, Starflight, Civilization, Sim City, X-Wing, and X-COM were all marketed to adults. Starflight was such a massive game, my Dad took a very methodical approach to it, mapping out every wormhole, each special artifact, and more on the map that came with the game. If you ever come across the map we have, you could probably beat the game with it. Civilization and Sim City are powerhouse franchises today, made by and played by people of every age group, but back then they had rather steep learning curves and it took some serious dedication (that children usually don’t come pre-built with) to master. X-Wing was one of several flight sims from the age when you were either in the Star Wars camp or the Wing Commander camp (I didn’t play Wing Commander until WC3 came out and I finally played the first two when I got to college) and there was no guarantee you could get your computer to play them without a potential video or sound card upgrade (which typically required being an adult). X-COM scared the crap out of me as a kid (those damn Chryssalids and their creepy grins) and still spooks me today, but I played that for almost 20 years, and even then, I’m playing the remake which will probably keep me playing another 20 or more years.

I think this issue with being too old for something is more a misperception of the medium in question. Comics have been viewed in the past as only a thing for children, but now the stories are more mature and tackle a wide variety of issues. In fact, they’ve been extremely mature for decades now.  Someone saying that you can be too old for comics hasn’t educated themselves enough regarding the material and thus, probably should either be given an opportunity to educate themselves or, failing that, should be left alone in their old-fashioned beliefs. No longer is it just Garfield bemoaning Mondays or Snoopy stealing Linus’ blanket. It’s a young woman being paralyzed by a murderous villain but surviving and becoming a source of inspiration to many. It’s a group of uniquely talented people coming together in adverse conditions to address a threat to society and life as we know it, overcoming their own personal foibles in an effort to do good. It’s a being from another world, or even just someone who’s different somehow, just trying to fit in.

So too it is with video games. They have never been solely a child’s plaything, they have given us incredible mental challenges to overcome, they’ve taxed our resolve, they’ve allowed us to step away from our daily grind and into a fantasy realm that was once only the purview of movies, music, books, and art. While some games attract children for the bright colors and flashy graphics, other games attract older folk for deeper, more nuanced reasons and can be appreciated in a much wider way. I can say with certainty that I have been as equally drawn into a good game as into a good book, a good movie, a good song, a good comic book. There’s that feeling upon finishing such a thing that is nearly indescribable. You know you’ve experienced a significant thing and you’re simultaneously breathless and sad and happy and lost and you don’t know whether or not to restart and try to recapture the experience or to step away and digest.

If growing up means being too old for comics and games, then I’ll never grow up. Of course, it helps I’m a Toys R Us kid.

Until next time!

- Thomas

P.S. This feels appropriate.

 

 

Laughing While Gaming

This weekend I was playing Mass Effect 3 multiplayer and decided to tap the Krogan Warlord Sentinel for play. It’s a predominantly melee based character, so never having really played him before, I poked around online and found some build advice for the skillset.

What I discovered was sheer joy.

Seriously. I spent every match running all over every map, “slapping” enemies out of the way, headbutting, and swinging my giant hammer imbued with biotic energy to one-hit-kill Brutes and more.

Built properly, the Krogan Warlord is a nigh-unstoppable juggernaut. That said, he’s only “nigh-unstoppable” because he can get synch-killed by Banshee’s and others if he’s not careful. I ran headlong into an insta-death at the pointy ends of a Praetorian and it wasn’t fun.

Now, the laughing part… whenever the Krogan Warlord starts his rage, he laughs. After some kills he laughs. With this preponderance of laughing, first you smile, then you start to laugh a little bit, then you’re cheering and laughing with abandon. He’s running, smacking enemies, laughing, and it’s so much fun!

Anyway, I thought I’d share that today. Games that make us laugh are difficult to make and this little thing here was a total surprise. I don’t think I’ll play him all the time, but he’s certainly a favorite.

Until next time!

- Thomas

P.S. “Now we can get back to doing what Krogan do best: saving everyone else from giant monsters.” – Urdnot Wrex

My New Pride and Joy

This past week or so I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about Star Citizen. Mainly, my original contribution from two years ago.

You see, I invested in the Scout package which netted me a nice Aurora MR and lifetime insurance for it. This past week, I was playing Arena Commander (formerly the dogfight demo) and felt that the Aurora wasn’t really for me. It just didn’t have the maneuverability that I like in a ship, let alone a fighter. So I started looking at my options.

Option 1: Shell out some cash for a cross-chassis upgrade to the Origin Jumpworks 300i. This lets me transfer my lifetime insurance to the new ship.

Option 2: Shell out some cash for a cross-chassis upgrade to the Anvil Aerospace F7C Hornet. This also lets me transfer my lifetime insurance to the new ship.

Option 3: Purchase another ship entirely and just cope with the fact that its free insurance will run out in 4-6 months.

At the time I was making my decision, the Hornet was available to try out in Arena Commander and I took it for a spin around the block. It was fun, more so than the Aurora, but I felt it was missing something else. I then knuckled under and did some research on the forums and on YouTube on the 300 series (as it was the only one I couldn’t try out). I finally decided (after a day or so of thinking) that I’d do Option 1 above.

Now, that decision made, was I happy with the baseline 300i model or did I want a different version? New options!

Option A: Stay with the Origin Jumpworks 300i.

Option B: Shell out some cash for a ship upgrade to the Origin Jumpworks 315p.

Option C: Shell out some cash for a ship upgrade to the Origin Jumpworks 325a.

Option D: Wish that the Origin Jumpworks 350r package was available for purchase.

Well, I exercised option D right away, but after even more research into the differences, I finally settled on the 315p upgrade. Here’s why I chose it:

- The 315p comes with a jump engine (the other variants don’t specify having one)

- The 315p comes with a tractor beam (while I could always use another gun, I appreciate the potential for the tractor beam)

- The ship brochure said that it had more powerful engines and a better power plant because it was the exploration variant

- The 315p comes with a special scanner package (I think it’s to help identify new jump points or something)

- The 315p has more cargo space

Now that I’ve had some time with the 300i trainer (it’s pretty darn maneuverable and I enjoy flying it) I have a couple of things to say. First, I hope that when Star Citizen finally shows up that my ship is far less squishy than it is right now. As it is, it feels like it’s made of paper, shields and all. Second, I really hope that the racing engines that the 350r comes with will be able to mount on my 315p (I love twin engines). Third, I hope that I become much better at flying because there’s a bit of a learning curve to the mechanics.

I really like my 315p. It looks like a combination between a Scimitar and a Hellcat. I changed my desktop wallpaper for the first time since October to this lovely image of it (click to make it worth your time).

315pIf you’re interested in seeing more, here’s a floor show video of it.

I’m really proud of my purchase and I’m looking forward to flying it for real in the actual game. I’ll be okay flying the trainer in the meantime, but Star Citizen can’t come soon enough.

Until next time!

- Thomas

P.S. Here’s the director’s cut advertisement for the 300 series. See if you can spot the Wing Commander III scene.

Another Update for Diablo III

Instead of the myriad of hotfixes and the like we used to get in the many moons prior to the Reaper of Souls expansion, Blizzard’s Diablo III is apparently getting another significant update. Let’s walk through it, because I’m interested and because, why not?

First up is something called Seasons. According to Blizzard, they’re similar to the ladders from Diablo II in that you’re climbing the leaderboards and there’s a start and end to each season that denotes the term of the leaderboard. Apparently at the start of each season, a list of “Conquests” will become available and the first 1000 to complete each conquest in a season gets put on the regional leaderboard. These conquests act like achievements and are planned to exist in groups of 10-15 per season. They’re also capable of piling on the achievement points for your profile. Further, if you don’t want to participate in the Seasons, there’s not much of a down-side since the special “Seasonal Legendaries” will be added to the regular loot tables once the season is over. I don’t think I’ll do this initially, but I’ll keep my eye on it just in case I feel like participating one day.

The next thing that’s being added are Greater Rifts. Apparently what you do is you complete a regular rift and the Rift Guardian at the end may drop a Greater Rift Key. Then, you go to where you’d normally go to start up a rift and use the key. I think everyone has to have a Greater Rift Key in order to access a greater rift. The differences between the Greater Rift and the standard one are many, so here’s a list:

  • You race against a clock to finish the rift
  • Most monsters don’t drop loot (it’s all shifted to the Rift Guardian)
  • The tougher the monster, the more it adds to your percent completed bar
  • You can’t resurrect at your corpse or in town, just at the last checkpoint
  • You cannot use banners or teleport to someone who’s in a Greater Rift
  • Greater Rifts have an internal leveling mechanism separate from the existing difficulty levels

On that last point, Blizzard states that, “If you complete a Greater Rift before time expires you’ll advance to the next difficulty level. Should your time be exceptionally good, you might even skip a few levels! If time instead expires, you’ll have reached the end of your current Greater Rift journey and your best results will be posted to the appropriate Leaderboards.” I think this means that you can get pretty far (possibly) with just one rift key. In regards to the standard rift, they’re implementing that “monster toughness affects your completion bar” bullet. Also, the standard rift will require all rift participants to contribute one rift fragment instead of one person contributing five. I think this is going to be quite exciting!

The next item is a no-brainer: they’re adding leaderboards. Greater Rift leaderboards will be split between Hardcore and Normal and are further broken down into categories by class and party size. Obviously some leaderboards will be Season-only.

Next, there are two mechanical changes coming to the game. The first deals with the dexterity stat for Monks and Demon Hunters. They’re making it so that instead of adding a percent of Dodge Chance, each point of Dexterity adds 1 point of Armor. Not only is Dodge not necessarily as reliable as Armor, but it can also keep you from doing what you want to do while your character Dodges everything under the sun. As a result of this change, some passives for the Monk and Demon Hunter will change as well. According to a friend of mine who has a high level Monk, he’s excited for this change and looks forward to not being interrupted as often by dodging. As someone who has a Wizard as my main, I hope it does what they hope it will.

The second mechanical change coming to the game is regarding Health Globes. Apparently due to testing of Greater Rifts, they discovered that there was too much dependency on the healing provided by Health Globes and not enough quality of healing from the gear stats such as Life on Hit and Life Regeneration. As a result, they’re going to reduce the healing that the Health Globes provide and increase the impact of the healing from the aforementioned gear stats. The goal Blizzard hopes for is a more consistent experience when the difficulty kicks up. Color me intrigued.

Lastly, they’re adding a new map to the rift: The Cesspools. Blizzard calls it a “festering, dank underworld” that was originally designed as the sewers of Westmarch that didn’t quite make it into the final release. I’m a fan of new scenery, so bring it on!

All in all, I have to say that Blizzard has really kicked things up a notch with regards to support for Diablo III. Two massive updates in one year? Someone’s paying attention at Blizzard HQ. I’m looking forward to this next update and for whatever they have coming down the development pipeline. 2014 has definitely been a good year for Diablo III with everything that came with the Reaper of Souls expansion and the Loot 2.0 update and it’s only getting better.

Until next time!

- Thomas

P.S. I don’t remember if he says it in this game, but I’ll never forget Deckard Cain going “Stay awhile and listen”.

Crafting My Way Through Middle Earth

In a little over a week I went from level 1 to level 40 by primarily farming and cooking with some tailoring on the side and a handful of non-combat quests and activities in Lord of the Rings Online.

I’ve discovered several things during this experiment:

- There’s no money in grinding tailor or cooking or farming

- There’s money in making a ton of Blackberry Ale and a few other recipes

- Seed money from friends is a great thing

- Explaining what you’re doing to a random stranger can occasionally net some gold (in this case, I got 4 gold from someone who thought crafting my way through the levels was rather funny)

- Several recipes have an issue where they’re made of really inexpensive components until the final stage where one of the things you need is going to cost a lot more than the final product (case in point: coffee sells for about 3 or 4 silver per cup and one of the components is a large clay pot worth something around 7 silver… and you need 1 large clay pot PER cup of coffee made)

- As a result of the prior point, stopping production and selling what you have created can not only save you money, but can generate a significant quantity of money at the same time (stopping at roasting the coffee beans and NOT making the cups of coffee will actually turn a profit)

- I finally beat out my frequent misspelling of “recepie”

- Taking a break every now and again isn’t a bad idea… when I hit level 33, I went and got all the exploration deeds in Ered Luin, The Shire, and Bree-Land, as well as all the stable masters (especially the ones just inside the adjacent areas at Trestlebridge, Oatbarton, and The Forsaken Inn)

- Having a friend who is an alt-aholic and who has every crafting profession AND a massive stockpile of materials to support fledgling crafters is SO HELPFUL

- Yeoman is THE BEST vocation to do this with as Farming and Cooking are essentially self-reliant and Tailor can be ignored or supplemented by friends or the auction hall (if you’re lucky)

- My choice to make a hunter was BRILLIANT as the Return to Camp and Guide skills are invaluable for getting to everywhere I want to go

Now that I’m a Master Westemnet Farmer and a Master Westemnet Cook, I’m grinding Westemnet coffee for experience and money. It’s not bad and if I really want a lot of money I can always make Blackberry Ale (serious profits there). In the meantime, I’m enjoying relaxing, catching up on some podcasts and listening to game soundtracks.

I highly recommend giving the crafting only approach a shot if you’re up for it. It’s pretty nice.

Until next time!

- Thomas

P.S. Blackberry Ale gets you seriously knackered in one use. BE CAREFUL WHEN IMBIBING IT!

P.P.S. “I drink when I have occasion, and sometimes when I have no occasion.” – Miguel de Cervantes

The Flow of Gaming

This past week I’ve gone from Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, to Dragon Age 2, to Lord of the Rings Online. I basically went from an intense, 3rd person perspective, free-running, roof leaping, high seas sailing, cannon firing game to a high fantasy, tactical RPG, with a strong narrative that’s quite heavy at times, to a character that’s only leveling by farming and cooking and tailoring.

That last one is part joke and part vacation, with a dash of whimsey and spiced up by being able to catch up on podcasts.

First thing’s first: I finished AC4 and WOW was it good. The story was compelling, the meta/modern story tied it to the other games in the series, the gameplay was satisfying with a minimum of frustrations (I dropped the F-bomb only occasionally and it was typically when Edward decided to grab onto something I didn’t want him to grab… still way less common than with Altair or Ezio), and I finished with 95% completion (or something like it). I might go back some day to polish the game off properly, but right now, I’m stuffed. The ending left me rather proud of the man Edward had turned into and I only wished there was more of him. Tragically, if you look him up, there isn’t too much more to his story after he returns to England. I wrapped up AC4 in just under 70 hours of play.

In the “I’ve finished this great book, now what?” glow, I noticed that Origin was having a 70% off sale and, being me, I couldn’t resist poking around. I found that Dragon Age 2 was going for 6 bucks and snapped it up. It would’ve been a mistake to turn that down, especially after enjoying Dragon Age: Origins SO MUCH back in January. I banged through Dragon Age 2 in less time than it took me to play AC4 (approximately 24 hours of play). In fact, it was another proverbial page-turner of a book. I couldn’t put it down.

The gameplay of DA2 is definitely more streamlined from DA:O, but it’s not bad at all. The interface is simpler, you don’t have to worry about equipping armor to your companions and, as a result, you have more discretionary funds because you’re not stockpiling equipment. I found myself never hurting for money in the game and swimming in equipment I couldn’t use (I first played through as a Rogue and my current playthrough is as a Mage). I loved all the tie-ins to the previous installment and genuinely enjoyed the story. It was heavy in just the right places, shocking me in some parts, making me laugh in others. All told, a wonderful experience that I’m glad I had.

So, coming down from THAT “I’ve finished another great book, now what” glow, I was chatting with a friend on the weekend who talked about his silly idea in Lord of the Rings Online where he’s leveling only by crafting. That’s right, he got out of the intro and was level 26 through only cooking and farming after about 4 months of just dabbling in it. I latched onto the idea and immediately made a new character and set about the Yeoman vocation with gusto. As of yesterday night/very early this morning, I’m about 65% of the way through level 30, I’ve made inroads on Westfold cooking and farming and Journeyman tailor. It’s actually rather enjoyable and I find myself laughing a bit every time I ding a new level. It’s certainly allowed me to catch up on podcasts I’ve been missing out on lately.

There appears to be this ebb and flow of gaming intensity. Intense gaming to slightly-less-intense gaming to extremely-not-intense gaming. Almost like AC4 was the first part of the bell curve, sloping upward and taking half the peak, DA2 was on the other half of the peak and the downslope, and LOTRO is at the bottom (at least for what I’m doing in LOTRO right now, although it’s normally a pretty mellow experience for me). I’m left wondering now… what’s next? I’m certainly looking forward to getting back into Star Wars: The Old Republic (I’m waiting mainly for Galactic Strongholds to drop) and in the meantime I’m poking tentatively at the Arena Commander module for Star Citizen and hoping I can become a better pilot in my plucky little Aurora (and wishing I had more cash to throw at them so I could get more ships to try).

For now, I’m kind of into the whole farming/cooking thing. I’m looking at doing some Blackberry Ale producing today with some valuation scribbling going on so I know if it’s profitable or not. Regardless, the whole thing gives steady experience, so it’s a win-win.

Until next time!

- Thomas

P.S. I remembered this video today. It’s from Babylon 5, Season 1, and it highlights how my thought process works sometimes. Garibaldi gets some of the best lines in the show.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 339 other followers