A thoughtful and personal exploration of games

Posts tagged “Borderlands 2

PAX East 2014 – Rundown

I just returned this afternoon from PAX East 2014 in Boston and wow, what a weekend!

On Friday I got in line for the Expo Hall early and, after doing what I think is my annual ritual of buying a shirt from the Rooster Teeth booth, I caught the tail end of Storytime with Alex Rigopulos (CEO of Harmonix). He discussed the upcoming Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved and Chroma games (both look exceptional and I’m interested in seeing how they do). I stuck around for the Rooster Teeth panel and thoroughly enjoyed an upcoming episode of Immersion and the new intro for RWBY.

After Rooster Teeth, I joined a friend for the “Land My Job! Inside Advice on Getting into the Game Industry” panel. Long story short, it doesn’t matter what you do now or did back in the day. If you want in on the games industry, just do what you want to do and things should fall in place (there’s some fine print there but the panel was quite good and explained how people from all walks of life can find themselves in the games industry).

At this point I spent a lot of time on the Expo floor, browsing the things being shown off. The Indie MegaBooth was incredible. I felt like a kid in a candy store. Speaking of indie devs, I ran into one at the Dunkin Donuts on the way in that morning and made sure to drop by every day of the convention at the Indie MiniBooth to see how he was doing. Check out Willy Chyr. His first-person environmental puzzle game, Relativity, has an unmistakable Portal-esque feel to it while using color to emphasize interactivity in an Escher-inspired world. It was an incredible demo and I can’t wait to see the finished product. As an added bonus, I didn’t suffer simulator sickness while I tried it out.

I rounded out the evening checking by attending “The Art of the Table: GMing Beyond the Basics” and  “How Can We Stay Positive in the Games Industry?”. All told a lovely evening.

Saturday started with a bang. Namely the Firaxis Games Mega Panel. I attended last year and I already expected to attend this year even before Jake Solomon mentioned there was a special announcement to be made at the panel. Right after sitting down, someone from 2K came up and asked, “Who’s the biggest Firaxis fan here?” and I said, “I can’t guarantee I’m the biggest fan, but I’m pretty much a big fan.” She pulled me and three other guys from the audience out into the hall for a quick interview performed by Chloe Dykstra and Michele Morrow, the purpose of which was to ascertain if we had a decent idea of what the announcement could possibly be. There’s video somewhere, but right now it’s not online. Suffice to say, one guy guessed Alpha Centauri, another said Civ 6, I said Master of Orion (corporate espionage for the win), and I don’t remember the fourth one. We were then released to get back into the panel where they announced Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth and I’m so excited.

No seriously. SO EXCITED. Text is inadequate for expressing my excitement for this new game. It’s coming out later this year and I promise I’ll be playing. I guess I’m more than just a “big fan” of Firaxis now, huh?

After the panel, we got posters promoting the game. As I stood outside checking my phone, I was grabbed by the same camera crew and interviewed again about my reaction to the announcement. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I remember being told that I did really well in front of the camera at which point I said it was probably because, “I dabble in YouTube”. Michele Morrow laughed and said she needed that on a t-shirt (someone hook her up with one please?). I then found myself invited to the 2K Community Party later that night.

I hoofed it to the FedEx by the main entrance and wound up walking with one of the developers of Beyond Earth. I was able to express my appreciation for the new title as well as my enthusiasm on the way (I love doing that in person to the people who are actually responsible for what I’m gushing on).

I caught the tail end of the Mass Effect Cosplay Initiative (Thane’s voice actor is a witty fellow), and then I wandered the Expo Hall some more until about 6, at which time I found a nice spot to sit and wound up sitting next to The Doubleclicks (I kept my cool, but only barely). A short while after that, I made my way offsite to the 2K Community Party and had a lovely time talking gaming with some exceptional people from 2K, Firaxis, and Gearbox (as well as fellow PAX attendees).

Sunday started with another roughly equivalent bang to Saturday’s. I attended the Inside Gearbox Software panel and it was packed. So much concentrated awesome resulted in us getting to see some small details on upcoming games such as Telltale’s Tales from the Borderlands, the Homeworld Remastered Edition, and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. Even more than just those things, everyone in the audience (me included) got a voucher code for a free copy of Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. Yup, I’ll be playing it up one side and down the other.

My buddy and I followed that amazing experience up with attending the signing by Gearbox and friends down in the Queue room. I netted a Borderlands 2 golden key code (already used it, sorry), and a copy of Official XBOX Magazine that won’t be on stands for another two weeks.

I wrapped up my convention attendance by some more wandering of the Expo Hall and attending the “Fragging Gamer Stereotypes” panel.

All in all, quite the amazing weekend. I’m blown away by how wonderful everyone was and now I’m seriously contemplating going again next year.

As an aside, I’m quite tired of writing behind a pen-name or callsign or handle or nom de plume or whatever. I’m going to be signing my posts here with my actual name from here on and you’ll all see my name on my Twitter (but everything else is going to be pretty much the same). It’s time to put a face to the words, proverbially speaking.

Until next time!

– Thomas

P.S. You all really need to see the official trailer for Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth. It’s something truly fantastic.

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Hunting Rare Loot

I’m sure I’ve shared in the past a couple of stories of how I would hunt for rare loot and how that’s changed over time. Mainly my policy on rare loot hunting is…

DON’T.

Seriously, just forget about it. If it drops, awesome, if it doesn’t, oh well, just don’t worry about it.

Rather than hunt down my old pieces on it, I’ll just relate it all again because why not.

I used to play Ragnarok Online with some friends many many moons ago. Ragnarok Online had one of those mechanisms whereby loot would drop at a percent chance off of particular enemies. You could get this item 50% of the time, this item 49% of the time, this item .9% of the time, this item .09% of the time, and lastly, that rare one for .01% of the time. You get the idea. Well, I had my heart set on the Fin Helm. In the official version of the game, it dropped .01% of the time, but on the server I happened to be playing (it was a private server), loot dropped at x5 of the base rate, so it was .05% for a Fin Helm. I wasn’t happy with the chance, but part of the game was grinding for rare and rare-ish items, so I played along. At the time, they only dropped from one creature which spawned with great regularity on one level of this one dungeon so I felt my chances were better than average. I spent a month there, slaying everything in sight and not a single Fin Helm dropped for me. At the end of the month, I had built up such a level of frustration that one of my friends insisted that I was no longer allowed to search for it or any equivalently rare loot ever again. I agreed, since being that cranky for that long doesn’t exactly do wonders for health. I never did find a Fin Helm of my own but I haven’t played any Ragnarok title in over 5 years now.

So, later when Star Wars Galaxies implemented their Collections system, I participated cautiously and was right to do so. Firstly, some awesome stuff was available through the collections, but some rare items were required to complete a few of them. Jedi and Sith holocrons were among some of the most frustrating things to find and you needed 5 of each of a particular type in order to unlock two separate rewards. One of these coveted items was the Jedi Waistpack, a wearable storage item that only Jedi class characters could use and allowed them to have additional inventory space while wearing their robes (which removed the ability to wear the standard backpacks that everyone else could have). I spent a while looking for the last holocron I needed (I think it was Jedi Holocron #4 of that type, but I honestly don’t recall) and after a fashion, I gave up on it. I even changed classes from Jedi to Commando so I would never need it. The game shut down in December of 2011 and I never did finish that collection or receive my Jedi Waistpack.

These days when I’m hunting for loot off of a particular enemy, I look maybe three times total. If it drops, awesome, if not, I’m able to cope. I existed without the rare loot before I found out about it, I can exist after knowing about it. If that makes sense, you deserve a cookie.

In games like Diablo III or Borderlands 2 where specific enemies have a greater chance of dropping a specific item, I just don’t really bother. I made a half-hearted attempt at finding The Bee shield in Borderlands 2, but I leveled beyond it to the point where I’d have to find it in Ultimate Vault Hunter Mode for it to be any good for me. It’s okay though. I played before I knew it existed and I can play without it.

It all comes down to deciding if it’s worth the stress. Do I want to bother with the search? I think some games with rare loot grinding as a mechanic should say, “Don’t bother hunting for rare loot if you get frustrated hunting for your car keys.” It’s really up to you to determine if you can handle such a search. For me, I’d rather not.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “My mother used to tell me: “God knows the age of every tree and the color of every flower. And he knows just how wide your shoulders are. And he’ll never give you anything to carry that’s bigger than you can handle.”” – Mack, Babylon 5, Season 5, A View from the Gallery


Gaming Inside of my Comfort Zone

I was going back and forth yesterday on Twitter with a friend of mine and the concept of playing outside of one’s comfort zone came up. That said, I want to talk about playing INSIDE the comfort zone first, so I’ll get to the outside part next time.

There are a lot of games out there. The ones I feel most comfortable playing are the ones I can pick up and just run with without a second thought. When I sat down to play Dragon Age: Origins, for example, it was like pulling on a new pair of shoes that looked and felt extremely similar to my last pair. I still needed to break them in, but I was already familiar with the process and it was pretty quick since I wound up doing a lot of walking in a very short period of time.

So there are games that are, in and of themselves, within the comfort zone. For me, it’s a space flight simulator, a turn-based strategy game, a Baldur’s Gate derivative. These are the kinds of games I grew up playing.

Well, what about the games that don’t fit inside the comfort zone automatically? I can still be in my comfort zone even then, given the right opportunities.

For example, I love playing self-sufficient characters. My favorite D&D character was a Psychic Warrior who, with proper power choices, I was able to fight effectively, defend myself against a myriad of potential harms, and heal myself. To this day, I still play that way where I can. My Captain in Lord of the Rings Online is one such character. When I played Star Wars: The Old Republic as the Smuggler, I chose to be the Scoundrel and went straight down the healing tree. I did the same thing as a Mercenary Bounty Hunter and a Commando Trooper.

If I don’t have just one character, I believe distinctly in the balanced party. While Dragons Age is wholly within my comfort zone, I maintained a solid party of a rogue (for lockpicking primarily), a mage (for healing), a warrior (for tanking), and anyone else (for DPS). Yes, that restricted my play a bit, but it made decisions really easy when I went to make party choices. In XCOM: Enemy Unknown, I always had the four types of soldiers represented and then the two extra soldier spots would be where that particular playthrough was different from earlier ones. I’ve had those two spare slots taken up by a heavy and a support and an assault and a support before and that allowed me some considerable latitude in play style.

In Civilization IV, I set up the environment if I can so that my civilization is totally contained and secure before spreading out and taking new lands. I focus on infrastructure so that I can develop a powerful military at the drop of a hat and a few turns. In Star Trek Online, I chose a ship type that can take a lot of damage, then I proceeded to make it deal a lot of damage and be able to handle every situation that could come up. A long time ago when I played the Yu-Gi-Oh! card game, I built a deck that was affectionately referred to as “Whatever you do, I stop and make you regret it” or something like that. Essentially it was a balanced deck that countered many things the other player could do and then could crack them on the knuckles for doing it.

For me, it’s all about the balanced approach. Mixed arms and combined tactics to provide a well rounded and quality experience. I suppose I’m the kind of guy who likes to dip into every style to ensure an approach that can respond to every issue that might arise. In some games it’s just the simple “just shoot them” strategy. In others it’s more nuanced. My particular comfort zone playstyle is a kind of go-with-the-flow thing and it totally works for me.

The real trick for me is finding that comfort zone in each new game I pick up. Sometimes I’m lucky, like with Borderlands 2 where I started playing the Mechromancer and was pleasantly surprised how it flowed with my playstyle. Other times I’m not so lucky, like with Neverwinter where I played a long time as a Cleric before realizing that the Guardian Fighter was where it’s at for me.

An odd little thing: the Mass Effect series started in, I think, 2007 (yup). When that game came out, I played it for a week straight and loved it. Truly loved it. Turns out, I’d played its predecessor, a little game from 1986 called Starflight. Now, it’s quite a stretch to go from Starflight to Mass Effect, but the ship shape was kind of similar, the ground vehicle was (aside from armaments) was remarkably similar, and the stories I developed for my Starflight crew in my head was rivaled neatly by the stories developed for the crew of the Normandy. Look it up. Starflight inspired Mass Effect. Mass Effect has essentially been in my comfort zone since I was 4 years old. How about that, huh? Oh, I beat ME2 and ME3 each in a week as well. I’m that kind of gamer, just can’t put a good game/book down.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with finding and playing inside your comfort zone. It allows you to kick back, relax, and just play.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. There are no quotes I could find quickly about the benefits of staying in your comfort zone because everyone’s trying to be all inspirational on the internet and encourage people to do stuff that’s new and “outside your comfort zone”. I maintain that you need to be aware of what your comfort zone is prior to stepping outside of it, hence why I started with this piece instead of the next one. If you know your comfort zone and you stray from it, you always know where it is for when you need to get back to it for whatever reason.


Recovery Gaming

This past week I was mostly too sick to focus on games. Around Thursday I was able to play a little of Borderlands 2 and I also played a bit of Starbound. Friday it was more Borderlands 2 and some XCOM Enemy Within. Saturday it was mainly XCOM Enemy Within, and Sunday I played more XCOM, a bit of Borderlands 2, and some Dungeon Dashers.

I’m still pushing along in True Vault Hunter Mode in Borderlands 2, but as I’m done with the story, I have all the DLC to work through. I polished off both of the holiday DLCs I have and made a start on Captain Scarlett and Sir Hammerlock as well as doing the initial run of Digistruct Peak. I’m now level 53 on my lovely Mechromancer.

Starbound is a lovely game that’s still in a fairly early beta (or late alpha depending) state. The easiest way for me to put it is… it’s like Minecraft but viewed from the side. I enjoy it, but I’m really looking forward to the inclusion of more quests.

XCOM Enemy Within is an amazing expansion to the Enemy Unknown game. Adding MEC Troopers and Genetic Modifications to the mix really changes up how I approach the game and the introduction of new aliens really mixes things up. Further, there are some incredible additions to the mission layout… like the Covert Operations missions, that one mission with nothing but zombies and Chryssalids, Operation Progeny (that has a really cool dam mission), invading the EXALT base, having my own base invaded by the aliens (incredibly fun), and on and on. Just so cool. Tragically, I have to play at least one more vanilla Enemy Unknown game because I missed some tech the first time around and missed an achievement, but it shouldn’t be a big deal. I’m almost done with my first EW playthrough and I started a second last night to get it underway.

Dungeon Dashers is another indie game that is right up my alley. It’s essentially a turn based dungeon dive with a party of four adventurers. It can be difficult if you don’t pay attention, and it’s still in its early days (early beta) but it’s playable and a lot of fun.

I’m going to go play some more XCOM Enemy Within and maybe some Borderlands 2. Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “Enemy Within has an entirely new set of achievements. I actually think achievements are pretty easy to create, if you have good gameplay systems and a lot of new content to add. This certainly was the case for XCOM: Enemy Within! The harder part is naming them with appropriate puns and Science Fiction references.” – Ananda Gupta, Lead Designer, XCOM Enemy Within.


Power Problems

My laptop has an issue. I can fix it, but I feel like I’m only addressing the symptoms rather than the problem itself.

It started at the beginning of November. Or maybe late October. I can’t remember and my complaints on my social media sites have mysteriously become hard to find.

The screen gets dark. The machine is no longer charging. I unplugged the power supply and let it discharge then I plugged it back in. A few minutes later, same problem.

I restarted my machine. A few minutes later, same problem.

So, after researching all over, I found a solution:

Shut down. Disconnect the power. Take off the baseplate. Remove the battery. Hold the power button for 30 seconds. Replace the battery. Replace the baseplate. Plug it back in. Turn it back on.

It works, but like I said earlier, I’m addressing the symptom, not the actual problem. I’m going back and forth a bit on Twitter with Alienware Tech Support right now, so this is what’s dominating my thinking.

Oh, it’s happened a total of three times since I got the computer. Like I said, starting in late October/early November, once then, once in about mid-November, and again today right as I was gearing up to write this.

Regarding my gaming, in Borderlands 2 I’m level 44 with my beloved Mechromancer and I’ve pretty much done everything I can do in Normal. I need to finish Torgue’s Campaign of Carnage and that’s really it (aside from some raid bosses and level 50 things… yuck).

I reinstalled Freelancer the other day. Aside from not being able to run it higher than 1280×960 resolution (it came out in 2003, cut it some slack), it’s running perfectly. I can’t play multiplayer, but that’s more Microsoft shutting down the global list servers back in 2008 rather than the fact that the game stopped generating codes for remembering my characters (well, that too). Still, single player works totally fine.

Well, looks like there’s a BIOS update for my Terra so that’s what I’ve got to do right now.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “We live in a time when the words impossible and unsolvable are no longer part of the scientific community’s vocabulary. Each day we move closer to trials that will not just minimize the symptoms of disease and injury but eliminate them.” – Christopher Reeve


A Little Overwhelming

Lately I’ve been playing a lot of Borderlands 2. This past weekend I added a fair amount of Mass Effect 3 multiplayer. Last night I played some Diablo III and now I’m itching for it. Tomorrow the expansion to XCOM Enemy Unknown will arrive (XCOM Enemy Within). Around the 18th, Lord of the Rings Online is going to reformat gameplay to make combat flow better and to reduce the number of skills my poor Captain has.

It feels like a lot. Typically around summertime I start wondering what there is to look forward to in gaming and I always forget that the big things happen right before the holiday season in the October-November range.

So, on the games I’ve mentioned…

In Borderlands 2, I finished the DLCs “Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep” and “Captain Scarlett and Her Pirate’s Booty”. I started in on “Sir Hammerlock’s Big Game Hunt” before I got sidetracked.

In Mass Effect 3 multiplayer, I started playing with a group of people that I met online and who are looking to have a good time. Fortunately for them, I’m pretty good at ME3 multiplayer these days, so I was coaching some of them here and there and we netted a bunch of awesome victories. It’s so much fun playing with people who really want to do well. I really lucked out here.

In Diablo III, my friend was playing a level 40 Barbarian and I happened to have a level 39 Barbarian, so I popped into his game and found myself woefully underpowered for playing Nightmare difficulty at Monster Power 10. I had to redo my build and pick up some new equipment, so we’ll see how things go there. Also, is it just me or is the auction hall more overpriced than usual these days? I hope people realize that if they price things to sell, they’ll actually sell them.

I’m planning on starting a new XCOM game tomorrow that will probably detract from all other gaming (except social gaming because I’m not about to say, “No, I can’t play with you because I’m playing with myself” because that’s totally uncool). Also, as I was writing this, a friend insisted that we hadn’t fought each other in multiplayer yet, so I guess that’s what I’m doing tonight!

Depending on the level of the change and how it feels to play LOTRO, I may stick that out longer than a day of gameplay when the changes come. I don’t know yet, but I’m hoping I’ll play it a bit more often in the future.

Anyway, that’s what’s going on with my gaming habits right now.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “Good plan? Great plan!” – Tiny Tina


More Borderlands 2

As I mentioned in last week’s post, I’ve been playing Borderlands 2. As of this writing, I’ve put in 79 hours since last Monday (and it’s still up in the background).

I am quite enamored with the Mechromancer, Gaige, and her summon, Deathtrap. I’ve been focusing on the aptly named “Best Friends Forever” skill tree to augment both myself and my companion and generally make things easier for horsing around.

I’ve discovered that having one of every weapon type (or more appropriately, one of every ammo type) in my inventory can be a life saver. I have spent a good amount of time using the sniper rifle (moreso than in every game I’ve ever played) but I’ve also really enjoyed the pistol and the shotgun. It’s been an adventure to find a decent assault rifle and submachine gun, but I have some pretty good ones right now. I’ve been fortunate enough to find a legendary rocket launcher too, so that’s been fun.

Really, the game is magnificent fun. The commentary my character gives is enjoyable, the challenges are difficult but not impossible to overcome (especially if I’m over leveled for them), and the guns are a thrill to get, to learn, and to use. I can’t recommend this game highly enough for someone who wants the random loot generation of Diablo, the skill tree system of an MMO, and the gameplay of a well made FPS. All that inside a setting that’s a combination of science fiction and wild west with a dash of crazy.

By the way, the writing in this game is pretty top notch. The bad guy, Handsome Jack, has some pretty stellar dialogue and is clearly really a bad guy. Also, I just recently acquired a sniper rifle that berates me as I use it. Pretty clever.

Until next time, here’s hoping I eventually play something else, huh?

– Elorfin

P.S. “Third place. Third place! I built a robot that can turn human beings into jelly with the push of a button and that what’s-his-face gives me THIRD PLACE! in the planet-wide science fair. At least around here people appreciate my talents.” – Gaige