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!
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.
This past week or so I’ve been frustrated by a single issue that keeps popping up time and again in places where I kind of expect a little problem, but not to this extent.
I’m speaking of rubber banding.
To clarify, I’m not talking of snapping your wrist with a rubber band or anything like that. I’m speaking of what happens when there’s a brief disconnect between your computer/client software and the server. Essentially, your computer keeps going and the server goes, “Wait, hang on…” and when there’s a reconnection, the server bounces (or snaps) your character or ship or whatever back to where it last had you on your computer. This is rubber banding (don’t let anyone tell you otherwise… it’s a network issue, not hardware or whatever).
So, knowing this isn’t a hardware issue (I can tell because my frame rate is perfectly fine), I looked into potential connection issues. On the one hand, I’m on a wireless network. On the other, after several routing tests, there’s no problem between my computer and the router (regardless of the number of devices handling it). So, where’s the problem? If it’s not local, what’s keeping me from playing Neverwinter, Star Trek Online, and Diablo III without incident?
I’m honestly not sure. I think it exists outside my home and has to do with my ISP’s agreements with other local port providers closer to the server locations.
As a result, I stopped playing Star Trek Online this week shortly after getting back into it. I stopped playing Neverwinter after a day or two of play. Last night, I rubber banded so frequently and badly (it resulted in a slowdown in loot dropping from a Treasure Pigmy and then it disconnected me as soon as the loot dropped) in Diablo III that I refuse to play that for a bit too.
I’m looking around and wondering how many of my games require internet connections to play (not just DRM net connections, I’m talking forces you to be constantly in contact with a server for playing) and I’m really disappointed in myself. A majority of the games on my computer require that constant connection. I played some Awesomenauts, some Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword, some XCOM Enemy Unknown.
Today, I feel fairly restless. I want to do what I want to do and I feel like I can’t without becoming inconvenienced. Ugh.
Here’s hoping my ISP sorts things out soon.
Until next time!
UPDATE: Here’s a thread on the STO forums that explains kind of what’s going on.
Until this past weekend I’ve been mostly playing single player games. That ended as I jumped back into Star Trek Online.
My current project is to make my Chimera-class Heavy Destroyer a fully functioning ship that I have fun breaking out every now and again. The first job is building the three parts to the Nukara Appropriated Munitions set, followed by building the Nukara Strikeforce Technologies set. I recognize that they’re not the best sets in the game, but I’m here to enjoy myself and I’m turning the Chimera into a beam-boat, so nyah. Also, it’s going to take a while to build up enough dilithium for all the parts I’d like to put on her. I’m currently uninterested in working on fleet projects, so that works in my favor. Once this is done, I think I’ll be able to focus on the fleet again. Side note: I’m going to be naming her after my dearly departed dog, Terra, once she’s done and ready for deployment. Durable, fast, and powerful… that’s Terra.
I’ve also had a bit of an itch to hop back into Neverwinter. I haven’t had a chance yet to see just how amazing it looks on this machine, but I did hop in briefly to max out all the settings when I installed it. Shouldn’t be anything short of spectacular looking.
I’m craving some DC Universe Online as well. I made a Power Girl facsimile (Power Girl is my favorite) and I’m hoping to get back to her soon. She’s so satisfying to play!
Other MMOs on my machine right now are Star Wars: The Old Republic, The Lord of the Rings Online, Champions Online, and Uncharted Waters Online. Multiplayer only games are Mechwarrior Online, ME3 Multiplayer, Star Conflict, oh, and Warframe (which I have very little opinion on right now since I’ve barely played it and I’m just not willing to spend time there yet).
If anyone has a recommendation for a fun free-to-play MMO that I could step into and check out, I’d appreciate it.
Until next time!
P.S. Instead of a quote, here’s a helpful article for Star Trek Online players who might be new or at least not entirely aware of all the things you can do in the game.
I’ve finished Mass Effect 2 and I’m making steady progress through Mass Effect 3, but that’s not all I’ve played lately. I’ve also played some Splinter Cell: Conviction, ME3 Multiplayer, Mechwarrior Online, DC Universe Online, and Sid Meier’s Ace Patrol.
Once I’ve finished this playthrough of ME3, I’m expecting to cut loose on a few games, namely I’d like to get back into regularly playing Star Trek Online instead of occasionally looking at it wistfully while I do my schoolwork. Further, I’d like to settle into a bit of Neverwinter, some more Star Wars: The Old Republic, and I think I’d like to play some more Diablo III before the expansion comes out.
Oh, I’m very very excited about the upcoming expansion for XCOM Enemy Unknown. Entitled “Enemy Within“, it’s going to include new enemies, new options for soldiers, and I’m hoping some more council missions. I mentioned it in a P.S. a couple of weeks ago, but as it gets closer to release, I get more excited about it!
I’d also like to share my excitement about the new Tex Murphy game coming soon thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign. The game will be called “Tesla Effect” and takes place after the last game, Overseer. Check it out. I grew up with Under A Killing Moon and came to love its dry humor and film noir style approach.
Anyway, I’ve got things to do, so until next time!
P.S. “All I’ve ever needed was a soft felt fedora, a well-tailored overcoat and a comfy pair of sneakers. Some people know what they like and they stay with it.” – Tex Murphy, Under A Killing Moon.
Well, the lack of obvious updates. Let me explain a bit…
Mass Effect 3 is done. There aren’t going to be any more updates to multiplayer and there aren’t going to be any more DLC packs.
Star Trek Online has constant, almost quarterly, updates but in between there’s massive bug fixes and the wait for more content feels pretty long. That said, Legacy of Romulus was HUGE so I totally get waiting a while for the next pile of stuff.
Neverwinter transitions from Open Beta to “live” on the 20th of June. We’re expecting the first module but they’ve been pretty tight-lipped about a lot of the contents. I’m hoping for the Ranger class, but honestly, at this point I’ll take any class.
Diablo III doesn’t seem to be getting an expansion any time soon, which I think it sorely needs. I think Blizzard focused mostly on porting it to console and that’s a great idea, just it feels like things are a bit lacking in the mean time.
XCOM Enemy Unknown is supposedly getting a DLC sometime in the future, but I have no idea when that would happen.
So, it’s all quiet on the western front… as far as I know.
Anyway, I’ve had a busy day recording more XCOM and messing around in other games. I’m going to get back to that.
Until next time!
P.S. “They never taught us anything really useful, like how to light a cigarette in the wind, or make a fire out of wet wood, or bayonet a man in the belly.” – Soldier in the film “All Quiet on the Western Front”
This past week has been Star Trek Online and Neverwinter all day every day. With the introduction of Legacy of Romulus, my friends have recently been playing STO. I started playing STO again a few days before Legacy dropped so that I could get things going again (building up reputation marks, dilithium, and personal desire to play the game).
In Star Trek Online I’ve been focused on my main, Vyris, and the U.S.S. Iowa-B. Mainly I’ve been concerned with the reputation system. I only have a few more days left of work to top out the New Romulus and Task Force Omega tiers and I’ve made significant headway into the Nukara Strikeforce tiers.
In Neverwinter, I finally got past the hump in playing my Cleric (had to get help from a couple of friends) and plowed through Rothe Valley. I’m just starting Mt. Hotenow and I’m told it’s harder than the previous zone, so I’m understandably nervous. Further, my Guardian Fighter is now level 47 or so and is a lot… well, not necessarily EASIER to play, but I make significant headway whenever I play.
I keep using the gateway almost every day to push along all my characters professions. It’s quite a lot of fun for me as I enjoy that sort of stuff.
A note on the Romulan content: It’s amazingly well done. To compensate for the fact that the Romulans and Remans aren’t able to be a full faction in the sense that the Federation and the Klingons are, they certainly have considerable uniqueness about them. It’s well executed and I’m pleased with how it turned out. This does mean that the Romulan faction won’t be getting anywhere near the ship numbers that the other factions have, simply because there’s less there to work with. That said, they don’t NEED the ship numbers because, holy crap, have you SEEN their ships?
That’s where I am these days. Star Trek and Neverwinter are my games of choice… at least for now.
Until next time!
P.S. “Games lubricate the body and the mind.” – Benjamin Franklin
There’s quite a few games I enjoy that are now Free-to-Play and have the a la carte system we commonly call a “cash shop”. On the whole, this mechanic is optional, yet most choose to throw in some cash in order to take advantage of the shiny things they like to hide behind the pay wall. Some games do it right, some games need some help.
A game that does it right is Lord of the Rings Online. Their LOTRO Store accepts Turbine Points and makes them readily available in small amounts as you normally play the game. Kill 30 goblins in the Shire, gain 5 TP. Kill another 80 wolves and gain 10 TP. Do some stuff over here that takes a bit of time and get a few more. It’s pretty nice. Since TP go to your account, you can do that same stuff over and over and over again until you have all the TP you want. Of course, it’s your time to spend.
Further, the things available in the LOTRO Store make a lot of sense: extra character slots, account bank space, removing the money cap, costume slots, extra inventory space, even the expansions and adventuring zones are available with an investment in the store. Play enough of the game (and if you’re lucky there’s a sale going on) and you can actually get entire zones of quests added to your experience. Not too shabby. Everything’s pretty reasonably priced too.
Star Trek Online is where I fear things start to get a little hokey. They converted from their Cryptic Coins to the Zen of their parent company, Perfect World Entertainment. As a result, things feel more expensive, but the conversion rate is a bit kinder to those of us who want to know what things cost at a glance. Oh, 500 Zen for that? That’s $5.00. Pretty straightforward. That said, a new ship in STO that you get through the Cryptic Store can go for 1500 Zen and ship packs of three have been known to go for 3000. It’s understandable (I guess) since these ships are the primary mechanism for playing the game. They’re your home away from home. I know that as soon as the Regent-class Assault Cruiser Refit dropped, I paid money to get it ASAP. Also, the Andorian Escort pack. Thus far though, those are the only ships I’ve really dropped money on because I was looking forward to playing with them and I feel I’ve gotten my money’s worth. It’s a mixed bag depending on what you’re looking for in the Cryptic Store.
Neverwinter’s cash shop is a different kind of beast though. There’s things in there that are really worth it like 500 Zen for two character slots (not bad at all) and you can easily drop 500 Zen on a decent mount that can be redeemed account wide for any character high enough to use it. Those are really nice. The things in the cash shop that really get my ire going are the companions. They’re single character purchases, but they’re all in the 1000-3500 Zen range. The 3500 Zen one? A Honey Badger companion. While I get that it’s probably pretty cool and all, that’s THIRTY-FIVE DOLLARS for a SINGLE companion. It doesn’t apply to your account, just ONE character. That just doesn’t feel right in any sense of the term. While I’d love to have a Galeb Dhur (spelling off the top of my head) companion, I’m not willing to drop 30 bucks on it. It’s just not worth it to me.
Further, something these games all have in common are the availability of lockboxes. Lockboxes are these loot items that drop and have random things available in them if you have a special key to open them. In STO and Neverwinter, you must purchase the key for 125 Zen (individually) or 1125 Zen (for a pack of 10… buy 9 get one free?) or buy them from other players on the in-game Auction Hall. In LOTRO? Lockboxes drop, sure, but so too do the keys. Just not as frequently as the lockboxes. I think that’s really clever. It’s like… here’s a lockbox and if you want to wait to open it, it’s going to take up valuable inventory space until you find a randomly dropping key OR you could throw a few Turbine Points at it to make it open NOW. Your choice.
STO and Neverwinter could take a page from LOTRO’s book. That random drop key is CLEVER.
As an aside, Star Wars: The Old Republic also has a cash shop, but there’s a different issue than just the price of things there. Some of the stuff they put in there is perfectly fine (thank you for the character slots!), but the problem is with the permissions that you have to pay to unlock if you’re not a subscriber. I mean, I’m a 6-month subscriber, collector’s edition pre-order player, but I think that the things my friends who are Free-to-Play can’t do without purchasing some kind of permission is pretty darn harsh. Some make sense like limiting the number of space and PvP and other special types of missions. I get that. There’s other permissions that feel like unfortunate decisions. One friend told me that she can’t open lockboxes with credits in them, even if they’re quest rewards because she doesn’t have permission. That’s just insane. You can’t apparently buy that permission a la carte either, you MUST subscribe (I think, don’t quote me on that). I’m tempted to log in, open her lockboxes for her, and then hand her all the money inside. As is, I’m going to see if I can get her some cool stuff with my Cartel Store stipend since the game is being mean.
I certainly appreciate the cash shops. It gives me something to browse through, like a SkyMall catalog for my game, and it definitely has some useful things every now and again, but it’s also full of things that make me question their usefulness. Kind of like the “slippers with headlights” of cash shops… not sure I need them, but I can envision a few times where they might be handy. I think the devs are on the right track most of the time, but sometimes they need to have a reality check.
How about a survey on the goods in your stores? I’d be more than happy to participate in a value studies survey on the contents of your cash shops. With Neverwinter it’ll be easy since they’ve got a lot less stuff in there right now compared to the more established games.
Until next time!
P.S. I might have used this one before, but it’s wildly appropriate here: “Everything is worth what its purchaser will pay for it.” – Publilius Syrus’ Maxim 847
P.P.S. It occurs to me that I might not be allowed to open my friends lockboxes if they’re bound. That’s… unfortunate.
P.P.P.S. Apparently she can’t receive credit lockboxes at all since they’re subscriber only. VERY unfortunate.