Last week I discussed gaming inside of my comfort zone and now, well, let’s step outside for a bit.
I started with single-player games and therefore, by definition I suppose, multi-player games are somewhat outside of my comfort zone. That said, the local multi-player games, such as arcade cabinets or LANs or shared/split-screen situations, are some of the most fun I’ve ever had. Much like dining, local gaming is very much a social occasion that I enjoy thoroughly. Inspired by this (and voice chat), in recent months I’ve endeavored to talk more to people I don’t know in online games. It paid off most recently while playing Lord of the Rings Online last week. I’ve discovered that it’s always nice to have someone to talk to while wandering the dark paths of Mirkwood or even the well-lit, but wolf-infested trails of Enedwaith.
Outside of socialization, there are some types of games that just always fall outside of my comfort zone. Some I eventually do play, like hidden object games that I used to feel were such a waste of time, but now see the virtue in a decent hidden object game (hint: it has a story that’s fun and appeals to me). In this case, I can recommend The Clockwork Man and its sequel The Clockwork Man: The Hidden World. Both are on Steam and are short diversions with some replay value if you like that sort of thing (which I apparently do).
Some games start in my comfort zone and then just fall out of it, waiting for me to come to some decision. For example, I used to play a lot of real-time strategy games. They were all the rage for a few years and the market has shifted to more action-y, MMO-style games. As a result, I played StarCraft, WarCraft 2 and 3, Star Wars: Empire at War, Age of Empires, Empire Earth and so on. The latest RTS I can think of is StarCraft 2 and I have zero desire to play it. I’m not entirely sure of the reason since I truly love the story and the setting, but I’m just not feeling it. I’m quite literally not comfortable playing RTS games any more.
Occasionally a game pops into my comfort zone without dragging any others along for the ride (like RTS games did). These days there are some very popular games classified as MOBAs (multiplayer online battle arena). Spawning from edited maps for older RTS games, today they’re marked by the extremely well-known League of Legends (a game I have zero interest in aside from the impact it has on the gaming community and marketplace as a powerhouse of popularity) and similar games (Dota 2 springs to mind and, before you ask, I also have zero interest). These games never appealed to me to begin with mainly because I’m not extremely fond of player versus player combat. I’ve always had anxiety issues with such confrontations (even in local gaming situations for example, Street Fighter) and in the MMO setting I’m not fond of how I was treated in past head-to-head situations by some people in Star Wars Galaxies. So you can imagine my surprise when I started playing Awesomenauts. It’s a 2D MOBA done with bright colors, humorous dialogue, unique characters, a plethora of potential strategies, and a practice mode so I don’t have to go head-to-head (or team-to-team). The thing that attracted me to it was even more surprising: the fact that it’s designed in the vein of a Saturday morning cartoon. The theme song slays me every time. That said, I maintain my zero interest in other MOBAs.
That player versus player thing is always something I’m uncomfortable with. Duels in games, even to just test our mutual capabilities (like the exercises I would run with my friends in Star Trek Online), they stress me out and make me extremely anxious. Clammy, shaky hands accompany every PvP situation I take part in.
Another situation I’m not extremely fond of making myself do (but will if compelled/convinced) is raid gaming. You know, find 12 or so people and pray you’re all able to go do this big boss fight thingy. Yeah, in my experience, it’s an exercise in futility and I’d rather spend my time doing easier things and enjoying the ride than throwing myself up against a wall. That also stresses me out a bit, but not as badly as PvP. Also, if I’m comfortable with the people that are going on the ride, this is much more fun for me. Small events like the small fellowship missions in LOTRO or the flashpoints in Star Wars: The Old Republic (not the crazy ones) are built for me and my close friends to hurdle, and those are often pleasant experiences. I still don’t seek them out very often.
It’s worth pointing out that if a game starts feeling tedious or like work, it immediately falls out of favor, but not necessarily my comfort zone. For example, Deus Ex: Human Revolution is an amazing game and the thing that pulled me in was the cyberpunk style setting with the potential for playing without killing anyone (or at least, without killing MOST everyone). After a fashion though, I just felt it was too tedious. I still like the game and have every intention of going back to it (when that will happen is anyone’s guess) and it holds up as an example of an FPS that doesn’t make me motion sick.
I suppose you could say that in all these situations, I need something to entice me to leave my comfort zone. In the case of online games, it was my desire to associate with my fellow gamer. I wouldn’t have played The Clockwork Man if it wasn’t for its promise of an eventual steampunk connection with its story. With Awesomenauts, you have a game that doesn’t take itself seriously by design and it’s quite enjoyable in its occasional aggravation (I’m not exactly that good at it which is part of why I confine myself to the practice mode). With big group missions (or at least small group missions) I need to see the reward that’s being offered and I need to feel assured that the group is capable of getting there.
In the end, gaming outside of the comfort zone is, to me, all about expanding the comfort zone to include new things. It requires a draw of some sort. Just… I won’t play sports games. I’m sorry, but they do absolutely nothing for me. There’s nothing to pull me in at all. I’ll watch friends play Madden every now and again, but I don’t watch any sports for real and I’ve no desire to pretend to play them when I could be slaying goblins with magic swords (too generic?) or being a beautiful siren who sings people to their deaths (I’m planning on playing this in a tabletop RPG sometime soon and it’s WAY outside my usual character type).
Until next time!
P.S. “… the only thing we have to fear is fear itself…” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt (because, really, that’s what it’s all about)
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 I’ve been hopping in, flying around, and typically getting shot down in the recently made live game World of Warplanes.
Developed by those folks who brought you World of Tanks (I have yet to try it, but give me time) and who are working on World of Warships (LET ME LOVE YOU LIKE YOU DESERVE! Ahem), World of Warplanes is a very very beautiful, quick to pick up, extremely difficult to play PvP game.
Matches are typically 15 v. 15 and you can fly with and against planes from any of the five nationalities provided: U.S., U.S.S.R., Germany, Japan, and U.K. There are currently three general categories of planes that play pretty differently from each other: Fighters, Heavy Fighters, and Attack Aircraft. Every nations planes flies differently from each other and each generation of planes is also different from those that came before.
It’s pretty friendly to start. I started with a Tier 1 biplane from each nation and was able (through some trial and error) to figure out what to do and how to get things done.
Also, my friend ridicules me pretty regularly about my affection for the Imperial system of measurement when he’s so used to Metric. I just prefer my way to his, so nyah.
I shared some things about the game in the first part of my weekly video, so that’ll be in the P.S. portion below. The last portion of the video is the recent release of Galactic Starfighter for Star Wars: The Old Republic. It plays kind of similarly.
Well, I’d like to go get shot down a few more times… oh! Let’s see what my stats are after playing the game for a week.
Yeah, I wasn’t kidding about getting shot down most of the time. I currently have a 23% survival rate. That goes with my 57% win rate. I’m not the best pilot by any means, but for some reason I’m having fun, so it’s a win for me!
Until next time!
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.
It’s like playing an updated version of Freelancer without the story or the single player mode. Also, there’s three factions and it’s primarily Player-versus-Player. So, a very streamlined version of Freelancer. Kind of.
One thing I can say with absolute certainty is that it’s filled a gap in my gaming desires that I didn’t realize I was missing until I played for a day or two. I haven’t been playing any flight simulators in recent years, what with Star Wars Galaxies going away and the flight mode of Star Wars: The Old Republic being a rail shooter and I’ve been missing the sense of speed, breakneck maneuvering, and missile locks. I’ve really missed the sense of freedom such a game can provide. I know it’s not open world like Star Citizen will be in a few years, but it’s definitely scratching the right itch.
I’ve discovered that I’m okay with PvP content as long as I don’t get penalized too harshly for losing. In this game I’ve been making a fair amount of credits per loss; more than enough to cover my expenses (repair and rearm) and to have some left over to save up for upgrades or new ships. Some play modes have unlimited respawns, others are conditional. It’s very well thought out and I do have to say, I haven’t had this much fun losing a game in a very long time. Seriously, even when I lose a match, I genuinely don’t feel bad most of the time.
Now, past my perceptions and desires and what-have-you, the game is pretty well built for a late open beta release (version 0.8.3 dropped recently). You pick your faction (which is changeable somehow), you equip a ship (over time you’ll gain a variety of vehicles), you queue up for either PvP or PvE (there’s one PvE mission right now and I expect there will be more available in the future), and you do your best to survive while achieving the objectives with the group you’re flying. There’s a lot of ways to play but none of them are guaranteed a win. I’ve seen more than one team go down in flames after a great start and conversely some teams starting poorly have shown amazing recoveries.
There are three types of ships in the game. First you have interceptors: light fighters that are small and nimble and are by default pretty hard to hit sometimes. Then you have fighters: heavier ships that have more firepower and less maneuverability compared to the interceptors. Last there are frigates: large vessels with very poor maneuverability offset by potent firepower and incredible durability. Within each class of ship, there are other roles like Recon Interceptors, Gunship Fighters, and Engineering Frigates. Pick your poison and hope your opponents choke on it.
Thus far I’ve been enjoying riding fire in a Covert Ops Interceptor as a member of the Federation of Free Worlds. I’m not the greatest pilot or even the best shot, but I’m having a ton of fun and I’m picking up stuff as I go.
I hope you give it a try. It’s worth a look for all of you who are fans of flight simulators and spectacular explosions.
Until next time!
P.S. I’ll let the trailer for the Beta Launch of Star Conflict be my quote for the week. Enjoy!
I’ve really been enjoying my Let’s Play videos. It’s a fundamental nature of who I am though. I love to share my experiences, either by showing people what I’m doing or by relating the story of what happened.
With my Let’s Plays, I get to let the game speak for itself. You get to experience things with me as I’m experiencing them (more or less). My reactions are absolutely genuine.
Thus far I’ve done several Let’s Play series. Let’s have a look:
Star Wars: The Old Republic – Bounty Hunter Story-Only: This 84-part series is my entire experience playing as the Chiss Bounty Hunter Saya’fida in Star Wars: The Old Republic. From beginning to end, every Bounty Hunter specific story mission and all the companion conversations. I made a real bond with this character and the experience of making these videos is something I really enjoyed. Sometimes I like to sit and play through a few videos now and then. The memories in video form are something that I treasure.
Star Wars: Republic Commando: This 38-part series is an entire run through of Republic Commando, one of my most favorite squad-based first person shooters. The story is wonderful, the combat straight-forward, and the characters are my brothers in arms. I even got to express my gratitude to Raphael Sbarge at PAX East 2013 for his portrayal of “Scorch” in the game and got his signature.
The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition: A 25-part series of the classic introduction to the Monkey Island series by beloved LucasArts, I didn’t provide much commentary because I genuinely believe that the game speaks for itself. A real favorite of mine.
Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge: A 23-part series of the sequel to The Secret of Monkey Island, I had a bit more fun with this one as I couldn’t entirely remember it like I did the previous installment. Also, I used a walkthrough. I’m not sorry.
Currently I’m doing a Let’s Play of XCOM Enemy Unknown, the 2012 update to the 1994 classic that helped define my gaming experience growing up. I’m thoroughly enjoying myself and to date I’ve uploaded 39 episodes. They’re not in playlist form yet, but as soon as I’m done with this playthrough, I’ll be making a playlist and sharing. For fun, here’s the traumatic Episode One.
I’m still contemplating what to do a Let’s Play of when I’m done with XCOM. I have a couple of horrible ideas (I don’t think anyone wants to sit through a Let’s Play of Civilization IV or Sins of a Solar Empire) and a couple of ideas that might work out (Star Trek Online, Neverwinter, another story-only of Star Wars: The Old Republic).
I truly enjoy doing Let’s Plays and I wish I could make that a full time job or something. Alas, I don’t think I’m interesting enough to swing a Rooster Teeth style experience. If you have any recommendations for a Let’s Play that you think I might enjoy or something, leave a comment and I’ll consider it!
Until next time!
P.S. “Shared pain is lessened; shared joy, increased — thus do we refute entropy.” – Spider Robinson