Driving Trucks on the Wrong Side of the Road   3 comments

2014-08-25_00005

Well, the left side, technically, which is correct, but it took me a few minutes to get use to.

The other day I was looking through Green Man Gaming’s list of 30 Must Have Indie Games, of which I have quite a few already, but found myself inexorably drawn toward Euro Truck Simulator 2. I quickly checked Steam which, thanks to a handy browser extension called Enhanced Steam, I was given a coupon code that allowed me to pick up the game on the cheap. I couldn’t resist.

Marvels of engineering impress the heck out of me. When I was younger, I use to love going to amusement parks and then, in my head, urged to want to build scale models of them. At the time, either I didn’t know of Roller Coaster Tycoon or it hadn’t released yet. Even to this day when I’m on my way home from work and I’m stopped at some local railroad tracks waiting for the train to pass, I get the urge to play a train simulator or something. I usually don’t act on these urges, but who knows. Sometimes the kid in me has free reign.

Euro Truck Simulator 2

Cities are just depots, right? I’m not sure cities have other roads…

The tutorial was an eye opener. Now, in general, I consider myself a good driver, but suddenly making a left hand turn in an enormous vehicle with 30 tons of momentum behind you on the wrong side of the road?!! Whaaaaat?!!! I haven’t even started challenging myself yet, though. Currently, I’m playing on simple video-game-style automatic transmission. You know, ‘W’ goes forward and takes care of gears, ‘S’ is both reverse and brake. But the potential options here remind me of playing those Mech games of old, where you had to memorize scads of key combinations to make stuff happen. It can be as easy as WASD, but as complex as getting your own steering wheel, gear shifts, and pedals and going nuts.

The game starts you out as a basic driver, looking to be hired to run jobs. Cake. Just drive from point A to point B, don’t worry about gas, lodging, tolls, fun management stuff, continuity, etc. Just follow the traffic laws, and you’re golden, an easy  few thousand euros. Do this… for a crazy amount of times more. I’ve only made a few deliveries total, but the next part of the game is starting your own trucking business and for that you need to buy your own truck, which runs at it’s cheapest into the 100k euros. A good simulator won’t be easy, I know, but getting the funds to buy a truck without getting ripped off by the bank on interest fees… that’s going to take a while. Maybe I’ll play once a day or something until I get there.

Euro Truck Simulator 2

Clouds, sun, water, trees… is there much else on the sides of the road?

 

The game feels realistic, though. I’ve found myself cursing at slow drivers and cars cutting me off, missing turns offered by the GPS, and trying to stay relatively around the speed limit, as I do in real life. I’ve become quickly acquainted with the buttons used for the multiple horns. And trying to park this sucker once you reach your destination?! A Steam comment on the first Euro Truck Simulator summed it up nicely…

Saving the world? Easy.
Creating my own civilization and leading it to world domination? Easy.
Catch all Pokémon? Easy.
Make my way through hell? Easy.
Parking a truck backward? Impossible. Great game though.

Euro Truck Simulator 2

Nailed it. In the rain no less.

But I wonder about the side-of-the-road visuals and how much it is really like traveling through the european countryside. Are there really that many fields of sunflowers? Are hot air balloons a regular sight? I need to find where all the good sights are, I guess. So far it’s been a lot of roads, roads, roads, circles, tight turns, and more roads. I’m not even sure what highways these are supposed to be… I think they’re marked when you first get on, but the GPS isn’t telling me, and they really all look similar.

Is Euro Truck Simulator 2 a well put together game? Yes.

… Is it fun? Well… I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt. The fun is found in it’s realism. Because I’m not sure how this truly compares to trucking, I’m not sure I can truly say how “realistic” it is. However, nailing backing the truck up right? That’s a good feeling right there.

// Ocho

A Gaming Questionnaire   7 comments

Neverwinter

Allow me a little narcissism. It seems a gaming questionnaire has been circulating among my fellow game blogging compatriots lately, started by Jasyla at Cannot Be Tamed (Thanks, Jasyla!). So, why not? A little survey occasionally is good for the soul, and it gives you a little more insight into my particular point of view, if you’re interested. Also, it’s my site and I’ll post whatever I want, whenever I want, thank you very much.

1. When did you start playing video games?

My memory does not extend that far back, to be honest. I want to say… 8 years old? Which would give me gaming cred for about 25 years now. Looking back, my parents were amazing to me growing up. They purchased me an Atari 7800 and I played the heck out of that thing. Still have it in my basement somewhere with a full bin of games. Good ones, too. Saints. My parents are saints.

2. What is the first game you remember playing?

Donkey Kong on an old CalecoVision. Literally. I don’t know how old the CalecoVision console was at the time I was playing on it, maybe 7 years old, but it’s the oldest game that flashes back to me.

Intel Core i7

Core i7, in case you’re curious.

3. PC or Console? 

These days I’m all about the PC. I’m not going to go into the whole “PC master race” nonsense as it’s just that: nonsense. However, my PC is the most versatile piece of technology I own. The choice was either have a game console that is just a game console, or a PC that is a game console plus a million other things. A PC is just more efficient to own, even if it is a little more costly.

4. XBox, PlayStation, or Wii? 

To me, it doesn’t matter. I’ve owned a Playstation 2 that I took apart and put back together a hundred times (I use to buy broken ones, fix them, and sell them again at a profit), I own an XBox 360 and a Wii. Now, they all accumulate dust. If I got the latest iteration of any of them, they’d probably do the same. I’ll give the Wii credit for the most versatility with it’s free use of Netflix and capability as a DVD player, though. Wii Sports is still fun, too. :)

Ultima 7

The OG of RPG’s, as far as I’m concerned.

5. What’s the best game you’ve ever played? 

Ultima 7. Totally rose-colored-glasses here, but at the time, Ultima 7 was a mind-blower. I played it on my parents IBM, and the game took up a whopping 20 MB of space. Comparative to today, that’s like a game taking up about 700 GB. But the experience was amazing. Ultima 7 was one of the first “open world” games I remember. There was a storyline in there somewhere, but every NPC in the entire game had a daily schedule that included their home, their work, lunch breaks, after-work activities, dinner, socializing, etc. You could attend concerts! Mine for ore! Craft swords! Bake bread! Compare this to other games at the time and there was no comparison. Ultima 7 would be similar to Skyrim today, but if Skyrim let you play in more open world.

6. What’s the worst game you’ve ever played? 

Crusaders of Might and Magic. I was a big fan of the Might and Magic series, and had just finished one of my favorites of the series, World of Xeen, before playing Crusaders. Boy was I let down. Crusaders was more of a first-person-shooter style, but not, and a very linear gameplay. Totally different than any other Might and Magic title. It was my first real game that I finished and thought “Well, that… was not good.” It may not actually be the worst, I’m sure I’ve played worse, but since it was the first it sticks out the most.

7. Name a game that was popular/critically adored that you just didn’t like.

Any game that has the words “Call of Duty” or “Battlefield” in their title. I gave them a good shake a few times, and though I’m a fan of shooters, I just couldn’t get into the whole realistic military setting. Felt too glorified. War, realistic war, is not a game and what soldiers do is necessary in defense of one’s country. Glorifying realistic modern military in the gaming space is irresponsible, in my opinion.

Rusty Hearts

I am heartbroken that Rusty Hearts is shutting down, I really am.

8. Name a game that was poorly received that you really like.

The one that jumps to mind is the soon to be shut down Rusty Hearts. As a MMO player, it was a refreshing game to play. One of the first MMO action titles, too, it had a silly/serious manga style story with an artistic gothic painting-like atmosphere, a soundtrack mixing light jazz and hard rock, easy to jump into and interesting dungeons, and abilities that made you feel like a badass from the very beginning. It will be shutting down on September 15th, 2014, though, and it never reached any real following. It’s a shame, really. It was a lot of fun.

9. What are your favourite game genres?

MMOs, First Person Shooters, Point-and-click Adventures, Indie Games, Most things Elder Scrolls and Might and Magic, and really anything. I’ll try anything at least once.

10. Who is your favourite game protagonist?

Ooooooo…. it’s a tossup between Guybrush Threepwood or Faith. Mirror’s Edge is one of my favorite games, mostly because Faith is such a badass and for the game’s originality. As for Guybrush, I haven’t seen a character learn to swordfight in a more entertaining way.

Mirror's Edge Awesomeness

One of the first FPS’s I’ve played that didn’t need any S.

11. Describe your perfect video game.

One which will deliver me a beer and pizza while I’m playing it. Make it happen, people.

Really, I have no perfect game. I see video games these days as works of art, meant to be appreciated for what they are, not how they live up to some definition of perfection. I am no artist, so who am I to tell the artists how to make their masterpieces? Imparting expectations on artwork is futile and only leads to disappointment.

12. What video game character do have you have a crush on?

Who is that woman behind the protagonist on the Mass Effect 2 box cover? Yeah. Her. No idea why. Don’t even know her character, haven’t even played Mass Effect 2. Maybe it’s her hair?

13. What game has the best music? 

Guild Wars 2. Tough question, though. There is a LOT of really good game music out there. Thankfully, at least MMO music is covered by the Battle Bards Podcast. I still think the best video game music piece going is the Civilization IV intro, though. I even wrote up a post about this once…

14. Most memorable moment in a game:

That I can remember: BioShock, the twist near the end. More recent: pretty much the entirety of To the Moon.

Gabriel Knight, Sins of the Fathers

Gah. Goosebumps got me again…

15. Scariest moment in a game:

I have a hard time not saying The Secret World for this one. Too many good ones, but the part that sticks out the most is Issue 7: A Dream to Kill, inside the Nursery. Opening the room with all the dolls for the first time gave me goosebumps on top of goosebumps. Creepy dolls always get me.

Also, the scene in Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers when Gabriel attends the lecture and falls asleep. The dream he had made me instantly stop playing the game when I was younger.

16. Most heart-wrenching moment in a game:

The self-sacrifice by Dupre in Ultima 7: Part 2. The first time I played it, I was dumbstruck. I didn’t even know games even had emotional depth until that moment.

17. What are your favourite websites/blogs about games?

Who wants a shoutout?! I can’t list all of them, I’d be here all day. If you’re reading this right now and have a site of your own… it’s you. No, really, it’s you. I’m fascinated about your opinion.

I follow Massively sort of religiously, but I don’t usually agree with most of the GOML commenters who just want the “old days” to come back (“Get Off My Lawn”… I feel #GOML needs to be a thing), but I love reading all the experiences that my fellow bloggers have in every game they play. I’m truly fascinated in how we can each be playing the same thing, and have a multitude of different reactions to it. In my mind, that is what makes video games art.

To The Moon

Uplifting, but overall a very sad tale.

18. What’s the last game you finished? 

Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood or To The Moon, I can’t remember which I finished last. Both excellent games in their own right, though.

19. What future releases are you most excited about? 

Shroud of the Avatar, but that could be because I’ve already invested so much into it.

20. Do you identify as a gamer?

I do, yes. Not 100%, though. I also identify as husband, friend, coworker, disc golf player, techie, and a multitude of other identities. Gaming is just one part of my identity, but I won’t deny it’s existence. I think Mr. Kuchera really hit the nail on the head, and I can’t say it better than he can.

Walking Dead Season One

Not really a “game”, but I don’t care. So good. There’s a reason Walking Dead is at the top of most gamer’s lists.

21. Why do you play video games? 

I like to be told a good story, be it by book or movie, or any other medium. Books allow a story to be more descriptive where all the action goes on in your head and allows your imagination to run wild. Movies are more about the visual and audio components of a story and hit hard viscerally, but are a lot shorter.

Video games, though, allow you to interact with the story itself. A great mix of other styles, games allow you to be immersed in a world, not just be swept along with the plot. To be able to explore a world’s nooks and crannies as well as the plot. To walk alongside the hero/heroine and feel their accomplishments as your own.

This is why I play games. Simply, I feel they are one of the best ways to interact with a good story.

Thank you for reading, folks. If you want, take the survey yourself! As I said, I’m always curious to hear your thoughts, too.

// Ocho

Instances in the Real World   1 comment

The Secret World, instances

If you haven’t noticed, I like like to draw a lot of parallels between gaming and real life. This is because the two are intrinsically linked, in my opinion, life being full of challenges, games being all about challenges, and we tend to recognize these patterns when we see them. The thought crossed my mind today about ‘instancing’ in MMOs and how I’m about to enter a real life “instance”.

Now an ‘instance’ in an MMO, to the uninitiated, is a part of the game world that is created only for you or your group. They are separated from the main game world by a portal of some kind, and have challenges placed within them in a confined area. These challenges cause the reward to be better than the outside world. Dungeons with a cap on participants and bosses that require multiple players, controlled story content designed to push the narrative further, a field meant for player vs player battles that can’t be affected or affect the larger game, instances come in many shapes and sizes and I can’t think of a single game that doesn’t have instancing to some effect.

So soon my friends and I are heading out on a vacation together to see two of our good friends get married, and my gaming mind can’t help but draw a parallel to an instance. The flight leaves around the time this is set to post and we will spend the next few glorious days in the sun-and-sin-soaked city of Las Vegas getting into as many shenanigans and malarkey as the city and our bank accounts will allow. Expectations are for copious amounts of potent potables to flow, culinary masterpieces to be ingested, and many a high and low strike at the chances of fate. It. Will. Be. Amazing.

 

 

This is not something we do all the time. For any of us, this is the first real major trip we’ve gone on as a group of friends,  so it’s definitely outside of the main “world” that we know, namely New Jersey. We leave by airplane into the world we’re not use to, and we come back by plane to the world we normally frequent. Lots of space has been made in our bags for the loot that we will inevitably pick up while we are there, and we know the experience will cause our two good friends to “level up” in their relationship, and will increase our own life experiences as well. We will all come back better than we left.

Enterprise NCC-1701-C, instances

I’d definitely take this ride over US Airways, though.

  • The instance “portal” –> The plane ride.
  • The space confines –> Las Vegas, primarily the Las Vegas strip.
  • The “challenge” –> To see our good friends married and to send them into their married life together in as epic a way as possible.
  • The “reward” –> The stories that will come from the epicness, among other souvenirs.

So this may be a roundabout way of saying this, but get out there and travel! See the world, see the sites! Get into trouble! Get a ton of great stories in the process and take those doors when they open.

You never know when these experiences are going to add up enough to take your life to the next level.

//Ocho

Blake Shelton, Atlantic City, Free-To-Play Gaming, and What They All Have To Do With Each Other   Leave a comment

Neverwinter, auction house, Free-To-Play

A big warning to all of you out there: MMO Free-To-Play monetary tactics have left the gaming space.

“Well, duh,” I hear a few of you saying (those of you who still say ‘duh‘… people still say ‘duh‘, right?). New psychological tactics to separate people from their money are being developed all the time. When one part of the business world happens upon a strategy that works it’s only natural that it will be picked up and modified for others. Very true, but rarely do you see it done in so spectacular a fashion as happened recently on the Atlantic City beach.

On July 31st, 2014, Blake Shelton, one of the reality-show judges on “The Voice” and a decorated country music singer, performed a concert in Atlantic City, New Jersey free to any passer-by and those lucky enough to grab complimentary passes. The concert was held on the beach near the The Piers at Caesars, a large shopping complex on a pier extending out into the Atlantic Ocean, and presented by the Atlantic City Alliance and it’s “Do AC” promotional campaign. In other words, free concerts with big names to draw people to come down to Atlantic City. Jimmy Buffet had a concert last year and  Lady Antebellum just performed this past Sunday. Good music, ocean backdrop, a cool drink. Good stuff.

For the 60,000 attending, though, good luck on the “free” part. This show was far from “free”. In fact, it very heavily resembles the “free” we see in Free-To-Play games. Sure, listening to the music is free, but if you want anything else, and we mean anything, you will pay for it and at levels taking your “free” music price tag into account.

The news reports for this show are extensive, but lets be real. Blake wasn’t doing this out of the kindness of his heart, he was being paid. Well. Without ticket sales to back up the initial cost, how did they make the money? Why, on literally everything else they could.

A coworker of mine whose relative attended the concert came back and told her all about it. When she relayed the story onto us, I asked her to clarify some specific details on what some of these other prices were.

Get this.

  • Parking: Anywhere from $50 per car to as high as $75 were seen.
  • A 10 oz bottle of water: $8.
  • 10 hot chicken wings: $22.

Parking usually: $5-$10 at most during peak season, off times you can find it free. I was also told that the vendors that were selling these high-price wares were vendors specifically brought in by Atlantic City and they positioned themselves between the huge crowd and the struggling Atlantic City Boardwalk vendors. This is just an example of some of the prices, but I heard they all were around the same level of up-charge.

Star Trek Online, lockboxes, Free-To-Play

Lockboxes. One of the biggest money makers for Free-To-Play MMOs… similar to gambling.

Now before you get all huffy and throw around the word “entitlement”, yes, we all get it. Nothing in this world is free. Everything comes at a cost. And there’s nothing wrong with that, that’s the backbone of a mixed market capitalist economy. Believe me, Blake Shelton got paid, Atlantic City got paid, Live Nation got paid, and at the expense of the audience, as it’s supposed to be. Sidenote: If anything, Atlantic City is the real jerk here in bringing in their own vendors instead of helping the struggling boardwalk vendors…. but that’s beside the point.

MMO Gamers, though, we’ve seen this for years. The Free-To-Play vs. Subscription vs. Buy-To-Play fight is everlasting. Is it better to be let into a game for free only to then be subjected to a possibly exploitative cash shop, or to pay a blind up-front cost and recurring fee to enjoy a “buffet” style of game, or a combination of both? They all make money and have their good and bad points, certainly.

Just like in gaming, though, the only person seeing this concert for “free” is the person who really went out of their way and inconvenienced themselves to do so. They parked really far away, probably in one of the not-so-safe areas of AC and they didn’t partake of any refreshments while they viewed the concert. In other words, they paid for their convenience in other ways. The same exact way FTP games will often trade convenience for real money, after letting you in for free.

Free-To-Play, Lord of the Rings Online

On the other side, here’s a concert *inside* an MMO.

In my opinion, the best Free-To-Play games are the ones that will offer a fun experience and entice you to open your wallet for fun extras, instead of hinder you by putting up pay walls. It’s a fine tightrope, though, between entice and force, and I’m not sure we’ve seen it walked perfectly yet. It’s certainly a slippery slope leading down into exploitative territory.

So $22 for hot wings and $50-$75 for parking? I’m sorry, Atlantic City. If you were a Free-To-Play game, I’d consider you leaning heavily on the exploitative side of the equation.

// Ocho

P.S. – I do find it funny, though, that not long ago I posted about the tricks casinos use to get your money and Free-To-Play MMOs using very similar tactics. It was only a matter of time before the tricks came back around.

Posted August 5, 2014 by Ocho in Other, Psychology

Tagged with , , , , ,

How Marvel Heroes Turned Me Into a Superhero Fan   1 comment

Marvel Heroes, Doctor Doom

My tickets have been purchased and I’ll be seeing Guardians of the Galaxy tonight, and I’m really excited about it.

I know I’ve said it before, but I am very eclectic in my nerd tastes. I like Star Trek, but I’m not the biggest fan of Star Wars. I’m part of a periodic Pathfinder group, but never really got into D&D. I love attending Renaissance Faires, but you will not find me dressing up in costume for it. My tastes vary greatly from topic to topic. I love a good medieval style fantasy, but I can’t stand Game of Thrones. I’ll love one thing, but hate something very similarly related. Heck, I don’t have the faintest hint if I’ll like something until I really give it a shot, hence why I try a lot of different things.

So comic books and the whole superhero genre? Meh. Never been into it. The plots are usually as deep as a puddle, the characters cliche, the worlds need quite a healthy suspension of disbelief, and the whole concept of a single “hero” being effective where entire hard-working police/fire/government agencies are useless is a fallacy that I don’t think should be promoted. They say fiction follows societal trends, though, and so superheros come into prevalence when overall faith drops in the agencies designed to protect us. So, is it surprising superheros are peaking right now? Yeah. Superheroes have always been one of those nerd pursuits that I never looked down on, but I just never *got*. Spandex, muscles everywhere, destruction that magically fixes itself, scantily clad… everyone. Bleh.

Marvel Heroes, Nightcrawler

Watch your step.

The emails that I keep getting from Gazillion are *very* tempting, though. Filled with goodies, and the truth is that when Marvel Heroes released, it’s word-of-mouth wasn’t that complementary. Having three or four of the same superhero running around, not a ton of content, very bland gameplay, and if you want another character, the only way to get it was to open your wallet. It just didn’t *feel* right, a cash grab, and it was hard to get excited about your own character. But I gave it another shot recently, as it’s free and the waves of emails are tempting, and it is by far not the same game that it use to be.

Now, finding the same character as yourself running around is infrequent. Your starting character can be one of 10 different heroes, so you’re not seeing copies of yourself everywhere. Gameplay itself is a ridiculously fun experience, explosions everywhere and giving a very epic feel to your hero and their incredible abilities. Heroes can be earned in-game, and the roster of heroes is up to 37 now with the recent inclusion of Star-Lord to the roster, thanks to quick development and movie tie-ins. Each hero plays a completely different style than the others, too.

Marvel Heroes, Nightcrawler, Pyro

Pyro, obviously.

When I came back to the game, I started playing as Daredevil, a character whose movie wasn’t something I was terribly impressed with, but he was one of the free ones and seemed like a very quick and versatile fighter. And he blew me away. DD was a powerhouse, from swinging around his nunchucks to jumping around like a maniac. But he isn’t my favorite superhero. Even though I’m not a big fan, remember that old 1992 X-Men Arcade game? Damn did I drop a lot of quarters into that when I was younger, and my favorite was, hands-down, Nightcrawler. He flashed all around the screen, hitting everyone, and his teleport powers were just badass.

So I dropped a few bucks on Marvel Heroes as I was really enjoying the game, and picked up Nightcrawler. This has been, in retrospect, one of the best MMO purchases I can think of in recent memory. As a playable hero, he does NOT disappoint. He slices his dual rapiers around while teleporting all over the place like a madman. As a hero, he seems best played by using his teleport and sword abilities to great effect. Boss about to smash you? Just teleport behind them and keep on beating. Bunch of bad guys out of range? Teleport to them, grab them en mass and bring them right next to where you were, then slice away.

The only downside I can see about the game so far is that the story isn’t big enough. By the time you hit level 30, the story is done, but the level cap is 60. In order to hit 60, you start farming the social zones, play challenges, or replay the story again but at a higher difficulty. And so if someone wants to max out all 37 heroes, that’s playing through the whole story 111 times! So, if you’re reading this, Gazillion, you have a seriously fun game, but make more story content!

Marvel Heroes, Rainbow Bridge, Nightcrawler

This whole Rainbow Bridge thing still doesn’t make a whole ton of sense, but sure, I can roll with it. Rainbows are awesome.

 

But the real side effect of playing? I’m starting to get into the whole superhero thing. I think I get it now. I still don’t think the characters are all that deep, but huge explosions? Sciency-tech? Being badass? It’s a lot of fun. I’ve rented all the movies that have been out and I’m almost fully caught up. Still have a few to go, and I still think they’re far from being cerebral academy-award winning flicks, but for an awesome romp, they’re hard to beat.

So I’m seeing Guardians of the Galaxy tonight, and thanks to Marvel Heroes, I’m *really* looking forward to it. If that doesn’t say a lot about the game, I don’t know what does.

// Ocho

P.S. – One of the streamers I’ve been watching on Twitch lately, is a huge Marvel Heroes fan, and he seems like a great guy. Give him a follow if you’re looking for a fun stream: CritDamageCrazy.

P.P.S. – Short review of Guardians of the Galaxy: Totally worth it. Awesome. See it. In 3D. Maybe not IMAX, unless it’s true IMAX, but definitely in 3D if you can.

ArcheAge Noob Closed Beta Impressions   12 comments

ArcheAge, Firran

Recently I have found myself quite interested in the upcoming Trion title ArcheAge. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why. ArcheAge is an Asian-inspired fantasy sandbox title where player vs player combat is the norm coupled with a full player-driven crafting economy. MMO purists should be rejoicing, for those that constantly complain about the “downfall” of MMOs and the “dirty casuals” that infect the genre, this is a title that actively promotes their preferred style of play.

Believe it or not, I don’t subscribe to that ancient style of thinking. I take no joy in slaying other live players, or the imaginary competition of loot races, I’m not a fan of PvP. I’m also not a fan of crafting, either, as most crafting systems entail as much entertainment as watching grass grow. I get more enjoyment standing in front of my sink, instead of a crafting station, cleaning dishes for 20 minutes. That at least nets me clean dishes, something a lot more valuable to me than digital ingots.

Yet it’s the pureness of the concept, the overwhelming statement of “this is not the game for you” that is quite tempting. It’s a challenge and feels like the perfect chance to test whether this MMO style really is for me or not. Plus, it’s always good to try new things. So, ArcheAge beckons.

I didn’t pay for it, though. Despite the overwhelming prevalence these days of paid alphas and betas and the ridiculous prices thereof, there were plenty of free beta keys to go around. With that in hand I set the 20+ GB download to start and promptly went and played Marvel Heroes for a while. Don’t look at me like that. Marvel Heroes has come a long way since it started and is really a fun dungeon brawler! Nightcrawler is a freaking blast to play. About 2 hours of downloading ArcheAge later, though, I was able to get in.

ArcheAge, Firran

Sure, this is a “water buffalo”… I guess…

Why is it in Beta, anyway?

First, I get it. This game doesn’t actually need testing. It’s been released in Japan for the past year, and Korea for the past year and a half. So this whole beta is nothing more than a sales ploy. At most, Trion is testing for translation accuracy and different cultural metrics so they can accurately determine prices for cash-shop items for the NA/European audience. That’s cool, though, and they’d be fools to not take advantage of the hype and make boatloads of money while they’re testing. In that effect, charging for alpha/beta makes sense. At least the game is polished and playable, which is a lot more than I can say for most paid betas.

Logging in, I created my first character, a Charr Caitian Firran. As in most fantasy, the choice was elves, humans, other humans, and cat people. Throw in a short race, and you could have the lineup for every other fantasy game. Oh, wait… that’s being planned. I opted for the non-boring race that wasn’t aligned with those dirty elves. Some pretty great cutscenes followed, describing how the Firran were a nomadic race, how they were at war with the “other humans” and beat them but then became lazy and then got beat themselves, and how they were once more on the cultural upswing. Sweet. In fact, all the cutscenes were pretty sweet. Nice art style and good exposition that wasn’t useless or felt out-of-place.

ArcheAge, Firran

Now THAT’s a moon.

We Heard You Liked Punctuation…

I approached my first NPC, I saw it, and I sighed heavily: A giant yellow exclamation point. This again? Could be me, could be that I’m getting old, but the yellow exclamation point has been done to death. They told me some short statement and sent me along the road to the next hub. Here, same, and they sent me to the next hub, and to the next hub, and to the next hub. Go kill 10 rats, then come back here so I can send you to the next hub. This is one of the many reasons I don’t play World of Warcraft anymore. This style of gameplay was popular and novel over a decade ago. It’s lame. We haven’t grown out of it yet? At least cover it up better to make it not FEEL like hub-jumping.

I know, though, that the whole point of ArcheAge isn’t the story. So these hubs just give brief exposition, a little cultural identity and send you forward, ever forward, sometimes without much sense, and very quickly. At the end of my session I was already level 10, and had been through 6 different quest hubs.

This is by far not the meat of ArcheAge. Sad thing was, though, this wasn’t even a real taste. If you want your whole game to be based around crafting, trade and PvP, then, I don’t know, why not have that from the very beginning? Why start with Game A and then slowly merge into Game B? If people are coming for Game B, then give them Game B! Why have them slog through Game A first, especially a really terrible, half-assed Game A?

ArcheAge, Firran

So. Darn. Cute.

But, Wait! It’s not All Question Marks! 

There were some really great novel concepts, though, that were shown in the introductory zone. Use of supplies to help build structures. Nice graphics. Musical instruments used by anybody to give bonuses and help in healing. Getting your first mount and raising it from a cub (alright, it took about a minute to fully grow, but it showed the promise of more). Having your mount fight by your side (couldn’t get this to work initially, my mount wouldn’t get out of follow, but the commands were there, so it’s coming), putting armor on your mount. Housing. Working with a farm.

The jewel, though, is the class system. Fully switchable and seems so deep it makes TESO’s look like child’s play.

I started with an offense “occult” as my first specialization. Next, I chose a physical “defense” style. Not sure if I can make those work, but who knows. Could be fun. Last, I picked a “music” style, because why not? The combination, as random as it is, is called a “Dark Aegis”.

A dark magic slinging, shield bearing, music blasting cat-man riding a huge fanged white lion. I can totally dig it.

ArcheAge, Fiiran

A Dark Aegis and his snowlion, ready to… do something in the next zone, I guess.

More, Please

If I’m allowed in future betas without paying, I’ll definitely keep it up. So far I feel like I truly haven’t experienced ArcheAge. I want to taste more and start getting to the real game before I make any lasting impressions or commitments. The game feels really solid and true to their intent, even if the starting zones may not fully reflect it. From watching ArcheAge streamers on Twitch like Pookahontus, even the PvP looks like a blast to play. Maybe I’ve just taken PvP a little too serious all this time.

But who knows if it will catch on. I’m an anti-social MMO gamer at heart and this is a cooperative game. But even in my casual style, if I can still feel like I make a contribution it may make it into my rotation.

My suggestion to you, dear reader, is that if you can snag a beta key you should at least give the game a shot. Like anything else, you never know if you’ll like it until you try it.

// Ocho

Spoilers, and Why They Affect Us The Way They Do   18 comments

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Spoilers. They’re everywhere. It feels like you can’t avoid them, and society won’t really let you. Not unless you want to remove yourself from society. Is that right, though? I mean, why do we care so much about a simple TV show’s plot, and how did we get to the point where they have become such a polarizing issue? Some people will defend their want to post spoilers till the end, saying stuff like “Well, it’s been long enough. I shouldn’t have to wait to post spoilers!” and “Well, if you don’t like it, maybe you shouldn’t read it.” I think it’s larger that that, though, an issue that delves into how society has evolved and adapted with changes in media and social media, and how we’re still clinging onto the past.

How It Use To Be

The want to schedule my time around the airing of a TV show always felt alien. I grew up without TV being a central focus in our household. I did have a few favorites, though, like Friends or The Simpsons. When it was on, though, if you missed an episode, you were out of luck. Reading about it and discussing it with friends was pretty much the only way to catch up. It was that or wait months for re-runs. If someone told you about what went on that you missed, they were being helpful and doing you a service.

Today is a whole different story, though. The internet and video streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, etc. make it so that it’s not possible to miss anything unless you want to. If you miss a show, if you miss an episode, it’s remarkably easy to catch up on your own time. Even if that time is a couple months later with the DVD releases, or catching up on an entire show after it has long been off the air (I’m looking at you Twin Peaks… I will watch you yet).

That want to discuss it, though, that want to share the experience is still there. It always will be. It’s human nature to want to belong to social groups and prove we are members of said group by adhering to the social mores, in this case sharing plot points of TV shows and movies. We think it helps the person we are telling, and it makes us look good. If we hold TV and these programs as a part of our cultural identity, then we will discuss it with anyone who we thought was interested.

It’s Not How It Use To Be

Social media is the equivalence of standing on a soapbox, shouting to yourself, and hoping other people join in.

Times have changed. Communication has changed. Social media has exploded, and so instead of telling one person, we can tell everyone simultaneously. Multiple birds, one stone. It’s efficient, which is why people have flocked to it. You can send a message out to hundreds or thousands of people with a single click. But as the hackneyed saying goes, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

It’s too easy to make it known to all that we are huge fans of the latest TV shows, that we follow the zeitgeist, that we should be admired because after watching an episode we now know information that is socially valuable. However, it is only valuable for a limited time. So therefore, in order to prove our social worth, we must share that information to all as soon as possible! This drive to prove we belong is very strong. Our social circles are a significant part of our identities, after all.

But that information isn’t really that valuable anymore. As I explained above, it use to be before digital media. How we digest entertainment has changed from being communal to being personal. If I miss an episode, due to life, I can catch up at any time. I didn’t really miss anything. Those plot twists the latest show held is only truly valuable, then, to the person holding it. Those who want to be vested in a show or movie simply will be. Those who don’t, they don’t really care that you happen to love, say, Big Bang Theory, and want to tell of the latest “geeky” thing Sheldon did. But that doesn’t mean they won’t care in the future. Information these days is sought out personally. If I wanted to know what happened on the last episode of Walking Dead, I can find out very easily on my own. Review sites exist for a reason.

Social Belonging

That drive to prove social belonging, though, still very much exists. And mixed with social media just makes it too tempting to restrain oneself. People who are more susceptible to prove their value, then, won’t think twice and will shout spoilers from the rooftops, to inform the world. Only now it’s to an audience that doesn’t really want to hear it, and might feel angered that these spoilers are being forced upon them.

It’s turned 100% around from being a valuable service to being a selfish one. Who really enjoys these spoilers? The person saying them obviously doesn’t mind them, but their target audience is for those that most likely already know it. Other members of the TV show’s social group, they’re trying to preach to the choir. They’re saying it to prove that they are followers, too.  However, they’re simultaneously telling those who don’t care or really don’t want to hear it. To those outside their social group, well, who cares about them?

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Those Who Don’t Want To Be Spoiled

And so what of the feelings of others? So what if someone who may want to watch this show on their own time and schedule, as modern technology now allows, so what if I tell them everything that happens in the show ahead of time? These people are not part of the social group. Who cares what they think? They shouldn’t care in the first place.

These people are the people we call friends any other day of the week. These are the people we allow into our private lives, and then, what, we disrespect them? That is how it feels. Posting spoilers shows someone’s colors, that they care so much about their social standing they don’t really care who is affected, which then forces the spoiler’s followers to make a choice. Do we keep listening to this person, whom we call friend, despite the affront, or do we stop listening to prevent the possible spoiling of something we may want to enjoy? It’s terrible we even have to make the choice at all.

However, We Might Enjoy Being Spoiled

This is a valid point. Why do we care or not if our entertainment is spoiled ahead of time? In the long run, it’s not that important. Aren’t there plenty of people who turn to the last page in a novel first? Heck, one of the big issues I have with MMOs nowadays is just this. In order to be a “good group member”, you must have already read up and watched the videos on every fight and encounter ahead of time. It’s expected.

A study conducted by the University of California, San Diego suggests that we do indeed enjoy a story more when the twists are revealed to us ahead of time. According to their studies, which took 30 people and measured their enjoyment after reading 12 spoiled/unspoiled short stories, it was found that participants across the board enjoyed a story more when the ending was told to them first, whether mystery, “ironic-twist”, or literary stories.

Their conclusion was that the plot of a story is, simply, overrated. That we read stories for a lot more than just what happens. Also, it’s just mentally easier to process.

“that once you know how it turns out, it’s cognitively easier – you’re more comfortable processing the information – and can focus on a deeper understanding of the story.”

So, easier to process, and we get to enjoy other aspects besides the plot. I can see this. It’s like if you go to the latest Marvel movies. Do you really expect the bad guys to win and Iron Man to lose? No, of course not. You already know what is going to happen, the experience is in how Stark wins. It also explains why book-to-movie conversions are so successful. A lot of people have already read the books, they want to see the visual translation on the big screen.

Or… Maybe Not. Anticipation and Suspension of Disbelief Count, Too.

But others have pointed out some major flaws in the study. Namely, that these weren’t stories that anyone was particularly vested in in the first place. They had just been told that they would be reading these short stories that day. If anything, the study just proves that this is the case with only short stories you didn’t know you were reading ahead of time.

Other avenues suggest to going to the root of why we enjoy stories in the first place. As this Atlantic article suggests, it basically comes down to the suspension of disbelief and how much we enjoy suspending it. We want to feel like we are with those characters, like we are a part of that world, and a part of us is viscerally there. So spoilers really kill our buzz, then. They remind us that a story really is just a story.

Also, it kills the anticipation of enjoyment. And don’t tell me that you don’t like anticipation. Don’t tell me that you’ll make months worth of plans for your vacation, and then literally count down the days or hours until it happens. That you’ll make reservations long in advance to a fantastic restaurant an then pour over the menu online. Of course we like anticipation! That’s why the first kiss means something. Sure, the 200th kiss means something, too, but it’s not held on such a high pedestal as the first. If someone comes along and spoils our anticipation, we feel cheated!

A Statute of Limitations on Spoilers

So how long does one have to wait, then, to post spoilers? What is socially acceptable? This post suggests that they can start being discussed almost immediately after. However, the post seems to be aimed specifically at authors writing articles and headlines, not to individual conversations or mass posts. I can see that. It’s really easy to ignore an article spoiling a show if you don’t want to be spoiled. Simply, don’t read it. They are considerate enough to give you that choice, so the time period doesn’t have to be that long.

But what about a movie like Citizen Kane? *SPOILER ALERT* The sled is named Rosebud. I’ve never seen the movie, though, but I know this. That plot twist is a part of our collective consciousness over time and has been rehashed time and again. The Titanic? It sinks. Darth Vader? Luke’s father. I can go on. These aren’t spoilers anymore… or are they?

How much do I want to watch Citizen Kane now? Well, it’s Orson Welles first feature film and is considered by many to be one of the greatest films of all time. I would absolutely still watch it, even knowing the twist. But, I won’t lie, still knowing it possibly kills some of the potential enjoyment, and I can’t say how much enjoyment was lost. Maybe a little, maybe a lot. Either way, knowing some enjoyment was lost makes me less likely to pick it up. I’d pick it up for every other reason than the plot, but I like plot. Plot is one of my favorite things!

Another article a friend of mine wrote posits simply, there is no statute of limitations. None, and I happen to agree with a lot of his points. Who is it that determines, about someone else’s personal entertainment, when it is finally okay to ruin a story for them? Game of Thrones is going to be around for a LONG time, both the books and the TV shows. What, really, is the rush? Why is it so important to watch it the second that it airs, and why am I then considered deserving of spoilers if I don’t? People work. We have lives. Commitments. Other hobbies. If I want to watch it 10 years from now, who are you to make the choice to spoil any of it for me? Whether to spoil or not should be a personal choice and not be forced upon you.

Spoiler Alert Banner

Avoiding All Media

I hear one of the greatest arguments for pro-spoiling is simply that if you don’t want to be spoiled, just avoid social media. Really. That’s the best argument? In this age of social media, the main argument to avoid spoilers is to avoid social media completely. Can we talk about how lame of a sentiment that is?

If you don’t want to hear me, maybe you should stop listening. … Right.

Maybe you should care less about what I have to say. … Really?

By coming on social media, you’re just asking to be spoiled. … Wow.

I was even told something like this a few days ago in a discussion I was having about spoilers. It was a group of friends who always change their profile picture to the latest character who died on Game of Thrones. I called them out on it, and got the reply:

“Mike, you have to have been paying attention to my profile pictures and the show to be spoilered…” 

This harkens back to my main points above. Why do I have to be paying attention to the show? I may in the future decide that I really want to watch it. The media isn’t going anywhere and I’m not actively searching out sites that tell me anything about the latest storylines, just in case I may want to.

Then paying attention to my friends profile pictures? That’s one of the major parts of social media! The images that you use to represent yourself digitally to the world. You post it to your social media, and then expect those who are your friends… to just not pay attention? To just un-see what you’ve already shown them?

As I said, I grew up without cable television and I’ve lived my whole life without it, but I am definitely a creature of the computer age. As such, social media is important to me. I have embraced it fully, having a Facebook account, Twitter, and many other smaller networks and online social groups. So, if I want to avoid being spoiled, I should give up a large part of my own social identity? Sacrifice my own life on the off chance you feel like talking about your favorite shows? Not happening. If social media was such a fringe element to the social spectrum, it might be easy to avoid, but this is a new age and it’s not a small part anymore.

No, I’m sorry. The answer isn’t to avoid social media entirely. It’s sadly to hide or unfollow those individuals who feel the need to spoil. As I said above, it’s terrible that this choice would have to be made at all, as these are our friends, but it’s much easier to avoid one person than avoid social media entirely.

Spoiler Alert!

But what else can someone wanting to post spoilers really do? How about, simply, think before you post! Think about what effect your post may have on others, and if you think it may possibly affect them negatively, either post a warning or maybe not post it at all. I have seen plenty of people posting their “reviews” of just-seen movies, but most are generally very aware of the possible spoilings and make a note of that. It helps them look good as they can still show belonging to the social group, but then it also shows that they care about those around them and know that not everyone wants to see it. Best of both worlds, really.  I have skipped many a post or article due to these warnings, and I’m appreciative that they’re there.

So, What Are We To Do About Spoilers?

I try to be happy person, I really do. In the end, it’s never about the individual spoil itself. It could be a character death, it could be a huge plot twist, the ending of Lost, or the Sopranos, a Harry Potter book, or even your favorite Broadway play.

But I’m just going to come out and say this: If you post spoilers, without giving others the option to avoid them, if you essentially force them upon others, with the only choice being to avoid you entirely… Stop.

It’s inconsiderate, socially unacceptable, and just rude.

The age old saying truly comes into play. Treat others as you would want to be treated yourself. If you don’t want to have your favorite shows, movies, or games ruined, then maybe you shouldn’t ruin them for others.

But hey, we all aren’t perfect. I use to *be* a spoiler, and didn’t realize the damage I was doing until *I* was called out on it. Posting spoilers, unless it’s purposeful and malicious, is a minor offense at best. If these people are truly your friends, it’s very easy to forgive and forget. Live and learn.

As always, thank you for reading.

// Ocho

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