Gaming Resolutions for 2014

Neverwinter, Foundry

Can we somehow make this a drinking game? Alright, for every one of these resolutions I actually make, we take a drink. Deal? I like this idea.

But, seriously, although I missed a day or two of Murf’s Listmas Extravaganza, it looks to have been a wild success. I mean, really, look at all of those lists. 67! I count 67 lists. I may, in the near future, take a look and highlight a few of them. But, seriously, good on Murf for taking the ball and running with it and good on the folks over at United We Game for keeping score.

But, if you’re not tired of lists, I have one more list for you all, and it is simply my list of gaming resolutions for the new year. Yes, despite rumors to the contrary, I will be keeping up this gaming hobby for the foreseeable future, so why not resolve to make it as awesome as possible. Here are my goals, in no particular order, and the probability I give myself of actually completing them.

The Walking Dead

Finish The Walking Dead, 400 Days, and Walking Dead: Season 2

I haven’t finished Walking Dead yet and I’m really not sure why as it is quite an awesome and compelling story they’ve penned. I plan to finish up the first season, play the interim game, and then catch Season 2 on a good sale and finish that. Really, this should take that long. Probability of completion: 90%

Achieve Max Level in Neverwinter

I play Neverwinter in spurts. Awesome features like the Gateway, Foundry, the storyline, and wanting to see the latest modules all make me want to jump in and play to cap. But there is always something that seems a *little* more worthwhile to play. However, I want to get to max level so I can play these modules, which I’m sure will keep coming, along with new classes. Being around level 30, I may have a ways to go. What even IS the max level these days? Probability of completion: 70%

Play More Older / Indie Games

If 2013 had something awesome going for it, it was the crop of Indie games that came out of the woodwork. I mean, really, a metric ton of them, and I just want to play them all. I still have yet to pick up Gone Home, but I have picked up games like UnEpic, To the Moon, Dust, Braid, and Dear Esther, and I need to give them a solid shake. Also, as are many others, I’m a big fan of older games and need to play a few of them as well. I think I’ll develop a random system to do this. Set up a list of games I really should play, and then run it through a number generator or something. Keep me on my toes. Probability of completion: 50%

Finish the Bioshock Series

I played the original Bioshock and it blew my mind. Yes, it was a shooter on rails, but the world you railed through was tremendously well crafted. For a cheap game I picked up at Target, I was ridiculously impressed. So, I own Bioshock 2 and Bioshock Infinite, but I feel I have to play them in order.  Probability of completion: 80%

Shroud of the Avatar

Don’t Buy As Many Games and Play What I Already Own

This goes hand-in-hand with with “Play More Older / Indie Games” because I already own a metric ton of older and indie games… I just need to give them more priority. This past Steam Winter sale (which I know isn’t completely finished), I’ve maybe spent a grand total of $12 on 4 games. I’m slowing down on buying, but I think that is because the sheer mass of owned games is becoming a force of reckoning on my mind. Now let’s see if I can focus…. maybe. Probability: 30%

Guild Wars 2

Achieve Max Level in Guild Wars 2 

All the fun stuff seems to occur at max level, and if they spread it out a bit, it’s not exactly optimal. I like the concept of the living story, though I haven’t really liked how they’ve rolled it out. However, since it looks like Guild Wars 2 is going to be bringing the rosy story of Scarlet to a close, now is as good a time to get in there and jump to max so I can join in on all the Season 2 fun. Probability: 70%

Play Through Guild Wars 1

It’s still kicking. ANet hasn’t cut the cord to the server just yet, and I keep comparing Guild Wars 2 to Guild Wars 1. You see, I REALLY want to like Guild Wars 2 more than I do, and I think a way to do that is to complete all the storyline in Guild Wars 1. This may backfire, though, and show me the missed potential that Guild Wars 2 has, but either way Guild Wars 1 is still a beautiful game that is still running. But let’s be honest: Probability: 25%

Secret World, End of Days, Shadowy Forest, Vestige

So that’s it. As you notice, nothing about any of the new MMO’s coming out, although I can’t seem to gather a real interest in them. This may change. I am a sucker and do like the new shiny as much as others. My wallet does not usually agree with latest shiny, though. Tokyo and Shroud of the Avatar may end up taking up a huge chunk of my time, too. We shall see, I guess.

From all of us here at the Casual Aggro household, I wish unto thee the greatest of New Years! May it bring you health, wealth, happiness, and as much gaming as you can handle! As always, thank you for reading.

Game on, my friends.

// Ocho

Listmas 2013: 5 Similarities between Star Trek Online and The Secret World #TSW #STO

The Secret World, Tyler Freeborn

I know what you’re thinking: What? Similarities between Star Trek Online and The Secret World? Hey, they’re both fiction, and you’ll find element of everything in everything else if you look hard enough. What, truly, in this world is original? It’s not so much that we use these assets, it’s how we use them that make these stories great.

So, as Richard Sonnac would say when imitating his (probably) favorite British actor, “Engage!”

Star Trek Online, Secret World, Sword, Dual Pistols, Flamethrowers

5) The Weapons: Swords, Dual Pistols, and Flamethrowers

I feel like some of these really shouldn’t be in these games. Star Trek has a flamethrower?! The Secret World, with it’s shotguns and assault rifles has swords?! And dual pistol wielding classes are everywhere these days, so why not, I guess.

Star Trek Online, Secret World, Androids

4) Androids

Human-like machines capable of performing tasks. In Star Trek, they’ve been given quite a few more personal rights than we see in The Secret World, but in Star Trek mythos, the advanced programming of Androids borders on conscious thought, and in one of the greatest episodes of Star Trek, Next Generation: The Measure of a Man, the court rules in favor that Data, an Android, does indeed have rights and benefits of any other sentient being. If there’s one great takeaway from Star Trek, it’s that you should fight for your rights, and fighting is the right thing to do, be it Android, Hologram, or Klingon, our rights are one of the greatest gifts we hold dear.

Star Trek Online, Secret World, Agartha, Wormholes

3) Portal Transportation

Entering a portal on one side of the world and suddenly being thousands of miles away. There isn’t any teleporting in The Secret World yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it made an appearance at some point (that Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle is rather tricky). On the Star Trek side, we have wormholes. Stellar phenomena that link two points in space over vast distances. In The Secret World, we have the portals, linking many different points in the world to the mythical Agartha.

Star Trek Online, Secret World, Time Travel

2) Time Travel

It wouldn’t be Star Trek without some time travel. Though the Department of Temporal Investigations tries to keep all altering of the timeline to a minimum, shenanigans still happen. My favorite Star Trek time travel episode: Deep Space 9’s Trials and Tribble-ations. Hands down. Not a lot of gravitas, and the episode leans on the side of humor, but boy is that episode candy to a Star Trek fan. In STO, time travel also occurs quite frequently. One of my favorites is the mission Everything Old is New, part of the Devidian Featured Episode series. In Secret World, time travel happens quite a lot less, except in the Last Train to Cairo, Indiana Jones styled missions. The mission A Time To Every Purpose sends the player back in time to recover an artifact for the ever stylish Said, and starts the player on a pretty kick-ass journey through time to prevent another Tokyo disaster.

Star Trek Online, Secret World, Holodeck

1) Holodecks

I thought I would never see this in The Secret World, but again taking a page from Star Trek’s futuristic books, the Council of Venice creates a series of, well, Holodecks. You use them in the game’s latest Scenarios to provide extra training and ways to augment your own abilities. So in TSW, they’re not used as a way of relaxing, but I’m sure the Council, when they have a few minutes, might program in a Jamaican vacation or two when the boss isn’t looking. I know I would.

In the realm of fantasy, nothing is absurd. Sometimes, it’s great to let our willing suspension of disbelief have free reign.

Do you think I missed any? I’m sure I did.

// Ocho

P.S. – Whoops, I missed a day of Listmas. Bah humbug.

Listmas 2013: For My 100th Post, My Top 10 Favorite Posts on Casual Aggro

Today’s list, in celebration of Listmas, is going to be one that is a little self-aggrandizing. Forgive me, but I think I have a little reason to celebrate: This, right here, is my 100th post!!

Alright, 100 posts is not a big deal to some people who post daily, who can make that number in a couple months. But that’s not how I roll, I’m certainly not as prolific, and writing was by-far not my best subject in school. In fact, I’d still find more pleasure in working on a math problem that takes up three pages than write a three page paper. I think I spend way too much time fiddling with my text, making sure it’s as error-free as possible, and overall I’m still pretty hard on myself.

Yet, I’m still here and still posting, because deep down I feel like I am making a positive contribution to this hobby. I feel like I am making a difference, no matter how small, to this burgeoning industry, and I’m glad to be a part of such a huge, positive community.

So, for your enjoyment, here are what I consider to be my top 10 favorite posts of what I’ve written so far.

Guild Wars 2

10) Really, Why Are There Levels in Guild Wars 2

To this day, I’m still not positive why there are levels in GW2. As a form of measure of character improvement, I know it’s been around for ages, but I still believe there are better measures. Abilities, Gear, etc. I had the thought a while ago, that the whole reason why we go through the gear grind is simply to make content easier for us. That those who want difficulty truly don’t really want it. A leveling curve, if you keep up with it, just makes all content feel like the same difficulty. I’ll have to write more on this later…

9) NBI: List of Blogging Do’s and Don’ts

I started blogging during the first Newbie Blogger Initiative back in May of 2012. Alright, 100 posts in 20 months, that’s still 5 posts per month, which is still pretty good. But when the second Newbie Blogger Initiative came around this past October, I was a veteran. I had seen the horrors of blogging, and came back with stories and advice to give. This was not only a post to help the New Newbie Bloggers, but an acknowledgment of how far I have come.

Star Trek Online, Vault, Shuttle

8) Time Gates and MMOs Don’t Mix

Star Trek Online, for a while, had the brilliant idea to make some content only available during a small period of time. This made no sense, especially for those of us who don’t play a game all the time, or play casually. Keeping players away from playing content is just a terrible idea. Thankfully, they came to their senses. The content now can be played at anytime, with benefits for playing at specific times. Much better.

7) A Personal Argument Against the Always-On Trend

 I love MMO’s, but one of the key features of MMOs is that you’re online while you play them. But for single player games demanding that you always have an internet connection just to play them, under the guise of DRM, where you get no benefits from the internet connection, doesn’t make much sense. If I need to be connected, give me a good reason to be.

Battle Bards

6) Top 5 Favorite Video Game Music Compositions, A BattleBards Inspiration

Confession: Music was a big part of my life for a long time. In high school, I sang in the choir, was a member of the select choir, was a part of the band, and was a part of every musical production. Out of high school, I initially went to a big music school, was a part of a prestigious choir, and learned a lot about musical composition. Then, I was a part of student-run theatre organizations, starred in more musical productions, and then got offers to start working in New York theatre off Broadway, which I did for a couple minor productions.

Nowadays, music is not so big on my list of hobbies, but I still have a deep appreciation for it. So, combining music and gaming in a podcast is like combining chocolate and peanut butter. It’s perfect. Syp, Syl, and Mogsy do the honors in the BattleBards podcast, and I haven’t missed an episode yet. One of these days, I’m going to write in and tell them my appreciation, but I think telling all of you fine readers and passing along their work is worth a lot more. So, if you enjoy podcasts, and you enjoy video game music, check them out.

5) Master of Orion and Syp: A Tale of Humanity

I do mention Syp a lot on this blog, but he was the one that initiated the Newbie Blogger Initiative, and so is a big inspiration for me. Syp was playing the game Master of Orion, and blogging about all the details of the epic battles along the way. I’ve never played Master of Orion, but during this series of posts, I was really drawn in. Mostly because he was using other bloggers names as the names for planets, and this added a fun depth of community. But, really, it showed why we love games that let us forge our own path, and that is that we can create our own stories.

Also, Mr. Joseph Skyrim over at his JVT Workshop is doing the same, but playing the awesome old-school game Darklands. Give it a read.

Shroud of the Avatar

4) Shroud of the Avatar, DRM, and Why The Gaming Industry Should Take Notice

Shroud is going to have a very open-ended way of playing their game. First and foremost, though, is exactly what the game is. Is it a single player game? Is it an MMO? What is it? The answer is a combination of both, but I think it’ll lean more toward the single-player. If you want to play Shroud, you can play without an internet connection single-player, you can play with a connection and still play single player, you can play solo where other community members affect your game, and finally you can play and have other players play alongside you. So, an MMO? Not really, but it’s a lot more than just your average single-player game.

3) The Best MMO Payment Model Ever

In this post, I take a hard look at payment models, and why there is such a passionate fight behind them. I weigh the positives and negatives of each model, and reason what would be the best theoretical payment model. Hint: It’s Buy-To-Play.

Perfect World, Neverwinter, Star Trek Online

2) For Love of the Grind: 5 Reasons Why We Grind

Grind. Even though it has 5 letters, it feels like a 4 letter word. Many people rail against it, and burnout of playing a game is largely due to how much grind that game makes you go through. However, if our games didn’t have grind, they wouldn’t be MMOs. Grind is a necessity in our games, but is also one of the worst forms of content. In this post, I go over reasons why we still grind, despite our passionate fights against it.

1) How MMOs Are Adapting the Psychology of Casinos 

Yesterday my wife and I drove down to Atlantic City to attend a timeshare presentation. They were very accommodating, but we didn’t fall for their tactics, which included loud music to prevent overhearing others, making a big deal when somebody signed up for one of the timeshares, trying to drive a wedge between my wife and myself so we would fight each other, and playing very specific music guised as background music. I think I heard “Let’s Hear it For The Boy” from Footloose multiple times. Dance music from 1984? Fascinating.

I’ve lived a short distance from one of the USA’s gambling meccas for my entire life, and they’ve just built a few casinos across the river from us in Philadelphia as well. So, when entrenched with the psychological tactics that the casinos use to try separating one from their hard-earned money, you tend to understand the tactics, see them for what they are, and either go along with them, or fight them. However, the same tactics these casino use work so well that MMO’s have picked them up as well. This post details a few tactics that both MMOs and Casinos use, and they may not be exactly what you think they are.

Star Trek Online

So, there you go. 100 posts. It’s been a fun journey so far, and one that I will keep up with for as long as I feel like I’m making a difference. Hopefully, I’ll see you at 200.

// Ocho

Listmas 2013: 5 Games That I Have Zero Interest In #Listmas

Privateer, Star Citizen

To correspond with yesterday’s list of 5 Games I Am Really Looking Forward To, today my list is the opposite, 5 Games That I Have Zero Interest In. None. Well, it’s none, or it’s very minimal. Whenever I see a post come up on these games, my first reaction is generally a huge eye-roll. Like “Oh no. Not this again.” I’ve left the hype train at the station a long time ago and I am just not jumping on.

I’m not entirely sure why I’m not getting on all the hype trains. Maybe I’m tired of jumping from game to game. Maybe I’m tired of making what seems like stagnant progress that adding yet another game to my currently playing list (which would also mean kicking one of them to the curb), isn’t that enticing. My current stable of MMO’s that I’m playing primarily are The Secret World, then Neverwinter, then the sidegames Guild Wars 2 and Star Trek Online. The last two I even haven’t played in a long while, so any of these new games will have to top my interest of even them.

So, these are the games I am wholeheartedly NOT on the hype train for.

5) Star Citizen by Cloud Imperium Games Corporation

Chris Roberts had a big hand in some of my favorite old school games, the Wing Commander series. And Wing Commander IV is still one of my favorites. Mark Hamill, John Rhys-Davies, Malcolm McDowell, and Tom Wilson are just a few in the star studded cast. Star Citizen, which has received an exuberant amount of funding, and looks to be a rebirth of the series in the MMO space, looks fantastic on paper. But yet, it doesn’t feel right. Have you ever played Privateer? Privateer is the base of Star Citizen. An individual pilot, you making funds trading and taking out the random pirate here and there, helping the local authorities, and then when you think you’re good enough to explore outside your own system, you’re shown how wrong you are. The game has an intense ability curve, such that if you leave the starting area of like, 4 planets, you better have already grinded out the best ships and the best weapons. If not, you’ll be coming back to those saved games over and over again. I also feel like they’re going for a more active combat EvE Online, and since I don’t really have any interest in EvE Online, either, this isn’t helping.

4) Wildstar by Carbine Studios

I do have a little interest in Wildstar, but it is only after hearing some of the news coming out after the press NDA drop. But that interest is slim. From what it sounds like, Wildstar is essentially an active-combat stylized World of Warcraft in space, mixing in some elements of Guild Wars 2. That sounds great and all, but when the game’s closest cousin is World of Warcraft, that is not that enticing. I played the heck out of World of Warcraft ages ago, then completely stopped after I looked at exactly how much I spent on that one game. On a whim, I bought the Cataclysm expansion, signed back in, took a few steps in Azeroth, and realized all the things that made me quit in the first place, and haven’t returned. The cheesy dialogue, the overly cartoony graphics. It just rubs me the wrong way, and Wildstar looks like it’s taking all the things that Warcraft has that I found annoying (including the subscription), and making them the game’s focus.

Skyrim, The Elder Scrolls Online

3) The Elder Scrolls Online by Zenimax Online and Bethesda

I love the Ender Scrolls series. I’m a huge fan. I started playing with Arena, skipped over Daggerfall, and then played the hell out of Morrowind, Oblivion, and Skyrim. I love the lore, I love the open-ended single player style. So much so, that I don’t think the game will work in the MMO space. Making an Elder Scrolls game into an MMO, you’re taking away some big keys of what makes it feel like an Elder Scrolls game. Yes, the games do have a linear story, but in the single player games, you could ignore the single player story for as long as you want and still have a massive game ahead of you. In themepark MMO’s, if you ignore the main story, you don’t get very far. I don’t think there’s a way to have your cake and eat it, too. Trying to create a game that’s a Themepark and Sandbox simultaneously, you’re going to either make a terrible Themepark or a terrible Sandbox. And what makes The Elder Scrolls single player games great is that they get that combination right! I just don’t think that it will work as an MMO.

2) Rift by Trion Games

My apathy with Rift first started during the game’s beta. Not only was my system having a really hard time with the graphics, such that I had to turn all the settings down to their lowest, but I found the game’s core mechanics terribly annoying. I started as a Defiant character, and started the standard moving from quest hub to quest hub, leveling up. Except I would kill my ten rats, come back to the quest hub, and there would be a rift having taken it over. And I remember thinking “Cripes, this rift is just getting in the way. I just want to turn in this quest and head on to the next hub, but I can’t!” I found the rifts to be annoying, and when the game is called Rift… yeah, it’s just not going to work out.

World of Warcraft, Warlords of Draenor

1) World of Warcraft by Blizzard

World of Warcraft was my first foray into MMOs. And I loved it for the few years that I played it. I met some great friends that I still have and keep in touch with to this day, and I have a lot of great memories from the game. But I feel like I’ve matured, I’ve grown up, and going back to World of Warcraft is as appetizing to me as going back to high school. It was a great starter MMO, but it is far from perfect. I’m not a fan of the end-game grind, which is then completely nullified when the next expansion comes out and you start at the beginning again. Over time, they’ve included some great improvements. Tokens, instead of a slot-machine loot system. Easier grouping tools, and easier access to raids. But, even with that, I feel like I’d be taking a large step backwards if I headed back to WoW. So, this new upcoming expansion with housing? No thank you. I wish Blizzard and all WoW players well, but it is simply not for me.

Now, please, go ahead and tell me how wrong I am.

// Ocho

Listmas 2013: Top 5 Games I Am Really Looking Forward To In The New Year #Listmas

Mirror's Edge

A Happy Listmas to you, kind sir! What?! You haven’t heard of Listmas?! But, tis’ the Listmas season!

Listmas is the time of year when we bloggers get together and make lists! Why? To entertain! To inform! To annoy! To… well you get the picture. So I decided to join Mr. C.T. Murphy over at Murf vs Internet and Ms. J3w3l at Healing the Masses and am getting myself into the Listmas spirit with my first list of the season.

However, I’m not that imaginative. So sue me. My first list is a little thing to break the Listmas ice, if you will, games that I am really looking forward to in the new year. Now, I know, I read the same Massively article you probably did, that 2014 is going to be a big year in the MMO space. We’re going to have The Elder Scrolls Online in April, Wildstar, Everquest Landmark, etc. three games which are highly anticipated… and I don’t really have any interest. Maybe a little for Wildstar, but at this point, not a single one has really drawn my interest.

So what AM I looking forward to?

5) Dreamfall Chapters: The Longest Journey by Red Thread Games

I won’t lie, I have actually never played The Longest Journey or Dreamfall: The Longest Journey. But this title, being created by Ragnar Tørnquist’s independent Red Thread Games, under license by Funcom, has caught my attention. I feel like, as a gamer, I have missed out by not playing The Longest Journey series. And after playing The Secret World for as long as I have, and loving it as much as I do, if the story is anywhere near as good, then I need to go back and play them as soon as I can. This iteration isn’t slated until November, so I do have plenty of time. But around that time, my dance card may be a little filled up with other games on this list…

4) Broken Age by Double Fine and 2 Player Productions

The second of  three Kickstarter funded games on my list so far, Broken Age is the name decided on for the big Double Fine Adventure Kickstarted what feels like ages ago. You know, who knows if this will even launch in 2014. It may not. The Kickstarter funded fully in March of 2012, and since then, they’ve been working hard on the project. I haven’t payed the greatest of attention because I really want to be surprised, but so far it looks like they’re pulling in voice talent from all over the place including both Jack Black and Wil Wheaton. And the artwork? I can’t wait.

3) Might and Magic X: Legacy by Limbic Entertainment and Ubisoft

I started playing the Might and Magic series all the way back with Might and Magic IV: Clouds of Xeen. Combined with Might and Magic V: Darkside of Xeen, this created a seriously epic experience that made a tremendous lasting impression on me. Since then I’ve played a few more of the series, but they didn’t have that same feel that World of Xeen had. Then they came out with the Heroes of Might and Magic series, and I played a ton of that as well. But the Heroes series is totally different than the originals, and though they are fun (and lengthy) strategy games, they don’t hold up to the initial Might and Magic awesomeness. However, it looks like Might and Magic X: Legacy will change that. Take a look at that trailer on the Steam page. That looks like it will be simultaneously back to basics, but in a modern way. This is set for a release in January, so it may be the first game I pick up.

2) Mirror’s Edge 2 by Electronic Arts

Alright. I’m not a huge fan of EA. I feel like they played a big part of ruining one of my favorite game series of all time, Ultima, with their intervention in Ultima 8 and Ultima 9 and for that, I will always see them in a negative light. However, not too long ago I picked up Mirror’s Edge in a Steam sale, played it, and was blown away. A First Person Shooter, where the protagonist doesn’t shoot. She runs, and jumps, and kicks, and slides, and bounds from rooftop to rooftop in this utopian world with a dark underbelly, trying to make right a terrible wrong. For me, it hit all the right notes. So, when I heard about Mirror’s Edge 2, I was really excited. So far, it looks like it has a 2014 release date, but we’ll see. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Shroud of the Avatar

1) Shroud of the Avatar: Forsaken Virtues by Portalarium

The first RPG that I ever played was Ultima 6. It was a true game changer in my young world. Interaction with NPC’s was fully text-based with keywords. The game had an economy where you could make money without resorting to fighting. And the lore, the lore of the game had already stretched back 5 games before it. So, when Richard Garriott announced his Kickstarter campaign to create another game, not in the same world, but in the same spirit of the old Ultima games, I was right there. So last weekend, I jumped into Release 1, the first release of the playable Alpha for Shroud of the Avatar, and I came out of it a lot more impressed than I thought I would be. I’m going to expound more on this at a later date, but the overall impression I got was that it truly felt like an Ultima. I’m sure the text conversations I had played a lot into it, but I don’t care. I think they’re definitely on the right track, and with 10 months still to go before they release Episode 1, I’m sure they will get there.

So what are you excited for?

// Ocho