Thursday, September 30, 2010

Dead rising 2, a look at survival horror and upcoming schedule

Evening folks.  I finally got my hands on a copy of Dead rising 2 (after an adventure getting to the Gamestop) and have given it a few hours of my time.  So far I have to say, it's like the first one, with some new weapons, no camera to take photos, and beyond that I have not noticed anything else much in the way of differences (the zombies do look different, so I'll give them that)  I'll be giving it an in-depth look, as we're very close to the month of October, and as a huge fan of survival horror games, I'm going to be talking about the genre as a whole, some of my favorite, and least favorite games in it, and how things pan out in them.  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Walls, barriers, obstacles and what's keeping you from the treasure.

    Take a look at almost any game you find.  The dank, dungeon walls in D&D that the party follows and wish they could bust through to get into that next room.  The giant immobile objects in a doorway preventing your party from accessing the latest wing of a room.  That ledge that is a bit too high to climb up, or that wall that you always seem to clip through and get shot at.  We've all run into these kind of things in our various travels throughout the various gaming worlds.  They can range from merely laying out how a dungeon or area should look, to being obstacles we need to overcome, to artificial barriers constructed by other players to keep others out of a certain area.
    Every game has barriers like this in them.  Think of any time you've tried to go into an area that looks like you should be able to get to it by some means, and watch as your unable to arrive at your destination.  Sometimes these are commonly seen and even expected.  In games such as Diablo 2, Counter Strike and even some strategy games like starcraft, walls are placed in certain area to direct a player in a certain direction, to provide cover from enemy fire, or to provide another layer of strategy that the player can use or have use against them.  They're expected in almost every game we play.  We generally assume that the mountains off in the distance are inaccessible, or that we cannot go around the fearsome beast in the doorway and instead have to either defeat it or trick it into leaving it's position.  Developers use walls to help players make better sense of an area, to mayhaps give warning of dangers that lie nearby, or even to slow down progression.  This is not to say obstacles and walls have not been abused.
    An old story from the days of Everquest talks about guilds using ogres to block doorways.  The game had collision detection, which means that when two players met, they could not pass through one another.  So guilds would have ogres, the largest character model at the time, let the guild into a room, and then stand in the doorway, barring the way for other people to enter.  This was a clever use of game mechanics that used the in-game detection of other players to prevent other players from accessing areas in the game.  This of course was a use the developers did not intend for, and thus we can see that barriers in this case were used as a barring mechanism instead of their intended goal, which was to prevent overcrowding of areas.
    Of course, players have also used it not just against other players, but against monsters in dungeons as well.  Stories abound of players using wall clipping to attack monsters but be unable to be attacked by them, or even to kite them around an area so that by the time the monsters reach them they are dead.  The players are using the walls, obstacles and barriers around them to manipulate the monsters to their advantage.  Of course, sometimes the terrain is used against the players.  Having certain bosses be invulnerable on certain sides, or even have to be maneuvered off of ledges or into certain areas where the terrain hurts them.
    We can all remember those times when walls frustrated us to no end.  We knew something was on the other side, but were unable to actually get to them or could not find our way around the path presented to us.  We wanted to check out that weird building by the end of the game road, only to run into an invisible wall or clip through into some weird pocket dimension we were never meant to get into.  As long as we have games, we are going to be stuck, with walls.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

New games coming out

So, been trying to catch up on some games lately.  Picked up Deathspank, thongs of virtue over the weekend.  Think of it as a cross between diablo and monkey island style humour.  The first game was very well done, and the second game has kept the humour level going, but every enemy so far seems to be ranged, and you lack any decent infinite ammo ranged weapons like the first game, so it's taken a little bit of adjusting between the two games.  Looking forward to Dead Rising 2 this week, along with some more games of Civ V and starcraft 2.  So of course, time for some mechanics, today we are looking at travel.

So why travel you ask?  Almost every game has some form of travel in it.  From sonic racing across the fields, to flight paths in world of warcraft, to hopping between pipes and gaps in mario brothers, traveling is in every game, and every game does it differently.  Now, most games use travel as just a means, a way to get from point A to point B, without much fanfare.  We do have a whole genre of games devoted just to traveling, racing games (of which I fully admit I have not played much of so I cannot comment much on them right now).  Of course, some games also use travel as a small mini game, like Kingdom hearts in the gummi ship.  It's a way to travel between worlds, and also a small space mini shooter.  Travel can also occupy most of the aspects of a game, such as exploration.  Adventure games reward traveling from place to place by unlocking new items you can use, while some online games grant new forms of travel across vast stretches of land, reducing the amount of time needed to get there.

So,  some games actually seek to cut down on travel for players, either shuffling them from place to place without much input from the user (rail road shooters or even some new rpgs do this) and some games will actually discourage travel outside of certain areas, by putting vastly powerful monsters in your way.  So, this mechanic is kind of weird to talk about, as it's so common and spread out across so many genres that it becomes difficult to pin it down into one form or another.  I've actually had some ideas for some games tat would involve mostly travel as well, but I will save those for a later blog post.

So, with halloween coming up, I'm going to begin putting up some reviews of some survival horror games, some some more in depth looks into what makes a good survival horror games, and maybe even a gust post or two about some games.  Until next time, folks.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Card games

So, tonight we're looking at some card games.  Going to be focusing on two for right now, Flux and munchkin.  Both of them are simple to begin playing, but can be expanded upon with extra sets.  Flux is a simple game played with two basic rules.  You draw a card and play a card.  The game begins with these rules, and each player has three cards in their hands.  To win, you must complete a goal.  A goal is a card that any player can set during their turn, and any player can place a new goal onto the board.  You win goals usually by acquiring keepers.  Keepers are cards such as the cheese, or a rocket, things like that.  Now, along with goals and keepers, you have new rule cards, and actions.  Actions are performed the moment they are played by a player, and usually have the player hand cards around or draw extra cards or even swap cards with another player.  New rules change how a basic turn goes.  This can range from a simple change in the amount of cards drawn or played, or adjusting every other card, making it so if you whistle a tune you get another card, anything like that.  That is where flux aquires it's name from, the rules of the game are constantly in flux, as it were.  The game can last anywhere from a few rounds to going extremely long if enough rules keep changing constantly to make it so people cannot aquire the correct keepers to win.

The second card game, Munchkin is based on dungeons and dragons.  The term munchkin is used to denote someone who knows so much about the game, who focuses so much on getting the most loot/becoming the most powerful their almost impossible to play with.  Everyone starts the game as a level 1 human with no class (this is now required by law to state at each game, it's in the rules).  You play by traversing through a "dungeon" by turning over cards from appropiate decks, fighting monsters, and equipping treasure to increase your effective level.  The game is finished once someone reaches level 10 as their base level.  What makes this game unique is that it encourages cheating.  Equipping items your not usually able to have on you, doubling up on equipment slots, palming cards and such, all is allowed by the game rules, as long as no one catches you.  Of course, anyone at anytime can call you out on it, and if your caught cheating you have to revert back to not cheating and give up any items you should not be using, discard excess cards etc etc.  There are even special dice, cards and such from outside the game that gives you bonuses to cheating, or just even give you permanent pluses to dice rolls and other such things in the game.  So, this is just two examples of the vast amount of card games out there, and I'm hoping to write up some more soon. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Civ 5, board games and so forth

So, started Civilization V tonight (main page).  It's a bit of a change from Civ IV.  So far, culture seems slower to acquire in terms of expanding city influence, and the barbarians also seem much more aggressive and actually have small cites now that they strike from.  They also introduced city states, which are     basically small civilizations that are not competing to win the game.  So I'll write up some more about the game as I play through some more of it.
As for board games, I've been looking at the Ravenloft board game, and a friend of mine is going to let me borrow Hero quest so I can read it over some.  Board game mechanics will be interesting to talk about, as they change from game to game, so it becomes a bit harder to categorize them and discuss them in broad terms.  Going to give it the old college try though.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Short post tonight

Between some internet troubles and lack of any ideas, plus some other stuff that is going on, not much of a post tonight.  Been looking into some new games coming out recently, and trying to wittle down my library of unbeaten games.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Game Genres

Since the days of old, from Pong to Donkey Kong to Sonic, and today, the world of video games has been split into genres of games.  The genres attempt to define a game's base elements, what it's focus is and how it seeks to present itself to the world.  The number of Genres continues to grow to this very day, and right now we are going to take a look at them.

Action - Running, gunning, fighting and seeking to make it to the end.  Action games tend to rely on weapon, lots of well, action and a lone hero facing off against overwhelming odds to save the princess, kill the bad guy, or save the world.  Examples of this include Contra and Devil May Cry.

Adventure - Adventure games tend to be somewhat puzzle solving games, where you don't win by strength or magic, but by wit and wisdom.  Collecting items, solving puzzles and outsmarting your opponents hallmark these games.  Monkey Island and Sam and Max are good examples of this genre.

Role Playing Games (RPG) - RPGs are hallmarked by the ability to permanently improve your character, by raising stats, gaining levels, new equipment and new abilities.  Most RPGs tend to have a story of some kind, involving the main character, saving the world, usually with a team of misfits or heroes to help them.  Any of the Final Fantasy series are good examples of this.

Racing - These games involve driving some kind of vehicle, trying to make it to the end of the track before anyone else.  Gran Turismo is a good example of this genre.

First Person Shooter (FPS) - This genre is marked by being a very competitive genre.  Players take the role of the main player, and it's name come from the view that players use while playing.  You see the game through the eyes of the main character.  Doom and Unreal are prime examples of this genre.

Survival Horror - One of my personal favorite genres.  This usually involves a character in a hostile environment, by themselves, outgunned and outnumbered as they have to run away and survive whatever force is after them.  Whether it be monsters from their own mind, alien horrors or flesh eating zombies, survival horror games are always a good time.  Silent Hill and Dead Space are two good examples of this genre.

Strategy - This is split into two main types.  Turn based and real time (also known as RTS).  Strategy games tend to involve the player being in command of multiple forces, and either through building towns, buildings or gathering resources, they gather more forces and engage their enemies in games of skill and wit.  Civilization and Starcraft are good examples of the two different kinds of Strategies.

Platformer - A platformer is any game where the character has to run, jump, fly, glide or somehow make their way to their destination.  These games are different from action games in that instead of an emphasis on combat, they tend to focus more on the actual travel and present obstacles in a players path to arrive at their destination.  Beyond good and Evil is a very good example of this genre.

Now, the next two are somewhat more new genres.  Turret defense and Defense of the Ancient clones.  Turret defense involves building building or training units to defend a specific location.  This is accaccomplished by defeating your opponents as they arrive, giving you more resources to defend your base.  A Defense of the Ancients (DOTA) clone is a very new genre.  It involves two or more forces controlled by the computer, constantly sending units at each other.  Each player gets control of a hero, who is more powerful then regular units, and thus able to turn the tide of the battle.  They use their heroes powers to either boost their allies, defeat large swaths of minions or kill other enemy heroes.

There are a few more genres, Multi massive online role playing games for example, we could talk about, but I think I've put down enough for one night.  So onto a few small announcements.  The schedule is still tuesday, thursday, sunday, expect the posts to go up late in the evening.  I'm planning to do a review of a few survival horror games around Halloween time, in keeping with the spirit of the season.  I'm also looking to write up a few posts about card game mechanics and a couple of board games that I enjoy.  Until next time folks.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Gaming terms, a quick rundown

As someone who travels the gaming sphere a bit, certain terms continue to pop up and remain relevant from game to game.  I'd like to go through some of those terms tonight, and basically explain what they mean, and how they are generally calculated.

DPS - Damage per second.  This is a calculation of a players damage per second.  This translates to every second of combat, a character is doing X amount of damage.  This is calculated by taking the total length of the fight in seconds and dividing the total amount of damage done by the player.

TPS - Threat per second.  This is the amount of threat a character generates per second of combat.  Calculated in the same manner as DPS, this stat is generally more appropriate to tanks and such.

HPS - Health per second.  This is a calculation of the amount a character heals over a set period of time.

HOTS - Heals over time - This is a mechanic where a heal  will hit a character, and every few seconds afterwards, will give them back some health towards their full health.

DOTS - Damage over time - This is a mechanic where an effect will hit a target, and over the course of a set amount of time, deal damage to that target based upon an in-game calculation.

This is just a quick overview, hopefully Thursdayay I will have a much more in-depth look at some mechanics.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Elemental, War of Magic review

So, finally got settled down to play some more of Elemental, and I can give a quick review of this game. For those of you who may remember it, this game strikes me as an updated version of Master of Magic. You build cities, expand their influence (like Civilization) and construct various buildings inside of them to increase production of units, money and other resources. You get hero units, which are special units that level and can learn new skills and use various weapons/armor, plus be customized to handle certain combat situations better then others.

Now, first off, I'm going to fully admit this game had, and still has me, confused about a few certain aspects of itself. I'm playing through the campaign mode, and it looks like it restricts certain aspects of the game, such as spells, research of new technologies, and claiming of crystals. Crystals grant you increases in types of damage done by certain spells, and I believe they perform other functions as well, but as of yet I am unsure as to their full usage. Construction of buildings also seems weird. The locations of cities they give you in the campaign world seem limited in their scope of size they allow you to reach. They do not give you enough food producing locations to be able to increase the total size of your cities by that much. It also took me awhile to find out how to actually cast spells, as there is no menu or button for them, you must know to click on the mana icon on your characters sheet to access your spell list.

I'd like to return to this review at a later date, as I want to give this game a fair shake.. My initial foray into the game does show some promise, but a more in-depth play through is required to really get into the meat of the game. My initial response is that it looks like it's an overall good game, it needs a bit more polish in the UI department, as the spell issue is just one of the many things I've run into (a cap on total units without any indication of such was also found by accident). So, sorry for being somewhat of a short post, but it's been a busy weekend, and the next few days may also be busy. I'll post something on Tuesday, even if it's just minor thoughts.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Another look at D&D, review and guest blogger

So last time, I went into a bit of detail about the differences between 4th Edition and 3rd/3.5 Edition of D&D.  We talked briefly about how the powers differed between the two, using the fighter as a basis.  Another big change between the two is how saving throws and stats such as Reflex work.  In 3rd/3.5 Edition, basic attacks would go against a characters AC (armor class) and things such as spells, traps, effects and the like would target a players Will, Reflex or Fortitude saving throw.  The Dungeon Master (the person running the world setting) would give the player a number, and if they could beat it by rolling the dice and adding their respective save against it. They either would negate the effect, or the effect would be lessened if they managed to roll a total equal to or higher than the DC (difficulty class) the Dungeon Master had set for them.  When dealing with AC, the DM would roll the monsters attack and if they beat the players AC, the attack would hit.  In 4th Edition, every attack hits a certain stat, be it AC or Reflex or Fortitude etc.  If the attack hits that value, then the attack will go off.  Poison attacks hit Fortitude, some ranged hit Reflex, etc.  So this means that a player has a base defense stat, and the DM has to beat it, the player does not have to roll the dice and add numbers to it.  Savings throw still exist but function differently.  An effect will hit a target; slow, poison etc, and at the end of the players turn, they roll a d20 die.  If they get a 10 or higher, the effect will end.  (Some classes get to roll twice or may get bonuses to certain rolls)  This makes combat flow smoother, and players need to worry about less numbers, which defense stat is needed to save against an effect, if it only gets halved etc or another effect goes off.

So we've talked about how powers work, a bit about combat and some basic other feature differences.  After playing with both systems for awhile, my basic conclusions are thus.  4th Edition is much more streamlined.  Numbers have been simplified enough to make combat and skills easier to flow with, without sacrificing too much of the customization people want in the game.  Meanwhile in 3rd/3.5 Edition, customization is much more prevalent, but comes with the price of having to keep track of a lot more information, depending on which books you are using, what are allowed and such.  Honestly, I enjoy both systems so far, and see myself playing both systems for awhile.

So in my last post, I mentioned I was going to review Elemental, War of Magic (by Stardock Entertainment Official site)  Due to time constraints and other life things going on, I have not had enough time to give this game a good play through, so I'm going to hold off on the review until I have some more time to play through it.  What I will mention though, is I will be having a guest blogger join the site soon.  He'll be adding articles around the same time I am, and also commenting and adding his own thoughts to what goes up here.  Until next time folks.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Dungeons and Dragons, a look

So, I've been playing a bit more 4th Edition of D&D then I have been recently, and got to thinking and discussing with some friends the differences we've been seeing between this and 3.0 and 3.5 Editions Let me preface this by saying I originally started D&D with 2nd Edition, took a small break and spent a long while playing 3.0 and 3.5 Editions, with various supplements to accommodate the different play styles (my favorite setting to this day is still Ravenloft, but that's a different tale). So after playing 4th Edition for awhile and playing around with some of the classes, I feel I've gotten a decent enough grasp to compare the two systems.

Quick intro for those of you that have never played D&D. D&D is a tabletop role playing game, played using dice, miniatures and paper. Players will design characters to play, using core classes such as fighter, cleric, wizard etc etc. You assume control of your character and are thrust into a world that is created by the Game Master, to fight monsters, solve puzzles, rescue people, challenge old powers, whatever the adventure may be. As you conquer the challenges in front of you, you accumulate levels, which grant you more powers, access to new skills and an overall increase in power. What draws so many people to this game is not only the amount of choices available to them (other game systems exist, such as GURPS which grant more choices, but we'll talk about those at another time) but also that there is no real victory. Your end goal is to tell a story involving your character, their exploits, adventures, failures and eventually what happens to them in the end.

So now that we've given out some basic info for people to follow along with, here we go. Now, both systems use similar basics. They both involve basic stats (strength, intelligence etc), races and classes for characters. The first major difference between the two is how classes work. In 3rd/3.5 Editions, a class is a basic template for a character. We'll use the fighter as a good example. A fighter gets an advantage in acquiring more feats then any other core class in the game (feats grant new skills, bonuses with certain weapons, special abilities such as whirlwind attack with weapons etc etc). So as a fighter gains in levels, they begin to diverge quite drastically from each other. So one fighter may decide to invest their feats into certain weapons or attacks, becoming a whirling machine of death, whilst another may take their bend towards a more defensive posture, granting themselves more bonuses to resist effects, extra hit points or even more ways to defend their team mates. A 4th Edition fighter can also go into the realms of tanking or damage dealing, but powers work differently in 4th Edition. They still have feats and stat points, but they gain powers specific to their levels. When you gain a level, you are allowed access to utility, attack, trigger powers etc. These are split into "at will", "encounter" and "daily" powers. How these break down is, an "at will" can be used as many times as you want during an encounter, "encounter" powers can be used once during a fight, and "daily" powers can only be used once per day, no matter how many encounters are in that day. Each of these scale in power, so a daily is quite powerful in it's execution, but you can only use it once, so you need to gauge when it is needed. In 3rd/3.5 Editions, the only classes limited by using powers were generally casters (unless you got into the book for the nine swords, which was the basis for a lot of 4th Edition powers).

This is actually going to be a multi-part post, as I'm trying to make sure my points come across, give me time to better articulate my ideas, and also a plug for my next post, which will be a continuation of this post, and also a review of a new game I just picked up, Elemental, War of Magic.

Thursday, September 2, 2010


Ah achievements. The bane of existences, the reason to keep playing the game long after you've beaten the final boss, and a reason to brag to your friends, both off and online. This is somewhat of a newer mechanic, appearing in consoles and spreading to PC games and other consoles as well. To talk about this mechanic, we will be using three games in particular. Mass effect 1, Crackdown 1 and World of Warcraft. Each one of these particular games have achievements in them, but each one uses them in a slightly different manner.

First off, what exactly are achievements? An achievement is a reward given to the player for a certain task completed. Whether this is defeating a certain boss,completing an in-game event within a certain amount of time or going so far through the game without dying. These usually result in an awarding of points, either gamer score, achievement points or trophies. Now, these points....don't really do much. Mostly they're used to display how much you've done within a game, or how leet you are in regards to a particular game or genre. Crackdown's achievements do this, and they range from some simple ones, such as leveling agility to max, to harpooning 25 or so enemies to a car with the harpoon gun. While putting enemies on a vehicles is fun, it's not something you would normally do in the course of playing, and thus must go out of your way to get this particular achievement.

Mass Effect 1 as more standard achievements, such as killing X number of enemies with a certain weapon or ability. The major difference between these two games in terms of rewards though, is Mass effects achievements actually end up affecting the overall game play. A good example is the soldier class. The soldier is the only class that gets the assault rifle ability. This gives them a distinct advantage in terms of raw firepower. Now, once you've gotten the achievement to kill so many enemies with the assault rifle, you get the option, upon making a new character to give them the assault rifle ability to train as well. Killing so many biological units will net you a bonus to damage against them, achieving so much money opens up new buying options, exploring gives you an experience bonus as you progress throughout the game, etc etc. The achievements in this game actually end up affecting how you play, an thus the player is given another incentive to attempt to get as many as they can.

The last game we will look at for achievements is World of Warcraft. This game has rewards as well for getting certain achievements, but these are merely cosmetic features. Special titles, unique looking mounts and unique in game pets are some of the rewards given to players who spend the time to work on the in-game achievements. While nice to have and definitely a carrot to give to players, the incentive is not there as much, as while it may make your character look cool to have that special flying mount or rare pet following you about, it does not in fact improve your character much, beyond giving them some status in the community you play with.

So there we are, three separate games. All of them use achievements, but each one utilizes them in slightly different ways. As someone who has been called an achievement whore (and has the t-shirt to prove it), they offer something else to do with a game once you've accomplished the main goals within a game. Some are just more fun, and useful to acquire though.