Jaded's Pub

Over the course of the past few days I’ve played the Star Wars Battlefront beta on PC, Playstation 4 and Xbox One. During that time I went from super-excited to huge disappointment and finally to completely conflicted. Here’s why.

The beta offered 3 modes of play: Survival, Drop Zone and Walker Assault. Let’s go through each briefly.

Survival is the only solo/co-op mode in the beta. It’s a pretty simple game where six waves of enemies spawn and attack and you have to kill them. I played it solo and it was pretty easy and not something that would hold my attention for very long. That said, it’s worth noting that the beta had only 6 waves and the full game will have 12, and the beta had only “Normal” difficulty and the full game will have higher difficulty levels. Maybe if the challenge level was higher it’ll be more fun, but I’m not sure. Survival might also be more fun played with someone else; it’s basically “horde mode” which seems popular in other games.

There are two other single player/co-op modes in the final game, Training and Battles. I assume Training is all about Tutorials, but I’m not sure what Battles will offer that Survival didn’t. Hopefully a more in-depth experience.

With the single player content quickly exhausted I headed to the multiplayer mode. The full game will have 7 multiplayer modes but for the demo we had Drop Zone and Walker Assault.

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Multiplayer Mode Select Screen

Drop Zone is 8v8 PVP that plays very much like any other FPS’s competitive mode. It’s fast-paced, short sight distances, cramped and definitely favors quick players that can snap-off headshots regularly. I hated it. I mean, I REALLY hated it. (I also hate this kind of mode in every other FPS in the world.) If you want Stars Wars flavored Call of Duty MP, I guess Drop Zone is for you.

And to be clear, I’m not saying it was bad; my distaste for this kind of gameplay means I can’t even judge a good game from bad in this genre. I’m just saying for me it was terrible and it dashed all my hopes for Star Wars Battlefront. In fact I deleted the beta after playing a few rounds and coming away frustrated and angry.

A friend convinced me to try Walker Assualt. EA does itself a disservice here. If you try to jump right into Walker Assault you’re told you should earn a few levels in Drop Zone first, and that’s what I’d done. For my second attempt at Battlefront I jumped right in Walker Assault at level 1.

And wow, what a difference. I found Walker Assault to be super fun. It is based on the classic “Empire assault on the rebel base on Hoth” scenario. It’s a 20v20 mode with lots of terrain to cover, lots of power-ups, and many many epic moments. Each player spawns as a generic Storm Trooper or Rebel (you can customize your weapon loadout as you gain levels and credits) but via the power-ups strewn across the battlefield you can take control of an AT-ST, the guns in an AT-AT, a Tie Fighter, X-Wing, A-Wing and more. You can also become a hero (Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader depending on your side) and there are more subtle power-ups like Smart Rockets, mini Shield Generators and so on.

The Rebels need to activate a couple of uplinks so that Y-Wings will spawn and bomb a couple of AT-AT’s that are lumbering across the battlefield. Once the Y-Wings hit the AT-ATs they’ll become vulnerable for a few moments, at which time the Rebels have to unload on them. If you’re really good you can pilot a snow speeder and do the harpoon/tow cable “trip-the-walker” move from the movies. The Empire basically just has to prevent the Rebels from destroying the AT-ATs. Eventually they’ll get in range of the shield generator, destroy it and win. The Rebels win if both AT-ATs are destroyed.

There’s a lot to do in this mission even for old guys like me who don’t have the reflexes to compete in games like Drop Zone. I spent a lot of time Activating or De-Activating Uplinks (depending on which side I was on, teams switch sides after every round) or sneaking behind enemy lines to snipe soldiers from unexpected directions.

The scenario has taken some flack for being unbalanced and it is, but it seemed less so on Sunday than it did on Friday, as by Sunday Rebel players had learned what to do. If everyone spawns in and walks away from their gaming consoles the Empire will win, so the burden is really on the Rebels to put up a good fight.

The thing is I never cared if I won or lost. I was IN the Battle For Hoth! That was amazing. Watching X-Wings and Tie Fighters duke it out, seeing walkers stumble and fall, the sky full of blaster fire. It was awesome. You die constantly but there’s no real penalty for doing so, again replicating the ‘cannon fodder’ style of combat we see in the movies. There are hundreds of troops involved in the battle and the game reflects that by giving us immediate respawns with no penalties.

Anyway, so Walker Assault almost sold me on the game except…. it’s not something I played for hours. I’d generally play 2-3 matches and have my fill and go do something else. A few hours later I’d get the itch and come back to play more.

It worries me a little that “Walker Assault” is the name of a “Mode” since it makes me think this might be the only large scale 20v20 battle in the game.

The multiplayer modes not in the beta are still a mystery. “Fighter Squadron” is space combat, I’m fairly sure. But “Supremacy,” “Blast,” “Cargo,” and “Droid Run” all sound pretty vague. If each of them is a single map in the same way “Walker Assault” is then there’s not a ton of content in the game.

And if they are all 8v8 games played on small maps then I have no interest in them. They could have 100 8v8 frenetic headshot-fests and it’d mean nothing to me.

If Star Wars Battlefront had half a dozen missions with the scope and scale of Walker Assault I’d be all over it. But having 3 modes to sample and finding 2 of them are throw-aways makes me nervous. I don’t want to pay $60 to just play Walker Assault over and over and over.

Also, anyone could play the beta for free and there were only 2 MP modes to choose from. Every time I played Walker Assault I got into a game almost instantly. But when the game is $60 (so presumably, there are fewer people playing) and there’re 7 MP modes to choose from, I wonder how long it’ll take to get a 40-person match together. We won’t know that until after launch. Also the beta was limited to level 5. I don’t know what the cap in the final game will be but hopefully level 1 people won’t get tossed in with 39 level 20s.

Basically the beta weekend left me with a bunch of new questions. I want to know if there’s anything more interesting than fighting waves of enemies to do solo. And I want to know if there are more large scale MP maps to play on. So for me, the game is in the “wait and see” category. Once it’s out and we get reports on the other modes and how well MP is working, I might buy.

Here’re a couple of short clips I captured over the weekend. The first 2 are from the PS4 version, the others from Xbox One

Mon_Jul_6_23-02-34_EDT_2015When Destiny came out last September I picked it up on the PS4 and had a grand old time leveling my Hunter from 1 to 20. Then I hit the Light system.

For those who don’t play, you level 1-20 in Destiny like you do in any MMO; gaining experience from killing baddies and finishing quests. Once you hit level 20 a new system, the Light system, kicks in. Basically it’s like hitting cap in an MMO and having your gear score on display. Different bits of gear, starting at 20, have a light attribute, and the more Light you have equipped, the higher your displayed level is.

I played for a couple of weeks after hitting 20 and I think I made 2 levels in that time, finishing at level 22. I mostly play solo and so mostly counted on random drops and I just wasn’t lucky. So I felt like I wasn’t making any progress and drifted away.

A few weeks ago I bought a copy of Destiny for the Xbox One and have once again been enjoying leveling a Titan from 1 to 20. But things were different with this character. First of all, he got some “Strange Coins” (a special type of currency) in the (in-game) mail; some kind of promotion from Bungie I guess. I was able to spend those to get a level 20 gold (Legendary) helmet that had a high Light attribute. As soon as I clicked over to level 20, I donned this helmet and my level jumped to 22.

Then a few hours later I was cheesing some Bounty Quests by picking on really low level bad guys. I was doing a level 3 mission (at level 22) and a random mob dropped a “blue” item (item rarity in Destiny goes white – green – blue – purple – gold) that has a pretty large light level. I put that on and I was level 24.

So over the course of a couple hours I made more progress than I made in a few weeks on my PS4 character, and the difference was the Random Number Generator. I mean seriously, the mission I was doing was so easy I was punching everything to death rather than shooting stuff, and I got a bit of gear worth 2 levels. I didn’t feel in any way like I ‘earned’ that gear or those levels.

OTOH on the PS4 I felt like I couldn’t make any progress at all, because I was less lucky there. I actually logged in my PS4 character because I figured he too had Strange Coins waiting in the mail. And he did, but the Vendor didn’t have anything he could both afford and could use. So again, the RNG foiled me.

The good news is we’re a few weeks from The Taken King, where the level cap will be raised to 40 and you’ll level up to it the old fashioned way, gaining experience from quests and killing mobs. They’ve also promised tweaks to the random stuff so you’re more likely to get gear you can use. The Light system will still determine your power, but as you get higher levels you’ll get access to higher level gear with more light. At least that’s how I understand it.

I’ve been back in WoW for a week now (though I’m still playing other games too). In that time my level 8 Rogue has gotten to level 23, which means I’ve done Elwynn Forest, Westfall and Redridge.

On one level I’m enjoying the new questlines in these zones. If you haven’t played in many years (like I hadn’t), so far there’s basically been one solid quest line in Westfall and Redridge (I’d done parts of Elwynn years back when I created this character so I kind of re-entered it mid-way through so I’m not sure how much it has changed). A lot of secondary quests have been removed but each zone now tells a little story. A cheesy story, I’ll grant you, but they lead you through the zone along a clear path and at the end all your quests are finished, nice and tidy, and you’re ready for the next zone.

While these quest lines are fun, they make the game even more into a themepark. You take a quest and it leads to the next quest and the next. You might get ‘kill ten rats’ sidequests but you complete them more or less naturally in the course of doing the ‘main’ quest. If you’re not doing dungeon runs (and I’m not) it’s all pretty linear. Whether that’s good or bad depends on how much you like wandering about. Of course I could bounce around and go quest in other low-level zones if I really wanted to change things up.

The overall result, to me, is that WoW feels like a game now, and I remember in the past it feeling like a place. It all feels much sillier, too. There are people riding motorcycles, for one thing. As Bhagpuss talked about the other day, the quests riff off of popular culture. Westfall apparently spoofs CSI, which I didn’t really pick up on since I’ve never watched CSI. But Redridge spoofs Rambo and even though I’ve never seen Rambo-the-movie I’ve certainly seen Rambo-the-character with his red headband, so I got what they were going for there. It all starts feeling pretty modern. Then add in a lot of fart and poop jokes (at least more than I remember) and it starts to feel like it’s aimed at kids, too. Any sense of being in a kind of pseudo-medieval world is long gone. This is a video game, for sure.

That’s not bad, it’s just different. The Azeroth that was my home away from home for a time many years ago is gone. It took a period of adjustment to get past that, but once I did I was OK with it and I’m trying to appreciate this new Azeroth on its own terms.

What I’m really struggling with is the pace of combat. I’ve played too many faster-paced MMOs lately, I guess. My rogue is hoarse from saying “I don’t have enough energy” since I’ve become un-accustomed to letting auto-attack run on its own while I wait for resource meters to refill. I also get a lot of “It’s too far away” messages even though I feel like I have my face pressed against the mob. It’s taking real willpower for me to chill out and let my guy fight on his own while I wait impatiently for the opportunity to DO something.

At the same time, let’s talk about easy mode. I finally died once at level 20 but it was kind of a trap and kind of a bad decision on my part. You have to get a key from a stump in the midst of a pack of sleeping wargs, and I stealthed in and grabbed it. When I grabbed it, stealth broke, the wargs woke up and killed me almost instantly. Aside from this one event I’ve never been close to dying, and some named mods seem to have a self-destruct mechanism, they die so incredibly quickly.

At level 20 I got to learn a riding skill and basic mounts are stupid cheap. 9 silver, maybe? Put it this way, I bought 3 of them just to have some variety. A far cry from the days of scrimping and saving to get a mount! Having a mount is pretty handy though my goodness do these models look terrible when riding. My rogue looks like he’s cut from plywood when he’s on his horse, the model is so stiff and upright. Maybe some day Blizzard can find the time and money to redo the riding animations.

On the other hand, if you want a bag, forget it. I looked on the auction house and bags beyond 8 slots are super expensive for a new character. Like hundreds of gold, when I have 6 gold! Balancing that out is that there are flight paths EVERYWHERE so it’s easy to recall or fly somewhere to sell your junk loot.

I also got my first set of spiky shoulder armor, so now my rogue looks like a proper WoW character. :)

I don’t see myself sticking with WoW for very much longer. It’s been fun seeing how they’ve redone the low level zones, but not really fun enough to spend $15/month to play. I’m a solo player so I won’t be doing dungeons or anything which means most of what I’m paying for I won’t use. There are enough decent F2P games to scratch my solo MMO player itch. That’s not a fault of WoW’s though; that’s just who I am.

An idyllic English villageLast night I finished Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture. I wasn’t really sure what to expect going into this experience and in case you’re in the same boat I wanted to describe what it is. This isn’t a review or anything, it’s an explanation.

So here goes. Start with a well-produced radio drama performed by top notch voice actors. Now slice it up so that each scene is in a separate audio file. Now delete a random 1/3 of these files. Take the remaining files and scatter them around a well rendered 3D model of a small English village. Add an amazing soundtrack, and finally set the player free to roam around this village finding these snippets and let them piece together the story for themselves.

And that’s pretty much Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture. There’re no puzzles and there is certainly no combat. It’s all about exploring a village completely devoid of human life and uncovering bits of the story. You’ll get these by finding radios, telephones, and light-based vignettes like this one:

I started off really enjoying this game. (Is it even a game? That’s a discussion for another time.) Then I got a little bit bored/frustrated. There’s no in-game map or compass and I guess I have a poor sense of direction because I kept winding up back at the same place, finding no new story elements. There are in-world maps like you’d find in a nature park or trail system, complete with You Are Here indicators and those do help, but wandering around an empty village could only hold by attention for so long.

The only thing moving in this world are insects and a wisp-thing. Or a ball of light. Or something. You decide when you play what this is. I have my own opinions. Anyway eventually I realized that this ball of light would actually guide me to new locations and once I figured that out my enjoyment of the game came back.

So you wander through this world following, in retrospect, a general path and as you do you encounter the shadows of several people. The story being told is 1 part science fiction dealing with what happened to everyone, and one part soap opera. And you just experience it. You can activate radios and phones, open doors and ‘open’ the vignettes and (aside from moving and looking) that’s all the interactivity here.

The biggest gripe I (and seemingly everyone else) had is the movement speed. You walk pretty slowly. If you hold R2 you can ‘run’ slightly less slowly. I think the slow movement was a design decision based on giving you time to ruminate on what you just saw but still there are times when it gets pretty frustrating. You need to embrace your quiet, contemplative self and just try to go with it.

So should you get Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture? That depends on if you enjoy radio dramas and exploring. If you do this game will be right up your alley. I’m glad I played it though it’s pretty short for a $20 game. (Six hours maybe? If you’re really into exploring you can probably stretch that some.) If money is tight I might suggest waiting for a sale.

Also, and this is a vague spoiler, but if you like your stories to end nice and neatly with all questions answered and all plot lines resolved, be warned that Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture does not tell that kind of story. There’re a lot of questions that you’ll have to come up with your own answers to based on interpreting what you’ve seen. I loved that aspect but I know some folks prefer a nicely wrapped up tale.

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new_character_modelLast night I logged into World of Warcraft for the first time since 2011 (according to my account page).

Was it all the excitement around the new expansion that made me do it? Nope. I paid no attention to the expansion announcement. I know it’s called Legions and saw some squeeing on Twitter about a Demonhunter class and that’s the extent of my knowledge of the expansion. It was in fact beer that caused me to log in.

See Lola and I go hiking on Saturday and yesterday saw a particularly long and tiring hike as well as a couple of shorter walks (the weather was damned near perfect yesterday). By the time we were finished for the day it was 5:30 or so and I had a powerful thirst so I cracked a beer and it was gone in minutes, so I had another. Angela was taking a late afternoon nap so Lola and I continued relaxing on the couch and in due time a 3rd beer was open. I wasn’t up for any gaming so fired up Hulu and noticed they had a Gaming section. Curious I poked my head in there and they had this documentary about World of Warcraft called Looking For Group.

And in the course of watching (and having a 4th beer) I was overcome with a wave of nostalgia. I paused the show and ran upstairs to start downloading WoW “just in case.” About half-way through the show Angela woke up and I stopped so we could have dinner but as soon as that was done I was back to watching. And when it was over I ran upstairs and logged in.

I could, and did, log in with sub-20 characters for free, but noticed I had mail that I couldn’t open, being a freebie character. I also noticed that the character models didn’t seem like the ‘new’ models I’d heard about (though it turns out they are). One thing led to another and I remembered something about Blizzard reclaiming names and to save my names I had to log in my characters (again: 4 beers…in the bright light of morning I’m pretty sure this has all already happened) so I said to heck with it and subscribed for a month, and as long as I was subscribing (and with a vague hope it’d improve the character models) I’d better buy the latest expansion because I want it all! So there went $55.

Then I spent an hour or so logging into every character across the dozen or so servers I have characters on. Because saving our characters that we’ll probably never play is IMPORTANT!

I didn’t actually PLAY the game at all, but walking through Stormwind did feel pretty good in that ‘scratch the nostalgia itch’ way. At least it did until I saw all the changes. I’d forgotten about the cataclysm and that the Azeroth I remembered and at one time loved was gone forever. I was also dismayed to see that (as far as I can tell) the friends lists have been wiped in favor of friending via the battle.net accounts so even if any members of my old guild happen to still be playing, I’d never know it.

It’s true what they say: even in video games you can’t go home again.

So this morning I’m sitting here with a slight headache and a big old truckload of buyer’s remorse. It’s not the first time alcohol has lead me to make bad buying decisions but I hope it’s the last. Of course in the grand scheme of the universe $55 isn’t going to break me.

But now I have a month of time on my account. I can’t decide if I want to play (and potentially ruin all my good memories of the game) or just eat it as a bad decision. I did prod Angela at one time with “You should come play WoW with me” (As an EQ 2 fangirl she’s never played much WoW) and she actually said “Maybe I will.” If she does maybe we’ll roll a couple of panda people or something, and see where that takes us.

I finished The Order: 1886 last night. For the most parted I didn’t like it, but I wanted to talk today about one part that I truly hated.

I can’t really avoid spoilers so if for some reason you plan on playing this game (and I would not recommend it) you might want to skip this post.

To establish a baseline, The Order: 1886 is roughly 50% shooter, 50% Quick Time Events. (If you’re not familiar with that term, think Dragon’s Lair. In other words, segments of the game have you press a specific button in response to on-screen prompts. “Press X now or fail.”)

The ending is one big cut-scene and QTE. At the end of the game Grayson, the character you play as, has been betrayed by a trusted colleague. You’ve gone through a long series of QTE events and now your former colleague, now opponent, is prone on the floor, bleeding, helpless and defeated. Now you have to assassinate him.

Push the Square Button to cock your pistol. Now press R2 to shoot your helpless foe in the head.

Your other option is to quit the game and never finish it. You can’t decide to let him live, maybe see if you can find some solution that lets the two of you go forward. Assassinate him or quit. Those are your options.

Dear Ready At Dawn: That’s a fucked up thing to make your players do and you’ve dropped to one of my least favorite studios because of it.

Now granted you kill a LOT of people up to this point, often (in my opinion) unnecessarily. The main character is pretty much a butcher and a sociopath to begin with. I was already pretty unhappy to be ‘living in his skin’ so to speak. Having the character kill his helpless foe in this way does fit in with his behavior up to this point. You’re playing a complete asshole in this game. I’m not upset so much with the fact that Grayson killed this person, but that I had to pull the trigger. If it had been a non-interactive cut scene (and there are MANY of those in The Order: 1886) I would’ve thought “Yup, Grayson is a sadistic bastard right up to the end. May he burn in hell.”

But making me do it made me feel like shit about myself. I’m kind of disappointed that I didn’t pop out the disk and snap it in half at that point in the game, in fact, but the finish line was so close that my desire for closure overcame common decency.

On the one hand I know it’s silly to feel so strongly about this because “it’s only a game” but I feel like sometimes that doesn’t matter. The Order is a dead-serious game with realistic graphics. There’s no whimsy here. I suppose on some level Ready At Dawn succeeded because it DID matter to me. I was invested enough in the world for it to matter. Plenty of people cry during sad movies even though the people in them are fictitious; fiction can influence our emotions, and that’s what happened to me in The Order. So kudos to Ready At Dawn for making me feel, but screw you guys for making me feel like shit.

Practical ArmorLately I’ve been on a real roller-coaster ride when it comes to Skyforge. I went from not having any idea what it was, to trying it and loving it, to hating it. That took about a week, so my typical timeline!

Tonight I started loving it again. Let’s take a closer look at this affection curve and see what else was going on.

When I was initially loving Skyforge, I had no real idea what I was doing. I was learning the systems (it can be a confusing game) and sharing with my friends as we all figured things out. Everything was good.

Then the game hit a kind of critical mass in my social circles. Everyone was playing it, including my more hardcore friends. They started commenting on how easy Skyforge was (missions are ranked from Very Easy to Impossible and people were saying even the Impossible missions were quite easy), and how quickly you can rise in Prestige (the closest thing the game has to levels) and that got me to examining my own progress. And I wasn’t going very fast. So I started pushing myself. Instead of doing what seemed fun, I was doing what seemed like the most efficient way to gain Prestige. That included taking on Impossible missions, and failing miserably. Then trying Very Hard missions and still failing miserably. And Hard missions? Yup, managed to fail some of those as well.

Now here’s the thing with Skyforge. The combat is action-based. Playing a class well is going to take both know-how of how the class works, and good dexterity when it comes to dodging and stringing together combos. Enemies don’t have a level and neither do you. If you were playing World of Warcraft and you were level 20 and you tried to take on a level 25 named mob and failed, you’d say “Well, it IS 5 levels higher than me…maybe I should level up more before I try it again.” But in Skyforge when you die you don’t have that concrete indicator of your level vs the mob’s level. So you have to figure out what’s wrong. Is the mob just too hard for your character, or do you need to play your character better?

Since it’s not always clear which case you’re dealing with, you fight a boss, die, and try again. And die again. And try a third time, and die a third time. Depending on the kind of gamer you are, this might be really fun, or really frustrating. For me its really frustrating and I’ve rage-quit Skyforge a couple times in the last few days. (It doesn’t help that some of these boss fights can go on for a long time before you die and have to start all over again.)

I was about ready to quit Skyforge, but I’d spent $20 on a month of Premium Time and a sackful of RMT currency. Plus when the game was fun it was REALLY fun.

Today I said “To hell with it.” and abandoned the class I’d been working on (you only get 1 character in Skyforge but you can change classes at will) and start up a different class. I knew this would slow my advancing way down but whatever…I needed a change. Since I didn’t know how to play this class I took on really easy missions. Like “1 shot groups of mobs” easy. But y’know it was kindof fun. I learned a little bit about the class and moved to a higher difficulty area, and it was still fun. I decided to not worry about the “Story Quests” that push your progress forward the quickest, and instead do what was fun.

And I had a ball tonight. I stopped doing the single player missions (which get dead tedious after a few run-throughs) and revisited the “Regions” which are the parts of Skyforge where you’ll encounter other players in open field PvE battles. You don’t need to group to play with other players in Skyforge (though you can). Everyone that gets a hit on a mob gets credit, so groups organically form and disperse around mini-boss mobs and other more difficult content. (Hey that sounds a bit like Destiny!) This is RIGHT in my wheelhouse and my new class has the ability to buff and protect friendlies so I found myself doing some of that as well as fighting. It was a real fun night in-game tonight.

All of which is a long-winded way of me reminding myself, and maybe you, that we shouldn’t let other players dictate how we play a game. If trying to keep up with, or match the accomplishments of, friends makes the game less fun, just let them go and do their thing. If you want to get better then yes, certainly work at it, but give yourself time to build skills and don’t push yourself to where you’re starting to hate a game that you used to enjoy.

I’m glad I remembered this obvious truth before I’d given up on Skyforge altogether. Also, the game is pretty good and F2P. You should check it out! :)

After a certain point, your followers will erect a statue in your likeness.

After a certain points, your followers will erect a statue in your likeness.

results_cardOK I’m going to ask you to take quite a leap with me today.

I read Bhagpuss’ excellent post, Alone Together Or this morning. I don’t know Bhagpuss beyond brushing shoulders in the odd comment thread now and again, but man did this post resonate with me. The basic premise is that multiplayer gaming has changed since the days when it was something new and fresh. That’s the thinnest scratch of the surface of the post because you should really go read the whole thing. But the point is it got me thinking about multiplayer and social and how I never reach out to other players any more.

Read on and I may be able to tie this all together.

So I played a lot of Destiny when it first came out then one day I stopped in that way I do. On Tuesday a game is consuming my every waking thought then Wednesday I find myself totally uninterested in playing it. Lately I’ve gone back to Destiny for a variety of reasons that are of no consequence.

What is of consequence is that I’m really enjoying myself again. There are a LOT of Destiny haters out there and y’know, many of their points are totally valid. It is grindy and repetitive and what lore there is tends to be found on the bungie.net website instead of in the game. My biggest beef was the leveling structure past 20 where instead of gaining experience you had to level via loot, which involved (at the time anyway) typical loot slot machine dances with the RNG.

Anyway what does Destiny have to do with Bhagpuss’s post? The post made me think of playing together alone. One thing I like about Destiny is that it has ‘grouping’ (not in a game mechanics sense, though it has that too, but today I’m talking about grouping via circumstances) with basically no communication possibilities. A lot of people HATE it for that, but y’know I’m a grouchy old fuck who generally doesn’t like talking to people. In Destiny I can’t talk to them (at least not without jumping through some hoops), but I can and do work with them.

Last night I was puttering around in the Cosmodrome. I was on a level 15 character. There were a few single-digit level guys running around, and 1 or 2 level 30+ types. At times this felt a little frustrating because it was hard to get kills, but then (via happy coincidence or the game’s “Director” system kicking in) we were swarmed with bad guys. Suddenly we were all working together to cut down these invaders. The single digit guys got overwhelmed and died, and I did my part to swoop in and revive them. The level 30’s were kind enough to make themselves targets and they soaked up a lot of incoming damage. We all worked together (apart) and got the job done and it was so much damned fun. One of those ‘magic moments’ we all chase.

In my mind, these 4 or 5 people were my temporary friends. They were all reasonable, decent people who were having as much fun as I was. But in truth? Who knows? One of them might’ve been hurling insults at the rest of us. He or she might’ve been a racist or a homophobe or just a huge epeen cursing everytime someone else did something that was wrong in his or her eyes. In fact my experience suggests that in any group of 5 or 6 random people at least one of them is a complete dick.

But not last night. Last night, in my game of Destiny, there were all awesome human beings and I had a ton of fun playing with them.

And that’s why I love Destiny. This week.


I’ve been poking at Call of Duty: Ghosts lately. It’s way outside of my ‘normal’ genre but a while back I took advantage of a $20 deal on it (back when it was still generally going for full price), installed it but hardly played. Y’know, so typical me.

With E3 going on I was looking for something I could jump into and get a quick gaming fix between events so I semi-randomly picked COD:Ghosts.

I’m enjoying the experience. And I chose the word ‘experience’ very deliberately because I’m playing on such an easy difficulty level that it’s not really much of a game. But the spectacle that they put together for the single player campaign is just stupid fun. It’s kind of like an interactive blockbuster action movie I guess.

I’m at a part now where I’m Logan and I’m part of a team (I can’t even remember how the game began… I played the start months ago) but I’m not in charge. So I kind of follow my team around and when team leader says “Logan, do blah blah blah” I look for whatever I can interact with and interact with it. If it wasn’t for the other team members I’d normally have no clue what I’m supposed to be doing, so thanks AI pals!

I had one neat moment today though. We were supposed to be taking out everyone at a checkpoint. “Logan, take the guy in the tower.” says the boss. I aim my gun at the tower but there are 3 dudes. I’m trying to figure out which one I’m supposed to shoot when bossman says “No, the other tower. The tall one to your right.” I pan over and there’s a much taller tower with a lone lookout. I take him out.

And I find myself wondering why we can’t have more experiences like that in games. I mean clearly this was scripted but whomever did the scripting anticipated that I might aim at the wrong tower and put in code to cover that possibility. And maybe that’s why we don’t see more of it, I suppose: a) the conditions have to be right for you to make an obvious, correctable mistake and b) it’s a lot of expense in terms of scripting time to cover the possibility of a mistake.

But in the old days when devs didn’t focus primarily on multiplayer and/or single character single player games, we use to daydream about AI improving and this moment was the kind of thing I hoped to see some day. I mean back then having NPC buddies was the norm, not the exception. And back then computer scientists were a lot more optimistic about how quickly AI would advance.

Anyway, tangent.

The point of this post is to tell you non-shooter fans that if you want some over the top fun and can get a copy of Call of Duty Ghosts cheap, pick it up, set the difficulty all the way down and enjoy the explosions and the spectacle. Our last mission ended when our evac arrived in the form of a submarine breaking through the ice we were driving across in a Jeep. The driver (not me) put the jeep into a powerslide and it went up a broken sheet of ice and came to a stop teetering on the deck of the sub.

Stupid fun stuff.

A few weeks ago I saw a post on the Playstation blog about Wander, a new MMO coming to the PS4 and PC. It’s hook was that it had no combat, which sounded interesting. I decided to give it a try on the PS4 when it came out last Thursday.


TL;DR version of this post: Wander DOES NOT WORK. It is not glitchy or rough. It does not function. DO NOT BUY THIS GAME.

Longer version.

The first time I started Wander I stared at a loading screen for about a minute, then the game world appeared, I heard a voice-over start, and the game crashed. I’d estimate it ran for 8-10 seconds (past the loading screen) before crashing the first time.

I started it up again and found myself in a new location with no voice over and no idea what I was supposed to be doing. I later found out that when you crash and reload, the game apparently assigns you some other player’s game state! The voice-over I’d heard was a sort of introduction/tutorial telling me what I was supposed to be doing but due to the crash I skipped that. And since it was an MMO I couldn’t restart.

An MMO where there’s no way to communicate with other players or customize your avatar in any way, but that’s the least of its problems.

Over the next 40 minutes or so the game crashed 5 times.

When it wasn’t crashing I found these runestones that prompted me to draw a glyph and then speak a word. It seemed like I was supposed to draw the glyph on the PS4 controller’s touchpad, then do a 2-finger tap to ‘speak’ but I never got it to work. Or maybe I did once. One time I did something and then this random word was spoken over and over (with no input from me) until the next crash.

There were other runestones that played an audio clip and those, at least, worked.

And that was the grand totality of interactions in the game.

When the game wasn’t crashing, my character was running into invisible walls, or clipping through walls, or floating above the ground, or moonwalking, or any of a number of other wonky behaviors. Meanwhile there was crazy pop-in of textures and objects.

But here’s the thing with Wander. Say the devs put out a miracle patch and fix all these issues.

It’s still crap because there is no game here.

Imagine starting with an MMO like WoW. Then remove the combat, the crafting, the mobs, all ways of communicating with other players, and all character customization. Then homogenize the world so it all looks like Stranglethorn and remove any of the interesting set-pieces that you sometimes find in WoW. That’s Wander.

But the music in it is pretty good, so there’s that.

When they said it was a non-combat MMO I assumed, stupidly, that they would add something as an alternate to combat. But they didn’t. Well there are these non-functioning runestones that might do something but I don’t know what it could be. The purpose of Wander seems to be to, well, wander and look at terrain that quickly becomes repetitive.

Wander is a horribly broken game that, if fixed, will just be a horrible game. Avoid at all costs.

And SHAME on Sony for making this available in the Playstation Store. Talk about a loss of trust. From here on out I’ll have to assume that every game is horribly broken until I see confirmation from other players that it is not. Sony’s certification process is clearly pointless and useless.

If you think I’m just whining about Wander, here’re some links to show it isn’t just me:

Here’re a few clips I made. I didn’t get many because the game was always crashing on me. In these clips you’ll see my character run, slowdown, stop, walk, run… you have to understand that I am not doing that. I’m trying to run the whole time. I assume she walks because there’s a hidden stamina feature but I don’t know why she stops. When I’m staring at a rune stone it’s because I’m trying to interact with it. The 5 minute clip is boring because there is no game to show. What you see is that the game is. The shorter clips just show off some glitches. They were both captured after the one time I got a runestone to work and you’ll hear a voice saying something like “ahn-may” over and over again. I’m not doing anything to cause that… it happened until the game crashed again.

Fun fact: I have never quit Wander voluntarily. Every ‘session’ has ended with a crash.