Month: August 2013

Guild Wars 2 – love on second sight?

ArenaNet celebrated the first birthday of Guild Wars 2 past weekend. Around this time last year, I also started my first character in the game, leveled him like a madman to level 63, and then vanished from Tyria. Now, a year later, my new character is level 64, and I’m not leaving yet. Might Guild Wars 2 be my new MMO home?

I won’t dare saying that just yet, but I’m amazed how the game keeps me captivated. The Living World updates are interesting, the gameplay doesn’t feel grindy or all that repetitive, and I find myself enjoying PvP in this game! Could this be a case of love on second sight?

I don’t know.  I just hope my Tyrian bliss lasts longer and that I can really get settled in this fantastic world. Maybe I should start looking for a guild…

 

My short expedition into Numenera

numenera roles

Remember how my last post was about me eating Monte Cook’s cake? Well, I had a taste of it, and I have to admit…it wasn’t really my thing.

To clarify this symbolic talk, let me grant you some exposition. Last night, I dived into Numenera with my friends Dee and Bee. We live far away from each other these days, but fortunately, a combination of Roll20 and Google Hangouts allowed us to give this weird science fantasy setting a try. We decided to play the adventure “The Beale of Boregal” (which is one of the adventures in the core book) with our merry band of adventurers:

  • Grott, a mythical glaive who focuses mind over matter. A short, fat, tattooed man who hails from a tribe of “wind-singers” (that was just fluff to give him a monk-ish feeling)
  • Nahuel, a swif glaive who fuses flesh and steel. He met Grott while hiding from an Iron Wind.
  • Perdita, a strong-willed jack who bears a halo of fire. She likes to talk, ignite things and eat like there’s no tomorrow.

While we all enjoyed our characters and the adventure (no matter how often we strayed from the path intended by it), I have to admit that the flavor of the world was not entirely mine. For starters, the sheer strangeness of this Earth one billion years in the future is really hard to portray at the table. Cook and the authors use a wide array of exotic terms for creatures, places and objects. This is fine for me, but it also increases the time it takes players to buy into the world. Sure, it’s really cool to describe a centipede-like scutimorph or a desert of shimmering red and purple sand, but once I started feeding my players this strangeness, I felt like I had to focus more on portraying a bizarre world than on the actual plot. Maybe I just suck at multitasking, but I’d rather focus my storytelling effort on actually telling a good story than one about fancy fauna and strange vistas.

However, I can’t blame that on the game itself. But then again, I can’t blame a baker for making a cake that just isn’t my thing. What I can say for this piece of cake is that there was still something I liked about it. Numenera’s rules are straight-forward, simple and clear. Character creation is a breeze, and the XP mechanic and GM Intrusions are a nice addition to the game (though I think the term “GM Intrusion” sounds far too negative). However, I just don’t dig the packaging of it all.

So, to stick with the cake metaphor: Cook and his crew have baked a cake that looks far too bizarre for me, tastes far too strange, but whose ingredients are actual pretty solid. Alright, I guess this wonky thing is breaking apart. Let’s just finish the cake before it’s just crumbs.

Chin out.

Numenera, or: how I fell for Monte Cook

Let me start out by saying that I never thought Monte Cook to be the “genius of the RPG industry” many make him out to be. I’m not saying he’s a bad fellow (I never met him, so I can’t judge), I’m just saying that I’ve never really liked anything he wrote. Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition was never my cup of tea, and the way he turned the World of Darkness into a post-apocalyptic setting never really…resonated with my vision of the setting. I admire him for his contribution to the hobby, but I just don’t like his creations even though the vox populi gets all excited when something with his name on it hits the shelves. . Monte Cook is like that bakery down the street that makes those delicious cakes the whole town likes, except for me. Sorry Cook, I’ll take a slice of Wick’s cake.

With that being said, it can be considered quite the achievement of him that his recently published and crowdfunded work Numenera has drawn my attention. Heck, it hasn’t just drawn my attention, it has me tightly in its grip! Characters have been created, and we’ll be started our first adventure in the Ninth World soon. Something about this more serious Gamma World-ish science fantasy setting just seems fascinating and begs you to explore it. The fantastic artwork in the books is very evocative, and the whole setting description just gets me excited to see my players dive into this medieval world build on the ruins of multiple highly advanced societies.

So there, Cook, I fell for one of your creations. Let’s see if I will really eat the entire cake, or just stick with this single slice.

Enjoying Tyria – a few tips for the Guild Wars 2 Trial Weekend

gw 2 guild wars 2

“Guild Wars 2 – Celebration” by PapayouFR

It’s always good to have plans for the weekend, especially if it includes playing a great game like Guild Wars 2 totally for free. I mean, that’s what everyone will do coming weekend, right? Right?

Anyway, in case you have your priorities straight and will venture into Tyria without paying a single dime, let me help you out with a few pointers. See it as a “from one newb to another newb” kind of help!

  • Go and venture forth. GW2 does not have a questlog or other tool that tracks your tasks. The closest thing to a checklist in this game are the daily, monthly and various other achievements. Next to those, you’ll find adventure and action no matter into which direction you travel. No matter if you decide to complete renown hearts, conquer Skill Challenges or wait for that one special Event to be triggered, you will have something to experience no matter where you go and where you are. GW2 is meant to be played like an expedition: point at a place on your map, but have the journey to that spot be the actual adventure.
  • Help others. In GW2, there’s no such thing as mob tagging or “stealing” resource nodes. If you see someone’s fighting a big pull of mobs, go out and help them a hand. Both of you will receive XP, and you might even make a friend in the process. Also, just go out and mine that vein or pluck that herb. You won’t steal it from anyone, since all resource nodes can be farmed by multiple people.
  • Everything grants XP. Killing monsters? Of course, that earns you XP. Exploring the map? That’s also a source of XP. Resurrecting NPC’s and other players? Yes, that will also net you XP! Turning your gathered resources into crafted items? Indeed, you’ll also get a chunk of XP from that. No matter which way you prefer to play, GW2 will somehow reward you with XP for it. Let me tell you, it feels kinda awesome when resurrecting a bunch of fellow players during an epic Champion encounter is what makes you ding. It’s rewarding, and in the spirit of the cooperative gameplay GW2 is going for.
  • Help your lowbie friends. Since GW2 uses level scaling, you’ll never outlevel a zone. You can just join up with your friends who are late to the party and help them out. You’ll get XP and loot appropriate for your actual level, all while doing what you want to do in an MMORPG: playing together with friends.
  • And finally…have fun. No seriously. Just have fun, okay?

If you decide to drop by on the European Piken Square server coming weekend, keep an eye out for the Charr Elementalist Akinja. He’d be more than willing to show you the ropes.

In any case, enjoy your time in Tyria!

Tywin Lannister and subtle symbolism

tywin lannisterWARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD FOR EVERYTHING RELATED TO GAME OF THRONES!

Game of Thrones is praised for many things: the brilliant casting of roles, the fresh take on an already interesting story, the fantastic locations and more. However, like in many pieces of art, the true brilliance lies in the little details, and George R.R. Martin and the creators of the show have put quite some effort in hiding subtle symbolism throughout the show (which Martin already did in the books), and one of the characters they like to use for that is the always threatening Tywin Lannister, head of house Lannister and all-round badass.

Everyone who has read the books knows that Martin is a sucker for “signs and portents”, mysterious symbolism that foreshadows future events or abstracts current situations. When the Starks find the litter of dire wolf cubs, it’s no coincidence that there’s one for each of them. It’s also no coincidence that Jon receives the albino cub. It’s damn symbolism, linking the Stark children to their dire wolves (some more than others). The books offer a few other examples, but the show is also filled with them. Tywin Lannister is used for two really obvious portents, at least if someone pays attention.

In the first season, during a conversation with Jaime, Tywin is busy skinning a stag. Well, who’s coat-of-arms is the stag? Exactly! And who dies during a hunting “incident”? Precisely! Coincidence? I think not. The great touch in this scene is how careful Tywin empties and skins the animal. He shows the same precision in this craft as he does in politics, a magnificent method to portray his lethal accuracy.

It turns out that Tywin has a thing for the simple things in life, as we see him fishing in this deleted scene from season 3. Next to discovering how vigorous Pycelle actually is, we also see what Tywin was fishing up: trout (at least I think they’re trout). He hands the basket full of fish to Pycelle, ordering him to bring them to the kitchen ’cause he wants them “for supper”. Hm, I heard the Freys also like some trout for supper…

Again, it’s subtle, but that’s what makes it great. I can’t wait to see more of these little hints in future episodes. Also, I can’t wait to see more of Tywin. He’s such a badass!

Discovering Tyria

the sun behind akinjaIt’s been a while since a GW2 related post, right? No wait, you got some fancy pictures just two days ago. This game really has me in its grips it seems. And why shouldn’t it? So far, my journey through the lands of Tyria has been really enjoyable.

One of the things GW2 just gets right is invoking a feeling of discovery. The zones feel grand and are full of hidden nooks and crannies. Also, by ditching the classic quest log and replacing it with these “renown hearts” on your map, you’re actually encouraged to roam around the map filling up those golden hearts. And you know what happens during those trips? Discoveries! No matter if you discover a hidden jumping puzzle or a dynamic event, you’re not simply walking from quest hub to quest hub. No, you’re actually experiencing a heroic journey full of unexpected twists.

Talking about those dynamic events…I just can’t get enough of them. True, many of them are rather simple and feel like your traditional quests, but some of them are just presented so damn well. Today, I came to a place where there should be a bridge. Thinking I had found the fastest way to the next renown heart, I had to discover that the bridge had been destroyed, and a group of traders couldn’t cross a gaping gulch to deliver their goods. Fortunately, some of the traders decided they would venture into the forest to gather wood, and I decided to follow them. As we arrived in the forest, it turned out dredge (communist mole creatures using sonic weapons and drills) were chopping down all the trees, and so I had to help the merchants to drive off the blind baddies while making sure we would also gather enough wood. Of course, we succeeded, and after a short construction sequence, the traders and I could cross the new bridge, parting ways once we made it to the next crossroad.

Did I expect this to happen? Definitely not! I just wanted to go to the next marked spot on my map, but the random and “breathing” nature of GW2 put this little story in my way, rewarding me with some extra gold and a chunk of XP. This is what makes every session of GW2 so damn enjoyable: knowing that, no matter if you want to or not, you’ll be surprised by a cool discovery.

Sure, the game has its downsides, but so far, I just love to play it for about two hours a day, exploring Tyria with babysteps. How long it will last? I’m not sure, but as long as I can discover something, I think GW2 will not get rid of me…

The Cold War of our generation

Gay rights activists holding a banner saying “Homophobia – the religion of bullies”

When I started this blog, I planned to discuss only certain topics: video games, RPG’s, boardgames and geeky health. Until now, I was able to restrict myself to these subjects, but recent events have made it impossible for me to hold back my opinion about a topic entirely not related to this blog. However, since I’m the Chindividual and this blog is called The Chindividual, I’m gonna write what the hell I wanna write. Today, that would be about equality.

If you haven’t been living under a rock for the past few months, you will be aware of Russia’s anti-homosexual laws. You will also be aware of the fact that Russia will host the 2014 Winter Olympics. Finally, you will also be aware that Russia will enfore its anti-homosexual laws during those Olympics.

That’s what’s been going on in a nutshell. Many celebrities have taken a stance of on the subject, with the most powerful and clearly worded opinion coming from writer and actor Stephen Fry. All these high-profile people have said what must be said, so I won’t repeat anything that has already left their mouth or pen. Still, I feel I can add something to the discussion.

First of all, let me make clear that I am a firm supporter of LGBT rights. While I do not always agree with their methods of raising awareness (I could devote an entire article to that), I am convinced that no one should be judged because of their attraction to the same gender. I believe that love between two adults is just love, no matter if the relationship coming forth from it is traditional or non-traditional. In the eyes of the law, it should not matter.

With that being said, I feel like the enforcement of anti-homosexual laws by the Russian government is not entirely a matter of adhering to religious and traditional convictions. Sure, the Orthodox church has much power in both the government and the general population, and the popular opinion about the LGBT community is not positive, but closer examination shows something else. It shows that the fall of the Berlin Wall did not end the Cold War. It shows that even twenty years after the fall of the Soviet Union, the struggle between West and East continues. In our times it is no longer a war fought through proxies, a conflict about the placement of nuclear warheads on island states. For us, it will be a war about morals, a battle between tradition and social revolution. However, like the Cold War, it will not be fought out in the open between the giants. It will be fought in bloody demonstrations and political talks, but it will still affect the lives of thousands.

Putin and his government are using the Olympics to show the West the middle finger once again. It’s a power play they know they can afford. The IOC is too afraid to do anything, and foreign politicians will never talk reason into the power-hungry mind of the autocrat Putin. If the Russian president has shown one thing during his career, it is his fortitude and resilience against the powers of the West. No matter the cost, Putin will enforce his cruel laws during an event that is suppossed to be about equality through sports. The five rings of the Olympics will be stained by the blood of those who dare to love.

I know that we simple bloggers can’t do much against it. If powerful politicians can’t stop Putin, we don’t stand a chance. But what we can do is to be open and tolerant, and to show the world how our society embraces the true spirit of the Olympics. I hereby call upon you, dear blogosphere, to remind yourself and the people around you about the fact that there are still people out there who hold on to medieval ideals and backwater morals. This is not just about fighting for the rights of the LGBT community, but also about equality in general. If we want to advance as a global society, we must do everything we can to move past the idea that some are born better than others, bending the power of law to their will. To Lady Justice, the greatest crime should be intolerance, not loving the man or woman of your dreams.

We can’t stop the Winter Olympics in Russia, but we can stop inequality in the eyes of the law. The only way to do that, is to stand together.

Stand together.

For equality. For love.

Adulthood: the great devourer of gaming time

“Father Time” by Paimonerra

One of the things you realize once you’re an adult is how easy life was when you were a teenager, and how arrogant and stupid you were for wishing to be an adult. One of the greatest perks of my teenage years was all the time I had to play all the video games in the world. I didn’t care much for homework, and I didn’t feel the need to do exceptionally well in school. I did however feel the need to finish the latest Xbox game or help my guild in World of Warcraft. I had my priorities back then, and I thought that in the future, I would still be able to invest the same amount of time into my dear hobby.

Boy, was I wrong.

You see, when you grow up, your priorities change. You see that there are more important things in life than just having fun. You want to invest in a future, no matter if it’s the financial, social or professional part of it. You re-think your decisions, and make sure that the ones you make will count. Before you know it, your childish wants are gone, and you find yourself in a place of your own, with the love of your life on the couch you bought from your own savings. After you pay the rent and bring out the trash, you take a look at yourself and you realize you’ve grown up. That caught you off-guard, didn’t it?

Next to this change in priorities and the sudden realization that groceries do cost money, you also find yourself with a lack of time. That’s of course because of these new priorities. You need money, right? Well, that requires a job, and a job devours time. You want to build up a good and strong relationship with your partner? That swallows time as well. A day only has twenty-four hours, and before you know it, you have to get back into bed to be in office on time and awake.

At first, you don’t notice it that much, but during one of those rare free Saturday afternoons, you browse through your collection of games and notice that you didn’t finish a single game in the past six months. Come to think of it, you realize that your total gaming time over the last few weeks is not more than about four hours. Where did the raiding nights go? Where did the Sunday morning pre-breakfast gaming sessions go? Who dared to take them away for you?

Adulthood did, my friend. Adulthood, the great devourer of your teenage gaming time.

Yeah, I’m dramatizing this, especially since I really don’t mind being an adult (with many childish streaks). However, it makes you realize how precious the gaming moments you have are. It’s a hobby I enjoy, and thus I enjoy every minute of it. I want to make the most of the time I have with my games, which explains my gaming / MMO ADD.  No matter how old I grow, I can’t see myself without a good RPG on my harddrive and a controller in my shaky, wrinkled hands.

Adulthood, eat as much as you want from my gaming time. The one thing you will never consume is my love for the digital arts.

When should or shouldn’t you play Guild Wars 2?

guild wars 2 charr starter

Just give him a few more levels and he’ll be a lean, mean, killing machine

After lamenting about not finding a new MMO home earlier this week, I decided to give Guild Wars 2 another try. What followed was a quick and awesome ride on my new Charr Elementalist, before I killed my gaming rig during a harmless RAM replacement procedure. Guees it was just my mainboard’s time to go to hardware Valhalla, but fortunately I had some savings in my piggybank to get me a nice little upgrade out of it. So yeah, now I can enjoy Tyria in its (almost) full visual glory!

After a few more hours in-game, I started to analyze my gaming experience. That’s nothing special, it’s what we gaming bloggers do. Naturally, I’ve come up with a few things I like about GW2, and a few I don’t. However, instead of just telling you what’s good and what’s bad, I’d rather tell you what kind of gamer you should be if you want to give GW2 a try, and when you should save your cash and spend it on something else. Like, for example, chocolate. I heard that many people enjoy that!

(more…)