Video games

Destiny: $500 million revenue can’t guarantee a good story.

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Like a large part of the PS4 owners, I’ve been busy shooting aliens and saving Earth in Bungie’s record-breaking new first-person shooter Destiny. Trying themselves at a RPG shooter a la Borderlands, Bungie sure knew how to turn on the hype machine, generating more than $500 million revenue on release day. Being already the most pre-ordered game in the history of video games, this number is not surprising, but still impressive.

I’ve contributed my part to that ridiculous revenue, and I would be lying if I would tell you I haven’t enjoyed myself so far. Destiny is, without a doubt, a very entertaining shooter with a dash of MMORPG loot and grind. Controls are smooth, the game looks absolutely stunning and the gameplay itself is more than a good foundation for future expansions. Regarding those aspects, I don’t regret spending $60 on the game. However, there is one thing that just bugs me.

You see, the game is made by Bungie, the studio that has created the award-winning, genre-defining Halo series. Next to reviving the shooter genre on consoles and giving us the amusing Red vs. Blue show, Halo is still known for its gripping story, interesting characters and overall great writing (especially when compared with other FPS). It’s not in my Top 5 of best games I’ve ever played, but Halo 2 is one of my favorite shooters ever and that’s not just because I could stick grenades to my friend’s faces. No, Halo 2 had a thrilling story, which was supported by the individual missions you went through and that kept you wanting more. When the game ended with one of the most gruesome cliffhangers since pixels learned how to move, I was both enraged and satisfied, demanding another helping of such excellent storytelling.

Destiny just hasn’t given me this experience yet. I’ve finished all the story missions, and to be honest with you…they are boring. The writers show us all these interesting story hooks and then decide to not do anything with them! That Warmind Rasputin? Mentioned, but it never plays a role in the story. That badass queen and her Fallen bodyguards? Oh, they look sweet and all in the cutscene, but they won’t be back until Bungie runs her event. The actual motivations of any of the enemy factions? What, they try to destroy Earth! Isn’t that all you need?!

Of course, certain hooks hopefully remain unused so they can play a role in some DLC or expansion. However, not giving a single faction any motivation beyond “they want to kill humanity / the Traveler / both” is just unsatisfying and lame. If I’m going to fight something, I want to know what it’s planning and how that affects me. Why did the Fallen ever attack Earth? Why aren’t we exploring that in the missions in Old Russia? Is there any other reason for them to fight the Vex on Venus beyond “the Vex are more evil than all the other evil in the universe”? So far, all we get is some vague info during cutscenes and on some Grimoire cards, but that just is not enough. For a game that calls itself the most expensive video game production ever, I feel like just a nickel and a dime went to the writing department.

All I can hope for Destiny is that future content gives us some more information on the actual universe and what everything does there. Grinding faction reputation to get that sweet weapon can only keep me busy for so long. Once I have that weapon, I want to bust some aliens, and I want to know why I should bust them.

The eternal healer and streaming times

The eternal healer
Guys and gals, I went totally overboard when I started playing FFXIV this weekend. No, I did not roll an Elf. No, I did not decide to dress my character up in strange clothes (the game forced me to do that). No, dear readers, I decided to roll a class that cannot heal.

Le gasp. Yes, this is worthy of a French gasp, for it is against the nature of the Chin to play an MMO as a class that cannot dish out HoT’s, provide buffs or support fellow players in any other kind of way. So, why do I like being the healer so much, and why didn’t I roll one this time around?

Let’s answer that second question first. I knew my GF would love to roll a healer, so when she told me she would create a Conjurer, I knew it would be overkill and a terrible leveling experience if we both would play healing classes. Having that base covered, it seemed to be the logical choice to create a character that can kick some serious butt, while my GF would keep him alive. Y’know, division of labor and stuff.

So, me choosing a class like the Lancer in FFXIV has a totally practical reason, but why do I love healing so much? The reason for that is pretty selfish: I love to be needed. It’s nice to know that people need your help: it gives me a warm feeling, and hearing “thanks Chin, I could not have done it without you” even turns a rainy day into a sunny one. Playing a DPS in an MMO always made me feel like being that figurative “fish in the sea”: you were replacable. Of course I know that this isn’t true: if you’re a good DPS, you’re not replacable. Still, a party of five has three DPS, one tank and one healer. And folks, “one” sounds somewhat more special to me than “three”.

Sssht, calm down my DPS buddies. I still love you!

Streaming
Yes, I’ve gotten the taste of streaming, and I’m proud to announce a regular stream night. Every Tuesday night from 20:00 until 22:00 CEST, I’ll be streaming live! If you want to see my play different games (I’ll announce the game beforehand), drop by at twitch.tv/thechindividual. I would love to see as many of you as possible tomorrow night, so I can share my gaming adventures with you!

Cross-platform gaming: hardware politics vs. united playerbases

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Even though I have to live without my PS4 for now, I had no lack of gaming this weekend. My GF and I decided to pick up Final Fantasy XIV. I got a copy for PC, while she bought the PS3 version in the Playstation Store. Since Saturday morning, we’ve been leveling a dynamic duo on the Lich server, marveling at the beauty of the game while learning the ropes together.

What amazes me is first of all how much fun FFXIV is when you have someone to play together with (considering how much I hated the game about a year ago), and second how awesome cross-platform gaming is. The idea that my GF can play on her PS3 while I join her from my PC seems so simple, yet there is a serious lack of games that allow this. Why spread your player base across three or four different platforms, when you could bring them together on shared servers?

I know about the challenges regarding cross-platform play. Especially when it comes to console games, sharing a common server is about more than allowing players to connect to one. It’s about hardware politics. In order to have someone on a PS4 to play together with someone on a Xbox One, Sony and Microsoft would have to connect their services. You think one of the two would be even willing to provide the other with vital information about their network structure? Of course not!

However, thinking as a gamer, any title could only profit from cross-platform play. Considering a game like Destiny is not far away, I would love to play with friends that own a Xbox One. As it stands now, all I can do is talk with them about our experiences. If they ever need an additional man for some group content, my guns will not blaze for their glory. 

The day may come that hardware politics stand no longer in the way of a united player base. Until that day, I will enjoy FFXIV and how it stands for this ideal. Eorzea: a world many platforms can connect to. 

Live from Nexus: devoured by color

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When I first wrote about WildStar approximately two month ago, I described the game as a fairly standard MMORPG packed in beautiful graphics. After surviving the Headstart (which went better than expected. Big up, Carbine!), I have come before you to revise my opinion. In this and the next post on Thursday, I’ll be reporting live from Nexus why WildStar is more than your run-off-the-mill endgame treadmill and why you should bother checking it out. Today, I want to tell you about what made me change my mind from a more aesthetical point-of-view, while Thursday’s post will dive deeper into the different convincing gameplay elements.

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How ArcheAge made me play Guild Wars 2 again

My mind works in strange ways. Yesterday, while waiting for the washing machine to finish and browsing my favorite gaming sites, I was reminded of the fact that Trion is bringing ArcheAge to the west. This makes my tingle with joy, especially knowing that the company is offering different “Founder packs” to get into the alpha. I’m all about getting into a game earlier than the unwashed masses, so I went and checked them out. Alpha access…the thought of that made me wild. Would I already be knees-deep in ArcheAge this weekend? Would I already see what all the fuss is about, sailing my own ship and tending my own farm?

I would…had I spent €140.

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Cookie cutters: why I love my MMO’s simple

why-buy-a-cookie-cutter-home-build-a-custom-homeComplexity is one of the most discussed topics in MMO country, and with good reason: in an age filled with simple, mass-pleasing click-games like Candy Crush Saga and Farmville (does anyone still play that?), we “true” gamers desire games that cannot be immediately understood by our grandmas and little brothers. We want titles that take time to ease in to, that have us browse the Internet in search of the perfect “build”, force us to take a crash course in Excel to make that spreadsheet and make us talk with abbreviations like “DPS”. We want to get lost in the numbers, we want to be made dizzy by the possibilities…we long for complexity.

We? Well, to be honest, I don’t.

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Why developers don’t actually listen “vox gameri”

Syl and Murf have been at it, both writing excellent pieces on the topic of the abscence of democracy in game design and voting with your wallet. Both articles take different angles, but are essentially about the same thing: the amount of say gamers have in the development process of the games they play. Because I have the urge to add my opinion to the discussion, let me throw in my two cents when it comes to the relevance of the “vox gameri”, or the voice of the gamers (Pig Latin ftw!)

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Your gamer friends vs. the rest

How some people see my gamer friends

How some people see my gamer friends

I will never complain about having friends. Really, I like the luxury of having a bunch of people I can call up whenever I want to, to do whatever we like to. I like that their interests, hobbies, hopes and dreams overlap with mine, and that they can stand me even on my worst days. The thing I don’t like about friends is that, sooner or later, you’ll have to sort them into different “circles” because some just don’t play well with each other. I’m not talking about friends that hate each other for some reason. What I’m talking about are friends from one side of your life who just don’t get the friends from the other side. The one side is in this case your “regular” social side (school, college, work), while the other side, your “true” side, is the geeky, nerdy, gaming side. While some of these friends will overlap, a large part will not, leaving you to divide your precious free time between the two camps.

But what can you do about it? We are all many-faceted personalities, and our choice of friends reflect that. I just need people who I can talk to about a rough day in the office, but I also need someone to geek out with when a new trailer for Days of Futures Past hits the net. I need people to get drunk with in the city, but I also need fellows to binge-game an entire weekend, living on nothing but pizza and the fading health of my body. I need diversity when it comes to my friends, so I will have to live with splitting my time between them.

It’s one of those social challenges we all have, but that are actually not problems at all. Some people just don’t get along well, but they all get along with you. Ain’t that just what counts?

So, readers, how do you cope with your gaming friends versus the rest of your social connections? Do you hop around between different circles, or do you drink your Friday pints with the same people you raid with twice a week? Let me know in the comments!

Legacy – building on the success of those who’ve come before

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In a world where we want to get more and more out of the games we buy, replayability is a word that gets thrown around rather quick. As a buzzword, gamers are quick to use it in order to praise or criticize a game. It’s no longer enough to have a strong storyline of fifty hours: gamers want to be able to replay that story with new tools and approaches. They want to take their experienced character or a totally new one through an identical experience, but possessing means and powers they had not on the first run through. To sate this thirst for replayability, more and more games contain “legacy” systems, which grant new things to those who have already completed the game once. These new things range from new powers to increased experience points, but they always augment the new play-through in a way. Not everyone is a fan of these, but I want to take the time to tell you why I believe legacy systems are the key to a great replay.

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