Video games

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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Hardcore Mode: poetry in death

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Yesterday, Mentum died. Who’s Mentum? Well, Mentum is…uhm, was, my hardcore Crusader in Diablo 3. He was strong, willful, proud. Most of all, however, he was stubborn. Raised to fight evil in every corner of Sanctuary, Mentum would not retreat from the hordes of demons standing between him and the Prime Evil that must be put to rest. No matter how large the pack, Mentum would leap right into the fray, smack his shield into an ugly visage and strike with his blade, calling upon a wrath fueled by divine purpose. No one could stop him from smiting evil. No one…but death.

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Blizzard playing butt-naked Twister

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There’s just some things too damn embarrassing to do. One of them is playing Twister without any clothes on. Next to deciding to play a game that forces you to grope your fellow players in order to not fall with your (now naked) buttocks on the ground, you will also show everyone all of your mortal husk. As much as we think of our own bodies as beautiful works of art (at least I do), the reality is different: everyone’s corpus is littered with imperfections and flaws. Standing around butt-naked is already bad enough, exposing all your weaknesses to the world around you. The only thing worse is to play a game like Twister naked, forcing you to throw around every bit of excess fat, loose skin or abundant body hair. Everything that people can criticize about you is flung around, as you try to win a game that is already pointless to win.

This year’s April Fool’s, Blizzard thought playing butt-naked Twister was a good idea.

It started of well, with a barrage of cool announcements, all of them obviously jokes. My personal favorite were the patch notes for WoW 6.0, which showed that the developers know what their target audience is about. One-liner after one-liner, Blizzard delivered a cool prank everyone could laugh about. A few other obvious April Fools followed, and soon a link to a new ArtCraft article popped up. ArtCraft! Heck yeah, finally we’ll see some new models! Right? Right?

Wrong.

This was the moment where Blizzard thought they were doing well in their game of April Fool’s Twister. Right hand on good joke, left foot on brilliant fake patch notes; so far so good. Why not up the ante? People are laughing about how we’re bending our body ever so gracefully, why not show them all of it? So Blizzard decided to pull down its pants, throw of that XXL shirt and come out with the big guns: a fake ArtCraft article.

Now, a fake ArtCraft article isn’t bad. It’s nice to play with your audience expectations. What’s bad is to illustrate a sensitive topic in it: gender depiction. I don’t feel attacked by it, trust me. In fact, I could get a good laugh out of it. A little bit of satire doesn’t hurt me, so when Blizzard decided to continue playing in their bare skin, I was the guy in the audience laughing about how ridiculous they look. To Blizzard’s regret, most of the audience didn’t like seeing them naked. Most of the audience wasn’t entertained by that ArtCraft article. Most of the audience was at least mildly enraged.

So, while Blizzard’s busy getting dressed and recouping from a backlash no April Fool’s joke of them has ever seen, all I can tell you, dear readers, is that there’s two things not worth your time: writing satirical, out-of-taste April Fools articles about gender stereotypes and playing Twister butt-naked.

Oh, also, asking your Twitter followers for article ideas is also dangerous. You might end up writing an article like this!

Faffing to 90 – Electrical!

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Music makes everything better. Absolutely everything. Annoying chores you should have done two weeks ago? Pump some Rise Against through my speakers and I’ll do them like my life depends on it. Having to wait at the bus stop because the drive decided to show up too early for a change? No problem, my homeboys from The Gaslight Anthem got me covered. Ideal background music to faff your way to 90, playing a blond elf hell-bent on carnage and bloodshed? Electric Six!

I don’t know what it is about the silliness of their lyrics or their actually pretty cool instrumental work, but for some reason, grinding your way through the levels goes a whole lot faster when I’m being told that electric demons start fires and someone has naked pictures of my mother (no matter how wrong that sounds). I can actually imagine Lorellis humming some of their tunes while doing the dirty work of the Argent Crusade in the Eastern Plaguelands.

 

Talking ’bout those fellas…I really love the Eastern Plaguelands. Well, scratch that. I love the people I meet in them! Fiona’s traveling band is fun to travel along with, though most of her companions don’t get much personality. The focus is on Tarenar and Gidwin, who want to join the Argent Crusade for…reasons. Well, they’re fun to have beside you, and the fact that Fiona offers you free transport from one quest hub to the next (along with entertaining dialogue) is a nice bonus. Plus, one single quest to get my reputation with the Argent Dawn up to Revered? That’s service, Blizz. Lazy service, but service. Also, the Brotherhood of the Light (see screenshot below).

"Where do I sign up?" Lorellis shouted after hearing this.

“Where do I sign up?” Lorellis shouted after hearing this.

I parked Lorellis in the Badlands yesterday evening, after wrapping up my journey with Fiona, her ambitious paladins and the other members of her band (Fiona & the Paladins should be a real band). Outland is just a rough ten levels away, though I won’t mind staying in Azeroth until level 60. Questing in ex-Draenor is such a chore and I will probably need some strong support to make it through that part. But heck, as I said: music makes everything easier.

What do you say? Electric Six has a new album? Heh, this will be smooth sailing!

 

Faffing to 90 – a plague upon thee

Does he got the booty? He dooo!

Does he got the booty? He dooo!

I blame one Blizzard game for not playing another Blizzard game more than I want to. Ironic how Blizzard is its own competition. Not that they care: I paid for both Reaper of Souls and a monthly subscription to World of Warcraft, so the guys in the financial department aren’t making sad faces as far as I know. Still, kicking all kinds of supernatural ass in Diablo 3 has kept me from my fabalicious Blood Elf, but there’s still some progress to report.

Monday evening I made the XP sprint to level 40, which is a nice milestone due to the fact my riding speed increases. Also, I finished one of the two Plaguelands, giving Lorellis some rest in Andorhal before moving to the other. While out there questing, I noticed two things about the quest design that came with Cataclysm: Blizzard made the quests either really serious in tone (though you miss most of that when you’re one of those guys who don’t read quest descriptions) or just plain silly (which you will also miss if you just follow the built-in GPS to the quest location). Personally, I don’t mind these two extremes, but I can understand when people say that questing feels like a fantasy comedy show with a dose of pop-cultural references. To me, that’s what makes the leveling process enjoyable. I’ve seen enough of WoW‘s attempts to be gritty, dark or even grimdark, and I feel like the game is suppossed to feel somewhat satirical. So, when a Forsaken researcher complains about the fact that the druids and paladins have been cleaning the Plaguelands too well, I get a smile on my face and happily help him with re-infecting the local population and wildlife.

HOW DARE THEY?!

HOW DARE THEY?!

So, here is my brave warrior at level 40, gathering some rested XP in the inn, waiting for me to make the push through the “old world” and into what used to be Draenor. Will he find spectacular looking armor in the demon-infested lands? Will my patience last me through the terrible quest design of Burning Crusade? You’ll read all about it right here!