Last Stop, Blaugustville!

Zyngor | Sunday, August 31, 2014 2 Comments

I guess this makes it lucky 31. Three decades, plus-one, of blog posting, all in the constraints of a single month. Well...you know what I mean. Kinda.

I'd like to thank Belghast for masterminding this blogging marathon and all the awesome people from the Blaugust Nook for the companionship along the way. I've been introduced to many cool bloggers, and look forward to trying to keep up with more blog browsing.

Regardless of quality, I've always had an interest in writing. Before this month, however, I was in a bit of a lull, and didn't feel inspired to buckle down and get some writing done. I had read about this event prior to the start, but I had scoffed at the notion that I'd be able to keep up for the entire month. In a last-minute switcheroo, I decided to take on the challenge on August 1, and so jumped right into the fray.

It's been a great experiment blogging on a daily basis, especially when this blog had been sitting around, collecting dust, for several years. I strapped on my easy template-tweaking sandals and made some necessary changes to the layout. That was the simple part - it then came down to the actual blogging.

I think the biggest thing I learned was time management in making sure I put aside a certain period to perhaps browse other blogs to possibly come up with an idea, or maybe a spot of gaming to inspire me with the topic. I also printed out a basic calendar to keep track of my topics, which also served as a reminder should I wake up one morning and suddenly forget what the Internet was.

As for the actual writing, I can't say for certain that continual blogging has ramped up my quality or speed of writing as a whole. I think it has generally altered on a post-to-post basis, and even depending on my progress with a single post. An idea within a post may flash in my mind, and my fingers can barely keep up with what I'd like to convey. At other times, my brain would fizzle in the midst of typing, and I'd probably find myself popping up Youtube for a humorous distraction. Either way, I can say that as compared to the posts on my blog I had prior to this month, I was much more proud of those I had written during Blaugust (perhaps a combination of quality & quantity).

Would I do this again? Well, I think that would depend entirely on my schedule for that month. I'm currently on a pretty loose time in my life, though that could definitely change depending on how much I get my life in order (as well I should be doing). Some days have been a bit more struggle than others for posting, but I think that as a whole, it was a fairly smooth process to create daily content - enjoyable as well. From here, I think I'll try to aim toward at least one post a week. If it's more, then great - if it's less, than I'll deal with it. Casually blogging is a fairly stress-free activity for me, and at least for now, I'd like to keep it that way and not force myself to blog beyond my means.

Well, I suppose that shall wrap it up for the month. Thanks again to Belghast for running this challenge, and thanks to all Blaugustinianites for their continued efforts and great blogging. I'd say long live Blaugust, but I suppose that'll have to wait a mere 12 months. Cheers!




Why so Pleasant?

Zyngor | Saturday, August 30, 2014 0 Comments
Well, I'll tell you, Joker.

In his blog, "I Have Touched the Sky," Rowan asked an interesting origin question as we come close to the end of Blaugust.
Why did you title your blog what you did? Do you think the name still fits?
My title is probably fairly obvious, but I suppose I can still give it a whirl. "Life of a Pleasant Gamer" was created roughly seven years ago, in the desire to have a personal blog to call my own. Two years passed, in which I'd post fairly infrequently (averaging maybe a post a month), then it became even more infrequent, eventually tossing it aside like a dirty bandaid. Blaugust came around, which inspired me to reverse cold turkey and go all out, posting daily.


I've always been a fairly positively-tempered individual. I guess I figure being happy just feels better, so I strive to keep that attitude. This has translated pretty well over to gaming, and as such I think I'm a fairly pleasant gamer. Boom - there ya have it, simple as Top Ramen.

Does the name still fit? Indeedly doodly, neighbor! While I'm not playing the same exact games as I did when I started, I think it's more about the attitude I take toward gaming than the titles themselves. I'll admit I'm not a heavy competitive gamer type, whether or not that contributes to my casual nature toward gaming, though this is not to say I am adverse to playing a multiplayer shooter every now and then. If I happen to lose such a game, I don't fret - I had chosen to play for entertainment, and I am content with such a decision.

Because I think the title still fits who I am, I do not currently have plans or thoughts about changing the name. If anything, I could cut out the "life of a" bit (I partially went this way in creating my current blog banner), but that may or less just be a means to cut down the mouthful of the full title. I'm fine with anyone calling it either name - the first part really just denotes it as a personal blog. As this is really just something for me to do to get some writing practice, I don't expect or have plans to go pro, so I'm not too worried about its success.

Thank you Rowan for a good personal topic as we get to the close of the month. I'd like to give props to anyone who gave #Blaugust a try, whether or not they were able to make it on a daily basis. Even if it got you to update your blog with a single post, that's +1 more than you had prior to the month. Gotta think blog half written!





Safely Burnin' Rubber

Zyngor | Friday, August 29, 2014 3 Comments
Hey there, so I suppose my loose topic for today was inspired by one thing I've feared doing for awhile in real life, and have finally taken the first step - driving. While I suppose I may be a decade older than several of the other folk in the DMV, I've just never really ran across an overabundance of situations where my feet couldn't take me there, and just the thought of me operation a motor vehicle gives mes the jitters. Anyways, figured I could revel in my permitness and think about some of the racing games I have played.

God bless the mute key.
I'd say one of my first experiences with virtual racing came in the form of those Tiger Electronic handheld games. I can remember playing Road Race, a Formula One/Indy/whatever racer. There may have not been flashy graphics, but it was one heck of a speaker on that thing (almost deafening). The premise of the game was basically more of a "dodge duck dip dive and dodge" the other vehicles on the race track, or game over. Still, I was young, and a game was a game (which, I pretty much feel still the same way). I also played (runs upstairs to check) Off Road (rally racer) and Speed Boat (self-explanatory). What I think I liked best about these at the time was that it simply gave me the freedom to play it anywhere: in bed, outside, in the car. As long as the AAs had enough juice, they were a good complimentary with the Game Boy (of which I don't think I really played any racer titles, of which I can recall).

It's like Ferris Bueller, but even more days off...fun!
Jump some years later, over on the PC. This was probably when the Need for Speed series was all that in a box of cookies and glass of milk on top. I got hooked on Need for Speed 2: SE. For me at the time, there was nothing quite like going over a big incline at high speeds, and basically taking a joyride to space. You could get some sweet air in that game, though it usually resulted in some horrible crash landing. Ah well, that's what respawn is for. I think I can also recall it being one of the first games where I got to play around with cheat codes, of which it has a pretty lengthy list. Wanna ride around in a log? Sure! How 'bout a Wild West wagon? Saddle up partner. I was also big into dinosaurs at the time (paleontologist was my dream career, then I had to go and get an English degree...), so racing around the track as a T-rex was pretty ecstatic.

I never really went to many arcades, so unfortunately there weren't too many cabinet racing titles I've given a whirl. There was one I'd play at a frequented restaurant, but I can't recall the name. It was a pretty generic sports car racer...looked like it took place in some tropical location. Other than that, I guess I was pretty cheap as a kid, and would rather stick with home entertainment I didn't have to keep feeding quarters.

Fast forward some more years, and for awhile I became interested in some different racing games that were either a bit different from the norm racer (like Star Wars Episode 1: Racer, a pod racer), or I guess not really a racer persay, but some of the Grand Theft Auto games. Hey, it's got auto in the title, it MUST be wholesome entertainment!
Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit
I think after that came another NFS title, this time Need for Speed: Underground. This got me back
into playing some good 'ol street racing, and I rather enjoyed the career mode in this, which basically allowed you to start from humble beginnings and race your way up the charts. You could also purchase vehicles and add upgrades and decals to your sweet ride, so a bit of RPGish elements in the pot. I have since played several others from the NFS franchise, from Porsche UnleashedShift, to may favorite of the trio, Hot Pursuit. I think it's just cool to play as both sides of the street racing experience, and performing maneuvers as the police to take out the racers is just a blast.

Probably around that time of Underground was when I heard about Trackmania, a F2P racing game
Yep...physics at its finest.
by French developers Nadeo. Besides being free (the base game, at least - they have since released several other TM titles for charge), it just has a very clean and simple feeling about it. What's also neat is that it comes with its own track editor, so there are a ton of maps you can either play (or decide to try out your constructive flair). I believe the base game comes with the traditional open-car racer, but the expansions have since released other vehicles, like rally cars, alpine 4x4s, and muscles. Because it was F2P and had downloadable maps, I have thrown a good many hours into that one.


There are a couple other titles thrown in the mix that I've revved myself up to try out. There's Burnout Paradise, an open-word racer with plenty to discover, and plenty of cars to unlock on the way. I probably can't have mentioned the GTA bit without mentioning one of my favorite Dreamcast titles, Vigilante 8: Second Offense, a straight up vehicular combat game. Like I said, not racing persay, but they still used the feeling of speed with the ferocity of combat to create an interesting shooter experience. There was also Dirt, a pretty solid rally racer and part of the Colin McRae Rally series, who was a big time rally racer. As such, the game feels like a more authentic rally experience, at least when you have your partner in the passenger seat, feeding you directions.

All in all, I think I've played a decent amount of racing games, and while mostly on PC, got the chance to give some other consoles/handhelds a whirl at the time. While I was never really competitive enough to go head to head with other players, I think virtually driving the car around the track is a pretty safe way to at least get the feeling I'm a drone hovering behind the car, feeding it directions. Which...I suppose I really am doing. In any case, I wonder what would be more difficult: legitimately and carefully driving the entirety of Grand Theft Auto III, or actually making it through my real-life driving experience.

Any driving games you dig? Was there an era you think have made the biggest virtual driving successes? Share below!

I've also done a little work on the blog. Changed up the banner (stretched the design across the top, kept it fairly simple), moved a couple post bits around, yadda yadda. Seem good enough for now, considering I'm not HTML guru?




Free to Play or Free to Pay

Zyngor | Thursday, August 28, 2014 2 Comments
OK, first off to get something out of the way. I hereby present Sean of Gaming Conjecture with his super official badge of MMO bloggership for covering his take on the whole free-to-play model thingy. Well done, Sean, well done! You can tell it's legit official by the exclusion of any Comic Sans, and the proper use of a lens flare, not to mention clashing colors abound. Awards like these are quite rare, but your deservedness was well-noted.

Anywho, Sean brought up some great points about his issues with the developers behind free-to-play titles pushing to find new ways to create systems that are dipped into the monetization paint bucket. Whether they may sometimes rely on our laziness to go and purchase some form of a booster, or perhaps changing previously-stated plans to needlessly monetize a mechanic or system, I can imagine he had a rough time handling several of the free-to-play decisions made by Turbine, ultimately waning his interest with LOTRO.

If you've seen any of my previous posts, you may have picked up on the fact that all of the MMOs I play are indeed under the umbrella of the F2P model. The biggest factor behind this decision is due to my current finances. While my pockets may be penniless and filled with regret, the road is paved with plenty of free-to-play MMOs whose only stipulation to enter their gates may be to receive a mailing every now and then (and abiding by the ToS and all that fun stuff we read ever so carefully).

I suppose I shall selfishly gear this a bit toward LOTRO, as it has been my longest-played MMO yet. Yep, this is that weird MMO that involves talking trees and seeing how crazy you can cosmeticize a hobbit. When they rolled out their F2P model in 2010, I think it was a great opportunity to introduce many into the world inspired by J.R.R Tolkien, myself included. I knew the basic characters, and I've seen the movies that were out at that time, but I had not read the books or knew much more about the lore. Well, the lore bit can still go over my head, but at least the book part had been taken on.

As you can tell by the graphs and charts, I am AOK with F2P.
But I digress. I'm cool with microtransactions and set limitations put on the game...especially when there are ways to accrue or get by these issued barriers via doing what you hopefully would want to be doing anyways - playing the game. I think this is one of those things that I find makes LOTRO really shine as the F2P hybrid model - accruing the premium currency in game feels so much simpler and intuitive than other F2P titles (ex: for Neverwinter you'd need to first sell a huge chunk of Astral Diamonds - a tradable currency - for their Zen, premium cash currency for store, and the same kind of thing with Rift for hoping to find someone to sell your platinum for their REX credit thingy). If you keep doing in-game activities,you're bound to get a good number of Turbine Points straight up.

Then again, while it's fairly easy to gain TP, there certainly is a lot you'd like to purchase in the store. From quest packs to extra character slots to trait slots, I won't argue there is a good amount of monetized items to help aid your journey. What I would argue is that you don't need it all, at least right away. Perhaps grabbing key quest packs to get you through certain tiers of levels could work, but there is no essential need for every upgrade that pops on the screen.

As yes, popping on the screen, you say. Developers aiming at monetizing something in specific will sometimes create an obtuse UI that projects the sales pitch. This is where I remind myself that I'm playing a free title by choice (skipping the little ditty that I had picked up a couple of the xpacs, shhhh), and as such I think I can manage to tweak my gameplay and attitude a bit to accommodate this. Is this Hobbit Present thing a gamble-mongering scam? No - I see it as a free daily item, thanks for free stuff with my free stuff! It's like getting a free side of curly fries with that free spicy chicken sandwich I never ordered. No complaints here.

F2P also means I am not bogged down by a scheduled subscription. While I love LOTRO, MMO exclusivity is really not my thing. Unless you are suddenly bailing on friends who were expecting you to be on to level or raid (or whatever people do in groups these days), I see nothing inherently wrong with jumping around to play on different MMOs during a week. This can sometimes let you remember what you missed (or perhaps didn't miss?) on your "main" game, and make going back to replay it all that much more special and fun.

That's really all I'm trying to get at in the end of the day. Have fun. If playing games without a subscription is your way of having fun, by all means go ahead. If you'd rather be offering a subscription to a company for a hopefully more stable and "full" experience, go for it, and don't forget to enjoy it. For those that would love to experience the ride of a subscription, but where money is the issue, I'd say just try to have a good time figuring out how to navigate your favorite F2P world with confidence, and don't be afraid to test the MMO waters in different areas - you might just find a cool spot!

TLDR, you should check out Gaming Conjecture - has plenty of great posts to check out. Meanwhile, I'll still enjoy dipping my toes into F2P games, roll with the punches, and find a way to make it worth the fun-o-meter that was implanted in my brain after that freak carnival accident in which someone actually won the ring toss game. Oh, and if parts of this post don't make sense, totes not my fault - totally was not me that had no sleep followed by hours of sorting books. Nope - sharp as a misplaced thumbtack here.


Leveling and Alien Plants

Zyngor | Wednesday, August 27, 2014 0 Comments
Well, posting late in the day hype! I had a busy enough day, paired with not having a set topic in mind, so I decided to wait until the last three hours of the day like a champ. Well, I'm not quite as busy now, but I still don't have a topic in mind. I was hoping the time of day would cause my brain to suddenly click, as I sometimes feel like I have a bit more mental acuity at nighttime. My demons get to leap from my eardrums and party like it's 2999.

Leveling is tiring business!
LOTRO Leveling

I went back to leveling my champion in LOTRO. He's currently sitting at 91, in West Rohan. I am normally not too worried about gear while leveling, figuring quest/current gear is good enough for the time being, I did opt to update his jewelry via 90 crafted pieces. Some of the content in W. Rohan can be a bit of a wake-up, usually some of the instances that bring a whole bunch of enemies at once, so figured the extra 3k morale & bit of a damage boost would serve me well.

I'll swap between focusing on one character and jumping around to level various alts at different times, though for now I am mostly just focusing on one when I decide to level. Maxing this guy out will make my third level 100, and I'll probably either move to get the last five levels on my minstrel, or 15 levels on my rune-keeper. I'd also like to try and get my hunter on another server to 100 soon. So much leveling, so much time.

TV Time

Last night I was watching the film adaptation of Little Shop of Horrors, starring Rick Moranis & Ellen Greene. I've always enjoyed a good musical, and both the comedic and bizarre aspects of this one just does it for me. Moranis has the whole awkward geeky character down pat, as we've also seen evidenced in Ghostbusters. His singing reflects this character, and pushes that out to sound like an average Joe just singing his heart out. In combination with Greene, a very emotional singer, the feels are real.

Here he was in his cheeky light-hearted ballad to his botany project, Audrey II, which (who?) drove the story's plot.



Well, I think I might actually have a topic in mind for tomorrow - guess there's a first for everything (except Youtube comments...can't win that one). I guess we'll see tomorrow what I do to try and put it off as much as possible.


Sociability in Platforms for Gaming

Zyngor | Tuesday, August 26, 2014 2 Comments
Power overwhelming
Last night I meant to start playing through Bioshock on a higher difficulty, but does it count if I instead watched the guys at Sourkoolaidshow do that, while I went out plundering for loot and undiscovered locations on my Skyrim map? I did manage to find another of those stones you can activate for a passive ability, so that's another trick to hide up my sleeves. I also managed to take my Sneak skill up to 100, after having previously done so and making it "legendary," so I suppose another reset of the skill is in order.

While checking out some other fellow Blaugustians, I came across Isey's post on their observations about ages of those that blog. They noted that it seemed a good population of bloggers seemed to lean toward the older population, and was curious "where the 20somethings are talking about their games." As a "20something" myself, I found their curiosity about gaming discussion platforms for the younger generation of interest.

So when I'm not doing my spurt of blogging, where am I discussing gaming? Well, when I was an even younger youngin', and many of the social media experiences were not around, I'd say I could be nestled pretty well in the adventurous world of forum discussion. With its arms still stretching wide around the web today, forums were the ultimate close-knit experience. Once you found your niche and joined the community (and possibly wait for the admin to give you the proper permissions), you were in - simple as that. Assuming you weren't there to troll, you were usually welcomed by the members, regardless of age. I have met all sorts of cool people through my heavier times with forum involvement. This was the OG social media experience!

Eventually, through either site closings or changes in gaming interests, my forum chatting has since waned, though I'll still lurk several forums for discussions or information. After that time, I did start writing in a blog...this one in fact, as writing had always been a sort of passion for me, and I wanted somewhere to post my musings. This started out as a gaming/personal blog, and although I had abandoned the content for a couple years, I suppose it still remains as such. There may or may not have been a Myspace thrown in those years, but I better pass that over to retain my coolness....yeh. Facebook came, though I rarely used it as a means to discuss gaming. This place started as a means to connect with my actual friends...in an organized virtual means. This is not to say I didn't enjoy my share of Facebook games - I certainly did, and my involvement with a couple even led to a resurgence of my forum posting days (one in a more professional manner, others for fun).

Probably a couple years past my Facebook creation was my start with Twitter...extreme micro-blogging at its finest. I believe my start there was triggered by my involvement on Youtube. Oh ya, guess I forgot to mention YT in the mix. I was once a content creator on YT, where my content was more of either recorded video gameplay, or vlogging. The majority of those that I was kind of in contact with and kinda in the "circle" were vlog content creators, so that was more of playing around with video creation and virtually meeting another group of individuals.

Anyways, back to Twitter. I guess this was my first medium since forums and blogging that I was more free to discuss gaming stuff, if I so desired. This was minimalist journalism, so it's not like it took much of an effort to throw out some musing, or perhaps post a link to a gaming article. I had abandoned it for a couple of not-so-fun years, but eventually came back...maybe I missed it? Sure, comments may be a bit compact for some that prefer a more drawn-out platform, but the applications of twitch blogging seem to have worked, and you can get so much of a variety in content, depending on those you decide to follow. Conversations are nestled pretty well, though can sometimes get a bit weird when you have more than two conversing, some of which may not be following one another.

Speaking of twitch, I suppose this leads into what is probably my latest medium of an obsession. Twitch is a video game livestreaming platform, allowing anybody with the proper (can be free) software, and possibly a webcam/mic the ability to stream their video game experience in real time. Streamers log which game they are playing at the time, making it easy for users to search for a title they'd like to watch. Users can enter a channel, and not only watch/listen to the streamer, but converse with one another via their chat channel.
I know watching others play games live is not something everyone enjoys, especially when they could perhaps instead be playing that same game themselves. As for me, I prefer to not watch the competitive games that often receive the largest number of consumers on Twitch (such as a League of Legends stream), and instead I'll sometimes watch a stream that has an interesting game, or more often, a community better suited to my tastes. Many of the streams I watch on a more regular basis fit into that last category just seem to have a better feel with their community, and are more interactive with their watchers. I think the medium is also excellent for streaming indie games, which usually only helps to market these titles, especially if the streamer is able to promote the game well (links, possible on-air Skype calls with the developers, etc).

So I suppose I've been a kind of connoisseur for many of the e-social experiences on the web, especially when it comes to gaming. As for these days in gaming conversations, I have been maintaining a daily blog schedule as part of Blaugust, as well as writing occasional content over on LOTRO Players. Other than that, Twitter has been more of a conversation-joiner than starter, and Twitch is more of a wild card, as I'll often just lurk and enjoy the content produced while I'm gaming or surfing the web. All in all, I think I'm a bit of the old and a bit of the new - I dance the Charleston upon the lines of virtual conversation!


My Dusty MMO Road

Zyngor | Monday, August 25, 2014 0 Comments
Immersion can means all sorts of things when it comes to an MMO. While it may traditionally refer to the length in which you feel drawn into the virtual world (a la roleplaying), some may simply say it could be how much fun you are having with your MMO experience. I could see it as a mixture of both. By enjoying your time and having fun, you may get yourself sucked further into the world. If you enjoy roleplaying, but do not enjoy the game at the same time for what the developers have produced, how much are you really going to be immersed while you struggle to enjoy the mechanics?

While LOTRO takes its place as my current top MMO (probably followed by Rift), it was not my first true MMORPG experience. That honor would likely go to Silkroad Online (SRO, by developer Joymax). This was a F2P fantasy game released in 2005 (I believe I started playing around this time), which I was casually hooked to for a couple of years. As the title may suggest, this game has pretty heavy eastern cultural themes. The game also had a fairly rich PvP system, which was linked with either protecting or attacking trade routes (you know..that whole Silk Road thing). I suppose Archeage could be a loose contemporary, give or take.

I won't beat around the bush - the main reason I was attracted to SRO was because it was a F2P title. I know some a little eh about the model, but as a fairly non-competitive gamer, others' thoughts on the whole "buy to win" bit that is sometimes associated with some F2P premium stores means diddly-squat to me. Why do I care if other people are "winning" when I can just have fun playing the game and not worry about how they are doing? If that means they are that much stronger if I happen to do any group content (although when I played, SRO was very light on the group stuff), wouldn't that work in my favor?

The glowier, the better
Anyways, off that mini diatribe, SRO was a pretty nice-looking game at the time. Different areas may be representing different cultures (such as Chinese, Islamic, European, etc), so there was a variety of architecture to come across as you progressed. Combat (from what I can recall) would likely be pretty lackluster as compared to today, and I will say the game was very grindy. It was not uncommon to be required to kill hundreds of an enemy type to progress with some quest or find gear, so I can imagine it may not be everyone's cup of tea.


This was not an uncommon sight in towns
What I thought was one of the neat features that made SRO stand out was their implementation of a stall system to auction your items to others, in lieu of an actual auction hall. This meant that you would toggle on your stall in town, queue up the items you'd want to sell, and others could come up and either bid or purchase your goods. While this made selling your goods in this means a static activity, I think it added a nice level of immersion to what was otherwise just "another" MMO in the mix out there. I can recall putting up items for sale before going AFK for class, hoping I'd come back a few gold richer.

Silkroad Online servers are still going and receive maintenance, as far as I know. You can head on over here should you want to try out the game.

What was your first MMO experience, whether it be RPG/shooter/etc? What was it that made you decide to play it, and how doe sit compare to your modern MMO titles? Share in the comments below!


Sunday e-Musings

Zyngor | Sunday, August 24, 2014 0 Comments
Well, it's a fairly lazy Sunday, so no set topic for today. I did wake up with a dragon carcass at my side...or should I say a paused Skyrim with a slain dragon laying pathetically on the screen. It still has not gotten old taking these and other creatures of the north out...not to mention the plethora of bandits just lining up to receive an arrow to the kne...head. Eventually I would like to delve a bit into modding my experience - the only mod I picked up and have been using was SkyUI, which aims at making the UI much more resourceful and easier to manage. Who knows, maybe Randy Savage does know Dovahzul!

I was playing around with StrangeClimber last night, and finally made my way up a tower (after plenty of trial and error). There was no flag or "finish line" that I saw, so it seems that (at least in its current developed form) this game is all about the journey, and not necessarily the finish. On a couple other maps, I was noticing those same issues making a full jump (that I had mentioned in my review) were occurring more frequently the higher I got. This seemingly halted what could have been a full scaling once or twice, though perhaps this is an intended mechanic to add challenge to the final section? On the bright side, the procedurally-genererated levels make it a fun experience each time. Also, what I thought would be a repetitive soundtrack has happily been a soothing listen since I started.

Not so Big anymore, eh Daddy?
As I generally start many of my first-time playthroughs of games on a fairly low difficulty setting, I decided that I may go and re-play some games on a more challenging mode. I figure this'll give me a chance to get that fresh feel of a game, without having to go out & buy a new title. First game on the list? Bioshock. This game was a really cool experience, because it not only has pretty neat shooter & character development mechanics (plasmid hype!), but the environment was pretty jaw-dropping on my first playthrough. When I reached those tunnels that connect buildings, you really got a good glimpse of Rapture, and what happened to this once-rich utopia. So...save or harvest the Little Sisters? ;)

It's a bird! It's a plane! It's...a whale?

Anyways, I'll wrap it up there. Hope you all have a great Sunday...anyone want to come and mow my lawn?


StrangeClimber, a Virtual Playground

Zyngor | Saturday, August 23, 2014 0 Comments
I was checking out my Twitter feed earlier today when I saw PC Gamer posted their best free games of the week. Naturally, my eyes widened in gaming greed when I saw "free," so I decided to check it out. After checking out the selection of five games, the first one on the list, StrangeClimber, interested me enough to give it a whirl. Perhaps it was their shoutout to Far Cry 3's radio towers that did it?

Anyways, StrangeClimber, developed by Strangethink, utilizes procedurally-generated geometry to create your very own Aggro Crag to master. Well, other than the smoke and falling obstacles. The  objective is simple - climb. There are always multiple ways to get to the top, and because it is randomly designed each time, you'll always have a new tower to scale.


First off, there is no fall damage, so if (and/or when) you teeter off an edge, the only penalty is having to start back from square one. If you are having difficulty with a certain layout, pressing "G" on the keyboard will reset the current design with a new one (and start you back on the ground). Controls are very simple: WASD + mouse for movement and camera panning, Space Bar/Left Click for jumping, and Shift/Right Click to sprint. Holding the jumping key longer will result in a higher jump, which will be necessary in order to make vertical and horizontal jumps possible.

There is a pretty mellow trance-like tune in the background, which is soothing at first, but may become monotonous over a length of time. As for the gameplay, this may not be the game for you if you are easily prone to raging. Because of the touchy controls, it is fairly easy to misplace your footing and plummet toward the ground. There were times that I felt like I should be able to make a full jump (didn't see any geometry above me), but I was only able to make a partial jump. The game textures can also sometimes make it a little difficult to tell exactly how objects are extending, though panning the camera with the mouse should help alleviate this.

I'd love for there to be perhaps another mode or option to make quick saves during your journey up the tower. I think this would help to ease those with less patience that may otherwise just ragequit after a couple falls (especially as you get far up). I have not yet made it up a tower myself, though I've only had about an hour of experience with the game thus far.

Overall, this is a great virtual parkour climbing experience. This kinda feels like one of those games that could work on the Oculus Rift. It'll take a little while to get a grasp on your jumping limitations, and you'll experience plenty of those critical jumps where it's "all or nothing," but I find this to be an enjoyable free-to-play jungle gym. I'm not totally sure what happens when you make it to the top, but based on what I've experienced along the journey, I can imagine it'll certainly be rewarding either way.

You can either play StrangeClimber online here (it uses the Unity engine, and you'll need to have to have the web player downloaded), or you can scroll down a bit and download the standalone game on the same page.

And miles to go before I leap...




Goooooooooooal!

Zyngor | Friday, August 22, 2014 0 Comments
I was catching up on a couple of posts via the Blaugust reel when I came across a post on Byx's Lock and Bolt blog about to-do lists in gaming. She remarked on re-discovering a gaming notebook that contained many of her WoW notes and goals which had been lost by time. Naturally, we all will generally have some goal in mind should you decide to play a certain title long-term, but do you actually write them down?

I find MMO titles much easier to put together certain goals which you'd like to accomplish. This genre of gaming usually adopts a large set of systems in place in order to cater to a large group of players, and seemingly overwhelm users with a crap-ton of stuff to keep us entertained and playing that specific title. While other games do have their own ways to keep us playing, MMOs seem to pick and choose various elements from other genres, and ball them together with a fresh roll of duct tape.

That being said, most of my goal-forming with LOTRO has been associated with an annual episode of the LOTRO Academy podcast in which Branick, Pineleaf, Mysteri, and Draculetta discuss how/if their goals from the prior year had been met, and explain goals which they'd like to accomplish for the following year (listen to the 2014 episode of this here). Listeners can then post their goals in the comment section below. It's nothing necessary, but it is kinda fun to see what others come up with, and how close they were to reaching their prior goals. At least it certainly reflects on your gaming habits, and what kind of time you can devote toward reaching those goals.

Outside of MMOs, I used to do a decent amount of note-taking when it came to Diablo 2. This mostly came in the form of the online play via Battle.net, and while it was not heavy on the goal-making, did include a lot of items I had on mule characters (switching toons too often/quickly would sometimes kick you off the server). If there was a particular boss I was farming, I would sometimes write down the loot for each run. I can remember in particular doing a fairly large project where I would continually grind the Countess in Act 1, and take note of the rune(s) that dropped. I suppose these aren't really good examples of a to-do list, but I would often relay the noted data on a forum, so I guess it was more of a to-post list. Still, notetaking is notetaking.

At my current stage of casual gaming, I am not really doing any to-do lists on a physical notebook space (nor really on a virtual one). With technology these days, it feels just as easy to open up Notepad or something and jot any tasks down, but as someone who occasionally goes on a jaunt of writing, I can still appreciate a good notebook by your side. I think in-game goal tracking has also improved as we get more intuitive UIs introduced into games (or are introduced through game mods), next to much simpler systems in the past (some of which may necessitated the need for an out-of-game journal to keep track of stuff).

As gamers, we pick up that goal-oriented trait through our gameplay. Some virtual worlds are designed to make those finish lines very linear, while others (ie open-word games) are much more loosey-goosey and allow for flexible strategies to reach those goals. Either way, we become rather apt at identifying the situation, and address as such with our gamer tact. Whether you are there for the journey or its conclusion, we all seem to have some goal in mind. Hopefully a big part of that is just having fun with the experience.

Check out Byx's blog, Lock and Bolt!


Gaming Questionnaire Hype!

Zyngor | Thursday, August 21, 2014 0 Comments
Well, I've seen several others complete this gaming questionnaire created by Jasyla over at Cannot by Tamed, so I decided to jump onto the bandwidth...err wagon, of which many Blaugust members have completed. There could be some things I say here that I have previously mentioned, but this is a pretty broad set of gaming questions, so that'd probably be expected. Anyways, on to the queries!

1) When did you start playing video games? 

The the best of my knowledge, I started with educational titles in my elementary school computer lab, so that was probably early-mid 90s. I know, I'm kind of a youngin', deal with it.

2) What is the first game you remember playing?

If you're counting educational titles, the ones that stick in my head are Math Blaster and Word Munchers. If not, one of the first I can recall was Star Wars: Rogue Squadron, though I may have played some kiddy games before that.

3) PC or Console? 

PC...I have owned a couple of consoles, but the time spent consoling it up is likely a drop in the bucket next to the time spent PC gaming.

4) XBox, PlayStation, or Wii? 

None of the above. The latest console I own is the Nintendo Gamecube. I do think the Wii was pretty revolutionary at the time, and liked how it was geared toward family entertainment.

5) What’s the best game you’ve ever played?

I think the best games I've played are not just those that I have enjoyed playing, but also go beyond the in-game barrier. Diablo 2 was not just a title that I'd enjoy spending countless hours mashing on my mouse and keyboard, but it also gave me my first true experience with a forum community. I was not only a member over at D2Sector, but also moderated for several years. As such, it was akin to a volunteer experience that I feel helped give me a better ability to deal with people through online conversations, through the good and the bad (still love reading a good bit of drama, get your popcorn ready!).

For the same kind of feeling, LOTRO is also one of the best games I have played. Being an MMO, it gave me a good chance to meet all sorts of new people, both in and out of game. LOTRO generally has a more mature crowd, so my experiences have mostly all been good. I have also been fortunate enough to join up with the good peoples at LOTRO Players and do a bit of writing and all that good stuff, which would have never been possible if I never had played LOTRO.

6) What’s the worst game you’ve ever played?

Hard for me to pinpoint this one. I generally always look at the good in the game, and because I do not usually participate in gaming that had been a burden financially, I usually don't feel like I was ripped off by buying or acquiring the game. However, Duke Nukem Forever was a little "eh" for the 15 years or so it had of development. I was not too hot with the limit on weapons, when I wasn't exactly sure what I would need for the challenge ahead.

7) Name a game that was popular/critically adored that you just didn’t like. 

Not sure of an exactly game, but I do know that real-time strategies are not my cup of tea. The couple I have tried (most just a demo thing) generally made me think more than I'd like to for a gaming experience. I have nothing against people that do like them...like I said, just not my cup of tea. Maybe one example of this is that Starcraft is probably one of the biggest strategy titles I've played, and I spent a good chunk of that playing their Use Map Settings (UMS) maps that involved RPG gameplay. Go figure.

MOBAs are another genre I'm not too hot over...maybe it's because both of these genres are so competitive, and I am not a competitive gamer.

8) Name a game that was poorly received that you really like. 

While I don't think it bombed per se, I rather enjoyed Hellgate: London. Once again, an RPG shooter stole my heart (or at least a nice big chunk of gaming time). This post-apocalyptic shooter was later made into a F2P online title (at least in Korea, I believe), and I'm not sure of its current status. I always stuck with the original offline CD-ROM like a boss. I enjoyed both RPG and shooter elements, and there was plenty of ground to cover (and re-cover, and re-cover...love me some grinding).

9) What are your favourite game genres? 

I would say my favorite genre is the RPG. There's just a cool feeling when you start from nothing, and can acquire new skills and equipment throughout the entirety of the gaming experience. By slowly building your abilities up, you can basically control the difficulty. I also like hybrid RPG titles, like the action RPG (Diablo series) or the similar shooter RPG (Borderlands series).

10)Who is your favourite game protagonist? 

Well, I suppose most of the story NPCs (part of the epic) in LOTRO could fall under this umbrella, and even just some that you meet in the quest zones. Aren't Horn and Nona a-dork-able? While I have not even played Bioshock Infinite, but from what I've seen (including the ending...woops), I think it's safe to say that both Booker and Elizabeth are pretty neat characters.

11) Describe your perfect video game. 

Toss me an open-word experience that is constantly in flux, add some humor and well-enriched NPCs, don't make me think too much, and I'm good.

12) What video game character do have you have a crush on? 

If I said Borderlands, you'd probably assume Moxxi. What if I said Tannis? Sure, she's a little...out there. But hey...uh...yeh.

13) What game has the best music? 

I'll admit that I do not listen to in-game music as much as some others may, but when I do, the background to the Elder Scrolls games are pretty sweet. I really don't listen to the music/any in-game sounds in LOTRO, but don't tell anybody about that. It's not because it's bad (from what I've listened to, it's enjoyable), but I usually either have my own music on in the background, or I'm multi-tasking and maybe listening to a podcast/Twitch stream.

14) Most memorable moment in a game: 

The first time I beat Diablo in Diablo 2. I have discussed it in the past, and while I have had many great moments in gaming, I think it was just my age and the environment I was in that gave me such a cool memorable impression. I have also beat Diablo in the first game since, but because it came several years later, it did not give me that same experience.

15) Scariest moment in a game: 

Yep, I'm looking at you, F.E.A.R. Never had I seen something usually so innocent turned in a mind-wrecking horror, exacerbated by playing in the dark. Needless to say, I only hoped I didn't dream of descending ladders, only to be met by Alma that night.

16) Most heart-wrenching moment in a game:

I'm not sure I have a specific moment in time. Now if you are talking about my run of Bioshock where I went all out with the wrench, then there you have it. Wrench Jockey for life!

17) What are your favourite websites/blogs about games? 

With #Blaugust, I have been reading more blogs than I have in the past (many/most which are gaming related). Prior to that, I was pretty partial to LOTRO Players, and other than that, I just Google stuff when I want to know.

18) What’s the last game you finished? 

Hard to say when I play so many open-ended games, plus MMOs (which really don't have endings...until they pull the plug). I've technically finished Skyrim, but that's not gunna stop me from raiding more dungeons and caves, and do more unnecessary leveling as much as I can. I'm also doing another run of Far Cry 3 on a higher difficulty, and have mostly been just messing about lately.

19) What future releases are you most excited about?

I do not necessarily hype over new releases. I'll normally get around to playing games once they are discounted enough, or free (Oregon Trail hype!). That being said, I am looking forward to free-to-play games such as Trove, and I think I may be interested in trying out Everquest Next.

20) Do you identify as a gamer? 

Of course I identify myself as a gamer. I play games, and as such can call myself a gamer. I don't go around in public shouting at everyone, "HI THERE I'M A GAMER, MAN IT'S PRETTY WARM TODAY," but that doesn't stop me from enjoying video games on my own time.

Similarly, I don't go around telling everyone that I'm a breather, eater, and a sleeper, but I do all those too. Well, at least the first two.

21) Why do you play video games?

I think that I enjoy participating in an interactive virtual environment, where I don't have to be a professional or perfect to enjoy. If I screw up, oh well - there's a respawn. Overall, it's just something fun to do to escape the realities that exist outside the door, plus I sometimes get to meet some cool people along the way. While I can't say I've met m(any) outside the real door, just chatting or talking to what are allegedly actual humans has been a blast. Sure, it's not traditional human contact, but I figure we'll all be robots in five years anyways.


Buckets for a Cure?

Zyngor | Wednesday, August 20, 2014 0 Comments

If a picture is worth a thousand words, could a
video be worth...$15.6 million dollars?

So yesterday I was doing my usual perusal of the web (or maybe I was finishing up yesterday's blog post? idk), when I was told to jump on Facebook. I don't really use Facebook as much these days as I may have used to in the past (*grabs walker* back in my day, we had to type a "the" in the front, and only us college folk could use it). Upon loading the page, I noticed that my sister posted a video doing the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Well, that's cool. As I watched it, she got to the challengers. Wait...did she just say my name?

Yeppers. I was nominated to complete the challenge (and/or donate to support the ALS Association). Since I'm not in a current financial spot to be donating money, I decided to take on the challenge. I'm no Speaker of the House, but I also decided to add a little context behind the challenge prior to showing the video of dunking myself.

I know a lot of people are extremely opposed to the idea of this challenge. How can dumping a bucket of ice water over your head help - it's just a waste of water! Well, you probably got me on the water bit, though I'm sure there's more water somewhere out there. As for the idea, it started out as a general charity challenge. Eventually, Florida resident Charles Kennedy decided to gear his challenge toward supporting ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease) research on July 15. From there, it took on a life of its own, and has been sweeping across the Internet in a viral sensation.

While it's generally expected that many will additionally donate money to the ALS Association, perhaps not everyone has that same luxury. Still, that didn't stop many from keeping this social media sensation going, spreading from chalengee to the next group of challengers. From what I last heard, the ALS Association had received $15.6 million dollars, as compared to $1.8 during the same time period last year. If it's for a good cause, what's really so bad about spreading awareness through a social campaign craze like this?

People are being entertained, and donating at the same time. If you are not a fan, don't worry - it'll eventually pass just like any online viral sensation. In the meantime, deal with it.

Well, below is my video for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge:

video

I was pleased with how it came out, other than having to hear my own voice (from what I hear, we all seem to hate hearing our voices recorded). It had been awhile since I have busted out the good 'ol Windows Movie Maker (used to use it when I made videos on Youtube from another era), so needless to say I was pretty psyched when I got to bust out a transition animation (what do you think is more lame, WMM transitions, or Comic Sans font?).

Anywho, just something a little different than gaming for today. If you would like to read more about ALS or should you decide to donate to support ALS research, head on over here.

Have you ever taken on some type of challenge to help support or raise awareness toward a charity/group? How do you feel about these viral experiments? Share below!



A Trove of Voxels

Zyngor | Tuesday, August 19, 2014 0 Comments
I think I'm falling into the same boat as some other fellow Blaugust participants where daily postings aren't really my thing. It makes me feel a little rushed to make sure and get a post out every day, and some days I just don't have anything I really need to post about. That being said, I will do my best to continue posting daily in August as part of this blogging experiment (check out all the great posts at the Blaugust Anook). Beyond that, I can hopefully keep some form of blogging going - I'd like to say a couple times a week, but perhaps my goal is at least once a week, assuming I have something to discuss. I'd also like to continue doing posts at LOTRO Players, of which I have not been doing much lately (perhaps I've spent some of that time thinking and writing stuff for this blog instead).

So lately I've been trying out a bit of the Trove alpha after someone pointed me to a giveaway on Twitter. This game will be a free-to-play voxel RPG, and is currently in development by Trion (Rift, Defiance, ArcheAge). While I have never played Minecraft, it definitely seems to share many of the same blocky-pixelated aspects. I have also tried a couple hours of Landmark (a more realistic voxel builder in development by SOE), but I was having laggy issues up the wazoo. Fortunately, I have not had those issues thus far with Trove, and seems to operate pretty smoothly on my laptop.


Just like Minecraft, Trove currently offers a couple of ways to play the game. From what I have experienced so far, the combat system is very simple, and seems to work as it should (for the most part). I have gravitated toward the gunslinger class (I generally prefer ranged classes), and have a couple of skills at hand. As it is now (other than the main firing skill), they work on a kind of rudimentary refilling stamina orb. As this is just the alpha, I'm sure it will be developed further, but I would expect it to remain a pretty simple action combat experience.

The other big activity in this game, which gives it a lot of depth and aims toward the creative crowd, is the building system. Simply by hitting the Tab key, you will switch to the building mode. From here, you can use the right mouse key to quickly "harvest" the terrain (or use your attacks from your combat mode to harvest these or other landscape objects). You can then put the terrain blocks on your hotbar and go wild building (there are areas called cornerstones that you can call your own and build there so other players cannot destroy it...essentially the housing system).

Get your hard hat on...master constructor at work!
Crafting is also available in the game by building stations to place in your cornerstone. You can then craft various items for either yourself or decoration items for your housing. I have personally not delved much into crafting, so unfortunately I don't really have anything else to say on that subject.

When I first heard about Trove, I was excited to give it a try. I like to have different "types" of MMOs at my disposal (ex: LOTRO as my story-driven title, Rift as my WoW-esque choice, Neverwinter as an action-driven experience). I have not really tried out a voxel title yet, and I think the addition of the RPG/combat elements is a nice touch to cater toward different types of players. From what I have experienced so far, I'll be happy to add Trove to my collection when it comes time for the live release.

As Trove is currently in alpha, I would expect at least one wipe for whenever it decides to move into the next phase of development. If you wish to give it a try, you can try to sign up on their website. They will sometimes also post alpha keys on their Twitter.





Whozits and Whatzits Galore!

Zyngor | Monday, August 18, 2014 0 Comments
I'm not exactly sure where my desire to "COLLECT ALL THE THINGS!" began. Perhaps it started with Diablo 2, especially when I started to delve into the mods. This normally brought about hundreds of new items, cube recipes, and other random stuff to collect. As game modifications increased storage space, it became much easier to ignore inventory management, and hoard all the shinies.

Since then, if a game I'm playing utilizes some kind of random collectible system, chances were I'd usually be interested in procuring the goods - at least to some limit. There were times that I've had to resort to the wisdom of the Internet to find those last couple collectibles (for example, the packages from some of the Grand Theft Auto games). Others I'd probably be to stubborn to look at a "cheat sheet" (I need to go back to Far Cry 3 and go idol hunting). However you decide to play the collectible game (that is, if you do), it's a system that I think will only grow as developers need to add a little extra mini-game to keep their users playing.

All random collectibles will henceforth be known as...dinglehoppers!
I suppose there are two kinds of collectibles - functional and aesthetic. Functional items work to improve your character or unlock some game feature upon discovery. These are the kind that any player would enjoy collecting, whether they be completionists or gameplay-driven folk. Going back to Grand Theft Auto III, collecting certain tiers of packages will unlock free weapons at your hideout, making it much easier to build up an arsenal. Meanwhile, aesthetic items are there simply to be collected because...they were there. These are directly completionist-driven, and do not go toward character improvement. They may reward an achievement, or perhaps provide background story (think of the audio recordings in the Bioshock series).

Yes, I'd rather collect shiny dots on the ground than animated creatures
As for myself, I will generally prefer the functional collectibles. Rift offers a couple different collection systems. Artifacts (functional) and non-combat companions (aesthetic) are two that come to the top of my head. In general, non-combat pets are not something I'm too keen about having to procure...if it happens, it happens. However, the artifact system in Rift got me really addicted to just running around the landscape in a zone, while scouring the ground for little shiny trinkets on the ground. Some of the lower-level guild quests may have asked me to find 300 artifacts, and I'd happily jump around the zones, finding hot spots with these little suckers.

All in all, you can't go wrong with a good collectible system. I'd say at least including a functional item-collecting system is worth it, as it'll get the players doing a bit of exploring, and be rewarded upon success. Adding an aesthetic system might be considered "fluff" to some players, but the completionists will approve of an additional hunt toward their 100%. Depending on where the items may be hidden, it will also get the players hunting across the entire game map, and serve as another means to extend time spent with a specific title. Give 'em a hook, attach a nice tasty collectible bait, and those fishies will be hoppin'!

How do you feel about in-game collectibles? Are you a completionist? Share below!



That Sweet Beat is a Treat

Zyngor | Sunday, August 17, 2014 3 Comments
While checking comments, Welshtroll noted on my bit about Really Big Sky (space shoot-em-up), of which it reminded him a bit of Beat Hazard. Being a rhythm space shooter, it made me think about rhythm-based games in general.

Fortunately, I never really had the same problem as Chris Penn's Footloose character - rhythm has generally been fairly easy for me to attain. This is not to say my ability to dance (or lack thereof) works the same way. Still, identifying a beat has always been pretty fun, and has helped me during my stint with band in elementary, middle, and high school (I was a trumpeteer - we had one job...be louder).

I will note that I've only seriously played two rhythm games, both essentially the same pure rhythm games - Stepmania and Flash Flash Revolution (FFR). If you have ever played Dance Dance Revolution, these two games are cut from the same cloth. They all utilize directional-based "moves" that are associated with the rhythm from the background music. It's one of those games that are easy to learn, hard to master. Oh, and did I mention that the two games are free?

Stepmania
So what is it about these games that I enjoy so much? There's a combination of things going on that when paired together, make a pretty fun gaming experience. First off, there's music constantly going on in the background. Because you can pick from a list of songs on FFR and basically try to find any song on the web for Stepmania, you are basically setting yourself up a playlist. Next, the actual gameplay tests your ability to quickly scan the incoming notes, and react with the appropriate keystrokes (yes, I do play these via keyboard, though I believe you can set a dance pad up for Stepmania). This is an ultimate evaluation of your hand-eye coordination. With practice, it eventually becomes much easier to recognize certain patterns of notes, and react accordingly.

Just one of many pages of selectable songs in FFR
While Stepmania is a single-player offline download, Flash Flash Revolution is a browser-based flash FFR sets you up with an ranking system that lets you compare your account with other users on the site. As a non-competitive gamer, I could care less if someone beats my scores, so fortunately it really doesn't matter what your rank is when it comes to accessing the roughly 2,000 songs on their database. As long as you can access the web and got Adobe Flash, you're good to go.
game. As such,

Stepmania is perfect for those times when you are unable to connect to the web (whether that be by choice or not) and still feel like messing around with some rhythm-based action. It will take a little more effort to start playing, as you will need to build up your own list of songs by downloading them off the web. Fortunately, there are many song packs out there that make it easy to start building up a library. You'll soon have a bustling selection (if you can think of a song, someone probably made a stepfile out of it). If your hard drive isn't all that big, just keep an eye on your folder to make sure you aren't using up too much available space. As each download includes multiple elements (song, step file, often a graphic, etc), you may want to make yourself a limit of songs at one time if space is a consideration.

I have tried my hand at some other rhythm games. For a brief time, I did have my swing at Rockband, which gave me a taste of group rhythm gaming. Whether it was guitar (rhythm hand-eye coordination), drums (straight up beat), or vocals (melody-based pitch contest), any part was generally enjoyable alongside a good group of friends. I believe I have also tried out Audiosurf, which plays on action-based rhythm. This game puts you in control of a ship, and tasks you with navigating a virtual "staff" of notes, creating a path to the rhythm of the song in the background.

Hybrid rhythm-based games always seem to be a pretty unique title, and are enjoyable for me to at least watch. Some of these that I have seem people play over on Twitch (which I won't go on about the new rules about music in VODs thing) include Sequence and Crypt of the NecroDancer. Both play as rhythm RPG games, which appeals to me as a pretty neat hybrid. Sequence is basically a cross between a Stepmania game and any traditional RPG. Enemy encounters consist of an arrow-based Stepmania-esque battle, which you control three screens - one is the enemy attack, which you must match the moves or loose health. The second controls your mana, refilling it if you hit the arrows accordingly. Finally, the third one is your spell window, casting offensive or defensive spells to either harm the enemy or heal/shield yourself. It gets pretty insane early on if you decide to pick higher difficulty battles.

Sequence

You know you're on a roll in Necrodancer when the
floor starts to light up
Meanwhile, Crypt of the NecroDancer is a straight-up rhythm-based dungeon crawler. Sounds neat? Plays even cooler. With a great soundtrack by indie game electronic music legend Danny Baranowsky, you navigate the depths of a labyrinth, slaying all the evils within, and upgrading your equipment with the spoils. Oh, and you must do all of this while moving your character to the beat of the music. If you maintain a "groove chain," you'll rack up plenty of gold to spend at the shopkeepers (who happen to be opera singers?). This is probably one of the coolest and most unique implementations of hybrid rhythm gaming.

Whatever your tastes may be, most people generally enjoy music. This gives rhythm-based gaming a pretty wide audience. Ever been to an arcade and seen one of those DDR machines? They always seem to be right in the front, with a crowd of people standing around and watching someone stepping up a storm. It's an intoxicating blend of music, rhythm, and perspiration (not to mention that food court pizza). Whether you have the aptitude or not to mess around with rhythm gaming, it's an awesome genre to at least participate both visually and aurally.

Do you enjoy rhythm-based gaming? What do you feel it brings to the gaming community? Feel free to share in the comments below!




Idle Cursor

Zyngor | Saturday, August 16, 2014 0 Comments
While catching up on a couple of podcasts last night, I listened to the great conversation that Braxwolf led on Beyond Bossfights on gamers and health. One such topic that was brought up was video game addiction, and the effects of an unhealthy addiction. The physical consequences are well-documented (skeletal issues, irregular sleeping & eating, etc), and the social/mental consequences are known but can be a bit harder to pinpoint. All in all, incessant traditional gaming can trigger a pretty sedentary lifestyle, and cause havoc on our health.

South Park's "Make Love, Not Warcraft" episode provides humorous commentary on the stereotypical gamer
So what about games that are designed to be sedentary in nature? Idle gaming is a fairly new genre, which include mostly browser-based titles. These games are almost overly simplistic - you start off by clicking an on-screen object or button. This is followed by more clicking, afterwards which you...yup. Click even more. Soon enough you are usually able to start purchasing upgrades, and this is where the idle factor starts to kick in. These purchases will supplement your mouse clicks (boosting your clicks per second, or CPS), and as you buy more upgrades, will start to replace the need for you to make physical clicks. Eventually, the need for clicks often become obsolete, and the upgrades will provide you with all the in-game profit needed.

One of the most popular examples of an idle game (sometimes known as idle clicking games) is Cookie Clicker, released in summer 2013 by French programmer Orteil. It has since received millions of visitors, with thousands of visiting on a daily basis. As the game suggests, the process of baking an endless number of cookies rests upon the activation of a giant cookie. Just like most idle games, there is no finish line - this however does not mean they do their best to dangle a shiny gold trophy in front of you.

Idle games reply on positive reinforcement to keep people playing. They will offer a slew of available upgrades your way, and offer achievements for completing certain tasks (which will occasionally increase your CPS). In order to keep things fresh, some idle games even offer an incentive to reset your game, starting back at zero with an added percentage bonus to your CPS (based on your progress in the previous generation). In an IGN article on the idle game movement, Justin puts it well  by saying that "the games are tuned to make you feel both powerful and weak, all at once. They thrive on an addictive feeling of exponential progress."

Even with their addictive nature, I find idle games much easier to keep open in another tab while I'm doing something else on the web, or even away from my computer. As such, I feel that idle games offer some the same basic needs for gamers (an objective, rewards, sense of accomplishment when you can finally afford that top-of-the-line upgrade) without the incessant need to stay glued to your chair. Assuming your Internet can allow as such, you could open up Cookie Clicker in the morning, spend five minutes getting any upgrades, and leave the house while the automated processes in game build up your cookie empire.

As long as creating virtual cookies don't make you hungry for physical cookies, and your jaunts while sitting to get your upgrades in order were fairly short, I see idle games as a potential fulfilling form of gaming entertainment to spend a couple minutes at a time between experiencing the marathon that is real life.

Here is a subreddit which includes links to several idle games. A throwaway mouse might be a good investment if you become addicted.

Are you a fan of idle games? If so, which one(s) do you enjoy, and what's the furthest you've progressed? Share in the comments below!



Game On, Game Off

Zyngor | Friday, August 15, 2014 2 Comments
So this morning I was watching The Karate Kid, because, well...it's a great movie. Besides making it crystal clear that refurbishing a home will tone your karate skills to "the best" (arouuuund), Mr. Miyagi provided a smorgasboard of sage advice. One such line went,"Lesson not just karate only. Lesson for whole life. Whole life have a balance. Everything be better."

As he puts it, this can be associated with any facet of life. Balance and moderation is key to enjoying anything. Too much of a good thing inevitably may be doing you some form of harm, or so they say. In my case, I think my scale is a bit askew when it comes to gaming.

The thing is, my whole life is probably a bit outta whack at the moment. Sparing you the details, there's a whole lot I should probably be doing. I'm not exactly the most motivated person in the world, but I suppose that's for another story I may or may not share (doesn't exactly sound pleasant).

As a casual gamer, I often get the drive to game, and enjoy my time while doing it without the requirement to be judged on a professional basis. However, the pendulum also swings the other way, making me wonder when (and how) I should occasionally shut it down and face the real world with that same level of motivation. I have recently made a couple of baby strives toward that goal, but it often feels like the princess is in another castle, and I have many more stages to go. I just gotta remain positive, as usual, teetering my way into a more balanced lifestyle. Maybe learning that Mr. Miyagi healing hands technique would also make me a better minstrel...

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This week in gaming

  • My grandmother & I managed to go from level 290-300 on her Candy Crush. While one or two levels were fairly easy to pass within the five allotted lives (the timed ones are very reactionary, so I get to feel useful by assisting), most felt very luck-based (as I have mentioned before here). Getting to 300 was our goal for this week's visit, so hooray for gaming accomplishment of the week!

  • I also played a decent amount of Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit. I've been tackling the Career mode, which gives you a choice of police or street racer missions. Attaining medals via skill unlock new events to conquer. The police side has been more entertaining in particular, as it provides a more tactical and aggressive driving experience. I think I have unlocked all the police cars at this point, so plenty of zoom-zooming about.

Somewhere in that mess of lights is a hero...
  • The other game I've given a whirl this week is Really Big Sky, which was offered for free with several other games last month. I guess Really Big Sky could be described as a shoot-em-up space roguelike. It has a pretty wide number of game modes, which let the player choose their difficulty. You may want to pass on this game if you are at risk for epilepsy - it's basically an interactive light show shooter.