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The purpose of this thread is to sink IJBMer updates, 'cause we all know how long that will last without vidya conversation.
Also, anything to do with video games. Retrospectives on old favourites, hype for upcoming games, commentary on gaming culture and industry, discussion on current games, game design bits and bobs, whatever.
Currently playing Mount and Blade vanilla, which is an excellent medieval combat game held back by its lack of a dodge key in favour of a entirely useless jump button that never, ever sees application and appears to be there 'cause, well, games have jump buttons, right? Unless you have extremely high agility, there's not much opportunity for actually avoiding attacks, forcing one to block or parry and thereby cutting off the whole "avoid and use the opening to attack" strategy that's a combat mainstay in both the real world and other games with good combat mechanics. Given, it's not impossible, it's just more unreliable than it is in other games or, quizzically, real life. Apart from that, it's a really solid game, although lacking in plot. It's pretty much a true medieval sandbox that technically counts as fantasy; while there's no magic or anything that out of the ordinary, there's also some minor anachronisms as well as the world being reshuffled with renamed places so you can have, say, Mongols making war with Vikings (and due to how hilariously overpowered cavalry is, the Mongols tend to win).
Not really a game for those who are looking for plot or characters, but if you ever fancied being a knight, mercenary or bandit in a medieval pastiche sandbox with a variety of possible balanced builds, then this game might be up your alley. A word to the wise, though: you'll want to hire some extra hands from the nearest village as soon as you've cleared basic combat training, otherwise the general banditry will eat you alive. While I generally hate grinding, it's fun in this game because of the nature of the battles, which during the early game in particular provide you with much of your funding. Riding down enemy troops from the back of a warhorse has never really been this satisfying, and, when you get the hang of it, such a fine-tuned experience.
I did like Mount and Blade, but I found its' controls frustrating and difficult to master. Also, there was no sense of direction, which led me to wander aimlessly until I grew bored and quit.
It takes some learning, although that's helped by zooming out on the map and setting your own objectives. While there are quests and stuff, much of the early game (and the rest of the game, if you don't make an oath of a lord) is spent on self-styled objectives based on what your needs are at the time. For instance, when you begin the game, basic survival is top priority. You'll have a basic horse and some questionable gear, but otherwise be at the mercy of roving bandits. Luckily, it only costs ten denars per a basic, recruit-type soldier, and you can hire about ten of them, fight off initial bands of bandits and still have cash in your purse. From there on out, it's about basic warband upkeep until a significant amount of your troops have become more advanced soldiers and you've got better gear and renown.
At this stage, you're probably ready to tackle some quests. Unfortunately, most villager quests are mundane and tedious (most of the time, you'll be asked to herd cattle or fetch grain for them), but occasionally you get the Seven Samurai style training quest wherein the final act is leading your warband and a bunch of peasants against a bandit invasion of the village. Where I feel this falls short is in the emphasis on cavalry. While the infantry combat is interesting in its own right, cavalry overpowers infantry by a huge margin and most of the game takes place in cavalry-enabled areas, so the only time you won't be on a horse is probably during the tournament and arena matches that give you random gear. Oh, and sieges, which are tons of fun.
I also have With Fire And Sword, the Early Modern version (did Mount and Blade just skip the Renaissance or something?), which by all accounts seems to fix a lot of those issues. The presence of muskets and pikes, for instance, does a lot to devalue cavalry as a de-facto shock troop, allowing a better balance between infantry and cavalry combat. Of course, I'd have rather seen this done during the Renaissance given that it brings the most exciting elements of Early Modern and medieval combat together, at least in context of gaming.
I felt that the horse controls were kind of really clunky and annoying, actually. You had to lean the camera towards your opponent, which would actually change the direction your horse was travelling, so you either had to plan your charge a while ahead and hope nobody got in your way, or kind of just lean down at the exact moment, slash, and get back up real quick.
And this is without saying anything about how awkward it is to differentiate between your warband and the enemy, which led me to killing my own men on several occasions.
Plus, early-game content gets really tedious after about the fifth fight.
I mean, it's a good game, but its' combat could do with some fixes.
The version I'm playing doesn't alter your horse's movement with your perspective, although it does get very finicky about lance chances -- as it should, given their ridiculous power. Getting blocked by one's own allies is a major issue, though, given how often it happens. As a default, I think friendly fire is off, too, and little titles appear over the heads of your allies. I've never really had a problem with that.
The biggest fix I could think of implementing is the aforementioned cavalry dominance. There needs to be some kind of mitigating factor. Long polearms can do the trick, but timing has to be very precise and you need long weapons. If you rob a horseman of their speed, they're pretty much a sitting duck, but getting them to stop is the trick.
I REALLY WANT A PSP JUST FOR GUNGNIR.
That is all.
Also, I can't wait for Phantasy Star Online 2. That game will sink my time. And Mechwarrior Online. And Hawken.
Torchlight II is up for pre-order! Basically, if you ever liked Diablo and don't want to put up with all the BS that's surrounding Diablo III right now. You want this game.
I'm thinking of buying the 4-pack if both enough people are interested.
Still need to beat BlazBlue: Continuum Shift EXTEND. Then I'll either get Catherine, try this D&D Online game I got from a family friend, or decide whether or not I want a new DS with which to play Pokemon Black/White.
I was going to write a long post here but instead, I'll just say fuck Harmonix and MTV and EA for making Rock Band and killing music games in the West.
^^ Yeah, it's kinda too bad that music games have died out here. But how is that Rock Band's fault? I wouldn't know.
I thought Activision and Guitar Hero was the culprit.
I need to play torchlight one some more.
Rock Band marks the point where music games stopped focusing on actually being games. This is first noticed in Rock Band's absolutely ridiculous amount of DLC, 99% of which is boring as shit to play, but people buy it because they like the song. Yes, rhythm games have always been about good music, but they were about good music in a way that is fun to play. A lot of songs in Rock Band are only fun to play in the most casual way possible. The problem gets worse as the series goes on. After Rock Band 2 came out they introduced Rock Band Network which literally existed for no reason except so that EA could make money while indie musicians promote themselves. Obviously, Rock Band 3 is the worst of them all for 1.) being a shitty game all around and 2.) Introducing a billion new modes that are meant to teach people to play an actual instrument. As if somehow music games were really just meant to get people to play music all along.
Or, basically, Rock Band and its sequels represent music games becoming increasingly less focused on actual gameplay and more on selling music and appealing to casual gamers, and their success has even forced companies like Konami to water down their games so they could sell them outside of Asia.
Also, while it's true that the Guitar Hero series also turned to shit, that only happened because they were obsessively trying to compete with Rock Band via copying them poorly, which means Guitar Hero is representative of the problem, rather than being the cause of it.
Ah. That sorta makes sense, actually.
I would have also been quicker to blame the Guitar Hero franchise for being run by douches and having yearly releases with overall way less songs.
For the record though, Guitar Hero did at least end on a high note, with Warriors of Rock actually being a pretty good game.
"Introducing a billion new modes that are meant to teach people to play an actual instrument. As if somehow music games were really just meant to get people to play music all along."
...what? Part of my appreciation of music games is due to actually having a background in playing the piano, so it's not like the two are completely separate. Also, rhythm games are only a pale imitation of the actual thing, so I can't see anything wrong with encouraging people to try out actual instruments. I enjoyed getting a taste of what actual drumming was like, thank you very much. This...sounds incredibly self-centred, in the nicest way I can put it.
Personally, I always found the issue with Guitar Hero and Rock Band alike was the music choices. To get to all the epic rock and heavy metal I actually like, I invariably had to slog through a bunch of shitty songs by bands I don't know with no definitive musical traits I could distinguish. Having a broad appeal by including a lot of popular songs is certainly one thing and I don't blame the developers for that, but when I'm playing something called Guitar Hero or Rock Band, I'm there to melt faces and shred axe, not reluctantly strum my way through dozens of forgettable new-age soft rock songs with no decent riffs or solos.
It's not helped by the fact that hard rock and heavy metal songs are the most interesting to actually play because of their riffs and solos, whereas a lot of the popular modern tunes are kind of just slamming down chords. This also applies to a lot of the punk classics, mind, and I think they could have been given a miss for the same reason. Basically, there's no reason that a rhythm game about bombastic rocking should have anyone be playing chord rhythm sections that often for that length of time for so many songs.
^^ The problem isn't those game modes per se, but the kind of thinking that led to them being made. That is, that music games are music first and games a distant second, which seems to have more or less completely defined all music games since then.
That said, Rock Band Blitz seems promising, due to returning to Frequency/Amplitude-style gameplay. Although even then it seems like it's toned down quite a bit to make it more accessible (two notes per lane, rather than three. Plus, automatically-generated note charts isn't likely to end up as fun as manually-generate ones).
Yes, I know this is me being butthurt about how casuals are ruining my super-hardcore games about AI AI AI I'M YOUR LITTLE BUTTERFLY, but it really is a little frustrating when Rock Band's success makes Konami release shit like Rock Revolution instead of GuitarFreaks/DrumMania.
Incidentally, even indie games like Frets on Fire and Phase Shift, are preoccupied with being like Rock Band, rather than on being good games in their own right.
The casual/hardcore division I think deserves discussion in itself, because it is something that has irked me about video gamers at large, particularly since I started becoming more "casual" due to university studies taking up a lot of my time. I don't know why it is so hard for a lot of gamers to comprehend that not everyone has hundreds of hours to devote to video games. Sure, I enjoy mastering my skills as much as the next gamer, but sometimes I just want to play something quick and easy to learn because I have other things to attend to.
I understand that. The problem isn't that some or even most games are appealing to "casual" gamers (I kind of don't like the term too, really), but within this particular genre, it seems like nearly all games are.
I mean, it's ultimately not toooooooooo much of a problem, since there's always Stepmania and Osu! (and Phase Shift I guess), and there are PSP versions of Taiko and Pop'n and DJMax, so... But I was talking about commercially-released games in America/Europe/etc. anyway, so...
There's always BIT.TRIP for U.S. releases, though those games are more hybrid genre.
What's the proper way to do a VG Liveblog? I'm trying to write a draft for a Xenoblade Chronicles liveblog, and I wonder, should the first part be about explaining basic gameplay mechanics, or following along with the story first and explain different mechanics as I go along?
Don't just do an infodump of the game mechanics at the start. That would be... boring. Just explain them as they come up in the game, or something.
I certainly think that the casual/hardcore division is a confused concept right now. When it comes to a "hardcore" gamer, it seems to be based one the amount of time you put into games, what kind or diversity of games you play, or both. It can also be taken as an attitude towards games, although depending on who you ask, that might be "asshole" or it might be "analytical".
"Casual" gamers, I guess, are those who play less games and generally easily-accessible, big-name releases at that, sinking less time into them. "Normal" people, I suppose, who play some Angry Birds on a regular basis during transit times or have a Wii with some sports titles an Mario.
While these might be approximations of the dichotomy as it stands, I don't really like it, if for no other reason than it fails to describe my place in all this. For instance, I don't play an excessively large amount of games, but what I do or have played is pretty diverse; pretty much everything from SRPGs to old and new FPS games to hack-and-slash to platformer to adventure games and so on. My daily play time is probably somewhere between nothing and three hours depending, and I've been playing games since I was four years old. Then again, I'll spend weeks or months not playing any games at all, and other times, I'll get a game I've been anticipating and throw five or six hours into it per a day for as long as it lasts. Furthermore, I take an analytical approach and try to understand the experience and why the game causes it.
So I feel like I can sympathise with both groups. Like a casual gamer, I essentially play for the core experience and don't really care for much that's peripheral to that, and I see accessibility as a definite plus in game design. But I also appreciate deeper experiences, even at the cost of accessibility, while at the same time caring little for multiplayer. And in an age where World of Warcraft could be considered a "casual" game, given there's no way a significant amount of its audience aren't casual gamers to some degree, what really qualifies as "hardcore"?
They're pretty useless descriptions, especially given the continuously blurred line between the two groups and how they'll continue to converge in the centre. What would you call a college-aged woman who only plays Farmville, but plays it unfailingly for hours a day? Games are more and more becoming a part of everyday life for much of my/our generation and certainly will be for the next teen/twenty-something demographic. And what happens when a high-profile game release mixes the wide appeal and accessibility of Mario with the technical depth of something like Monster Hunter and the same ease of acquisition as Angry Birds?
Terms like "casual" and "hardcore" are on their way out, I think. Other terms will replace them -- when everyone's a gamer, the term by itself is meaningless -- and for the better, I think.
"While these might be approximations of the dichotomy as it stands, I don't really like it, if for no other reason than it fails to describe my place in all this."
I think that's the case for most people. The terms are indeed useless beyond encouraging an exclusive mentality in which the term "casual" simply describes everyone with gaming habits someone doesn't like. And considering the sheer prevalence of terrible attitudes, particularly sexism, among gamers, exclusivity is something we really don't need as a whole.
Goddamn, that reminds me of how gamers definitely need more positive role models. Many of the ones we currently have paint an ugly face on the hobby. Then again, I suppose competitive sports have had terrible role models for the longest time and are kept alive by people trying to encourage good sportsmanship at the rookie level.
I also don't really think that the first paragraph being about the game's long localization history will bring in any readers, either. Oh well, it's an early draft.
You have a point here. After thinking about it, all the really good faces of gaming all tend to be developers rather than actual gamers.
Also, I can't wait for Phantasy Star Online 2. That game will sink my time.
I am glad to see someone else around here looking forward to PSO2. What class are you planning on playing?
I definitely agree with you about the pointlessness of the whole casual/hardcore hierarchy thing. I wonder if part of it comes from resentment of people who used to look down on those who played games, especially people who played them a lot. If so, then I guess it is kind of a defensive thing.