Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Card Game Meta Is Annoying

I remember way back when I used to play Yu-Gi-Oh and Magic The Gathering with my friends.  We would save up a little money, head down to the corner shop or the nerd store in central Manchester buy some boosters and play.  While it was frustrating to lose to a guy because his luck was better than yours there was something fun about being at the mercy of a booster pack.

Card games however are an expensive hobby so as I got older I drifted away from them.  I didn't have to give up completely though as thanks to games like Hearthstone, Shadowverse and Dragon Quest Rivals I can enjoy the TCG experience for free.  All of these games let you play for free and earn cards for free with the option to pay for boosters if you so wish.  

Now all of these games come with a ranked play mode and when I see that kind of thing of course I want to get as close to the top of it as I can.  While it is fun to collect cards, make decks and climb the ladder the higher you get the more dull these games get.  

There's a meta in each of games that, once you hit a certain rank, what decks you HAVE to use to see any kind of success.  If your not using one of these top tier decks that you can just google up you're basically doomed to sit in the middle of the ladder forever.  If your good you can get a bit higher but unless your a TCG god you ain't reaching the top without Professor Google.  

This is because getting boosters is just about playing a lot and instead of duplicates sitting in a shoe box for years they can be "dusted" which allows a player to craft specific cards.  So not only can you google a top tier deck but making it is a cinch so OF COURSE everyone is going to use them.  

That's not to say creativity is completely off limits.  Unranked play and the "random deck" modes keep the fun alive but the fact that ranked has to adhere to strictly to a meta makes things a little dull sometimes 

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

The Sega Saturn Chalenge Is Coming

One thing you may not know about me is that I LOVE the Sega Saturn, it's easily one of my favorite systems.  Hell, the first few playthroughs for YouTube I did were of 3 Dirty Dwarfs and Panzer Dragoon Saga

So I'm currently amassing a large collection of Saturn games with the intention to stream ALL of them, or at least all the games in the Saturn library that aren't sports games.  The point of all this being 1. I get to explore a library of games from a system that had a TON of Japanese exclusives and 2. To try and introduce more people to the absolute magic that is the Sega Saturn.  A lot of the games on the system are RPGs so if I actually ever finish or not before I die is another story but I'm sure as hell going to try

If you are familiar with the Sega Saturn and are interested to see a game, feel free to donate to charity to have it bumped up the priority list although I'm only going to finish each game once so don't just donate for NiGHTS 20 times and expect me to play nothing but that.

It's still going to take a while to set up but I'm hoping to get the ball rolling on this by September so go subscribe to the Twitch channel in the meantime or check out the two Saturn game playthroughs I did on the YouTube channel

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Memories of Knightmare

So last night I was playing Haunting Ground on the PS2 for Twitch and I reached a certain corridor puzzle that got me very excited.  The puzzle was a room full of hexagons with a suit of armor at the end.  I had to carefully navigate my character across the right set of hexes to avoid getting a crossbow to the face.  This room reminded me VERY heavily of an old TV show I used to love when I was a kid called Knightmare.

Knightmare was a game show for kids that started in 1987 and ran until 1994 that aired on British TV.  The premise was simple, a bunch of kids met up with this dude called Treguard the dungeon master and they would pick one member of their team to don a "Helmet of Justice" and go into the dungeon.  The helmet blinded the player to everything except what was directly underneath them and it was up to the other kids on the team to guide them to the end.  The real reason for this was that the kid in the dungeon was actually just walking around a chroma key studio so only the viewers could see the dungeon.  If the kid didn't have the helmet he'd just see a lot of green(?) I guess.

Anyway the show, despite being for kids, wasn't easy on it's contestants AT ALL.  Difficult puzzles, traps that would instantly kill the player and fiendish puzzles were all put in place to hinder progress.  Not only that but each team was on a time limit to finish since the kid in the dungeon had a "life force" that was slowly ticking away.  So you could be the best dodger of traps in the world but if you got bamboozled by a talking wall then good fuckin' luck reaching the end.  Off the top of my head, I don't remember a single team winning in an episode for as long as I watched.  However it was a long time ago and I probably missed a bunch of episodes so I'm sure someone won at some point.

I was pretty obsessed with this show as a kid too.  My mother often reminds me of my younger years with stories of us going to the park and "playing Knightmare".  I assume this meant one of us closing our eyes and being commanded around by the other.  Apparently my obsession with Knightmare was so great that we even did this when waiting at bus stops and I can't imagine now how that worked at all. 

I have since learned that there is in fact a Knightmare video game on the Amiga but I've only played it for about 5 minutes on an emulator.  From what I can gather it has very little to do with the show and it's a dungeon crawler more akin to Wizardy or Dungeon Master.

I'm sure if you look hard enough to episodes have been archived somewhere so go see if you can check them out.  It's a great show even now and it might be fun to watch even now for a bit of a laugh.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Fortnite Season 4 and leveling frustrations

If you've been watching the stream you might now that I've jumped on the Fortnite wagon pretty hard.  How could I not when for a while almost every advert I saw was "CHECK OUT THIS AWESOME FREE GAME!"  I wanted to try a battle royale game but PUBG was £15 and looked shit, Fortnite at the very least had some personality.

So it dragged me in really hard with its fast paced game play that was enjoy to enjoy in short bursts.  It also helps that I can just camp in solos while I do housework or work on other things and the occasional fiddle to get inside the zone helps break the monotony. I really enjoyed the the event with the meteor and the map change that came with it too, the game is telling a sort of loose story without words that you have to figure out by yourself by observing small changes to the map.  It's a cool way of doing it that gets a community discussing ideas about what might come next.  

I enjoyed it SO much I ended up dropping 1000 yen on a premium battle pass, which is very out of character for me since I've not payed for a cosmetic since about 2010 but I just couldn't help myself.  The battle pass and the challenges that come with it are a nice mixup to play and without them I'd probably play at lot less.  It's crazy how a simple objective like "get a kill with a trap" can make you want to play over and over again until you get it.  

The big pot of gold at the end of the battle pass is the Omega skin and the "omega challenges" that came with it.  I was hyped for this, I was expecting some really hard shit that would really test my skills but when I unlocked it all it asked me for was to level to 80.  That's not a challenge, that's just demanding my time, and a huge disappointment for all the work it took to reach tier 100 on the pass.  

Still, the good thing about the premium pass is that it spits out enough currency to get the next one for free.  Now that I know what's coming I know that AFKing for exp is something I need to do more of if I want to 100% everything in season 5 but I don't think I'll ever quite forgive Fortnite for this crushing letdown 

Monday, 9 July 2018

Show Don't Tell

One thing I occasionally hear people complaining about when it comes to games is that they are becoming too cinematic at times.  Sure there are plenty of great cinematic games like The Last of Us Metal Gear Solid or modern Final Fantasy and while the use of cutscenes is a fine way to tell a games story, it's the ones that marry the two that really stick out as great experiences in my mind.

Take a Souls game for example, this is an absolutely amazing case of a game marrying game play and story telling in a really masterful way.  When it comes to these games there's usually a scene at the start and a scene at the end and everything in the middle is straight game play.  Very rarely will a Souls game interrupt play to show you a thing and when it does it's usually just creatures flying you off to the next area or something like that.  That doesn't mean however that the Souls games are devoid of story, the world is teeming with all sorts of details that tell you a story by showing you what's going on rather than telling you about it.  Instead of having a bombastic cutscene of monsters killing people, it has you run through the aftermath and letting you put the pieces together yourself.  For more detailed parts of the plot you have to look to item descriptions for the things you find in the world which is a sort of interesting take on the tired cliche of data logs.

Another great example of a game that does this is Fortnite.  You wouldn't expect there to be much of a plot in a battle royale like that and there isn't but the game does subtle things that show the player how the world is going to change.  While other games may make announcements on a news page like "NEW FEATURE!" Or "map changes coming for the next season, Fortnite drops subtle world changes that hint to how the island will change for the next season.  For example right before season 4 started a meteor appeared in the sky and a few hints were left around the map as to where it was going to strike.  It was the devs way of saying "we are reworking an area" using the game itself rather than just announcing it on an update page.  

There's nothing wrong with the classic cutscene, I would never want to see it go. However when a game does marry gameplay and story the experience becomes much much more memorable 

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Excited For Sekiro

Usually when there's a big upcoming release I try to not get myself too excited for it.  Call me elitist or snobby or whatever but big AAA games, while enjoyable, don't usually live too long in my memory after all the release hype has died down.  However if there's one thing that does consistently impress me with every release it's From Software and it's Souls games.  Now from what I gather Sekiro isn't STRICTLY Souls, but it plays close enough for me.

Just straight off the bat I love the setting and the general look of the game.  Not because it's all Samurai and I'm a huge weeb (that much is only partly true) but I kind of like the idea of having a From Software covering as many thematic bases as possible.  We've got the high fantasy setting of the Souls games, the Euro-Horror feel of Bloodborne and in Sekiro we get a nice eastern touch, it's pretty cool.  Ni-Oh was great and all but now we have an ACTUAL Souls type game in an eastern setting rather than just a souls flavored action game from another company.

Setting aside though, I heard that this game has no real kind of leveling system which excites me greatly.  Some might lament the loss of this but as much as you might hate to admit, stats play a HUGE role in the way a Souls game progresses.  Sure, you CAN go fight those skeletons at the start of Dark Souls 1 but you're going to die in 1 hit and deal no damage in return just because your stats aren't there.  With Sekiro it sounds like it really is a true test of skill.  No more complaining about "artificial difficulty" if that's even still a thing, if you suck at Sekiro it sounds like it'll be because you ACTUALLY suck and now you have no excuse.

The feature that seems to have replaced straight up leveling is the prosthetic thing where you can equip different arms that do different things like a sort of grim-dark samurai Megaman.  I've been avoiding stuff because I want to experience as much of it for myself as possible but there seems to be one item in particular that acts like a grappling hook.  That alone is interesting because Souls have never really had much verticality so how the level design changes to suit this new found mobility is really exciting. 

If you've never played a Souls game before then you should go try one.  If you can't be bothered trying to get into a series 3 games deep then Sekiro (or Bloodborne really) might be a good place to start.  Fingers crossed that From really knock this one out of the park.

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

No Punishment Is Boring

So recently I've been replaying Torchlight on PC, a hack and slash RPG on PC that plays basically the same as something like Diablo.  I quite enjoy this game but there's one thing that really irks me about the title is that the game is too easy.  It's not just Torchlight that's guilty of this but this is the one I've played most recently so I'll be using it as my example.

So Torchlight isn't by itself an easy game.  The game involves large amounts of enemies swarming you ALL the damn time and you have to utilize a decent amount of skills, planning and resource management if you want to make it through the dungeon.  However all of the challenge that the game poses is COMPLETELY pointless because death doesn't actually mean anything.  When you die you get to make a choice; come back where you fell for an exp/gold loss, start the floor over with a gold loss or go back to town for no penalty.  This sounds like a decent enough punishment but EXP is easy to accumulate, money rains down on you like a stripper in an expensive club and floors aren't actually all that big so even starting that over is more of a minor annoyance than anything else. Not only that but when you do come back everything that was dead stays dead, so even if you suck with some bone headed perseverance you can make it through any obstacle.

The game does feature some harder modes but these are all rendered pointless by the fact that the punishments for death don't actually matter and you can tell that the developers understand this with the inclusion of a hardcore mode.  Hardcore mode introduces perma-death to a character who dies but this is just jumping to the other side of the spectrum.  Perma-death is acceptable in a rougelike because you can, in a lot of them, clear the dungeon in one sitting.  Torchlight requires quite a few hours of play to get through so the idea of getting far and then losing all that progress  because you zoned out and didn't hit the heal fast enough sounds more annoying than anything else. 

Torchlight isn't the only game to do this, Bioshock being the other HUGE offender for this kind of thing.  You have this beautiful, atmospheric and immersive world and then you realize that none of it matters because you just INSTANTLY RESPAWN when you die and you lose a bit of money.  Again, money is so easy to get in that game that the penalty doesn't matter so it turns the big daddies from actual intimidating encounters to minor annoyance that needs dealing with.  Again you can turn off Vita Chambers if you do want more of a challenge but why can't the base game just be challenging rather than forcing me to turn on all these extra challenge modes if I don't want to be babied.

I don't dislike either of the games I've mentioned, I look at them quite fondly but this aspect of them is a frustrating blotch on what is otherwise a great gaming experience.  Going too far the OTHER way is also no good (Fuck you R-Type/Gradius) but that's another post for another time.  I'm not asking for every game to be Dark Souls but Jesus H give me SOME challenge.