People Are Actually Talking & Playing Together!

I was more social these last few days in EverQuest than I have been in the past 10 years of MMOs combined. There are so many different social dynamics in EverQuest that have happened to me all while playing in just the first 20 levels.

Groups

I’ve grouped with dozens of different people. Each of these people brought a new and unique take on my grouping experience. Every zone I go into there are groups recruiting more for their location, people looking to join a group, and chatter happening about forming to kill something. The other night we were slaughtering some camp with just the three of us and really didn’t need anyone else. Then along came this cleric who needed a group — we already had a cleric — and I found myself thinking that I may one day come across this guy again, and my actions here and now could decide whether or not my next encounter with this cleric (who may res me later) will go down. So we invited him and were truly no worse off. He stayed for about an hour then had to go and thanked us profusely.

I’m Making Friends

The cleric I mentioned before is one example in many where I’ve invited people to group who weren’t necessarily going to bring anything amazing. In fact, most groups should just invite Mages and Necros and blow everything up with their pets. That’s the most efficient and quickest way to level, but it’s not the ‘right’ way to level in my mind. I formed groups this past week consisting of everything from Warriors to Rangers and Rogues. All of these classes are drastically inferior to a Mage, but why should they suffer because they are playing a class they like? We can make it work with them, so why not just do it? As a result, my friends list — my network — is growing and I’m hoping one day they pay it forward.

Trade is Thriving

Chat channels, even those that aren’t designated for auctions, are thriving with people auctioning off their goods. People are making goods and selling them. People are actually buying them because there is a true NEED for the items. I’m definitely not one of the rich players. I think I’m probably in the lower 20%, actually. I don’t know the secrets, nor do I really have the time to invest in camping the spots, but some of these people already have super rare items they’re auctioning off and people out of nowhere have farmed hundreds upon hundreds of plat to just throw at them. It is what it is, and I may never have it, but I love to see it happening around me. Stuff isn’t just individual loot in EverQuest — it’s part of the global economy.

Kindness of Others

For every kind person there are a dozen jerks, but that doesn’t make the kindness of the one any less meaningful. In a game like EverQuest, often times you need things that are difficult or even impossible to obtain if you aren’t one of the lucky few. The rich get richer in EverQuest. When someone goes out of their way to let the class chat channel know that they have extra of this rare quest item and anyone who wants one can have one… it makes me go “d’awww!”

Sharing Strategies and Swapping Stories

I love the class chat channels. I participate in them as much as I can by answering questions from newbies, asking questions of my own (I am a newbie to this version of EQ), and simply contributing my thoughts and ideas to the philosophical and ideological debates that always spring up. This hasn’t happened for me in ANY MMO since vanilla WoW days back in 2004.

Top 10 Star Wars Games You Probably Never Played #MayThe4thBeWithYou

Star Wars has been a staple of gaming for decades.  We all know and love the popular titles like Knights of the Old Republic and Battlefront, and love to hate ones like SWTOR, but there are many Star Wars games you’ve probably never tried — many you’ve never even heard of! Allow me to share a few of my favorite lesser-known Star Wars Games.

Rebel Assault 2

Rebel Assault I (1993) & II (1995)

I combined these two games into one because most of you probably never played or even heard of either of them. I remember playing Rebel Assault I & II. At least I remember trying to play them. Buying a game for the PC was hit or miss when it came to getting things to work with DOS. Once they were finally up and running, these games boasted live-action cutscenes flying ship levels, ground combat, and cover mechanics all woven into a fascinatingly cheesy storyline.  I think the only thing I remember is hating half the levels and some prototype TIE fighter.

TIE Fighter Game

TIE Fighter (1994)

“You are now the hand of the Emperor!” Oh yeah, that’s right. Nothing like managing shields, speed, powers, etc., all from the cockpit of a TIE fighter. This made the simulation genre come alive for me.

Dark Forces Game

Dark Forces (1995)

Way more than a Doom clone, Dark Forces put the player in the role of Kyle Katarn for the first time. While tasked with stealing the plans of the Death Star, Katarn learns about this super secret Storm Trooper being built: The Dark Trooper. The story and levels were awesome. Dark Forces easily spawned the Star Wars shooters genre.

Yoda Stories

Yoda Stories (1996)

Yoda Stories is often hated on as one of the worst Star Wars games ever, but I think it’s simply misunderstood and before its time. Yoda Stories was a quasi-RPG map-solving game all about going on little mundane quests and exploring procedurally generated top-down tile maps. Graev absolutely loved it.

Dark Forces 2

Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II (1997)

Katarn is back in the continuation of what will become one of the most important stories to Star Wars video games. Katarn sets off on a journey (taking place right after Episode VI) to find the Dark Jedi who not only killed his father but also intends on rebuilding the Empire. Katarn discovers the force is strong with him and based on the player’s actions can become a Jedi or the next Emperor. Epic!

Rogue Squadron N64

Star Wars: Rogue Squadron (1998)

A departure from the simulation style play of its predecessors, Rogue Squadron features amazing arcade-like flying and action. I remember flying in the X-Wing, A-Wing, V-Wing, Y-Wing and Snowspeeder. Roping walkers was a pita. Rogue Squadron on the N64 was the first game to ever use the Expansion Pak, which upped the resolution. I remember buying that thing just for this game!

Battle for Naboo N64

 

Star Wars Episode I: Battle for Naboo (2000)

Made by the same team as Rogue Squadron, Factor 5 continued their arcade-action-flight series with Battle for Naboo. Featuring lots of cool vehicles from the era , Battle for Naboo was the first chance we had to experience vehicles and things like this from the prequels.

Rogue Squadron 2 Rogue Leader

Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader (2001)

Oh yeah, they made a second Rogue Squadron (and a third but I never played it), and it was pretty awesome. Rogue Squadron 2 was probably my favorite game on the Gamecube. Although the story was a little lacking compared to the original, it was simply awesome to fly all of the different ships.

Jedi Knight 2

Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast (2002)

Jedi Knight 2 is one of the best Star Wars games ever made. Continuing Katarn’s story is one thing, but where this game shined was in its multiplayer. From mods to roleplay servers, Jedi Knight II was yet another game before its time. JK2 featured different lightsaber dueling styles and force powers! I remember Graev and I played on a server all about recreating the Jedi Academy. He was an instructor and trained in light saber dueling styles. Graev and I even competed in a tournament competition hosted by Gateway computers. Good times.

Empire at War

Empire at War (2006)

If there was ever a franchise that would lend itself to a rich RTS, it’s Star Wars. Large epic battles in space, on land, and utilizing all of the Star Wars vehicles, characters — all in RTS format — makes Empire at War an easy addition to the list. Empire at War was much, much better than Galactic Battlegrounds which was the Star Wars RTS from 2001 and impossible to run on my computer.

Wow, that was an adventure down memory lane. Did I miss one of your favorite lesser-known Star Wars games?

May’s Releases and Keen’s Backlog

I have high hopes for May being a great month of gaming. I have a rich backlog of games to go through, and several games are/might come out this month.

This Month’s Hyped Releases

EverQuest Ragefire Server

EverQuest Progression Server: Ragefire

Looks like the new EQ progression server coming soon® will be named Ragefire. The poll is still up but apparently Ragefire has such a lead that it’ll win no matter what. While I think Zordalicus Ragefire is an awesome dragon, I can’t help but think of Ragefire Chasm from WoW. Oh well! It’s still a cool name. I’m hoping this means that they are on track to give us a beta for Ragire Progression sometime near the end of this month. Chances might be good since Ragefire is already on the server list when you sub to EQ and log in.

My friends and I in the K&G Community will be playing. I’m going Bard for sure. Yep, my body is ready (for carpal tunnel).

Splatoon

Splatoon

Nintendo’s first real foray into multiplayer online shooters in the Wii U comes out May 29! I’m really looking forward to playing this one with Graev. We’ll team up and ink people to pieces. I’m hoping for some depth to the customization and advancing, but in the end if it’s just a great game with fun shooting mechanics I can still totally get behind that. I’ve been looking for this kind of game on a console.

My Backlog

AC-Unity

Assassin’s Creed Unity

The biggest game in my backlog is AC: Unity. Assassin’s Creed games are amazing. Black Flag was my game of the year in 2013, and AC Unity is the next in the series and I have to get through it before the next AC game comes out. I got this for Christmas and have just now have the time to really start playing. Already I’ve noticed that much of the emphasis on the ‘out of game’ experience is removed. The part where the ‘main character’ in ‘real life’ gets out of the animus (where the real story is being told) doesn’t happen. I’m on the side of people who love the convoluted AC story, but I get why Unity focuses much more on the ‘in-game’ gameplay where you control Arno.

Ridiculously cheap on Amazon right now: $19.99 on PS4 and Xbox One.

The rest of my backlog consists of…

  • Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker
  • Dragon Age Inquisition
  • Shadows or Mordor
  • Lego City Undercover

Yep, lots of somewhat older games but ones I definitely want to try and get through before the summer. What’s in your backlog? What are you looking forward to playing in May?

 

Yooka-Laylee: Spiritual Successor to Banjo-Kazooie

Yes, yes, yes, yes, YESSSSS!

Spiritual Successor to Banjo-Kazooie? Awesome, but back to the roots of what made N64 platformers amazing? Heck yeah!

Just a quick look at the video above, and before I even knew who was on the project I was thinking to myself that this visually looks like Banjo-Kazooie meets Viva Pinata with a bit of Donkey Kong. Sure enough, it’s a lot of the same people!

God bless people who look around and say to themselves, “Hey, this idea worked. This worked really well. People loved this. We’re good at making that kind of game. There’s a need for this n the market.  Let’s try to recreate the kind of game people loved.” See what happens when you just focus on making something people love, identifying a need in a market, and moving toward fulfilling that need? You don’t have to worry about chasing money. It will come to you — in under 40 minutes!

Yooka-Laylee was funded in Kickstarter in ~40 minutes. Playtonic Games only wanted £175,000 and at the time of writing this post they are 450% funded with £790,000 and rising. If Google is correct, that’s roughly $1.2 Million.

While I’m not backing because I can’t tie up money I don’t have right now in a Kickstarter, I am going to buy Yooka-Laylee for the Wii U when it launches.

Paid Mods

Update: Bethesda/Zenimax has cancelled their paid mods with Steam. Refunds for all according to Valve.

Steam has once again made a move toward monetizing all things games and placing themselves smack dab in the middle to take a cut. Now the Steam Workshop is going to support “paid creations” aka paying for mods.

I’m not going to come right out and say that I am in blanket opposition to all paid mods. There are some mods that end up being better than the original game. In fact, some of the best games we’ve ever seen come straight from studios who started out as being mod developers. I support this 100%. Some mods are good enough that I have and would in the future donate to the creator.

Part of what makes mods so incredible is the that they are largely free. The people who make these mods are downright passionate about what they do, and they are doing so fueled entirely by that passion. What we see from them is a result of their own desire to create the mod, make a name for themselves, or do something fun. When you monetize modding, something special there is lost. Motivations change.

Art of the Catch taken down for using someone else's work for profit.

Art of the Catch taken down for using someone else’s work for profit.

Modding in general has often been what feels like an open-source community. People take mods and combine them with other mods to create the perfect modding packages. Sometimes mod devs would tweak someone else’s mod and create something new. Paid mods have only been available for like 24 hours and Steam has already taken down a mod for “using the work of other modders.” This is just the beginning.

Part of what feels so slimy here is Steam. I don’t like Greenlight, I don’t like their early access stuff, and I don’t like the idea of them creating a marketplace for mods. I don’t like the precedent. Personally, I hope it doesn’t take off. I hope most game studios will not allow their games or brands to be monetized in this fashion.

Good mods do not go unrewarded or unnoticed. There are many examples where mod devs actually get recruited to work at the company that made the game they modded. I’m torn between this feeling that mod devs should be compensated for their work, and a desire to never have to pay $5 to download a map mod for Skyrim. I can’t shake my gut feeling that says, “Keen, this doesn’t seem right.”

Update: Steam is also now removing links to off-site donations. You know those “If you like this mod consider donating to the creator” solicitations? Yep, gone. Looks like Steam wants their cut.