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How to Spot a PvP MMO Stinker

I’m going to share some of my divination secrets with you guys. Want to know how to spot a stinker in the MMO PVP genre? Look for these ‘selling points’:

  • Early Access
  • Enforced player caps on battles
  • No persistence with regular resets or win conditions

And if you want a cherry on top then look for a popular theme they’ve tried to attach themselves to like “base building” (or building anything for that matter), Survival Game mechanics, or MOBA.

Some people will take one of these as a sure sign of failure, but that’s not necessarily the case. As much as I despise early access, there have been plenty of awesome ea games. There are some great building games, survival games, and moba games too. However, I have yet to find a single non-stinker that fits the mold.

Can you think of any upcoming games that check these boxes?


We tried Warhammer Vermintide

Warhammer Vermintide

Steam had a free weekend for Warhammer Vermintide, so Graev and I gave it a shot. Turned out to be a lot of fun! Vermintide is like Left 4 Dead in a Warhammer setting. In fact… it’s pretty much a straight ripoff with a few added features. That’s not a bad thing, but it gives you an idea of the style of gameplay you can expect. There’s also this weird Warhammer Online vibe to some of the game, but that’s not necessarily founded on anything other than a “woah this feels like L4D meets WAR” feeling which is most likely driven by the setting.

Vermintide co-op

Graev searches the loot chest to decide on a weapon for this Bright Wizard.

Just like L4D, Vermintide is a co-op survival game with five heroes straight from the Warhammer setting, eat with their own unique loot and style of play. One of the key differences I see between the two games is that you can progress your character and obtain loot. Loot can be upgraded, has varying degrees of rarity, and modestly alters the way a character plays. Instead of undead and zombies, you’re escaping from the Skaven.

The Skaven comes in waves and attack you while your team of five tries to get to the objective — again, the more you think L4D the more you’ll completely get what I’m trying to explain. There’s an assassin Skavin who jumps on you and slices at you, pinning you to the ground; a Skaven that ropes you and pulls you toward him incapacitating you until you are freed; a suicidal poison skaven guy who will quickly make seeing impossible… need I go on? They’re cool, though, and they do fit the lore completely.

Vermintide is brutally hard. We struggled to not only find our way a few times, but the waves of Skaven and requirements to play really well as a team made for more than a few game overs. I like that though, and can’t imagine wanting it to be any easier. If it were any easier (even on normal difficulty) then the game would be over quickly and have almost no replay value. I didn’t find much replay value in L4D’s campaign either. In my opinion, that’s the downside of these games. They’re great fun for the first play-through, and maybe a subsequent one or two, but you can quickly find yourself desensitized to the immersion when you’ve been there and done that.

Vermintide Loot

Loot is handled by rolling dice to determine the rarity of your weapon. What you get is random.

They do a great job immersing you, though. The setting is beautifully crafted, the Skaven are seemingly intelligent (most of the time), and I like how the characters all play and feel. Melee and ranged combat both work nicely. I like hewing my axe in different directions and watching the rat pieces fly. Sniping as the Waywatcher was also a ton of fun. Oh, and I do also enjoyed the blocking mechanics and how directional dodging and swinging felt useful. Combat is solid.

One critique Graev and I both share is that we don’t understand why they decided against player-controlled Skaven. That would have been a blast, and helped with replayability. Instead, it’s simply co-op vs. Skaven AI.

All things considered, Vermintide is a fun game. We’re probably going to pick it up now since it’s on a 40% off sale for $17.99 (down from $29.99) on Steam. There are also a few DLC in the $3-$9 range. We think it’s worth the price.


Pay 2 Win

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 4 days, you probably saw something about H1Z1’s early-access launch debacle. SOE clearly stated several times that guns, ammo, etc., would not be something players could acquire with real money. They would not be purchasable from the cash shop, yada yada. Turns out that wasn’t entirely true.

In what is now being apologized for as a misspeak by a dev during an interview, SOE is cleverly getting guns into players’ hands via the cash shop … indirectly. Players can buy airdrops with a random chance of dropping these types of items.  The problem with the airdrops was that they were landing too close to where the player ordered them. Supposedly these have been tweaked for balance already.

So yes, players can get guns and ammo from the cash shop. It’s just not a direct option. You can’t go to the cash shop and buy an AR-15 with ammo. You have to order an air drop and hope no one steals it from you. I’ll let you decide for yourself if the semantics matter. Smed and his team are 100% pro-air drop, so unless they change their minds it looks like it’ll stay.

What I love about this entire affair is how hard the community policed the anti-pay-to-win philosophy. Reddit blew up on Smed, players started demanding refunds (to which SOE is currently obliging) and a massive spotlight was shined on some pretty crappy decisions and (maybe) bugs leading to a style of play that isn’t in-line with what players want these days.

If only the community would pick up on the design implications of F2P and police it just as hard. The world would be a better place.


How about a Medieval Survival Game?

Being sick for the last 4 days gave me a lot of time to do nothing but sit and watch streams on Twitch (which was just acquired by Amazon for 970 million… pretty cool it’s Amazon and not Google!). I watched a lot of open-world survival games and mods for  Arma III where people take on the role of cops and … everyone else.  It’s was fascinating to watch the dynamic nature of those games and how much more the players, rather than the game mechanics, influence everything.

All of that got me thinking about how much fun and easy it is to jump in and have a unique experience in games like this, and be able to do so at one’s leisure. There are elements of persistence, but very little permanence. That sense of ‘starting fresh’ adds something special and unique. What I’m most fascinated by, and wanting to explore further, is the idea of setting. They all seem to be either modern or post-apoc. What about a medieval setting?

Imagine a game like H1Z1, DayZ, or Arma III mods, but in a setting matching something out of Robin Hood or King Arthur. The quasi-persistent open-world could be a lot of fun in a setting with rolling hills, large forests, townships, and keeps. The idea of vehicles could easily carry over to horses, and the rest transfers just as easily.

We’re seeing a lot of copycat designs and not a whole lot being done to expand or develop the emerging genre. I’m thinking there’s still a lot that can be done to make it better. Just a thought.


Steam Summer Sale Psychology

Every year the Steam Summer Sale brings in to question a handful of troubling ideas:

  • Do I want to spend money on a bunch of games I might not play simply because I like to buy games on sale?
  • Why do I ever pay full price for a PC game?
  • What type of games do I really enjoy?

The first one is something I know many of you share. I think we can all identify with buying several games during a Steam Sale thinking, “aw heck yeah I’m going to play this one finally!” … then we never even remember we bought it.  Happens to me every year.  Not this time!  Not 2014! This year I proudly declared:


That lasted until 20 minutes after the sale began.

I bought Game Dev Tycoon and Don’t Starve + DLC 2 pack (me and Graev).  But that’s it! I swear! I’m not spending … who am I kidding?

Game Dev Tycoon seems pretty fun so far.  I’m currently in the 3rd building you can get with about 5 million in cash.  I don’t know what I’m doing wrong because sometimes I’ll make a game and get a great review, but I make it again (not twice in a row) and critics hate the game.  I think this whole experience is some kind of message from an indie dev studio on the state of the gaming industry.  It’s like one big documentary on the sad state of affairs.  Regardless, it’s addicting and I find myself wanting to start over with the hoe that I do better each time.  I’m still proud of making WarCraft 2 in my garage and making 2 million on it.

Don’t Starve has to be one of my favorite types of games ever.  I can’t believe I went this long without playing.  It’s like Island Troll Tribes, the custom map from WarCraft 3.  I love these survival games! Something about getting wood to make a fire and having to eat before you die; So pure.  Add the depth that Don’t Starve has and suddenly this is a game I can lose hours to in tiny sittings.  Graev and I are REALLY looking forward to ‘Don’t Starve Together’ which is the co-op experience coming this summer free to those who own the game.

The second point is just life.  Things drop in price.  Understanding that point doesn’t make it any less bitter.

The third point is really what brought me to the blog this evening.  I think I have more ‘fun’ playing little games in bursts.  Games like Don’t Starve, Game Dev Tycoon, etc., are starting to be more fun than these massive games like MMOs.  That’s not because I’m changing, etc., etc.  turning into a filthy casual blah blah.  I truly believe game developers are forgetting what it means to make fun games.  It’s not just MMOs either.  A lot of “AAA” games just aren’t fun.  They aren’t games.  They feel more like “projects” or “work.”  Some also like to hide the fun and make the player hunt for it or wait until later.  HORRIBLE IDEA! I should be having fun the second I boot up the game or else I already have one foot out the door.


Thoughts on State of Decay

State of Recay Review

Zombie games are rapidly approaching levels of overexposure similar to WWII games. Of course I can still enjoy them just like I could all the old WWII shooters, but even I’m starting to feel like I want something else to shoot at. State of Decay does do some interesting things to shake up the formula, though. Well, at least from my perspective. I’ve heard people mention it’s somewhat similar to Day Z but I wouldn’t know since I’ve never tried that particular game.

In State of Decay you aren’t just looking out for yourself. Sure you can run around killing zombies and collect useful weapons and supplies but you also have to help take care of the people holed up in your home base. This means keeping them stocked with food, medicine, ammo, construction supplies, etc. The numbers tick down every day and while I’m not entirely sure what happens if you run out, I do know that it obviously can’t be a good thing. You will also need to use these resources to upgrade your base and create various objects. The tricky part is that supplies don’t respawn so after you’ve already looted all the surrounding houses and sacked the local diner you are kind of a little screwed, forcing you to move on. It kind of creates the feeling that you aren’t necessarily trying to win so much as trying to hold out as long as you can before you lose. Continue reading


Dead Space 3 Review

A little while back I gave my impressions of the Dead Space 3 demo, which I think gave some cautious optimism. Just recently, yesterday actually, I finished up my first playthrough of the game and I have to say that my experience was better than I expected.  The games setting is majorly split between 2 locales. For about the first 40% of the game you will be in space among the various ships in the flotilla above Tau Volantis (I think that’s the name of the planet. I really need a fact checker.) The cool thing is how you can actually maneuver around outside the ships in zero-g with your space thrusters. Trying to find secrets while making sure you don’t run out of oxygen or get shot by dog necromorphs is exhilarating. To get between the different ships you take a small shuttle, which looks neat but is essentially a loading screen. There are 4 ships in the flotilla, but one is only accessible if you are playing co-op. When I think about it, I actually wouldn’t mind if the entire game took place in space among the derelict ships. It would have kept the vibe of the original games and just been really awesome. It kind of feels like a missed opportunity.

Dead Space 3

Use thrusters to fly around space

The other 60% of the game takes place down on the ice planet, which is pretty cool at first when you are thrust into a white-out snow storm, but soon you forget as you spend most of your time in old abandoned facilities and ruins. The change of atmosphere isn’t necessarily bad, and a lot of players seem to like it, but I prefer the bleakness of space.  Most people’s concerns with the game seem to center around its shift into more of an action game rather than survival horror. This is true in some respects, but it really isn’t that big of a transition. Sure you do fight some regular soldiers aside from the necromorphs, but it really isn’t that often at all. There seems to be only a handful of encounters with humans, the rest of your fights being against the various forms of necromorph.  Really my only complaint is the lack of necro variety.   It seems like in past games you would face several more types and more often.

The gun play feels the same as it did in DS2, at least as far as I can remember. Things do seem a bit faster paced, however. I seem to remember the necromorphs lumbering towards you, whereas here they straight up run you down. At least on the highest difficulty, which I played on because that’s just how I roll.  As for the guns themselves they are both similar, yet quite different. Rather than just finding or purchasing specific weapons you get to make your own. First you pick a base component, either large or compact, and then you add up to 2 different gun components such as military, plasma, rivet, tesla, etc. I might have gotten some of the names wrong, but you get the idea. A basic military attachment gives you something like an assault rifle, but if you add a tip onto it you can turn it into a better assault rifle, or shotgun, or sniper rifle. This gives most all of the weapon components a good deal of variety. The combinations are almost limitless, especially when you factor the additional side add-ons you can use like scopes, co-op boosting items, fire/acid/electric bullet coatings, auto-reloaders, etc. I heavily favored a sniper rifle/rocket launcher with fire bullets and a shotgun with a force gun attachment. The latter being almost a requirement for keeping necros out of your face.

Dead Space 3

The icy planet provides a new setting for Dead Space, although you spend most of your time inside.

There is co-op in the game, but I have so far only played through by myself. Supposedly in co-op it actually integrates the other player into the narrative pretty well, so I’m excited to see that. Also throughout the game you will come across special co-op only side missions. Still, I’m glad they made the game fully playable by yourself. It would have been unfortunate to lose the lone, isolated feeling from the past games.  As far as extras go, there seem to be quite a bit. Not only are there several difficulties but a new game + as well. Also several additional modes like classic, where it’s singleplayer only and you can only find and buy the classic guns. Pure survival mode really cuts back on the resources, making surviving harder. Hardcore mode makes a return, but you can save and exit this time around rather than only getting 3 saves. However you still go back to the beginning if you die even once. Each of these modes also provides a special unlock upon completion.

So if you are a fan of the series then I really don’t think you will be disappointed. If you haven’t played any then you probably won’t have any idea what the hell is going on, but you should still have fun.  If you haven’t played 1 and 2 you really should. They are probably pretty cheap now. As far as the story goes it advances some things, explains others, but in the end leaves more questions than gives answers. If the additional story DLC doesn’t wrap things up then you will see me back here for Dead Space 4.


The War Z Alpha/Beta Impressions

The War Z Logo

I’m currently playing The War Z in what is either an Alpha or Beta version.  Honestly, I have no idea.  Given my experience with the game so far, and my history with Day Z, I thought it would be helpful for me to share my thoughts on the game so far.

Overall Impressions

The War Z is a much, much, much more polished game than Day Z.  War Z is faster-paced, and slightly less realistic.  The gun-play is excellent, the movement is smooth, and performance is great (although I have an issue where sometimes my computer locks up when I load into a new server).  The War Z gives me a constant sense of imminent danger, and lots of anxiety when I see other players.  With a few important additions and tweaks, this can be a fantastic game.  More after the break. Continue reading


Adventure Log: Coughing in DayZ, Diverse games week

Keen – DayZ: Tales of the Coughing Bandit

Sniped once again in DayZ

Maybe I shouldn’t have coughed so loud.

DayZ is where I spent most of my time this week.  I’ve written about most of my stories already, and even shown a video of a horrific death.  One I haven’t told yet is the story of my sickness.  Apparently they patched the ability to catch a cold if you’re out in the rain for too long.  I didn’t realize this, stayed out in a storm, and became ill.  My character proceeded to cough and lose blood continually for several hours while I scrambled around town trying to find one of the rarer items in the game: antibiotics.

While roaming I killed several players.  I wonder if they knew me as the coughing bandit.  I could tell they heard my coughing because they’d use voice coms talking to each other: “What was that coughing sound?” *bang bang* and I loot them up.

I finally found some antibiotics, cured my plague, and had one of the greatest arsenals I’ve ever had in DayZ: MP5 SD, Uzi, M16A2, alice pack, tons of food, meds, and ammo.  No more than 30 seconds after I administered my cure I was sniped dead in one shot.  Such is the way of DayZ.


Graev – Still rocking the sales, playing all sorts of games

I got a bunch of games during a Best Buy sale this week.  I bought $135 worth of games for only $35.  I picked up X-Men Destiny, Assassin’s Creed Revelations, and Final Fantasy 13-2.  I completed X-Men Destiny and 100% it within a few days on the Xbox 360.  It could have been a lot better, definitely not worth the full price, but worth the $9.99 I spent.

I’m now working my way through Assassin’s Creed Revelations to be caught up on the story and gameplay in time for Assassin’s Creed 3.  Revelations is pretty good; standard AC feel and not all that different from the past two.  The story is still convoluted–I find myself playing only for the gameplay.  I wish it was all period based and didn’t have this scifi tie-in.

I also bought Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, but I think I told you about that last week.  The music from all of the Final Fantasy games is so good.  Right now I’m working on all the songs on expert, then there’s a master level after that plus a lot of stuff to unlock.  You can put a lot of time into this game.  I still definitely recommend it for fans of rhythm games and Final Fantasy music.