Saturday, November 16th, 2013 - 12:53 am - MMO's: Part ∞

With the Realm Reborn incarnation of Final Fantasy XIV on the horizon, my circle of friends and I came to an agreement - not to play Final Fantasy XIV.

Mercifully brief, I did actually play the legacy version of FFXIV. I logged in for a night, met my friend, did some things, ran around outside, did a few of the levequests and it was an all-round awful experience. Incredibly, this was a few patches after Naoki Yoshida got on board and started fixing things by fucking up his neural oscillation. I can't even imagine how bad the game was before then and I frankly don't want to. I remember reading on a website I don't wish to mention that denizens of 2ch had come to the conclusion that the Japanese errors present were strong evidence that the game had been outsourced to a crappy Chinese developer. Whether this is true or not is up for debate but with how Square have acted in the past five years it's a miracle it didn't end up on Mobage with in-app purchase. Either way, it was trash, and the only other time I logged in a month later I couldn't even figure out how to get a "quest". I didn't exactly need much encouragement but that was enough to see me off long term.

Fast forward an indistinguishable amount of time later and I got a beta invite for A Realm Reborn. My expectations were understandably quite low but it was actually pretty good and I really enjoyed what I experienced. It felt like I was playing Final Fantasy XI HD within World of Warcraft's architecture, which is the game I felt it should have always been. The belief I've always held is that when FFXI was released it was built upon the foundations of EverQuest. It was a logical thing to have done and, to my knowledge, was pretty successful. World of Warcraft then released and set a whole new load of generic conventions and standards that any MMO released since has to use as it's foundation. This is where I think FFXIV originally went wrong. Instead of doing what it had done before and building upon the industry set foundation or, you know, just making a flashy new version of it's established and now niche FFXI formula, it released... that. What was that? Like, what were they thinking? It was so bad on every level and, again, I didn't even experience it at it's worst. I do recall the alpha and beta testers screaming at them about how abysmal it was too so it's not like the warning sirens weren't blaring.

As August 27th approached, a few of us decided to resub to World of Warcraft instead of beginning Final Fantasy XIV. We've all seen and experienced new MMO launches and after two months of convincing yourself that you're actually having fun you realize that you could has just had a better time playing WoW. It's the gaming equivalent of a comfortable old sweater that you know how to put on, how to enjoy, how to love, how it's going to treat you and how to put back in the cupboard when you're too warm.

I don't like Looking for Raid. There was a time where I did but it gets old, fast. It highlights everything that's gone wrong with WoW, namely a lack of accountability and community in exchange for instant gratification (which isn't even that if you're a DPS class) at the click of a button. The classic choice of finding a guild to raid proper is not an option for me any more. I'm old and employed now and I simply don't want to share the commitment that you get me gear and I return the favour ad infinitum. Sometimes I come home from work and I want to play something else. The new Zelda game that lets me relive my childhood is out next week. So I come home, excited to play it but, wait! Raiding commitment!! Too bad!!! I don't desire that in my life any longer and it's just not me to enter that spiritual contract half heartedly. The final alternative of a guild simply running normal mode has eroded away as that content becomes too easy and the obvious path to progress into heroic starts the spiral downwards.

Flex was our plan. It was sold to us that the pre-LFR method of forming a group together in trade chat would be possible again. This seemed like an ideal solution to all our problems. We could raid at at some sort of level with only the commitment between us as very good friends being flexible. So, here we are, six people with years of extreme raiding experience behind us, both tank spots covered, one healer, three varied DPS. We look, it takes longer than I expect week after week, problems finding healers, but we get there. The content was hard though. Like, really hard. If I'd stepped into a normal ten man and this is what I was facing, I would have no problem. But it was flex, and with that we were met with the dual problem of the expectation everything would be a one shot and the type of player that WoW has fostered for so long now - that if something doesn't die on that first attempt, the group is trash and it's acceptable to bail without a word. The notion that it was perhaps their fault that the wipe happened and they should perhaps accept some responsibility and improve isn't a trait held in today's WoW.

One week, we had trouble on Dark Shamans then one shot Nazgrim. The next week we one shot Dark Shamans then couldn't kill Nazgrim. The next day we spent hours wiping on Malkorok and never killed him. The week after that we couldn't get past Galakras, a boss we'd had no trouble with previously. It was infuriating. There was no consistency from week to week as to why we were wiping other than the mechanics were tuned far higher than I felt was acceptable for flex. This gradually did us in and we didn't log in the week after to do flex, no one said anything and the game fell away from us once more.

People might read that and think "lol ur bad l2p" or think I'm whining or whatever but I really felt we had a good plan and tried hard to make a go of it. We left our dead old raiding guild and levelled up Chefs Knife as a short term pain, long term gain type thing, I made us a subreddit whereby I kept track of every player we did Flex with and how they performed, we had consumables, usual raiding mentality. The idea was to get a portfolio of people to try and do Flex with each week and build from that but it just didn't work out. I'll always love WoW and know I will inevitably play it again in the future but I just don't feel like it has a place for me any longer.

So I move onto FFXIV. On a whim last night, my friend and I downloaded the client, synced things up and began playing it. I'm not going into this all guns blazing with a wondrous plan to execute at dusk. I'm not going into it as someone who was thinks they were King Opo in FFXI. I'm going into it as someone who wants to methodically go through a new experience and marvel at the world and discover new things for the first time. Things that you take for granted and find a pain the tenth time round. I don't know if this will work out and I honestly don't really care. I can live without an MMO in my life quite easily now but I do love having one to fall back on during droughts. It's that or Championship Manager 01/02.

(1 lost | Enter the storm)

 


Wednesday, July 25th, 2012 - 8:26 pm - ビーター


Thanks to a certain Tarutaru melee pal currently under the employment of ArenaNet, a few friends and I were able to get in to the Guild Wars 2 beta when it either was or was just coming out of alpha. I had planned to post about it here and keep them under lock and key until the NDA was lifted but ended up with cold feet. The NDA we were required to sign involved us having to sign and fax documents directly to ArenaNet with copies of our ID. That felt like a bad ass enough NDA that I didn't want to risk being sold.

Truth be told, I only solidly played and enjoyed the first weekend's beta. Picking Warrior and Charr (Asura wasn't available) I went at it full force to be of the right level for the first dungeon. I plan to try Guardian but I enjoyed Warrior so much that it's hard to imagine myself maining anything else. Having access to every single weapon really made Guild Wars' Warrior feel like an actual Warrior what with your skills being based on your weapon and the surprisingly deep combo system. I did end up using a Great Sword and Hammer almost exclusively in the end though. Great Sword is so monstrously overpowered that I actually reported it as such. The Hammer offes incredible control over the mobs, something that will turn out to be a pretty big deal if ArenaNet stick to their guns. Warrior aside, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed playing Charr. I suppose they're not a million miles away from Tauren, the race I mained for many years in WoW, but my only reason for picking it out of Human and Norn was to give the content Cobbi designed in Plains of Ashford and Diessa Plateau a whirl. The race felt really meaty and the story quests were the best I got to try, especially the BEASTMODE 24/7 gun I can't recall the name of.

The greatest thing that happened during our first weekend was BTB, Disdain and myself getting high enough level to do Ascalonian Catacombs. That in itself was good but by some minor miracle we ended up doing it with Rob Hrouda, the dungeon designer for Guild Wars 2. Even cooler, he downloaded Skype and got on it with us so we could chat while progressing through it. As sad and almost fanboyish as it sounds, it was wonderful experience to have and something I'll always remember, especially when running the dungeon again in retail. Ascalonian Catacombs though... it was here that it really dawned on me the type of game this is going to be. This wasn't WoW where you just faceroll through and try to top the meters. Without teamwork, you will wipe. Trying to top the meters with a Great Sword instead of timing stuns with a Hammer will cause a wipe. It's that tough. But that's a good thing! Like Demon's Souls, the satisfaction felt when overcoming the bosses was immense. One boss in particular is two mobs that buff each other if they're close. To keep them separated you have to pick up rocks around the arena and throw them carefully at each enemy to push them back. We were crazy enough to attempt Explorable Mode afterwards which was so absolutely batshit insane hard that I'm dying to see how it works out in the future, probably literally. I was most definitely reminded of vanilla Dead Mines and that is not a bad thing at all.

The second weekend I think I ruined for myself. Having unsurprisingly lost our characters, I decided to just play a Warrior again and race it up to 30 to be able to do Ascalonian Catacombs again. The biggest mistake I made here was to pick the horrible Human area to level in to keep things fresh. Without enough events to stay up to scratch level wise with while being thrown all over the map in an inefficient way, the experience while it was being repeated with a class I'd already played with no changes made to it was not the best one I've ever had. I had a headache and decided to cut my losses.

I didn't play any of the other beta weekends until the one last weekend that introduced Asura and Sylvari. As much as I enjoyed Charr, I can't not play the Tarutaru class when retail rolls around. I think I only got up to about level ten before we started talking about Dungeon Defenders and went to play that instead. It was fun, sure, and the game is fun, sure, but I had a realization at some point this year that there's really no point in playing betas too much. I won't argue that there are experiences to be had, just look at what occured in our first Ascalonian Catacombs run for example, but ultimately what you're doing doesn't mean shit when the game is live. I guess I'll know how to handle the bosses in Ascalonian Catacombs and how to do some of the truly amazing jumping puzzles but beyond that? Eh.

I did second guess Guild Wars 2 a bit but it's a promising game and one I'm going to put some hours in to. At this stage of my life I will never return to the way I used to play MMO's but I think they've moved sufficiently far enough away from that model now for better or worse. I don't know what we'll do for live. I would like to host a guild where all my good friends from over the past decade can congregate together with an active US group and an active EU group with as much overlap as possible. I don't know if that will really happen though as it will involve everyone EU side being okay with playing on a US server or vice-versa. We'll see, though, but for certain I will be on Guild Wars 2 laughing at the people with no idea how to do the Flame Temple Tomb water puzzle from day one.

(10 lost | Enter the storm)

 


Thursday, February 9th, 2012 - 6:00 pm - It’s choco-loco style in a choco-rodeo



I cannot talk about this game without touching upon the ending. I won't overtly spoil it but I'm afraid it can't simply be glossed over.

So, with that said...

TO BE CONTINUED!!! Really? REALLY? The ironic thing is I actually thought the ending up until that point was pretty good. It wasn't your standard happy ending and it actually made sense within the context of the story and what you had been told at certain junctures by certain characters. So, for me, to practically ruin a good ending because you've already planned out the downloadable content to cover it is outrageously offensive. Final Fantasy games getting sequels is almost unprecedented so to think that they had the gall to do this when FFXIII-2 was lauded as a big budget apology for the perceived failure of FFXIII is breathtaking. I couldn't shake the notion while playing through FFXIII-2 that this started out as DLC for its predecessor. But, after the litany of issues Square were probably too insulated to expect to hear, they decided to just flesh out what they had into a full game while checking off a list headed "fan rancor".

Still, I did think FFXIII-2 was a fine game. As I've said more times that I can remember now, I can put up with anything in a JRPG if it has a good combat system. I was always a fan of FFXIII's and felt it got some unfair criticisms. Can you just smash X to get through the game? Yeah, to a degree, you can. The question that doesn't get asked is what you would be doing instead. Fighting a bomb? Just choose a water spell. Fighting an ice elemental? Pick a fire spell. Are you really making choices? I'm not for a moment advocating that FFXIII's combat system is one of the best but it is what it is and instead of focusing on the negatives it should be enjoyed for its fast paced nature and the strategy of planning out your paradigms and expertly flipping between them underpinning it. Sadly, FFXIII-2 is so incredibly easy that it betrays that aspect more than a little. In fact it's so easy that that one of the last trophies I got was to paradigm shift a thousand times. I accept a part of that will be down to my learnings from it's predecessor but there was rarely ever a need to use Synergist, Saboteur or Sentinel throughout the course of the game. Even more so than I expected going in, everything could be run through with some combination of Commander and Ravager. The monster system, while fantastic, may make you think hard about your paradigm packs but I believe it painted the whole combat system in to a corner. This point will really hit home upon defeating Archylte Steppe's solitary Long Gui. Hardcore players who fondly remember the complexities of farming Shaolong Gui in under two minutes will inevitably lament the fact that only having access to half the jobs in the third slot chokes tactics into numbing simplicity.

Laying aside what the monster system may have done to the combat I still think it's the best introduction they made to the game. It's pretty exciting to think every time you encounter a mob that you could get him as a member of your party and level him up with you. That's only the tip of the iceberg though as you discover that you can infuse old monsters in to new ones. It's around this discovery where addiction sets in. Suddenly you're planning out all these combinations you could make and wondering how overpowered they could get. I think I've spent about ten hours grinding for stuff that involved raising monsters. As soon as I saw the fruits of building a ridiculously overpowered minmaxed Chichu I set out to build my own equivalent of a Ravager using the DLC earned Lightning which took over three hours to plan out, grind for and get around the hidden inherent passive hierarchy system. This is one amazing aspect of the game and they seem to have set the coliseum up as a conduit for DLC. The thought of having great battles against famous characters from Final Fantasy's extensive history then earning them as a monster to use is enthralling. We may groan at paying for more content but I certainly feel as though I got my £1.59 worth out of this first small content pack.

FFXIII-2's story was okay I suppose, a standard Final Fantasy affair with a bit of Chrono Trigger mixed in. I still had that strange feeling when watching the cutscenes that I remembered getting during the first game. I'll be watching and enjoying then suddenly feel the impossibility of suspending my disbelief any further. I thought about this for a while and came to the conclusion that Square just really suck at conveying emotion in their games. I don't know whether it's something that gets lost in translation or that the high degree of realism in the graphics causes a jarring effect when what the characters are pouring their heart into saying isn't matched by the body language we're all subconsciously conditioned to expect. Watching Serah scream at misbehaving kids was perhaps the game's nadir.

Serah was better than I expected her to be though admittedly those expectations were swirling around in the depths with her 'anger' emotion. I actually don't consider her FFXIII-2's lead but Noel instead and he did a damn fine job. I'm laughably unqualified try and squeeze him on to some sort of best lead scale but I can say with certainty that he's a world away from Vaan. Caius as the antagonist was really great and I enjoyed him as a villain immensely. His beliefs in what he was doing were understandable and supportable and it didn't hurt that his sword was fucking bad ass (can't wait to see some crazy cosplayer build that). Of the returning crew, Hope was a shockingly good character. He went from being an inconsequential whining kid in the first game to a smart, insightful adult who understood and aided in everything that was going on across the timeline. How about that for redemption, eh? Shame the same can't be said about Snow; he's as fucking annoying as he was in the first game, possibly worse. No wait, definitely worse because at least that stupid beanie hat gave him an excuse to be a fuckwad before. Fang, Vanille and especially Sazh aren't worth talking about. Lightning was as bad ass as ever even if she was mistakenly relegated to a peripheral character.

An addition to the game I'm informed was more or less lifted from Final Fantasy VII was Serendipity and boy should it have stayed there! To start with the slot machine... I'm sorry but any mini-game that requires a five minute tutorial is automatically far too complicated. Why do players go to somewhere like Serendipity anyway? To take a break from the grind and relax, right? Nothing is fun about the slot machine, nothing. You press R1 to enter a coin, you pull down on the left stick for the lever, you press the face buttons to stop the reels. After doing that about ten times you resort to just holding L1 to do it automatically. After about fifty turns when you've won essentially nothing and realize that there are trophies tied to this bullshit you figure out a way to keep the L1 button held down while you sleep. But guess what! Playing the slot machine by using L1 automatically lowers the chance to win by 33%. How's that for a kick in the nuts? As if to add a steel toe cap the machines have moods so you'll get to reload repeatedly until it's like a hot summer's day! Chocobo racing isn't bad I guess but you've first got to know how to raise one to a point of challenging for everything and even then I found fighting fate almost impossible no matter which items I used. The card game is built in DLC for later which I'll no doubt not pick up along with the costumes. Can we please just have Blitzball again?

Was there an argument from FFXIII that it needed more puzzles? I recall enjoying the FFX puzzles but don't really remember what they were now. What I look for in a puzzle found within a JRPG is that I have to stop and think about the solution because then I feel inner reward upon solving it. What I don't like is a clock forcing me to hurry so imagine my dismay when I'm faced with a puzzle that is a clock with a clock making me hurry. The picture and crystal puzzles were okay but the whole triumvirate felt tacked on to appease a problem that didn't exist rather than to be a worthwhile addition aiding the flow of the game.

At least one point of unquestionable praise I can happily laud upon FFXIII-2 is the soundtrack. FFXIII's was generally of a low standard with a few outstanding tracks, all of which have returned to supplement its sequel's. There's a wide spectrum of genres here but much of it is minimalistic and beautifully serene. For every Crazy Chocobo there's ten Ruined Hometown's with wonderfully soft lyrics and catchy electronica beats. Whenever I hear Noel's Theme I will think about watching him desperately struggle across a desolate wasteland as the only person alive. When a song can instantly evoke such powerful, emotive images I don't think any praise can be higher. Even the few tracks I wasn't initially keen on ended up growing on me by the end. If I ignore FFXI, I don't think a Final Fantasy game has had so many songs get stuck in my head or had me humming them to the passengers of my Battlefield USAS-12 ship before. I kid, but I'm happy it's of such high quality because the only thing worse than a bad soundtrack is one you can't remember. Looking at you Ivalice.

I had a blast playing through FFXIII-2, its predecessor and no doubt the eventual sequel or DLC that closes the story. Even after my platinum popped I had an urge to keep playing before deciding to put it down for a while so I don't get completely burnt out as this is going to be a busy year for JRPGs. I may have one down but there's still Ni No Kuni, FFX HD, Tales of Graces f, Last Story, Pandora Tower and possibly Toki To Tawa to go around all the other games on my list for 2012.

(6 lost | Enter the storm)

 


Sunday, January 22nd, 2012 - 1:12 am - 2011 - Anime Edition



A little late but I thought I'd ramble on about all the anime I watched that was aired in 2011. I've seen a lot over the past year with some going as far back as 1988 so covering them all might be a bit much. I won't spoil anything directly but there will likely be one or two comments that veer approach the cusp.

A-Channel

I watched this right after Lucky Star expecting more of the same. I didn't get more of the same. Honestly, I'm not sure what I got except a bunch of girls doing girly things. It was almost like K-On with no story right down to Run being a sub-intelligent Yui (something I didn't think possible) while having a strange relationship with a short, overprotective girl.

Hell, I don't even know what to say about A-Channel really. I enjoyed it to an extent but I felt I was massively outside of it's target audience when, as a seinen, I was exactly that.

Ano Hana

Easily one of the best slice-of-life animes ever.

This is about a group of friends that spent all their time together as children until one of them, Menma, died in an accident. The somewhat leader of the group, Jintan, blamed himself and became a recluse because of it. Several years on he suddenly starts seeing Menma as if she's grown up and is still around. As he tries to explain this to the others, who have long since drifted apart, they all react in different ways and the show handles how they all struggled to cope with her death and the various ways it damaged their life. The way Atsumu deals with it in particular is distressing.

I whole heartedly suggest this. And if the end doesn't make you cry you're a rampaging homo. Yep.

Fate/Zero

If you can survive the barrage of backstory thrown at you in the extra long first episode, you will be rewarded with some of the best fight scenes I've ever seen. Some spanning multiple episodes, some with ridiculously over the top effects. Hey, I own every possession in the world timeline, let me summon it and launch it at you! Not good enough? How about I take you to a different reality where the army I used to rule will run through you! No??? Well fuck off, I'm the king of England.

The story concept is a bit loose but the classes and their masters are written superbly. Every class is based on a real life historic person and each has their own motive which doesn't necessarily align with their masters'. To be honest, I was pretty set on this when Caster summoned C'thulu to teach his murderous master a lesson in terror.

I'm really looking forward to the second part of this when it starts airing in a few months; Lancer vs Saber is finally on!

Mahou Shoujo Madoka

Silinde wouldn't shut up until I caved in and watched this.

This is merely really good up until a certain episode where you're shown something even Bender wouldn't be able to see coming. At that point it becomes mind blowing and you will view two characters and their motives in entirely different lights. The art style, music and story are incredible and Madoka would make a pretty sweet video game.

Mayo Chiki!

The concept for Mayo Chiki is kinda stupid. Even if you don't know in advance the shock, you'd see it coming from a mile away. That and it's revealed in the first episode anyway. If you read the synopsis for this on MAL I can't think of a reason that would convince you to watch it. But for some reason I did and I'm glad of it. Yeah, there's not much story but it's really good light hearted fun. Explaining to someone how a girl that's pretending to be a boy is in love with a guy whose mortally afraid of women whose younger sister is in love with her thinking she's a boy but her butler is stirring things up and there's a catgirl that draws these scenarios into yaoi manga is pretty fun.

Come to think of it, MAL should just use that to describe Mayo Chiki.

Nichijou

When Nichijou was airing I spoke to Silinde about it. I thought the art style was gorgeous and he linked me two videos of it which sealed my interest. I waited until it finished airing though as I do have a preference of watching anime in season blocks.

I've mentioned this to BTB but I think Nichijou is the closest an anime has ever come to a western cartoon. For as long as we've known each other, we've thrown quotes at each other from Futurama having religiously watched the show to the point of martyrdom. I found that we were constantly referencing jokes from Nichijou to each other in a way we've never done before. Praise for an anime doesn't get much higher than that.

Nichijou flits around several sets of characters that intersect throughout the show as their go about their lives in ways that aren't ordinary at all. From Nano and Hakase to Misato and Koujirou, almost every skit and scenario is top quality entertainment. The only thing that even remotely falls flat is Helvetica Standard because it's terribly lost in translation.

There is no anime I yearn for a second season of more than this. I would even settle for a spin off featuring just Nano, Hakase and Sakamoto but I don't think either is to be. Due to the stratospherical pricing of the DVDs and Blu Ray releases in Japan, it has sold dreadfully and gained hugely negative reviews everywhere simply because of that. A real shame because this is an absolute gem.

Steins;Gate

I kept seeing this referenced everywhere and put it on my to watch list. It's hard to gauge how popular an anime truly is with the awful sites I use to view discussions on it so I didn't read too heavily in to the hype it was getting. When I eventually decided to watch it I saw it was ranked number three on MAL's all time anime list and wondered what I was about to watch.

After the confusion generated in the first episode you slowly discover that some borderline hikikomori mad scientist and his friend figured out a primitive form of time travel. As they unravel what it is they've created and learn how to get the most out of it they invite more of their friends to use it to, in a sense, grant wishes. However, half way through the show though something terrible happens as a consequence of all their meddling. Okarin starts to undo all what they changed to try to fix the mess they caused. I don't want to give away too much more of the story but something I enjoyed through it all was seeing how everything they went through subtly affected his character and changed him. I do so like good character development.

Anyway, this is fantastic, watch it. Knowing how I flipflop on these things this may change but I allowed this to topple Clannad from atop my personal throne and I currently consider this the best anime I've ever seen.

Tiger & Bunny

If you looked at the poster for this, you'd have no idea what it was about. If you read the synopsis on MAL you'd still only have a loose idea of what it is and not feel particularly inclined to watch it.

The way I tried to describe Tiger & Bunny to friends is a Japanese X-Men mixed with The Running Man with an art style not a million miles away from Redline and a lot of its intensity. I was surprised by this because I was actually expecting two guys who solved crimes and got points for doing it or something. The heroes have great personalities and I think Kotetsu is one of the best written characters I've seen in an anime. Watching his relationship blossom with Barnaby was wonderful.

Take a punt on this, it's great.

Usagi Drop

I like my slice-of-life animes but sometimes I don't feel like being upset by them. This is a perfect example of exactly that. No peril, no deaths, no tragedies, just a guy whose easy going life is suddenly changed drastically as he adapts to bring up his grandfather's illegitimate love child.

I really enjoyed this and I hope they do a second season of it to cover the rest of the manga.

(Enter the storm)

 


Monday, January 2nd, 2012 - 5:27 pm - 2011

I think 2011 was the best year of gaming since 1999. Perhaps a large part of that is down to minimal MMO playing, a full time job and a good PC but the quality of games that came out out was just staggering. Given that, I couldn't resist the chance to briefly go over my favourite games of the year, which is something I've intended to do for the past few years. I can see myself doing the same next year if 2012 ends how it's going to start - I'm solidly looking forward to Ni No Kuni, FFXIII-2, Mass Effect 3 and Diablo 3. Also the beta of a certain game.

Xenoblade

I've said pretty much everything there is to say about Xenoblade below though I don't expect it to win game of the year anywhere. A game from a genre perceived to be dying that hasn't been released in the US amidst the monumental releases of 2011 stood absolutely no chance. Even so, months on, I still feel the same about it despite the games I've played in the interim and implore anyone with an interest in JRPGs to pick it up now, even if it takes you five harmless minutes to get your Wii to play it.

Dark Souls

Demon's Souls is one of my favourite games ever and the days leading up to this being released was absolute agony. These days I don't read up too much on games in advance and am happy when they end up on my doormat but this was something else. We ran to the booth at the EuroGamer expo and spent hours playing it, I kept watching EpicNameBro's videos on YouTube and I was counting down the hours and days before it finally arrived. Dark Souls built on its predecessor in every possible way and the open world concept worked amazingly well, adding an extra layer of difficulty as you figured out where to go.

It had it's problems, sure. Elemental weapons being massively unbalanced, Crystal Ring Shield spam, Fog Ring and horrendous online issues but patches eventually sorted everything out. But, overall, the good outweighed the bad massively. The only thing I can take away from this game is the fact it's a sequel and you can never recapture that magic of doing everything for the first time.

Portal 2

I loved the original game, it was great fun. I had the sequel preordered for the PS3 just so I could get a free PC copy but ended up cancelling it and getting it on Steam two days early for more money. Playing through it was a blast and the co-op was fantastic. A few puzzles in particular, we sat there for what felt like an eternity going over everything to figure out what was missing before finally managing it and getting a warm feeling inside. The problem with a game like Portal is you can pretty much only play it once and it's done till the next content is released. It has practically zero replayability but that first experience is unrivalled.

Skyrim

I've gotta be honest, the exact same thing happened with me when playing this game that happened when I played Oblivion. I start, I have an absolute riot. I enjoy the shit out of myself trying to get from a to b and getting side tracked into the entire alphabet for hours. I find a quest I love and talk about then... that's it, it dies. Skyward Sword didn't help in this regard as I took a break from Skyrim to play through it then just couldn't get back in to it. I think it comes down to the fact there's literally zero character development. Every one sounds the same, no one stands out. It's tedious to me. It's like the polar opposite of Lucky☆Star and I'm a guy that will sacrifice story for character development without hesitation.

Still, those hours I spent playing it were so fucking fun I just can't resist singing its praises. I'll no doubt pick it up somewhere down the line, probably when I have to swathe through pages of bestiality loli mods to want to do so.

Uncharted 3

Another disappointing release for me. I had great fun playing it but it just lacked something. Uncharted 2 blew me away in a way this couldn't and I don't think it's the 'did it first' syndrome this time. Sure, its graphics are only surpassed by The Witcher 2 and FFXIII and the whole cinematic style seems to be what Hideo Kojima fails to achieve with every Metal Gear game but it felt soulless. I enjoyed seeing how Nate and Sully met and Charlie's character but there is something missing from the game I couldn't put my finger on.

Skyward Sword

No game has ever made me feel more conflicted than this. The game is built around the most flawless motion controls you'll ever experience in a waggle game. This is the game that you imagined when you first pondered the potential of motion controls. On that front, it's the best Zelda game I've ever played and absolutely the most fun. Of course they had to then ruin it by having a central hub and three worlds that you have to visit over and over again that get rehashed in various ways throughout the game. That makes it the worst Zelda game ever.

Where do I put this in my Zelda list? I have no fucking clue but Wind Waker is still dragon of the roost.

Infamous 2

When the first Infamous came out I spent so much time trying to figure out whether I should buy it or Prototype that I just said fuck it and bought neither. When we were offered it for free thanks to the PSN debacle I couldn't not pick it up and I was so happy I did. I played through it in a few days and platinum'd in the same timeframe. It was so much fun and so enjoyable that I had to pick up the sequel that had just come out (that marketing ploy wasn't lost on me) but held off to avoid burn out. I found Infamous 2 to be one of the most improved sequels I've played and enjoyed it even more. If the idea of being a complete badass running around a town appeals to you, pick them both up.

Be warned though, the ending on evil mode is just horrible. And I mean that in an upsetting way, not that it was badly written or anything.

The Witcher 2

Never have I died so many times in a tutorial. Holy shit The Witcher 2 kicked my ass so bad I almost gave it up. Calira told me some cheese tactics to get past it which worked and I built from there. Great story, great voice acting, mind blowing graphics and, when used to it, a brilliant combat system.

(5 lost | Enter the storm)

 


Tuesday, October 4th, 2011 - 10:10 pm - Monado: Beginning of the World



The first game I ever played was the original Legend of Zelda on the NES, my first console. My favourite game ever is Secret of Mana on the SNES, my favourite console. I question sometimes how much the power of nostalgia has over those feelings. Do I still believe it's the best game I've ever played? No; Demon's Souls and now this take that crown and the console scepter could quite easily go to the PS3. Old things don't always have to be better, technology improves and we move forward with it. As a kid, If someone had told me that some day in the future I'd be shooting zombies with three other people at various places around the world as we scream down open mics at each other I'd have thought that was the greatest thing ever. And it is. But looking back on a game that absolutely defines my childhood, a game that I bought by accident, a game I can still load up now and love playing makes relegating it to anywhere but the top of my extraneous list feel like a betrayal.

Xenoblade is the first of three translated JRPGs (the other two being Pandora's Tower and The Last Story) to hit a console I never play and it took me a little by surprise. I was planning to play it but I'd semi-intentionally done no research and only started getting excited about it the week before it came out. I realize how completely fucking sad this sounds but I've often drawn up characters, story arcs and combat systems in my head that I thought would make a great JRPG. Heck, I'd even been toying with the idea of getting them out of my head, into notepad and tying it all together in to some form of narrative. I'll never create a game but I could write an interesting story to be proud of that I'd be content to entertain even a single person, right? Well, that pretty much went out the window when I got my hands on Xenoblade, a game that bizarrely incorporated some of the core features I'd dreamt up.

First and foremost, I didn't play this game on the Wii, I played it on PC, in pseudo-HD, with a PS2 controller. I believe it's important to get this out of the way as I was constantly blown away by how incredible the game looked and it could (fairly) be perceived that playing the game in settings far beyond anything the Wii could offer would skew my perspective. But, damn, Xenoblade really is visually outstanding. As with any superlative game released on the Wii, the phrase "why can't this be on the PS3?" was uttered several times between BTB and I as we played through it. The picture above, for example, is from Satorl Marsh, a barren bog during the day that absolutely springs to life during the evening. The dried out trees wait for something wild is well and truly sated as they gain a phosphorescent bloom of leaves that continuously flow skyward. Valak Mountain is another area that comes to life when the lights go out. After the initial impression that it's just the same generic snow level every RPG must have during the day, yellow beams shoot into the sky during the night. It's not just the visual splendor that appeals either; walking into the second zone, Gaur Plains, you're hit by this HUGE open field that overwhelms you with how much there is to explore. You get the feeling the game knows its about to create an Ocarina of Time Hyrule Field moment as it holds off the glorious music until you turn the corner at the last second. Finally, some of the armours and weapon designs are good (whoever designed Riki's weapons is a hammer user in Monster Hunter) but when you get a character I will refer to as KOS-MOS, marvel at the art direction of her gear - it's some of the best I've ever seen in a game.

I've linked a few musics and will link a few more but no matter how great of a soundtrack the game has, I don't think it can truly be appreciated until you're experiencing them within the context of their respective zones. I can show some splendour though. As I've mentioned, the game has a clearly defined night and day system. The music for Gaur Plains I linked above is played during the day. This one is played during the night. I really love the concept of having a piece of music that spins off into a more mellow version for the evening or does the opposite to create an upbeat version for the day, all the while retaining a clear connection between the two. My absolute favourite piece of music in the game is what plays in Mechonis Field. To set the scene, you're inside a giant robot and everything around you is moving mechanical parts. It wasn't just that an incredible piece of music fit the area so well that was unlike anything heard in game up to that point but it reminded me very heavily of Phantasy Star Online. Specifically, Tricktrack. Until the area became unavailable, Mechonis Field was always the place I would go to while spending the tedious hours required for gem crafting. Yes, a big sticking point I have with the game is the need to spend so long creating gems for your gear. I realize I'm the architect of my own downfall trying to minmax but sitting down for two hours preparing and crafting gems for an eternity was horrible. I did like the enforced caps though which allowed you to tinker in other stats you would not have taken otherwise. I thought this was a neat idea that would be pretty good if Blizzard had the courage to extend it to WoW.

I've often talked about battle systems in JRPGs and how they can carry me through a less than stellar offering if they're good enough. Playing through Eternal Sonata was downright painful at times (FOR FUCK SAKE JUST DIE CLAVES) but damn if I didn't love its sensation of forming your own party synergy and the unique play style in making Viola ridiculously overpowered. Grandia II has my favourite battle system with Tales of Symphonia close behind it. Xenoblade's is good, really good, and up there with them. If you're familiar with Final Fantasy XII's, take that as a very fundamental building block and stack aggro, positional requirements and shared healing responsibilities on to that.

The game has a total of seven characters and you can play any one you want. Each one has three skill trees that eventually branch out to four then five that dictate how they play. Initially, you just look at what seems cool or useful and pick it. As they level up they'll go down that path and when they reach the end you can switch them to the next tree, retaining everything you've already learned but giving up the passive bonus for the tree you're now learning. The characters cover a wide range of roles so you can play or have one played how you'd like. For example, the tank you start out with is Reyn, your standard meat shield. One of Dunban's trees allows him to evasion tank if he's completely naked. Riki, though a DPS, can be steered toward a tank due to his insane HP and AoE abilities. Each character can choose eight abilities out of a wildly different amount to play the role you want them to. Don't want Reyn to be a tank? Switch them all out for DPS abilities! As you build affinity between characters you can interlink many of their skills which creates some incredible synergy, something that excites me like nothing else in a JRPG. Toward the end of the game, assuming you have the coins to do it, you can give Shulk 80% double attack, make all his double attacks crit and make all his crits heal. It's crazy, it's overpowered and it's fun, something all offline RPGs should really endeavor to achieve in this world of balancing everything with patches.

The battle system itself is pretty straight forward. Using Shulk, you'll auto attack till you get what we'll refer to as TP, then you use that TP to activate the Monado and do a powerful attack or buff your allies. Melia, for example, gains TP by just using her abilities. When she's full those same abilities will do a lot more damage. Riki's TP ability is 'Yoink!' (steal) and Dunban's is a mini QTE event so there is a fair bit of variety. You really can comfortably play anybody you like though I'd suggest leaving tanking to the AI as it's really damn good at it. On the other hand, Melia when controlled by the game is absolutely woeful but under the tutelage a knowledgeable player is the strongest DPS in the game (until you get boots with Sword Drones X for KOS-MOS anyway). Obviously it doesn't have the flexibility of FFXII's gambit system but then I wouldn't want it to. As great as that was, I felt there were too many times it was balanced on a knife edge and the game was either too easy or too hard because of it.

Something that'll become apparent while playing the game is the brilliant voice acting. Truth be told, when I first heard it I wasn't sure whether it was legitimately good or just good because its bad in an ironic English way. The more I played and sought secondary opinions the more I came to the conclusion that it really is that damn good. It's nice that they left the option to have Japanese voices in but you'll really be missing out if you choose them. Reyn in particular is hilarious. No matter how many times you hear "what a bunch of jokers", because of the accent you'll always be expecting that last word to be "wankers". The voice actor for Shulk in particular deserves special praise for his ability to convey emotion in a stereotypical character that could so easily have degenerated into a whiny, annoying bitch in the throat of a lesser talent. In fact, there was not a single moment where I went diving for an audio change as I did every time I started up Black Butler and realized dubs were on by default.

One of my most respected reviewers said that the story for Xenoblade was quite cliche, which I disagree with. Until a certain point in the game it does seem like that so I would assume they just never beat it before completing their review. Once you're beyond that and you realize that the done-to-death save the girl scenario is just a minor plot point in an overarching story you see its greatness. Sure, it's no Shakespeare but among a cluster of betrayal you never seen coming, arcs that evolve so far you can't even return to zones, entire areas that completely change, fully fleshed out side stories for every character and over 400 side quests to do all rife with their own little tales, you won't be disappointed in the end.

The side quest system is something I've seen come under criticism a few times. Are there too many? I don't know, thats for you to decide. I'm told that the game is balanced for you doing zero of them but thats not something I'd feel comfortable suggesting. You'd miss out on so much too. Some of them are fetch quests but you'll always get a large collection of them at once and be able to do them as you're passing through the zone. The one criticism I would have is the way you get them. With a day and night cycle, some NPCs are only out at certain times. It's quite lenient in that you can look at 10:00 and 22:00 and always find them but I have to say running around the enormous Alcamoth twice to collect all the quests took about 45 minutes. That was about as engrossing as crafting gems for two hours. Overall, you're looking at about 150 hours to do everything at which point you can move on to new game plus, my biggest gripe with the game.

When you start up NG+ you get to retain a certain weapon for Shulk that gives him 75% crit. Now, keep in mind the aforementioned double attack synergy and add to that the ability to round that crit up to 100% with 50% haste instantly and it's going to be a long time before you don't one shot anything that moves. I suppose the point of NG+ is to allow you to re-farm all the named monsters for more affinity coins which in turn will let you link up more abilities thus making the handful of super hard mobs ranging from 100 to 120 (level cap is 99) beatable. But you don't need to do that. With creative use of game mechanics, you can knock an enemy to the floor and never let it stand up, beating it easily. That sound like bullshit you'd never want to try? Well, no matter how many abilities you link, I see no way to get beyond the horrendous miss spam inherent with fighting something so many levels above you. I toyed with the idea of doing a few new game pluses to speed run the game in seven hours and get some easy affinity coins and taking them on the 'intended' way. What stopped me doing that though was losing out on all the key items you'd need to get five star affinity everywhere to be able to re-quest to re-obtain them, tacking on about fifty hours. It's a shame they didn't think the NG+ through better. If I ever get the itch to play through Xenoblade again I'm far more likely to just start a brand new file and experiment with all the characters earlier than I did on my first go when I had a fear of breaking the Shulk/Reyn/Sharla triumvirate.

Xenoblade is one of the best games I've ever played and if you've grown up with JRPGs you'll absolutely fucking love it. It's a travesty that Nintendo of America didn't think it would sell for shit over there when it sold out everywhere here but in this day and age there are plenty of ways to play it. The Wii can be made to accept the game inside five minutes with nothing more than an SD card and it can be played on the PC if your processor is a beast. Don't let a carnival of idiots decide what you play and cause you to miss out on a classic. In 1995, we got stiffed out of Chrono Trigger and could do little about it. In 2011, it doesn't need to be that way.

(1 lost | Enter the storm)

 


Monday, September 26th, 2011 - 12:18 am - EuroGamer Expo



Silinde, Disdain and I went to the EuroGamer Expo this Friday just gone. I tweeted thoughts on what we played throughout the day but I felt it could use some fleshing out here.

Dark Souls

As previously mentioned here many times, Demon's Souls is one of my favourite games ever. I'll go into why I doubt I can ever claim it as my top in my Xenoblade entry but, yeah, it's close to my heart. I'm damn proud of my platinum for it as is Disdain for his. Naturally, this was the game we were dying to play before we'd even gotten there and had agreed would be the first game we played.

As soon as we entered I asked the first guy we saw where Dark Souls was set up and we hastily walked in the general direction, proudly ignoring the Final Fantasy XIII-2, Skyward Sword and huge Skyrim set ups. To our delight, the first row of PS3 Dark Souls' set up was completely empty so we got comfortable and prepared our bodies.

The first thing that annoyed us was discovering you can't run in the demo. Why? No clue, but that you can was duly noted in the release videos pouring into Nico Nico Douga. The second thing to seriously annoy us was finding out we couldn't change the equipment our guys were wearing. This meant we couldn't get ourselves to half encumbrance for rolling goodness and would have to rely on shielding more than either of us were comfortable with. Due to this, we both went with Warrior as the optimal choice and begun drawing a small crowd. I got the first applause by rolling around the armoured rhino and stabbing him up the arse in extremely easy fashion. It wasn't exactly challenging to me but having seen the utterly tragic attempts of almost every player there against it I can understand what seemed so impressive. Another small nod for parry and riposting a knight. The best cheer though? Disdain got one-shot by a ridiculously high level black phantom mini tower knight because people had died so many times on his game that it had turned the world tendency to pure black. Now that was funny.

On the first sitting of 55 minutes we each spent on it, neither of us could play flawlessly enough in that environment to save enough 'health pots' to get through the Gargoyle boss. I find it pretty amusing that one of the hardest bosses in Demon's Souls is the first boss in the sequel with both cheese methods removed and increased difficulty. But that's why we play the game!

Our final hour of the expo was spent trying to beat it again. We were determined that one of us had to beat it and Disdain found the key. Somewhat close to the boss was another bonfire in an area neither of us had bothered to visit but had seen and discussed. This allowed for a far quicker route back to the boss and the ability to have at least five pots. If we'd found this earlier we both would have beaten the demo comfortably. But we didn't and only one of us did proper, the other vicariously. It felt damn good.

Upon ringing the bell, the shoddily translated demo gave us the wonderful message of CONGRATULATIONS YOU HAVE ACHIEVED THE PURPOSE which encroaches dangerously on SHINE GET for awesomeness.

Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

I am looking forward to this game but there's such an insane amount of games coming out over the next few months I need to play that this being on a console I loath by a company I've fallen out of love with has gotten it lost in the shuffle. Which is a shame because it reminds me of Wind Waker a lot, a game that would be regarded as the best Zelda game ever if not for the same reason Demon's Souls can't be my favourite game of all time.

I was actually surveyed by a guy asking me what I thought of Nintendo while I waited for the horrible guy in front of me to stop being terrible and then for the batteries to be changed in the Wiimote. I let him have that opinion with both barrels.

Anyway Skyward Sword was pretty good. They've got some really neat ideas in there. Even a standard trash enemy requires some careful swinging with the Wiimote to kill which highlighted that it just isn't capable of such accuracy, which is tragic. I'll keep an open mind on the game but I have a feeling the reviews will generally agree that it's a fantastic game that could've been a perfect game with 100% accurate controls, something I don't think achievable on the Wii.

I didn't even finish my ten minutes on this for no other reason than when I play a Zelda game I want to be on a sofa immersed in its magic.

Guild Wars 2

We had to queue for a decent amount of time to play this but it was worth it. I don't feel I have the time to play an MMO nowadays but I'm still looking forward to playing this so I really wanted to test the waters. The demo gives you 35 minutes before booting you off so we decided to split it between the three of us. Disdain started with a Warrior and I took over for the second half, which ended when I got stuck in the scenery. Silinde then made a Sylvari and took part in that dragon event anyone whose interested in the game has already seen by now. If you feel compelled to watch either linked video, go for it. The one embedded up top is some gameplay of the level 58 area you get started in. I tried to show some stuff like UI and world size and crap but both videos will be pretty lame with us babbling nonsense over the top of them.

I can only speak for Warrior but the combat was pretty decent. You can bind an attack to your auto attack button and then mash it and it'll combo in other abilities... I think. There was also some weird ability unlock system that I couldn't figure out whether it was tied to your EXP or via ability usage. Oh, and after using abilities for a while, we got adrenaline which let us use Flurry, which was a pretty badass super attack.

The game utilized Rift's system of dynamic events while running around questing. Think of that dragon event we've all seen and scale it down a bit, that type of thing. It was pretty cool but as Disdain pointed out, so were rifts the first time you encountered them. On the fourth and fifth time, they were getting old. Having to farm planarite at end game for so much was just tedious. Hopefully there'll be some balance between that.

Only real bad point (other than getting stuck in the scenery...) was the dodge key being bound to B. As Silinde discovered in one of the videos, you can double tap the movement key to dodge too but, damn, place your fingers in wasd formation and imagine hitting B regularly. What were they thinking?

Final Fantasy XIII-2

It's just more of the same but with a lot of crap fixed. I'll happily note that there was not a single linear section in all of what I saw. The QTE's felt really tacked on. I'm not quite sure what was happening with the combat, it seems to have introduced random battles with some quirky rules. If there's one thing I like in my JRPGS it's being able to see the enemy and having the basic rule of engagement for surprise attacks and the ambush equivalent (see Grandia 2).

I can't let it pass without saying the demo set up was idiotic. You fight a boss with Noel and Serah but they didn't bother making one of the paradigms RAV/RAV which made it impossible to break the mob, causing the fight to tediously drag on.

I shouldn't have played this game really for the same reason I didn't play Mass Effect 3. I know what it is, I know what to expect, I just need to have it in my home to enjoy it.

LittleBigPlanet - Vita

Having read there were only eighty Vitas at TGS and queues were stopped at lunch time and that eighty journalists had six to share between them, I wasn't holding out much hope of playing a Vita. We looked at the queues and decided to just join and wait and, boy, am I glad we did.

The way they dealt with it was when you get to the end you pick a card at random that determines what game you get to play. I was absolutely desperate to get Uncharted but instead got Super Stardust HD. Silinde got LittleBigPlanet and was more interested in Stardust so we did a trade. I was bummed I couldn't get Uncharted...

...until we got out. LittleBigPlanet on Vita is absolutely amazing. I was curious how certain aspects of the Vita handled (namely the back panel) and in the ten minutes I got to spend with it I was able to fully complete two levels that utilized all aspects of it. I got to tilt things back and forward and push things in and out the screen with both front and back panels to progress through them. I know a lot of LittleBigPlanet is building the levels but as far as gameplay goes this was more immersive than almost anything I've ever played on the PS3 versions.

The guy I was with was a bro too. He asked me if I regretted not getting the WipeOut card because of the hot cosplaying chick that worked for Psygnosis parading around with those that did. I told him I didn't because, other than the obvious reasons, her liverpudlian accent completely ruined the image. He also joked that one of the other women compering there's favourite game was probably Catz. We then discussed games and tastes and I updated his knowledge on the Vita's battery life, outrageously overpriced proprietary memory and in-fact confirmed cartridge design. I was planning to get a Vita on day one and still might but I can't overlook those battery and memory stick issues.

Upon leaving I discovered the joys of Uncharted involved climbing a few walls and shooting two guys and felt pretty good. LittleBigPlanet will be the Vita's killer app at launch and sell the thing to the Little Jimmys.

Skyrim

Oh dear...

I want to make something very clear - there were only Xbox 360 versions set up. I'm aware how old the console is and what Bethesda have to work with and that the PC version will be drastically superior in every conceivable way and I am still looking forward to the two weeks vacation time I have coinciding with it.

But with that said, this was a fucking mess. Graphics that don't hold up under close scrutiny, blocky shadows, crippling slow down and massive load times really blighted the experience. Being so damn close to a massive TV didn't help either. Alas...

Queuing for it was pretty cool. We got to watch so many different people play and it really highlighted the type of game Elder Scrolls is at its core. No two screens were the same; everyone was off doing their own thing. There was even one guy who ran around the first town you encounter killing everyone and trying to set fire to their corpses. He probably couldn't hear the "that guys got issues" coming from the crowd due to wearing the shitty Turtle Beach headphones littered around the expo. I joked when I got my ten minutes I'd head to the town and roleplay a job. I wasn't seriously going to do that but I did know I wasn't going to spend the time fighting random crap, I was heading for the hills!

Upon discovering I couldn't get to my first destination up a snowy cliff, I looked at the map and followed the river. And by follow the river I mean I dived into it and followed its flow downstream as the game crawled along at 5fps. I eventually found a horse and shit my pants. I wasn't expecting that! It sure made getting around a bit easier even if it was slow as fuck. I first encountered a camp of huge trolls weilding clubs and just kept riding. I found a little fort thing near a bridge and sped past some bitch that aggroed me until I found a town with another unfriendly woman that obliterated me with ice magic. I was sent back to the start of the game with no horse and let the last minute tick down.

Make of it what you will but it's basically Oblivion with massive refinement, bells and whistles.

(8 lost | Enter the storm)

 


Wednesday, September 21st, 2011 - 8:10 pm - honeyhoney



The first anime I ever watched was Neon Genesis Evangelion with Aseuk, a friendship born in PSO and razed in FFXI. Perhaps a baptism of fire, some people think NGE is a complete mind fuck, a mess. To me, that was what made me love it. Witnessing the psychological torment of Shinji, what he was going through, the way people treated him and how it fucked him up more and more was unlike anything I'd ever seen before. The scene from End of Evangelion where he jerks it to Asuka while she's laying in a coma and says "I'm so fucked up" was so poignant that it has never left me. It will always be the epitome of what NGE represents to me and what it opened my eyes to in anime. The ability to use a cartoon setting to forgo realism and enable scenarios and stories that would be hard, stupid or simply impossible to pull off in any other format yet narratives and relationships tackled in a grounded, realistic, adult manner.

Shortly after NGE I watched another Gainax special in FLCL. Despite not remembering a great deal about it now I do know that I enjoyed it immensely. Still, for reasons I cannot explain, I never watched any more anime until Highschool of the Dead in July of last year. That's ten years of letting it pass me by.

4chan has played a large part in reintroducing me to anime. As anyone who can stomach more than five minutes there will know, one board bleeds into another. If you can go on /v/ and find a video game thread that hasn't derailed into doubles, bravo. Unlike the ones that claim to hate that though, I love it. I've been introduced to so much stuff because of rampant crossposting that I can only be grateful. It was seeing a lot of chatter about Highschool of the Dead and the ecchi underpinning it that made me curious enough to investigate further. The same kind of thing happened with Kirino Kousaka reactions.

Without MMOs and with the money and will to find entertainment to fill my now precious time, I found myself using anime to bridge the gaps between games. Championship Manager 01/02, Rock Band amd Team Fortress 2 have and likely always will be my constants that I drop in and out of between the Uncharted's and Final Fantasy's but sometimes I just don't want to play games. Sometimes, after work, I want to just sit in my chair with a cup of Earl Gray and run through the gamut of emotions.

My Little Sister Can't Be This Cute (Oreimo) sealed the deal for me. I'd never experienced anything like that before in any genre, let alone anime. And (worringly?) I liked it. I didn't even know what it was I'd just watched really so I decided to find out. Slice of life. That's what I'd enjoyed so much and decided to persue. Not exclusively of course; Black Butler, Mahou Shoujo Madoka and K-On are far from slice of life and I love those.

It's fascinating to me at times why I enjoy them. Clannad, especially After Story, is by some distance my favourite anime and it's about watching somebody go through unbelievably painful experiences. Even closer to home, watching Welcome to the NHK could be downright uncomfortable. Being able to relate to some of the stuff he was facing in his day-to-day life of nothing rung too true. When he started getting addicted to what was very obviously supposed to be Final Fantasy XI and sunk to a new depth was really unsettling. The scene with Megumi's brother was so bad it actually lead me to rescind my suggestion to BTB that he watch it.

So that's my new hobby and how I got there. I feel like I have more to say on the matter but it's also devolving into a check list of what I do and don't like. If you have anything to suggest I add to my anime list go ahead and I'll get it watched in due course.

jaa!

(9 lost | Enter the storm)

 


Monday, September 12th, 2011 - 10:18 pm - i don't know, you don't know, nobody does



It's almost a year since I updated this thing and that coincides nicely with another anniversary - full time employment. Did I ever mention that here? I don't think I did but I'm sure it got implied somewhere along the line, especially if you read my tweets. I've actually contiguously been employed since the day I could legally work but the looming ten year anniversary (another one) of working in such a horrible, dead end, part time job made me finally get what I like to call a real job.

A constant throughout the years of writing this is never talking about myself. I don't plan on changing that but I feel some introspection here will help shed some light on choices of late. Like quitting MMOs.

Though I feel it's almost offensive to the great people I met on European servers, whenever I think of WoW it'll always be to the days I spent with Blue Gartr during The Burning Crusade. I remember running the guild on a roster of 27 people, Kuai's horrendous links opening my eyes to 4chan, the way I felt when we beat Kael'thas, all the Warriors I tanked with, Tib's display of Protadin shaping my future and all the unfunny repetitive jokes we made daily about minor discrepancies once committed never forgotten. There was just something about evolving from knowing absolutely fuck all in vanilla to seeing the world in math with a group of absolute clowns that'll always stick with me.

I don't remember what I said when I quit Blue Garter, WoW for the first time and US servers but I always felt they resented me for it despite the astronomical money we all made off the accounts of a game everyone was admittedly tired of. I don't harbour any resentment and still miss certain people I've naturally drifted away from. Here, I'd like to actually put down why I quit even if no one cares anymore and probably didn't then.

As some people reading this may remember, while walking to work with my brother in January '08, we were jumped by two drunks and had a pretty nasty fight. The particulars aren't important but it opened my eyes to the fact that my family were the ones to be there and care for me. I obviously wasn't expecting people on the other side of the Atlantic to fill that role but I was going to bed at 10:00 and waking at 16:00 to spend one day a week raiding for gear nobody needed. I'd also ballooned to 330lbs and lost contact with each and every friend I had. Oh, and that time I was sick for two months straight and couldn't string a sentence together on Vent without coughing? It went away when Bert advised me to clean my room. Yeah...

Most of my EU WoW time spanning from March '08 to September '09 is covered here. Some people might be wondering why I would go back to something I'd allowed to do so much damage to me? Quitting an addiction and having nothing to fill the time with is not breaking the cycle. In hindsight, it was inevitable I'd go back and I'm glad I did as I assembled and entered into a fantastic circle of friends I play all my games with to this day. I strongly dislike online competitive play and will always take the teamwork. For example, of the hundreds of hours I've poured into both Left 4 Dead's, less than 1% of that was spent playing 4v4. Every single second of it was spent with the friends I made in EU WoW. As a co-op/PvE person that realizes how horrendous the public are at most games, having a large circle of skilled friends I could happily spend all evening chatting with makes me feel like the king of an island in a sea of shit.

Oh, I suppose after the shocking nadir above I should just state that I got myself down to 230lbs, have a fab group of acquaintances (thanks to my job) and a very good friend in Silinde that I meet up with as often as time allows. Life blossoms, but reversing years of a tsunami of abuse toward my body and soul is not a swift process.

Back to WoW; I returned again in September '10 and experienced the disappointment that was Icecrown Citadel. I slowly edged back toward my old guild who were seemingly happy to have me back in their ranks. I always told myself and the skeptics I went back with that if things weren't different that I would leave. And I did, taking two of their best members with me to the best guild on the server. This proved to be Redemptions death knell. Do I regret it? Not really. I made a promise to myself and stuck with it which allowed me to see the pinnacle of hardcore-casual raiding.

Alter Ego was the guild we joined. Lead by one of the two people responsible for me being on Argent Dawn, it was a culture shock at first. When people playing like shit and every raid starting late becomes the norm, every minute being squeezed for all its worth with all the needs of the members being provided for was enlightening. Alter Ego was an incredibly run guild that prided itself on respecting everyones time under the assumption that they were 9-5 monkeys that didn't want to put up with... well, what I'd become accustomed to in Redemption. Regrettably though, this greatness came too late for me and my interest in the game was at rock bottom when it was decided to grant the guild a coup de grace as attendance started sagging. My reaction to finding this out was to punch the air and immediately deactivate my account, never to log in again.

Am I done with WoW? I'd be a fool to say yes but I can't see myself going back to it or any MMO again. See, I actually gave Rift a run for a few months with the Chefs Knife lot but ultimately decided against staying. I even logged into FFXIV once! Working 9-5 has given me a completely different perspective on infinity wanting to come home and spend every hour of every evening on the same game. Even if Rift is WoW for people that quit WoW but are still addicted to WoW, it's a good game in itself but not good enough for me to want to make that commitment. And that right there is the problem with MMOs. As someone that has played at somewhere not far off a personal bleeding edge of hardcore, there's no going back, you can't regress to casual. In both Rift and WoW, as soon as the level cap is reached you pretty much have to raid or PvP to progress your character. I have no interest in PvP and raiding requires a commitment to a group of people that I don't have it in me to hold any more. At this stage of my life, a Diablo-like quasi-MMO that'll interlace with single player interests would suit me just fine.

So, that's me in a nutshell right now. Given how far my life has progressed in the past few years, I'm pretty happy. Does it suck compared to yours? Sure. Could I be further along in certain aspects of my life? Probably. But I'm content to be crawling forward right now.



I go to Southbank somewhat often for classical shows. I'm a huge fan of Chopin and piano based music in general so if I see one of my favorites listed I'll go. Their emails are one of the few advertisement based ones that I'll actually read. One such email drew my attention to something called Video Game Heroes. Further reading showed it was night of video game songs played by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Once I picked my jaw up off the floor, I checked with Silinde and Disdain and, £120 later, a date was made. The biggest surprise to me was how short notice it was. I try to keep up with shows at Southbank so three weeks from the email, the first I'd ever heard about it, was insane. To put it in perspective, I have tickets on my desk for the Czech Masterpieces show (mostly to see Dvorak's piano concerto) that I will have had for over a year by the time the actual date rolls round in May. Anyway, here's the set they played:

Advent Rising - Muse
Elder Scrolls: Oblivion - Theme
Call of Duty - Main Menu Theme
Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 - Theme
Legend of Zelda - Theme
Super Mario Bros - Medley
LittleBigPlanet - Orb of Dreams
Splinter Cell: Conviction - Theme
Battlefield 2 - Theme
Final Fantasy - Theme
-
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty - Theme
Dead Space - Welcome Aboard the U.S.G. Ishimura (specially composed for the show)
Uncharted: Drake's Fortune - Theme
World of Warcraft - Seasons of War
Halo 3 - One Final Effort
007: Blood Stone - Athens Harbour Chase
Grand Theft Auto - Soviet Connection
Bioshock - The Ocean on his Shoulders
Mass Effect - Suicide Mission
Fallout 3 - Theme
Tetris
Super Mario Galaxy - Gutsy Garden Galaxy
Final Fantasy VIII - Liberi Fatali
Angry Birds
Enemy Zero - Last Movement

Yeah, three people that grew up gaming didn't even know what Advent Rising was but their rendition of the song was enough to make all of us agree it'd be worth playing. Ditto with Enemy Zero until I saw it was a piece of shit - how did they get Michael Nyman to do the score for that??? I'm sure everyone had their favorites, heavily influenced by their personal tastes and experiences with the respective games, but for me the Mass Effect Suicide Mission took the top spot. The first thing I did when I built my new PC was to play through Mass Effect. The second thing was to play through Mass Effect 2. Both in the dark with a set of headphones on made an incredible pair of games with some of the best character development I've ever seen an experience I'll never forget. I loved their futuristic music and I felt that the orchestra absolutely nailed the song's stylistic intro that's so synonymous with the series. A close second to Mass Effect was the Uncharted Theme, third being the MGS2 theme.

The biggest disappointment was Legend of Zelda. Being a huge Zelda fan my whole life, I suppose it was only fitting in this day and age to be let down. They over complicated it and it turned into a mess. The World of Warcraft track felt a bit anonymous too. I would've creamed my pants if they'd played The Betrayer and the Sun King instead. The music that plays when entering phase two of Illidan is my all time favourite piece of music from WoW. The CoD themes kinda ran together too and the Mario Galaxy song, while impressive, didn't exactly require much work. It was in stark contrast to the awesome Angry Birds rendition that must've taken some effort to put together.

All-in-all, it was a great night, if expensive with the addition of our £70 Wagamama meal beforehand.

I was planning to add some stuff with regards to anime (goggles this page) and Xenoblade in this entry but I don't feel they're thematically relevant. That, and this is long enough by now. Instead, I'll end on a picture of my drink of choice in Wagamama and get those written up over the next couple of days.

(6 lost | Enter the storm)

 


Tuesday, October 5th, 2010 - 10:50 pm - New PC

CPU: Intel i5 760 2.8GHz Socket 1156 8MB L3 Cache
MOBO: Gigabyte GA-P55A-UD4 P55 Socket 1156 8 Channel Audio ATX Motherboard
RAM: OCZ 4GB (2x2GB) DDR3 1600MHz Intel Exteme XMP memory Kit CL8(8-8-8-24)
GPU: Sapphire HD 5870 1GB GDDR5 Dual DVI HDMI Display Port PCI-E
PSU: Antec EarthWatts 750W Modular PSU - 80plus Certified 9x SATA 4x PCI-E
HDD: Western Digital WD2001FASS 2TB Hard Drive SATAII 7200rpm 64MB Cache - OEM Caviar Black
Case: Coolermaster CM 690 II Advanced Mid Tower Case 1

And also, because I desperately needed them;

Keyboard: Logitech G15 Keyboard LCD GamePanel USB
Mouse: Logitech MX518
Headset: Roccat Kave Solid 5.1 Surround Sound Gaming Headset

On top of all that I got a SteelSeries mousepad and a really good desk that I won't bore people with. Well, all of this is in principle; ordered it like thirty minutes ago after a three hour consolation with Silinde over Skype. Hopefully building it on Saturday though no idea when I'll get the desk, mouse and headset.

celeras plz r8

(5 lost | Enter the storm)