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Rated M for Mayhem

Posted by on Aug 16, 2017 in Agents of Mayhem, Editorial, Featured

Rated M for Mayhem

Listen, I’m no longer the kind of gamer who spends a lot of time pouring over numbers in a bid to find the best bang for my virtual buck. Games have gotten really good at cramming tons of gear and weapons and skills into their offerings such that parsing the data to min-max a build could very well be a full-time job. Even being a lowly consumer of this information leaves a whole lot of crap to sort through. I get the appeal: I used to revel in games that came with 300-page manuals (back when games came with manuals) and there’s some part of me that really wants to get out of the tutorial of Crusader Kings II with my sanity intact.

Agents of Mayhem is kind of the anti-stats game. It’s easy to hit the ground running (and you will do a lot of running) and you’ll never once miss the chore of crunching numbers because you’ll be too busy whoaing at the absurd, over-the-top kinetic action and laughing (or at least chuckling) at the bonkers characters that populate the game.

If you’ve played the Saint’s Row games, then you know 75% of what AoM offers; I consider this a Good Thing because I loved the SR series for its open world setting and it’s insane characters, plots, and gear (the only well-known game series where you can wield a jelly dildo as a weapon). If you’re new to the SR universe (of which AoM is a part, although admittedly a “spin-off”), then the Agents might actually be a better introduction to the setting than the existing SR games.

You play as a team of three Agents of M.A.Y.H.E.M (Multinational Agency for Hunting Evil Masterminds), with “Mayhem” being the “good guys” supergroup much like S.H.I.E.L.D., complete with a floating HQ called the ARK. The ARK serves as your base of operations which you can return to in between missions or whenever you want to get away from free-roaming the futuristic vision of Seoul, South Korea. While at the HQ, you can upgrade your team and their weapons, craft new auxiliary armaments, pimp out your rides (of course), buy perks for your team with the money you collect, and even train at various difficulty levels in the holographic simulator.

When you’re ready to return to Seoul, you can accept a mission from the storyline, a mission to unlock Agents that you haven’t collected, one-off missions for advanced loot, or just to wander the city in search of action. The story is basic Saturday morning cartoon fare: Mayhem is fighting the forces of L.E.G.I.O.N. (the League of Evil Gentlemen Intent on Obliterating Nations), complete with cannon-fodder henchmen, tougher middle-tier bosses, and analogous named villains that are perpetrating the bulk of the evil that you’re thwarting. As you make your way through the city, you’ll encounter drop-in mobs that spawn around you on occasion to keep things lively, static mobs that seem to be going about their dastardly deeds, and even event mobs that end in a tougher enemy that drops better loot than you’d get from mowing down henchmen. With more focused missions you’ll engage in actions such as assaulting enemy held territory that requires you to “hack” terminals (a simple mouse-button QTE) in order to claim the area for Mayhem. When you’re unlocking new agents, the game takes you through a preamble which you play with your team, but which eventually switches you over to the new Agent so you can play through a snippet of his or her backstory and how they relate to the Mayhem organization. If you’re tired of working for The Man (who is actually The Woman), you can scour the city for one-off trials like racing, track down loot chests, or just engage in some namesake fun.

The action can be incredibly frentic. Enemies can spawn in from any direction, and often while you’re focused on mobs in other directions. The game doesn’t pull punches in that respect and it’s super easy to find yourself running in circles and weaving through enemies with the trigger held down simply because you’ll be guaranteed to hit something in the process. When the battle is done (or when it slows down a bit) you can collect dropped cash or materials, which isn’t something I’m a fan of because I always suspect I’m leaving loot on the street.

In order to help with the second-to-second action, it’s easy to cycle between characters (sort of) using the mouse-wheel. When you start you’re given a team of three — Hollywood, Fortune, and Hardtack — which means no real customization, but that’s OK because Hollywood is a decent ranged character, Fortune is a decent crowd control player, and Hardtack is a decent close-ranged character. Each Agent has two special attacks: their signature special, and their unique “Mayhem” ability. The signature attack is regulated by an individual cool-down, but the Mayhem ability is regulated by a “Mayhem meter” that fills when enemies are killed. The Mayhem meter is also individual to each character, so there’s a bit of planning there if you want to rely on a specific ability for an upcoming segment. Like Master x Master, another team-based game, any Agent that isn’t active will heal damage over time, although collecting the purple fleur-de-lis that mobs will sometimes drop can heal and pump up the Mayhem meter at the same time. I have to say that I do not like the mouse-wheel cycling mainly because I never remember which direction to roll to for a particular character, even though it shows their order in the lower right corner. I tried using the number keys, but that didn’t seem to do anything. I’m not sure if there’s a keybind for an alternative method of character switching.

Seoul is a big city, and I’ve heard that it suffers from “open world syndrome” — i.e. so big as to provide a lot of space but is mostly absent of purpose on its own. When you’re on a mission you’ll get sent to specific locations, and will often be required to go somewhere else. You can travel around by “nicely” carjacking a vehicle, or you can summon an AI Mayhem car which is a lot faster and comes equipped with a nitro boost for those hot pursuits. Each vehicle handles differently: the tiny smart-cars have no pickup but are pretty easy to control, while lumbering buses are like rolling cinder blocks that are good for ramming other vehicles in missions where you need to stop a rolling target. Whenever required, use the Mahyemmobile, because it’s the perfect combo of speed and handling. If you’re on a free-roam, there are things to do. I’ve seen various terminals at random locations around the city, and based on my experience with Saint’s Row, I assume these will trigger street races or other one-off activities that can earn you cash or loot. There also seem to be open-world events, like waves of mobs that culminate in a mini-boss and which drops better loot than you’d get from random enemies.

At the end of the day, though, AoM has one mission: balls-to-the-wall mayhem, and in that it succeeds. Explosions are big. Combat is satisfying and can get crazy. There’s a lot of upgrades to be had in the service of customizing your Agents and building your mission team. It also retains the SR humor, which is a little on the juvenile side (Hollywood launches grenades with a hip-thrust, and Braddock threatened to “put [her] foot so far up her ass that she’ll sneeze boot polish”) but when offered in the context of stupid and silly fun it’s pretty obvious that it couldn’t be presented any other way. It all just fits together really well. I don’t think that AoM is a “first-tier” game (something you focus the majority of your gaming time on) but I don’t think it was designed with that in mind either. It’s the kind of game you turn to when you want an oversized reaction to a really angry and violent action that can scratch a virtual itch and maybe put a smile on your face in the process.

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What is a Fortnite?

Posted by on Jul 24, 2017 in Editorial, Featured, Fortnite

[Sorry for the lack of images…I absolutely suck at remembering to take screenshots, so enjoy the stock footage included in this post]

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The name Fortnite is a play on words: A “fortnight” is two weeks, but a “fortnite” is a game about building a “fort” in preparation for the “night”-time onslaught of a band of monsters that have appeared across the planet after the arrival of a mysterious storm.

After some 90%+ of the world’s population mysteriously vanishes in the wake of this mega-storm, those left behind can be assigned to one of two categories. There are the survivors who find themselves stranded in the middle of the maelstrom, and then there are the defenders who find their way to a bunker run by a floating droid named Ray whose organization may or may not be accidentally responsible for the storm. Technically, Ray and her bots were set up to prevent the storm, but something bad (and unknown at the start of the game) happened and things went to hell quickly. So with Ray as the dispatcher, the players assume the role of one of the elite agents who deploy technology to push back the storm while also rescuing survivors. This is accomplished in three phases.

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The first is the gathering phase. A team of four players is placed into an open zone which might be a town or a forest (in the initial rounds). During the first phase, players must destroy trees, rocks, buildings, cars, and an amazing array of pretty much anything in a bid to collect building materials (wood, stone, and metal). Along the way players might uncover crafting materials, ammo, or special unlocks by searching shrubs, bookcases, and bunkers.

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Once the players have located their objective, they need to “activate” it in some way, depending on the story of the round. At this point, they need to build a defendable fortress around the objective, made up of walls, floors, and traps. The building can be as simple or as elaborate as the players see fit (although there are sometimes requirements of the mission to build a certain amount, less than a certain amount, or in a certain direction).

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The final phase is when the monsters show up. They appear where the storm-born lightning strikes and amble in towards the fort. It’s up to the players to actively attack the monsters, but also to use their structure to keep the hoards from plowing through the fort and destroying the objective. Monsters come in different forms, starting in the early rounds with your standard shambling zombie-esque creatures. Then there are the tanking monsters who are harder to kill, and even monsters dressed as baseball players who throw electrified shin-bones at you from a distance.

The game is very reminiscent of Orcs Must Die with the addition of the free-roaming collection phase. You have control over how much material you gather to build walls, floors, and ceilings, so it always behooves players to spend time exploring the map. Players can also uncover survivors being swarmed by monsters ahead of the main event, and helping these NPCs provides rewards. Building is advertised as being easy, and it’s no lie: you decide what you want to build (wall, floor/ceiling, or roof) and the material (wood, brick, or metal) and you just place it where the glowing outline allows. Because the monsters will attack your fort, you have to be able to repair it in the heat of battle, which only requires the right material in inventory and the press of the “F” key as you are running past the damaged structure.

Combat is fairly standard. There are ranged and melee characters, although it seems that (at least with primarily ranged characters) anyone can equip both. Rounds that I have played so far are mostly cases where everyone is on the roof mowing down the waves of monsters. I suspect that as the game progresses and both the objectives and the terrain change over time, different structures and strategies will be needed. So far rounds have ranged from stupidly easy to frantic clusterfucks where the team was running around the perimeter to take on the waves and repair the fortification. I suspect that the former example is how the game was intended to be played.

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Is the game fun? Yes. Yes, it is, although I suspect that there’s a narrow set of conditions under which this is true. For example, the initial collection and exploration phase can take as long as you like. I’ve already had fears that some rando on the team is going to get impatient and start the process while the rest of the team is spread out across the map and insufficiently packed for the next phase. I do prefer co-op games over competitive games, but some people still find ways to make things all about them. I’ve played about 50% of my rounds with all random teams and so far everyone has been either cool or just silent, focusing on the game the way I believe it was intended to be played, but we always remember the worst experience above all else, so I’m dreading the time I end up alongside one of those “blame everyone but themselves” type players. That said, playing the game with friends can be a blast. The game doesn’t come with voice comms, so a Discord setup (PC) is very much recommended.

My only complaint so far — which sounds generous until you understand that it covers everything that isn’t the act of collecting, building, and shooting — is that many pre/post round activities are horribly opaque. There are literally too many systems to enumerate here, and almost none of them are explained well enough in the game. For instance, you get “survivor cards” which can be used to build “teams”. You’re asked to slot some of these cards early on, but you can’t use those teams until you unlock certain nodes on your skill tree which, of course, aren’t nodes you unlock up front. You have two (at the start) avenues of advancement. Your research tree runs on credits earned simply through the passage of time, while skills level based on tokens you earn by completing rounds. Both weapons and playable characters can be assigned XP, but there’s no rhyme or reason to how: should we stockpile XP and test drive characters? Is the XP drop rate such that we can spend with wild abandon? And then there’s the blueprint and inventory system, which you can’t actually use until you are in a game.

We also had a bit of a hiccup in a friends-game where no one could build until I (the party leader and hence the map “owner”) gave the rest of the team permission through the shield generator control panel. I don’t remember that being explained at all, and that was an issue considering one goal of the mission was to expand the fort. I’ve also heard of issues where non-round owners couldn’t build or pick up items; I’m not sure if that’s related to the permission control panel, or just a really annoying bug.

Don’t let this dissuade you from considering the game, however. There is so much crap dropping that experimentation is easy and almost consequence-free. Between rounds, you can take as much time as you like to investigate the systems, although you might not be able to activate or use them early on. What I didn’t know was that Gearbox was involved in creating this game, which explains the game’s keyless lock box system of comically literal loot pinatas that you swing at to unleash a torrent of yet more stuff like XP boosters, blueprints, survivor cards, and materials. Like Borderlands, there’s no shortage of crap to fill up your inventory, and I say that in terms of it being a Good Thing(tm).

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Fortnite is a fun group co-op game that’s certainly more enjoyable with friends who can work together and share the same pace. Early on the mechanics are interesting enough between rounds that can range from easy-going to head-on-fire crazy-time. I have no idea what the game will be like in later stages after several dozen rounds of collect-build-defend start to get stale. I do wish the out of round systems were better explained or weren’t accessible until the system was ready to devote time to explain them. There’s a lot going on, and being able to click on things not only raises more questions than they answer but makes me (at least) feel like I’m always only playing at a fraction of the potential I’m allowed simply because the ancillary systems are just a little too black box. Still, the gameplay is fun, the visuals have their own style that lends itself to the sometimes bonkers premise, and the game has enough going for it to be either a primary progression game, or a secondary party game.

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Steam Sale: Morning After Edition

Posted by on Jul 5, 2017 in Featured, Games, Steam Sales

Today marks the end of the 2017 Steam Summer Sale, and I did am not emerging unscathed.

During recent sales, I hadn’t actually bought much if anything at all. I was either in a “let’s slow down on the gaming” phase, or an “I’m playing an MMO and don’t really have an interest in any of these other games” phase. That’s why I opted to use some of my saved money and load up the Steam Wallet this time around. I’m not going to say how much I put in there, but I will say that as of the writing of this post, I have $2.17 left.

I’ve already listed a few titles in a previous post, but there’s a few more to add to the list.

Holy Potatoes! We’re in Space?! is another game in the Holy Potatoes! series which might be something you’ve never heard of, and also something you’ve never expected to hear of. Basically, everyone in the game is a potato. Not in the Internet sense of potato being a sluggish PC or crappy camera, but a real sentient spud. In this edition, the tubers are — wait for it — in space. WiS?! borrows heavily from games like FTL in many ways, except…with potatoes. I cannot stress that enough. Sentient. Potatoes.

The Little Acre was an impulse buy because the art and animations looked great. It’s apparently a classic point-and-click adventure game which is a genre that has become very difficult for me in my dotage because I don’t have the patience. But the game is rumored to be short, I think, which might help my attention span.

Rebuild 3: Gangs of Deadsville got a lot of good press in our Combat Wombat Discord channel, with one member having lost account of six hours of her life before she realized she’d been playing it for that long. Really, this looks like it would be a…nevermind. You are tasked with growing your zombie-free-zone by reclaiming buildings, scavenging for resources, and fighting off said undead. 

Last but not least is 911 Operator. I had seen this in my discovery queue but kind skimmed past it until I was lying in bed trying to sleep while my wife was watching TV. A commercial came on that talked about emergency services (I think) and it reminded me of this game, so I bought it. It’s difficult, which isn’t to say that I expected the role of a 911 dispatcher to be easy, but jebus crisp. I found that I had to decide which events were and which were not critical because I only had so many cops, EMTs, and firefighters to distribute. The most interesting thing, though, is that the game will detect where you live (by pinging your ISP-provided IP) and will offer you a local city map. Yes, you can play the game in your hometown, which is both cool and disturbing when you have dispatch cops to your own neighborhood.

In semi-unrelated news, I picked up Topple VR, Darknet, and Super Stardust Ultra VR for the PS4 because when Steam has a seasonal sale, everyone has a seasonal sale.

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Quick Hit: Tethered for VR

Posted by on Jun 30, 2017 in Featured, Tethered

Quick Hit: Tethered for VR

I picked up Tethered for the PS4/PSVR a few weeks ago during one of their flash sales, and I hadn’t gotten around to kicking its tires until last night. The game follows in the well-worn footsteps of “ensure that these adorable creatures survive since they can’t think or act for themselves” titles that stretch back to the days of Populus.

Of course being a VR title (though it can be played in “plebe mode” if you’re interested) you get a bird’s eye view of the small floating island that comprises these creature’s living space. Using the PSMove controllers, you can scroll around like you’re creepily dragging your disembodied self across their landscape and can zoom in and out by bringing your hands together or moving them apart (think the finger gestures you use on your phone or tablet to enact the same). By turning your controllers like you’re turning the wheel of a car, you can rotate your view. I had a few issues with these controls at first, but I like how they work. Traversal in VR is a problem that anyone has yet to really solve with confidence, and on a small map, this scheme works as well as any other.

You start with one “Peep” and from there you need to harvest raw materials and food and mystical crystals which give you, the deity, your power to do stuff. New Peeps arrive as eggs, and you need to have an existing Peep sit on the egg so it doesn’t spoil…if it does, it hatches a larva which is bad news for your population. In between you need to build buildings, assign roles like farmer and soldier, and at night, defend your island against ever more aggressive slugs that will destroy your hard work. In addition, you have access to clouds, which are exactly what they sound like. There’s a sunshine cloud, a rain cloud, an ice cloud, and a gyre.

*Grabby hands*

The name Tethered comes from the act of assigning item A to task B. You tether a Peep to a resource to have it harvest. You tether a Peep to an artifact to have them unlock it. And you tether a cloud to an area on the map to enact a specific task. Once the Peeps have farmed a plot dry, tether the sunshine cloud to that plot to re-grow the crops. You can even tether weather to one another to create a rainbow (increases the spirit of the Peep it’s tethered to) or lightning (which I assume blows shit up).

I’ve only done the tutorial but Tethered is a solid, strategy-lite VR game so far. The Peeps are cute, the landscape is well rendered, and when you need to send your minions into battle at night, it can get frantic as you’re jumping all over the island vantage points looking for invaders. My wife played a game called A Kingdom for Keflings on the Xbox which followed a similar arc of guiding helpless villagers to build and survive, albeit without the combat, and I think she’ll like this one as well.

Tethered is also available on Steam, and can be played with and without VR.

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Ubisoft and Sony: Sorry For The Rideshare

Posted by on Jun 13, 2017 in Consoles, Editorial, Featured

I want to apologize for cramming Ubi and Sony into one post, but I wanted to strike while the iron was hot and not drag these thoughts out before I forget what I’m talking about (too late!)

Ubisoft

I actually missed a good portion of Ubi’s presentation because they started during my commute home, and no offense to the good work that the company does, but my getting the hell out of the office takes precedence over pretty much anything. I’ll catch up on the highlights later, but it looks like I missed out on the Nintendo/Rabbids crossover that many people are comparing to the recent treatments of XCom. I do not consider that to be a bad thing.

They also talked about — what else? — Assassin’s Creed. After yesterday’s dismissal of the franchise en toto I was linked a video by the Unstoppable PapaSnark regarding several new or revised features in the franchise assumed from the AC trailer. If the examination was correct, even in part, then I think several of my gripes about the series might be addressed. As stated, I’ve moved this game from a “hell no” to a “we’ll see”.

I came into the presentation during The Crew 2, which is about driving cars, boats, and planes.

Then stuff got weird. There was some Elijah Wood presentation for a VR title called Transference, but the video was too artsy to provide any real substance.

In keeping with the theme of E3 2017, there was a pirate-themed game called Skull & Bones. At first, it looked like a really cool PRPG (pirate aarrgh Pee Gee) but quickly devolved into a 5v5 PvP battle over booty. As stated on Twitter, it reminded me of a high-seas version of the spaceship battle game Dreadnaught, which is available now for those who can’t wait.

From the “no one saw that coming” department, Starlink: Battle for Atlas gave off a serious No Man’s Sky vibe, but with a twist: the trailer showed people playing the game with plastic spaceships attached awkwardly to their gamepads. These toys required them to swap out components like guns, missiles, or engines to have the change reflected within the game itself. Some people called it No Man’s Skylanders, while others attempted to smack Ubi in the head to let them know that unless you’re Nintendo, the era of toys-in-games is grinding to a halt.

And then there was FarCry 5. I have played a few FC games and I like ’em OK. There’s always something to do, but for me, having too much to do is a curse because I have trouble focusing on anything. In the wake of The Division and even Ghost Recon: Wildlands, and in the hopes that Assassin’s Creed Origins changes up its own game, I’d like to see some deviations from the traditional FC formula here. The trailer looked good.

Finally, Ubi surprised everyone by presenting a trailer for the long-awaited sequel to cult favorite Beyond Good & Evil that was teased several E3 ago. I have never completed the original because the controls are so gawdawful that I wanted to throw my PC across the room, but I’ve always enjoyed the unique world of BG&E in which humans and genetically engineered and sentient animals travel freely between the stars. It has a certain cyberpunk vibe but without the contrived magickal overhead of the equally off-kilter world of Shadowrun.

Sony

E3 always comes down to Microsoft versus Sony in a good natured “who won” discussion on the Internet, and while you might think that presenting second would give Sony time to one-up Microsoft’s event…well…They spent a lot of time talking up their own 4K abilities, which after the XBX announcement sounded like someone at the back of the crowd talking really loud in an effort to remind everyone that they were still present.

The first two presentations were for Knack II, a sequel to a game that I’ve only ever heard about from one person who has played it, and for — get this — a second screen initiative called PlayLink. The idea is that one person gets the gamepad and other people in the room get a smartphone/tablet app that allows them to interact with the game in a non-direct control scenario. The interesting game they demoed was called Hidden Agenda which looked like a story-based game where PlayLink users could “vote” on key decisions on behalf of the player. I blame the “Twitch Plays X” for this crowd-control focus. Other games showed that use this tech were more in the traditional “party game” vein because those games are traditional cash-cows, right? The second screen concept never really took off, so it’s kind of a head-scratcher as to why Sony decided to take this route. Still, it’s inconsequential, and doesn’t require any new hardware, so what’s the harm?

Speaking of buying new hardware, Sony devoted some time to VR games, and I can’t say that I’m overly excited. The big reveal for me was Skyrim VR. Bethesda announced a Doom and Fallout 4 VR, but didn’t say anything about Skyrim which seemed like an obvious oversight, but had apparently ceded that info to Sony. Do I want to play Skyrim all over again? Well… Do I want to play Skyrim VR? HELL YES I DO. Superhot made an appearance during this segment, but it’s already VR-enabled on the PC so it’s nice to see it coming to PS4. Final Fantasy XV made an appearance but as a…wait…what? A fishing game? Then came the head-tilted-sideways-with-eye-squint titles. Bravo Team is a military shooter (which I might write about on its own), Starchild is a platformer, and a cute game called Moss is about a small mouse with a magical gauntlet that can turn into a sword who makes her way through a diminutive world in search of something. Sadly, it looks like Sony is already sawing at the ropes that secures the VR bridge over the peripheral graveyard.

The good news is that Sony still had a lot of big-ticket Sony games to show.

First, Uncharted: The Last Legacy featuring the incendiary duo of Chloe and Nadine from previous Uncharted games. This was not a surprise, but since it’s dropping this year it made sense for Sony to include it in the face of so many 2018 titles.

Destiny 2 got it’s Sony-money’s worth by being featured, complete with a rundown of what exclusives you get if you buy and play on PS4. I have it pre-ordered on PC, lag time be damned.

We got to see more on that zombie game Days Gone. Previously we’d been treated to technical showcases in which hundreds of procedurally generated undead canvassed a small farm while the protagonist raced across rooftops. This time we learn that humanity has formed enclaves (of course) and ventures forth amidst the zombie hoards for supplies and such. Not all enclaves are trying to bring humanity back; some are, of course, despotic and filled with assholes, and this demo saw the protagonist, Jeanjacket McMotorcycleStubble, using the environment (read: zombies) to overrun an enemy camp to rescue one of his friends. The game looked great and could be a really cool adventure style game. Except, zombies.

Horizon: Zero Dawn is getting DLC, and water is wet. I’m not ragging on this, only saying that they could have just said “Horizon: Zero Dawn!” on stage and people would have thrown money. I suppose I should get back to that and finish the game.

Skimming a few other things: Monster Hunter World is a thing that people like, and now they can like it on PS4. I know nothing of this franchise, except that you hunt monsters. Large, large monsters. Shadow of the Colossus is getting a remaster, Marvel vs Capcom is also a thing people like, and surprise! Call of Duty: World War II.

Now, what caught my eye: There’s a new God of War game which, as seems to be the Sony trend this year, looks to include some really great cinematic story and is not just room-to-room hack and slash. I might make this my first GoW game because it looked great. One of the wildcards from last year’s E3 (or maybe it was in between) was a game called Detroit: Become Human. This is from the people who made the games Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls, which are both narrative heavy, action light decision tree games. This one is set in a future Detroit where androids are created to do the dirty work, but then some “awaken” and get minds of their own. You are one of those androids and have to make moral decisions regarding the relationship between humans and your kind.

Finally, there was Spider-Man. Now, I am not a Spider-Man fan, really. I like the character the way I like yogurt; I would never seek it out, but if it’s around and I’m hungry, it’ll do…but barely. Visually, this game was amazing. The animations were mind-blowing, and the effects (especially the webbing) were top-shelf. In the heat of the moment, I mentioned that I could get behind this game because it seemed like there was just so much Spidering to do! In retrospect, while the visuals were great, the gameplay seemed to be less open-world and more QTE interrupted by occasional brawling action. Now, like all E3 presentations, this is really just a controlled event that we understand doesn’t necessarily represent the entire experience, but whereas a Spider-Man game might have immediately caused me amnesia upon announcement, I might keep an eye on this for more information.

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Grab Bag for the Week of 6/9/2017

Posted by on Jun 9, 2017 in Editorial, Featured, Scopique Plays, Video

Normally when I don’t post anything it’s because of a general blogging malaise (bloglaise?) but this week it’s because I’ve been both forgetful and super busy.

Battletech Backer Beta

I haven’t played Battletech proper in maybe 20 years or so but it’s a franchise that’s always been at the top of my lists of Franchises I Love. I owned the original box set, read the Technical Manual until it literally fell apart (I rebound it with string), read all the Stackpole books, and even drew a game board on my parent’s concrete basement floor so my brother and I could play with our Transformers. As Time does, I found myself with less time to play, and fewer people to play with during the Dark Ages between when I was in high school and when the Internet became a viable way to meet up with folks. I played the Mechwarrior games on PC, and tried Mechwarrior Online a few times but the random nature of other people’s play styles didn’t do it for me. I wanted the old-school Battletech lance-vs-lance tactical gameplay again, so while I bought the Anniversary Edition box set a few years ago (never played), I was all over the new Battletech game from Harebrained Schemes, helmed by the originator of the BT franchise, Jordan Weiss.

The KS backer beta arrived last weekend (when I was stricken with the plague), but I’ve only played two rounds so far of the single player game. If you have been waiting for an honest BT implementation, this is your candidate. Even though there’s obviously work to be done in several places, the game is playable. I have yet to win a game, having lost my second round to an armless enemy who headbutted my center torso to death. Still, it instantly brought back long-ago memories of all of the variations of Battletech that I had played, which means that it’s the real deal as far as I am concerned.

Motion Graphics Update

I have no fewer than two consecutive posts about my motion graphics learning, prior to this post. Since that last update, I’ve done almost nothing with it. Looking back on the initial attempts I realize that I have a long way to go in being able to create something to be proud of, but even attempting to use the things that I have made, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not sure I have an actual need for this.

Originally I thought “hey, I could make animated splash screens for streamers!” or even “now’s the chance to get that animated intro for my In The Car video series that I’m kinda not really doing anymore!”. As far as the splash screen goes, I figured that there aren’t too many designs that would work without being annoying. Maybe the most animated thing we could use would be a countdown timer (which I went and made using Javascript), but otherwise…meh. Upon further reflection, I can’t think of any kind of decent composition to fit in with the motif of the In The Car.

I might keep it around for a while, but I haven’t continued with the video lectures since last week. I might need some of the other software that comes with my Adobe CC subscription, but $50 a month is a real headache just for eventualities.

Wombatical! The Wombats Get Serious About Streaming

The Big News, then, is that since Imzy closed down and a few of us moved over to the Combat Wombat Discord server, we’ve been a lot more active as a community. The real-time nature of Discord is great for communication, but not so great for other productivity, and is part of what’s kept me from updating this site.

See, in the wake of the migration, several folks have decided that they would really like to get into streaming. We had evaluated Mixer (formerly known as Beam) for its low-latency and co-streaming functionality, but several folks weren’t convinced that Mixer was set up to accomplish all of the same things that Twitch could in terms of features and moderation. While it might be easier for smaller streamers to get noticed on Mixer due to the lower population there, it might also suffer from a lower population because people are so mentally invested in the idea that Twitch is where people need to be if they want to take the hobby of streaming seriously (at least as seriously as far as getting viewers goes). Several people outside our circle have even been heard remarking that they would refuse to watch a live stream unless it was on Twitch.

Needless to say, several of the Wombats have now been testing the streaming waters on Twitch. So far Stargrace has been attempting to stick to a schedule when the real-world isn’t making demands, and Girl_vs_MMO has been working around her own real-life schedule to get some streaming time in, and Arislyn has popped in from time to time as reality allows.

I have yet to get online, myself. Instead, I’ve been preparing. Lots of preparing. Like…a shitload of preparing. I considered whether my preparations were really just delaying tactics or whether they were actual steps that would help me make a smooth yet entry-level attempt…whenever I got around to pushing the button. I upgraded by webcam to the c922, which has the background removal (sans green-screen) built in. The verdict: works OK, but it all depends on — wait for it — lighting. Not sure if I’ll use that feature or not. I also have the Stream Deck, whose Twitch integration isn’t really all that great when you get down to it. The weapons of choice for enhancing the streams have been narrowed down to two: Ankhbot, which is a desktop app which allows for all kinds of stream management options, and Streamlabs, which handles certain remote notifications (followers, subs, hosts, etc) and handles donations for Extra Life, which we do. In addition, I’ve found a “theme” for my channel that I think I’m happy with, reflecting my love of space, sims, and space-sims.

Now, to find the time to actually get out and stream…

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