Levelcapped

Destiny; D&D 5E Prep; Fleet Nights; ArcheAge; Psycho Pass

My calendar is shot. I totally forgot today was Wednesday, so this post is coming in later than usual.

Destiny

Destiny is still going on. I’ve slowed my advance a bit, since the missions are getting more nerve-wracking when done solo. I’m susceptible to atmosphere, which is why I don’t like horror movies or games (TSW notwithstanding), and even with FPS games I tense up. After completing the Sword of Crota mission on the Moon (second time’s the charm) I had to take a break before continuing on.

Destiny is kind of made for me, though. I liked Halo, and Destiny has Halo’s pacing. But it has downtime options, or the option to switch to a less intense free roam mode.

D&D 5E Prep

I spent last night trying to get into ArcheAge, but all servers had a queue and I by the time I’d get in (according to their janky count-down), it’d be too late to play for any worthwhile length of time.  Instead, I continued setting up the Hoard of the Dragon Queen info in Realm Works. Although the UI on that app is my least favorite thing, it’s truly a case of once it’s familiar, it melts away and isn’t so much of a problem any more.

I’m feeling good about the prep work for this week. It’s at a point where the players will need to assume agency of their direction and decide what to do. They’ll have several in-game hours to fill with missions and down-time in between, but most everything up through the last mission in the episode has been entered and notes have been added.

Fleet Nights

I’ve neglected talking about the Star Trek Online fleet nights. It’s something that BlueKae has been organizing, as the game has come around in many people’s rotation after the announcement of the Delta Rising expansion. We’ve been tackling daily missions for Marks, but it’s also been a great boon for me because it A) keeps the interest alive when playing with people, and B) tops off my credits and expertise so I can continue with the reputation progression that I am totally deficient in.

ArcheAge

Yeah, ArcheAge. I’m making a conscious effort to see this game in wider terms. It’s gotten bad press (in some circles) for being a griefer’s paradise, which in certain cases it can, but there’s a lot that the game does to graduate that experience from absolutely safe to OMFGIMGOINGTODIE. There’s a lot to do before it starts to get chaotic, and the idea of playing smart is sound advice.

This is all hearsay, though, since I haven’t been able to log in due to launch day queues.

Psycho Pass

Wanting something to watch, I was looking through Netflix’s recommendations and came across Psycho Pass. Anime is kind of hit or miss: the box art may look really cool, but the execution turns out to be meh. Or the other way around, which means that the box art doesn’t look appealing enough to find out that the show is actually good.

Psycho Pass actually has good box art and a great show. It’s a cop show set in the early 22nd century where everyone has a scan-able psychological profile that the police use to determine who’s prone to criminal behavior and who isn’t. The police themselves retain a stable of these high-psycho folks that work under the control of handlers, and the series is about a unit of these folks, you know, solving crimes.

I equated to to someone as “Ghost in the Shell’s younger cousin. It’s from Production I.G., who were involved with GitS, and the art-style is very much like GitS. The story lines so far haven’t been as cerebral as GitS, but there does seem to be an overarching narrative that’s slowly being revealed.

Obligatory Post Launch #Destiny Post

So Destiny launched yesterday. I think I’ve only heard one person (personally) who’s had any issues getting into the servers, which if representative of the wider situation, would make this a stellar launch for a persistent online game…maybe even an interstellar launch. HA! Anyway…

I’ve got nothing to say that hasn’t been said. During Alpha and Beta, the focus was on the “what does this button do?” kind of play: checking out the classes and abilities, trying different weapons, searching maps. Now that “it’s on”, the focus is on figuring out how to do things. For instance, we’ve got the Alliance of Awesome clan created via the Bungie.net site, but I was confused about the representation on PS or XB versions — there was a banner saying we were on probation (since remedied). We were also not sure what extreme level disparity would do in a fireteam, since the beta only allowed us up to level 8.

But the game itself is like a cold, light beer: clean and crisp, with what you’d expect and nothing you wouldn’t.

Addendum: Although it’s too early to really trust “reviews”, “first impressions” are also important. They give people an idea of how the game appeals to people in it’s opening moments, and whether or not it’s an impression that we hope is maintained throughout the game, or whether it’s just a really big bang that ends with a constant whimper.

This morning, I’ve seen one first impression piece that has both good and bad points. Firstly, I’d throw in my own prologue to say that retail isn’t really a “first” impression: those actually came through in the alpha and beta. Things have changed, but the conceit of the game has not.

An Ars Technica article this morning hit on three points:

  1. The intro to the game is the same as the one in the alpha/beta
  2. The game feels “small” and the zones are repetitively used
  3. Population and grouping opportunities seem low

I find the first point to be rather short sighted at best, ignorant at worst. How many alpha/beta games have we played? How many take place in totally different areas from what we get to start in for retail? I remember beta testing RIFT and Defiance, both games which I love, and in both I played through the opening zones so many times I could do them in my sleep. And I had to do them all over again in retail. I can’t see how this is a knock against it, as it’s S.O.P. from what I have seen.

Part of the “problem” of scale is that the player is taken out of the map in between story missions. In the case of Old Russia, you’re dropped in to the same place at least twice in a, what? Five mission arc? Each time you’re forced to re-cover previous ground as you range further out from this starting point. So you’ll end up in a new area, but five times you’ll be traveling through the exact same area. I can understand why someone would consider it to feel “small”.

But that’s really if you only make a bee-line to the objective. If you go into “free range” mode, there are numerous areas — both above and below ground — that you can explore. The (early) story missions don’t even use a fraction of the map of Old Russia, which is actually a decent design choice: knowing this, you’ve got a reason to go back in free range mode to explore more areas of the map. When you consider that, and how many enemies are just milling around, doing their thing, the world seems a lot larger than it does if all you do is focus on the objective markers.

And you don’t spend that much time in Russia; You can move up to the moon at level 6, which can be done in about one to two hours if you’re efficient.

Because Destiny is billed as some kind of “open massive world player group persistent shooter thing”, it’s probably accrued certain baggage, compliments of the MMO genre. In MMOs, we’re used to having areas chock full of other players. In Destiny, we don’t get that. We get a handful of other folks in the same zone as us (outside the Tower). It sounds like the Ars article author expected more of an MMO feel, with people bunny-hopping all over the place, dancing naked on a rusty Soyuz rocket, and dueling, while the Fallen look on in confusion.

That would suck, and not just because it’s trite and “theme-park-y”. MMOs are “unrealistic” in that they design themselves to just take all comers. Expecting a massive number of players in a zone, the design decision is to provide content to keep those people busy. Destiny is the inverse: keep the concurrent zone population small, and that way the encounters can be more organic. Bungie is very good at pacing in between encounters, and if there were dozens of players in a zone, then this pacing would be ruined by too many players and not enough content, or an increased sea of content that we’d have to wade through.

Ideally, then, you’ll group up in the Tower and move out from there. It fits the narrative: Guardians are venturing out into the wilderness on patrol or for a specific objective, not going to the crowded beach on Memorial Day.

I’m not saying that the Ars impression piece is wrong, though. Destiny is a shooter, and shooters are peddling adrenaline, split second decision making, and strategy. Narrative slows things down and asks that players pay attention to words and cut-scenes. The two seem diametrically opposed to one another, yet Destiny and other shooters keep throwing them in a closet together, with consistently awkward results. However, with a lack of narrative, Destiny is nothing but an endless corridor of face-blasting aliens with increasingly heavier ordinance, and there’s only so long we can do that before we get bored.

I can’t think of anything to alleviate that short of really paying attention to the story. It gives purpose in between the explosions. But it’s still a weird juxtaposition, and because of a certain level of dissonance, other issues tend to be more obvious and off-putting when trying to find how to manage the narrative and the shooty-blowy-uppy parts of the game.

DESTINY! Beta

Man, where to start?

If you were following the situation yesterday, you’re aware that Bungie wasn’t sending out beta keys to PSx beta participants until about 1pm PDT, which meant that everyone and their fireteam clogged the pipes on PSN trying to download the game. Sony’s infrastructure apparently couldn’t handle the load (which is baffling to me), despite the fact that the PSN-sourced game launcher was only a few megabytes in size. Once the duties were handed off to Bungie’s servers for the rest of the 10GBs, things went pretty smooth.

Right off the bat, the game has made significant improvements over the alpha. For one, the “Wizard From The Moon” is no longer your first encounter. Instead, you’re put on the trail of a series of story missions that start with you being resurrected by your Ghost (your body is outside the Cosmodrome in Russia, yet you have no accent), and then tutorialized towards finding a way to fly home to the Tower. After that, you engage in several story missions which culminate in a boss fight, get your score and some loot, and can then return to the Tower, or continue on your way to the next mission. The free roam play is also available, and retains the beacon-one-off system from Alpha.

I went with the Titan this time, thinking that the “tank-ness” of the character would lead to enhanced survival over my previous hunter character. It doesn’t seem that way, but a lot has changed. The enemies see tougher, and because they spawn in identifiable areas, standing IN those areas will drop a whole heap of bad guys on top of you. That quickly devolves into a lot of messiness. I need to investigate my choice of weapons, though, which may be more of the culprit.

Other than that, the game is much like it was in the alpha, but with more improvement. That’s what we like to see in an alpha to beta progression, and it looks like Destiny is on track for a good solid release in September.

You can also use the Bungie website to view your character, and to create and communicate with your clan. My profile is here, and the Alliance of Awesome clan can be found here. Not sure if you need to be logged into the Bungie site to see them, though.