Monday, February 16, 2015

Best of 2014 Gaming No-Shows

No comments:
I stumbled upon a Swedish PC Gamer magazine from early 2014 the other day (practically a relic by now) and found a big list of games to look forward to in the upcoming year, that is 2014. As I read through it for the second time, I recalled reading it a year ago and reading about some games that I got really interested in but never heard from again. As the year passed and my brain got filled with other stuff, so did these tiny fragments of information get pushed out for other ones. Re-reading it however I got curious as to what had happened to these no-shows. Had I simply missed their release, were they delayed (as seems to be the cool thing to do among game developers nowadays) or did they just vanish into obscurity? Here's my pick for the best 2014 no-shows;

This point-and-click adventure game caught my attention when I saw that it was created by none other than Doug TenNapel, the guy behind Earthworm Jim and The Neverhood. That's got to be interesting, right? I don't know much about The Neverhood except that it has a pretty cool soundtrack and an even cooler graphics style in claymation (love claymation!). Armikrog looks to follow this idea and looks a lot like The Neverhood. It was said to be released in July 2014 in my magazine, but the homepage now states a release for 2015, though not further specified when. At least it seems to still be in the works, but it also looks a bit like another Kickstarter take-foreverer (that's a word). It's also worth noting that the Wikipage says that Rob Paulsen, whom my bf has a huge man-crush on, will do one of the voices in the game. Rob Paulsen being the guy who voiced Raphael (1987 TMNT), for some inexplacable reason Donatello (2012 TMNT) and Pinky in Pinky & The Brain.

I swear something is behind you! -

A Hat in Time
I only mention this platformer because it takes its inspiration from some games I think are really cool, like Banjo & Kazooie and every other 3D platformer on the N64 basically. Otherwise I'm not so fond of platformers, but the N64 era is just special to me for some reason. There is something about that blocky graphics... A Hat in Time seems to smoothen out the graphics a bit but I swear some of the animations look like they're taken directly from Mario 64. Although my magazine says it was to be released in Q1 of 2014 this game is still in its Alpha build. There has been talks about a release on the WiiU but as of now it's only been greenlit for a Steam-release. Apparently initial previews have been positive so I am definitely still looking forward to this.

Suits on the beach? That's crazy! -

Hyper Light Drifter
HPL (as I am going to call it because I am lazy) is another one of those games that owned it's own Kickstarter and got more than 23 times the money they were asking for. No wonder, just reading the first few lines about it on Wiki makes me reach for my wallet;

"The game is a homage to 8-bit and 16-bit games of the late 20th century, and is considered a combination of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past and Diablo. ".

Unfortunately, all the extra money expanded the game enough to force the developers to delay it for more than a year. Health issues also came into play. Not much you can do about that, just keep your fingers cross this baby is as awesome as it seems to have potential to be.

Pixel graphics at its best -

This is just the kind of game I could sink endless hours into. It's about building colonies and it is set in space. I love it already. This one is actually on Steam (yay!), albeit in an Early Access form (boo!). The initial reviews are mixed, which I am going to put down to it being in EA, without even reading them. I am definitely going to keep my eye on this game, but it still seems far from complete.

First thing to do, get better lighting -

Radio the Universe
I can't find much more information on this top-down sci-fi RPG than this other article from PC Gamer from early January this year stating that it is indeed still around. People are falling between hope and despair however because of how silent the creator has been and how little progress there seems to have been made. By the looks of it it's expected somewhere in the middle of 2015, but I think it's probably best to not hold your breath. I really hope this isn't going to be another one of the Kickstarter failures, because it really does look like fun.

Missiles on the dance floor? -

This isometric 2D adventure game reminds me of some classics like Planescape: Torment and the Fallout games. According to its homepage it will also be scored by Mark Morgan who did work on Fallout and Wasteland 2. It's still in development and seems pretty open with its progress, so I've got high hopes that this will come to a release. Cleverly enough, no release date has been set on the homepage however, so it's yet another wait and see (or wait and forget about in my case).

Seriously though, why so dark? -

The world doesn't seem to be for want of awesome gaming ideas, nor the money or people with money to create them. What really seems to be lacking is the actual people creating the games (which is interesting considering I know so many who say they want to be game designers). Another lesson that should've been learned by now is to never underestimate how much time and work it takes to complete a game, this seems to be a mistake that far too many game developers do all the way from the one man studio to the big AAA game developers. It still baffles me how, especially the game developers who by now should know better (I am looking at you EA and Ubisoft), they still either release incomplete products and hope no one will notice (?) or push the release date over and over again. Wouldn't it just be best to give yourself more time and if you happen to complete it sooner you'll make everyone happy, rather than make everyone disappointed with the opposite? I don't know, seems like simple logics to me (although I realize it's probably not that simple in the world of money).

Friday, February 6, 2015

To WoW or not to WoW

So I started playing WoW again. I had decided somewhere in november, actually just after the release of Warlords of Draenor, that I was going to make a come back come the new year. My bf was sceptical, worried that I might get sucked in when I don't really have that much time to put into playing anymore. I was worried as well, not that I might neglect my daily chores but that I'd neglect other games. Because that was the one issue I always had with WoW - it was all or nothing with that game. Every other game had to step back. So when I finally took the step to quit, a process that in itself took several months for me to actually go through with from first thoughts to cancellation of account, it was sad but also somewhat relieving. I would finally have time to play other games.If I felt that WoW ever made me miss out on anything, it would be that. It was worth it of course, I regret very few things about WoW. Some harsh words said on occasion perhaps, but not the time invested.

When I heard that the new expansion was everything everyone had hoped for (albeit the launch was a shamble as always) and a bit more, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to jump back in. I knew of course that all the things that had made me quit in the first place were still a factor. The fact that I don't have time to raid, the fact that most people I used to play with don't anymore or that I don't really have contact with them anymore. But I thought I had come to a point where I could go in and not need those things anymore. Turns out I was right and wrong.

I remember back when I started playing WoW, it was definitely the social aspect that got me hooked. I got interested because the game is very well designed and extremely rewarding to play, but what made me stay for 8 years and countless hours (seriously) were the people and the interaction - the good and even the bad times. Early on I didn't have those things yet, I was just another scrub questing around I recall playing for an hour or so and feeling like I was done, like I was bored and wanted to do something else. In my heyday I could literally play all day and not be bored because there was always something to do with someone. This "someone" was the key, I realize now. Even if I did random dungeons on lowbie alts with strangers, it was still the interaction with the group I enjoyed. I loved tanking or healing, because making the party run smoothly was the whole challenge to me. Even if we never said a word to eachother (which rarely happened, I loved to chatter), the silent actions of people spoke plenty.

With changes, streamlining and simplifying many things a lot of the challenge for me disappeared. As I've said many times before, I never felt like these changes made WoW a bad game, but we've grown apart. When I saw other social aspects around me going away as well I felt like WoW had turned into just another game to me - and as such one I had spent way too much time on. It was time to move on and try other things.

But I missed it terribly. The olden golden days of raiding, sure. All the fun in guild chat, of course. But mostly just running around in Tirisfal Glades and listening to the ambient music. Swimming in the waters outside of Stranglethorn Vale and killing pirates. Questing in Howling Fjord. I miss Shimmering Flats, Desolace, Duskwood, Blasted Lands, Zul'drak, Barrens and almost every other place in the game (Borean Tundra not so much). I wanted to go back and reminisce about old times the same way you go back to where you grew up as a kid and think about all the fun you had running around in the fields, forests and playgrounds. Although I don't need those things anymore, I want to go back and remember what it was like. For this, WoW is still brilliant, although I am a bit sad that Cataclysm had to change so much of Azeroth.

In every other aspect however, WoW has failed to draw me in. I can see how the Garrison is addictive, and sending your followers on missions is definitely fun. Questing is still an entertaining past-time, but I still feel instancing is too easy to be very rewarding. Raiding, even LFR is still something I just don't have time with, and frankly the thought of LFR (which is the only raiding option for me) doesn't attract me at all. The fact that WoW doesn't make it easy for you to just up and leave at any moment makes it further difficult for me to find a good time to play. They've made a couple of changes to the game that I find quite neat though, like the rare mobs you can find around the map and the way you get loot in instances. I can see what everyone loves so much about it, but somehow I just feel like I am part of it anymore. It reminds me of when I tried other MMOs while playing WoW. Be it Guild Wars, Guild Wars 2, Warhammer Online - I always felt like I was a visitor. WoW was home, I knew that place inside and out. Every other game was like going on vacation - at first you were excited about all the new things and how they did things differently, but I always ended up missing my own bed to sleep in. To me I get that same feeling of being a stranger when playing WoW now. Like I don't really belong.

Now I am torn between two places - the one that wants to leave and the one that wants to stay. Now I log in maybe every third day, send some followers on a mission, do some quests, maybe an instance if I have time (with 30 min queue time that is rarely so). I don't feel like I need WoW as a game. But I do feel like I need WoW as a memory. I still want to be able to log in just to be able to walk around areas and relax. I need WoW as a place to visit. There is no other game I can do that in.  Does that warrant the monthly fee though? I haven't decided yet.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

My Gaming Highlights of 2014

Merry belated Christmas everyone (where applicable) and happy new year as well. I have not made any new years resolutions actually, in fact I think I rarely do. I'm not sure if it's because I don't feel like there is anything I need to change or improve on or because I know I won't stick to it anyway. So how was my 2014? On a personal note, just splendid. The son has been growing like weed, and although not always easy to handle all in all a great kid. It's been loads of fun to see his own little personality starting to emerge and in general we have a really good time together. Although he doesn't speak yet, he is quite good at communicating his wants through facial expressions and gestures and he is at the age where he wants to touch and play with exactly everything he sees.

My year could've ended better however. We spent 1,5 week at my dads, and the son must've picked some bug up at the airport. The first night after arriving he started vomiting in the middle of the night and although he was fine the day after, my boyfriend got sick with the same thing two days later. Then me two days after that, my dad two days after me and my dads girlfriend held out the longest and didn't get sick until on new years eve, lucky her. It's a pretty funny story now that it's over and done with, but the rest of us did not recuperate as quickly as the baby and it obviously meant we basically had to cancel all our plans, like me meeting a childhood friend of mine. Even still, we had a nice. Just not all at the same time.

Must touch everything...

I calculated that I bought about 88 games in 2014. When I had tallied it all up I just sighed to myself. What am I going to do with 88 games? And that's 88 games just this year, that's not even taking into account all the games I bought 2013 that I haven't gotten around to playing yet. But you know, it can't hurt. Or at least that is what I think every time I see a game at a bargain, because almost all games were bought pretty cheaply. Let's look at some of the ones that I am more excited about;

Castlevania: Circle of the Moon
This was the year I decided to finally get into playing some of the Castlevania games. Eventhough I have always been a fan of the series, especially the music, I had never played a game until this year. Don't ask me why, I guess I never really considered it my kind of game. At the moment I have played all the games on the GBA and a couple on the DS but Circle of the Moon is still my favorite out of the handheld ones that I've played. We'll see if Symphony of the Night beats it when I get around to trying it sometime this year.

Whoooppa! (ie the sound a whip makes) -

System Shock 2
Although I haven't finished it yet, I can already say that this is a great game. If you haven't played it I couldn't recommend it more if you have even the slightest interest in fps, sci-fi or horror games. I had heard so many good things about it and since sci-fi horror are one of my favorite genres I decided I needed to try it. I am not disappointed, it was in fact a lot more fun than I had imagined.

I had never really played a stealth game before I tried Thief, but I guess this was a good choice for a first game in the genre because daym is it fun. It's obviously not very realistic, but I don't care a single bit when it manages to make you feel so cool as a proffesional shadow sneaker instead. It's one of those games (as the other classics on this list) that manages to make you feel clever without holding your hand. That is some great level design right there.

Ugly zombies are creepy too -

Deus Ex
I guess this could be summarized as the year when I got around to realizing what everyone else had already known for years. Deus Ex is another game that everyone said was so great and I felt like I needed to finally give it a shot. Yes, I can confirm. It is loads of fun. The platforming isn't as well programmed as in System Shock 2, but fortunately there isn't that much of it and a quick save function makes the constant ladder falls at least a tiny bit less infuriating. Everything else is awesome.

Darkout / Steam Marines
Two vastly different indie games that I recommend checking out if you're looking for something to play. Darkout is similar to Terraria, but with a very different feel to it - darker (obviously) and overall more interesting if you ask me with tons to craft and dig out. Steam Marines is a nice little rogue like, which was still in early access when I played it. I guess yet again the sci-fi setting got me interested and it was already fun enough to keep me playing for hours.

Googling Koudelka was a surprise -

I haven't got around to playing this game yet, but I was so happy to get my hands on it on an auction site. I've been wanting to play this game for years.

And in 2015...
Already sometime in November I decided that 2015 was going to be the year when I venture back into World of Warcraft, however long for. Literally everyone I spoke to about Warlords of Draenor that had tried it said "it's so much fun, you should really try it". Obviously I got incredibly curious. Maybe this could be the perfect opportunity for me to check out some WoW before I go back to work again?
So yesterday (2 of January) I set everything up. I bought the expansion, I downloaded the game. Today I subscribed for a month and logged on for the first time in 1,5 years. I had left Zinn flying in Hinterlands, poor girl. For a while I didn't even really know what to do first. I got the quest to speak to Khadgar, but I wanted to sort out my UI a bit. I didn't really remember which addons I was using at the time I quit or if I still wanted those, but after I had sorted something out and flown to the Dark Portal I decided that the questing could wait a bit. Instead I logged onto a warrior alt and tanked a Violet Hold just to see if I still had the tanking flow in me. I did (although in all honesty, you could smack your face against the keyboard and still succesfully tank Violet Hold). After that I didn't really feel all that enthusiastic about anything and logged off.

I think my problem, if I can call it that, is that my main - Zinn, the priest, isn't really a questing character. In the past when I've done the tedious questing as disc or even holy it's been with the promise of raiding at max level as motivation. I could go as shadow, but it's actually not sounding all that fun to me right now. But Zinn doesn't have to be my first character to max level of course, I don't have to experience the quest chain the first time on her. That's just sentamentality telling me that. Instead I think I will try it out on another character, probably my mage. Or maybe I will start a new character and level about a bit like I used to love doing.

To be frank I am happy this is my first reaction to the game, because I was worried it would be "too much" fun. The fact that I can take a step away from it and feel like I want to do something else is exactly how I wanted it to be, just like I feel about anything else I do. But, that might just be because I spent some 30 minutes gaming and haven't actually gotten into any of the fun stuff yet. Time will tell.

So how was your 2014 and what are you hoping to get from 2015? Either way, I hope we all have an awesome year!