Sunday, November 29, 2009

Heartlessgamer.com needs YOUR feedback!

Update: THANKS for the great responses so far! Those of you with DISQUS commenting problems, I am working directly with DISQUS on them.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Allods Online: A Look at Astral Ships

More amazing insight into the features of the upcoming Allods Online. Today I came across this link detailing Astral PvP, mainly focused on the role of Astral ships:
Exploring the Astral

At the start of the development of Allods Online, a special Core Design Team that included Alexander Mishulin, Creative Director of the game, was responsible for all the important Game Design decisions.

During the meetings, the team’s vision of the Astral was discussed at length. Initially, its main purpose was to allow players to embark on deep and exciting adventures of exploration. Fairly quickly, the conversations moved to how great it would be if Astral Ships had cannons, could hold treasure and participate in massive battles. The idea caught on, and soon the decision to include Astral warfare in the game was made. The next step was to create a prototype to make sure that the ideas that they had in those meetings were possible in the game, with gameplay as the team had initially wished.

The result of this prototype was amazing, so the development team started work on incorporating Astral battles into Allods Online.

According to the game lore, many years have passed since the times of “Evil Islands”, the third game in the Rage of Mages series. It was conceived that both the Kanian and Xadaganians had performed a great technical leap in the years between the two games. The Sarnaut World Bible stipulated that travel between allods was only possible through portals controlled by the Great Mages, but by the time of Allods Online, the inhabitants had discovered the secret of Astral travel for both exploration and warfare.

The Ultimate Gameplay

The team had a lot of big and small changes as they evolved their concept from a prototype to a full 3D ship. They wanted to make sure that there was a wide range of strategies available to players, and allow new strategies to emerge as players populated the world. On the first tests of the prototype, the game featured only combat with no boarding. The battle ships lacked open spaces and featured lots of small rooms, packed with corners and curves. This meant that players who favoured ranged abilities were unable to use them.

For example, Mages could not use Fireball spells as the different barrels and barriers blocked their line of sight through to their opponent, and opponents could avoid magical attacks very easily. The team played through the prototypes and came up with a novel solution: players would be able to cast a spell in advance before chasing their opponent down and hitting them with it. This feature stayed with the game throughout development and can now be found in the game.

While having a lot of fun playing with the game, the developers added new improvements into the Astral battles almost daily. These test sessions were crucial to polish and improve this key component of Allods Online’s gameplay. The team quickly found out that fighting on these big battleships was very different to fighting on small boats.

Another feature to evolve during these sessions was the appearance of roles on the ship, missing from the early prototypes. A result of this was the appearance of the role of a Navigator, a single player who can see almost everything that is happening around the ship and who dictates the course that the ship should take through the Astral. Features such as the ability to turn the ship 180o were added, and then special abilities that could be used during combat. The role of a repairman who initially stood in the centre of the ship in prototypes was given to a team of goblins.

As always in game development, the prototype proved to be a key component of the development process, allowing the developers to make a unique style of gameplay that would allow the game to stand out from its competitors. And as the developers are all gamers, it meant that they were being as critical as any other player could be to develop a perfect balance. What else could they ask for?
Explorer or Pirate?

Having your own ship in the Allods Online universe opens up a wide range of opportunities to players. Firstly, it allows an utterly different type of gameplay experience to that which can be experienced on the ground. Players can be a pirate, an explorer discovering new allods that hold precious treasures or can fight or retreat from huge and powerful monsters that inhabit the strange and changing substance called the Astral. All players need to do is to get their player to the right level with their characters, gather friends, start building their ship and embark on adventures across the Astral.

The Astral is a dynamic, changing substance that appears to have a life of its own. This means that any travel away from the security of an allod is very random, with lots of exploration available. Players who find a way through to one place using a certain course should keep in mind that they may never get back to the same location by following the same course.

When players unlock Astral battleships, they can travel in rather safe zones, fighting small demons and discovering small allods. As their fighting skills develop and their ships improve, players will soon realize that they are ready to embark on far more dangerous adventures and explore the far Astral. There they will encounter huge monsters that hold useful trophies, find unknown islands and have the opportunity to fight other ships. Once their ship is packed with treasure, they need to set back home. The return trip can be as eventful as the journey, as a booty-laden ship is an attractive target for pirates that are hidden among the conduits that connect the Astral.

Players have lots of choice to get back home. They can set off in a random and unknown direction, and risk getting lost and losing their ship with all the treasures in its hold. They can engage pirates and defeat them in battle, or try their luck and see if they can sneak past the pirates. Risk is an important part of the Sarnaut world.

A task for everyone

From the early sessions as the developers worked on Astral Ships, they quickly decided to implement roles for different players who would play on board. However, it was not clear how these roles would be distributed between the crew of the ship. As time went by, the developers decided that roles should not depend on character classes, and went as far to make sure that players could choose their role on the fly in the heat of battle.

Each ship has an energy reactor that converts energy captured by the ships sails from the Astral to all the components of the ship: its engine, protective shields, cannons and the powerful mana-torpedoes.

A crew member needs to take on the role of the ship’s captain. Any player can take this role, so it Is not confined to the ship’s owner. Players will need to decide this amongst them, and the person they choose will receive a special Navigator’s Visor to allow them to see the space around the ship, and to forsee threats that could emerge from the Astral close to them. Then there is the helmsman who decides the course that the ship will take. For combat, several players on the battle deck use cannons or torpedoes. When the ship gets damaged, a player in charge of repair should make good use of the goblin repairmen that populate the ship, setting them to work on damaged areas.

If they are boarded, the ship’s deck turns into a real PvP area. The ship is surrounded with a special protective sphere, all the ships components are turned off and players participate in a fierce battle for control of the treasure located in the ships hold. It doesn’t matter what role players have in this situation, every crew member is required to fight off the threat.

Looking for high level Carpenters, PST

Astral ships are a very important and useful gameplay element in Allods Online. Pretty much every player will want to own a ship, sooner or later. It’s not an easy thing though, as owning a ship requires co-operation, an investment of time, and in-game money. After reaching a certain level, players can get a specific quest that reveals the secret processes involved in building a ship.

Astral ships are complex devices, so the process of building them takes a lot of time. There are ways to speed up the process by completing sub quests that reward you with useful materials. The next quest in the line will involve a group of high level players going through a dungeon. A small time investment in ship building each day can lead to a ship being built in a third of the normal time. Players can also watch the ship being build in the hangar bar and see if grow bit by bit. This hangar can be entered by going to the Astral Academy, which also contains a dock for parking your ship, and a repair shipyard.

The Astral Academy is always packed with explorers, customers, traders and NPC characters in charge of the Astral quests. It is the ideal place to meet other players looking for Astral adventures, Astral storytellers and a place to find out the latest intel on pirates.

Teamwork makes the dream work

Maneuvering an Astral Ship is not a simple task; various mechanisms are involved in the process and many important devices need to be co-ordinated to ensure that players go where they want to go. A successful trip requires co-ordination by all of those on board. The Navigator’s device will show all the threats around the ships environment for several kilometers. Teleporting pads allow players to board enemy ships and transfer to the hangar bay while shields located on each side of the ship protect it from damage. The captain’s visor also allows players to scan an enemy ship and let the crew see the status of their ship.

The main weapons on a ship are the cannons, which can be loaded with several types of magical ammunition. Some can be used to break through the shields, others will inflict damage on the ships hill, while others will break devices on the enemy ship. In addition to the firepower available with the cannons, torpedoes are located at the front of the ship and allow players to shoot straight ahead.

But most importantly, the heart of a ship is its energy reactor. A crew who does not protect this at all costs, all the time will have a hefty repair bill and have their Astral adventures curtailed if this is damaged. You have been warned.
Pretty cool stuff. Can't wait for the beta on Dec 1st.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Allods Online Tips

Ever since my days as the "#1 Warhammer Online fan", I've tried to stay away from official media sources for games. It's not that they fool me, its that they no longer feel like they are directed towards me. I have moved towards relying on bloggers who I follow on a regular basis. Bloggers who may get a bit too excited about games at times, but consistently put down solid information as though they are talking to a group of friends.

Keen and Graev and friends are busy at work putting together some information on Allods Online:
There are so few places to find quality info about the game that I figured a thread with interesting tidbits of info could go a long way. Feel free to post any information you find that you feel would be interesting and informative for people wanting to learn more about Allods Online.
I commend them for the effort, as Allods Online is starting to pique my interest (I just received a closed beta key via MMOCrunch).

The following Allods tidbit has me drooling:
At lvl 23 you WILL(no exceptions if you wanna lvl) be sent to Holy Lands. In Holy Lands you get to quest with the opposing faction and most quests involve killing their soldiers/players or taking over strategic points or sabotaging their stuff.

One of the first places you will be sent to is Spider Hill.

Atop the hill is a place of power that gives you a 10min buff if you stand on it. Thats ofc is a good thing to have. On either side of the hill are Liga and Imperia camps.

Let me tell you something. When I got to that Hill….I had the most fun I have ever had in the game. PvPing with Imperia was wicked fun.

Alas, it didnt last too long. After about an hour of awesome combat a lvl 40 Imperia Mage came over and ruined everything(that [I Am A Potty Mouth]!).

But in conclusion: Yes you will be sent to a place where you quest and PvP at same time.
This sounds like a really neat idea. Generally PvP has been introduced to MMOG players with on/off switches, rarely with motivation or consistency. World of Warcraft has PvE vs PvP servers and then instanced battlegrounds. Warhammer Online throws players at each other from the get go, but in zones full of NOTHING or an instanced scenario.

Whats outlined above for Allods Online seems to be a much more natural progression (albeit forced) into the PvP conflict. Also, the free-2-play aspect of the game could play into this as those that pay up could possibly have a huge edge in PvP.

I'm very interested to get going in Allods Online come December 1st.

#BlackFriday: Games

Update: 28 Nov, 2009 - Removed links as Black Friday is over. Cyber Monday is next!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!



Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Borderlands Playthrough 1 Complete

I just finished my first playthrough of Borderlands. It will take a few days, but I do plan a fairly in depth review. To put it simply, I don't complete many single-player games, so for me to finish this game says something.

For anyone that has played the game, the ending is weak and I'm not talking about the story part. For the fight, all I had to do was stand there and fire. The damn thing never hit me and then it dropped only basic weapons. Totally robs any cool points for all the hard work.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Aion May Be A Grind, But It Looks Good Doing It

Aion has released a "vision of the future" video and it looks fucking amazing.



Aion may get booed out of the stadium for being a grind, but everything I've seen about Aion makes it look like a great game. If this video is any indication of what's to come, I will still stick by my statement that Aion is the ! of Diku. Player housing? Epic (and I'm not talking Star Wars: The Old Republic epic here) battles? Cannons? Looks good to me.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Dragon Age Respecs

Rock, Paper, Shotgun has posted a "hack" to go ahead and reset a character's settings in Dragon Age: Origins. Better yet is this mod that accomplishes the same thing:
Of note: using the toolset may fuck up your game. Instead, use the really well-done and non-buggy Raven respec mod: http://social.bioware.com/project/469/ It refunds all talent/spell, skill and stat points, even taking into account those gained from a certain quest or from manuals.
But, here's my opinion. Why is this not a part of the basic game? Its 2009, haven't game developers learned that players hate to be locked down to choices that could potentially turn out terribly?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Initial Impressions: Left 4 Dead 2

Left 4 Dead 2 does the word sequel justice and delivers everything that was great about the original while adding to the experience in its own unique way. Left 4 Dead 2 is bigger, better, and badder. For some players, it is probably too much. For others, like myself, its exactly what we were looking for.

The immediate difference between the two are the main characters and the campaigns. The new characters and settings have no cross over to the original other than they exist within the same zombie apocalypse. The new characters are not as immediately lovable as the original, but they grow throughout the game. However, the campaigns are pure genius.

L4D1 had fairly mundane campaign settings and outside of one interesting moment on the tarmac at the airport, the game was all about the zombie killing. L4D2, building on epic moments, has included some great show stoppers. One level will have the survivors lighting up a stage at an abandoned rock concert to signal a chopper, while another will have the survivors retreading old paths now flooded by recent storms.

The brilliant part is that its not just the climaxes to the levels. Throughout each, there are a ton of great moments. However, words can not do these campaigns justice. They have to be played to be understood (or for a close runner-up experience for the Dark Carnival campaign, go watch Zombieland).

Also included are new weapons, the obvious additions being melee weapons. After a few hours of L4D2, its hard to think back to a swarming-zombie moment where I didn't have a katana or chainsaw sitting in reserve for that unfortunate moment when my ammo runs out. Sticking with movie references, see Shaun of the Dead for the importance of melee weapons during the zombie apocalypse.

With new campaigns, also comes new gameplay modes. In addition to the classic VS., co-op, and survival, a couple new game modes join the fray:

Scavenge: This is a VS. mode where the survivors have to collect gas cans to fill a generator while the Infected players attempt to stop them. The teams swap each round and the team with the most emptied cans wins.

Realism: This game mode will quickly have players hoping that a real zombie apocalypse doesn't occur anytime soon. There is no returning from death in this mode and everything is hidden from view (no glowing lines pointing out the ammo stack). This mode makes hardcore look carebear.



With the VS. game modes, come new infected, outlined below:

Charger: A hard charging brute that can grab and pound a survivor into the ground. A very much needed "speed" addition to the Infected team.

Jockey: An annoyingly small son of a bitch who can jump onto a survivor and control their movement. There is nothing like walking a survivor out the window of a 30 story building.

Spitter:
A much needed, closet-camper punisher, the spitter lays down a pool of acid spittle that damages all survivors in its area of effect. The spitter is what L4D1 needed.

Boomette: A female version of the Boomer from L4D1.

There is no doubt that VS. mode in L4D2 heavily favors the Infected side. Fortunately, this is a good move. It adds bragging rights to finishing a campaign as the survivors and this time around the scoreboard actually feels like a competition. I never paid attention to the VS. score in L4D1, but since almost every L4D2 VS. match comes down to a few points, I constantly keep an eye on my progress trying to run a few more feet when all hope is lost (the farther a team makes it as survivors, the more points they get).

My only complaints with L4D2 so far are outside of the actual game. Some servers seem to suffer horrendous lag, even when they were able to run L4D1 without a hitch. Secondly, the matchmaking doesn't seem to have improved much as many of the games don't fill with players or in the case of VS. games, the sides become lopsided. The fix, as always, is to play with friends.

I plan to spend many hours playing L4D2, probably more than I spent with the original. At some point, I want to see the new infected and weapons integrated fully into the original campaigns and have everything accessible from launching a single version of L4D. I'm ashamed that I even thought about not playing this game. Its fucking awesome.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Left 4 Dead 2 unlocked on Steam

But I have to go to work :(

Saturday, November 14, 2009

5 Years of Change

As a gaming geek, I can't imagine my day to day life without World of Warcraft or Firefox. A little over five years ago, neither one existed. This month, both celebrate five happy years of existence.
Five years ago today, Mozilla announced the official release of Firefox 1.0. The open source Web browser has come a very long way since then and has achieved a level of popularity that few would have imagined possible.
Its amazing how things come in twos on the Internet, this quote paralleling with WoW perfectly. Five years ago, NO ONE imagined the level of success that WoW has achieved. MMOGs went from communities of thousands, to millions in one giant leap.

With WoW's five year anniversary coming up later this month, The Escapist is running an interview with Rob Pardo:
World of Warcraft turns five this month, and we sat down with Blizzard VP of Game Design Rob Pardo to chat about the biggest triumphs and biggest mistakes of the mega-MMORPG, and why he's not worried that their new MMOG will kill it.
The full interview is worth the read. It covers the casual vs. hardcore debate, without pulling any punches, which is quite amazing coming straight from a game developers mouth. Its not often we see questions like this levied in an interview:
If you weren't a designer, but a hardcore WoW raider, do you think you would think the game was too "casual" these days?

Quite possibly. I have this theory that, when you're a really elite hardcore gamer, what you really want - what drives you - is that sense of competition; really having that gap between you and the less skilled, and more casual. That's what drives you, and that's not different no matter what game you're playing: WoW, Counterstrike, Warcraft III, games like that. You strive to make the gap as big as possible.
My commentary can't do the interview justice. Catch the full transcript here.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Mighty Big Teacup: Modern Warfare 2 Sells 4.7 Million Copies in 24

I guess Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare 2 is sitting in a pretty big teacup. The game sold 4.7 million copies within the first 24 hours, which is flat-out insane.
"MW2" sold 4.7 million copies and racked up $335 million dollars in sales in the US and UK alone when the eagerly anticipated title made its worldwide debut this week, according to publisher Activision.
I am not one of the 4.7 million, but I'm wondering if I should be. Since WAR launched, I've been wrong about pretty much ever game I've followed.

I thought Spore was to be the greatest game ever. I didn't even buy it and good thing, because it got tore up in reviews.

I thought Free Realms was trash. Millions of users later, I think I was wrong.

I thought Borderlands was going to be great, a true Diablo with guns. Its a good game, but not great and NOT a Diablo with guns.

I thought Dragon Age: Origins was try too hard to be cool. After EVERYONE told me I was crazy and EVERYONE I know was playing the game, I kind of wish I had a copy.

However, with all of this said, I still don't think most of the games on this list are worth the $50 - $70 price tags for new copies. Borderlands, which cost me $35, was the only purchase that presents value to me.

Gah, ending this post now. I fail.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veteran's Day: Pirates of the Burning Sea FREE For 6 Months

While Flying Labs Software did not make this announcement on veteran's day, I wanted to talk about it:
Military personnel that can verify their status through a .mil e-mail address will be able to partake in an interesting promotion announced by Flying Lab Software this week. The promotion offers six months of Pirates of the Burning Sea to military personnel, however, in order to continue playing after the free six months you will still have to purchase a copy of the game.
I've run the full gambit of decisions on Pirates of the Burning Seas. From almost joining their core audience as a player community liaison to the announcement of SOE publishing the game crushing my dreams, eventually I decided to skip the game's launch.

It turned out that the launch did not go so well and the game was quickly written off as a niche "failure". In my opinion, the game is right where I anticipated, a niche game with a niche audience. Fortunately, this free offer for military members gives me a proper 6 months to evaluate the game (and at $7 for a copy of the game, I may be tempted to just take the plunge down the road).

I started my journey into the game last night. The download and setup was a breeze, but that is a requirement for me these days. Any hiccups at that stage and I tend to dump any free game in a heartbeat.

Character creation was pretty awesome and I feel I've created a unique French Naval Officer, named Captain Heartless Gamer. With a Captain, a ship, and the tutorial complete, I set out for some adventures. The game can really be broken down into four areas: ships, avatars, economy, and PvP.

As I only played for an hour or so, I've only experienced ship and avatar combat. Ship combat is pretty solid and enjoyable. It can be slow at times, but I suspect it will get better as my ship gets better. Avatar combat is a cheap attempt to introduce a little classic diku-inspired MMO into PotBS. It works, but I wouldn't hold it up as a strong point.

At the end of the day, I'm playing for the open seas, the economy, and eventually some PvP. Good thing I have six months to feel the situation out!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The End WAR

Disheartening news has leaked out that a chunk of the recent EA job cutting spree has hit EA Mythic hard:
Mythic laid off 80 people today, which is about 40% of the company and responsible for 90% of the content. According to a friend of mine who left before this happened, they're putting Warhammer into "maintenance mode."

I am not sure if there's been an official announcement, but my friend said that I was free to mention it, because it's surprising it's not out already. (I actually knew about it on Friday but not the numbers.)
There is no hiding it. Many of us (me included) were wrong about WAR. The game has floundered since launch and performed misstep after misstep the entire way. Its only logical that the game's development would be scaled back.

The laundry list of canceled, dieing, or dead MMOGs at the feet of EA is legendary: Earth and Beyond, Motor City Online, The Sims Online, Ultima Online's sequals, etc. It makes one wonder how much the EA merger affected the Mythic office.

Currently, I am part of a company undergoing a similar assimilation by a much larger company and player in our industry. Even with a positive attitude overall in the office, constant commentary from customers about the merger and half-assed quotes from officers of the company easily put people on edge. An environment of mistrust is being born and people rightfully question whether project A or B will exist next week.

In the case of Myhic merging with EA, it should have resulted in a better game. More resources, more manpower, and probably more marketing. However, if the merger created any doubts about the direction of the project, more of everything would have been needed just to keep the ship sailing straight, effectively nullifying any positive gains.

The question now is whether Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning is going to be around much longer. Will EA cancel a game that may be costing too much to keep alive or will they dramatically change the way it is managed? Maybe to a point where the game has no chance to do anything other than float on by for a another year before being canceled.

Is there any truth into the "EA = poison" mythos that has been created around MMOG projects they've acquired? Do we need to fear for Star Wars: The Old Republic? IMHO, yes.

Monday, November 09, 2009

This Is Why The Packers Are Losing Games

The Green Bay Packers lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers yesterday. They handed one of the worst teams in the NFL a win. The root cause is not lack of talent on the team, but a management and coaching issue. This problem is highlighted by the following:
Tampa, Nov 9 (THAINDIAN NEWS) The Green Bay Packers have put the injured Jason Spitz on reserve and instead filled the spot with wide receiver Biren Ealy according to a reliable source.
With the worst offensive line in NFL history and probably one of the best receiving corps, Packers management has decided to replace an injured offensive lineman with a god damned wide receiver. Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy need to go. NOW!

Friday, November 06, 2009

Tempest in a Teacup: Modern Warfare 2

Ars Technica is running an article about the trials and tribulations of upcoming military-shooter, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. In the article, they provide plenty of quotes from the game's developers showing some blatant disrespect for the PC version of the game:
We thought the lack of dedicated servers was bad, but now we can add the lack of console commands, the inability to have a say in who hosts the game, a lengthy pause while the game migrates to a new host if the currently selected host quits, no leaning, no option to record matches, and no way to kick or block trouble players, hackers, or cheaters.

You have to wonder if there are any actual PC gamers working at Infinity Ward, as it will be a challenge to find any member of the PC gaming community that will stand up for any of these omissions, not to mention all of them bundled together. At launch, this will be one of the most locked-down, inflexible, and gamer-unfriendly game ever created.
While the above quote is a bit sensationalist, it does illustrate how frustrated some of the core audience for the CoD franchise have become, particularly on the PC.

Personally, I don't feel the loss of dedicated servers or a restriction to 9vs9 is all that horrible. In the current Modern Warfare game, any game above 9vs9 feels overcrowded or is a blatant cheat server designed to unlock accomplishments and/or gain levels. Secondly, its almost impossible to find two servers running the same rulesets these days. No snipers here, no perks there, this perk not allowed, no airstrikes, etc. It all gets fairly annoying when a player just wants to play the game.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare 2 (MW2) is not a strict or heavily-leaning PC title. I have no qualms with it being "consolized" in the PC version. We would be having a different discussion if this was Team Fortress 2, a game BORN from the PC platform, and heavily dependent on a customized experience on each server. Modern Warfare 1 was big on the PC, but it truly took over the consoles. It is not surprising to see where Infinity Ward is basing their design.

With that said, IW should accept the fact that the PC gaming industry will probably reflect the "consolization" in their reviews. For example, Borderlands has some fairly obvious console leftovers in the PC version, but its still a good game and uses the same sort of Peer2Peer multiplayer hosting as MW2 will. Most reviews docked Borderlands on the PC for the console leftovers, as they should, but not because they were mad about it!

There's a quote in the Ars Technica comments section that describes the situation best:
This is a tempest in a teacup. Either buy the game or don't. This is not the end of PC gaming as we know it.
My best suggestion is for PC gamers to forget that this is part of the Call of Duty brand. It was originally meant to be called Modern Warfare 2, a somewhat separate product from the Call of Duty series. Move on if dedicated servers and other features are a must. Plenty of PC gamers will do fine without them and play the game without you.

NOTE: IWNet is an interesting move towards Peer2Peer hosting for such a MAJOR multiplayer game release.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

WTF2


What the Favre!

Once upon a time I would have cheered when Favre won a game, but not today. Fortunately, I didn't get to watch this abomination of a game (the highlights were enough to make me break something).

Oct 2009: What I'm Playing/What I'm Paying

Previous months: Sept 2009
Check out the "What I'm Playing/What I'm Paying" Google Spreadsheet.



Commentary:

The first note I would like to make is that I moved gaming-related computer hardware to its own line and placed Batman:AA at $0 since it was free with the video card I purchased in September.

I spent October waiting for Borderlands, which released on the 26th. I paid just shy of $34 for the game as part of a Steam 4-pack (splitting the extra copies with friends). I do not feel comfortable paying $50 for new games any longer. The $30-$35 range feels right to me.

I'll be posting more about my thoughts on Borderlands this week.

Next, I spent another $10 on Battlefield Heroes to dress up my Royal Soldier, BrettFavre. The end result:


Heroes still remains a great game, but leveling past 14 seems to be a little bit grindy and I constantly debate whether I should just pay for an experience boost to help get one of my Heroes to level 20+. Fortunately, they gave away a 3-day XP boost to all players for Halloween, so that sated my appetite for faster leveling. Plus, I got to play as a zombie-head for a few days! I'll probably put another $10 into this game at some point to finish up my Heroes' customizations.

I am still working on beating Batman:AA. Its a great game, but with so many games to play, I find it hard to dedicate time to it. I'm only 5% done with the game.

I was fairly quiet in the MMOG department:

I knocked out a few quests on my Sorcerer in DDO:EU, but am still only level 1 and sitting on the starter island. The dungeons can be set to solo, but they truly shine when grouped. I have never had a steady play group, so this may not be the game for me. I'll have to investigate the pick-up group scene a bit more.

I hit level 5 in The Chronicles of Spellborn on my Spellcaster, Favre. I need to determine which class I want to go with from level 5 onwards. Any thoughts out there? Still enjoying the combat system, even if its hard to pick up at first.

On a side note, not listed on the spreadsheet is Killing Floor. I played a bit during the recent Free Weekend on Steam. Its a quasi-pro, but way over the top, Left 4 Dead co-op zombie shooter. Personally, it made me miss Left 4 Dead and with L4D2 right around the corner, I didn't really care for it.

Conclusion:

Free MMOs still reign in my play list. While at heart (ha!) I would like to be a completely Free Gamer, there are too many good games out there that I would miss, Borderlands being one of them. Deals such as the Steam 4-pack give me value and I reward them for that with a purchase on a game I wouldn't have spent $50 for. My purchase and playing decisions remain with value: is the game and the time I will invest worth the costs?
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