Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Time flys, 10 years

Ten years ago I was just leaving high school on a journey to the great state of Texas for military basic training.  To be honest, I was a little bit scared (too much Full Metal Jacket filling my head). Ten years later, I wouldn't trade my military career for anything and the FMJ nightmares are all gone now that I've met R. Lee Ermy in real life and realized he's a pretty cool cat.

Also, ten years ago as of yesterday, Diablo 2 was released.  Happy belated birthday!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Allods Online removing Fear of Death debuff

I just received news that in Allods Online patch 1.1.0, the Fear of Death (FoD) debuff will be removed:
The upcoming Allods Online Patch 1.1.0: Revelations of Gipat introduces new content and gameplay mechanics. In fact, one of the most controversial aspects of the game, Fear of Death, is being eliminated!

Fear of Death is a debuff that players receive upon death which reduces all of their offensive stats by 25% for an amount of time proportional to their level. It can be removed by spending Drops of Myrrh that can be bought from vendors, using Incense that can be bought from the Item Shop, or just waiting it out. However, most users will rejoice in knowing that Fear of Death will no longer be a part of the game.
For those that have followed Allods Online's progress from beta to launch, FoD was the most controversial topic. It is the reason Keen, and I suspect many others, decided not to stick with the game.  Personally, I disliked FoD, but came around to an agreement with myself that it wasn't that bad since I only played the game casually.

I didn't agree that it was a cash shop or micro-transaction issue.  What I didn't like about FoD was the fact that it didn't make sense in terms of gameplay.  Reading these upcoming changes, I feel somewhat vindicated in my prior stance.  If FoD was a mechanic meant to create revenue, as many argued, it wouldn't be getting yanked from the game.  This to me, is evidence enough that it was just a bad gameplay mechanic awaiting replacement. And now Allods is getting that replacement:
When a player dies in the upcoming patch, instead of receiving a debuff to all of their offensive stats, players will have a very small chance that a curse will be cast upon them. The curse will randomly land on one of a player’s item slots; however, if the curse lands on a slot that is empty or contains an item that is Uncommon or Common, the curse will be deflected, leaving the contents of the item slot unharmed. If the curse lands on an item slot that contains an item that is Rare, Epic, or Legendary, its stats will become inverted.

Bosses in dungeons and raids will now also drop Cursed Items in addition to the items that they usually drop. This means that means that players will have a chance to receive more loot, which can be used once the curse is removed.

In order to remove a curse from an item, players can purchase Scrolls of Purification from the Item Shop, or buy them from other players. Players can also avoid items becoming cursed with each death by wearing Holy Charms. Players may have up to 1000 Holy Charms equipped at a time and each time the player dies, one charm will be used to deflect any possible curse. Holy Charms are available for purchase in the Item Shop, and can also be bought from other players.
There are no hard numbers to substitute for the "chances" mentioned in the blurb above, but as FoD was in effect 100% of the time, this is already a better system.  Also, it does a better job of defining the Cash Shop's role in the death penalty revenue scheme.

While I don't like the idea that any game penalizes players and then tells them to go into a Cash Shop to remove that penalty, the proposed system has a couple of tricks up it's sleeves.

First, the items are player trade-able, creating a currency system of sort for players that have real life cash and want to exchange it, legally, for in-game goods and services.

Secondly, it offers proactive and reactive items to be purchased allowing players to decide how they want to pay.  Players can pay up front and carry Holy Charms to prevent the curses or they can pay on the back end after a curse has hit via the Scrolls of Purification.

Or, players don't have to pay at all by keeping stashes of spare equipment on hand to replace any cursed items.  This may not be efficient or advisable, but it does allow players to continue their free rides.

Allods Online is still a great game and I am looking forward to getting back into at some point and the upcoming Patch 1.1: Revelations of Gipat will be live July 7th!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Hidden Gems from E3: Heroes of Three Kingdoms

E3 has come and gone.  We've learned about Kinect, Move, and the 3DS.  The major players were as expected and it was a very console heavy show.  However, hidden in the pile of consoles were some gems for the PC market.  The first one I'd like to point out is Heroes of Three Kingdoms, a free-to-play PvP MMO from Perfect World.

Rock, Paper, Shotgun sums it up nicely:
It’s weapon based, with your role changing depending on what you choose to tool up with. Finally – and most RPS-interestingly – in the end game, after you’ve formed legions and conquered cities, leads to a large-scale board-game which apparently involves keeping your population happy and taxation and similar.
That blurb certainly has me interested.  Further, there is a video:

With all of this said and watched, I just don't have time for another MMO in 2010, but if you are interested; Heroes of Three Kingdoms is set to launch Q3 2010.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Holy **** : OnLive on an iPad

This video literally made me shit my pants.  OnLive, the cloud gaming service launching right as I post this, shows off Borderlands.  Now this was only a tech demo, but one hell of a tech demo it was.  I still will not buy an iPad, but come later this year and 2011 when decent Android and Windows 7 tablets start launching I may have to give OnLive a try.

We may very well be looking at the future of PC gaming.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Guide for Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalker

As I mentioned on my twitter stream a while ago, there is a great guide for Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalker available over at

This guide is aimed at anyone who wants to get better at playing Magic, and specifically on Duel of the Planeswalkers (DOTP). This guide will also be a reference point for all other guides I write for this game. Beginners and casual players will probably benefit the most from this. Advanced players may find much of what I say obvious to them, but may pick up a useful tip here and there. I will cover a lot of the mistakes that are often made by beginners, not to poke fun at them, but to help them understand how they can improve. I will also cover more advanced techniques that can be used to gain small advantages here and there. Magic is all about making the most out of every single card that you draw, and every little thing matters.

I have been playing Magic for about 15 years and feel that my experience in both constructing and playing decks can be of value to others.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Debunked: 10 Reasons not to buy Duels of the Planeswalkers

I love forum posts like this.  First, the list is only 7 items long (as of this posting).  Secondly, half the mentioned issues listed are non-issues.  Breaking it down one by one.

1. No online CO-OP 

Alright, I concede this point.  Everyone was disapointed that the co-op mode was local only and not Internet-enabled.

2. No Text chat

The Steam community is available in all Steam games and includes text chat.  As Duels of the Planeswalkers (DotP) is built on Steamworks, it is easy enough to start up a chat with another player based on their Steam username. 

 3. Game is currently unplayable for several users, especially some users with ATI video cards. <-- upgrade your video card drivers and try the demo first.

This can be said about every PC game.  PC is a hostile and varied platform to play on.  So far, I have had no issues and I know no one who has had any (out of three friends playing).

4. No deck building <-- I knew this going in but still its a negative in my book and even more so now that we have discovered reasons # 1 - 3.

If the original poster knew this, then they are dumb for including it.  If they expected differently, they are playing the wrong game.  MtG: Online is over here.  And for clarity's sake, there is minor customization as additional cards can be unlocked for each deck and added or removed before each game.

5. Music / Sound. its horrible and very annoying.

It can be disabled.  Plus, its a fucking card game, what was expected for sound?  Turn the damn radio on.

6. the game auto taps your land cards for you.

Finally, a second point I can agree on.  This is annoying and borderline game-breaking for multi-color decks.

7. You cant mute the other player online. <-- which sucks because some times you just dont want to know what they are doing with their other hand.

OK, I'll give in on this one as well, but I maintain there is still the ability to turn off the sound on your PC.


Buy the game, but don't expect a hardcore experience.  It's fun, casual MtG. 

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Magic: The Gathering, Planeswalkers,Tactics

Magic: The Gathering (MtG) Duels of the Planeswalkers has launched today on the PC via Steam.  Duels of the Planeswalkers is a simplified version of MtG where players play with set preconstructed decks and modified rules.  It is meant as an introduction to MtG as there is already a true MtG Online that is faithful to the hard copy CCG.

I've downloaded my copy (plus expansion pack 1) and will have some comments up later this week.

Secondly, we have new information out of E3 about SOE's MtG: Tactics,  a 3D strategy game based on the MtG world and lore.  Watch the video below:

It's an interesting take on MtG, but I'm not sure I'm sold on it after watching the video. Also, we know little to nothing about how it plays. It does fit into SOE's current stable of games, as they continue the move away from traditional MMOGs (such as Everquest) and focus on niche strategy games (Pox Nora) and casual social games (Free Realms).

Here's another pic of Tactics:

Counting the lies: Star Wars: The Old Republic "Hope" Trailer

The newest video trailer has been released for Star Wars: The Old Republic. Watch it below.

Having watched it, let me point out the ways in which it lies to us.
  1. Force users (Jedi and Sith) will NOT be as dominate over non-Force users as they are in the video.
  2. There will NOT be deformable or destructible terrain in the game.
  3. Armor will NOT be destroyed during combat (no item durability).
  4. Combat will NOT be like the circus act that we see in the video.
  5. Combat will NOT feature Matrix-like slow motion.
  6. In fact, from what we've seen gameplay-wise, combat will be NOTHING like the trailers.
  7. Bounty Hunters will NOT be able to "fly" using their jetpacks as featured in the video.
  8. Lightsabers will NOT be blockable.
  9. Players will NOT be little clones of each other, running around all wearing the same armor. There WILL BE a naked Sith or Jedi somewhere asking someone to touch their lightsaber.

Monday, June 14, 2010 2.0 vs a Rock, there's something to learn here

I claim no credit for this image.

Normally, I wouldn't poke fun at Blizzard because they have a fairly flawless track record as a game developer.  However, the world is changing and Blizzard with it.  Every company is locking their games into "platforms" and it's starting to get a bit silly.  Oh, and I can sympathize with the gamers that long for the days where LAN support was one of Blizzard's standard features.

The bullet points in the picture are agreeable to my persuasion as well.  As a gaming community, we seem to be losing a lot in favor of Facebook and Twitter integration.  Game developers appear to be looking at the new social media as a replacement for what has worked great for years. 

Actually replacement is a strong word, as what we're really getting is "integration with and instead of X".  However, we're still being tied to the developer's own platform rather than offloading entirely to the social media maven of choice.  It's one thing to offer "Facebook Connect" in place of a developers own account system; it's another thing entirely to integrate a game into Facebook status updates.

Don't get me wrong, I like the idea of consolidation to a central "hub" that can be tied into.  That is why I am more of a fan of Facebook Connect than I am of Facebook itself.  I like creating one account and being able to use it on tons of different websites.  Just as I like having a Steam account and having that account integrated directly into a game via Steamworks. 2.0 is great for gamers that will stick to Blizzard games and I suspect there is enough of them to make it a success.  However, 2.0 is NOT that much different than a 40,000 year old rock when the games are removed.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Steam Sale Success for The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion

The game of the year edition of The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion went on sale this weekend via Steam for $8.50.  It's a steal of a deal and I couldn't resist picking up a copy for myself.  

There is always a question of how successful these fire sales on Steam are.  To provide some anecdotal evidence to their success, I present the previous 7-days of game-play tracking via Raptr for Oblivion.

As can be seen, there is a pretty good spike following the start of the sale this weekend.

While hours played are not easily equated to sales, and factoring in the sales price, it is tough to determine what revenue this generates for the game developer.  However, a cursory glance tells us there are plenty of players playing the game and that has to warm the heart of any developer!

Friday, June 11, 2010

May 2010: What I'm Playing/What I'm Paying

And we're caught back up. May 2010, the month I lived out of a hotel, but still only managed to put in 15 hours of gaming.

I have embedded the new What I'm Playing/What I'm Paying spreadsheet for May below.  The overall spreadsheet (includes previous months) can be found here.

Game of the Month

Cost: $9.99
Played: 14 hrs
3-words: Hack, slash, win!

Torchlight is a shining example of how to make a game.  Developed on budget, by a small and dedicated team, it delivers everything one would want in a Diablo-clone.  There are monsters, loot, and random dungeons galore. 

I spent 14 hours hacking away at the game.  I came to close to beating it while seated in my hotel room, but the end boss did not fall until I returned home in June.  Even with the end boss downed, there is so much more to accomplish.  There is a never ending dungeon in the game, so a character can level forever (I assume).  Or if it fancies a player, they can retire a veteran character and start a powered-up new character with the retired's equipment.

The combat is smooth and clean.  The various classes and abilities are simple to use and graphically brilliant.  The monsters can get repetitive, but when players are killing hundreds of them per level, its an acceptable mark against the game. 

I highly recommend Torchlight and it can often be found on sale for anywhere between $4.99 and $9.99.


Civilization 4

I originally planned to put some time into a new Civ4 game during May, but Torchlight quickly won out.  I'm not sure, but I think I may have burned myself out on Civ4 after only ~30 hours.


Total spent this Month: $0.00
My Value Rating: n/a

I made no gaming purchases in May.

April 2010: What I Played/What I Paid

As promised over a month ago, I am finally catching up on my What I'm Playing/What I'm Paying post (subbing d's for ing's, past tense and all that).

April, as a month in gaming for Heartless_, was as exciting as watching the Detroit Lions play a random High School football team. 

I have embedded the new What I'm Playing/What I'm Paying spreadsheet for April below.  The overall spreadsheet (includes previous months) can be found here.

Game of the Month

BioShockCost: $13.39 (Steam Holiday Sale)
Played: 2 hours
3-words: Better price = $13.37

Don't let the total playtime fool you.  I liked Bioshock, but between a bugged out Big Daddy and failed game save backup forcing me to restart twice, I just didn't make any progress.  By the time I turned around, April was over and I was scheduled to be out of town most of May.  My poor laptop just couldn't manage Bioshock reliably enough to provide a good play experience.  I've shelved the game for completion and commentary at a later date.

Upcoming Game of the Month  for May: Torchlight (because it runs like a dream on my laptop!)


Allods Online

I stuck in an hour playtime with my Melee Healer in Allods Online in April.  I still enjoy the game and wish I could dedicate more time to it.

Battlefield: Bad Company 2

I continued my enjoyment of BFBC2 in April playing a few games.


Total spent this Month: $0.00
My Value Rating: n/a

I made no gaming purchases during April.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Duels of the Planeswalkers to release on PC via Steam June 15th

Just a quick note.  Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers appears to be hitting Steam on June 15th according to this tweet from Elaine Chase

It can be pre-ordered here.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

SOE + Star Wars + MMO = Star Wars in Free Realms?

After the NGE debacle, no one could have imagined that SOE would be allowed to create another Star Wars MMOG. We were wrong; we were very, very wrong. SOE has announced a new game, Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures, coming fall 2010.

However, SOE seems to have learned a lesson with the success of Free Realms: casual and micro-transaction supported games can work. Visit their website or watch the video below and it is immediately noticeable that the game is not aimed at the hardcore or even core MMO gamers.

It will be interesting to see how this is received and whether the MMO blog'o'sphere will start writing the obituary for SOE's core franchises like Everquest.

P.S. Unlike many others, I liked the Clone Wars animated movie.