(Note, game discussions start about halfway down.)
As an English teacher, I have to explain things like the parts of plot to my students during the course of a year. I’ve always had a hard time with some of the traditional definitions other teachers give younger students, like the climax being the “most exciting part of the story,” which often is a very personal preference, or the definition for resolution, which is often given as something like “where the action ends and the story comes to a satisfying conclusion,” but it doesn’t always, does it?
This is all to make the point that I like to define resolution as “the new normal,” which, as you’ve see, dear reader, is the title of my blog today. The reality of my new normal is that I’ve taken a job that’s a lot more work for a little less money. That’s not to say I’m unhappy with the choice; I do have a level of freedom in my classroom that I didn’t before, and, more importantly, this school SUPPOSEDLY holds kids to their expectations and won’t just socially pass them on forever. That, of course, is yet to be seen.
All this extra time at work means less time at home and, at my age, more general fatigue. I’ve spent a lot of my evenings just sitting and watching TV, an activity I wouldn’t have thought myself capable of doing for such long hours when my computer games were so nearby. This means less play time (often only on the weekends) and, as a result, much less interest in spending “free” time at my computer writing. You’ve all seen the consequences of that: 4 or 5 posts in the last 3 or so months.
This is not to complain, mind you. I made a choice to choose ethics over ease, which at least gives me the ability to look further down my nose at all those wall-street types. I jest, of course (maybe), but nonetheless, I’m more tired, less gamed, and thus less verbose as I’ve been since I moved out of NYC. This is not to complain, though, just to explain and, in the process, do a little venting.
I want to write; every time I see my blog in its passive, life-supported state, I feel pretty unhappy. This blog has been one of my proud accomplishments for the past several years. I intended to keep it going, but clearly the updates will be much less frequent until and unless things change again in my life.
I’ve been playing a lot of turn-based strategy recently, though not exclusively. I snatched up both Invisible, Inc. and Massive Chalice on sale a few weeks ago, and they’ve both been a ton of fun. While they’re both from the turn-based strategy genre, they’re extremely different games.
Invisible, Inc. is a stealth game, a game a bit like a Shadowrun mission, which starts with the destruction of your secret organization and employs the player to keep hope alive for three days of whirlwind missions. This mad grab for resources culminates in a final battle for survival. I don’t know what happens after – if anything – because I died during that final mission; I was disheartened and frustrated, until I realized that the game was designed for this, as several new agents, programs, and item unlocks were given to me for my next try.
The game play, nonetheless, is compelling; the use of stealth and slow, careful progress is counterbalanced by an “alarm” system that increases the difficulty of the map every five or so turns. This constant threat of greater difficulty puts you in the position to take risks that you might not otherwise take, creating an pervasive sense of threat on each board, which of course fits the atmosphere of “succeed or die” that’s presented by the story line well.
Before my next try, I jumped into Massive Chalice. The game itself is very tongue-in-cheek, the titular cup being just that, a Massive Chalice imbued with dual spiritual guides who often argue and comment about each other in humorous ways. The game has a unique art style, too. While Invisible, Inc. uses a cool, art-deco meets cyberpunk art style, Massive Chalice avoids trying to be too realistic while still preserving a cartoony familiarity; while it looks nothing like World of Warcraft, the stylistic concept feels the same.
The game play in Massive Chalice is a more straightforward fantasy combat system with c lasses with specific abilities and a party system where you can choose who you want to take with you. On top of that, though, is the kingdom-wide survival game, where you have to marry folks to breed heroes, fight off the invading enemy, and try to survive for 300 years. It’s an interesting dual-natured game in that way; you have to balance your improvement of your heroes with the fact that they age and die. You can’t just invest everything into one or two of them because it will all be for naught when they pass.
So both games strike a balance in their game play; one between speed and safety, and one between immediate investment and guaranteed loss. Both are excellent in their own way, and I suggest you give them a try!
Stubborn (and glad to be publishing)
No, not my blog. I did cap over 600 posts a few back. I’m notoriously bad at noticing these things, though, so I mostly just ignore them. No, the ten years noted above is for my marriage to my wonderful wife.
We took a “working” trip to New York to help my buddy with several legal and procedural things, but afterwards we went to Niagara Falls, a natural wonder that neither I nor my wife had seen before. We got a lot done in the first half and enjoyed the second half, but we were also both glad to be home.
I downloaded four tablet games to play while I was away and didn’t have other things to do (like when my wife was taking her turn driving or we were sitting while waiting on my buddy). I enjoyed all four of them and figured I’d mention them here today with a brief description of each.
The game I played the least of the three was You Must Build a Boat!, a sequel to 10,000,000. I bought it immediately upon its discovery simply because I enjoyed the first game so much. It’s a similar premise, really, with the only real changes I’ve found so far being that the stages are different and there’s some new “rooms” to unlock. Nonetheless, it was enjoyable, but its familiarity lost out to the “newness” of the other three games.
Monument Valley was the second “least played” game, but with an asterisk; I enjoyed the game so much I finished it, but it was short. Monument Valley is a puzzle game based on perception and misperception; you play as a girl lost in a world of impossible monuments, forced to solve each so you can return some semblance of spatial sense to the place. It tells a simple but powerful story and has a unique art style. My only complaint is about its brevity, but really, it’s a completely solid game; I just wanted more.
The other two games pretty much tied for “amount played.” The first is Sorcery! 2, a role-playing game based on a series of choose-your-own-adventure books. I never read/played the books, but I did read/play the “Lone Wolf” series, which functioned similarly. Instead of just the twisting narrative, you play an actual character with items, spells, and other resources which can simplify or complicate certain encounters. What I enjoyed the most from the story, though, was the twist that I didn’t know was coming. I had come to believe that the game was meant to be played over and over so that one could experience the various options and choices, but – minor spoiler here – that turned out to be incorrect. Upon “completing” the game, I learned what the game was actually about. I didn’t see that coming, so it left me feeling excited to continue.
The final game that occupied my attention, I’m somewhat embarrassed to say, was a digital collectible game called Quiz RPG. I chose it so that my wife and I could play a game together that used both our strong suits – trivia – and also had a sense of progression attached. It’s a free to play game with all that entails, but it was interesting and enjoyable, essentially being a combination of Monster Hunter, Jeopardy, and Pokemon. Some aspects of the game are still totally opaque to me either from lack of tutorials or experience on my part, but I dove in and enjoyed answering trivia questions about a variety of topics.
So those are four games that I kept myself occupied when I wasn’t helping my buddy or having a blast with my wife. I hope you enjoy them, too!
So the other day my world came to a crashing end. Well, by “my world” I mean my Ark character’s world, and by “a crashing end” I mean the server admin stopped hosting the server. This cataclysm wouldn’t necessarily be a problem except that to transfer characters from one server to another, one must first “upload” them from an in-game console (a literal place in game, not the dev console), which of course would be impossible if one could not log onto the server.
I’m not exactly sure what went wrong with this gentleman, a private server host who’d been kind enough to run a PvE server for the rest of us, but he decided he’d had quite enough and shut the server down with no warning whatsoever. This led to a tirade of angry adolescent bargaining, if one can classify swearing and threatening someone to be “bargaining.” This is an actual response to the message that the server was shut down (warning – salty language ahead):
WOW, so you’re seriously not going to let us upload our characters and dinos. and you shut it down with no proper warning to us. That’s really fucked up. You are a really fucked nup person. Not only that your brain doesn’t understand conversation correctly from past experiences. People use to joke with “DIAF”but I truly hope you do DIAF. I hope you get in a car accident as that is a likely thing to happen to anyone. Don;t let me find out where you live as you live like 40 minutes from me, cause I would literally come to your place and WHIP YOUR ASS. You can take that as a threat and promise you bitch ass mother fucker.
So, when I finally got in touch with the gentleman who ran the server, I didn’t have much hope that he’d be interested in helping, thanks to the thankless non-appreciation of his former servermates. However, upon speaking with him, he was pleasant and helpful, informing me that characters were actually saved locally and did not need to be “uploaded” like everyone thought.
What a relief! But there was one small problem; the server admin was wrong. After literally hours searching for another server that would even allow character downloads (I guess due to rampant alpha cheating many server admins are wary of boosted toons), I finally found one that would accept downloads, was stable, and was PvE. They kindly informed me, though, that characters are not saved server side.
The fellow who was so pleasant before stopped taking my “calls.” The irate teenagers on the server forums ripped further into him, making the situation worse and worse. It became perfectly clear that I wasn’t going to get my character back. The end of the world had come.
My buddy didn’t really want to start over, but when a former player on the now-dead server offered to start up a server and do a short boost period over the weekend with a huge xp, taming, and gathering boost, my buddy agreed. Our plan is to “catch up” during the boost period (which is now essentially over), then transfer to another server, likely the one I found that was willing to take downloaded characters and was very stable.
We’ll see how it goes.
Stubborn (risen from the dead)
Imagine coming home and finding your house broken into. The violation of a living space not only leaves one deprived of possessions but a feeling of safety and comfort as well. My car was broken into in NYC once (to be fair, my wife accidentally left it unlocked after she retrieved something from it but nevertheless it was still burgled), and it left me worried and uncomfortable for a few days – and that was just my car!
Don’t worry, reader; my house wasn’t actually burgled, (and to be perfectly honest, I know I shouldn’t be making light of such a serious violation in relation to a video game occurrence), but my home in Ark was.
It appears if you’re offline for more than four days, people can destroy your structures, even on a PVE server. My wife, buddy, and I have been busy (he just started dialysis, too, which leaves him feeling a bit wiped out), so we didn’t log on for five days. When we did, we found all of our stuff gone.
I give the robbers some credit; they didn’t tear the entire place down to the ground. They could have, but they made a precision entry and exit, taking only our goods and leaving everything else relatively unmolested (though my wife’s character was dead upon log-in; I wonder if they dragged her body to somewhere unsafe simply because she plays a lady toon). Still, all of our hard-earned ore, metal weapons and tools, and armor were gone.
Ah well. We learned a valuable lesson about PVE demolish rules with a relatively small cost, and we met another player who we hung out with for a session while we were working to recover from the loss, so it’s not all bad. Nonetheless, it was an unexpected violation on a PVE server that rang our bell a bit.
In other news, I finished episode 2 of Life is Strange. I enjoyed it, but not as much as the first. The first’s novelty and prophecy is going to be hard to beat, and the somewhat lack of danger (except due to foolish antics) left the second feeling a bit like Back to the Future 2, an episode that exists to bridge two other episodes. I look forward to playing Episode 3 soon.
My buddy and I “finished” Grim Dawn. The game itself is still be developed, but we completed all of the current content. Well, all but one quest (which likely continues into a longer quest chain). One of the “mechanics” of the game is a deadly poison that’s on the ground which quickly and exponentially saps your health. That’s well and fun to play with in a non-hardcore setting where if you fail it’s not a huge deal, but in a hardcore game, if you can’t plainly see where the next “safe zone” is, then you’re really taking a huge gamble running down a long lane of the stuff.
And that’s what the quest asks to do. As much as I enjoyed Grim Dawn, I absolutely hate this mechanic. I did run down a lane of this toxic garbage early on and very nearly died. Now that we’re at the current “end game,” losing a hardcore character would be a real loss of investment, and this quest asks the player to go on an act of faith that maybe the lane of poisonous death can be survived. No thanks, and if that means not seeing all the content, so be it. But frankly, I consider that a critically stupid design decision.
So that’s what I’ve been playing recently! Hope you’re having a fun summer, reader!
Stubborn (and refusing to risk life and limb on a stupid, unavoidable death mechanic)
P.S. Even though I’m usually a cheapskate, I’m going to buy myself one Triple-A summer game, and I’m looking for your input: Pillars of Eternity, Dragon Age: Inquisition, or Witcher 3? Or something else? Why?
Leave your comments below, and thanks!
I’ve been doing this and that for the past few weeks. Since school officially ended, I’ve had a lot more free time. Of course, in that free time, I’ve gone hiking (I know, right? My calves want to punch me in the face), had a few meetings at my new school, spent some time with my father on father’s day, and, of course, played games.
I’ve got a few in rotation right now, and, for the first time in months, WoW’s among them. Of course, the patch helped, and to be frank, I already see that waning a bit, but I have to say I really enjoyed getting back into my Wednesday “fun” runs. This past Wednesday, of course, we went into the new raid. I was completely unprepared, and on top of that, I ended up dpsing instead of healing, but it was still a lot of fun.
Since the balance dps rotation is heavily reliant on knowing which phase of the damn moon you’re in or something, I hadn’t played in months, and a lot of my addons weren’t updated (not through my inattention, mind you, but simply not been reprogrammed), my dps on Wednesday consisted mostly of mashing random buttons and hoping that I was in the proper eclipse. I’m sure most of the time I wasn’t. Ah well. The raid itself was a lot of fun, even if I wasn’t really contributing. Some of the bosses were steamroller easy, even with hangers-on like me, but others, like the corrupted arrokoa boss with the ball tossing, were a lot of fun. I think the overall size of the place is a bit big, but at the same time, I really liked both Kara and ICC, and they were both really big, too, so who knows; maybe I feel this way simply because it’s new.
I’m also playing a lot of Tales of Maj’Eyal, more colloquially known as ToME, which is an old-school style RPG with a ton of character and customization options. Even though it’s frustratingly roguelike, I have been enjoying it a lot; already having played about 20 hours of it since the Steam Sale that brought it to my attention. The nice thing about the roguelike aspect is that each playthrough of any decent length unlocks new character options including, races, sub-races, and classes. so you can literally play a new class every time (to a point, I’m sure, but so far it’s been true for me).
I’m also playing ARK, the dinosaur game, with my buddy and my wife. There was a recent reset that destroyed all of our progress which upset a lot of people, but I didn’t mind too much. I had made some choices I ended up not liking so much, and of course we weren’t that far, so I didn’t mind. Now, though, it’ll suck, mostly because we found a bugged Triceratops that couldn’t get at us and my buddy, my wife, and I – the Mazel Toughs, per my buddy’s suggestion – tamed it and named it Tevye, from Fiddler on the Roof. It would be a real loss to lose him.
Well, lose him again. Truth be told, I can sometimes be forgetful and reckless, and when I saw a level 3 triceratops just brimming with hide and meat, I told my much-higher level Tevye to attack it. I forgot that other nearby trikes would add to the fight, and I didn’t notice the MUCH higher-level momma trike off to the side. RIP Tevye I. Then of course I found another stuck trike, so now we have Tevye II. So it goes.
Regardless, we tamed two trikes, got a stone house built and a pen for the trikes, and are slowly learning about composting and agriculture. It’s been a lot of fun so far, but like most sandbox games, I suspect that once you’ve “Solved” the dangers, there’s not so much to do. We’re nowhere near there, mind you, but we will be eventually. So it’s been fun so far.
Stubborn (and breaking)
First off, here’s the final response from the Riot Custserv in my “I agree” trials. Seems about as fair and balanced as I could hope, really. This custserv person was calm and polite the entire way through, so I really I can’t have any animosity towards the process. It’s the system that’s messed up.
Hello again Cripplemronion,
While I am pleased that you so readily took my house quote to heart I must clarify that regardless of my thoughts on the matter we simply do not have the tools to remove that prompt. I have read through many a players dissertation on their feeling towards this prompt, and the major point they made is reflected in your own response here, in that it’s language is too harsh and/or accusatory. To this I would agree, but at the same must reiterate that these situations must be addressed strictly as they do cause a very negative experience for the player base overall. On the other hand I often deal with players wanting more from the LeaverBuster system until there are no more leavers altogether. There is just no simple way to address everyone perfectly.
I have thought on your example and to it I personally would not drop to the level of those other players. Regardless if they were not following Summoner’s Code my course would remain clear. As for muting them; though it can be tricky initially I have seen plenty of players of all skill levels rarely use chat or use it minimally and still manage to be quite successful. Only by subjecting to those players by allowing their negative action to influence your own course do you empower them.
Please let me know if you have any further questions,
Player Behavior and Game Support
“Standing defiant in the face of adversity must be tempered with reasoned judgement”
TL;DR: Shut up and stop whining, player.
Ah well, I didn’t really expect anything else.
On other fronts, I finally convinced my wife to try a “first person” game. She doesn’t like guns (neither do I, really, but I still play FPS games) and has refused to even try any FPS games for years and years. She’s also not a huge fan of zombies, so that double eliminates a lot of the genre.
She seemed mildly interested in 7 Days to Die, though. Since we were only using bows for the most part, she didn’t have as much of a problem with the “gun” angle, and she liked the “crafting” element of the game, but of course the zombies did nothing for her.
Enter Ark, the dino-themed survival game that was recently released. She was actually willing to play it, so we scooped it up and have been giving it a go. I’m pretty happy overall with it; it’s in very early release (probably the earliest release I’ve started playing), so it’s got a few issues with it, but I’m enjoying the general experience. For one, I get to play with my wife and my buddy, somewhat of a rarity these days, and two, it’s a beautiful and exciting game over all.
I’ll give you a more thorough run down on it another time, once I’ve logged more than a few hours, but so far I can say it’s basically 7 Days to Die with better graphics and a Jurassic Park theme. If that sounds good to you, let me know, and if you want to join the tribe of Mazel Tuffs (my Jewish buddy picked the “gang” name), let me know.
Stubborn (and on summer!)
I really should be in bed, but it’s the last school night, and I just can’t help staying up a little late.
Thought it’s been nearly two weeks, I finally heard back from a custserv rep from Riot who was actually addressing my leaving issue. You may recall that after leaving a game, I was required to type in “I agree” in a box stating that i would not leave further matches. While it’s completely unreasonable to care so much about such an unimportant topic… well, really, I don’t. I’m enjoying Heroes of the Storm well enough; it’s not got the depth I’m used to – and it is real added depth, though I’ve read reviewers who’ve argued it’s not – but I enjoy it well enough.
Anyway, I won’t commit many more posts to this, if any (maybe one more), as I suspect the Riot team’s going to get tired of dealing with me, but I figured I’d let you know how it’s been playing out.
Sorry it took a while to get back to you.
After reading through your ticket I’m afraid there has been some confusion; let’s see what I can clear up for you.
Firstly I can verify that you were AFK in one game recently that did prompt this warning to occur. It is also true that I cannot remove this lock, I’ve even had to agree with it after the power in my area went out.
As you state, if you are going to continue leaving games in negative situations that I cannot condone that you agree to that prompt, and that it would bring this situation between us to a standstill. I say this because by queuing up for a game you are agreeing to follow the Summoner’s Code and play out each game to the best of your ability regardless of the situation. If you cannot bring yourself to do that then this game may not be for you.
Please let me know if you have any further questions,
Player Behavior and Game Support
“Standing defiant in the face of adversity must be tempered with reasoned judgement” (emphasis mine)
Well, that’s a fair enough response, but the rep’s quote got me thinking, so I responded as follows.
I certainly understand your stance from both a professional and personal view; leaving a game can negatively affect players who weren’t guilty of the harassment.
Your personal quote, though, speaks of reasoned judgment, and I wonder whether or not it’s reasonable to expect players like me, who refuse to deal with multiple negative players on their team, to honor a code that a majority of my other teammates are not honoring. It seems to me that reason would dictate that if a majority of other players in the match (2 of the other 3, since I’d be playing with my wife as well) were already breaking the summoner’s code by being jerks, that removing myself from the situation would be completely reasonable. Muting one person is bad enough, as it not only potentially affects gameplay but also is the equivalent of sticking one’s head in the sand, but muting two seems very dangerous simply from a gameplay standpoint; not knowing what 2/3rds of the rest of the team is doing – lacking that communication – seems suicidal in a game so heavily team based.
In fact, it seems that blindly following rules whether or not they make sense in a particular situation is the opposite of reasoned judgment; it’s mindless obedience, which I can understand a desire for from your players but don’t really think you expect from such a huge and diverse player base. If I had just done what I’m sure everyone else does and typed “I agree,” even when we both know I didn’t, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation. I have no real faith that Riot truly believes that everyone who types that they agree to not leave matches will not do so; in fact, I suspect, and I think you’re well aware, that it’s simply a documentation tool so you can later go after habitual deserters with their own words. I understand.
I have no defense for my actions other than reasoned judgment. I would prefer to be honest with you about what to expect when I face a wave of negativity from multiple teammates. I don’t think forcing people to type in statements that any of them who intentionally left – not due to an electrical outage – don’t really mean is the right response, for while it does provide you with a paper trail later, it only drives a wedge into the player/custserv relationship that already suffers from a credibility gap that goes along with such a statement.
In fact, I wonder what you would reasonably suggest one do in a situation such as that. If I simply ignore it, it empowers the harasser to continue to do so; their behavior is for the audience of the rest of the team, not just to upset other people. If I mute them, then I put my team at a strategic disadvantage that the harasser doesn’t really care about; if they truly cared about winning, then they wouldn’t be attacking their teammates in a harassing fashion. Both of these benefit the jerk and disempower the victim either through having to tolerate being verbally attacked or through having a communications disadvantage. Neither of these is acceptable, so what do you suggest to solve the problem?
If you truly cannot lift it, then so be it. I’m sorry to leave the game, as I’m sure my wife will be. Perhaps sometime in the future when a new customer behavior initiative is tried out and this one may be retired, you can let us know and we can return, but I can’t help feeling that you’re driving away honest and thoughtful players while empowering the jerks that caused them to leave the match in the first place. That’s the environment this initiative is creating, even if it’s only a few players and a little bit at a time.
I hope to hear back from you or others on your team on these troubling topics.
I feel pretty good about this response. Of course, it mostly refers to a somewhat arbitrary message the rep happened to have in their signature, but he or she opened that door by having it there. I’m curious to see how they respond.
On other notes, I’ve been playing Heroes of the Storm. I saved up 10k gold and bought Nova first thing, mostly because I like sniper-like classes and she had a big sniper rifle. I think I made a pretty good decision, as I’m raking in the kills – bot kills, yes, but that’s all my wife wants to play. Who am I to argue?
I’ve also continued playing Grim Dawn, a Diablo-style ARPG. It’s pretty solid, but my buddy and I both had a mid-game hardcore death due to hubris – the greatest killer of heroes. Don’t be in areas 10 levels higher than you are, no matter how easy the areas 9 levels higher than you seem to be. My buddy died first, as he always does in hardcore modes, but after a poutfest on his part we dusted ourselves off and jumped back in.
I’m moving through Valkyria Chronicles, which I’m really enjoying; each combat mission comes with a rating, though, and I’m obsessing over my poor scores. It seems to me that if I finish a mission with no deaths no matter how many turns it takes I shouldn’t be given a D – a “below average” rating. ZERO DEATHS! FULL SUCCESS! How can that be below average?
At any rate, that’s where I am. Tomorrow’s the last day of this terrible school year! More on that another time.
Stubborn (a teacher, not a babysitter)