Saturday, 14 February 2015

Peter Molyneux and the Godus Mistakes

The name Peter Molyneux for as long as I can remember has been synonymous with both broken promises and unrealistic goals, at least in the gaming world. When I was reading gaming magazines in the early 2000s, Molyneux was busy hyping up Fable as the next big thing in gaming. With promised features like "knocking an acorn off a tree that later grows into another tree" that never made it into Fable, his operating procedure has always seemed to be promise big, and apologise when you can't deliver.

But this time, Peter's promises appear to have bitten him back, hard. On Wednesday, Eurogamer released an article titled "The God who Peter Molyneux Forgot". In the article was an in depth interview with Bryan Henderson, the young man who won the Curiosity Cube competition that Molyneux's company 22Cans had set up. The prize for the competition? For six months, Bryan was to be the "God of Gods" in the latest game by Molyneux, Godus. Part of this position entitled Bryan to 1% of all the revenue that Godus made during his "reign". Cool right? Unfortunately for Bryan, he still hasn't received a cent, and has no idea when his reign will start. And no one seems to be able to tell him when it will.

There's a lot to this story, but I think it's important to mention a few things about 22Cans, and some of the things Molyneux had already said that didn't end up happening. To begin, back in 2012, Molyneux made a statement that "22Cans is only going to make one game", referring to Godus. Predictably however, in December last year, Molyneux announced another game, called The Trail. 

Along with that, Molyneux and the Godus team put out the following community update video. It's a little long, but I'd recommend taking the time to watch it.

What speaks volumes to me is not Peter's longwinded and almost dismissive replies, but the unspoken attitude of Konrad Naszynski. A number of times it seems like he has had enough of Peter and his promises. Konrad openly says that the game is not in a position he wants it to be in, and at a couple of points seems to want to contradict what Peter is saying. In fact, Konrad had made a forum post that said he didn't think they would be able to meet some of the Kickstarter goals. Molyneux it seems, isn't ready to say that Godus hasn't met its goals.

The final aspect of this story involves a couple of interviews that Molyneux gave. The first was an extremely hard hitting interview by John Walker for Rock Paper Shotgun. With an opening question of "do you think you're a pathological liar?", it becomes instantly clear that John isn't going to pull any punches on Peter. While some have criticized Walker for his hard ball questions and direct style, I actually appreciate it. It almost forced Molyneux to listen and answer some questions he previously dodged. Finally, Molyneux gave an interview to the Guardian, one he says will be his final interview, despite also having given the same impression to John Walker the previous day, something the author comments on as being "another trail of broken assurances". 

I find it interesting that Molyneux reminds me so much of CCP in the past, before they stopped trying to over promise. Unlike Molyneux, CCP learnt that by promising too much, you only invite disappointment when you inevitably fail to deliver. Maybe Molyneux will actually stop talking. Or maybe he'll stick to his previous form and say it, then get excited about his next big project and start talking again.

Actually that link to the 2004 post by Peter on the Lionhead studios forums sheds some light onto why he gets into so much trouble. He says: 
If I have mentioned any feature in the past which, for whatever reason, didn't make it as I described into Fable, I apologise. Every feature I have ever talked about WAS in development, but not all made it. Often the reason is that the feature did not make sense. For example, three years ago I talked about trees growing as time past. The team did code this but it took so much processor time (15%) that the feature was not worth leaving in. That 15 % was much better spent on effects and combat. So nothing I said was groundless hype, but people expecting specific features which couldn't be included were of course disappointed. If that's you, I apologise. All I can say is that Fable is the best game we could possibly make, and that people really seem to love it.
Everything I've ever seen of Peter Molyneux makes him seem like the ideas guy that everyone who can write code knows. The guy who comes up to you and pitches his amazing, and completely unfeasible, idea that he wants you to build, and that he'll split the profits with you when you do. On top of that, he then gets surprised when you tell him that what he wants is not possible. But then again, he also says he won't talk about games too early again in the same post. It took 10 years, but here is again making the same mistake.

And yet I still can't shake the feeling that Peter isn't going to learn from this. I don't think he deliberately makes these promises that they can't achieve. What I do think is that he has a vision of what his game should be, but fails to check that what he wants is actually possible at any given time. But when he says thinks like "I'm not going to talk about my games to early", I cannot believe him. He'll get excited again about some idea he has and start making outrageous promises about features that simply can't exist. Peter, I think, is forever doomed to be the "in hindsight" guy. He'll always see how silly some of his promises were in hindsight, but never learn from them.

The one I truly feel for in all of this is Bryan. What should have actually been "life changing" is now just something in the past, and something he doesn't remember. "The fact I've won this and I'm going to be the 'God of Gods' and be in this game, it never enters my mind at all," he says in the Eurogamer article, "I've forgotten all about it, I don't think about it ever." Hopefully all the exposure from this actually does speed the process along for Bryan. I got the impression he is a nice guy who was unfortunate enough to win something promised by the guy who has broken more promises than anyone else in gaming. Perhaps one day Godus will be finished, and Bryan will finally claim his reward and become the God of Gods.

As always,


Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Elite Dangerous: 3 Weeks In

Space. It's been a staple setting of my gaming hobby. Eve Online, Freespace 1 and 2, the X series, all the Star Wars games, and even to a lesser extent Starcraft all rely on the space setting of their games. But, beside the X series, the space simulation genre hasn't really seen anything new for nearly ten years. However, that's all changing. Late 2012 and early 2013 saw two major Kickstarters (and one small but extremely relevant one) for space sim games: Star Citizen and Elite Dangerous.

Elite was released on Dec 16 2014, and has enjoyed a lot of good publicity from both traditional games media and players themselves. As I said in my 2014 wrap up, I've been playing a lot of Elite since it was released. I also mentioned that I had some issues with the title and wanted to expand on why. To start, I want to make it very clear that my initial impression of Elite is a good one.

The area Elite Dangerous completely knocks out of the park is immersion. From having to manually dock and undock your ship, to the menus in your ship being holographic displays that your character actually looks at, everything in Elite sucks you into the universe, making you feel like you are really there. All of the ships I've flown so far have been extremely responsive, and feel like you imagine they would. A small, nimble ship can dart around quickly, stop on a dime and get to full speed quickly, whereas a freighter takes a little bit more time to stop and accelerate with all of that mass behind it.

Flying in Elite also has a great level of complexity to it. Your ship is able to enable "flight assist", which makes your ship fly more like an aircraft, with the onboard computer firing thrusters to arrest any momentum you might have in zero gravity. When you toggle flight assist off, your ship is able to perform the classic space fighting maneuvers such as spinning your ship backwards to fire at a target chasing you. This all leads to a simple to learn, hard to master flight model that I really enjoy. Where my first couple of dogfights I couldn't even track the target, now by alternating between flight assist on and off and using the vertical and horizontal thrusters on my ship, I can generally fight even targets bigger than me. Getting around is fun too. Your ship is equipped with a Frame Shift Drive that allows for either a warp like "supercruise" that enables you to travel across systems in minutes rather than hours or days, or a hyperspace jump to another system within your ships range.

Graphically, ED is extremely pretty and seems fairly well optimized. As I've mentioned before, my graphics card is 4 years old now (GTX570), but Elite immediately ran at 60 fps locked in a borderless window on almost max settings. I have had some frame drops in stations, however some mild tweaking to the settings has got me right back up to 60 with little hassle. While the ships aren't at Star Citizen levels of graphical fidelity, they are still extremely good looking and well animated. Opening cargo scoops, turning on lights, closing heat vents and lowering landing gear all change how your ship visually looks to other players.

So there's a lot Elite Dangerous has going for it right now, but... there's also a lot of problems too. The biggest and most glaring is the progression in the game. Currently there are fifteen ships in Elite, with 6 listed as multi-purpose, 4 freighters, 2 dedicated combat ships, 2 exploration ships and a passenger ship. In fact, here's a list of the ships (click to enlarge):
Table from
Looking at that list, you can see the first six ships are all fairly close in cost (the Sidewinder you get for free). Once you are in a Cobra however, to jump to the next non freighter ship, the Asp, you need 6.6 million credits. Considering the Cobra only costs 379,000 credits, it's a fairly sizable jump. The same can be said for the jump from the Asp to the Imperial Clipper at 22.3 million (the Clipper also requires good reputation with the Empire, adding even more time).

None of this would be a major issue if making money was balanced. Unfortunately, Frontier seems to have opted for the "grind for ages" route of making money. Bounty hunting gives you laughable amounts of cash for the time investment, not to mention the risks taken. Exploration, flying to uncharted systems and scanning the orbital bodies there, takes a very long time and pays even less than bounty hunting for the time investment. They've also managed to make a mining system worse than Eve's, with the mining lasers chipping off little chunks of ore that you then have to scoop out of space like an infuriating game of space 52 pickup.

That leaves trading. By far the best way to make money in the game in terms of both credits per hour and risk, trading is exactly what you think: you buy commodities in one station, and sell them for more at another station. Frontier also introduced rare commodities, items that are only available at one station in the game and sell for more the further away you get from that station. Each station has a limit on how many rares you can get at any time, so depending on how large a cargo hold you have fitted to your ship, you might have to fly to a number of stations to fill up on them. Doing this, I can spend roughly an hour collecting rares in my cargo hold and then flying the required distance away to sell them for a profit of around 1.5 million an hour. Not bad considering.

But even trading has issues. Despite being 1000 years into the future, we apparently lost the internet, so where I would expect to be able to check prices of commodities in other stations, you can't, even within the same star system. This means you have two options. Either, break your immersion and use an outside tool to check prices or fly around star system checking prices and writing them down. I understand the need to not make it too easy to churn a large profit, but even allowing you to check prices within the same system would be a major improvement.

I'm one of the lucky ones. I actually quite enjoy the trading gameplay especially for rares. But, for what I assume is the vast majority of players, trading is dull. You wait around in stations, fly between suns, wait around in some more stations, then fly 150 light years away to repeat it all again. You can get interdicted by pirates while flying in supercruise, but the evasion mechanic to get away is laughably easy, and if you do get pulled out, it's usually pretty easy to evade the pirate until you can jump to supercruise again.

Frontier haven't really talked about how they feel progression should work. In fact, Frontier don't really talk about any design choices beyond a broad scope of, "we want the game to be..." and then they insert some grand scheme. It reminds me a lot of CCP when I first started playing Eve. They hold their cards very close to their chest, rather than providing the playerbase with ideas to give feedback on, and then are surprised when people point out obvious things that players are going to do. Even when they make changes that can affect a certain play style, they go into no detail, leaving players guessing what the exact change was.

Despite all this, Elite right now is still a very good game. It's not a truly great game yet, but it definitely has the potential to be one. You see, as much as I hate saying it, Elite right now is just a framework for things to come. There are many features they are still working on, such as planetary landing, walking in stations, multiplayer crews in single ships, passengers who give you missions as you carry them around and of course additional ships. The point at which my buddy and I can fly together in a ship will be the point Elite becomes truly great for me.

It's my opinion that if you are looking for something feature complete and ready to play, Elite is not going to be the game for you right now. As they add more and more to the game, it might eventually become the game you are looking for though, so keep your eye on news and updates about it. However the core of Elite Dangerous is brilliant, and simply needs more work to be really amazing. If you don't mind not progressing very quickly, or don't care about changing ships often, then Elite is well worth the buy. The immersion alone has been enough to keep me playing, and I really enjoy the bounty hunter gameplay despite the lack of real reward for it.

As always,


Tuesday, 30 December 2014

2014 Wrap Up

Wow this year has gone really fast. I know we say that nearly every year, but for me 2014 just flew by. It was mostly a good year for gaming too. From ones that snuck up on me like Shadow of Mordor to ones I had been looking forward to for ages like Super Smash Bros 4, this year has seen some really good games.

It's also seen some pretty bad ones, and a lot of them from Ubisoft. I've gotta say, Ubisoft has definitely gone from being one of my favorite publishers to being one of my least favorite over the course of 12 months. Their attitude toward gamers, especially PC gamers, has been pretty offensive. The biggest thing for me this year was the state they chose to release Assassin's Creed Unity in. Even on the consoles it was buggy, poorly optimized and the crowds dropped framerates down to near unplayable levels. I'm a massive fan of the Assassin's Creed games, having played them since the very first one, and to see that series turned into a terrible yearly release by Ubisoft has been hard to enjoy.

Watch_Dogs was another game that really drove home how bad Ubisofts PC ports were becoming. While it's only speculation and will never be proven that Ubisoft deliberately downgraded the graphics for the PC release of Watch_Dogs, there is a lot of evidence to suggest they did. All of the graphical effects from the 2012 E3 demo were there in the games files, and it took some simple tweaks from modder TheWorse to re-enable them. To make matters worse (see what I did there), the mod actually fixed some issues that people had with the game, making it playable for many who previously couldn't. Crazy stuff.

Another crazy trend this year has been indie game developers not handing negative criticism of their games. From TotalBiscuit's Guise of the Wolf videos being copyright claimed by developer FunCreators, Jim Stirling's Slaughtering Grounds video gaining a hilarious response video from the devs, all the way to the guys who made Air Control blaming people's computers for the buggy crap they called a game. This year has been a mixture of hilarious, poorly written responses to criticism, to the angry, juvenile reactions that have done nothing but kill any sales they might have had. The message is clear: Indie devs, don't do your own PR, especially if you can't handle negative criticism.

But it's not all been bad, as I mentioned at the outset. Some developers have completely turned around. CCP has gained my time again with their new development model. Going from a six month development cycle to a six week one has meant that Eve gets new content, content updates, tweaks, and bug fixes regularly. That change has pulled me back into Eve. Adding to that, the removal of the 24 skill queue limit, the clone costs and skill point loss on death, and the awoxing changes have all added up to getting me back into the game in a big way.

In my top ten list, I had Shadow of Mordor as my favorite game this year. I absolutely love SoM. As a fanboy of the Tolkien lore (I read the Hobbit when I was eleven years old, followed quickly by the LotR trilogy), Shadow of Mordor played right into that side of me. But beyond the lore, SoM was a great game, and even better, a great PC game. The PC port was rock solid, had robust options for tweaking it to your liking, and was amazingly optimized. I don't actively search for upcoming games anymore, so it's release was a surprise to me, but damn if I'm not happy I bought it.

Of course, as a fan of space games, Elite: Dangerous has been eating up a lot of my time lately. I have some issues with the current progression, economy and reactionary development that Frontier has made, but the base game is really solid. The flight feels great, and it's amazing just how immersive they have managed to make the title. Unfortunately, like Eve, unless you are good at making your own goals and working toward them, Elite doesn't offer much. There are missions, but they don't have any real story to them or reason to do them beyond getting money. Down the track Frontier is planning on adding a walking in stations and landing on planets component, and I can see this opening a lot more opportunities for rewarding gameplay. I'll be writing more about Elite as I find things to write about.

Limit Theory screenshot from May 2013. Subject to change.

Another space game I've been keeping my eye on is Limit Theory. I only found out about LT six months ago, and have been keeping an eye on the procedural wonder that developer Josh Parnell has been working on. Despite my "don't get hyped" mentality that I've been cultivating over the last 12 months, I'm hyped for this. Josh's development updates show real gameplay, real improvements in each one, and he's extremely open when it comes to any bug fixes he needs to make. I'll be getting LT as soon as it's released, and I'm sure I'll be spending a lot of time with it.

Seriously, go read Extralife. Scott is pretty funny.
2014 was also the year I realised exactly why I prefer Eve over WoW. I really did enjoy my time playing WoW as a holiday from Eve. As a themepark style MMO, the content that is provided for you in WoW is brilliant. Unfortunately, to keep up in that game requires a time commitment I just don't have. As I get older, I've started to enjoy games I can just drop in and out of without needing to spend a lot of time grinding to progress. Eve, while considered by many to be grindy, suits me far better in this regard. I can leave skills training while I'm not playing, and my exploration gameplay keeps me in the black with isk easily. WoW's get rep, do dailies, check auction house, run dungeons, run raids gameplay eats so much time that it no longer feels fun after a while. The lore is the best part of that game for me, and I don't need to be playing to learn it.

That's just a snippet of my 2014. As far as the blog goes, I see numbers of around 25 unique views per week. How many of those are actual people is hard to know, but I like to imagine there are a few of you who enjoy my ramblings on gaming. I'll be continuing to write in 2015, and I hope you'll always continue to read. As always though, have a great new year, and...


Sunday, 14 December 2014

My Top Ten Games in 2014: The Bad

Man this list was hard. Trying to find ten games that were awful this year was tou... Oh wait, no it wasn't. It was easy as anything. Let's begin.

The Bad

No 10: Thief

This kinda sucks, because I actually really liked Thief. But it shouldn't have been a Thief game. If you took the game, called it Burglar or something, it would have been a great game. As a Thief game however, it fell down. Shame, because I love the franchise.

No 9: Guise of the Wolf

A bad game, with hilarious developers who thought it would be a good idea to attack TotalBiscuit when he panned the game in two separate videos. The only reason that it's not higher is that no one played it after the TB saga. The game itself is terrible, with glitches all over the place and some of the worst voice acting of all time. Helps to have a map.

No 8: Farcry 4

This isn't higher on the list because game isn't terrible, just horribly optimized. The PC release had this strange stuttering when driving at high speeds, and it drops to 30fps during in game cut scenes (not pre-rendered ones). The game itself is basically more of Farcry 3, and I loved that game. I hope they iron out the bugs in this one, because I really do want to enjoy this game.

No 7: Assassin's Creed: Unity

Another Ubisoft game. For some reason, Ubisoft is desperately trying to destroy any reputation they have with PC gamers. Assassin's Creed Unity works hard to destroy any reputation they have with everyone. Frame drops on all platforms, bugs and glitches all through the PC version and then in game micro transactions for breathing. I'd be avoiding this one for as long as possible.

No 6: Super Smash Bros 4 (3DS)

"But... you put Super Smash Bros 4 at second in your list of good games this year." You're right. I did. For the Wii U. The 3DS version takes the game, puts it on a tiny screen, forces you to use the terrible controls on the 3DS and removes the party play fun. Not only that, but the 3DS version is the reason characters like Zelda and Shiek lost their transformations. Grrr.

No 5: Wildstar

Wildstar had so much potential. An interesting combat style with all the indicators on the ground and twitch based combat. A cool cartoony sci-fi setting. Sentient robots with spiky hair. But the developers insistence on focusing on the "hardcore" MMO player essentially killed the game before it got off the ground. It launched with massive numbers, and people stopped talking about it within a month.

No 4: The Elder Scrolls Online

Unlike Wildstar, the Elder Scrolls was flawed from day one. Whenever the topic of the Elder Scrolls came up among gamers, nearly everyone always said, "How cool would it be to have multiplayer in them?" Unfortunately, Zenimax thought that meant they wanted an MMO, rather than just a co-op mode for Skyrim. I tried to like it, I really did. But they stripped everything I enjoyed about an Elder Scrolls game, took a dump on the existing lore, and then made a terrible MMO out of it. Sigh.

No 3: Planetary Annihilation

While I actually want to enjoy Planetary Annihilation, I hate it right now. It has both performance issues and balance issues. If you play in a full system, starting on different worlds, the game essentially becomes a race to see who can make a superweapon first, and the person who gets there wins. If you start on the same planet, the first person to sacrifice troops for tech will get steamrolled by the other player. I hope they can fix some of those balance issues, because I really want to like it.

No 2: The Sims 4

What the Sims 4 added to the Sims formula was fun and made a lot of sense. However, it took a lot away too. I understand the removal of the open towns, but it makes the game feel smaller, more like a collection of single spaces rather than a living, breathing town. Things that had become standard in The Sims 3 were removed, presumably to be brought back in later expansions or DLC. It really does reinforce the whole "The Sims isn't good until the next one comes out" stereotype.

No 1: Watchdogs

Watchdogs is a lesson. The lesson is this: Don't get hyped about video games. The hype was very real for Watchdogs, with people saying it was going to "revolutionize gaming" before it was ever released. What we got was far from revolutionary. What we actually got was just another open world third person shooter with a bland main character and a graphics downgrade.

The game also had some pretty big issues on PC. Like Farcry 4, when driving around the game will stutter, basically skipping a couple of frames as it loads in the textures for a new area. It struggled to maintain over 60 fps on even the most beefy rig. To make matters worse though, a modder found all of the E3 graphical settings in the game, as well as a fix for the stuttering. The mod basically fixed a broken game.

There's not much else to say really, but whenever someone says something will revolutionize gaming now (I'm looking at you No Man's Sky), I just think of Watchdogs.

So there you have it. My top ten bad games in 2014.

As always,


Saturday, 13 December 2014

My Top Ten Games in 2014: The Good

We're coming into the end of 2014, and it's been a big year for me. There's been highs and lows, as well as everything in between. So for a bit of fun, I've compiled some lists of the good and bad in 2014.To begin, lets look at my top ten good games in 2014.

The Good

No 10: Farming Simulator 15

I shouldn't love it so much. I really shouldn't. But damn if Farming Simulator 15 isn't good. It's just the right mix of good gameplay, physics based shenanigans and amazing multiplayer. At first glance, Farming Sim doesn't seem to be something I would enjoy, but for some reason I find it relaxing to maintain a farm. Plus the ability to go drifting in a truck helps.

No 9: Titanfall

I don't care what you think. It's on my good list. I don't care that people hated it because they got over hyped about it. I went into Titanfall knowing nothing about what it was going to be, and really enjoyed it. It's biggest faults for me were the lack of content on launch, and the lack of Australian based servers meaning I got crippling lag spikes. But that movement system was damn fun, and it had big stompy robots. It's just shame the community died so quick.

No 8: Mario Kart 8

No one said it was going to be a PC only list. Mario Kart 8 basically expands on the standard Mario Kart formula. Great party game and looks brilliant in 60fps on the Wii U. Not much else to say about it really. It's just good fun.

No 7: FIFA 15

I'm an unashamed fan of soccer, and playing the Fifa games is no exception. Fifa 15 on the PC added the Ignite engine that the PS3 and Xbox versions got in Fifa 14, vastly improving the physics of the game. I certainly don't recommend Fifa to everyone, but damn if I don't enjoy playing it.

No 6: Pokemon Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby

The remakes of the Generation 3 Pokemon games. Gen 3 was always my least favorite in the Pokemon series for some reason. I'm not sure why I didn't like them, because I've been playing Alpha Sapphire a lot since it was released and really enjoying it. Using the same design as X and Y, but expanding on it in just the right ways, these games are more Pokemon fun.

No 5: Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls

The expansion for Diablo 3 fixed a whole host of issues with Blizzard's action RPG, and then they went a step further and added servers for Australia. The reworked loot system makes more sense to me, and the Crusader is a bunch of fun to play as well. Add to this the adventure mode, cutting the need to continually replay the story to progress, and you have a great expansion. Good work Blizzard.

No 4: Trials Fusion

Trials 2 was the second game I ever bought on Steam, and I played it a lot. Trials Fusion is the latest one, and I played it a lot. The FMX tricks added were cool, but didn't really add much to the standard trials formula. But really, do you have to add something to that formula?

No 3: Hearthstone

Even though I was playing Hearthstone's beta before its actual release in March, it still counts as a 2014 game. I'm sure most of you know what it is, because its popularity has exploded this year. Also this year, Hearthstone got its first adventure mode: the Curse of Naxxramus, and it's first complete expansion: Goblins vs Gnomes. I'm sure Team 5 at Blizzard is super happy with the game, and they should be, because it's a tonne of fun.

No 2: Super Smash Bros 4 (Wii U)

I freaking love Smash Bros. It's easily my favorite fighting game series because of how much I enjoy it. The new one is no exception. You might notice that I specifically put the Wii U in brackets. That's because the 3DS version is terrible. But on the true home for it on the Wii U, Smash is just as fun as ever. Plus Lil Mac is awesome.

No 1: Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor

I didn't write about Shadow of Mordor. Not because I didn't want to, but because I was too busy playing it, and I absolutely love this game. Not only does it satisfy my Tolkien fan side, but it satisfies my great game side. Easily the best PC release I tried out this year, SoM runs surprisingly well on my 4 year old PC, albeit on medium settings. While benchmarking the game, the lowest framerate I got was 55 with my GTX570s in SLi, and an average framerate of 80. Lock the game to 60FPS, and it was rock solid at 60 basically the whole time.

Not only does it run well, it plays well. Despite using the Arkham style combat system of counters and special moves, the combat was fun enough that I was able to enjoy it. The stealth side of the game was well designed, and super satisfying. The story is good, the main characters are interesting and the conclusion made sense. However where the game really shines is the Nemesis System. 

The game generates a series of orc leaders who have their own personalities, strengths and weaknesses. These characters can be really tough to beat, with the occasional one having no real weaknesses to exploit. But where the Nemesis System really comes into its own is when you die. If you happen to die in the game, the orc that killed you instantly gets promoted. If they are a regular orc, they will become a captain. They can then work their way up the power ladder, and eventually challenge a warchief. The best part of all of this? Your character has the ability to take control of these orcs by branding them, and can then help them become a warchief. It adds a lot of emergent gameplay to an otherwise single player game, keeping you immersed in the game.

Shadow or Mordor ticks all of the boxes for me. A good PC port, great world to get lost in, interesting characters and a good story. On top of that the gameplay is just fun, and I can't wait to see what else can be done with the Nemesis System in other games.

So there you have it. That's my top ten good games for 2014. Stay tuned to see the opposite to this list, the top 10 bad games of 2014.

As always,


Tuesday, 25 November 2014

How CCP Rekindled My Interest in Eve Online

I could be talking about how unhappy I am with Ubisoft for continuing to show how they don't care about releasing finished games that have had any form of QA, especially on the PC, with the release of Assassin's Creed Unity and Far Cry 4. I could also be talking about more Gamergate controversy. But I can't be bothered with all the negatives that have been bombarding my favorite hobby for the past few months. So instead, I'm going to talk about one company that I lost faith in turning my opinion around almost completely.

Eve is my second oldest gaming love. Starcraft would be my first, and that was another love recently rekindled with the amazing WCS finals at Blizzcon 2014, but we aren't talking about that. When I first saw Eve, it was at a friends house back in 2004, at a time when my PC was terrible and I didn't even have internet at home. He was mining in some little Caldari ship (I later learned it was actually the Ibis, the rookie ship for the Caldari), and was telling me that everything in the game was made by players, and every player was on the same server. At this point I had been playing Freespace: The Great War, and space games were a genre I loved.

It wasn't until late 2009 that I came across Eve again. By this time, I had constructed my first real gaming PC and had bought an Xbox 360 for some console fun. A few friends had come over to LAN (remember those?) and while the rest of us were updating or getting set up, one of the guys logged onto Eve to update skills. This prompted a conversation, and I ended up buying Eve at the end of the following week.

I stopped playing as much in 2013, mostly due to being burnt out on the community side of things, but also partly because I wasn't finding anything new and exciting between releases. You see, CCP used to have a six month dev cycle for Eve, meaning that twice a year an expansion was released. These expansions would generally have one or two major changes, balance fixes to both ships and in game career paths, and occasionally a new ship, module or structure. Some of the expansions were lauded as being amazing, while others lead to people shooting monuments in protest. In true CCP style, expansions were hit and miss, and the lack of changes that made any impacts to me burnt me out on the game.

Andie Nordgren (aka CCP Seagull)
So what's changed? First, a new executive producer for Eve Online, Andie Nordgren (CCP Seagull), was finally appointed. Seagull has gained the admiration of many old jaded bittervets by basically telling it like it is, without the spin that many came to expect from CCP. In fact, Seagull admitted that Eve had some very serious issues affecting the health of the game in an interview with CSM9 member Xander Phoena on his Crossing Zebras podcast. The honesty has been a refreshing change of tone from the previous "nothing is wrong, we're working on it," or the complete lack of comment that we usually got from CCP.

The other big change is a switch to a six week development cycle. Now instead of two large expansions each year, we get several smaller releases each year. The advantages of this style of development have become obvious. When something is ready to come out, it comes out with the next release, at a maximum of six weeks waiting time. Things no longer have to be rushed out for a release date, or pushed back as far if they can't make the deadline, so there are less broken features released.

A number of quality of life changes also made to the game have brought me back. The removal of the 24 hour skill queue limit has been the largest one for me. No longer do I feel like I have to log in to update skills, meaning that Eve has become less of a chore. The upcoming removal of clone costs has made me more inclined to put myself in situations where I might lose my pod once the change hits. The much needed UI changes have made information more accessible and easy to read. Another change that doesn't really affect me, but definitely has an effect for the new players is the removal of in corp aggression without consequence. Dubbed AWOXing by the players, this new change means that you can no longer shoot a corpmate without first dueling them, or else you end up with Concord destroying your ship. Alongside this change, you can now kick someone from your corp regardless of if they are docked or not. Where before you could only kick them if they were in a station, now it puts that action in a queue and they are removed at the next downtime.

All in all, CCP has changed it seems, and in my opinion that change is for the better. Some seem to be complaining that the removal of consequence free in-corp aggression and the removal of clone costs are CCP removing some of the harshness that Eve has become so famous for. While I love the harsh side of Eve, I fully understand why CCP is removing these things. AWOXing hurts new players and makes older corps and alliances more reluctant to recruit new faces. Clone costs were the very definition of a game mechanic that just exists to exist, not actually adding anything to the game beside a constant cost to gaining more skills or putting your pod at risk.

But the biggest thing to get me truly back to the game? This recent Eve trailer called "This is Eve". I'd recommend watching it in 1080p/60fps for the full effect.
I can't describe properly how much this actually represents what Eve is all about. Some of CCP's more recent trailers have shown someone flying a frigate like a fighter, as though the game is some sort of twitch based game. The "This is Eve" trailer shows what exactly makes Eve so unique and why it's player base is so loyal to the game. The player interactions. Eve is simply a means for thousands of people to build empires, partake in space politics, or even just be a guy flying with others.

Keep it up CCP. I love the new six week cycle, and can't praise CCP Seagull enough. But more than anything, keep making trailers that actually show people what Eve is all about: The people playing.

As always folks,


Sunday, 2 November 2014

Indie Dev Drama Llama: The Slaughtering Grounds

We were so close to the end of 2014 without another indie dev melting down about criticism. SO CLOSE! But don't worry, this one is at least hilarious, which kind of makes up for how annoying it is that yet another dev doesn't realise that reacting poorly to negative criticism really doesn't help their game do well.

The game in question is an FPS called The Slaughtering Grounds, developed by ImminentUprising and published by Digital Homicide Studios LLC. A little bit of research reveals that they only have one other game, currently in early access called Forsaken Uprising. Both games have received largely negative reviews by users on Steam, citing bugs and sloppy design as the main reasons to avoid them.

Jim Sterling made a video about The Slaughtering Grounds as part of his Squirty Plays series where he records himself playing a game for the first time and making comments about said game. In fact here's the video:

Soon after this video was released, this post appeared on the Steam page for The Slaughtering Grounds. It appears that the developer (because I'm assuming its one person who made this crap) has gotten their panties in a little bunch and decided to "review the reviewer" resulting in one of the most hilarious dev responses I've ever seen. I'm not going to link to the video, because that would make it too easy, but I'm sure another link that I've provided will take you there. Jim, in his usual way, had a laugh about this, and posted this video, having said laugh about the developers hilariously inept "review of the reviewer".

So again I find myself saying: Indie Devs out there, please don't react like this to critics. It makes a bad situation worse for you, because now no one is going to play your game. Yes, it's hard to get told something you worked on is bad, and your initial reaction will probably be to do something like ImminentUprising has done, but please don't. Take the criticism and use to drive you to make better games and you might not get judged so harshly next time.

As always folks,