My dark little meaningless secret.

19 01 2013

Things are rather hectic for me, but sadly the only things that have suffered for it are the elements of my web presence…namely my now poor excuse for a blog, really poor excuse for a Twitter account, and even poorer excuse for a Youtube channel. I haven’t played XCOM in well over a week (and before that, more weeks) and so what would I share there or here? Well, I could share some stuff.

Work is insane. We got acquired. Big company politics can be shitty. Best case, we get funding and its awesome; worst cast, well…the punchline is I get like two months off as I find a new job and work on my dark little meaningless secret. That would be either a lay off or me saying “I really love my teammates, but I am NOT working for that guy.”

I finished Deus Ex: Human Revolution, which was pretty good and scratched my stealth itch. The same company is making Thief 4, which is kind of my dream come true…provided that stealth take downs aren’t limited by a really frustrating, arbitrary energy mechanic.

I’m nearly at the end of Far Cry 3, meaning there’s story and some boss fight(s) to get through;the core game play (which was amazing, the whole stealth base overthrows game) is basically done with.

My girl and I got to the end of Fez and discovered there’s much more to find; also picked up Braid and Super Meat Boy which I already own on PC but got on XBOX so she could get into them from the couch with me.

I’ve done a lot of reading. Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food and some of Omnivore’s Dilemma; I actually got into Game of Thrones finally. And I’ve got this dark little meaningless secret.

That secret is currently comprised of things like “20 hours of tutorial videos watched” and “lots of reference documentation read” and “several toolkits examined” and “Unity3D downloaded and installed” and “a 22-page and counting design document”. I have this insane dream of making a video game, and this hope that the current state of free and inexpensive tools will help me get there. The kicker is that the game idea I’ve got in mind is – without a doubt – too large for one person to do alone. But I’m learning new technologies and really enjoying the creative  process…and maybe, just maybe, if I get enough of a prototype up and running I can recruit some help. It would be nice to make a big chunk of money off of a Greenlight $14 Steam game, but that’s not what I’m thinking about.

I’m thinking about how to build a conversation tree system that’ll fit the bill. It’s is a really fun problem academically, and I’ll get to learn a Java GUI lib and use JSON for my first time and get back into C# or learn Javascript as I dive into Unity. More design to do first though.

And you know…content. Like, a story and stuff. That’s on my mind too.

I am jonesin’ for XCOM though, and here’s a 3 Day weekend.

No guarantees, all around. ❤

XCOM and I are in a fight.

21 12 2012

It’s okay, we’ll be okay, but – honestly – after an evening where I started six games and watched each one go down in a horrific and hopeless blaze, I need some time. My entire team in heavy cover, one by one being one-shot by Thinmen standing up in the distance and taking stupidly accurate pot shots. It kept happening.

The teleport bug only happened once, but it also happened twice last weekend, and that’s a lot; I haven’t seen it that often before now. It’s going to be okay. We’re going to be okay. But I need some time. I definitely want the teleport bug fixed before I really continue with my Let’s Play. although I have plenty of footage, I’m also…mad. I need time.

In the meantime

In the meantime, the holidays are upon us all. I’ll have a full week (or more) away from my gaming machine, during which I can get all the space I need from XCOM. My skill will no doubt diminish (again) but my love will endure. My plans for the week are:

  • play Castle Crashers for many, many hours with my siblings (they are something like 28 and 30 respectively, both my junior);
  • enjoy the company of my family and friends;
  • study Ruby Scripting and RPGMaker VX Ace to sate my curiosity;
  • risk failing at designing a video game.

JRPGs and I go way back. Final Fantasy IV (II in the U.S.A., pre-Square ‘metric conversion’) is still my favorite story-based game of all time, and Final Fantasy VI (III in the U.S.) is almost equal in my eyes. I mean, it’s a superior game in many, many respects, and the story is arguably better…but Cecil and Kain and I, we go way back.

I’m under no illusions. I sense that my ability to tell a compelling and gripping story – especially in a JRPG format – is likely lacking; even if I do have a great story (or even a merit-bearing seed for one) there is still the impressive mountain of work between a completed product and myself. I wouldn’t want it to be a linear game; I’d want it more like Ultima IV and less like, well, my two favorite JRPGs of all time. The latter parts of FFVI let you go basically wherever you wanted and address (or disregard) issues that might reunite you with old party members and even get them to rejoin you…but it was equally possible to fail in doing so, or find them dead do to your own prior choices.

RPGMaker trivializes much of the grunt work in making a game, providing me with a functional tile engine, a functional and robust scripting engine, and a metric ton of art and music assets. If nothing else, it’s a fantastic way to get a prototype rolling. It’s not even that limiting if you are comfortable scripting, which I am. How limiting is it? Well, that’s the purpose of this week’s research. Either I will dive into it as-is, or I will do what I possibly should’ve done long ago and learn the Unity 3D engine. (Much more powerful, much more complex, and ‘restriction’ doesn’t really apply.)

Will I make a game? Probably not. I very much want to, but often my make-a-game projects result in something small, functional, and interesting for me…but not really ‘marketable’. A tile engine. An asset engine. A crude 3D tactics map engine. Noticing a pattern? They are all engine parts with no vehicle to sit in.

Actual games I have designed with stories all fall into the tabletop genre (DnD, Shadowrun, others) and, to my credit, my recent efforts have been very well received. I believe this is because:

  • I put an intense amount of background design and work into characters and locations for the players to engage in and explore;
  • I strive to never say No, allowing the players to explore as they choose;
  • I make it very clear that the actions and choices of the players have very real impact on the game world.

My hope is that I can leverage these in game design. The amount of scripting is staggering (just one small conversation tied into a single plot arc could easily be a hundred lines over dozens of conditionals depending on what the player has or has not done in the history of this play through) and that may be where the limitations truly lie for RPGMaker…which will push me towards Unity.

Before I write a single line of code though, I need to really hammer out the world, the people, and the how-and-why. Then comes game play design. THEN comes “Can this engine do this for me?”

Can I do this in a week? Probably not. But I gotta start somewhere. It’d make for a cool Youtube diary.

Thinking on Youtube makes me miss XCOM.

But, I still need time.


28 11 2012

I’m still here, but you wouldn’t know it due to a drought of activity here. Here’s the run down on what I’ve been up to (barring things like “Thanksgiving Family Shenanigans” and “Work is exploding” which occupy as much time as one might think):

The Youtubez

Episode 3 of me vs. XCOM is in the early stages: all of the selected footage is in and ordered, the game’s volume has been adjusted and my intro and recap are all laid out. What’s left, really, is the bulk of the work…which involves trimming the footage down (the boring parts where I painstakingly move my guys) and narrating it. Maybe four to six hour worth of work there, but it’s a UFO mission so it may take longer. Hopefully I get better at this the more I do it.

I’ve been watching a good amount of Youtube to learn the ropes and get ideas. I also picked up some games on Steam Sale over the weekend, like Dishonored and Home…the latter of which I bought with the soul intention of FRAPsing my play through with Ms. Thade on mic with me. You guys will get to hear her laugh at me freaking out. That’s the plan. It’s an experiment that I hope comes to fruition, though finding time for things as the holidays approach is always tricky.

Speaking of new games

Dishonored is something I’ve wanted to pick up and I figured I’d wait for a Steam Sale, which dropped on Sunday. I really wanted a stealth-centric game and this game is a reasonable go at one: I am going for a non-lethal play through and, so far, have only killed two rats (because they’re plague bearers and I hate them) and no humans. Not even the ones that want to kill me, or the ones I’m contracted to assassinate. So far the game’s had some interesting ways of non-lethally dealing with my targets, and really the meat of the game for me is picking off fools in a room one-by-one and sticking their unconscious bodies into dumpsters. It’s my favorite parts of Batman and Metal Gear Solid 2, in first person. So the fact that the game extends that mechanic to even the “boss fights” (so far, anyway) is very respectable.

Home is a survival horror game purchased for the reasons laid out above.

Elemental: Fallen Enchantress is a Master of Orion/Magic style game that I’ve really been enjoying; I beat my first normal mode/large map/four opponents game this weekend; there’s more to explore in that game, but like any decent MoO2 4X game, it’s a game I can happily return to now and again for years to come.

I got back into League of Legends with my friends over the weekend which was a welcome return: they apparently buffed Soraka in my absence and hear healing – while no longer scaling well with AP – feels far better, especially early laning phase. It’s almost so different that I think I should re-Rune her for more CDR than her current AP-centric build.

Finally, I picked up Chivarly: Medieval Combat which – if you like that sort of game – you should strongly consider. The melee is very well done and it’s almost Bushido Blade difficult: you need to aim your parries and shield blocks at the incoming strikes for them to be effective, which leads to some stellar duels. Be warned: this game is brutal. I may  FRAPs some of this. Sometimes I have great moments, other times I fail very, very hard. Both are kind of a sight.

Hey, a new banner!

Yes, that did happen. It needs some further tweaking, but I think it’s nice and better matches my lil’ gold face mask icon that has sort of become my thing. Narcissism 101.

Gank has a Youtubez!

Gank has gone and made a Youtube channel!  It’s got a lot of good info on WoT, promises to show some XCOM, and features his Gankalicious voice. Here is Gank on Youtube. Get thee some Gank.

More fun in the Youtube universe, XCOM and otherwise.

19 11 2012

I took the weekend off from editing XCOM videos; instead I:

  • played a good amount of Elemental: Fallen Enchantress which is a better-than-decent 4X game;
  • played Twilight Imperium for over 12 hours.

It was a good weekend. I intend to start cutting the next episode of my own XCOM adventures tonight. In the meantime, you can watch the in-progress second season of Beaglerush’s XCOM Ironman Impossible, and you can watch Angry Joe and Total Biscuit throw down in XCOM versus mode. I have learned a lot about surviving in XCOM from watching Beagle play, and frankly listening to Angry Joe and Total Biscuit poke fun at one another while they kill each other was a very good time.

Since I lack the required fortitude of mind to play Amnesia, I’ve been watching this HuskyStarcraft gentlemen play in my stead; watching him play still unnerves me as I have, I’ve come to recognize, a high level of absorption: in short, my imagination is so vivid that I can very easily get swept up into it. The cost here is that I tried to play Penumbra several times and was unable to get past the first actual enemy as it honestly scared the shit out of me.

I tried to play it in the middle of a bright and sunny Saturday with all of the windows open and the lovely Mrs. Thade sitting beside me to bear witness and support me, which played out like this:


mrs. thade: “I don’t get it? It’s all blocky and weird. Is that thing supposed to be a dog?”

I was hoping she’d ground me a bit, but – in reality – she only helped me to truly realize my shame.

Somethings to consider.

24 10 2012

Dr. Vahlen: “Commander, while doubtlessly effective at killing aliens, explosives-”


Dr. Vahlen: “…”


Dr. Vahlen: “…I see that you’re needed in Mission Control.”

…radio static…

Wait. Bullet swarm lets me fire twice? Good bye, holo-targeting.

…radio static…

me: “This is great!”

her: “Thanks! It’s apple spice cake.”

me: “Is this reasonably healthy for me?”

her: “No, honey. It’s cake.”

me: “But it’s like apple and you used like olive oil or something, right?”

her: “No, honey, butter. And cream cheese.”

me: “But, apples?”

her: “Sure, honey. I’ll bring half of it to work with me.”

me: “Okay.”

Guild Wars 2 from the outside.

13 09 2012

Just like me to not post for weeks then to do so twice in two days. It’s like I don’t blog full-time or something.

With Borderlands 2 dropping next week, XCOM a few weeks later, then Minecraft’s new patch dropping a month thereafter, I’m only hurting for video games between now and the time Borderlands 2 drops. My friends are excited for it; I enjoyed BL1; should be a good time. XCOM looks idealistic – hopefully at least a month of fun. Minecraft is something I binge on for 1-3 months with a small cluster of friends on a closed server, usually in the wake of a patch or when I feel the need to build a castle.

But then there is my weakness: I like magic. Psionics and technology are basically different trappings for similar (or identical) sets of mechanics in many, many games, but that’s just it: the theme of magic is what I like.

Rift did an excellent job of addressing this one need of mine, giving me two casters with massive customize-ability (arguably too much as I very easily got lost after taking a mere two weeks off)  and multitudinous sparkly beautiful effects. The Chloromancer is still my favorite caster ever. She looked awesome (vanity sets, very important) and put on an excellent show (green ethereal leaves exploding everywhere). I miss that game, sometimes…but the game suffers a bit from the quest grind (it’s funny how quests are “the grind” now, no?) and nobody I know plays it which basically seals the deal.

But, the article is called…

Right, right. Guild Wars 2. I don’t play it, I don’t own a license. I’m hugely skeptical as – especially at first – I read a lot of reviews that had a negative, disappointed slant to them. Recently, however, I’ve seen more positive feedback on the game, including this TenTonHammer article and this review by Angry Joe (at which I laughed aloud several times).

The game looks pretty; I’ll give it that.

Angry Joe’s review in particular was interesting; I haven’t watched a lot of his stuff, but the reviews of his I have watched have never held back (he swears all kinds of colorful about games he dislikes or is disappointed in) and while he lists more than a few shortcomings of GW2, most of his take is positive.

So, what gives?

A few members of my SWTOR guild tried GW2 and didn’t seem impressed with it (meaning even if I came to like it, it’s not like they’d follow me there) and my friends are all MMO’d out; if I did this, it’d be by my lonesome (much like my foray into EVE online). I tried both Rift and EVE for “research” (using this blog here as reasoning) and didn’t regret either. And GW2 – like D3 – is a pay-once, keep your character and your access kind of deal.

What’s more, ArenaNet is on record claiming:

“Our goal is to make it so you get more from GW2 for free than you get from a game you pay a subscription for.” (Source.)

Whereas, every bit of “new content” I’ve seen for D3 seems to be Yet Another Step Toward Being D2. And don’t get me started about that whole “Giant playable panda bear” crap. Don’t get me wrong: I did very much enjoy Diablo 3, when my friends and I played it together. But giving us ways to make the existing bosses tougher so they drop arbitrarily better stuff…that’s not the kind of game play we want. More variety, more places to explore, more effort on your part. Oh, Blizzard. What happened to you? …That’s a topic for another time.

Jury is still out as to whether I’ll pick up GW2 or not. I should wait until after Borderlands 2 drops, because once I have a new game to play with I may no longer feel a weird need to get a game. Pre-ordering games is neat, especially when it comes with bonus content, but I’m currently out like $100 for two pre-ordered games with exactly nothing to show for it. And that is weird. Well, maybe it’s no different than ordering tickets for shows in advance. …That’s a topic for another time.

ADDENDUM: I totally posted this without tying off my implicit thesis statement which I’ll do now in an unsatisfying way. There are mage classes in GW2 which initially did not intrigue me. But given the general layout of the game, and my increasing need for some magic in my game time, well…we’ll see.

Four days of play-time remaining.

11 09 2012

Farewell, SWTOR. Probably farewell to theme parks too, but I’ve eaten those words before, so we’ll see.

I eye-balled GW2 but no review I read about it really moves me to jump in and play it. A row of keys bound to abilities I’ve seen re-skinned hundreds of times; an auction house that might trivialize playing or force a buyer’s market that sucks the fun out of crafting. Not a single class that seems interesting to me. Game play I’m too used to…and, frankly, too many vocal jerks that play these games I like. There are some great people I’m leaving behind in that game (meaning SWTOR), I’m sad to say. It is my firm hope that there’s another MMO some day that I might find as interesting as they do. Hell, if they play GW2 maybe I’ll try it. One cost up front is not too big a risk.

My feelings on D3 – which was great fun for a time – were summed up very well by Elder Game recently. I like his stance, a lot: let’s dump auction house altogether from MMO design moving forward. The AH works in EVE because it’s not a universal one; it’s restricted on distance (how far you can/are willing to move, how fast you can get there, and the reach of your trade skills) instead of everybody using the same market. Anyway, he explains it way better than I can, so I’ll leave it at that. Go read it. ❤ The bottom line is this: no matter how much they add to the game to earn or aspire to, it is all trivialized by the universal auction house. Stupid AHs are actually ruining crafting systems in games. How about that?

This article by KIASA was also a favorite of mine recently: because it’s true, if not the entire story behind my own position. I loved SWTOR; it was way more fun than WoW. I am, however, not the kind of player who enjoys that kind of game to the exclusion of all others anymore. When I find myself spending 20 hours a week playing co-op SMP Minecraft, looking forward to the new features about to drop in late October/early November, I realized it was time to kill the sub. My friend and I built an entire city in MC. It’s ridiculously amazing; I should post a screen shot. We have two other friends (or more) who may join us in the next version of the game (and our city).

I’m also super excited about X-COM…a game I missed during its hay-day and I’m getting an opportunity to play an updated version of it. Borderlands 2 will also be undoubtedly fun for a bit. 🙂 And, you know, 40k and Fantasy are their own time-sinks that require thought and art.

NONE of these games require me to ever waste my time with a player who’s a jerk if I don’t wish it; all MMOs do.