Archive for March, 2011

Looky what came in the post today! It’s a little late, but we have a guy out in the US who’s reviewing this for us anyway, so we’ll probably have a verdict up on it soon. I’ve been looking forward to playing this though, as previewing this game made me get into The Sims in the first place. Sadly, I only got to preview the game once. I guess because of our name EA didn’t think to send us preview code or anything, so we never did a hands on view.

Still, this should be good – as the World Adventures expansion pack proved, what the franchise needs is something completely fresh in order to keep going, although I think a Sims 4 would still do well, they need to start incorporating concepts beyond just living a digital life. I haven’t been playing The Sims 3 lately mind… been trying to keep up with my other games, as well as the usual releases I have to cover as part of my work.

I’ll install this and have a session over the weekend though, post up some thoughts… might even go back to The Sims 3 and continue with that. I think the main problem I had with that game was timings… I stopped playing it on the longest life-span because you could reasonably do most of your sim’s major life goals rather quickly, leaving you with nothing else to go on. Been enjoying Late Night and Ambitions, which work kind of well together I feel. Ambitions allows you to do the proper self-employed route, which then leaves you free to properly explore the nightlight options.

Saying that, the way The Sims 3 has metres for things like tiredness, it’s hard to have a proper nightlight without it impacting on you manage your daylife – but then that’s where being self-employed helps, you don’t have to be somewhere on time in the morning.

Anyway just a quick update, sorry about the lack of postings this week – been a bit hectic. More on that tomorrow.

Until next time…

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I’ll tell you what, EVE Online has to be one of the best sounding games EVER. It’s already one of the best-looking games, but as this year’s ‘Fanfest’ (the developer’s annual event for all things CCP) has shown, it’s probably got some of the greatest potential in a videogame franchise I’ve ever seen.

Rock, Paper, Shotgun, who were lucky enough to go over to the event, have got the highlights for you up on their website, so I won’t repeat everything here, but they’ve got some pretty interesting things planned.

For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, EVE Online is a space-based MMO where you pilot ships, form alliances, trade, wage war, and do all the standard MMO things in one massive persistent world. There’s no shards, or different servers, there’s just one server, one world, one game.

That game has been around since 2003, so around the same time as World of Warcraft started, and they’ve been updating it twice a year for eight years. I don’t really know what it was like back then, but I gather it’s radically different now, and better in many respects. At the moment, CCP are planning on releasing another game, this time an (MMO?)FPS called DUST 314 that’ set in the same universe, and the same ‘place’ as EVE Online, just on the planets. Until recently, there’s little in the way of planetary interaction EVE. What they have planned is for the two games to interact fully with each other, so that something you do in EVE affects what happens in DUST, and visa versa. This video (Also on RPS) highlights it best.

As I said, SOUNDS great, right? The only problem with EVE is that, whilst it looks and sounds pretty interesting, it’s about as accessible a flight of stairs to a Dalek (before they could fly). EVE has been given the nickname “Spreadsheets in Space” before, and it’s notorious for being very hardcore, and very complex. Don’t even get me started on the learning curve… remember the first mission of Call of Duty 2? Where you climb up the cliff? That’s what it’s like to learn EVE.

It’s been getting a lot better though recently, so I might just have to jump back in, give it another try. The key thing is to find a decent group who can help you out, but the great thing about EVE is that nearly everything is player driven, so there’s even an ‘EVE University’ to help out new players.

Anyway, click on the links if you want to know more. I’m starting to cool off a little towards RIFT at the moment. It’s still good, but the area after the main one is less… interesting, and the economy to the game needs some work. Maybe things would get better if I joined a guild or something. We’ll see.

Until next time…

Just a quick note to anyone who knows me… or cares… I’ve changed my gamertag on Xbox Live. Previously, I went under the name ‘BellXross’, but from now on you’ll see me online as ‘DigitalXentric’. I wanted to just go with the proper spelling, but XBL only allows for 15 characters, so I was 1 short, and I didn’t like any of the other variations.

Why change you ask? Well I was never quite content with BellXross (Supposed to spoken as ‘Bellcross’, but that spelling was taken). When I first got my Xbox and was setting all this up, all of the names I really wanted were either taken or too long, and eventually I just got fed up and so settled on the first things that was alright.

Bellcross is actually the main character in an anime I rather liked, called ‘Heroic Age’, so that’s where I got that. It was too geeky even for me though, and I was always kind of ‘meh’ about it, I just couldn’t be bothered to change it until now.

So, to recap, I’m now DigitalXentric on Xbox Live, so those of you who have me as a friend don’t worry if you don’t recognize me, it’s me!

Incidentally, if anyone wants to add my PSN ID, that is DigitalEccentric too, spelled properly. Please do attach a note though if you are going to add either account, as if I can’t figure out who it is from the tag alone, and there’s no note, I’m just going to assume you’re a random and probably ignore you. No offence.

So yeah, just a quick one explaining my change of circumstance. You know I almost, ALMOST, bought some stuff from the avatar marketplace. But that’s just asking for trouble.

Until next time.

 

I like Rock, Paper, Shotgun. I’ve only really been introduced to them relatively recently, as I don’t really read around much. But their site is simple, they’re PC guys (Like me, at heart), and I like their wide range of voices and creative writing. I’ve met a couple of them as well, Quintin especially is a very nice guy, and always a pleasure to hang around with… would love to write for those guys sometime.

Anyway, one of their main chaps – John Walker – posted this up a couple of days ago. Their ‘No Oceans’ initiative is something they’ve talked about before, but this time they’ve gone ahead and set up a petition and everything that you can sign. Basically, the RPS lot (like a lot of gamers I imagine) are sick and tired of the staggered release dates. Traditionally, games launch on a Tuesday out in the US, whilst here in the UK we prefer the Friday as the release date of choice.

I say ‘we’, it’s actually the publishers (and possibly retail chains as well) that have decided that those days are the optimum time to release stuff in the respective territories. I imagine other countries have their own special day as well, and it’s a habit that’s stuck around. This is why you will often see the US get a game a few days before the UK does, or (although rare) visa versa. Some of the bigger titles, the really really big ones, will release worldwide simultaneously because you just know they’ll sell no matter when they’re released, but outside of those, publishers like to stick to those days.

From a brick and mortar retail perspective, I can understand that. I doubt the publishers would have just pulled these trends out of thin air, and are not doing it just to be arsewipes, so I’m happy to let them have their habits. A fellow writer pointed out that releasing just after, or on, payday can make a huge difference to opening sales, and I believe him (Which is why we traditionally have the Friday). The only area I don’t think it makes sense, and I think this is where RPS mainly want to direct attention, is when it comes to the online outlets.

Going out and buying something, that’s process in and of itself, and I imagine people think more before going shopping, or they’ll already have set habits with regards to when/where/how they ‘go out’ to shop, which is where these trends come in. But the Internet… the Internet makes everything easy, almost too easy, and when buying something is as simple as clicking a button, you think less about the important stuff(like, can I actually afford this?).

RPS makes better arguments then I do – I’m being a little bit abstract, but basically it doesn’t make sense to hold digital outlets to the same rules as brick and mortars. People may not mind waiting until Friday to go somewhere to purchase something, but if they’re at their PC, credit card in hand, and itching to buy something, why deny them because they live in a different country? I’m sure even RPS would disagree with me here, as they want universal release for all sectors, but I can’t help but see a distinction between online and retail.

Something to think about at least. I can’t help but think that if the publishers thought they had more to gain from simultaneous release dates across the board, they would have done it already. These guys don’t fuck about when it comes to making money… but who knows, some publishers already do simultaneous releases, maybe we can get universal adoption. If you support the idea, go sign their petition!

Until next time.

You remember how, a couple of week ago, I said I was tempted to jump back into World of Warcraft because I was intrigued to see how the game had evolved and improved in many years since I last played it? Yeah, screw that, I’m going to play Rift instead. I just finished my review of the game last night, after playing it for around 2-3 weeks, which you can read here. In short: It’s quite good.

I mean it’s not perfect – take away it’s unique take on dynamic content and it could be any generic fantasy MMO (albeit with subtle steampunk) motifs. It doe experiment and push boundaries, like with the open approach to classes, but there are many areas that are pretty standard and lack the same innovation. What really clinched it for me though is the pacing. When it comes to reviewing an MMO, you naturally have to play it for far longer than any other game, even JRPG’s, and if it’s not designed particularly well or just boring, it can be a real effort to force yourself to play through. I remember the original version of All Points Bulletin – a game I liked in concept but loathed when I had actually had to play through it.

With RIFT though, everything just seemed a lot more… smoother. The starting areas for both factions are very unique, and actually help set up the story rather well (although the Defiant’s is way more interesting than the Guardians), and once you’re out of those, the game keeps you moving along at a steady pace so that you don’t get bogged down too much. Before I knew it, I was level ten and wondering where all the time had gone.

The soul-system is very diverse – at minimal cost you can essentially ‘re-spec’ your character using one of 8 combinations of sub-classes, so you can have a support-warrior, a tank-rogue, healer-mage, a DPS-cleric… because of these sub-classes, the four class archetypes are very flexible. The only problem is, being a bit of a MMO noob, I haven’t really experimented much because I haven’t been given much direction on what each soul does, but I’m sure I’ll learn.

The really great thing about this game though is the dynamic content, the Rifts that the game draws its name from. You can liken them to portals, dimensional gates, tears in the fabric of the world… whatever you like, but basically, a hole opens, and mobs pour out of it that you need to take care off. These Rifts can appear anywhere as well, and are not confined to set locations (Although there are some places where they won’t appear, but not many). The rewards for helping seal a Rift are worthwhile and in terms of XP comparable to questing or even grinding (just with more purpose), so there’s real incentive to take a break from the main questing and help seal some Rifts, especially when things escalate into area-wide invasions.

It’s a good game, and well worth checking out. All I need now is some friends and a guild to join…

Oh, and their ad campaign I think was just a little bit genius – “We’re not in Azeroth anymore”. Hah!

Until next time.

There are moments in life that define you in small ways, that shape who you are, who you become. You look back on these moments, and you can’t help but feel their significance, feel the way it changed you… this probably is not one of those moments, but I like telling the story anyway. A fellow games writer recently had some trouble with his Xbox Live account, which basically ended up with him having to create a new one and starting again – he has to replay all his games, get all his achievements back… that would be too much for me, and I’ll tell you why:

I dislike repetition, or at very least, I dislike having to go back over something I’ve just done due to some problem that’s meant I’ve lost everything I just worked on. Who doesn’t, right? I generalise it into repetition though because I generally don’t like repeating myself as well, in anything. The story I’m about to tell you kind of sums this up perfectly, which is why I like telling it – not sure if it ‘defined’ the behaviour though.

Anyway – before I migrated over to the 360 (and eventually, the Playstation), I was a Nintendo fan. My PC gaming was sort of a constant in my life, since I used my PC for a lot of things and so gamed on it as well, but in terms of ‘console’ gaming, I was a Nintendo boy, and the first console that I truly owned and loved was the Nintendo 64. Naturally, that meant I was a Zelda fan as well – Ocarina of Time was amazing. Then came Majora’s Mask.

Now, on the whole I liked Majora’s Mask, but the save system… oh the save system! You all remember it right? How crazy it was? Basically, the way the story was set out meant that you couldn’t save the game until you travelled back in time to the first day. Major accomplishments were kept when you did that, but not the minor stuff, so you really didn’t want to save unless you were in-between important zones. I believe the pacing was set so that you could complete one zone, per three-day cycle, at which point you simply travel back in time and then move onto the next zone, as it wouldn’t matter then if some stuff hadn’t been sustained in a completed zone.

Fair enough, it was a bit weird, but it made for some interesting gameplay, and you could do a ‘quick save’ if you really needed to, but you needed to go back to the central hub I seem to remember in order to do it. Most of the time, I didn’t have an issue with it and got through the game fine. After many an hour, I was on the last area, fighting the last boss you have to face before you go on to fight the main bad guy of the game. I was just about to finish it off when… what? It Froze? My Nintendo 64 actually FROZE on me? I couldn’t believe it –  It wasn’t like the 64 was known to have issues like that that I can remember, unlike some modern day consoles (*cough* 360 *cough*), and to my knowledge it had never frozen before, nor ever did again.

What it did do though, courtesy of Majora’s weird saving system, was wipe my progress for the *entire* area. That was hours upon hours (I’ve never really been a hardcore gamer, especially back then, so everything takes me longer) of gameplay lost because of an odd set-up and a random freeze. Suffice to say, I (placed) the controller down in anger, stepped away from the 64… and never touched Majora’s Mask again.

Honestly – every time I thought about going back, I thought about everything I knew I had to do and I just couldn’t quite bring myself to do it all again. To this day, I’ve never completed Majora’s Mask, and I doubt I ever will. So yeah, now you know: Don’t do drugs.

Until next time.