What Would Matt Do

I reckon I aim to play some games.

Archive for the ‘Drivel’ Category

Dragon Age 2 is a wait until I can get it cheap game. [updated]

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Why, you ask? Well, it is good you ask that question. Otherwise this would be a very short post. And trust me, it won’t be.

I would recommend Dragon Age 1.

The answer is to why I will most likely wait is…a lot of things. But first, a quick history. Remember Dragon Age 1? Yeah, me too. LOVED that game. Flaws and all. And it does have them. But overall, I would recommend it to anyone that likes RPGs and/or tactical combat, with very few, small caveats.

Problems you say?

It did have a few problems though.

Inventory was a pain. If you played it, you know. If you did not, suffice it say there was a LOT of junk and very little space to put anything. 99% of loot was random, and in this case, random meant mostly useless. And it was everything. In corpses, flowers, boxes, bags, stashes, book, etc, etc, etc, etc. It was not great, lets leave it at that.

The AI was not great. It was not horrid out of the box, like NWN2 or anything, but your characters were pretty limited in what they could do automatically. Which meant if you were not directly controlling them, they often did the dumbest thing they could. After a bit, I heard about a mod called Advanced Tactics. That gave you a whole host of new options in the tactics menus, so you could intelligently program your guys so they did not act like idiots when you were not holding their hands.

The party influence system was an actual joke (at least, they must have meant it that way). Sure, you could get your peoples to like or hate you based on how conversations/actions went, but you know what really influenced them? Gifts. That’s right, you could end around everything and just give them things they liked until they liked you again. That was pretty weak.

L worded it.

Beyond that, there were nits and picks, but I really loved that game, flaws and all. I did love it, right after some people I know told me what it was really about. I am a Bioware fan and followed Dragon Age notes here and there…and I watched the same trailers you did most likely. After that, I was pretty sure I would not get it. But friends that know RPGs played it and said:

“Do not listen to the marketing, Dragon Age:Origins is a Bioware game through and through and it awesome.”- knowledgeable RPG friends

So I went with it, played it, loved it. I was not alone. That last link in particular show Dragon Age 1 to be the best selling Bioware game ever…does that mean the marketing “worked”?

Concerned a bit.

But I was little worried. You see, not long before Dragon Age 1 was released, EA, that huge conglomerate I have complained about in the past, bought Bioware. Yep, bought them out right. Kept on the staff (even the doctors), and things seemed to go well…well, except for that awful marketing campaign. Those videos I linked above are not the only ones. Let me translate them for you: “Play this game, destroy things, while Zombie thumps in your head! It will melt your braaaaain!” I was understandably put off by those, but the friends I talked about (yeah, I have them) above convinced me to ignore and the game was a blast and nothing like the marketing. Well, except for blood coating you from head to toe after each battle. But that was an option you could turn off and I did as soon as I found it. All was well.

Times passed.

Then, after awhile, but not that long (about a year), I started to hear about and see stuff from Dragon Age 2. I got somewhat excited. I mean, this is Bioware. They have created some of the best games to ever be released. Things like Baldur’s Gate and Mass Effect just to name a couple. It was also EA, so I was cautiously excited. This would be the first RPG released by Bioware that was fully developed under EA.

 

Whatever though, still had the doctors there, still had a long history of being awesome, even with Mass Effect 2 not really being as good as one, I was very hopeful.

Demo.

Then I played the demo. I could not believe my eyes. They got rid of being able to zoom out, they got rid of flat chested women (I kid you not, they are all porn star proportions), the UI seemed to be developed with a love of empty space and combat…oh combat. Sure, it was only the demo, but damn if combat was not all fucked up. Where your characters faced did not matter as much, you had a bunch of WoW like skills, and no longer had to plan anything out. Just go attack and press buttons as fast as you are able. Weeeeeee! (that was sarcasm)

The friends and the reviews.

Those same friends disagree on Dragon Age this time around. Some of them says the combat is dopey or different, but it is still fun. Others suggest it is pretty much crap now. And the reviews. They seemed to disagree with themselves.

While Dragon Age 2 got decent scores, the words of the reviews have convinced me the demo was not wrong. Some choice cuts are below:

Eurogamer

- In gameplay terms, much has changed from Origins. Everything from skill trees to quest notifications have been redesigned and made easier to use. “Dumbing down!” goes the cry from the pessimistic faithful, and those coming to the game with that mantra in mind will find that confirmation bias supports their prejudice.

- Companion armour is now completely off-limits while upgrade trees are inflexible and closed off to any new specialisms you might want to give them.

- I still found that my inventory quickly filled up with fantastic weaponry that nobody could use. All unusable items, from diamonds to torn trousers, are now automatically stored in the junk tab of your inventory. They can be flogged to a merchant in one job lot, with a single button press.

- Crafting is a hands-off affair, too. No longer do you merrily pick herbs and flowers on your travels. You simply find hidden pockets of infinite crafting resources which merchants can then use to deliver potions direct to your inventory. It’s strangely soulless, as if Tesco Direct has inserted itself into this fantasy realm.

Joystiq

- The modular nature of the story is also reflected in the missions, which are sort of annoyingly compartmentalized. There are a couple of longer journeys, but far too many boil down to hopping to the map, talking to someone, killing them (or not) and going back to the quest giver. You will spend far more time than you’re comfortable with running back and forth between exits.

- The lack of forward momentum is exacerbated by the fact that you’ll see almost all of the game’s environments in its first third. Sure, there are different things to kill, but haven’t you seen this cave once or twice or eight times before? BioWare tries to make the journey seem more sweeping by having it span a decade, but when towns look the same and characters don’t appear to age or even change clothes, it feels artificial.

- I’m assuming the slightly stunted world is a result of the accelerated development schedule, which I also imagine is the culprit behind the lackluster gear system.

Bitgamer

- The other half of Dragon Age 2, however, adheres to the painfully familiar definition of ‘mature’ – featuring blood, sex and not much else. The game frequently attempts to clumsily shoehorn crude innuendo into a conversation, provide a flash of flesh or show some hilariously over-done violence. The free city of Kirkwall is apparently populated with an abundance of haemophiliacs with high blood pressure, who explode into arterial clouds as soon as somebody draws their sword, spattering players in gore and hiding the UI behind a red haze.

- The result of mixing these two halves is a game which feels at odds with itself a lot of the time. Dragon Age 2 tries to tell the epic tale of Hawke, a refugee who fled the tiny town of Lothering to escape the Blight, then spent the next ten years rising to the role of Champion in Kirkwall. The structure of the quests, however, just makes it clear how little intrigue Kirkwall has to offer, with the entire city apparently waiting years at a time for Hawke and Co to romp through the streets killing indiscriminately. There’s a lot more to be gleaned from the side-quests offered by your companions than from the main plot.

- The contradictions extend all the way down to the technical level too. In the opening hour of Dragon Age 2 you arrive at Kirkwall to find the city sealed. The refugees talk about how they’re being turned away in their hundreds, while the guard captain loudly insists that the city has been overfull for months. There’s no possible way anyone else can be admitted, he says, while standing in a huge, empty town square with no more than ten protesters in front of him.

Convinced to wait.

After all of that, and the talk in the forums and everything else, I am convinced to wait. Even though I know it might be fun for a bit, it does not sound like a $60 game to me. The streamlined (I still say dumbed down), as EAWare (clever aren’t I) calls it, just sounds like they removed systems they did not like. I can not do inventory management? Party influence now works if they hate me or like me? Crafting is a joke (it was not much better in the first really)? And the game recycles the same art assets over and over. Maybe they did not have enough time to do the full development. Or maybe it was EA’s influence, as I suspect the marketing of the first one was. Maybe is just what happens when EA has time to enforce their marketing is reflected in the game. I do not know. But I am disappointed.
So yeah, I will wait. I will play the many other great games out there, I will watch and see what happens with Dungeon Siege 3 and Star Wars: The Old Republic, and Skyrim, and still try to convince my wife to switch from WoW to Rifts. And in a few months, I will pay $20 or so for the game, it will be fully patched, and I will get my monies worth out of it.

 

Caveat.

Of course, if they come out with a toolset so other people could fix a fair amount of these problems, I will probably buy it right up.

 

Update 1

If this report of sneaky DRM is true, it looks like we have yet another reason not buy DA2. You know, beyond the original designer having left because of the direction of Dragon Age 2. Forgot to mention that in the first rundown…

Written by Matt

March 9th, 2011 at 11:58 pm

Posted in Drivel,Gaming,Links,PC,RPG

Penny Arcade calls out XBox Live Arcade

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Do you remember Uber Entertainment? They are the dudes, and dudettes (that’s right, I said it), that created Monday Night Combat. A very interesting take on the Demigod/DOTA/DTD type game. A really cool game that needed a patch more than a month ago. And why didn’t it get that patch until now? Because Microsoft’s XBox Live Arcade division is required to test everything that goes on the system. And they didn’t get it done for an entire month. Uber delivered the patch to them for QA more than a month ago. And they just recently got it done.

If I did that in my industry, I’d be fired.


Penny Arcade rightfully calls them out.

That is all.

Written by Matt

October 28th, 2010 at 5:47 pm

Supreme Commander 2 is still pretty supreme

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Just a quick note on Supreme Commander 2. If you skipped it or aren’t still playing it, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Not only was it pretty damn fun at release, since release of the game they’ve added new maps, better AI, a DLC (a pretty good one) and best of all, they added in queuing of unit orders. That’s right, you heard me. You can now queue units and building again. It’s not the same as the first, but better. You tell your engies or Commander what to do and he…get this part…waits for available funds. That’s right, you can’t sink your economy anymore. You may need to pause your automatic building of units if you want to build something bigger, but overall, the system works great.

I’d say it’s the best of both worlds, SupCom1 and 2 added together. Easier to manage economy and still the ability to set guys up on long queued orders.

And the improved AI? Very cool. Still a bit iffy in parts, but gives a convincing game of awesome whenever you want one. You can also create a custom AI and tell it to go all air or to turtle up, whatever kind of game you’re thinking of.

Happy days are here again.

P.S. – All of these updates are PC only. You should only be playing RTS games on the PC anyway, but I thought I’d mention it.

Written by Matt

October 25th, 2010 at 6:58 pm

Posted in Drivel,Gaming,PC,RTS

What Would Matt Do II

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(this post goes out to one Cap’n John. Keep on keeping on, my friend.)

Well, I made it. I did leave FL, even on the day I said I would (early March). I got up, finished loading up my car, said tearful goodbyes to all of my family. Got in the car and drove out. I had my trusty atlas and my iphone and a destination. Just as a note, I think of a lot of this from my perspective, but without the help of everyone involved, Josh and his family, my Mom, my brothers and most especially, my wife, none of this would have happened. To put an even finer point on it, wherever I say “I did this” or “I did that”, I really mean, my wife and I did it. She supported me on everything and listened when I moaned.

The Trip

The atlas and iphone and some clothes were pretty much all I had (and my laptop of course). I didn’t really have a firm plan other than get there and make it work. I did get there, it took about eight days total, but if I was in a big hurry, I could have probably cut a day off. I drove I40 across the states until I ran into California. I saw a lot of states for the first time and couldn’t resist camping in the snow in Flagstaff. You should have seen the look on the KOA guy’s face when I said I just wanted to throw up a tent and didn’t have an RV. He actually had to ask his boss if that was possible. Thankfully she knew how do it and we all chuckled about them not having a non RV camper in ages.

A couple of nights later, after having talked with my sister on the road one night, I was sleeping on a hippie compound in CA. They have a big complex setup there that they rent out and support. My sister has some long lost family there and they offered to put me up for the night. Not only did they do that, they made a delicious breakfast and we all talked the morning away (after I got up butt early and walked the place. It’s all cedar redwood forest on top of a mountain back in the middle of no where). They said don’t forget to check out Whidbey Island while you’re up there and promised to visit.

Stayed at my cousin’s the next night, which was great. Great last stop on the journey. The next day (Monday) I arrived at my friend Josh’s house.

Getting a Job and a Place.

Getting a job turned out to be pretty easy. Much easier than I thought. I had already been sending out resumes, but most people didn’t want to hear from someone that wasn’t already in the state. That was dumb of them, because I was literally applying in three or four states. The day after I got there, a company flew me out (arranged while I was driving across the country) to Idaho for a job interview, put me up for the night and flew me back the next day. Then I interviewed constantly for about 4 days. Had to turn down a couple of offers that were birds in the hand, but I thought I could get better in the bush. I did snag a good one out of the bush and had an offer on the table in about a week after arriving. I started in late March.

I did all of this from my friend Josh’s place. Without him and his lovely family I wouldn’t have been able to even consider doing this. They put me up, helped me eat (I had almost no funds really) and helped in any way they could. Once I got the job, I started driving back and forth from his house to the job, but it was almost three hours each way, so I ended up renting a room in Oak Harbor (south of Anacortes where I got a job and on Whidbey Island).

Then I started the process of trying to find a house (after a couple of paychecks, so I could actually afford it). My wife and I started searching everything we could find. I looked at so many houses! I started to be able to see just from the ad if it was a Facebooked job or I should at least give it a drive by and then maybe a walk through. I was being picky, but I had time and it was necessary. Just about the time we were going to have to settle for a house, we stumbled across a GREAT place in Oak Harbor of all places. Lots of space and some quiet. Can’t wait to move in.

Waiting

Now, for me, it’s just waiting. I’m working and waiting…while my wife and kids finish the packing, sell the car and fly out here (and a million other little things). They will be here in two weeks, right after we get the house. It’s finally happened.

When it’s all said and done, it will have been almost exactly four months to the day since I’ve seen my wife and kids in person. I can’t wait. I’ve always been very aware of how lucky I am to have them, so this wasn’t a wake up call, but more an affirmation of the idea that I belong with them and they belong with me.


Worth it?

Completely and totally. I’m without a lot of stuff I’ve recently taken for granted (volleyball group, D&D group, my extended family, beaches for swimming and so on), but with so much more. I’ve been up the top of the mountains in the Cascades and in the Olympics and climbed the two highest points here in Anacortes. I’ve been to the Oregon Coast and hiking in the foothills in Oregon. I’ve seen so much already. This adventure is JUST starting and I’m incredibly excited.

My faith, that my family and friends and I could work this all out, was greatly rewarded. I’ve got a better job, a better place to live, three or four states to explore, family coming soon, so much to do!


P.S. – probably my last true blog post for awhile. Next up, change the world.

Written by Matt

June 16th, 2010 at 3:34 pm

Posted in Drivel,Thoughts

Biggest game budget ever.

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According to some guesses and estimates based on some number EA released, Scott suggests that The Old Republic has about a 150 million budget.

Wow.

That’s a huge budget. That bigger than most movies get. I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing that game budgets are starting to out do movie budgets, but it should get us some damn interesting games.

I’m pulling for it big time…because I want to play the game they keep talking about. Hopefully the one they release will be something like the one they keep pitching (often rare).

What Would Matt Do:: Keep an eye on this baby and try to get in the beta for sure.

Written by Matt

March 24th, 2010 at 12:30 pm