Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Steam's Discoverability Update & My Curator List

Steam's Discoverability Update released last week was a gift from Heaven if you ask me. After all this time where the frontpage was plagued by various pre-orders, early-access scams, and DLCs, now there is finally peace. Tranquillity. The true perfection of silence. Instead of cacophony of chaotic half done games, the only things I now see on my frontpage are recently released games that should be on the frontpage. And I am grateful for that.

It needs to be said, that if you still want to see all "ungames" you are still able to, as for myself, first chance I got, I got rid of all the things that annoy me. This includes pre-orders, DLCs, and early access games. In my book, the game is either finished, or not finished. You buy the finished game when it is released, and don't buy unfinished game until it is finished and released. Simple rule for simple life.

Some might think back on how I backed Mandate on kickstarter, and to this day Mandate remains only thing I backed on kickstarter or any other similar service. I consider backing things on kickstarter a gamble. No matter how certain it looks, you need to accept that the money you pledged is money already lost. And with that in mind, what you end up getting or not getting is just odds in your favour. But kickstarter is a topic for another time.

Aside from getting rid of all things that pestered the Steam frontpage, now there are also Curators, people who have a group on Steam can make their own list of games they recommend. Currently the first place goes to Cynical Brit, and rightly so if you ask me. What this means, is that box quotes form more popular curators, or curators that you follow on Steam will show beside the description of the game you are currently taking a look at. This may lead to some hilarious moments, as for example DOTA 2 having a description of "The premier multiplayer misery simulator." attached to it. Anyone who ever played a game like DOTA will know how true this description can be at times.

As this is something everyone can do, I took part in it as well. You can find my curator list here. On it, are games that I consider good, and well worth the time you spend playing them. In the same breath, this will be some extra work from my side, as I intend to write an article about every game I recommend, and some of the games on my list, do not have an article written about them. I am still working on the name of column for those games that I have to write about in retrospect. For now, "In the Name of Curation" sounds good albeit a bit long. Work in progress I guess.

That aside, it seems interesting the way Steam looks to be heading in. The purpose of the whole update seems to be the ability for an individual to find games similar to those that s/he likes or plays. This is reinforced by the fact that you get in your Discovery Queue games that your friends play, games that are in some way similar to those that you play, and games that you will find on the lists of the curators you follow.

And even with all this changes aimed to make Steam more "personalised" what I still like the most is the fact that there is no more shovelware every time I open Steam, just waiting there and suffocating new and exciting releases that should have their own spot under the Sun, away from the crap that plagued frontpage for so long.

#Steam #Curator #Discoverability

Saturday, 27 September 2014

One Year of Cogitationes Astalnaris

One full year of blogging.

Cogitationes Astalnaris's age is now finally on the clock.

I will admit this is one strange post for me to write. I never liked celebrating birthday, it felt sort of artificial. Anniversaries were always just a waste of time. I never liked the attention that I got for just being. It feels cheap, and as if anyone can do it. Like those medals for participation I keep hearing about these days. Birthday to me was always of no value.

On other hand, I always loved celebrating achievements, because these were earned. Something I accomplished myself, which was not just handed to me on the basis of existing. It is why I love meritocracy.

I always liked celebrating birthdays of friends and family, because I cared for them, and I actually saw some sense in celebrating their birth. If they did not exist, my life would be empty(er). And yes, I see the irony that this same logic could be used on me, and my birthday, but I will always argue that other people actually want to celebrate their birthday. While I find my own birthday to be a great day that changed the human history, but no one should pay any attention to it until I achieve greatness. and conquer the world.

No need to be modest, we all know I am arrogance personified, and living manifestation of narcissism. I'm rather tight-fisted as well.

All that aside some changes will be coming to this blog. Some new things as well. By now you probably noticed new theme. I have been meaning to change this for some time, and there were minor changes every now and then, but I was determined to leave major changes for some more auspicious time. One Year Anniversary seems like a perfect opportunity. It is still not completely done, but it should by the end of the month.

Aside from my regular ramblings, thoughts, and musings there will be two new columns that will emerge every so often.

Fabula Brevis
The first of the two is connected a bit with the traditional NaNoWriMo that takes place in November. As I think one month is far too little for anyone who wants to write to write, I am making this into a column instead. To be clear, yes it is possible to write a 50000 word novel in a month, but why should we limit ourselves to only one month out of twelve? Why not write all the time? Here you will find short stories I have written or have yet to write.

The name is rather simple, but it hearkens back to how I decided to name my blog. Fabula Brevis means Short Story. I know, in Latin it sounds far more exciting, and I hope you enjoy it. I welcome any insight, critique or comment you are willing to give or make. Whatever you say, I will simply accept it, or in the worst case ask you to elaborate on it. No resistance, no arguing, no disagreement. No hard feelings. This is a rare chance you will not see often around these parts. So go for it.

Scheming Dice
The second of the two will be focused on the tabletop gaming. I rather like rolling dice and roleplaying, and I feel this could vary things a bit so it is not just random ramblings on how people are corrupt, or how I still have not finished all the bosses in heroic Naxxramas. In general I feel there is number of topics I could cover, and give my thoughts on, that still to this day plague every group that ever sat around a table, and decided to roll some dice and pretend to fight dragons. It is not likely I will be able to single-handedly resolve all the Gordian knots that came to be in all these years, but it cannot hurt to try.

I hope you continue reading my ramblings, and I continue to entertain, challenge, and inspire you with my thoughts about all things even remotely connected to gaming.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Lack of Tier Sets in LFR

LFR is modus operandi of all those who always wanted to experience the story behind the raid, without all the time, and effort that usually had to be invested. Granted, if that was all there was to it, we would go once, see what is it all about, and never come back. The truth is, LFR remained as popular as it is among the people because of the loot. And while all those various pieces of gear are fine, we were always coming back in order to collect all the Tier pieces, or at least enough of the tier pieces to get a bonus. At least I did it because of that.

The reality behind LFR is that most people you encounter did not look up the fights, do not know what is going on, do not give their all, and are there either for the ride, or the loot. In LFR we are all strangers, and competition. If that random Warlock gets a token for my tier piece, I will not be happy, I will be cursing that warlock. If that random Warrior gets that greatsword instead of me, I will curse him too. There is no reason why I would not. I did not came to LFR for jokes and giggles. I did not join the queue to be a good Samaritan and help others obtain what they want. I joined in order to see the story, and after that to get the pieces of gear that I need. Believe me, once I collect all I need, it is "After that, it is So long, Farewell Auf Wiedersehen, Goodbye!" Nothing personal.

While this might appear selfish, people in LFR are all strangers. You do not have any connections to them beyond being stuck in the same group as the other 24. If you raid with the guild, these are the people you interact with on a regular basis. This is the group where no matter who gets that piece of gear, you all profit. And you know that eventually you will get it too. With a bunch of strangers that you probably see only on this one occasion there is no incentive. There is no incentive to roll greed if you already have that piece of gear. Yes, it is nice thing to do, but then why should you be nice for the sake of being nice, if all others are jerks.

To be honest, that is not fair comparison. Personally I like to apply the golden rule to this kind of situations, and I tend to believe that how you treat others, is how others will treat you. If you respect them, they will respect you too. But that does not mean I will go out of my way to ensure everyone eventually gathers all they need.

That brings us back to the removal of Tier armour sets from LFR come Warlords of Draenor. Personally, I consider this a grave mistake. No matter how inferior the stats in comparison to the more "elite" sets, obtaining tier set from a LFR was still a goal worthy of pursuit. Random armour sets you will be able to obtain now are pittance in comparison. Not only are they ugly, they are no incentive for people to actually go and queue for LFR.

Some people will still do it anyway. For valour, or whatever the new currency will be. Some might even do it because it is just the right difficulty. Some might even want to obtain those ugly armour sets for various reasons ranging all from transmog to legitimate upgrades. But in essence this is the deep cut in the back of LFR. If you really want efficiency you are better of with a group you put together yourself. If you go, and do Normal Raid difficulty, you will be able to obtain Tier armour, items will be of higher Item level, and because you are actually coordinated group, there is a chance you know what you are doing, and how to get things done.

All the merits LFR ever had over the normal raid difficulty are lost, when you consider the fact that as of Warlords of Draenor LFR will lack any incentive to engage with it on a regular basis. Only crazy person would willingly choose to suffer for nought a group of people that he does not know, care, or want to see ever again. The truth is that LFR is internet in a box. It might have awesome moments, but it is rather depressing and insufferable otherwise.

But then again, this might be just me. Maybe others have great and many positive experiences with LFR. In my opinion, if I wanted more "hard-core approach" to raiding, I would go and play Wildstar. Hardcore might be nice, and I am certain the raiders deserve some sort of reward to set them apart from the plebs that raid only in LFR these days. That said, I do not thing Tier armour sets should be that reward. After all, raiding should be satisfaction by itself for those hardcore raiders. Any kind of reward is just a bonus for them, as they seek challenge, not medal for participation.

And yes, I see it as irony that I talk about medals for participation, and still demand to have Tier sets obtainable from LFR. My reasoning, LFR version of Tier sets is in all things that matter inferior to the versions of Tier armour that can be obtained from higher difficulty raid settings. Thus, I want only what I had until now, I want status quo.

UPDATE: When I published this post I knew something was missing. I could not pinpoint what exactly, but I knew that the argument is incomplete. As I could not identify what was missing, I went along and published it anyway. Fortunately, thanks to conversation I had with Lacotill, and Fierydemise over on twitter I figured it out. What I wanted to add is that with the removal of Tier armour sets from LFR, the mode is starting to die a slow death. Nobody likes it, and Flex is far better option. Any incentive that ever was there to enter LFR is now gone beyond that first tourist experience. And if Blizzard wants it gone, it should just remove it, not kill it slowly by letting the interest for it dwindle into nothingness.

#WoW #Raiding #LFR

Saturday, 20 September 2014

#Gamergate's Many Paths

It is probably a whole month since the Internet rose up in arms, and decided enough is enough. I lost the track of time to be honest. A whole month since instead of facing the accusations of cronyism, nepotism, clientelism, and all other words connected to the corruption, non-existent morals, and poor ethics, game "journalists" decided to declare war on gamers.

Declaring war on gamers is generally a bad idea. We fight, and squabble all the time. We fight for most minuscule things; who will get the loot, why Horde is superior to the Alliance, why there should be more left-handers in games like Link, why flying is essential in World of Warcraft, all the way to defending our hobby and convincing people, that just because you play games, that does not make you a sociopath school shooter, or sexist, or whatever misconception general public has gotten into its head in any given week. Unlike others we are used to fighting.

So when the Napoleons of gaming journalism declared war on Gamers, the equivalent of Tsarist Russia, I've got only one thing to say to these social justice warriors, misguided 3rd wave feminists, and in general anyone who stands against #gamergate for whichever reason: Winter is Coming!

Fear of the Word
Some time ago I engaged in conversation with Belghast on twitter. I was left in utter disbelief when he said, that we should not use #gamergate because his female friends feel threatened by the word. That those friends actually think someone using #gamergate would drag them on the street. I understand that Belghast is in many ways Epicurean, all he wants is for everyone to be happy, and at peace, and plant flowers in their little circle of happiness and ignore the outside world. That is all well and fine with me. If you decide to ignore the outside world I am not going to stop you.

What bothered me, was first the notion that someone can actually be scared of one single word. And after that, the fact that someone feels entitled to censor this word in a sense because it would make others feel better. #gamergate is not Lord Voldemort, you can say the word and nothing will happen. If you honestly fear #gamergate, it means you are afraid of your own past actions, and fear that what could surface might not paint the picture you want the world to see. And if that is the case, I do not feel sorry for you. The only people who have reason to fear #gamergate, are the ones who did something morally questionable in order to further their personal agenda.

Everything has its time and place. If you want to write about sexism, misogyny and feminism, do it in your own publications, magazines, and websites. As it was made rather obvious, gamers, actually want to play games, not listen to lectures why a certain game is sexist, misogynist, and all other isms that detract from the experience of the game itself. And when they lash back it is somehow gamers at blame, even though they patiently listened for years before they said enough is enough, and demanded some basic standards of those that should be reporting on the games, but do everything else instead.

What is obvious, is that #gamergate is a lot of things bunched together, and because of this we are forced to discuss plenty of different topics all valid on their own together as intertwined. That has both good, and bad sides. But in no case should you fear a word. If you fear a single word, or name, you should see a therapist, or a priest, whichever you prefer because it is rather obvious to anyone sane that you are in need of help. Go get it, it is for your own good.

Number of Opinion, Number of Paths Diverging
As #gamergate went on it became obvious that there is not only one set of goals people want to see accomplished. There are many. Some want more honesty and integrity of gaming "journalism", others just more disclosure, some want those people gone from the industry. Many people voiced their opinions, many more new voices joined the fight with the view of someone from the outside. And while some people find the motives of these newcomers suspect, I welcome them with open hands.

I think that these "journalists" are beyond help and need to go once and for all. In any other branch they would be fired for a lot lesser things. Ethics, and morality is one thing where we should not be tolerant. You either have standards, or don't have a job. There is no middle way. Because these game "journalists" are worse than rats, and will not willingly go we are forced to use more firm approach. Not visit their sites, and writing the advertisers about #Gamergate and explaining how unscrupulous, corrupt, and rude these "journalists" are. I mean, where did you ever see a journalist insult, and ridicule its audience? The answer is nowhere. So let it burn, and we will be better for it.

At least one site took this accusations to heart and decided to update its ethics across the board. The Escapist released an article reflecting on the ethical standards called Publisher's Note: The State of Gaming. I will admit that the only thing I disagree with in the whole article is comparison of gamers to the owners of sports cars. I see gamers as the drivers who use shift-stick, and see the other drivers as a bit inferior, mostly because they consider themselves "true" in comparison, but no bad blood otherwise. What gamers don't like, is when boat-lovers come along and start talking nonsense how it is unfair that cars have wheels, instead of a propeller.

The influx of fresh blood is appreciated as we can actually see what are the facts, and not just the agendas, and personal opinions. Some will disagree, and see this as just politics trying to promote their own views. Personal opinions are fine for a blogger like me. But if you are getting payed to report on the situation, than standards are higher, and these standards include fact-checking, proofs, and all other things that come to other real journalists as natural. C.H. Sommer released a video about games and sexism, here is the post where someone actually checked everything she stated in the video. It checked out.

Milo Yiannopoulos over at Breitbart seems to be tearing a new one to these game "journalists" every week, and I love him for it. His article about the state of gaming industry is a piece worth reading. As he concluded:
"The only group that genuinely isn't welcome [in gaming] is that small but noisy battalion of social justice warriors, who bring nothing but gloom and despair, and their loyal band of incompetent, unethical bloggers, who are so desperate to advertise their upstanding moral virtue to the sisterhood that they have forgotten to check their consciences. We should resist this new tyranny." 
And with that I can do nothing but fully agree. There were other voices as well. Cynical Brit chimed in, TechRaptor, and Niche Gamer are running regular updates about the movement, and what needs to be done to achieve change. Internetaristocrat, and Sargon of Akkad rumbled about the topic, and there are probably many more. And while 4chan failed us when m00t forbade any discussion on #gamergate, there are other platforms. People from 4chan migrated to 8chan. And healthy discussion can be found on the Escapist forums as well as on MMO-Champion.

What is great about #gamergate, is the fact that it is like a hydra. A hydra that was in its swamp for a long time, and did not pay attention to anyone. That Hydra did not mind other farmers settling near and started working the fields. It did not even mind when these farmers started to encroach on its swamp and transform it into the fields. But once the farmers attacked, as they felt the land they came in is theirs by default, the hydra stroke back. And no Heracles will be able to put this beast down. Because this hydra does not fight with teeth, claws, and poison. It fights with arguments, ethics, facts, and morality on its side. And all the poison it spews by accident, because its teeth are not aligned while arguing against the farmers is just a sidetrack farmers would like to transform in personal attacks made against them. There is no main head on this hydra, so when they cut one, three new rise from it.


Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Hearthstone: Forgotten Bosses, and Great Nerf

It has been awhile since Naxxramas was released, and I am yet to defeat all of the bosses on the Heroic difficulty. I am glad I can say I have beaten two out of the five remaining in the past week. Kel'Thuzad, and Four Horsemen are done, history, caput. I have to say that these remaining bosses will take some additional time, because currently I am having a rather bad spell in Hearthstone, no matter how or with what deck I play, I lose more than I win. It is rather depressing to be honest, and it keeps my time spent on Hearthstone on bare minimum. I even started toying with the idea that I should check out how things are going in the Arena.

Kel'Thuzad was stubborn, but eventually he fell. I was quite happy I managed to defeat the undead lich with a Paladin deck. It took couple of tries, and I was about to eat myself because of some stupid misplay I did on several occasions, but in the end the damned thing died for good. Still, no phylactery was found so we can expect eventual comeback. I just hope I will not have to face it myself.

The Four Horsemen on the other hand were simply said a trial in patience. Still it was a better trial than all the other decks, so I decided to just soldier it through and be done with it. Eventually the smarter of the two gave up, and I was victorious with a Priest deck. I think at this point is well established that the heroic fights are stacked against you, and that rare few sadists will ever return to them after they defeat the boss. Some might, but I sure will not be one of them. When you play against the Horsemen, remember that even silenced Horsemen, is still a Horseman. It is preferable if you leave one of the three on the board and just silence the damned thing. Still, you need to do it early, or it will be too late.

This leaves me with Heigan, Gothik, and Loatheb. Not much of a company, but I hazard once I beat them at their own game, we will never see each other ever again. Good times will be had.

In other news, Rogues and Hunters are finally getting a nerf unlike anything we have seen before. The cards affected are Leeroy Jenkins, and Starving Buzzard. Leeroy will now cost one more mana, that is five, and Starving Buzzard will not be a 2/1 for 2 but instead 3/2 for 5. And life is good. No more Rogues fooling around with Shadowsteps, and killing you in one turn after they were about to die. No more Hunters pulling a miracle boards out of their ass with the amount of draw they got from Buzzard.

These changes are basically focused on the interesting gameplay. And while I perfectly understand the appeal of fast game that can be decided in one turn, I find it cruel and tasteless. Not that the feelings ever had to do much with anything, but I am glad to see the end of 18 damage Shadowstep/Leeroy combo. It was driving me crazy. I saw this too many times, not to be happy about it. Now if only we could convince Blizzard to up the cost on Mind Control to 11 and I will be happy...

Also, I finally got a first Legendary, Nat Pagle, from a pack of cards after four whole months of nothing. I do not count the Naxxramas Legendaries, as those were essentially welfare epics of sorts. You payed for them, and you got them, no element of randomness involved. I was starting to think they ran out of Legendaries considering how many packs I opened, and got nothing but one rare and four commons. Dark times indeed. Currently Nat Pagle found his place in my Mage deck that was in real need of readjusting after the whole Naxxramas came out. The old deck was great, but after the Naxxramas it felt like it was done.

At that pace, I might get the heroic Hearthstone card back by Christmas, it is not like I am in a hurry, and there are currently over twenty million players to defeat in the meanwhile.


Friday, 12 September 2014

Free Face Swap, and Newfound Artistic Freedom

Today is a good day for those of us who argued a free character recustomisation is a necessity with the advent of the new character models in World of Warcraft come the next expansion, Warlords of Draenor. We can honestly say, we won. We got what we wanted, as it was revealed that in the next patch we will be getting a new option in the barber shop. We will be able to change the face of our character, and while not free, it costs 32 pieces of gold, which is still not the real money, which was my concern in the first place.

What does that mean for us then? What does it mean for Blizzard? What does it mean for the development of the new character models?

The answer is rather simple. More freedom. While we can freely choose whichever face we like the most for our character, it is the freedom Blizzard gained with this addition to the game that we should turn our attention to. Before they had their hand tied, the character models were required to look as much as possible as the old ones. This was rather complicated task since the old faces were simple, and pretty much alike in most cases. If we translated the same to the new model, then even with sharper lines there would be no actual progress after ten years.

But now things are different. Some might say that Blizzard is not obligated anymore to make the new model's faces resemble the old ones as much as possible. They are able to go in their own directions, like they went with the male Night Elves. While all the old faces are square, the new faces have oval shape, proportions of the body are different, and feel more natural. Sure, forearms are still the size of your average tree, but some things never change I guess.

In general this artistic freedom gives the developers a chance to show us how their artistic vision evolved over the course of time. As we can make the choice for ourselves if we like the current look of our characters, we have the option to actually choose a different look if we do not like the current, or stay with the new iteration of old if we like it.

This in my opinion solves the problem of free character recustomisation. Everybody wins. And that is rare these days. Blizzard has shown that they actually listen to our concerns, and even though they do not communicate it, they do work on the solutions that would keep the playerbase content. Now if only they did something about that no-fly thing they keep mentioning every time somebody asks what is the status of flying. Blood Elf models are still delayed, but I guess I can't have it all.In any case, they garnered a fair amount of good will after a very long time.

#WoW #Recustomisation

Monday, 8 September 2014

Diverse Garrisons and its Meaning for the Horde

Horde was through its modern history a lot of things. It started with Thrall and his liberation of all the orcs from the internment camps, but it grew from that with amazing speed. Along the way trolls, and tauren joined. Later on even Forsaken. After that, on the urging of Sylvanas Thrall accepted the blood elves, and after that Garrosh took in goblins and pandaren. With the exception of the pandaren, members of the Horde, at the time of their joining were always considered outcasts, exiles, group of people with nothing to have, and nothing to lose.

This was true for the orcs, the jungle trolls, the tauren, the forsaken, the blood elves, and even for the goblins. They all started from the point zero and moved on as part of the Horde. Some of them, like the forsaken and blood elves managed to struggle and carve something out for themselves, but in general, it was once they became part of the Horde that they really thrived. It was amazing seeing how this group of different people all with their own circumstances, goals, and aspirations managed to defy everyone else and actually succeed.

Granted, they all had their problems, but in the big picture, they were equal to the Alliance, and unlike the Alliance where they all got along by default, in Horde you had to prove your worth, but once proven you had allies and friends for life. That was the Horde Thrall envisioned, created, and passed on to Garrosh. Now, I wish this never happend. I still wish it would be Garrosh at the Wrathgate, and Saurfang the Younger safe back in Borean Tundra. I can see young Saurfang listening to his advisers, following in Thralls steps, and generally be everything we ever came to expect of a Horde warrior and leader. Something, that with time Nazgrim evolved into.

Alas, we got Garrosh. And unlike the cunning devil, and brilliant tactician we know him in the books, Garrosh we got in the game was a common bully. He was closeminded, stubborn, unrelenting, and driven. He was racist, and most everyone who joined to Horde under Thrall hated him with a fury of thousand Suns. Still we could do nothing to counter him, we just had to put up with him, and let it slide. And while we were helpless, Garrosh went on with his campaign for True Horde, undermining every good thing Thrall created in all those year.

Garrosh wanted to have a Horde that was not a diverse group. He wanted Horde to be one thing. He wanted the Horde to represent Orcish War Machine. For Garrosh, Horde was testament to the might and glory of orcish race. He did not see a coalition of nations based on trust, honour, and mutual benefit. He only was great potential for war. This is where Garrosh's downfall started. He did not trust anyone but orcs, he played favourites, while shunning, and oppressing everyone who showed any single sign of dissent.

Garrosh Hellscream saw Horde, as it probably was in times of Rend Blackhand. One great military, where all obediently follow their leader. He always thought this was the position of Warchief, the ultimate power. Form Garrosh's point of view Horde was lead by a tyrant, and thus everyone else had to comply or suffer for their dissent. In truth, the Horde Thrall founded was one led by a dictator, a Roman dictator with extended stay beyond only half a year but still. While Warchief was supreme military commander, and the highest judicial authority, his advisers were more than just that. His advisers were under Thrall's rule his equals. And while his was the final say, To go through with something others disagreed with was highly unlikely.

Thrall understood his role. That his authority over others comes in play only when in dire need. In time of peace, every adviser would govern his people as bast as they think or can. He understood that he cannot really mess with internal affairs of others, and for that he was respected. I believe Vol'jin will follow in Thrall's steps. Vol'jin was there from the first days of the formation of what we now know as the Horde. He saw how it began, and on what basis, he has the foresight needed to avoid making the same mistakes Garrosh did.

Unfortunately, Garrosh lacked that foresight. And now, once we defeated him, witnessed his trial, and let him escape, we face a new threat. Another Horde. This one, the one to Garrosh's liking. Formed of only orcs, where other races, if present at all, are subjects, servants, or slaves of the great Orcish War Machine. And instead of using this Iron Horde as a foil to contrast what our Horde is all about, Blizzard decided to go once again with full orcish narrative.

That drives me crazy. I am saddened by the fact that as a member of the Horde, I am still forced to build an orcish garrison. Even when statistics show blood elves are the most playable Horde race. I am left wondering, what does Blizzard mean when they say that our Horde is not just orcs, but then goes on developing only orcish houses and buildings. I understand human architecture. After all, humans are the most popular race in the game. Now I get it would be weird if all the races of the Horde built their garrison in the style of blood elves. I truly do, I am not suggesting it.

What I suggest is the garrison that actually includes all seven races. I would actually like my garrison to reflect this Horde of many colours. What I have in mind is that the buildings that would be stereotypically connected with a certain race, are done in the architecture of that race. I am sure it would end up looking like a shantytown, but it would look much more authentic than the generic more spikes approach Blizzard loves so much when they talk about "Horde" architecture.

For example: Forsaken Alchemy Lab, Blood Elven Enchanter Study, Goblin Engineering Works, Blood Elven Gem Boutique, Orcish Salvage Yard, Forsaken Scribe Quarters, Tauren Storehouse, Blood Elven Tailoring Emporium, Forsaken Forge, Troll Tannery, Orcish Barracks, Goblin Workshop, Tauren Stables, Blood Elven Mage Tower, Orcish War Mill, Troll Barn, Pandaren Tavern, Orcish Lumber Mill,  Goblin Trading Post, and Horde Gladiator's Sanctum.

This, would in my opinion show much better what our Horde is all about than the uniform orcish looking Garrison. It is not the orcish architecture or the orcs that make the Horde what it is. It is the Red Banner painted with black insignia that makes the Horde for what it is. Horde is not some uniform entity. Horde is a diverse group of very different people, that all share a common goal. While with years they might have formed friendships, and share certain beliefs, at the end of the day it is their variety that makes them different from the Alliance, and the Iron Horde.

#WoW #Garrisons #WoD

Friday, 5 September 2014

Cannot Be Tamed Gaming Questionnaire

Another one of those, a lot of questions, and a lot of answers. I like that kind of posts, it feels like answering the questions I never really ask myself but I should. I am grateful for that. And thus, I am grateful to Jasyla for coming up with this Gaming Questionnaire in order to find the new focus for her own blog. What a wonderful thing, I get to reminisce, and help somebody else at the same time. Win-Win if you ask me.

1. When did you start playing video games?
I was six when I got my first taste of video games. I played Tetris on a handheld device, but there were other games as well. "Cars" is the only memorable one though. The goal was that your "formula" does not crash in other objects on the road, and further you lived, faster it all went. When I think of it now it was all rather simple, and really old. But I played with my brothers, and that was all that mattered. That was the only video game our father played with us as well. Nothing could convince our mother to play with us. In general my parents were more in favour of various card and tabletop games. There is a reason why I know card games nobody in my generation ever heard of. Sedma? Schnaps? Russian Schnaps? Gendarme? Belote?

2. What is the first game you remember playing?
I will answer in regard to the next question. Disney's Aladdin (1994 video game), we had it on a school computer that we were allowed to play after we finished our homework. The alternative was Wolfenstein 3D, but at the time it did not really look impressive. Aladdin was much more entertaining as I recall. Also, password for all the weapons and health in Wolfenstein is LIM, you press these three letters at the same time once in game. The only drawback is that your score resets, but we never really cared for that.

3. PC or Console?

4. XBox, PlayStation, or Wii?
PC or nothing. I don't have space, will, or money for a console. And even if I had, I would buy a PC. PC Master Race all the way and all that.
The cackling you hear is my good old PC reminding me, that even World of Warcraft is continuously reminding me that my video drivers are outdated. Savour the irony.

5. What’s the best game you’ve ever played?
It is actually hard to decide. I cannot say I love them both equally, but I love them both the same for different things. One is Prince of Persia: Warrior Within. The other is Unreal II: The Awakening. I still hope to see the day when sequel comes out. I find it interesting how the both are the games that I played in my early formative years. Of the later period I could probably single out Dragon Age: Origins, but I loathed that game because of my own fault. As I was already 10 something hours in, I saw an angle of my character I never saw before. He had no actual chin. And when I created him, he appeared to have that chin. And so this chinless city elf champion ended up saving the kingdom, while I secretly hoped I would get the chance to correct my mistake...

6. What’s the worst game you’ve ever played?
This one is actually recent. Game of Thrones, created by Cyanide. How appropriate the name of the company, because the game really is poison. Ugh, I don't know where to start but the game is horrible on all fronts. If you want to make a game after a book, take Witcher for example, and take Game of Thrones as an example of all the things to avoid doing. I believe this would yield a satisfying result. I realise this is rather vague, and not helpful, but there was not a game before that made me really not want to play it ever again after first ten minutes.

7. Name a game that was popular/critically adored that you just didn’t like.
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. I don't care if the whole world loves it, if they keys are not connected as they should, and make the game unplayable, than that is it. I don't have anything to do with a game like that. I can't even use it to support my desk because it is digital.

8. Name a game that was poorly received that you really like.
I don't know about poor reception, but I guess Mass Effect 2 fits. While the world in general disliked the narrative, I loved more roguish approach to the matters. It felt nice feeling like I was doing my own thing because nobody else believed me. Although to this day I am still trying to get Lawson killed on suicide mission without other members dying. She's still alive and annoying... Some day...

9. What are your favourite game genres?
RPG, and platformers. I play grand strategies, FPS, TPS, and probably all other types and genres as long as they do not include charts. I like the game to engage me, not to make me do math. I got no grudge against math, I just don't see the general appeal in it. That also explains why I stubbornly stick with the beautiful sword instead of equipping the ugly abomination with superior stats in your regular RPG. Seriously, stop with the ugly. To clarify, beautiful sword is realistic sword, if it looks like space shuttle, it is ugly. And that is to put it mildly.

10. Who is your favourite game protagonist?
Prince of Persia from the Warrior Within. Driven, decisive, despairing. The prince is a tragedy incarnate. Lost his kingdom, his father, his love, he has nothing but the black demon Dahaka chasing him all through hell and high water. Ok, not the water as it is the weakness of time, and thus Dahaka's weakness as the demon is the guardian of the time itself. And the prince does not understand Dahaka's role, the only thing he knows for certain is that the beast wants him dead. And he is ready to change the flow of time in order to change everything. That was a valuable lesson. Change does not come easy, and often demands sacrifice that is far greater than you are willing to admit.

11. Describe your perfect video game.
The world, combat, and feel for reality of Witcher II combined with the deep, rich story, and narrative of Dragon Age: Origins. That game would be so awesome, and I still hope it happens one day.

12. What video game character do have you have a crush on?
What a silly notion, a crush on a video character? Me? Preposterous! Ok, fine, when I was young I liked Kaileena from Warrior Within. In my youth, she was everything I could ever wish for. And her voice was really something special. And I did appreciate that she was just the same as the Prince. Kaileena was also the first Femme Fatale I encountered. Well, the first I recognised as such.

13. What game has the best music?
World of Warcraft, Wrath of the Lich King. Nothing could ever beat Stormpeaks in my mind. On my funereal which will be held after so many years that even internet will be considered fit only for the annals of history, I want Invincible playing on the loop. Yes, I do have music planned for my funereal. It just so happens that once I heard the song it was already decided, it fit.

14. Most memorable moment in a game:
This is the question that I skipped, and saved for the end, thinking something will come up when I finish with the rest of them. Nothing stands out in particular. Thus, I will go with the first thought that came to me. Our guilds first kill of Arthas in the Icecrown. Our progression group already killed it, long time ago, they even had some bosses on heroic on farm. On other hand, our 25 man group struggled for some time, and when we finally killed him, there was joy, happiness, and maybe some tears. I know we laughed at someone who released after Arthas killed us at 10%, and we tried to console him that next time we will kill him faster, we took pictures, and in general felt like kings that night.

15. Scariest moment in a game:
It is not so much a moment as it is the whole level. To this day I dislike dark games, simply because I cannot see a thing, and I actually like see things. But anyway, there was this level in Unreal II, all dark and scary. I think it was the 7th or something like that. The moment I sat my foot in I let my younger brothers take over. It was creepy, haunting, futuristic in a way that did not sit well with me. It was really alien to my mind. It did not feel disgusting, but it felt too different and at the same time too familiar. Today, I would mark that level as the epitome of uncanny valley. At the time, it was just disturbingly dark and green.

16. Most heart-wrenching moment in a game:
The moment Arthas came home and killed his own father. That was my "Game of Thrones" moment. I refused to play as Arthas in the Scourge campaign for some time after that cinematic. I hated him with a fury of thousand suns. I saw his crime as unforgivable, I wished lightning would strike and end him right there and then. When I killed him years later in the Icecrown Citadel, I felt the justice was finally served.

17. What are your favourite websites/blogs about games?
You can find my favourite blogs in my blogroll. I do not agree with all of them all the time (if ever), at times I will go in long discussions with some of them, but I believe that discussion breeds creativity, and might even broaden the horizons. Not mine, because I am stubborn fool who is always right, but still, I try. :)

As for the websites, as of recent I found the appreciation for techraptor, forbes, and nichegamer.

18. What’s the last game you finished?
I cannot recall. I am in a bit of a bind at the moment, and the only game I have enough time to play is Hearthstone. Even that, only a couple of games to finish the quests. If I put some effort in it and find some actual time, it could be the Papers Please, as I stopped playing after the glorious Arstotzka took all my money in the name of the good of its citizens. I wish I could send the neighbours who ratted me out to the state into darkest dungeon of the totalitarian regime.

19. What future releases are you most excited about?
Mandate, Witcher III, Dragon Age Inquisition, Kingdom Come: Deliverance, Ghost of a Tale, Sui Generis, Hellraid, and Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor.

20. Do you identify as a gamer?
Depends of the context and the company I am with. On the internet, the confines of my blog, and the games I play, yes I identify as gamer. In general, that is just one of many labels that can be ascribed to me.

21. Why do you play video games?
Because they are fun, and entertaining. They are nice pastime, and I enjoy them greatly.

#Gaming Questionnaire

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Perdition of Saints Row

In these recent days, it was announced that Saints Row will be getting its expansion. Gat Out of Hell, is what they call it. What I find it mildly amusing is the fact that Saints Row IV started as an expansion for Saints Row the Third, and then grew into a full-fledged game. The announcement trailer is everything you expect it to be when you think of Saints Row franchise these days, but I have my doubts.

Lets get done with the most obvious first. I hated the colour scheme in the fourth game, and going as Gat to Hell in order to save the protagonist of the first four games is not helping this at all. The game appears as red and dark as it was in the fourth instalment. Now, I understand we cannot really judge the game still in development by its announcement trailer, but on the other hand, it is not like they have much poetic freedom with their interpretation of hell. There will be flames, and there will be darkness. In that regard there is not much that can change.

I am also quite amused because the protagonist caught the attention of the Devil himself. I am proud because if you played the game, you know you were the protagonist who did all that crazy stuff. And some of it was quite wicked when you think of it. We can safely say that the announcement trailer caught my attention. But what worries me, and this is hard to admit, is that they will once more go out of control. For me, the third game was at its release, the Holy Grail of videogames. It was funny, entertaining, it did not take itself seriously, and it honoured all great works of inspiration. Saints Row the Third revelled in being the parody of gaming, the joker of videogames.

As someone who first came to the franchise with the third game, the fourth was already a bit too much for me. It lost its original charm. In the third instalment you were simply an armed to your teeth maniac who never cared for anyone but himself and his crew. In the fourth game though, you were more akin to a superhero. You ran faster than a speeding bullet, were more powerful than a locomotive, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. The guns you carried became unnecessary, the gunplay was not fun, and the world became much smaller, and felt as if it was of cardboard.

My hope for the franchise is that once the Saints manage to wreck the very hell into pieces, they will actually go and explore the universe. I want to see how the gang tries to find a way to actually restore Earth, not just travel back in time. I want to see the Saints at their best, wrecking Universe to pieces while trying to bring back the Earth. Because who else but the Third Street Saints would sacrifice an entire galaxy to get back what they lost.

We all know morality was never their strong suit. They killed before, and they will continue to kill as long as they live. Considering their next game is taking place in hell, one could say they will continue to kill even in death. I want to see the Saints fighting against the various gangs of the galaxy. On the other hand, having the Saints kicking Hitler in the nuts because of time travel seems pretty fun idea. And just along the lines of silly that we all come to know, love, and expect from the franchise.

I do not want Saints Row to be as realistic as some other open world games such as GTA5 and Sleeping Dogs, but I do not want it to be a false Superhero simulator either. I want Saints Row to be what the third game was. Unapologetic, crazy, without constraints, and full of silly humour. I want Saints Row to be exciting and fun again, not just bleak in all the shades of red and black.

#SaintsRow #GatOutOfHell

Monday, 1 September 2014

The Blood Elves, Only Fashionably Late

It seems as of late that day does not go by without learning that something else fell under the terrible Axe of Change, that another feature got lost in the Forest of Delay, or that another thing fell into the Bottomless Pit of Neverhappen. The latest on the list of delayed, are also the greatest. The new Blood Elf models will be gracing us with their presence only once the expansion is already released. Most probably during the first content patch.

Some might say that this is only understandable, that blood elves unlike the rest of the races, still stand against the test of time. Others might say, that originally they were not even considered for a facelift in the first place. To those, the only thing I have to say is that neither were draenei, and yet they will be on the repertoire from the very beginning of the Warlords of Draenor. The main reason being, that they feature heavily in the expansion, and it would look out of place if all other races looked so much better than one of the two playable races, who called Draenor a home at some point of their history. I myself tend to go with the third option. Blood Elves like to be special snowflakes, and arriving fashionably late, without sharing the attention with everyone else is right down their alley. They are the arrogant self-centred narcissists for a reason.

Instead of writing how very unfair this all is to the one of the most popular playable races in World of Warcraft, second only to humans, let us focus on what we should expect, what should, after the extra time invested in the Blood Elf models, be reasonable expectations instead of just another wishful thinking. And in the same breath, we should also take a look on what we should try to avoid.

In all this mess, there appears to be a silver lining after all. The Blood Elves are not the testing bunnies of the bunch. Everyone else is. What this means is, that we can take a look at every single of the nine failed experiments, evaluate their progress and than ascertain that the new models of the blood elves turn out a success. We have a unique opportunity to see what we are about to go through on our fellow players, who will get their models on time. We will be able to witness their content, their misery, their happiness, or their anger and frustration from first hand. We will be able to learn what Blizzard did wrong with the other models, and to what we need to pay special attention.

The fact of the matter is, that the faces of the blood elf models are not really varied. They are all meant to be beautiful, and this is where it ends. Currently they lack any variety, any real characteristics. There is the face with more pronounced nasolabial furrow, there is a face with higher cheekbones, there is a face with fuller lips, but in its essence they are all the same. Sure, I will never say that out loud. The face I chose for my Blood Elf is the best, unique, one of a kind I will always say, and as far as subjectivity goes I will be correct. But realistically speaking there is a difficult situation before Blizzard. How to bring the faces of Blood Elves to the higher standard, while still making them varied enough with the consideration that before, the differences between the faces were minimal at best?

It is like the Gordian knot. No matter how much they tinker about it, the end solution will always be to start from scratch, while still trying to stay as faithful to the old as possible. There is another thing. You know the saying that for an omelet, you need to break some eggs first. Well, the problem is we never decided we will have that omelet. We were quite satisfied with our basket of eggs. We were grunting at times, that it would be nice to have an omelet, but we still wanted for our eggs to stay as they were, maybe only to colour them.

The fact remains that no matter how hard they try, and how much better the new models will look in comparison to the old, the new models will never be our old. They will never be the same. And when it comes to something as personal as the players' character, it is the duty of the developer to ensure that they players can reconnect with their new models, without having to resort to the old and outdated. The latter is the lazy way we should all discourage.

This leads me once again to my perpetual argument that the only way of how we will have a full wolf and a whole goat is by having one-time free character recustomisation limited on the looks of the character only. The truth is, I am ever more doubtful of this option, as Blizzard stance of late indicates only that they want money. But that in itself is a topic for another time.

#WoW #BloodElves #WoD

Review: Legionnaire (Galaxy's Edge Book 1)

When Nick Cole, and Jason Anspach started their endeavour of making "Making Star Wars Great Again", over at Galactic Outlaws . I...