CoH/NBI: Screenshot Nostalgia Trip #5 – Scary Places

This one might also double up as a “The Scariest Place” themed post for Murf’s NBI Screenshot Challenge, except I have trouble deciding which one might be the scariest in terms of looks, nor were they exactly scary to the player most of the time either.

So I will leave it to Murf to decide which, if any, counts as part of his challenge, and continue on to the nostalgia. :)

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In a world primarily composed of office and warehouse tilesets, Dr. Vahzilok’s set piece lair in the sewers was rather memorable. Dr. Vahz is also pretty spooky in his own right, teeny featureless face in a massively brutish body cobbled together from various bodies.

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The Circle of Thorns are kinda magically demonically spooky… and then there were the endless Oranbega maps which nearly everyone dreaded, with its neverending corridors, connected by portals that would never let you through (your whole team would get through on the first or second try, but you’d just keep bumping and bumping into them and getting teleported back a dozen times), plus more portals that you had to close at the end (all twelve or thirteen of them, behind the narrowest tunnels and corner curves one can never spot) with the constantly respawning demons… which then got nerfed into not giving ANY xp after some patch or another…

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Then there’s falling….

seemingly forever…

…down something that looked like the petrified gullet of a ginormous beast.

(This might have been the Eden trial, but I’m not 100% sure anymore.)

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A set piece mission map villain-side, but I can’t remember what it was about either. I just remember the very ominous looking cavern at the end, shaped like a big ol’ toothy maw.

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Arachnos-controlled areas were ominous, in a shadowy kind of way.

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A hero-side map (Croatoa, I think) that happened to have a nice set piece of it being aflame, with the conceit of this screenshot implying that my fire/fire dominator and his imps were the scary badasses to blame.

coh_notskyrim

I believe this was one of the “more recent” set piece maps that entered the game nearer the end of its lifespan. I was pretty impressed by the update in graphical style, this spooky crypt entrance to a cave system looking like something that might belong more in Skyrim (or Legend of Grimrock, at least) than City of Heroes.

I dunno, I find it hard to judge what’s scary or not, because the honest truth is that I don’t really find even games specifically in the horror genre “scary” these days.

FEAR was effective on me because it was one of my first introductions to the concept of horror movie jump-scares being used in a first-person shooter game.

(Also, they twisted the then-common expectations of the time – ie. you’re always safe on ladders cos you were locked in a ladder climber animation and it would be unfair to present a player with a situation if you give them no animations to react with – almost reach the top and AHH, freaky little girl face staring right at you and then ghosting away. These days, stuff is sophisticated enough to let you dangle from ladders and shoot now, I think.)

But then I started watching a couple of horror movies and being mostly squicked out rather than scared per se at the repeated tropes that lent themselves more to gore and gross-out factor, and recognizing jump-scares for being what they were, and then I played Doom 3 and most of the horror kind of drained out of the genre from the endless repetition, and by the time everyone was singing the praises of Amnesia, I got about fifteen minutes into the game before getting bored out of my skull from the darkness and sneaking and “you don’t actually see anything but there’s spooky horror sounds and shit, and if you don’t act like how we want, it’s an instant game over, try again” mechanics…

…and stuff just stopped being scary for me because I ended up viewing them from a more meta design or film-critical lens.

“Ah, note the shaky camera angle meant to imply uncertainty in the protagonist, or induce a sense of motion-sickness in the viewer/player.”

“Here comes the mysterious magical little girl/doll meant to prey on our mental imagery of small female children being vulnerable and helpless and needing to be protected, turning instead into a monstrous crone figure or a giant threatening vulva or yeah, something of that nature.”

Also, there’s that whole ‘game’ aspect: it -is- a game, the real self is one step removed, the character you’re playing is in a scary, threatening situation, but you’re not. (At least, I hope you aren’t. Don’t look out the window at night while you’re mucking about with fictional horror, yeah?)

NBI Writing Prompt: I could cop out and ask you to tell me about (or show me screenshots of) things you find scary (or not) in your games.

Or I could ask you to write about stuff that scares you, and whether or not you have the same response in games.

(eg. Snakes and scorpions freak me out in real life, and I generally have a big healthy fearful respect of any critter that’s venomous or fatally dangerous to a human and am perfectly ok with this response and not interested in dulling this instinct.

A picture of a snake or scorpion in a game or a video is okay, no problems with that.

In real life though, I’ll just be way over there if something that could kill me is over here though.)

CoH: Screenshot Nostalgia Trip #4

Only City of Heroes could get away with plonking down several different colored blobs of light and calling it a raid boss.

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But boy, was the Hamidon pretty.

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Especially once you threw in all the effects from all the heroes gathered.

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Or the villains.

The CoH version of a raid boss was also an open world one, in that a set number of characters could fit on that one map to kill it. (I think it was capped at 50, but I can’t recall now.)

I don’t really recall the entire old Hamidon raid strategy, though I do remember showing up bright-eyed and newbie for a couple.

I think I was probably shunted off to one of the secondary tank teams as those were my earliest max levels. I do recall seeing the primary tank (plus I think they usually had a backup standing by) and their attendant bevy of empathy healers.

The secondary tanks would get a healer or two, and were pointed at a mitochrondria to taunt. And I believe we basically just stood there with taunt on autocast, taunting our lil hearts out, until the mito-killing team got around to our mito.

Then we stood around until all the players with a hold did their thing, and went in to punch him to death when told that we could.

coh_hami2

I do remember standing by for the revamped Hamidon, while various server groups tried to figure out how to deal with him.

They eventually figured that using scrapper teams to bash the outer yellow mitochrondria to death was the answer, and I recall seeing flights of scrappers fly in to take all six yellow mitos down in sync.

Then the ranged attackers went in to deal with the blue ones – by this time, I was maining a dark/dark defender so was on this team fairly often – which were susceptible to ranged attacks.

And finally the controllers got their day in the sun by holding down the green mitos, so that they’d stop their insane regeneration, while the other teams came in to help do damage.

Once the mitos were dealt with, the nucleus of Hami was basically a big ol’ punching bag.

I recall being rather happy bringing the dark/ def, because Howling Twilight was such a great group rez. Especially when you had a trick arrow defender around to lay down an oil slick, which you could then target and trigger the power that way, mass-rezzing the whole pile of corpses that emergency teams had teleported out and stacked up.

Villain Hamidon, when it came in, was pretty interesting because though everyone had the hero strategy down pat, folks had to adjust it a little for the slight differences in villain archetypes.

The major issue was the lack of a focused tank taunter and strong emp defender heals. Some people tried to use Brutes in lieu of the hero Tankers, but it was harder since corruptors only had a secondary support powerset, rather than primary, and villains didn’t have the empathy powerset either, I don’t think.

I seem to recall someone setting up Mastermind stream teams, they’d trickle in minions one by one in a continuous stream to take and distract the main attention/aggro of Hami instead.

Then Brutes went in and did their thing against the yellow mitos as slightly nastier scrappers, blue teams were no problem (there were always tons of villainous ranged attackers) and green teams were covered by dominators (which I did a lot of, since I main’ed two doms on the villain side.)

Hamidon was an interesting social event. For whatever reason, I never felt forced into doing Hamidon – they yielded some special Hamidon enhancements, but I always found that my character could get by perfectly well without them. They were a nice lateral bonus, but never required per se.

With that bogey off my back, I could turn up sporadically during the times I could make a weekend NA raid and just turn up for the organisation and the performing in sync.

Again, no sign-ups, no gotta-put-together-a-special-raid-team-amongst-a-guild, miss-it-and-your-reputation-is-trash sort of obligation, just show as a member of the server and be lucky/early enough to be one of the 50 in the map, and voila, follow the instructions spammed in map chat, join your respective team and get yer Hami kill.

I guess the Triple Trouble Wurm in GW2 is sort of a descendant of this style of open “raiding.”

They’re probably not the only games to use this method of open raiding, though I don’t have sufficient experience to pull up many more examples.

Puzzle Pirate’s sea monster hunt might be another example – I seem to recall just jumping onto a big warship that had 30-40+ players on it, and we sailed into some scary looking waters to hunt leviathans and stuff.

(I actually had very little clue what was going on.  Just sat around earnestly doing my part on the sailing puzzle, wondering if we would ever dock again so that I could grab my share of the loot and go. Probably not that different from any other raid attendee, come to think of it.)

NBI Writing Prompt: How about you? Did you have any “different” raid experiences in any other games, or are you a veteran of the WoW-style instanced raid?

NBI: Talkback Challenge #2 and #3

It wasn’t until Cleeyah posted her response on being a gamer that I realized that I was late for Talkback Challenge #2. Oops.

So you all get a combination post instead!

Talkback Challenge #2 – Early Access and Kickstarter – Do you support unfinished games?

Maaaaybe, but mostly leaning towards no.

I don’t have any massive issues with either scheme, and I really like the idea behind Kickstarter.

My main problem is that games tend to be very hard to scope properly and it’s also very hard to evaluate if a game team is capable of doing what it -says- it wants to do. There’s just a lot of in-betweens that can cause what is put down on paper to not resemble the final product at all.

I don’t like throwing money into the ether. I believe that Kickstarter is a great platform for crowdfunding what interests you, but if you ask me to give some money to you, personally, I need reassurance that I’m going to see a concrete product back in return, within a reasonable timeframe.

The way I evaluate this is simple. Is this an established company that is used to working together and has processes in place?

(No, a brand spanking new company just formed from a whole bunch of ‘pioneers’ does not count. I’ll give you some time to get your hierarchy hashed out and ego/political games in place to see if you can produce something functional despite the natural dysfunction of any company.)

How difficult do I feel the finished product will be for you to create, based on what you tell me in the Kickstarter?

If you give me vague promises, a design document that reads like marketing copy, and no prior track record, you’ll find it really hard to move me into giving you money up front. Even if you really can put out.

Pillars of Eternity was one of those that I just couldn’t bring myself to fund, despite liking Baldur’s Gate a ton. I needed to see a final product and reviews saying that it is good, before I consider putting down money for it.

But let’s say they ask for money again, to produce a sequel or some additional DLC content. Given this track record that they’ve produced one game in this vein before, I’ll find it much more reasonable to assume they can do something similar again.

Conversely, I found it much easier to contribute to the Defence Grid 2 Kickstarter (they already made Defence Grid 1 and they had a plan for additional funding if KS didn’t work out), and to a company like Reaper Miniatures that wanted a cash infusion to buy a machine for their special plastic/resin molding or whatever (all the creative work is either already done or the processes are in place, they have already produced Bones plastic minis via a Chinese company, the only major risk is shipping/transit issues.)

I might also find it easier to fund a solo person creating a tabletop RPG pdf (not yet though), since that is mostly desktop publishing. The scope of the work is not that colossal, one is only essentially paying to support the author for the time spent on the creative work. But again, said author must have a track record of having written prior PDFs that contain content I find worth paying for.

As for Early Access, meh, I just can’t fit my head around the concept of -paying- for the privilege to alpha or beta test your game.

(I might do it for free, there’s mutual benefit in that. I get a sneak peek, and you get me poking around attempting to break things with my presence.)

If it works for others, go nuts. I’m happy that these guys are helping to increase the chances that this game will see the light of day and become a finished product that I can pay for. But don’t ask -me- for money to test your game for you. Just… don’t.

Talkback Challenge #3 – What made you a gamer?

I can’t remember a time when I -wasn’t.-

Before I was old enough to hold a joystick, my mum was playing a vast variety of Parker Brothers board games with me.

We’d inherited her Cluedo and Monopoly set, painstakingly saved up for when her whole family was not that well to do, and I took a special delight in these two boxes of history, since they were editions that were no longer being sold in stores and reflected a different time and age. (He’ll always be Reverend Green to me,  not Mr Green! And Dr Black died, not Mr Boddy!)

Now that the family was a little better off, it seemed we were doing our best to sample every board game that caught our eye on the Toys R Us shelves, from A-Z.

My dad was a big enabler when it came to computers and a tech early adopter.

There was an Amiga in the house very early on, and it naturally came with little game disks that I would happily browse and pop into the computer based on the name alone.

Most were arcade games of some kind, spaceships shooting multiple bullets or little soldiers shooting guns, since that was the type of game he liked, but occasionally, and more so once he started bringing Amiga games magazines home now and then, I would find or beg for different games – Secret of Monkey Island, Dungeon Master, Zak McKraken, the works.

When the Game Boy console launched, my dad had to have one. Naturally, it was taken over by yours truly fairly early on in the process. Turns out my dad just couldn’t really stick to games, or train up his reaction time to do as well as he liked, thus getting frustrated and losing interest quite quickly. That was ok by me. Next step, finagle a Final Fantasy RPG cartridge via a birthday present or getting good grades for that semester.

My mum passed me more of a stubborn, obsessive streak, perfect for that video games addiction. (To this day, she’s not much of a computers person, but boy, can she pwn that Solitaire game. Or any other simple casual game I put on her phone or laptop.)

By the time I graduated to my dad’s PC (ie. seemed old and tech savvy enough that I wouldn’t break anything via learning DOS), I was very much a gamer.

First step after mastering DOS commands? Locate whatever games he had on that system. Which wasn’t much, he was moving out of his game phase, alas, but I did find Alley Cat, Ninja, and a couple of others.

I’d scavenge around in his greatly messy study for any more lost and forgotten game boxes – Rocky’s Boots was one of the treasures I did find (I was learning about AND, OR, NOT gates at a mindblowingly young age and I hadn’t a clue this was happening, because to me, this was a fun game to play.)

Before long, I was spending much of my pocket money on saving up for games. My dad, the great enabler, would bring the tech into the house. e.g. a Sega Genesis console, with an odd game or two. And then I’d end up drooling over more interesting looking games in the games store and bringing those back home. He picked up the arcade games, I went for RPGs or adventure games or top reviewed classics and that seemed to cover enough (especially given how long it took to beat RPGs in those days.)

Any time he upgraded his PC system, I got his cast offs. (That was probably a strategy devised to ensure I wasn’t hogging his computer all the time.)

My friends and I were playing PC games all throughout the Age of Shareware.

At some point, 3D shooters became the in-thing. Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, Quake, Heretic and Hexen (the latter two firm favorites, given our fantasy propensities.)

Somewhen during that era, we transitioned from merely talking on the phone while simultaneously playing games separately and began our first steps into multiplayer when again, our respective dads brought in modems.

Modems naturally meant visiting BBSes, and BBSes meant door games. Good ol’ Legend of the Red Dragon and Tradewars 2002.

I learned fairly quickly on that my friends weren’t any match for me. I blew one friend up in Hexen repeatedly, and that was the end of deathmatching for me, we had to play co-op after that.

Another classmate professed to love some version of Command and Conquer, and I was pretty gleeful to find another potential player. I guess it was a mistake to say that I hadn’t ever played the game before, but somehow managed to luck into unleashing a whole bunch of nukes onto said classmate. That was the end of that too. (I really hadn’t played C&C before either! I did play all the versions of Warcraft out at the time though! Who knew RTS principles held that true?)

The internet couldn’t come soon enough.

Alongside frequenting various first-person shooter game servers (Counter-Strike, Team Fortress Classic, etc. where I actually found people better than me to blow me up and thus learn from,) I’d discovered that fascinating phenomenon: MUDs. Online chatroom, text adventure game and RPG all mixed into one.

I was hooked.

And it’s been all up and down hill from there.

NBI Writing Prompt: Prompt? There is no prompt. Go answer one of the Talkback Challenges instead!