GW2 Hype Meter Unmoved & Quickie Steam Game Impressions

The whole Early Access phenomenon, coupled with Steam sales, has produced some rather odd behavior in me.

I don’t know how to get hyped up over anything anymore (or more precisely, when.)

Guild Wars 2 announces some sweeping, massive changes to traits, gears and stats for all classes in a pending patch.

I think, “Wow. Ouch. Wow. Er, ok. Hrm. Eew. Hrmf. Wow. Hmmmm…” and end up curiously neutral, uncertain as to how it’s all going to pan out and resolving to wait and see before emotionally overreacting, positively or negatively.

(I don’t like the idea of making Ascended gear more important or effective over Exotic, because of that whole level playing field thing and the perennial tendency of players to exclude others and become toxic under the influence of beliefs that don’t even vaguely resemble true fact. I don’t like being forced into vertical progression, and I’m ready to drop a game at any point if they tell me I now have to do such-and-such activity in order to get such-and-such stat reward, or else become useless or below par.

However, some quick Excel calculations later, my hypothesized extrapolations suggested that while the patch note percentages -look- big, the actual effective stat change is kinda… not that big a deal. It’s like a 5-7% primary stat difference now between full exotics and ascended, and we might go to 7-9% primary stat difference with the change.

Then there’s comparing Ascended trinket+weapon+exotic gear versus full Ascended, which is the more usual state of affairs since it’s the Ascended armor that is prohibitively expensive. The difference in primary stat is now somewhere between 1-2% going to 2-3%, which sounds a bit more negligible.

Of course, since all the stats on both exotics and ascended rose, maybe both are objectively better than what we’re already operating with. Except except they’re doing something with the level scaling again, and there’s the condition damage change, and I have no idea what this would actually translate to in terms of actual damage done after all’s said and done with the new traits, new gear stats, new level scaling, new everything.

So, you know, fuck it. Record damage done and stats now. Wait for patch drop to compare, paper theorycrafting is kinda useless with so many moving parts changing…)

Guild Wars 2 announces some big things regarding guild halls at E3.

I think, “Kewl. Mental note: Watch Youtube or Twitch video at some point in the future to know what was said” and stay unhyped, having not actually seen the video yet.

Guild Wars 2 announces that pre-purchases for Heart of Thorns are now available!

I go, “Sweet!” and rush to the website…. then promptly deflate at the available options, having mentally calculated that I’d probably pick up the best Ultimate deal, but eesh, that’s a lot of money… and for what, uncertainty right now. We haven’t even see how the pending patch changes are going to play out. We haven’t even heard half of the elite specializations yet. We’ve seen -one- Heart of Thorns map (that is, if you qualified for the betas, and half of it seemed unpopulated anyway.)

Come on, we’ve all been here before. It sounds exactly like something out of Early Access. Please give us money now to support us as we’re developing the game you want to play!

I rarely ever buy into this Early Access thing, so it’s not a scheme that works for parting me from my wallet. Steam sales have trained me to wait for the magic 75% off mark if I don’t urgently -need- to play this game now. (And with so many games available on my plate, be it from the Steam guilt trip list, free-to-play MMOs or other games, it’s a rare game that I -need- to play right this moment.)

Furthermore, I find myself confused over the best time to hype (or feel hyped) about something now.

Early Access spreads out the excitement. Ok, some people are playing it now. Some other people are playing it now. Some are still waiting for launch. Some are waiting for sales. The hype has spread out into one long tail, there’s no more spikes of excitement. (For me, anyway.)

My reaction, more often than not these days, is to simply wait-and-see.

Some early adopters will grab it first, stream it, review it, tell me what they think. I can get a better picture of what it really contains, what it really offers, whether I might like it or not.

With that information, I feel better about my decision to purchase, rather than buying it sight unseen, on wisps of hope. Gimme evidence. Gimme facts.

In the meantime, I guess I’ll be over here, playing games that are actually already made and launched, and better yet, on sale.

inverbisvirtus

In Verbis Virtus

The concept sounded ridiculously cool and innovative. Cast spells using your own spoken words, picked up via microphone.

Immersion is one of the things I’m constantly looking to experience, in games that care to offer it to me, and actually having to learn and memorize arcane words of power is as immersively mage-like as they come.

Except… I’m not one for using mics. Ever. There’s the hassle of setting it up, of making sure you’re not blowing somebody’s ears off (including your own) with misconfigured volumes, there’s having to put on a headset instead of relaxing free and easy with 5.1 speaker surround sound, there’s the weirdness of hearing your own voice come back to you, not to mention the general weirdness of talking to a screen (in tongues!) while your family wonders what you’re doing, and oh, it’s late at night and all is quiet and folks (including neighbors, land area is scarce here, people are packed into buildings where sound might travel through walls, floor or ceilings – I can hear kids bouncing balls on the floor above me) are asleep, and HERE YOU ARE, ARTICULATING STRANGE NOISES TO YOURSELF, YOUR MICROPHONE AND YOUR COMPUTER GAME.

All of that can kinda wreck the immersion.

I’d resolved to save the money and watch a Let’s Play of it instead, enjoying someone with a more resonant voice than I have perform on my behalf.

Somewhere along Video 6, I found myself caving in to the temptation of the personal experience and ended up buying it.

The first caveat is that you have to not mind puzzle games. In Virbis Virtus is not a first-person shooter, in the sense that there’s not going to be a million and one enemies to kill. (Lichdom: Battlemage might cater to that more. Not sure. I bought it. On my to-try list.)

It’s about learning a bunch of weird spells, like light and telekinesis spells, so that you can solve door opening puzzles with them. Along the way, there might be some platforming and jumping, some speed reactions and rehearsed sequences at certain parts, block stacking and object manipulation, plus riddle-like clue reading and thoughtful thinking interspersed.

The second caveat is that you have to be a little bit more competent at setting up (or already having a microphone configured) than I am.

There was a great deal of preliminary cursing and swearing at the beamforming microphone that was -supposed- to be built into the Audio Control Module of my Soundblaster ZX, but turned out to have ridiculously wimpy pickup (had to turn boost and volume up all the way to even catch something, with awful garbled noises and feedback threatening each step of the way.) There was a debate with oneself on whether to use the secondary backup of a plug-into-USB and go headset, but that seemed like wimping out from the problem device. There was digging around and de-dusting of another microphone to plug into said ACM to test (obviously pickup is -much- better when the microphone is nearer my mouth. Duh,) unsoweiter.

That said, the game itself deals rather well with audio recognition, better than I expected, certainly (though it can fail about 5% of the time, often at critical moments when you’re panicking and trying to remember the proper enunciation in order to not die and promptly fail miserably. Lesson learned: I would make a very good -dead- mage if I lived in a fantasy world. It’s certainly ‘realistic’ and immersive in that sense.)

I had occasional bouts of broken immersion every time the microphone tried to poke me in the mouth, but that’s probably just me being an old-fashioned text user. All the newfangled voice-preferring users of TeamSpeak and Mumble and Ventrilo and Twitch should have very little issues on this front.

The best praise I can offer (being such a staunch anti-mic hermit) for In Verbis Virtus is that when it all goes well, it really does feel magical.

vertigo

It’s as close to virtual reality or a holodeck as anyone has come so far, until someone either figures out how to pair it with an Oculus Rift or writes a game that does both.

pixelpiracy

Pixel Piracy

We now take a complete 180 into the land of the cutesy and comical.

I am still trying to figure out what is so utterly appealing about this game that I lost three hours to it and wouldn’t mind playing on.

It’s pretty simplistic, it’s no elaborate Terraria, it’s a game about leveling up your pirates so that you can earn more gold and more loot to buy new and better gear and items so that you can blow up bigger and badder ships owned by other pirates or slaughter savage natives on tropical islands so that you can take their gold and loot to rinse and repeat.

Yep, an incrementing numbers game, along with a “just one more turn” schtick, in the form of one more ship or island.

Combat is RTS-like, in the sense that you just tell your units where to go, and after that they’ll take over the fighting from there. (Better hope you prepared them well with good weapons and levels and training and such!)

I suppose part of the appeal for me is the sense of unknown discovery – like the first time one plays Minecraft or Don’t Starve and -doesn’t- refer to a third-party source to tell them what to do. Some things are not that well explained or documented in game, so there’s a bit of trial-and-error experimentation involved to figure out exactly how this little part of this system works and fits together.

Forum reports are not terribly positive regarding bugs and such as the game progresses though, so only pick up at a sale price where you won’t regret the expenditure if stuff breaks later on down the road.

julia

The shipboard AI wakes you from cryo-sleep.

The spaceship’s on fire, it’s venting poisonous gases and there’s runaway electrical shorts all over.

You’re a xenobiologist by occupation.

Oh, and incidentally, everyone else but you seems to be dead.

Fortunately, you don’t actually have to physically go out there and turn firefighter. There’s machinery that can solve your various problems for you, but curiously, the computer seems to need your brain and input to operate said machinery.

After dealing with the immediate crisis, you promptly turn detective as you piece together the last moments of the crew on the research station on the surface of the planet that your ship was orbiting around… a grand saga of paranoia and poisoning and murder.

julia2

J.U.L.I.A. is essentially a point-and-click adventure game with an intriguing premise (and apparently, according to reviews, a decently good story.)

It does away with some of the tropes of the adventure game – there is no avatar you have to watch walk around the screen ever so slowly, instead you’re ostensibly giving commands to a remote bot that does the actual work. Both the bot and computer are capable of conversing with you, providing the necessary NPC dialogue chatter to keep you company while you poke around at clues and try to figure out what’s going on. Pixel hunting is kept to a minimum, as the bot can ‘scan’ for interesting objects which are highlighted for a short time.

I’ve not completed the whole game yet, but it definitely seems like a game worth trying, as long as you like a bit of mystery, exploration and puzzle-solving in a sci-fi story.

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