Posts about games, online gaming, other peoples games and stuff

Assassins’ Creed IV

*** Contains plot spoilers***

Without playing much, I’ve ranked 38,000th most deadly assassin. Oddly, last weekend, my position had 6 digits.

To my mind, it’s one of the best ACs to date. Excepting the aquatic bits.

The sailing, swimming, diving: well, they’re a turd on an otherwise magnificent serving of filet mignon served after a 2 day fast.

I do the sailing, when I can’t just fast-travel, and sort of look down at my feet, I somehow feel guilty/ashamed. I’ve tried the under-water sections. Then there are the under-water sections. Ok, so every now and again your character drowns because the controls are so clunky you can ‘t turn around and reach an air pocket/diving bell, or you ricochet between columns of urchins like a pinball and die. Those are probably bugs.

*** Plot spoilers are about to happen ***

Then there is the campy-pastiche attempt at a cameo; the non-animus portion of the game occurs in a game studio. You’re working for Abstergo Entertainment in conjunction with Origin researching material for a new Assassins’ Creed game, in their Quebec office.

It was probably funny to the developers, and to the people who knew the developers who they bounced it off. You know who it isn’t terribly funny to? Anyone else. A passing reference or an actual cameo, coulda been funny. Sure, I got a good giggle looking at the desk loot. But there’s also the minor matter of how bad this portion of the game looks. After the beautiful elegance of the animus world, the Abstergo portion looks … like something from an original Xbox game. Animation, textures, it’s all terrible.

There are some fantastic moments in ACIV – tip of the hat to the wake-up scene that looks like it’s going to be a flash back to Desmond originally waking up from the Animus.

But there is vastly more fail: The pitiful handful of achievements, most of which you will complete in the first day or two of play; The utter irrelevance of most of the side-games; The magnificent visuals of bringing the weather in so close you really actually can’t see anything; The immersion and soul destroyer of boarding an enemy ship as a way to prevent the other 5 ships you’re fighting from sinking you; The tedium of cut-scenes that run 90% thru before telling you “Hold B to skip cinematic” (and then holding B causes it to end a second or so earlier than not doing would have, and yes: I’ve tried holding B before that point); the annoying randomly capitalized letters and words.

There is a crafting system, but it’s sort of stupid. There are 3 consumables you can craft, but if you loot corpses, you will never want to. The remainder of your crafting options are one-shot upgrades each of which requires different components. It’s an in-your-face “KILL STUFF AND SKIN IT OR NO UPGRADES FOR YOU”.

Where previous ACs had feathers for you to collect, AC IV has Animus Fragments. It also has shanties (songs for your sailors to sing while sailing) chests (with gold coins) manuscripts (for those who don’t like interesting lore/backstory, and specifically want dull, tedious lore/backstory) and outside the animus there are post-it notes to collect (with tedious, vaguely AC themed, rants on them) and computers to hack (in return for miscellaneous AC-themed tidbits that are at first gratifying but quickly make you want to use your AC box to punch people with).

Yes – there’s a larber number of side activities, but especially compared to previous ACs, they are hideously shallow and tacky.  None of them are well done, none of them are engaging, none of them are immersive, none of them draw you into a sense of story/world connecting back to what is going on either in the animus or outside. And once you reach a certain point (about 60%) there’s clearly no effort put into them. Capturing a fort? Chests and animus fragments start to pretty much trip you up as you follow way points.

But the bottom of the barrel, which AC IV scrapes up with it’s tounge and tries to shove down your ear, is the under-water wreck exploration. Games usually don’t do a great job of swimming-related activities, and AC IV does a really bad one. Plus sharks. Did I mention that you are weaponless during this section? Yes. In the franchise known for running, jumping and climbing, they’ve added a combatless underwater swimming segment where you may get eaten by an eel if you don’t succumb to wounds from sharks that you fail to hide from because the swimming controls would make a blown goat want its money back.

I’m going to try and see it thru to the end of the story mode because I’m determined to see if the story makes any kind of sense or in any way fits into the AC storyline so far. My hunch is that the game will disown itself and reveal that it was all just a templar’s bad dream.

Mine too.

Yes, Viruses, that was me :)

I bumped into old leather-pants himself tonight while playing War Thunder. Yes, I’m going by “kfsone”. There’s a reason I’m not an actor, and that’s one of it.

Unfortunately, their chat UI is kinda lacking, and although I cancelled my queue I got sucked into a game, at which point – despite the chat window being up – I was unable to chat with you (it kept telling me that kfsone wasn’t online).

That game alternately drives me nuts (random damage model ftl) and makes me drool deliriously (but the models are so beautiful, and if the joysticks worked full realism mode would be a thing of beauty) and drives me nuts (did someone go back in time and suck all the evil out of the early WWIIOL UIs and inject the distilled tincture like botox into the World of Tank UI so that just when you think, oh I got this, BAM, it’s in your face doing anything but what you expected, and in russian) and makes me cheer (in-flight reload in arcade mode FTW!).

But then I’ve also been hopping into WarBirds occasionally (as kfs1). Have to say, when I did the offline training flight for WB 2013 and saw “bobn”s name … Man, that tugged at the old heart strings.

Elite: Dangerous (at last!)

It’s on, finally! The fourth chapter in the Elite franchise!

If you never played “Elite“, “Frontier” or “First Encounters“, I imagine you would be highly skeptical about the claims of “Elite: Dangerous“.

In 1984, Elite provided gamers with 256 galaxies of 256 stars, each of which had assorted planets and space stations. You loaded up with trading goods, bought fuel and launched out of Llave station to begin the process of trading, pirating and what not your way to the rank of “Elite”.

Those computers had 16Kb of memory. You are probably using a computer with 4-8Gb of RAM. That’s 260,000 times more memory than the computers of 1984. 1Gb is roughly 1 million Kb.

Then, 19 years ago, Dave Braben followed up with “Frontier: Elite II” and bent our minds: the game featured hundreds of thousands of stars, the entire of our galaxy, while at the same time allowing you to also go into the atmospheres and even land on the many planets and moons with cities and spaceports decorating many of the planets. All this is probably only 32x more memory than the previous version.

Today’s PC has 32,000x more memory than the computers “Frontier” was designed for.

Elite: Dangerous will be introducing multi-player to the Elite franchise, as well as bringing new depth and immersiveness to the game. Given how much Mr Braben has done with so little in the past, I’m really looking forward to seeing this chapter.

Right now they are pitching for funding on KickStarter – as of writing they’re at 1.1 million pounds of 1.25, 5 days to go!


Watching the Nerdist tribute to Nerd Girls with my gf, she asks “Is there a celebration of us less young gamer chicks”? I replied “cougamers” and then realized I was supposed to say “What? I’m sure Felicia Day is older than you”. But, I’ve had a lot on my mind. What with the moving from Texas to Irvine, making my first commit to WoW at my new job this week, and everything!


Horizons developer update

Pleased to see that Horizons, like WWIIOL, is still with us. These days it – Horizonsis called Istaria. Does sound a bit like they are also a small team grafting frantically, but also they continue to inject the occasional interesting/neat idea into the game.

From their email:

Developer’s Desk
Summer 2012

Welcome to Summer 2012! It has been a while since our last Developer’s Desk, so I wanted to take a moment to review what we’ve accomplished and what we plan on doing in the future. So far in 2012, we’ve released two content updates as well as some significant client upgrades.

Quite a bit of work has been done on the Client. Some long-standing bugs have been fixed, and new features have been added. All in all, the client team has been hard at work over the first part of 2012 and will continue to improve and extend the client in the coming months and years. Some of the big changes and features to the Client so far have been:

KickStart: Rapid Assault

We’ve just unveiled our “Rapid Assault” project on KickStarter. This is the project that’s spun out of several of our side-projects and we’ve also been using as a development platform for re-engineering some of the WWIIOL subsystems. We’re already in the process of in-house testing the results of porting those improvements back to Battleground Europe which should result in some awesome coolness :)

Upcoming: StarWars 1313

M-Rated, gritty, bleeding-edge tech StarWars game in-development, StarWars: 1313.

How sad that, in contrast, Disney is making a cartoon version of Tron. Seriously, you couldn’t manage Clone Wars quality? My second big disappointment with Tron: Uprising is that they used the Daft Punk soundtrack from Legacy rather than the Tron 2.0 music or composer :(


Star Wars: The Old Republic

I’ve not been posting here much lately because I just haven’t had time to evaluate my own frustrations to produce a meaningful rant, or working on anything I was able to share details of beyond what little I posted.

I did, however, get a couple of brief tastes of Star Wars The Old Republic
and figured it was worthy of a mention.

The game incorporates many aspects of various other games, and a very subtle learning curve. As a result, it gives different many people a sense of deja-vu of <insert some game here>. I heard people saying “it’s wow in space”, but personally I got more of a City of Heroes feel.

If you are looking for a Star Wars Universe Simulator, move along. This is a BioWare, KOTOR-setting, multiplayer game in the vain of WoW, EverQuest, Rift, etc… It will be accused of being dumbed down, plaguerising, the whole nine yards.

It does use its predecessors as templates to build upon, so WoW players will find it to be a lot like WoW while EQ players will find it to be a lot like EQ and SWG players will think it is SWG v2.0 or something…

But once you get past the fact that Character Creation and Inventory have been done before, and you get to what purposes and shapes your gameplay experience – that’s where the BioWare kicks in.

In obsessing about comparing with other games, people tend to miss out the story-telling element, and most importantly forget that BioWare story telling isn’t 1-dimensional.

Like I said a moment ago, this is a BioWare game integrated into an MMO platform…

Around Level 10 your quest line hooks you up with a companion, and things start to get interesting. The companions are part pet and part plot device. But you’ll recall the in BioWare games, companions also have a 1:1 storyline in terms of their relationship to your character.

Like LOTRO, SWTOR also has a sort of chaptering system. When you finish your first planet, you’ll encounter a “Flash point” – a hard-core instance that typically requires a group of 2 or more players (maximum group in SWTOR: 4 people). The flash points have a lot of dialog and storyline, I spent nearly an hour doing my first.

Best of all, the dialog introduces branch points, leading to multiple outcomes. I did the flash point twice and both encounters were completely different after we made different selections to the first dialog.

My first time playing all I could do was see the similarities to other MMOs and come away feeling ‘blah’.

But it is not a clone of anything and there is more than enough difference to make the gameplay more than just enoyable but actually fun.

After my second time playing, I was pretty hooked. I pre-ordered and, I have to tell you, I have been jonesing hard ;)

It makes me giggle

The first online game I played, Essex MUD circa 1982, gave it’s highest level players seemingly god-like powers. These were the Wizards. They differed from today’s GMs in that it was just a rank you could achieve.

I can’t begin to tell you what I imagined their powers to be… You’d have to think Matrix/Neo/Airbender or something.

When I finally met the game’s creator a few years later, I was desperate to see what it was like to be a “Wizard”; I actually expected to see the game represented with graphics rather than text.

Of course, it wasn’t anything more than gaining a few more commands when you reached a certain rank, and those commands were mostly pretty mundane.

So you’ll have to forgive me for the giggle/smirk that I break out into every time I read someone describing the evils beset upon them by the GMs in our game. Someone sent me an excerpt where a guy using a cheat had tried to justify his use by saying “I could see the GM screwing with me when I used it”.

Want to be a game dev?

Easy: Just be called “Oliver Smith” :)

(Suppose I probably qualify for adding myself to that list these days :)