Thursday, 30 June 2011

loot and leveling

So, some more spoiler-free grumbling about DA2.

Other people have already talked at length about the problems with auto-scaling challenges which prevent you from ever reaching the feeling of being amazingly powerful. In DA2 you will *never* recapture the fun you had in the first five minutes of the game where they let you play yourself as a 'legendary' version and kill everything easily with your super powers.

But there's also this thing nowadays of expecting players to constantly cycle their equipment, and that's built into the level advancement systems as well. (4e does this and I whine about it there too.) What that means is that if you're bored with the game and cheat to give your characters extra levels? They become weaker, not stronger! Your equipment doesn't level up with you, but the monsters do, and suddenly your dagger is a butter spoon.

Which you will have to replace with another, equally nondescript dagger. For no reason.

Obviously they are trying to give you a money sink and loot is traditionally one in an rpg, if they hadn't sucked every possible bit of enjoyment out of looting. But the autoscaling and the fact that you are mostly facing the SAME ENEMIES that you were all along makes this feel extra artificial. Why could I cut this human with a knife five minutes ago but now it bounces off? What sense does this make?

Despite that people generally hate weapon damage, I would have been a lot happier if I could pay to repair/upgrade my existing equipment as a money sink rather than having to constantly swap out identical drab kit. Varric gets to keep his beloved crossbow and scale it up with him, why can't *we* have the option of developing attachments to our equipment?

Being able to patch up my own equipment would also have allowed me to pick things for style. They're so fixated on keeping the companions looking right that they won't let you change THEIR armor at all, but YOU still have to change what you're wearing all the time. Argh.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

about combat

As for the combat stuff... enh. I set the difficulty to casual and completely ignored it most of the time. The game is absolutely not set up for me to enjoy thoughtful turn-based combat - attempting to play in a thoughtful way, the game would fight me every step of the way, and it would be a disaster. But I can also enjoy stuff just blowing up with little input from me. So I generally took control of a mage and boomed stuff. Number of fights where I actually had to pay attention, using this method, is probably five or less.

Similarly, the reused dungeons honestly didn't bother me. This isn't a dungeon crawler. That, in some ways, is a good thing... it meant there were fewer levels of ENDLESS TEDIUM. Things tended to move along at a good pace, there were no huge fortresses you had to pick through room after room after room of enemies standing still waiting for you to show up. (At least, I don't remember any.)

summing up

So, I have finished my first runthrough of DA2. Not going to talk about plot in this post, just some gameplay stuff.

There were things they did well, there were things they did mediocrely, there were things they did very badly. The thing that annoyed me most was not necessarily what you'd expect - it wasn't the combat, or the reused dungeons, the things that got the most whining in blogs at launch.

It was the LOOTING.

Bioware has never been the best at loot. I've complained before about the proliferation of barrels with stupid crap in them and the lack of putting actually cool things in rewarding places. Somehow they took everything they've ever done wrong and made it vastly worse. Loot was not a fun minigame, it was a painful chore.

Why? Well, for starts, all your party members except Hawke have fixed armor throughout the game. That means, from the very beginning, two-thirds of all armor you can find is completely worthless. No one can wear it. It's not right for your class, and no one else can wear armor at all.

On top of that, it appears that each act features a special named suit of armor designed for your class, with good stats and special abilities and a bonus for completing the whole set. Which means that, after act 1 where you had to scrounge your way up, you're likely to spend the game wearing special armor, and every other piece of armor in the game is useless. The special ones aren't even hard to find!

But the worst offender is the accessory category - belts, amulets, and rings. 90% of which are simply labeled "Belt" or "Ring", no matter what their powers are. They have no names. They have no graphics. They have no description. If you mouse over them, you'll get a quick popup of the stats they alter, and that's it. They have a range of effects, but they all look absolutely identical so you can't possibly remember what you've got in your inventory, and you certainly can't care when you find yet another 'Ring' somewhere.

Weapons are slightly better, since the majority of them do get names. They still don't get descriptions or icons, though.

Then there's the vendor trash category, which again gets no icons or descriptions, just a name. You have no way to tell what any of it is worth (well, you can guess that 'Torn Pants' is probably not very valuable, but is a pair of pants worth more or less than a chip of beryl? That's NOT obvious) until you actually sell it to someone. Sure, maybe my character is supposed to be stupid, but at the least after selling things a few times you'd think she'd get some idea and be able to provide information on what to throw out.

Naturally, inventory space is limited. And there doesn't seem to be a convenient way to pick and choose objects when you're looting either. So you pick up all this crap, almost all of which is JUNK, some of which might be usable but it's pretty hard to tell with the generic names, and... It just sucks, okay?

Once I look up cheat codes I am probably going to attempt to loot NOTHING for my next playthrough. Looting is THAT anti-fun.

I would far rather be equipping 'Pustulent Greaves Of The Whale' than 'Ring'. What were they thinking?

Yes, it's extra work putting in all that fluff and no one pays much attention to it. But the lack of that fluff kills the atmosphere and lays bare the sheer drudgery of item upgrading.

Monday, 27 June 2011

so how much do indies earn?

An update on the ongoing story of The Oil Blue, a game which got a bit of coverage but not a lot of sales.

playing with hearts

Despite the adorable elf, it was Anders I ended up going for.

Partly because he gets emotional at you very quickly while Merrill seems rather flustered by the concept and makes me not want to push her.

When this character is finished I expect I will do a male/male run with Fenris. He makes me nervous.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

my hawke

Close enough to default settings that she keeps a default Bethany, who you can see lurking in back. Yes, I have finally begun playing the game. And like everyone, I can't help but be charmed by Merrill. So far, though, my rp choices tend to please and piss off people in equal measure... well, except Bethie who is my BFF and Fenris who kinda gives me the creeps.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Friday, 24 June 2011

We've got to go back!

Back to the future!

I hadn't really heard this was going on (or tuned it out worrying it was going to be some moronic license beating) but it actually sounds pretty cool.

Episodic gaming isn't all that new, but it's usually disastrous... it's only recently that a few people seem to be making it work.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

world-bending mary sue powers GET

Oh yes, if I hadn't mentioned it here: Magical Diary is now available. :)

The free demo will let you check out the school, learn a few spells, and upload your character designs to the online yearbook. (And yes, there's a discount for blogging about it.)

I'm really pleased by the reactions we've gotten so far from the playtest crowd. It has been a huge amount of work (this is, like, the size of two of my earlier games put together!) but a lot of fun, and I'm still overflowing with ideas for the later entries in the series. However, I really really need to take a break now!

Realm of the Mad God

I stumbled into this by accident and know nothing about it, but without having to take any time to sign up for anything and a tutorial of, like, a minute, you can be wandering around the world blasting things.

I don't know if there's a point, but it was fun for a few minutes at least!

Alternate Reality

I played these when I was a kid! Well, the first one at least. I don't remember much except potions and learning the word 'greaves'. And getting attacked by wraiths.

Don't know if they'll hold as much fascination now, but it's worth a look...

Saturday, 18 June 2011

cute adorable evil

Spotted on DLsite - an entry in the "#@*$&!" genre of platformers (I'm sure there's a better name, but you know what I mean... The ones where everything is a trap and you die constantly.)

It has cute adorable graphics. You have infinite (negative) lives. You die a lot.

There's a free trial, and once you manage to launch it (.net required) you can probably manage even without any Japanese knowledge. Arrow keys and Z/X/C will get you through most Japanese platformers... You won't be able to read the instructions, but they're probably lies anyway!

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

reasons why I will never make it in sales

The idea of trying to describe working in a style that's older than I am as "pioneering a new genre of literature" sticks in my craw.

Yes, grandiose language is all part of raising interest and funding. I understand that. But I can't do it. I'm not naming names because that would be rude, but seeing that sort of thing makes me want to backstab the author rather than support them. That probably makes me a bad person.

For that matter, I've written legitimately groundbreaking stuff and not made that much fuss about it. :) While Fatal Hearts was not absolutely the first fully branching plot adventure game, it was pretty new territory. It's STILL not particularly well-explored territory, although it's now slightly more well known because of 999. (my research on the subject after I finished writing the game revealed a sum total of one other video game in existence that might qualify as the same genre, and I'd never heard of it and I still haven't played it. There may be a few mores somewhere and it partly depends on where you draw the line. Several adventure games had a choice at or near the end that changed the outcome you got, but that's not the same thing.)

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

but I LIKE broccoli!

Silly flash game about a cat flying around trying to eat sweets and avoid vegetables. What sort of example are you setting for hte kids? :)

nyan nyan nyan nyan nyan nyan nyan nyan

Saturday, 11 June 2011


Warning - I have not personally verified this information. I am passing this along from a forum post.

Apparently Alawar is experimenting with a new (old) method of getting customer money. Recurring monthly billing for access to all content, plus a "trial" membership that's super-cheap (just $1!) - but if you don't cancel it within that super-short trial period, you're on the hook for the rebill.

Why do I call it new-old? This *used* to be a highly popular method of selling adult entertainment sites. Lure the browser in with all the pictures+video they can eat for a super low price (It was originally free trials, but I think this was later found to be illegal and they had to charge people at least a buck or two) and if you didn't cancel, you were tied into the program. Some of them also made it much more difficult to cancel than to sign up, like you'd have to call someone and actually talk to them and state that you no longer wanted to look at Gigantic Asses or whatever the site was.

I wonder how many casual game users are familiar with this technique from that angle? :)

I have no idea if it's still commonplace in that business, but I doubt it... I'd assume they've come up with whole new ways to part people from their money by now.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Magical Drop

There's a franchise I haven't thought about in ages! Apparently they're making a new one. And if someone told GZ about it, it will hopefully be in English?

(If there was an iphone version, I guess some people have seen this game far more recnetly than I have...)

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Gimme back my stars!

Now that I finally have a chance to play the vs mode for New Super Mario Bros DS I can say that I'm actually pretty crap at it. :) (Although my opponent will probably say that I consider myself to be crap at things if I'm not winning at least 75% of the time, which is somewhat unfair...)

edit: And then today I *was* winning that often, but...


Part shoot-em-up, part dating sim, part RPG, all free:

Features anime-styled characters and, y'know, SPACE. And multiple endings apparently. However, I'd be a lot more interested if it were downloadable, personally... I find it hard to focus on browser games even if I had an account to save my progress.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Magical Diary Trailer

My first try at doing a trailer (not OP) style video for the game:

Magical Diary Trailer 1 video - Indie DB

If you can't see the embed, click the link to go to the page that contains it. There's also a youtube version if THAT doesn't work for you, let me know. (And yes, I downgraded to FF3.6 because I was THAT SICK of the problems I was having with ff4 and url insertion.)

Have not yet posted images of the game boxes on the Magical Diary webpage (not dealing with the webpage much until we are out of beta) but you can get a peek at the current design here: