21/11/2014

Of gods and… More gods.




 
Ra-merica...
So how do you kill a titan, I guess the answer will come down to who the titan in question is. But it is related to both my musings today.
 
Angry not pandas are cool
First off Blizzard have announced that they sold 3.3 million copies of Warlord of Draenor and that they have an active subscription base of about 10 million active subs. Now that is BEFORE they have the numbers from the Asian and Oceanic market. This marks not only the best reaction to any expansion of WoW but also the single largest increase of players in the history of the game. Now these are very impressive numbers but can almost hear some of you muttering in the bushes that a population spike is good but the real proof is in the retention of these new subs.

I agree and we all know that a good chunk of these people will drop from the game over the coming years but I think that enough will stay for long enough that Blizzard will have not only secured the next expansion but also have a little extra to put towards Overwatch. I am generally not a big Shooter fan but that game looks to be fun as heck.

But this does prove that not only are people inclined to return to the game they “started” in but also that peer pressure is a powerful tool. After all Mists of Pandaria was not bad expansion and for some of us war weary veterans it was a nice change of pace in the beginning. But there was a strong “trollolol kung fu panda” attitude among the more serious gamers… and I use the term serious very loosely here. This attitude have been pretty much absent with this new expansion and in fact there has been a opposite effect where a healthy dose of nostalgia and Orcs (who it would seem are a lot cooler then talking pandas.) have as we noted brought back the swing to WoW´s step.


So with WoW gaining more players with an expansion then most games doe in their lifetime I do not think we need to worry much about WoW going away any time soon and with Blizzard broadening their portfolio in the shape of the upcoming Heroes of the storm MOBA and earlier mentioned shooter Overwatch. I think it is safe to say that Blizzard as a company is not going anywhere any time soon. I will get back to Overwatch this weekend, but while Blizzard sits on godlike power and followers in other places god fight to the death to keep the creep going and juggle in the jungle.

Looking forward to Heroes of the storm I decided to dip my toes in to the MOBA scene. Now I never got in to DotA and I have played a grand total of two matches in LoL before it felt that I had better things to do then being verbally abused by people with the social grace of a drunk rhinoceros. But I got a free SMITE character code from Loot Crate so in order to research what I was putting in my loot giveaway pile I got reading up on SMITE.


Smite is a MOBA, in every way and shape but it breaks some new ground by being third person and forcing you to aim your basic attacks as well as your abilities. If you feel a bit fuzzy on what a MOBA is you can click here. The setting is also very funny. Imagine that all the gods of myth and legend decided to duke it out in an arena. So you have Tor teaming up with Osiris and Rama to kick the ass of Sun Wukong and Artemis backed up by Fenris. It is in my mind impossible to dislike the premise. But as I mentioned beyond that it is your standard MOBA with lanes, creeps and hiding in bushes. But the third person view give you a lot more control and lets you act and react to things in a much more dynamic way than the usual point and click top down view.

I have had some very nice fun with it. A lot more then I thought from the start and while I know that HotS is a standard top down MOBA, SMITE will give me a good sense for how a MOBA works without all the annoying click and clack. The gameplay of SMITE plays a lot like a mix between Diablo and a regular third person shooter, especially if you play a range characters. How you use your basic attacks to pummel your opposition and then spice it up with special attacks themed to the god you play, often very flashy and satisfying.


It is also fun to see how much respect they pay to the gods, most designs pull a lot from the mythos around the gods and you can often find small hidden gems if you know the lore of this or that god. It is also fun to see the use of Mayan gods, a mythos often overlooked in this part of the world. Each god is also fairly distinct and visually interesting. Now with that being said there is a lot of divine booty flashing and cleavage deep enough to hide Bacchus in. All hidden behind a flimsy excuse that they actually dressed a lot of the goddesses in more clothes tan they had in their original source material. Now I have nothing against a well-shaped human being and since we are dealing with gods such banalities as armor and other types of proper protection is easier to explain away… Would it hurt to even it out between the male and female characters?
Aphrodite... More dressed then Venus from the sea... But only just.
Neith... I guess she flash less then some ancient art. Still pretty much a pinup.


By comparison... Tor Odinson.
But the game itself is very fun and since it is pretty much free to play (if you do not mind the grind and random access to gods in the beginning.) I see no reason that you would not check it out if you like weird MOBAs or third person brawler games.

That is all today…. Come back Sunday for a trip on the hype train fo

16/11/2014

A dark world gone dark.





So first and foremost it seems that the auto post system ate my originally planned post… But what do one do.


I sat today and browsed the regular forums and I came across an article posted as a reply to rumors that CCP was picking up third person shooter All Points Bulletin: Reloaded. The article is the closest to someone going on record of how CCP´s World of Darkness went from the one to bring balance to the force to a fading shade and finally exorcised. Now the rumor itself does make some sense in the circles who miss World of Darkness and actually know about APB:R as both are set in our “now” and APB:R feature a deep customization system for both characters and equipment. Something that most people expected from WoD too.

Now while the rumor itself was squashed in said reply I also liked an article with a purposed inside source from the Atlanta studio that was doing the development on World of Darkness. It is a very sad read and as a log time game master/LARP coordinator and played in said setting I was so very hopeful for a Eve style game that would let me lift my old character in to glorious 3D. But it was not to be and a long list of good intentions and bad decisions make it painfully clear that the game did not have much of a chance to begin with.


But in case you are unfamiliar with what White Wolf´s World of Darkness is, it is a setting in the punk/goth modern horror genre where all manners of mystical beings such as werewolves, vampires and mages move behind the scenes of everyday life. Fighting their own war of survival and dominance. The most famous of the lot is the game Vampire: the Masquerade that not unexpected deals with… Well… Vampires and the society they have spun around them self to cope with eternal life as a twisted reflection of the humans they once were.  If you have read or watched “Interview with a vampire.” You would get a fair idea of style and feel of the setting. Vampire the masquerade was also going to be the main focus for the game at release even if many fans hoped that more factions would come in over time.

So getting back to the story itself it came down to a delightful mix of hubris, passion and piss poor management. Not only did the WoD dev team have their members poached to fill out the dev team for at first EvE and later on the horrid mess that was DUST. This it would seem, if this source is to be believed was due to CCP aiming to always push one step beyond what they actually was capable of. Much due to how EvE ended up in a position of David having taken down the Goliath of big name online games. Now this is in its own right not wrong when you are dealing with a creative process. Without a certain amount of hubris you never get anywhere. Heck I myself do have a philosophy that if one is going to fail, one might as well fail spectacularly. That way one is at least remembered once the dust settles. Noting is as sad as failing and then just become forgotten. So in a way I have to tip my hat to them.


What piss me off is of course that the dragged one of my favorite IP´s with them down. I did not care much for when they flopped Dust... A as ambitious game that was going to break new ground with the interconnected gameplay between it and its “parent” game EvE, not only a new take on porting a IP to the console but also a new way of connecting players that we start to see first now with games such as The Division and others that connect mobile and console elements. Now that is not to say I bought the entire insanity that was the brief for WoD. Not only was it going to be set in the old world of darkness, the world that existed before the IP wide world reset that saw the world end literally. After this event a new setting was released and had by the time the game was being tested gained a fair amount of traction. But the game was also going to have a very big and detailed world and a fully player driven political system that would interconnect social media and perhaps even mobile devices. It would also be up to the ruling player to set the laws in their area, as per lore. There was also going to be “perma death” that is to say that a character killed is erased or has to start over from zero. Now this was going to be reserved for people committing the worst of crimes such as attacking and trying to kill other players or exposing to humans that vampires do in fact exists.

As I said there was no lack of ambition and while I assumed it was a case of aim for the stars and hope to land in the treetops, it was hard not to get swept up in the possibilities. Now of course any sane person see a few problems here, first and foremost it is one thing to build a galaxy for players to lord over, especially when planets and space station is barely more than window dressing. It is an entirely different thing to build a dozen or so cities for players to interact with. Not to mention filling said places with content that not only makes sense but also dynamically reacts to what the player does. It was not a big shock when the game faced delays and then in the end cancelation.


It does also lift something else that is not spoken of very often and that is that, by the sound of it that the gaming industry have the turnover rate close to my old job as a customer service representative. People simply get grinded down and either discarded when they cannot deliver or get smart and hit the road before they reach that stage. Now seeing how game development is a field that has a strong pull on young and inexperienced people it is a disaster in the making. Now a more cynical person would perhaps say that it is a valuable lesson for young people, but if it is anything like working in telemarketing or CSR is… I do not wish that on the most silver spooned of brats. Not only because that sort of harsh awakening usually breeds resentment but also because I feel that someone going in to a creative field should not be faced by only soul crushing fuckery.

Any way… I still wait for the time when CCP end up in enough of an economic dire strait that they have to sell the license to make a game based on WoD to another company. Hope as they say is the last that leave a human, often fighting all the way with fecal matter. 

Here is a link to the Guardian article in question that sparked tonight's train of thoughts.

And the only trailer ever released... 


Next up will not be Dr Who due to end of season… But next week will see me resume a more regular schedule 

10/11/2014

Who you said…? S08E12 “Death in heaven”






So hot on the heels of last episode the season finale charges in trying to herd the flock of cats that this season have been. This is also the second of a two part episode so the story ties very closely to the previous on with Missy the Master and the Doctor standing outside of St Paul´s with a lot of Cybermen. So let us get on with the story.


Things look kind of bleak when things take a turn for the better, in a way. U.N.I.T show up on the scene and take Missy in to custody. But he plan is still in action and the Cybermen head out to raise all the dead on the planet by the way of black clouds that rain nano particles. U.N.I.T also kidnap the Doctor. It turns out that he has been elected the president and commander in chief of earth. So with Missy downloading the dead in to the newly hatched cybermen Danny Pink finds himself back in the land of the living… Sort of… Remember how he never pushed the emotion kill-switch, turns out he now is in control of the Cyberman body he inhabits and he use it to save Clara from a group of Cybermen . Then the bio-waste hit the rotary air dispersion unit.
 
Soon to be dust
The Missy gets free and kill the adorable Dr Who fan / U.N.I.T scientist, the U.N.I.T flying HQ get swarmed by Cybermen, Clara has found out that Danny is a Cyberman and he is asking her to kill him and several people including the Doctor get sucked out in to the air as the plane get broken down. Missy is rather brilliant in these scene, a sort of crazy that reminds me on Ledgers Joker. So fortunately for the Doctor he get his TARDIS key out and by using his coat as  makeshift glider wings he steer himself in to the  TARDIS. 
He lands next to Clara and Danny and our love triangle comes to an end as Danny again accuse the Doctor for being a military officer above all, taunting the Doctor to kill him, Danny need to fully turn in to a Cyberman in order to get access to the hive-mind that all Cybermen share. Clara use the Doctors screwdriver to flip the switch in Danny´s chest as they both ensure their love for each other one last time. Then Missy, who teleported out of the plane before shows up with an armband that works like a remote for the Cybermen. After making the Cybermen do a little dance for her she hands it over to the Doctor and tell him that she has given him what he always needed, an army to fight his crusade. The Doctor rejects the gift but thanks Missy for finally solving the puzzle that have plagued the Doctor this entire season. Having finally figured out that he is neither a good nor a bad man... But just rather a man. He toss the control to Danny who is still in control over his new body. He holds a rousing speech… to a bunch of emotionless zombies…
I am.. War Machine..?
Then he go Iron Man and fly off with his new silver centurions and blow the living shit out of the black cloud. This just leaves the Doctor and Clara with Missy. Clara is set upon killing Missy to prevent her from harming others ever again. This of course is the classic problem that heroes in the comics face. Kill the villain and break your own moral code, lower yourself to their level so to speak. Or refrain and carry the knowledge that you are indirectly responsible for all evil they will do again. The Doctor takes the weapon from Clara and as Missy ask him 

to say something nice to her before she dies he only says “you win” to which she replies “I know”. 

Then she get shot by another independent Cyberman that turns out to be the brigadier, the former head of U.N.I.T and aid to the doctor. The Doctor honor his old friend with a salute. Now not one to end on a high note this season closes on the Doctor and Clara meet in a café. Both lying to not let the other down as they think that the other is living happy. Especially the Doctor who knew that Danny’s control bracelet would let him pass back in to the world of the living. But he failed to take Danny´s sense of duty in to account as Danny chose to let the boy he killed as a solider to live instead… .. . Yeah. The Doctor on the other hand found that his home was in fact not where the Master said it would be, thwarted again his heart breaks and we see him taking out his rage at the TARDIS. Having each gone their separate ways the season closes on the Doctor sitting in the TARDIS as old Saint Nick… Literally… shows up telling him that he is a fool and that he has done something wrong.

The season final was a fairly messy thing, doing its best to tie together not only the overarching storyline, a fairly coherent and well-crafted story but with a in my mind boring setup. But it also try to tie in the other stories and characters. It also give us a nice hi and bye to some old –ish faces with unit. The problem is that the season have had way too many episodes that was just filler and that had in reality no impact on the bigger story.  But the episodes themselves did have some really nice moments like with Danny in afterlife and pretty much any scene with Missy. Now I had pretty much written off Missy as some kind of pre-school Moriarty, and I was not wrong per se but once they gave her actress the freedom to really play the character out she had the right touch of unhinged crzy that I really appreciate. 

I did mention this in another blog post about what makes a good bad guy. In my mind they need to be smart and more than a little crazy. You need that element of chaos and unpredictability to make them a proper threat. There is nothing as boring as a predictable villain. In fact without that aspect to the character the entire last episode would have fallen flat. Capaldi is a good actor but he need someone to bounce off. Here get that one then some. It was also nice to see that the real reason that the Master had set Clara and the Doctor up was not because she was the chosen one or that he was fated to meet her… Nope… It was much simpler than that, the Master figured out that there would be a strong bond between them due to their personalities. This bond could then be used by the Master to really hurt the Doctor, as we saw here when the Master simply put him in the impossible place of having his best friend commit murder and losing her “soul” or to lose his own as he takes her sins as his own. Now the problem here is of course that the Master does hit in order to prove that the Doctor is cut from the same block as the Master.  But the fact that it is a choice at all for the Doctor proves that they are not. Any way… Unless the Christmas special wibbely-wobbely a few things away the next season will be very interesting as we will have a utterly depressed Doctor and hopefully a new companion.

St Nick Frost
Also speaking of the Christmas special… To have Nick Frost as Santa Claus aka Saint Nick… Wonderful pun.

Now if one should talk about themes this one is by all accounts self-discovery. Both our protagonists finds things in them self they did not perhaps knew where there, Clara found a bit of steel in her heart and the Doctor finally found that answer he was looking for.

So… Season eight…

I am split on this season. I think they took the Doctor to far in to the “angry and confused” direction.
Also about to become dust.
He lost any redeeming qualities and became more of an antagonist then a protagonist. Now this would have been ok if Clara would have been able to carry the show. But the character does not have enough substance in her to do that. She feels more like a plot device they did not know how to write out. This was made worse by the fact that she was made the alpha and the omega for several episodes. She was also a grade A arsehole to Danny and did repeatedly cheat on him with the Doctor. To be honest this season have been very slim on genuinely nice people. Now in some way that is refreshing but at the same tie it has made it hard to relate to the cast. But on a positive note the season had a great range of supporting characters and took some rather fresh twists such as the heist episode or the god dammed mummy on the god dammed train… There was also a short glimpse here and there of a Doctor that could be really likeable. But as I said unless the Christmas episode “ret-con” the situation the Doctor is in I think next season will be a very dark and angry one as the Doctor is not in a good place right now. But seeing how someone posing as St Nick my hope is that we see Danny being brought back from the dead and we get to see him and Clara move on towards a life without the Doctor. He need a new companion, someone he has not hurt as bad yet… Heck I would vote for one of the kids from this season. He is after all not bound by time. Not sure what my final verdict would be, this is very much one of those seasons I would not recommend as some ones first but it is not the worst season I have seen either. Very much middle of the road.




12:th Doctor


Now I have ragged a lot on the new Doctor but it its core I like the character. Different enough to be something new but still very much the Doctor. But his lack of understanding and refusal to take others in to consideration became a bit grating as it made him very difficult in my mind to like. Now I appreciate the side of this behavior that let him make some very hard choices and compare to 10 and 11 he had a iron core they did not. You definitely see traces of the War Doctor I him and I guess that is sort of the point but in my opinion that would have been better served by some tempering by either tying in more to previous season or reincarnations. My personal headcanon will be for now that this reincarnation was rougher than any before and he has simply not recovered fully. But for the next season the Doctor need to become a more balanced character or I will have a hard time keeping my interest for him at any proper level. That is not saying that I want them to make him more like 10 or 11 but rather that I want a bit of balance in his personality. Give him some of the curiosity back, some of the desire to rediscover the universe. But I think there will be some very dark episodes in the next season and I think we might end up with a doctor closer to the edge of sanity then we have before and for a longer time too.

Well I guess all we can do now is to strap in and wait for the Christmas special and what it will bring