Monday, April 27, 2009

My wife, the Semi-Gamer, Redux

My wife is still a pansy girly gamer (no offense to macho girly gamers out there). We recently started playing Phantasy Stay Online: Ep 1&2 Plus, again. The game is damn near a decade old and it's still fun to play it and get some split screen monster slaying/loot whoring in once and a while. However, once again, a performance gulf appears between my wife and I.

-Cortez, RAcast, Lvl 34, completed chapters 1-4 NM, completed chapter 1 on HM, 350k Meseta banked
-Denicia, FOmarl, Lvl 13, completed chapters 1&2 on NM, 3465 Meseta banked

We made the characters together, but one cannot complete quests in mutliplayer mode. So, we were forced to play separately in order to progress through the game. Needless to same, I got ahead of her. I beat the game, beat all the quests, and started again on Hard Mode (there are four difficulties, each unlocked by beating the one below it, Hard Mode is only the second). Fortunately for her, being a RAcast, I can't use spells, or increase my mind stat. So, whenever a high level uber-spell or mind boosting item comes my way, I tuck it into my stash, to give to my wife at a later date. As a result, she already knows every spell in the game, and has quite a few shift mod for her armor.

However, it's unlikely that we'll have a chance to play together anytime soon. In PSO, you only receive and XP reward if you deal damage to an enemy, even if it's only one hit. Because of the level difference, I'm liable to kill most enemies in one hit, preventing my better half from gaining any XP.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Vanquishing with Warriors

I've bitched and moaned in the past about how difficult it is for a Warrior to get a team, or to be useful to one, many times in the past. And I've bitterly muttered to myself about it far more often. Sad as it is to admit, Perma-Sins, Cryers, and Old School Ursans are and were simply more useful to teams, leaving little to no room for Warriors to join in the fun. However, today, my Alliance and I had a little fun in Melandru's Hope, an area within Echovald Forest, home of the Kurzicks.

"Vanquishing" is the act of killing every single last enemy in a zone, while in Hardmode. The game tracks how many foes are present, versus how many you have killed. When you kill 100% of the enemies present, the area is considered "vanquished". The area on the map goes from red to gold, and you get another point in the title track to Vanquish all of a particular campaign. In Factions, if you vanquish a zone while under the effect of a blessing (Kurzick or Luxon respectively), you receive a very large bonus in the form of both money and alliance faction. In short, it's a way for PvEers to earn lots of faction for their Guild and Alliance.

So today, we went and vanquished Melandru's Hope. With four warriors.

I can honestly say, it's been a long while since I had that much fun PvEing, much less with 50% warriors. Myself, Noble (Officer within [CoF]), Cloud (Officer within [HELL]), Tam (Officer within [HELL]), and Travis (member of [HELL]), plus three heroes (monk, elementalist, and necro respectively), cleared the zone in less that one hour. All told, we each earned about 14k faction, which isn't bad at all, especially given how fast one earns it in PvP (1.5k-2.5k per battle, each battle taking 10 minutes or so).

But to me, the best part was how efficient we were. We killed fast, kept our back-line safe, and suffered only a handful of deaths, always at the hands of bosses. I ran my Imba-War, while Cloud was gracious enough to run a Tactics spec and keep the back-line covered with Protector's Stance. Meanwhile, Noble and Tam ran more offensively oriented Warriors, giving us a good mix of mitigation and single target DPS (Although Noble just ran my build with "Save Yourselves!" swapped out for another attack).

It went so well, in fact, that everyone involved is eager to vanquish in other areas of the Echovald Forest, to earn more faction, and in general have more fun.

(this post will be prettied up with links once I get home, the work computer is now blocking Guild Wiki)

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Kongregate: Social Gaming Site for the Masses

Back when I was in high school, flash games sucked for the most part. Aside from 3D Pong (which is still badass) and Spank the Monkey, there wasn't much worth playing that wasn't an interactive flash video or stick-figures doing stupid crap.

However, a while back, I read an article about a flash game called "Desktop Tower Defense". The concept interested me somewhat, because I had played many tower defense mods for Warcraft 3 in years past. Eventually, I googled it, and tried it out. Was great fun, and I wasted many, many hours trying to stave off my inevitable suckage. Through this game, I learned of a flash portal known as Kongregate. Always leery of words that needlessly start with "K", I visited it to find the most amazing and diverse collection of flash games I had ever seen.

Using a format similar to youtube, the site lets you play games, upload games, rate games, favorite games, and links all games together with a series of mutual chatrooms, so you can make and talk to friends while you play. Not bad. But even better (or worse), the people who manage the site saw fit to not only integrate tech for scoreboards hosted on the site, but to add XBL style achievements and points to some games, allow players to amass badges and points, to increase their rank (which means literally nothing). Even better, Kongregate actually publishes a few games of it's own, most of which are multiplayer. One such game, Kongai, is a cross between MTG and rock-paper-scissors. You collect cards that are offered as rewards on a twice weekly basis, and use them to play.

Now, all of this is fine and good, but the most important aspect of this site is the games that it hosts and offers. Games are divided up by category, and ranked accordingly. Among my favorite games are shooters like Dinosaurs That Shoot Beams When They Roar!, intrusion, Bubble Tank 2, Last Stand 2, Luminara, Endless Zombie Rampage, and Areas. Even with a premise as simple as "shoot some shit", each one has a very amusing and unique flavor too it. No two play alike, yet all have simple, and sometimes very similar, controls.

The people who develop these games can win cash prizes based on how well their game is ranked, both on a weekly and monthly basis. Furthermore, tech was implemented that allows players to directly donate money to a developer, with a system that somewhat resembles paypal. The incentive to create and release games on this site seems solid.
I'll probably be ranting and raving about games from this site more and more as time wears on, so look forward to some very entertaining flash games in the future.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Crossfire: Ghetto Counter Strike, or something better?

A couple of my guildies introduced me to an online FPS called Crossfire. It's currently in open beta, and free-to-play. I downloaded and played it for a few weeks, and I'm both impressed and underwhelmed with the game.

Firstly, let me prove that I've played it enough to voice an opinion. I have a KDR of 2.15, average 20 kills a game over 222 matches, and just over a third of my kills were headshots. Frankly, I don't count honor for much, but for what it's worth, mine is good. Had I not wasted so much time in "Ghost" matches (explained below), my KDR would be much more impressive. Unfortunately, Ghost mode is the favored match type of one of the guildies who got me into this (meaning I got talked into playing it, a lot). Moving on.

  • Persistent Stat Tracking
  • Persistent Character Inventory
  • Functional In-Game Clans
  • Multiple Games Modes


  • Weak Graphics
  • Poor Hit Detection
  • Poor Weapon Balance
  • Hyper-Inflated Weapon Prices/Minimal Money & XP Rewards

I want to like Crossfire. I really do. I enjoy that it takes the CS formula and tries to build on it. While it doesn't have the CS equivalent of Hostage Rescue (which I think everyone is thankful for), it has Search & Destroy (bomb map), Team Deathmatch, Elimination, and Ghost Mode. Team Deathmatch and Elimination both play out mostly the same; each team tries to kill as many opponents as possible, the only difference being, one has rounds (Elimination), while the other has players constantly respawning. Ghost Mode has much potential, as it's a bombing variant where all the Black List players (Terrorists) are armed only armed with knives. However, they are completely invisible when motionless, and almost invisible when moving (It's quite nerve wracking to play as Global Risk [Counter-Terrorist] in that game-mode). It also offers a much wider array of weapons to the playerbase, without restricting players from owning certain firearms based on which team they are on (In CS, CTs get M4s, while Ts get AK-47s). Also, the idea of having a persistent character inventory is novel, especially for this type of game. I like being able to pick what weapons I'm going to fight with each game, and be able to start with them (as opposed to CS, where I have to earn money to buy them, and I lose them if I die). In the same way, I like the ease with which I can find and view my own and other players persistent stats. Rather than assuming a player is good because he is a higher rank than me, I can look at this profile and find things like his KDR, number of headshots scored, number of knife kills, and how often he leaves a match before it's finished (the last one is tracked as a players "Honor").

However, in as many ways as Crossfire impresses me, I'm very disappointed with it. Firstly, I've been fed up with one-hit kill sniper rifles since CS 1.6 (I hate the AWP, and will only play on servers where it's banned, if I can help it). No amount of arguing or debating will convince me that having such a weapon in a game makes it better. It doesn't. Allowing players to forgo accuracy with a sniper rifle by virtue of sheer firepower cheapens the game. Maybe if the sniping mechanics made zooming in a greater risk (drifting crosshairs, more severe movement penalties, etc), I'd be ok with it, but as is, it's merely a way for poor players to beat better ones, purely on the basis of who's using what gun. Since players have persistent weapon inventories, you really can't prevent someone from joining a game and using one (you can votekick them, but that's a horribly un-reliable function).

Also, there are vast amounts of server-side lag. I've died hundreds of times by foes, who on my screen, are on the other side of a wall or corner. In reality, they killed me before I hit cover, but the server doesn't process fast enough to display that on my screen. Instead, I get pasted after I'm out of view (on my monitor). This also affects aiming, in a small way, because every so often, an enemy is displayed as being a few in-game feet away from where he is actually located in game. Accuracy is further fouled by firing from a crouched position. Certain weapons have more kick than others, and thusly cause your character to recoil more. Rather than simply have this affect accuracy, the devs made it so it physically makes your character recoil, affecting his body placement. Translation: if you're using an SG-552 or an AUG A1, and fire while zoomed in and crouching, the hitbox for your head will rapidly move up and down, making it very, very hard to score a headshot on you. Quite lame.

Money and XP rewards aren't based as much on kills or performance as they are on time spent in a map. A player with a KDR less than 1 can earn far more than a player with dozens of kills and no deaths, provided the first player has been in the map long enough. Giving people extra XP for things like most damage dealt, most kills scored, and last kill, is nice however. But, it doesn't make it for the majority of matches where a decent player gets dicked over by a poor rewards system.

And then there are ignorant quirks about the game, like a target hit in mid-air ceases moving forward, the just drop. I've died far too many times while leaping for cover, just to get tagged once, drop, then get lit up in the .5 seconds I'm perfectly still. Maybe this is another defect due to server-side lag, but it's still completely lame.

The game is still in beta, but progress made here will carry over to the live version of the game. So if, down the line, I decide to go back to it, I can, while retaining everything I've earned. I appreciate that. However, if things stay more or less like they are now, I'll be content staying with the five years young Counter Strike: Source.