I posted this back in Feb on my guild’s forums… found it while I was looking for what I wrote about WoW and lack of moral choices a la single player RPGs… thought this DDO beta review might be interesting too. Yes, beta… but I did play the final release, too, and getting to the next district and level 6 didn’t really change my mind:
Nice article… here’s a quote:
Warcraft also limits your choices when it comes to gameplay. The citizens of Warcraft are like migrant workers—they get their marching orders, and they follow them to the letter. Players never face moral quandaries and never get to choose between an upstanding act and an evil one. Instead of just barging through every problem with a sword and a club, Warcraft should let players negotiate their way through conflicts. If someone pays you to run an errand, do you follow through honestly or steal their money? Should you betray one faction to win favor with another—and what happens if you pick the wrong side? Other commercial role-playing games, like the best-selling Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, are full of these types of decisions. It’s time Warcraft gets with the program. (Chris Dahlen, Nov 14, 2006)
A guildie and I went to the monthly boardgame fest a WotC person and a former WotC person run out of their house last Sunday. A guy named Phil (who works at Paizo) brought a bunch of German games he bought from Essen 2006. So we got to play some new games!
Nacht der Magier – a neat push pieces around an elevated game board to get somewhere while others are pushing against you on their turns game…
Los Mampfos – a memory based donkey pooping game. yep. I’m not sure how long the novelty would last and I don’t really like memory games much…
Haste Bock – a fun sheep herding game with some crazy antics. The German version is played on a grid rather than just on a table like the American version… I think I wouldn’t like the free-form version. Anyway, each players has a deck of cards with moves they can do each turn, and they all compete for placement of their two sheep within the herd of sheep. Good game with some strategy.
Quelf – a zany game with loose resemblance to Cranium, only each player takes control of a specific character (like Mr. Lugnut or Super Ninja Monkey) and the questions are often trick questions and the things you have to perform are often totally off-the-wall. This is a great game and could be really fun with “normal” folk but would require a level of comfortableness with the other players and a willingness to do stuff. For example, one stunt requires you to play leap-frog with an opponent, which would be kinda awkward (as it was) with strangers who you don’t know how out-going they are…
Acquire – played the old 1971 version. It was good and bad. There was a lot of down-time between turns since we had 6 players. I think it would be best with about 4 players. An abstract game representing company take-overs and purchasing and selling of stock in those companies.
Universalis – a story-telling game. Unfortunately, it was presented to me as a game where we make up the rules of the game… That really isn’t the case as there are no game-mechanics or game-design elements to this game… It really is about sitting around a table and telling a story like Once Upon a Time but instead of playing cards to introduce story elements, you have to purchase the elements with tokens from a preset number that each player starts with. I’m not much a fan of story-telling games.
Check out this game!
See, this is why I haven’t looked too closely at web games. Who has time??
Six more things I remember about Runaway which turned me off:
1. At the very beginning of the game, Brian/the player has no idea if he should believe Gina. Well, if that is so, why does he bother stealing medical supplies from a hospital storeroom which he gets to by climbing out the window and scaling the outside wall rather than using the freakin doors?? Sheesh. That doesn’t seem quite normal to me. “I am not sure I believe this person; I think she is delusional. But, what the hell, I’ll climb out the window. Who cares if I fall to my death? When I find a storeroom, hey, morals be damned, I’m stealing from this hospital!” Later on, when it seems she is telling the truth, rather than maybe calling the cops, Brian/player decides it would be better to set off the hospital fire alarm. Uh… doesn’t that seem completely lacking in common sense to anyone? How many patients just died from that act?
2. In the museum you/Brian discover that the janitor is stealing lab equipment to sell. There is no option in the game to report this illegal activity. I guess the main character really has no morals or something… and later defaces priceless artifacts.
3. I love how in Chicago, the car the main characters use is instantly recognized by an acquaintance of the bad guys in New York where the story began. Get this: the acquaintance is a midget. Why? Who knows? The midget must have crazy memory, visualization skills, and eyesight, though, to be able to recognize from a description a totally nondescript brown sedan. Or maybe there’s only one brown sedan in all of New York and Chicago?
4. Funny how over the top a video montage of Gina plays through Brian’s head after he thinks she just fell to her death is, especially given that he spent absolutely no effort to actually see if she died. “Oh she just fell through a hole. Guess she’s dead. Oh god, no! How can life be so cruel??”
5. At one point, you/Brian discover that some local ants in a desert in Arizona love peanut butter. How do you make peanut butter? Why, by mixing peanuts with butter, of course! Wow, do they really think that’s what peanut butter is? To top it all off, the mixture has to be cooked?? And to do that, you have to put the bowl of mixture in the sunlight coming in through a window of a shack. Uh… why couldn’t you just put the bowl on the ground outside?
6. I found it annoying in general that you have to search things like bags over and over again at different parts of the story since you only realize the importance of things in the bag later on. The reason why it is annoying is that the game doesn’t tell the player what is in the bag, only that “there’s nothing I can use in there” so that there is no idea in the player that the bag might have something useful later.
After finishing Broken Sword 4, I’m extremely disappointed. I did not play the third game, so am not sure if something happened, but why are George and Nico so cold to each other? When they first meet up in this fourth game, how is it that George doesn’t recognize her at first? And there is no explanation of why Nico even shows up. Some of the puzzles were very difficult and I had to look at hint boards to solve them. I still don’t know the underlying logic behind those solutions, though. Also, the end of the game was… well.. rather abrupt. In fact, in the whole history of me as a gamer, I might have to say it was the worst ending ever.
Well, the summer is over. What do I have to show for it? Other than some Teacher Education Program work, I played a lot of games. Heh.
I got into two main genres of games. One is my continual love of adventure games. This summer, I played 6 Nancy Drew games (haha yeah… some of them were pretty good, some not so much). Right now I’m playing Runaway: A Road Adventure with Robin and Broken Sword 4 on my own. Unfortunately, I really wanted to play Broken Sword 3 but could never get it to work on my computer.
Runaway is an odd game, but I think it ultimately fails in a lot of ways, most notably the sheer lack of research done by the developers about the settings they were portraying and crazy non-sensical physics displayed in the game. When I saw that we were going to go to Chicago and visit the natural history museum… well for some reason, I guess I’m crazy for thinking this, I thought we were going to check out the awesome Field Museum of Natural History which is basically a HUGE deal in Chicago and the museum world. It has amazing architecture and is located in a nice park area dedicated to civic improvements. Instead, we were funneled into some generic building. It was obvious the artists had never been to Chicago or at least that they just didn’t care.. or something. The same was true for their depiction of UC Berkeley at the end of the game. Ah well… It was also crazy of me to think, maybe, that their depiction of a catapult would be true to life in that heavier objects wouldn’t be shot as far as lighter objects… but nooooo… Newton’s Laws be damned. This was especially offensive since the main character was going to grad school in physics. Also, no fault of the developers, two of the characters were voiced by the same person who voices Nancy Drew. That was just coincidental weird.
The other big genre I got into was space flight sims. I love this genre. But meh. See one of my previous post on some of my disappointments.
Also, some guildmates came up to visit (see the photos from that visit over on the right of this page) and we played a bunch of board games and a card game named Bang! Great game.
Lots of space flight sims out there such as Freespace 2, Independence War 2, Freelancer, Elite, and, more recently, X3 and Darkstar One. There’s even a MMOG, Eve Online (and Earth and Beyond before it)…
Why are there so many competing franchises? Well, none of them get it right, IMHO.
They pretty much all feature the player as a ship captain sitting in a cockpit of a space ship shooting pirates or playing pirate, transporting goods between planets or space stations, completing missions or contracts, and following a main storyline of some sort. Some of them are very freeform, letting players choose how to earn money and upgrade their ships and letting them choose whether to follow the main storyline. Others are relatively linear where the trading, pirating, etc. is just a backdrop to the main story.
But none of them do all of those things right. X3 is pretty good and very ambitious, but it is totally riddled with bugs. At one point, I pretty much had to quit trying to follow the story (the story for me is extremely important (take *that* Raph Koster!)) due to a bug. Darkstar One is the opposite in that the story is pretty much ALL there is to the game such that I didn’t actually care and felt too restricted into following a specfic path. That’s too bad.
What I’d like to see is some game that gets it all right… but actually, I want more than that. I’ve been spoiled by really good RPGs such as Oblivion and Gothic 2 and Knights of the Old Republic. Now, I’d like to see a space flight sim rpg.
Take everything that a good space flight sim should be. Now on top of upgrading ships and equipment and a huge galaxy to explore, add character skills which improve over time. Most importantly, throw in some side-quests and make all the quests “solvable” using different methods. Let players decide whether to help one faction over another. Have quests that conflict with each other. Tempt players with greed vs. honor. Throw in some moral and ethical choices.
Am I asking too much? Nah… might as well also make it so that all the NPCs don’t all look and sound alike, and make it so all the space stations are different. Throw in derelicts and alien artifacts and anomalies and other unique things to explore.
PS. Doing web searches for some of these games has made me realize something interesting. Games like Freespace 2 and Independence War 2 still have active websites YEARS after they were on store shelves since people can still get ahold of them through ebay or download (when they become either abandonware or officially released to the public) and fans can still make mods that other players can check out. Doing a search on Earth and Beyond, however, was rather sad. The news sections of fansites devoted to E and B featured messages from 3 years ago, basically announcing that the sites would no longer be maintained since the game no longer exists. Will most MMOGs (minus those with fans who hack them and run pirate servers) exist only in our memories?
A guildmate and fellow officer a few weeks back mentioned that I was blunt in the way I talk to people and that I make situations worse off. That made me think about the plane incident and I wonder if I need to be more cautious of how I say things… Have I always been like this and is it consistent? Or maybe I am now noticing it since I’m maturing, and maybe it is just sporadic. Everyone has bad days, right?
Last week, some people in guild were making one-liner references to a movie. It was getting a little extreme, and the references were really obscure. (My way of telling when someone’s entered the nerd-zone–the socially awkward part–is if they persist in talking about something no one else in the room gets.) I got a tell from another guildie saying that they were getting annoyed, so I said something in guild chat to quiet it down. Only, the way I said it was really rude. My excuse was that I was in the middle of wiping in MC and that we were having a particularly frustrating night, but still… is that an excuse? When do you chalk stuff up to “he’s having a bad day” vs. “you shouldn’t let your problems effect relations with others?” Luckily for me, the people I chastised in guild chat didn’t login all their alts and /gquit, and I was able to apologize publicly and in tell. But… I still feel bad about it and don’t know how they feel about me and the guild now…
I’ll be going to the Penny Arcade Expo this year with my advisor and fellow gamer Jen Stone. I also invited all my guildies from Portland to come up and visit that weekend (last weekend in August). And finally, we’re also planning on going to the Game On exhibit at the Pacific Science Center then. If you want to come, give a hollar.
Rather than linking to a news site, I’ll link to the thread on my guild’s forum about Paladins and Shammies being available to both factions because I’m self-serving like that…
Nice way for Blizzard to solve the problem about certain raid bosses being easy-mode for the Alliance. Not.