Cat Context 48: The Games That Influenced Us
Apr02

Cat Context 48: The Games That Influenced Us

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This week Liore, Arolaide, and Ellyndrial sit down to talk about the games that influenced us as gamers and as people.

From the first games we ever played to the ones we played for hours, from games we learned on our own or played with loved ones, it’s undeniable that games have shaped our lives. Each of us talk about five games on our own influential list, from consoles titles to a certain MMO.

Also, what we’ve been playing lately, including The Binding of Isaac, Spelunky, and more adventures with Orangelady in SWTOR.

Like to watch? This podcast has a livestreamed video version:

If you enjoyed this podcast, please “Like” or “Favorite” it in your media consumption method of choice! It makes us feel nice.

* The article on TAGN that inspired this episode.
* Free Music Archive page for our theme, in THE crowd by The Years

Learning to Appreciate Alts
Mar31

Learning to Appreciate Alts

I have never really been much for alts in MMOs. I mean, I’ve rolled alts of course, but they were always clearly secondary to my main. Often I would create alts with the best of intentions, but they ended up being just extra bag space or profession slaves.

I think a lot of it came down to my achiever nature in games, as well as being a serious raider. When you have one character with the best gear in the game and a collection of mounts and pets that took hours to amass, and another character in quest blues with a sparklepony it’s tough to find the motivation to take the latter anywhere outside of a major city.

And then even if I did play my alt(s), any unique achievements or whatever I got during that time would just have to be repeated on my main for completion’s sake, not to mention that I just plain didn’t have the time to start raiding on another character.

That was a few years ago, and while I am still not an “altoholic” by any stretch of the imagination it appears that both me and WoW have mellowed out enough to make alts much more enjoyable.

Props — mad props, even — should be given to Blizzard for some of their recent changes in this area. Shared pets, mounts, and titles help a lot, as does the fact that most of the major achievements are also shared by account. The new token thingy that gives your alts double faction reputation is amazing, and even the hated LFR (and Flex too) is a nice easy way to progress with your character without having to think about it too much.

The results of these changes, along with my own casual-ification over the years, is that I am enjoying my boost baby paladin much more than I ever expected.

She is levelling up mining and engineering, and although engineering is the same boring grind as any profession I enjoy churning out 5 explosive sheep or fabulous goggles much more than another gem cut or enchanting my bracers over and over. The double rep means she’s already revered with Tillers and has 12 active plots on her farm. (I like tending the plants, okay? I don’t know why. Don’t judge me.)

Thanks to being a healer the paladin has LFR queues of 10 minutes or less for pretty much any wing, giving me an endless stream of gear drops, legendary quest bits, valor points, and victims on whom I can practice my heal skills. And I haven’t even gotten into PvP yet, where I hope to combine my slightly masochistic love of MMO PvP healing with the gift of plate armor.

And speaking of plate armor, man, paladin gear looks cool. It looks way cooler than anything priests have seen after TBC.

paladin hats: PUT A BIRD ON IT.

paladin hats: PUT A BIRD ON IT.

Long story short, suddenly I am playing my main and my alt for equal amounts of time and when I’m on my paladin I no longer have that nagging feeling that alts are just wasting time I could spend on my main. Thanks to a few changes in both the games I play and how I play them, it turns out I could get used to this alt thing.

One Night in Landmark
Mar27

One Night in Landmark

The closed beta for Landmark (no longer named EverQuest Next Landmark!) started up yesterday afternoon, and I was fortunate enough to be given a beta pass by alpha investor Aurelia, she of the awesome Democracy 3 DLC review video from a while back.

When you first boot up the Landmark beta client you’re treated to a mandatory 3-ish minute video by David Georgeson, the game’s Director of Development, where he talks about what happened in alpha and what players can expect from beta. It was charming, if totally weird in that trademark SOE way.

The character creation is very simplistic, and the character graphics are not great. I run oddly, there’s no strafing (not that there’s anything to strafe away from exactly, but in a world of exploration I occasionally like to move diagonally), and I can’t zoom my camera.

That all being said, we’re not playing Landmark for the character generation, are we? No sir, I’m here for some mining!

Everquest Landmark Beta horizon

I suspect that the same cartoony graphics that hinder the character display help the look of the environment. And it does look good, in a creamy sort of way. I liked that hopping up steep hills is totally acceptable, and there seems to be some mechanic to keep players from plummeting to their death when sliding down the side of a mountain.

Eventually I stumbled across a shiny patch of what I correctly suspected was copper, and started to mine.

Landmark Copper Mine

It might sound like I’m damning the title with faint praise when I say the following, although I assure you I am not: Landmark has the most satisfying mining experience I have ever encountered in a game. Seriously! The voxels, however they work, make me feel like I am actually excavating a seam of materials. Chunks break away in different shapes, and the pick’s animations give it the right amount of heft.

Unfortunately I didn’t find crafting so compelling. That is more a statement about my short attention span than the crafting, really. I looked at the list of ingredients needed to make a claim flag and spent a few minutes trying to gather them, but I quickly got bored and instead focused on digging a tunnel to the center of the world.

everquest landmark ice tunnel

Goodbye, world!

I was digging for quite some time when a random player jumped and/or fell down the ice hole. He seemed to quickly shake off his misfortune, and started digging downward with me.

Everquest Landmark Hole

Eventually my new friend started digging off in his own direction, and after about 20 minutes of finding nothing but subterranean ice I logged off the game.

Overall my first impression of Landmark is that it’s definitely on the road to being a good multiplayer Minecraft. I’m not sure I personally am interested in a game that frontloads gathering so much over crafting, but that’s more a design issue than a fault. Should you get the opportunity to try the game for free, I highly recommend that you mine something.

Hearthstone Deck Highlights: my winningest pally deck
Mar26

Hearthstone Deck Highlights: my winningest pally deck

I played quite a bit of Hearthstone back in beta, but quickly burned out on being pretty terrible at it. I just started getting back into it a bit with the WoW mount crossover deal (oh Blizzard, curse your nefarious marketing plans) and suddenly I have gotten a lot better!

Okay, okay, arguably the change is in the wider, less experienced post-launch playerbase rather than some innate skill on my part, but also I just really feel in the groove with my paladin deck right now.

In fact, I went from rank 25, the lowest rank, to rank 20 with this deck with no losses. That’s like 8 games in a row!

For those curious about the free-to-play aspect of Hearthstone, I have spent in total $8 on the game. I bought one pack directly, and 3 Arena tickets (each rewarding a pack) during the Extra Life Marathon last November as a cure for the 3am doldrums. All of the rest of my cards are through crafting or Arena tickets that were funded with quest gold. No, my deck isn’t dripping with legendaries, but it suits me just fine.

Anyway, let’s look at the cards!

pallydeck

Early Board Control, Best Board Control

The deck is weighted towards small drops, which I find works the best. I have 3 minions that I can drop on turn 2 (or turn 1 + Coin), or 5 minions if I’m fighting an opponent who doesn’t have weapons. I also have one secret, Noble Sacrifice (“When an enemy attacks, summon a 2/1 Defender as the new target.”), that I tend to drop early as a cheap and simple way to help keep the board in my favor.

Minions and Minions and Minions and Minions

This deck is generally oriented towards spamming minions, a tactic well suited to the paladin. I have two particularly badass cards helping me with this goal: Knife Juggler (“After you summon a minion, deal 1 damage to a random enemy.) and the epic card Sword of Justice (“Whenever you summon a minion, give it +1/+1 and this loses 1 Durability.”).

If you can keep a Knife Juggler safe (health buffs help!) in the mid-game, it becomes a beast. Between cheap minions and the pally hero skill that summons a 1/1 minion for 2 mana, I can easily dish out 2-3 extra points of damage each turn, which can help a lot.

Meanwhile, the Sword of Justice has obvious applications and is also a great mid-game card.

The Venture Co. Mercenary works with minion spam in a way. It’s a monster 7/6 card that only costs 5 mana, but its ability is “Your minions cost (3) more.” However, that cost doesn’t count towards the paladin hero skill, so drop the Knife Juggler, drop the Mercenary, and spam 1/1 minions. Then laugh evilly. Go on. You know you want to.

Needs More Tweakin’

Just while writing this post I can spot two big ways I could improve this deck. The first is to get rid of Truesilver Champion (“Whenever your hero attacks, restore 2 Health to it.”). It looks good on paper, but I have actually used it in maybe 1 game out of 20.

I also think getting rid of one of the Gnomish Inventor cards (“Draw a card.”) would be optimal, assuming I find something better to take its spot. I was worried about card generation when I put them in the deck, but that hasn’t actually been a problem so far.

So that’s my current fave Hearthstone deck! Any suggestions?

Managing Expectations for the Big New MMO. (Also video game music and Escape Goat 2!)

WildStar has opened pre-orders and just had a big beta weekend, which means my guild is all excited about the game.

And that’s a good thing! MMO launches are fun, and they are even more fun with a group of friends! But already my (retired) guild leader senses are tingling, and I’m worrying about making sure that expectations are managed.

“Everyone will start playing again and it’ll just be like the old days!”

Oh my dear sweet summer child. It is almost impossible to recreate the old days, whatever game they may have been in. Yes, historically a few people we haven’t seen in a while will show up for the launch of a big new title but just as well-documented is the fact that these people also wander off again shortly thereafter.

Which is fine! But it’s easiest to kind of anticipate that.

“Let’s just have everyone rush to level cap and then we can start raiding right away!”

This tactic has come up with every game since SWTOR. I sort of understand the impetus — other people have the “3 month MMO” mindset, so if we just go really really fast then we’ll be raiding before they know what’s happening and they’ll have to stick with it!

In my experience, though, this has the exact opposite of the intended result. The folks who rush to level cap quickly get bored of waiting for others to catch up and are a little burnt out in general after spending like 4 hours a day playing. I vastly prefer taking my time in a new game and enjoying being an uninformed scrub in a strange world.

“It’s okay, I’ll lead the raid stuff.”

This is always said in the utmost of good faith, and I have never, ever seen it actually work out. Enthusiasm is grand, but running a raid team is hard work. There’s recruiting (and on-boarding new folks), rostering, and occasionally dishing out stern talks when needed. There’s making sure you have enough tanks and healers, and having a Plan B when one of them doesn’t show up.

There is a reason that MMOs are littered with ex-guild leaders like me who refuse to do any of that stuff any more.

And again, my fellow MMO players in general, be the change you want to see. I cannot emphasize that enough. Want to be part of a stable team that does group content? Log on regularly. Participate in group content. Stick with it. If you wander off, why wouldn’t everyone else?

That is how good guilds and communities and raid teams are made.

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Do you like videos about games? OF COURSE YOU DO! Last week was a busy one on the Totally Legit Publishing YouTube channel, which is a collection of nerds, myself included, who like to make videos. Behold! And subscribe if you like what you see!

The fabulous Syl is contributing a weekly Video Game Music spotlight, and this week it’s all about World of Warcraft:

The also fabulous Ellyndrial made a video review of cute new indie puzzler Escape Goat 2. I played this game at PAX Prime and talked to the developers a bit, and it’s a lot of fun. Highly recommended!

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