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Aimless In PC Gaming, August 20th, 2014 Edition

Though my part time schedule leaves me with a lovely four days off, back to back, I am halfway through my bizarro weekend and feeling the pinch of nothing I am particularly excited about doing this week.  I really need to figure out what I am doing here.

Maybe I should be using this time to create something great?

There is no "maybe" about this, but my game development endeavors are stymied.

Part of that is because it seems that it is intimidating how far I need to go in order to learn the ins and outs of it the platform I have chosen to use.  The remaining part is just a lack of confidence in myself: for all I have done, I should have completed something by now.
Ragdolling at life.
It is much easier to be a gamer than a game developer, but I deny my creativity in doing so.  If I at least make a token effort here, I bet I could enjoy gaming all the more.

Maybe I should be using this time to play ArcheAge, considering I just finished shelling out $162 for the right!

It feel as though there is not much point to playing ArcheAge right now.  Though I look forward its release (and most of what I paid was basically pre-ordering 3 months of VIP status) my main goal was just to learn more about how the different classes play.

I basically figured out it comes down to this:
  • Battlerage - Offensive, melee-range, physical damage.
  • Sorcery - Offensive, long-range, magic damage.
  • Archery - Offensive, long-range, physical damage.
  • Vitalism - Support, long-range, healing.
  • Occultism - Support, medium-range, debuffs.
  • Shadowplay - Support, long-and-short-range, stealth.
  • Defense - Defense versus physical damage.
  • Auramancy - Defense versus magical damage.
  • Witchcraft -Support, medium-range, crowd control.
  • Songcraft - Support, point-blank area, healing/buffs/debuffs.
Granted, this is a gross oversimplification, the active and passive skills associated with each class selection can do quite a bit more than what is described here.  The reason why I laid it out this way was because this is the main direction picking these classes will take your character.

This is important to know because you must pick three classes per character, resulting in a potential 120 classes.  That sounds like a big number, but there is a difference between potential classes and viably competitive classes. The main things to consider are:
  1. Your class skills need to be supplemented by equipment stats in order to be most effective.  Physical attacks use strength, magical attacks use intelligence, and healing uses wisdom.  If you chose to play Battlerage/Vitalism/Sorcery (known as a Fleshshaper), then that is physical attack/healing/magical attack, splitting your effective stat requirements three ways!
  2. For a well-rounded, stable character, you should take an offensive, defensive, and support class.  Without an offensive class, it is hard to do damage.  Without a defensive class, it is hard to take damage.  Without a support class, you have no self-sustainability.   You do not have to take all three, but it helps for this reason.
  3. There are certain cross-class skill combo activations that produce a potent effect.  For example, a target electrocuted with a Sorcery Arc Lightning attack will take increased damage over time from a Witchcraft Bubble Trap attack.  In my experience, the effectiveness of a skill that activates a combo is doubled.
  4. You can choose to wear cloth, leather, or plate regardless of what you doArcheAge has no problem with the idea of a tank mage.  The main difference in what you wear will be whether you are better at enduring magical damage (cloth) physical damage (plate) or a medium of both (leather).  Certain set bonuses and statistics will further influence your choice of armor.
Knowing what I do now, I can largely consider my scouting expedition of ArcheAge alpha complete, and I share the above in hopes it might be useful to you as well.  Of course, there will always be flavor-of-the-month builds, and patches to address such imbalances.  Either way, changing classes of existing characters is relatively painless, the biggest hurdle is to secure a change of gear.

Maybe I should be using this time to play WildStar considering I just got done spending about $90 on the game and two monthly subscriptions.

My goal in WildStar was to get level 30, but I can not even commit to 20.  One problem is that I do not particularly identify with any of the classes.  It would also help if I stopped out-leveling the content, as going through sub-leveled quest hubs is as much a drag on my endeavors as the cravenly slow travel time.  The main trouble is probably that I have been playing WildStar on and off for 3 months, and no game can really stand up to that much play without feeling tired.
http://www.wildstar-online.com/en/game/features/business-model/
Sadly, it seems I am not alone in feeling this way.  In game, WildStar would appear to have a greatly diminished server population, just as I thought it might.  The friendly zone channel spam is all but gone and, even in peak hours, the game looks to be a bit of a ghost town.  I like the WildStar developers, I have hung out on their Twitch channel too much to feel unaffected by all their efforts falling to fickle audiences... even if I, too, am rather tired of theme park games.

There is one hope remaining however: maybe the real launch has not happened yet.  Sure, launch has technically happened, officially announced and all, but I suspect that WildStar is currently in an early, non-sustainable phase where they sell the box for $50 along with $15/mo subscriptions while players are excited enough about the game to actually pay it.   Now that tapered off somewhat, they are going to start mobilizing for the real launch, which could only have been free-to-play given the massively overcrowded MMORPG market.   This might seem like farfetched speculation, but bear in mind that a few existing MMORPGs have already done this already, including The Secret World and The Old Republic.

My personal stake in WildStar is drying up, I am still subscribed to the game for another couple weeks but the subscription is not set to renew.  Despite the fact that WildStar obviously has better production values, ArcheAge emerges as a more interesting game, not only because it is a sandbox, but also because they have already beaten WildStar to the punch of being F2P.  Granted, I have been having a hard time playing either lately because my Comcast connection has been flaking out too frequently.

Well then, how about some more Minecraft?

I played it to death multiple times.  Maybe I will mess around with a mod mix for 1.7.2, which undoubtedly has some pretty good support right now.   The nephew is coming over to visit this weekend, I may well get dragged back into it just to keep the little guy entertained.

So what else is going on in the PC gaming world right now?

In addition to the never-ending deluge of Steam releases (whose quantity so exceeds its quality that it is rather chore to pick a new AAA game out of the pack of several-year-old C+ efforts) not a whole lot.   Honestly, you are better off asking Rock Paper Shotgun than me, but I find most of what they blog to be scraping the bottom of the barrel, and who can blame them?   The PC is a difficult platform to canvas.
I recently messed around a bit with Infinity Crisis, which is essentially League Of Legends but with higher production values and DC super heroes as the units you play.  It is being developed by Turbine, old hands in the MMORPG business, but this is their first MOBA showing that I know about.

It is good.  It started out as a mediocre knockoff, but each patch brings it closer to the quality of their competitors, and there may be some things Infinity Crisis already does better.  It probably will never get anywhere near DOTA2's popularity, but nobody can reasonably expect anyone to achieve Valve levels of recognition.

Five Nights At Freddy's is an unexpected cult hit.

About the most interesting thing going on in the PC gaming scene at this particular moment is Five Nights At Freddy's.  It has both novel gameplay and a novel setting, and I cannot tell you how happy that makes me to find this on a platform where finding either is a real needle-under-a-landfill scenario.  A sequel is already in the works, but what is Five Nights At Freddy's?
Making me even happier, a number of related memes are popping up, the Internet seems to have taken to it well. 
The novelty of the setting is that this whole thing is taking place at Freddie's, a Chuck E Cheese's parody.   You are the nightwatchman at Freddie's, and the animatronic actors are allowed to walk around in the dark after-hours in order to keep their servos working properly.  That is implicitly pretty creepy because animatronics always were somewhat too close to the uncanny valley, and now you are alone with them at night.

For some strange reason, while in roaming mode, the animatronics at Freddie's will regard any poor fleshy human sitting around alone as a robot outside of its costume, and use their incredible robot strength to cram them into a spare costume.  As these costumes are not meant to be worn by humans, and are filled with rigid wires and servos, this will invariably kill the guard, with only their eyeballs likely to ever be seen again.  What fun, but thankfully the carnage occurs off camera after the jump scare. Clearly, you have plenty of motivation to keep the Freddie's animatronics out of your office.

The actual game involves sitting in the office of the security guard, furiously scanning cameras on a tablet computer while being able to reach out to push four buttons that close or light the area behind the two doors on either side of you.  The sound effects are quite important, as what you can hear is often more advantageous than what you can see... of course, that makes you very vulnerable to a jump scare.

The goal is to survive from midnight to 6am, but your heartless bosses have given you only a tiny ration of power to use, so it is mostly a game of power management:
  • The doors have electromagnetic latches, so leaving them closed requires power.
  • The lights to view what is behind the doors requires power, so you can not just leave them on.
  • Using the cameras drains power, so you can not just constantly check to see where the robots are. 
When you run out of power, you sit there in the dark and in suspense, sweating, wondering if you will survive until 6pm or if you are about to endure a cheap jump scare.

Technically, the gameplay is not fantastic, because these mechanics are not all that advanced.  In fact, I think you could make this game in Flash, as it is mostly made up of still picture frames being triggered by the player, creating the illusion of a 3D game without actually being one.  However, it achieves its goal of generating white-knuckled suspense, and it is relatively novel in that we really have not seen this kind of game since Night Trap, a 1992 game that implemented this idea worse.

As you play the game, it becomes clear that there is something nastier going on than poorly engineered animatronics.  The animatronics typically will not move when you are looking at them - how do they know?  They get around far faster than they should.  They exhibit unique behaviors and quirks that you need to learn to survive.  Inexplicable visual fluctuations and hallucinations come to plague you.  Subtle, impossible changes occur in your security camera feeds.  Are you cracking up, or is this whole demented pizzaria haunted?

You can probably finish Five Nights At Freddy's inside of a few hours, and the fear of the jump scares is likely to wear thin after the first dozen times or so, but the game only costs $5, so you will definitely get your money's worth.

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