Tin Man Games is five too.

Not only is my blog five years old now, one of my favorite gamebook publishers is too.

Tin Man Games is celebrating their fifth anniversary by releasing the eighth book in the Orlandes setting, Curse of the Assassin. Their gamebooks are available on both Android and iOS. They have music, illustrations, and handle all of the combat and inventory mechanics, which makes them great for places where you don’t want to break out a pad of paper and a pair of dice. If fantasy isn’t your thing they have a scifi/humor series called Infinite Universe (currently only one book) that I really enjoyed, plus a great Judge Dredd book called Countdown Sector 106.

Feature Episode series comes to the STO Foundry

Authors from Starbase UGC have teamed up to make a six part series on the level of Cryptic’s Featured Episode series. I can’t wait to check the first one out come October 1st, while I really enjoyed the Romulan expansion my favorite character will always be my first Federation one, Bryn, and I’m looking forward to have some appointment playtime like in the first years of STO when Cryptic was doing their features.

Check out their teaser trailer.

Firefly Comics from Dark Horse

You know how often you see something but you’re seeing what you want or expect to see and not what’s actually there? Catching up on my news in Feedly yesterday, I caught this story on The Mary Sue (who got it from CBR here) with the title “You’re Getting Post-Serenity Firefly Stories Thanks To Dark Horse.”

My initial reaction was, “More Firefly? Awesome!” Then as I read the article the wording of the title started to sink in.

Post-Serenity.

I had always hoped that if/when the Firefly Verse returned that it would pick up where the TV show ended and just treat the movie like a Marvel What If comic. I didn’t hate the movie, but and I’ll try to say this without spoilers just in case, there were some pretty significant events in the movie that felt contrived to me. They just didn’t feel like they were necessary for the story, it felt to me more like Joss was trying to just go out with a bang.

Regardless, I’m sure I’ll pick up at least the first book when it comes out, because I can’t not at least give it a shot. Still, I would’ve really loved to have seen them pickup from the last episode of the television show and give us the graphic novel version of the series that Fox screwed up.

Year five?!

This has been, by far, the roughest year for me with blogging. I’ve been on a hiatus of sorts since April and only last week really started to feel the need to start writing here again. Really I don’t feel like I’ve missed too much as far as topics or news. It seems like it’s been a really quiet year overall for MMOs. Not that I’ve really been playing them anyway. I had a brief stint with Defiance before I got burned out on the clunky UI and severe lack of any social environment in the game. I also spent quite a bit of time with Star Trek Online this year, Cryptic did extremely well with their Romulan expansion, and that’s coming from someone who doesn’t actually like Romulans much. No, what I’ve been spending most of my time playing this year has been Minecraft, specifically modded Minecraft. I mentioned back in April that I’ve found the Feed the Beast mod pack and since then have move on to customizing my own mod pack.

Anyway, I want to thank anyone that’s still stopping by to see if I’ve gotten off my lazy butt to write, and hopefully you’ll be hearing more from me for the rest of the year. It’s best not to make any promises, but I will say that I’ve finally managed to get into Dwarf Fortress after many failed attempts and that it’s unique among the single player games I’ve experienced in that it makes me want to write about the events that happen in the game. Beyond that, I’ve recently dropped back into Champions Online for more than a brief check in, so you all might finally see origin stories for a few more of my heroes like what I did for the Silver Hunter.

Thanks for reading.

Catching up: GenCon 2013

This year was my third time going to GenCon, but in a real sense it was my first time attending.

See, my previous two visits I would go down for a day on Saturday and spend most of my time wandering the main exhibit hall. I’d see a few cosplayers, buy a few role-playing books, and that was it. I didn’t spend time checking out new games or playing anything or checking out any of the events available.

This year I wanted to get the full experience. I took vacation days for Thursday and Friday so I could spend the day downtown without feeling bad about leaving my wife to handle Things One and Two solo, and I sat down one night to pick out a few events to sign up for each day.

This turned out to be a great year to finally commit to the experience too, as one of my favorite authors, Pat Rothfuss, was not only doing some writer’s panels but hosting an hour and a half talk on Friday evening. Plus Harebrained Schemes was doing panels on using the editor for Shadowrun Returns and also I found out shortly before the convention that they were going to be demoing their latest Kickstarter project Golem Arcana (which was quite a bit more fun than I expected it to be). In the end, I actually ended up scheduling too many things to attend and skipping a few in order to play some games and hang out with friends.

Speaking of which, I had a great time meeting some Twitter people this year. I spent quite a bit of time hanging out with Winin, walking the exhibit hall and trying out some games including the tile game he’s been developing. I also got to meet up with Ferrel and his wife and try out their Kickstarter card game, Havoc and Hijinks. It’s still going by the way, so if you like cute dragons and fun competitive card games where the person winning can change quickly, I recommend checking it out. It does end on the 24th though so you don’t have much time left.

Spending two full days at GenCon plus taking my oldest, who’s four years old, on Saturday really wiped me out. But it was a ton of fun. I’m really looking forward to going again next year, and I’m very excited for when my sons are old enough to really get the full experience. I’d love to make it to one of the PAXes and DragonCon someday as well.

GenCon Writers Panel

Windhammer Gamebook Competition

Arborell is sponsoring their annual Windhammer Prize for Short Gamebook Fiction. There are fourteen entries this year and the voting is open from now until October 30th. These are short works and generally take half an hour or so to get through. I’ve gotten through about half of the entries so far and there are a couple of really interesting entries this year. I have to say though that Marty’s entry this year, The Independence Job,  is by far my favorite of the ones I’ve read even putting aside any bias. It’s a heist book and has some really interesting mechanics that fit well with the genre.

If you’re a fan of gamebooks or interactive fiction, I highly recommend checking out all of this year’s entries.

h20rat

I’ve been on an extended MMO break, but I still check in once a week or so on a few sites to keep an eye on things, which is how I found out that Cryptic’s Mark Valentine, h20rat, lost his battle with cancer. Mark did all of the marketing videos for the Cryptic games. He was very involved with the community and even had a spotlighted Foundry mission, The Rising Phoenix – Part One.

My thoughts and best wishes go out to both his Cryptic and personal family.

Fuck cancer.

Defiance the Game

I’ve been playing a ton of Defiance lately. It’s fun. You should try it out.

You want more detail? Okay fine.

It’s an interesting combination of shooter and MMO. I think it’s geared more towards MMO players than shooter fans though. If you’re a hard core Gears of Halo Duty fan, I imagine you’ll find Defiance too shallow. The only shooters I’ve ever played and enjoyed much were the Mass Effects and Red Dead Redemption, and Defiance has a fair amount in common with both.

Like those games, Defiance relies on story to get you through the single player campaign. The twist for Defiance is there are other people playing their single player campaigns around you, which is nice when there’s another player or two around to help with a trio of super mutants popping out of a chopper and shooting grenades everywhere. Unlike most other MMOs, there’s no kill stealing or ninja looting to deal with so it’s like Guild Wars 2 where passersby are more likely to help out than hinder you.

Despite there being other players about though, the game is kind of lonely. The chat window is a tiny box in the bottom right and I’m usually so focused on what’s going on in the game world that I never notice it on the rare occasions someone does say something. I imagine that’s why voice chat is built into the game, especially given it was intended for consoles as well. I disabled that after the first day though. I assume it works better on console platforms where it’s the norm, but PC players are used to push-to-talk systems and I was hearing a lot of keyboard and mouse clicking rather than actual chatting. It definitely could’ve been worse though.

Arkfalls will be familiar to anyone who’s played Rift or Warhammer. They are basically the same mechanic as Rift Invasions or Public Quests. I think they are more fun in Defiance. It just works better in a gun-focused game where everyone is highly mobile and there’s no holy trinity baggage.

Vehicles are surprisingly one of the most of parts of the game for me. First, it never stops being funny to crunch a hellbug or clip a 99er as I’m speeding down the road. Second, the boost mechanic and lack of falling damage make hills an absolute joy. There are some racing challenges in the game that are fun and occasionally frustrating, but definitely worth trying.

My major complaint with the game is the UI. EVE is notorious for theirs and rightfully so. It’s complicated but once you learn it its just awkward. Defiance’s UI is awkward in the way most UIs designed for console and ported to PC are. It’s not as complicated as EVE’s, but it isn’t simple.

For example, you begin the game with two loadouts. If you equip a weapon on either one then it’s no longer available to sell, which makes sense. Unfortunately there’s no way to see which loadout has the gun equipped without checking them all. Not a huge deal but it is cumbersome when trying to organize twenty some weapons across three loadouts. I also finally figured out last night why the modifications screen wouldn’t always let me add mod slots to items. That option only appears if the weapon isn’t equipped on any loadouts. Adding a slot takes ten minutes, so I can see why they did it, but I would rather they just allow me to unequip it from the mod window directly.

The UI has also had quite a few bugs. It took half a dozen tries the other day for MMOGC to get a clan invite to send to me. Even then my clan screen didn’t register that I was in one until I logged in later that evening. A few times my friends list has been blank on logging in, and there was a substantial rollback the other night.

Support seems to be on the ball at least. I had bought some Bits, which is what they call the store currency, and picked up a +15 slot inventory upgrade which i unfortunately lost when i logged in after the rollback. My Bit balance was the same as after the purchase though. I got a response to my support email within 24 hours and got the Bits refunded so I could repurchase the inventory upgrade. So all in all, not a bad deal.

Defiance is fun, if a little rough in places. I don’t think Trion has been a successful with this launch as they were with Rift. But Rift didn’t release simultaneously on three platforms. I can’t make any guarantees about it’s long term viability but if you’ve followed my gaming habits at all you’ll know that’s generally not a concern of mine. Besides, there’s no subscription so I can take a break whenever and jump in anytime I feel like hunting an Arkfall.

If you are a casual fan of shooters and enjoyed the Rift Invasions in Rift then I think you’ll have a blast in Defiance. If you’re a hardcore Call of Halo Warfare Gears, don’t waste your money.

Been gone Minecrafting

So that was a longer than intended break, especially since I thought doing my January write-ups had gotten me recharged. I just took a break from writing though not gaming.

In February I rediscovered Minecraft, or more specifically I discovered mod packs. I was introduced to YouTuber Direwolf20 from watching a Haat Films video (whom i started watching because of their excellent Minecraft release trailers) and from there found the Feed the Beast mod pack.

I already knew about modding but hadn’t messed with it at all because I didn’t want to bother manually patching JAR files. Well, the modding scene has advanced substantially since I last looked. For FtB, I just had to download a launcher then pick a pack, let it download and play. It’s about as easy as installing and launching an MMO. I’ve been playing heavily ever since.

Mods have made a world of difference in my enjoyment of the game. Setting up power systems and automating mining scratch nearly the same itch as playing the Anno series. When the game starts to get stale, I add another mod. I’ve been able to customize my copy of the Direwolf20 pack easily by downloading some other Forge compatible mods (the modding framework FtB uses) and adding them via the launcher.

If you loved Minecraft in the past, but got bored then I highly recommend checking out one of the FtB packs. There’s the big ones like Direwolf20 and Ultimate that contain a large cross section of mods and then there’s more focused ones like Magic World and Tech World. Personally I think the Direwolf20 pack is a great starting point as you can watch his current Season 5 Let’s Play and get a introduction to all of the mods as he starts a new world and builds from there. Don’t bother starting from Season 1 though, Dire starts a new season with every major version change so Season 5 Episode 1 covers starting out with the current release of the mod pack (at least at the time I write this).

Expectations and Resolutions for 2013

Writing

In January 2012, I’d resolved to post directly to the blog more and edit less. I had an especially bad habit of leaving posts to languish in my drafts folder for months and then deleting them because they weren’t topical anymore. While I did get better about editing, I didn’t post straight to the blog much at all. So I’m renewing the same resolution to be more brave about my posting in the coming year. At least that’s going to be my excuse for any typos people point out.

Upcoming Games

There are a few MMOs that I’m anticipating:

  • City of Steam
  • Defiance
  • Elder Scrolls Online
  • Neverwinter

City of Steam is my novelty game. It’s a steampunk setting with a F2P model using a browser client. I missed a few chances to play in the closed beta, so I can’t say anything about how it plays. I’m a little concerned that they’re relying on just the setting to differentiate the game from other MMOs instead of trying to refine and improve the genre standard mechanics, but that’s based on superficial research on my part.

I’m pulling for Defiance partly because it’s by Trion. I’ve continued to be a fan of how Trion’s developed Rift even after I wasn’t actively subscribing to it (although I did resubscribe when the Storm Legion expansion was announced), and I’d like to see them continue to succeed. The other reason I’m hoping it does well is there’s a real dearth of science-fiction MMOs and I’m hoping this one doesn’t suffer the same fate as Tabula Rasa. I really don’t think that’s likely, considering how invested both Trion and SyFy are in the game and tie-in television series.

Elder Scrolls Online is my dark horse game. I was originally pretty pessimistic about the game’s chances, but my opinion has since become more optimistic based on developer interviews. Of course talk is cheap so who knows if ESO will fly or fall, but I’m hoping that it does well just so I can explore Tamriel more widely than I’ve been able to do in Skyrim.

Of all of the upcoming MMOs, Neverwinter is the only one that I’m genuinely excited for. Prior to going to GenCon this summer, this game was in the I’ll-play-it-when-it-comes-out category but I was really impressed with out beautiful the demo was. The environments were detailed and interesting, and the animations were fluid. The gameplay itself was very action oriented, and reminded me slightly of Torchlight and Gauntlet. Add all that to a supercharged version of the Foundry software that’s currently in Star Trek Online, and I’m not only excited to play the game Cryptic is making but also see what kinds of modules players build. There’ve been some really excellent missions done in STO and I hope that Neverwinter will inspire the same amount of creativity in it’s players.

Backlog

Outside of those few new games, this year is going to be all about the backlog. Anyone want to take bets on how long that lasts?

MMOs

Champions Online has been making a lot of changes and I really want to roll up a brand new hero to see what’s changed with the game since 2011. I know there’s lots of new powers and custom pieces, plus they recently added vehicles, and have just started hinting a some big new content releases.

Lord of the Rings Online has the whole Riders of Rohan expansion that I’ve not touched yet, plus I still have about a third of the Rise of Isengard expansion to finish.

Rift has had a huge amount of new content added, I just need to sit down and force myself to rebuild all of the roles that’ve been reset on my Mage.

Single-player

Even though I completed Dishonored, I was working on replaying a few missions with full stealth/zero kills. I’d also still like to do a second playthrough as more of an assassin than a ghost, but I’m going to bump that down to the bottom of my list for the year.

I’d only gotten through about a third of A Game of Dwarves before I was distracted by some other game.

I haven’t played that last three DLCs for Mass Effect 3.

I never got back to Skyrim last year like I intended, not to mention there’s been one major DLC released for the PC with another one announced.

I’ve barely gotten into Torchlight 2.

I loved the demo for XCOM enough to preorder the game, but I haven’t launched it since it released. I played Dishonored first since I wanted to make sure I finished that, and got distracted before I could even start XCOM.

Plus from my Steam there’s Orcs Must Die 1 & 2, Legend of Grimrock, Anno 2070, SPAZ, and the Back to the Future series all of which barely makes a dent. I also have a few Kickstarter backed games that are in or nearing the beta stages that I want to contribute playtime to like Castle Story, Timber and Stone, and the Banner Saga multiplayer.

Other Hobbies and My 2013 Resolution

Outside of games, I also have some more Star Trek ship models to assemble and paint, plus my long suffering Nanowrimo novel from 2010 that I still want to finish.

Having so little free time with so many demands is the core of what I want to work on this year. I’ve been in the habit of surfing along with my moods and interests and just spending time on games and projects as my id dictated. While there’s not really anything bad about going with the flow like that, it hasn’t been good for finishing projects. So this year I’m actually making lists of games and other projects I want to finish and sorting them in the order I want to tackle them with the intention of focusing on one at a time. I’ve already had some success at that, since that’s basically how I’ve finished all three Mass Effect games, Red Dead Redemption, and Dishonored. My problems nearly always stem from trying to multi-task between games and other hobbies.

Wish me luck.