Monday, October 3, 2016

Channel Update - New Series! New Streams!

The above video explains what's been going on and what my plans are for my Youtube and Twitch channels. I'm announcing a new series and new streams, mostly starting in November.

Since I've detailed everything in the video, I'll not repeat it here. Instead, I'd like to take a moment to mention the shutdown of Asta (the MMORPG shown in the video), which I believe happens today. But first, I need to catch you up on what led me to it in the first place.

I've been feeling that itch the last few months to... you know... play an MMORPG again. Not too surprising, considering the name of this blog, I suppose. I've ignored any new titles in the genre for a few years now, and a lot has happened in that time:
  • Everquest Next was set to knock our socks off, only to collapse before seeing beta. 
  • Wildstar boldly released with a subscription model, but quickly went free to play due to a rapidly decreasing playerbase. 
  • WoW weathered the decline from at least two lackluster expansions, and is now seeing a bit of a resurgence with Legion
  • Project Titan was scrapped and its assets recycled into what is now known as Overwatch
  • Amazon recently announced they're working on an MMO (currently titled "New World") that will supposedly have a lot of that "evolving world" hype proposed by EQN as well as revolutionary levels of Twitch integration and interactivity. 
  • A number of indie developers are now trying their hand at MMOs as well, though it remains to be seen just how well that will turn out.
And that's the really short list. Now that the gold rush that followed WoW's success is mostly over, many players and developers have left the genre in favor of other multiplayer titles (like survival games or MOBAs). This may actually be a good thing, though. Hopefully, it means that the people still making these games are actually in it to produce a quality product, instead of essentially reskinning a popular title and tossing in one or two new elements (a practice so popular that it spawned the term "WoW clone").

...which finally brings me to Asta. It was undoubtedly worthy of the term 'WoW clone' in gameplay, setting and stylized art. Oddly enough, that's exactly what drew me to look at it in the first place. I know that sounds like a contradiction, so let me explain.

I'm of the opinion that WoW changed mostly for the worst over the last few expansions (prior to Legion, that is - I've been hearing somewhat positive things so far there). While Vanilla/TBC/WoTLK were not the utopia some claim it to have been, so much has changed that recent versions of the game do not feel like the same title at all. The worst changes were those that ended up encouraging isolation and toxic behavior in the community. Blizzard has addressed some of the larger issues, but it's felt like too little too late for some time now. Considering the popularity of the (now defunct) classic-era Nostalrius private server, it would seem that I'm not alone in my opinion.

All that in mind, the term 'WoW clone' may not necessarily be a bad thing today. With so many clamoring for a classic-era WoW experience and Blizzard refusing to deliver (or allowing others to do so), now just might be the best time to capitalize on it. That said, a developer would still have a lot of work ahead of them to replicate a quality experience (even from a decade ago) and simultaneously figure out a business model successful enough to actually support it all. 

This of course is where Asta (and a number of other titles) failed hard. The majority of what we've seen thus far have been cheap knockoffs that weren't even properly localized (and in some cases unfinished), where the only thing you could count on being updated regularly were their cash shops. As time goes on though, I speculate that the costs to maintain a classic (perhaps read 'outdated') online title may decrease, while nostalgia for it will increase. There just may come a time some years from now when we see a classic-era MMO (or at least a reasonable facsimile thereof) return.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Friday FREE GAME Feature! Ep76: Electric Highways

A first-person journey through a bizarre virtual world...

Electric Highways is an exploration game set in a future where people live almost entirely in a virtual reality on the web. You play as a virtual engineer taking a final look at your current project before it goes live.

I was interested in trying this game because I enjoyed The Mask Reveals Disgusting Face - a horror game made by the same developer (Zykov Eddy). As with TMRDF, this title also features visually striking and atmospheric environments. Each level is unique and interesting to explore, with decent overall pacing. I was expecting there to be more puzzles, but looking back I think they would've only slowed down the game with extra backtracking. As it is, Electric Highways is more of a walking simulator with a character that actually moves at a decent speed.

While the game has a great visual style with a decent splash of mystery and weirdness, I wasn't too keen on its ending. Unless I missed something, it felt really ambiguous and left several large unanswered questions... which might be exactly what was intended. I feel that Electric Highways may be one of those games that focus more on the journey than the destination, and there's nothing necessarily wrong with that.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Friday FREE GAME Feature! Ep75: Rayman Origins

Platforming fun available for a limited time via Uplay!

Rayman Origins is a polished platformer that features a cast of silly characters, bright and colorful settings, and a fair amount of environmental interaction.

It's obvious that a lot of care and work went into this title, as it's a quality game. It has a cute, cartoon art style and is packed with humorous moments and animations. Even the premise of the game is rather silly - Rayman and his slacker buddies end up snoring so loudly they actually wake the dead. The characters all seem to speak pig latin, further adding to absurdity of it all.

Style and story aside, the game has excellent controls, level design and pacing. You gain access to new abilities, areas and alternate characters by collecting items and saving your friends scattered throughout the game. You can switch characters and look at your progress in between levels by going back to the Snoring Tree (where you begin), which is thankfully accessible with a simple button press. Completionists can get their fix by finding all the secrets and collectibles, which seems to be the real challenge of the game.

In short, Rayman Origins is a fun, high-quality platformer with a lot of charm.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

The Friday FREE GAME Feature! Ep74: Princess Remedy in a World of Hurt

Heal the sick and get married in this retro-styled shooter adventure!

Princess Remedy in a World of Hurt is an adventure title made by Ludosity in four days during a game jam competition. You play as the title character on a quest to heal the sick, find your missing friend and save the prince from a variety of illnesses.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Friday FREE GAME Feature! Ep73: Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell

Time to get sneaky doing covert ops in this stealth action game!

Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell is the first in the Splinter Cell series of stealth games by Ubisoft Montreal. You play as agent Sam Fisher, using your stealth skills to complete covert ops missions.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Friday FREE GAME Feature! Ep72: Aborigenus

Pixelated platforming with RPG elements!

Aborigenus takes the traditional platformer and adds in a number of roleplaying features like leveling, skill choices and quests. It's an interesting mix that I enjoyed, though it needs some work.