Steam Link/Controller – The Couch MMO Solution?

Oh, hello there! It’s been a while! No, I’m not dead or lost, just inundated with work and parenting (like many of you!). That said, there’s always time for a game or two, right?

Which brings me to this point: It’s hard to play MMOs with little kids in the house! These days, I find that my time is far more precious than ever before. During the day, I teach third grade, plan and grade after dismissal, come home for an hour or two of daddy time, another hour of husband time, and then you can stick a fork in me because I’m done. Maybe somewhere in there, I squeak in a half an hour or so of game time, but not every day. And friends, the whole late night gaming thing — you know, Game By Night — just doesn’t work as well as it used to.

Enter the Steam Link and Steam Controller. I convinced my wife that the Link was a worthy birthday present at the beginning of the month and Fedex tells me it should arrive tomorrow. The controller is backordered, so it looks like December may be more likely for that end of things.  Amazon actually sold it to me “in stock” and notified me today that it was sold out, which was a bummer but so is life. I’m just happy that my library of Steam games will finally be available! More importantly, I’m excited to be able to play MMOs from the couch. RPGF-Oct31-4The Steam Controller has the neat ability to emulate a mouse and keyboard. The track pad can be customized to act like a trackball or touch pad with a mass of different customization options. The other buttons can be programmed to act as stand ins for key strokes. Using mode switching, you can hold one button and assign the rest a whole second set of commands. It’s imperfect but certainly workable for many games. I do worry that the action bar heavy may prove to be a bit much, but couch MMOing is a viable option now!

Obviously, there are drawbacks. I’m not convinced of the Steam Controller’s keyboard interface for text chat. It looks workable but also more than a little confusing. There’s also the obvious issue of having too few buttons, so game choice is more limited. Initially, I thought MMOs like World of Warcraft would be totally off limits, but it seems someone has developed a controller addon to fix that problem. With mode switching, there are somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 buttons that can be programmed. When you factor in basics like clicking, jumping, and navigating the interface, it’s probably closer to 15. Still, with some trade-offs, or a willingness to simply use the mouse to click on interface panels, that’s enough for many, many MMOS!

I can’t wait to try this out. I have visions of Wildstar or SWTOR on my TV. If it all works out, I’ll be back in the MMO world full bore by Christmas! We’ll see what game but, at this point, I’m thinking Wildstar!

PS: If you haven’t heard, I write for now. You can check out my weekly RPG column here.

Prepare For Holiday Gaming Bundles

It’s that time of year again, folks. With the holidays just around the corner, companies all across the gaming industry are preparing new ways to interest players in purchases. We’ve reached a point in 2015 at which gaming is always going to be expensive, unless you happen to prefer mobile apps and online arcades to console titles and PC downloads. New games are pricey, consoles are rather lucrative, and no bundle or special package is going to completely change things. But these companies are experienced with this, and there are a number of enticing reasons to consider some new gaming purchases this holiday season.

The first is that the lineup of upcoming games may be even more impressive than usual for this time of year. Usually around early November there are a few big titles to look forward to, and those titles dominate pre-Christmas sales. But in 2015, there are so many exciting games coming out it’s almost hard to keep track. Metacritic has the full lineup for both PS4 and Xbox One, but just to name a few, here are some highlights: Call Of Duty: Black Ops III; Fallout 4; Star Wars Battlefront; and Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege. Those are all pretty major titles, not to mention they’re coming on the heels of a number of significant releases including NBA 2k16, Halo 5, and Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate, all of which will further incentivize the purchase of consoles.

In fact, when it comes to the Xbox One sales for the upcoming holiday season, Microsoft appears to be relying almost entirely on it exclusive titles—including Rise Of The Tomb Raider and Halo 5—to keep it afloat. There have been a lot of stories lately about PS4’s increasing dominance of console sales, and a recent analysis in Forbes indicated that in some respects, Microsoft is conceding defeat. However, the same analysis quoted a sales pitch that basically asserted the Xbox One is the better console for a blend of major and exclusive gaming titles, as well as for the live gamer network Xbox Live. The piece also mentioned upcoming holiday bundles starting at $349, though details on those bundles remain largely mysterious.

The folks at Sony, meanwhile, have taken the more conventional route of simply announcing holiday console and game bundles, rather than releasing PR statements explaining their advantage. The Playstation Blog lists the bundles as various packages featuring limited editions of Black Ops III and Battlefront, as well as a few others—some for the same $349 price Microsoft quoted, and others for a little bit more.

This is all pretty typical competition between the two biggest names in console gaming, though it’s also representative of the time of year. And there are certainly holiday sales and promotions going on elsewhere in the gaming industry. The online casino business in particular is always quick to come up with creative promotions throughout the entire year, especially during the holidays. Already, Gala Bingo’s online platform features a few fun gift bonuses for players, such as a “Bingo Showtime” promotion that lets players win a random gift each time they spend one euro throughout November. This gift-giving concept is likely a prelude of similar promotions to come during the holiday season.

Additionally, we can almost certainly expect some app gaming bundles, as that’s fairly traditional of the holiday season. A little over a year ago, just before Christmas in 2014, Square Enix announced a massive list of gaming titles that were marked down for holiday purchases, and 9to5Mac revealed even more sales that were going on in the iOS store. Discounts like these are not yet listed for December 2015, but you can rest assured there will be an opportunity to grab some popular mobile titles at appealing prices.

That ought to give you a few ideas of what to look for in the month or so ahead. It’s always a fun time of year for gamers, and with competition continuing to increase between companies and developers, the discounts will only get more interesting.

#NBI2015: How Did GamerGate Affect Me?

It’s May and that means it’s time for another Newbie Blogger Initiative. I probably wouldn’t have participated since I’m far from new to games blogging but Belghast of Tales of the Aggronaut convinced me on his latest AggroChat podcast. The call, as he put it, was also to blogger who may have stopped blogging, and considering the last post on this site was months ago, I think I qualify (even though I never really stopped — I think I have close to 100 columns at now, but I digress). Anyhow, I’ve been looking for a reason to get back into writing casually, so I’m going to try this and see if it sticks. Good? Good. On to the question.

How did GamerGate affect me?

I think I’m in a unique position in that any time I wrote about it, I did so in front MMORPG’s audience instead of my own or on social media. I have to say, though… I was afraid to do it. I became a father this last year and the idea of poking a dragon that could reveal my address and harass my family was intimidating. Believe it or not, I’m somewhat of a private person, and the idea of inviting that kind of force scared me. GamerGate made me afraid to speak out.


But I did because I felt I had to. Also, I’m a man which instantly dropped the chances of any GamerGaters even caring what I had to say. Frankly, I think the last year has proven that a man could attack the GG cause and come out unscathed whereas a woman even using the hashtag was called foul names. The worst I got was called a Social Justice Warrior, which is an ironic insult because we all should be fighting for social justice.

When I did talk about it, it was lightly with a few snarky comments. Nothing outrageous. No preaching from the pulpit. People still got offended. They called me a journalist and tried to hold my feet to the fire of opinion-free journalistic standards, never minding that I was writing an opinion column. The usual stuff when you’re writing something remotely controversial in the gaming world.

What GamerGate accomplished more than anything, I think, was inspiring a whole lot of fear in a whole lot of people. It set gaming back years and years in the public consciousness. Rather than finally rise about the muck of politically fueled controversy that so defined video gaming, GamerGate ensured that our hobby would once again be dragged through the mud in news stories and congressional halls. It also showed how many young men are genuinely threatened by women invading their hobby and not immediately acquiescing to horny male sub-culture because they dared step where they didn’t belong.

I’d rather be a Social Justice Warrior than that kind of gamer.

Companies Successfully Have Gamers Looking Forward to November

Every year just before the start of the holiday season, an influx of new games hit the market. Companies look to attract those with a little extra income from end-of-year bonuses while reminding others how a new game makes for a perfect gift.

This year is already proving to be no different.

One of the most anticipated games is one that has been in the forefront of many of our minds lately—World of Warcraft’s Warlords of Draenor. Recently GameSpot compiled a montage of TV and commercial spots for the game, claiming that Blizzard Entertainment is doing all they can to ramp up marketing efforts before the game’s release in a few weeks. Several of the videos have already been viewed over 100,000 times by eager fans left twiddling their thumbs in anticipation.

Gamestop Line

Hallels even called November the “special month” for Sony, as it’s when gamers acquire new and more games. It’s also when Sony will be releasing their new list of free games for PlayStation Plus. While the titles on the list are still unknown, speculation was fueled from an entry on PlayStation’s official blog, which said that one of the games “combines the elements of Smash TV and The Legend of Zelda yet with a rogue-like genre.”

But the point of releasing free games isn’t just an act of kindness. More than likely it’s to stir attention towards the ones that aren’t free for the taking. The game they likely hope to get the most buzz about is the upcoming title Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. Set to go on sale in just a few days, the massive popularity of the franchise will likely make it a success. If that alone doesn’t fuel a buying frenzy, Kevin Spacey’s shockingly life-like animated character is sure to do the trick. Ad Week says that the likeness of his House of Cards character integrated into the game has been brought to head by the creator’s subtle advertisement campaign from the last few months. And I would be lying if I said it hadn’t completely worked on me.

Kevin Spacey

However, all franchises can’t rely on an on extreme fan base to draw attention to their games. Instead, those that still want to contribute to the spike in gaming sales around this time draw players’ focus through giveaways. Online hub Betfair Bingo is even taking the tradition of the gaming season to the next level by creating an on-going contest throughout the autumn to promote their games. While players engage in their usual activities on the site each week, they’re entered in to a drawing for a chance to win £1 million. On certain days, they can even increase their opportunities to win, gaining one, two, or three tickets determined by the day of play for every £5 they wager.

I’d like to say that being able to point out the goal behind companies releasing games and promotions around this time makes me think I’m above shelling out my money for them. But like so many other people that contribute to the spike in sales this time of year, the end of my fiscal quarter is coming up at work. With any luck, I’ll have a few extra bucks burning a hole in my pocket as a result. If I’m really being honest with myself, I know I’m going to check out every last one of these games the minute they’re available.

ESO: Do It Right the First Time


I’ve been thinking a lot about Elder Scrolls Online lately. Ever since my post about Keeping Up With the Joneses, I’ve been hovering over the purchase button. Well it’s a good thing I didn’t! Out of the blue, I received an email from the Zenimax notifying me I had “purchased the game” and reminding me that I still needed to activate my free 30 days. Now, I can assure you that I did not purchase the Elder Scrolls. But, with a little digging, I did have a copy activated to my account. Strange, yes? Well, a quick email to support told the tale. See, a while back, I was able to help test their billing system. Apparently, that copy of the game I was refunded for is now mine to keep. Sweet deal, says I!

Anyhow, with all of the hustle of my wife returning to work from maternity leave and my being a stay-at-home daddy this summer (while also trying to finish grad school this week), I haven’t gotten around to activating the game. Why bother? What they say about subscription fees making you feel pressured to play rings true for me and, unfortunately, signing up now would just mean wasting some of those free days.

I have been reading, though, and have really been enjoying freelancer Leif Johnson‘s article series over at IGN. Say what you will about the big sites and their practices when it comes to reviewing MMORPGs but Leif has done an excellent job, taking 150+ hours to see all that the game had to offer before submitting his verdict. Take note, other sites: that’s how it should be done.

Today he posted an interesting piece on The Trouble with Elder Scrolls Online’s Veteran Content. While he loves the veteran dungeons, he takes issue with how long it takes to actually experience it. After 300 hours, he’s only midway through his veteran ranks. Here, he shares something important:

I wouldn’t mind this so much, but this cross-faction endgame quest also has the adverse effect of making leveling an alt account almost unthinkable. In other MMOs, when you hit max-level you might roll a new character to experience a new quest, and explore all the zones you missed. But in ESO, you feel compelled to experience it all on a single character, breaking the in-game lore along the way . . . There are times when I wish I’d leveled a Dragonknight or Sorcerer instead of my Nightblade, but the thought of playing through the content for roughly 300 hours again gives me shivers. – Leif Johnson

Emphasis mine. See, for a player like me, hitting the level cap is a big deal. It’s an investment and those 150 hours it took Leif would likely take me two months to chip away at. I’m not a fan of repeating content in the first place and Zenimax has designed a system that actively eats the other factions worth of content. The idea of putting in a second 150 hours, then another 150 hours just to get midway into the endgame is unbearable. 600 hours for two mid-veteran alts? That will simply never happen. I know myself too well.

I had the pleasure of interviewing ESO’s Creative Director, Paul Sage, last week (written version here). He made it clear that any content drops they plan on adding (“real content” not just systems, by his description), you need to be a veteran player. He also mentioned that the majority of ESO’s players are still in the second and third zones. We have two things here. First, that this really is a slow burn of a game. With most players still in the mid-game, not even to the soft level 50 cap, it’s safe to say that leveling takes far longer than most other games of its ilk. Second, that if you want to get in on the ground floor of all that’s new and exciting, those hours are a required investment.

This design choice reinforces that ESO is another game that “begins at the level cap.” That, combined with the ultra-slow leveling speed, makes for a tricky proposition for Zenimax. Will players stick around long enough to even reach the upper veteran levels? Based on the average player level, I’d say that’s still a big question, and a pretty dangerous one with Wildstar right around the corner. And if they happened to mess up and discover 200 hours in that their class just isn’t what they wanted in that endgame, how many will be willing to reinvest that much time, with content they’ve already experienced, to do it all over again?

I’m still very excited to play the game. So many of you seem to love it that I’ll be activating and diving in with heavy anticipation. I do wonder, though, what all of this means for ESO’s future. A shortened leveling curve? Selling xp boosts or levels in the item shop? I just don’t see very many people leveling second characters when the same time could get them max level characters and real progress in even two or even three other MMOs.

ArcheAge: This Generation’s Vanguard (In a Good Way!)

I’ve been struggling to articulate why I find ArcheAge so compelling since I first began hearing about it. I described it many times in the past, talking about its many systems or how it supported the virtual world concept. Now that I have my hands on it, I think I’ve come to a conclusion about why this game has captured me so much, so quickly, and why I think it will do the same for a lot of people. It is this generation’s Vanguard.

Think about it. How many things do these games have in common? A huge, expansive, multi-continent world? Check. In-depth crafting skills with tons of interdependence? Check. The ability to build and decorate houses? Check. Build boats and great ships? Explore for exploration’s sake? A deep class system? Non-combat pastimes that can last the whole game long? Dozens of mechanics and systems that exist purely to deepen the overall experience? It’s all there. These are two games cut from the same cloth. Except ArcheAge seems to be doing it right.

I was a huge fan of Vanguard but never got the chance to experience it to its fullest. By the time I had a computer that could run it, everyone else had moved on, including the developers. Still, there was something magical that many of us look back to today. Part of that is capturing the essence of a virtual world, which is something that ArcheAge does very right. More than that, though, was this overriding sense that this was a game that begged you to go deeper, to keep digging because there was more and more for as long as you wanted to keep going. And if you wanted to go off in another direction, say Diplomacy, you could make your own way and be just as rewarded for doing so. That’s the sense I get from ArcheAge and it, so far, is doing a lot to rekindle my excitement for a genre that has been too long steeped in more of the same.

Giving my little cub a bath... before it turns into my mount!

Giving my little cub a bath… before it turns into my mount!

Everything I know says that this is a game that isn’t about the experience, it’s about the entirety of the experience. It’s not just about the 15 crafting professions available from the start (the wiki says there are 21 — maybe more will open up?). It’s not about the siege warfare or emphasis on world bosses over raid zones. It’s not even about being able to raise your own farm or castle, feeding your goslings, or growing crops that you physically cart off to trade. It’s about all of it. That at any given moment you can uproot yourself and strike out in a new direction and there are options for you. If you want to be a pirate or a trader, a farmer or fisherman, I can do that. It’s about the small systems, like the treasure maps or raising your mount from a cub, making sure to give it water and play with it to form a bond. It’s about being able to turn in quests early for less experience or keep on grinding for more. It’s these needless but meaningful touches, like the entire composition system — which puts LotRO’s music system to shame, I might add — that immediately seem to elevate the experience.

Forgive me if it sounds like I’m gushing. In a way, I am. But Vanguard was a big game and if you were even a little excited about it, this is a game you need to be paying attention to. ArcheAge is Vanguard’s rebirth with all of the renovations of a modern MMO, minus the action combat for action combat’s sake. Even the game’s quest system has so far been trumped by the fun of being a part of the world. It’s fun just being out there, taking part in combat, and seeing what there is to see. I’m curious to see how this feels 20 levels from now but I’m guessing I still won’t mind. Traditional questing doesn’t bother me, as long as it’s done well.

But here’s the most important thing: after six years playing nearly every major MMO release, I’ve grown a bit jaded. Those early days of excitement never seem to glow so bright and even so fade quicker than ever before. It is hard to reignite wonder in a player that spent so much time poring over systems and mechanics, comparing title after title after title. It’s a blogger’s curse. Maybe you can relate. I’m still in early days but this game has done it for me. For the first time in a long time, I’m wanting to stay up late and get up early to log on. That’s pretty neat.


First Thoughts on the ArcheAge Alpha

profileThanks to the good folks at Trion Worlds, I was able to get an invitation to the ArcheAge alpha test. I have been excited for this game since it was first revealed, so seeing that invitation pop up in my inbox gave me quite the thrill, let me tell you! I haven’t had a ton of time to spend with the game yet but I made my way to the end of the tutorial before having to log off this morning. In general, the process of getting the game downloaded and working right has been easy with only a couple of early crashes that haven’t repeated themselves since. Trion’s new Glyph client did the job well enough but, to my disappointment, ArcheAge doesn’t (yet) feature a streaming client like RIFT or World of Warcraft, so you have to download the whole 22GB program before it will boot up. It’s like stepping back to 2012. /Gasp!

Anyhow, I’m still so early in that there’s not much point in coming to any conclusions. This is a big, deep game and I’ve experienced only the very basics of it, so I decided to bullet point my thoughts instead. Below, in no particular order, are some of my thoughts. Also, I took a boatload of screenshots but apparently they didn’t save. The game has a special mode for screenshot taking, and it has some never-before-seen-in-an-MMO features, but it’s not really conducive to on-the-fly shots. Relying on the print screen button seemed to bite me here, so count that as a lesson learned. I’ve included what I could grab after I realized this. There will be more to come — this game is stunningly beautiful and runs better than any other modern game in recent memory. No exaggeration. 145 FPS on maximum settings with 2x AA. WoW does… 60-70? Maybe?

To the list!

  • I’m playing a Firran. What’s with these Eastern games and the cat-people? Then again, I like cat people. Especially since these cat-people are very Native American-like; connected to the land, similar to Tauren in WoW. The tutorial takes the form of a coming of age ceremony.
  • My starting occupation (class) is Shadowplay. It reminds me of a rogue and uses a bow and daggers. I like rogues. Also, is there anything more fitting for a cat-person than to play in the shadows? Those eyes!
  • Standard kill and collect question, though I like the vignette-style quest delivery, ala ESO minus the voicing.

100+ frames a second looking like this? I hope it lasts outside the tutorial!

  • You can hold skill buttons to make them trigger repeatedly.
  • Combat looks and feels great, though it is tab-target and very traditional. It feels slightly faster paced and the animations can be just great but I wish there was some kind of dodge. How times have changed!
  • Labor points are used for crafting and gathering… limited to 1000 a day and regen at 1 per minute whether you’re online or offline.
  • This game runs twice as well as World of Warcraft while looking ten times better.
  • I love that you can raise animals. There are so many small details about this game that make it feel like an actual world!
  • Wildstar has spoiled me. I miss double jump.
  • Quest text and the UI are in English but some of the voice over is still in Korean, namely tutorial speech and cutscene dialogue.
  • The mini-map is huge but looks more like the Diablo overlay (in the usual upper right-hand side). It actually hangs a little over the quest tracker.
  • Quests are clearly marked. They’re on the map and you also have colored arrows at your feet. This makes me worry a little bit about exploration and how linear the game may be. I’m in the tutorial zone, though, so this could be completely incorrect.

You can add Depth of Field to screenshots! As well as something called “Bokeh” which doesn’t seem to do anything currently.

  • That said, this has to be the biggest tutorial zone I have ever seen. There are clear paths outlined on the map but the actual land is expansive.
  • There is a trial system in the game! My understanding is limited but from what I gather, when you steal from someone else — like their crops — that player can put you on trial and then we all vote on your jail time. Trials just pop up in chat. It’s amusing. Apparently, you can take up a quest after 30 to take part in the jury and decide how many minutes offenders spend in jail.
  • You regen by playing an instrument. I got excited for a music system but it’s just a cast bar. /sadpanda
  • You get your first glider early but it wasn’t exactly what I expected. After completing my tutorial trial, I was rewarded with my first one. It’s pretty hard to maneuver as you are literally just gliding downward. I guess I was thinking more along the lines of a hang-glider in Far Cry 3? Maybe the more advanced ones will work this way.
  • I absolutely LOVE the depth of this game. Faction chat was just filled with questions like “where do you get worms for fishing?” and “what type of food do you feed geese?” and “how long does it take a fawn to grow into a horse?” There are leaderboards for fishing competitions. You can buy seeds and livestock and manage a farm. All of the questions might mean that these systems are poorly explained. I don’t know since I’m not there. What I DO know is that I love that they exist. These are the systems virtual worlds are made out of. Sandbox, theme park, whatever. It’s great to see players figuring things out in this way.

That’s all for now. Is anyone else in? If so, feel free to add me under the name “Syeric”.

Good stuff for eyes and ears, volume #1

I read a lot of gaming blogs but you know what posts I really like coming across? The ones where the author shares some of the other things they’ve been enjoying lately. You know… books, movies, podcasts – that kind of thing. It’s like a window into other things that I might enjoy, so today I’m sharing my own. From here on out, Good Stuff for Eyes and Ears will be this blog’s version of “What I’ve Been Enjoying Lately.”


house-of-cards-2013-511373de93dafHouse of Cards: Talk about a series I didn’t expect to enjoy. From the very outset, the idea of a slow-burn serial starring senators and congressmen turned me off. I watched the pilot and turned away for months but hearing other people talk about how great it was inspired me to give it another shot. This series is set in Washington, but, make no mistake, it is 100% about its characters. After a few episodes I was absolutely hook by Frank Underwood’s undying thirst for power and manipulation. I watched both seasons in record time.

Hannibal-logoHannibal: This is perhaps one of the most underrated shows on TV. I was hesitant to invest in the show because it could have easily slid into “killer of the week” territory. Though there is a murder every week, Hannibal is absolutely a cable television transplant. It is dark and gory, so the squeamish might want to stay away. But what really sells it is the mystery of Hannibal’s machinations. Rather than sticking with the film and text versions of Hannibal Lecter, this series casts him in the role of a psychologist and retired surgeon, closely tied with the FBI and always on the verge of being caught. It is absolutely entrancing and by far my favorite new show of the last two years.

the-sopranos-logoThe Sopranos: I have spent the last two years trying to make my way through this series and finally did last week. Yes, the ending is as bad as you’ve heard, but the ride to get there is magnificent. I was at times turned off by how stereotyped the traditional Italian gangster was (“Heyyyyy!”, track suits, slicked back hair and flared nostrils), but the storytelling and character development really is good. If you missed this when it was on the air, now is a great time to jump back in and see why James Gandolfini was so beloved by so many.


Ready_Player_One_coverReady Player One: I listened to the audiobook version of this one and was surprised at how great Wil Wheaton performed as the narrator. I agree with Liore that it relies far too heavily on pop culture references but still found it to be a fun, lighthearted read nonetheless. The references ease up a bit in the second half, too, making for an even airier read.

damnation-gameThe Damnation Game: I had an urge for some horror and Clive Barker delivered in spades. This book is bleak and dark, just as you would expect from the man who created Hellraiser and the Books of Blood series. Still, Barker has an incredible imagination and a penchant for very vivid, disturbing imagery. Be warned, this isn’t Stephen King where the scares are psychological and there is an underlying current of hope. Barker seats the reader in a dark place and isn’t afraid to go for the gross-out. It works very well here.

51tpIK8K+tLThe Lies of Locke Lamora: This is the book I’m reading currently, and I think it’s safe to say that Scott Lynch is a genius. That’s not to say that this book is highest on the hill but it’s clear from the eloquence of the prose that the author is extremely intelligent. The book has an Oceans Eleven vibe, which I hear is a common takeaway. So far, the characterization is excellent and the story is gripping. If the rest of it keeps up this way, I will be picking up the next two books in the trilogy with very little hesitation.


mza_6418535771887129184.600x600-75Podcast Beyond: You can hate on the game news beacons all you want but Podcast Beyond is a consistently fun and engaging Playstation podcast. I enjoy the mix of Greg Miller’s over the top exuberance and Colin Moriarty’s restrained intellectualism. I look forward to this podcast every week.

HordeHouse2013_225Horde House: I’ve guested with these guys a few times and I really can’t recommend them highly enough. Skie, Xtopher, and Grandpa make a great team with real chemistry. They are real gamers, not industry personalities, and their passion for online gaming comes through in every episode. Also, they’re really nice guys that like having fun on air. I’m down with that. Warning: this is not a family friendly show.

cat-context-verticalCat Context: How could I not recommend these guys? Liore of Herding Cats puts on this show every two weeks with her co-hosts Ellyndrial and Arolaide, talking about the week in gaming and geek culture. I’ve long believed that hosts make a show worth listening to and this one has quickly become one of my favorites.

And that’s it! If you have any recommendations, I would love to hear them. Otherwise, hopefully this points you toward something you might enjoy!

Keeping up with the Joneses

Keeping-up-with-the-Joneses-TNInternet, I have a problem. You make me buy things. No, no… don’t argue. You do. Just last night I noticed Belghast slipping through my window and ordering my copy of Diablo 3.  And then folks like this start talking about ArcheAge and Warlords of Draenor – it’s like you have a straw right into my pool of sweet, sweet money. And there was far too little to begin with, I might add.

But seriously, I can’t be alone in this. When other gamers are talking about a title they enjoy, I develop this overwhelming urge to dive in myself and join the conversation. The zeitgeist sweeps me up like some kind of wallet gobbling malcontent. This is a beast that only stops when I’ve given in or white-knuckled it past the popular period when my blogroll goes from a gush to a trickle.

Take Elder Scrolls Online, for example. Now, I played the game in beta. I didn’t get super far, mind you, but I played it enough to get a good idea for how it works and what’s running under the hood. I walked away from beta not particularly impressed or sold on the idea of leasing the game month by month when so many others are available for free*. Now, though? That’s another story.

Have you ever read social media and started to wonder if there was something you missed? That maybe, even after all you know, that maybe you’re the odd one out?

That’s one of the downsides to social media. The conversation goes on without you. I can be okay with that but I don’t really want to be. I’m not crazy, right? I mean, one of the best parts of being an MMO player, in my opinion, is being able to talk about MMOs with other people who like them too. And with networks like Twitter now connecting the community in more profound ways than ever before, it’s not just other bloggers telling me I should like something, it’s a bunch of strangers.

Now, I would content that a stranger’s opinion isn’t really worth a whole lot, at least when compared with my own experience. But one hundred? How about just a handful of really influential  friends whose opinion you respect?

I’m curious, do any of you feel like you need to keep up with the Joneses? I’ve bought many games just to be part of the conversation and, for the most part, I’m happy with that. It’s my job to be informed about these things, after all. I’ll tell you this much, though: that urge certainly makes me wish games like Elder Scrolls were free-to-play.

Review-Preview: Stick it to The Man!

Today, I would like to announce my new YouTube channel, GBNPlays. I’ve actually been interested in this for quite a while but only recently decided to make the plunge and learn video editing. I have all of the pieces in order and can begin putting out videos as quickly as I can capture and upload them. In case you’re wondering, this doesn’t mean I am going to stop writing (ha!) or start focusing on single player games and Let’s Plays. This is still an MMO blog, first and foremost, but I spend so much time playing different games that it makes sense to share some other commentary.

This week I am sharing what I call a Review-Preview, which is essentially me playing a game during the review process and sharing some commentary. So a short, possibly one-off Let’s Play, in essence. The game is really something special.

Welcome to Stick it to The Man, the PSN darling turned Steam convert. I am enamored with this game. Think Tim Burton meets Little Big Planet meets Tearaway with excellent writing and even better voice acting. Everything in the world, except for its wonderfully creepy character art, is made of cardboard. Our protagonist, Ray, finds himself under a military airplane brought down because, well, cardboard and rain don’t mix very well. Little does anyone know that the alien on board has made its way into Ray’s brain and is using him as a host, providing him with a spaghetti arm flailing from his head.

The arm is the game’s secret weapon. Ray can use it to read minds and interact with the game world. While there is some light platforming, the real mechanics come from using the arm to peel back layers of the world, pick up stickers, and place them to solve puzzles. It is, in many ways, like the best sort of adventure game: funny, memorable, and genuinely compelling.

If you could take a moment to subscribe, I sure would appreciate it. If not, just enjoy the video :-)

I plan on recording a lot of MMO specific videos, too. Stay tuned for more!


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