Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Initial Impressions: Guild Wars 2

MMORPGs have been on the decline of late. Even the mighty "World of Warcraft" has been slowly but surely losing subscribers over the past year due to a variety of factors. In short, to say that there's a bit of MMO-fatigue in the gaming community at large might be stating things a bit too gently.

Fortunately for "Guild Wars 2," it has a lot of important factors working in its favor, not the least of which being that its a very well-made and entertaining game based on the dozen-or-so hours I've spent with it so far.

Rather than churning out a wall of text about the gritty details of the game, I'm instead going to boil this down to the top 10 things that make "Guild Wars 2" worth checking out based on what I've seen thus far:
  • a plethora of desirable configuration options such as interface scaling 
  • a respectable selection of interesting races and classes to choose from during character creation
  • decisions made during character creation provide unique if subtle story and gameplay variations
  • new characters gain early access to fast travel options
  • the ability to harvest crafting resources without "gathering professions"
  • fast-paced and engaging combat with dodging and weapon and/or combat discipline-specific abilities
  • a unique and well-realized art style
  • a location/proximity-based questing system that rewards exploration and group play
  • a vast, open world to explore
  • no monthly fee
For more on "Guild Wars 2," check out this video:

As always, these "Initial Impressions" pieces are not meant to be taken as a "review" of the game. It will be quite some time before I've seen enough of "Guild Wars 2" to make any sort of definitive statements about it; however, I have greatly enjoyed what I've seen so far and would encourage anyone who finds any of this intriguing to give it a look.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The DayZ Update - 08/26/2012

You folks don't mind this being a day early do you? I didn't think so. :)

Another week on version of the mod has left me wondering just how big 1.7.3 will be when it finally arrives.

I imagine that Rocket and Co. must be cramming all sorts of new madness into it but there's been practically no official word in quite some time now.

Rocket has joined the Twitterverse as of this week and already has way more followers than me :( but I'm not bitter or anything. :)

His feed is pretty sparse at the moment aside from a somewhat-predictable tweet about how tricky the implementation of dogs has been but it's still nice to get his perspective on things.

The Hunger GameZ

Those of you who follow the "DayZ" streamers on most-likely already know all about the "Hunger GameZ" event that was organized by the "QuickNap Gaming" clan and caused "DayZ" to be the #1 game on "Twitch" for the first time ever (to the best of my knowledge).

The event was pretty great and had surprisingly few technical problems given how sketchy "DayZ" is under the best of circumstances. There were so many great streams and commentaries happening all at once that it was hard to decide what to watch moment to moment and I'm definitely looking forward to the next one, which seems all-but-inevitable given how well the inaugural event went.

If I had one suggestion for the QuickNap folks, it would be to get their web presence sorted out before the next event so that everyone has a good place to link to for information about it.

As it stands, I'll just direct you to QNOmniKai, who I've mentioned before in a previous post. His stream is generally of a very high quality and he's pretty much the man with the plan where QuickNap is concerned.

Video Bonanza

As this is the first "standalone" "DayZ Update," I wanted to do something a little special, so I've decided to release not one but two full episodes, including the epic "Season 0 Finale" that I hope you will all enjoy as much as I enjoyed making it.

NOTE: It's come to my attention that Episode 009 will not play on mobile and television-based devices or at all in Germany due to a copyright restriction with the song I used in it. Sadly, if you want to see it, you'll need to use a web browser on a traditional desktop or laptop computer. Guess that'll be the last time I use someone else's song in one of these. Sorry for any inconvenience folks.

My current thinking is that I'd like to wait for version 1.7.3 of "DayZ" to be released before I start filming "Season 1" but we'll see how things go. There's certainly more I could do and show of the game in its current state but with glitches like the graphical artifacting present in episode 009 still an issue as of, I'm reluctant to capture a bunch of video that's likely to become a lot less relevant once 1.7.3 is released.

Hopefully, these videos will keep everyone entertained for the time being and with any luck we'll at least hear something official about 1.7.3 in time for next week's update.

Until next time, have a good week folks! - DayZ -

Thursday, August 23, 2012

My Thoughts on Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

In video game terms, "Counter-Strike" is legendary– a game that spawned from a humble mod to become one of the most popular first-person shooters of all time.

At this point, the game's legendary status is both a blessing and a curse. Despite being highly regarded by those who play it, it has done little if anything to attract new players for quite some time and the reception most new to "Counter-Strike" are likely to receive upon jumping into public multiplayer games can be downright hostile.

Enter "Counter-Strike: Global Offensive" (CS:GO), which attempts to freshen up the "Counter-Strike" formula with refined visuals, interface and gameplay mechanics that strive to move it toward the norms established by other, more modern first-person shooters in some regards while remaining firmly rooted in the core elements that define the "Counter-Strike" experience.

If you already love "Counter-Strike," you probably already own CS:GO. You probably pre-ordered it just like I did, have been playing it since the beta and are currently hip-deep in a bloodletting of epic proportions even as you gaze menacingly with your free eye at this blog post, ready to strike down upon me with great vengeance and furious anger should I do anything but praise and fully endorse it.

Fear not hardcore CS:GO player, I indeed do think quite highly of this new version of the game and you can rest assured that the internet agrees with you. :)

Having said that, I feel there's some value in presenting some analysis of CS:GO that targets new and prospective players who may be considering it as their first "Counter-Strike" game or as an opportunity to return to the series after an absence.

For you folks, here's a video I made all by myself. :)

Hopefully, this has given everyone concerned a good idea of what to expect from CS:GO but just to sum up: If you like "Counter-Strike," CS:GO is a great, new version of it that's easily worth your time and money. If you've never played "Counter-Strike" or haven't played it in a while, check out the above video to help decide if CS:GO is right for you.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Sit Rep 10

Changes are afoot. Be sure to read the whole post.

The DayZ Update

Oh, video game conferences– how I love and hate you at the same time. On one hand, it's very cool to get information about upcoming games from the various publishers who attend but on the other you have small development teams like the one associated with "DayZ" forced to take time away from development to attend.

For those of you wondering why 1.7.3 hasn't been released yet, look no further than the "GamesCom" conference that just ended in Germany as it's all-but-certain that it was the primary reason why we're still on version of the mod.

But let's not dwell on what amounts to just another minor bump on the road for "DayZ." Let's instead focus on the fact that it's likely only a matter of days before we have a sweet new patch to put through its paces.

With valid information about the new version rather scarce over the past couple weeks aside from the downright obvious hints Rocket has been dropping about dogs being included in some capacity, I find myself in a bit of a speculative mood. Ergo, here are the top 10 things I'd currently like to see added, changed or refined in the mod.
  • easier tent placement
  • crossbow bolts as loot on zombies you shoot with said crossbow
  • swimming without losing gear
  • make zombie spawn-ins more realistic (i.e. don't just have them appear out of thin air or appear in the same spawn location and teleport to their proper location when the server gets around to it.)
  • better/more effective pistols– perhaps somewhere between the 1-shot 1911 body kills of the past and the anno dump that's currently required with most handguns
  • dogs as companions/pets
  • zombified animals - dogs, boars, wolves, bears, cows... the works!
  • radios for long-range communication
  • better zombie animation/behavior - even slowed down, they're still too twitchy/glitchy. They still attack through walls and pathfinding is still often a problem. I know this has to do with them using the animal AI but maybe every so often one could use the human AI to make things more interesting? I know Rocket has talked about the idea of a "life cycle" for the infected. Perhaps newly infected could use the human AI then switch to animal as they exist longer or the zombie count goes up?
  • security– anti-hack/anti-cheat improvements
I'm fairly confident that most if not all of these things are already being worked on by the development team but I find exercises like this fun and useful if only to help keep my critical and analytical thinking skills sharp. Of course, I'm sure I could come up with 10 more things to fiddle with almost immediately if all of this was addressed tomorrow but these are the "issues" that have most impacted my gameplay experience lately.

Speaking of gameplay experiences, here's another group gameplay video for you all.

And here's the episode I released late last week for those of you who missed it. Don't forget, YouTube and Twitter are your friends when it comes to keeping up with my video releases.

Finally, for those of you who are experiencing screen tearing and artifacting in "DayZ," there are reports that turning off "Threaded Optimization" for "ARMA II" in the NVIDIA/ATI Control Panels can resolve the issue. I haven't had a chance to confirm this myself but the "DayZ" dev team has tweeted a link to a reddit post about the issue that seems to be helping people on some hardware configurations. Here's hoping a patch resolves this for good without the need for GPU tweaks soon.

DayZ -

Shout Out: Sanctum

Wanted to highlight another great co-op game from last year with this Shout Out. "Sanctum" is a hybrid of the tower defense and first-person shooter genres that expertly combines a lot of the best elements from both into a game that's just as fun and engaging to play alone as it is with up to three friends.

Those of you who read my "11 Best Co-Op Games of 2011" post will recall that "Sanctum" was #8. Since then, a lot of patches and DLC have been released for the game that have made it even better and I would seriously consider bumping it up a few slots on that list as a result if I were to do it over again today.

To help illustrate just how cool and crazy the game can get, here's a little video of me playing the last two waves on the third single player map, "Arc."

As you can see, you not only get to build and upgrade towers but define the path that the attackers take to their objective by building it yourself. This in my view is much cooler than simply dropping towers in pre-defined spots as it lets you get really creative with your gameplay without getting bogged down in overly-complex controls and systems.

I always really liked this game and it's only gotten better through copious post-launch support from the developer. If any of this seems at all interesting, you should definitely check it out. The thrifty among you should note that it is currently available for Mac and PC as a single purchase or discounted four-pack at a very reasonable price on Steam.

Sanctum (via Steam)

Opening the Taps

As you may already know, I've been thinking about ways to improve this blog for the past few weeks. As a result, I've decided to increase the frequency and diversity of my posts as a first step toward a more significant expansion later in the year.

What this means is that I will be doing away with the "Sit Rep" posts that I've been making for the past 10 weeks and instead turn "The DayZ Update" into its own weekly feature. This will allow me to post about other games at other times while still providing regular "DayZ" content updates on Mondays.

As much as I love "DayZ" and remain completely enthusiastic and excited about it, I don't believe it would be practical or sustainable to do a blog that focuses solely on it. Those of you who remember me from "Gaming's Edge" will recall that I play a wide range of games and I honestly don't see myself being happy covering just one in the long term.

The bottom line is that there will be more content here than ever before focusing on more games and gaming-related topics while still providing the weekly "DayZ" fix I know a lot of you crave. :)

Bonus content begins this week. Be sure to stay tuned and thanks to everyone who has been visiting on a regular basis. The extra traffic these past few months has done a lot to convince me that all the additional work required to expand "Vortex-1" is worth my time.

Like an infected corpse, the "Sit Rep" will rise as "The DayZ Update" starting next Monday! Until then, be on the lookout for some sweet bonus content here on the blog!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Set Rep 9

Is this the beginning of the end? Apparently, it's the "end of the beginning."

The DayZ Update

With finally released this past Friday and the long-awaited official announcement of DayZ going standalone, it's been a pretty busy week for fans of the little mod that could.

The new patch brings slowed-down zombies, the return of humanity-based player skins and a host of minor bug fixes; though graphical artifacting is still a noticeable issue around military areas/infected for many.

While new patches are always exciting and I'm happy to receive them with open arms, it's hard not to pine for the 1.7.3 version Rocket has already alluded to that was held back in favor of the hotfix so as not to risk massive problems during the peak weekend play hours.

It seems all but certain based on hints Rocket has dropped in the forums that dogs will be included in 1.7.3 in some capacity– be they friendly companions or evil zombie antagonists. I'm betting on the latter. :) It also seems likely that other major changes will accompany 1.7.3 as they did when we went from 1.7.0 to 1.7.1 and such.

In any case, it will be interesting to see how things evolve now that Rocket has dedicated resources at his disposal to further develop "DayZ" (the mod) even as work on the standalone "DayZ" game ramps up.

Regarding my adventures, I recently acquired my first L85A2 AWS, which I'm pretty excited about pressing into service but as with any good loot, the concern over being killed by hacks, glitches or simple bad luck has once-again reached a fever pitch. It never fails. The longer you live in "DayZ," the more you worry about dying. :)

Still, we're managing to have some fun:

And here's the Bonus Reel from last week. Remember to follow me on YouTube and/or Twitter to know as soon as these are posted. As there's no Bonus Reel for this week's episode, I'm going to be posting Episode 006 later this week and end my content with Episode 007 next Monday.

Shout Out: Spotify

While not directly gaming related, Spotify is a cool music service with a large catalog of music from and inspired by games. I've been using it for several months now and I think it's definitely worth a look for music fans. The "free," ad-supported service for Mac/Windows lets you do most of the important stuff but mobile users will have to pay a monthly fee to access anything beyond the free radio streaming.

To keep things on topic, here's a link to a gaming-themed playlist I did during E3: Monday Music Madness - E3 Edition

The Future

Still pondering the future of the blog. I think I may have come to a conclusion about it but I want to give it another week to be sure before making any sort of announcement.

Until next time, have a good week folks!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Sit Rep 8

A bit more free time equals a bigger update this week:

The DayZ Update

Been doing a lot of group/squad play in "DayZ" lately. What can I say? It's just more fun with friends. I feel like we're getting better with each session and it's only a matter of time before we are ready to take on some of the more hardcore areas of the map as evidenced by this week's video.

Unfortunately, we've also started running into a lot of hackers recently. I've always known that hacking was a bit of an issue with "ARMA" and its associated anti-cheat solution "BattleEye" but it seems like the massive popularity of "DayZ" has created a serious gap between the hackers and those trying to prevent their exploits.

A quick look at the "Cheat Reporting" forum for "DayZ" will give you a good idea of just how pervasive and annoying the problem has become for legitimate players.

It's been so bad the past few days that I've had trouble getting decent footage for future DayZ Updates and I find myself torn between showing said footage or cutting it out.

On one hand, I have been posting unlisted YouTube videos of incidents on various servers to serve as proof in the aforementioned "Cheat Reporting" forum but I am very reluctant to share those videos publicly because I don't want to do anything that might encourage people to continue hacking.

On the other hand, I wonder if it's fair to edit such incidents out as it might give the impression that hacking isn't the common and destructive issue that it currently is in the game.

For next week's update, I have some cool regular gameplay footage that ends with our entire squad being wiped out at once by a hacker. I could end the episode before the incident occurs to deny the hacker the potential satisfaction of seeing it but it would give a false impression of what actually happened in the game. 

My current thinking is that it might be best to simply end the episode by explaining what happened to us without actually showing it. This would require you folks to take my word for it but I feel like it would be the best way to accurately convey the experience we had without giving the hackers what they want.

I'm hopeful that these security problems can be resolved with changes to the "DayZ" mod, "ARMA," "BattleEye" or some combination or extension of the three. I find myself wondering if the patch that was originally planned for Wednesday, August 1st has been delayed due to the development team(s) trying to find a solution to these issues for the next round of patches. I certainly hope so.

Finally, for those of you who aren't already following me on Twitter and/or YouTube, here's the Bonus Reel from last week's video. If you want to know as soon as those are posted in the future, subscribe to my Twitter feed and/or my Youtube channel.

Shout Out: DayZ Commander

I'm a firm believer that competition is a good thing when it leads to innovation and improvement so I was keen to check out "DayZ Commander" after it was recommended to me via a few different sources.

Those familiar with this blog will note that I've endorsed the use of "Six Updater/Launcher" in the past as the "official" updating/launching platform for "DayZ" and I still do; however, "DayZ Commander" has a lot of really unique and interesting features going for it that make it worth a look– such as the ability to find friends across servers based on their "DayZ" character name and an automated process for getting the latest ARMA expansion beta running via Steam without having to manually shuffle files around– just to name a couple.

I also have to say that I prefer the user interface in "DayZ Commander" and a lot of the thoughtful little touches incorporated into it like its enhanced server filter that makes it dead simple to find just the sort of server you're seeking.

You should keep in mind that "DayZ Commander" only supports "DayZ" whereas the "Six Suite" supports tons of other "ARMA" mods.

There don't seem to be any issues with having them both installed on the same computer but I would suggest only running one at a time as they both have the potential to manipulate ARMA and DayZ-related files.

The Big Picture

I've been thinking a lot lately about the future of this blog. Now that more people are visiting it on a regular basis, I've been thinking a lot about ways to make it a more worthwhile experience for everyone.

In my mind, there are a few different ways things could go. I could make it more specific and specialized by making it a pure "DayZ" blog or I could expand it a bit to make it more about gaming in general– the way it used to be before I fell headfirst down the "DayZ" rabbit hole.

Either way, I'm also considering the possibility of bringing more writers on board to not only produce more content but provide alternative voices and points of view for the topics being covered.

I can think of a lot of ways that the blog could be improved by going in these different directions so a lot of it simply comes down to me deciding which direction I want to go and being comfortable with that decision.

One thing I'm pretty sure of is that I don't want it to become stale or predictable. I think, much like "DayZ," it needs to evolve to reach its full potential and I'm going to spend some time over the next few weeks figuring all that out.

As usual, comments are welcome. I obviously need to make my own mind up about what direction to take things in but I'd certainly be interested to know what you'd like to see happen.

Until next time, have a good week folks!