Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Richard Garriott Believes Consoles are Dying

Ignore the fact that nearly 1 million Xbox systems sold during the holiday rush last week. Mr Garriott feels that systems will be gone soon. If the name sounds familiar, it should be. He's the creator of Ultima and Tabula Rasa. Yeah those PC games of yours are doing quite well Mr. Garriott, wouldn't you agree? Ignore Ultima, but really the man has done little else other then make Ultima games.

Anyway, he feels that the convergence of multiple devices to computers, such as smartphones, I-Pads, and the like will make consoles obsolete. There might be one more generation, but after that it'll be done.

A number of people are arguing against him, though not named or quoted in the article. I'll be one of those people.

True the power of our phones and tablets has been getting stronger, but they have a long way to go before they can play a video game like Skyrim or Gears of War 3. Try playing those on a tablet. It'll cause it to fry. And Panasonic already ditched their portable MMO device. We're just not there yet technology or design-wise. It's going to take longer then another generation of consoles. I'd bet at least 3-4 at the least. Not to mention gaming is a group activity to many. The Wii for example is a very family friendly oriented system. By limiting the experience to just your phone or your personal tablet you remove yourself from that type of game play. It's not an appealing prospect. Even myself as a solo gamer I still like knowing that if I have friends over we can plug in a few more controllers and play Rock Band or co-op mode on something. You can't expect to do that on a tablet.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

ESRB and Mobile Games

I knew it was going to happen. Just a matter of time.

But think of it this way, better the ESRB then the government.

With the wide number of games available for phones these days, it can be difficult to tell what content is in each program. There are some guidelines on the Apple and Android store-fronts, but really, it's an open field to anyone who wants to download stuff.

Enter the ESRB and CTIA The Wireless Association teaming up with 6 major wireless providers to create a rating system application for mobile games. The ratings will be a copy/paste of what's currently available for video games in the U.S.

It'll work like this: when a developer wants to submit their mobile game, they will have to fill out a questionnaire from the storefront and their apps will be immediately given a rating. They'll also be issued a code to apply to multiple store-fronts so that the rating of the game is uniform on all platforms (since Apple's TOS are different then Android, for example).

So it's a quick, easy to use system. I'm sure there will be a few developers complaining that it's too simplified and will wrongly mark some games. That's bound to happen. But when you think about the hundreds of thousands of products released on phones each year in comparison to the disc games sold in retail outlets, you need something much more efficient and fast to rate products. Good thing? Maybe. We'll have to see how it plays out. I'm sure the major wireless carriers will forbid AO games and a number of M's.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Toilets and Games

Apologies for the lack of postings. No I didn't forget. I got caught up by the TOR Weekend beta since everyone I knew was going to be on at the same time. Now I really can't wait until the launch.

I could talk about the Cyber Monday gaming deals, but you all already know about Cheap Ass Gamer. So let's talk about something different.

Toilets and video games.

Two wonderful inventions have now been spliced together thanks to a bar in London, England.

Currently it's for men only, but the bar owner hopes it'll attract new customers and keep the old ones returning. It works like this: You go to the bathroom and depending on how long you go and your aim helps you rack up more points. >.> I think this was designed to make sure men stopped urinating all over the place.

Do we really need something like this when we go to the bathroom? Sure gaming in the bathroom might be fun once in a blue moon, but I'd imagine talking to a woman at the bar would be more fruitful for your future existence instead of how well you can aim. Just a thought...

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Phase 4: Oh right. I need to make credits.

Note: This article may contain spoilers for the upcoming MMO, Star Wars: The Old Republic. If you don't wish to have anything ruined, I suggest you keep scrolling to the next article.

 

Note #2: The information posted below is based on the most recent Beta Build. There is a possibility that the crew skills and their intended use may change at release. Please take the following notes as advisory, and not the hard-fast rule.

 

 




They craft. You watch. Hands off approach!
Crafting is either a ton of fun or the bane of MMO’s. It’s a necessary evil if you expect to have any money in your pocket by the end of the day. In TOR they are called Crew Skills. I mentioned them in my post about companions, but now we’ll go into detail.
 
Crew Skills allow you to have more freedom in customizing your character and crew. And credits. Lots and lots of credits. Because as with any game, you need money to move forward.

Crew Skills can be obtained at level 10. They are broken down into 3 categories: Crafting Skill, Gathering Skill, and Mission Skill.

Crafting Skill – The things you make.
Gathering Skill – The primary method of obtaining materials to make the stuff in your crafting skill.
Mission Skill – Rare materials to help you make rare items. (TOR uses a color coding system for rarity: Grey-Green-Blue-Purple are the most commonly seen. Green is the most common among crafts, with Blue and Purple being rare).

Your crew can only learn a maximum of 3 skills total. That is, you and your team will have access to the same 3 skills. No, your new Wookie buddy won’t have his own set of crew skills giving you infinite resources. There needs to be some element of effort put into crafting.

From there, there are another subset of rules. You can only have one Crafting Skill learned at a time. So choose wisely. However you can have as many Gathering and Mission skills as you’d like. So you could, potentially, start out with nothing but Gathering skills and come back later on to learn a Crafting skill. Now the plus is that you can drop and learn new skills as you wish. Simply open your Crew Skill window, click the X box and Accept on the prompt to unlearn your skill, then go to a trainer and learn a new one. Now, something to keep in mind.

You can unlearn what you have learned, but you can not recapture what you have unlearned (hopefully you saw that I did there).
Current Crew Skills Window with Craft.

Example: Let’s say you chose to pick up Armstech and leveled it to 100. You decided this isn’t the right crafting job for you so you drop it. But a few days later you want to pick it back up. That’s fine. However you will not retain those initial 100 levels. You start right back at level 1. So while crafting is a simple system, there are penalties for dropping and learning new things on the fly.

To make the most use out of your crew skill, you’ll need one from each category (a craft, a gathering, and a mission skill). This will allow you to take full advantage of that particular craft you have selected. The current breakdown is as follows in the order of crafting, gathering, mission:


armormech - scavenging, underworld trading
armstech - scavenging, investigation
artifice - archaeology, treasure hunting
biochem - bioanalysis, diplomacy
cybertech - scavenging, underworld trading
synthweaving - archaeology, underworld trading

If you read the TOR website, you’ll notice that I missed Slicing. Well slicing is fast, easy credits for the early levels. It’s a nice pick me up if you are low on funds and provides schematics for crafts that aren’t available at the NPC trainers. It currently has no use in crafts.

If you are looking for a self-sufficient route, here are the jobs that work best for each craft:

Jedi/Sith – Artifice (weapons), Synthweaving (light, armor)
All non-force users – Armstech (weapons), Armormech (medium, heavy armor for aim/cunning)

And for those wanting miscellaneous stuff:

Mounts, Droid Parts, High Tech Armor (for strength based) – Cybertech (Jobs that could use: Jedi Knight, Republic Trooper, Bounty Hunter)
Stims, Implants – Biochem (Jobs that could use – Smuggler, Imperial Agent primary, but open to all jobs).

Crew crafting on the Bounty Hunter ship.
Next, Reverse Engineering. This is a process that allows you to break down an object to obtain its resources and potentially earn you a new schematic for your craft. The process is simple. Open your inventory, change to RE mode, and click on the item you wish to take apart. This doesn’t work on all objects such as implants and medical supplies, and best used on armor and weapons. Even the gear that drops from enemies can potentially be RE’d. But if you’re wondering how you learn those Blue/Purple schematics, this is how. Make a few green items, RE them, and you’ll eventually learn the Blue version. You can also find schematics through Mission Skills and Slicing Nodes.


There are a few ways to go about the crew skills trade depending upon your play style.

1.) The Gathering Hoarde. You gather. And you gather some more. And you keep gathering because everyone needs materials. Well now you’ve got plenty of them to sell off.

2.) Mission Hunter. You have enough credits to spam Missions, which yield the Blue and Purple materials for the higher end products people want to make/buy/sell. It’s a pricy way to go, but the reward could pay off big in the end.

3.) Craft for the Credits. Based on the stats of forum polls and even official BioWare polls on what people are going to play at launch, there will be a LOT of Jedi’s and Sith’s running around. So two ways to go about this: Either cater your craft to the majority OR focus on helping out the minority.

If you center on Force crafting you’re likely to make credits fast, but the market will be flooded. Expect price fluctuations and to undersell others just to get your stuff moving.

If you go with the minority, sales will be slow but you’re more likely to guarantee yourself a sale and at a higher price point then the item’s value. Why? Because less will be on the market and you’ll find people in dire need to gear. They want the best and few others are crafting what they need. Larger credits can head your way, but it does take more time/patience.

4.) Managing Yourself. You pick a craft, gather, and mission based on your needs. It’s a money saver in the long-run because you won’t have to rely as heavily on the Galactic Trade Network for your purchases. Granted you can only pick one craft so you’ll have to forage for the rest, but if you take Armor or Weapons that’ll cut half of your costs right there. Don’t forget, you can make stuff for your companions too!

5.) Slicing, slice, slice. You’ll probably read this on the TOR forums during your initial run-though. A lot of people will praise slicing as fast, easy money. Because it is. It’s been toned down over the builds and probably will be again before the game’s release. The benefit is that it’s quick, simple, and requires little attention. You will also, on the rare occasion, receive crafting schematics and lockboxes for items to sell on the GTN. Not profitable as a craft over the long run, but good for starting out.



So there you go. A crash course in Crew Skills. If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments section (open to all!). I wanted to give a general overview rather then a detailed play by play. You should be able to pick it up and figure out the rest quite easily.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Kevin Butler King of Toasting?



Sony, please don't ever let Kevin Butler go or decide to try another marketing stunt. Stuff like this keeps games selling. Even if this one isn't on the PS3, he makes you all look good.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Phase 3: There’s This Magical, Butthead NPC Standing Next to Me

Note: This article may contain spoilers for the upcoming MMO, Star Wars: The Old Republic. If you don't wish to have anything ruined, I suggest you keep scrolling to the next article.














Mako better heal my ass, or no digital dinner tonight!
The Companion Character.

Part of the BioWare trademark at this point. An NPC buddy to follow you on your journey of kicking ass, and providing mild entertainment.

A unique aspect to TOR in comparison to other MMO’s is that companions take on a vital role in the game. They offer you assistance when your soloing, bonus missions and special gear, and in-dept relationships. Most games it’s just you and your pet kitty, or magical fairy that does nothing but flys around and looks pretty. FFXI is the only game that I can think of where you can quest for an NPC companion to fight with you in battle, focus their tactics into one of three areas, and level them up. Even that has it’s limitations and it’s not exactly someone you’d want to bring with you to boss battles.

In TOR, you need your companion. In many cases, they are the difference between life and death in a situation.

BioWare was smart about companion characters. Over the past year the little bugs have been weeded out, and now I can’t imagine playing solo without having a companion with me. Unlike other games where you might have an xp decrease for having a buddy, with a companion you don’t. You also don’t have to do the song and dance of swapping companions to ensure they all have the same general levels. They level with you. So if you hit level 30, so do all of your companions.

Here is what the Wookie Bowdaar looks like in the TOR
Offical screen shot.
Slowly they have been adding customization kits so that your companion can have one of 9 looks (1 primary upon first receiving him/her/it, and 8 that can be purchased at NPC Companion Kit Vendors) that can adjust the skin color, hair, and facial markings. So we don’t have a world of 500 Corso Riggs’ running around looking the exact same.

Each player can receive a maximum of 6 companions; 1 is your ship’s droid which really can’t be used for much other then cannon fodder and crafting and 5 odd assortments of characters that can be used for battle. Each companion will come with a unique set of stats, armor, weapons, and crafting bonuses (they apply to your skill with an increased probability in making Exceptional Items or bringing more stuff back from gathering missions).

This is where things can get a little bit more complicated. You, the player, don’t actually get to craft stuff or go out on gathering missions. Your companions do that. Starting at level 10 you can learn 3 Crew Skills-1 craft, 2 gathering. At level 10 you can send out one companion at a time for missions and crafting. At level 20, 2 companions, and so on. It’s a good progression because most people won’t have their first 2 fighting companions until around the level 20 area (unless you’re a Jedi Knight -_-).
Here's what Bowdaar really looks like-skinny Wookie alert!

Now you have the power to harvest nodes sitting out in the world for your gathering skill, but even your companion can do that for you. If he/she/it is out, it’ll pick at the node if you right-click on it. So really, you’re completely removed from the crafting experience. That’s one part I’m still not completely on board with, because I enjoy crafting. I like the technical aspects of it. But this is a very hands-off approach to let your companions deal with it while you explore the world and get xp.

Next issue, gear and weapons. While your companions come pre-geared when they enter your group, you’ll need to update their crap eventually. Most people will probably only have one companion that they want to play with, and that’s fine. I know some Jedi Knights who are in love with the second companion and will only use that one person for their entire experience. For me, I like to swap out my companions depending on the situation I’m up against. Especially as a squishy healer. So I can’t have my level 40 companion running around in level 20 gear. He’ll get slaughtered. Instead of having 2 people to gear, myself and 1 companion, I now have 6. I don’t use the droid for fighting. He’s really that bad. On the plus, there are enough drops through your general questing that work quite well for companion gear if you don’t want to use the pieces on yourself. But you still have to manage 5-6 NPC’s. It can take a lot of time and effort to get them the way that you want.

It looks like crappy gear, but at
the time, it was pretty good stat-wise.
I don’t mean giving them crappy gear. Your companions, aside from the ship droid, are pretty powerful. They’re not throw-away NPC’s. They actually take a beating, dish out damage, or heal you quite effectively. So now it’s not just about equipping them properly, but what you’re able to afford.

And then there is companion affection. Much like with KOTOR, ME, and DA, what you say will affect how your companions feel about you. Now for every job and every gender, there is at least one companion that you can form an intimate relationship with. Not that you can see anything because it is a Star Wars game and it is still rated T for teens. Depending on your class and your choices, companions will either be all for your decisions or against them. The grey area jobs, aka the non-Force users, are the ones where you will get companions that will hate your responses. How do you mitigate those? Companion gifts! Your new companion hated that you chose a Light Side option? Shove a gift in their face and things will be better.

For class quest conversations, all companions are involved (particularly on your ship). If it’s a normal quest, only the companion in your group will be affected by your choices. Why should you care about affection? It can grant you A TON of bonus XP. When you reach certain milestones in companion affection, you can talk to you companion for a cut scene in a cantina or on your personal ship. In turn, you get xp. And with up to 10,000 companion affection points available, it’s a lot of cut scenes and a lot of xp. In the case of your very first companion, it’ll grant you additional quests and items. And the stories range from mildly amusing to pretty in-depth.

Now you don’t “HAVE” to use your companion. You can totally solo the game all by yourself if you wanted to. I don’t know why you wouldn’t. It’s not like they take away your xp or anything. They are there to help you and to enhance your general gaming experience. Part of what we love about the Star Wars movies is having this odd grouping of people coming together to save the galaxy.

Ahh Blizz. You are my favorite companion.
In terms of the types of companions, well they’re all over the board. Yes, you can get a Wookie companion and yes, you can get a Mon Calamari. If you play Smuggler. If you want a bad ass fighting droid, play Jedi Knight or Republic Trooper. Want your own Twi’lik slave? Sith Warrior. Shock collar and all. No. I’m not kidding. You have options to shock her (just don’t expect any love in return). If you want a Jawa, play Bounty Hunter (who is by far my favorite companion of them all; he tanks like a beast!). They seem quite random, but from a story stand-point, they make a lot of sense. Smuggler’s is probably the craziest, and yet fits the best. You have a former peace-brigade member with an unhealthy obsession with guns, a Hutt-enslaved Wookie, a lost pirate princess, a vengeful Zabrak Mandalorian, and a scum-sucking, conniving Mon Calamari. It makes so much sense, but there are times when I would board the ship and think “what the hell did I get into letting these people on board?”
Who'd want to shoot you?

By the way, you don’t have an option to say no. They’re boarding your ship whether you like it or not. And with the most recent update, they now talk a lot during battle and have been given more lines of dialogue if you click them. They get pretty chatty when they fight. Sometimes you want to smack them. But isn’t that what real friends do? Some days you like them. Some days you hate them. Some days you want to whack them on the head with the butt of your Blaster Pistol, but they are still your friends at the end of the day.

Those are the aspects that stand out to me at the moment. I may add to this later on, but this is the Companion Characters. Enjoy the insanity as you try to equip them!

Monday, November 21, 2011

The People vs George Lucas

Unintentionally I found the time to watch The People vsGeorge Lucas the day before the NDA on TOR released. It’s a Star Wars kind of week.

It’s a documentary that dates back to 2009, released in 2010, but did not get onto DVD until late September this year. It only just recently became available on Netflix. I don’t remember where I read about it, but the idea sounded amusing. It’s not about the history of Star Wars or how it became popular, but the love/hate relationship fans have with George Lucas told though fan films and interviews. Wikipedia notes it as a courtroom style documentary; looking at both sides of the case and attempting to resolve the debate. Is George Lucas the most brilliant man in film or the bane of all fans?

Positives:

It talks about the good and bad of George Lucas. No man is perfect, and as much as we love to idol worship, he is still human. He knows that he has flaws and accepts them. While he doesn’t admit to all of his mistakes (Star Wars Christmas Special anyone?), the film shows him as a mortal. It’s nice to see him casted as such.

In the things we love about George is that he has allowed people to openly praise and mock his work. He told the community “have at it.” He’s given the tools to everyone to allow for them to make their own versions of Star Wars, in full force (no pun intended). Star Wars fan films outnumber all others. Someone mentioned in the documentary that Dr Who fan films are second to Star Wars, and for every one Dr Who fan film, there are 100 for Star Wars. And Lucas supports it! Every year they have a fan film contest. I got to see this year’s selections and helped to vote on a winner for the fan vote-one at WonderCon and one at ComicCon. What I appreciate about this particular documentary is that it splices in multiple fan films to help progress the story. They’re not just randomly inserted, but integral pieces to the documentary. And it’s through George Lucas that such fan films were possible.

It also talks about life imitating art. George Lucas began his career doing avant garde film. He was good at it. Personally, I got into films because of what he was trying to achieve at such a young age. The problem was getting Hollywood on board with his vision. His early work such as THX1138 and American Graffiti were edited by the studios and never really captured his vision. Papa George vowed to never allow anyone in the industry to have control over his work again, and Star Wars was a rebellion (see what I did there? >.>). And because of it, movies, merchandising, marketing, none of it has been the same. For example (not in the documentary) you know that before Star Wars films had all of the credits at the beginning? They felt that people wouldn’t remember names and faces if you didn’t put the credits up front. Star Wars made the movie about the experience, and guess what? We still remember the names and faces.

But in his quest to be independent, George Lucas became a corporation, a commodity, the thing he hated. He’s even quoted himself as saying that he has become Darth Vader. And as much as a fan may hate Papa George, you have to feel some sympathy towards him in the way we do with Darth Vader. We dislike Vader, sure, but we also feel sorry for the guy. Vader wanted to fight against evil, but in turn became the thing that he despised the most. This is what the documentary does well, it makes George Lucas human.

While it sounds heavy-handed, there is quite a bit of humor thrown into the mix. With interviews from geek aficionados within the business, and everyday fans, there is a lot of love and hate thrown around at Papa George, but done in a slightly comical tone. I don’t think anyone truly hates George Lucas, but dislike some of his recent creative choices (such as re-editing the original trilogy, and Jar-Jar Binks).

It also talks about the one point of view we seem to forget, KIDS! One thing Lucas has argued with the newest films is that they were meant to be for the family; Episode 1 is the beginning and was to allow kids to grow up with Anakin and see what happens. That’s why you have the sillies that go on. And guess what? There are a lot of kids that love Jar-Jar. They see Star Wars as an all encompassing universe. They’re not aware of the differences that we, as jaded adults, are.

Another segment I appreciated is this question of who ownsStar Wars, the fans or Lucas? I won’t go into the details, but it’s a compelling argument for both sides of the case-one of Lucas as an auteur, and one of him destroying the preservation of film history.


Negatives:

It felt a little short.

Also the Lucas bashing was a little more then the Lucas love-fest. It’s a film coming from a generation who grew up with Episodes 4-6. Some of us are a little upset at what’s happened to the franchise. So I get it, but it felt a little heavy-handed about the nerd rage at times.

As a whole, it’s a great film for fans, haters, and newbies. It puts a new perspective on Star Wars that you probably never would have thought about. Worth the purchase, or at least a rental.

A special note to Papa George: Please go back to avant garde. Make the films that you love to make. I'm sure the corporate persona can take a break for a few years.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Phase 2: My job is my life!

 Note: This article may contain spoilers for the upcoming MMO, Star Wars: The Old Republic. If you don't wish to have anything ruined, I suggest you keep scrolling to the next article.




Imperial Agents always look good in yellow pants.
8 classes. 2 factions. 4 jobs on each side.

So how do you decide what you want to play?

The first thing you’ll probably read on the website or the official forums is that jobs are mirrored classes of one another. I.E. You have Jedi Knight tied with Sith Warrior. Jedi Consular/Sith Inquisitor. Republic Trooper/Bounty Hunter. Smuggler/Imperial Agent.

Smuggler got jipped on a two word job title.

On the surface, they’ll appear to match. You’ll have job ability differences, and ones that do match will have graphical changes to vary from one job to the next. But for the most part, if you pick a Jedi Knight, you're picking a Sith Warrior, and vice-versa.

Like WoW, there are class trees for advanced jobs that open up once you reach a certain level in the game (for TOR this is 10). The advance jobs allow you to specialize in certain aspects of the job that can enhance your character.

It also allows you to tailor your character your way. Each advance class has 2 unique tree branches, and one shared between both AC’s for that primary job. So really, you have 24 potential jobs. XD

Current Smuggler Tree
I’ll take the Smuggler that I’m currently leveling in testing as an example. Here’s my tree:

I chose the Scoundrel Advance Class because it gave me access to healing. If I went with the other option, Gunslinger, it would have provided duel weapons and incredibly strong DD abilities. But you’ll notice in the screenshot that the tree offers me more then just healing options. I have 2 DD sections I can fill up also-one focused on close quarter combat (aka Dirty Fighting-which is awesome and highly entertaining to kick a droid in the nards), and another one ranged abilities. So it’s very possible to be a successful DD while being a Smuggler Scoundrel AC. Is it the best idea? That’s for you to decide.

Here is the general rule for the classes based on what’s listed on the current character creator:

Jedi Knight: Guardian-Tank/DD Sentinel- DD
Jedi Consular: Sage-Heal/DD Shadow- Tank/DD
Trooper: Commando-Heal/DD Vanguard- Tank/DD
Smuggler: Scoundrel- Heal/DD Gunslinger- DD

Sith Warrior: Juggernaut- Tank/DD Marauder- DD
Sith Inquisitor: Sorcerer- Heal/DD Assassin- Tank/DD
Bounty Hunter: Mercenary- Heal/DD Powertech- Tank/DD
Imperial Agent: Operative- Heal/DD Sniper- DD
The one thing I hate about MMO’s are the endless debates about which job is better that degenerates into flame wars. Discussion is fine. But when it turns into “well you’re just stupid” then I start to hit the ignore key.

Bounty Hunter aboard their personal ship.
Here is my belief about jobs.

It’s not about the job, the abilities, the gear. It’s the player behind them.

*awaits the rage of half of the WoW community*

Hear me out. We have this issue brought up all the time in FFXI regarding Red Mages. A number of people see Red Mage as the job of all jobs. It can dd, it can heal, it can tank, it can do everything short of summoning magical creatures unless you make smn it’s sub job. As such, people try to focus on one aspect of being a Red Mage, and forget the rest. The best Red Mages that I have met are the ones that are able to be the jack of all trades in one sitting. To be even a half-way decent RDM takes a lot of effort. You can’t smack a few buttons and go to the bathroom. You have to put effort into it, and some people just don’t have that ability/stamina/drive to follow-through.

That’s how I see jobs working in TOR. Sure you can pick Sith Inquisitor and go the healing route. But you can also train yourself to be just as effective as a DD or a Tank if you take the time to learn your job. Hone your craft. Figure out what works and what doesn’t. In the previous build I leveled a BH Mercenary with focus on the Bodyguard tree that included tanking and healing abilities. Now BH is on the bottom of the totempole when it comes to healing according to many people. It has few heal abilities available and it eats up quite a bit of energy to use. But I trained myself. I found and made gear to help boost my heals. I figured out a way to play that made my BH a viable healing job. I asked to join a group as a healer and promised that if they didn’t like my style they could kick me, no questions asked. I didn’t get kicked. In fact, I was praised in General Chat for a few days and picked up groups constantly for not being “the norm”.
Smuggler DD and Healer.

Really, it comes down to how you want to play the game. Sure there are some jobs that are “obviously” more in line with a tank, or a healer, etc. But it’s possible to be whatever you wish if you research the trees and test the jobs as you go.

As an aside, you currently can not change your Advance Class once it’s picked. The dev’s have said via Twitter and at a gaming conference that it may be implemented in the future, but that it’ll have restrictions. Either a one time only change, or it’ll be so unbelievably expensive that you’ll only want to change it once because you certainly can’t afford to do it again. Mostly it’ll be a preventative measure from people cheating the system.

In terms of skill points, there are talent point trainers where you can reset those as you wish. The first time it’s free. After that, you pay a fee. Each time you change, the price increases. So at least you have the option to play with your abilities within your AC.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Old Republic. Phase 1: Making Your Character


Note: This article may contain spoilers for the upcoming MMO, Star Wars: The Old Republic. If you don't wish to have anything ruined, I suggest you keep scrolling to the next article.








I will probably have a series of these spread over the next few days. Because it’s a lot of information to cover over a highly anticipated MMO. And again, a year of testing.

The biggest concern for any new player is their character. Your avatar is what makes you in TOR. And choosing your race can affect the story-line (Sith Inquisitor for example; if you pick Twi’lik you will get called a slave. A lot. -_- Where as if you pick the Sith Pure-blood line, you will be worshipped.)

All Empire Characters are created under this background.
Like many MMO’s, there is a lot of pre-generated bodies, faces, and details that you can mix and match. It doesn’t boast the complexity of Star Wars Galaxies (which is still my favorite character design), there are a number of options.

You start out be picking your faction. Republic or Empire. And then it goes down to Job then Gender. Pretty standard stuff. You can review the job descriptions, advance classes, and their story lines before selection

In terms of what races you can play, well they’re all humanoid. Sorry folks. No wookies, or jawas, or calamaris here. You get Human, Cyborg (yes…that’s a race), Zabrak, Sith pure-blood (which is zabrak with tentacles instead of horns, Empire dominant), Twi’lik (Republic dominant), Rattataki (pale skin, facial tattoos), Miraluka (a race of humans without eyesight, but use the force to see), Chiss (blue skin) and Mirilan (green skin, facial tattoos). A lot of emphasis on the multi-colored humans with tattoos. But that’s about it.

And here's the Republic side.
Droids in the background move, and ships fly by.
There are variations in skin color and some facial tattoos depending on what faction you select. For example, the Empire Zabrak will be darker, more vibrant red tones. Where as the Republic Zabrak will have lighter reds, some almost looking close to normal Earth skin colors. It’s kind of nifty that the lore of Star Wars emanates even in character creator.

Some of the races and their allegiance may change at release, such as the Chiss and Rattataki. As of this moment and this build, if you want to be a Twi’lik but hate healing, go to the Republic side.

Which is also my biggest issue with the character generator. Race restrictions for certain classes/sides. While from a lore stand-point, I get it. Twi’liks are typically enslaved under the Empire’s rule. But it doesn’t help when you’re a Bounty Hunter and you go to get some training, and hey look! It’s a Twi’lik NPC as my trainer who is also a Bounty Hunter. -_- That doesn’t make sense and kind of annoys me. And since when is Cyborg a race? It’s a human with implants. Not it’s own entire set of people. So silly.

Yes. You can get a hat like Cad Bane as a Smuggler.
It's one of the end-game items.
My hope is that post launch they’ll add more races to play.

The other issue we’ve been complaining about are the lack of body choices. You get 4 options. 4 options that pre-determine your character’s weight, height, muscles, arms, legs, torso, etc. You don’t get to tweak those. Just the faces. Sucks, right? Now I have seen a lot of variety in the beta that it hasn’t been a big issue, but still, that’s it? I can’t go with a slider system and adjust my character to look how I want her too? Lame.

Faces are also pre-generated, but there are a multitude of options that do vary slightly from race to race. While I may see a hundred people with the same body type, I have yet to run into someone with the same face. There are also options for complexion (such as wind/sun burns from using goggles), scars, make-up, hairstyles. Yeah the hair options could use some work. Basically it’s the same 20-some-odd looks for everyone except the twi’lik and zabrak. Kind of annoying.

At this moment, there is no benefit to choosing one race over the other, like in WoW or FFXI. Other then a special “Social Ability”. Which is just an amusing, random ability to do. Twi’liks get a special dance (of course). Humans get a Rally Call that causes all in a party to do a /hurray motion. Things like that. There may be an addition before release to allow for stat-based enhancements based on certain races/jobs, so we’ll see.

Minus the limitations, you end up with a lot of
variety for the faces.
Final note: All voices are pre-generated. So everyone that makes a Male Jedi Knight will all sound the same, regardless of what race you chose. Since I can’t talk about what we’ve been discussing on the beta forums, I have to leave it at that. What I can say is that I wish they would have implemented a Sims 3 like voice change system. Where you have the base voice as option 1, and can slide it up or down to go up a few pitches, or down a few. It wouldn’t require re-recording all of the voices, allow for variety, and make the player feel like they have more control over their character.

By the way, the voice work for the character is stellar. I’m not a fan of the female Trooper voice, but even that is so well done, it’s insane.

So there you go. A little walk-through on what to expect for character creation come launch day. I’m hopeful that after launch, more races with more opportunities to cross job lines will be possible. I want a Twi’lik Imperial Agent dangit! :D

Force Spam

 The NDA on The Old Republic has been lifted! Which means you all are about to get blasted with TOR info. And a lot of it. 

I’ve been in beta for this game for almost a year now. Full year on December 1st. I have seen all of the ups and downs. I have seen numerous graphic changes. And pretty much every image that you’ve seen of the character generator is from the first/second build. It totally doesn’t look like that anymore.

I also spent yesterday watching The People vs. George Lucas. A documentary that looks into the fans of Star Wars and their love/hate relationship with papa George. I’ll post up a review for this as well.

It’s as Star Wars Weekend on The Geek Spot!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Too Many Good Games Causing Low Sales?

That's what GameStop's PR department is saying. I won't lie. I laughed. And while the overall profits have gone up, it's not what the company had anticipated. As such, shares went down a tad.

They also state that a lot of people are not paying off pre-orders; just plopping down the $5 minimum and never coming back.

Possibly financial reasons are preventing people from picking up their games. I won't deny that considering the current state of money in the U.S. But I'd also like to present the argument that GameStop pressures people into pre-ordering a lot of things.

Why?

Sales Associates are monitored on their stats, performance reviews, and potential "raises" based on how many pre-order reservations they're able to make for customers. Amusing considering how much GameStop is trying to push the market more towards Used/Pre-Owned sales and less on the new products. So they pressure people into pre-ordering a lot of things, and either those people forget about it, think it's too much of a hassle, or buy their product at another location that is cheaper and doesn't have staff that is pushy. It's an old, antiquated system best known for car salesman.

I'm not saying it's wrong for associates to want to make suggestions for future titles to customers; sometimes people aren't aware of the products that are out there, or will be out there. But to base a performance system on what you can sell is out of date. Sales /= how good of an employee you are. I'd wager that 70% of the employees at GameStop stores do a great job without the need to pressure people into pre-orders. But because the company has this system in place, their work suffers.

Anyway, my 2 cents. Having been there, I know that a number of people either forget they have pre-ordered (because it was so long ago, some cases years) or find a better deal at another store. On the plus, if you are one of those people that pre-ordered and never picked up the game, you CAN receive a refund on your deposit. Just visit the store. Hopefully you have the receipt, otherwise they'll have to play cat and mouse with customer service to figure out where you pre-order is.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What Just Happened?

I think Spike's VGA show just went legit after hiring Mark Burnett. a real producer.

The nominations this year...they're pretty strong contenders. o_O Granted I question why Dragon Age 2 is even on there after reading the numerous issues people have with the game. And not the vocal minority like FFXIII. A number of people really didn't like the game. And of course it's a strong focus on the American gaming culture, and less of the rest of the world. But still, it's a marked improvement over last year. And there's no "hottest video game female" any longer. It's been replaced by best voice actor and voice actress. Thumbs up.

There may be hope. Though I'm still not watching.

The Brain and Gaming

Post #400.

As a continuation of gaming and the brain, a group of researches in Belgium have found that excessive gaming can change a teenager's brain structure. But not necessarily in a bad way.

Already a thumbs up for this article for not going the "games make you violent/stupid" route.

The team plans on doing more research regarding this, but the results have some interesting merit. While those that played games excessively (more then 12 hours a week) showed some consistency with the brain development of addiction, it also showed growth in the frontal lobe; the area that improves brain function. The study did not establish whether these changes were predisposition based on the teen's current living conditions, or a direct effect from gaming, but they plan to expand the study to include adults who have never gamed before, to see if there are any differences.

I'd be interested in seeing this expand out to include gender differences and the length of study being increased to over several years, rather then a 1-2 months. A lot of the past research regarding video games tends to be short, in isolation, and errs towards provoking the subject to act out against their nature. To observe children and teens in their natural gaming habitat with as little intrusion as possible would provide the most accurate results.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Joining the Mass Collective

I've signed up and posted on Destructoid.

And I now have a Kotaku account.

I also have the Twitter. Though to be fair, I've had Twitter for a while, but it was to get the free chocobo avatar item for the Xbox 360. >.> I have my priorities.

I'm branching out to try and embrace more social media. How often I'll use some of these, such as Twitter? Who knows. But hopefully you'll enjoy my imprint onto the gaming sites.

Edit: Slight update. Kotaku isn't allowing me to comment. >.> Before anyone asks, yes I read their FAQ and know all about how their system works. But it should still allow me to submit a comment. Instead I get an error. Thanks for keeping the system convoluted Kotaku. I'll try a few more times taking some filters off, but if it doesn't work, well then this was a wonderful exercise in failure.

Edit to the Edit: Got it working. Also decided to make a Fan Page on Facebook for my cosplay stuff. I may make one later for The Geek Spot (TGS!) depending upon the number of views I get per month.

Look at me. I'm going all viral. rofl

Monday, November 14, 2011

EA, the Fox News of PR.

Shit like this is why I really dislike EA.

Never mind my own debacle with them in the past. In fact, I never made a post about it. The long and short of it. I'm a Sims fan and support the creative mind that is Will Wright. So when Sims 3 was released, of course I bought it. My computer exceeded the requirements, but the game would only last 5 minutes before freezing or causing a blue screen. A lot of going back and forth with EA's "support" led to no resolution. The last response I received from them still blamed me and my computer for being the reason for the game not working. Roughly 4 months later I'd say they finally caved in an offered me another of their products that was direct download from their website. I got a $19.99 game for a $79.99 product (collector's edition of course) that I can never play. Thanks EA. Glad you were worthless.

The game I picked was the Spore add-on. That was a mistake.

Let's see that was 2009, and my new computer with much better specs still can't play Sims 3. I'm not the only one. There are thousands who encounter the same issue as me. It seems to enjoy eating up every ounce of processing power on your computer. No rhyme or reason. It just does on certain computers and not on others. Last time I attempted to play, it blew out my heatsync, causing that whole no computer business. A big middle finger to EA all around.

Since the Sims 3, I haven't purchased an EA product. Go me. Though I am caving in for SW:TOR. And ONLY SW:TOR. I still see BioWare as the primary holder of the title. EA is just a means of publicity and distribution.

So back to the main topic EA is a bunch of dicks. I'm of the position that they really are a corporate money-making machine and have thrown all concerns about customers out the window a long time ago. So enjoy the continued hate bashing!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Starter Games For Newbies

Credit for trying, but lacks originality and difficulty in obtaining copies. Vanessa Formato provides 5 games to help the new kids get into gaming. One of them being Golden Sun for the Gameboy Advance. Cheapest I could find was Amazon.com at 65.29. Most new gamers probably don't want to drop that kind of money.

The suggestions aren't bad, but not really the best for the newer gen, or even the older gen. How about things people can buy/afford on their limited budget?

For example, the holiday PS3, XBox 360 bundles they come out with every year. They will typically come with 2 games that have sold well within the past fiscal year. In this case, the PS3 bundle has Uncharted 2, GT5, and MAG, all great starter games, and an extra controller, and a movie, and some downloadable games from the PSN. That's a nice deal for the price.

Want something for your PC, Sims City 4 Deluxe edition. 5 games in one package for under $20, and all are great games. Or you wanted to get your hands on more of a sandbox game? Well GTA4 has the game plus the 2 add-ons for roughly $35. Or if you have a PS2 and/or a backwards compatible PS3, GTA:The Trilogy gives you GTA3, Vice City, and San Andreas in one disc.

Straight up gore and action? God of War: Collection. The first 2 games in one. Like speed? The new Driver: San Francisco or Driver: Parallel Lines would be a great start into the genre.

Got little ones in the house? Mario Kart for the Wii is always great fun (one thing the original column did get right).

War Simulator? Ace Combat has a few bundles on it's series on the Xbox 360.

So see, lots of cheap, good options that give you multiple games for the price of one! Just keep your eyes open.

Friday, November 11, 2011

WTF Skyrim?

All of the gaming blogs and forums were nice and quiet.

Then on Wednesday, BAM. Skyrim all over the place.

The heck is going on?

Skyrim, aka Elder Scrolls V, releases today. And it hasn't made a peep until this week. Just go search through Kotaku's archives. Most of the stories will have been posted within the last 72 hours about Skyrim. >.>

I can't even log into a testing forum for a certain game without seeing pages of topics about it. And no one gave a damn a month ago. "It's the most anticipated game of all time!" Really? I didn't realize it was coming out until Wednesday. And didn't MW3 try that already? Silly EA.

Anyway, I'm not against Elder Scrolls V. It's a good series and probably a good game. But my god, it just jumped up out of nowhere and has taken over all of the gaming sites that I can't find any OTHER news. -_- Some of us care about the other stuff please. Thank you!

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

10 Favorite Video Game Songs

Why not? If the London Philharmonic Orchestra can do it, then I will too. Except I am musically challenged so I'll be linking to YouTube videos instead. Though I can still play a few rounds of Chopsticks on piano. With both hands!

Like some of my other lists, there isn't a ranking. All of the songs are equally capable of being someone's favorite. I did my best to provide variety and not solely focus on Nobuo Uematsu. He might just get his own list one day. But there is a lot of great stuff out there. Tons. Too many in fact. Whittling it down to 10 was difficult. But I hope some of you would agree that these would be a better selection in the "Greatest Video Game Music" catalog over Angry Birds.


~ Chrono Cross - Time's Scar

Upbeat. Catchy. And very Celtic. One of those songs that you will hum for days because it will not quit. And you don't want it too.

~ Donkey Kong Country - Aquatic Ambiance

How can you not love this? It's a serene, yet transient melody that guides you through your swimming adventures as the tie-wearing ape. One of those songs that you can get lost in, and forget that you have enemies coming at you. Also one of the few songs where I recommend the Wii Remake of DKC.

~ Ecco - St. Gabriel's Mask

Obscure enough? Ecco the Dolphin was a Sega Genesis game in 1992. I remember being a Dolphin, and swimming, and something having to do with a mystical storm and only you can bring peace back to the sea. It's an odd game. But some of the best old-school music you can find.

~ Final Fantasy X - Path of Repentance

This will be my only Final Fantasy entry. I can already hear the crys. "Why not Dancing Mad?" "What about Sephiroth's Theme?" "Did you forget about FFIV?" I chose this one because it is a personal favorite. I love it because it is simple, and yet complex. It tells a story of being trapped with no escape, but there is a glimmer of hope for freedom amongst the refrain. It's a haunting melody that always moves me.

~ Halo: Combat Evolved - Under the Cover of Night

I'd argue this is the most under-appreciated of all of the Halo songs. Most of you will probably listen to the song and wonder where it is in the game. We all know the main theme and the Covenant Dance. What I love about it is that it's subtle. It doesn't have the glaring boom of the opening theme nor the choir of vocals. It fits with the mood of the game. And it feels kind of jungly and spacy all at once.

~ Katamari Damacy - Katamari on the Rocks

Dare you to not bop your head or sing "na-na-na-na-na-na" after listening to this. Go on. Try.

~ Parasite Eve - Primal Eyes

By far one of my favorite opening songs for any video game. It has action, drama, romance, sorrow, anger, fear, hate, excitement all smashed into 2 minutes and 20 seconds. Basically a preview of what to expect with the game.

~ Shadow of the Colossus - The Farthest Land

Another game where all of the music is stunning. So it was difficult to narrow my selection to one. I decided on this piece because it best represented the journey the player takes through the game. It also combines multiple styles of music (traditional Eastern European sounds with Japanese instruments such as the shamisen)to weave itself into the story.

~ Sonic 3 - Ice Cap Zone (Act 1)

Don't get me wrong. I still love the Greenhill Zone music, but I've always been a sucker for the electronica of Sonic 3. What I enjoy about this song is it's archaic nature to stick with the theme of the Ice Zone while pushing forward in the field of gaming music. It's catchy. It's bouncy. And still pretty cool when you listen to it. Literally and figuratively.

Super Metroid - Prophecy / On Top of Jacob's Ladder

I'm still looking for the original version of this on YouTube, as I could only find the FSS Studio's Project Majestic Mix version. For me this song is everything that I love about Metroid. The intrigue, the aliens, the play-style. All of it. I remember as a kid playing this zone for days because of the music. Because you know, back then, we didn't have the internet. :p


Honorable Mentions:

Donkey Kong Country - Fear Factory Original SNES version. Wii Remake.

Mother 3 - Hard Rain

Chrono Trigger - Undersea Palace

Einhander - Dawn

And all of the Final Fantasy Chocobo themes (13 excluded from this particular video, but it's cool too!)

Gaming Music

I don't know if this is a marketing stunt to try and get the young ones into classical music, but the London Philharmonic Orchestra will be releasing a cd entitled The Greatest Video Game Music.

Which doesn't sound like a bad idea. I'm a fan of gaming music. I would probably cry tears of joy if I ever met Nobuo Uematsu. Right in line with Kojima-san. And then I could die a very happy human.

So let's take a look at what's on the soundtrack:


Final Fantasy overworld theme and Liberi Fatali from FF8 (I bet that was really hard to translate into orchestrated music >.>).

We have one of the Tetris songs, the classic Mario theme, MGS: Sons of Liberty.

Angry Birds.

Wait. Did I read that correctly?

*runs through the list again*

Yep. It's there. With a sample. Next to Call of Duty 4, Modern Warfare 2, Battlefield 2, and Advent Rising.

Yeah this just went into "marketing ploy" territory. Clearly trying to reel in the youth that play these games, because no way is Call of Duty 4's soundtrack better then Shadow of the Colossus. And the Sonic the Hedgehog Greenhill Zone theme will always win over Battlefield 2. Always. Donkey Kong Country's Aquatic theme would blast MW out of the running.

I support music as much as I can, but this is a little silly. Don't label it a "best of" or "greatest" CD when it's anything but.

Examples of better options:




Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Gaming Movies Continued~

This time with Gyakuten Saiban. aka. Ace Attorney.

When images were released a few months ago, I'll admit that I giggled. The thought of the Ace Attorney series being turned into a movie, and the fact that the lead actor had a fantastic wig for Phoenix Wright, was amusing.

Turn to today and we have a movie trailer! The film is due to release on February 11th, 2012 in Japan.






From the tone it is quite clear that they are taking a darker route, with light humor thrown in. I saw the Blue Badger and I giggled again. XD Not that the content in the games wasn't already dark. The DL-6 case (which is also shown in the trailer) is pretty messed up. There's murder, and blood, and violence. Not something you should let the kids play on their DS systems. The movie appears to be adapting from the first game in the series, mostly the last case Turnabout Goodbyes (not the bonus 5th case) based on the trailer. It's difficult to tell what others will be involved.

But this does give me hope. Maybe, just maybe, we'll have a proper and well executed video game movie adaptation. It just took a newbie lawyer, a foreboding prosecutor, and a handful of spirit mediums to create courtroom drama. Oh, and Hollywood didn't have a hand in the film. That helps out A LOT.

Aside: A Happy 10 years to Ace Attorney. The very, very, very first game on Gameboy Advance was released on October 11th, 2001. The DS remake now known in Japan and the U.S. was in 2005.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Mass Effect 3 Mini-Leak




I'm still not a fan, but I know a few people who have been salivating over this. So if you don't mind the spoilers, enjoy the video before it gets pulled from YouTube.

Beta content of Mass Effect 3 that was only meant to go to a few internal testers (and why it would be on Microsoft's servers is beyond me if it's just internal testing) was flagged incorrectly by the XBox corp, and it was uploaded to online testers. Who proceeded to download, take screenshots, and videos. Because who wouldn't? Microsoft has already taken the content down, but clearly the damage has been done. They may also go through and wipe away downloads/installs of the users who have the beta.

A few gamers have already complained about the content and how unpolished the work is. To which I will respond with the following, that I have been doing for oh-so-many months with TOR:

It's.

A.

BETA.

Of course it doesn't look nice and pretty and clean. -_- They're still working on it! And seeing how they have been working on other projects, they can fix a lot of stuff in a very short amount of time. So have a little confidence in your precious developer. Even with EA's hand on their shoulders, they seem to still have a lot of control over their work.

Friday, November 04, 2011

And the world keeps spinning...

Two news stories that will probably make you sigh in exasperation.

~ Greg Smith, an Australian Attorney General, who originally was pushing for more harsher ratings on games, now wants to ban violent games outright.

For those who don't know, Australia is a pretty strict about the sales of video games. Having worked in the trenches at a large company that supplies games, I've had to deal with it on occasion. They have a rating system that is similar to ours (E, T, M, etc.) but with an age range attached to the "mature" content (E, G, PG, MA15, R18). And they're pretty strict about who sees what content. There have been several attempts in the pass to either heavily restrict or edit the content of games that rate above PG. It's actually illegal to sell anything above an M to those who are not legally adults (in age).

So instead of going through the song and dance of classifying R18+, Mr Smith wants to just ban all of those games outright. Based on his thoughts, anything above a G would be removed from the system, and under Australia's guidelines, that includes games like Mario and Zelda. Feel free to roll you eyes and slam your head against a wall/desk. I think it's silly too.

~ Whether this is a cry for help or desperation, the next Spike Video Game Awards will be produced by Mark Burnett. If you don't know who he is, he's basically a British reality show demi-god producer. You name it, and he probably had a hand in it.

“Mark’s bold producing style is a perfect fit for gamers, and his tremendous vision and unparalleled energy will take the show to a new level.” Casey Peterson, executive producer for the show.

Burnett mentions his sons being gamers in the article, but I'm not holding my breath. The show has basically went south years ago and never managed to pick itself back up. But maybe this is the glimmer of hope that the show needs. Burnett has a magic touch and can transform crap into gold. So maybe, just maybe...I'm not holding my breath and I'll catch the recap like a month down the road, but maybe...

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Grand. Theft. Auto. V.




Enjoy~

No release date info, but I wants. >.>

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Women In Gaming, Continued!

I think I went into super feminism mode these past few months. It's hard not to when you keep running into articles such as this from Leigh Alexander. I've read her work before on Sexy Videogameland Blog. While I enjoy her pieces more geared towards gender issues in gaming, I see her more as a video game writer who just happens to do a few social pieces from time to time. She has great insight as a gamer and a unique perspective on the gaming community as a person.

Not as a woman.

Which is the whole point of her article! (See the tie in I just did there? >.>)

The area I want to focus on is her suggestion to a solution to the issue. Basically it's to stop being an unemphatic dick.

I mean, to me the solution is simple. Why argue about it? Why seek validation either way? When you're not sure how you feel, just err on the side of respecting people.

Makes sense to me. It's a hit at the internet trolls who need to be knocked down a few pegs, though they probably won't listen and troll away. Oh look. There are already comments about that on the article. Who would have thought? -_-

In all seriousness, it's an easy solution to a difficult issue. Something I've done my entire life when a problem arises that never crossed my mind. Agree to disagree. Respect your fellow man and you in turn will receive respect back.

Now will we ever get to a point that men and women gamers will just be gamers without a sexual distinction? Probably not. It goes on everyday, everywhere, in every field outside of gaming. But just a little bit of respect for one another can go a long way.

Oh, and I like Bayonetta too. I might have feminist tendencies, but I'm not against games being overly sexualized, or having boob physics in fighting sims. I may not get it and question why it's there, but I'm not going to so uptight that I'd argue about it into my grave.