Tag Archives: game

Hearthstone: The League Of Explorers Adventure Revealed

Elise Starseeker

A new Hearthstone adventure was revealed at Blizzcon today, to be released this coming Thursday. See the trailer here.

The adventure promises “surprises” and speaks to the heart of going on an adventure. The adventure will feature exploration, danger, solo missions, ruined temples, and of course new cards.

Players will travel across Azeroth with the League of Explorers in search for the “Staff of Origination”. The three parts of the staff are located in Uldaman, Temple of Orsis, and Stranglethorn Jungle.

As an example mission, at Blizzcon you can help Reno Jackson escape from a ruined temple. Each league member will be a part of the story and also a legendary card:

  • Brann Bronzebeard. League founder.
  • Elise Starseeker. Her card that shuffles a “map to the golden monkey” into your deck. The golden monkey replaces your entire hand and deck with legendary cards.
  • Reno Jackson. Fortune hunter of questionable ethics.
  • Sir Finley Murgleton. Gentleman murloc.

A new mechanic in the adventure is the “discover” mechanic. When you play a card with discover, it will present you with three random (but not entirely random depending on your deck?) cards, and you can pick the best card that fits your current situation.

I really like the new Hunter card, the “Exporer’s Hat”, which gives a minion +1/+1 and a deathrattle to return another hat to your hand. I play a mid-range hunter though, and this seems to push hunters further into lower-curve favoritism.

All cards on Facebook.

In a strong vote of confidence, Life Is Strange won the poll for the game I’ll play this weekend! (I’ll probably play all three, honestly. I’m feeling ambitious.)


Activision Blizzard Studios Announced


Blizzard also announced the creation of a movie and TV studio dedicated to developing their intellectual properties in different formats.

Their first production will be a TV series called “Skylanders Academy”. They also envision Call of Duty films.

Wall Street seems to dislike this idea of entering a very crowded space, sending the stock down 6% today. This kitty would have expected a pop on Blizzcon.

On the face of it, the idea seems crazy, but Blizzard is crazy like a fox. They understand and implement the power of characters better than anyone else.

Still, it seems to make more sense to see how Warcraft the movie fares when it’s released in June of 2016, and then build a movie studio.

I have to wonder if the huge entertainment industry movement towards streaming decreases the entry costs to such an effort, and of course Blizzard intends to reap benefits from cross promotion.


Weekly Wyrm ~ Virtual Reality And A New eSports League

video game art
This week NVidia caught a big bid on Wall Street, with buzz and upgraded outlooks for Virtual Reality plus new products, on top of a VR demonstration at EGX in Europe.

Netflix showed off a new app letting you watch movies in a virtual living room. I’m skeptical. You’re still wearing a heavy thing on your head. You can’t move your head without the room and screen jiggling. You can’t sip your wine without knocking it over or dribbling it down your chin.

VR-enabled PCs are expected from both NVidia and AMD. Some new benchmarks came out comparing NVidia and AMD cards this week, and they are running equal.

While the Wall Street boys have tent poles for VR possibilities, Turner Broadcasting has a new tent pole for eSports, announcing this week a new industry leading league featuring Counter-Strike.

“We are proud to establish a leadership position in this rapidly growing arena, which I see as a tent pole for the next chapter of TBS,” said Kevin Reilly, president of TBS and TNT, chief creative officer for Turner.

We’ll see if a cable network can actually establish a “leadership position” in the industry. This kitty is skeptical. Who has cable anymore? Who watches TBS? I’m a PC mole, so I barely relate to TV watching anymore, much less in a living room.

TBS is a traditional broadcaster of basketball. eSports going prime time is worth notice, but I watch eSports every night primetime already on Twitch. So. I don’t need TBS, and that’s the challenge PCWorld points out.


Personal


This week I battled to rank 15 in Hearthstone for the rare golden card reward, plus golden common. I’m not super motivated at the moment to try for rank 10, earning a second golden common.

I’ve improved my game by playing more, but I can hardly put together any real decks since I don’t have the cards, even after playing for a year and a half. I made a list of all the cards I would like, or need, and it’s really long. I almost want to play WoW again because of Hearthstone.

Otherwise, I was doing art this week for my game project, shown in the image. This image shows the Greeting/Gift House in the Acacia Courtyard. You can talk with the trees.


Rift: Game Is In Great Shape, Announcement Coming (+ Gaming Stock Commentary)

In response to player concerns today about the future of Rift, community manager Ocho had this to say in the forums:

“So let’s get to some facts:

  • The RIFT Dev team is the largest Dev team I’ve ever worked with in almost a decade of working on triple A MMOs.
  • The team has grown over the last year and a half, and hiring for the team continues.
  • Population in RIFT is strong, lots of people play RIFT and lots of new people continue to start to play RIFT.
  • Profits from RIFT are certainly reinvested in RIFT. AA took 0 devs from RIFT. None, nada, zilch.
  • RIFT is in zero danger. We’re really excited about the future, right now is a great time to be playing or working on RIFT. …
  • We’re not only reusing old content, we’re also developing new content. Keep your eyes out over the next couple weeks, we might be announcing something.”

– Ocho

This is great news, since this kitty has also been a little worried.

This week I capped my rogue alt, and I continue close to picking up a few pieces of raid gear earned for my main by weeklies and dailies instead of raiding. I’m also enjoying the creative and quirky nightmare saga story.

The second act released yesterday. The return of old classic characters doesn’t bring much life to them (so far), and we mostly see them as generic quest-advancers. The third act of the saga also supposedly forces you to do a lot of PvP and NTE dungeons.

I disagree with this design, even if it’s to justify the epic weapon you can theoretically get when it’s all over. There are two main types of players:

  • Players for whom this is just same-old grinding to pad out the saga.
  • Players for whom this is horrible and will spend an entire weekend trying to queue for PUG DPS and beat five dungeons, or queuing PvP and hating Trion the entire time.

Just doesn’t seem like a winning scheme to me.


Video Game Stocks


Electronic Arts (EA) and Microsoft (MSFT) both had solid earnings reports this week, so hopefully these will be long term for my paltry little portfolio, and I can ease up on my nine-month quest (right before the stock market goes off a cliff, possibly.)

How can Microsoft compete with Apple and Google? By uniting your PC in an ecosystem with your other devices and monetizing by applying what they’ve learned from Free-To-Play video games. I plan to buy a Lumia soon. My Samsung tablet completely fails to recognize my Windows 7 PC.

You’ll also be able to stream XBOX to PC with Windows 10, or stream console-quality games to your PC without an XBOX using the cloud, which Microsoft demonstrated yesterday.

If you need any more good news for Microsoft, China announced this week that it will now allow game consoles to be sold in China after a 15 year ban. This is probably more better for Sony and Nintendo.

My third tech pick is still Equinix (EQIX), a cloud pipeline and data center owner. They are allied with Microsoft’s Azure cloud services, which I hope will eventually win against Amazon’s huge cloud. Who wants to trust Amazon with their entire corporate business and security if the other choice is the Microsoft on your PCs?

I also still hold AT&T (T), which is now FCC-approved to merge with DirectTV, with an expectation of leveraging their scale to produce their own competitive over-the-top video streaming service like everyone else.

Nvidia’s (NVDA) stock continues to head into the abyss with PCs and chips, although the stock is super tempting as it dips below $20. The future of virtual reality in video games and in general might see Nvidia as a big player.

As TAGN reported, Blizzard (ATVI) announces results next week on 8/4, followed by an announcement of a new expansion a few days later on 8/6. Interesting.

In the last two quarters, Blizzard reported strong results and the stock popped. Both times I sold and took small profits. The stock might pop again, but right now Wall Street seems to be in a mood to sell any stocks after their results hit print.

Especially if a stock ran up into its earnings announcement.

I would not be betting on Blizzard’s stock to be higher the day after it reports. If ATVI sells off hard, it might be a buying opportunity, especially if the Wall Street boys aren’t completely up to speed with the expansion deal.

Also, if Blizzard is announcing their expansion earlier than normal at Gamescom, then maybe they are saving something even bigger for Blizzcon in November?


Weekly Wyrm: Achievement Complete

game screen

This week I’m working on my fantasy RPG, because last week I finished the final edit of my fourth novel, wrapping up eight months of working almost every minute of every day. My novels are epic length (130k+ words). I’ll start publishing this fall.

So I think I’ve written the same amount as Tolkien at this point. I have five books–a trilogy and two one-offs that expand on the most important characters and settings (Earth, Tartarus, Elysium, and Heaven). These add to my published short stories.

My novels aren’t pure genius, but they aren’t crap either. They’re *so* much better from having been written all at once.

All five novels have had 10-30 full re-writes or revisions over fifteen years. I took two years off work. I tortured, maimed, murdered, and enslaved a respectable number of characters who had perfectly nice lives before I came along.

I invented my own language–Demonic.

Instead of using a profound Tolkien knowledge of linguistics to create Demonic, I channeled the syllables from an Atlantean spirit guide named Neemoo. So don’t make fun of my Demonic language, because Neemoo is just a boy, and you might hurt his feelings.

Do I even read novels anymore? No. I’ve read a thousand works of fiction, but almost none in two decades. I was busy writing for like 10,000 hours.


*Must* You Use The Product To Be Good At Making It?


I was thinking today that I don’t agree with Linda “Brasse” Carlson‘s hiring strategy, as discussed in a previous post here about Trion’s livestream, where Linda and company were talking about getting hired at Trion.

Linda wants to hire people who are passionate about video games, but that seems like only hiring carpenters and plumbers who are passionate about “houses”–i.e. passionate about living in houses, decorating houses, a nice patio for barbecuing, a foyer to die for, raising a family in a house, and enjoying the fruits of houses.

Was Howard Roark (Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead) passionate about office buildings? No. He was passionate about designing and building buildings. He didn’t give a rat’s ass about the stuffed shirts who lived and worked in those buildings. He just wanted to cut the crap and reach for his vision.

Gamers often lambaste devs with the suspicion that they don’t even play their own games. That’s probably true most of the time, but that doesn’t mean they can’t raise the roofbeams like nobody’s business.

There are too many metaphors to even start supporting my point, and Linda Carlson’s point is probably more complicated in terms of human resources. Walter White (Heisenberg) also says no, and video games seem a lot like methamphetamine.


RPG Writing Ruminations


So this week I’m back on my video game project. I’m posting a screenshot here of my interface so far (open in a new tab to see a larger size). The game is playable except for combat, which needs a lot of (boring) thought about strength and intelligence and spells, and worse of all, animation.

Animation is a pain, precious.

I’ve made some important and interesting changes based on my observations of what worked and didn’t work in recent games I’ve played, mainly Pillars of Eternity. I wanted to write down my thoughts in a mini-developer diary.

The first companion characters in Pillars (Calisca and Heodan) are my favorites, and yet Pillars throws them away. This is a mistake. So why are these characters my faves? What qualities do they have, which the later characters don’t show, at least not right away?

Love-at-first-sight Bonding. I’m starting to wonder if the first people you meet in a game world form a special bond in your brain. It’s like being born into a new world, and your mind grasps onto the first friendly face you see. That’s why the first characters are so important.

Of course, the most important character in the story is you, the player.

Calisca and Heodan have strong goals. In the Pillars opening sequences, this means survival against an immediate threat. My Jedi master of writing, Jack Bickham, stresses the importance of the immediacy and realness of the threat. Pillars nails this.

Goals are imperative for NPCs. We can do better than “sure I’ll come along, why not, safety in numbers, I wouldn’t mind–”

Calisca and Heodan have inter-character conflict. Right away Calisca and Heodan are at odds over which path to take. You decide, and there are consequences. The only way this amazing starting survival scenario in the cave could be stronger is if your decision develops your own character a little more.

Conflict is super-important not only to create tension and move the plot forward, but also to develop characters with emotion. So I need to hit these important points with the NPCs. Conflict, goals, and the first characters you meet are highly important. I re-wrote the beginning of my game (again) because of these observations.


Weekly Wyrm ~ Kiss This, Blizzard. Pulitzer Prize For PoE.

pillars of eternity dialog imagePillars of Eternity released a week ago and received strong reviews online with a Metascore of 91%, handily slaying Dragon Age: Inquisition, which stands at a respectable 85%.

I just now purchased PoE, and I’m looking forward to playing it tonight. Obsidian released the first patch for PoE, 1.03 on Steam this morning.

The game is built on the Baldur’s Gate isometric Infinity Engine. The writing is supposedly brilliant. A reviewer on Steam said the writing team of Chris Avellone, Josh Sawyer, Feargus Urquhart et. al. should win a Pulitzer Prize.

I watched Cohh stream PoE for a few hours last weekend. I was impressed by PoE, even if the game looks a little too familiar at times.

PoE uses a text/voice combo to convey the story, setting, and characters. Since the arrival of full voice-overs (ESO and SWTOR), I’ve really been a defender of text. I hope game history will show that a combo like PoE is better than full voice-overs.

PoE uses a writing style that includes a lot more action and emotes in the text than ‘normal’, which is very interesting. I personally use a lot of action tags (or beats), in my fiction.

pillars of eternity dialog imageAction conveyed through text may also offer a cheap substitute for facial animations in a game where you can’t see the faces well.

I remember facial animations being a part of marketing for Fallout 2, a game made way back in 1998 by the same developers as PoE, when Avellone and Urquhart were helming Black Isle Studios.

PoE is going on the cheap, replacing the animated faces with text descriptions (and probably an animator with a writer, which doesn’t happen often enough). PoE was kickstarted for 4 million. I wonder how that budget compares to Fallout 2.


Torment: Tides of Numenera


If you like PoE or this genre, don’t forget that Torment: Tides of Numenera is also scheduled to release this year, and it’s also a Chris Avellone (and others) writing production.

Torment is supposed to be “primarily story-driven, giving greater emphasis on interaction with the world and characters, with combat and item accumulation taking a secondary role.”

Tides also has an award-winning erotica writer on its staff, while PoE offers no scripted, evolving character romances. For me, this is a strike against PoE, and this issue literally pulled my paw back from the buy button at one point last weekend.

It’s fantastic to see this classic genre making a comeback. I’m worried that PoE has lots of strategic combat. Wave after wave of enemies were the reason I quit playing Wasteland 2 and Baldur’s Gate Enhanced, and also the reason I didn’t buy Diablo 3 on a 50% off sale last weekend.

Thankfully PoE offers an “easy” mode. So, we’ll see.

Escapist dropped an article this week on eight amazing isometric RPGs. I’ve played them all except Divinity. Torment should be on the list instead of Icewind Dale, in my opinion.


Hearthstone: Blackrock Mountain


So what made me buy PoE today? Hearthstone’s Blackrock Mountain released yesterday.

I logged in ready to play what I’d paid for, but only one wing released. Why would I want to play just 20% of an 8-hour (or whatever) expansion, once per week, for the next month and a half?

I asked in the forums why Blizzard is releasing Blackrock strung out in little weekly pieces like a TV serial, and my legitimate question was insulted and buried in immature negativity.

Blizzard also put a new daily quest in Hearthstone this week – a quest that makes you watch a friend win a game to complete your quest. This quest isn’t a special one-timer.

It’s implemented on purpose to fill up one of your three slots – annoying you, hindering your questing, re-appearing if you reroll it, and most importantly – getting you to invite your friends.

Blizzard is also sweetening their expansion by advertising a “free” card back, while calling the card back a “limited edition” in their advertising. New card backs come out all the time. They have no real value.

I borrowed some ‘friends’ off of the forums, but this whole scene just feels really manipulative suddenly. Hearthstone is Free-To-Play, but I’ve been paying. For some reason I expected more class from Blizzard.


Elder Scrolls: Online


So I’m done with Hearthstone. I’ve just downloaded 14GB of Pillars of Eternity, and I’m also back playing Elder Scrolls Online.

I was happy to see a revamped starting sequence in Elder Scrolls that helps you establish a friend in Lyris and connect with real emotion. It’s working much better. The story is still a little opaque, but hardly more so than Rift, and it’s more personal.

In this week of headline news about Indiana’s new laws allowing religious discrimination against LGBTQ people, I’m also pleased to support Elder Scrolls because Zenimax/Bethesda supports the LGBT community. So happy gaming, whatever you’re playing.


More Reading on Pillars of Eternity:


Overview Video of Pillars of Eternity on MMORPG