Final Fantasy XIV Open Beta Delayed

I am disappoint. I was looking forward to giving Final Fantasy XIV a short whirl this week without having to dish out $60 at launch. Oh well, maybe the beta won't be pushed back too long (or outright cancelled). It’s a little worrisome that there would be critical bugs severe enough to completely pull the installer and the entire beta 3 weeks before the launch date. But on the other hand, name one large MMO with a perfect and unhithered launch? I assume that within 3 to 6 months time most of the critical bugs and server load issues will have been smoothed out. That time period is when we need to be taking a more critical look at both the game and Square Enix’s ability to support it.

That said, I still hold very little faith in Square Enix to ever hold the ability to make a decent MMO or single player RPG ever again, based off of the notable decline in their flagship titles. Unless major positive change happens, gone are the days of the JRPG dynasties. But then again, I’ve become somewhat of an MMO skeptic and obviously WoW biased. I hope I’m wrong and that it is a legitimately good game, regardless of my disinterest in subscribing.

Since I’m on the topic of FFXIV: Many people have been abuzz about the XP capping. I don’t comment too much without actually having played the game (QQ) but my question is: Is it really necessary to gate content to that extent? And, will it work toward a more casual friendly game or will it just frustrate people? All MMOs gate content to some extent, but a hard cap seems pretty harsh. I guess it depends on how much non-grind content is available. If there are for example, very comprehensive secondary systems (like crafting), it might not be that bad of a change.

But still, WoW currently rewards players for spending some time away from the game by rewarding rest experience. I have always been a fan of positive reinforcement over punishment. Penalizing the hardcore player base, the one demographic willing to stick with it through thick and thin does not seem to be that wise of a choice. I mean, charging prospective players $13 a month and then arbitrarily dictating exactly how long they can play? What? I am an adult and can dictate my own time usage. As for minors, just put a parental lock in place. That’s my 2 cents.

The Nature of Role-Playing

When people talk about where role-playing games come from, I'm pretty sure that pen and paper systems like Dungeons & Dragons come to mind. In truth, people have been role-playing for centuries, spanning from improvisational theater to murder mystery types of parlor games to even a child's game of pretend, even though we don't think of them as role-playing games.

So that begs the question: What exactly is a role-playing game? The term "role-playing" in modern times has been thrown around so much that is has seemingly lost its meaning. The traditional definition of a role-playing game encompasses a fairly wide range of games in which a player assumes a role in a fictitious setting. Success and failures within the game are determined by a set of rules and guidelines. The goal of any good role-playing game is to tell a collaborative story, crafted out of the choices and consequences of its players.

This is how it usually works: Each player chooses or is assigned a role or a character. Each player is in turn in charge of using that character to interact with the setting for the sake of progressing the narrative. The point is that, the players are responsible for choosing paths from their character's point of view. It's all about viewing something from another person's perspective and deciding what they would do, not you.

The game world, at least in a traditional pen and paper role-playing campaign is represented by a dungeon master, who is generally in charge of managing the setting and creating any details or encounters that the players would come across on their adventure. The dungeon masters also serves as a referee, enforcing the game's rules and providing player guidance. In a computer based RPG (CRPG), the dungeon master is represented by the AI.

So what makes a computer game apart of the role-playing game genre? First and foremost: Computer role-playing game is a misnomer: CRPGs lack the distinct ability to allow players to choose. Many of the newer RPGs such as Mass Effect, do allow for some degree of choice but ultimately lack the ability to create emergent stories based solely upon a player's actions. At heart, a role-playing game is a story created by its players. The setting is just a construct.

A more accurate description would be interactive fiction. The player assumes the role of a character and plays through a predefined story. The game still tells a story, but a linear one. All video game narratives are linear, some just hide it better than others. But if having a story and playing an entity is the definition of a CRPG, then all computers games would be of that genre. In Mario you assume the role of Mario on a quest to save the princess. In Half-Life, a game that is ironically closer to a role-playing game than many actual CRPGs, you are for all intents and purposes Gordon Freeman. Valve has been very careful about not breaking your point of view within the game.

However, neither of these games, to say the last, are considered even close to CRPG by modern standards. Traditional CRPGs were defined by gameplay, being largely stat based and heavily influenced by D&D. Nowadays, the RPG genre spans such a wide variety of titles that gameplay itself is almost irrelevant to its definition. So again, what exactly defined a computer based role-playing game? What exact criteria separates an RPG from a non-RPG? Two things:

  1. Character progression: All CRPGs have either a leveling or an advanced skill/stat based character progression system in effect. Above all game mechanics and combat systems, character progression is the one technical element that all CRPGs have in common.
  2. A narrative: A narrative must contain (my loose definition) a setting, characters, conflict, story and dialogue. In regards to computer games, role-playing games usually have more developed story interaction than most other games of other genres. By definition, all RPGs feature a character or role that the player fills.

Both Deus Ex and Half-Life are first person shooters yet only one is considered to be a part of the role-playing genre. Even though Half-Life, as mentioned before, could arguably be truer to a role-playing game than most actual CRPGs, it is not because it has no character progression system in place. The same is true of many other RPG sub-genres: For example: Final Fantasy Tactics vs StarCraft, Puzzle Quest vs Bejeweled. Though many games have a narrative, in order to be considered a CRPG they must also have character progression.

Interesting exception: Sleep is Death. It's a two-player collaborative story telling game. One person creates and controls the world the other persons plays an entity or a character in that world. The player and creator alternate turns: The player interacts, moves or speaks and the creator in turn alters the world. Each turn is automatically screenshotted and compiled into a story. That's the closest thing to role-playing that I've ever seen in a computer game. Specifically because of the role player choice has within the game and the focus on actual story telling.

So will we ever see a "true" single-player or massively multiplayer role-playing game? One day, but not now. At the moment I don't think that gaming technology has progressed to the point of being able to create a fully emergent story. But that said, the CRPG genre is constantly changing so the next great game could be just around the corner. I don't think I covered everything that I wanted to cover in this post. So at some point I would like to type out at least two more articles: 1. The Appeal of Role-Playing, why we like it and what we learn. 2. Eastern vs Western Style CRPGs.

...Then Along Came a Nuke

  • Posted on: August 25, 2010
  • By: Keiya
  • Category:
    WoW

I was linked a few YouTube videos of absolutely hilarious Cataclysm quests (obviously, minor spoilers in the video links). These are the kind of quests that I am looking forward to when the expansion pack finally rolls around at the end of this year; Non-standard, quirky and fun. Not so much WoW play lately other than some raiding, some PvP, and some putzing around on my hunter who by the way, has another piece of ICC loot to strap on. One day I might even chant and gem it! If the group permits, I so want to sneak him into Lady Deathwhisper for the bow. No one else needs it right?

Back to the main topic: Another "Keiya's game replay of the moment" post. I still haven't had a chance to get some good 1v1 time on. By the time I finish eating and doing whatever around the house after I get home from work, my lovely 2v2 partner is ready to play <3. So this is another 2v2 TP vs TP game on Novice Discord IV. I had a lot of fun playing this one, mostly because I managed to play around with and get a few nukes off towards the end of the match. Also, Viking dancing is kind of fun. Land, fly, land fly...

Ghosts are fun to fiddle around with even though they seem to be fairly micro intensive. I am still pretty fail at this whole micro and rock, paper, scissors thing. At some point in the near future I think I am going to try branching out from my typical 111 banshee rush opener. It's feeling like a one trick pony at this point. Though to be fair, the practice league maps seem to be all of the novice flavor with the stupid rock blockades in the middle. I guess it helps to fend off early waves but it makes it hard to scout and to rush out any ground units without going for a medivac drop or something like that.

StarCraft II has some crazy fun custom maps out there. We have been playing a series of tower defense maps for the past couple of days. There's a good classic 50 wave TD map based off of Elemental Tower Defense for Warcraft 3. There were also a couple of good co-op base defense maps available. If I can remember what the name of any of these maps I will edit this post with a link.

Edit: It's called Standard Tower Defense.

Q4 2010 Computer Upgrades

  • Posted on: August 21, 2010
  • By: Keiya
  • Category:

I was fiddling with my computer about a month or go for the sake of installing a VGA slot fan which I think to be honest, does jack shit but whatever; I don't feel like removing it (I think I'm done with single slot VGA fans by the way. Noisy ass fans). My current card, which is finally starting to show its age, is an EVGA 512MB 8800gt. It really wasn't all that bad of a value considering that I have had it for almost 3 years. It will still run most things at a reasonable frame rate at high and very high settings, but the temperature and noise rise greatly as a result.

The room in which my computer resides is warm but not warm enough to warrant running the air conditioner unless it is unbearably hot outside. Consequently, my video card has been running at range of 80 to 84 degrees Celsius on the hotter days this summer (idling at 55 to 60 degrees Celcius); Which is within the card's normal upper temperature range (it runs hot), but makes the fan speed ramp up to 100%. BZZZZZZZZZZZZZ. If it bothers me that much I can add an aftermarket cooler, but that is a pointless expenditure on a 3 year old video card.

But anyway, long story short: My original intention was to buy a new card when I built this machine (but Newegg as well as every other vendor was out of the card that I had wanted). Now that NVIDIA has released their new line of reasonably priced mid-range cards, I am thinking of getting one soonish. Maybe in September or October (but definitely before Cataclysm releases), depending on what else is available. I don't want to spend more than $200 to $250; I am going for the best value per performance.

This is the card that I am considering: The Gigabyte 1GB 460 GTX. I am also thinking of just maxing out the last two RAM slots on my motherboard since it will only cost about $100 more. I regret not doing so when I built this machine. Because of my stupid huge ass CPU cooler, I will either have to remove and re-seat it or figure out a way of prying off of the fan clips without breaking them in order to fill up the last two slots. I wasn't actually sure if there would be enough overhead clearance for another two sticks + the RAM heatsinks but I checked on that when I installed the slot cooler. There should be enough clearance.

Victory Against Humans

We have been braving the toils of battle.net against real people with both success and failure, but mostly success! The actual outcome of our gaming evenings have been based off of a series of d20 rolls: 1 through 9 for real people and 10 through 20 for custom AI games. Our first few wins were overwhelming victories against people who were obviously new. Game #4 was the first “real” opponent who made an effort to attack. I don’t know how the practice league works, but it seems like were are being paired with more skilled people the more we play. Just for the heck of it I have been jotting down short notes about some of the matches that we have played throughout the week. Here are a couple of highlights:

3rd game: We got complacent after the first two wins and having little to no defense, pretty much got rolled over very early in the game. We also got rolled over during our 5th game  but I am pretty sure that was just due to the other person being better :P. I like how you can kind of sort of gauge your opponents skill level based off of their SC2 portrait on the game load screen. If they have one of the portraits that is not unlocked by a normal campaign play-through odds are that the game is going to be fairly short lol.

4th game: This match was a lot of fun because our opponents were decent. They got a good mid-game stalker/viking rush off. Mothership and banshee spam still prevailed though I feel as if we should be exploring other build options at this point. First decent win \o/

8 through 10: We went double Terran and “experimented” with viking rushing. Basically, just going 111 build with a reactor on the starport to shit out vikings as much as possible. It worked well twice; The first game being an 11 minute win, the second game being an 18 minute win. The third game was a massive failure because something uuuuh bad happened lol. 

11th game: Even match, they had half of the map and we had half of the map. They surrendered almost exactly at the one hour mark, ending a huge no resources left on the map standoff. That was a very fun match. I spent a not so insignificant portion of my time faffing about turtling my base because I wasn’t sure what else to do. I should have realized that the southern zerg base was a lost cause and sent units up to help my partner overtake and hold the top part of the map earlier on. And yay, I also learned a couple of nuking and siege tricks over voice chat courtesy of my lovely 2v2 partner <3.

I really like the replays, we have been examining and commenting on each interesting vs match. I have gotten reasonably okay at turtling and eliminating expansions, ultimately leading to wins by resource attrition. Still not good at keeping constant, early pressure on other players. You see this micromanagement thing is uuuh tricky. This is what I have learned so far in my two+ weeks of playing. I still intend on learning to play a race that is not Terran at some point.

  1. Terrans should wall off their ramp as early as possible to prevent scouting and to help defend against early rushes. Apparently more cleaver people are able to craft ramp funnels around units and bunkers, redirecting an invading force around armed units.
  2. Supply depot walls make reasonable fodder. They will also retract into the ground with you select them and press “r”. In practical terms, it means that they make great gates.
  3. Ultimately, StarCraft is a resource strategy game. No minerals = no units.
  4. Expand early and try to prevent your opponent from expanding.
  5. The general strategy, afaik, seems to be: Attack and retreat attack and retreat. Harass early and as often as possible. Pull out to avoid excessive unit loss; The goal of an early rush is to do more economic damage to your opponent. Reapers can kite all level 1 units but can be countered by like, placing a bunker or a marauder at your mineral line.
  6. You can queue unit actions by holding shift and right clicking. Awesome for siege tanks: Hold shift, right click, siege mode, go do something else. Also awesome for scouting: Right click all over the map, let the unit scout, do something else. I NEVER KNEW THIS.
  7. You can mix and match Terran building addons. Need a tech lab on your factory right away? Lift off and swap it out with something else that has a tech lab...as long as your base isn’t retardedly layed out like mine usually is. Also good for pre-building expansions so that say, you will be able to start pushing out Banshees immediately without having to wait for a tech lab to build. An idle building is a useless building.

A couple of replays are included below for posterity. I still need to hop on and do some 1v1 matches. In fact, I was planning on doing that earlier today but I uuh had to be productive this weekend and step away from my computer for a good portion of the day.

    Scott Pilgrim (The Comic Series)

    I admit, I have known about the Scott Pilgrim series for some time, heard that it was good, but just put off reading it because I figured that it would either be overly goofy or some lame action manga rip off. Well, it's not. In fact, it's probably one of the better comics that I have read. I know that both the movie and the game will have already been released by the time I bother posting this entry but, go pick up the graphic novels if you have a chance. It's not that long of a series at 6 volumes but it's well worth reading.

    If you are put off by the art style for some reason, don't be. Bryan Lee O'Malley follows his own style: Relatively simple character designs against detailed background. The overall plot is a simple and somewhat ludicrous story that is at heart, an honest story about a young man's post college struggles with life, love and himself. So, if you are in that age category, go read this series because it should resonate with you on some level.

    The fight scenes are good, but not really the focus of the story. Most of the plot is driven by character interactions and dialogue. In fact, I would say that the characters themselves are defined by their voice and interactions and not by their character design. Without spoiling the last volume, I really liked the closure and the character growth the last volume offered. The series has a good message; It's a fun read without being too heavy.

    I've Been Playing on BNet Too Much

    Somewhat related to my previous post, this comic seemed to resonate with me. We were adventurous this weekend and played a 2v2 co-op game against hard AI opponents. We got curb stomped pretty badly during an early AI rush the first time. Subsequent tries on Saturday and Sunday evening versus the hard AI were successful (though my lovely co-op partner had to come to my rescue several times <3). He shits out cannons and what not and I shit out marines and what not. Together we shit things out.

    We also managed to beat a 2v1 co-op game against one AI opponent on insane. Though I am not sure that really counted. We may have uuuh cheesed the AI a bit as shown in the screenshot above. For some reason, the AI doesn't like attacking Protoss Motherships. I mean, I stashed an entire army of banshees underneath it and the computer just let it float around killing everything?

    I can consistently beat the AI on medium solo if I defend against the first wave and don't flub my opening game; Still don't get how people build so fast, but I officially consider myself graduated from remedial StarCraft school! I guess I should play games against actual Battle.net people now that I officially don't suck too much. So I guess the secret to getting better at something is to just do it a whole lot. If anyone is interested, a couple of replays are attached below for the hell of it.

    So anyway, guess what I have been playing in lieu of WoW for most of the week :P. The yearly summer wave of attendance attrition in addition to pre-Cataclysm apathy is sort of killing the 25-man raids as of late (doesn't help that it's a busy social period for most folk)s. 25-man ICC didn't pan out on Friday so we made it a guild 10-man run. Oh, and my stupid loot sponge hunter was invited along and boy did he sponge loot. His gear score went up from 3k to 3.6k! At this rate, all of his green and blue items may be replaced before the expansion. Maybe I can sneak him for Lady Deathwhisper next week. I kind of want that bow >_<.

    I have been experimenting with Mumble this weekend. It's an open source voice chat alternative to Team Speak and Ventrilo. There is a video floating around on YouTube comparing the latency between game chat clients: Mumble's voice quality is fantastic with almost no latency (I have a bad habit of talking over people because of the chat lag). It doesn't seem to resource intensive either; But then again, I only have and will probably only have two people on the chat server at any time ever. The client is slightly more finicky to setup though and voices still sounds little roboty every once in a while. I am not sure if it is a server side thing or some setting in the client.

    Also: Are RP servers really that bad? Do horny players really sit in Goldshire and fondle each other's digital crotches out in public all day long? Out of curiosity in response to this wow.com post, I rolled a human character Saturday morning on Moon Guard. I don't know, maybe everyone went moved over to another server already? Or maybe Blizzard already started cracking down on people. You know, you know that your realm is pretty damn bad when an employee is assigned to patrol your specific server.

    This (screenshot on the right) was the only interesting thing that happened.

    AFK StarCraft 2

    Absolutely nothing productive was accomplished this past weekend. I didn't do any chores, I didn't run, I didn't work on any projects. Hell, I only left the house twice: once to quickly pick up something and another time to eat. A good chunk of my time, obviously, was spent fawning various games ending in the word "craft."

    I am not a huge real-time strategy player and I never latched on to the original StarCraft. I mean, I enjoy playing RTSs but unless the campaign is compelling most games of this genre are forgotten in a week. In fact, I was going to hold off on purchasing StarCraft II but caved in because everyone was...talking about it. The single player campaign has a surprising amount of variety in terms of mechanics and design for a strategy game. I am surprised at how much fun I am having playing this game.

    I've really only played solo matches and co-op matches against the AI. One day I will reach the stage where I feel the urge to compete against actual human beings. But first I need to master playing against he AI on medium! (I am sad. I know). If anyone uuh can point me in the direction of a good newbie guide I would be most appreciative.