Updated Sims 4 Wishlist

In lieu of the post embargo Sims 4 news influx, here’s a an updated list/commentary on things that I would like to see in The Sims 4. First and foremost, despite the lack of swimming pools, toddlers, and the other numerous features that were cut, what I really really want from The Sims 4 above all else is a more stable base engine. By stable I mean, a game engine that doesn’t corrupt saves or critically glitch out regularly and with every expansion pack.

If EA/Maxis can release a game that isn’t plagued by constant technical and memory issues (like The Sims 3 and predecessors), that’s a major kudos in my book even if it comes at the expense of other features. Along the lines of performance and more intelligent sims, I would love it if The Sims 4 had better pathing so that half of the day isn’t spent resolving a conflict between two sims attempting to pass through the same door or stuck elsewhere in the neighborhood.

Genetics

I would love to see genetics return to The Sims 4 (to my understanding, it has). The Sims 2 had an actual simulated genetics system in which dominant and recessive phenotypes were passed down from parents to children for hair, eyes, and skin tones. If I recall correctly, personality traits could also be inherited as well. Genetics in the Sims 3 were grossly simplified. Instead of using a genetics system, randomly chosen characteristics were chosen from the parents as well as previous generations. There is unfortunately, a fairly high chance of mutation, 10% if I recall correctly. I would for example, receiving blond haired children from a family of brunettes. That’s not to mention odd problems such as dyed hair being passed down to children.

Unique/distinct personalities

Looking forward to playing with the emotions system. I did see one gameplay video however (forgot which one, my bad) stating that Maxis had put a lot of time and effort into the new emotion facial expressions and animations that were unfortunately, often missed given that many simmers tend to toggle between pause and max speed.

Better town customization tools

It does not appear that we are going to get any sort of official world building tool any time soon but from the previews that were just released, it appears that you will be able to edit public lots on the fly without having to exit out into town edit mode, select a lot, etc. Kind of similar to how you would enter build mode on your own lot.

The return of in-game storytelling tools

If I recall correctly, one of the previous sims games (it was either the first or second) had an in-game photo album that would allow you to select screenshots, annotate them, and even export/upload the album to the sims exchange. I would love to see a feature like that return in The Sims 4.

Odds and Ends: July 25th 2014

There's just not a whole lot of new and interesting media to play or watch now, is there? I say that as I am thumbing through my ginourmous backlog of purchased, undownloaded, and unplayed Steam games. I think the only new titles releasing anytime soon that I am looking forward to playing would be The Sims 4 (even though I know that it is a complete money trap) and Destiny.

Hearthstone
As just about everyone on the internet is aware, Curse of Naxxramas went live this past Tuesday and as such, I picked up Hearthstone again. I am having fun with my paladin taunt deck and hunter zoo deck though unfortunately, since I never played all that much in the first place, I still have quite a few cards to unlock before I can build the decks that I really want. I am pretty dead set on not spending any real life money purchasing card packs so, a lot of play time ahead.

Ingress
It’s like a multi-player faction vs faction version of Nintendo 3DS StreetPass. Mechanically, there’s not a whole lot to it other than opening the app and clicking on a Portal of there happens to be one nearby. The only actual element of skill involved, if you can even call it skill, is the amount of time that you have spent tapping on your phone and happening to live or work close to a portal. But that said, it’s actually a lot of fun and apparently absolutely everyone I know plays. I really like how Ingress encourages community play and the visitation of places that they may not have considered visiting if it wasn’t for the game. Just about every mural, statue, and public art display has a portal so at some point in the near future, I will probably go walking around, looking at art, and tapping on my phone. Oh: This game eats battery life.

Clash of Clans
I am currently TH5 and at the point where upgrading things takes at least a day if not multiple days so play time for this particular title has slowed down drastically as I don't really want to upgrade to TH6 without upgrading everything to as close as max as possible.

The Early Access Game Problem

Early access game programs are tricky because there’s no definitive line as to when they are and are not appropriate; They fall into a gray area. An early access program can make perfect sense for certain titles whereas for others, no so much. Minecraft I suppose, would be the natural example of an early release title that has succeeded to almost an extreme extent, I would say mostly in part to it being on a continuous development cycle. Though it had a hard release date separating the full release of Minecraft from the alpha and beta, it’s just one of those games that receives regular updates that adds game content beyond the standard bug fix patch.

So, for games like Minecraft, games that have developers who are transparent about the state of their game, what is planned for it, when updates will be released, and so forth, early access programs are great and make a lot of sense. However, for every jewel, there has to be at least a dozen games with frustratingly slow updates or worse yet, games that seem to completely stall out once they receive their initial influx of cash. It is within those types of titles that the problem lies. Overall, using an unfinished game as a business strategy concerns me and I feel that it sets a bad precedent as it can and well, to be honest has, created the opportunity to use early access programs as a means for lazy funding. At worse, it can be abused as a blatant cash grab ala The War Z scandal.

I feel that retailers who have early access programs, need to be more apparent the a game is in pre-release and that the consumer is purchasing a title that is not yet complete. For example, DLC releases on Steam have a purple colored tag on the upper left corner of the game portrait. This tag is visible when viewing games on the front page and makes it fairly easy to see that a particular title is downloadable content and not a standalone game. It would be nice if early access games had something similar.

I do not think that a game developer or publisher should treat or advertise and early release title as if it were complete; That’s just...deception. I also feel that at the very least, a rough timeline if planned releases and what not should be added for the consumer’s benefit. It would also be nice to have some way of filtering out all early release games from the store. It just feels kind of shitty, in my personal opinion, when most of the games on the front page of Steam are early access titles; Lastly, a title that has been posted for early release should be fair game for reviews. Lastly, a title that has been posted for early release should be fair game for reviews. If you feel that your game is presentable and playable enough to the point where you are willing to charge the general public to download and play it, then you should be ready to accept any criticism, whether the actual game is finished or not.

There really isn’t anything wrong with offering a game for early release per se, so long as the developer/publisher is transparent about the state at which the game is being released in as well as with overall development progress. Ultimately, consumers do have the power to choose what they do and do not want to buy, early access release games included. Don’t want to play a game that’s not 100% finished? Well, there’s really nothing forcing you to. And to that extent, as long as it isn’t outright deception, I really have a difficult time feeling too bad for anyone who gets burned buying into a flopped early release. As a general rule of thumb, take a look at the status of the game that you are thinking of purchasing. If you would not be satisfied should development on the title suddenly halt, then you may want to reconsider your purchase.

There is certainly a risk that a sub-par game will be released or that the game project will be abandoned altogether; There have already been several cases in which this has happened. But that sort of risk is in the nature of buying a product before it has been finished. If you don’t like it, don’t support it or at the very least, do your homework on the studio and the progress of the game before dishing out cash. Also remember: You still do have the option of waiting for a more complete and polished product to be released. It boils down to patience I suppose.

Throwback Thursday 7/17/2014

  • Posted on: July 17, 2014
  • By: Keiya
  • Category:
    WoW

 

I was digging through old screenshots and I found one of the earlier screenshots of my husband and I before we started dating. Unfortunately, I was unable to find any of the Zul'Aman screenshots from before we guilded him; That would have been closer to when we first met. WoW isn't a perfect game and we had our share of in-game drama but we sure did have some good times.

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

I feel mildly ashamed that I let Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons sit in my Steam library for over half a year, fully knowing that it was a very good title that does not consume too much time (it is about 4 hours in length). Brothers is a third-person adventure game developed by Starbreeze Studios; It follows the journey and adventures of two brothers as they struggle to find a cure for their ill father. You can play technically Brothers with either a keyboard or a controller but I would highly recommend using a controller.

Single player co-op is probably the best wording that I can use to describe the gameplay: You control two brothers simultaneously to solve puzzles and progress within the game. The left stick and left trigger are used for one brother, the right stick and right trigger are used for the other. It is a control scheme that feels unique and is used to full advantage narratively to the point where Brothers is probably one of the few games to offer a near perfect marriage between narrative and gameplay.

One of the beautiful aspects about this game is that it tells a story with zero dialog. There is no flavor text, there is really no user interface, and all voices in the game are spoken in a fictitious language (ala Simlish). Aside from 2 or 3 diagrams showing the player how to use the controller, there are no in-game explanations and very little plot exposition; The entire story is dictated through action, body language, and tone of voice.

It is a gorgeous looking game with a stylized cartoon aesthetic, meaning that it probably run on just about anything. I guess if I had any criticisms it would be that the puzzles are satisfying to complete but not entirely that difficult, probably at least partially due to many of the puzzle mechanics being repeated quite often, such as the climbing puzzles, and the lever puzzles, etc. The controls are a bit awkward when the camera shifts around or really, any situation where you are forced to use the left stick to control the brothers on the right side of the screen and visa versa. I did not feel that the this detracted from the game experience, but it is worth noting.

If you can catch it on sale, Brothers literally costs a couple of dollars at most. It is still well worth picking up even at full price.

Clash of Clans [iOS]

After hearing about Clash of Clans on and off for about a year or so, I finally gave in and downloaded it (free-to-play). I guess what I expected was something akin to Rage of Bahamut or Guardian Cross, in that I was assuming it would be yet another thinly-veiled in-game purchase money making scheme with mechanics no more complicated than tapping one or two buttons every x seconds/minutes. I was pleasantly surprised with what I found instead: Clash of Clans is a decently polished and well fleshed out free-to-play resource management/base building strategy game. It’s kind of like a multi-player tower defense game.

There are 3 resources to manage: Gold, elixir and gems. The latter of which is available for in-app purchase (also obtainable in small amounts via unlocking achievements). Units, buildings, and upgrades cost a x amount of either gems or gold to build on top of a build time. Gems can be used to refill your gold and gems or to complete buildings instantly; That is, at least to my understanding based off of 3 days worth of play, the extent of the monetization in this game. There’s no invite referral bonus and there really isn’t any player tradable in-game currency or economy. I also don’t feel like I am being pushed to buy gems since everything within the game at this point is easily achievable by just playing the game or waiting for upgrades/buildings to finish. I guess, the mere fact that I felt compelled to dedicate an entire paragraph to basically say that this game doesn't feel like a scam says something about the state of mobile gaming, but whatever.

I don’t know what the Clash of Clans end game is like since I have not yet joined a clan. As of now it’s a pretty fun game. So if you are looking for something like this, I would highly recommend giving Clash of Clans a try.

The 2014 Steam Summer Sale

  • Posted on: July 4, 2014
  • By: Keiya
  • Category:

Another Steam Summer Sale has come and another Steam Summer Sale has gone. I used be be super jazzed about the Steam sales during the first and second iteration but at this point, I am fairly certain that I have graduated past the point of caring beyond checking  Steam once or twice a day. I highly suspect that this newfound lack in interest is mostly in part to me already owning virtually every sub $5 title that I could really ever want and well, not really having that much free gaming time.

There is a Steam library calculator floating around on the internet somewhere that is quite good at depicting the sad reality of having purchased hundreds if not over thousands of dollars worth of games and not having played many of them. On paper, my played status isn’t too bad; The site stated that about a third of my library has not been played. If you factor out all of the games that I have played for under 10 minutes, then it is probably  closer to half of my library, which isn't too great. I did end up buying two things. So this year’s haul:


Borderlands 2
I stopped playing Borderlands 1 about the time that I realized that it was effectively, a cheeky FPS non-massively multiplayer version of World of Warcraft; grindy questing mechanics and all. That said, it is clearly a game that was designed to be played in co-op versus single player and I probably should have played it as such but the disadvantage of picking up multiplayer games way past the peak is that there is frequently no one to coop with. Dave and I picked Borderlands 2 up during the Steam Sale: More of the same but more fun with other people.


To The Moon
I didn’t know too much about this game other than a handful of the YouTube streamers that I watch had said that the story was pretty decent if not kind of sad and that it was made using RPG Maker. Technically speaking, I am unsure if I can really classify To The Moon as a game in the traditional sense since I am not sure if it even has a failure state at any point. Regardless, this is probably one of the only games that I played and finished immediately after purchase. Gameplay is pretty basic to say the least, but I really enjoyed the story and the music. It was also only around $2.

Wildstar: Days 1 and 2

One of my awesome friends gave me one of her Wildstar guest passes, which has been allowing me play without having to drop $60. I am a human exile medic, soldier path. To be honest, I really don’t know what any of these character choice mean or imply in terms of leveling or end-game, but I figured that I would just roll with whatever and then reap the consequences of my decision later, assuming that I even choose to purchase the full game.

The character designs are a little too much on the cartoony side for my tastes, but that it a personal nitpick at best especially given my WoW background. That said, the game as a whole especially the outdoor environments look very well polished; Everything is vibrant and smooth with lots of detail to the point where many of my screenshots look like they were taken straight out of a concept art book. Pretty awesome.

Questing so far seems pretty typical to what one would expect from a modern MMO; I am unsure if there is much else to say about questing other than I am not sure that it is a good thing that quest trackers are pretty much a default feature in all new RPGs. Is this really what questing has come down to? Following the arrow? ...but that's more of a criticism of the genre as a whole than of the game itself.

The combat system has an action RPG element that is pretty fun. Most abilities are "free-form" in the sense that you don't have to click and select a target to attack. Instead, most attacks are AoE spells using something called the telegraph system. When you cast a spell, the area of effect will be layed out on the battlefield in the form of a colored shape, which will also indicate casting time, channeling, spell type, etc. The unique thing is that, when targets attack you can see their telegraphs as well, allowing you to move out of the way.

All-in-all there seems to be a much greater focus on action (light platforming, no auto attack, sprinting, etc). I look forward to exploring this system further. From what I hear, status effects will actual effect the way you play the game in the sense that when you are blinded your area of visibility is greatly reduced and so forth (versus being a statistic on the screen).

Transistor (PC)

Two new games that I have been interested were released recently: Transistor and Watch Dogs. Transistor was cheaper so I picked it up on Steam. It is an action role playing game by Supergiant Games, the studio behind Bastion. Transistor and Bastion share a lot of common denominators and at the surface level, appear to be fairly similar: Same colorful isometric stylized cartoon aesthetic, same genre (action roleplaying), very little exposition, same style of narrative style in that much of the story is dynamically narrated but this time in the form of an actual character (err talking word).

Transistor diverges from Bastion in terms of gameplay and overall tone. Though they share a similar aesthetic, Transistor is more technological noir in contact to Bastion’s apocalyptic wild west vibe if that makes any sense. Bastion was more or less, twitched based action whereas Transistor is fairly strategy oriented. Combat gameplay is split into two parts: There’s a real time combat aspect typical to any action game and then there is a planning mode that allows you to pause combat, queue up actions and moves, then resume combat to execute your plan.

As a whole, it’s a great game so far. But that said, it’s just not a game that grips on to me and makes me yearn to play it for more than about 30 to 45 minutes at a time. I am unsure if it is the game or of it is just me and my increasingly small game attention span/free time. I don’t know. Regardless, definitely worth a play.

Odds, Ends & Good Causes: May the 4th

First off: I guess this really isn't within the wheelhouse of topics that I usually post about on this site but if you can spare some change, a donation to support Team Ashely for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation would be very much appreciated. It's a good cause to support a good friend.

The 4 games that I have been playing recently are: Diablo III and FTL: Advanced Edition on my computer and then Threes and Neuroshima Hex on my phone (damn fine strategy board game available for both iOS and Android if anyone is looking for one). Diablo wise: I kind of want to switch back to my stun build because of the bracers that dropped last week, but I kind of don't want to give up the movement speed bonus from the Tempest Rush build despite the fact that I'm not sure it really is all that damage efficient. Well, that and the fact that it is a kind of a squishy build as I am almost completely reliant on movement speed bonuses, which is fine and dandy until I get jailed or teleported into the middle of a green/arcane/fire poo pile in between seven sided strike cooldowns :/.

Errata:

  • In between books at the moment. Deciding between either Wool by Hugh Howey or The Night Angel Trilogy by Brent Weeks.
  • Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children (Complete Edition) is now on Netflix. It's a great movie to watch if you can ignore things lot plot and physics.
  • Yesterday was a bachelorette party of sorts and well, a good time was had by all (beer, friends, and games). Also almost done with wedding stuff so, yay!

Site wise: I changed the layout/format of the seldom updated image gallery a bit and added a new category (I like birds and apparently they occupy like half of the photos that I take).

FTL: Advanced Edition

  • Posted on: April 30, 2014
  • By: Keiya
  • Category:

So FTL: Advanced Edition is pretty great and I am pretty sure that it has semi-offically replaced Diablo III: RoS as this week's gaming fix (possibly in part to the servers being kind of messed up the other day). But anyway, it's a pretty beefy update adding in new systems, a new race, new events, new weapons, UI improvements amongst other things. The new systems and new race and a decent level of strategy and depth to the existing game (yay clone bay + reconstructive teleporter combo). If for whatever reason you want to disable the new additions, you can go vanilla with an option on the new game screen.

So if you are like me and had forgotten that this game existed, it is definitely worth picking up again, especially given that Advanced Edition not only adds an expansion pack level of content to the game, but does so at no additional cost. If you don't own it, FTL only costs around 10 dollars if that. It is also now available on the iPad but not iPhone T_T. Overall, new additions or not FTL is probably one of the most fun that I have had getting blatantly and repeatedly screwed over in a game.

MMO Superstitions

  • Posted on: April 28, 2014
  • By: Keiya
  • Category:
    WoW

Dave and I were reminiscing about WoW the other day and got on the topic of MMO superstitions. For whatever reason back in OG Naxxramas, it was a pretty widespread belief that killing or not killing Mr. Bigglesworth would alter the loot drop quality, rate, and/or the boss difficulty to the point of guild drama outbreaks.

We used to have a weird superstition about loot seeding back in Vanilla and part of the Burning Crusade. Basically, loot drops aren’t determined upon boss death but are pre-determined when the instance ID is created. We strongly believed that whoever created the raid ID would in turn seed the drops that would appear (I am pretty sure that there was a blue post stating that a time stamp was used to seed the RNG and that there wasn’t anything that a player could do within the game to influence the outcome of the RNG). So every raid, we would intentionally have certain ‘lucky’ guild members create the raid and the raid ID.

Anyway, there was a period of time at around late Molten Core and early-ish Blackwing Lair where we would literally get almost nothing except for Warlock gear. I am pretty sure there were 3 consecutive weeks where Razorgore dropped double Nemesis bracers. Double warlock tier piece dropped on at least 2 other bosses. For whatever reason we correlated the bad RNG luck with the same person ‘seeding’ the raids every week. I guess looking back, it was kind of a silly thing to believe.

Modding Thief Gold

  • Posted on: April 14, 2014
  • By: Keiya
  • Category:

I typed this out a while back but forgot to publish the post for whatever reason. This is the collection of mods that I am using the make Thief Gold tolerable on computer screens larger than a postage stamp.

My fellow denizens of the Internet seem to possess various opinions on whether or not the enhancement and HD mods remain true to the original spirit and look of the game, but I like them and I shall leave that judgment for your own personal preference. That said, I would highly recommend installing the TFix patch at minimum (enabled widescreen support, general fixes, patches, and the like). Also, as with any Steam game that you have to manually patch or mod outside of the Steam interface itself, I would highly recommend disabling automatic updates. You may do so by going to your Library, right clicking on the title -> Properties -> Updates -> Select ‘Do not automatically update this game’ from the dropdown menu. Mods used:

  • NewDark: An update to the Dark Engine to accommodate newer hardware. If you purchased Thief off of GOG, it already comes packaged with NewDark.
  • TFix: n all-in-one unofficial patch for Thief and Thief Gold. It improves compatibility with newer hardware, fixes miscellaneous issues, adds support for widescreen resolutions, and various other things. This update utilizes and comes packaged with the NewDark update.
  • Thief Enhancement Pack 2: Replaces some of the textures and models.
  • OpenAL: Enable EAX through the OpenAL library.
  • HD Texture Mod: Makes things HD.

1. Install TFix: Download and run the TFix installer (use 1.18a) or newer from here. By default, TFix will choose C:\Games\Thief as the destination folder. If you purchased Thief off of Steam or GOG you will need to change the folder path during the installation process to reflect your Thief install directory. For most people running Steam on a 64-bit installation of Windows it should be located at: C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common\thief_gold\

2. Install the Thief Enhancement Pack 2: This mod does not have an installer, Download the ep2.cr file from this forum post and drop it into the main directory. Ignore the installation instructions on ttlg.com by the way: You do not need to edit cam_mod.ini as that will be added later by the HD mod..

3. Install the HD Texture Mod: Download the HD Mod Installer and install it to your main thief directory.

4. Enable EAX through OpenAL: Extract the contents of the 7-zip files from this guide into your Thief Gold directory. Start Thief, options -> enable Hardware Acceleration until it shows OpenAL.

Diablo 3: Monk Tempest Rush Farming

As depicted in the video above (torment 1), I have been tinkering with a Tempest Rush farming build. Running around constantly is a much more gratifying experience than my previous style of play which was effectively, staying in one spot, occasionally moving out of poop, and tapping a few buttons. However also as depicted in the video above, I am not quite geared properly for this build so it's not really as efficient as it really could be to say the least. Bottom line: Yay, even more rerolling already rerolled stats. Yay more material farming.

Getting stunned into place is pretty much death. So, gingerly avoiding being on the business side of certain mobs is rather important but luckily not too difficult given that most hard hitters and stunners telegraph their abilities by a fair bit. I may replace one of my passives for Chant of Resonance so that I can keep Mantra of Conviction up. Once I get another piece of gear with spirit regen I can probably swap out exalted soul for something else.

Diablo 3 Post Level 70 Notes

My monk is currently at level 70 paragon 53. We have been clearing through Torment 1 Adventure Mode content without any real difficulty, My damage is still fairly low (pushing not quite 300k), but moderately useful items have at least been dropping for me lately. Recent spoils: Xephirian Amulet, Fists of Thunder, and Vigilance.

This build is what I have been running with lately. I swapped out Deadly Reach and Sweeping Wind for Way of the Hundred Fists: FoF and Mystic Ally. If I recall correctly, WoHF:FoF is the highest DPS spirit spender at the moment, but it does not generate as much spirit as DR and does not synergize with elemental bonuses. Once the RNGesus chooses to favor me in my endeavor to acquire +lightning damage items, I shall swap my build over yet again. Fire Ally seems to be okay? I am unsure how it compares damage wise with SW:CS with my current gear, but I kind of got tired of repeatedly having to recast Sweeping Wind every time I lost momentum or had to stop to look at gear drops, go AFK, and the like.

LTK:SS and DS are more or less staples for any of my builds.