Black Flag; Worth the Wait

Thursday, February 27, 2014

About a week ago I picked up Assassin's Creed IV; Black Flag. I felt burnt by the previous game, so it's taken me a while to warm to the idea of buying another. Assassin's Creed 3 had it's moments, but the overwhelming number of bugs, and it's characterization of Connor as a single-minded killer who cared very little about the order or the war around him really bothered me. Throughout Assassin's Creed III, the naval missions kept me playing long after I'd lost interest in the main story. I wanted to like ACIII, but even for a series I love, it had far too many issues to ignore.

I worried that Black Flag would have the same problems that plagued ACIII. Incomplete story arcs, pointless characters, murky mechanics that offer little reward for effort (I'm looking at you, homestead). With only a year between releases, I felt certain that Assassin's creed was to become another Call of Duty, with yearly releases and a loss of quality a certainty.

New Group; Breaking the Ice for Reign of Winter

Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Giant Snow Mantis. Because, why the hell not?

A few days from now, our newly assembled group will be rolling it's first initiatives. Our plan is to run through The Reign of Winter, Paizo's Baba Yaga themed adventure path. There are a lot of unknowns when starting up a new group. Humans be strange, and everyone comes to the table with their own expectations. As the DM, it's my job to keep the rabble together through the adventure and make sure everyone has a good time. It's a daunting task with a new group of people.

DayZ and the Idiosyncrasies of In-Game Life

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Two weeks and two articles about DayZ. Too much? Fret not; while DayZ offers the primary frame of reference here, it is not the sole focus of today's ponderings. Instead, let's talk a bit about player expectation. Specifically, player expectation as it relates to everyday life.

Video games have been around for a while. From a design perspective, video games should have a very specific set of design principles by now. Surely enough market data and research has been compiled to tell us for certain what makes a good game. And yet, no such foundational document exists. Video games continue to expand and contract within and out of the fragile genre walls established in their early years. Two different games may have nigh identical design layouts and be vastly disparate in sales and popularity.

Nevermind; A Horror Game Built for Stress Management

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Horror games are a dime a dozen these days. With the increasing popularity of the Oculus Rift and the success of titles such as Amnesia and Outlast, more and more developers are looking for new ways to scare players. With so many new entries in the horror genre, it's disappointing to see so many of the same clich├ęs and tropes played out again and again with so little variation. Today, I was directed to a Kickstarter project called Nevermind. It's the first game I've seen that uses your own fear against you.

Our Lady Everlasting of Chernarus; Stories from DayZ

Thursday, February 13, 2014

I've logged a lot of time in DayZ in the last couple months. I've had a few characters die, but my current character has been alive for a few weeks now. In that time I've met, helped and killed numerous players, and found some great stuff in my travels. Tonight I'd like to share a few of the adventures I've had in Charnarus, and I'll start with the origin of the title.

Never Enough Water: Forbidden Desert

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Fans of Geek & Sundry's Tabletop series should recognize Gamewright as the makers of Forbidden Island, a 2010 board game where players race to recover precious artifacts from a rapidly sinking island. The followup, Forbidden Desert swaps water and antiquities for sand and flying machine parts, but it still requires it's players to work together to make it out alive. Last weekend I picked up a copy of Forbidden Desert and played a few games. We were tossed about by a relentless sandstorm, battered by a hostile sun and lost among the ancient city ruins.

Dungeon Keeper: Gutting a Classic

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Dungeon Keeper was one of Bullfrog Productions' best series. This is the developer behind Syndicate, Theme Hospital, Magic Carpet and Populous. Bullfrog is a legendary name in classic PC games. These games were among my favorites and remain on numerous "best ever" lists year after year. Bullfrog was dissolved by EA years ago, but their intellectual properties have remained in EA's hands since. Recently, EA released a new Dungeon Keeper as a mobile game for Android and iOS, but in doing so have destroyed the good name of one of my favorite series.

Smoke and Mirrors; The Wolf Among Us Episode 2

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Four months ago, Telltale released the first episode of The Wolf Among Us, the adventure game series based on Bill Willingham's incredible Fables comics. Today, the second episode, Smoke and Mirrors was released for PC and consoles. Smoke and Mirrors is a brilliant second act, full of new characters (many familiar to Fables fans), and a compelling noir mystery delivered with all the polish and  skill we've come to expect from a Telltale game.