Guild Wars 2: Music theory

organ1One of my growing favorite pasttimes in Guild Wars 2 is to make a note of where special chests are and how to get to them.  You can usually plunder these chests once a day for a green/blue item, but I like that there’s a bit of a challenge to get to them and that they’re often off the beaten path.  Rewards exploring without making it overt.  I can respect that.

I only recently realized that one of these chests comes from a little pipe organ mini-game at the bottom of a river in Caldedon Forest.  Must have rushed over it many times previously, but there it is, sitting there, waiting to be played.  The challenge is to reproduce the Guild Wars 2 theme (the most iconic part of it, at least).  I might have cheated for the answer, but hey, I’m not a musician.  I usually have to look up solutions for music puzzles.

There’s a nice payoff here when you do it: A nearby oyster opens up to reveal the chest and the soundtrack booms out this eerie organ version of the theme.  Plus, there’s a nearby Quaggan who’s humming the tune for both amusement value and a helpful hint as to the solution.

I always wish that games had more cool little things like this, don’t you?

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Quality toilet time and Diablo III

Food poisoning sucks.  I’ve never had it before, but boy howdy did I make up for that oversight this past weekend.  My wife, my one-year-old and I all got it within a couple of hours of each other, and let me tell you that there’s nothing like trying to care for a projectile-vomiting little kid while you just want to be curled around the toilet yourself.

I bring this up because my gaming plans for the weekend got preempted by all of this, which is to say that I didn’t get to game much at all.  About the only thing I did was to reinstall Diablo III to see how the expansion updates changed the game.  From about 20 minutes into Act 1 I can’t see any huge changes, but it’s been over a year since I last played it, so I barely remember what it used to be like.

I did have one thought pertaining to MMOs from this brief expedition into D3, which is that I kind of really like the 3D isometric perspective — and I wouldn’t mind having that same view for an MMO.  Your character and everything else is smaller, sure, but you get a much greater sense of your surroundings.  It reminds me a lot of the worlds of Baldur’s Gate II and Fallout and those older RPGs.  Even though I’m not face-first into the surrounding details, the total sum of everything in the area sort of makes up for that.

Maybe there are MMOs apart from action-RPGs that do this, but it’s early on a Monday morning and my facilities have yet to be brought back online fully.  Ultima Online, definitely.  Salem?  I recall that there’s a sandbox MMO in the making, Albion Online, that uses this perspective and I definitely liked the look of it, at least.

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Gabriel Knight 2: Tiger time

(This is part of my journey playing through Gabriel Knight 2: The Beast Within. You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lane page.)

azx1

What was Grossberg (one of the victims) up to?  That’s the driving force of the hour, as Gabe takes the dead man’s ledger and tracks down a guy named Dorn who was doing… something… for him.  But Dorn doesn’t really want to talk, and since Gabe hasn’t changed his clothes in three days now, can you blame him?  Probably has a ripe stench coming off that trenchcoat. To get him to talk, Gabe has to trot back to Harry, withdraw 14,000 bucks from the Ritter account, and then pay Dorn for previous unknown services rendered.  That gets Gabe in the door of a stinking kennel.  Man, what wonders $14,000 gets you these days!

It turns out that Dorn is an exotic animal dealer.  Looks like Grossman was buying these animals — in particular two wolves — perhaps to serve as hunting targets for the club.  Dorn informs me that he can get gorilla but not hippo.  Good to know.

Well, there’s nothing left to do here but deal with the tiger.

azx2What?  There really is a tiger!  I wouldn’t just make that up for dramatic license, you know.

The kennel where the wolves were previously kept now has a large tiger in it, because Germany is so dang awesome it hurts.  To calm it down, I try having Gabe offer up a couple of fingers.  That doesn’t work, so why not one of those horrible phallic sausages from way back when?  Good tiger.

azx3The seams of the game is definitely showing in this part, because there’s no indication that the tiger is anywhere on the set — or is anything other than some footage perhaps cribbed from a National Geographic special.  Gabe does his darndest to overact with his reactions to sell us on the clear and present danger, but I’m not buying it.  You’re just flinging a wurst across an empty green screen stage, dude.

At least he’s able to recover the wolf tags from “Parcival” and “Hilda.”

With that it’s finally time to go on this epic hunting trip that the game’s been building up for so very long now.  Gabe meets up with the goofy-dressed hunting troupe, and they all truck into the mountains to a much bigger lodge.  With nothing to do, Gabe starts barging into people’s rooms and…

azx4My eyes!  Ze goggles do nothing!

This dude is surprisingly cool about being interrogated while taking a bath.  Come to think of it, in game-time we only arrived at the lodge 40 seconds ago.  How is he naked and in a steaming bath already?

Once Gabe gets past the shock, they chat about Grossman (this guy was paying Grossman for those exotics) and how everyone hates Von Zell.  VON ZELL!  YOUR DAY IS COMING!

azx5I love how everyone but Von Glower is constantly calling Gabe out for being very nosy and weird, because he totally is.  I mean, the guy can’t go two minutes without barging into a man’s bath or — as you can see above — rappelling from one window into the next.  Don’t invite Gabriel Knight over as a houseguest is the lesson this game is teaching me.  He’ll steal your stuff, sleep with your women, and break into your rooms.

azx6Actually, check this out because I’m finding it a little ridiculous.  Gabe is making a big, BIG deal out of using this rope to… walk four feet over on a ledge that isn’t very steep, not to mention that there are plenty of handholds along the way.  Even if it was this treacherous, how does using the rope sideways like this help?  He’s leaning back, but the roof slopes to his right.  By the power of physics, he should fall right anyway, rope or no.  I guess he just wanted to put on a show for the imaginary cameras.

My initial reactions to SOE’s H1Z1

hizzyIn a move that surprised very few people who have been paying attention to the teasers and hints, SOE is creating a zombie sandbox MMO called H1Z1.  Lots of crafting, building, fighting against zombies — where have we heard that before?

My initial reactions:

  • H1Z1 is a terrible name.  Just terrible.  It’s not only annoying to type, but there’s no way I’m pronouncing all four letters and numbers every time I’m going to talk about it.  I’ve already decided that I’m calling it “Hizzy” until and when SOE realizes how bad the name is and changes it.
  • Smedley so should not have promised that this game would fill in the gap that was left by the cancellation of Star Wars Galaxies.  He probably looked at the crafting systems and player-built towns in that statement, but man that was a dumb thing to do.  Reactions from the ex-SWG community has not been kind so far, which is understandable.  Zombie sandboxes are not science-fiction sandboxes with a strong IP tie.  Smed’s statement will haunt this game for a while to come, mark my words.
  • Nobody, SOE included, can deny that this is coming out into a crowded field.  There are a lot of zombie survival games, both single- and multiplayer, both out there and in the works.  Some see zombies as overused, but I think they can be pretty fun as long as the setting and game is done well.  There aren’t a lot of zombie MMOs right now, not on this scale, and that could work to SOE’s advantage.  I’d love to see a State of Decay-like MMO (which makes me wonder how Undead Labs is taking this announcement, since it’s most likely working on a zombie MMO too).
  • Smed’s passion for PvP and its strong mention in this announcement worries me.  I don’t care for another DayZ gankfest that encourages cruelty and a zerg mentality.
  • What does interest me is a contemporary, post-apocalyptic setting, especially if it’s not 100% about fighting and avoiding zombies.  Exploring, surviving, and making tools to increase my life expectancy has strong appeal.
  • Free-to-play is good, if expected from SOE.
  • Playable soon?  I’m pretty amazed that it’s far enough along for this, especially with all of the other projects at the studio.  Between this, Landmark, and EQN, I’m not surprised that SOE felt it had to cut out four other MMOs to make room for future development.  Of course, trading Free Realms for a zombie MMO is no great consolation for the studio’s younger set.  Or maybe it is, who knows.

Videos: Quest design and F2P approaches

I’m catching up on watching Extra Credits and really liked the following two videos:

Quest Design II: This one continued the discussion of good quest design using both The Secret World and Lord of the Rings Online as positive examples.  It really summed up well why investigation quests are so brilliant and engrossing in TSW.

Doing free to play wrong: Two things I strongly agree with here.  1. Make a good game first and worry about monetizing it later.  2. Present options that make us happy to spend our money on them, not forced to do so or trying to get around paying for them.

Gabriel Knight 2: In which stuff starts actually happening

(This is part of my journey playing through Gabriel Knight 2: The Beast Within. You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lane page.)

One of the aspects of adventure games that I’m less fond of is how you can get stuck in a particular locale or part of the game for a very long time while trying to figure out how to progress.  There’s a tipping point that occurs between the pacing being acceptable and “if I have to see this screen one more time I’m going to swallow my tongue to end this suffering.”   Even while Gabriel Knight 2 has kept the investigation element of the plot moving along, so little has happened and so many of these locations have been repeated that I’m starting to go a little nuts.  Was the first game this boring at times?  I don’t recall.

We need stuff to happen.  And today, it does.

q1Grace brings the copy of Ludwig’s diary to Georg, confirming the creation of a lost Wagner opera.  Being a “one-upper” kind of guy, Georg whips out a Wagner diary and the two have the weirdest date ever.  Again, I am playing a game that’s spending an inordinate amount of time reading diaries.  Is this Lisa Frank Goes To Germany?  At least this ends chapter 4 and our current time with Grace.

q2OK, when I said that I wanted stuff to happen, I didn’t mean that I wanted to see Gabe get it on with a really, really bad actress.

Let’s back up.  Chapter 5 opens with Gabe recounting the night before, which started with drinks and laughs with Von Glower and ended with Von Glower pawning off his snuggle toy to Gabe, Gabe getting lucky, and Von Glower creepily caressing Gabe’s hair while he’s asleep.  I cannot help but think that Grace will probably castrate him when she finds out about this, if the Gerde Incident was any indication.

q3It’s the big day of the hunting trip, although the members haven’t started gathering yet.  Gabe returns to the club, snarks a bit at Xavier, and retrieves his tape recorder from the magazine that I remember planting (in Syp time) weeks ago.

He returns to Harry, his lawyer, and gets the latest mailed report from Grace.  Harry says that the Bavarian national forest has had a long string of missing persons over the past 10 years or so, so I guess it’s a good thing that Gabe is going there completely unprotected.  Well, he’s got a sausage in his pants pocket.  That will slow down the wolves somewhat, I imagine.  Harry continues to help out by translating the tape, which has the hunting lodge members talking about the killings, the wolves, and how Gabe is asking too many questions.  Harry is dutifully concerned.  I like Harry.

q4Gabe heads to the police Kommisar and uses the same tape to convince him to let Gabe check out the account books that the police confiscated from the victim Grossman’s place.  When the big, beefy Kommisar and his big, beefy partner leaves the room, Gabe rips out an account page, then lies to the Kommisar as to the location of the club.  Right now I think that Gabe is actively trying to get eaten.

WildStar: A new hope and a whole lotta patch notes

wildEven though the game is offline and in between beta weekends, WildStar dropped a motherlode of patch notes yesterday for its “UI 2.0″ update.  There was a lot in it, but probably the most notable for me was the expected implementation of the much sleeker UI and (surprise!) more character creation options, including new hair styles and other body types.

The last one caught a lot of people off-guard; I don’t think Carbine had even mentioned that it was going to do other body types in the game.  I’m very, very glad the studio made a point to do so, because the current proportions weren’t everyone’s cup of tea and in fact was irking some greatly.

Of course, we don’t know what or how many body types are going to be in the game until it boots back up for the next beta weekend, but I will certainly be logging in to check them out and probably come up with new saved templates for my characters’ looks.  Here’s hoping for somewhat more realistic proportions and death to wasp-waists in some of the options.

As of late, I’m definitely leaning toward playing a Medic as my main, although the race is still up for debate.  I will roll Mordesh if I can make one that looks good to me, but if not, Human it is.  Also ping-ponging between Settler and Scientist paths.