Best of Bio Break 2013: Most anticipated MMO updates in 2014

best

The Best of Bio Break 2013 is a series of “end of the year” lists that talk about various forms of entertainment that I enjoyed this year.  They’re not awards, but they are ranked.  Each entry doesn’t have to be something that came out this year, but merely something I encountered this year.

img-big4For my final list and post of the year, I’m going to wrap things up by looking at my most anticipated updates for MMOs come the new year:

1. The Secret World: Tokyo

I.  Am.  Ready.  Heck, the entire playerbase is ready by now.  2013 was a great year of updates for TSW, with awesome and memorable story arcs, but we’re still in the same three areas that we were at launch.  It’s time to move on, and that will come when Funcom opens up Tokyo.  I really can’t wait for this — for more story, more conspiracies, and more answers.

2. LOTRO Housing Update

Turbine punted on this in 2013 after promising that they’d do it, so I’m going to hold them to that.  Also hoping we’ll be getting a new expansion as well.  Gondor time!

3. RIFT 3.0

I keep flirting with the idea of going back to RIFT, starting fresh and really getting invested in the game (and then I remember, oh yeah, WildStar).  But I’m somewhat interested to see what Trion has in store for the game’s second expansion, currently titled RIFT 3.0.  “Dreams, nightmares, and water” are the themes.

4. A post-Scarlet Guild Wars 2

Yeah, I’m pretty much disconnected from the living story right now, but the news that it’ll be ending after four more updates is reason to hope that the second “season” will vastly learn from the errors of the past and usher back in the fun and excitement of Guild Wars 2 that I enjoyed in its first year.

5. More Neverwinter classes

I know that the team is working on additional classes for the game, and I really hope we get them sooner rather than later.  I’d like to see a different type of magic user as well as another healer.  Bard?  Bard would rock.  I’d so be there if they did Bard.

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Fallout: A newborn Vault baby

(This is part of my journey playing through Fallout.  You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lane page.)

fall1You voted — and now my next journey is back into the post-apocalyptic landscape.  Instead of the basics of Wasteland, we’re going to jump forward ten years or so to that game’s spiritual successor.  Fallout was and still is an incredible classic in the RPG arena and a great example of a series that kind of kept getting better as it went along.

By the time I was aware that Fallout was a thing, Fallout 2 was already out and became my game of choice.  So I basically leapfrogged right over the first installment and have only been back on occasion to sample the fruits of the Vault Dweller.  I think my enthusiasm for doing so has been dampened by the time limit that exists in the early game (I hate being under the gun like that, although I hear it’s not that big of a problem).  So I’m glad y’all encouraged me to dig this out and give it a genuine go.

Say it with me, folks:

WAR.

WAR NEVER CHANGES.

fall2So one of my gaming resolutions for this coming year is to get out of my comfort zone — particularly in RPGs — and start trying new and different things.  Therefore, with Fallout I’m not going to be rolling my standard safe character.  I’m going to go a little nuts here.

fall3So here’s our hero of the hour: Betty, a 35-year-old guy who (at least in my mind) has a dented skull but plenty of muscles to make up for it.  I did a major trade-off by jacking down his luck and intelligence to disastrous proportions while boosting his agility, endurance, and strength to compensate.  Think of a dim-witted strongman and there you go.  The bruiser and gifted traits helped to boost his stats further (lookit that strength at 13!) and I picked melee weapons, first aid, and lockpick for his tag skills.  Betty really isn’t going to be winning any science fairs, but he should be big and tough enough to brute-force his way through the wasteland.

Actually, the screenshot up there isn’t accurate — apparently you can’t start with a stat over 10.  So I took a few points off of strength and gave it to luck.  Guess it’s Betty’s lucky day after all.

fall4Gotta say, the opening cinematic and then the post-character creation cutscene both gave me the chills.  Even though the CGI is not quite up to 2013 standards, it’s actually not that bad.  A big talking head — Vault 13’s overseer, I’m guessing — tells me that the vault’s water purification chip is on the fritz and they have about 150 days left before… well, I guess before they’re all forced to the surface.  Maybe they should start doing that now?  Just in case?  The guy tells me that I’m the vault’s best chance of survival, which is laughable considering my 40 IQ.

Quick as a bunny, I’m outside of the vault and wondering if this is an elaborate prank on behalf of my friends.  “Guys?  Not funny!  Lemme back in!  Please!”

fall5Man, I am so in love with Fallout’s aesthetic.  The retro-futuristic look just works for this game in a great way, suggesting that this is some sort of parallel Earth’s future and not our own.  Pip-Boy and Fallout Boy are great icons of the series, and how about that isometric look?  Beeeautiful!  OK, a little grainy, but still beeeeautiful.

At least the game doesn’t fall into that trope of the villagers saying that I’m their last, best hope and then kicking me out to save the world with just the clothes on my back.  I actually have a good starting inventory, with a pistol, lockpick, medical stims, and ammo.  But it’s the knife that interests me the most.  Betty likes knives.  Betty can do art with knives.

The last guy to fall for this water purification chip scam is lyying nearby with a severe case of anorexia.  I take his ammo and knife and then desecrate his corpse.  Just to be sure.

fall6With a knife in the hand and a song in my heart, what else is there to do than to (drum roll please) kill ten rats?  Yup, that hoary old RPG trope is alive and kicking from the start in Fallout, as the introductary cave is full of easy-to-kill mutant rats.  Hey, I don’t feel bad doing them in; I got a half-level from this fun.

After playing Wasteland a few weeks ago, the huge leap to Fallout’s looks and gameplay is a wonderful relief.  The turn-based combat’s pretty simple to master and I’m greatly enjoying the simple act of walking around and stabbing rodents.  As I should be.  As I should be.

Enough of this — it’s time to head out into the world, Vault Baby!

Best of Bio Break 2013: Most anticipated new games in 2014

bestThe Best of Bio Break 2013 is a series of “end of the year” lists that talk about various forms of entertainment that I enjoyed this year.  They’re not awards, but they are ranked.  Each entry doesn’t have to be something that came out this year, but merely something I encountered this year.

wildstarToday I want to talk about what games I’m most anticipating with the new year, the games that I wish I could be playing right now:

1. WildStar

No big surprise here, right?  There’s just so much here that feels custom-tailored to what I love in MMOs: choice, colorful graphics, sci-fi western, housing, pets, and bizarre humor.  I got to play the beta and talk about it, and I can say it’s definitely the real deal in terms of what the studio’s been promising.  A lot of people have “the” upcoming MMO they’re holding out hope on, and this is mine.  Can’t wait to play it in a live environment.

2. The Walking Dead Season 2

Yup, another no-brainer.  The first season was one of the best adventure game experiences I’ve ever had, and I am excited and a little nervous to see what Clementine gets into with the next chapter.

3. EverQuest Next Landmark

With EverQuest Next pretty much not a possibility for 2014, I bet a lot of folks are going to be stampeding to Landmark for a fix.  I also bet that this is what SOE expected (Landmark probably would be largely ignored if it launched at the same time as EQN).  Still, I’m in.  The building looks kinda cool, and at least there are worlds to explore and some element of MMO progression to it all.  This will be the wild card of 2014, make no mistake, and could have a huge impact or practically none at all in the industry.

4. Wasteland 2

Early backers are in the beta and the reports are good, very good for this sequel.  I love post-apocalyptic settings and hope that this game will hit all of the marks to make it as engaging as Fallout once was for me.

5. The Sims 4

Hey, I always end up buying the new Sims games in the numbered franchise (I’ve never bought an expansion, however), for the house building if nothing else.

6. Shroud of the Avatar

Could this be the UO/Ultima sequel fans have wanted for years?  Since I’ve never really played either, I have no dog in that fight, but I do think that there’s a lot of interesting ideas going on here with the overall project feeling a lot like the early days of making MMOs instead of these bloated budget products they’ve become.  Plus, Richard Garriott’s enthusiasm is quite infectious.

Best of Bio Break 2013: Events

bestThe Best of Bio Break 2013 is a series of “end of the year” lists that talk about various forms of entertainment that I enjoyed this year.  They’re not awards, but they are ranked.  Each entry doesn’t have to be something that came out this year, but merely something I encountered this year.

In real-life, it was a pretty tame year for me.  Lots of busyness, of course, but no major changes or new babies or anything like that.  In fact, where my real life and my geeky/blogging/MMO life overlapped, I can only think of three major events:

1. Starting up Battle Bards

I had been wanting to do an MMO music podcast since late 2012, although I kept telling myself that I didn’t have the time for it.  What I knew is that for the podcast to be what I envisioned, I’d have to learn how to put together a podcast myself instead of relying on others to do that for me.  So I did just that and reached out to fellow MMO-music fans Steff and Syl to see if they’d like to co-host a review roundtable show with me.  Tesh agreed to create our graphics, of which I’m still grateful.  With everyone on board, it took a couple of months of preparations until we launched our first show.

I love doing Battle Bards, I really do.  If you’ve listened to the show then you know it’s a labor of love for the three of us.  We acknowledge that our potential listening audience is small, but those who love video game soundtracks and MMO soundtracks in particular can be quite passionate about it.  Through trial and error we’ve figured an efficient way to coordinate schedules and show planning, and our once-a-month recording sessions are something we all look forward to doing.  So it’s been a great ride so far and we can’t wait to share with you what’s planned for 2014’s episodes!

2. Wrapping up Too Long; Didn’t Listen

As I had one podcast on the rise, another one vanished.  Dodge and I had been doing TLDL for a little over a year, but real life intervened and he needed to take a break from podcasting.  Fair enough, we had a good run, and TLDL then got passed on to a new team over at MMO Reporter.

3. Going to PAX

I don’t think I did any conventions in 2012 and I was starting to miss them, so I made the effort to do PAX Prime this year.  Doing a convention as media is a lot of work — tons of running around, doing interviews, sticking to a schedule, and writing as quick as kittens — so it’s not the laid-back fan experience that attendees have.  However, it’s also pretty fun in its own way, since you get to cut the line in spots, get direct access to developers and parties, and meet other people in the industry.  I couldn’t stay for the entire thing, but the trip was a positive one and I had Rubi’s family to thank for housing me for the duration of it.

Best of Bio Break 2013: Other games

bestThe Best of Bio Break 2013 is a series of “end of the year” lists that talk about various forms of entertainment that I enjoyed this year.  They’re not awards, but they are ranked.  Each entry doesn’t have to be something that came out this year, but merely something I encountered this year.

clementineDue to the nature of MMOs and everything else I have going on, I didn’t spend that much time playing games in the larger video game market.  However, there are a few titles I did want to mention, so mention them I now will.

1. The Walking Dead season 1

For me, The Walking Dead won’t be the comics or the TV show, but this game.  Even with stripped-down puzzle-solving mechanics and a cleverly hidden linear path, season one was one of the most affecting, gut-wrenching, and involving video game experiences I’ve ever had.  I agonized over my choices, I got to know the cast of characters very well, I mourned the loss of key people, and I jumped once or twice due to jack-in-the-box zombies.  Can’t wait for season 2!

2. The Wolf Among Us

Speaking of Telltale Games, The Wolf Among Us — at least the first episode — was a terrific portrayal of the Fables universe and a pretty cool ride.  Instead of a zombie survival setting, it’s more about being a detective in a fairy-tales-meets-the-modern-world.  A little peeved that Telltale is taking so long with episode 2, especially considering that I paid for the whole game up front, but I have no power here.

3. The Simpsons Tapped Out

Yes, it’s one of those freemium Farmville-style games that’s so easy to hate and criticize, but even so I was just tickled yellow playing it over the year.  Slowly growing my Springfield while laughing at the hilarious quest text and enjoying the holiday events made this worthwhile to me.

4. Hearthstone

I was really excited about Blizzard’s WoW-themed card game, and while I haven’t played in a while, it is one of those perfect games to pick up every now and then.  Very slick and easy to learn, too.

5. Kingdom Rush: Frontiers

Probably the best tower defense game I’ve played in a long time and a source of countless evenings of fun on my iPad.

6. Starbound

Need to spend more time with this space-themed Terraria, but it’s pretty promising.  I love the look and the exploration aspects, although I don’t know how much I’m suited for the constantly-crafting sandbox focus.

7. Card Hunter

Another terrific card-themed game that was more of a tactical strategy title than a proper CCG.  I liked it — still like it — but I guess I go through waves of interest in card games.

8. Pocket Trains

After the stumble of Pocket Planes, Nimblebit did a great job getting rid of what didn’t work and putting in some more stuff that did to make a pretty engaging train management simulator.  It takes just shy of forever to expand one’s network and get more trains, but that’s par for the course with games like this.

Best of Bio Break 2013: Television

bestThe Best of Bio Break 2013 is a series of “end of the year” lists that talk about various forms of entertainment that I enjoyed this year.  They’re not awards, but they are ranked.  Each entry doesn’t have to be something that came out this year, but merely something I encountered this year.

doctorwhoTV and me have a strange relationship these days.  There’s a lot of hour-long series I’d love to watch, but I really don’t have the spare time to do so unless it’s something my wife wants to view with me.  Plus, we don’t have cable, so what we see is either on DVD or Netflix, leaving us behind the curve with the rest of the viewing community.

That said, here’s what tickled my fancy this year:

1. Doctor Who series 7

Out of the three newer Doctors, I’m very partial to Matt Smith.  Tennant was fine but eventually got too much of a God complex for me to enjoy, and I relished Smith’s somewhat more alien quirkiness.  He’s a total geek and he’s cool with that.  His final season had us saying goodbye to Rory and Amy (best companions ever) and provided many fine hours of viewing — but the best was the 50th anniversary special that we saw in the theaters.  Just great stuff all around, making me happy with the past and looking forward to the future.  It’s so odd that Doctor Who has gone from a very much fringe cult series to this mainstream phenomenon, almost taking the place that Star Trek used to have.

2. The Office season 9

Again, I don’t see shows until they come out on DVD, so I only recently wrapped up my experiences with the crew of Dunder Mifflin.  Even without Michael Scott, I liked the show a lot this year, much better than season 8, and I was definitely feeling that mixture of morose and exalted when it all came to a close.  It’s one of my favorite series to watch from start to end, and I’m sure I’ll be doing so again in the near future.

3. Arrested Development season 4

Whew, was this a mixed bag in so many ways.  I was extremely excited about my all-time favorite sitcom coming back, but how it did so was definitely different than the first three seasons.  Maybe it was a little too long in spots, too convoluted overall, and too disjointed as the main cast couldn’t be together much, but it was also pretty funny and just awesome to see them back.  I really hope they get a fifth season sometime soon.  I’m also pleased that the Arrested Development soundtrack finally released this year as well.

4. Community season 4

I don’t care that much that this was the season without Dan Harmon and got cut down to 13 episodes — it was more Community and it was still pretty funny, so I took it with a smile.  I dearly love this show and am so incredibly glad it’s coming back for a fifth season.  #sixseasonsandamovie

5. New Girl seasons 1-2

Yeah, so, I am unashamed of this — it’s a really funny show, and “adorkable” or not, the cast and writing made me and my wife laugh constantly.  I like how messed up and weird everyone is, not to mention how it’s not just about one girl but all four roommates.

6. Parks and Recreation season 5

Simply hilarious.  Love this show.  Ron Swanson is a hero to me.

7. Game of Thrones season 2

Yeah, season 2.  Again, a year behind.  But despite the gore and very excessive nudity, there’s a great show here and one that my wife’s been captivated with despite showing no interest in the books.  I thought the season went pretty well, especially the climactic battle, although some of the aspects (Daenarys) came off weaker than they should’ve.

8. The Simpsons seasons 3-15

It’s been many, many, many years since I watched the Simpsons, so long that I can’t remember what year I stopped viewing them.  So I embarked on a marathon to catch up on episodes old and new, and have made it through season 15 (which is where I think I stopped viewing regularly).  I’m pleasantly surprised to see that the newer stuff is still pretty entertaining.

9. The Mindy Project season 1

Mindy Kaling had great writing and acting chops in The Office, so I gave her sitcom a try.  I kind of like it, even if it is pretty uneven at times.

10. Happy Endings seasons 1-2

Another under-my-radar show that I’m glad I found due to its memorable characters, barrage of jokes, lack of a laugh track, and general weirdness.  It’s like a better version of Friends.

11. Raising Hope season 2

Another oddball sitcom that I hope lasts for a good decade.  Liked the second season a little less than the first, but it’s still willing to have fun with the pluck of the lower class and its dim-witted lead.

12. Warehouse 13 seasons 1-3

We’ve been working our way through this Syfy show.  It’s good in small quantities, kind of a less-intense Fringe.  While the plots and acting can get a little hammy, I genuinely like the humor and the fact that the leads have this brother-sister relationship instead of an unrequited love thing.

Vote for Bio Break’s next journey through a classic PC game!

Because I’m feeling a little wonky and full of whimsy this holiday season, I’m going to open up voting for the next classic PC game playthrough to pretty much my entire GOG.com library barring some titles that I want to play in order.  It’s wide open this time, and you can vote for as many titles as you like!