Retro Gaming: Planetfall part 3

(This is part of my journey going checking out Planetfall. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

Back when I was a kid, I used to create games all of the time in BASIC on my family’s PC. Because graphics were tough to do (outside of basic ANSII mockups), most everything I did was text, and thus I loved whipping up text adventures and text RPGs. If nothing else, it gave me a deep appreciation for how tricky and complex text adventure design is, because you have to have a parser that understands a wide range of commands, you have to figure out how to deal with inventory (both on the character and in the game), and you have to deal with issues like the passage of time and events that fundamentally change a room or character.

So I am pretty impressed with what Planetfall’s doing here, even though I’m more than a little annoyed at the inventory limit and the need to constantly eat and drink. On one hand, it delivers a feeling of immediacy and urgency, but on the other hand, in adventure games all you want to do is explore and experiment at your leisure, not under a gun. I guess the limitations upped the replay value somewhat, because you could be looking to do better the next time around.

Anyway. Where were we? Oh yeah, we just encountered Floyd the robot.

f1True love is always painful. And always worth the risk of electrocution.

f2Who didn’t want a robot pet in the ’80s? I don’t think you could legally be a cartoon kid without one as a sidekick.

Floyd comes across as a hyper child, which is better than complete silence and isolation. I’ll take it. Plus, his comments and actions are somewhat entertaining as you go around doing normal adventure game stuff.

f3Floyd is a little put out that I deactivated him to find this card, but dude, you’re in an adventure game. You know what you signed up for. I’d loot the sun if I could.

f4Now it’s getting interesting. In the comm room, the game gives me a few narrative tidbits. The first is a distress call from the ship I was on before it mysteriously blew up (don’t know why that happened either). The second is an outgoing call in that badly spelled English asking for help due to a planetwide plague. The weird spelling — phoenetically correct but just barely — indicates that the people’s facilties were going. Or they were just idiots, which might be the case because all of the signs in this place are spelled like this too.

f5I spend a good amount of time getting the proper liquid to repair the comm system, because all high technology can be fixed the same way that you fill up your car. By the way, have I said how much this game’s parser irks me? Pouring the flask isn’t allowed but emptying it is. They couldn’t have anticipated pouring?

Oh well. At least the distress message has gone out, and here’s hoping that someone will come to answer it and help me out!

f6Well this was… random. Floyd is extremely emotional — y’know, for a robot — and he’s mentioned Lazarus before. Guess it was his friend? Mentor?

f7You would think that getting into a bed in an infirmary would be safe. You would think. And you would be wrong, because you’re playing this game.

f8The infirmary has a computer spool (very, very old tech from a 2015 perspective) that ends up telling me the dire news, which I’ll sum up here to save you the headache of reading the above: I have less than ten days for the unnamed disease to get me. The first symptom is a high fever, followed by the increasing need for sleep. That is not going to help me.

What might help me is some experimental medicine that’s nearby. What the heck, bottom’s up!

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Pinpointing where Guild Wars 2 lost me

gw018Yesterday during the poll I put up, Wollydub asked me, “I’d be really interested in a blog or column about why GW2 fell completely out of favor with you. Not even a mention here. I am in the same boat. I can’t put my finger on it to put it into words though like maybe you can.”

Following a post I made a couple of weeks ago about parting ways with Guild Wars 2, I had very little intention of writing about the game unless I returned to it. I don’t want to get into that state where you’re a bit burned out and negative about a game and having nothing upbeat to say at all. I’d rather step away and see if the feeling comes back, allowing for a potential re-entry that rekindles better emotions.

But hey, since Woolly asked and I’m a little starved for post ideas today, why not?

Here’s the weird thing about this topic: I have extraordinarily positive things to say about Guild Wars 2. I can’t deny that I really enjoyed my time playing it, that it has a very casual-friendly approach, that it’s beautiful or has a stellar soundtrack, that the classes and combat drew me in, and that there’s always something to do. After all, I played for almost two years, so there must have been some pull going on. I’m not that much of a masochist.

So where did it lose me? As with many trends in life, it wasn’t one thing but a death from a thousand cuts.

First of all, there’s the spectre of burnout that looms larger the longer one plays an MMO. It doesn’t always happen and doesn’t always stick to a timetable, but I’d easily say that every successive year in a game, the chances of having my interest plummet increases unless the game does something to replenish that interest.

And that’s maybe where Guild Wars 2 failed for me. Even with all of its feature packs and living world updates, so little of that got me personally excited. The story very rarely engaged me, which was always frustrating because I could see that it was extensively written and there was tons of lore, etc. But the characters were largely a snoozefest and as season two went on, it felt like a trudge through setpieces that looked pretty and were as annoying as possible to finish.

That’s another thing: the tougher fights started to get to me. There are fun challenging fights and then there are fights were plants are vomiting red circles everywhere, knocking me down, and rendering melee all but useless. Remember that missions where you were Caithe fighting those centaurs? That took me so dang long with numerous deaths that I started to wonder if I’d ever see the end of the mission. When at least two-thirds of your game is combat, then that combat better hold up. I felt it starting to crumble.

I guess the final straw — again, for now — of my interest is that Heart of Thorns is heading off in a direction that quite frankly bores me. The new class is not a huge draw and I haven’t seen any “must have” elite specialization reveals yet. Guild halls? Wake me up when there’s real personal housing, thanks. Guild housing has never, ever gotten me excited about playing MMOs, especially when it comes instead of individual houses (City of Heroes, Neverwinter).

But seriously, the devs could not have turned me off more when they announced that we were getting even more of the jungle motif (I’ve yet to see bloggers rave about the decision to go with this) and even more platforming and even more grinding. Platforming in Guild Wars 2 is not the game’s strength, but ArenaNet obviously believes in it, because the studio has crammed it in everywhere, increasing it in frequency with the more recent zones.

I guess that’s about it. I don’t care what’s coming next in the story. I’m not enjoying the current design direction of the game. And there’s no “must do” goals that I want to keep pursuing. So I’ll be content to let the game be and see if my interest ever returns. Heaven knows that there are enough other games right now that are yammering for my attention, so I don’t feel a great void from putting this MMO down.

Battle Bards Episode 54: Winter is coming

winteriscomingIt might be the middle of the summer in the northern hemisphere, but it’s never too early to start getting ready for the cold! On this episode of Battle Bards, the crew takes on the theme of bitter, desolate, and beautiful winter soundscapes from a wide range of MMO scores. Winter is, after all, coming. Let’s prepare!

Episode 54 show notes

  • Intro (featuring “Snowcloak” from Final Fantasy XIV and “Winter Theme” from Allods Online)
  • “Sillus Mountains” from Aion
  • “Wintertusk Hrundle Fjord” from Wizard101
  • “Iron Pine Peak” from RIFT
  • “Winterspring (Cataclysm)” from World of Warcraft
  • “Iceclad Ocean” from EverQuest 2
  • “Hoth, the Frozen Wastes” from Star Wars: The Old Republic
  • “The Shiverpeaks” from Guild Wars 2
  • Which one did we like best?
  • Outro (featuring “Dazzling Snow” from Ragnarok Online)

Listen to episode 54 now!

Going forward with gaming plans for 2015

With the standard disclaimer that plans are made to be broken and Syp’s whims are often prone to change depending on the day, here are some of my plans and thoughts about what I’m gaming now and what I’d like to be gaming for the rest of the year.

WildStar

I’m still working my way up to level 50 and the final batch of zones, but at my pace it will take me most of the summer to get there. I anticipate dropping my subscription when free-to-play happens, but not my interest. Still having a great time with this second go-round and there are so many things I want to do with my housing plot.

Marvel Heroes

I have tons of goals in this game but no overarching goal, if that makes sense. Squirrel Girl is the character I’ve chosen to gear out as good as I can get her, but everyone else is just there to enjoy. I picked up Emma Frost last night and am looking forward to trying her out tonight (Big 10 + Midtown Monday = hopefully crazy fast leveling).

The Secret World

Right now my lowbie project is on the backburner (ready to be picked up at any time, of course) while my main character is simply redoing Orochi Tower floors once or twice a week to see if she can catch ’em all eventually. I don’t anticipate massive play time in TSW until the next issue comes out, but it’s nice that it’s still there.

Lord of the Rings Online

Haven’t re-installed this on my new computer. Became so burned out on it that I knew I needed some serious distance, even with the new summer patch coming along soon.

Villagers and Heroes

Would like to dip into this every week or so, to at least get a better feel for it and start crafting my way through it. It’s there as a sample title at least for when my appetite demands it.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

It’s weird — the announcement of the fall’s expansion has me incredibly excited, yet I do not really want to play the game until it lands. I don’t have any goals or levels or solo content left for my Operative and I don’t want to speed-level a new character up. So I’ll wait for Fallen Empire and concentrate on other titles in the meantime.

Skyforge

Yeah, I guess I’ll load this up when it goes live. It was fun enough in a mindless Neverwinter action combat sort of way. Not sure if I’ll be bugged by its apparent narrative weakness or it’s weird character models.

Shroud of the Avatar

After spending a couple of days with it, I felt that it was best to just wait until episode 1 launches this year and then giving it a full go. Active community or no right now, it bugs me to play beta.

Anarchy Online

I really, really need to load the new graphics engine and see what there is to see here. I anticipate a day or two of tourism followed by my usual drop-off in interest, but I owe AO enough to at least see what it’s been doing.

Other games, other possibilities

It’s great to see everyone so thrilled about Final Fantasy XIV’s expansion, but I really don’t ever think I’ll be able to get over my apathy toward the franchise and the style to play it. ArcheAge… well, it’s on my computer whenever I feel like trying it. Neverwinter might be a “come back someday” title, especially since I didn’t get much into playing the warlock class. World of Warcraft always beckons, but just when I think nostalgia is going to get me to sub up, I look at garrisons, blanch, and go do something else.

Poll: What MMOs have you played in the past 30 days?

Excluding MOBAs and fringe titles, what MMOs have you played in the past 30 days? Check all that apply!

My Marvel Heroes strategy sheet

gothSo… are you supposed to be goth with a black eye? I don’t quite get your look here, and this is from a person wearing an aviator outfit and sporting a giant bushy tail.

It’s the last week of Marvel Heroes second anniversary, and finally it’s getting really interesting — Gazillion’s turned back on its Big 10 event, with so much going on that it’s hard to figure out what to do first. There’s the new free Iron Man team-up and daily gifts, then daily quests for extra omega files and fortune cards. Lots of extra birthday cake and cosmic worldstone drops, so I’ll stock up on those.

But once Odin’s Bounty kicks in, I’ll be following that rotation to get the most out of everything. When the schedule hits terminals, I’ll do cosmics with Squirrel Girl to keep farming for her Octobot Controller (plus, cosmic bosses award extra loot during the event). When it’s ICP or Midtown, I think I’ll work on leveling up some of my non-60s.

I’m trying to get organized with working on my whole roster, so I made a list of everything I’m leveling and where I’m at:

Unlocked Heroes (20 out of 48)

This week’s event with the daily eternity splinter bonus should put me over 400 by the end, which means that I’ll be grabbing Emma Frost as my 21st hero (I have a costume for her, so why not). Past her, I wouldn’t mind getting Mr. Fantastic, Invisible Woman, Iron Man, Nightcrawler, and maybe Thing or Iceman.

But truth be told, I have a LOT her that still needs leveling, and now that I’m getting the hang out of speed-leveling (thank you Monday Midtown Madness), I’d really like to get all of them to 60. Only have four out of 20 so far, mostly because a bulk of my playtime goes to Squirrel Girl these days. There are a chunk that I’ve barely even touched. My plan is to go down the list as ordered, starting with the highest non-60, Psylocke.

  • Squirrel Girl (60, main)
  • Cyclops (60)
  • Rocket Racoon (60)
  • Rogue (60)
  • Psylocke (40)
  • Doctor Doom (39)
  • Black Panther (35)
  • Scarlet Witch (32)
  • Cable (25)
  • Daredevil (25)
  • Gambit (21)
  • Star-Lord (17)
  • Spider-Man (8)
  • Thor (5)
  • Ms. Marvel (3)
  • Wolverine (2)
  • Colossus (1)
  • Hawkeye (1)
  • Punisher (1)
  • Storm (1)

Team-Ups

I feel as though I have an overabundance of Team-Ups, but I’m kind of addicted to them, especially after their 2.0 revamp. It’s fun to see them use their various powers and ultimates. Same plan as with heroes, working my way down the list. Cosmic terminals are helping a lot with rapid team-up leveling. Currently Domino is getting her time in the sun.

I splurged and bought the advance team-up pack 2.0 yesterday because I realized that it had a lot of characters I wanted, including Rescue, Carnage, and Spider-Gwen. Plus it will give me a Spider-Gwen outfit for Spider-Man, and how cool is that?

  • Arachne (60)
  • Magik (60)
  • Domino (49)
  • Holiday Groot (46)
  • Falcon (28)
  • Wasp (28)
  • Firestar (25)
  • Spider-Man (25)
  • She-Hulk (14)
  • Angel (1)
  • Quicksilver (1)
  • Iron Man (1)

Pets

My smallest roster by far, but that’s fine. I’m feeding all of this excess (non-unique) farming loot to them and went from one maxed to three within a week. I like having the choice of pets depending on what bonuses I want out at any given time.

  • DOOM HERBIE (maxed)
  • Potted Groot (maxed)
  • Incredibly Normal Shrunken Cow (maxed)
  • Great Ultron (needs more levels)

Retro Gaming: Planetfall part 2

(This is part of my journey going checking out Planetfall. You can follow the entire series on the Retro Gaming page.)

c1Yesterday’s adventures in Planetfall left me thinking about how interesting it was that even though this was a turn-based text adventure game, the whole sequence with escaping the ship (and then the escape pod) was tense and gave the impression of a clock ticking down.

But now the immediate danger is over and silence reigns. I’m on an island on an alien world, standing in the middle of a courtyard with only a few meager possessions — a survival kit, a watch, a towel (’cause you should never leave home without a towel), and an ID badge.

So what is this place? It’s a huge castle, although it has elements of higher technology (including a moving walkway). It’s somewhat in ruins and obviously deserted.

c2Jackpot! It’s a storage room full of… stuff. I recognize the oil can. I do not recognize “bedistor” or the rest of the junk. But hey, it’s an adventure game, so you know it’ll all come in handy.

So fun — well, not really — Planetfall fact. Apparently the game has a rather limited inventory of six items, which might be realistic but it’s also incredibly annoying. So to make progress, I guess you have to keep dropping stuff to pick up new things. That bugs the part of me that loves to collect EVERYTHING in adventure games.

Another fun Planetfall fact (not really) is that your character has an internal hunger/thirst timer that’s always counting down. Once the game starts telling you that you’re hungry, you better darn well eat one of the three globs of goo from the survival kit soon or that’s it for you. What do I do when I’m all out of goo? Goo ‘R Us?

c3Can’t say that I’m too fond of this castle so far. There’s not a lot happening to entertain me here, so mostly it’s wandering corridors, picking up and dropping stuff, and trying to set events into motion so that I can progress.

But hey, magnet gets the key. Gotta be something good, right?

c4This game’s a complete jerk to me.

What’s kind of weird is that there’s lots of labels and numbers here that are in semi-English, like “spam and egz” or “sistums moniturz.” What’s that all about?

c5Another thing that must occasionally be done is to sleep. Which you can only do in beds, of course, and this game is very finnicky about how you go about doing it (you can’t say “sleep in bed,” you have to get into the bed first and then type “sleep”).

Oh you know what else Planetfall does? It strips you completely when you sleep, meaning that I ended up waking up then walking around naked for a while until I needed to use something and discovered I had no inventory. All of the items were neatly piled up in the dorm, probably applauding sarcastically when I came back to get them.

After getting up, the game informs me that I’m feeling “weak and slightly flushed,” which I’m sure marks my imminent doom. Radiation poisoning? Who knows.

c6I fill up my canteen from the kitchen’s goo faucet (it’s high protein!) and then explore around some more. I come across a robot room, where there’s one whole specimen that’s waiting to be activated. And activate it I do.

Hi Floyd! Good to have a companion at last!