Thursday, 27 March 2014

Assassin's Creed: How I came to play

I haven't been able to play any Star Wars or LotRO lately, simply because the gaming laptop has been away for repairs, I think for over 4 weeks by now. I know, AARGH. So instead, Tiger's been sharing his PC with me and we've been playing some single-player games: mostly Mass Effect and Assassin's Creed.

Now Assassin's Creed (written as AC in the title since I'm just that lazy) was a series I've always thought wasn't for me. In ancient times, my now ex-boyfriend had let me try Assassin's Creed I, and I didn't like it at all. The controls were weird and I'm not really the conspiracy theory and assassination type of girl. But Tiger has been playing it a bit when I've been studying and I may have accidentally made some remarks about how awesome the game looks. Now Tiger set off on a missionary path. It went sort of like this.

"What don't you like about it?" I explained what I found last time I tried it. "Well, if you look further than the conspiracy thing, the storytelling is actually quite good. You usually like these sort of things in games." 

Me: "But you have to assassinate people. It's evil. Look, there you did it! He didn't do anything to you!" "He was just a city guard..." Me: "He was innocent!" "Well, he worked for the wrong person." "Does he know? I mean, he probably has a family to take care of. A wife and kids. Who wouldn't take an easy job of patrolling the city roofs. I mean, roofs. What's the odd chance...?" Tiger: "You don't have to kill them. You can also just knock them unconscious, you know. Or sneak past them." Me: "So why didn't you...?"

*flying property*

Now Tiger was pulling out the heavy gunnery. "But I understand. You didn't like the controls. I guess you're not too good with controllers." Me: "What?! My first XBOX game was Ninja Gaiden. And I've played it until the end!"* "Hmm, that game is pretty hardcore. Well, if you can play that, Assassin's Creed should be a cakewalk." Sigh. I didn't like where this was going.

"Besides, the controls are indeed a bit clunky in Assassin's Creed I. It gets much better in the later games."

Okay, that was that then. Tiger: 1, Rav: 0. I guess there was only one option: I actually had to start playing Assassin's Creed.

* I quote from its Wikipedia page: The Ninja Gaiden games gained a reputation throughout the gaming community for their difficulty and attention to detail. Although they appealed to gamers who (...) wanted a "bloody hard, but also bloody good" challenge, it was feared that casual gamers would find the learning curve daunting. IGN warned that gamers with lesser skills might not "get as much out of this game as others due to [its] incredible difficulty"." I can concur, this game was really challenging.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

LOTRO: Day, night and lousy weather

 Okay, maybe this wasn't the best day to go out and take a ride...

In Day/Night cycles for a chance of sunset MMO Gypsy praises MMOs in which the developers took the effort to program day and night cycles into their games. I'm right with her on this one.

I miss this extra sense of realism in Star Wars. When I ride through LotRO and the rain suddenly falls onto my face, I remember what's so awesome about this game again. That's another thing that LotRO sets apart from other games: it has weather changes.

I sought my library of screenshots for some examples to illustrate how much influence the weather can have on the atmosphere of an area. You might recognize some of the pictures from earlier blog posts. My library is pretty extensive, though, so you've been warned.

Screenshots incoming!

A rainy day in Eastern Rohan.

The same region of Eastern Rohan during a bright day.

Even in the snowy region of Wildermore there's diversity. The region is forever cold due to a wizard's spell, but that doesn't mean it always looks the same.

Here's Wildermore again, this time without snow falling down. All of a sudden, the bleak winter sun makes the edges of Fangorn look as if they're ripped from a book of fairy tales.

And even in Wildermore, the area looks different during a foggy dawn.

Late afternoon in the Wold, Eastern Rohan. The light comes from a low angle: you can see the day is nearing its end.

This is how Fingolwë and Ravanel saw Edoras from afar at dawn.

And this is the sky when they arrived at its entrance a few (in-game) hours later.

I like how the Shire sky has this slightly deeper blue teint. Just sets it apart a little.

Deep in the night in Enedwaith the world might look a bit scarier. And heroes might look a bit more like heroes when they light up in the dark.

I really liked the contrast between the waving yellow grass of Enedwaith and the early night's king's blue sky. Shame I was on my crappy computer, so the quality of the screenshot isn't amazing.

I could add another dozen images or so, but I think you get the idea.

It seems like new MMOs tend to save money when it comes to 'fluff' like this, with Wildstar as a positive exception to the rule (as it at least seems to have day and night cycles). (Out of curiosity: does anyone know another MMO besides LotRO that has both day/night cycles and alternating weather?) I think this development in games is a shame, because it really adds a deeper level of immersion and quality to a game.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Watching Firefly

No Star Wars today, but something else spacey: I've started watching the Firefly TV-series this week, and it's awesome. Now I'm aware that probably everyone and their dog has already seen this series, but remember, I live under a rock.

In the rare case that you haven't, there's really only one word that will catch what the series is about, and that's "space cowboys". The first episode sums it up pretty well. Without too much explaining in your face, you get this feeling of a harsh environment at the edge of space where people have to go to great lengths to survive. But it's not too serious about it. It's more like a ...'space cowboy comedy'? There's great strength in the storytelling.

This is quite the break from the idealistic Star Trek: The Next Generation series, which I've been watching the past few months in its entirety. No future full of idealism in Firefly. No future where money and poverty have disappeared and people strive to become better, but instead at least one bar fight per episode and a ship on which the most respectable person is a whore. How awesome is that?

The comparison of newly colonized space with the Wild West is gold. Every scene ends with a well-placed country guitar streak and Wild Western camerawork. Oh, and did I mention there's at least one bar fight in every episode? Whoever made this spacey cowboy crossover, it works.

Okay, maybe the Alliance does resemble the Empire in Star Wars a bit too much. And maybe the acting isn't always that subtle (I'm really hoping for a bit more depth for the psycho girl in the coming episodes). But the series does manage to make me grin all the time.

The coolest part? I wouldn't even have known about this series without blogging. Thanks, Rowan, for mentioning Firefly to me!

Friday, 21 March 2014

SWTOR: What's this stronghold stuff?

You'll probably have heard the news by now: as per June we're getting SWTOR apartments! I mean, strongholds, totally strongholds (sigh).

Seriously, what's this 'stronghold' stuff? If I hear stronghold, I imagine some sort of castle. Not particularly useful in spacey future times. Besides, I'm always out there in danger, so when I'm having time off I want to relax in my leisure apartment. Not hide behind some barricades with all my stuff.

The name aside, this seems to be a decent update. There's even another teaser vid, that doesn't particularly tell much, but looks cool:

What's hot?

All directly from the official homepage:
"Legacy Stronghold Storage – Unlock access to a new type of storage that is shared across your entire Legacy!"
Legacy storage! What can I say, this is going to be huge. Awesome for raiding consumables, crafting materials and smuggle wares without ending up loosing sight on what character has what. People have been asking for this since the start of the game, so it's good this is finally added.
"Rally your guild aboard your own Guild Flagship and join the renowned ranks of your faction’s starship fleet."
This is a nice surprise, there's been no mention of a guild ship before. Always good to have a place where you can accumulate trophies with your buddies. This should be a fun addition.
"Choose a prestigious apartment in the heart of your faction’s capital world, or live in style among the high-rollers of Nar Shaddaa or both – your Legacy can own multiple Strongholds!"
It's nice that there is some choice of planet where to live. I had hoped for more planets (would have loved to live on Tatooine, for instance), but this is better than just Coruscant or something of the likes. It's also nice to be able to have multiple houses, especially for roleplay purposes. I think I'm going to settle for one Imp and one Rep one though. I'm certainly not going to grind out an apartment for each alt!
"Display trophies earned in battle, craft state-of-the-art furniture, and unlock all-new rewards across the game. Then customize your Strongholds with hundreds of unique decorations to express your personal style."
Crafting, trophies... exactly what I had hoped for. Surely they'll come up with some creative stuff.

Buzzing blogs

Meanwhile, it seems people are getting quite excited about this, and SWTOR blogs are buzzing. Most bloggers agree 'stronghold' sounds silly, but are generally quite happy with the revealed features. Here's a short wrap up:

Going Commando loves how Bioware manages to surprise players with an update that appears to be more impressive than expected.

Meanwhile, Swords & Lightsabers has 101 ideas about the possible housing details.

Finally, Werit wonders how the decoration system will work, while Njessi of Hawtpants of the Republic finds her luxury condo has a walk-in-closet.

Don't forget to sub in May in order to get early access in June!

Monday, 17 March 2014

Sims 3: The amazing Lady McKay

It's been a long while since my last Sims post, but I would still like to finish the story of the McKay family here. It just feels so unfinished now, it makes me feel a bit guilty. So here we go.

Quick recap

If you remember, the Mc Kay family consists of five-star chef Vanessa "Granny" McKay, her two grandchildren, Delilah and Elaine, and cat Lady. My goal was to have two teenage children without anyone to look after them, but the game doesn't allow you to start off like that. So it was down to hoping Granny would kick the bucket soon. Unfortunately, she apparently had led such a healthy life that she didn't seem to want to do so, even though her lifespan bar had already been filled for days. Elaine even turned into an adult already. Would Granny at least make it to heaven before Delilah, too, would turn 18?


The girls certainly wouldn't miss her. Granny had to work in the evenings, and they went to school in the mornings, so there was barely any time to get to know each other. Besides, there as no need, since Vanessa always left some five-star food in the fridge for the girls to eat. Granny did grow a bit closer to Elaine the last days (since Elaine didn't have to go to school anymore), but her real "BFF" was Lady. 

Need a hug? Hug Lady! Social meter down to zero? Quick, pick up Lady! (Or alternatively, sniff Granny, it all depends on your point of view.) Lady always made sure Granny never overslept by meowing in front of her bed in the mornings (and unfortunately also sometimes during the night). And Granny was the only one who Lady would allow to bathe her when she was having fleas. Maybe I shouldn't have been so surprised by what was about to happen.

Saved by the cat

The time was finally there. When the girls were about to go to bed, the Grim Reaper showed up in their bedroom. Not for them, but for Granny, who was on her way to pay a visit to the toilet upstairs. Elaine exchanged an annoyed look with Delilah ("okay... does this have to happen in our bedroom?"), but for the rest didn't show any emotion as Granny begged for her life. One person, however, was about to show her discontent with the situation.

Lady McKay left out a heartbreaking howl as she understood what was about to happen. Who would give her a flea bath in times of dire need now? And more importantly, who would serve her five-star homemade cat food in the mornings?

It appears even the Grim Reaper couldn't bear such honest emotions and he decided to spare Granny's life.

Things soon turned to normal within the McKay family. Or did they? Vanessa McKay certainly had something on her mind from now on. There were only a few days left until Delilah's birthday...

Saturday, 8 March 2014

SWTOR: Some hopes regarding housing

We're getting houses - but I live on my ship!

Tiger sent me this video of upcoming plans for housing in Star Wars. I think he was expecting me to jump around the house happily, but I don't know:

The video obviously doesn't show much. We see what is assumed to be a player-owned apartment on what seems to be Coruscant. There is some furniture and a mailbox. The thing standing at the left side of the room may or may not be a cargo hold. And there's a droid, of which it is unclear whether it is the jedi knight companion or a 'house droid'. The video is more a teaser than anything. 

Still, I think it's pretty cool that they're working on this, and I know that many people been hoping for housing for a long time. Myself, I've always felt that my ship was in a way my own 'house', although it's a shame there isn't much to customize there apart from adding the useful stuff like training dummies and cargo holds. What will SWTOR housing add here?

Wild ideas

This is what I hope housing in Star Wars will include:

A house can be so much fun, but if it's situated on some far backwater area you can't easily reach, I'll forget about it and rarely visit it. It should at least have a quick travel. It would be great if a house would give you extra cargo space, preferably shared between characters. It could be, like, a legacy house. That way it would make sense lore-wise as well.
It would be awesome to collect items won in battles (raids, flashpoints) or found in the open world that remind you of adventures experienced and place them in your house. I'm sure the developers can come up with some crazy cool ideas of things to put there. Especially things you can use ('click') and that do something are my favourite.

I once saw a really cute video made by a LotRO player, showing his housing trophies and 'flashbacks' to the moment he'd acquired them. I'm so annoyed that I can't find it back to show it to you!

Crafting recipes for furniture 
I love crafting recipes for outfits, even though they took a big hit with the introduction of the cartel market. It still would be cool to be able to craft nice stuff for your house. Like actual good-looking stuff, not a hobo version for people who can't afford stuff from the cartel market.

If SWTOR houses will have a kitchen and a privy, I'll salute the developers. I'm not counting on it, though. Oh and Star Wars houses should totally be called apartments. I'm getting the TOR feeling already!

Home is where your friends are

This is what I hope housing in Star Wars will not include:

A time and money sink
I have to spend more time than I'd like into trying to get money in Star Wars. If it's going to be very expensive to pay upkeep, it will have to be very good for me to bother with it.

A cartel market walhalla
The developers no doubt have ideas about cartel market housing items. I just hope it's not going to be a cartel market exclusive housing party. That would greatly take away my interest.

Too much space
This is a tricky/personal one. I've always felt that the personal houses in LotRO had too much space: loads of space and just sometimes an item here or there. I'd like my house to be full of stuff, looking cozy like my real house would look like, not like a random page taken from a design magazine.

Will I buy a house?

I generally like owning a house and putting my stuff there, but we don't know anything about housing in Star Wars yet. In LotRO, I do own one, which I mostly use for nostalgia reasons and to get dyes from the shared vault. I gave Tiger access to the vault, since he's a digital hobo. I don't know if he'll want an apartment in Star Wars or not. Whether I'll get one myself will mostly depend on the factors described above.