BLOG UPDATE AND QUALITY OF LIFE IMPROVEMENTS FOR COMMENTERS

It only took me 2.5 years since the big wordpress move to finally get my blog into shape with jetpack, which now means I am logging on via the .com site again rather than .org and it’s all a little confusing. When it comes to upgrading systems that aren’t exactly broken, I am a horrible conservative but so far I am loving all the extra functionality (yay related posts)!

Since the somewhat frosty look of my old style got to me, I have also taken (yet) another opportunity to update my blog’s shiny layout and header. While I’m not 100% happy with the image yet, it feels a lot warmer and more well, adventuring vagabond to me. The free SUITS theme for wordpress is quite sexy, so I can definitely recommend that if you’re currently undergoing your own blogexistential crisis.

While tweaking stuff, I was made aware of a rather astounding number which is my blog’s total count of comments for all time: 4’589 to date. Naturally as my regular visitors will know, half of these belong to me because ever since day one, I’ve made it my mission to get back to 99.8% of all comments that I receive. That still makes this comment count incredibly awesome and I know that without all these engaging and fun encounters and debates over the years, I probably wouldn’t be blogging today. So now that I am fixing the blog up for reals, it’s time I also did something for my commenters and regular visitors!

A list of the new comment features installed:

You can now spellcheck and edit (yes!) your own comments for the duration of 10mins, as long as nobody has replied to your specific comment in the meantime.
You can now subscribe to follow-up comments or new posts per email and never miss replies again.
You now get to see a max. character count per comment, in order to keep the overall discussion within an agreeable frame for dialogue (3000 is still a lot honestly).
Frequent commenters get their own honorable VIP-badge, starting at rank 1 (20 posts) and going all the way up to 7! Yeah, this one is more of a goofy gimmick but I like it – even if it seems to depend on IP too.
For now, I will give these a go and wait for feedback. It’s all in a testing phase for me, so let me know if a particular feature doesn’t work or if you think it needs adjusting. And as always, thank you for your comment!

IN HEAVENSWARD, EVERYONE IS DRESSED FOR THE OCCASION

I hit level 58 tonight in A Realm Reborn and between catching my breath because of what’s happening in the main storyline and looking for aether currents everywhere, I need to give this expansion some serious props in terms of gear design – omigosh, it’s all so pretty!

Gear details have always been stunning in FFXIV (they’re all in 3D which helps a lot…) but adventurers starting out in early Eorzea had to put up with many a yellow burlap sack and baggy clothes in the past. Not so in the expansion: Heavensward is packed with armor sets from the get-go and they are all new and shiny and easy enough to acquire through questing or dungeons. I especially love the baroque and gothic vibes of some of my black mage’s gear and feel the class is properly treated for a change!

It’s rather remarkable how SE aren’t stingy on providing all this gear without demanding blood sacrifice. While good-looking and matching gear (weapons included) is hard to come by in many MMOs, it is impossible to underdress in Eorzea. And for my part, I find this very motivating.

DOES EVERYTHING HAVE TO BE A GAME NOW?

I’ve been in the middle of an interesting twitter discussion lately, following up a comment I made after hearing about Choice:Texas (“a serious game about abortion”) via this article on Indiestatik –

The replies I received to my comment were intriguing on account of their diversity – from complete agreement to yet another discussion of what constitutes “game” in this day and age. That wasn’t really what I was going for though (even if it has a part in this discussion).

I’ll be honest and say I am completely weirded out by projects such as Choice:Texas and it has nothing to do with subject matter. I am all for making a wider audience aware of serious and seriously difficult but important societal, political or cultural issues, yes even testing new media and avenues of transportation. When it comes in combination with the game label however, I hesitate. This is not the first time either – I’ve had the exact same feelings on the recently published Depression Quest. Now, I’ve read several great reviews on this title and I’ve no reason to doubt any of them. For many personal reasons, one of which being my current employment in a mental care facility, I am a big supporter of getting the word out on illnesses such as depression, on educating a wider audience against common and harmful stigma. Heck, you cannot educate too much on such matters. Yet despite all of this, the title Depression Quest still fills me with cringe.

How do you make a “quest” out of something as crippling and insidious as clinical depression? How does the association with all of this being like a quest – that traditionally heroic undertaking with epic loot at the end – add anything to an otherwise important message? I get it: Depression Quest is an earnest attempt to take away some of the gloom off a heavy subject, in order to make it more accessible and encourage people to put themselves in the position of a person affected by depression. I just genuinely wonder why we need gameplay mechanics, tropes and quests to learn about or show interest in such topics? I wonder too, if the average person truly takes this seriously as usual gamer habits, such as looking for the correct answer or choosing the most efficient path, kick in (I assume that the main target audience of this title would be especially those who do not usually engage with it?). And if such isn’t possible here, is it still a game? Why does it need to be? Can we not learn about the world anymore in non-gamey fashion?

Choice:Texas takes my intuitive misgivings a step further. It is majorly bizarre to me how one can make a game out of “the severe restrictions placed on women’s health care access in Texas”. – Are you serious? That is a game now? You have just lost me completely.

Just to make it plain once more, I get all the intention behind this and the need for education. I just honestly don’t see how applying the game label to such a matter can help. There is an almost insurmountable bias or thematic association I have with the term game and I am happy to bet so have most people. Even if videogames can serve multiple purposes or be designed therefor, historically speaking games have been pastimes, activities done for distraction or entertainment. They are short-lived, limited in severity and therefore trivial to a certain point. And that lies at the heart of the problem for me personally: game is trivializing. I don’t feel it serves anybody to trivialize the issue of abortion laws in Texas to a point where it can be packaged into neat units of gameplay (*).

I don’t see how evoking associations with gaming (and questing, gathering points or beating the game from there) aren’t counter-productive in this case. One could even suspect the creators of Choice:Texas have already had similar doubts or why keep emphasizing how this is “a very serious game”? To clarify: I absolutely think you can create things like comics or even interactive clips / stories etc. on political subjects but why call them games?

Maybe I am completely off here and I’m sure those who think so, will kindly let me know. As I said, I appreciate all underlying intention but to me there is a bad aftertaste of desperate marketing thrown in the whole mix, all other misgivings aside. I think games are a wonderful medium, vast and creative, diverse and powerful, but all considered I still believe some things should be worth saying and hearing without having to make a game out of them. Guess I’m just old fashioned that way.

(*)This is where I take the opportunity to recommend the Black Mirror trilogy, especially season one, episode two: “15 Million Merits”.

HOLDING ON TO YOUR ESCAPISM

Hello, my name is Syl and I am a screenshot junkie. I admit, I have a weakness for shiny fairytale worlds. Sometimes, I wish I lived there.

There have been times in my life when I have. Half of my childhood (literally) was spent lying on my bed, listening to audio cassettes (fifty-two, for which I will always thank my late grandfather) full of international folklore, mythology and fairytales, while reading the colorfully illustrated booklets. All day long I watched Jack climb the beanstalk, Sindbad fly giant birds and Odysseus fool the cyclops with sheep skins. When George killed the dragon, I was there with him. The secret backdoor in my wardrobe has been wide open all my life. Escaping to fantasy land always came easily to me. It’s what has kept me sane. I don’t want to imagine my life without stories growing up.

There’s nothing wrong with escapism. The key points of consideration, though, are what you’re escaping from, and where you’re escaping to. [source]

When less informed people talk about game-related escapism (for that still seems to be less established than the literary form), they only ever focus on the escape; the negative distancing, the social estrangement. Hardly ever do they understand that when we do, when we need to, we escape to a better place – maybe to the only, currently right place in our life. That it’s only there where we find shelter, safety and peace of mind. For a little while. And that it may save us from something. That it gives us hope.

The objection to fairy stories is that they tell children there are dragons. But children have always known there are dragons. Fairy stories tell children that dragons can be killed. [source]

I will never apologize for my escapism. I don’t know where I’d be without it. I will never be ashamed of what’s kept me alive. Things could have gone badly – instead, I found universal meaning, truth and understanding that reaches beyond the struggles of our everyday lives.

We read to know we are not alone. [C.S. Lewis]

Moving on to the interactive stories of video games was the natural progression of my childhood thirst for fairy tales. Discovering JRPGs around age 10 was a revelation. Later, MMOs finally allowed us to enter the worlds we’ve been day-dreaming about in Lord of the Rings or the Forgotten Realms in full capacity, as ourselves.

The rest is history. I love this genre – I love it for its immersive otherworldly-ness, its places of order and beauty where, for a little while, I can rest in peace and recharge my batteries. In a way, this is self-medicating. Bhagpuss commented elsewhere that ‘the reason games are “fun” is because they allow us to forget for a small time that we are all going to die one day and probably sooner than we would like to think’ and that may be a part of it too, the older we get. I do not fall down the rabbit hole as deeply as I used to nowadays, yet there are still moments in my daily life when I feel completely drained and in almost physical need to switch off and just play games for a while. There have been times when I neglected this part of myself for real life demands and that didn’t go well. I need to keep in touch with my wardrobe; it restores my sanity like nothing else does.

I wish that more people understood this because so many of us deal with the world in similar fashion. In the words of my old philosophy teacher: “the greatest gift we can give our children is to give them stories”. So keep yours close (and check out my new screenshots gallery!) and a happy Monday to all you MMO escapists out there. Hold on to that escapism for as long as you need it.

No New Songs For Guitar Hero Live This Week, More To Come At E3

Oh no! We don’t have a Tracklist Tuesday reveal this week! What will we do?! Wait another week I suppose.

So today Activision has posted on their blog that they will not be revealing any songs this week. Instead, they have decided to have a bigger reveal next week at E3. They also announced that attendees will also be able to try out the game’s GH Live mode at the convention. The GH Live mode is where you face live-action crowds that react to your performance. The other mode that won’t be playable at E3, GH TV, plays music videos in the background instead of the traditional performances. GH TV also works like an actual television channel where songs are constantly being played and players can jump right in at any moment.

We already know dozens of songs, but “hundreds” are said to be available at the game’s launch. Until then, check this link here for last week’s song announcements as well as the links to the previous song reveals. With E3 only one week away, stay tuned for all the new songs and features to be announced!

 

Brothers: A Tale Of Two Sons Coming To PS4 and Xbox One This Holiday

505 Games has announced that Brothers: A Tale Of Two Sons, originally released in 2013, will be coming to PS4 and Xbox One later this year.

This game has a very unique control scheme that uses both the right and left analog sticks to control each character at the same time, through a very unique beautiful world and story. While the controls do take a little getting used to, the game is a great experience.

That game is also available now on Xbox 360, PS3, PC, and will be coming to IOS and Android around the same time as the PS4 and Xbox One releases.

I played this game around the end of 2013 while I was waiting for the release of the next gen consoles, and was trying to wrap up some games that I hadn’t gotten too yet. I loved the heck out of this game and have been hoping for a PS4 release for a while now and I’m very happy about this news and will happily buy it again.

 

The Need For Realism in Military MMOs

For the most part, when players log into their favorite mmo games, they’re looking for an escape from reality. Online games offer the promise of grand adventure, where a person can be a mighty warrior, a crafty rogue, or a powerful wizard. This ability to shed the mundane world and engage in a flight of fancy is a powerful lure. Personally, I’m not particularly agile or have six-pack abs in real life, but my online avatar can be. Yet there is an area of online gaming where realism is not only important, but that it is vital. That area is the world of military mmos. There has been some debate over how realistic a military mmo should be, but I think the answer is pretty obvious. Allow me to explain the need for realism in military mmos.

I come from a background of realism in strategy and military games. My father and I used to play board games released by Avalon Hill back in the 1980s. For those that do not know, Avalon Hill was the premier maker of games that catered to players that craved the most realism possible. We once played a game of melee combat that had a rule book of over eighty pages. That’s quite a bit for determining how two guys swinging swords at each other will pan out. Their military games were meticulously researched, and players would argue in magazines over whether the statistics of a particular tank were done correctly. Fast forward to the mmofps games we have today that focus on battlefield conflict. You’ll see the same arguments being made by players over the tanks, planes, and weapons found in the various military mmos.

My belief that military mmo realism is vital is shared by many others that play such games. One reason why this is so is that these games are not designed to just be an arcade game, but rather they’re designed to accurately simulate the conditions of the battlefields and the various forces that fight upon them. When you’re recreating World War II tank battles, you don’t have the Stuart light tank to be able to take out King Tiger tanks with ease. The Stuart tank was an extremely light tank that was outclassed and was eventually replaced while the King Tiger tank was a beast on the battlefield and was greatly feared. The front armor of the King Tiger was almost invulnerable, which necessitated flanking maneuvers and superior tactics to take them on. This realism needs to be imported into the online games so players can accurately use weapon systems within the game as they worked in the real world. Just look at the sheer number of vehicles in World of Tanks and their differing attributes. Some tanks were able to mount more powerful cannons whilst others were far more agile and quick. (The argument that World of Tanks favors Russian vehicles does not have a bearing on the general discussion of military mmo realism.) The same is true for other weapons, such as planes. The Japanese Zero was a good plane when WWII started, but it was soon outclassed by planes that were newly developed. Some planes were able to climb much higher than others without stalling or turn in a sharper radius, thus giving them an important advantage in aerial combat.

Realism in military mmos is incredibly important as warfare is measured in innovations between offense and defense. This is easily seen in tanks, but it is also applicable to other battlefield facets like planes and ships. Weapons would be developed to better destroy enemy tanks, and the opposing side would then work to create better armor and perhaps improve engines or maneuverability to overcome the newly developed weapons. This, of course, would lead to the other side then working to create even better weapons, and the cycle would continue until the end of the conflict.

This back and forth is vital in military mmo realism. Players seek to continually upgrade their weapons, armor, and support systems to become more effective. Armored Warfare just put out a developer diary just a few weeks ago where they discussed the use of different types of ammo in the game and their impact. This realism can also be seen in the vast number of upgrades that a player may have available for their vehicles or units. As wars progressed, innovations were made in every facet of weaponry, including engines, optics, communications, and more.

Lastly, realism in military mmos is necessary as most games try to recreate the battles and campaigns of previous wars. The most recent example is War Thunder that introduced their WW2 Chronicles that allows players to take part in the most iconic engagements of the war over a course of special events. Military gamers love to try their hand at historical conflicts to see if they could do better when calling the shots. Whether the player is taking on the role of a tank commander, leading Roman legions, or facing down Napoleon, having realistic conditions and units is paramount when recreating history and experimenting to see if it could be altered.

Can there be too much realism in military mmos? The answer to that question is yes. The thing to consider that whatever military game that you’re playing (mmo fps, strategy, or standard mmo), the game still has to be playable. It is possible for a game to become mired in too much realism that bogs down the game. A balance has to be struck between realism and playability, and there are a number of games that do so quite well. If you want to play a game set in WWII, ancient Greece, or the American Civil War, then ensuring the presence of military mmo realism in paramount to having a great game.

Dear Esther

Dear Esther is probably one of the most beautiful games I’ve ever played. I know it’s hard to categorize it as a game because lets face it, you don’t actually DO anything except wander around desolate locations playing through partial story snippets, but it is a game none the less, and one that I really enjoy. I listened to the dialog as I walked along exploring, wondering if I could get into the little nooks and crannies I found, wondering what the story was of the island, what the sadness was about, how I would have reacted. Feeling, in other words. Yes, this is a game that is all about feeling.

Everything from the graphics, to the music, oozes out a story that you get to piece together and think about.

You can check out some screenshots from the game I’ve posted on my Steam profile (under the username Stargrace) or if you follow me on G+ I’ve posted them there for people to view as well. There were moments during the dialog that I just stood still and listened and looked around me thinking because I found the situation profound. It’s incredibly rare that a video game has that sort of effect on the player, and I’m very glad I gave this one a try.

Of course, these types of games are not for everyone (just one of the perks of us all being different types of gamers) but if you’re looking to get away from combat and the constant wars that go on in video games I would highly suggest you give it a try.

My Favorite Vanguard Memories

It wasn’t a surprise when I heard tonight that Vanguard would be closing its doors, but that doesn’t mean that I was any less surprised, and maybe even a bit hurt. Still, 7 years is nothing to sneeze at, most companies probably would have closed the door long ago. I wanted to share a few of my favorite Vanguard memories, I’ve been playing off and on since beta, and this game has been one of my favorite for MANY different reasons.

– I was a volunteer guide with the SOE program for approximately two years in Vanguard. I met amazing players through the program and was able to interact and RP with them in ways I always wished I could. This was one of my favorite things to do in game.

– Vanguard was the first game I ever played where I quite literally built my house from scratch, brick by brick. I still own the house.

– Vanguard was the first game I ever played that attempted a ‘seamless’ open world without instances. It didn’t exactly work out the way it was intended, but it was always beautiful.

– I ran a lot of events in game, including a scavenger hunt for my guild ‘Safe Haven’. I eventually joined the EQ2 branch of the guild because they were just that amazing.

As I sit here and think about everything I’ve done in game and browse through the thousands of screenshots I’ve taken I can’t help but get a bit teary eyed. I doubt any but those closest to me know just how much of myself I poured into this game and how much it has given back to me over the years, helping to keep me sane when the world around me was a disaster. I’m so very thankful and grateful that it was allowed to run for as long as it did and I will miss this game very much.

Win a Copy of Order of Battle: Pacific

 

It’s time to get strategic with another IncGamers competition, this time for Order of Battle: Pacific.

Our latest competition gives you the chance to snag a Steam code for Slitherine and The Artistocrats WW2 strategy title.

Set in Pacific theater of WW2, Order of Battle: Pacific features playable campaigns for both the US-led Allies and the Japanese Empire. Starting from the attack on Pearl Harbor, the dynamic campaign system allows players to alter the course of history and even win the war as Japan in the fictional “what-if” conquest of Australia, or lead the Allied forces from the struggle at the beginning of the war to ultimate victory with the invasion of Japan.

With a selection of over 500 unique looking and behaving units, players can build and manage their army and fleet throughout the campaign. Early units include the iconic M3 Stuart, Type 97 Chi-Ha, A6M Zero and F4U Corsair fighters. As new technology becomes available, players eventually gain access to high-tech and prototype units such as the Nakajima Kikka and P-80 Shooting Star jet-fighters, Montana and Super Yamato Class battleships and T28, T29 and Type 100 I/O heavy tanks.

A unique system of Specializations allows players to customize their forces with special units, bonuses and abilities that reflect the difference in strategies and mentality of the opposing sides. Focus on the merciless Japanese fighting spirit with Banzai Charge and Bushido Code, establish supply advantages with the Tokyo Express, or gain access to B29 Nuclear Bombers through the Manhattan Project.

A set of unique Commanders – split between Generals, Pilots and Captains – is gradually unlocked in the campaigns. Commanders can be attached to specific units to provide unique bonuses to anything in their command range. While good use of unit types and tactics remains the player’s priority, clever use of Commanders can tip the balance in an offensive operation or buy just enough time in defense to turn the tide to your favor.

Add an intuitive in-game scenario editor, up to 4 player multiplayer support through Hotseat or Slitherine’s PBEM++ server system and you have a game with endless re-playability

Sound good? All you need to do it post a comment below and you will be entered into the draw. To make sure you are entered into the draw, we advise you to login with your IncGamers site account and not a social media login or Steam because we can only select winners with a valid email address.

We’ll contact the winners in a few days so sit tight while we give Tim’s Tombola of Tribulation a spin to select the lucky gamers. Good luck!