Category Archives: waffle

You fought hard and you saved and earned

It’s coming up for a year since (finally) properly getting into Guild Wars 2. The good old Tuesday N00b Club moved on a little while back but Melmoth’s Sunday morning group fortuitously had a vacancy and Fractals (instanced mini-Dungeon type things) have been providing nice bite-sized chunks of content ideal for a once-a-week diversion. Thing were starting to get a little stale and we explored a couple of alternatives (WildStar and a return to SWTOR), but neither really stuck, so everyone wandered off over the summer. I’ve been ticking along with the usual gaming suspects; War Thunder, Mass Effect: Andromeda multiplayer, a bit of the new DOOM (satisfyingly squishy but not hugely engrossing), a quick glance at a new update for The Division (still fun for a quick blast). Nothing terribly inspiring on either the gaming or blogging front. The announcement of a new GW2 expansion, Path of Fire, has sparked a bit of interest, though, so I think I’ll pick that up and have a look around.

The title is a little odd, though; who makes a path out of fire? That’s a pretty clear violation of Appendix 9.2-A of the Drives, paths and landscaping section of NHBC Standards, and frankly a health and safety nightmare. All I can imagine is a mix-up in ArenaNet’s contacts list, and instead of engaging Capability Brown to provide the landscaping for the new expansion they got The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown. Easy mistake to make.

Noel’s Andromeda Party or No Party

So we were chatting away about the recent Mass Effect: Andromeda patch with improvements to the character creator, and wondering what future updates might hold…

> MELMOTH: Patch Notes: Deleted all Ryder face and beard options and replaced them with 'a version of Noel Edmonds that our artist modelled one Friday afternoon while drunk'.

> ZOSO: New game pitch: ME:A featuring Noel Edmonds as Ryder with squadmates Mr Blobby and The Banker


The planet Eos. NOEL “PATHFINDER” EDMONDS disembarks from the Nomad accompanied by the pink and yellow horror that is MISTER BLOBBY.

EDMONDS: Looks like a Kett encampment ahead, Blobby, better be careful. Here’s the plan: we sneak up, hidden by those rocks there, then I’ll use my Biotic shield to cover…

BLOBBY: Blobby? Blobby blobby blobby! BLOBBBBEEEEEE!

BLOBBY charges forward wildly firing a submachine gun, falls over, narrowly misses EDMONDS with a burst of fire, gets back up; EDMONDS cautiously moves forward in cover trying to suppress the Kett with assault rifle fire; BLOBBY trips again, lands on EDMONDS.

EDMONDS: Blobby! For heaven’s sake…

Kett troopers look on, somewhat bemused. A telephone rings loudly and everybody pauses.

EDMONDS: Ah! About time The Banker turned up.

EDMONDS answers a telephone inexplicably sitting on a rock formation.

EDMONDS: Yes? I see. Really? Right then.

EDMONDS puts the telephone down. Tense music plays.

EDMONDS: Well, Kett Anointed, The Banker admires your bravado but says it will be your undoing in the end. He’s going to make an extremely generous offer that he knows you’ll turn down: 500 credits, an Uncommon item, and some inorganic lubricant.

KETT ANOINTED turns to his comrades.

KETT DESTINED: I’ve got a really good feeling about your container, I reckon there’s definitely an Ultra Rare in there, don’t take the deal.

KETT CHOSEN: The Banker’s just playing mind games with you, think about how those credits could change your life.

KETT ANOINTED: Well… it’s a good offer, Noel, but at the end of the day I’m an AI mob scripted to blindly attack you, so I’m going to have to say ‘no deal’ and shoot you with a plasma rifle.

While the Kett have been talking, BLOBBY has climbed up to a nearby platform. He takes aim with a Black Widow sniper rifle.

BLOBBY: Blobby!

BLOBBY fires, completely missing the Kett; the recoil knocks him backwards in a somersault off the platform, landing on EDMONDS again.


Some people just have to take things too far, though…

> MELMOTH: Mr Blobby romance options...


Pathfinders Quarters on the Tempest. EDMONDS and BLOBBY have returned to the ship.

EDMONDS: Well, Blobby, as Kett Anointed didn’t take the deal I still have that inorganic lubricant. Better hope you don’t ‘trip’ and fall on top of me again…

BLOBBY: Blobby blobby blobby blobby blobby blobby *squelch* blobby blobby blobby!

Fade to black. Fade to black! For the love of all that is holy fade to black!

AFAOIEIOGDOFDOMAF

As many commentators pointed out the whole idea of April Fool’s Day on the internet seems rather superfluous in the current climate, but at least there’s April Fun And/Or Interesting Event In Online Game Day (Or Few Days Or Maybe A Fortnight) to look forward to (AFAOIEIOGDOFDOMAF, as all the cool kids call it). I’ve been a bit distracted by Mass Effect: Andromeda so haven’t looked too far around the net to see what’s been going on this year; Guild Wars 2 has the Super Adventure Box, an 8-bit inspired Mario-y quest to rescue a kidnapped princess, but it’s not a genre I have particular nostalgia for so I haven’t done much more than poke a nose in.

Over in War Thunder developers Gaijin introduced modern main battle tanks and attack helicopters. Though the game is largely based in World War 2 its vehicles have been inexorably moving forwards in time, so it’s less of a rib-tickling gag than a logical extension. Last year’s sailing ship event was an opportunity to test out aquatic combat in advance of the naval forces beta test and there’s widespread expectation that this event presages something major, either War Thunder itself moving into the modern era or perhaps a new and separate game. It does seem like a fair bit of work just for a few days:

Mind you we haven’t seen World War II Mechs after the 2015 event, which is rather a shame as they were quite splendid, so it might just be a one-off.

Encumbered forever by desire and ambition

It’s a funny old game, The Division. Saying that, I didn’t find it particularly amusing, the quirky mission-givers being a bit jarring in an otherwise bleak, bleak time, and it’s not old as such, having been released exactly(ish) a year ago. Still, “it’s a game, The Division” would be a bit of a weak post opening despite the factual accuracy.

On the one hand I’ve sunk a fair amount of time into it and mostly enjoyed it, popping back in for the updates and noodling around New York with a bunch o’ guns. It’s got a good hook, the set-piece story missions play well and can take a fair bit of repeating in the “do it again but harder” endgame (note to ed: insert Kenneth Williams animated reaction GIF here in a desperate attempt to keep up with newfangled social media trends that are already dreadfully passée thus appearing even more out of touch, unless we luck out and they’re undergoing a retro revival). On the other hand, it feels like there are missed opportunities. The story is left dangling; obviously you want to leave space for a sequel but I would’ve liked a bit more of a resolution at the end of the main game. It hasn’t really been picked up in any updates or DLC, and from what “Year Two” details I’ve seen there are no more story missions on the cards (the old conflict between story (expensive voice actors, time-consuming development, ‘properly’ experienced once (if that) by most players) and repeatability). Combat generally works, but it can be a fine line between rampaging around without any difficulty and cowering behind boxes waiting for a healing skill to recharge as any attempt to peak out is met by a fusillade of pin-point return fire. The DLC packs have felt a little lacklustre; nice additions, but not necessarily £12-worth. Survival is fun but pales after a few runs, the most recent Last Stand looks particularly empty unless you’re into the PvP side of things. Assigning a value to games is increasingly difficult, entirely arbitrarily I’d say I got my money’s worth from the main game but not quite the season pass.

Tim & Jon were talking about it on their 9th Anniversary podcast (hearty congratulations to them for tireless devotion to entertaining gaming wittering, and indeed even older legacy textual rambling that the Wayback Machine has just about saved from The Demise of Domains) and mentioned a new in-game “Premium” vendor in the most recent update flogging emotes and cosmetics for real money (or at least for Obligatory Premium In-Game Currency bought with real money). I hadn’t seen this new vendor, so I fired up the game and toddled along to have a look and it is a trifle odd. Where, say, Mass Effect 3 compartmentalised the multiplayer (loot boxes, cash shop, ‘grind’) and the solo story, they’re blurred together in The Division for good (being able to drop in and easily play with friends, generally) and not-quite-so-good (£5 for a dance emote!) I’m not quite sure what genre The Division falls into; Sort Of Fairly Open World With Strong RPG Gameplay Elements And A Bit Of A Story If You Want To Pay Attention To It Optionally Multiplayer Third Person Cover Shooter, maybe. Not that everything has to fall into a neat box, of course, but I think it’s spread itself a bit thin and ended up the proverbial Jack-of-all-Genres, mastering none.

Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!

Testing of naval forces in War Thunder started last year, and after a bit of a break for the introduction of Japanese tanks and official release of the game (whatever that means these days) is now happening most weekends. Tests so far have covered several scenarios, both with and without aircraft, with a variety of playable vessels from high speed torpedo armed motorboats to larger armoured gunboats.

Gameplay is interesting so far, broadly similar to land battles (only wetter). With nowhere to hide on the ocean apart from a few islands to duck behind, and boats that roll around on waves, cautious positioning and long-range sniping aren’t nearly as much of a factor as in tank battles. Boats are also generally quite resilient, able to soak up a fair amount of damage from the small calibre cannon that most are equipped with so one shot rarely leaves you incapacitated or destroyed. That said larger guns (85mm+) can quickly spoil the day of a wooden-hulled boat, and torpedoes are very potent against heavier, slower ships (nippy little boats should be able to avoid torpedo attacks, unless they’ve slightly embarrassingly run into an island and got stuck after being a bit too fixated on a target).

Aircraft can be quite deadly but most boats have a decent array of fast-firing weapons to put up a defensive barrage, mixed matches should offer good opportunities both in the air and on the water. Most tests so far have been domination-type matches requiring zones to be captured, an intriguing alternative involved two sets of NPC cargo ships that had to be defended/sunk.

I’ve not been playing ground forces much recently, I get rather bogged down in the mid-tiers, though it’s been fun to jump back into the faster-paced carefree world of Tier I with the new Japanese tree; I’m not sure if naval forces will prise me away from air battles in the long term, but I’ll certainly be taking to the water for a while when they’re fully released.

Mister Splashy Pants

Boaty McBoatface

A story should have a beginning, a middle and an end, but not necessarily in that order

With a disappointing lack of imagination it turns out 2016 is followed by 2017, increasingly looking like a prescient choice for the setting of The Running Man, and with a similarly disappointing lack of imagination my New Year gaming has been much the same since first picking up War Thunder at the start of 2013. There’s been another series of tasks with shiny plane rewards up for grabs, based on the World War II Chronicles again, a series of daily scenarios chronologically progressing through the war that offer a nice opportunity to switch between countries and aircraft types. The tasks aren’t particularly onerous but do require a bit of grinding, so with the Me 262 secured I’m ready for a bit of a rest.

I’m winding down in Guild Wars 2 as well. It’s consumed good chunks of the past few months, but the rolling boil of new game excitement has given way to the gentle simmer of daily routine. I’ve finished off the various story elements (the original game, expansion, and the ongoing Living Story) and have to say I haven’t been terribly engrossed. It starts well enough, each race having several options during character creation that lead to different vignettes, but as the levels increase the various paths intertwine to put everybody on the same road to defeating the Big Evil Thing, and my sense of involvement steadily diminished to the point that I felt like I was watching a bunch of NPCs, one of whom happened to be dressed like my character. I took to alt-tabbing off to other applications if some Basil Exposition NPC was monologuing away, popping back now and again just to check if I was supposed to be killing anything; running a pet-heavy Necromancer build was useful for that as the minions made a pretty decent fist of things while I was AFK

I might have been a bit more swept up in things if I’d started at launch and played through sequentially, but coming in after four years everything is in a strange MMO-superposition; the world is (apparently) dealing with the aftermath of some major event that happened in the Living Story Season 1 (which you can’t play retrospectively), after the events of the original game but before the expansion, the expansion that I poked a nose into before finishing the original story, with chunks of narrative coming from dungeons that I was running out-of-order at random levels depending on who else was around and what they were doing. The most compelling story in the world would struggle when tackled with such non-linearity, the bickering dullards of Destiny’s Edge never stood a chance, the only thing sticking in the memory being the opportunity to confuse them with Destiny’s Child with Hilarious Consequences. Some people are fully engaged with the lore, I saw some extensive debates about the behaviour of a particular NPC when a new chapter of the Living Story arrived, but for me at least it was more proof, if needed, that Bioware were rather mistaken in putting story as the “fourth pillar” of an MMO alongside exploration, combat and progression, at least until technology allows player choices to have some sort of impact on the world. It’s been the exploration, combat and progression that have kept me hooked on GW2, zone events, PvP, dungeons, crafting, fractals, bell-ringing, snowball fights and such.

Speaking of Bioware, Mass Effect: Andromeda now has a release date of March and I’m rather in the mood for a chunky RPG so started to have a look at the options in case there’s some shiny trinkets on offer for pre-ordering (sure enough there’s a suit of armour, a vehicle skin and a multiplayer booster up for grabs). There’s a Deluxe edition, with more in-game tchotchkes, and even a Super Deluxe edition that adds an extra multiplayer booster pack every week for 20 weeks. That seems like quite a heavy push for the multiplayer side of things, or maybe it’s just an easy way of bulking up the Super Deluxe package so that the Deluxe option doesn’t seem such an extravagance (Goldilocks pricing, and all that). Either way I rather enjoyed the mutliplayer aspect of both ME3 and Dragon Age: Inquisition (though the latter didn’t seem to catch on quite as much), but I never spent cash on boosters so I don’t think I’ll be going Super Deluxe for Andromeda. In the meantime I’ll need to find something else to distract me for a couple of months; maybe I’ll finish off that Christmas jigsaw…

Merry Christmas!

The Wintersday event is active in Guild Wars 2, a series of challenges have kicked off in War Thunder, the Steam sale is bringing joy, happiness and cheap games to all; it must be Christmas! Have a splendid break one and all, let’s hope 2017 is a bit less “exciting” than 2016.

Now I have eight machine guns, ho ho ho

10th Anniversary

Don a small conical cardboard hat, bake a cake and place ten candles thereupon, hide behind a sofa and prepare to leap forth and shout “surprise” for the Earth has spun around a giant burning ball of gas ten times since words first appeared on this here thing known to some as a “blog” (or at least its predecessors, which have since been subsumed herein so it still counts and stuff).

10 years, eh? Gosh and crikey; back then Tony Blair was Prime Minister, the iPhone was yet to be unleashed on the world, and making cakes in a tent wasn’t a matter of national importance. Different times. Melmoth and I had been MMOing for a few years, Melmoth on the console with Phantasy Star Online and the PC with Dark Age of Camelot before jumping in to City of Heroes, which was my introduction to the genre. We played CoH on a US server before the official European release, in those crazy days of MMOs before World of Warcraft; when WoW itself came along we naturally ventured in to Azeroth along with the rest of the known universe.

By late 2006, then, we had a bit of campaigning under our belts. Not proper Old Guard stalwarts from Ultima Online, Meridian 59, or indeed MUD1, but we’d been hyped up and burned out over a few games, got to the level cap in a couple of them (at least if you added up Melmoth’s City of Heroes alts), done a bit of beta testing (the late not-particularly-lamented-though-I-quite-liked-it Auto Assault, possibly one or two others though the old memory is a bit hazy); enough to have made it out of the Young Guard, at least.

The whole “web two point oh” business was starting to gather steam back then (as, indeed, was Steam), and after stumbling across and commenting on a few MMO blogs it seemed like a natural step to take the plunge ourselves, signing up individually with Blogger. I like to think we took to the new format like a duck to blogging: swimming around quacking loudly and demanding bread from passers by.

There was plenty going on for MMOists. The huge success of World of Warcraft had made the games industry sit up and take note, any number of new and potentially interesting games were releasing or in development. WoW wasn’t resting on its laurels with its first expansion, The Burning Crusade, imminent. Blogworthy subjects pinged back and forth across the blag-u-spore (as they had for years before) sparking further posts like neutrons in uranium-235 (complete with occasional fallout when things got a bit too excited).

By 2008 the shiny new blog smell had worn off a bit, and it was starting to look like shades might not be required to deal with the brightness of the post-WoW MMO future after all. Duo-ing in an MMO often strikes a sweet spot, amplifying the power of each character without the administrative overheads of larger groups, so it seemed worth a try on the blog front. Seeing the glorious success of Choco Krispies and Consignia we hired some enormously expensive consultants for a rebranding exercise, and came up with the very site that you now sit reading (unless the content has been scraped by some disreputable scoundrel, in which case we disavow all knowledge and urge you to contact your local Intellectual Property Tactical Armoured Response Division). Melmoth’s blood, sweat and web-hosting plan brought Killed in a Smiling Accident into being, and rather more thoroughly life-changingly Mr & Mrs Melmoth welcomed the arrival of Mini-Melmoth around the same time.

Despite occasional dalliances with books, television, Mesopotamian woodcrafting techniques and the fauna of Lord Howe Island, games have remained the core of KiaSA (as all the cool kids call it) with MMOs a strong part of that to start. Hopes were still high for forthcoming titles like Warhammer Online and Star Wars: The Old Republic, regular development news, new releases and the changing landscape and business models of gaming provided ample blog-fodder. Our blogroll continued to expand as new voices regularly appeared on the scene. Slowly, though, the popularity of the genre and our enthusiasm for it petered out over the next few years, variations on well-worn MMO themes proving diverting but hardly world-changing.

Around August 2012 things really slowed down. Melmoth had no time for writing as work and family life got busier; I’d had a good old run at Star Wars: The Old Republic and a bit of a stint in The Secret World so was rather MMO’d out and didn’t get into Guild Wars 2 at all, the big release at the time. GW2 stoked up some flames from the embers of the MMO blag-u-spore, but in general things were cooling down there too. Following blogs via RSS feed had been our standard method of keeping up to date but other forms of social media were taking over, perhaps best exemplified by Google closing down Google Reader in 2013. The blogroll in the sidebar over there has always been pretty sprawling and inconsistently maintained and is now more of a museum of curiosity, a mixture of defunct domains and moribund musings with a few stalwarts keeping the blogfires burning. Brian posted a nice reflection on blogging a little while back, and like him I still enjoy writing; I just don’t get fired up by games very often.

Case in point, playing structured PvP in Guild Wars 2 jogged a memory of similar hold-the-objective PvP in Neverwinter. Until then I’d forgotten I even played Neverwinter, despite spending 6+ months with it, hitting the level cap and dipping a toe into endgame grinding; rummaging back through posts here I found a few references (including the fact that I gained the best part of the final 10 levels just by logging in each day), but little to stick in the memory. It’s not just MMOs; I played through Wolfenstein: The New Order, Fallout 4, XCOM 2, The Division, to pluck four random titles, over the last year, all fine games (though The Division fell apart a bit in its endgame, possibly remedied by a major update that I ought to have a look at sometime), but they prompted little in the way of posts here, more aide memoirs than attempts at anything deeper, as much for my own benefit as anything else as memory fades.

MMOs certainly aren’t dead. I’ll go through spells, sometimes lengthy, where I can’t face another ten rats but I’m rather hooked on Guild Wars 2 at the moment, only four years late to the party. Blizzard announced 3 million sales of Legion, the latest WoW expansion; the juggernaut might have stopped accelerating but still has momentum. Blogging isn’t dead either, there’s life yet in Newbie Blogger Initiatives and Blaugust and such, but as I’ve become a bit disconnected from MMOs and games in general, so too their wider community, with a finite amount of time and ever-increasing competition for it.

I don’t mean to sound too maudlin, we’ve met some splendid people in blog comments/Twitter/Steam groups/newfangled browser-based chat-type-things/semaphore messages/telegrams and in a few cases even that strange ‘real life’ place. Interests naturally fade in and out (see also: GAFIA); starting to play War Thunder and a visit to the Chalke Valley History Festival in 2013 rekindled my interest in history, particularly aviation history, so I get a bit of writing exercise penning occasional articles, and odd answers on Reddit’s AskHistorians (Reddit, like the internet in general, has its hives of scum and villainy, but the tyrannical AskHistorians moderators rule with an iron fist, sweeping through comment threads and crushing unworthy responses with weapons including fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency and an almost fanatical devotion to verifiable sources; the end result, when people have the expertise and time to contribute, is in-depth and interesting answers to wide-ranging histroical questions, rather than floods of half-remembered tangential anecdotes).

So things will likely tick along here as they have for the past few years, an occasional post here and there as inspiration strikes. Perhaps time and circumstances will change, never say never and all that. In the meantime, thanks for reading.

Gaming roundup

It’s been a while since an MMO has really grabbed me. I’d poked a nose into a couple of launches (or free-to-play relaunches), tried to revisit a couple of old favourites, but nothing had particularly stuck. After wrapping up Mafia II I was at a bit of a loose gaming end, though, and when Van “Tim” Hemlock mentioned the Tuesday N00b Club were contemplating another outing in Guild Wars 2 I thought I’d get it patched up and give it another try.

Guild Wars 2, huh; what is it good for? Allowing a disparate collection of players to gather together and co-operate with relatively few restrictions and barriers (good god y’all). Rampaging around the Sylvari starter area was rather fun, and the game offers an increasingly shiny bit of loot merely for logging in each day so I started doing that. Then there are rotating daily achievements for gathering crafting materials, participating in events, viewing vistas and such, with gold on offer for completing any three of them, and what does gold make? A number two hit for Spandau Ballet, of course, but it can also be used to buy dye and outfits from the trading post in order to look fabulous, my main motivation. A month on and I’m fairly hooked, playing daily, and really enjoying it.

Though GW2 has been regularly updated since launch I don’t believe it’s a fundamentally different game to the one I bounced off a couple of times before, or indeed fundamentally different to many other MMOs out there at the moment; I wasn’t even particularly aware of having an MMO-itch, but I guess there was one and GW2 is providing a thoroughly pleasant scratching post with its wide array of activities: exploration, world events, character story, dungeons, crafting, structured PvP and the like. Melmoth and I were exploring a fun little mini-dungeon and encountered a simple place-rocks-on-pads puzzle; I started out in full Crystal Maze mode (“I’m in a room with some pads and some rocks! I’m going to pick up all the rocks! I can’t hold all the rocks! I’m going to jump up and down on all of the pads!”) until Melmoth pointed out a giant stone head with a glowing green clue on it, and after a couple of false starts we got the door open. Flush with success we promptly busted out our finest self-congratulatory dance emotes, a celebration marred only briefly by the newly-opened door swinging shut after 30 seconds or so, forcing us to redo the puzzle…

I still pop into War Thunder for a quick battle most days; the recent 1.63 update added a few more planes and tanks, always welcome. I also grabbed Tabletop Simulator, and on a rare free Friday managed to pop along to the regular virtual boardgaming session for a round of Lords of Waterdeep, a most pleasing alternative when physical gaming isn’t possible. When fully grabbed by an MMO it doesn’t leave much too much room for other games, though, so Guild Wars 2 should keep me going for the next few months.

Umble we are, umble we have been, umble we shall ever be

Battleborn was only released a few months ago, but appears to have come off second best to Blizzard’s Overwatch in the hero-shooter shoot-out to the point that it showed up in the recent 2K Humble Bundle 2. Having had some fun in the beta, but not enough to warrant a full-price purchase, the Bundle was already a no-brainer; the inclusion of Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel made it even less of a brainer, if negative-braining is even possible. At release time the awkwardly named B:TPS (as all the cool kids call it) had also sounded like fun, if not full-price fun; I’d more or less forgotten about it until the Humble Bundle.

Having got both installed, it didn’t take long to get back into the Borderlands-swing of shooting anything that moved with a variety of entertaining guns, and clicking on anything that didn’t move but had a green light on it. The pre-sequel framing device is quite interesting (reminiscent of Dragon Age 2 in some ways), though the overall writing isn’t really as strong as the previous games (dialogue was always pretty scattergun, but it misses as much as it hits in B:TPS; still, it raises a smile often enough). The good bits are still good (DAKKA!), the less good bits are still mildly annoying (traipsing back and forwards over the same areas, the difficulty gap between finding a character/ability/gun combination that *really* clicks and one that doesn’t).

Battleborn rather suffers by comparison, at least for solo PvE. It’s probably not a terribly fair comparison, being that PvP is (I gather) the main focus, but at the moment I’m getting my fill of PvP in the War Thunder summer event, so when not grinding away at the tasks there I’m looking for something a bit different. Having chosen a character in Battleborn you’re more or less stuck with one weapon and a few skills, and combat gets rather repetitive without the teamwork and human aspect of PvP battles. I imagine grouping up with friends would somewhat enliven the PvE story missions, maybe that’s something to try in the future, but in the meantime I think I’ll stick with B:TPS, and maybe explore a couple of the other Humble Bunle games like Mafia II.