On Engaging Fictional History in Games

In a couple of weeks two new Assassins Creed games come out, Unity and Rogue, for the PS4 and PS3 respectively. I’m a huge fan of the series so I have both games on pre-order and am very excited to play through the story and meet the new characters as well as to see how it ties in to the overall story.

So in preparation of this I have spent the last few days replaying Assassins Creed 4: Black Flag (aka AC Pirates). I think I’m currently at the midpoint in the game. Far enough in that I have upgraded the ship and can handle most sea battles, which means I’m taking a break from the story to work on completion. While playing there was a cutscene involving a fairly minor character and I thought to myself how most of the characters are based on an actual person so was this person real or simply a fictional addition to aid in the story. It turns out that this particular character was indeed based off of a real individual who was alive at the time, and indeed was someone who turned to piracy.

This is what I find enjoyable about these games, that even though the game is a work of fiction it is set in a historic time period and the developers take the time to include people and events that are at least partially based in reality. Obviously the whole Templar/Assassin thing is fictional, but they put it together with real history in such a way that it piqued my curiosity.

I enjoy history for the most part. I like the History Channel, or at least like when they actually show HISTORY, but reading history books is pretty boring. Games like Assassins Creed give me the interest to go and at least read what is available online about the events. That does make the assumption that the articles are indeed accurate, but it is cheaper than going to the book store and buying volumes of history books.

I know that Unity takes place during the French Revolution, so it will be interesting to see how that plays out. Not knowing much about that time period I imagine I’ll do a bit of reading once I play through the game. I’m not sure of the historical period that Rogue takes place in. I know it falls between Black Flag and Assassins Creed 3, but I really don’t know of any historical events that happened at that time.

What this is really getting at is that I feel there should be more games like this. Ones that have some basis in factual history that are engaging enough to get the audience interested in reading more about the subject matter.

On Destiny – Part 2

So now I’ve played a bit more Destiny I have a few more thoughts on it.

I mentioned the general belief that there isn’t much story in the last post, and now that I’ve finished it I can’t say that the thought isn’t entirely unfounded. I don’t think that the story isn’t good, and I don’t feel like the acting was sub-pair as people have mentioned. The part I agree with is that the story mode is short. You can probably burn through the entire main story in a couple days. I think that Bungie felt that there would be enough additional story through their online Grimoire or Strikes to make up for it. I haven’t done a strike yet so I really don’t know how much story is involved in those.

What I really want to talk about is post story content. Well, not that you have to wait till you finish to do it, but this is what I’m doing right now. That is PVP and farming rep. I don’t normally do PVP, and I honestly can’t remember the last time I played a console FPS multiplayer. That being said, the pvp that I’ve done is good. Personally I enjoy the map sizes. I feel like they are right for the game, not to small, but not large enough you run around for the whole match without running in to someone.

I do feel that they need to work on the matchmaking service though. Because if you go in and you haven’t obtained a really good weapon or some legendary gear you will be greatly disadvantaged. I believe that they normalize player stats so you can see a level 7 killing a level 20. For me the best part is that I can’t hear the other people yelling at me for not being very good. Now, surprisingly, I did manage to place first on my team in one match. So I was either really on my game that time, or my team wasn’t that good.

Other than doing pvp I’ve been trying to farm rep so that I can get the “Light” stat. This stat is the only way you can get past level 20 which unlocks raids and heroic level content. Post level 20 experience only goes towards creating “motes of light” which are used at one vendor to get exotic gear. The trick is to get a random stat piece one it costs 23 motes…

Purchasing legendary gear is also a task for the patient. I understand it might go quicker if you do the strikes, but as I mentioned I haven’t done those. Even if you do you need to get whatever faction up to rank 2 in order to by the gear in the first place. Then you need faction tokens to buy that gear. The pvp faction gives you precisely 1 token per match, and you need a minimum of 68 to buy a piece of gear. With a maximum weekly cap on 100.

There are other factions that you can level to get gear more suited to your character, but you have to buy a faction cloak in order to gain faction with them. The trick is that as you gain faction with them you aren’t gaining faction with the other groups. So any pvp faction or vanguard faction you get goes towards them instead. Personally I’m okay with this, but it does mean I will have to regrind pvp faction after I get the faction I want up.

So over this weekend I’ve played around 45 pvp matches, and done lots and lots of patrol missions to gain faction rep.

I am still enjoying the game, but I do hope to do strikes soon or that the DLC starts coming out so that I have more to play.

On Destiny

So as I sit here at work waiting on servers to come back up from monthly maintenance I feel it is a good time to try and do a little bit of writing. As always I’m citing being super busy at work as my excuse for not posting, but there has also been some lack of desire to try to come up with relevant stuff to talk about.

There hasn’t really been a huge shift in the games I’ve been playing lately. Mostly been back in Warcraft doing various things, watching lots of Hearthstone videos, and playing Diablo 3. I find it fairly difficult to juggle games. I started Last of Us only to have not played it in a month. Lately I’ve had so little motivation to do anything I usually just get home, complain to myself about apartment parking, eat food I shouldn’t be eating and then laying on the couch to watch Hearthstone videos until I pass out. Typing that out is also really depressing.

So, in the spirit of buying another game that I might not have time for I picked up Destiny on the PS4. Now here’s the thing. I never really got in to Halo. So for me this is my first real experience with anything developed by Bungie. I did play a little in the beta so I knew a little about how the graphics were and how the controls handled which made picking it up a bit easier. But the main thing that really sold me on it was a comment made that while it might not be the most story rich game, it is a game you can just pick up and play for a few minutes and put down.

Unless you’re doing a story mission, which might take awhile, you’re probably going to be doing free-roam missions on the various planets to earn money and maybe some better gear and reputation. Then there are times where all you want to do is dance.

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I know a lot of people are saying that the story is pretty weak, but I still enjoy it. I find it nice having something that I don’t feel like I have to rush through to the end. Sometimes I just like popping off a few headshots and yelling “BOOM HEADSHOT!” in to my empty apartment. Granted I’m sure my neighbors love that, but meh.

The only thing I don’t like about the game is the fact that in order to do a good portion of the group content you need a Playstation plus membership. Now, from what everyone tells me I should have had this already. I don’t do a lot of multiplayer and just didn’t see the necessity of it. I did finally break down and get it, and I have yet to do any group content so far.

What’s funny though, is that even though this was meant to be a “I’ll play on the weekend” kind of game. I’ve been playing at least an hour every day since I picked it up.

On RNG or Why Can’t I Pull A Good Hand

So stretching a bit for a topic here, but I’m trying to post more again.

This weekend, like the last few before it, were mostly spent playing Hearthstone and World of Warcraft. Most of Saturday I ended up working, but either way my gaming would have been the same. The majority of the latter half of Saturday night was spent on Hearthstone building and researching decks and trying them out. The one thing that always seemed to happen is that I’d lose a match because I couldn’t pull that one combination of cards that I needed, or in a couple cases top decked just the right card to pull off a very, very narrow victory.

That happening just reminds me of how much I loath RNG in games. Granted I see the point of it, especially in a card game, but that doesn’t mean I can’t loathe it. Especially when you start the night at rank 18 and end at rank 20 (though as of last night I’m up to rank 17). So I guess it is more of a love/hate relationship. I think there’s a saying for this, “He who lives by the sword dies by the sword”, something like that.

I do have some screenshots I’ve been meaning to post over on anook, so keep an out out there for them. I like taking screenshots of legendary / rares I get out of packs or really close matches.

I feel like I had more to discuss here, namely some memorable RNG in WoW but I got interrupted at work when I was typing this up (on lunch, not while supposed to be working) and lost my train of thought.

I’ve seriously considered streaming some Hearthstone, but I am not sure anyone would want to watch someone who loses most of their matches.

On 10 years 10 Questions

I’ve seen a few people mentioning this on twitter so I thought I’d give this a shot.

1. Why did you start playing Warcraft?

I started playing mainly because all of my college friends were playing. When WoW first came out I was a full time college student, and I didn’t have a very well paying job so I was using the household PC. I didn’t jump on WoW right away either, because at the time I didn’t like the graphical style, so I was playing Everquest 2. Eventually I did pick it up, but had a ton of issues with my computer. Namely that while playing WoW my computer would reboot every 30 minutes. I’m pretty sure I leveled to 50 this way. But short answer, I started playing because I wanted to do stuff with my friends.

2. What was the first ever character you rolled?

I think that the first character I ever rolled was a hunter, but I don’t think he lasted very long. My second character was a mage and I still play him to this day. He’s always been, and always will be my main character and I use that name in every game I play.

3. Which factors determined your faction choice in game?

My friends were all rolling alliance, so I rolled alliance.

4. What has been your most memorable moment in Warcraft and why?

I mentioned this in a post the other day, but one of my earliest raiding experiences is probably one of my most memorable times in the game. Another top memory is the night that Burning Crusade launched. I had pre-ordered the collectors edition and everything was patched up and ready to go. Everyone on the server was standing out by the portal waiting for it to open up so we could go in to the new area. I staid up way to late that night, but that remains my favorite WoW expansion launch still.

5. What is your favourite aspect of the game and has this always been the case?

Exploration and achievements have always been why I keep coming back to the game. There are always things to do in the game. A lot of other MMO’s I’ve tried over the years just fall apart after you reach the max level.

6. Do you have an area in game that you always return to?

I can’t really say that I have a favorite area in the game. I tend to find myself sticking to whatever area is the current one for content.

7. How long have you /played and has that been continuous?

I honestly don’t know this right now, so I’ll have to update this later. I can say thought that it has not been continuous. Over the span of 10 years I’ve taken several breaks. Some for just a few months and at most a year. I always seem to come back though.

8. Admit it: do you read quest text or not?

I try to, but more often than not I just glance at it. That has, on occasion, come back to bite me in the rear.

9. Are there any regrets from your time in game?

Not starting the game earlier would probably be my biggest regret. By the time I started playing all of my friends had moved on to the end game content so I wound up doing all the levels available by myself. I never got to do the starter dungeons at level for various reasons because of this. At the time there was no group finder, and I was much shyer than I am today. The only time I ever ran with a pug group was if one of my friends was there and they got me in.

10. What effect has Warcraft had on your life outside gaming?

I’m having a hard time thinking of any effects that I could solely relate to playing Warcraft. I know for sure I spent more time playing than studying, which is one factor in why it took me longer to graduate than it should have. But I have also met some really good friends on there that I still play with and talk to out of game.

oh and here’s the source

On Thankless Jobs

Ok, so honestly I wanted to make the title of this post “Thankless Jobs, not with Mike Rowe”. Nobody said I was funny, but I amuse myself.

So over the last week I’ve been trying to post a bit more as part of the Blaugust initiative thing that my friend Belghast started up. I find daily blogging challenging because it is really, really hard to come up with a topic every day. Thankfully Bel is a swell guy and put up a list of topics people could use as talking points. So today I’ll be talking about what I feel is one of the more thankless jobs in gaming, at least from my personal experience.

The Enchanter

Now, this isn’t an entirely thankless job in the sense that people say “thank you” for enchanting their gear but I don’t feel like people really know what it means to be the person in charge of handling your entire raids enchantments. A little bit of backstory before I jump in this.

From time immemorial, otherwise known as for a long time, my main character was not in fact an enchanter. He started off as mining/engineering. It wasn’t particularly self sustaining. I just liked making the gadgets, and worked very hard to build the alliance side motorcycle mount. I still have engineering as one of my professions, because there is still plenty of stuff I want to make.

Eventually a point came in my raiding career that we found our raid without an enchanter. I honestly don’t know why we lost our enchanter but we did and they asked if someone could step in and take the role over and me being the guy I am volunteered. Keep in mind this was Cataclysm raiding, and I had to gofrom 0 enchanting to raid enchanting super fast. Thankfully my guild is awesome and I got a lot of help with materials and gold so that I could grind up to raid level enchanting. That’s still a lot of work.

The tricky part is that enchanting things takes mats, lots of them, and raiding level enchants specifically required epic level items to be turned in to mats. This meant constantly running heroics and rolling DE on everything, soloing and hoping for blues or buying materials. Our raid at least had a policy that any gear that no one could use would go to me to disenchant and then those crystals would go in to the guild bank until they were needed. In writing that doesn’t seem to bad, but in reality enchanting became my second job. Keeping in mind I work full time, then had to go home and farm when sometimes I just didn’t want to.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I like enchanting. I still have it and I keep it up to date as best as I can without raiding. I might not have the top of the line enchants now, but I do what I can. That way if anyone ever asks in guild for an enchanter I can say I am and be of some use. I don’t farm heroics anymore, or raids. In fact I’ve only done LFR a handful of times, and I refuse to pug dungeons.

So the moral here is thank your enchanter, they do a lot more work than you might think.

Hearthstone

On a bit of a sidenote, I’m still enjoying Hearthstone. I’ve started playing almost every evening. This week saw the 3rd wing of naxxramas unlock which I promptly worked my way through last night. Did a little bit of ranked play afterwords and ended up hitting rank 19 which I believe is my personal best.

On Warlords

So here’s the thing, I pre-ordered the Warlords of Draenor expansion yesterday. I know, I’m weak. I have no willpower. Hal Jordan I am not. There has been some discussion related to what people call an “item squish” that is going to reduce stats to be more reasonable (no more 1 million hit points you silly tanks you). But that discussion is for another day. Mainly one where I have time to fully research it and talk knowledgeably about it. This was more just me making a confession.

So yesterday my buddy Kodra (from the Aggrochat podcast) posted what he considered a significant grouping experience, so I thought I’d give it a shot. I’ve told this story to people on voice chat a few times, and it always gets a good chuckle. So I figure I can share it here as it’s a short story, and I need something to talk about.

Keep in mind, at the time World of Warcraft had only been out for maybe a couple years and at this point I had no raiding experience what-so-ever. Most of my grouping experience came from doing the end game content. Which at the time was Scholomance. I knew my role, go pew-pew and tank the floor. I was good at it. Especially tanking the floor. But I also had some skill in crowd control, which sadly has become less useful as the game has progressed.

At the time my college friends and I were in our own little guild, not part of the larger guild that most of us ended up in. They were part of a raiding group consisting of older people who generally only could play in the evenings. You know, adults with real jobs. They had formed a group of people that did the raiding content, and did it well. I heard my friends talking about it at school and eventually I started doing some group content with a few of those people. One of which turned out to be my future buddy Belghast (he wasn’t playing as Belghast back then so I didn’t know).

At some point or another they needed an extra dps to fill in for a night when they were running Zul’Gurub and they asked me to come along. This was back in the day when that was still a 40 man raid, not an entirely soloable 5 man dungeon. I don’t remember the entire run, other than things were going pretty smoothly up until the point I almost wiped the raid. We were in the middle of some trash pull and I was clicking buttons as I do when I accidentally cast a portal to Stormwind. Some people, not paying attention clicked on said portal and were whisked away right out of the fight. Back then all the portal spells were separate in the spell book, and I had them on my hotbar so I could get around without having to look them up.

So I learned a very valuable lesson that day. Don’t have portal or teleport on your hotbar. EVER.

I also didn’t get to raid for awhile. But they eventually let me come back. A while later Bel bribed me in to joining his guild which had a lot of those people and I started doing raid content with them. I don’t raid much anymore, but that one experience is up there in my all time favorites, even if all the details on it aren’t clear. Namely, I’m only fairly sure we were in combat when that happened, it might have just been a funny accident outside of combat.