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New Years 2017 Update

January 9, 2017

Dying Light and Far Cry Primal – first person lovelies. I bought both games on sale and I’m extremely satisfied with both. I beat Far Cry Primal, which is honestly somewhat of a short game but definitely worth the purchase price. As a big fan of the series I am probably not able to gauge the game from an unbiased standpoint, but it’s an original take on the format. I don’t know any other games in the modern era that let people play as a early human, hunting mammoths and riding saber-tooth tigers. And yes, it’s as cool as it sounds.

Dying Light is a bit longer of a game, and feels like what Dead Island should have been. The combat is very similar to Dead Island (but more refined) and the parkour makes gameplay and world exploration infinitely more interesting. I can tell that this game wouldn’t be as enjoyable for /most/ gamers but it checks a lot of my boxes. I really like first person (versus third person), I like parkour a LOT (big Assassin’s Creed fan), and I like zombies. One thing in particular that I really enjoy is the variation in gameplay style and pacing. Depending on what you are doing, you could either be fighting off swarms of basic “biter” zombies (Dead Rising style) or you could be gunning down a base full of well armed human assailants (CoD style), or sneaking through abandoned hotel for supplies (almost Resident Evil or Silent Hill style), or weaving between super zombies trying to hunt you at night (stealth game style), or you are running and jumping over roof tops – for fun, to evade an enemy, or to get somewhere before dark (Assassin’s Creed style). Apparently in the expansion (which I haven’t even touched yet) there’s some driving element as well.

I also bought two other zombie games during the winter sale – Dead Rising 3 and State of Decay. I already have Dead Rising 3 on XBone and I’ve put some time into it, but I get tired of bringing out the XBone to play games anymore. Unless a game is a system exclusive I think I’m done with consoles. They are neat and I still greatly prefer them for party games or multiplayer shooters; overall I enjoy PC gaming more for a number of reasons I won’t get into right now. State of Decay is a game I’ve been really excited about since playing the demo on XBox 360 /years/ ago.

Speaking of zombies, I’m still playing 7 Days to Die with my friends. This is a must-play for PC gamers that like LAN games or multiplayer Minecraft. As I said earlier, don’t play alone, it’s not fun… but with a few buddies it’s an absolute blast. I think we are close to being “done” with the game, but since we don’t have an equivalent to jump into (as my friends are not really into Dying Light) I think we might be stuck with this one for a little longer.

Hand of Fate – This is my favorite “card game” so far. It’s the closest thing to table-top style gaming I’ve played in a long time (the other closest experiences were Baldur’s Gate and something more recent that I forget… o.O ). I love the replayability, of how I can go back and unlock more cards and how some cards that you unlock are part of a story or a series. Very neat.

WoW – Mid expansion doldrums, latency issues, alt-itis and grind fatigue, and some Suramar design complaints. So we are officially mid expansion, since 7.1.5 is being released tomorrow, and this expansion will probably end with 7.3.0. The second of three (or four?) full raids is coming out tomorrow, with a new faction and a few goodies. Overall I’m not that excited about it mostly because I am not raiding or PvPing due to my latency at the camp, and how little I play at home. That’s not WoW’s fault, but it’s just a fact that keeps me from really being able to enjoy upcoming content very much. Meh.

Because leveling doesn’t require good latency I’ve been trying to get some of my alts leveled up, namely my DK and my sham. I’m already finding it all very grindy and needlessly repetitive. Heirlooms don’t work past 100, so the leveling process seems really slow to me. I’ve even read a guide on how to go from 100 to 110, and I just can’t seem to do it in that time span. I’m lucky to get half way there in 10 hours. Very lucky. And by then I’m super bored anyway, ESPECIALLY with how laggy I am. Doing just about anything takes about 50% longer due to my lag. With my backlog of AAA titles I’ve started to veer away from anything grindy, including getting my alts up to level cap. Shame really, as I was enjoying my DK quite a bit – it’s just really, really grindy. I can only push the same five buttons over and over for so long before I want to do something else with my life.

Even if I do get them up to level cap, then what? What would I do with them? In the past it was mostly to do holiday stuff. But I don’t use the holiday rewards (toys, pets, etc), and I don’t even do the holiday events anymore… even with the new holidays I just don’t do them. What else is there then? As a laggy player, I can’t PvP, raid, do dungeons, or anything else – so it’s Suramar. Boy oh boy. Not sure where to start. It’s a gorgeous city, and the night born are a stunning race to look at – but the gameplay design of the Suramar area is a joke. It has way too much of a vertical element between the inner and outer city (it’s almost impossible to get around easily), the quasi-stealth element is neat at first but it wears me down VERY fast and seems unfair at times, and it all becomes grindy. Again. Too many fetch and kill quests (I know, I know, that’s 99% of WoW), too much having to “stealth” through poorly connected areas of the city, too much back tracking, too much farming for the stupid Ancient Mana… I’m so f-ing done with Suramar at this point – I hate that city. The last mission I had was so frustrating that I dropped ALL my Suramar quests. A guildy told me that I had to get through them in order to unlock the new raid and some other content, but I found myself just not giving a shit. I was more interested in playing my other games at that point and I really wasn’t invested at all in the fate of Suramar. For all I cared the city could be leveled like the Vale of Eternal Blossoms or Theramore and I just wouldn’t give two shits. Really. Whoopty Doo.

I will say that the soldier training scenario thingie is a new twist on things, but I feel awful for anyone not playing a tank class. It’s designed for tanks – clearly. Healing does NOT work on our minions (WHY!?), and DPS classes will have to be much more creative in how they play that scenario. As a bear with 20 guys I maxed out the score on my second play through. My first was a fail because I only went in with 5 and didn’t know wtf I was doing, and went in as heals / DPS, and didn’t spec out my tank form correctly. Anyway… yeah. Interesting, but I’m moving on. I’d really like to get that fox mount, but not that badly to keep grinding through that Suramar shit.

Speaking of WoW, my Surface Pro 4 does really well with it. The default resolution of the SP4 is WAY too high (2736×1824) and has an awkward resolution (3:2). I really wish they had gone with 1080p, since that is a gaming standard. Many games scale very poorly and the SP4 performance is VERY sensitive to resolution – for instance WoW runs poorly (20 fps or less on lowest settings) at the native resolution, but runs butter smooth when I halve the resolution. I don’t get that kind of performance bump in my other computers when I reduce screen resolution. Likewise with other games – it cannot play Hand of Fate /at all/ (<10 fps!?) at the native resolution, but taking it down a bit makes the game really playable. Yet it smears the pixels quite a bit – which gives me a headache after a while and is just ugly to look at. :/

STILL, it plays it way better than any other TABLET I’ve ever seen, and the SP4 is definitely much more of a computer than my iPads, and is overall a better media player since it’s a Wintel machine with VLC. Really, there’s nothing I can’t do with the SP4 that my iPad or laptop can’t do, minus the App store’s wide selection or my big laptops horsepower.

Streaming didn’t work as smoothly at home as I thought it would. With my desktop on a wired connection and my SP4 on 5 Ghz wireless I get game-breaking stuttering in Dying Light. It’s not all the time, but it definitely happens frequently enough that I haven’t bothered streaming much anymore. I’m not sure if dropping the resolution down a bit would help or not – it sends out a signal at 1080p, the native monitor resolution of my gaming computer… <shrug> I mostly used it for browsing the web and playing WoW, since playing with keyboard and touch pad is totally doable with WoW and works great on the SP4. In fact, that’s 90% of the reason I played as much WoW as I did while I was home – because I was often on the floor with my son while he watched YouTube videos, so I kept myself entertained with the SP4, reading news, watching videos, and playing WoW. I tried playing other games but WoW seemed to work the best since it was the easiest to put aside (stealth as a druid, or hearth, or whatever) and was the most playable without a mouse. I did buy a decent bluetooth mouse, but since streaming was kind of a PITA and didn’t go as well as I had hoped I just kind of gave up on that for now.

Game movies. Everywhere I look someone is ranting about video game movies. Be it Warcraft or Assassin’s Creed. As usual, it’s very hip to hate on game movies. I mentioned the AC movie in my last post – and I haven’t seen it yet – but I will soon. I’ve heard mixed opinions about it… The trailers looked fantastic. I’m not expecting Citizen Fucking Kain, but it looks like a fun action movie that is based on the lore of a game I like. Same thing with Warcraft. I liked Warcraft – it was good fan service, it was a fun fantasy action / adventure flick, and the CGI was not bad at all. Granted, I think the movie was way too lore thick for casuals that don’t play the game, and it took a LOT of liberties on the original story, but it wasn’t bad at all. Yet, it has ALWAYS been hip to hate on game movies, so, people are piling on both movies to be hip. Granted, game movies have historically been AWFUL, but I think it’s more that gaming still doesn’t have the cultural clout that other mediums do. Hell, even comic book movies were mostly a bad joke, until Superman – even then it was more that Superman was a universally recognizable cultural icon that represented American virtues and ideals, more so than it was a good movie or that many movie goers were actually fans of the comic. At the time, you’d be a dick to hate on Superman or Christopher Reeves. Over time, comic and superhero movies came into their own, especially in the last decade – Spider-man, X-Men, The Dark Knight, Hulk, Captain America, The Avengers, Deadpool, Wolverine, and so on… it’s now HIP to like comic book and superhero movies. In the 80’s anything related to comics had the stigma of being geeky or nerdy, right in the same pool as video games and anime. While gaming has come a long way in terms of gaining cultural legitimacy and recognition as an art, it’s still got a LONG way to go in order to not be readily dismissed as child’s plaything.

<shrug> When the baby boomers are all gone, and Gen-Xers are the oldest generation, gaming will likely see a surge in cultural acceptance and relevance. The stigma has faded over time, as older generations have passed on. Hell, newspapers, rock and roll, television, and even phonograph music were all deplored in their age. It didn’t help things that gaming was targeted towards children in the 70’s and 80’s, and it really didn’t help that game makers jumped on the ultra-violence bandwagon much earlier than TV. But, everything is kind of starting to homogenize. TV, movies, music, games – they are all fairly over-sexuallized and hyper-violent by this point if you look hard enough. Yet like those other mediums, video games have a very wide range of content for all audiences (which is a good thing). If someone has /any/ sense of taste at all then it doesn’t take long for someone to find something enjoyable in any medium. I think that’s one of the things that held video games back – was that people without any taste whatsoever handily lumped “video games” together as one thing, as one object. Just because Mortal Kombat had violence and Tomb Raider had polygonal boobies it didn’t mean that all games were violent or sexual. That’d be like basing all movies on Robocop and Strip Tease, or basing all books on the Anarchists Cookbook and 50 Shades of Gray, or all music on Cop Killer and Baby Got Back. If you have NO taste at all, yes, Sir Mix Alot’s Baby Got Back and Ice-T’s Cop Killer can very easily represent ALL music to you, and you’d think: “Gee, let’s ban all music!” But, if you have any sense at all, and any level of personal taste, then you’d say “Those songs aren’t for me, so I’m going to listen to something else” and it wouldn’t take you very long at all to find Pink Floyd, Bach, The Beetles, Miles Davis or something else that better suits your tastes. Just because older generations “didn’t get” the medium and some of the more vocal idiots had no sense of taste doesn’t mean that the medium should be banned, or even heavily controlled. I DO believe that the sale of sexual or violent art of any kind should be regulated such that minors aren’t exposed to improper material – but I don’t think that video games should be subject to extraordinary controls which other media aren’t being held to.

I’m rambling, so I’ll just wrap it up in saying: I hope that game-based movies and TV mature and I’m also hopeful that video games will receive more cultural acceptance and recognition in my lifetime.

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