Updates: A New Gig, Stargate, Three Worlds, and More

I’m sorry for not posting more lately. I’ve been very busy. There are a lot of things going on at the moment I would have in the past done deep dive posts on, but I don’t have the time or energy these days. I didn’t want to leave this blog to rot, though, so I’ll do a quick rundown of all that’s new.

The official logo for Dungeons and Dragons, fifth editionFirstly, part of the reason I’m so busy is that I’ve picked up another new writing gig. I’m not sure how much I’m contractually allowed to say in public right now, but I can say that it’s writing Dungeons and Dragons adventures. It’s not for Wizards of the Coast; it’s a third party producing adventures under the Open Gaming License. It’s a fairly well-established company, though. I already knew them before I even applied for the job.

It’s also not clear to me if this is a short-term thing or something that will be ongoing for the foreseeable future. I think it depends on how happy they are with my work.

Professional game design is something I’ve always wanted to do, so I’m glad to have the opportunity, but the workload is more than I’m used to, so it’s taking a lot out of me. Someone without my disabilities would probably be fine, but for me it’s taking a lot of energy. To their credit, my new employers have been pretty patient and even made accommodations to work with my unpredictable schedule.

This has delayed work on my own tabletop game, Wyrd Street. I’m unsure if I’ve mentioned it on this blog before, but I do plan to talk about it at some point. For now the short version for those who haven’t already been told about it is that it’s a D20-based RPG about ordinary heroes in a fantastical world. It draws a lot of inspiration from the earlier sections of Dragon Age II.

The idea at the heart of it is that anyone can be the hero, no matter what the rest of the world thinks of you or what struggles you might have in your life. You might not be a hero of legend, but you can be a hero to the people who depend on you. You might not save the world, but you can still save someone’s world.

That’s on the backburner while I focus on the new job, but I hope to get back to it at some point. Early play-tests were going well. I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback. Several people have said they enjoy combat in Wyrd Street more than in 5E.

The Stormfall palace in Wolcen: Lords of MayhemOn the video game front, those who follow my column on Massively Overpowered may have noticed I got sucked into Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem. I just finished the campaign, and I definitely want to play more, but I also have a lot of other stuff in my backlog I want to get to, and while I think Wolcen’s polish issues have been exaggerated, waiting for a few more patches to smooth out some of the rougher edges doesn’t seem like the worst idea. We’ll see how I feel; the combat and the build system in that game are just so addictive.

I did finally break down and pick up Nier: Automata on a Steam flash sale recently, so I hope to get to that soon, as well. Still a lot left to do in Star Trek Online, too.

Speaking of sci-fi, now that I finally have a library card, I discovered they have the entire series of Stargate: SG-1 on DVD, so I’ve been binge watching through that.

Despite the fact I’ve seen every episode of Atlantis and Universe, I’d only seen bits and pieces of SG-1 prior to now. I got interested in it pretty late in the game, and it was never on TV at times that were convenient to me. Then I didn’t have a TV. DVDs are too expensive, and there’s never been a convenient way to stream it.

But now I’m finally getting to watch it all in order. I just started on season four, and the show finally seems to be find its footing.

I won’t lie; if I didn’t know for a fact the series gets better, I might have given up on SG-1 in the first few seasons. It’s not that it’s terrible or anything, but it’s not enormously compelling either, and some aspects of it really haven’t aged well. It does feel like it’s starting to find more of a voice now, though, and I know the best is yet to come.

I’m also binging Welcome to Night Vale pretty hard right now. I got tickets to a live show in my area for later this month, and while I know it isn’t strictly necessary, I want to be fully caught up before I go. I’ve “only” got about twenty episodes left now, though I also want to listen to the recordings of all the previous live shows, and I haven’t touched those yet.

Official art for the audio drama Welcome to Night ValeI also finally tried one of the other shows by that company, Alice Isn’t Dead. Only listened to a few episodes so far, but my first impression is it’s really damn good. A bit Secret World-esque, and I adore Jasika Nicole’s voice. Wish I could get her to narrate my life.

Finally, when it comes to books, I just got done reading a collection of short fiction set in Ian Irvine’s Three Worlds setting, A Wizard’s War and Other Stories. It was fine and all, but I definitely expected more. None of the stories really jumped out as being super memorable. Don’t regret reading it, but it’s definitely not essential, even if you’re a serious Three Worlds fan.

Warcraft III: Reforged Thoughts

Over the last few weeks, I’ve played through the full campaign of Warcraft III: Reforged (minus the Rexxar campaign, because bleh). It was an interesting experience, but it does leave me with some mixed feelings.

Arthas and Illidan face off in Warcraft III: ReforgedOf course, Reforged has been met with some really harsh criticism, but I think that says more about how hysterical the gaming community has gotten than it does about the game itself. It is so, so exhausting how every single game is the worst, most broken thing ever now according to the commentariat. No wonder so many developers have trouble taking our feedback seriously.

That’s not to say it’s not a game with some issues. It’s just that they’ve been blown so wildly out of proportion. It’s super frustrating because there are valid complaints to be made, but at this point it’s hard to make them without feeling like I’m adding my voice to the screeching mob of embittered gamers who just hate everything.

As it is, I will say that I feel they could have done a bit more to modernize the mechanics. In particular the limited unit selection feels really bad to go back to after being able to control my whole army at once in StarCraft II. The pathfinding could be better, too.

Also, while the improvements to the cinematics and unit models are stellar, the terrain is a bit more hit and miss. With the exception of a few tilesets (like Ashenvale and the Broken Isles), it feels like the terrain wasn’t updated as much as the units, and the contrast between the two can be a bit jarring.

Would be really nice if the custom game AI had been improved, too. It’s very one-dimensional in its strategies right now, so if you don’t PvP there’s pretty much nothing to do once you finish the campaign.

Night Elf units in Warcraft III: ReforgedIn general, the game doesn’t hold up as much as I’d like. I mean, it actually holds up really damn well for a game of its age, but in its day it was a masterpiece, and now it’s just good. Not enough tweaking was done to bring it up to today’s standards.

It doesn’t help that this is following on the heels of the Age of Empires II remaster, which was damn near perfect. It hit exactly the right balance of modernizing the mechanics without altering the soul of the game, and it set a very high bar for other remasters to live up to.

On the other hand, it could have been a lot worse. Let us all give thanks that they backed off from their original plans to rewrite the story. That would have been horrible.

On the subject of the story, again it is starting to show its age. It is still a good story, but it doesn’t feel like the earth-shattering masterpiece it did back in the day. There’s not really anything wrong with the story that’s there, but it just feels a bit thin by modern standards. StarCraft II’s massive, sprawling campaign full of between mission dialogue has spoiled me. Warcraft III’s campaign feels rather thin by comparison.

Again, it’s still good, and if you’ve never played it, I still recommend it. It’s just not as mind-blowing as I remember it being when I was a kid.

It was interesting and a bit sad to compare how much things have changed in World of Warcraft. Now, WoW has done a lot of great things with its story, and don’t let me send the impression I’m saying WoW is bad or ruined everything, but there are a lot of specific things it has screwed up. It was very refreshing to go back to a time when Night Elves were scary, Jaina was badass, and Kael’thas was actually a three-dimensional character.

Gods I missed Cairne.I’m glad I revisited it, and there’s still a lot to love about the game, but it did leave me with a certain “you can’t go home again” kind of feeling.