What I’m up to + New Article

I haven’t really done or experienced anything lately that deserves its own deep-dive post, but I thought I might do a quick run down of the various nerdy passtimes I’ve been engaging in as of late.

Official art for the audio drama Welcome to Night ValeFirst, after finishing Limetown, I bounced around for a bit, trying different podcasts before I found one I like: Welcome to Night Vale.

The friend who first recommended Night Vale went on and on about how indescribably weird it was and how I just had to experience it for myself. I thought he was exaggerating.

He was not exaggerating.

Welcome to Night Vale is spectacularly strange. The best way I can describe it is it’s like Douglas Adams on acid, with a hefty dose of conspiracy theories and Lovecraftian influence. It takes the form of a community radio show operating out of a small desert town that appears to exist in a surreal alternate universe dominated by a ruthless totalitarian government and filled with eldritch horrors as a matter of every day life.

I think?

It’s best described as a dark comedy, but it really is unlike anything else. My only complaints are it can be a bit samey, and that the overwhelming scattershot weirdness prevents it from being as relaxing as you might expect from such a silly show. It really demands your full attention.

On the reading front, the most interesting book I’ve read recently is Diablo’s Book of Adria. This continues the series of lorebooks that also included the Book of Cain and the Book of Tyrael.

As with its predecessors, it’s a beautifully made book full of stellar artwork. I was a bit disappointed by the lack of any significant new lore revelations, but it does provide a very interesting insight into Adria’s motivations as a character. I wouldn’t say it makes her more sympathetic per se — she remains a viciously ruthless schemer — but it does provide some nuance to her beyond the power hungry madwoman one might take her for at first glance.

All in all, I’d say the Book of Adria is less revelatory than the Book of Cain, but more interesting than the Book of Tyrael. I’d recommend it.

When it comes to gaming, I’ve little to report. Still messing around with ESO and feeling very ambivalent about it. I’ve been trying to get my consular caught up in the story in SWTOR, and I’ve started running my TSW homebrew mini-campaign in D&D, but I’ll have more to say about both those things later.

Finally, I’ve had another article published at MMO Bro, in which I discuss the importance of stability in MMO design.

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Gaming Round-Up: ESO, Bless, Zeratul, and MMO Mobs

Once again I find myself with a number of gaming topics that are worth discussing, but not worth filling a full post on their own.

A story cinematic in Bless OnlineBless Online: Actually okay

With its launch as a full free to play title, I decided to give Bless Online a try. Given the incredibly negative buzz, I was surprised by how decent the game is.

Once again I feel the need to point out that the universal and hyperbolic negativity of the gaming community has made word of mouth entirely meaningless. I no longer know which games I should avoid, because basically everything is decried as a broken cash grab, regardless of reality.

That’s not to say Bless is a masterpiece. It’s not. I actually gave up on it fairly quickly. But this is much more symptomatic of how jaded I’ve become than the quality of the game itself. It’s got a lot going for it.

The graphics are gorgeous. The world is detailed and filled with personality. The story is surprisingly high effort and actually halfway interesting. The combat is very flashy and engaging, if once again much too easy. If I weren’t in a period of feeling somewhat burnt out on video games in general and traditional MMOs in particular, I’d probably have played a lot more.

In the end, that may be Bless’ one major sin: It launched too late into a market too crowded.

A flightpath in Bless OnlineESO: Home sweet villa

After months of hard work and with the assistance of an ESO Plus trial event, I’ve finally finished decorating my Grand Psijic Villa home in Elder Scrolls Online.

I am not sure why I did this. There is no gameplay reason to spend time in my own home, and I have no friends who play to show around the place. I suppose it’s a nice virtual environment to wander around and reflect on my life choices.

Ahem.

The place is so huge I had to wall off a few rooms because I didn’t have the resources or energy to furnish them properly. Even so, I did manage to include a feast hall, bedrooms for both my Aldmeri characters, a kitchen, and indoor gardens. Meanwhile the exterior is home to as much plant life as I could cram in, a campsite with a hammock, some lovely statuary, and a semi-submerged coral garden, among other attractions.

It is fun to express yourself through design like this. I’m beginning to catch a glimmer of why people are so passionate about player housing in games. I just wish it was a more fleshed out feature.

SC2: En aru’din Raszagal

Surprisingly soon after the release of Tychus, StarCraft II has gained another new co-op commander: Zeratul.

I preface my thoughts on him by saying that I think Zeratul is fun to play, and I don’t regret purchasing him. He has some cool abilities, a unique mechanic in the hunt for artifact fragments, and his unit skins are gorgeous.

That said, he does somewhat reinforce my perception that the co-op team is running out of ideas. Aside from the artifact mechanic, he could basically be described as “Nova, but Protoss and somehow even more overpowered.”

Zeratul is very powerful, and very easy. His macro is simplified to the point of being almost non-existent — even his upgrades are researched automatically — and he also has surprisingly low micro requirements.

Your only real strategic choices are what top bar abilities to pick (which is a neat mechanic, I grant), as his unit selection is limited, and you really don’t need anything other than Void Templars and Enforcers with the occasional Shieldguard for back-up. His only real micro in battle is casting blink and dropping his calldowns. Meanwhile his base runs itself.

Zeratul in StarCraft II co-opI mean, I hate economic management, and even I feel Zeratul may have gone too far in eliminating it.

Zeratul’s fun, but I can’t pretend there aren’t a lot of ways in which he’s simply a failure of good game design. If nothing else, I have to believe there are more interesting things they could have done.

New article:

In other news, I’ve published a new article on MMO Bro. This one seeks to rethink the design of open world mobs in MMOs.