The Division: Game Review

On a friend’s recommendation I purchased Tom Clancy’s The Division, that some people are calling a “Loot Shooter”.

I’d been wary of The Division due to a few reviews I’d read of it. Fortunately, all of the problems I read about are gone!

Zero latency issues. The game crashes occasionally, but I’ve come to expect that from Ubisoft, so it doesn’t phase me.

The tutorial missions no longer have any of the snafus that were present at launch.

Most of the enemies in the game take a believable amount of bullets to eliminate. Only the elite enemies take more, AS THEY SHOULD! If they took the same amount of damage to eliminate then they wouldn’t be elite enemies would they?

I’ve just tasted the end-game content and it is definitely the most exciting part of the game. The mix of PVE and PVP is amazing and tons of fun.
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Overwatch

Who watches over the Overwatch?
Who watches over the Overwatch?

Blizzard announced an entirely new game at their latest Blizzcon extravaganza.

This won’t be a game based off their existing brands like almost every other game they’ve released. Warcraft to Starcraft, Warcraft to WoW, WoW to Hearthstone, and Everything to Heroes of the Storm making Warcraft and Diablo the only truly original games they’ve made.

The new game is a first person shooter called Overwatch set in the near future. The animation style is similar to Team Fortress 2 and Disney’s Incredibles.

I said Incredibles because the FPS has characters that you choose to play before each match and each character has a set of super abilities they can use during the match.

The super powers are simple enough. One person can teleport, another can fly, another one can create a big energy shield, etc.

Blizzard has already released a bunch of videos on Overwatch’s website including a trailer video that introduces the setting and a few of the characters.

So why be excited about this? I haven’t played a true FPS in over half decade, why do I care?

Well first of all, Blizzard has a very successful track record with their games. If they release an FPS its likely that it will perform well and attract a lot of people to the genre from other Blizzard games as well as increasing competition in the FPS field.

Second, Blizzard is branching out! Like I said, they haven’t come out with a truly original game in over twenty years. Are they too rusty to do well in a market without a pre-established fanbase? I don’t know.

It’s entirely possible that Overwatch will flop because Blizzard doesn’t know jackshit about what people want from FPS games. I doubt that will happen as Blizzard has enough money to attract designers who will prevent that from happening. It’s unlikely that Overwatch will fail, but will it succeed?

At this point… Hard to say. The game doesn’t offer any new mechanics. Everything the characters can do I’ve seen in other FPS games. The setting isn’t really new either. Its a cross between Team Fortress 2’s animation style and the futuristic setting of Halo (maybe a little bit less techy than Halo, but close).

But is there any FPS that’s really unique? Mount and Blade to some extent, but its so different from most FPS games that it falls into the realm of simulation games.

Halo wasn’t unique when it came out. Doom and Goldeneye both had the same weapon swapping and ammo systems. But Halo was massively successful. It was one of the first games you could talk about at school without having to be embarrassed that you were a gamer.

Will Overwatch reach that same level of success where gamer society embraces it? Maybe, but I doubt it.

Either way, “The cavalry’s here, luvs!”

-Mister Ed

Streaming Other Games

An stream interface I made for streaming Faster Than Light. Still in progress!
An stream interface I made for streaming Faster Than Light. Still in progress!

A few of my friends suggested trying to stream other games besides Hearthstone.

I am interested in doing that at some point, so I’ve been working on stream interfaces for the other games I play.

Right now I play League of Legends, Hearthstone, Faster Than Light (FTL), Skyrim, and Diablo 3.

The stream client I use, XSplit, only lets me have four different stream interfaces set up at a time. More interfaces are possible if I buy a subscription for their software instead of using it for free like I am now.

I haven’t played much Diablo 3 at all lately so that’s the one of the five I’ll be leaving out. A few weeks ago I began to see it more as hamster wheel than a fun way to spend my time and have quit playing since.

There are other hurdles for creating interfaces for other games as well though.

I’ve always found a stream to be way more entertaining if I can see the streamer’s face, but where does the face go?

I struggled a lot with that issue while making the FTL interface pictured above.

Initially I had the game filling the entire stream. I tried putting my face in the top right, but that blocked enemy ships.

I tried putting my face in the bottom right, but that also blocked enemy ships.

Bottom left blocks my ship’s power use. Top left blocks my ship’s health and crew.

Middle left worked okay, but I ran into a size issue there.

My face was either too small to matter, or it was blocking the back part of my ship.

I ended up scrapping the idea of having the game fill the entire frame of the stream video.

I wouldn’t call the picture above a final product, but it was the best way to include the game as well as my face.

There’s other stuff to add as well.

In my Hearthstone interface I added the URL address of my blog at WordPress to try and get crosstraffic. I’d like to do that for FTL as well.

I’d like a logo of some kind for FTL too, like the Hearthsteed pack logo I made for Hearthstone.

Eventually I want to add in a donation, subscriber, and follower trackers, but I’d like to establish myself more before going on to that part of the interface design.

I’m committed to keeping the interface art grounded in the game I’m streaming though.

Using edited screen captures from the game has worked for me on that, so I’ll keep doing that in the future whenever possible.

That’s all for now!

-Mister Ed

Hearthstone Streaming

A little preview of what my Hearthstone stream will look like.
A little preview of what my Hearthstone stream will look like.

So the big news earlier this week was that I have been working on a Heathstone stream, with a URL of http://www.twitch.tv/gocorral. I’ll be streaming tonight from 8-9PM Pacific time.

The current model is pictured above which I’ll be using to play tonight.

I tried to give the stream a consistent look with the game by taking all the extra pieces of the stream from Hearthstone.

The pack is a Hearthstone pack with the Hearthsteed on top.

The sign is taken from when the game is down for maintenance.

The Curse of Naxxramas art is taken from some of Blizzard’s own ads for Hearthstone.

The box surrounding the webcam image of my lovely face is taken from the main menu of the game.

I’m planning on streaming a playthrough of the new Naxxramas content once it is released. I’ll announce those streams as I get to them.

What is Hearthstone for the uninitiated? It’s an online card game put out by Blizzard, the same people who created Diablo and World of Warcraft.

Hearthstone is intended to be quite simple. They have an easy tutorial that teaches you how to play and each game takes about ten minutes or less.

If you’ve played any collectible card game before then its Hearthstone will be quite easy to pick up.

In the game your character is one of the main heroes from Blizzard’s Warcraft games.

Your hero has various spells, powers, minions, and weapons to help take out the opponent’s hero.

Both heroes start with 30 life which is slowly eaten up by the opponent’s hero and minions attacks through the game.

If you bring your opponent’s life down to zero then you win! There’s a celebratory image with ribbons and fireworks!

If your opponent wins then you can always play again.

I like the game a lot and would definitely suggest giving it a try. If you don’t like it, then you haven’t spent much time to learn that. If you do like it then we could play together!

My user name on the game is Jevaninada #1917. The game can be downloaded at http://us.battle.net/hearthstone/en/.

Again, my stream is July 20th (The night I’m publishing this) from 8-9PM Pacific time and the URL is http://www.twitch.tv/gocorral.

Thanks for watching!

-Mister Ed

Diablo 3 Instead of D&D

Me playing around a little on my monk to show off for the blog.
Me playing around a little on my monk to show off for the blog.

Sundays are typically D&D night for my friends and me, but we didn’t play for a couple of reasons.

One of my friends couldn’t make it and two others had to be in and out for a few reasons.

So instead of D&D we played video games!

League of Legends is a popular one. We also did a little bit of Warlight.

We also showed Diablo 3 off to one of our friends who hadn’t played it yet.

The original Diablo game came out in the 90’s and gained amazing success.

Diablo play focuses around killing monsters and collecting the magic items that fall from their bodies.

The magic items are stuff like shields, hats, rings, swords, shirts, etc. All stuff that your character wears in the game.

The game has a interesting story to play through, but after that’s been done the goal moves from the story to collecting more magic stuff.

There are certain extremely powerful magic items called legendary items.

The later goal of the game is collecting the perfect set of legendary items to make your character the most powerful that it can be.

At least that’s the goal for me. Other people can, of course, have separate goals for their own character if they wish.

The original Diablo game was so successful within its genre that subsequent games that use a similar interface and magical item system have been called Diablo clones.

Diablo 2 quickly outsold the first Diablo and the third game has done even better than that.

I started playing with Diablo 2 around when its expansion pack came out.

I’ve recently got back into playing Diablo 3 because its expansion pack was just released last month.

Diablo 3’s biggest improvement for me is the ease of playing with your friends.

Diablo 2 had a few minor barriers to playing with your friends.

Diablo 3 has no such barriers. You literally just click one button to join your friends in a game.

Playing with my friends makes the game a lot more fun. I probably wouldn’t have picked it up again if playing with them wasn’t an option.

If you’re interested in Diablo 3 you can learn more about it or buy it at the website: http://us.battle.net/d3/en/

That’s all for tonight!

-Mister Ed

What is Dungeons and Dragons?

I played Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) with my friends last night. We’ve been playing for over ten years together. We started when we were all homeschooled by our parents during what would’ve been elementary school. After we all split apart for college we ended up playing through Skype for a little bit and later through a cool web application called Roll20. I love playing D&D with my friends because the game is capable of almost anything in the fantasy genre. We can slay dragons, run away from orcs, obtain powerful magic weapons, destroy those weapons if they turn out to be evil, sail the sea as pirates, etc. It’s a whole lot of fun.

Although D&D is great for me, it has a history of being misunderstood. I’d like to clear up a few of those misconceptions with this blog post. I’ll talk more about my own experiences with D&D in forthcoming posts.

D&D started off as a spinoff from board game simulations of wars or war games. Risk is the most popular one that many people have heard of, but there are hundreds of others. A few of the other big ones include Axis and Allies, Diplomacy, and Small World. War games are pretty simple at their heart. You get a set of pieces and you use them to simulate a battle. The rules might tell you how to simulate the D-Day Battle for Omaha Beach, but nothing’s stopping you from using those same pieces to simulate the Battle of the Bulge. My friends and I did the same thing with green army men when we were kids. We’d separate them out into teams and have little skirmishes on the living room floor. Occasionally an air strike would be called in and we’d drop a red foam ball on the troops. Whichever army men got knocked over were casualties.

At some point two war gamers, Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, decided they were tired of only doing simulations of real battles. They wanted to simulate the same battles that happened in the high fantasy books they read. Battles with swords, dragons, and magic instead of guns, artillery, and aerial bombardments. Gygax and Arneson worked on a set of rules for several years until D&D was released on January 26th 1974 (I know the exact date because I’m on an email list that informed me of the 40th anniversary a couple weeks ago). The game featured heavy influences from the Lord of the Rings books which were popular at the time. My dad was one of the first people to start playing D&D. There were 1,000 games made in the first printing run in 1974 and my dad snagged one of them. He played throughout college and passed the habit on to me and my friends.

D&D gained a poor reputation in the 70’s and early 80’s. This was largely due to Christian groups viewing it as a form of devil worship just as similar groups burn Harry Potter books today. D&D reached its peek negative reputation with the suicide attempts of James Egbert in 1979 and 1980. Egbert played D&D and newspapers all over the nation sensationalized his death. The media claimed that he had killed himself because his character had died in the game. Everyone overlooked that Egbert was severely depressed. His story was “adapted” into a book and later a movie staring Tom Hanks called Mazes and Monsters. These negative stories of devil worship and suicide piled on with more accurate stereotypes of pimply nerds without social skills playing the game in basements. D&D was, and still is to some extent, something that people are embarrassed to admit they play. I didn’t tell my wife until a month or two after we’d started dating because I was afraid she’d judge me for it. As an inside observer, I’m unsure how much of this reputation has gone away or not.

So that’s the history of D&D, but what exactly is it? Well, it’s a roleplaying game similar to video games like World of Warcraft, Diablo, and Fable.

D&D has many key differences from video games though. In video games the player is often restricted to only one character and may never change who that character is (there are exceptions in video games, but as a general rule this stands). In D&D the player can be whoever they want.

Video games decide actions based on programmed random number generators. D&D uses dice, a low-tech version of the same thing.

Video games have amazing graphics. D&D relies heavily on imagination to visualize the events taking place. If you’re lucky, you get fancy miniatures to play with like this one that I painted.

A metal mini glued to a plastic base that I painted myself.
A metal mini glued to a plastic base that I painted myself.

Video games have one plot. If you play the video game again you will be taking essentially the same actions once again. D&D has as many plots as you can imagine. And if you use the same plot, you don’t have to resolve it the same way. If the plot was a bank robbery you could do it with a shotgun the first time or with a hacking program the second time.

Video games have restrictions that seem illogical. The ones that annoy me the most are when my character can’t jump or walk up small slopes. The game does this to keep you on the set path/plot that the designers created. In D&D you can go anywhere. A gorge isn’t necessarily an impassable obstacle to your character in D&D if s/he can jump really or fly over it.

And most importantly, D&D is always played with your friends. You and your friends can go on great adventures and explore new lands just like Bilbo, Conan, Harry Potter, or any other fantasy character you can name. It’s a great way for adults to use their imagination just like when they were kids pretending to be heroes.

More D&D posts to come in the future!

-Mister Ed