Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Merry Christmas, and Other Stuff

Ring Out, Wild Bells - Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.  
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.  
Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.  
Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.  
Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out thy mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.  
Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.  
Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.  
Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays to all of you who venture and read all of my ramblings here. 

As the holidays are upon us, and this is the time to spend with people you hold dear, my ramblings will take a break for about a week. I will be visiting my extended family. As it happens, this also means very small chance of being online. Which I tend to agree is a good thing every once in awhile. Thus, my ramblings will resume soon after the New Year, not before.

In the meantime, I leave you with a Christmas poem, by Lord Tennyson, it should do for awhile, maybe steal a smile or even a grin from your lips. To all you I wish a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year. May your favourite MMO stay online and thrive for many years to come, your favourite book get a rival or two, and may your holidays be full of joy and Christmas cheer. 

Monday, 23 December 2013

Game of The Year 2013


Tis the Season I guess. Everyone is doing their list, anywhere I turn I see these lists being posted. So, in order not to just stand around awkwardly and end up with some back-breaking task I decided to join the fun, and at least pretend to do what everyone else is doing. All in the name to avoid more work. We could say this is the real spirit of the season.

First things first. That means more explanations before we get to the real thing. When I talk about game of the year, it simply means games I played this year. It does not mean games that came out in this year. There is couple of reasons for that. First, I am very, very, very, emphasise on very, careful consumer. Or at least I consider myself as such. I rarely buy a game on first day, or even the first month. Most often, before I get it in my hands, it is at least half a year old, and it was held under scrutiny of many others.

Why is that so? First, with the Steam and GOG, there are so many games in my collective library that I still did not get to play, that I do not see the point in buying new stuff until I play through the old. There are exceptions of course, every now and then I will play a new game instead of one of the old ones, but this is only an exception.

Second, with the sales being a regular thing on the Internet, I like to buy cheap. Even if the game is good and worth more, I like saving money. First, because there is never enough money in  the first place, and because there is money to be spent on something else. Like books for example. While I buy digital games, I still buy good old fashioned books. I love the smell of the book, and I like the idea that a forest had to be cut in order for me to read it. If they come bound in leather so much better. The latter is just a poetic exaggeration, but I would not mind.

There are games I play on regular basis, and there are games whose experience could be described as binge drinking. I play them non-stop for some time, and then leave them behind for a couple of months. I am particularly fond of doing this with RPGs. So, with no further ado, let us move to the list of five game that made the greatest impression on me in the year of 2013 Anno Domini.

Honourable mention goes to World of Warcraft and Mists of Pandaria, and League of Legends. While I enjoyed them both a great deal, and sank into them considerable amount of time, they are the old wolves still going strong. They have their flaws, and they have their strengths. Thus, they get only a honourable mention. Mists of Pandaria introduced a whole new set of tools of how to tell the story, yet I found myself more and more running through the old content, than doing the new. With LoL, it is just an exercise of nerves. Training of patience. because once you learn how to deal with your teammates in LoL, you graduate and become Zen Master.

Another honourable mention goes to Witcher I. It would certainly be on this list otherwise. The only reason it is not, is that I started playing it in 2012. It would not be fair to the other games, thus deserves only an honourable mention.

This was the game that with time I developed love-hate relationship. I loved it for what it was, and hated it for being so frustratingly coy. In short, the things I hated, were the things I loved. Antichamber was meant as such, and it delivered. It plays with the player, toys with him, leads him around and at same time forces the player to step outside of his comfort zone. The usual smash and continue approach is rendered useless. The game expects an intelligent player, and it does not at any point try to make things easy for you. As such, it was great to see that such games exist. After all stupid to ground tutorials, it is nice when game takes you for an intelligent individual and lets you figure things out on your own. And this on your own requires much on unconventional thinking, thus it can be quite a puzzling experience.

Chivalry is in the similar boat as Antichamber. I love it in one moment and hate in another. I love the FFA, and team objective. I love the ability to customise your knight. I love the flow and brutality of combat. I love how everything you do depends on you and you alone. What I hate is what started only a few months ago, random crashing of the game on regular basis. It disrupts the play, the flow, and the mood. I also hate archers, but that is a story for another time. Come here and fight like a real warrior, you cowards!
Yeah, getting an arrow in your eye when you were about to decapitate your opponent can be quite frustrating. :)

It is rare these days, to come across a game that focuses so much on pure narration, and actually succeeds. More often than not we can witness a game with some grand idea, and the poor execution. In that regard, Thomas Was Alone is a shining beacon of what should be a standard when it comes to narration and story. A shining beacon of what a good character development and a strong characters are. And all that with just a bunch of rectangles. Or maybe because it is a bunch of rectangles. In any case, it is worth your time. I loved every moment in this game with the exception of the total darkness when my jumps were based more on blind faith, luck, or sense of direction, than actual knowing of what I am doing.

From my early age I played card games. Many of them in fact, and all with one set of playing cards. Even now I at times play games that most of the people these days never even heard of (Schnapps is not the same game as Sixty-six). I also played Magic when I was older, and could buy my own deck. So we could say that Hearthstone was a nostalgia hit for me for two reasons. Both being a nostalgia. Nostalgia for the old days of Warcraft III and early days of WoW, and the other being that I always loved to play cards. Hearthstone is in many ways an easy to learn, but hard to master type of game. At times you can curse at the amounts of RNG, but at the same time it is this RNG element in it that keeps you at your toes, ensuring you never really know what to expect. Just remember, Lady is as fickle as ever, capricious even, and if you rely on her, she will punish you accordingly.

The first place goes to Witcher II. It is mature, dark, gritty, even realistic. As much as fantasy genre allows realism. In every aspect it is an improvement of the first instalment and it leaves me longing for the third game. It makes me long to play it again, and see what is on the other side. It is enticing to try and play otherwise than I would usually. Although I need to finish it first. Right now, I played it for forty hours. I enjoyed each and every one. I will probably finish it in the coming months. No promises though. What needs to be mentioned as well, is the morality in the game. We see so often, or was that thing of the past, and now everybody tries to make this a murky territory? Anyway, morality and decisions actually carry some weight, and are not simply +2 to lawful, or -3 to evil.

This concludes the list of my top games I played in the year of 2013. I hope you enjoyed it, as well as I hope you might give some of them a try for yourself if you did not do so by now. Next year I should cut it down to three games, and honourable mentions. It would be more in spirit of competition and the best of the best I think. But tht is for next year to think about.

Friday, 20 December 2013

The Desolation of Smaug, or, Peter Jackson Blew It


I can say I am quite a fan of the Hobbit. I am fan of Tolkien's work in general, but Hobbit has a special place. So when it was first announced that there will not only be two films, but three I did not really jump through the roof out of joy, but I thought this would give them enough of working space to show what else was going on while we followed the company of thirteen dwarves and a burglar hobbit.

I thought this would be about filling the voids, and not so much about fabricating something with no basis out of thin air. And I am aware that the adaptation from one form to another demands sacrifices, some things just cannot work, some are thought unnecessary, while others are made to fill the voids. But the second Hobbit is an ugly spit in the face of the people that had faith in Jackson, thinking he would do a proper job. There were some tweaks in the first Hobbit, a lot more in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. But those were things we could live with.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Wednesday Ruminations:The Princess and the Queen...


The Princess and the Queen, or, The Blacks and the Greens, is the title of George R.R. Martin's novella published in the anthology Dangerous Women. Now that this is said and done, I can take a break, get some air and then continue. I knew Martin loves long titles, but this one takes the cake. It is also the novella that replaced what was first thought to be the fourth short story about Dunk and Egg, called She-Wolves. This was the first story of the anthology I read. I will read the rest as well, but this one had to be first.

Honestly, I would much prefer She-Wolves over The Princess and the Rest of Really Annoyingly Long Title. Just because we could see more of everyone's favourite knight at hearth, and his too smart for his age squire of a prince. It would also show us Winterfell, a little less old Nan, and Starks. It is to be said that Starks are always Starks. Names might change, Winter may come and go, but Starks always remain the same. This can be seen in this novella as well.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

World of Warcraft and the In-Game Store


A couple of days ago I commented on a post talking about the new In-Game Store in World of Warcraft. As my opinion wildly differed from that of what seem majority on the site, there was a challenge shot at me. Commenter JackRobb wanted me to try harder. Knowing that trying harder at the spot would leave me with writing too many words to fit the comment box, I opted to write it here, and then link JackRobb to this post. Maybe then it will be hard enough for him. If he ever reads it.

For this to make any sense, let us start where we should start. Differentiating between the business models of the games. In its essence, we have three models. Those are Buy-to-play, Pay-to-play, and Free-to-play. All of those have their quirks, pros, and cons. Buy-to-play would be any regular title, that is not MMO, because at least to my knowledge, only MMO games have monthly subscription. I will leave the DLC and similar practises out of this, as I wildly disagree with them. DLC in my opinion, means that the developer could not finish the said feature on time, and so opted to push it after the release, and charge extra for something that should be in the game form the very beginning.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Fury of the Lich Queen


This week's Community Blog Topic is an entertaining one. It plays well on all our creative spark, and I intend to take this opportunity and present the most ludicrous scenario that will probably never come to fruition.

Jaina sat quietly in her highest spire of Dalaran. Once beautiful city now falling to ruin thanks to ever more draconian rule of Jaina Proudmoore. Anyone who questions her dies, anyone who defies her smallest of quirks is first horribly tortured and then fed to mana wyrms. Vereesa finally realised what she did when she backed up Jaina and sent an envoy pleading for help to Alliance, Horde, Blood Elves, and even her own sister she hated more than everything.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Friday Musings: The Things That Made Me Laugh


Today we will try something different. This post was inspired by Joseph Skyrim of JVT Workshop, and his post Today I Smiled Challenge. Instead of me writing lots of words, I will show you pictures instead. They say after all, that an image is worth a thousand words. That would in short mean that one image is worth as much as my average post, but today we are going all out. Not too much, but a fair amount of pictures from Hearthstone.

I noticed yesterday, that now the cards have a tool tip of sorts, when you look at them closer in your Collection tab. An entertaining one at that. Often a reference to some tidbit of lore, or something that players did. It is silly in its own Warcraft style. Without further ado, let us have some laughter. And I hope it brings chuckle out of you as it did out of me.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

LoL: Business as Usual


Last week we could hear that Riot, the developers of League of Legends have put some restraints on their streamers. Basically it boiled down to players that are getting paycheck from Riot, need to abide by the rules that Riot has set, no matter how these rules might affect them otherwise.

Now, knowing that the thing will probably explode, and that Riot was probably just testing the waters, like all companies do, I decided to wait a little before writing about this. This way, I can see both sides, and what they have to say. It is to be said, that were there no riot over the new additions to the contract of the streamers, they would probably still be contractually obligated not to play other games while they stream League of Legends.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Wednesday Ruminations: NSA and World of Warcraft


So, in recent months we learnt that NSA really loves to spy not only on the rest of us, but also on their own citizens. So what else is new, some might ask. As if that was not enough, or better said, as if that surprised anyone at that point, they also spied on us wretches playing World of Warcraft, among others.

I mean really? You consider us, "heroes" of Internet who fight virtual dragons, and conquerors of digital planes, a threat?

Really?

Is it just me who finds this mind-boggling beyond belief?

I first intended to write something tongue-in-cheek of what everything I did in World of Warcraft over the years that NSA could consider a threat. All those raids, battlegrounds, and random times standing in fire and my raid leader shouting "Don't stand in the fire!" (It was not fire, it was Defile, but he did not care for that). I really did write a couple of paragraphs, before it hit me. Those wankers already know it. So why should I recapture it all here just for them? So I deleted it.

Then I tried to write about why this is such an absurd and waste of time, but it is just so stupid it does not merit a proper discussion. It is like an ugly sick pup not worth of a single breath of air, so it is strangled at birth. Some of you might be disgusted by this thought. This is exactly how I feel about this.

This is a complete waste of time, Mine, Yours, and that of an NSA.

I will keep this short. I will only recommend to those interested in the topic, to take a book written by Terry Eagleton, called Holy Terror. The book might make you chuckle, or even laugh. And it will at least be something worth laughing at, because we are well beyond the point of crying over the amount of stupid we are exposed to every day.

P.S.: I always thought that the point of espionage was that it stayed a secret, and that it actually served some real purpose rather than fighting the windmills.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

PvP and Me


I will not complicate. I do not PvP. At least not out of joy, fun, or on regular basis. I think the last time I really enjoyed PvP in World of Warcraft was during the Wrath of the Lich King and the never ending battles for Wintergrasp. I liked the scenery, I liked the siege element, and I loved the chaos it brought once you breached the first walls. It reminded me on my battles in Alterac during the Burning Crusade.

When I talk about PvP, I mean battlegrounds. I never much fancied Arena. It was never my cup of tea. I always prefered the dynamic of battlegrounds, even if at times some of the objectives were and continue to boggle my mind. You are locked in a stand-still for years over chopping some trees, and the only thing you do to ensure your victory, is to steal the flag from your enemy stronghold? I think this is what led to stand-still in the first place...

Monday, 9 December 2013

Hearthstone, Heroes of Warcraft


This Thursday I finally got into Hearthstone Beta. Some people might say, who cares, but those are probably already in the beta themselves. I say finally, because I have probably watched Hearthstone matches on youtube for a, damn it is a couple of months truth be told. And I wished to be there, playing the game for myself. So I would stop judging others for making stupid mistakes.

And indeed, my wish came true, when I checked my email, and there was this shiny beta key. Evil laughter aside and the vision of total dominance over the field of battle that went through my head in that moment, I patiently downloaded the game, that came in package with new battle.net interface. A necessary evil I guess. It is not an evil to be sure, it actually helps keeping all the games on the same place. I think of it is Blizzard's version of Steam, with a difference that there will always be only Blizzard games I own.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Crowd's Kick-off: Mandate Successfully Funded


Ah, it is hard to imagine how very excited I am about Mandate. How very glad I am they successfully finished their Kickstarter campaign. When I wrote the first time about Mandate the situation looked dire. Well, at least to me. Nine days to go, and they had to collect at least hundred and fifty thousand dollars. A lot of money.

But as campaign went they successfully broke their lower limit, and even gathered enough funds for the stretch goals. I would imagine that those stretch goals were something they were set to have in game, but in event that the budget would not allow it, would still be able to cut it out without impairing the rest of the game.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Wednesday Ruminations: Rules of Engagement


Recently I was part of a long, and quite interesting exchange on a particular topic. While I think the discussion was fruitful, I am of opinion, that had we followed a few simple guidelines, it could, and probably would end up in a different tone, and at different end. This inspired me to write about, well fighting arguments.

In this post, I will focus on what makes an argument, how to fight it, and what to fight. To start somewhere, I will make an example. You can dislike Obama because he is a lefthander. No matter how wrong this is, you can do it. It is your personal preference. What you cannot do, is dislike Obama's reforms because he is a lefthander. Now, those are two totally different things, that have nothing with one another.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

All Praise to Connected Realms


Normally a title would say A Week in Review, but currently things are going so well, that such blandness would be considered a grave offence, if not a sin. Last Wednesday, my realm of Daggerspine finally connected with three others. I will take this chance to welcome mighty warriors of Chromaggus, Shattered Halls, and Boulderfist. You guys are awesome, and bring MMO back into my RPG.

So, what got me so excited? Well, there is a prospect of bringing fresh blood to our guild. Which would be very good, and reignite our activity that recently all but stopped. We are old guild, I think we were formed somewhere around the start of Wrath, with only reforming once in the middle of Wrath of the Lich King. Ever since we were strong enough, and active enough to have two raiding teams. One twenty five for normals, and one ten man for heroic raids. Not so much in Pandaria.

Monday, 2 December 2013

LoL: Penta Spin to Win


Since last week I was able to play a few more games in All for One mode of League of Legends. My goal, was to play with Garen. I thought it would be fun to play as Garen, and that, because of his durability he would be able to hold his own against most any other champion.

I have the luck of having friends that like Garen as well, and are usually not able to play him, because I call it first. So, when they heard my idea, the were ready to go along. We limited our Garen games on one per session. Otherwise there might soon be too much Garen in games, and people would start banning him. You might think this silly, but I find it very lucrative strategy.

Sunday, 1 December 2013

A long lull to Warlords of Draenor


Warlords of Draenor might hit somewhere by this summer. They might. I might as well hit a jackpot. Chances for both of scenarios are somewhere the same. If I know Blizzard, they love to take their sweet time. Which is fine, and admirable trait on its own. It is much better to have game later, but polished, than early and broken. But this means, that well at best, there is half a year until next expansion, but more realistically, somewhere between nine months and a year.

So what does this mean for us? Well, a very long period without any new content. Blizzard stated there would be no major patches (new content) until the pre-expansion patch. This means, we get to defeat Garrosh, and now patiently wait for almost a year for Garrosh to be removed from Orgrimmar as well. And then portal will go red over night, and shall go onward, where new adventures await.

[Review] Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Having enjoyed the first Kingsman film, deciding to see the second one in the cinema was not hard. The Golden Circle is a worthy sequel t...