Enter The Scrub: Reverse First and Actual First

Since the last time I posted about Warmachine I’ve picked up a second faction, The Legion of Everblight, and acquired a lot more little Menoth dudes.  The little rules still catch me up; I spend the same amount of time asking “Is this how it works?” as I ever did, but I’m less frustrated about it.  Persevering is just about always the right answer.  When it comes to playing this game for me it’s not about getting better at the mechanics, it’s about overcoming my own fallacies.  So far, it’s working.

A few months back I played in a big 50-point timed tournament.  That’s as big as a Warmachine tournament game tends to get.  I threw down Kreoss, his first version (warcasters/locks can come in three different variations of the same character with different spells/stats) and lost spectacularly.  It was always to little mistakes (mis-measuring, putting Kreoss in a bad spot, losing to not being aggressive enough), I was disheartened but still having fun.  50 point games could still leave me thinking, “I never want to do that again.”  There’s a lot going on for me to keep track of and remember.  Two of my weakest points.  I came in last but still laughed about it.

Fast forward to a couple weeks ago.  We play a Mangled Metal Tooth and Claw tournament (only 20 points, just ‘jacks or ‘beasts, the signature unit types of the game).  I play my Legion, Absylonia the first, with a carnivean, the Typhon and a single shredder.  I won every single game I played.  Even against some of the strongest players in our group.  The victory left me feeling happy and more capable than previous.  I had been playing more games than normal, pushing through the frustration I feel so easily, and it payed off.  I still frequently lose 50-point games, but I’m having more fun and feeling less frustrated.

Next Mangled Metal Tooth and Claw will be Menoth and we’ll see if I can pull out another win (probably not).  I’m just happy to continually work at it and maybe one day soon that horrible frustration, no matter the outcome, will completely fade away.

Fatal Frame V: A new horror?

A trailer for the upcoming Fatal Frame V was released that heavily featured gameplay. 


It’s left me feeling optimistic about the integration of the WiiU’s gamepad.  I love the idea of being able to angle the camera in order to better capture multiple ghosts.  I’m not sure about, at least what seems to be a mechanic to me, needing to angle the camera a specific way in order to capture non-aggressive ghost’s pictures and to get bonuses in fights.  It seems unnecessary and potentially annoying.

It was hard to not notice the jiggle physics.  Fatal Frame has always had an element of “fan service” (most of these characters are underage).  It’s not something I’m personally happy about.  It’s blatant and takes away from the atmosphere (and except in III it’s creepy).  It leaves me thinking about how obtrusive and obvious it is instead of freaking out about that shadow over there “Oh my god, do you see it!?”

My main fear stemming from the previous installment, Fatal Frame IV, is story.  The first two games were fine, they had some turns and were wrapped up well.  The third was alright, but definitely required a little more careful reading to deal with how convoluted the story was presented.  The fourth was terrible; texts within the game frequently didn’t make sense with one another, there were numerous story holes, and it just felt messy.  I’m scared this is going to be repeated in V.  In IV it felt like they were running out of storytelling steam, or they were trying to up the “mystery” and twists as a means to frighten.  Like Silent Hill, I would love a return to original form.

The scares in IV were also sub-par.  A lot of them were hollow imitations of former games.  Ghost designs copied from previous installments and in IV their A.Is were all the same.  Move/Teleport – rush forward – repeat.  The only ghost encounter with some semblance of interesting mechanics was the woman in the wheelchair with her sister.  The rest were “rushers” and group fights (of rushers).  I’d love to see new innovation in the battles for V.  Ghosts can be capable of all sorts of tom-foolery; they generally disobey the rules of space and frequently have telekinesis.

With the announcement it is getting a North American release I’m both excited and scared (not in a good way).  A Fatal Frame game is only as strong as it’s ability to tell a spooky story, create atmosphere and have genuine moments of fright.  I’m just not sure this series is still capable of it.

P.T

To say I’ve boarded the Hype Train would be a tiny understatement with the announcement of a new Silent Hill game headed by Kojima and Guillermo del Toro. Add onto that Norman Reedus is taking the lead, and I’m left giddy with excitement. This could be the kick Silent Hill needs to be great again. 1 – 4 are the only Silent Hills I accept as being part of the series. Maybe this new one, called Silent Hills at the time of this writing, will kick start the franchise.

To me, Silent Hill was always about getting under your skin. Messing with your head. Disorienting you. The playable teaser they presented on the Playstation Store hits a lot of those notes. Playing through the player finds them self in an unremarkable hallway, if you ignore the fact it loops on itself. All of the doors except the one that loops are locked and an eerie news cast from a radio talks of a father butchering his family.

The Fox Engine turns even the unremarkable into something to be marveled.

With each loop things in the hallway change, doors open and close, writing appears, sounds come and go. What seems to be a ghost even enters the fray. You need to figure out what the game wants you to do. This can leave the player feeling unnerved and confused. The player is forced to look closely at areas they may not want to (by pushing in the analog stick) and linger longer than is comfortable within the confines of the hallway.

This disorientation while being haunted by a malicious entity is a piece of what Silent Hill has been missing all these years. The new games seem to resort to jump scares and gore filled imagery; blatant in it’s attempts to frighten. The originals had characters that seemed off, tight camera angles to create a feeling of being closed in or used the same type of camera angles to make the player feel lost in a winding sea of fog and monsters. Alongside iconic moments, like Harry “dying” in the alley at the start of the first Silent Hill. They also had a clear theme to the horror, like guilt and sex in Silent Hill 2. Recent installments feel all over the place, just plunking down monster and level design with no real rhyme or reason. Cameras angles don’t feel purposeful anymore and in some cases actively ruin the experience. Characters are predictable and uninteresting.

With P.T almost everything felt just right. The disorientation, disturbing imagery and sound, using the tight confines of the hallway to force a first-person view camera into terrifying angles. The use of the zoom in feature reminded me of both Silent Hill and Fatal Frame. Two franchises that reveled in forcing the player into doing things they really didn’t want to. The use of the environment, changing with each loop, reminds me of my favourite part of Fatal Frame. You can (and will) experience different scares or imagery as you retread old ground.

Just keep looking just keep looking looking looking looking

Having Norman Reedus on board could turn into a huge boon. He’s a great actor and will hopefully bring that to bear. While Beyond Two Souls sucked so, so, hard a lot of people agreed there was some top notch acting involved that helped a lot in making it tolerable. If that same situation could occur, but with a good game, it could help elevate it to great status.

Always check your 6 o’clock in a horror game…unless a creepy voice tells you too. Than run.

My only fear is it will be too “odd” rather than frightening. Metal Gear Solid is chock full of strange moments that work for me, but can pull you out of the moment, which is disastrous in a horror game. After seeing bits of The Strain, Guillermo del Toro’s latest t.v. series, it also has moments of “WTF” and not in a good way. I worry that quirk will end up not working well within a survival horror video game. Or the game itself will drag like the latter half of P.T. I don’t need another Amnesia (which is excellent I’m not trying to bring it down), with no combat and finicky “puzzles” with little clue as to what to do. Looking at you “break window, walk outside, get item”.

I want Silent Hill again. Awesome Silent Hill.

The Silent

(This is a rant. Getting it off my chest.)

Not too long ago I had to experience the unfourtunate; a MMO guild falling apart due to drama. Drama I was involved with. It’s always ugly, and leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. No one is clean or innocent of it, and it was sadly avoidable in one easy step.

Communication.

The group had come together in order to down the most difficult content. We formed up from two separate groups that had lost people to breaks and quitting. We all got along and were excited to hit up new content. The veterans of the new group were already frustrated, having been slamming against the first for a few months. A bunch of us were jumping in needing to learn the basics of the fight. Tensions started to mount right from the beginning.

The veterans got frustrated easily when the newbies didn’t have the fight’s mechanics as well practiced as them a couple tries in. There was a lot of passive aggresive comments and not so subtle ughs. Time passed and the tension mounted. Lines in the sand were quietly drawn. The newbies felt like they were being picked on and that the veterans never took responsibility for their own mistakes. The veterans felt like the newbies were slacking and not putting in as much effort.

The person who had stepped up as lead; they called out commands during battle, made decisions etc. Was obviously getting shorter of temper as time passed. This is where I made my mistake in this whole mess. I could see it plain as day, the mounting frustation. I even talked to him once about voicing concerns if he had any, don’t bottle and make it worse. But, I never outright asked him, “Are you okay?” It’s debatable if anything would have changed if I had asked, but I should have tried to broach the subject.

Instead more weeks go by. Frustrations mount, some of the newbies want to call it quits but we down the boss (being in the top 5% of guilds on our server to do so), cheers are had. But, on that eve a member of the veterans, the one who always had an insult handy when someone else fell and an excuse for when he did, had something to say.
“If it wasn’t for Blue (me) and Xen (my sister) dying so much we would have had it down sooner.”

I was flabbergasted. We didn’t die the most, he did not so surprisingly, the newbies kept a tally as our bad feelings mounted and to also make ourselves feel better and vindicated. Not the most grown-up move but bad feelings unfourtanetly fester. I was instantly furious. The other newbies had all logged off, I think this particular individual didn’t realize I was still around. The leader defended us. He was a good guy, just frustrated at this point. I ignore it. Probably a second poor move.
We hit it up again the following week for loot. We wipe, for hours. As time passes it gets uglier, the veterans are scolding, chastising like we’re six year olds from the very first wipe. This puts everyone in a bad mood from go number one. By the two hour mark we’ve all transitioned beyond frustrated. In that moment none of us want to be here.

Back in WoW, when Gill (my sister) and I were hitting up the Frozen Throne our raid got stuck on the three princes. We call this “A Wall” a fight that seems insurmountable, weeks go by with no progress. We hit a wall and the co-leader of the raid, Geo, was pissed off. She was also making sure everyone knew it, by shrieking at us over Vent. Hawking blame wherever she saw fit, real or not. This was normal behaviour for her, we had people quit already because of it. I told the leader of the raid, “If she stays; if you don’t kick her or tell her to stop, we’re going to lose this long list of people instead.”

He kicked her after one giant screaming fest the following week.

You know what happened? We instantly downed that boss fight first night back. And all the others right up to the final brawl, The Lich King himself.

My point? Screaming, yelling, berating, insulting, gets you “Walls”. Being supportive, helpful, understanding, working on and talking about problems (calmly) (and yes knowing when to remove someone from the raid either for attitude problems or they’re a blatant carry) gets you downed bosses and fully heartfelt high-fives.
This is not the environment that was being created back in XIV. Half of the newbies wanted to outright quit at this point. We talked it out decided against it, I promised to have an overall talk about attitudes if it’s still nasty when the new content drops.

The new set of raid bosses come. We hit up the new single boss fight, Leviathan. After some frustration we down it. Moving onto the first boss of the new big raid we collectively work on the fight. None of us have any idea what to expect. The newbies are talking the fight out, trying to figure things out along with the veterans. But, that underlying nastiness is still there. The veterans suddenly start expecting the world from the newbies, but not themselves. Yelling at us, and just us, for mistakes. Only lightly chastising themselves when whoopsy doodles are made. I end up having that talk. Well, “talk” is generous. I discuss attitudes, negativity, how we’re worse as a group when it’s happening. We should be positive, let things roll off. If you feel angry don’t hit the push-to-talk button. I’m met with silence. Nobody says a thing, a couple “I agree!” sentiments from the newbies, but the veterans ignore it. They keep on talking about random stuff, like I had never opened my mouth.

Communication. It is so important in every aspect of our lives. Even the fun MMO ones. Do you want to have fun and progress in a raiding environment with other people? Well, GUESS WHAT you need to talk to other people then. About issues or concerns, have discussions if things are obviously sour. ANYTHING. Nothingness is the worst thing you can do. It will end raids, or get you kicked from one.

This may be a major sore spot for me. Things went from bad to worse. The leader and I clashed over the stupidest things. I knew what he wanted, certain skills obtained. I knew he was angry about it. Hard to miss. I purposely didn’t unlock the skills. I instead said I wanted to talk about it. You know what he did? Directly insulted me with sentence number three. I was even about to agree to get the skill at my own pace. I shut down. Fast. Told him the negativity, the condescending nature of how everything was approached, was unnecessary, rude, completely out of line.
He switched characters and never talked directly to me again.

The newbies were pissed. Tired of being ignored. I can recall giving suggestions for the new fight and not even being acknowledged. Three weeks later suddenly this is part of the new strategy. We were always told why we died, what we did wrong, and how to fix it in the most rude manner possible. If you’re leading a raid, do not do this. We are equipped with eyes. We know what killed us (we even point it out ourselves sometimes), we know the mechanics, we know what should be actually done. If we don’t, we’re adults, capable of communication. Something I know they had forgotten how to do. We can ask, “Hey, not sure what went wrong, any ideas?”

It’s the lack of trying to meet us halfway that really gets to me. To this day they see themselves as completely in the right. We don’t see ourselves that way. We are capable of looking back and seeing where we could’ve improved how we dealt with the situation. There were times we fed into it. That never helps. But, we did try to address our problems, and got ignored.

The leader? He never wanted lead. But, he did have an idea of how he wanted the raid to be handled. He wanted us joining PUGs every week if we didn’t down a fight continuing to work on the fight. He never, not once, told us that. Not until the big blow-out at the end. Even when we tried to talk about it. Even when I outright said, “If you have a problem, tell us, we’re big people, we can take it and we can work something out.”

He had convinced himself we were in league with one another and purposefully pushing the veterans away. In someways we were. We preferred to run with one another, but we would still do things with the others, and we would always invite them along with us. We didn’t want to ostracize him, we still thought of him as a decent person. Yes, we had our own private chat channel, to air grievances get a good ole’ “Gaaaaaaaaar!!” But, we still tried to strike up conversations in guild chat first, or join in on them. He had the GALL to be pissed at us for his problems he never voiced, NOT ONCE.

If you have an issue with someone, even if it is just, if you do not talk to them about it. If you let it boil, YOU are also in the wrong. If it is a misunderstanding, you are the ONLY one in the wrong for not talking about it.
We broke on bad terms one big blow-up later with a few words that are hard to take back.
Communication. Use it, love it. Please, don’t let this happen. It doesn’t have to, it’s daunting, anxiety ridden territory. But, if you want to organize a group or be a part of one you need to use it. Raiding is a team sport.

Talk.

Don’t touch me

I had a random thought the other day as I meandered around on my warlock, Usiri, doing the questline for my Felhunter. I was on the airship from Undercity to Orgrimmar when a random undead priest started healing me, not exactly unusual behaviour on the random scale. But, as I sat there thinking about it, and then thinking about it in a roleplaying context something struck me. If I was Usiri riding the airship and some random person I didn’t know cast spells on me, no matter the kind, wouldn’t that be a violation of my personal space? How must it feel to have some stranger’s magic arcing along your skin, suffusing you?

I imagined Usiri’s skin crawling from the foreign power, a sickness filling his gut as a spiritual violation was enacted upon him. He would of course be upset, and would probably lash out as is his personality to do so. Think of it as akin to riding the train and some stranger grabs your posterior, it’s not an experience anyone wishes to have (well most anyone). This in turn also opens up whole new avenues of harassment for characters of the less then savoury sort.

So, now when I’m IC I keep this in mind, prepared to yell at any who dare violate one of my characters.

(Posted way back in 2009)

MMO Roulette

The new grind of choice is Final Fantasy XIX. My main character is Blue Revenant, White Mage, Catman, Tailor, Occasional Flake. Got an alt, Dynaheir Rehte, Tank, Just Tank.

Been enjoying it so far. The fights, which are the main reason I play an MMO, can be a downright blast. We’ll see how long it holds my attention. So far, it’s looking to keep it for the long-term.

I do have an immediate complaint however. The grind. Specifically the grind for the currency (called Tomes) that is used to purchase the latest, greatest armour. Like most WoW inspired MMOs you grind out dungeons and raids to acquire this currency. And like all MMO populations, people ferret out the fastest way possible to do so. In XIVs case this involves running a single dungeon, the fastest one, over and over and over and over and over and oh gawd why won’t it stop!? There is a “Duty Roulette” that gives extra of the currency. But, you can only queue by yourself and you can only get that bonus once a day; it’s also a tiny bonus, only increasing the tome output by about half. In WoW, the one who set the bar for this and many other game systems, you could do the equivalent of queuing randomly (Dungeon Finder) as many times as you wanted and get a reward. First queue the raid currency, subsequent queues the dungeon currency. The big difference being you got the currency from queuing randomly rather than a reward from the dungeon itself. You could also go in with a full pre-made party. Pre-made party roulette queues is being added into XIV, however the reward will still only be the first queue of the day, making multiple random queues moot in the face of efficiency. The random in WoW kept it somewhat fresh as you could get one out of a large pool of dungeons. In XIV only three dungeons (of 8 endgame dungeons) has the current currency tied into boss kills, and only one is the fastest (Brayflox Hard). It’s monotonous and makes me want to throw up my hands and say forget it.

I would love on so many levels if XIV adopted more aspects of the idea WoW polished. I’m wondering if they missed the point of the currency reward being tied to the random queue rather than the dungeon, or they’re trying to make us go insane.

(This was originally posted over on “Eccentric Avatar”; I’ve decided to consolidate the two.)