Friday, December 13, 2013

Gifts For Geeks

It's nearing that holiday time of year again and you may be thinking to yourself, "What in the hell do I get the geek who has everything?"  The immediate answer is that they don't have everything - no matter what flavor of geek a person is, there's always that one extra cool thing that they'd like.

Now, there are many kinds of geeks - from audiophiles to Trekkers to trivia kings/queens - but in this post I'll be giving you a hand with the more "traditional" geek.  Again, there are so many slices and flavors of geek that in reality a traditional geek is undefinable, but I'll focus on the geek who's into sci-fi/fantasy, superheroes, and/or technology.

If you're not a geek, it's hard to know where to shop so here's your handy guide!  I'll mention a few sites as well as some possibilities in your local area.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Games of the Moment

I'm playing mostly Star Trek Online and Neverwinter these days - both Perfect World / Cryptic Studios games.

One of the things that I've noted in the past is that when you jump from one MMO to another that what happens is that you lose skill in that game and have to relearn it when you come back.  On the plus side, it does keep things fresh and new - when one game gets boring, going over to one that you haven't played in a while livens things up.

While STO and NW are very different games, because they've both been developed by the same people, it's easier to understand some of the systems.  When I pop on either, I know to look for the various hourly events and that I can basically "teleport" into them from anywhere, I know that it's a good idea to accumulate dilithium/astral diamonds to buy special things, and when the urge arises to spend actual money on the games I can divide the Zen that I buy between them if I want easily enough.

Basically, by trying to stick to a select few MMOs at the moment is my attempt to actually get more skilled and better geared in them.

On Star Trek these days, I've been concentrating on getting my various level-maxed characters finished with their reputation grinds.  The good news is that they just implemented a system with the last episode that allows a character who achieves the highest level of rep with a given group to create a token that can then be given to other characters, giving them double reputation experience with each project that they finish.  So basically, get one character to level 5 reputation, grind out tokens to your other characters, and they then have to spend half of the reputation/items/energy credits to get there themselves.  That was a long time in the coming.

I've also been working on my Klingon Empire character and enjoying the difference in KDF ships and the change in playstyle.  For those of you who don't play, Klingon ships are very focused on forward firing arcs - they're not made to attack to the stern - which I think is very, well, Klingon.

On the Neverwinter side, they just introduced the Ranger class, which I've found to be interesting.  Once they hit level 10, a bulk of their skills can be switched from a ranged mode to a melee mode, which is unique in the game thus far.  After playing my new Ranger a bit, I did head straight back to my favorite - Devoted Cleric.  He's pretty powerful in his own right and I enjoy the idea of being able to heal party members when I do group up.  The thing that I like most about this class is that it's not a sit-back-and-heal type of MMO healer - he's very active in fighting and the very act of doing so charges up his "daily" powers to add extra some extra punch into the mix.

If you do get a chance to try out either of these games, give it a go.  They're both free-to-play and you really can play them for free and be competitive (slightly less so on the STO side).

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Leverage RPG Rocks!

Leverage was a cool TV show about a bunch of thieves of various types - Mastermind, Grifter, Hacker, Hitter, and Thief - who joined up to use their skill-sets to do a little good for those who needed help and to bring some justice to those in power who had wronged them.  It was a fun show interspersed with humor and wit...and was canceled at the end of 2012.  As much as I'd wanted to see more, the series probably ran its course and it was given the opportunity for closure with an epic ending.

I was glad to see it made into an RPG by Margaret Weis Productions, using their Cortex system (in the case of this game, Cortex Lite, if you will).  It's a pretty simple and straightforward system that has enough structure to it to make sessions run well and make them interesting, while at the same time giving some serious leeway and generality to make the game what you need it to be.

Instead of highlighting the minute details of the system, I'm going to share with you my favorite parts of it - the things that make it unique and fun to me.

First, is the fact that in this game when you start off gaming you're already at pretty much the top of your profession.  Instead of the challenge in other RPGs of starting at level 1 and working your way up, the challenge of this game is how to best use the awesome skills that you do have to be a part of the team and make the jobs happen.  It's a completely different feel than you may be used to and I think it's a refreshing one.

Even when you roll 1s on your rolls - complications - while you may not succeed at what you were doing and give an extra die to the bad guys to roll at some point, you are still rewarded.  What?  Yes, really.  Whenever you roll a complication you are rewarded with a Plot Point...and Plot Points make the world go around!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Happy B-Day, Felicia Day!

I first saw her on Buffy the Vampire Slayer as one of the potentials (if you don't know what that means, you didn't watch the show to the end and that's okay, just keep reading) and didn't really think anything of it.  Sure, she was a cute actress - kind of mousy but strong in her own way - but there are a whole bunch of those in Hollywood.

The next time that I saw Felicia Day was on The Guild - a web-sitcom about a guild of MMO players and how they relate to each other in-game and in real-life.  For those who haven't seen the series - and if you haven't, why not? - real-life is the hard part.  Little surprise!  Not only is she the creator, writer, and co-producer, but she also stars in the show.  This is where I really took notice of her.  If you've seen even a single episode, much less a full season, you'll see that there is a LOT of talent there.  Some of my heartiest laughs have come from watching The Guild.

And then, if I wasn't already enraptured by her talent, I later found out that she is a really big geek in real-life.  She loves all things geek, is an actual gamer of many genres, and helps make geeks cool.  If you spot any of her videos going through one of the gamer/geek/tech conventions, they're definitely worth the watch.

She's also made the rounds to all forms of geek-style media.  She's voiced and made live-action shorts for games like Dragon Age 2 and Guild Wars 2.  She's been on shows like Dollhouse, Eureka, and Supernatural.

THEN she takes it to the next level and creates the Geek & Sundry channel on YouTube, producing a whole plethora of awesome shows.  That my most favorite geek in the entire multiverse, Wil Wheaton (who was also on The Guild), is involved in G&S is just icing on the cake.

So here's to you, Felicia (I can only assume that she'd let me call her Felicia) - have the best birthday ever and I wish you many, many more.  Please keep creating and showing the world that geeks are cool!  I know that you are!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Rift MMO Now Free To Play!

The Rift MMO has now gone free to play (FTP) as of today with the tag-line, "No trials.  No tricks.  No traps."  As a FTP gamer, you get access to all of the content that the game has to offer.  No activity or area is denied to you.

Players who still pay for their subscription (now called Patrons) get convenience items (ex. faster mount speed) and boosts (xp, tokens, favor, currency) automatically.  There is also an in-game store for micro-transactions of the same type, plus things like more bag slots and vanity items.

So it's definitely NOT pay-to-win here.  Spending money on the game will speed up your gains, but an FTP player will catch up to them and be on a level playing field, just with more time spent leveling.  Inevitably, there will be cries of "pay-to-win!" but with buyable items being convenience and boosts, while not affecting a character's stats, I'm not seeing a good argument for that take on it.

I'm a big fan of this model.  It worked for Star Trek Online, converting largely empty space in-game into thriving zones of players.  Many were free to play but still spent money here and there, those with subscriptions enjoyed the benefits that it gave, and everyone got to play the same content unrestricted.  Hopefully, we'll see the same effect for Rift, turning the game into a better revenue-earner for Trion.  I'm curious to see whether or not they'll end up offering a Lifetime Patron subscription.

Compare this to Star Wars: The Old Republic's "free-to-play" model where nearly everything worth doing is restricted unless you're willing to pay for it on a regular basis, and you'll see what a great idea the Rift/STO model is and all of the positive things they give to their FTP gamers.

Definitely give Rift a try - you have nothing to lose and you may just have a fun and rewarding experience.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Awakening Shadowrun

I'm just about to get into a Shadowrun campaign, so I figured this would be a good time to blog about this role-playing game's world and system.

First, the game Cyberpunk came out in the late '80s and was all about a future where everything was disposable, people replaced their bodyparts with cybernetics as casually they would getting an ear pierced today, and attitude was everything.  Chrome and mirrorshades got you far.  Not long after, Shadowrun came out with a similar background with some twists - magic had come back into the world and the world's history was a bit different from Cyberpunk (and our own).

I say that magic came BACK into the world because, as it turns out, magic operates on a cycle - during some points in the cycle it's not in effect and at other points it's loosed upon the world.

It just so happens that in 2011...magic is back.  Dwarven and Elven babies begin to be born to human parents, a couple of dragons are spotted, and people start to be able to manipulate the power of magic.

By 2017, many Native American factions have formed and are taking back their land from the United States through full on war, culminating in The Ghost Dance where Daniel Howling Coyote led a magical ritual that caused three volcanoes to erupt simultaneously, ending the war, pretty much in the Native Americans' favor.  They'd won back some of their lands.

By 2021, Goblinization occurs - about 10% of the population start turning into Orcs and Trolls as their genetics fully express their true forms in this phase of magic.

Add to the magic part that the corporations are, in essence, their own governments with their own laws and pretty much rule the world, as well as the fact that covert ops have become the de facto method of conducting much of their business, and you have Shadowrun.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Marvel Heroes Almost Live

Yes, Marvel Heroes is going live tomorrow, June 4th!  For those of you who were in the beta, but didn't get some kind of Founder's Pack, you will have to wait until tomorrow for access.  I picked up the Wolverine Starter Pack a while ago now and was able to get in yesterday and saw that some things had changed from the beta and figured that I'd give you guys a heads up.  No mind-shattering changes - just new.

Power icons look to have all been given graphics instead of the stand-in text that used to be there.  Quests so far look the same, though I'll say that you bump into the Black Cat at some point when I don't believe she was there before.  So polish type of updates there.

The biggest difference that I noticed from beta was how your S.T.A.S.H. works.  For those who didn't play beta and have no idea what this is, S.T.A.S.H. is your bank - you store everything there.  While in beta you had one tab that made up your storage and everything went there.  Now you can buy extra tabs.  You start out with one general tab and one tab for each hero that you buy with real-life money; you get no tab for heroes that you start with for free or pick up as loot/quest rewards (though you can buy a tab for them).  You can buy extra general tabs and you can also buy tabs specifically for crafting materials.  Each tab costs 300G or about $3.

So far in the game, it looks like crafting loot drops are slightly less common than they were in beta, but as time goes on, I have no doubts that I'll rack up crafting items.  My plan is to keep combining them until I get to end-game and then use my - by then - nice trove of high level crafting items to round out my characters.

I decided to start off with buying just a crafting tab for now, since I do plan to horde those items across all characters.  Otherwise, I didn't see the need for other tabs.  I'm going to play for a while and see if the general tab is all that I need for my other heroes or if I do need to unlock each heroes' tab also.  With the crafting tab in place, I'm not seeing much of a need to store anything for my heroes beyond cool items that they can't use yet due to level.  So if my Wolverine gets an awesome purple Storm drop, maybe that goes into general but not much else.  If you do intend to do some crafting, I do recommend the crafting tab just so that everything else remains uncluttered.

If you're a Founder, what do you like best about the game thus far?  If you're about to get access tomorrow, what are you looking forward to most?  Leave a comment and let me know!

Regardless, I hope that you have a good time - I'm liking Marvel Heroes so far.  My Wolverine will see your character soon.  In the meantime....*snikt* take care and watch your back.  Evil is out there!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

First Look At Legacy of Romulus

I just got my new Romulan Tactical officer up to level 20 this past weekend.  That might be a little long for a "first look" but I really wanted to get a feel for the expansion, the new Romulan gameplay, and my own style for this character.  Star Trek Online really did a great job on this one.

Along with the new user interface, which I like (more Next Generation), it's great to see a revitalization of the Klingon faction along with the HUGE interest in the Romulans.  Now that you can play Klingons from level one on, and there is actual Klingon-specific content for them to play, it adds a whole new dimension to the game that wasn't there before.  Being able to start off your gameplay with any faction is a plus.  The new trait system is better, in my opinion, and I really see it as helping you build the character that you want, with the style and specialization that you want, far better than the former system.

My Romulan Tactical officer (notice the Klingon shoulders)

The Romulan storyline paints them as a sympathetic race who just want to live and let live, generally speaking, but still have the signature Romulan guile, secrecy, and paranoia that you've learned to expect from them.  Character uniforms are very nice looking, especially after you've ranked up and picked an ally.  As it's so well known, I'm not calling the fact that you choose either the Federation or Klingons to ally with at some point in your story and then get access to their ships (up to tier 4 - at tier 5, you have to pilot a warbird) a spoiler.  I chose the Klingons, since all of my other characters are Federation and I wanted to try something new and you can see that in my character's picture above (you get to select some faction uniform items).  When you do choose a new ship, it looks like the standard warbird for that tier is free, but if you want an advanced warbird or one of your ally faction's ships it will cost you either Zen or dilithium.  I was actually really surprised by having to pay dilithium for ally ships - it seems that they should have been among the free choices.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Romulan Character Creation (Star Trek Online)

With Star Trek Online's Legacy of Romulus expansion going live, I figured that it would be cool to show you guys the options offered in character creation - specifically the physical customization in the form of face, body, and uniform.

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Romulans Are Coming

Tomorrow, Star Trek Online's Legacy of Romulus goes live.  It's a pretty huge update, not only bringing the Romulans and Remans in as new player character races along with Romulan-specific content, but also adding to Klingon faction content.  Klingons will now be starting characters that you level from one through fifty, as opposed to them starting at level twenty after you'd already leveled up a Federation character.  There's more, but these are the biggies.

Since The Next Generation, I've been very interested in the Romulans - their culture and their looks.  Romulans took paranoia and guile to a new level, their signature cloaking devices giving these traits form, if you will.  They always seemed to fit into the puzzle of the Star Trek universe somewhere between the Federation and the Klingon Empire.  They were very actively Imperial in nature, through conquest and not negotiation, like the Klingons and unlike the Federation.  They prioritized science and exploration, like the Federation (though for different reasons) and unlike the Klingons.  Stealth was a big part of their combat strategy (like Klingons), but they fought first and foremost for strategic wins and not for glory/honor (like the Federation).  You get the point.

Now, STO follows a different timeline than the J.J. Abrams movies and that point diverges with the destruction of Romulus.  So whereas in the movies Vulcan is destroyed and Spock and Nero travel back in time, in the STO universe Romulus was destroyed and we continue on with a timeline in line with the various series' and disregarding the new Abrams movies (so, basically, the past was not altered).  Regardless, it was very strange to see what were once members of one of the galaxy's largest empires reduced to refugees on a new planet, trying just to get by.  With the coming of this expansion, though, it looks like the Romulans have bridged the gap from "getting by" to "getting back in the game."

Thursday, May 16, 2013

YouTube Careers A Thing of the Past?

I just read some pretty significant news from Gamespot.  Basically, Nintendo is enforcing their copyright on YouTube gameplays of their games.  They aren't having the content taken down, but they are having ads put on the content and claiming the revenue from them.  Check out the full article HERE.

This is big news to a degree that I'd call a potential paradigm shift.  You may ask why I'm making a big deal out of this.

Well, up until now the video game industry hasn't really enforced its copyrights to the point of blocking content which, in my opinion, was a great idea.  When a gamer creates a video with a game's footage in it, it becomes free advertising for the game company.  I can't tell you how many times I myself have watched game videos and have either been lured back to playing it or bought it when I hadn't planned to do so.  No game trailer can give you the insight into a game that seeing actual gameplay can.  Renting a game and trying it out is even better, but that costs money and can't be done at your whim.  You also don't get the opportunity to see very far into the game, generally speaking, and that's a factor in a purchase.

Seeing that gamers enjoyed watching gameplay videos, a community was born that put them up...and eventually started making money in the form of ad revenue and/or from joining companies like Machinima that also sprouted up to take advantage of the same niche.

Now there are YouTube partners like me who won't really care.  I'll be honest with you and say that I had originally intended to try to make some cash from my hobby - most of my videos were monetized - but that brought in the tiniest of trickles of money and in the end I saw myself worrying more about what to put out there to attract the viewers for cash than having a good time putting out content that shared with my viewers what I loved.  You'll notice my videos aren't monetized anymore, that I've continued on, and even expanded my hobby with this blog and am much happier for it.  So if my video viewers can stand the possible ads that may be placed there by the gaming companies sometime in the future, I'll be happy and will continue to put out videos and other content.

There are others out there, though, that put their heart, soul, and pretty much all of their time into turning out videos that are largely made up of gameplay for their large audiences.  And views of those videos (or more importantly views of the ad content) pay their bills, at least to a point.  Add that income to a partnership with one of the bigger gaming news companies out there and that's their living we're talking about.  If game companies start claiming ad revenue from any video that has their game's gameplay in it, these individuals and companies have little reason to expend the effort and resources to put out their content.  They'll likely cease to exist for the most part.

So a great part of this community and the businesses thereof may just fade away IF other game companies follow suit and start enforcing their copyrights and claim ad revenue from videos.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

MMOs I'm Playing: Marvel Heroes

Though it's still in beta, the NDA is lifted and I've been playing it quite a bit, so I figured that I could comment on Marvel Heroes thus far and how it's progressing.  I'll note the caveat that it's still beta and things can and will change.  The short version of my review is: I like it, but I can see it getting repetitive.

This MMO is brought to you by some of the people who created the Diablo series and the game plays a bit like it in terms of character movement, attacks, and powers/skills to a point.  So if you hated Diablo, this MMO may not be for you.  If you enjoyed Diablo, read on.

Important to note is that the game is free-to-play (no monthly subscription fee) with 100% of the content available to you whether or not you spend money in the game's store.  You'll be given a free hero to start with: Hawkeye, Daredevil, Scarlet Witch, The Thing, or Storm.  Beyond that you'll need to either get a lucky drop of another hero as loot or buy one that you want from the MMO store with real-life money.  Alternate costumes for your hero will also cost and otherwise you'll be able to buy temporary xp and other boosts from the store.  Otherwise, if you have the hero and costume that you want and the other stuff doesn't interest you, you never have to pay another cent again.

The thing that I like most about the game is that the developers did a good job of giving the heroes their comic book feel.  It was a little shaky at first, but through their patches it's really improved.  The characters' animations and quips as they go about daily life fighting crime and interacting with other heroes helps this a lot.

Some of the powers/skills seem shoehorned a bit, as if some of the devs got together and said, "This hero needs another skill, but I've already used everything that this guy/gal is known for" to which the others responded, "Just add a bleed/acid/etc to one that you already have even though it makes no sense for this character."  Then again, I haven't read all of the Marvel comics in existence, so maybe somewhere at sometime they used such a thing.  I just don't remember Spider-Man using corrosive webbing.  All in all, though, I think that that the skills/powers are a good representation of each of the heroes and keep to the character.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

MMOs I'm Playing: Star Trek Online

I've been a Trekkie (or Trekker, if you will) since I was a kid.  My Dad, who was a fan, made sure that I watched the original series growing up and I continued on with each series in turn as time went on.  I HATED Enterprise, but that's an explanation for another post.  Imagine my glee when I saw that the aptly named Star Trek Online (STO) MMO was finally coming out!

I went all-in with the collector's edition, took a couple of days off of work, and played until my mouse clicking finger bled.  What I found originally was that it was pretty grindy and it seemed like the developers of the game may not have actually ever watched a single episode of any version of Star Trek.  Aside from missions where you'd beam down to catalog plant life, every mission for the Federation was to go somewhere and blow somebody up.  Star Trek was about more than that - it was exploration, negotiation, defense, and the acquisition of knowledge...and along the way you blew people up.  So I stopped playing for a while (maybe a year).

My curiosity being what it is, I had to return and check the game out.  When I did, I found that new missions had been created.  Yes, you still blew people up, but it seemed like the story behind why was more to defend those who couldn't defend themselves or to really be at the forefront of defending the Federation.  You negotiated here and there, even going so far as to having diplomacy options in your dialogues.  There was a LOT more to do and while it was still ultimately a grind like any MMO, you didn't notice because you could switch between activities if you ever got bored and still progress your character.

I liked what I saw.  So I slapped down the $200 (on sale from $300) for the lifetime subscription and I've never regretted it since.  In fact, it's paid for itself and then some.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Marvel Heroes MMO Beta (The Punisher Gameplay / Commentary)

For this outing on the Marvel Heroes MMO beta, I decided to take out The Punisher and see what he could do.  As it turns out, just like the comic book character, he hits hard and takes no prisoners!

My favorite Punisher powers?  Explosive Rocket - a ranged AOE attack with a REALLY nice damage radius.  Also, Driven By Vengeance - a passive that gives a percentage chance for abilities to cost Vengeance instead of Spirit.  You get a little Vengeance each time you kill a mob.

The Punisher definitely has a lot of possibilities and is very customizable to be the type of character that you like.

Friday, May 10, 2013

And Now I'm A Blogger...Again

I started Tachi Gray as a YouTube channel to share the things that I love - video games, role-playing games, and geek culture - with a larger audience than I have access to in my daily life.  I like to think that those who watch and enjoy my videos take something away from them and that it helps them get a better experience out of their game, etc.

The thing is that the YouTube channel lends itself really well to video games and some gadgets, but not so well to role-playing games and other geek-fu.  I'm definitely planning to have some RPG videos put up in the not-too-distant future and I do see video helping with parts of that, but by and large I have more to say (or write) than I have video type footage to pair with that type of content.  In essence, I hate the idea of viewers checking out one of my videos, expecting a video show, and finding instead me talking a lot with not much going on with the video itself.  That's not what you watch videos for.

And as great as Twitter is, some things that I want to share require more than 140 characters to get across.

Hence, why I looked blogward.  Why Blogger?  It's free, integrated with other things that I do (namely YouTube), and it's easy to manage.  In the past when I blogged, back when it was fresh and cool and not a business model, I used TypePad and it did everything it promised, but if I can get this service for free I'll go for it.  I'm saving up my pennies for, amongst other things, a new PC and I can't justify paying out the cash when I can get it for nothing.

So there you go - the start of the Tachi Gray blog.