On Peer Pressure

The thing I was going to write about this evening was a bust because Pillars of Eternity barely runs on the computer I find myself writing on. Instead, I’m going to jump on the bandwagon and tackle a piece of this questionnaire. I’m sure you’ve seen the questions by now, so here goes!

1. When did you start playing video games?

Part of the fun of being in my generation is that I can honestly say I started playing video games in school. Specifically, I remember playing Number Munchers in kindergarten, and I had Math Blaster on my own computer shortly afterward. I tend not to count educational games when asked this question, but that’s the honest answer.

2. What is the first game you remember playing?

For this one I will skip over the educational games and credit Sonic 2. Playing this with an older cousin is the first non-educational gaming experience I can recall (although that’s not to say it taught me nothing). I’m kind of sad that the Sonic series is in the stat it’s currently in, because it used to be so good. (It’s more than just nostalgia, Sonic 3 still holds up now.)

3. PC or Console?

I started as a PC gamer, and that died when I got my PlayStation, and came back when I went to college and didn’t have it. Currently I’m primarily a PC gamer, but I still do a fair bit of gaming on consoles. The Xinput driver for the 360 controller was the final straw that pushed me to be primarily a PC gamer, however.

4. XBox, PlayStation, or Wii?

PlayStation. The PS1 was the first console I had, and PS+ has been such a huge value proposition that it’s kept me with Sony consoles. (As a side note, I’m actually kind of annoyed that they’re starting to require it for online functionality, but I’m already so bought into it that it doesn’t personally affect me. Marketing works!) I had a Wii to play Smash Bros, and I have a Wii U primarily to play Mario Kart (Although Pikmin 3 and Zelda: Wind Waker HD are also fun). I had a 360 for several XBLA titles (Sine Mora and Dust: An Elysian Tail were among these), but now that those are coming to Steam 6-8 months later like clockwork, I don’t think I’ll be buying the XBox One.

What’s the best game you’ve ever played?

This is kind of a hard one. I really feel like the game I should put here is Bastion, as I was obsessed with all parts of it for a while, I still replay it on occasion, and it’s great. It does share my steam favorites section with a few games that I feel like I should mention, though. VVVVVV, Skyrim, Risk of Rain, and Portal all come to mind when I think of great games.

What’s the worst game you’ve ever played?

This one’s a bit easier. First, I’ve played the ET game, but that was knowing how bad it was and when I was in college, so it probably shouldn’t count. When I got my PS1, I got a pair of games with it. One of them was G-Darius, which is excellent. The other one was Perfect Weapon. I couldn’t figure out how to do anything in this game, from navigating away from the starting area to fighting the first enemies you see (some kind of wolf or dog things, if I’m remembering correctly). The only reviews of this I can dig up are EGM giving it a 67 and PC Zone UK giving it a 38, so I wasn’t alone in my assessment. (The worst game I bought for myself is Dragon Rage, a terrible PS2 game.)

That’s enough for now, I think. For more posts about… everything, check out the Blaugust Initiative. For a whole bunch of responses to this in particular, see Belghast, Isey, Welshtroll, and Simcha, with more to come when I get back to adding my own answers.

On ギルガメッシュ

As a break from slightly more serious subjects, let’s talk about Gilgamesh, the best character in Final Fantasy. Our Free Company organized a group to fight him in FF14 over the weekend, and certain things about it seemed really familiar.

Battle on the Big Bridge

Gilgamesh debuted in FF5, where he serves as a minion of Exdeath and general comic relief. (This is important, because a lot of people die during the section of the game that he’s primarily in.) He’s fought four times in actual battles before Exdeath gets tired of his failures and tosses him into the Rift. The second of these introduces Gilgamesh’s now-famous theme, and takes place in a location known only as the “Big Bridge”. Gilgamesh isn’t the only thing you fight here, but he ambushes you as you attempt to go through a door in a watchtower.

As far as FF bosses go, he’s pretty easy. He’s vulnerable to Old, an absolutely crippling status in FF5, and due to the timing you’re quite likely to be using a weapon that can inflict old on hit (it’s the best sword available at that point in the game). For fiesta parties he’s frequently a bit harder, because the -a level spells are starting to wane in effectiveness and it’s right before you reach a town with weapon upgrades.

Final Fantasy V Advance_61 Final Fantasy V Advance_52

Speaking of which, you have 11 days to finish the Fiesta. Get to it!

Thrown Into The Rift!

Usually, Gilgamesh is thrown into the rift where he sacrifices himself to defeat the boss guarding the last save point in FF5. However, him getting thrown into the rift is technically optional (Don’t open the chest that contained the Excalipur in Exdeath’s castle) and him sacrificing himself to defeat Necrophobe is also optional (either don’t fight Necrophobe or deal over 9999 damage in a turn to finish him off), so his fate is a little ambiguous. Later games have taken this to mean that he’s a dimension hopping wanderer, making appearances in FF1 (GBA, and versions based on it), FF6 (same as FF1), FF8, FF9, FF12, FF13-2, and FF14. Unlike the other cross-series characters, Gilgamesh acts nearly the same in almost all of these.


Welcome to Eorzea

This brings us to FF14, and a trial so very imaginatively referred to as the “Battle on the Big Bridge”. It’s a bit of a spoiler to explain why you’ve come to this place, but it’s where you face Gilgamesh once again. He even appears right after you open a door, just like in FF5. When fighting him, he takes several of his lines directly from his FF5 lines. His fighting style hasn’t changed much either, with plenty of blue magic and jumps to go around. This is another example of what FF14 is really good at. Along with Crystal Tower, it’s a love letter to several of the previous games in the series. If they continue making content like this (this fight was added in patch 2.2) then I could see myself playing this game for a long time. Maybe Bel’s right, and this can be a new “home” for a while.


For more posts about… everything, check out the Blaugust Initiative. For some D&D math, check out Kodra’s post about DPR for Strength based classes. (Before anyone comments, we both know there’s more to the game than Damage Per Round.)

On Difficulty

This is kind of related to what Liore and Belghast have posted recently, but as I just hit on it in two recent posts myself, I figure it’s worth expanding on my thoughts.

My first experience with “difficulty level mockery” was in the Touhou series. All of the games in the series (since the 6th one at least) have 4 difficulty modes: Easy, Normal, Hard, and Lunatic. The first game in the series to release on Windows (Embodiment of Scarlet Devil) locked you out of the final level (and thus, the good ending) if you played on Easy. All of them have some additional text in the difficulty screen, usually mocking you somewhat for picking Easy (although occasionally also mocking you for picking Hard or Lunatic). Ten Desires has the following to say about its difficulties:

Prayer for Health and Long Life Easy Mode Hard to die.
For those who want to live long as possible.
Prayer for Traffic Safety Normal Mode Find a safe way to go.
Have a nice trip.
Prayer for Business Prosperity Hard Mode If you’re confident in your abilities.
You should be able to make a profit.
Prayer for IT Data Security Lunatic Mode Asking gods for help is pointless.
Don’t play this.

Just for reference, This is Ten Desires on Easy mode:

This phenomenon isn’t unique to Japanese games. Syder Arcade’s default difficulty cuts your score in half because it’s for “those who grew up with modern consoles”. (This implication, that modern games are “easier” than those that came before is also common.)

So why do we do this? There are probably players better and worse than you at nearly any game I’d care to name, so why focus on the second? I don’t actually have answers to these questions, or at least not answers that don’t make me sound like a cynical old man.

I’m not sure every game needs selectable difficulty, but games without it should be somewhat carefully designed. Examples I can think of that teach you how to play them before asking impossible things of you include VVVVVV and Shovel Knight. The idea that it’s okay to have a difficulty curve that resembles a cliff is also part of this problem. Many roguelikes are guilty of this, and claim that if you can’t understand them, then it’s not “meant” for you. I’d really prefer if we could be more encouraging to people adjusting to things. Touhouwiki has a page geared toward beginners that helps a lot (although it still tries to discourage starting on easy at the bottom). More things like this, and less making fun of people playing on easy would be appreciated all around.

That got a bit rambly at the end. For more posts about… everything, check out the Blaugust initiative.

On New Space Invaders

The title of this post is a reference to how Nintendo has been titling their 2D game releases lately. Murf, this one’s for you.



Hangeki is a shooter from Pentavera, and as far as I can tell it’s their first game. Hangeki at first glance bears a very large resemblance to Space Invaders, but it plays pretty differently once you get past initial appearances. The objective is to kill enough enemies to earn a screen-clearing super-weapon (referred to as a Hangeki) and then use it to move on to the next wave. Repeat until you face a boss. Along the way, you can level up and earn some abilities that are powered by your chain meter (it goes up as you shoot things and down when you don’t). It’s somewhat moba-like in that you start each stage at level 1 and unlock abilities as you play, but you can choose what abilities to take in each slot. You can choose what abilities to take and in what order. Additional abilities unlock as you complete and perfect stages.

As for difficulty, the first stage is very easy. The second stage is slightly less so. Things ramp up quickly from there, as enemies expand from simple bullets to lasers and bombs and dashing. (Unlike a certain other game, lasers are telegraphed before they fire, to make dodging possible.) Your ship shoots automatically, but if you’re not hitting anything your chain will break and your power meter will drop, so positioning and planning is fairly important. If you destroy a column all at once, you’ll later break your chain if you’re forced to move to that column to dodge. I’m still learning, and I clearly have a long way to go if the global score table is any indication.

Hangeki comes highly recommended if you like arcade shooters. The combination of pretty lights, customizable weapons, and global high-score tables makes for a pretty enjoyable experience. I liked it more than I was expecting to, and at $10, the price is right.

For more posts about… everything, check out the Blaugust initiative. For why I don’t browse kickstarter anymore a good look at a shooter on Kickstarter, see C.T. Murphy’s post about Hive Jump.

On Placeholders

I was going to write about Hangeki, a game I enjoyed much more than RefleX, but I find myself away from my computer and that one deserves screenshots. Instead, you get more D&D.

A Dragonborn Paladin isn’t the most original of characters, but I think it’s what I’m going to play. I like lizard people, and I’ve honestly liked Dragonborn since the 4e Player’s Handbook. (I play Argonian in the Elder Scrolls games by default.) I like the “otherness” that races like that represent. The stereotypical class for Dragonborn is the paladin, and with the new options it’s finally a class that appeals to me. A new system seems like a good time to try something “standard”, so this is what it’ll be.

At the same time, I don’t want a stereotypical background. Unless I’m given a strong reason to do otherwise, I’m going to take the Outlander background, representing a character that grew up away from society. I want to break from the idea of the trained holy warrior because I dislike zealots. I liked the Guardian in GW2 for similar reasons. I still need to finish my character’s background, but I have a fairly good idea of where it’s going.

On RefleX

I got this game as a gift during the most recent steam sale, and I was asked about it elsewhere recently. I like bullet hell and someone told me that this game was good, so I figured it was worth a try. I attempted to get screenshots for this, but the game doesn’t play well with the Steam overlay (or any alternate method of taking screenshots I tried), so you’ll have to make do with the few I did take.


RefleX is a vertical scrolling shooter (I don’t think I would actually call it a bullet hell for reasons I’ll get to later) with a bit of a twist. Instead of bombs, your ship has a reflective shield that slowly recharges. Enemy shots are color-coded: blue ones will be reflected, red ones will be destroyed, and purple ones can be destroyed by the ship’s fire (they will also be destroyed on the shield). Instead of lives, your ship has a durability meter. When it runs out, it’s game over, there are no extra lives. In context, what this means is that after making a mistake, you don’t get a life lost and screen clear to recover, and it’s possible to lose multiple hits in quick succession.



Playing this game feels very different from other similar games, in that it feels like it tests your reaction time more than anything else. Unlike most bullet hell games where the difficulty comes from trying to find your way through the pattern, this one throws things at you too fast for there to usually be a pattern. (Some principles still apply, like streaming when there’s a line of bullets aimed at you.) The biggest offenders here are homing lasers that are fast enough that if you aren’t moving when they’re fired, you’ll take damage if not shielding.

Combined with the lack of screen clearing and invulnerability when you do get hit, death feels incredibly sudden and quite cheap. As with most shooters, a degree of memorization is required to know attack patterns and when you need to move in order to not get murdered, but attack patterns here are long enough that this is difficult. I prefer to know what I died to in games like this, and it’s quite difficult in RefleX. I don’t like it much as a result.


For more posts about… everything, check out the Blaugust initiative.

On Terrible Ideas, Re-examined

Wrapping up a week of posts primarily about D&D, I think I’ll take another look at that evoker from earlier.

Actually a Bad Idea

Overchannel does let you use it on spells from 1st to 5th level, but there really are limits to this sort of thing. Using it on Cone Of Cold is nice for your first maximized spell of the day, but as the second it will do 10d12 damage to you. At level 14 on average rolls you would have 80 hit points as a wizard (Con 14 assumed, which might be generous), so this is 65 damage to yourself on average and has a roughly 10% chance of dropping you from full HP. Fireball isn’t quite so bad, but 39 damage is a rather high number to be doing to yourself. If cast in a 5th level spell slot (the highest number for which you have more than 1/day). This represents a ~25 damage increase over casting it normally per target that doesn’t save, so you’re technically doing more damage out than you’re taking if you can catch two or more targets. It’s still a bad idea except in the most desperate of circumstances. Don’t do this.


Maximizing Potential

A generally better idea is to maximize something big for the one you get for free, and spend the rest on something like Chromatic Orb. As a first level spell, you only take 2d12 damage (average 13) from overchannelling this. It does 7d8 damage in a 5th level spell slot (4 points less when maximized than Fireball), but only hits a single target, and uses an attack roll instead of a DEX save (which is better for hitting monks/rogues and worse for hitting heavily armored fighters/paladins). Burning Hands (7d6) or Thunderwave (6d8) are other first level spells worth considering for use with this feature if you are a bit too close to a few too many enemies.

Since Concentration rules make CC in general worse than it used to be, I don’t think evoker is as much of a noob trap as Kodra makes it out to be. It just requires not overdoing it, and being aware that Fireball is not the only spell on your spell list.

For more posts about… everything, check out the Blaugust initiative. For a quick look at Divinity: Original Sin, check out Stargrace’s post from yesterday.

On Character Options

The Iron Kingdoms game I’m currently playing in is winding down, and with the launch of the new edition, it’s looking likely that I’ll end up in a D&D game soon. As always, the question becomes what to play. Since getting the book last week, I’ve been tossing a few things around. Since I happen to know that I’m going to be rolling stats for this character, what I play may depend on what stats I end up with.

The Default Choice

Now that there are a lot more animals to pick from, my default choice (a Druid focusing on shapeshifting) seems like a good option. The playtest druid encouraged focusing on martial stats, and wild shape provided a bonus to them (like in Pathfinder). The final druid lets wild shape replace your physical stats (like 3.5) but also adds the shape’s HP on top of your own. (To make up for this, most forms have fairly low AC.) I don’t know what race I’d use for this; Elf would be the obvious choice but I avoid playing elves whenever possible. Given the druid ability to mostly ignore physical stats, I’ll probably end up here if my rolls are particularly low.

The Bad Idea

I went over this one with a friend yesterday, but it would be entertaining to play a dragonborn (black dragon heritage) warlock for maximum bad ideas (also works with Half-Orc). I tend to avoid playing squishy arcane casters, but warlocks have a few options to help them stay alive and with blade pact at level 3, the ability to mix it up in melee themselves. This probably works better with a DEX-based character, but STR seems like it would be more fun. I haven’t played the big guy in the party in a while. It would take a lot of stats to make this work, however.

The New Toy

Paladins have 3 class options available to them. Oath of Devotion is similar to the traditional paladin, (with Flame Strike thrown in as a bonus spell for good measure). Oath of Vengeance is similar to the 4e avenger, and it’s a bit less supporty than the other options. The option I would play is Oath of the Ancients, which has a bit of the 4e Warden, making the paladin a bit less “holy warrior” and a bit more “defender of nature”. This gives it some spells from the druid spell list (including my new favorite, Moonbeam) and changed abilities (Channel Divinity allows you to turn fey instead of undead, for example). I like having a paladin that has “removed the stick”, so this might be an interesting thing to try.

All of these have a bit of magic and a lot of beatdown, so I guess that’s the sort of character I’ll be playing in whatever comes next. I expect some of my time is going to go into developing backgrounds for these characters, whether they see play or not.

For more posts about… everything, check out the Blaugust Initiative. Two posts today to make up for the lack of one yesterday: Maevrim starts to write about her 15 games, and Thalen talks about what he wants out of the new Sierra.

On Min-Maxing

There’s a certain mentality when it comes to pen and paper RPGs, the drive to “win the game” as it were. Kodra speaks about this in his preface to his post from two days ago, and I want to expand on it a bit. (For the record, I think the big winner in Wizard schools is Conjuration.)

Optimization is not Bad

There’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting your character to be better. Kodra and I occasionally talk about this sort of thing, we spent a lot of playtest time trying to figure out what was “broken”. When it came time to actually play the game proper, we mostly shied away from these things. Also, our usual DM probably would have murdered one or both of us if we brought in a triple-class character with an AC of 22 and 4 attacks per round at level 6.

But even in play, there’s no reason not to make informed decisions. While it might be fun to have a Monk with high strength, one with more dexterity will usually be better. While Rogues are proficient in clubs and longswords, class features are more effective if you use a rapier or dagger. If you’re a Wizard, you should probably try to have an intelligence of more than 8.


Roleplaying is Good

How much is too much depends on the playstyle of the group. An adventure that is a straight dungeon crawl may call for characters that are more combat-focused. If your adventures mostly require dealing with people in town and rarely getting into combat, then that wizard with 8 int might not slow you down too much, and will provide amusing RP possibilities. (You may also want to explore roleplaying systems that aren’t D&D; many others are better at this sort of thing.) Most groups will be somewhere in the middle, it depends on what your group finds fun.

When I feel it goes too far is when winning the game becomes a primary character goal. It can cause problems when not playing the same game as everyone else and rolls Pun-Pun when the rest of the party is more-or-less standard. There are more reasons for this than just roleplaying, an unbalanced party makes encounter design somewhat challenging. Things that challenge the super-character would crush the rest, and things that would challenge the rest are brushed aside handily. I think it’s better to come up with characters that fit the direction of your campaign, and see where it goes from there.

For more posts about… everything, check out the Blaugust Initiative.

On “Sequels”

I would find it very difficult to write about the Robin Williams thing without getting extremely personal, and I don’t think I’m ready for that. At the same time, I’ve been thinking about it and so it must be mentioned. I am saddened by his loss, and I think that mental illness is not a topic that we (as a society) are good at talking about. I’m not sure what it’ll take for us to get better, but maybe this can be a start. It would be nice if we could talk about things without tragedy, but that’s a separate issue.

With that out of the way, I want to talk about Sequels. Geometry Wars 3 was announced recently, and so was Roller Coaster Tycoon World. The former actually has some people who were at the studio that made the first two games (but not the creator of the series), the latter does not. The game I mentioned yesterday (Sacred 3) was made without any of the team that made Sacred 1 and 2. There are probably lessons that can be learned from that going forward.

Cautious Optimism

I expect these games to deviate somewhat from their predecessors, RCT especially. (As an aside, deviating from RCT4 is likely to only be a good thing.) Chris Sawyer isn’t involved and hasn’t been involved for a long time. There has not been a game like Roller Coaster Tycoon since RCT3 10 years ago, and it’s not because people haven’t tried. That’s not to say the game will be bad, but it probably won’t be the same.

Geometry wars I’m more hopeful about, simply because there are fewer moving parts to mess up. While the quality of twin stick shooters does vary, I have some confidence that access to the IP and (hopefully) mechanics represented by the series will result in a fun game. That said, they could throw me for a loop and make it play like Star Fox, for all I know. Information isn’t exactly available yet.

I continue to insist that Sacred 3’s reception is mostly about its name, so maybe these examples should be careful. It’s too late for RCT4, but RCT World is at least being structured as a spin-off, and they’ve already said it won’t have microtransactions, so there’s almost nowhere to go but up from there. As long as the games that come out are good, I don’t mind if they’re not 100% faithful to the series.

For more posts about… everything, check out the Blaugust Initiative. Take a look at Isey’s post from yesterday for an opinion on silent protagonists.