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My favorite things about games

December is here and so is another challenge from Ambermist of Tastes Like Battlechicken. Sadly, it is also probably the last monthly one she will be ensuing due to other commitments. If anyone else picks it up I will do try to rise up to the challenge too. In any case, here is my thanks to Ambermist for these. They have been fun and a good exercise for the good ol’ brain cells. :)

Anyhoo, this month the challenge are a few questions but all about the same theme: Our favorite things on games. I will just copy the questions she gave about it for organization’s sake and because it makes it easier to write it in a more coherent way.

What are your favorite things about gaming in general, or about your favorite game specifically?

I guess my favorite things about gaming in general would be, in no specific order, exploration and story.

Despite my love for exploring places in game I don’t think I am the typical explorer type. At least not the way I think the typical explorer type is. In my definition they are the type to throw caution to the wind and just go some place because it is there. If there is danger in the way they will just deal with it somehow. I also imagine they are the type to pay a lot of attention to details, to the point of being able to paint a place they’ve seem while blindfolded.

Myself, I would define as more of a cowardly looter type of explorer. What I mean by that is that I like to explore but only after I feel confident enough that the risks to do so are manageable. I don’t mind a few deaths or defeats in the process but I also don’t like to do something if I believe the odds are near impossible or if it would cause too much hurdle. As for the looter, I guess my main motivation to explore, at least dungeons and such, is more to see what kind of cool stuff is in there. I won’t leave any corner or creak unturned until I am sure I got all the cool loot in a place. I guess that was ingrained on me by my early years of JRPG where it was common to go inside someone’s house, break all their vases and search their drawers for any kind of loot!

Some times I act more like a typical explorer though. My best memories of Morrowind (one of my favorite games of all time too!) were about stumbling into some cave entrance, abandoned temple or something similar. Then just entering to see what was inside. A lot of times I had to make a speedy retreat. But there were some cool times where I found some quest, some notes telling the story of what happened there or just some interesting decoration where I would imagine what the place was used for.

Because of that habit one of my favorite Morrowind mods was one that was conceptually simple, yet cleverly implemented, a chalk mod. That mod allowed you to put symbols or even write a message (in a kind of clunky way given the limitations) on walls or floor. With that mod I would mark places I had already explored, places I couldn’t bother to enter at the time but should come back later or even make signs inside dungeons so I wouldn’t get lost. Simple in concept, yet useful and very immersive! :)

As for story… I am pretty happy either with linear or multi-branching, full of decision-making stories. In both cases what is important to me is that the story and the gameplay don’t be at odds. For instance, if I know I am close to a boss fight, making my way carefully to a good position to start the fight in then a cutscene happens where my character for some stupid reason goes out in the open to have a chat with the boss and stays there after the scene is over then I will be very annoyed. It also annoys me when the character says something in some cutscene, like “Killing is bad!” then does something that completely contradicts it during gameplay, e.g. he says “killing is bad” yet murders every goon in the way without blinking.

Though none of that annoys me as much as given a false choice. That is the kind of no matter if you choose A or B, the only difference will be, at best, some different lines of dialogue. And the game doesn’t even do much of an effort to hide that.

When story works though, it can be one of the most wonderful game experiences ever. My latest one in that area was “The Walking Dead” by Telltale Games. Not only they do make a good job of making you care about the characters you meet they also made the decisions feel hard and to have heavy consequences. It is the kind where you think “Well, if I chose X back then would character Y be still alive?”. Of course, not all the decisions are life-or-death ones like that but they all feel meaningful.

What keeps you coming back?

I guess it is the same thing that keeps making me reading books. Each game is a new world, a new experience. I also just dislike not seeing the end of story or leaving things unfinished. This last one can be a bit more fuzzy. Sometimes what I felt unfinished can be not getting a character to max level in a MMORPG other times it might bee to see a different ending of a game. Then there are a few games where I just like to play because the gameplay itself is fun. Terraria being the latest example of playing just for the gameplay. :)

What makes you smile?

I think I already answered that one in a indirect way through the other answers. I will just add another point. I really like a game where the rules are just as simple, elegant and full of interesting choices. This is a very hard thing to achieve. From the top of my mind the only games achieved this recently was Civilization V and XCom. Not surprisingly they are both from the same company, Firaxis. Guild Wars 2 gets very close too, which is amazing considering the complexities of MMORPGs. I just don’t say it achieves it completely because there are a few things that confuse me. Although I admit I have yet to really make an effort to deal with that.

I guess Terraria could count too, in terms of interesting choices.

When the bee stings and you’re feeling bad, what is about gaming that makes you smile?

There are a lot of times where I feel weak and unable to change things. In games at least I can feel like I can make a difference. Even if it is just to save a virtual world that will disappear as soon as I turn the computer off, and the emotions the characters display are just scripts read by professional voice actors, it still feels nice.

It also feels nice when I can help someone in a MMORPG. Even if it is just to give some hint, share some information or be there for a dungeon run. I rarely do those things though when I am in a bad mood since when I am like that it is best for me to be alone least I whine every 3 words or end up snapping at someone for no reason. But remembering the good times help to cope with those feelings.

Bonus Challenge: Tell me something awesome that happened to you this year!

That was to see my friends get back together to play Guild Wars 2. I met almost all of them in Everquest 2 but over time they all scattered to other games and it was hard to find one that we all enjoyed. Although recently they have been scattering from Guild Wars 2 (including myself!) for a reason or another, at least with its buy-to-play model, I can always twist their arms ask kindly to do a dungeon run or something like that for old times sake. Something that would be more complicated in subscription-only games or even some so-called “free to play” games.

***

Well, that was it for this challenge! I hope everybody have a wonderful christmas and an even better new year! :)

P.S.: I know that I am not the most prolific blog writer out there but in case anyone has been wondering about my silence lately…. it is just that I haven’t been in the most sociable moods for a while. Hence, haven’t been feeling much like writing or even playing MMORPGs. My mood is a little better now but not by much. So things might be quiet on here for a little while longer. Hopefully not for too long now. :)

 
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Posted by on December 24, 2012 in Ambermist's Challenges, Everything Else

 

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Books and me

Before beginning this post, let me do a shameless plug to a blog from my guildie and friend Celesteral. It is called Lost Ranger. I am not sure what kind of topics she will tackle but no matter what it is, judging by her first post, they will be very enjoyable to read. :)

Now the reason I am doing that shameless plug is because of that first post I mentioned. It made me think a lot about my own relationships with books. And instead of writing a giant wall of text in her comments I thought it might be better to just write a post here.

Let me just give a disclaimer first. Although I try to keep this blog with a general positive attitude this one might have a few drepressing/negative parts. It also may end up being somewhat of a incoherent ramble. I might as also mix fiction, comic books and tabletop RPGs throughout  the post. Albeit they are technically very different types of books they were all important in the formation of my reading passion in a way or another. I will try to minimize all that for the sake of myself and for the sake of anyone reading this post.

For reference purposes, this is all relative to Brazil, the country where I was born, grew up and still live in. I am just pointing it out because it is one of those instances where this kind of detail matters.

Alright. Now that is said, let’s get to it…

Once upon a time…

I don’t remember anyone ever reading me a story to bedtime when I was a small child. I do know my mother and my aunts always stimulated me and my brother to read from an early age though. I know this since as far as my memory goes I can always remember reading either a book or some comic. Among those early memories are some of my mother taking me and my brother to a local biannual book convention. She would let us choose any book that was suitable to us for buying. Some times though those wouldn’t be exactly children’s books. For example, I  don’t remember at what exact age… Maybe when I was 10 or somewhat about then? Anyway, I remember wanting to buy a Sherlock Holme’s book during one of those conventions. I don’t even know why I got interested on him to begin with. But I remember it clearly that the guy who was working there even helped us by finding out which was the first book detailing Sherlock Holmes’ adventures. I still have that book to this day and I consider it one of my little treasures. :)

Then when I wasn’t reading books I was reading comics. During my childhood it were some local ones, of the “Turma da Mônica”… series, I guess? Franchise? I am not sure what the proper term would be. It was pretty much the only comics produced locally back when I was a kid. I have no idea if things changed since then. Probably not.

Later on, during my teenager years, I end up getting hooked on super-hero comic books from Marvel and DC. I got so addicted to them though that I had to stop reading those entirely since I was spending much more than my allowance permitted. Because of that out of control spending I was constantly in debt with my mother!

Then there were the tabletop RPGs. It started innocently enough with a board game actually, called Hero Quest, that a neighbor got as a gift. He got us hooked on it but eventually it wasn’t enough for us. We wanted more of it. In the comic books I read there was some advertisement for some “Forgotten Realms” thing that at the time I had no clue what it was. I am still not sure what it was actually. Maybe it was a module? Anyway, it was an actual D&D product, properly licensed and translated and was sold on news stands around here. It was a bit pricey but I bought it anyway thinking it was another Hero Quest type of board game. At the time I couldn’t make any sense of it as it just described a village, I think, in the Forgotten Realms setting, and some adventure to go with it, if I recall correctly. The only clue we had what this was all about is that it was something about Role Playing Games. Then my brother found a magazine that talked about that stuff, I read it, found out there was some RPG convention. I thought it was kinda like a book convention so I went there. It wasn’t quite like it but I was able to buy my first RPG book there, GURPS. And from then on a new addiction was born…

My addiction to RPGs led me to buy several books of different systems throughout the years. I can’t say I really played any of them since my attempts to get some groups going to play them never went too well for a reason or another. Still I love them to death and it was thanks to them that I found out about literally genres such as fantasy, cyberpunk, post-apocalyptic, etc. It was also through them that I found out about books like Lord of the Rings, Dune, Amber, among others who are in my list of favorite books ever.

Even if I haven’t really played any of them I still love those RPG books. They also gave me a way to explore other worlds, except in a more “atlas” style I guess instead of the traditional narrative way. I also found in them ways to express and think about characters in a more formal format as well as think about what makes a character interesting.

RPGs are also in part responsible for my current english skills. There was always very few translated RPG books here. My hunger for them though was insatiable though and I just got any RPG book I could buy regardless of language. So I ended up using the english skills I learned for my future professional career to read them instead.

If you are curious, the other things that helped to hone my english skills were the internet and MMORPGs. The later helping me more to get confidence with the language and rounding some rough edges.

Infinite Worlds, Infinite Possibilities. Yet not everybody can be a knight.

Although my memories with reading are almost all good there are a few that are more tied in with some… complicated emotions. I will be purposely vague on these parts. Partly for my own sake, partly because going into details would require posts of their own and partly because I don’t think I want to go about such issues in a public blog right now.

As a child one of the issues I had was trying to deal with the differences between the kind of life portrayed in the comics I read and the one I lived in. It isn’t that my family was a terrible one. I guess it was more of an issue of… I don’t know. Unstructured family? I guess that wasn’t quite the case either. Perhaps it might have been more of being a natural dreamer in a family of pragmatists which just didn’t seem much reason in birthday parties after a certain age or hugs or some other more direct expressions of affection. Or that they seemed more busy or interested on their own stuff or what they considered important to me and my brother. It is really hard to explain.

It took me way too long to realize the issues of my family weren’t all that unique or some form of social aberration, that there were, far, far worse families out there or even if they weren’t all that much worse, that they had issues of their own. It also made me think about how much I end up fantasizing about, well, everything. About how that tendency of mine just makes it harder to deal with reality which is often not as bad or as complicated as I tend to imagine. It is still something I ponder about from time to time.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not blaming comics, books or anything else for that. I firmly believe that things would still happen the same way. It is just that it was that it made it easier for me to realize those things. So in a way, I guess there was a good side to those discrepancies too.

The other problem was my relationship with my father. The shortest way I can describe our relationship problems is that we are of completely different worlds. The problem with this as a child is that I didn’t feel like I had a proper father figure. Again, please don’t take things the wrong way. My father wasn’t, nor he is, some kind of monster. Like I said, it is more of a question of both us being of completely different worlds. Also that neither of us are good about talking about goes into our hearts, so to speak.

Anyway, the problem with this is that I grew feeling that I didn’t have a proper father figure in my life. I grew up promising to myself that once I was an adult and married, I would be completely different. I would be a proper husband, a proper father to my children, etc.

Where I could not find a good role model in my father, I found it in books and comics. It was in those that I found what I thought a man, a human actually, should be. Although that might have been too much of an idealized version. So much that I guess it might be impossible to anyone to live up to it. So if at times I seem too hard on myself, that is part of the reason.

Nowadays, I got over most of my issues with my father. I am also able to recognize that, despite everything, he always had the best intentions on his heart, at least as far as me and my brother were concerned. He also has some qualities that unfortunately I wasn’t able to inherit. It is still a very complicated relationship though.

Stuck in a isolated cultural island

Much to my shame I don’t have too many books bought with my own money. Making a guess about it I think I might something between 50 to 100 books. Most likely 50. That is counting all my fiction books, RPGs and technical books. I am not counting comic books though since I left those behind, somewhere, a long time ago. If I counted those it would easily be over a 100. Of course, I did read much more than that number. That number is just of those I actually count as belongs solely to myself, that I went out looking for or that were gifts specifically given for me.

There are a couple reasons for  that low number. The first is that I just seem to have an apathy/forgetfulness, I guess, to buy more of anything that I am passionate about. That includes books. I only end up remembering about it when I really need to read something new.

The second reason is that book variety here is really poor and a bit pricey. The publishing companies say it is because producing books in Brazil is expensive due to all the heavy taxes. I don’t doubt they are telling the truth about it. All sectors of our economy here are heavily taxed unfortunately, and it isn’t a case where it is ok to have high taxes because we get a high quality of government services in return. We don’t. The services offered by our government are pretty poor to say the least. Anyway, I think this problem with publishing books ends up feeding into the other side of why we have such poor variety, in my opinion. And that is that we, brazilians, don’t have a culture of reading. Every year there are some campaigns by different groups to try to change that, sure. But it is a tough battle when people just seem to give it little value and with the prices of books as they are.

The end result of all that is that for a person like me who loves fantasy and Sci-Fi it can be really hard to find books of those genres. Unless it is from a highly influential author or some extremely successful one, like J.R.R. Tolkien, Frank Herbert, William Gibson, among others, you just won’t find a version of their work translated and published here. Perhaps you might find them in the imported books section but even them the chances are slim. Local production of books in that genre then is even more of a niche. At least I can only remember one example of each that was produced by a local author. Neither being famous or influential either even around here.

So the best way for me to satisfy that hunger ends up being by importing books. Fortunately, thanks to the internet and digital versions it isn’t too complicated. It is also fortunate that we don’t have to pay taxes for importing books either, thanks to a law about no-taxes for importing any cultural media.

My only pain then is my preference for physical books. It can take about a month for them to arrive here. I guess I could pay more for it to be delivered faster but then I would be paying pretty much double the price of the books. More pragmatic people would then just stick to the digital versions of the books. That is something I keep trying to get myself to do but so far I haven’t been able to. It is just that I dislike reading a book in  front of the computer or other electronic devices. Even though I can easily read a site’s article or a blog post without thinking twice. Ironically I can buy digital versions of technical books without thinking twice. I guess the difference is because technical books, at least the ones I read, can get outdated so fast. That and I just don’t have any real emotional connection to them. So I don’t really care about technical books as much as my beloved fiction books.

And with all that waiting time, my natural apathy/forgetfulness ends up turning into laziness. So I end up not importing many books at all either. Perhaps I might change that though… Hm…

It is all about love

Regardless of all of the difficulties, emotions that they were tied with or how they shaped me, books will always be my greatest love. So much so that, after seeing other people’s list of books, I am starting to think about making one of my own. Not sure yet in what form it will be but I’d like to do it. Not as a form to show off possessions but rather more like a travel log of worlds I visited and worlds I intent yet to visit. :)

We’ll see how that will turn out! :)

 
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Posted by on October 23, 2012 in Everything Else

 

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L2: Climbing the mountain

A long time ago, when I first started in Lineage 2 the level cap was 75. To reach that you had to go up through a very steep leveling curve, almost like a mountain. At times it seemed impossible to reach that level while others it just didn’t seem to matter because it wasn’t like the game was going to fundamentally change if you got to the cap. Yes, there was the whole subclass thing that you could only start at level 75 and it looked cool. But it still wouldn’t magically transform the whole game into something else.

Anyway, for guys like me, the whole point of the game was to climb that mountain. It didn’t matter so much getting  there as being able to continually advance through the levels. Even as leveling up became increasingly slow to do so we still kept at it. The level cap of 75 would always be there, always challenging us to reach it and if any of us did it would be an achievement in itself.

Then after I left many updates came making the leveling curve less and less steep. To the point now, with the Goddess of Destruction update, where there are several shortcuts one can take to reach the higher levels. We have the mentoring system now, XP runes, vitality, etc. Save for a couple couple revita-pops I’ve used recently to keep my vitality from going to 0 and using the free gear and shots from the “Path of Awakening”, I haven’t yet taken those shortcuts. Even then I am surprised as how fast I have been leveling. Is it so fast that you can sleep through the levels and find yourself at the cap? No. But it isn’t as slow that watching paint dry starts to feel more fun either. At least on the levels I had personal experience so far.

GoldheartXVI is level 71 now. The former mythical level 75 feels just close enough for me to finally grab it. It is not the level cap anymore either, it is just another step towards a much bigger goal. Yet it still feels strange in a way.

I guess the only thing that hasn’t really changed that much was my attitude. I am still playing just to climb the mountain. My goal however is not that of level cap anymore. It is a much more humble one, of just hitting 86, to turn GoldheartXVI into a Tyrr Warrior. If I can reach that I can leave the game satisfied, knowing that I reached the goal I set to myself. That I finally climbed the mountain that was in front of me.

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2012 in Lineage 2, MMORPG

 

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One year of Final Fantasy XIV

Time pass so fast…. It seems Final Fantasy XIV’s one year anniversary is close by. Yet it doesn’t feel like that. Of course, it doesn’t help either that I barely played the game during that time period.

Anyway, giving the event it seems like a good time to finally write a bit about my experiences with the game as well as my thoughts about it. Unfortunately there isn’t much of the first and too much of the second. So I will try to balance them as much as possible and try to aim at something coherent. Just in case though I am filling this under ramblings as well.

Alright. With all that said, on with the show!

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Posted by on September 26, 2011 in Final Fantasy XIV

 

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Player freedom vs. story in games

This is a rant that I have been thinking about for the last week or so. I have avoided writing it earlier because all my thoughts about the subject seemed disconnected and not really going anywhere. That would end up leading more to confusion to any reader than really giving some food for thought. I think I may have found a good way to flesh out the subject enough to achieve my goal though but we’ll see.

Let me warn right now that this is will be a very big rant, with most of it probably not making much of a sense. Hopefully it will still be an interesting read to someone out there. If not, let me know in the comments and I will strive to do better next time.

Oh, yeah. If someone found  this because they googled Deus Ex: Human Revolution, sorry to disappoint but there is only a mention of the game by the end of this long rant. Still stick around for a bit and see if there is anything in this blog that you like. :)

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Posted by on September 10, 2011 in Everything Else

 

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