Sunday, May 15, 2022

1, 2, 3 . . . it's Vader Immortal!

As per typical Marketing demands, the entire Vader Immortal suite of VR games was on sale when May the 4th was being with us. I obliged of course because, dude, getting 3 highly rated VR games for 15 bucks is totally worth it!  Of course, finding time to actually play said games amidst everything else I'm committed to is a bit more difficult.

That said, there's really only about an hour of game play in each of the three games, which for most games out there would be a death nail in the game, but this is VR we're talking about.  I'd lay down $60 for all my kids to have a VR experience at some random vacation resort and that'd be for a half hour of play at most. And that's the thing, when it comes to Vader Immortal you're paying for the experience of standing there right next to a life-sized Darth Vader holding his lightsaber menacingly right above your head.  It's awesome.

Nothing quite like big life-size characters standing right next to you

Vader Immortal is not a difficult game in any of its incarnations, and they don't need to be.  Just playing in VR can be difficult enough at times. I was reading a really great article the other day that talked about how much slower people actually move in VR, and I totally agree:

Even simple concepts need to be redefined for VR. For instance, players take things much slower in VR than they do in a flat screen game.

"People slow down so much [in Half-Life: Alyx]," says Valve's designer and writer Sean Vanaman. "That's in contrast to how fast your character moves in Half-Life games traditionally. You're very, very, very fast in those games, and at the furthest end of the bell curve on the other extreme is how slow people go [in VR]."

To those ends, when Darth Vader is training you to be his apprentice and is throwing giant rocks at you while you're learning to catch them with the force, you may take "damage" and he may insult you as being pathetic when you duck instead of catch the rock, but you'll never die and have to restart the chapter. 

This makes the whole experience very much like living inside a Vader Immortal Movie in three parts. The only thing that sucks is they leave the whole series with a cliff hanger, so no . . . there's no Vader Immortal 4.

Vader listening in to my great great great grandma telling me not to trust him

Outside of the hour of gameplay there is also a lightsaber training dojo game inside each of the Vader Immortal games, and that definitely increases the value of the games. The dojos are a good work out and each of them is slightly different than the next.

  • The first dojo in Vader Immortal 1 really concentrates on the remote training droids made famous in the OG Star Wars with Luke Skywalker.  You'll be deflecting shots back at the droids and slicing them in half.

  • The second dojo you'll find everything you found in the first dojo PLUS wield force powers and use a saber throw that is incredibly satisfying.  Chucking your lightsaber out and having it boomerang back to you is super fun.

  • The third dojo is the most challenging of the bunch. You'll get training droids AND stormtroopers armed with blasters. Once you strike down a stormtrooper you can use the force to pick up his blaster and shoot things, so you end up shooting with your left and slashing with your right.

Let's go, training remotes!

There were a lot of fun moments in these games, and at some point I may return to play through them again . . .just like I'd watch one of the star wars films all over again. 

I captured some fun footage yesterday while escaping a tunnel system deep below Mustafar. I have to say, it's really fun to force choke storm troopers and throw them into each other.

Happy Dueling!

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

A Tale of three VR RPGs and the quest for good UI

I've been playing a bit of a VR game called Vanishing Realms over my lunch breaks. It's a VR dungeon crawl/puzzle/RPG, and apparently the guy that made it (Kelly Bailey) broke away from Valve and started a solo indie project of his own (Indimo Labs) to make the game. He's implemented a lot of changes and updates over the years and even made an expansion to the game, which as of last night, I'm ready to download.  

I've also been playing a bit of a VR MMO named OrbusVR. As I described it to one of my co-workers the other day, "It's like they slapped a Zelda Windwaker styled Mii theme over the top of VR chat and made an MMO." I'm level 8 and climbing. 

And of course, I wrote about In Death Unchained back in April. It's firstly a procedurally generated VR Dungeon Crawl and secondly a VR Tower Defense game. In other words, the genre of "VR RPG" has been on my mind in one way or another from three games, which in reality are entirely different from each other.

Vanishing Realms has two movement modes: 1) teleport method and 2) joystick movement.  

Using Teleport to Move In Front of an NPC in OrbusVR

The teleport method is very familiar in VR games, and all three of the aforementioned RPGs all use this in one way or another.  Basically you move your joystick in a direction and the camera teleports to that spot in the VR world.  In Death Unchained is extra slick because you shoot your arrow at a spot to teleport.

Overall, joystick movement just isn't something I've seen used often, so today I tried it out in Vanishing Realms and WOW! It's super vertigo inducing. Mind you, it warns you of this when you select that option, but it took me quite some time to stop feeling a bit dizzy from it, and I'd say I have pretty good sea legs. *shakes head* It was surprising. 

Eventually it was a combination of teleporting and joystick movement that worked best.  It's kind of crazy I'd inflict that upon myself, but you just can't beat the joystick movement for when you do melee combat.

Another feature you'll find, well quite honestly in all RPGs -- VR or not -- is player inventory. Right? What's an RPG without a place to stuff your myriad of collectibles? Comparing and contrasting inventories from the three games is interesting. So far I like Vanishing Realms' way of solving RPG inventory a lot better than say how they do it in OrbusVR. In Orbus, they have a hybrid stash-on-your-person inventory mixed with a standard 2D MMO inventory UI that pops up in virtual space.

Conversely, in Vanishing Realms, if you look down at your waist, you have a number of backpack slots to select from. These slots categorize your inventory into "type." There's a bag for miscellaneous items like a torch, a pick, an apple, etc; a shield bag, for . . . um . . . a shield; a melee weapon bag; a ranged weapon bag; and a magic weapon bag.  What's interesting in this system is that swapping is a bit complex. Sometimes you actually have to stash items before you select new items.

Looking down at my waist to view the inventory in Vanishing Realms

It made me start thinking about how I'd love to find a VR game that elegantly solves the RPG inventory issue. I guess when I compare both Vanishing Realms and OrbusVR to the procedural dungeon crawl of In Death Unchained, the answer really is to keep inventory as bare and minimal as you can when it comes to VR. 

For instance, if you find a new type of arrow in In Death Unchained, you slot it invisibly into your bow where you can store 4 different types of arrows. That's it. Outside of that, there really is no inventory.  Gold is just automatically put into your backpack and there's nothing else to worry about . . . no keys or torches or anything. aka Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS) philosophy. 

Four Types of Arrows, Some points, and some gold . . . that's it. KISS.

The one thing you lose with a system like that of course is that MMORPG people just like hoarding and collecting stuff, lots of it, and they want it accessible at any time in any location.

I have to say that sloppy UIs that pop up in a virtual space leave me with a bad taste in my eyes. Poor OrbusVR with its chat dialogs popping up and overlapping quest completion notices. There was a wacky, running chat box floating all the way up in the air at a hard to read angle. I don't know. It felt like if there was a case study for what NOT to do with UI in a VR game, OrbusVR would be on that list. 

Just one example of the confusing Mess of UI in OrbusVR

Now as for combat, OrbusVR had all things and everything depending on which class you played. There's a gun-slinging musketeer, a gesture based wizard class, a sword and board class, a bow class, etc. etc.  Conversely In Death Unchained is just the bow and a shield, and that's it.  It's super focused and what they do, they do well.  Vanishing Realms doesn't go quite as far in what they offer for combat (no guns), but they have sword and board, two-handed axe swinging, and a wand that, quite frankly, feels freaking amazing to use . . . until you run out of mana.

Probably the coolest thing about Vanishing Realms is that the combat doesn't feel as faked as it does in OrbusVR. You block sword swings from your enemies with your shield and they attack from a number of directions. It all feels very gladiatorial.

I did a little digging after playing this combat style, and I started reading around. Apparently if you like the gladiatorial combat in Vanishing Realms, then there's another game called Gorn that may be up your alley. It's a fighting game from the advertising, so . . . might be cool, but doesn't look like an RPG. I'll have to keep it in mind.

So, there you have it. I've been playing a few RPGs with my Quest 2 headset and having some fun with it. If you happen to have a VR RPG that you would like to recommend, please send it my way. I'd love to try it out.  (It would be cool to compare and contrast the Zenith MMO to OrbusVR.)

Happy Dueling!

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Astrobot and Lucky's Tale -- two peas in a VR pod

It's hard to think of something made in 2016 as being the OG VR Platformer, but really the Oculus Rift has only been around since 2016 and that's really when commercially viable VR headsets started to become available. (Shhh Nintendo Virtual Boy fanboys . . . just lemme call Lucky's Tale an OG VR Platformer, ok?)

A couple years ago when we all went into lockdown for Quarantine, I discovered a love for Astrobot on the PSVR. I was legitimately kinda losing my mind in lockdown, and Astrobot was the perfect escape. It felt like on some of those levels, I could just lean back and enjoy the digital world around me, and you can't escape the similarities between Lucky's Tale and Astrobot when you play them.

In Lucky's Tale and in Astrobot, you, as the camera, float along behind the hero of the story on a track. This is completely different than say how platforming is handled in the game, Moss, where you are viewing the level from a darkened side view. Lucky's Tale and Astrobot both have a really charming and cute hero that gushes with personality, and of course, they're both VR Platformers.

I need to find a better way of recording gameplay from Oculus, but for now, here's a little "silent" movie of some Lucky's Tale Gameplay. (btw, I should make a side blog post about how awful VR gameplay footage is to show around . . . it doesn't capture the essence at all and always ends up super jittery or super zoomed in . . . ugh)

A friend of mine was talking about the ingenious use of VR's ambionic sound in Astrobot. For the layman, that means when a hidden robot is sitting in a location saying "help me," you get a sense of direction to where they are hidden in the level. I wish there was more of that in Lucky's Tale. It's just done better in Astrobot.

The obvious difference is that Astrobot uses the playstation controller, and the input for Lucky's Tale is done through your two hand controllers. I do think that both are successful in using the controls in clever ways, however.  In Astrobot you can fire ninja stars and grappling hooks with the touchpad. In Lucky's Tale, you throw bombs and use headset view positioning to target.

Another obvious difference is that Lucky's Tale is much shorter than Astrobot, but also came at a lower price point. 

End credits "playroom" in Lucky's Tale

Both characters from Astrobot and Lucky's Tale were charming enough that they both got a sequel game. Astrobot introduces everyone to the PS5 in Astro's Playroom and I wouldn't doubt that there will be an Astrobot 2.  Lucky's Tale has the Super Lucky's Tale and the New Super Lucky's Tale on the Switch. Interestingly enough, neither of these follow on titles are in VR.

KAYUTE!

Ultimately I liked both games enough that I kind of want to try both Astro's Playroom and the New Super Lucky's Tale. 

The next VR platformer game I need to take a look at is Carly and the Reaperman. I'm loving this genre of VR game enough that I feel comfortable in exploring around here . . . perhaps enough time has passed that I can even give Moss another shot?

Happy Dueling!

Monday, April 11, 2022

"In Death" do us VR

I love playing VR games, and I love playing GOOD VR games even more. My son got an Oculus Quest 2 for Christmas, and it's been a lot of experimentation with what's out there on the Oculus store. I haven't really written about any of the VR games I've been playing for some reason, but I've finally been playing a game that has me solidly hooked, and that game is "In Death: Unchained."

In Death Unchained is all about traversing a procedurally generated dungeon and shooting things with a bow and arrow.  In fact, movement is even accomplished with the bow. With the press of a button your regular arrows turn into glowing movement arrows, which can allow for a lot of sneaking around and gaining crazy vantage points to shoot down and surprise your enemies. It can also allow for a lot of OH CRAP moments when you accidentally shoot a movement arrow into your enemy instead of a regular arrow. Yeah, it's happened. *sheepish grin*

Snipe a knight!

In Death: Unchained is also a 6 Degrees of Freedom (6DoF) VR game, meaning you can dodge your enemy's attacks by moving around, or shooting around a corner. It is incredibly cool to get into a shoot out with the Bow Monks and you're ducking for cover to escape their arrows and trying to time your shots. 


The Oculus Quest 2 excels at these types of games. Why? Because it is simply the best VR system out there to date right now.  It's 1- relatively affordable, 2- has no wires (thus the "unchained" in its title as the original In Death game on Steam didn't have this luxury), 3- has no dirty earbuds to mess with, 4- excellent boundary drawing tools for creating your play space. Granted, the only VR system I played before this was the PS4, but it's hands down a better experience all around.

If you managed to descend far enough into In Death, you'll find portals to more challenging content than what you'll find in the initial castle crawl. There are truly terrifying specters that don't seem to die unless you hit an arrow directly in their hearts while they are within a close range. Demons that chuck fireballs. Skeletal archers with deadly aim. Bosses with tons of hit points surrounded by swarms of undead. etc. etc.

Time to dodge a fireball from a portly demon

It's terrifying and fun at the same time. A couple days ago I actually ran forward out of fear when a couple of skeletal archers found me and almost knocked my desk over. I really really wish I would have been recording. It was hilarious. I saw myself exit the game boundary I had drawn and actually crashed into my computer desk. (When you go out of your boundary, you see your surroundings in Black and White, so watching my desk almost dump over was pretty funny.) The skeletons made quick work of me despite my efforts. I was giggling too hard.

There are a few other modes in the game, but currently I'm enjoying running the Purgatory dungeons. The Tower Defense mode is good, although very stationary. The more action-packed Desolation Mode is much more fast-paced with less sneaking around and more mass target practice.

Good times await!

. . . and I haven't even tried using the crossbow yet . . . I'm having too much fun with the bow mechanics only possible with a two-hand controller system like the Quest 2.

All in all, I have to say this was the best purchase I've made on the Quest 2 to date. Hopefully someday I'll actually be able to survive when delving deep into the dungeons, but for now I'm just having fun trying to stay alive.

Happy Dueling!  

Monday, April 4, 2022

Spiritcaller, Icywiz, and Stingite vs. New World

Imagine my happiness and surprise when I saw my good friends Steven Spiritcaller and Icywiz (of Spiral Radio fame) streaming some New World!  Also imagine the good fortune of them playing on the exact server I had already started playing on before my friend lost interest in the game.  Awesome!

Before you knew it, I was logged on and hanging out with 'em like we were the three musketeers.

It's a brave New World, friends!

The only bad thing here is that they have awesome colonial names and I'm "Stingite." waaaa waaaaaaa! Yeah, Name change isn't a thing in New World, but perhaps someday I can match the awesome names of Eudoria Wells and Ewan Hardcastle . . . get on that Amazon! *snaps fingers to encourage haste*

The main reasons my friend, Tess, stopped playing New World seems to be lack of variety in quests and the projected disappointment when there was to be an eventual lack of content at high level. 

That's it . . . that's all there is . . .

That's fair. While the lack of content at high level will most likely be addressed in the future, I doubt the treadmill to get there will be changed. It all has a kind of LOTRO vibe about it where you kill wolves, then more wolves, then bigger badder wolves, then the biggest of baddest wolves, and then the epic of the biggest badder wolves.  At least that's how it feels in the beginning of the game. Some don't mind, and some would rather kill crazy looking varied creatures. *shrug*

I will say that following the main quest line has run us into some pretty awesome undead, and perhaps that is what was missing for my friend. If you stick in one area and just do the city quests and faction quests, well, it can all get pretty same-y pretty quickly.

The great thing about last weekend was that it was double xp and double weapon xp! 

YES PLEASE!

With that, it wasn't much work for me to advance from level 18 to level 24 with only moderate play time. I was also able to unlock a penultimate skill with my firestaff that slaps down a rune underneath me that increases my damage by 25%. 

HELIOS!!

Rumor has it that Steven and Icy will be continuing their journeys in New World throughout the week, but I also hear they're feeling the pull of ARK as well.  I'm just happy I was able to play with my old friends again.

Happy Dueling!

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Venomancy in Perfect World -- In and Out of the Tutorial

So, my friend Tessanna from Runes of Magic really loves Perfect World, and since it's a game I've never tried, I decided to give it a go. The TL:DR is that I've been wanting to like this MMO, but so far . . . it's been a real battle for me to fall in love with it, and it hasn't happened for me yet. 

Why haven't the McElroy bros done PWI for Monster Factory yet?

It might just be that I'm tired of old MMOs after Runes of Magic to be honest. While playing this game, in the back of my mind I kept saying, why would I play Perfect World, when I could just as easily play Swords of Legends?

I mean, the double jumping with no fall damage, the flying dragon mounts, the quest flow, the NPC camera shifts during dialog, and just the overall Eastern MMO vibes . . . it all just seemed to be done better in a more modern MMO, and that's Swords of Legends.

Flying around on the back of a weird fish dragon is pretty epic

Also, you know what I hate? I absolutely hate gender locking class choices in MMOs. It's an immediate turn off for me. Out of all the classes available to me in Perfect World, the one that matches me the most seems to be the Venomancer. Right?  1- It's a pet class. 2- It's all about poisoning your foes. 3- I could be The Friendly Venonmancer!  It just makes sense.  The part that doesn't make sense is that I have to be female.

On my way to becoming a Demon?

It shouldn't bother me. I mean, it doesn't really bother me in the Diablo series, but then again there's a difference between Diablo where I'm taking an avatar's journey through a story and an MMO where it's my customized avatar taking my journey through multiple stories.

As for the Perfect World tutorial, it does its job.  By the time it's over, you'll have fought several cool looking bosses, flown on the back of a dragon to travel around a map, gained your basic skills, and will have been introduced to how to complete quests and follow POIs. 

Perfect World's tutorial was perfectly fine . . . other than really making me feel separated from the rest of the game. It was very much a solo game experience. I ran into only maybe 3-5 people while I was logged on? One guy was endlessly farming mobs afk.  Everybody else was just seen in passing. Nobody was sync'ed up with me on my quest path, so it all felt a bit empty and void?  That's typically the problem with older MMOs: Where's all the people?

Death to Drunk Monkeys!

I wish I would have fallen in love with my character by the end of the tutorial, but I didn't. The monkey pet that the Venomancer gets is pretty good, and it holds agro super well against the big bosses.  Outside of the bosses though, your pet seems lame.  

Also, because I'm a Venomancer I can turn into a fox?  I should love that since I spent so much time in Project Gorgon as a fox, but honestly I didn't even see the benefit of doing so.  Two shots of poison killed pretty much everything that wasn't a boss while being a fox just seemed to hamper my dps and put me in harm's way.

There also seems to be some method of taming new pets, but I couldn't figure it out. There's just something I'm not getting about this class yet.  I probably should go read a whole bunch of guides, but why does that not sound fun like it usually does? I think maybe I'm just not in the mood to learn a new, um, old, MMO right now.

If you've got some thoughts that would change my mind, I'm listening!

Happy Dueling!

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Caving in to the New World

So it went down a bit like this . . . New World launched around 6 months ago and it was HOT. Everybody was talking about New World. New World this, New World that. It's kind of like how it is now with Lost Ark. 

As for me, being how I am, I took a solid pass to New World because why would I ever play the hot, new game of the moment? Me?  Play the latest and greatest game and write about it on my blog?  NEVER!  If you're over here at The Friendly Necromancer looking for a play-by-play of Elden Ring, you've come to the wrong spot.

Side note, wouldn't it be amazing if I did a play-by-play of Elden Ring and posted about it on my blog?! 

Anyway, the buzz has died down and most of the heavy surge of players who were there at launch have left, so I figure New World is fair game for The Friendly Necromancer to write about.

The whole reason I bought this game is my friend from Runes of Magic, one Tessanna . . . or (since that name was taken in New World) "Tereayna." Tereayna bought New World back when it was all the hotness and just never played the game. Now was the time she chose to try it, and because of that, $40 later I was in! LET'S DO THIS!

Tereayna was adorable, y'all.  For the first couple hours of the game she ran around without a mouse using the mousepad to play. At one time she was training like 7 mobs behind her, and I was like . . . OK HERE WE GO! 

Run Tereayna, Run!

As for me, Stingite is sporting his classic mohawk in New World and after finding a Fire Staff, I was kind of in my element. Not gonna lie, the game so far has been just as fun as everyone said it would be. It just feels new and good, and the graphics are fantastic. I love how I have to aim my shots to hit, and I also love that the game is somewhat forgiving when I just barely miss.  I guess I'm just used to competitive shooters. 

I guess I answer to Gilander Dempsterfire? COVENANT FOR LIFE!

Can I just say how cool fishing is in this game?  The mini-game is really really good and captures a lot of the tension from trying to wear down a fish's strength while simultaneously trying to not snap your fishing line. It's one of the best fishing systems I've messed with to date.

Reeling in the big one!

Also, it might be the heavy use of violin and adventurous sounding music, but New World's music is giving me serious Valheim vibes. (Side note, I should try playing Valheim on my new computer here -- I bet it's a better experience for me.) 

So there you have it. I'll be logging in to new World with my buddy Tereayna and playing from time to time. So far I'm having fun with the game.

Daddy needs a new pair of boots

Happy Dueling!