Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Thanks Blaugust! What's Timmy Wearing?

I saved you all a little cat treat for the last day of Blaugust. It's been a fun month, and I'm happy to have gone the distance. It's been great reading everyone's blogposts and joining in where I can.  The Blaugust Discord server is a fun bunch, and if you're interested in game blogging, you should jump in.

Blogging wasn't the only thing I was doing during August as it turns out. When my youngest would head out the door to school, it gave me a quick 15 minutes to dress up my cat and make a TikTok of him. 

You heard me right, I'm one of "them." 

So, without further ado, I give you my 9 episodes of "What's Timmy wearing?"

@friendlynecro #catsoftiktok ♬ original sound - Tom Purdue
@friendlynecro   #catsoftiktok ♬ original sound - Tom Purdue
@friendlynecro #catsoftiktok ♬ original sound - Tom Purdue
@friendlynecro #catsoftiktok ♬ original sound - Tom Purdue
@friendlynecro #catsoftiktok ♬ original sound - Tom Purdue
@friendlynecro #catsoftiktok ♬ original sound - Tom Purdue
@friendlynecro #catsoftiktok ♬ original sound - Tom Purdue
@friendlynecro  #catsoftiktok ♬ original sound - Tom Purdue
@friendlynecro #catsoftiktok ♬ original sound - Tom Purdue

Until next Blaugust!

Happy Dueling! 

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Ding 27 -- Smuggled Lollipops in Tower of Fantasy

I played some ToF last night and progressed a bit with my story quest. As it turns out, there's trouble afoot in the Banges Tech Headquarters! It's THUGS! Crazy thugs with cool stylings!

THUGS gonna die!

As the story goes, after being introduced around the island by Hilda and getting to know a few important characters, you head to bed for the evening. It's a nice scene and you even light off a few fireworks. Ahh, happy days. 

In the morning things are much different. Banges Tech headquarters' shields are up and there's trouble, so Hilda leads you through a back door. When you get there, you find a lot of people in a kind of restraining field and start freeing them and taking down the aforementioned THUGS.

You head into the headquarters itself to see what's going on . . . and promptly get caught while trying to be sneaky.

It was a good try

That's ok, they throw you in a prison cell with a guy named Koh. Koh lets you know that everybody has been captured and put in jail cells, including President Kolador and his son Theo. GASP! 

It's ok. Not only is Koh President Kolador's right hand man, but he's also a thinker! He has a great plan to get the cell door open and have you throw on a guard uniform as a disguise! "Plan Koh" goes off without a hitch and before you know it, you're walking around Banges Tech headquarters in an Heirs of Aida guard uniform freeing people left and right.

Just act natural

I haven't looked up any spoilers about the Heirs of Aida, but I'm thinking that things may not be so black and white with the bad guys of the story. I mean, they could have outright killed President Kolador and Theo, but instead they just locked 'em up, right? 

Here's where the story goes a little kooky. Theo is a pretty sickly kid and looks to only have a couple months left to live. That's driven President Kolador crazy, and he decided to give him some kind of monster making syrum in hopes of saving his life.  However, you only discover this after running a couple of strange black market delivery jobs for a shady character named Hopkins while looking for Astrum. Side note: Keeping things light, Tower of Fantasy makes one of those delivery jobs giving some random kid some lollipops? *scratches head*

The best black market jobs are the ones you pull off for bratty kids

You see, this Astrum stuff we're hunting for is pretty rare and valuable since it's an energy source used to power Omnium machinery.  Yeah, I don't know what that is either. Look! It's all very complicated! 

Anyway, while hunting for Astrum, you then encounter a super frustrating puzzle mechanic that basically wants you to throw a laser box (ala the game Portal) onto a moving platform. Honestly it took me about a good 10 minutes to figure out how to put that cube on the platform.

I hate that stupid cube

Inside the ruins where you're hunting for Astrum is President Kolador, and he's just about done turning his son into a soulless monster. It doesn't end well.  

Theo!  You monster!

In the end, the Heirs of Aida take care of Theo and leave you and Kolador behind. Kolador gives up the "now depleted" Astrum and bids you a final farewell by telling you that "Sean at 201" has what we need as he's left to wallow in the fact that he failed as both a husband and a father. (Dang, I could use some light-hearted lollipop smuggling right about now.)

Heading back to Franz and Hilda, they put 2 and 01 together for you and point you toward Shelter 201 on the east side of Banges Port.

. . . and that's where I decided to stop and do a few bounty missions and dailies and things. Whew. Intense, and I really liked the story there -- even the crazy part of delivering a mystery kid some smuggled lollipops. (especially the crazy part of delivering a mystery kid some smuggled lollipops!) It's all good times in Tower of Fantasy.

Happy Dueling!

Monday, August 29, 2022

Blaugust Journaling -- How about some Guild Wars 2 and Tower of Fantasy?

I got nothin this morning, so I'm just going to do a little quick journaling about a couple of games I played yesterday.

1- Guild Wars 2.

So Team Spode is playing Guild Wars 2 together . . . again . . . and I'm there for the ride! Except last night . . . I wasn't! Why? Because the mic on my headphone decided to not work and I spent way too long fighting it instead of just playing muted. After 40 minutes of troubleshooting and uninstalling Oculus thinking that there was a conflict between the Oculus headphone mic and my actual headphone mic, I organized my terribly messy desk and found the cable I needed to hook in my podcasting mic that I never use. At that point, I was like . . . I'm done, and didn't even log in.

I love going super necro in Guild Wars

That said, I got in a couple hours of play on Guild Wars 2 last night and this morning, so it's not like I feel like I'm "behind" or anything. Our buddies John and Clara have been playing tour guide to Team Spode in the Heart of Thorns expansion, and as it turns out, there's lots to do there . . . waypoints, points of interest, vistas, challenge points, etc.

Standing in a council of angels?

For me personally I've just been going through the story in Heart of Thorns and getting a bit road blocked by the need to grind enemies. Sounds like an MMO, doesn't it? It sure does!

2- Tower of Fantasy

I logged in a bit this morning and man . . . I don't want to like this game, but I'm really liking it. Every time I log in, something cool happens that's like, dang, this is really freaking good.  Case in point, there was a battle with this lady named Frigg and it was friggin' intense. She gave me an amazing butt kicking with a super cool cut scene.

About to get my butt kicked

My brain keeps telling me, please don't let me like a game with the name Tower of Fantasy, but there's this troll inside of me that's like . . . YES, YOU LIKE GAME! YOU PLAY GAME! TOWER! FANTASY! ALL THE THING YOU LIKE! PLAY GAME, DUMMY!

Me . . . it's me. I'm not a crybaby.

That's all I got time for this morning! Thanks for the quick read, and I'll catch you tomorrow.

Happy Dueling!

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Some Lessons Learned Blaugust 2022

According to the Master Schedule over on Belghast's blog, this week is to be the Lessons Learned week after a solid month of blogging. So, hmmm, what did I learn? Lemme brainstorm that a bit:

  • I learned that you can't view 360 photos hosted from the Momento360 website on your Quest 2. I even e-mailed their support about it. They pointed the finger at a change to how the Quest 2 works and said they wouldn't have a fix for at least a year.
Looking out over Lonely Lake Georgetown
  • I learned that my old Runes of Magic guildmates probably aren't interested in reading my blog anymore now that I'm not writing about RoM and logging on daily. LOL! It's fine. I get it. Same thing happened with my old Project Gorgon guildmates.

  • I learned that I can't hack doing Blaugust and Mutant Reviewers at the same time. I didn't get any movie reviews done this month. I suck.

  • I learned that I think I'm finally getting my Sea Legs in VR. Vection sickness is no joke and there are games that handle it well, and there are games that handle it poorly, but over time, the more you play, the more you start to get an immunity built up to it.

  • I learned that along with gaining an immunity to vection sickness, the more you play VR, the more the illusion of a fantasy world around you starts to crumble away. I'll never forget how I felt playing Astrobot for the first time and how marvelous that fantasy world was in the midst of an apocalyptic pandemic. I don't know if I get that deep into the illusion of a VR world anymore.
Do I have to climb that tower? It might make me seasick.
  • I learned the impact that Breath of the Wild and Genshin Impact had on the gaming world. I feel like I missed out on riding a really important cultural gaming phenomenon by not exploring those games more (although my kids played the heck out of it). Tower of Fantasy . . . I'm looking at you!
Feeling the Impact of Genshin Impact
  • I learned that looking back on your game portfolio can get a little tedious and dredge up some old buried feelings. I mean, it'll help me if I ever need to start looking for a new job somewhere, but probably not the best material for a Blaugust.

  • I learned that if you happened to make it through that whole list and read to this point, that I appreciate you. Not a lot of people are willing to read a long list like this and invest time in what you have to write, especially when you're a niche game blogger. Thank you!
I'm sure there's more I learned, but I've gotta get ready for the day. So many things to explore and never enough time.

Happy Dueling!

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Chronicling the Karnage!

I picked up Karnage Chronicles the other day as a part of a VR Bundle sale (Incidentally it's also 60% off in the Steam store at the moment), and it's really good! It feels a lot like Vanishing Realms (which I've talked about in passing before), but with what feels like a bigger budget of a game studio behind it instead of a solo dev company. In fact after a quick peep at their LinkedIn Page, Nordic Trolls, seems to be a small 2-10 person team located out of Beijing.

Immediately what grabs you in Karnage Chronicles is the art style and the embodied choices for game selection. To choose one of the two classes, Warrior or Archer, you simply walk through a doorway.  To choose a difficulty (easy, normal, hard, or impossible), you, again, simply walk through a doorway. That's great. Nobody wants clunky, ugly UI elements in a VR space . . . unless you're in Roblox. I jest. Even in Roblox it sucks.

Goblin Archers . . . the worst!

Being in this world feels like being inside a fantasy amusement park ride. Everywhere you look at a rock wall, there's also some kind of bioluminescence that gives the world a fanciful Underdark kind of charm. Just like in an amusement ride, there's pockets of decoration off to the side for you to look at. The puddles on the ground reflect this bioluminescent glowing as well. Around every corner is some kind of urn or bottle to break with a bow or even pick up to throw. It's just a fun world to be in. They've done really well making the cave system wind and turn and open up into natural rooms.  

Timing my run through a trapped corridor

The inventory system feels like a complete rip off of Vanishing Realms, but they've made some improvements to it. You can stack similar items! It's easy to drop and sell!  But at the end of the day, it's exactly like the inventory in Vanishing Realms, which is good!  I'd love to see someone innovate beyond this system, but as far as VR RPGs go, this is as good as it gets.

To be honest, live action melee combat is really hard to pull off in VR. It's super easy to get inside the middle of an enemy and slice around in a strange haphazard fashion that doesn't necessarily feel cool. Karnage Chronicles suffers from this. Archery in VR, on the other hand, always feels cool. In Death Unchained is still one of my favorite games in VR. I've raved about it before. Likewise, I love shooting arrows at things in Karnage Chronicles.

Sticking the End Boss of Wyvernscale with several of my deadly arrows

So far I've been exploring Wyvernscale, which appears to be the first of three areas. In fact, as of writing this blog post, I believe I've just entered the second area Caves of Decay. Little hint if you play this game, there is nothing more valuable than the scroll of Town Portal. Every time you go to town, be sure to buy a new one because you won't stumble on a replacement while out adventuring. I can't tell you how many times I've been bogged down with a full inventory. Meh, inventory, the bane of all RPGs. Am I right?

At the beginning of the Caves of Decay, you run into an orcish innkeeper, a full size NPC, that is absolutely amazing. They really handled him well as a character. All in all, I'm really impressed with the art and sound in this game. It's just done extremely well. The way the sound echoes around the tunnels is amazing in a 3D space and completely unnerving in a good way. Immersion is the name of the game, and they pulled it off extremely well in this game.

Love this guy . . . feels like an Australian Orc

Best part of this game of course, is that you can play it with friends. I'm pretty sure a group of us at work is going to jump into this game and play it together over lunch breaks. It seems to integrate really well with your Steam friend list. Because of that, I'm sure I'll have plenty more to write about Karnage Chronicles in the future.  It's one of the great ones! 

Happy Dueling!

Friday, August 26, 2022

Merrily, Merrily, Merrily Hades Full of Tricks

 As it turns out, Journey for Elysium is a game of two parts . . . and thus a follow on to yesterday's post, "Row, Row, Row Your Boat Gently Down the Styx" is absolutely needed today.

After my play session a couple days ago, I happily took off my headset thinking . . . "Oh, what a quirky little VR boat game." Yes, it has its problems:

  • No haptics on the bow weapon
  • Sometimes the bow just disappears out of my hands
  • Speaking on hands, they don't even grab on to the bow correctly
  • What a horrible decision it was to make a 360 game interrupted by a UI telling you to face forward the other direction
  • Pffft, what motion sickness . . . we're just gonna ignore all that and make a spinning tower as a part of the end boss encounter!

OH, what's that I said right there? End boss encounter?!

Eye see what I should do here

The last half of the game has little to no rowing of a boat and instead has a ton of puzzles and, you heard me, an end boss encounter! 

Inside Apollo's temple you end up navigating several puzzle rooms where if you make the wrong step, it'll spike ya dead with a trap. There's also several climbing challenges involving the Lyre instrument where you play a tune on your Lyre and hand rail bricks pop out of the wall for a limited time and then you have to  hurry and VR Climb them before they disappear.

At the very end of the game, your unfortunate past is now made crystal clear as you get caught up in a battle between Melinoë (bad) and Vanth (good).  Apparently Melinoë was jealous of your wife because as it turns out you are a half-god and she's a bit of a stalker. What's strange here is that I don't think Vanth really is a Greek mythology character, so they're bending the rules a bit, which is fine by me. I'm not playing this game for a Greek Mythology lesson or anything.  

Trying to Enhance the Vanth

Your final boss fight goes a bit like this . . . after plunking a few scary tentacles with a bow, Vanth surrounds a now water-insect-demon-like-Melinoë in a sphere of energy as you solve two climbing puzzles, return to the middle, and then fire your Vanth-empowered god killing bow straight into water-insect-demon-like-Melinoë's big ugly alien eye. 

Tentacle Target Practice

Just when you think you're out of troubled waters and on your way to heaven aka Elysium, Hades stops you, breaks your key, tells you I both love and hate you now (thanks for killing my troublesome daughter, but also what the heck man, you killed my daughter), and makes you his ferryman. If you can earn him enough gold from the poor souls trying to get to Elysium, you'll be able to buy your freedom back from him and mend the key.

Thanks for the 2 gold. I have a feeling this is going to take a while . . .

Story wise and creative wise, I actually really liked the concept of this game. I liked slowly rowing the boat. The puzzles were interesting, but not too challenging. The hardest part of the game was climbing that right tower at the end. Holding on to a spinning tower in VR was not something I was expecting to do yesterday. Here's the full video if you'd like to check it out.

At the end of the day, I'm glad I bought this game on the cheap as a part of a VR bundle. $10 is chump change for a VR game, but hey . . . paying $3-5 is always better. Speaking of which, if you're looking for some great deals, go on and head over to the Fanatical website and check out their Build Your Own Bundle going on for VR games right now. I picked up five more games today for a fraction of their regular cost. Now to just find the time to play them.

Happy Dueling!

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Row, Row, Row Your Boat Gently Down the Styx

I picked up Journey for Elysium as a part of a VR-centric humble bundle a few months ago. It's one of those games I've been wanting to try "when the time is right." The time was right yesterday since I was looking for something new I could play and write about for Blaugust.  

Journey for Elysium is a cruel game that immediately walks you to a cliff where you witness a beautiful sunset, and then immediately kills you as you plummet to your death. Weee! 

Time to die!

It's funny because just yesterday I was talking to someone that joked he gets the fear of heights feeling when he gets close to an edge in VR . . . even though he knows it's not real. As cruel as I am, I should offer this game to him to play.

Not to worry, it is the last time you'll be dropping from a cliff like that because now that you're dead, you've forgotten who you are and it's time to make your way to the river Styx where you'll be rowing a boat, traveling down it, solving puzzles, and unraveling your story.

Not ominous at all!

The first time I strapped on my headset and started to play, I was offered the choice of teleport to move or moving with a joystick. I chose teleport to move because I thought it would be the right choice. It was the wrong choice. 

Immersive for the win

At the time, I didn't know the the right joystick on my controllers would reposition me in 45 degree increments, and I kept ending up facing backwards looking at two lines telling me to not to do that and it really broke the experience. 

It's kind of strange that a 360 VR game was so bent on telling me which direction I should face. the reason it appears was to always orient me onward and in the direction of the story. After progressing in the story a couple beats, it was time to jump into the rowboat on the river styx and row, row, row my boat . . . and immediately got vection sickness, so I took off my headset and got busy doing real-life stuff.

Later that night, knowing that a Blaugust post was looming, I decided to give Journey for Elysium another shot.  This time I chose the immersive movement. I was nervous that immersive movement alone would give me vection sickness, but to my surprise, it didn't and now the weird warning lines were gone. In fact, I think the weird warning lines were actually causing me vection sickness because when I hopped in the boat this time, all was well.

Pausing the journey to listen to tales of how cool I am as an orphan hero

This game is all about immersion and has an interesting feeling about it as you slowly row the river Styx. Slowly.  Remember that.  Don't over do it on the rowing. I found that a slow row caused almost no vection issues and made the whole experience much better. While traversing the river, you run into memory bubbles that tell you a bit of your story as a "bastard" child that became a hero. By the way, if I had a 3% discount on the game for every time they used the word "bastard" I would have gotten the game for free.

In between the story bits there were simple VR puzzles for you to solve. They weren't hard, but they were entertaining. The whole time I was playing I kept puzzling out in my mind . . . am I supposed to be a famous Greek Myth hero?  If I am, which one? I think I'm just a random unknown hero? 

Anyway, at the end of my play session I had arrived at a temple of Apollo, played a lyre to open the gates and arrived at a larger puzzle.  From everything I've read, there's really only 2-3 hours of gameplay in this VR title, and really for a VR title, that seems to be all that's expected.

If you don't have a lot of room to move around in VR, this game had me sitting in one spot and not moving my body much. If you're into that and a slow-paced story and easy puzzle experience, this is a good, short title that has a lot of gloomy atmosphere.  Honestly I kind of wish my floating orb guide had less of an upbeat chipper tone about her and instead was more ghostly and spooky to really put me in the mood of traveling through the underworld.

I kinda liked the two-handed rowing stuff!

Once I got used to the rowing, I kind of loved the boat ride aspect to this game, it made me want to experience all the slow moving parts of Pirates of the Caribbean in VR. I wonder if that exists somewhere?  If it does, that sounds like yet another Blaugust post in the making! 

Happy Dueling!

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Noah's Tower of Genshin's Heart

I figured I might as well complete the trifecta and play Noah's Heart since I recently played Tower of Fantasy (I'm literally wincing in pain as I type that name out it's so cheesy) and Genshin Impact. Why not? It's Blaugust after all, and I need something to write about!  It was either Noah's Heart or my D&D game I played last night where my lizardfolk monk almost died unspectacularly twice, so Noah's Heart it is!

I downloaded it and . . . It's all the same game, y'all . . . Noah's Tower of Genshin's Heart. You want a chibi friend? You got it.  You want a stamina bar for sprinting? Done.  You want Gacha personas-a-plenty with an SR rating attached to 'em? It's yours. Need a little anime fix with some girls in furry ears? Absolutely. Enjoy.

You're a little tall for a Chibi, aren't you?

Now I get it . . . I get it . . . there are differences, and again as I said yesterday, whether I'm eating at McDonald's, Burger King, or now Wendy's, I'm going to have a burger, and I'm going to get an aftertaste of regret.  So, lemme just say, I tried Noah's Heart, and it was a hard burger to swallow. Does it mean I won't try it again . . . mmm . . . I don't know . . . I'd probably give it another shot, but wow did I have some issues.

Did I choose . . . poorly?

I mean, maybe it's because I made the wrong decision for combat at a critical juncture? But what in the world are they thinking putting the attack keys on the J, K, and U keys? Why wouldn't you just make it left click to attack like every other game? I don't get it. It's an action game with dodging and that requires strafing with a mouse in one hand and WASD controls in the other. Does this game actually expect me to lift my right hand off the mouse and press the J, K, and U keys or even take my left hand off WASD to do the same? They're sitting there telegraphing attacks on the ground that I'm supposed to dodge, so that makes it incredibly difficult and even frustrating to use the J, K, and U keys. 

I'm supposed to tap J and avoid that telegraph? Are you crazy?

Maybe the problem is that I'm not playing this on a mobile device because these combat control decision for a standard keyboard layout are HORRIBLE. Why wouldn't you just do it like everyone else? Left click to attack? No? I couldn't even remap it. In fact, I couldn't even find a way to enable mapping for a game controller if I wanted to use one! I just don't get it.

I can forgive the lack of polish in a game.  Believe me.  I can tolerate A LOT of pain in games (lest we forget I played Project Gorgon), and I did not miss the cut-off and mis-matched voice lines, the lack of professional de-essing (you can actually hear the voice actors' P and T sounds punching in the microphone), the bad designer creative writing with nonsensical plot jumping, the weird voice acting choices, the absolutely outlandish Twitter account authorization allowances for logging in to the game, and the low-quality UI animations. I could have forgiven those. What I have a hard time forgiving is an action combat game that doesn't use standard action combat keyboard schema. Why are you trying to reinvent the wheel here?

So, anyway, after struggling to find the options menu, which was buried three UIs deep (THREE!), I found a way to remap the combat keys to E, R, and T, which allowed for me to at least make attacking something I can do with my left hand.  Another strange thing to report here . . . apparently the N key is supposedly used for enabling auto-combat? Unfortunately pressing N did nothing for me. Maybe I haven't unlocked it yet or I'm just using it wrong or I made the wrong choice at a critical juncture?

On the upside there looks to be some kind of horse breeding?

So, there you go. At the end of the day I was level 21 with remapped combat keys. I don't know how I reached that level. At one point I earned a level for just standing still in one place? There was some super weird stuff going on. Maybe day 2 would be better. Actually, I'm sure day 2 would be better, but day 1 just put a weird after taste in my mouth.

Now, that all said, I know for a FACT that at least one fine blogger, who I respect very much, absolutely adores this game. If you want to read a very detailed description of this game from someone who is impressed by the depth of this game and has put in infinitely more hours on it than me, do yourself a favor and go read Bhagpuss's adventures on Noah's Heart. In his own words,  "One thing I can say is that I'm having a lot of fun. There's very little about the game I've seen that I don't like. I like the way it looks, the way it plays and the way it sounds. I even like the story." I don't take those words lightly. I know there's more here . . . I just need to get past my bad first impressions.

Happy Dueling!

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Genshin of Fantasy

 A couple days ago I got sucked into Tower of Fantasy (I'm still embarrassed to say the name of that game by the way) and talked about how I really should try Genshin Impact since I was enjoying myself.  Yesterday I decided to do just that and spent a few hours running around there.

The first difference, obviously, is the lack of global chat.  This feels like a solo play experience, and so far I've yet to run into anyone else in the open world. I did a little researching, and, yup, it appears that unlike Tower of Fantasy, Genshin Impact is mostly a solo play experience . . . at least up until Explorer Rank 16. After yesterday, I'm at Explorer Rank 8, so I still have a long way to go to get there. 

Chose your default skin wisely?

Unlike Tower of Fantasy, there really wasn't much player avatar customization, you just chose boy or girl and even then "you" can only use a sword. It feels like you're a default skin that's kind of boring. The characters you pick up along the way and have join your party are each proficient in different kinds of weapons and are much more exciting. In this way, Genshin Impact seemed more straight forward about swapping skins as you literally hot swap to a new character and become them. 

Kaeya is infinitely cooler, or colder, than my default skin

The similarities between the two games, however, are uncanny. I have no criticism of that other than it's just an easy observation. Oh well.  *shrug* As a consumer it matters little to me if I go to McDonald's or Burger King, I know either way I'm going to have a weird aftertaste and regrets later. 

It's kind of funny because as I played through Tower of Fantasy and now Genshin Impact, I kept thinking . . . you know . . . these games really are a lot like the Wizard101s of this decade: story-based games in a massive world. Sure it's a little apples and oranges, but is it?  Whereas Wizard101 makes its money with microtransactions, pets, and horde packs, these games seem to make their money solely on Gacha. Maybe?  I guess I'm not deep enough in gameplay to really make that big of a sweeping statement.

Magikarp, is that you?

So what that leaves me with is . . . do I like the story? Is it intriguing enough to keep me playing? Again, I'm not deep enough in gameplay, but I did like the lost sister / lost powers angle. I like the giant dragon you fight. On the other hand, can we talk about this Paimon chibi companion who always refers to herself in the third person? Paimon thinks Paimon can be slightly annoying yet somehow slightly charming? Do . . . y'all . . . like . . . this . . . character?! Does she stick with you through the whole adventure adding commentary all the time? At least in Tower of Fantasy the chibi doesn't do ALL the talking for me. It felt like she literally did 90% of the heavy lifting in the voice over department.

Quiet Paimon, can't you see I'm fighting a dragon here?

I didn't find the gameplay to be terribly difficult, and at the same time I don't know if leveling and powering up makes that big of a difference yet? So, while I can't say I didn't enjoy myself -- it was fun -- I also can't say that I'm completely in love with the game yet. Alternatively, I think I could go back to Tower of Fantasy and play a bit more as long as I didn't have to read global chat and say the name of the game out loud in the company of my friends.

Happy Dueling!

Monday, August 22, 2022

First Steps into Google Earth VR

Five years ago in 2017, Google Earth released a VR version of their popular Google Earth web app that originally came out in 2001. (Does that make you feel old? Nah, me neither.) I didn't discover the VR version until . . . yesterday! 

I mean, at this point, who hasn't messed around with Google Earth?  You know what I'm talking about -- zooming in and out of the world, finding your hometown, looking at your home from street view, or scrolling over to a more foreign country trying to get a view at one of the many wonders of the world? But Google Earth VR is an entirely different experience, but absolutely what you'd expect at the same time.

To be honest, the 2017 models that are hobbled together are pretty spot on, but also pretty post-apocalyptic looking in a way . . . I like it! You feel a bit like a giant looking down on a Mr. Roger's esque playscape of houses and cars, or perhaps like a train hobbyist's perfect yet imperfect recreation of a landscape. 

Yesterday I took a fun look down a stretch of Japan's Coast line, just looking around for something unique and interesting, what I found was a stretch of cement that had been painted with funny fish.

Funny fish wall somewhere along Japan's coastline

A little further down the road I zoomed in deeper to a 360 street view and discovered this goofy dinosaur at some random roadside structure.

Just a random dinosaur in a weird spot along the Japanese Coastline

You know, VR is a great place not only for games, but for experiences, and I'm under the firm belief that any VR nay-sayer should try to start somewhere like this . . . Google Earth VR or The Rift or YouTube 360. All these experience-based apps are a fantastic place to begin your VR journey. Taking a VR trip is a really fun way to unwind.

To combat the vection sickness you get from moving over the top of a map, they put a vignette around the edges as you move. It's kind of brilliant because it tricks the mind that you're not flying at superman speed around the world and therefore don't want to throw up every few blocks.

There's the place that I call home

Of course, I had to go check out my own home . . . or at least what it looked like back in 2017. It appears the Street view is up to date and in Sync, but the 3D models are stuck back in the past. 

I also went back to the house I grew up in (same one featured in my "about me" Blaugust post), and took a look around there. I was a bit bummed to find out my hometown hadn't been "modeled" into 3D models and instead just had topography with a flat image map on the ground. Still looked cool though and the mountains looked amazing!

From on top of the mountains looking down on home

I also went and looked at the neighborhood for each of the Team Spode members! It's not creepy at all! It's just curiosity, right? I think it's totally natural to wonder what life is like for someone you admire and talk to every week. At least I hope that's how they see it. hehe.

A cool graffiti wall somewhere near Lord Spode's house in Portland

If you haven't had a chance to check it out, Google Earth VR is absolutely free on the oculus store and a great way to make you both feel incredibly big looking down on a small world and incredibly small looking around this big big world.

Happy Dueling!

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Too Old for Tower of Fantasy?

Ohhh man . . . so, listen, I played a lot of Tower of Fantasy yesterday and got to level 22. I noticed a couple things about myself as I was playing, and it was a little distressing for me.

How about we let your guide around the world get infected with evil!

First things first, I enjoyed myself. It felt a lot like a PC-based conversion of a mobile MMO take on Legend of Zelda's Skyward Sword, which, is exactly what I've heard about Genshin Impact. It's a fun formula for a game. It's got crafting food, going through shrines, climbing mountains, riding mounts, cool weapons, short solo dungeons, flying, jump puzzles, gacha stuffs, chibi robot chefs, neat scenery, and mildly entertaining anime story bits . . . what's not to like? And it's free!

. . . and they're giving away a free cube mount because they met their pre-registration goals!

About half-way through though, I had this sneaking suspicion that I was the oldest dude on the server, and it felt weird.  Reading the general chat kind of filled me with a ton of embarrassment. Probably not true, but I'm being honest about that feeling. I almost asked in chat if there were any older people playing that had a guild together, but I figured it would out me. AND LOOK, I typically don't care at all about any of it (I mean, I played Wizard101 and Pirate101 -- IT ISN'T JUST A KIDS GAME, IT'S A FAMILY GAME), but for some strange reason it struck me funny yesterday.

So edgy . . .

Anyway, because of all that, I didn't even try to find other people to play with. I just took it solo and explored the starter island, unlocking all the gates and visiting as many locations as I could. I did get a little lost once the story quests dried up. 

Off to quest with Mr. Schudy. He's a cutie crab-robot dude-y.

I'm still confused about possibly having to get to level 24 before chapter 2 really starts to play? Or possibly it's time gated? Anyway, the game did a great job of telling that there were things I could do other than play on the main story quest. Literally, there was a giant text box pointing to a button saying to click there to see all the other stuff I could do in game.

There really are more things to do!

So let's talk game systems a bit. First thing I have to talk about are the controls on PC. It very much feels like this was built to work on mobile first. Your mouse is not free moving in the game. Perhaps there's a way to set it like this, but it's not default.  Because of this you have to press Enter to free up your mouse to click buttons on the right hand side of the screen, and you have to press Escape to click on things on the left hand side of the screen. 

You may be thinking, what buttons on the left hand side of the screen? Ah ha! The most important button for a blogger is there, the camera button. That's right, there's no default screenshot button (at least that I could find), and that makes sense if the game was designed mobile first. When you do press the camera button, you get a few camera controls that center your character in the action. The resulting picture has your game name, server name, and a logo on it. Um . . . Print Screen and a paint program it is! 

I'm Stingite of the Lunalite Server on the game Tower of Fantasy -- nice view, right?

There's an interesting system in the game called Simulacra where you can win personas in lock boxes and use their skin while playing the game. You woo these simulacra with gifts, which then causes them to awaken, which leads to cool powers. You can also go through special quests that play some of the backstory of the Simulacra. I was pretty happy with the Zero Simulacra and his cool cube of death weapon.

Oo! That Zero SSR Hero pull!  

Oh yeah, by the way, I love Gacha games that have an amazing box opening sequence. The box opening sequence for Tower of Fantasy is absolutely amazing. Check it out.

So, end of the day, I had fun and will probably play this game a little bit more despite my resistance and feeling old. I may even get brave enough to out myself in general chat to find a nice guild of older folks . . . or not. Probably what I should do is go give Genshin Impact a go. Not that I expect it to be filled with an older faction of people, but at least I wouldn't be playing a game called Tower of Fantasy. Yikes the name of this game is so cheesy. 

Happy Dueling!

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Pausing now for station identification

Look at us here with 11 days left in Blaugust! Wow! 

I'm at a good transitioning point here, and although I still have a few more games I could talk about with my Portfolio series of posts, I think I'm just going to move on for now. I'm getting kind of burnt out on 'em. Hope reading them was a nice trip down memory lane or insightful. Thanks for sticking with me!

I'd like to spend some time here at the end of this Blaugust talking about more VR games, MMOs, and other things.

Looking Punk in Tower of Fantasy

I stumbled on Tower of Fantasy yesterday after seeing Jewel talking about it on my Twitter Feed. I haven't played much Genshin Impact . . . like at all . . . but pretty sure this is a Genshin Impact influenced MMO. That said, it felt pretty smooth playing this game. I'll probably give it a few levels more to see how it plays. 

Whilst I was in the middle of posting my Game Portfolio posts, I also discovered Planet Crafter had released an update that unleashed the butterflies and the bees upon the game, Rumbleverse launched and had me back in battle royale mode, Team Spode continues to play in Guild Wars 2, and Lessah and I defeated a terrifying Black Wolf boss with demon eyes in Icarus! STUFF HAS BEEN GOING DOWN!

The tower we built to take down the boss . . . and a couple bear carcasses in an embarrassing pose

Hope you're all doing well and having fun with Blaugust! I've loved all the posts I've been reading by the other participants! If you haven't had a chance to go through the list of participants, Magi at Indiecator has a really great list and some nice commentary about each of us. Go check it out!

Happy Dueling!

Friday, August 19, 2022

Game Portfolio -- Fantasy Fighter Arena (FFA)

Fantasy Fighter Arena (FFA)

  • Release Date: July 2020
  • Current Availability: Prototype Cancelled 2020
  • Release Credit Category: Design Credit
  • Company: KingsIsle originally -- Rights transferred to WIMO Games
  • Business Model: Free-to-Play
  • Category: Mobile Game
  • Genre: Turn-based, real-time PVP Strategy

Personal Development Notes
  • Fun Fact: A lot of developers at KingsIsle and WIMO Games are wrestling fans! Getting to create a game with wrestling themes was a well-loved choice by a lot of our developers. This would end up being the last game I worked on (that I can talk about) at KingsIsle before it was sold to Gamigo's parent company.

  • Job Highlights: I was one of three designers on this game, and I was heavily involved in all early aspects of development: pitch selection, pitch deck creation, pitch presentation, and paper prototyping. During development I was also involved in tutorial creation, helping set up character templates, and designing basic AI interactions

  • Best Memory: Brenton Sewell and I initially invented the first paper prototype of this game in an empty office space at KingsIsle. Eventually we got all the designers on the FFA team involved as we firmed up the rules and gameplay, but I'll never forget playing around with home-made pogs on a paper grid in that office with the other designers.

    This was the first game where I could point to a character and say, I invented this character's kit and movesets, for example, Sparrow! Of course when I invented her, she was called Rhyna because she liked to charge at people like a rhinoceros. Art got ahold of her and she became a barbarian on roller skates, which was absolutely brilliant.

  • Other Comments: The best comment I saw about this game is that it played almost exactly like someone envisioned how Star Wars Chess would play, but with fantasy wrestlers. Unfortunately turn-based 1v1 PvP didn't grab the audience we were hoping to attract, and after a couple iterative changes on the game, it was cancelled in prototype. It's too bad we never got to add an announcer to this game, it would have been pretty hilarious to hear someone calling out moves like in WWE.

Sample Gameplay:

There are several mobile game Youtubers that snatch up everything new in the app store and play it despite having a limited release location of New Zealand and Australia. I loved watching Professor Showtime enjoy our game.

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Game Portfolio -- Gloombusters


  • Release Date: August 2019
  • Current Availability: Cancelled during Soft Launch
  • Release Credit Category: Design Credit
  • Company: KingsIsle
  • Business Model: Free-to-Play
  • Category: Mobile Game
  • Genre: Puzzle, Coloring
Personal Development Notes
  • Fun Fact: Gloombusters was a follow on match-3 game after Animal Cove where players would earn crafting/coloring supplies through match 3 games and then use those as fuel for restoring color to the world. Players collected Lumis who they could bring with them into match 3 games and use their various booster effects during gameplay. Although Gloombusters never made it out of soft-launch, the cute Lumi characters from the game eventually found a home in Wizard101 as pets.

  • Job Highlights: I was one of five designers assigned to work on Gloombusters. As such, JIRA tasks were divided between us by our Director and Producer. I wrote two or three of Gloombuster's Design Documents, which mainly focused on the city building and crafting portion of the first iteration of the game and an event system meant for late game. I also worked as one of two designers responsible for the tutorial tasks and wrote all the copy for the tutorial text.

    Eventually the second iteration of Gloombusters removed the city building portion of the game and instead focused on restoring color to a coloring book land through solving match 3 puzzles. For this iteration I helped hook up several coloring book page scenes, worked with creative to insert dialog scenes into the game, and again helped with the tutorial. 

  • Best Memory: While brainstorming how players would collect crafting ingredients from playing match 3 puzzles, I had an idea for a grocery bag match 3 piece that would act as a collection point for other game pieces. It was debated for a while but eventually we went with a simpler solution. I still use this as a gag line to my boss when brainstorming, often suggesting that it's clear the solution we're looking for is "bags." 

  • Other Comments:  Unfortunately metrics for the game didn't warrant a full launch of the game, but we learned several valuable lessons in its creation. I'm happy that Gloombuster's cute Lumi characters found a home in Wizard101.

Sample Gameplay:

I can't seem to find any footage of the first iteration of Gloombusters, but I did find some footage of the second iteration!

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Game Portfolio -- Animal Cove

Animal Cove

  • Release Date: October 2017
  • Current Availability: Removed from App store February 2021
  • Release Credit Category: Marketing Credit, Writing, and Design Credit
  • Company: KingsIsle
  • Business Model: Free-to-Play
  • Category: Mobile Game
  • Genre: Match 3, Puzzle, Simulation
Personal Development Notes
  • Fun Fact: When the game launched it made the featured list on the app store and was KingsIsle's first mobile game to ever be featured.  We celebrated in the office!  

  • Job Highlights: This is the first game I worked on as a Game Designer. This is the first game I worked on as a Writer. This is the last game I worked on with a Marketing credit. It was in fact, Animal Cove that allowed me to transition from Marketing to Design. It's a tale in three parts.

    Part 1: When Animal Cove was still very early in development, corporate wasn't happy about the way the story was headed, so they initially turned to me to help spice up the dialog. I went a little crazy with it at first and was re-writing Harper as a goofy sergeant. Obviously, some of my ideas were a little too out there, and I ended up toning it down. A lot of the early jokes in the game were from me.

    I also penned several random dialog lines that would pop up when the animals would walk around and think to themselves. I also helped script the initial cut-scene that was eventually removed from the beginning of the game. Eventually the creative team had more bandwidth when a new writer was hired, and I was freed up.

    Part 2:  I was really busy. I mean it. I was too busy. This was mostly my doing, but as good of a face I put on in public, I was bordering on a nervous breakdown. I was playing the part of Community Manager for two MMOs, all Public Relations, and all Social Media for all of KingsIsle's games.  It was too much for one person, but I somehow found a way to make it work. For Marketing, I put in all the initial groundwork for hyping Animal Cove, prepping social sites, and writing and reviewing press releases.

    Part 3: I needed a change at KingsIsle, or I was going to break. As it turns out, Animal Cove was in dire need of someone to keep building match 3 levels, and I convinced my various bosses to let me try my hand at it. IT installed Unity on my laptop that I carried back and forth to work, and I took a quick crash course in Unity. I'd then go home after work and on my own time, sit down at the kitchen table after dinner with the family, and work again late into the night crafting my first match 3 levels. They liked what I was putting out, and I managed to convince them (and they were gracious enough) to let me shift over to Design. They hired two people and outsourced a PR team to replace me.  

  • Best Memory: Honestly, my best memories were when I switched roles and joined the Animal Cove Design Team in the office work area, working side-by-side with Andrew Riehm and eventually Justin Hodges as we made match 3 level after match 3 level.

  • Other Comments: Had Animal Cove remained profitable, I would have gladly continued designing match 3 levels for it into the thousands of levels! Definitely check out this dev diary where Scott and I talk about the game, and I talk about how I used give all of my levels goofy names.

    For more on Animal Cove level design, see here: level design

Sample Gameplay:

Did you know that there are entire YouTube channels dedicated to Match 3 level playthroughs?  Dmitriy Nikitin was an absolute hero and captured pretty much all of our levels in Animal Cove, so I still have these to look back on and watch.  Here's level 599 that I talked about in the Dev Diary.