Albion Online: A Beautiful Game Stuck In Development Hell

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I heard of Albion online near the end of the MMO boom. You know when there was a new MMO getting announced/released at what felt like every other week. I want to say that was around 2013 when MMO hype was still big and games were being announced but the overall MMO player base was starting to fall off. When I first took a look at Albion Online I wasn’t impressed or interested. It wasn’t my kind of game. I thought it was cool how they wanted to launch on multiple platforms, iPad, android tablets and PC. The idea of a fully featured MMO on the go as much as at home was an intriguing idea for me. All that being said the crafting/gathering/grinding nature of the game was a huge turn-off. Those were all the things I hated to do in most the MMOs I played. The more appealing selling points for me about Albion Online were the PvP, world explanation, and death penalties.

Albion Online is a fairly hardcore game to today standards wrapped up in a simple to get into package. After trying it out almost 2 years ago with their founder’s pack and testing the game out over its extensive alpha and betas, I think it’s in a bad spot. I think the developers are so afraid to let this game fail that they will inevitably make it fail. The game was never going to be big. It was made to be a niche title. Competing with Eve Online more than say World of Warcraft. After almost 2 years of “beta testing” and even longer of alpha testing, they are starting to lose their dedicated niche fans. This is a game I feel has been “ready” for at least a year now and they are still talking about 1 to 2 more wipes before release. They say this is the “final beta” but seeing as we have been in beta for easily a year to 2 years now that doesn’t mean much.

Their beta patches for updating the game could all have been nice content patches after the game should have come out over a year ago. Instead, they keep patching content into a beta that isn’t being played anymore since everyone is waiting for release. A release I feel will be too little too late. I thought this was just me but even most of the apologists on the subreddit have turned. Any post they make on their site is followed by a good number of people complaining about the wipes and release. The common consensus from everyone is to wait for the game to come out. On the subreddit, there is always someone asking if they should start playing and it is always followed by someone explaining there will be wipes and to wait for the release. I’ve been watching this for well over a year now. The whole time feeling the games been ready.

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All that out of the way here’s what I think about the game as is. Overall it’s pretty great. Goes to show how much I’ve changed over the years that I find this kind of game fun now. But I’m not sure if I find it to actually be fun or if it’s a really good interactive checklist. It has that World of Warcraft effect to it where there’s always something else to do. Like World of Warcraft use to be in some ways everything you end up doing on Albion Online ends up being a grind. There’s always another tier or node to grind and if you don’t want to do that there’s another weapon or armor piece you can be more proficient in. All of it ends up being something tedious in some way or another but it doesn’t feel like a waste of time. The game is designed around these aspects, the more you do these things the “stronger” or a better way to putting it here is more “useful” your character will be.

The best players have the best gear. The best gear doesn’t drop from dungeons in this game they are crafted. To wear the best gear you have to be proficient at all the previous tiers of that type of gear or weapon. (Cloth, Leather, Plate and Staffs, Maces, Shields etc.) To make the best gear you have to grind material and level your profession. They really mean it when they say player driven.

The game has a large emphasis on group content. Mainly group PVP. Even the PVE content in this game can have PVP happen since the dungeons are not instanced and tagged players can be attacked by other players depending on the zone they’re in. The top players with the best gear, guilds, and coordination battle it out with other guilds at end game. Death in this game means you drop everything. I mean everything. So you better be ready to lose all your gear and inventory you are carrying if you die. They have made changes here and there to different zones and locations to cater to more casual players. Regardless at the top end, it’s still loot the dead. This is part of the risk-reward of the game and what makes it difficult. You can go deep into questionable areas but if you die you have to get back to your body within a time frame or you lose everything. Think about it like yours always playing Hardcore mode on Diablo. The difference being your character still exists and any progress you made on that character is still there. Just now all your gear and inventory has dropped out in the world somewhere and you kind of start back at hypothetical level 1. This is mainly due to how your classes work in Albion Online.

Classes in Albion Online are decided based on your gear. They come in multiple tiers and the aspects of the gear decide what abilities you have on your bar. For instance, if you want to tank you would equip the plate armor pieces and equip a sword and shield. The nice thing about this is nothing is stopping you from mixing and matching. Making says a “Battle Mage” with plate gear and then equipping a staff. Maybe even go with an even more complex hybrid build. I’ve seen all kinds of combinations in the game with varying degrees of success.

I think graphically, design and art wise the game look’s beautiful. An excellent example of simplicity is key. I’ve played much more graphic intensive games with far more detail come off as bland and boring. With Albion Online the colors are strong and the world looks alive. Each zone type is distinct and has its own flavor to it. The artwork on the loading screens and across their site just has something refreshing about it. “Whimsical” would be a good word to describe it.

Overall it’s a great game with lots of potential but I can’t recommend it. I think its a great game but due to the lack of the developers not understanding the needs of the community I feel it may have a short-lived release. Like most the players on the subreddit, I have to say don’t bother till it’s out. At this point that might be never or too late. This is the kind of game that lives off its dedicated players and those are exactly the people they are losing every day they keep the game in beta. I enjoy the game but I do not support the choices of the company and a lot of the changes they are making. It also begs the question how will they handle things when the game does come out one day? Only time will tell…a lot of time it seems.

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Overwatch : The Game I Hate To Love

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Let me start off by saying I don’t like Overwatch.

At least I didn’t at first when I tried it during beta and early release. I felt it was lacking in content, game types, maps, and substance. On top of all that I feel it cost too much for what is offered. A few well made cinematic’s don’t hide the fact that all the maps in the game are basically hallways designed to force high combat situations. You can call it the Call of Duty effect. Forced encounters with high combat interactions in short to medium bursts over a short match time. New/bad players don’t ever feel useless or bad thus making them have less chance of getting frustrated and quitting the game. Also allowing good players to still do well but still get caught here and there due to just bad luck and counter picking. This is in a nutshell what kept Call of Duty on top of the shooter market for so long while games like Battlefield and Halo have taken secondary niche markets.

I find the popularity of Overwatch to be surprising since gamers are constantly asking for more difficult games but the most popular games on the market are usually for much more casual audiences. Regardless of the philosophy of gaming, is Overwatch fun? As of writing this review and basing it on only the game itself I find it to be an amazingly fun toy. Yes, you have read right. If Battlefield 1 was tactical training with high-pressure BB guns and Halo 5 was paintball than Overwatch would be a bunch of kids in the park with nerf guns. Does that mean it’s not fun? Hell no. It’s a blast. I’m just saying don’t take it so seriously. I have friends on PC talking about team builds, strategy and going up and down in ranks but still doing poorly. On the other hand, I have friends in the top 500 who have prestiged multiple times telling me it’s not that big a deal.

Overwatch has become my “main game” now. When I want to play something seriously or just mess around for a bit, Overwatch is where I go. It plays to a lot of different play styles due to the multiple hero setups and the quick action packed matches. If I don’t feel like focusing and just want to hang out with friends I’ll play something like Mercy or Lucio, maybe Bastion and just sit in a corner and crack jokes. If I really feel like playing I’ll play Reinhardt, Tracer or Soldier. Regardless of how well I’m doing and how I’m feeling at the time, I feel I just like joking around and yelling on mic with friends.

Who you play with will make a big difference. I’m not talking about winning, I’m talking about enjoying. A big part of the reason I didn’t enjoy Overwatch at first is due to the friends I was playing with. They were very try hard and took a very casual game too seriously. They would go on about team composition and timing certain abilities but still consistently lost or had trouble moving up in rank. Having played far more complex and competitive shooters through the years I noticed our losses were more due to bad fundamental skills rather than game knowledge. A lack of communication, not knowing when to push off the advantage, not knowing when to back off the disadvantages and simple things like don’t just funnel in one at a time when their whole teams up. Even when it comes to team composition, just because a composition is strong in the meta doesn’t mean it’s always going to work or be used to its full potential based on who’s playing what. Play around the person, not the hero.

I felt the game was too casual for my taste to play alone and I was only ever getting frustrated playing with friends. I’m not saying I’m the next MLG champ at Overwatch but I know my fundamental with shooters. Regardless of how simple the game and what the meta might be the fundamentals are the most important thing in any shooting game. This is made even more clear when another group of my friends bought me Overwatch as a joke on PS4 for Christmas. All of them that didn’t have PS4s at this point got PS4s for Christmas and Overwatch was the game they decided on over Call of Duty, Battlefield and Titanfall simply because they knew I didn’t like it. A bunch of them already had Overwatch and have now prestiged multiple times. But I and the new PS4 owners went in fresh. They insisted that I would enjoy the game more with them. They were right.

Not only do I have a great time playing with them but I’ve met other friends through playing as well. On top of that, we’re winning more. Why is this? Because they have a strong understanding of the fundamentals of shooting games. We barely have to say when to push and when to back since they are aware of what’s going on. In the moment’s someone does say anything everyone reacts on reflex to what’s said and act accordingly. Sure we still lose our share of games but it’s pretty good for pissing in the wind with half your team drunk off the minds or eating while playing.

Now, this isn’t a PS4 vs Xbox One vs PC thing. This is a don’t take a fun toy too seriously thing. Overwatch is a blast but a lot of people need to accept it’s a very simple casual game at its foundation. Unless you really believe you will be the next MLG pro just have fun and enjoy the game. This kind of extends to all games actually. Overall I really like Overwatch now. I still don’t agree with a lot of what it offers and I do think it cost too much for what they are offering. But if that means we don’t have to pay for future DLC then I’ll live with it. As a game, it’s fun regardless of play style and drunkness. If you have been on the fence regardless of what platform you are on I recommend Overwatch. Even more so if you have chill friends to play with. I won’t be giving Overwatch a rating out of 5 as I would normally do since if I were to break the game down as I do with other games it would end up having a pretty low rating. I feel that would be a bit counter-productive to Overwatch’s overall philosophy. So instead I’ll give it 2 thumbs up and a glass of rum and coke.

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Eternal Card Game Review

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I like to think I keep up with my games. Most games you can think of I would say I know a thing or two about. After the hit that is Hearthstone every company wants a piece of the Collectible Card Game (CCG)/Trading Card Game (TCG) pie. They seem to be making a new card game every other day. Some are decent, most are pretty bad and a few are great. (“Duelyst”, check it out, its great.) even with all these card games coming out I feel I keep pretty good track of them. That is until I saw my friend playing Eternal on steam. Never herd of it before then. My friend as if he can sense me, messages me asking if I herd of Eternal Card Game. I then proceed to google the game and replay to my friend with “No, but it looks good.”

After trying it I have to say it’s pretty damn great. It honestly comes off like Magic the Gathering meets Hearthstone. That’s the best way I can explain it to be honest. It’s gameplay borrows a lot more from MTG than it does from Hearthstone. As an example you basically have renamed versions of all the basic magic abilities like haste, vigilance and flying. You even have instant speed spells you can play in reaction to something your opponent does. Your mana is also like MTG in that you build it into your deck and have to draw it. The part that it borrows from Hearthstone is the user interface, layout and interactions between the cards. It plays like Magic but feels like Hearthstone. Kind of the best of both worlds if you ask me.

One thing I don’t like about Eternal is the name. I really do think they should change it. It comes off as being very forgettable and a little cliche. There were multiple times I was trying to talk about the game with friends and we all sat there trying to remember the name of the game. I would go as far as saying its the name that made it go under my radar. There is a big chance I herd about the game and forgot it completely based on the forgettable name itself. Even after playing it for hours and talking about it with friends we as a group forgot the name multiple times. None of this is probably a big deal for most people but coming from a media design and boxing background I know the importance of a good hook to the jaw. Its far more important than it may seem when you don’t have the marketing bucks to make the name relevant, you have to make it stand for itself. So..”what was it again? Something something card game?” just doesn’t hold up.

Regardless of the name when it comes to gameplay this is what I wish MTG Online and the Origin versions of Magic would have been. Magic Online simply looks ancient and the Origin versions are a slow clunky mess. Eternal did it better at least in the design department. Focusing back on Eternal I have to admit that it is really fun. Surprisingly so. I missed this game entirely but after playing I would say its one of the top 5 card games on the market. That means a lot since there’s a lot of competition in this field.

If you like card games like Hearthstone and Magic the Gathering than Eternal is something you need to check out. I see a lot of potential with this one with the right player base and coverage. Don’t let this gem slip by unnoticed like it did for me. I give this game a solid 4/5. If and when it gets on mobile I would give it an easy 5/5.

Rating 4/5.

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MMOs Are Dead And VR Will Save Them

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MMOs boomed with the success of World of Warcraft. Every company and their mothers thought they were going to be the next big hit MMO and to this day the corpses of games that tried to fight the monster that is World of Warcraft still litter the fields around the giant beast. Not so giant any more mind you but still a monster. I will also go back to WoW. Like an abused wife, I will always find a way to forgive WoW for what it’s done to me. This is because World of Warcraft is my first true virtual home. It is the familiar safe place that may change here and there but at the end of the day I am always connected to it. If I’m playing it or not. But even I do not feel the urge I once did to go back home like I did many times before.

At the bases of why MMOs are not holding their own any more is due to the players. The players have grown, gamers are older now then they ever have been. They have some variation of school, work, or family they have to deal with. They can’t sit down and level for 3 days of active play time anymore. Being a working photographer who I think has much more free time on his hands than most others, even I have to admit I don’t have the time or patience to level and grind in MMOs. The time to results threshold as been met for me and a lot of people. Why play a MMO everyday and constantly be behind and not have fun when you can play a few games of Hearthstone, League of Legends, or Battlefield? Good or bad matched you get to go to bed feeling like you got some work in vs aimlessly grind a few dungeons with teammates who said nothing the whole time.

The MMO space is excellent. It’s still needed and it’s still good. It’s not Dead it just hasn’t adapted yet. Honestly it might not need too. Maybe we all need to just accept that MMOs might not be for us anymore. The problem with that is MMOs are crazy high budget and if the developers aren’t able to make money then the MMO is done for. So MMOs in theory can’t really be niche. It needs a strong thriving player base to exist in one way or another. Which is why you might notice the past year there are a lot less of them being announced. Most of them being from Asia as well, one of the few places where MMOs still kind of work. So how do we fix this problem? Well we can’t really, not the way it is now. The current model is not what people want anymore and the ones that do want it have options that already exist. If you say you like MMOs and there’s not a single MMO you like on the market right now, well I’m sorry to break it to you but you don’t like MMOs.

Where I think the future of MMOs exist is virtually reality. VR is still young and being watched with a close eye by the world but where I think the medium will thrive is the MMO space. Even back when MMOs were young everyone wished for a VRMMO. From The Matrix to Sword Art Online people have wished for open virtual worlds where we can explore without the limitation of a screen. It doesn’t even have to be a great MMO. I’d drop cash money for a VR rig and any needed upgrades for a half decent VRMMO. I think a lot of people would as a well. At least a lot of people like myself who haven’t leapt in yet. Any day now I’m waiting for the announcement of the first VRMMO. Everything stated above is void for the sake of escapism. The need of exploring a new world as close to reality as possible but with the addition of orcs and demons. I might not have time for MMOs now but for the right VRMMO I would make time.

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Elder Scrolls Online Review 2016

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When ESO launched it had its fair share of criticism. I personally really enjoyed it back then but even I have to admit it had its share of bugs and glitches. Goodness was it a mess of a game. I’ve jumped on here and there with little success through the years since it’s launch and noticed steady improvements. I herd more and more from the players about how much better it is now. The overall MMO player base seems to agree for the most part that ESO is one of the better MMOs on the market. I would consider it to be one of the top 3 MMOs on the market right now. The other 2 being World of Warcraft and Guild Wars 2.

Elder Scrolls Online has revamped its system since launch. It’s smooth and glitch free. It’s gained a bunch of new expansions with solid and varying gameplay mechanics and lastly with the newest update (One Tamriel) it’s removed the need for your level. Your level is still there it’s just not as important as your gear and your skills. Now like Elder Scrolls games should be you can go and explore any location in the game without worry or limitations. You are free to play with newer or more experienced players now regardless of level, gear or skill.

The game plays smoother and the animations are excellent. My sword swings hit with force. The game falls into and action combat style which I personally don’t like for the most part. I personally prefer the classic tab targeting of old or a slightly more hybrid system like we see in Guild Wars 2. That’s being said this is Elder Scrolls we’re talking about and tab targeting just wouldn’t be right here.

If your are a fan of story, adventure and exploration than this is the game for you. All the quests are voice acted. When I say all of them I mean all of them. They all very in the style and story told. Aside from the main story line there are many side quests you will just walk upon and get swept up in. Some are sad some are funny and some are just harsh wake up calls. You will run into a variety of these by the time you hit level 5.

The dungeon content in ESO is some of the best I’ve seen. I would go as far as saying this is some of the best all around PVE and dungeon content I seen since Tera Online. I’m also saying that from the perspective of a PVP player. You got to go the extra mile to get me to enjoy your PVE. I’m just saying its nice to have dungeons content that is actually hard. It’s exciting and focused. Im worried about every pull and satisfied with every kill. Overall Elder Scrolls Online is killing it in the PVE department.

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They are also doing pretty well in the PVP department. If large scale siege PVP is your thing than this is the game for you. It doesn’t have its equivalent of arena or battlegrounds which I think is a missed opportunity to be honest or at least something they should consider down the line. That being said they nailed large scale alliance PVP. Cyrodiil is what they call the area you battle in for PVP. It is located in the very centre of the the world map and it is a solid chunk of it. If you have played Guild Wars 2s World vs World than it is very similar but imagine instead of 4 large maps you have one giant map called Cyrodiil. I would say when it comes to scale, Cyrodiil is as big as all of GW2s WvW maps put together. The swaying large scale battles are excellent and there is even room for solo and smaller groups to make a difference.

There is a hell of a lot of stuff I didn’t cover like the crime system and duelling and much more but just know this here is a good game that has gone back to its roots. It looks like Elder Scrolls, it plays like Elder Scrolls and most importantly it feels like Elder Scrolls. I’m not going to give this game a rating due to the expansive nature of MMOs, instead. I’ll say this. If you want an active game that you can play with your friends at any time, with an extensive universe and excellent questing, PVE and large scale siege PVP than Elder Scrolls Online is the game for you.

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VOEZ App Game Review

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Coming off the the mess that is Mafia III Rivals last week I thought I should talk about a game that is actually really enjoyable. VOEZ is a game that has quite a decent following of players. There is even an active sub Reddit. It was originally released in Asia with very good reception they decided to port it to the rest of the world

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What is VOEZ? It is a music based rhythm game where you press keys as they fall from the top of the screen to the bottom in sync to the music. Similar to games you have probably played or at least herd of like Rockband and Dance Dance Revolution. Something I noticed and liked right from the start is how absolutely beautifully the app is designed. Other developers need to look at this game and take notes. It has this pleasant melody playing lightly in the background as you open it up. The UI and layout are smartly placed for ease of use and style. The whole app from the loading screen to the gameplay looks beautiful. It’s I game I wouldn’t mind not playing and just watching. There is also some sort of story that seems to be progressing based on how well you play and meeting certain achievements. It’s not something I find myself caring about in this kind of game but from what I can tell it seems to be a pleasant story to unlock.

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VOEZ has a decent amount of tracks that sway more towards Asian pop/techno/happy hardcore/hardstyle type music. If you are looking to jam out to the hottest new Drake track then you are out of luck. I don’t mind it personally, I appreciate all styles of music and the higher bpm tracks in VOEZ make the gameplay come across more intense and enjoyable. There are also slower easier tracks that don’t require as much effort as some of the more focus driven tracks the game offers. The tracks are all given a level. The higher the level the more difficult the track is. Each track falls into 3 different levels at 3 different difficulties for each track. Easy, Hard and Special. Special seem to be the most difficult of the 3. Also don’t forget the difficulty of a track is based on the individual track not an overall system. So all special tracks for instance are not the same level. It’s best for you to find tracks that fall into the difficulty/level that best suits you and work up from there. I find I like hard tracks and I’m at a skill level of about 8–12.

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The game is free to play but you have to pay for the tracks. The currency they use are these bird keys. Each key unlocks one track but I could swear I bought a track that cost me 2 keys once. You are given some keys early on but it kind of ends there. They really want you to pay here and there for tracks. I don’t really like is kind of system for the most part but I get it here. I just wish there was and unlock all tracks option that wasn’t just buying a bunch of keys. Then again this let’s them make more in the long run I guess. I personally don’t find much of this to be a problem since they have implemented a song rotation. Every week another random set of songs will be available to play. And yes I do believe the rotation is random. So you can run into a track you have seen in rotation recently.

To get every single track you would probably have to pay for the top key bundle which is $55 for 55 keys. I personally think it’s a bit steep for a mobile game. That’s pretty much full retail price for a high budget game. I mean the new Doom game is on discount right now for $40. I know they are not similar games but in terms of value I just don’t see the worth of $55 here. That being said I really don’t mind paying for a cheaper bundle just to support the game and and unlock the tracks I like. Personally speaking I don’t like all of the tracks anyways and the rotation still gives you the option to play them all at some point.

Overall I think the games awesome and I highly recommend it. This is the first game I am giving a 5/5 for. Don’t expect many of these, I am usually very hard with my reviews so you got to earn that extra star there to complete the set. I hope other developers have a look at this game and take some notes because they really need it. I also hope that developers of VOEZ continue to support the game and the community stays strong.

Rating: 5/5

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DMA234 – Destiny Planet View Design Analysis

DESTINY DMALink – DestinyPlanetView

Motivation – Social

This sites motivation is social because of the game it is based on. Destiny is an active open world instanced multiplayer game. The game revolves around 3 planets (Earth, Mars, Venus) and the moon. This site lets you explore and see these planets with a Google Maps style design. The site is made by Google Technologies so it makes sense there are some similarities. I find it being so close to Google Maps as a plus. So many people use Google Maps and this being like it sells the fantasy sci-fi world more. At different points in each world you will find clickable targets, which give you more information and the option to share across other social media.

Communication Style – Entertainment

Destinyplanetview.com falls under entertainment because none of the planets and its inhabitants is heavily based on actual facts. It is also again based off a video game, which are mainly considered to be for entertainment purposes. The site also takes a cinematic tone. The voice over leading you through the worlds with the combination of the FX’s added more to this fact.

Medium – Web/Interactive

The hierarchy is based off the planets and the moon. Only 3 of these sources are viewable on this site due to Earth not being the one from the game but the Earth we live on now. When you first arrive on the site it actually finds your location through Google Maps and zooms you out into the games universe. The voice over explains that this is our universe in the distant future. To maintain the realism of this you cannot move around Earth since it would just be Google Maps. The planets are based on proximity, size and distance.

The scale is fairly large. With the voiceover and all the animations it can chug on allot of machines and connections that cant handle it. On some of the school computers it wasn’t able to maintain a constant frame rate due to this. On a solid connection and decent machine it should work fine.

I personally found this site to be really cool. As a fan of the game, being able to move though the areas I have been though with my friends in game is nice. The voice over and animations are very well done and the execution is flawless. The game itself will have updates and expansions that will grow out the overall universe. If destinyplanetview.com also grows with these updates and expansions I would find that very impressive and interesting.