Article – Learning to Love Easy Mode

This post is inspired by the following article: Learning To Love Easy Mode

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Is this really the type of achievement we want to unlock?

I have found that as I age the time and ability (maybe even the desire?) to do one thing for hours and hours has dramatically decreased. Due to this I have found that the ways that I used to look at things has dramatically shifted in the last few years. Time spent doing the same thing over and over and over in order to get better at something is no longer of interest to me. I am predominately a single-player gamer (due to time and children) and getting “better” than the “other guy” doesn’t factor into my gaming experience. Which is exactly why volunteering to make a game more challenging is no longer worthwhile.

I am an avid video and table top gamer (among many other things) and have to find a balance between all the things I do. Lately one of the most straightforward ways I have found to enable me to enjoy a video game with a reasonable level of challenge but a reduced amount of time is to set the game to “easy”. Prior to doing this I would choose hard (75% of the time) or medium (25% of the time) depending on the game – but never choose a Nightmare-type mode (I’m not that good!). I have found that a more casual challenge still enables me to enjoy the game and experience the story and characters without hitting a point where I have to spend excessive amount of time leveling up a character or dying-and-retrying a challenge over and over. In some instances the switch to “easy” has small and subtle changes that most players wouldn’t even notice, such as hit points are less for bosses, pickups more generous, or encounters are less frequent. Games that require more of an arcade-level of skill may give you more lives or more time in order to complete a challenge.

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Having had to replay a few games recently after my Xbox died (the 3rd RROD) and I needed to repurchase on my PC, I found myself choosing “easy” just to get myself back to the same point in the game. I found that in most instances I rarely noticed (or missed) the change in difficulty. Soon I noticed that the main thing I was missing was the increased gamer score that comes from achievements/trophies by playing on higher difficulties. Yet once my Xbox died I found that my gamer score number was becoming less and less relevant. As a predominately solo player with only a handful of regulars on my friend lists, what real point was there in bragging about a high gamer score?

Lately there have been numerous games that have come out where the game itself is more rewarding than the score achieved in the end. Games like Journey, The Walking Dead, Slither, Back to the Future, Amnesia, and Limbo have all been enjoyable without achievements or difficulty settings. Even Mass Effect 3 enabled players to choose a “Narrative Mode” which enabled them to enjoy the game with dramatically reduced combat so those interested in just the story could get through it easier.

In the end – I’ve decided to take a more conscious look at why, when and where I choose to be challenged in the games I am playing. Discovering that there are games out there that can be enjoyable without any actual difficulty settings or on easy mode has me enjoying more games instead of enjoying more of the same game I am playing (although spending hours to try and beat a challenge has rarely given me the sense of victory in overcoming it that it might for others).

ARTICLE: Learning To Love Easy Mode

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Alien3 – Rediscovering a Masterpiece

The Aliens franchise is one of the longer running and most interesting scifi properties out there. It spans 4 dedicated films, 2 spin-offs, 1 pseudo prequel, hundreds of comics, a plethora of games, books, toys and more! When I saw Aliens I became an instant fan and never let go. My fandom went so far that my college film thesis was even on Alien (and a little on Aliens).

Most fans of the franchise focus only on Alien (Ridley Scott) and Aliens (James Cameron) and discard Alien3 (David Fincher) and Alien: Resurrection (Jean-Pierre Jeunet). After reading a few articles and rewatching the movie again, I’ve found new excitement around Alien3 and think you might too!

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Game – Starbound – Preview

From the creators of Terraria comes a game that blends the creation aspect made popular by Minecraft, the space exploration dynamic from Spore, and the (possible) combat similarities to Borderlands. The game will possibly launch in early 2013!

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I have never been good at Minecraft-style games simply due to the amount of time they require to see results. I also lean heavily towards games with story and character development. While this game does not appear to have much – I can see the potential for story creation within the mind of the player. Similar to the game FTL, there are sometimes stories that can be created within the experience that happen naturally vs. those created by the developers. One other game like this, Journey, has a stronger story (and an amazing score that won a Grammy!) that has some story but relies on the user and the unique multiplayer component to “craft” your own experience through the game.

There seems to be a unique trend of games coming up with different methods of telling stories and allowing the user to have their own adventure instead of completely relying upon the game developers to push us down their own path.

LINK: Starbound Is Like 2D Minecraft Meets Borderlands…In Space

Movie Review – Indie Game

Watch Indie Game: The Movie Online | Netflix.

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I just recently watched Indie Game: The Movie (which is streaming now on Netflix). The movie follows the creators of 3 of the most amazing indie games through their final phases of development. The games they focus on are Fez (Phil Fish) , Super Meat Boy (designer Edmund McMillen and programmer Tommy Refenes) and Braid (Jonathan Blow).

The movie was one of the first films to be born on Kickstarter – which is also an achievement as well.

If you are interested in learning more about what it takes to make an independent game, the type of crazy and insanity that can come from it, or just a window into the minds of creators and developers, this is worth checking out. It is raw and emotional. Tears are shed and death threats are liberally handed out. It is also a worthwhile viewing for anyone who wants to create, who is creating, who wants to understand the mind of creators. Films and Big Budget Games are made by huge teams but independent games (and books) are created by very few people. It can be a very isolating and insular activity that is libel to have impacts – which this movie clearly demonstrates.

Once you are done watching this, if you haven’t, make sure to listen to the soundtrack for free on Bandcamp: http://jimguthrie.bandcamp.com/album/indie-game-the-movie-soundtrack

Lastly, if you haven’t played these games, they are available on Xbox and PC/Steam for very reasonable prices.

Guild Wars 1 – A Retrospective Journey (Part 2) – Wayfarer’s Reverie

The wife and I finished what may possibly be our final, official quest line in Guild Wars 1 tonight. In order to fully complete the quest and receive the reward, a player needed to own the main game and the 3 expansions that were released over the 7 year lifespan of the game.

It took us 4 nights, around 10 hours, and at least 2 nights way past our bedtime to wrap things up. It was a great experience to run through the lands again and we even had a few areas that we’d never even been in before. GW1 did a good job rewarding exploration and GW2 does an already more amazing job. I had never really considered it before but I am heavily considering joining a role playing guild this time around. Not so much so I can speak in old english but as a way to talk about the excitement I experience from exploration and the small hidden stories I come across. As the storyteller that I am I greatly appreciate the love ArenaNet puts into their games so I can have small moments of glee!

If you want to check it out, here is the Wayfarer’s Reverie – Quest Description: http://wiki.guildwars.com/wiki/Wayfarer’s_Reverie

See you all in Guild Wars 2 soon!

Here is a screenshot from the final quest near the tree that will play a more significant role in GW2 (it gives birth to a new race of people known as the Sylvari).

Guild Wars 1 – A Retrospective Journey (Part 1)

Last night the wife and I began our final journey through the realms of Tyria, Cantha, Elona and the Far North in one of our favorite games – Guild Wars!

We were able to log some time in Guild Wars, probably one of the last major times we will do so, before the launch of Guild Wars 2 on 8/28/12. It was a fun reminder of how far we’ve come as a couple and in the game since we started playing in April 2005. We’ve gone from Dating to Married, Condo to Town home, crappy computers to newer slightly better computers (they age over time ya know!), no kids to two kids.

I learned about Guild Wars prior to them launching their open beta and was excited from the beginning to hear of an online role playing game without a monthly fee. At the time, my wife and I were only dating and living 5 hours apart in different states. I had hoped to find something we could play together long distance. The game took its time getting to beta and by then we were engaged and living together – so we were able to play side-by-side. We spent many long nights (and days) playing through the different areas of the world of Tyria. If we were fortunate to have a completely open Saturday, we would partake of some adult beverages and dive into an enormous delivered pizza and game all night long. It was pure heaven and something we can no longer do.

We had limited time and have a toddler who still wakes up 1-2 times before midnight so we knew that we were on borrowed time (as we always are now with kids). Thankfully we were able to play uninterrupted for a little bit. Hopefully we’re able to squeeze in a little more time over the coming weeks prior to the launch.

The newly added quests serve as a swan song to Guild Wars 1 and takes players across all the realms to popular, picturesque destinations. The last quest we finished was a visit to a beautiful, Kodak-picture spot called “The Falls” in the Magumma Jungle.

We should have visited these falls over 7 years ago but apparently have no memory of it. So even while the game was attempting to help us relive moments that we should have previously experienced, we visited at least 2 destinations tonight that we both failed to remember. Amazing how something that they were able to create a world so rich with detail and expansive with exploration that we were able to possibly miss something – and were able to experience it again (for the first time) tonight. We should all be so fortunate to have just a little bit of this wonder from time to time.

Our small office prominently features 2 maps that came with the games:

And we even managed to secure some “Coming Soon” posters from our local Gamestop. Not quite sure where to put those! They’re huge!

For those GW fans, more info about the new fun quests can be found here:
http://wiki.guildwars.com/wiki/Feedback:Game_updates/20120817