Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Shapers Guild

The Shapers Guild is a new fan site and forums dedicated to the currently in beta game, Dawngate.  What makes it special is it is lore focused instead of just dry material.  Also, it is run by our good friend: Gaarawarr from WAR!  The site is pretty cool, so you should stop by and check it out.  He is also giving away beta keys for the game.

Monday, October 28, 2013

It's All About The Map

My ever changing side project, Stellar Fortune, is a multi-player sandbox game.  One of the core ideas behind it is to have meaningful exploration.  To accomplish this, I need a large game world for the players to be able to explore.  That also means I need a good map system.

There are four levels to the game world:  Quadrant, Sector, System and Planet.  Each one is basically it's own map.  So I need a system that allows players to drill down all the way to a planet view.  I am currently going with a simple grid for each map level. Click on the Quadrant, click on the System, click on the planet and you are at the lowest level.

That's not too complicated, but in order for exploration to be meaningful I have to track what every player knows about.  So every system visited has to be noted.  Also, one way to make exploration profitable is for players to be able to sell information about systems they have visited.

As this is a sandbox, I want players to be able to exploit these newly discovered systems by being able to build there.  That brings up the question of fog of war... should players be able to see what's going on in a system once discovered even if they don't have anything there?  The easy answer is yes, the tough answer is no.

I also want discovered systems to eventually become public knowledge.  So those who discover a system will have some time to do with it as they please (claim, sell) but after a period of time passes, everyone will know about it.

This all presents some programming challenges, but I think it would provide an interesting game world for players to explore and exploit.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Metallica Pinball

I am a pinball fan, in fact I own a couple of pinball machines.  It has been a while since I added or changed my collection.  So I was quite surprised when I found out that Stern had made a new pinball machine, this time Metallica themed!  I love me some Metallica music, even some of the new stuff.

The Metallica pinball features their 12 tracks music, of course.  That includes songs such as 'Master of Puppets', 'Enter Sandman',  and 'For Whom The Bell Tolls.'  It is mostly their old stuff which is perfectly fine for me.  The gameplay looks pretty good too.  I've included a video someone made below.  The artwork looks fantastic.  The only downside is that new pinball games are pretty expensive.  I may have to trade in one of my others to help make the cost more reasonable.


Wednesday, October 23, 2013


I only remain happy playing games for a limited amount of times.  It eventually just leads towards me wanting to make my own game.  This weekend I reached that point.  It seems to be a never ending cycle.  I do work on making my own game, run out of time, go with it for a few months, then go back to the start.

It really bothers me that I can't seem to muster enough time to make my dream become a reality.  This is especially true with my new job which requires even more of my time.  So I have these ideas, which I desperately want to try out, but can't.  Very frustrating.

There is an option.  Pay someone to do all the time-consuming bits for me.  Seems like a good solution, sacrificing money for the time.  Getting my ideas in a form that someone can take a produce a usable prototype is the real challenge.  But it may be the only way moving forward.  It is something I'll have to think on.

Monday, October 21, 2013

A Crossroads

When it comes to strategy games, I'm a bit of a cheater.  Before major decisions I tend to make saves and will not hesitate to go back to them if it doesn't work out the way I wanted it to.  During my game of Europa Universalis 4 I've recently run into one of these decisions.  Let me set the stage.

I'm playing as Venice, a Merchant Republic, around 1496.  My goal is to pretty much expand my economic dominance as far as possible and rake in the ducats Scrooge McDuck style.  I had set my sights on expanding into India/East Africa.

To reach this goal, I figure I needed a Red Sea port.  Standing between me and the Red Sea are the Mamluks.  So I declared war on them.  After a few key battles I broke their army and took most of their provinces.  At the peace table, I asked for and received the Sinai Peninsula, including Gaza and Judea.

So I had reached my goal, but was it worth the effort?  It was a long war, and I took quite a manpower and ducat hit.  I also had to use a lot of Administrative/Diplomacy power.  It left me with a bunch of new lands to core, and a lot of rebels to potentially fight.

I also may have made a mistake when selecting my second National Idea. I chose Economic instead of the one that provides explorers and colonists.  So I can't actually make use of my newly acquired ports.   On the plus side, I have more Trade Power in the Alexandria Trade Node now.

I'm debating restarting from my save back before the war.  Although I don't know what direction I'd take from there.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Stratics Turns 16, And Brings Presents

The mother of all fansites,, is turning 16 this month.  As such, they are having a celebration.  Instead of bring them presents, they have some for all of us.  If you have any interest in MMO's, you'll want to check this out.

It all starts up on October 20th at 2pm EST.

New Website.  They will be unveiling a brand new website.  Their current one could definitely use some sprucing up, so I am very much looking forward to the new one.

Interviews.  Industry veterans, such as Richard Garriott, will be talking about UO, Stratics and their new ventures.  These interviews will be live streamed starting at 2pm.  That includes representatives from Elder Scrolls Online, Eve Online, Shroud of the Avatar, Ultima Online, and WildStar!  

Giveaways.  There is stuff and it will be given away!  There will be multiple ways to participate, including Twitter, Facebook and Twitch. 

It is turning into quite an event.  Be sure to stop by.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Europa Universalis 4 Has Arrived

It has been at least a decade since the grand strategy game, Europa Universalis, was released.  Paradox is now on its fourth iteration of the product, and it just keeps getting better.  I had pre-ordered the game on Steam so I could get the bonus DLC.  The past few weeks have been rather busy, so I only recently got to sit down and give it some serious play time.

Venice.  I am always drawn to Venice.  Something about its location and the fact it can be an economic powerhouse. So it is no surprise I chose them for my first game.  Since EU4 starts around 50 years later than EU3, Venice actually has more holdings in Europe than I was used to.  My first order of business was trade, of course.

Trade.  The trading system in EU4 is quite a bit different than previous editions.  It is much too complex to fully cover here though.  Basically Trade is separated into Nodes, which flow into other nodes.  You can assign merchants to nodes who can either collect money or steer it to another chosen node.  Owning provinces within the node area increase how effective you are, as does the present of Light Ships.

The Trade Nodes and paths are all static though, so you have to work with what is there.  As Venice,  I had a lot of Trade Power in Venice which allowed me to make some decent coin right off the bat.  I sent merchants out to Ragusa, Alexandria, and Constantinople to direct trade back to Venice.  I also worked on acquiring territory, like Cyprus, to increase my Trade Power in those nodes.

War.  What's a grand strategy game without war?  Not much to really say here, as the system feels just like previous games.  I spent a good amount of time fighting the Mamluks and Hungry so far, both victories for me.

Navy.  Navies are much more important this go around.  Since Light Ships provide Trade Power, you will see larger fleets roaming the sees.  Blockades also provide a good bit of victory points when going to the peace table.

Engine.  EU4 uses the same engine as Crusader Kings 2.  It feels very slick and polished.  Tooltips with detailed information are everywhere allowing for a much better understanding of what's happening and why.

Flavor.  The addition of unique National Ideas for most countries give them a different feel.  As if there wasn't enough replay value already.

Overall.  I am quire pleased with EU4, it is an excellent game.  I cannot wait to see what they do for future DLC/Expansions.  If you like strategy games, it is definitely one to pick up.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Galactic Starfighter

So it turns out I was somewhat wrong about BioWare's plan for the new space system.  In a previous post, I said that it would probably be released as a patch.  Instead, the space project is being released as a Digital Expansion.  It is free for all players though, so it is just a different kind of patch really.  So what do we know about it?

PvP.  As suspected, it is an instanced warzone.  It will feature 12 vs 12 battles.  No word on if this new system will be used for PvE eventually.

Customization.  They do mention being able to customize your starfighter.  The lengths at which you can do this are still unknown.  They do say there are several types of ships though.  Subscribers can unlock a Gunship early.

Gameplay Modes and Maps.  The page mentions that there are multiple gameplay modes and maps.  No specifics were given though.

Coming Soon.  Galactic Starfighter will launch on December 3rd for subscribers.  I found this to be a very interesting way of coaxing people to subscribe.  If you don't, you may have to wait a month or two.  This approach could very easily backfire on BioWare.  By restricting who can play it, you are likely lengthening the queue times.

Overall I am pretty excited by what I see.  This will be a unique experience that SWTOR will offer.


Friday, October 11, 2013


Over the past few weeks, I have been finding myself with decreasing amounts of free time.  Part of this is due to my new real life job.  I want to make the most of that opportunity, so I tend to work later than I really need to.  Things are going well so far there.

After work, it is family time.  The kids used to take naps and oh what a sweet time that was.  Those days are gone now though.  So when I get home, I cannot really put forth the concentration needed to play one of my many neglected games.  By the time night rolls around, I'm usually too beat to play.

That leaves the weekends.  I tend have a bit more free time, but it is usually the time I spend on my various programming projects.  When it comes to being productive or playing games, the former usually wins out.

These days I find myself playing games less and less.  It is a trend I really want to reverse, but there just doesn't seem to be enough time in the day.  I have some ideas on how to fix this problem, it involves combining being productive and playing games at the same time.  We'll see if I can do it though, so more on that later.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

What Could Have Been

As a part of Mythic shutting down WAR,  Carrie Gouskos reflected a bit on WAR and revealed some interesting details.  Carrie was a Producer for WAR, one of many the game seemed to have over its lifetime.  I had to opportunity to meet her on a couple of occasions, she always seemed passionate about the game.

While I'm sure the article was well-intentioned, it also did sting a bit.  Carrie mentioned several things they had planned but never saw the light of day.

iPhone App.  They had a Realm WAR iPhone App completed.  I'm not sure why they would not release something that was already done, but they didn't.  I never had an iPhone, but it still could have been cool.

Vampire Count Expansion.  It had long been hinted at in the files, but Carrie confirmed work was done on a Vampire Count themed expansion called Blood Hunt.

Free to Play.  I think this was public knowledge, but they made a Free to Play version of WAR for the Asian markets.  Makes you wonder why they couldn't have used that work for WAR the last couple of years.

Karaz-A-Karak and Karak Eight Peaks.  Sounds like these cities were relatively close to being finished.  Of course, they need a good reason to be put into the game.  With the state of the campaign, I don't see how they would fit.  That is a topic for another time though.

Hearing all of the cool stuff we didn't get to see doesn't really leave me with a good feeling.  Who knows, some of them could have helped save WAR.  In the end it just leaves me with more questions about what they were about and why they never saw the light of day.


Monday, October 7, 2013


November is shaping up to be one heck of month.  Not only is the XBox One coming out, Egosoft's latest edition in the X series is also being released: X Rebirth.  If you are not familiar with the X series, think of it as a universe simulator with a heavy focus on fighting and economic activities.  They recently released a video discussing Trading and Mining.  The game looks amazing and I cannot wait to get my hands on it.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Riots Crazy Tournament Schedule

It's World Championship time in League of Legends.  They have run a pretty awesome tournament for it so far, except for one aspect: the schedule.   I love watching LoL, and do whenever I get a chance (especially on my Roku).  But there is a slight problem.

For whatever reason, Riot had a number of rounds start at 11pm EDT.  That is way too late for me to even consider watching.  What makes things worse is that the championship game is scheduled for Friday (10/4) at 11 PM.  I will not be able to see the big finale, in real time at least.

I understand League of Legends is a global sport, and no matter what some timezones are just going to get screwed.  Maybe it is East Coast bias, but I'm not used to being on this end of things.  It seems like the final game should be in a more East Coast/European friendly time of 8pm.  That would still work for the West Coast too, if it was held on a Saturday or Sunday rather than a Friday.

I'm sure Riot had a good reason to hold it at the time they did.  I'm just sad I'll miss the seasons finale.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

SWTOR, see Rift's Subscriber Bonuses

Both Rift and SWTOR are free to play.  Their plans are wildly different though, specifically what subscribers get.  They can be broken down into two different philosophies, one where subscribers get everything they had before, the other where subscriber get that and bonuses.

Rift's subscriber program is called Patrons.
Every Patron receives a store discount, extra Loyalty rewards, and priority queue status, plus special bonuses to currency, mount speed, and various types of experience. In addition, Patrons have improved daily log-in rewards and exclusive weekly log-in chests that provide the best chance at bonus currency and premium items. Subscribe today for access to all of the following benefits!
That's a pretty good summary, by subscribing you get all sorts of bonuses.  Trion went with the honey route.

In SWTOR, subscribing basically gives you access to everything plus an allotment of Cartel Coins.  By not subscribing, players get the stick, as in they face restrictions.  So the major reason to subscribe is not to be restricted.

Which method works better?  It's hard to tell.  I have no idea how many patrons and Subs Rift has, nor how many f2p conversions each has.  I prefer Rift's method, as the bones are very nice and it makes me feel like I am getting something for my sub.  That being said, I am subscribed to SWTOR and not Rift.  Go figure.