Game Idea and Concept – Hacker ARG

Believe me when I say I’m part of a small minority of gamers that really want something better for their genre or franchise. Sometimes it doesn’t have to be invention, but be innovation. Opening boundaries from what I’ve seen must always be the next level to their games. Where one asks for more destruction, one gets collapsible buildings. One wants realism, one receives physics. Though not necessarily invention, innovation the franchise does open up new ideas and fresh views.I’ve jotted a few things down for a game I would like to see or would like existing games to have.

There is likely a small community out there with their drive for a hacker/text-based game that want to be dissolved into their own world of hackers. Why not have this go all out? I don’t mean have hackers roaming the internet playing mind games with actual websites. But what if it was played more like a ARG (Augmented Reality Game)?Consider it a network of networked computer on the internet to play mutual mind games with each other. In this “hackernet”, hackers (AKA Players) get to play in a part to change this cyberspace for themselves. They choose sides by hacking into fake sites to gain information to barter for new hacking programs (which are buffs/debuffs of a variety). While gathering certain information, you can also be vulnerable to attack from other hackers which can be countered by hacking back to other players. As incentive, the more information you can get; the more likely a player can hack you while at the same time, players can join in and try and help you hack while receiving a split of the bounty. As players progress in the game, they passively align themselves with game entities that provide them “programs” (much like equipment or skills) to specifically use as long as you are allied to them. Of course players can betray and rejoin these partnerships ranging from companies, AI hackers, institutions or random entities with ulterior motives. Along with this, players can also go rogue in terms of not being allied with anyone and creating their own groups which can help them hack information as well as used a social hub much like guilds in other games. However what I would like to see is a never ending storyline to the game as new content is introduced. Much like the actual internet, websites in this game will go up and down and reinvent themselves. This game should be a test of typing skill and speed, instead of visual acuity and game based knowledge. Mixing PvE and PvP with an opportunity to do either. The art should be an emulation to current cyber culture and trends, either to emulate or mock the visual look, security and accessibility. Gameplay should have the open-ended sandbox of a first person shooter; no levels, just the weapons you get and the player who’s in the hot seat. But wait, there’s more! Aside from being a PC game, it should have a mobile application that adds to accessibility to hack and let players the chance to PvP on the go and probably if tech allows it, play against local players to steal and trade.

Though I’m not quite sure of any game at the moment that has this or does this, but I however would like to play this game. Until next time, play more games!

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Sphere of Influence – Prelude to Season 8

Hopefully not just one episode to open up this can of worms, Star Trek Online this past week has been revving up for their 8th season instalment continuing the franchise’s epic. This prelude covering the introduction to a new enemy as well as introduction of a new ship available through the fleet system mechanic.

The mission is available to players from level 10 and onward, which takes you in the depths of New Romulus to bring you to speed with the reactivation of an ancient Iconian gateway designed to take people from one place to another. As the ambassador of your faction’s delegation; the Romulan Republic, Klingon Defence Force or Starfleet, you are tasked to oversee the researcher’s work to reactivate the gateway. As power begins to breathe life back into this ancient device, something goes terribly wrong forcing the only escape through the gateway. You find yourself stranded in a room with survivors of the disaster to only find a dastardly plot be afoot. Along with you for the ride is Ambassador Worf voiced by Michael Dorn as you find out who might be behind this facility and its purpose.

Highly attentive to detail, I found a few errors in the script writing; just spelling errors. However very little can diminish the plot in bridging the story to the new content. At first I must admit, there wasn’t much in terms of new mechanics or graphics excluding new textures and Iconian technology in the form of hostile drones. Upon exiting the second map, leads you into a large surveillance room which I found to be very eerie yet spectacular. As you move platform to platform, the scenery changes depicting the worlds each platform describes. The last platform provides a “Simon says” like prompt in the mission does give some sense of urgency even though there were no necessary threats. Aside from the necessary pathway to take to the final platform, the side platforms provide additional information, if not cryptic, about the Iconians. The last transition before the space combat begins seems to be really rushed piece since it so happens to be identified as a bridge and the game puts you in command of an old carrier  loaded out with some heavy weapons and unique skills. Though it doesn’t necessary connect the episode to the main content of the Dyson Sphere, perhaps it is an indicator of the constructors of the structure and perhaps the reason why the Voth are occupying it. Without much context, I must say Sphere of Influence is much of a cliff hanger as you step into the last gateway at the end of the surveillance room.

For extra goodies, here’s some easter eggs I found:

  1. By walking off the main path, you can obtain very rare Swarmer hangar pets. Just go through every console off of every branch. Once you got the 4th auxiliary console, head back to the previous. You get 2 per console and 6 in total. Note: this item can be equipped on the new Obelisk class carriers only.
  2. In in gateway chamber when the researcher asks for the power variances, there are two number references significant to the entire franchise. One of the variances is “47” while the last two numbers when added is also 47.
  3. The commander that dies on the examination table is a red shirt. Reference to the original series.
  4. When Captain Shon is attacked, he’s wearing a yellow shirt. Possible reference to Voyager in which the Voth are introduced.

Overall the episode provides a diverse mix of in depth story and ever evolving gameplay to entice the generational demographic, either new to the franchise or veterans of the saga. For the moment it breathes new life to the game regardless of the upcoming gameplay problems when introducing new items or mechanics to the game. Where there’s new content, there’s always bugs.

DLC, Map Pack, Expansion, Add-On: Which one is it?

As gamers, we usually enjoy one game and find the next obsession like drug addicted maniacs (don’t do drugs). Sometimes, dealers (I mean developers) release content after months of the initial release of the game. At times, the press release doesn’t necessarily define what is going to the follow up content and they announce it generically a DLC or Downloadable Content. I don’t necessarily have a problem with that phrase when it comes to downloading said content. However, it annoys me when the phrase isn’t relevant to what it is; so I’m going to give you my interpretation of what DLC are to me and how they are broken down.

DLC’s, simply downloadable content which should be additional gameplay tacked on to the base game you can receive through an internet connection. If you need a physical copy, then that to me would be an expansion. “DLC” and “expansion” terms  are the umbrellas for the other downloadable content. Expansions traditionally are optional content that would seem more like an epilogue to the main story to the game or adding a large continuation to the game. Whether it is a larger map size in an MMO or an additional story to the game.

Map packs are prevalent with first person shooters which add additional scenery and areas to play on. Some companies at the same time also release maps as well as additional game modes or content as well, in which case this gets a bit more messy to whether it’s a DLC or a map pack. Oh wait, it’s not! It’s both a DLC and a map pack however the “map pack” nomenclature is included if there is a set of maps and not just one map in the content release in my opinion. This goes with “weapon packs” or any kinds of item addition which sometimes deliver through the same genre. However if it’s just a singular item in any game, I would consider it as a add on (addon or add-on, just pick one) since it’s only a small update to the game and does not open much more gameplay.

At the consumer end, to have some standardization even through terminology to convey what you are trying to advertise. Until next time, keep on gaming!

Gone Home Review (And spoilers…lots of spoilers)

I just spent a good three hours playing this game and I’m in such a euphoric mood that I must share it with you. Every inch of the story and every bit I got out of it. From it being a game and it being an artistic piece narrative storytelling. Do note, loads of spoilers but I’ll let you know when to stop reading.

The premise of the game is that you are the protagonist coming home from gallivanting across Europe. As you arrive to this beautiful mansion, you are no greeted by a welcoming party but the eerie pattering of rain and thunder outside the covered porch. You must go inside and find out what happened to everyone. The game is non-combat and very explorative so be ready to put on your thinking caps and figure out what’s going on.

The game style is very simple with a first person experience. A fixed inventory for quest items and a map that opens up as you explore the level. The physics are fairly realistic with objects colliding with the player and other objects. While we’re on the subject of realism, the lighting enhanced the spooky feeling inside the mansion. The randomly generated lighting made me jump a few times considering it felt like a stereotypical horror flick. The sound effects were accurate to every squeak and thud while the voice acting made the story very believable as though the characters were having a conversation with you.

The storyline is set in 1995 which spans throughout the game which addresses some issues still relevant in today’s society and culture. It’s very down to earth and homely but doesn’t necessarily come out so exploring the level does gain the player perspective and hints to the reality of the situation.

As a FPS gamer, I feel very conflicted when it came to playing this since I wasn’t so sure if I was going to be scared or curious for most of the time. There were times when I felt like I didn’t want to read and just “win” the game; however I recommend to read and do everything after the first playthrough to fulfill the story and not the goal. As a bibliophilic noob, it was very thought provoking and engaging where everything must be read and done to get the full picture. Definitely the experience was unique for me for it was not much of a puzzler or a shooter, it was indeed uniquely adventure.

What did I really think? Well, this is where the spoilers come in. You already been warned, don’t be surprised.

Here are the spoilers! Spoilers in bound!

The narrative is Katie is coming home from a vacation in Europe to only arrive in a middle of a thunder storm to an empty mansion owned by her father, Terrence Greenbriar. The story opens up to another protagonist named Samantha which is followed throughout the game as voiceover journal entries addressed to Katie. As you progress through the game, you discover activities conducted by Samantha and her parents. Such as a slow separation between Jan (her mother) and Terry leading to an affair, the ghost investigation of the former owner and the developing love story between Lonnie DeSoto and Samantha. As the story progresses, the characters slowly fall apart as you read through documents and letters. Her parents drift away emotionally and intimately seen by the self help books laying around their bedroom and the unopened condom in the drawer. Journal entries of the trials and tribulations of the lesbian sister as she tries to come out to her distressed parents and to herself.

As the player travels through the level, the stories is slowly realized as not a first person narrative but a second person narrative through Sam which redirects Kate’s homecoming to a story about teen gender realization within a homophobic culture. Since Kate cannot change the past, she experiences it presently through Sam’s journal as well as letter to her mother and father. In an non-dramatic way, it was foreshadowed by the family portrait in the foyer as Kate and Sam look very similar which could be intentional to indicate the narrative shifts between Kate to Sam. As Kate discovers, everything seems to develop a conflict at the same time. She learns Sam becomes very lonely to only fall in love with Lonnie and whether or not Sam is sure about the emotions she is development. While at the very same time, their parents slowly drift apart as her father receives a lot of bad news about a lot of publishing deals resorting him to be very distant to his wife and possibly developing a tendency to drink. This is speculative on the fact that a rejection letter from the publisher is found in the den along with empty shot glasses and an empty rack of liquor. Due to her husband’s drinking habit, she takes on additional roles as a forest conservationist which results into her having a small affair with a co-worker named Richard.

In the end, it climaxes to a cryptic entry of Sam which sounds like she has given up hope as Lonnie tells her she is going away with the military, which leaves her in a depressed state that can sound just depressive or even suicidal. Her parents resolve their conflict through couples counselling around their anniversary which is ironically why they left the house. As before Lonnie leaves they say good bye to the ghost of Mr. Masan, Sam and her lover lay in the attic for one last intimate night before she leaves. In a few entries, she mentions she woke up in the middle of the night in the attic and she received a call to pick up Lonnie as she got off the bus. Saying she couldn’t go forward with joining the army and wanted to be with Sam. Thus Sam leaving the home and running away with Lonnie.

Though all human characters are presented chronologically, the developers left plot devices early in the game to maintain the mood of a stereotypical haunted house. For example the raspy telephone message on answering machine. As well as introducing additional characters through photos such as the obituary article of Oscar Masan and the JROTC photograph of Lonnie in the first hallway, as well introducing the main characters through the family portrait. The log book of the paranormal investigation also foreshadows future locations where Kate will travel past such as the attic and the basement while maintaining a false plot of a haunted house. other examples such as the dictation from Sam where she’s called “the Psycho House Girl”, “blood” in the bathtub and the malfunctioning lights to reinforce the haunted house motif and the horror game genre. The mansion itself is a character containing all the characters held within, the house seems very Victorian with each room trying to tell a small fragment of the entire story as well as using the objects within to provide character development and depth without a need of a narrative. The bedrooms are very prime examples of this. The parents bedrooms is representative of a conservative couple with growing conflict with hidden literature under Jan’s side of the bed. Sam’s bedroom is representative of an average teenage girl’s room with feminine colours like light blues and pink with a sense of innocence with the glow in the dark stars on the ceiling. Her budding maturity with her relationship with Lonnie can be seen with objects belonging to Lonnie such as a document and a cassette which foreshadows her growing interest. Her room also conflicts with the stereotypic teenage girl with masculine objects like a skull and crossbones (pirate flag) and her obsession with videos to even writing down Street Fighter combos on paper. A bit further, Kate discovers Sam’s growing sexual identity through the adult magazines found in the locker in her room. The most peculiar is Kate’s room which is boxed up and her belongings in the closet and in the basement later on. Since the room is no decorated, it is to safe to assume her parents regarded her as the normal daughter as well as a budding athlete by the trophies in the foyer. While the basement articles indicate Kate is straightforward and above average in school. Which is dualistic to Sam since the assignment of the female reproductive cycle is identical but Sam was pretty creative in her answer but only receiving an average grade of C minus.

Though that isn’t the first time the player encounters duality. Aside from the visual light and darkness, the player through Kate’s perspective see the duality of liberalism and conservatism between sibling and parent. While Sam stands firmly as lesbian, her parents deject this epiphany as just a phase in adolescent development. She also begins to express more openly her music rather than containing her personality represented by her room. As she creates this space where it is a hybrid between herself and Lonnie. Within this room, it contained music she enjoys and contains music interests shared between Sam and Lonnie which contrasts to her brightly painted bedroom. The room in the basement also has a sense of two people where Sam and Lonnie shared an intimate moment while her bedroom contained the innocence of herself.

That’s my take on it; play the game if you really want to get your own take on it. Until next time, love yourself and love each other.

Cubed Mania (Cube World alpha Review)

It seems more and more I’m getting back to my roots to 16 bit and 8 bit graphical games. Recently I got my hands onto the alpha test of Cube World. Though at the moment I’ve explored through the single player and I have not got into the multiplayer.

At the beginning when I start up the game, I am introduced to a 3D rendering of the in-game environment. Which seems less noisy and bring back to something reminiscent to old blocky RPG games from Zelda with simple tiles as well as it’s RPG element with various monsters and bosses in gameplay. The environment features a bit of random generation based on a numerical seed. In sort when you create a world, you can put down a random number and it will do its thing to seed the world. The character creation is simple through a set of types of body parts. Along with the character creation screen, you choose out of 4 classes which also restricts the weapons and armour. Which also at the moment restricts what materials you need to create armour. Good time to get into the mechanics.

In the alpha version at the moment, you can explore the world and participate in random quests in killing monsters marked on the map. The map displays the kingdom and the explored areas visited. Within each kingdom that I’ve noticed is that it contains one city which sells separate set of items from other cities while maintaining the 3 other mechanics available in each city. In these cities you have particular areas to let you trade, craft and get pets while the fourth district in the city seems more for switching subclasses; two for each of the 4 main classes. Crafting seems pretty straight forward from what I’ve experienced in Runes Of Magic where you gather your resources and go to a certain place to craft it. Same with food which heals health over time; which potions do as well without but with higher heals over time while not needing a place to craft. Pet however gets a tad technical which requires killing a bunch of mobs for pet food and feeding it to a certain mob. Wait! Here’s a really weird and complicated part. From the wiki pages I’ve managed to flip though to figure out how to get pets, certain kind of mobs will drop certain kinds of human food; mostly desserts. Unlike Star Trek Online, the frequent game I play, all pets can fight and some you can ride as long as you have the skill.

At the moment at this iteration, the game is fairly repetitive. It’s a slash and kill, open world adventure game.  With these random dungeon quests provides a small layer of non-linear play where you run through a dungeon and kill a boss. I haven’t tried the multiplayer since it is mostly like Minecraft where you have to find an IP address and hope in directly (If anyone wants to send an invite to their server, feel free to comment to this with a server IP). The current redeeming quality to the game compared to something closely comparable is the hang-gliding, boating and mounts through pets. The game size also might entice people to carry the client around to join from different computers. If I could recommend it, this would be partly recommendable if you are into the open-world aspect or just a casual player looking for something a bit halfway of nothing serious to something that can be ridiculously time-consuming. For not much story, content and gameplay; it returns with an open cubed world which is worth a small peak.

Not much of a Legacy…

Just last week, the Legacy of Romulus expansion came out after a long dry spell from Cryptic. Personal first impressions seemed more or less a content update rather than bring a refreshing take to the Star Trek franchise. In the expansion for those who haven’t been caught up, the Star Trek Online expansion puts players into the reformation of the Romulan Star Empire. Now the newly minted Romulan Republic faces the perils from former allies. As the quadrant fights wars on multiple fronts, the Klingon Empire and the United Federation of Planets come to the aid of a silent enemy while another “Silent Enemy” lurks within the shadows. Out of the storyline, players get access to the infamous Nimbus III. It’s a social and combat zone that accompanies the new five missions introducing the newest enemies to the game; the Elachi. As the quadrant backs the Romulan Republic, the Romulans are beginning to spread its wings as a power. Allowing players to choose at the start which faction to begin with rather than waiting for level 20 to be Klingon. Fresh off, you can choose Federation, Klingon or the new Romulan factions. Small additions to game is a new item slow on ships give you additional stats through obtaining a warp core, respec of traits to allow players a larger array of traits and Tholian Reputation missions to facilitate obtaining a new ground and space set.

When I returned from my vacation, I hopped on to check out the new content. At first I change my HUD to one of the new HUDs available, the Voyager HUD scheme. Of course like any game with a large content release, there was a lot of congested server traffic resulting in a queue. I had time to sit in the queue but when I was in the front of the line, I was booted. I tried once more with the same error, “Login Error”. After a week, the game has stabilized and as of the moment I’m writing this, no longer have a server queue (I guess a lot of people just gave up). On my capped character, I began blazing through the new content. Respec’d my character and checking out the new warp core additions. From what I can tell, the warp cores boost subsystems excluding weapons and provides a passive boost to slipstream and transwarp abilities. As I beamed down to Nimbus III in the Tau Dewa sector, same place New Romulus is located, I notice a inhospitable environment with a small settlement built out of what appears to be salvaged metals from a crashed wreck nearby scattered across the ridge overseeing the valley. Plagued by pirates and the Orion Syndicate oppressing the local populace. Within a few hours, I was able to play through the five episodes. The Tholian reputation is unimpressive and deepens the the developer’s intent to keep the reputation system to provide a currency sink.

I’m all for new content especially adding to the story, but the new content seems a bit more lackluster considering the time taken and the game I wanted more of which is the story. The Romulan faction is a nice touch but seems a tad out of place if there is a theme to the expansion. Of course the theme is about the resurgence of the secretive Romulan Tal Shiar to undermine the new government, but it’s overshadowed by the ulterior motives of the mysterious Elachi. All things considered aside from the minor bugs and a vague expansion theme with a hype about Romulans, it has so far provided me a place to farm experience and mission essential items. And that’s the legacy I will remember fondly of about this expansion.

Inside the Lost Sector

Most of the time when I try and find a new game, recently I use websites from moddb.com to find something new, different or a spin on some other games. Awhile back on Steam I found Frontline Tactics; a turn based strategy where you are in command a squad of soldiers to quell a terrorist group in an arid region. Aside from the the tile hybrid mechanics of moving to a square and the modern art style, there is nothing really to set it apart from any strategy game.

This week I found one called Lost Sector or Lost Sector Online. It’s in the alpha stage with a English translation which is fairly understandable. The game is a turn based strategy focused on PVP and PVE combat. The premise revolves around a civil war after another war through the city of Broxton into chaos; you as a citizen of this city is primarily to just kill people. The storyline isn’t flushed out for the game but I assume they kept it open ended for people to roleplay their own stories.

Aspects of the gameplay are highly similar to other MMORPG’s; you level up and unlock new weapons to buy. On top of this, the idea of looting and upgrading weapons is spectacularly the same; you need special items to improve your weapons and items, which costs time or money – this case, money. When you start out the tutorial is fairly short, spanning one mission which lasts a few minutes to let you get familiar to camera controls, movement and combat mechanics. After moving to the exit zone of the tutorial, it takes you to a city map which displays PvP zones and enemy encounters you can have as well as their level requirements to enter these instance; for the most part, this screen seems to facilitate in finding safe zones to heal in and find certain instances. Here’s where the MMORPG component comes in play. Within the safe zones, you can interact with other players. There is not trading facility so trading is dealt peer to peer within safe zones. In the first safe zone you encounter, you are treated to a very large map that the game calls The Factory which contains the basic necessities to play through the low levels PvE encounters. NPC’s in this zone are placed distant from each other so it does require a fair amount of in-map travelling which is moderately slow considering the time to traverse the map would be about 30-50 seconds. These safe zones serve as a lobby essentially with the ability to browse the local shops for medical supplies, hire mercenaries and armaments.

In the first 5 levels, I noticed a few things about the combat which seem to be troublesome. When you jump into a PVE instance, you see the basic interface you would see in most FPS adapted to the RPG genre. You have your active weapon, ammo, radar and the active aid items you have assigned to your character. As a turn begins, you have about 3 minutes to use your action points. Actions points (AP) resupply every turn and are used for movement and actions like switching weapons and opening loot bags. At any time you walk into sight range to an enemy, movement is interrupted which allows you to take alternate action if you want to take it. It seems the sight range for these encounters are line of sight where your character can see them directly. When attacking there seems to be an interesting mechanic to it. You get a few options when attacking which can be switched with the Q and E keys; these actions are mostly either a high damage and high AP costing attacks, moderate damage with moderate AP use and a melee which is the lowest amount of AP with a very low damage output. When you have a action selected, you see the cone of fire, accuracy and AP cost for the attack. At a certain range either too close or too far, the accuracy and damage is reduces respectively. You pretty much rinse and repeat until you finish the instance. I’ve tried quitting an instance but it seems at the moment in alpha, there is no way to exit combat – not even if you quit the game since you start from where you left off. Also in combat the only winning factors is who fires first and who does the most damage which get troublesome when you get to level 3 when you are forced to play against the AI in a 3 on 6 or in some cases 3 on 7 with a powerful mob that can tank 3 sniper rounds attacks.

At the moment the game isn’t fully translated and has a lot to improve upon. The community is also very Russian so you would hardly encounter English speaking players. The server is apparently in located in Russia and coming from an indie developer, the server lags during prime time around 2-7 PM EST. Definitely kind of a fun game to pick up and play casually. If you do and you find a “Shooter90”, feel free to add me!

Until next time, keep on fragging!