Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Pathfinder Character Brain Dump

Yes, it's been a couple of weeks since I posted. So much for returning to a consistent schedule. I was busy with work, finishing off my cosplay, and going on holidays for PAX and such.
There'll be some posts about that stuff at some point, but for the time being have this thing I wrote beforehand but didn't have time to clean up!


During my time spent playing Pathfinder, I find myself quite frequently coming up with what I think are interesting ideas for characters I want to play. Some are rather generic, others have quirks which I think could be interesting (or annoying) to other characters, and some are downright silly.

Unfortunately, more often than not, I am the DM, so I don't get the chance to stat up or play these characters. While it has been suggested to me that I slot a few in as NPCs, they tend to be more built in my mind as characters I would like to actually play in a campaign, from the other side of the screen. To alleviate that frustration, I've decided to throw a few of those ideas here because this is my page and I do what I want, damn it!


This idea started as a joke, then the realization came that it is actually doable within Pathfinder's rules, has a story to it.

There is a corner shop a few streets away from me, which almost acts as a local landmark of sorts, called Chicken Wizard. Its logo is pretty much what you expect - a chicken wearing a robe and a wizard hat. They sell the usual corner chicken shop stuff, burgers, bbq chicken, chips, etc. Nothing that I could eat without experiencing death by gluten, but that's neither her nor there. Maybe its over the other way though?

But let's just return to the whole Chicken Wizard thing, right? That right there is the character concept. 

Druids have access to a spell called "Awaken", which they can cast on any non magical animal, or tree. It grants that creature (or tree) intelligence - they gain 3D6 Int, a few other stats, and the ability to speak/understand language. They become a magical creature. (This also means that, with a great deal of luck, I could have a level 1 chicken wizard with 20 Int!)

A chicken that has been awakened by a Druid as a result of a drunken night out, who decided to study wizardry in order to, I don't know... Seek out the druid who awakened him and repay him for services rendered? (Awakened creatures are generally grateful to whomever awakened them - unless they were treated particularly poorly by the Druid, in which case they're confused and may turn on them).

This would be the silly kind of fun that I live for. Anyone who's met Gonzalo knows this.


No thoughts on race or class for this one, but I want to play a Lawful Good character who is extremely pedantic. Not on the "you can't kill or maim or torture or steal" kind of level (he'll let it go as long as he doesn't have to do these things himself), but instead on really minor stuff. "You must look both ways before crossing the road - you don't want to get hit by a horse!" "Say please and thankyou, you rude individual!"

More of a roleplay challenge than anything. It totally wouldn't work with my group, methinks. I would get stabbed. Or simply not get the chance to act on this concept.


Well, I had fewer ideas than I thought, I guess. Comes with the territory of DMing more than playing, I guess. And usually when I do get to play, I wait to see what the party needs before picking a class/race combo, so I don't often get to play what I want either (I *really* want to make a wizard - of any kind, not just the chicken).

Maybe next time I'm on this topic I'll talk about characters I actually did get to play.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Open World is Getting Boring

I touched on this when I was writing about Metal Gear Solid V, but lately it seems every game is open world. Even worse, it seems that they're all boring. Kind of. Even worse, I'm not completely certain as to why, so this ramble will hopefully allow me to figure that out. And for you to hopefully not get too bored.

These types of games usually have some fun mechanics, and I enjoy a lot of my time with them, but for some reason they seem to lose me a bit more easily than something a little more linear. For example, I liked hunting animals in Far Cry 3/4 to upgrade my gear. I liked riding elephants, in particular. I enjoyed fighting dragons in Skyrim (the first few times anyway until I trivialized them by being myself - a fire wizard). Ramming cars off the road in Burnout Paradise was always entertaining, and collecting glowing blue orbs that represent weird objects is always somehow soothing in Xenoblade Chronicles.

After the novelty wears off, though, I always find myself referring to my map every few seconds, trying to clear out a few of those collectible icons, or knock some sidequests over. When I get completely jack of it, I'm constantly referring to the map so I can ignore everything that's not the main storyline. At this point, even Metal Gear Solid V is starting to receive that treatment - even though I love it to death (though that may be more due to oversaturation - I've played it A LOT, and when I'm not playing it I'm working on my Venom Snake cosplay). 

I usually find that I cannot tell anyone much about an open world. I can barely find my way around them while playing without opening my map constantly. This may be part of the problem - by focusing on creating something so HUGE, a developer can easily lose focus on making it memorable.

So much space! And after 30 minutes, you'll be sick of it!

Take The Witcher 3 - universally acclaimed (to my knowledge). I couldn't tell you where anything other than Novigrad is - and that's because it kind of eats a massive portion of the map. I can't find my way around Novigrad. I look at the map and see a mess of icons. I get exhausted, knock a few quests over and close the game.

Meanwhile, look at Bloodborne. Not open world, not completely linear either. There are multiple paths, and they twist and turn on themselves and each other. The different areas are very distinct from each other. Pop me in front of that game, and I can generally find my way around without a map. That's fortunate - there isn't a map. However, I can tell you of the burnt devastation of Old Yharnham, or the horrific imagery of the Nightmare of Mensis, or the snowy surroundings of Cainhurt's Forsaken Castle (though admittedly I couldn't remember that location's name).

Am I the problem here? Do I just get bored too easily with these huge games? Is it because I don't have time for them any more? Or is there something else to it? Replaying Baldur's Gate last year, I didn't face this issue - and that's kind of open world!

Maybe having a more controlled trickle of new locales is the trick? MGSV has a smaller map than the others, but it has two distinct locations, the second of which you don't unlock for a while. Baldur's Gate effectively blocks off a large chunk of the world until you reach a point. Xenoblade Chronicles drip feeds you wide open areas as you progress through them (in a linear fashion, but each area is open world and you can easily return to prior areas).

Also, it's always Reyn Time
Farcry also drip feeds areas to you, but you're given a massive area to play in, and effectively unlock the second half of the map. Maybe if things were locked up a little more and gradually opened, as well as actually putting some effort into the design of the areas themselves, I would find them more memorable, and fun.

What do you think?

Monday, October 12, 2015

Metal Gear Solid V: The Fultoning

This isn't a review. I haven't finished the game yet (though some asshole spoiled the ending for me so, fuck you, Internet), but to be completely honest I was stuck for a topic today and a friend suggested this. Thanks, Mags.

So I'm just gonna ramble (nothing new there) about why I've been spending as much of my free time on this as possible. Especially when I struggled so much to get through MGS4.

I struggled to get through MGS4 mainly because of the cutscenes. They were cool and all, but when I felt like playing the game, I wanted to PLAY the game, as opposed to watching the game play itself for an hour, and then being allowed to play. I still very much enjoyed it, but it took me a lot longer than you would expect to bring myself to return to it, due to the movie-like aspect.

MGSV is the exact opposite. It brings the same brand of Metal Gear insanity (minus David Hayter, which upsets me to no end) but does away with a large portion of the cutscenes - instead relegating the overly long story to cassette tapes I can listen to as I wander around, randomly completing side ops. Not a perfect solution, but it allowed me to play when I wanted, and to interact with the world while portions of the plot unfolded - without resorting to the dreaded quick time event trap.

I don't much care for your poly count, young lady!

The gameplay absolutely shines, though. Usually I'm quite critical of open world games - they tend to be usually made of a large nondescript world where I'll get lost, not actually care about any of the locations, and collect a bunch of random crap - none of which actually matters. Or very little matter anyway.

"B-b-but emergent gameplay!" No. In Skyrim, I just threw fireballs at things until they stopped attacking me, took their stuff, and moved on (though I actually rather liked Skyrim - but not for its map, though at least it wasn't a collectathon). In Farcry 3 and 4 I pretty much did a bunch of random stuff, eventually got bored and mainlined the story (and the less said about Farcry 2 the better). And in pretty much any open world game, I couldn't tell you a single thing about specific locations in the world, because they all feel the same to me.

Metal Gear V manages to sidestep my main issue here. Can I tell you about the exact section of the world I was in when I did my shenanigans? Well, while I can't tell you by name (those names are far too long for me to actually memorize), or by the part of the map, I can tell you the facility I was in when I got annoyed with my mission and instead decided to just Fulton everyone in the base before moving on (the mines in Africa, for the record).

Speaking of Fulton. What. The. Fuck.


Why is such a silly game mechanic my favourite thing ever? Well, that's pretty easy to answer, actually. Precisely because its silly. And for some reason, I cannot help but attempt to Fulton pretty much anything that isn't bolted down. I'm certain I have far too many sheep on base to keep, yet I keep capturing more. And if I ever see a bear, you can be damn sure I'm going out of my way to balloon that sucker.

Oh, and of course, the slightly more useful/thematic heavy machine gun emplacements, and strong soldiers. And tanks. Every. Damn. Time.

You want to see emergent gameplay? How about the time I attempted to infiltrate a mansion, but set off a landmine? This resulted in many rocket punch and sleep grenade shenanigans in an attempt to not get caught - which held them off me for another good 20 minutes or so, until I eventually slipped up badly enough for the game to go all out combat on me, which ended in my death. None of what I'd done had stuck, which was annoying, but hey, I'd learned how to better use the rocket punch as a result!

Yes, that video was me.

I don't quite understand why I love this game so much - it has many elements I find banal about gaming nowadays (overly large maps, arbitrary limitations on some things, most annoying fast travel system ever invented) but MGSV just... understands me, I guess.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Nevermind - The Biofeedback Horror Game

Disclaimer: I backed this game on Kickstarter. Both in its failed initial run, and on its later, successful reattempt.

It's never really been a secret that I enjoy horror games. Far more than I've ever liked horror movies, at that (though really, I don't watch movies particularly often - much to the chagrin of my housemates).

I have fond memories of first playing the original Resident Evil, as a child, and being terrified when I encountered a corpse that had been pecked to death by crows - and got subsequently attacked by said crows. I turned off the game and didn't return for MONTHS. Felt like a badass when I did and got through that part, though.

Or the time I was playing Silent Hill 2, late night, lights off. Turned the game off to go to bed, and saw a... thing out the window. That was also terrifying, though it didn't stop me from returning to thegame the   next evening!

Therefore, it should be no surprise that Nevermind is, and always has been to me, an interesting concept. A game that detects your fear through a heart rate monitor, and makes the game SCARIER until you can calm yourself down sounds like a great step in the direction of using tech to scare the crap out of people!

Therein lies my biggest problem with the game, though. I couldn't try that feature out, because I don't have, don't need, and can't afford, a heart rate monitor for a single game.

Fortunately, you don't need one for the game to work - and its still damn creepy without it!

What I Liked

Story Conceit

The story is that you are a psychologist, of sorts. You plug into a device that allows you to delve into the subconscious of your clients, to try and find hidden memories, which will point you towards the source of their traumas. Once this process has been completed, treatment can properly begin - though your task in the game is purely to make that breakthrough.

While I seem to vaguely recall hearing a similar plot germ a while ago, I've not actually experienced any fiction that takes this tack, and it piqued my interest. The tutorial level, in particular, was clever in using a well known story to ease you into how the game works, as well as providing a good level of creepiness to whet the appetite.

Why does this remind me of the clown game at the fair?
Subtle Puzzles

The puzzles (beyond the tutorial level) range from being rather straightforward (oh look I found the photo I needed) to hair pullingly subtle (looking at clues on a wall and comparing that to the room's layout to figure out a safe combination). I quite enjoyed the tougher puzzles...

What I Disliked

Subtle Puzzles

...except that the toughest ones were absolute walls, and there isn't the concept of a hint button in the game at all. One puzzle locked me down for a good 20 minutes, and I eventually resorted to using a Let's Play video to get the answer since I was so stuck! 

Let's be clear - in this particular instance I couldn't even figure out what my actual goal was, let alone achieve it. This is, however, completely subjective - some people may well breeze through those. 


I liked the game a lot, and was a little galled to find it had only two clients (beyond the tutorial level). While you can replay levels to find extra stuff, I've always found that scares don't hold up nearly as well the second time around, since you know what's coming! Therefore, I didn't bother with that.

You could, threoretically, blast through this game in a couple of hours. Seriously. I'd love to see some more content!

Let's face it - I would live on this street if I could

While I wasn't able to try with the heart rate monitor, I still found myself enjoying this quite a bit. If you're willing to throw $20 US at it (and let's face it - that's the cost of a movie nowadays, which is roughly the same length of time and not nearly as fun unless that movie happens to be Fury Road), you'll find your money well spent.

Also, I recall hearing that the tech was being used to help people treat anxiety (though I doubt it would do so using the horror game - at least not for people who have actual panic attacks), so that's damn cool too!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The (potentially) Triumphant Return!

It's been a while, hasn't it?

How are you lot, nowadays? I'm a mixed bag, as usual.

So... uh... this is a little awkward, its been years (I think) since I've made a post, but I think its time to reappear and write again!

What, you want to know why?

Well, why not? I don't really have a good reason, other than something to do. Maybe an outlet for a bit of randomness. Things and stuff.

I'm not exactly selling myself well here, am I? Ah well, whatever!

Anyway, today's post is just a short one saying hi again! I'm gonna try and commit to at least 2 posts a week, hopefully 3 depending on how busy I am, and my general mood.

Let me know if there's anything in particular you want me to vomit words onto a page about! Otherwise I'll be rambling about games again! :P

As always, Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Love is Over: Catherine

Catherine has been described as a “horror action puzzle game with social simulation elements”. What this equates to is an extremely odd, but enjoyable game.

What I Liked:
  • Plot
Vincent Brooks is a man seemingly floating through life. His girlfriend of 5 years, Katherine, is very much a “plan ahead” type of person, and wants Vincent to clean up his act, and marry her. Vincent himself is much more unsure of this, being comfortable the way things are.
One evening, after getting extremely drunk, Vincent finds himself waking up next to a blonde bombshell named Catherine, and from this point on, his world turns upside down. In addition to this, Vincent begins having horrible nightmares where he much run from horrific beasts by arranging and climbing a wall of blocks, which always leaves him extremely tired when he wakes.

Upon finding Catherine in his bed, Vincent prepares to fire his laser.
The plot itself is quite adult oriented, for a game. I mean this in the context that it is more complex than your typical “there are bad guys, shoot them” storyline. Nothing in this game is clear cut for you – choices you make for Vincent may seem one way, but affect things differently than one might expect.
Add the multiple subplots to do with Vincent's friends' relationships and you get quite an enjoyable plot.
  • Presentation
The game is initially presented as a television show, with the intro sequence briefly introducing the concept. Once this is over, you typically have a playable sequence in the bar (where the social simulation portion of the game is spent). Once the player leaves the bar, you end up in your nightmare realm, where the action puzzle game takes place.
These sequences are linked via cutscenes, occasionally as full blown 2D anime scenes, but more often using the in-game graphics (gloriously cel-shaded). If you don't like a cartoony art style, then you won't like the art here folks!
The presentation simply feels quite polished.
  • Music
The level music is an interesting set of remixes of classical music. While aficionados will likely think this as an absolute travesty, I found myself enjoying the remixes. Not a lot to say here though.
  • Gameplay
The gameplay whilst in the nightmare realm consists of pulling and pushing blocks in such a fashion as to allow you to climb the wall whilst being chased. More often than not, you are being chased by nothing at all other than the blocks simply falling away into nothingness. However, on the boss stages (which are all amazingly cool) you are typically being chased by a large beast of some variety, all relating to what's been on Vincent's mind during that day. For example, one of the more memorable bosses is a giant demonic baby – during the cutscenes for the day before this sequence, Vincent learned that Katherine was pregnant, hence the giant baby.

The bar gameplay is much more relaxed, allowing the player to immerse themselves in the world a bit more. You control Vincent in the bar, have some drinks and chat with the other patrons. You will receive text messages from both Katherine and Catherine, and get to choose whether to reply or not, and if so, how to reply to them. You select what to drink (and if you finish a drink, are given trivia about the particular drink), and when to go home. While it doesn't sound thrilling, I found that these segments of gameplay immersed me in the world more than any plain cutscene ever could.
  • Morality
Whilst I am usually a skeptic of moral choices in gaming (they have a tendency to make you either saintly or baby-eatingly evil, with nothing in between), it is somewhat well executed in Catherine. For starters, while you have a red/blue bar showing where on the spectrum you are when you answer a question or reply to a text message, it never tells you outright what the spectrum is until you finish the game. It's not a “Good/Evil” bar, it is a little more complex than that. However, it still is totally possible to game the system and force your way to a particular ending as a result. This is not necessarily a bad thing though, when you consider that there are 8 endings to view!
Eventually during the story, Vincent needs to make a decision about whether he'll stay with Katherine and break up the affair, or whether he'll go the other way. You never make this decision outright – the bar makes that decision for you, as it reflects Vincent's state of mind at the time. While this prevents you from saving before the key decision making point in the game (since said point doesn't really exist for the player), you still are able to at the very least get the broad spectrum of endings associated with the decision he came to in your game (since the Good/Bad/True ending is decided by how you answer the questions in the final area).

Catherine also thinks Vincent is single when she gets with him, further complicating matters.

I would also like to point out that a bunch of the questions it posed to me made me feel a little bit uncomfortable. Whether they were about things I had never experienced or even thought about in my life, or simply difficult questions is a tough one to decide. The theme of cheating on a partner, and the consequences of that made me feel quite uncomfortable at times playing as Vincent – and this is why the plot succeeds.
  • It's Different!
In a world of generic shooters, Catherine is a breath of fresh air. It's nice to be able to play something completely different from practically everything I have ever played previously. The last time I played a title that was so different from the pack (that was NOT an indie title) would be Mirror's Edge!

What I Hated:
  • Schizophrenic Difficulty
The block puzzles difficulty ranges from absolutely trivial to hair-tearingly, insanely difficult. I found that certain block puzzles held me up for ridiculous amounts of time (I was stuck in a 5x5 confinement of blocks for over an hour – and considering that the floor falls away consistently, this also means many, many continues were used up here). On the other hand, certain puzzles were also seemingly too easy. 

You will see this screen a lot, but now's not the time to be dead!
Obviously, early puzzles should be easier than the later ones, but this is not what I'm referring to. I found that the final boss encounters were much easier than some of the “regular” puzzles I had encountered in chapters gone by!
As frustrating as this is, its certainly not a deal-breaker.
  • Australia Doesn't Get Nice Things
As I have mentioned in prior posts, Australia is not allowed to have nice things. This includes Catherine. To get a hold of a copy, you will need to import. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it is something worth mentioning, since certain people are unwilling/unable to import games, and one cannot simply walk to the games shop and pick up a copy.


Catherine is an interesting title that, while it may not appeal to everyone, is definitely worth a play to anyone after something a little different. Those who immediately look at it and think that its not worth playing must truly be jaded. Or scared to try something that's so far removed from the umpteenth WWII shooter.

On a side note, the voice actor list reads like a who's who of English anime/game voice actors. Vincent is played by Troy Baker – who played Snow in Final Fantasy XIII, and Yuri in Tales of Vesperia. Catherine is voiced by Laura Bailey (or Lust from Full Metal Alchemist, Chun-Li from Street Fighter 4), and many other recognisable voices.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Silent Hill: Homecoming

Development duties for Silent Hill 5 were handed over to an American company. While I question the wisdom of such a move, it did result in a Silent Hill game being made, so I suppose that's something. More details below.

What I Liked
  • Despite the Americanism, its still Silent Hill
While the development duties changed hands, this time allowing the Americans to play with a Japanese franchise, seemingly with the aim of ramming it into the ground as quickly as possible (which mirrors my opinion of the Devil May Cry reboot, oddly enough) it remains “Silent Hilly” enough to tolerate. While the by-now-overused nurses appear a lot, and Pyramid Head is wrongfully used in the name of fanservice, the puzzles and the general feel of the game still screams Silent Hill at you. From the fog, to the way almost every door is permanently locked.
Although, admittedly, this one is much more linear than prior Silent Hill games!
  • UFO Ending tradition remains strong
Silent Hill has always had a tradition of having multiple endings – one always being an ending which involved UFOs and aliens. This is the secret ending, usually requiring multiple playthroughs to find.. Apparently, in Homecoming it isn't quite so secret. It's also, by far, the most interesting ending of the five (which is quite sad – the other four endings, while more serious in tone, also weren't interesting in the slightest).

What I Hated
  • Dodge ability works only half the time
One of the big new features that was advertised for Silent Hill: Homecoming was a revamped control system, including the ability to dodge. The game now controls much more like a third person shooter than it used to (though having tanky controls was arguably part of the thrill of Silent Hill).
However, I found that more often than not, the dodge button would simply fail to operate correctly. If you touch the dodge button as you were being attacked, you would either get a last second dodge (which meant a parry if you held a melee weapon, or taking a hit if you were holding a gun), or simply not move at all and take a bladed arm to the face!
No, to dodge properly in this game, you must press the dodge button a second BEFORE the attack goes through. The monsters telegraph their attacks to a degree, in an attempt to lessen the deadliness of this issue, however it is difficult to tell between a tell before an attack, or just a random shudder from the monsters, due to their mutated nature.
  • Pyramid Head does not belong here
Pyramid Head was an important part of Silent Hill 2, symbolising James' sexual tension, as well as punishing him for his misdeeds by chasing him around and generally scaring the crap out of the player. However, it is simply that – a punishment for his sins.
While Alex in Homecoming has his own issues to come to terms with, it feels wrong to have Pyramid Head appearing here. For starters, he appears and simply walks away, opening a path for you to progress. Later on, he kills a plot-integral character right in front of Alex. This isn't right! It just feels like a fanservice issue, rather than an actual need to use him. Much like how he was used in the Silent Hill film.
  • The game is almost over before you enter Silent Hill
You spend a total of 3 chapters of the game in Silent Hill. For a Silent Hill game, this feels kind of weak. Isn't the point of Silent Hill the fact that weird stuff is going on in the town? Admittedly, by the end of the game, they do explain why it spilled over into Shephard's Glen, but it still feels slightly off to me.
  • Plot feels empty
Silent Hill plots are typically heavy on symbolism, and light on straight logic. Things tend to not make sense until quite late on in the game, and even then take some thinking (and possibly reading of other people's opinions) to realise what's going on.
However, Silent Hill: Homecoming does not have this. The game feels fairly light in plot until the last few chapters – and even then a lot of what takes place doesn't require any thought at all to decipher what went on. Particularly since it falls into the trap of having the “bad guy” explain their plan to you (while you are tied to a chair in a scene reminiscent of a Bond film).
It is very much a Hollywood attempt at horror in this manner, where the plot must be explainable in words with less than three syllables in them, for fear of losing sales (and therefore money) due to requiring too much thought.

In conclusion, while the game was tolerable, that's about all it is. It really pales in comparison to prior Silent Hill titles. Hell, it pales in comparison to the title immediately following it (Silent Hill: Shattered Memories – the retelling of SH1 which takes the plot of that, and remixes it so it goes in a completely different direction. While not an amazing game, it was fun, tried something different, and feels like it may be the beginning of an alternate history SH series).
Silent Hill: Homecoming is a completely forgettable experience, and altogether skippable. Don't waste your time.

Also, I got the good ending. After watching the other endings on YouTube, I would have preferred any of those, because things actually happened in them. Aren't we supposed to be wanting the happy ending?