The Forest Leaves Early Access

The last time I wrote about The Forest was two years ago. I’ve owned the game since it first showed up in Early Access on Steam, just about four years ago. I haven’t touched it in so long because I typically don’t get too involved with Early Access titles until they’ve finished. In the case of this game, I believe it was one of the first Early Access titles I ever purchased, so I did play it quite a bit in the beginning. I would check in periodically and usually wrote about the patch notes and would highlight new features. I grew tired of this after a while and let the game rest until the day came that it was finished — and that day has arrived. Endnight Games has finally pulled the trigger calling the game done, so I knew I had to see what had changed since the last time I played it. Immediately noticeable is the change to the game’s main title screen, with a creepy looking cave and hanging body done up in the game’s engine. Other details were readily apparent as well.

The opening cutscene has evolved drastically since the first time I played The Forest. Initially it was a pretty dull looking plane and your boy was very minimalistic, little details like the TV screens and the trays with doodles and food were added later. Your little boy’s animations have improved as well, and the sounds and animation of the crash look far better. The cutscene is still the same, though instead of just watching a cannibal walk off with little Timmy you actually crawl in that direction before passing out again. Otherwise things are mostly how I remember, graphically the game looks the same since they made the switch to Unity 5, the sounds and animations look familiar still. One big change is the survival guide, which is vastly improved:

Not only has it been streamlined, but there is also a to-do list that encompasses actual goals in the game, something that wasn’t present in my time playing before. It’s said that there is a story that you can see through to its end now, and that makes me want to do a proper run through the game, so I decided to get started last night.

Outside of some general tweaks things look the same. You still get an axe early on and you still cut down trees, gather sticks and rocks and have to build shelter to be able to save your game.

I played through the first day  and had a pretty decent camp set up, with a little shelter, some storage for my building materials, a fire and torches to light up my perimeter, and a rabbit trap for daily meals. One of the tasks in my journal is to find the missing passengers from the plane. It’s something I didn’t really think about before, but outside of a stewardess you don’t see any bodies in or around the plane when you wake up after the crash. You find a passenger manifest and can set about finding them when you like. I chose to focus on my camp first, as I know that once you start running into the cannibals they start to pop up more frequently. I remember finding various little camps around the map in my prior play time, so I assume clues will lead you in the direction of the passengers, and your son. I’ve honestly never made it more than a week alive in the game and none of the story was added the last time I played so this should be a mostly new experience.

I’ll get back to you all once I’ve made some progress.

Impressions: H1Z1

2015-01-16_00009

I spent the majority of yesterday thinking I wasn’t going to get into the Early Access for H1Z1 right away. I also spent the day reading about the game, and the issues it was having via Twitter and Reddit. Not only was the game just released on Steam, but it is an Alpha version, and as such SOE was charging a fee to get involved (but also using those fees towards development costs), despite the game being designated as a free to play title upon release. I didn’t see an issue with paying a little bit, particularly when the money spent goes towards things you would buy via micro transactions in the RMT store once the game was live. So it’s not as if you weren’t getting your money’s worth, unless you are a supremely entitled gamer who isn’t willing to deal with some issues a game might have during its launch, particularly one that isn’t even a full release. Besides, it’s not as if you are paying a subscription fee, and even if you were, you’d probably be compensated with more game time because of these issues. One thing I will commend SOE on is the fact that they have been so transparent about everything, and literally blowing up Twitter and Reddit with feedback as to what is going on. They know the issues, they tell you when they figure out the problem, and tell you when it’s going to be fixed. Looking back at the ArcheAge launch, Trion was mysteriously silent when things weren’t running smoothly, and most people who played that game didn’t bitch nearly as much as those who have been involved with the H1Z1 launch.

Another issue that cropped up was surrounding “lies” perpetrated by SOE, calling the game pay to win. At some point during development streams, it was said that there wouldn’t be a way to buy guns or ammo via RMT, and yet there are airdrops that can be bought, which have a percentage chance to drop guns and ammo (albeit in small amounts, hardly game-breaking). These were designed to be a public event, in which the purchaser of the air drop will be vulnerable to anyone else coming along and killing them to take the loot. Sounds to me like it’s a gamble to have an airdrop called in, as someone else might get your stuff that you paid for. Sounds to me like the people bitching about this feature should be lying in wait to try and take the loot that they didn’t pay for. Doesn’t seem game-breaking at all, but there has been some clarification about changes coming to airdrops today. In another respectable move by Smedley, people who were clamoring over this issue have been offered a no questions asked refund. I guess bitching will get you your money back at least, but seriously, why not see how the game changes during the Early Access period? At most you paid $40, at least $20, and you couldn’t have possibly seen enough of the game to know what’s what, especially since there were login errors and server problems til later on last night. Knee-jerk reactions for the win.

Many shitty reviews have popped up on Steam, and Reddit is awash with negativity. However, there are some people who aren’t so mad about things, and have a more realistic view of the state of the game at this point. I was happy to see this thread talking about the features people like and how much they are enjoying the game. Like I said, I didn’t think I’d be getting involved right away, and was okay with waiting around til most of the initial issues were fixed before trying to pick up the game, but my father decided to get both of us copies of the game, so I was able to check it out for a while last night. When I first tried to get in game I was met with similar issues, but I kept an eye on Twitter and once things were said to be working as intended, I tried again. This time I got into the game, and was plopped down in the middle of nowhere, while rain poured from the sky.

2015-01-16_00001

Equipped with my fists and a flashlight, along with the clothes on my back, I wandered around until I found this road, which I followed looking for signs of civilization.

2015-01-16_00003

I found this abandoned van on a bridge, hoping that I might be able to drive it. Unfortunately it was “wrecked” and didn’t have anything inside of it either. Moving farther down the bridge, I found some Zombies and saw some buildings up ahead.

2015-01-16_00004

I searched vehicles and buildings, eventually finding some more gear, including a backpack, an axe, and some food. Another vehicle had some binoculars inside, which I figured would be of good use.

2015-01-16_00006

The rain eventually cleared up, and as I was rummaging through a garage, I spotted another player skulking around outside.

2015-01-16_00007

He’s through the door reading a sign, hard to see unless you click on the picture. I approached him, and he didn’t want none, heading another direction. I saw more houses up ahead and decided to keep scavenging. Coming out of one of the houses, I saw this guy running around swinging his fists wildly. He came at me and we fought… and somehow after hitting him repeatedly with an axe, he still managed to kill me with his bare fists. Don’t ask me how.

2015-01-16_00008

At this point I was frustrated with something. As you can see the above screenshots show me in first person view, and according to the settings, “mouse button 4” would change the camera view. There wasn’t any alternate listed. I did some searching after logging out of the game, and found that hitting “T” will actually change the camera view as well. I logged back in to try my luck again, but this time I’d run around in 3rd person.

2015-01-16_00010

Oh look, I’m back in the middle of nowhere again. And my stuff is gone. That’ll teach me to die! I headed off to find more stuff.

2015-01-16_00011

This outpost provided me with some food and other gear, but no backpack. I’ve also not seen any form of water to this point. Hydration looks to be an issue. I did find another pair of binoculars and took a look around the area.

2015-01-16_00012

Another ground of buildings on the horizon. I would head there to look for other stuff. Lucky me, I found an AR-15 inside, but alas it didn’t come with ammo. I still carried it around for a while though.

2015-01-16_00013

At another little outpost further along the road, I stumbled upon the first usable vehicle I had seen to that point. It was only a jeep, but I was prepared to go running around at a faster pace. Unfortunately it was lacking spark plugs, and I didn’t have any of those on me. Nor did I ever come across any. No matter, there’s other things to see and do.

2015-01-16_00015

Apologies for all the dark screens, it was night time and it looks a bit brighter while actually playing the game. I followed a road for quite a while until I came to “Pleasant Valley,” where I hoped to find some water as I was starting to dehydrate.

2015-01-16_00017

The sun started to come up, and I found a grocery store and a restaurant where I found plenty of food and water, a couple of handguns with no ammo, and a couple of people wandering around. I picked a server where the population was listed as medium rather than high (when I first tried that I was annoyed to find a queue), and it was getting late at this point so people weren’t super abundant. Zombies also felt somewhat “dumb” because they didn’t really react to things the way I would expect. That was mentioned on Twitter as being something that would be fixed up with a patch. We’ll touch back on that later.

2015-01-16_00018

I got into an apartment building, which was something I remember seeing in one of the dev streams, and the dev had said that sometimes guns spawn in these buildings. I checked all of the rooms and found plenty of supplies, and when I got to the roof, this sniper rifle and some bullets were waiting for me. Score! I finally have a gun that’s more than just a paperweight. I logged out on this rooftop, where I’m hoping I’ll be when I log back in (not sure with all of the issues with servers). Will be fun to ninja gank some fools aimlessly wandering around the town 🙂

Overall I’m happy with the game so far. It’s graphically pleasing, the ambiance is just right, and I like the various meters you have to watch to survive. I haven’t engaged in much PvP yet but it feels like it will be cool. I’m looking forward to trying out vehicles and for the Zombie AI to be improved. About the only other thing I see missing right now is the ability to form groups or guilds and things like that, along with maybe a world chat, but this is a different type of game so perhaps they don’t want those features in it. I’m okay with being a lone wolf for now. Excited to see the game develop. More to come as I experience it!

#h1z1 #zombies #survival #pvp #mmo

Couch Podtatoes Episode 7: Sandbox Roundtable

CP4

This week we’re doing something completely different than what we’ve done in the past. Those of you who have been listening since the beginning will note that we usually have two types of episodes: Those with just me and J3w3l, and those where we have a guest. Once a month the guest is Doone and on those episodes we tend to discuss a topic that he brings to the table. I’m by no means the first person to think of having a group discussion on a podcast, but that’s what this episode is all about. As a result, to keep the show to a reasonable length, I decided to drop Idiots on the Internet and the community spotlight. These features are by no means going anywhere, but it was conducive to keeping to the subject at hand. The discussion topic this time around was on Sandbox games, be it single-player, multi-player or MMOs. I wanted to do a Q&A with everyone, but you know me, I couldn’t resist throwing my opinion in there at times. I’d like to thank Roger of Contains Moderate Peril and Missy of Missy’s Mojo for joining us in the discussion. Ironically Missy and I broke our podcast cherries together on Roger’s podcast a couple of months ago, so it was nice to have a reunion of sorts.

The discussion starts right after a short intro, and there are no interruptions in the Q&A. Enjoy, and feel free to comment about the content!

 

Download this Episode Subscribe via RSS Download on iTunes Listen on Stitcher

Show Notes

Couch Podtatoes Epsiode 7: Sandbox Roundtable (runtime: 1:05:47)

The Sandbox Roundtable (starts at 0:00)

Host Contact Information:

Izlain
Blog: Me vs. Myself and I
Twitter:@mevsmyselfandi

J3w3l
Blog: Healing The Masses
Twitter: @ausj3w3l

Guest Contact Information:

Roger
Blog: Contains Moderate Peril
Twitter: @moderateperil

Missy
Blog: Missy’s Mojo
Twitter: @missysmojo

Music Credits:
“Level Up” by Cookie Monsta (from the Riot! EP)
“Enchanted Rose” by Bury Your Dead (from the album Beauty and the Breakdown)

Couch Podtatoes is a podcast about gaming, though we might stray into other forms of media. Sometimes we use strong language, but we try to keep that to a minimum. All opinions expressed by us or our guests are our own and are in no way to be interpreted as official commentary from any companies we discuss. Be sure to follow us on iTunes, and/or Stitcher Radio.

Questions, comments and feedback are welcomed and encouraged!

#couchpodtatoes #podcast #gamesdiscussion #gaming #blaugust

The State of the Game: Open Worlds

This week I spent time in a variety of games, not all of which were open worlds, but there are two games on the list that were, and I spent most of my play time there. The play list this week consisted of: Terraria, Defiance, God Mode, Grid 2, Sword of the Stars: The Pit, and Rogue Legacy.

Terraria:
I’ve already expressed my opinions on Terraria. Having played the game quite a bit more, I have still been enjoying it, although I wouldn’t say that I’ve made a whole lot of progress. I did some odd things just to earn a few of the trophies (and in turn, explore) like building a “ladder” straight up to the top of the world. Gravity actually starts to lessen as you get higher up and dunking on that professional size basketball hoop seems doable. Falling to your death from such a height is pretty humorous as well. Later, I built another ladder looking for a floating island that the trophy speaks of, and found one. On it was a building made of gold bricks. That’s right, gold effing bricks! Inside was a gold chest that I couldn’t open… so while I consulted the wiki (and found out you need a golden key that I didn’t posess) the building was surrounded by Harpies. Lots of them. I thought to myself, what the hell, it’s just a couple harpies NBD, and was promptly flattened by them. I’ll tackle that island again later. Deciding that I needed to upgrade my crappy wood armor to something more, well, metal, I headed off to mine some ores and metals. I am still in the process of doing so, so that I can take on harder monsters, dig deeper and try to hunt down some of the prerequisites to summon the bosses.

Defiance:
Wait what? I thought you didn’t play MMOs anymore?! Yeah that’s what I thought too. And then this game went on sale for $2.50 and how could I say no? Be that as it may, Defiance is classified as an MMO, but really it plays like Borderlands with more people populating the world. Instead of 4 player co-op, there are many players. But that hasn’t stopped me from treating it as a single player game, and playing by myself. More on this later. So I started up the game not really knowing what to expect, as I had read many mixed reviews on the interwebs. After getting through the tutorial and figuring out the buttons and various menus, it really isn’t any harder to understand than Borderlands. A good entry-level MMO, and there isn’t an unattainable cap, though it seems that there really isn’t an end game outside of playing PVP. But I really don’t know, I’m not there yet. I rolled up an Irathien Male Survivalist, but this game doesn’t have any sort of classes, nor racial advantages. So this just boils down to appearance and starting weaponry. My choice boiled down to the Survivalist coming with a Sniper rifle, which I felt would be advantageous. After playing through the story to a point where I have a vehicle and can really go exploring, being a sniper can be a good and bad thing. It really sucks only having a pistol as a side arm, so once I picked up a SMG I felt better about things. Playing solo is dangerous, and if there isn’t anyone playing in the immediate area you can get swarmed quick. If you have ample cover it’s cool to snipe, but when cleavers are running up to your face it’s sidearm time, and the SMG handles things nicely. So far I’m enjoying the solo aspect, but it requires certain EGO levels before you are allowed to participate in the co-op missions and the PVP. Those come complete with matchmaking though, so knowing people to play with isn’t required, which is a plus. I have yet to participate in an Arkfall yet, which is an open world event, or the open world PVP Shadow War. So there will be more on this game as I get into it further.

The Others:
God Mode – I’m level 10. I fully upgraded the SMG (starting weapon), and upgraded to the plasma pistol as my sidearm. Also picked up the healing special power, which is far superior to the shield and works when you’re running some oaths (thing negative boosters like in Uncharted, or a negative attribute. I have beaten all  of the levels solo on Bronze difficulty,  and have since moved up to Silver and did one level solo. Might try out gold, as one of the trophies requires beating all levels on the hardest difficulty. There still isn’t much of a player base online, so I guess the sale I took part in wasn’t very popular.

Grid 2 – I only played a couple of races thus far, and the game seems cool, but the controls are kind of wonky. But I remember feeling that way when I first played Gran Turismo 5, and I think I had to make adjustments. I’m not sure, I don’t play racing games all that much but they are usually fun. The game plays somewhere in between Gran Turismo (simulation) and Need for Speed (arcade-y).

SotS: The Pit – I started another play through, for the 2nd time I chose a Ranger. Currently on Level 9. I’m on floor 10. I started this game on normal difficulty, and used the option to skip to level 5 and utilize banked experience from my previous Ranger play through. Picked up a fair bit of gear, though haven’t made much recipe progress.

Rogue Legacy – I’ve played sporadically. Had many more deaths, many more heirs. I have started locking the castle as I have now explored all of the castle, and have moved onto clearing out the forest. I will probably continue to lock it now as I progress through the game. Currently level 30 or so (though I’m too lazy to look right now).

On the Horizon:
This week’s Playstation Plus offering was Borderlands 2. Knowing that the player base will get a kick in the pants is getting me really itching to go back and play through the DLC that I have owned since release and haven’t played (bought the season pass, but only played through the first DLC). I had friends playing the game when it first came out, but I don’t see them playing anymore, and convincing someone who has quit a game to come back isn’t all that easy. So I’m thinking of playing and letting anyone join my game, which I have never done before. I have a headset now, so maybe this is the thing to do. I’ve been missing having the multiplayer element and it seems like everyone I used to play games with is off doing their own thing. Maybe I’ll get some new online buddies this way.

Sandbox Impressions

It’s been a pretty slow news week, and that is what fuels much of my content. As such, I’m going to give my impressions of one of the games I recently picked up. The game in question is Terarria.

Terarria isn’t a new game, and I have read other blogger’s commentary of it in the past. Most of you probably already know about the game, but it’s a new experience for me. Also, I’m playing the Playstation 3 version, so there could be some differences that I’m unaware of.

Terarria is a sandbox. Sandbox games come in many flavors, but the common theme is being able to do whatever you want. To many players, this is a welcome feature, because they crave exploration or simply don’t want to be told what to do. I have been playing video games since the 80s, and I am used to having goals. There’s an end to the level. There’s a boss to beat. There’s a mission to complete. These things drive me, either for the mere achievement, or because of the loot awarded upon completion. I am used to being told what to do, though I can’t say I always like it. The treadmill that is a quest/mission grind for experience/loot/levels does get old, especially when the formula is only tweaked ever-so-slightly with each new wave of games. This is not only true for single player games, but MMOs as well. I don’t care if I’m playing Skyrim by myself, or Everquest II with friends — killing ten rats is still killing ten rats. So finding a niche where these treadmills don’t exist is increasingly difficult, without avoiding certain genres altogether — genres that are typically my favorites. This means I will still play games with this treadmill, as long as they add features or do something to make me forget that I’m still performing the same actions I’ve been completing for over twenty years. But I’m getting beside myself.

I’ve never really played any sandbox games. In a sense I have, but none that were labeled as such. Skyrim is a sandbox in that you can choose to utilize the content as you see fit. Going further back, the original Everquest was also a sandbox in this respect. But these games are not sandboxes in the respect that you couldn’t affect the world around you, and there was still at least some direction, vague as it may be. Terraria is the new definition of sandbox, in that you can affect the world around you, and there really isn’t any direction aside from a short tutorial and an in-game guide. After starting a new game, a procedurally generated world is created and you are dropped right in the middle of it. The first goal of course is to build a shelter for the night, but after that, you can do as you will. Feel like digging as deep as you can? Go for it. Want to get started crafting? Have at it. Want to build a huge castle as testament to your greatness? Feel free. You get where I’m going with this. You can do whatever you want, and the game doesn’t penalize you for taking too long, or not really accomplishing anything. There is a certain joy in this that I haven’t experienced in a game in quite some time, that also makes me feel foolish for having written off Minecraft when it released years ago.

Ultimately, being goal-driven has kept me away from the genre, and that same characteristic has pushed me right into it. I avoided the sandbox because I didn’t know how to appreciate it. Then, the lack of originality with some of the larger publishers had me looking to the Indie developers, and those Indie developers helped me to see the charm of a world that I can manipulate. We have come full circle. Seeing this on an MMO scale would be even more impressive, and I think that’s what Landmark and EQNext are trying to accomplish. Still, even with it’s modest retro graphics and simple system, Terraria isn’t “massively” while still remaining massive.

I have taken my time to go through much of the crafting, building and harvesting/mining elements of the game, starting out by building a huge fortress as my home base. I did cheat a little and read some guides on the Terraria Wiki to give me some sort of focal point. I tell you what, this is one game that I’m thankful has trophies — despite having moved away from “achievement based gaming” (I used to be quite the trophy whore), this does help you get a feel for the things you can do. At first glance, Terraria feels like a pure building simulator, until you start realizing if you dig deep enough you’ll fall into underground caverns and find all manner of beasts. The trophy list will also tell you of bosses, certain armors and other goals that you can set for yourself. This helped the goal-oriented side of me really sink my teeth in. I really have taken a liking to the freedom. And even though many developers (particularly indies) are using the retro look to make us feel at home (at least those of us that are old enough to have played 8-bit era games), Terraria isn’t using it to cover up a poorly designed game. I have become a huge fan of perma-death, procedural generation, retro graphics and open-ended mechanics because these are all trends that are leading to something bigger. Originality. The reason we started playing games in the first place, because they did things we never thought they would do. I feel another post brewing on these topics coming soon.