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Simon J McDonnell

Creating cool stuff

I miss Burning Crusade

I used to play World of Warcraft. I used to play it quite a lot. I believe I’ve more than passed the 100 days mark on just my main character. I shudder to think what it would be total when you add all of the playtime from my alts too.

I don’t play anymore, I haven’t for a while. It’s just not as good any more. People may argue this is rose-tinted glasses talk, but as the subscription numbers continue to decline I don’t know if that’s so.

I started WoW when it was still the base version of the game, Vanilla as it’s known. Everything was new and exciting. I’d never played a game like it before and it was thrilling to check out all these new sights. The world felt alive and vibrant, full of people in chat and in cities, chatting and grouping. Guilds were fun to be in, with active chat and members who helped one another. I had reached the mid thirties as a Tauren Shaman when Burning Crusade came out, when I promptly rerolled as a Blood Elf Paladin.

Burning Crusade was incredible. The new races both looked great, and their starting areas far outstripped the other races’ in every respect, from visuals to rewards. Then once you managed to get to 58 you got to go to Outland. Outland was the blasted demon-infested ruins of the orc homeworld Draenor. It was beautiful. I remember paying a mage to teleport me to Shattrath City at level 55 because I couldn’t wait any longer. I made the long trek through to Hellfire Penninsula, the starting zone. I was too low a level to do any of the quests, so I just killed demon boars for three levels. This was acceptable because the last levels in Azeroth barely had any quests and I’d have ended up grinding anyway. And Outland mobs granted double the experience.

I remember during those three levels of grinding I would keep walking down to my brothers room (he was already in Outland) and just saying how much I loved it, how beautiful it was. I kept looking up and just marvelling at the strands of twisting energy and moons that made up the sky. It was real good.

Eventually I got through my boar-levels, started questing, then got to max level. This was a wonderful experience as the quest design took a huge step forward in BC. It was also filled with detours like me finding one pool of water where mobs dropped rare crafting materials. I found a buyer for them and wiled away some time becoming rich by killing water-snakes and harvesting their magic innards (just like real life). My brothers were all also playing during this time, so it was brilliant to be able to chat and group with them while we levelled. Once I’d hit max I started running dungeons with friends I’d made along the way. They helped me get the hang of tanking and I ended up joining their guild.

I was a member of Dark Secrets for a while, and I got to experience the first raid of Burning Crusade, Karazhan, as well as a number of heroic 5 mans. Karazhan was awesome, just a fantastically well designed piece of content. It was my first time raiding in any game, and I loved the cooperation and chatting on Ventrilo between pulls. I felt like part of the team and I got to see a lot of cool stuff. So anyway, then I betrayed them to join a different guild that my friend was in, which was called Existence.

Existence was very fun. The members of the guild were permanently on Vent and it made doing random other tasks in the world way more fun to just chat away while doing them. We cleared Karazhan and went on the clear Zul’Aman. I got some really cool gear and some great raiding experience. I’d like to say I made some great friends but the guild unfortunately imploded and I have no idea where any of the those folks are right now (apart from one, I forgot!). This was before the introduction of the Battle.net id’s, so there was no way to track them beyond having their character names added.

With that implosion my time with BC mostly ended. I wiled away my time building up my mount collection and doing random activities with friends and my brothers. I continued playing into Wrath of the Lich King and then a little into Cat, but BC was when I was most active.

The thing I miss most about BC was the feeling of inhabiting a world, of an expansion being a chance to explore amazing new worlds and vistas, meet interesting new characters and meet new friends. Unfortunately Blizzards approach to building new content I feel has really been lacking, it just doesn’t make me excited like the old stuff did. Added to that they’ve pretty much killed all social interaction or server community with their increased automation of dungeons and raids. I don’t know how they could possibly back away from that, but man, servers feel barren, and no one talks. It’s depressing.

I miss the game I used to play. I miss the friends I made. I miss the time in my life when I played. I miss it.

The Darkest of Dungeons

SteamSale

The steam summer sale is upon us!

So far I have showcased incredible restraint, and have only bought two games. This is because I am sitting on a figurative mountain of unplayed titles. As I have so very many games I have formed a small rule for myself. If I can’t see myself playing a game that I’m going to buy within the next month then I don’t buy it. In this way I’ve avoided buying such titles as Metro: Last Light, Valkyria Chronicles, and Cities: Skylines. These are all games that I have on my wishlist and have wanted to play for a while. Metro because I enjoyed its prequel, Cities because it looks like a super-slick city builder, and Valkyria because it’s apparently a great twist on some usual tactics game mechanics (wrapped in a lovely art-shell). I’m sure I’d enjoy these games, but I have to stop buying games just because they’re good.

The two games that I DID buy were actually the two that were in the number one and two slots on my wishlist. Those are Darkest Dungeon, and Endless Legend. I’ve wanted both of these for a while now and they dropped to prices that I just could nae resist any longer.

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Endless Legend, briefly, is a 4X game in the style of Civilization or it’s ilk. It comes from Amplitude Studios, who also make the space civ-style game Endless Space and the top down tower defencey thingy that is Dungeon of the Endless.

I bought and enjoyed Endless Space, but it didn’t set my world on fire. The main draw for me was the sci fi setting and the incredibly slick UI. Seriously, that thing is intensely good. As someone who has programmed more than one UI I am crazy jealous of their skills. I have not played Dungeon of the Endless, though I have heard it’s very quite good, and the art in it is very very pretty. Clearly they have the design aspects of game production down pat.

Endless Legend then! It’s a fantasy 4X (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate) game. This by itself would not entice me. Where they’ve hooked me is their world and their races. They are apparently a deeply weird mix of creatures and cultures that you just don’t usually see in typical fantasy faire. I loooove this, I’m a big fan of mix-ups of traditional genre tropes. There are, for example, the Roving Clans. This faction can move their cities on the backs of giant beasts. Not only this, they also don’t believe in war. You are simply incapable of declaring it against any other faction. This is so cool! I love that their taking elements that these games don’t usually play with and are really going full tilt with that direction.

That’s it really. I don’t know a large amount about this game, just enough that it furiously intrigues me. It’s also gotten a lot of love from press outlets that I usually agree with, which definitely helps. Mmmm yes yes, it will be quite fun to try this out.

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Darkest Dungeon (for those not in the know) is a game about sending adventurers into the perilous ruins and corrupted lands surrounding your ancient family estate, wherein dwells the eponymous Darkest Dungeon. The actual dungeon is yet to be added to the game, for it’s still in early access you see, however there are a few other areas that offer ample adventure. A key part of the game is managing light and stress.

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As you delve deeper into the various levels your torch gradually wanes. As it does so the monsters become harder, the rewards greater, and the stress more frequent. I generally try to keep mine as high as it can go because I am a delicate flower. The stress level of each of your characters generally raises as you explore the eldritch environments too. It also increases more when you get unlucky with your interactions with the random scenery that populate the different floors of the dungeons. By far the most common cause of raised stress however, is combat. When an enemy gets a critical hit, when you suffer a bad miss, when an enemy uses a distressing enough attack, all of these cause your stress to tick upwards. To be fair, lucky events like a solid hit or a critical will gain them back some stress too, but never as much as they lose.

When it gets too high (100) your characters resolve will be tested. This can either result in them gaining a negative trait for the remainder of the adventure (like Paranoid, above, though I’ve also seen Abusive, Masochistic, and Hopeless), or more rarely, a positive attribute like Courageous. The awful thing about failing this test is not only does the character get this debuff, which can affect their stats, it also causes other effects. Abusive, for example, causes the afflicted character to heap scorn upon the other members of the party, which increases THEIR stress. This can lead to vicious cycles of increasing stress.

Stress also doesn’t go away when you finish the dungeon. It stays at the exact same level. You have to send your party out to various activities for stress relief after particularly daunting delves. This could be meditating in the chapel, flagellating themselves, drinking at the bar, or visiting the brothel. This costs money though, so you have to balance it with buying supplies and upgrading your equipment and skills. The loss of heroes to this activity for one adventure also isn’t that bad, you have a pretty big roster of heroes to choose from, with more coming every time you get back to town. This leaves you free to try different party configurations without severe hampering.

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If it wasn’t clear, I fucking love this game. I haven’t even described all the mechanics at play, like camping skills and character traits (from Early Riser to Nymphomaniac to Syphilis! (not necessarily in that order)). I’ve gone through a few heroes at this stage, my best three dying yesterday after an over-confidant try of the first boss creature. I am eager to play more and even have the client open as I type this up.

I highly recommend this game. Do not let it pass you by, it is spectacularly good value for money and last but not least it is absolutely fucking gorgeous. Look at those line weights! Unf, this game turns my crank (not in a sexy way (a little bit in a sexy way)).