Category Archives: Gaming

Twitch Isn’t Just Video Games

While I’ve been enjoying Twitch fairly regularly for a few years now, lately I’ve been paying a lot more attention to it. Sure, it’s been a great platform for watching people play new games so you can get a decent handle on what they are before you buy (and watching lots of people play Minecraft and  Hearthstone), but the people who stream content on Twitch (and Twitch itself) have been getting creative with how they are becoming an entertainment entity.

Bob RossBringing the Joy

A few months ago, Twitch ran a stream that featured Bob Ross’ The Joy of Painting for a few days. After pulling in over 5 million viewers, Twitch has made The Joy of Painting available all the time at Twitch.tv/BobRoss.

This is what really got me interested in Twitch as being something more than just gaming. It feels like the floodgates of interesting entertainment opened wide after the late Bob Ross changed things up.

Live Entertainment

ASAdult Swim has been basically running their own channel via Twitch streaming. They run low-budget, low-key talk shows from 11-6:30 EST, and between segments, they stream their wall clock. And while a stream of a clock probably seems pretty boring, the clock takes song requests, so chat moves at a pretty good clip as people try to get their song on the air.

It’s so simple that it’s kind of ingenious.

And their talk shows are all pretty creative. Stupid Morning BS is their morning, “coffee talk” type show where the hosts recap the news, play trivia games with the audience, and give away prizes.

Other shows include Fishcenter, where the hosts provide commentary of the goings on in the AdultSwim fishtank, and Williams Street Swap Shop, where the hosts attempt to facilitate trades between viewers.

Blackstaff

I really like using this picture of Khelben “Blackstaff” Arunson.

Tabletop Gaming

Twitch is known for video gaming, but tabletop gaming is becoming a fixture there too. The folks that created Dungeons & Dragons periodically do a stream, and so does Geek & Sundry, but other, lower budget fans run streams as well(Like the Thursday Knights).

It makes total sense, too. RPGs are great storytelling mechanisms, so not only do you get a great story, you get to experience the thrill of victory and agony of defeat as the dice fall where they will.

A quick search on Twitch for “board games” brings up a whole bunch of viewing choices as well. I love watching other people play board games, especially when I’m thinking of buying something specific. It’s often difficult to get a live demo of a board game (unless you’re at a convention or a good gaming store), so watching other people figure out the mechanics can give you a good sense of what you’re in for.

Twitch is doing some really cool things right now. If you got some free time, check it out. You’ll probably find something you like.

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Halo 5 Got Bigger, but Lesser

Halo 5Halo is in a weird place right now, but let me just get this out of the way: the shooting feels great, the gameplay is solid, and some of the new moves included in the game are a lot of fun. The spectacle of Halo is still in full force, but I can’t help thinking that when 343 Industries took over the series, they assumed that “higher stakes” for the game’s protagonist meant that the galactic threat got larger. When it comes to the Halo games, though, I’m not entirely convinced that bigger is better.

Spoilers are probably ahead. Read at your own risk.

Halo 5: Guardians (a subtitle, really?) begins with new character (in the games, anyway) Spartan Locke and his crew of Spartan pals taking down the Covenant on a planet in order to rescue Spartan-and-Cortana creator Dr. Catherine Halsey. After the rescue, she informs the heroes that a new threat is about to emerge.

Meanwhile, the Master Chief and his childhood buddies are on a mission to stop some Covenant baddies from stealing some stealth ship technology on a secret space station blah blah blah, and then he gets a message from Cortana. She’s alive!

And this, for me, is immediately where the story starts to fall apart. The marketing of the game (not that you can always trust game marketing) seemed to indicate that Spartan Locke would be hunting the Master Chief because he had made a tough decision that went awry. That is far from the case, however.

In fact, the story is kind of incoherent when a little thought is put into it. Sure, Master Chief goes AWOL, but I feel like they could’ve given him a call rather then send a team after him.

And let’s talk about Cortana’s resurrection. Halo 4 was a lot of things, but it’s greatest moment was when Cortana, your AI buddy through the all the previous games starring Master Chief, manages to put off her insanity long enough to sacrifice herself to not only destroy the bad guy that is threatening earth, but also save the Chief. It’s almost a tragic love story. The two had been through a lot.

So I was interested to see how ole John-117 was going to cope without her on his latest mission. And honestly, with Cortana back and evil, the effect is ruined. Cortana has cured her insanity and has decided that the best way to save the galaxy is by enforcing a rule by fear using massive robots to kill anything that threatens the peace–a “Pax Cortana” if you will. And now we get into 343 thinking that “higher stakes” means “galactic threat.”

CortanaFor Master Chief, the stakes were already very high. For seven years or more, Cortana has been his constant companion, his protector, his confidant, his love. She may be an AI, but he had real feelings for her. She died in a moment where he was powerless to do anything to help the situation. She saved him.

Imagine a game where you’re defeating the bad guys, but the real story is about Master Chief’s survivor’s guilt. He loved that little blue robot lady, and now he has to face a universe where the constant comforting voice inside his head is gone. Sure, he still has his buddies, but they aren’t one flesh with him like Cortana was (she was, after all, attached to his brain). The Chief is basically a widower.

So, the threat didn’t have to be galactic. The story could’ve been about how self-destructive John-117 had become, with his friends trying to bring him back from the brink. Maybe Chief’s recklessness had done something bad to one of the colony worlds, and he decided to go AWOL in shame. Locke then, would actually be “hunting the truth” to find out what happened and to bring the Chief back.

I don’t hate the story that the game has. It’s interesting enough, such as it is. But I think the storytelling in Mass Effect, Bioshock, Fallout, and even Gears of War, have shown me that games that are shooters can have deep, personal stories that make you empathize with a character.

Maybe Locke and The Chief will end up saving the galaxy, but is it worth rescuing a galaxy that has no real personal stakes? The expanded universe of Halo is full of good stories about people trying to make their way through the both the chaos of war and the ultimate order of living in a massive police state. The audio series “Hunt the Truth” is a superb example of just how interesting the universe that Halo has created can be.

Maybe what Halo needs is fewer power weapons and more plot. The characters should be what drives the plot; as it is right now, the protagonists are merely slaves to the story rather than the player feeling like they are a part of it. War stories are only good when the characters are well-developed. Here’s hoping that in Halo 6 is less about spectacle and more about the characters involved.

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A Better Class of MMO [Rocking the Boat]

John wrote an article yesterday about his disappointment with the current World of Warcraft. I agree with all of his points, but I thought I would take it a step further and talk about the kind of MMO I would want to play. As I was thinking about it, I came up with this formula.

Mass Effect’s character creation + Skyrim’s open world and skills + Minecraft’s building and crafting + EVE’s approach to PvP and economy + Some other stuff + World of Warcraft  = A game that I would throw all my money at for a chance to play.

Curt Schilling, if you’re reading this, and this was what Project Copernicus was going to be,  I am sad for you.

Mass Effect’s Character Creation:

Besides being very customizable, Mass Effect has you answer some basic questions about your character. I’d love to see this affect the game in different ways. I also hope that it would encourage a little more role playing from the people playing the game. I miss having roleplaying in MMORPGs. Large scale RPing would be amazing.

Image: PC Mag.com

Skyrim’s Skill System

Skyrim has a rich, open world for you to explore. Put this into an MMORPG and make it even bigger. Let me pick my own skills rather than be shoehorned into a class. Maybe instead of being a warrior, I want to be a simple woodcutter and carpenter (this ties into my next point). I don’t mind a framework that I could work from, but I hate being forced into one of three roles with my class. Instead, I want to play the game my way, unbalanced or not.

Minecraft’s Building and Crafting:

Azeroth has a problem. Everything is only related to war and making war. You can only build things that have to do with war. I, however, want to stake out claims on land. Build some buildings. Mine some stone. Cut down and replant some trees. Pick herbs and make potions/medicines for various effects. I don’t want to just be a warrior destroying things; I want to be able to create.  And this just doesn’t go for building either.

I want to be able to make my own weapons and armor. I want them to be customizable, I want them to look the way I want. And give them the effects that I’ve learned. I want to sell them and be awesome. This brings me to…

EVE’s Economy and PvP:

A player driven-economy. Let people buy and sell anything and everything. Let people found their own towns, corporations, cities, guilds. Let the player’s recruit new people and send them out on missions.  Yes, this could lead to imbalance. I don’t care. I have no problems living in an unbalanced world. Factions will rise and fall. People will band together and people will betray each other.

Imagine having to hire a high-level body guard. He’d watch your back. Go out and assassinate rivals for you. And you paid him a set amount of money per month… so long as he stayed above a certain level.

Yes, did I mention? PvP and death have consequences. They don’t have to be big consequences, but a small loss of XP and dropping everything on you is fair, in my opinion. We played MUDs like that for a long time… and instead of whining about it, we decided to get better. To play sneakier. To be aware of our surroundings. This would also force you to manage your resources well. Put your money in banks… and other safe havens…. but you might want to buy insurance… since banks can be robbed and safes can be broken into. It all depends on how the players decide to build things. It could be magnificent.

Want to be a dark lord? Do it.

Other Stuff:

I like the idea of capturing random mobs and drafting them into a faction’s army. You could then send this army to attack other factions. The army limit would be based on the cumulative power level of the mobs, and the size of the faction you run. This could replace high level content/dungeons/instances with what is essentially a strategy war game. Coordinate your NPC mobs with the PCs in your faction. Take over your opponents city. Rebuild it in your image.

Finally:

I’m not worried about game balance here… I think the free game market (with certain restrictions) could actually balance out play. Things could get ugly for you… but things could also be awesome. You could run a faction. You could lose everything.

Or you could just build a house in a town or in the middle of nowhere, and just farm, log, or frolic in the grasses.

You get to play your way. With hundreds of others.

Where can I deposit my money to play this?

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