The Elder Scrolls Online Review Diary: Crafting and Exploration

7 hours ago

Crafting isn’t something I generally spend a lot of time with in MMOs. I usually find anything I want can be bought with gold I earned doing something more interesting than clicking “create” and watching progress bars fill up.

The Elder Scrolls Online puts a surprisingly tall – and very enjoyable – emphasis on crafting. I was skeptical at first, but after spending most of an entire day exploring Cyrodiil, gathering materials and custom-building my personal arsenal I’m quite hooked.

You see, crafting isn’t treated like a completely separate aspect of the TESO experience. Each trade has its own skill tree, augmented with the same skill points used to build up a character’s combat abilities. Some might groan at the tough choice between learning a new spell and being able to highlight resource nodes – and it does feel like a sacrifice at first – but it shows how important the developers want crafting to be.

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In most games, crafting is a gradual, granular slog. You build the crappy equipment until you’ve leveled up enough to make the slightly-less-crappy equipment and so on. TESO makes the time I spend feel worthwhile, as I leave a personal mark on each unique steel snowflake.

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Steam user data reveals the best way to do Free-To-Play

10 hours ago

If you want an intense and fantastic example of Real Games Journalism, I recommend checking out Kyle Orland's exhaustive analysis of Steam user data at Ars Technica. It shows some incredibly interesting trends on how Steam users are buying -- and playing -- their games.

What I'm most interested in is what this means for free-to-play games and development in general. The top two games on Steam right now -- both in terms of total users and hours played -- are free-to-play. Dota 2 and Team Fortress 2 both cost nothing to play, are essentially multiplayer-only, and started out as paid games. (In the case of Dota 2, that payment was to get into the closed beta.)

Ignoring Team Fortress 2 for a moment, I think Dota 2 is particularly interesting. About four thousand human years have been put into the game since it hit beta in 2011. My Steam profile says I account for nearly 400 hours of that, so I can hardly feign surprise.

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Steam is estimated to account for three-fourths of the PC gaming market so it's not surprising that a game by Valve, the service's creator, would have a top spot in downloads. Dota 2 gets understandably preferential treatment on Steam's front page just about daily. It's not surprising that a Valve game, according to Ars' statistics, makes up a fifth of total playtime on a Valve service.

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Moebius: Empire Rising Walkthrough

Apr 15, 2014

Moebius: Empire Rising is a point-and-click adventure game developed by Pinkerton Road.  In this game, you’ll take on the role of genius Malachi Rector as he explores a mystery centuries in the making. Gamezebo’s walkthrough will provide you with detailed images, tips, information, and hints on how to play your best game.

Moebius: Empire Rising

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Last Life is ‘Kentucky Route Zero in space’

Apr 15, 2014

At least that’s how it was described to me in a tweet from Andrew Webster, former Gamezebo editor and current scribe at The Verge. And after hearing a description like that, there was no way around it: I just had to learn more.

Now on Kickstarter, Last Life is a murder mystery with a twist:

The murder you’re trying to solve is your own.

“LAST LIFE is a sci-fi noir adventure game for PC, Mac and Linux about a transhumanist colony on Mars,” reads the official Kickstarter page. “When a murdered detective is 3D printed back into existence, he reopens his last case to uncover what he missed--a hunt that reveals AI corruption, corporate espionage, and the conspiracy that may have led to Earth's doom.”

If that sounds as incredible to you as it does to me, you’re not alone. The folks at Double Fine happen to agree with us, so much so that Last Life has become the second game to earn the “Double Fine Presents,” distinction – an initiative that Tim Schafer & Co. have launched to help raise the visibility of deserving indie games that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. 

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Moebius: Empire Rising Review

Apr 15, 2014

Moebius: Empire Rising has an impressive adventure game pedigree thanks to creator Jane Jensen’s genre-defining work at Sierra, and on the Gabriel Knight series specifically.  Her commitment to quality writing, characters, and plot in each Gabriel Knight entry opened the point-and-click adventure up to explorations of deeper, more mature subjects that have persevered through modern entries like those from Wadjet Eye.  Moebius maintains this focus on writing and story, playing out like a page-turner mystery that also happens to be filled with ingenious puzzles and challenges.

The story revolves around our protagonist, Malachi Rector, a world-renowned genius who utilizes his photographic memory and knowledge of history to appraise priceless antiques and expose fakes.  We learn early on that this is no desk job: Malachi travels the globe to meet the needs of his clients and has been sent to the hospital by some who have received less savory appraisals. 

Moebius: Empire Rising

At the start of Moebius, Malachi is approached by a government agency, FITA, to investigate the death of a young woman in Venice.  He is not expected to solve the murder, but simply research the woman’s life and use his talents to decide if her biography parallels that of anyone in history.  Of course, this unique assignment becomes the gateway to a much larger mystery and conspiracy that ensnares Malachi and the player for seven chapters.

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UFHO2 dev: Valve doesn't want my game, so torrent it

Apr 14, 2014

Ciro Continisio of Tiny Colossus took to Reddit over the weekend in order to promote his strategy game UFHO2. After nearly two years stagnating on Steam Greenlight, and measly sales through Desura and Humble, Continisio has resigned himself to the fact that "nobody is going to buy it unless it's on Steam" and released a UFHO2 torrent onto The Pirate Bay. The release of the torrent came a little over a week after UFHO2 was released onto the iTunes Appstore where it's available for $3.99.

UFHO2, which stands for Unidentified Flying Hexagonal Object, was posted to Steam Greenlight in August of 2012. Six months prior the game managed to pull in over $10,000 through a successful Kickstarter campaign. However, it is worth noting that about half of those earnings came from just around 10% of the backers. 

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The game is a sequel to the 2007 game, UFHO, also developed by Continisio, which was available to play for free online. The servers for UFHO have since been shut down and the game is no longer playable. 

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Civilization: Beyond Earth - because strategy games belong in space

Apr 14, 2014

You know who’s great making PAX East announcements? Firaxis. Last year the studio used the Boston convention to announce the mobile port of XCOM: Enemy Unknown which, yes, managed to live up to the lofty promises they’d made. This year, they decided to go one step further and announce the next entry in everyone’s favorite strategy series, Civilization.

Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth will take players on a journey into the stars for the very first time (unless you count 1999’s spin-off Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri, which the devs of Beyond Earth love, but stressed they’re going in their “own direction” from in a conversation with Kotaku).

Following a series of events that Firaxis refers to as “The Great Mistake,” the Earth is looking a little rough around the edges. As a result, humanity sets off to colonize a strange new world. Unlike past games in the series that draw from history, Beyond Earth will be about making choices to shape humanity’s future. 

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The Wolf Among Us: Episode 3 - A Crooked Mile Walkthrough

Apr 14, 2014

Episode Three of The Wolf Among Us is a point-and-click adventure game created by Telltale Games.  In this game, you take on the role of Bigby Wolf, a tough law enforcer who tries to keep the peace among New York’s fantastic population of "Fables." Episode Three sends Bigby Wolf and Snow White on the trail of suspected murderer, Ichabod Crane. Gamezebo’s walkthrough will provide you with detailed images, tips, information, and hints on how to play your best game.

The Wolf Among Us: Episode 3 - A Crooked Mile

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Guild of Dungeoneering: a self-described 'reverse roguelike'

Apr 13, 2014

Guild of Dungeoneering is an upcoming reverse roguelike from developer Gambrinous. The game has players constructing the dungeon gauntlet that the hero will have to venture through, but the catch is that the player does not control the hero. The goal of the player is to, of course, ensure the survival of the hero through a careful balance of gameplay. Make a dungeon too easy and the hero won't get the experience they may need later on to defeat enemies. Make a dungeon too hard and it will more than likely result in a not-so-heroic ending.

Gambrinous reinforces the design aspect of the game through Guild of Dungeoneering's aesthetics. The game has a hand-drawn look that reminds me of the little warriors I used to draw on folders, back in middle school math class. I know I'm not the only one who did that.

While Guild of Dungeoneering is still in Alpha testing, Gambrinous are selling access to the current build for $9.99 on the game's official website. Gambrinous also posted Guild of Dungeoneering on to Steam Greenlight, for voting. Look for the game to be released late this year for Windows and Mac, with the possibility of a Linux release as well. 

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Fight the Dragon Preview

Apr 12, 2014

On March 27th, developer 3 Sprockets launched Fight the Dragon on Steam Early Access. The top-down 3D dungeon crawler's main attraction was its allegedly super simple level editor which allows players to upload and share their creations. While level editors are not an uncommon sight in video games, 3 Sprockets have gone to lengths to ensure that their dungeon editor is seemingly the main feature of the game.  After creating my own dungeon from scratch in a little under two hours, I'm here to report back that making a dungeon is just as fun as playing through everyone else’s.

Fight the Dragon

Turns out I'm not the only player to think so. In just two weeks, over 450 dungeons (nearing 480 at the time of this writing) have been generated by players and are now waiting to be discovered by other adventurous players. 

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