My Most Anticipated Games of 2016

It seems silly and more than a little delusional to look forward to games coming out this year when I have a backlog of at least 15 I’m still planning to play through. Oh well! Regardless, I’m really looking forward to some of the games (hopefully) coming out this year. There’s more, but these are the ones I most ardently long for, in no particular order.

Crowfall

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I backed Crowfall on Kickstarter, and their regular backer updates are a real source of excitement for me. I think this is the only announced MMO I’m really looking forward to, besides maybe Camelot Unchained and, distantly, Star Citizen.

Separate campaign settings, so you can risk as much or as little as you’d like, the passive leveling of EVE Online, guild/personal realms and customization… There’s a long list of reasons I’m optimistic about this game, and I hope to test drive once beta testing expands.

Uncharted 4

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The Uncharted games are a promise of straightforward, engaging adventure punctuated by astounding set pieces. I was late to the part on the first three, but when I finally picked up a PS3 they were the first games I played. The footage I’ve seen of A Thief’s End has been stunning up to this point, and I can’t wait to finish Nathan Drake’s story.

XCOM 2

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*heavy breathing*

I swear the words “more XCOM” are like a magic spell. I spent countless hours on Enemy Unknown, and then another chunk of my waking life on Enemy Within. I know other people have this feeling about games like Civilization, but for me, XCOM is the ultimate “one more turn” addictive hamster wheel.

Everything I’ve seen of this sequel looks amazing. Horrifying new enemies, powerful new abilities and classes, weapon customization, more character customization… I’ll say lately I’ve been spending more time gaming on my PS4, but once XCOM 2 comes out I’ll answer only to the siren call of Steam for awhile.

Dark Souls 3

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Bloodborne was an excellent diversion, but it didn’t pull me in the way the main Souls games have. I had no strong to urge to play again with a new build, or explore all the nooks and crannies the way I did in Lordran. Dark Souls 3 looks like more of the same in the best of ways, with the added bonus of new systems like the unique weapon attacks, and increased multiplayer potential.

Persona 5

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What is it that was so intoxicating about Persona 4? I don’t have any huge fondness for dungeon crawlers. I’ve never played a dating sim (unless Harvest Moon counts). Pokemon’s held no attraction for me in years. Maybe it’s the way Persona 4 combines all those things into something greater than the sum of its average parts, a long, exceedingly memorable story full of characters you can’t help but grow attached to.

Then again, maybe it’s just that killer music.

The trailers released for Persona 5 are dripping, just oozing with the same style cranked up for a new generation. It might be too early to say, but dungeon design looks to have more life to it too, which was probably my biggest complaint about the last game. Persona 4 was a genre-defining experience, and this next installment looks even better.

Torment: Tides of Numenera

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I want to say this is the first thing I ever Kickstarted. I’ve picked up Planescape: Torment a few times over the years, always loving it but never making it more than a few hours in. The dialogue is rich, the world is wonderfully weird and dense, but the engine is old and clunky. I’m thrilled about a modern update, and after the success of Pillars of Eternity and how their new engine feels, I’m very optimistic.

That’s just six games I’m looking forward to in the next year, in addition to the dozens of other small titles, unannounced surprises, and dark horses we’re sure to see. Who in the world has enough time for this hobby?

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Blips

What have I had my hands on lately?

Destiny. Still going. I managed to find an excellent static group for raiding, so I’m online at least once a week for that. I don’t feel much pull to upgrade gear or anything, so I’m not grinding through daily bounties much anymore. Just having fun with friends a few times a week!

I don’t know what kind of legs Destiny will have. The raids are fun, but the rest of the game is lackluster, and without some heavy duty improvements in the next expansion it’ll probably drop out of my rotation.

Infamous: First Light. Free through PS+ this month. The story is short, and only really interesting if you like Fetch as a character, but that’s not where the attraction lies: this game has a kickass battle arena. You’re either trying to survive endless waves of enemies or rescue hostages as they pop up. In the later waves it gets really challenging, but you get fun boosts like invulnerability, super blasts, and infinite melee finishers to help you tackle the mobs that spawn. I like it a lot, and I think I’m gonna try for the platinum.

Diablo 3. I hopped back into this a few weeks ago when Blizzard gave us a 100% experience boost for the weekend, and I used that to get my hardcore monk to 70. Rediscovered a little bit of love for smashing and looting in the process, not to mention my brother just started playing this and i’s fun to run rifts with him. Currently debating between trying to gear up my crusader to tackle Torment 6 or just start more characters and mess around.

The Swapper. I played a few hours of this on PC then dropped it, but I’d like to clear it now that it’s free on PS+.

Dragon Age: Inquisition. Woooow. This or Destiny probably my game of the year for 2014. I finished my first playthrough at around 80 hours, almost entirely satisfied by the experience. I was getting a little burned out on the side quests at the end, but I was still having enough fun to immediately start a second character. This time I’ll be sneaking around a dagger-wielding rogue.

Persona 4. I have finally almost reached the end of this one, after playing it on and off since sometime early this summer. The more time I put into this, the more psyched I get for the next installment. Which is hopefully still coming out this year? Anyway, I’ve hit the point toward the end where I have access to some crazy demon fusions, and I really need to sit down, spend a little time, and try to create some of the awesome ones. Now I just have to decide if I want to put time into a second run and access more of the super secret stuff at the ending…

I’ve been trying to play a lot of games lately on relatively little free time, so I’ve been a little scattered. In the midst of this, I still find myself wanting to pick up FF14 again, especially with the first expansion dropping in just a few months. It seems to be the MMO with the best support out there right now, and I reeeeeally like the look of some of the new classes coming, especially Dark Knight. I might resub to this soon and mess around in preparation for the summer, when I’ll have a lot more free time.

RECAP: Scattergames

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I’ve been all over the place lately! Every few months, I’l find myself in a state of mind where I really want to play games, but I can’t seem to decide on one. The Secret World still holds a good chunk of my attention, but I’m feeling pulled in a lot of different directions at the same time. I haven’t spent enough time with most of them to develop any deeper opinions, but I do have a few thoughts for each.

Batman: Arkham Origins. The combat in the Arkham games is pretty much my favorite system ever. It requires attention and awareness of your surroundings, along with an understanding of all your different abilities and how to use them effectively. I enjoy the few tweaks to the system in this new entry, but the storyline isn’t doing much for me. I’ll finish it because it’s fun, but probably forgettable.

Path of Exile. I enjoyed Diablo 3 for awhile, but the RMAH and lackluster loot eventually killed my enthusiasm. PoX is scratching an itch I didn’t know was still there, though I haven’t spent a ton of time with it yet.

Final Fantasy XIV. I almost have the Paladin unlocked! But I’ve been neglecting Eorzea and I really need to spend more time there. My Free Company is counting on me!

Guild Wars 2. Am I really getting back into GW2 again? Every time I think I’m done with this game, I end up getting pulled back in, this time because of the birthday boost that jumps one of your characters to level 20. I’ve been having a lot of fun with my Charr warrior, but I don’t know how long it’ll last. Bonus: I haven’t played since I upgraded my video card, and I’m constantly reminded how stunningly beautiful Tyria is.

Fallen Earth. I’ve really only played through the tutorial, but I’m very intrigued by this game. The interface is a little off-putting, but I really like what I’ve seen of the world so far and I’d like to spend more time with it.

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LOTRO. Oh man. LOTRO is an older game, but I’m kind of in love with the aesthetic. I’d be hard-pressed to tell you why, but this feels like a world I could spend a lot of time in. I’ve been having a lot of fun with my Warden, and the gambit system keeps combat fresh and interesting. But there’s one issue that is absolutely killing my enjoyment of this game, and that is the quest tracker. It feels like a hassle to manage, it keeps switching focus on me, and while I like the look of the map, it DOES NOT go out of its way to help me actually find anything.

This is where you come in, fellow bloggers! Does LOTRO have any add-ons that improve the quest tracking? Is there something that makes tracking stand out more in the map? I know the UI has some good customization options in-game, and I’m wondering if there’s anything I can do with that. If there’s any answer to my questions, please give me a heads up!

NBI Aftermath

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Is October over already?! Unbelievable.

NBI 2013 has reached its end, and as the dust clears I can look around and see more than a few new friends. A “we survived” shoutout to some of my fellow NBI rookies:

I actually think I drew more motivation to blog just knowing there were others out there in the same boat than from any of the official NBI posts or sponsor tips. When you can follow along and encourage each other it really enhances the sense of community and helps build momentum!

It was also really nice to hear from some of the NBI sponsors reading, and those new connections mean a lot to me. I’ve really enjoyed talking to Ocho, TenTentacles and other about The Secret World, and hearing from more like Syp and Liore (and more, sorry I can’t remember them all!) who’ve featured links to me and other NBI bloggers. Many of the sponsors I’ve already been following, and it’s awesome to see so much engagement from them and join their ranks.

My goals for the moment are just to keep blogging! I’d like to branch out and talk about more games besides TSW (I have LOTRO and Fallen Earth in my sights), and instead of summarizing my gameplay and current events I think if I spend some more time thinking critically about MMO systems and mechanics it’ll help me grow. Definitely looking forward to producing more videos and getting into some livestreaming, too! The only difficulty I see in the near future is that November is National Novel Writing Month, so I’ll be pretty busy writing for the next 30 days. Just have to make sure I can stay balanced!

The end of October might mark the end of NBI, but it feels like the beginning of a whole lot more.

Nvidia Shadowplay Impressions

Nvidia rolled out the Shadowplay technology in beta for GTX 600 & 700 series cards yesterday, and I was excited to jump in and try it out.

The two main draws of Shadowplay are that it uses an H.264 encoder already built into your video card, so you see much less of a hit to performance than with software like FRAPS, and it also dumps footage to a compact mp4 file. It’s set up to capture at 1920 x 1080 and at 60fps, and you can use either manual mode, where you can toggle recording on and off, or use the shadow option, recording up to the last 10 minutes of gameplay at all times with the option to save it. It’s still in beta so there aren’t a wealth of options, but the skeleton is there and it’s sturdy.

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For a test, I used Shadowplay to capture The Cat God NM fight you can find at the top of this post. I activated it in manual mode, because I like having control over where the raw footage starts and stops so I don’t have a bunch of extra at the end. So you can tell when it’s running, Shadowplay drops a small, unobtrusive icon in the corner of your screen (you choose which).

I was expecting to notice at least a little drop in performance, but there was nothing! Just a slight hitch when I started recording. I’ve only tested it with The Secret World and the new Batman game, Arkham Origins, but so far it definitely seems to affect performance less than FRAPS. It’s nice to be able to capture without dropping my settings first!

After the fight, it was time to check the results. The file size was pretty small, coming in at just over 1gb for about 5 minutes of gameplay. Hard drive space isn’t much of an issue for me, but with smaller file sizes I’ll be able to save more raw footage. As for quality, it looks pretty good to me. There was a little weird stuttering, and I think that might be a side effect of recording at 60fps, but it went away after I ran it through Vegas and rendered at 30fps. I think FRAPS probably records higher quality, but it’s not enough of a difference for me. Audio was fine, I didn’t really notice a difference. The final render looks a little washed out to me at times, but I think that’s due to Youtube’s upload process and maybe also some color correction I used in Vegas.

My initial impressions of Shadowplay are very favorable overall, and the thing to remember is that it’s still in beta. Hopefully they’ll be working out the kinks and adding more options in the future, and Nvidia’s already said their intention is to add Twitch integration. I’m looking forward to playing around it more, and messing with the settings to figure out the best quality for Youtube. I tried a little something different with publishing this video, too. I got rid of the intro screen, so the video gets right into it, and I placed a small watermark over the whole thing instead. I might add the final screen back in just to have my blog address on there somewhere. What do you guys think?

MEGADIRGE in the Multiverse

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It’s time to branch out! WordPress doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and I’ve started MEGADIRGE accounts to help connect with more NBI bloggers and the world-at-large:

  • Follow me on Twitter to get notifications for new posts, chat with me, and get links to other weird stuff I find.
  • Check out my channel on Youtube for random videos, working toward walkthroughs and guides.
  • Watch my Twitch stream to see how bad I am at games! I’ll post info for when I’m streaming here and on Twitter when I have it nailed down.
  • Stalk me on Steam to see some of the games I’m playing, and add me as a friend if you want to play together sometime.

If you look to your right you should see a few colorful little boxes with links to all these accounts too.

I’ve screwed around with gaming videos before but never really grasped the finer arts of optimization for Youtube. But over the last few months I’ve been doing a lot of video editing at work, and the other night I experimented with FRAPS while running the event portal in TSW and thought to myself, “You know, I’m pretty sure I actually have a handle on this stuff now.” Initial experiments have been a success! It took a little doing—I’m using Sony Vegas at home but I’ve been editing with different software at work—but I’m pretty sure I have all the settings down. The file size of raw footage is a little daunting, like in the range of 1GB for just less than a minute of video, but that just means I can finally use one of my two secondary internal HDDs for something productive.

Also, I’m thrilled to read about Nvidia Shadowplay, coming October 28. Looks like I upgraded my video card just in time! This’ll work as a built in recorder like FRAPS for more recent video cards, and unless I’m reading it wrong it’ll require less processing power, meaning less of a hit to game performance. And it’ll have a feature similar to what they’ve been crowing about for the new consoles: buffering the last 20 minutes of play in the background so you can look back and grab footage if something cool happens. I have high hopes for this and I’m really looking forward to trying it out.

I also got a Twitch channel set up and got some free streaming software running, in the form of Open Broadcaster Software. Pretty straightforward. I’m less comfortable with the thought of live streaming, and I don’t have a webcam yet so I won’t be doing any of that picture-in-picture face stuff, but it’s something I’d like to try. I think it’ll help if I have a clear purpose for each broadcast instead of just streaming random gameplay. A schedule’s not a bad idea, and I’ll try to get one set up and post it on here.

I don’t have a ton of content on any of these accounts yet, but it feels good to get started. Also, I’ve tried to follow more bloggers on Twitter, but I know there’s more out there I’m missing! Comment with your info so I can find you (or just follow me so I can follow you back). Check it out and let me know what you think! Very open to feedback and any tips on video/audio quality and stuff too. Do you have requests for video features you’d like to see?

RECAP: State of Play

Whoops, I haven’t posted anything in a week!

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I’ve still been playing a lot, but I feel like I’ve been in a bit of a holding pattern and haven’t had anything new to say. But it’s time for an update!

TSW: I haven’t had time for NM dungeons lately, so I’ve pretty much just been hunting rare spawns. I only have 3 left, and they’re all in City of the Sun God. They also absolutely REFUSE to appear for some reason, so I’ve been parked out by their spawn points and getting some reading done at the same time.

I don’t really have anything good to say about the current stage of The Whispering Tide, so I’ll just say I hope the next stage sees an easier way to earn currencies, and no more increased prices. Joel made some cryptic comments in the forums and I’m relatively confident we’ll see things shake up in the next phase or two.

FF14: I’m hanging out at 28 GLD right now, and have only played sporadically over the past week. This just doesn’t hold my attention quite as well as TSW. BUT one of my friends just transferred over to Balmung with me, so I’m looking forward to getting some time in this weekend, powering through more of the main story and maybe starting a Free Company. Now I just need to think of a good name.

Hearthstone: This is new. I got into the beta! I play a good amount of Magic, mostly just at prerelease events and sometimes on the weekends with friends, and Hearthstone feels like a stripped down, streamlined, and incredibly fun version of the same game. A lot of the card mechanics are similar, so it’s been really easy to pick up all the gameplay basics. I’ve never really been great at deckbuilding; choosing cards from a giant pool usually feels just a little overwhelming. But the arena mode in Hearthstone is like a sealed draft, and I love that type of play. You get to pick one card out of three to keep, and you do that thirty times to build your deck. It forces you to work with a random selection of cards, and I like that it puts everyone on an even playing field.

I’ve run mostly with the Paladin so far, but dabbling with the Rogue has been fun too, and I still have plenty of other classes to try. My battletag is biezel#1634, so add me if you want to play. Look for a more detailed post with screenshots soon!

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I’ve been reading some great posts from fellow bloggers lately, too. Some thoughts about Rift’s conversion to F2P over at TAGN really echoed the way I felt about that whole process. And I really enjoyed Vagabond Sam’s impressions of Telltale’s new Fables game, A Wolf Among Us. The Walking Dead was an incredibly emotional game, and those characters and choices have stuck with me far longer than those in most games. Looking forward to picking that one up!