Dragon’s Prophet First Thoughts

Dragon’s Prophet is an up-coming free-to-play action-based fantasy MMORPG developed by Runewaker Entertainment, the makers of the free MMORPG Runes of Magic, and published by Sony.  In this game you can train a variety of dragons which will then help you in combat, provide your character with enhancements, and which you can also use as mounts.

Different dragons have different abilities.  Some dragons, when used as mounts, will increase your movement speed, while others will let you fly, and so on.  Not all dragons fly in this game.  The lore of this game world defines almost any large reptilian creature as a dragon.

The game uses an action combat system similar to Neverwinter, while the graphics look very much like they’re based on Runes of Magic, though they’ve certainly been enhanced.  Nevertheless, the fonts, icons, and especially parts of the UI look like they were inspired by Runes of Magic.

Many people like Runes of Magic so the fact this game is made by the creators of that game holds some promise.  But there’s also some concern about the game being published by Sony.  So far, it seems Sony doesn’t have any idea how to do free-to-play properly.  The majority of their free-to-play games are completely pay-to-win, where they really want to force you into getting a subscription.  For instance, in many of their games, if you want to use higher-level gear you have to pay real money to be able to equip each and every item.

Personally, if a game does free-to-play right, I have no problems giving them some money every now and then to show my appreciation and to support the developers.  But if a game does free-to-play wrong, like Sony tends to do, I won’t play the game at all.

This game does look interesting and could have some potential, but with Sony in the mix, I’ll remain skeptical.

Machinarium Review

I recently got Machinarium for Linux as part of a recent Humble Bundle deal, though it’s available for a variety of platforms, and I just beat the game yesterday.

Machinarium is a graphic adventure game with the regular sorts of puzzles you’d expect from that genre, along with more traditional puzzles mixed in, like having to move pieces in just a certain way or activate lights in just a certain way to solve the puzzle and move on to the next.

There’s no dialog in the game.  The story is told completely through animated thought bubbles and sequences.  It’s very slick, and it works well.

Overall, I highly recommend this game.  You can learn more about it on the game’s wiki page or check out the game’s page itself.

Henge of Denravi

Guild Wars 2 is a MMORPG, that also has a strong PvP component in the form of WvW (World vs. World).  This is where servers are categorized into tiers and then three servers at similar tiers are pitted against each other, with members of those servers meeting on a special battleground where they fight for control of certain control points, gaining points for the server overall.

At the launch of Guild Wars 2, Henge of Denravi (HoD) was one of the largest, if not the largest, servers in the game.  They were tier 1 and undefeated.  But, as the stories go, people started transferring from other servers and joining HoD WvW so they could relay HoD’s battle plans back to their servers of choice.  Also, there can only be so many people in WvW at one time, and the stories say people would transfer from other servers to HoD and join WvW then just stand around to fill up the queue, preventing the more skilled and organized guilds from joining the fray.

Those guilds eventually got tired of these tactics and left the server, joining other servers instead.

Originally Arena Net’s idea, the company behind Guild Wars 2, was to make world transfers, where you transfer your character from one server to another, free at first so players could be sure they were on a server they liked.  Then, after a time, world transfers were supposed to start costing real money, but that hasn’t kicked in yet.  That’s what allowed all of this server hopping to happen.

Because HoD was in first place for so long, it’s still ranked in tier 1 despite now having a much lower population than it used to.  This means that it keeps getting pitted against much larger servers where it can’t make much of any gains, with point spreads of 100,000 for the large servers and HoD with something like 5,000.

It’s expected that HoD will move to a lower tier at some point.  When world transfers are no longer free and when the tiers are reshuffled and rebalanced, it’ll be interesting to see how well HoD starts doing.  Who knows, maybe it can climb its way back up the ladder again.

What Indie Games Mean to Me

If you take a moment to look over this website you’ll see that I’m a big supporter of the Humble Bundle, which promotes indie computer games using a pay-what-you-want system, and recently a promoter of ebooks as well, using the same system.

I’m a big supporter of the indie game scene in general, where you have small independent game developers and publishers creating and publishing their games directly to the public through the Internet, using services like Kickstarter to raise money or simply selling directly through their own website.  This allows them to create games that large game publishers, with their slow development cycles and stagnant ideas, would never green light.

A perfect example of this is Wasteland 2, a sequel to the acclaimed computer role-playing game Wasteland from the 80s.  Brian Fargo went to many of the large publishers asking for the funding to make Wasteland 2.  None of them were interested, thinking that no one would be interested in a game like that.  So instead, he turned to Kickstarter.  The goal was to raise $900,000 to fund the project.  Instead, they raised over $2 million, proving that there really was a desire for such games, and also proving that you don’t have to go through a big publisher and play by their rules to get a game published.

This of course holds many parallels to the ebook industry and authors being able to publish their ebooks directly, but that’s a subject for another post.

So, I’ve been thinking about what indie games mean to me.  I don’t expect them to have the most advanced graphics… after all, they tend to be dealing with smaller budgets… but I do expect the gameplay to be interesting.  They often have very nice soundtracks.  Most importantly, however, I expect them to have good stories.  When I play an indie game, that’s what I’m looking for.  A story that’s deeper, more compelling, and perhaps even more daring than what you’d get out of a main-stream game.

So for me, what I expect from an indie game, and what indie games mean to me, can be summed up in one word:  Story.

Dust Force Review

I recently picked up the indie game Dust Force as part of the Humble Indie Bundle, and have spent the last few days playing it.

The Humble Indie Bundle is a program where you can get a package of independently developed games and pay as little or as much for it as you want.  The money gets divided among the developers and charities, and if you pay more than the average amount, you unlock some additional games.  You can learn more about it here.

Dust Force is one of the games you get for paying more than the average, so I was expecting it to really be something special.  In Dust Force, you play a number of different characters of your  choosing.  You run around levels in 2D side-scrolling platform style, cleaning dust and leaves off of surfaces.  The game incorporates some puzzle-like elements, as you need to use the right combination of jumps, moves, and key-presses to get to some of the surfaces.  Cleaning surfaces also adds to your combo counter, which counts down over time.  You have to keep your combo counter active if you want to achieve a perfect score on the level.

The idea is certainly different and unique, but to be honest, I don’t enjoy the game very much.  I’m sure there are some people that do, but I’m not one of them.  The controls are far too twitchy and unforgiving.  A game like this requires that you move your character precisely, yet when you stop running you always slide.  Then when you’re jumping around, it can be difficult to position and move your character just how you want, resulting in you landing on some spikes or something similar and having to repeat that section of the level over and over again.

The game isn’t difficult because of its puzzles or creative mechanics.  The game is difficult just because of its controls, and that’s just bad design.  Dust Force ends up being far more frustrating than fun.