“What made you a gamer?” – NBI 2015 Talkback Challenge #3

nbismallThis post is part of the Newbie Blogger Initiative and the third Talkback Challenge asking “What made you a gamer?” When I saw this question, I knew I had to join in and talk about how I got to where I am today now (gaming-wise, of course).

GC2011 Commodore 64Many years ago (I felt like saying “Once upon a time” here…), my brother, who is 6 years older than me, had bought a Commodore 64. I don’t remember when exactly we started, but I do know that our parents, my brother and I sat in front of the C64 playing the olympic winter games together. The video below lists 1985 as the release date, but I know we played it a few years later. I was still too young in 1985 to be playing computer games and know what I was doing. :p But I was young enough to not be able to successfully play against my family. We still always had lots of fun and me being the last was not an issue. Instead, my family always told me and showed me how I had improved over the time and how I had gotten closer to their scores.

Not that long after, my brother decided to buy an Amiga and sold the C64 to me (yes, we were that kind of siblings where giving something to the other for free was out of question ^^).


(Sorry, the video is in German – but you can still watch the awesome graphics and listen to the amazing sounds of the game!)

I also remember my brother playing “Airline” and explaining to me what he was doing. “Now I buy another plane, then I decide for a route that this plane should take… long distance is not available yet, I will need a bigger plane for that. I will have to hire a pilot, …”. I sat there nodding, eagerly taking in everything he said and then, excitedly, I asked: “So, when do we get to fly that plane? :D” and he looked at me kind of baffled and replied: “Fly? Nonono. This is not such a simulation game. We will not get to fly in that plane. We are the airline manager and we…” and he went on and on to explain the concept of this kind of game to me while my face had gotten very long and I asked, hoping he would say something differently: “So, we will never see this plane take off into the air?” To his defence, he had been incredibly patient with me trying to explain to me why this kind of game was so awesome and so much fun and how adding a flight simulator would destroy this kind of game. I still sat there and watched him play. I slowly learned what to do when and how. And when that C64 was finally mine, Airplane turned out to be my favourite game. I also clearly remember one afternoon where I sat in front of my C64 with a friend and I had been explaining the game to her when she interrupted and asked: “So, when do we get to fly this plane?” – I looked at her, baffled, and replied: “Fly? Nonono. This is not such a simulation game…” Only that I had been less lucky with her than my brother had been with me and she asked to play something differently. We turned off the C64 and went outside, I think.

C64 Airline

C64 Airline

I don’t remember exactly which games my brother and I had been playing on the C64 and the Amiga… but I do remember that we played Bubble Bobble and Double Dragon together. I think that was on his Amiga. Now, my brother and I never got along too well and we used to fight quite often. But we never did so when we were playing those games together. On the contrary, our mum even had to call us several times for lunch as we were still fighting against NPCs in Double Dragon and had had no intention of leaving to eat.

At some point, the C64 had not been able to hold my attention anymore. I never got any new games for it (wise decision, dad… ^^). My brother had also started to be interested more in music and going out with his friends. But then, the new kid in town arrived, the Festival du Jeu Vidéo - 2010-09-11 - Game & Watch Donkey KongGameboy! A friend of mine had owned one and had shown it to me. Of course, I wanted one! I had to have one! It took quite a lot of convincing my dad to finally be allowed to buy one! And guess what happened next? Especially when we were on a vacation (which happened right after I had bought my Gameboy) and whenever we went to a restaurant, I could say “bye-bye” to my Gameboy as my very own father had tried to make absolutely sure that nobody would ever beat his high score in Tetris. My mum got close and managed to beat him, but he soon changed that and got an even higher score than before. Me? Well, I liked watching them play, at least. As a side note, my dad still owns the little orange Donkey Kong game and Pacman. Both also still work!

Since I never had that much money, I only bought a few games for the Gameboy and then lost interest again at some point. Years later, my dad brought home a PC with… I think Windows 95 on it. I used it for school, but not for gaming. It took a few more years and another friend to show me The Sims (the first one). I had also then bought “Cultures” as I had seen the game in a shop for a cheap price and I had figured that the PC we had would be able to play it. Thankfully, it did! Also, let’s not forget Sim City 2000. I was hooked! And I used to chat with friends who also played that game about our cities, what had happened in them, how we had built them and so on.

In February 2005, bookahnerk had gotten World of Warcraft when it had released here in Europe. In December 2005, he bought a copy of the game for me, so I could play with him. And that, my dear readers, is when I became a gamer. – Yes, you read that correctly. This is the moment where I started calling myself a gamer. Not at any other point before that. Nope.

WoW Undead Poets Society

I realized this when I had seen the topic for this week’s “Talkback Challenge” and I think it is weird and possibly also silly. I have actually been gaming all through my life. It has never been the dominant hobby taking over all other interests in my life, but it has always been there. I have fond memories of me and my family being gamers together – and yet, I never thought about us as being “gamers”.

MMO shelfA year ago or so, I was talking to my mum about computer games and then said to her: “Mum, you’re a gamer, too!” You should have seen the confused look on her face. I asked her: “Tell me, what were you doing before I started talking to you just now? In fact, what are you doing while I am talking to you?” “Playing a game…” (It had been Bookworm, I think) – “HA!”, I replied… and she started to laugh with me and said: “I never looked at it this way, but you’re right. I am playing a computer game. I am a gamer.”

It is really this simple, isn’t it? It doesn’t have to be “serious games”. You don’t have to be a “hardcore player” or anything. If you like video games and play them once in a while, then you are a gamer. For me, it’s a fun nice little pastime, especially when I can spend that time with my friends and loved ones and I take that over watching a film any time. Probably because my gamer parents showed me how enjoyable spending time together like this can be!

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Posted in Newbie Blogger Initiative

Folk Tale – Is it worth it now?

Folk Tale Village

This week (until May 8), Folk Tale is on sale for 13,79 € on Steam and you may wonder: Is it worth that much money?

For me, games that interest me start being “worth it” below 15 € if they’re new(ish) and below 10 for older games… very old ones below 5. Don’t ask me why, that’s just an arbitrary number that my brain decided is a good anchor.

First things first: Folk Tale is in Early Access on Steam. It has been in development for a very long time (okay, “long” is subjectively used here) which is also because the developers changed the direction of the game and are making it a sandbox game with editors for us players to use and create our own maps and scenarios.

Folk Tale Logo

My readers may remember seeing the topic of “Folk Tale” pop up here from time to time. In fact, it seems that I write about this game about once a year (June 2013, February 2014 part 1 and February 2014 part 2 – and then May 2015 now). The thing is: I actually cannot tell you what has changed in the meantime! I did not have the time to follow its development last year, then I decided to just wait for it to get released and then I got interested in it again this year, but still lacked the time to play with the editor mode. I have been watching the livestreams on Twitch every now and then, but those mostly happen right after I have come home from work and I just cannot concentrate too much at that point and usually just listen to the game’s background music and to the developer’s accent while preparing dinner. :p

Additionally, quite a lot has been added actually and been tweaked with. What I do know is that apart from lots of work on the editor, the old tutorial is gone and a new one is being introduced. You can read more about this in their latest developer blog post.

I have not tried it yet, so I figured when I saw this game is on sale, that I should give the tutorial a try to write about my experience here. You know, just in case you are trying to decide whether to buy it or not and want somebody’s opinion. I am going to warn you, though: My opinion is not meant as a “you should buy it” or “you should not buy it”. Please do not take it as a review or anything of the sort. It’s just my own opinion that you can use to make a judgment of your own if you want to.

The tutorial map has voice over already and it slowly guides you through building a functioning village. I admit, when I first played Folk Tale back in 2013 with the old tutorial I was a bit disappointed. The game I had seen in the tutorial was fine, but when I had first read about the game, I had imagined it to be more similar to Cultures. A gaming series that I will forever hold dear! I spent way too many hours – while studying – playing the game. Okay, maybe Cultures (the first one, not the sequels) was a taaad slow sometimes. ;) Still, I loved the graphics and the game design. So, Folk Tale was good, but did not quite fit that niche. The sandbox direction changed that, though. It feels almost exactly like Cultures and I really love that!

The first thing you do is place a supply waggon, so your villagers have a place to put all their important supplies (the usual: stone, wood, food). After that, you gather a bit of wood and food to get you started. Then you place a woodcutter hut, a fishing hut, a hunter’s lodge and, of course, fields, a windmill and a bakery. Once again, this is exactly what I did in Cultures… or Banished, for that matter.

The soundtrack is really nice to listen to, even for a longer amount of time. I know too many games where the music sounds nice, but the loops are too short and it starts to get on my nerves in no time. With Folk Tale, I can have the game open in the background and just enjoy the songs for a while. Including the birds’ chirping when you’re on a map. ;)

The graphics are more on the comic than on the realistic side and I have to admit, I actually prefer that over the realistic graphics. The voice overs, as far as they are available already, are also really good. Your villagers only have two voices, though: Male and female. I don’t know if more voices will be added.

The economy is in there already with chains like fields, windmill, bakery and well as well as a hunting lodge plus a butcher. Villagers produce and use goods and they can be happy as well as unhappy. If they become too unhappy, they will leave the village leaving you with nobody to work for you.

But building and micromanaging your villagers’ needs is not all there is in this game. It is not like Banished where you focus on building with nothing else. In the tutorial, you are soon introduced to pesky kobolds that you need to fight against with your villagers. So be prepared to train your villagers to defend – and expand – their village! This is another similarity to Cultures where you could train militia as well as equip them with certain items (more so in the sequels than the original Cultures game).

And just after I had typed this and fought against the kobolds successfully, the tutorial asked me to place down a blacksmith. The only problem is: There are apparently more enemies in the fog of war and arrows appeared that shot down my building before it was even built. The resources to build said building were already spent, though. I also then got a message that my villagers were under attack. By clicking on the notification icon, I was taken directly to the action and only saw my villagers walk back towards the centre of the village. I have no idea what attacked them, but thankfully, no villager got seriously harmed either. ;)

With not enough stone, I had to find some and ask a peasant to collect it manually since the tutorial has not yet asked me to build a stonecutter’s lodge. Some people may not like that, but I actually do. This made the tutorial far less boring than some “on the rails” tutorials. On the other hand, if a tutorial goes too fast and overwhelms you with information or if the controls are hard to handle, then I also get frustrated easily if something goes wrong in the tutorial.

Folk Tale_SwampAnyway, this is enough about the tutorial. What else is there to do at the moment? There are a few maps you can choose with indicators of their difficulty (ranging from easy to hard). I have not tried them out, but the swamp one looked interesting, at least. Well, it’s a swamp region where you can settle with your villagers. Not too inviting, but I still liked the look of it.

Right below the “New Game” button, you can find the editors. You still have the map editor that’s been in the game for a longer time already, and then there is the character designer. The latter is funny to watch, especially with voice animations turned on, but other than that, it doesn’t serve a purpose yet, I think.

Folk Tale Location Editor

The Location Editor

The map editor still looks similar to when I last played with it. However, I am completely lost when it comes to the controls in this editor. Thankfully, Games Foundry (the developers) make heavy use of the Steam forums and you can actually find a subforum for this editor there complete with guides etc. Since I already wrote about this part and do not want to read up on the controls again now, I will not write about this again here. But I do feel the need to add that my old post about this editor doesn’t do it any justice anymore, I think. Just by looking at the kits (each kit contains several items you can place that all belong to that kit’s theme), I can already say that a lot of things have been added. When I worked on a map, there were maybe three kits to choose from. Now I counted 33 kits. Some with only a handful items in there, some with more than 100.

Folk Tale WorkbenchOne more feature has been added to the map editor: The workbench! Now this is a feature that I would really love to understand and be able to work with right away! Of course, it took me several minutes now to figure out how to even open this feature. :p As with many other things, there is a guide available from the developers. It is quite easy, actually. You just press “Y” when you’re in the editor. With the workbench, you can create quests and world events, apparently. This will eventually enable all players to create their own maps and missions with goals to reach etc. I am already looking forward to seeing what all the creative people out there will create.

All things considered, I still do not regret having paid money for this game almost two years ago. True, the game is still not finished and yes, I wish it was. :p I am still confident, though, that they will finish this product and that I will enjoy it once it is here, because over the course of the last two years, it has slowly but surely become more and more the game I had at first hoped it would be one day. And once again, the reason why I am confident is that there are constant updates – not just patches that progress the development, but also communication from the developers. You can watch the livestreams on Twitch (or on demand if you missed one) where one of the developers shows you what they are working on and even answers questions that the chat asks (which means that you can ask questions, too!). So if you don’t know whether you want to invest in this game, head over there and watch the videos. You can read through the Folk Tale forums on Steam or read more about the game on the official website.

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Posted in Folk Tale, Game Design

Games in unexpected places

Part of Koblenz

Part of Koblenz

This weekend, bookahnerk and I had been on a short vacation to Koblenz. The town itself was okayish, but nothing really great. We had primarily chosen it because it’s right next to two big rivers: The Rhine and the Moselle. Unfortunately though, the weather wasn’t too nice either. I can imagine that in summer with lots of sun, the place is gorgeous!

Now you may wonder why I’m babbling about my offline life as I usually don’t do that – but it will become gaming-related in a bit (though offline-gaming, but gaming nonetheless).

On Saturday, we had decided to take a trip to the Ehrenbreitstein Fortress. You can get there by taking the cable car. That probably saved us about trip by foot of about an hour or even more. Also, the view was awesome! The fortress itself was a bit like a maze, at least for somebody like me who does not have the greatest sense of orientation. It was also impressive to look at. Several parts of the inside had different exhibitions (link in German only. Sorry!). One was devoted to the regional wine – unfortunately, the wine tasting was not open. :p Another exhibition was about archaeological findings from the area, some dating back to about 2000 B.C. There was also a rebuild flat (hover your mouse over the panorama to see part of the flat) from when people used to live there in the 50s (post war, that is). This was more depressing than anything else, because as we were walking through the various parts of the fortress, you could always hear – and clearly see – the air dehumidifiers. And yet, you could see, feel and smell the humidity everywhere. This is definitely not a good place to live at (on the other hand, it most certainly was better than no roof above your head at all). And I also do not envy the people working there today.

Anyway, the exhibitions and the place itself were still nice and we did not regret taking the trip (did I already mention the cable car with its amazing view? ^^). But now comes the unexpected part. So far, we had seen the history of the place and the region. Then I turned around a corner and stared at a 1,50 m high Playmobil figure. What the… It turns out that Playmobil turns 40 this year and of all the places they could have chosen, a Playmobil exhibition was set up in this very fortress.

Playmobil_Figures

I remember Playmobil from my childhood, but I confess: I was a Lego fan! I think it is a bit like the “Star Wars or Star Trek” question with almost everybody having a favourite (Star Trek here, by the way). Also, my parents had gotten Lego for my brother and I got to play with his Lego, too, and then get some of my own and they refused to also buy me Playmobil. I had a few things, but nothing big, from relatives or friends of the family who hadn’t known that we collect Lego instead. :p What I preferred with Lego is that you can build everything that you can imagine. A red Lego piece can be part of a gigantic mushroom, a racing car or a spaceship. A red Playmobil roof will always be a red Playmobil roof. On the other hand, the Playmobil figures, both the humans and the animals, were much nicer to look at, more realistic than the little round yellow thingies that Lego had. I always wished I could combine those two.

So there we were staring in awe at all the different models, reading about the history of Playmobil. It was certainly interesting and while walking through the exhibition, there definitely was no difference between the children who probably have lots of Playmobil at home right now and us adults who were walking around, pointing at things going: “Oooh, I had that!” or “Oooh, I would have loved to get that if it had been available when I was a child!” It’s just that in the middle of this fortress with its century-long history, it seemed a tad out-of-place to be there. Still, nice! And I like when “gaming” in whatever form sneaks up on us and reminds us that we all like good games no matter how old we get.

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Posted in Fun!, Other Games

10 years: Guild Wars nostalgia

Guild Wars turned 10 years old this week. The original Guild Wars, of course, not Guild Wars 2 (which will be 3 years old this August, by the way). Back then I had just started to get into PC gaming and most of all, into MMOs. World of Warcraft had been my first MMO which I started playing December 2005 (it wasn’t released in Europe until February 2005, by the way).

In 2006, Guild Wars got its first additional campaign, Factions. In March 2006, they had their Factions preview weekend event where, when you had gotten a key for it, you could play part of the campaign for free. I got two invitation keys for myself and bookahnerk for that preview weekend from a friend who is a huge fan of console games and does not like PC games at all with the sole exception of Guild Wars. She was very excited and I had heard a few things about Guild Wars from her, so I figured I may actually like it.

In hindsight, a lot of things were not ideal for me as a newcomer to Guild Wars as well as MMOs in general. You got thrown into the endgame – well, high level region – of Factions. Your character was max level and if I remember correctly, she had a premade build. Either way, there was no tutorial and it was simply overwhelming. At the same time, having only 8 skills equipped when I knew that in theory, my character had so many more skills unlocked, seemed outrageous. For me back then, skill came from knowing your repertoire and being able choose which ability would be useful in any given moment. It took a while until I saw and appreciated the resemblance with card games like Magic the Gathering, where you essentially pick certain cards to make a good build.

But while that part was already overwhelming, it wasn’t the only thing I disliked. The game is heavily instanced. As soon as you leave a town or an outpost, you are alone with only those players or NPCs that were in your party when you entered the map. That was certainly not an MMO like I had gotten to know them! And it did not help with my first impression of the game. So there I was, completely overwhelmed with the builds and skills in a world that felt very narrow and small with character movement that seemed to be very clunky. Your character cannot even jump! And it seemed to be “lagging” behind my mouse movement. It certainly is not as direct as in WoW, for example. The characters’ animations when standing still were weird: Everybody looked the same, caught in an unnaturally stiff posture somehow.

So, I left and did not look back… well, almost. Not everything had been bad about the game. I sensed that while I had not liked it and had decided against buying it, I knew that part of me had just not really “gotten” it. The 8 skills, for example. This had to be good for something, right?

At some point, I had grown tired of the sometimes toxic environment in WoW and I had wanted to play some other game. But I did not want to play offline games instead. Even when you don’t want to deal with people, it’s still nice to see them around your character. Offline games sometimes seem to miss life. So, I looked around and I remembered Guild Wars: I remembered the music, I remembered the world, the Jade Sea. The colours! Oh, how I had loved the look of the world.

And while it was “buy to play”, there were no subscription fees. One game with a monthly fee was enough, I did not want another one. I finally got into Guild Wars in December 2006, two months after Nightfall was released. This, of course, means that my own 10 year anniversary with Guild Wars will not happen until either March or December 2006, depending on what you count as “started to play”. :p

Thanks to not throwing away emails, I could read up on my first steps in Guild Wars when I’d talked about it with my GW-playing friend. I had actually wanted to get Prophecies at first, but Nightfall which had just been released two months earlier was just as expensive. I figured that getting the newer one was a better deal somehow. :p I also really liked the dervish and she was the first character I created. Guess which profession I still don’t have at level 20? ;) In fact, this very character doesn’t even exist anymore. I deleted her and created another dervish later on that looks just like her except for the hair colour.

I also remember how I had then created a necromancer and had chosen ranger as second profession for the pet (I assumed having a pet to “tank” for me would be a good choice…) and how long it took me to figure out and get to the point where I could switch my second profession.

And then I remember how with every campaign I bought, I sat here swearing trying to figure out how to switch to the other campaigns with my new characters. A character from the Nightfall campaign could not just switch over to the Factions one. You had to play through your own campaign until a specific step first. If you wanted to play together with a friend with new characters, you had to start in the same campaign. Makes sense story-wise, of course, but gaming-wise, it was a hinderance.

Still, I have spent many hours in Guild Wars and looking back, I mostly have fond memories! Yes, I did have trouble at times with certain aspects, but at the same time, I loved the lack of the gear treadmill, I really enjoyed picking outfits only because of their look and putting builds together was a lot of fun, too.

Up until this day, the Jade Sea (well, actually that one outpost I had been at most of the time during the preview weekend) and Nightfall feel like “home” when I think of Guild Wars. I am one of the very few who would not mind seeing Cantha in Guild Wars 2, but given the choice I would choose Elona without thinking twice. Back home, you know?

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Posted in Guild Wars

One Day… I will play you…

I caught myself saying this very sentence several times in the last few days. I have also seen several people say that they won’t buy any more games on Steam unless they have at least played x other games that they bought in the past. How successful are we with that, eh? ;)

In my case, Trine 3 triggered that sentence, but it actually didn’t start nor stop there. The Trine series is a very odd one for me. I remember a guildie (Damagedself, actually) telling me about Trine 2 and that I should give it a try. I am not a fan of platformer games, though. Other than with the Gameboy, I never really played them. And even back then, I was more a fan of the setting, the world than the game itself. Anyway, I did give it Trine 2 a try and I clearly remember that after a few minutes, I was jumping up and down, squealing, telling bookahnerk how I needed to have that game because it’s awesome! I loved the music, I loved the art design, I loved creating boxes with the wizard, Amadeus. It was totally not the game I would usually play, but it was a game I had fallen in love with. I did buy the game not long after and even played it for a bit. I also own Trine 1. Still, up until this day, I did not play either of those games much.

The music and atmosphere in Trine 3 seem to be exactly the way it was in Trine 1 and 2. One Day, I will buy and play this game!

Torchlight I and II are also on my list of “One Day…”-games. I actually got into playing Torchlight I again recently and really enjoyed myself until that one evening last week where I bought weapons from the gambling vendor, got a really great rifle and… accidentally sold it again. I could not re-buy it anymore as the available stock had changed in the meantime. Now I’m broke and with my old crappy weapon still. But before I delve into Torchlight II together with bookahnerk, I am determined to finish Torchlight I. So… One Day…

Another recurring game on that list is “The Secret World”. I love almost everything about it. The only part I really do not like at all is the combat. Unfortunately, as with every other MMORPG out there, combat is an important part of the game (why is that, by the way? Do we really have to focus on combat so much?).TSW_scenery2

Defiance and Skyrim are on my list as well, but both are in the backseat for different reasons. I tried out Defiance, the game, before I had seen the first episode of the TV series. I did not like it too much, although I am always looking for a nice science fiction MMO to play. Then Netflix arrived here in Germany and I saw that they have the first season of Defiance available. I started watching it, more out of curiosity than anything else and I really enjoyed it and liked the world it is set in as well as some of the characters. So for this very reason, I would like to get into Defiance, the game. So far, no luck. Still, it is behind The Secret World for me. Skyrim is the game I want to love, but don’t. Mostly for technical reasons, actually. What annoys me most of all now is the clunky user interface and the lagging mouse for which I have not found a fix that works yet. I just always wonder: Is a game worth my time (especially with so many others on my list) that I cannot enjoy unless I dig through mods first? Still, One Day…

Skyrim_Gechi_2

I am not alone with such a list, right? I’m pretty sure every gamer out there has games that One Day, they will get to play… maybe…, but for one reason or another, that day just keeps getting rainchecks.

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Posted in Other Games, Rants, Torchlight Series
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