On Single Player Games

I love the feeling of sleeping in on a day off in the summer. Booting up a game system when you do finally pull yourself out of bed and hearing that opening sequence from “Sega” to whatever that loud whoosh is that Xbox has. The sun is warmly shining in through the drapes, so you close them up, you look at your backlog of games, pop one in and get to dive deep. Makes it even better when your version of sleeping in is seven in the morning and you get a good solid run at a game before anyone else bothers you.

It is times like this when I am delving deep through the wastes of New Vegas or fighting my way through Rapture once again that I realize how important it is to get time to yourself in games. What used to be the only way to play games is slowing becoming the odd way to play them. Some people even waiting to play titles like Red Dead Redemption 2 until multiplayer was implemented because that was all they cared about.

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Now the nature of my job and who I am gets me out and talking to people constantly. I like what I do, I like hearing what makes people happy and get them to open up about their passions, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t like the alone time. The fact is that when I get to play a single player game it is still a unique experience all to myself. Something that as I grow older I appreciate more because the things you want someone there for are that much worse alone. I can’t tell how many times I just don’t want to go out and grab a bite to eat when everyone else is busy, so I just cook at home instead of going solo.

I like being ten hours in and deciding I want to do a side quest for no reason. I like spending an hour on my characters customization, even if I fully know I will cover the same face with a helmet for the whole game. The feeling that there is no pressure in a game is big to me. Whenever a large game comes with multiplayer you have the problem of people progressing at different rates or one person not wanting to play when you do, and the whole thing can fall apart so fast. It is always a sickly feeling of betrayal when you load up your characters again and one of you is ten levels over the other.

Can you a person for wanting to play more or less than the others in their group?

Single player titles give you the option of doing everything at your pace. Developers are seeing great titles like God of War 4, Breath of the Wild, Spider-Man, Horizon Zero Dawn,  or even Ori and the Blind Forest and realizing how powerful they can be. How you can sell so much of a game on the story and gameplay elements that you give to one person instead of the focus on letting everyone in.

Recently I went through Rage 2, a solo title that I think could have only been played that way. Your character is a big badass that obliterates every enemy he/she runs into a grandiose fashion. You see a large mutant, well you have a rocket launcher that splats everything and can double jump into his face to use it. The “power” your character exhibits is special because only you can do it. You feel badass, so if you were driving by a bandit hideout and another player was wiping them out faster or better than you it would take away from that cool factor you have. It needed to be a single player game and I think they did great in keeping it that way.

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In fact, Diablo 3 is a game many people only play multiplayer, but one that I have put so much more time in solo. I like when my demon hunter or monk is wrecking a whole room full of enemies in seconds and feel like the game moves too slow with multiple heroes in the same lobby. The power levels again being so over the top that you feel like your hero is just a sidekick at times.

Multiplayer smash up games like gauntlet were great at keeping people even. Titles like Modern Warfare 2 were groundbreaking at making you feel like the champion of a team in critical moments. League of Legends can only ever be a good game when you have full teams going at it because the bot games are just too simple. I love the multiplayer games too and I know there is always going to be a place for them, this rant is coming to an end and I just don’t want everyone thinking I am attacking a component I do enjoy.

I think more than anything this was a short love letter to the single player games out there and to help implore developers to keep it up. When a new shooter comes out like Black Ops 4 and they decide to omit a campaign from it, they do take away something players enjoy. It is a simple fix on both sides. For the consumer, we just pay attention and don’t invest if it is lacking a component you enjoy. For the developers, I say do whatever makes your title the best title. If the new Poke’mon game simply can not have all the little poke’mon in it because they can’t fit it in, I understand. Same goes for Animal Crossing, take your time Nintendo, make it good!

I think the nostalgia of a good JRPG is calling my name now. I got that itch and it is a nice warm summer day, I think I’m going to squeeze away for now and work through something on that backlog of mine.

Until next time all,

Shane

Feature Photo by Tim Bogdanov on Unsplash

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Sit Down For A Way Out

When I think Co-Op gameplay I think of a game that can have you play with another as an option. I don’t think before playing A Way Out had I ever seen a title that requires you to have another person and had no single player at all. With that in mind, this Sit Down Sunday is about a title that is a hell of a rollercoaster and a great game to play through on a raining afternoon with someone close by.

A Way Out gives you the option to play as one of two characters, Leo or Vincent. Whoever you don’t choose leaves the roll open to another player, but that role must be filled. Local co-op play was the way I managed this, but if you want to play over PSN or Xbox Live it will let you play with someone else you has the disk and not require you too. That is a cool feature that I have never seen before, although I could be wrong, I think it is first. The reason behind this gambit of giving your game away to two people for every one copy you sell? Well, it is all in the story.

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The screen is split down the middle for most of the game, in sneaking and action sequences it plays just like any other two player game would. However, when the action gets heavy or one character breaks off onto their own you follow just that character. This may seem poor when the other has to just sit and watch, but it plays out like a great action movie. One scene has a character fighting off police down a hall then cuts to the other as he tries to run through an air vent. Each scene is important but takes place in different areas. So by watching the game unfold this way you get the full story every time.

The game goes through a series of locations but begins with a classic prison break out. The who thing takes place around the time of the Vietnam war, so setting up an escape from prison to be a little more believable. Moments when I out loud said, “Why don’t they just taser them” made more sense when I got into the time of the game. From prison break to an island getaway, you will see all the locations and they look great during them with the game rendering everything perfect the whole time through.

The most exciting parts are the beginning with the fun obstacles in the prison and the huge ending. It gives you a jaw-dropping moment that leaves you mad and defeated that you didn’t see it coming. Without going into too many spoilers I advise you to play with someone who you can see their face at the conclusion. I also really enjoyed a scene involving an airdrop that made me remember why I hate heights so badly, much like the protagonist Leo.

There is a fun myriad of easter eggs in the game that lets you go off the path a bit. Along with quite a few minigames, you can compete against the other player for fun. From arcade games to connect four, there are plenty of little quirks throughout to make you smile. It is the little things in the game that makes some of the more cliche parts passable. Sure you have the hard cut guy who is in prison for the wrong reasons, and the nice guy out for revenge but they make their stories believable. You even take time to visit with the families to learn more about their motivations.

If you are an achievement or trophy hunter you will find this game a sweet easy completion. After you complete the story for a good time there is a quick chapter select that you can go back and pick up the ones you missed. Many of them you will find simply along the way. The game has five acts and if you find yourself in a sort of hub area that usually means there is an achievement to be made.

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I think the only time we ever died playing through had to do with a couple of chase scenes that were difficult to understand where to go next. The stealth parts are simple and satisfying and there never were really puzzles too hard to figure out. Even if there were some hard ones, there are two of you at all times.

So if you are looking for a nice title that is quick and sweet and will leave you with something to talk about I suggest giving this a try. I suppose people love getting a rating system on games, and I don’t know what I want to rate mine out of. So if I had to go out of one through five I would say this game is a solid three.

Three on the five-point scale for not ever making you say you hate the game and for being nice and quick. The ending left me frustrated but not because it was in any way bad. It was similar to why I loved the book The Long Walk by King but hated the ending, I wanted more.  Three because, the shooting was nice better felt oversimplified, and the story of what the diamond was could have used a little more.

Without spoiling too much I will stop there. So go out, find somebody, and give the game a playthrough. I’ll see you tomorrow with the second part of Habits in Gaming to finish that up. For the rest of the week expect another top five on Wednesday and another talk about board games on Thursday. Tuesday I’ll leave up to when it arrives. See you then!

Habits in Gaming Part 1

Recently I have been reading a book titled The Power Of Habit by Charles Duhigg. It is an interesting read going in depth on why we do what we do and how we get into routines. Reading about two hundred pages in so far it got me to thinking about all the different habits in gaming I have developed over the years.

You may think, “Gaming habits, I don’t have any?” When was the last time you looked behind you before advancing when starting a level? When was the last time you grinded before a boss to make sure you got them all the way in case it was a tiered fight? Have you ever kept an enemy alive on a game to gain additional experience on them, or train a move for a character? Ever say just one more game since the experience bar was close? How about making sure for the millionth time that you cleared ALL of the map before advancing.

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Every single one of these is a habit that you picked up in some game along the way. Maybe one time you looked behind you before moving ahead in a game and there was a chest to help you start out on your journey. I know I personally look at all the achievements on a game before starting so I don’t miss a simple one that may be at the very start of the game. It leaves a feeling of unease for me when I know I could have gotten it so easy. Sometimes having to restart a whole game to feel like I am actually enjoying it. A habit I picked up from replaying too many games early on in the 360 counsel life.

Or maybe, the habit was picked up earlier when I learned there were hidden items and bosses you could get in the Final Fantasy series. I was floored when I learned there was a character named Vincent Valentine in Final Fantasy seven from a friend back in middle school. I had beaten the game maybe a month prior and he asked which main characters I had used to get through, he mentioned his favorite had been Valentine. I had beaten a whole game without a character that you could easily unlock.

https://www.madewithmischief.com/artwork/13/Vincent-Valentine Amazing art done by szynka2496 here of that exact character.1415711721_NX1ux_vincent-valentine.png

It started a trend for myself that I didn’t want to miss a single thing in a game if I could. Sometimes making me be almost obsessive over not missing a thing when I got into High School and playing through longer games. Chapter select and check marks in games that tell you how much of something you have gotten are lifesavers in time and things I am always grateful to see in a title.

I remember another time going through all of the flags in Assassin’s Creed with Altair to find I was missing a single one. I spent hours and hours trying to find it and in the end just restarted the game to use a checkmark system off of an additional website. Just because I grew a habit that a game is only complete when the achievements say 1000/1000. Don’t even get me started on the titles that through in an oddball two-point achievement, looking at your Super Puzzle Fighter Z.

Regardless of what little random quirks and things you have developed over the years these are your habits. I feel more comfortable flying a plane in a shooter with inverted controls, but never when moving the character. A great friend is an exact opposite, we hated trading off games in Halo 2 for that reason. Another great friend has to collect everything in a game. It seems he likes having the resources to make what he wants to make, that makes him do this. He is more apt to play a survival game that he can build and grow on than a quick shooter that you lose your loot upon death. The habits of all these things in gaming also predict which games we inevitably enjoy playing through. Myself having trouble with games I simply can’t beat because there is no end goal.

Some people don’t like games where you lose or die often. Dark Souls and Bloodborne growing a cult following over the intensity of the titles that were so unforgiven. I don’t meet casual fans of this series. I find people all the time who hate the titles because the grind is so stupid to them, others who know all the lore and own every comic that has came out and where to “good loot” is. When you start out on “soft” titles like Mario as opposed to Hosts and Goblins you will naturally waver to what you find most comfortable.

So what brings you back to a game over and over again? What is the habit loop in titles that brings you back the second, fifth, or thousand times to play a match again? What makes you think you have to do your daily or weekly challenges to jump on and knock them out really quick?

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This is going to be my first attempt at a two-part article. The first coming to you today and the second half finishing up on Monday, with another article coming out Sunday that I’ve already written for Sit Down Sunday. I wanted you to know first and foremost what you were getting yourself into with this little piece of work that I wanted to talk about.

All of that is something I want to touch on come Monday. The loops in games that bring us back time and time again. Until then, drop a like and comment on what type of game habit you realize you have about yourself. I love hearing about all of them and they inspire me to work on my next piece. Remember you can follow me on this site as well or sign up for email notifications.

I appreciate all you awesome people, see you tomorrow.

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The Long Walk

Let’s take a moment and talk about gaming fatigue.

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This is a topic that I mentioned briefly in the first little bit that I wrote and one that I wanted to get back into before it flew from my mind. The idea that you “have to game a lot” to be a gamer. One that in and of itself can lead you to just not want to play games at all. Then before you know it you are back to the “Goodbye Micheal” episode of The Office on Netflix instead of doing anything productive or meaning full.

Be prepared for this read its full of segues

So to start, I believe most people play games for two reasons. To have fun and to get a feeling of accomplishment. Look at many of the other social trends, movies, TV shows, new songs, books. People enjoy them at the time and then the accomplishment of adding something to their internal list of “I did this!” We like knowing we finished a movie so we can talk about it. Like having binged watched that whole season of Umbrella Academy very much the same we like beating games, to stay social.

It could be that you beat a single match and the rush and thrill of sitting at the top of the leader boards or making a good dive and getting a “Penta” thrill you. It could be you finally finished the game on your backlog (Looking at you God of War) and want to tell your friends. Beating a game has many definitions. Back to it, fun and accomplishment.

Sometimes that leads to us not wanting to get back into a game. You hit a wall in the game or in your mind and don’t want to pass it. One such example is From Softwares Soul games, or more recently Sekiro. A Game that I have enjoyed a lot lately and even wanted to write about today, but video recording set me back briefly.

Sekiro, Shadows Die Twice is not what most would describe as an easy game. One that many people will die in front of a boss thirty to fifty times before you move forward. You have to learn the mannerisms of the boss that can down you in two hits to the point you know you need to jump just from the flex in the drunkard’s arm or the tilt of the bull’s horn. Sometimes that kind of boss detail can make you hit that wall and then the game gathers dust on the shelf.

When you aren’t growing you are dying. Its a phrase used time and time again in the self-help world to kind of shock you awake. A cold shower to your career or relationships. More true in games that you literally die twice in. So that sudden stop in-game progression stonewalls you and people give up. Competitive games are no different.

Most great magic players I know lost more matches than people would believe. The best League of Legends player I know has more losses on his all-time record than most people I know as well. They grind through it and get that next level. No joke, that gets tiring. To many older generations, it seems like a joke that gaming would even step into the connotation of “the grind” since games are for fun.

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Games have changed vastly in the last thirty years. A simple game like Space Invaders where all that matters is the high score. Now competes with full-fledged esports and games that blur graphics to the point you have to blink twice to make sure it isn’t a real actor. Immersion is the name of the game and the story we tell ourselves of being the hero feels more real now than ever.

It isn’t just a game, it’s a culture.

There are parts of games where achievements and trophies tempt you to try it a little harder. Or go a route you normally would never try. The grind of completing one giving you that rush when it sits done and you can talk to all your friends about how sweet it really was. Many close friends of mine still bragging over the original Seriously achievement from Gears one.

In fact every summer I make a goal to beat at least fifty video games. Usually, I tap out around thirty or so. It gets to be a lot and sometimes you lose sight of the fun. The gaming fatigue sets in fully and you can barely move past a character creation before you say, not tonight.

Oh, man, did I google how to get over that!

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I found there were a few answers to help that I found myself. One is a phrase you have heard a million times now from Shia Lebouf to Nike. Just do it. When I have told myself I just need to beat this game the third time I just jump on and say five hours. If I can’t give the game that then it really just isn’t ever going to be worth it to me. Five hours.

More often than not after hour two or three I fall into hours seven then twelve and before I know it I have another game beaten. Shooters go especially quick in this regard. Games on rails are a quick afternoon or late night binge. The open sandbox games can take some time.

That’s why the second one is, don’t do it. Seems counter-intuitive I know, but hear me out. How many times in your life are you chatting with a friend about anything else in the world and you get an itch to play the game you stepped away from out of the blue. You are chatting about how cool space is and then you hear how the people who made a space game you like also made a fantasy game. You get an opinion and that leads to “the itch” and suddenly Dragon Age Origins and Dragon Age 2 are beaten in the span of a week.

Stepping away from a game I don’t like at the time or can’t sink any time at all into is one of the best things I did for my gaming hobby. Man do I hate feeling like I need to play “or else.” I play for the sake of gaming (self-promotion plug) and that is it. I will go on kicks where I only play my PC and then switch to my Xbox for months. I will plug in my GameCube and find myself yelling how unfair Metroid can be even still. It helped lead to one of the best gaming experiences I had in years.

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Breath of the Wild really opened up a lot of my gaming joy after a long hiatus of not beating anything. I delved deep into its open world and genuine fun. Beating it twice in completely different ways. The number of games I beat multiple times for pure joy not numbering above ten.

The game I was stuck with at the time I played it? Ryse Son of Rome. Completely different in every regard. I started that opening sequence what felt like five times and then just said, not now. I flipped on my switch I hadn’t played much and dropped deep into Zelda. Soon after beating it I saw a Spartacus episode and in I went back to Ryse. That game was done in a night and I’m glad I added it to my completion list.

Now I’m winding down here and won’t keep you much longer. The biggest point of this post was to telling you one thing. Just play what you like when you want to. With that, please, pretty please tell me what you are playing. Much like how I read books, I like jumping to games organically by what my friends suggest. Comment down wherever that tab is and say what you like. Say what you are stuck on or that one game that is on your to-do list.

Then when I visit this topic again, maybe you can tell me how far you have come. Until then just keep playing games and having fun.

 

Fall Back In

Fallout 76

There are few games that have been attacked as hard in recent memory as Fallout 76. Not simply just a few upset people here and there attacking a game because of a trend or a meme but all out anger. So my stupid self is going to attempt to defend it some.

Now it is months after launch and quite a few fixes and updates in. To test how some of it felt I made a planned night with a few good friends and said let us hop on and see how things roll now.  Plus stash upgrades are nice.

Before I get into how that went a little bit of information from before. This is a game that had already eaten many late night hours of mine. I had not touched the game since January, but before that time clocked in around eighty hours. No small feat when my gaming time priority falls to a bare minimum during the holiday season. A few all-nighters even took place, unintentionally. Many times the depth of some of the “dungeons” in the game led me to spend two hours in one without realizing it. Others being short and sweet and leave me craving to see another.

Yes, of course, there are pitfalls and downsides to this game. Before last night I would have a random crash from time to time. I had seen some really strange character model issues with enemies and sometimes things just didn’t work right. I may be a bit luckier running it on a One X instead of a basic model, but even my friends only rarely crashed. Many times hoping right back into the server within two minutes. Only rarely leaving the game feeling like an early access title.

All of that aside I was still impressed with how much fun it was with friends. So be warned that even though only about half of my eighty hours of this game was solo the co-operative play was where this game really shined. So if you think you will never, ever have a chance to play with another person with a headset then I will admit, you won’t be able to enjoy this game all the way sadly.

In fact, what I have grown to start describing this game as to people is a certain type of Fallout DND. Where your party is a hodgepodge of random and you have to scrape together enough loot to progress and make it ahead. Without them, a Scorchbeast can be a terrifying creature. With a party of four, sometimes they are a joke.

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So some more on the game. When you are alone or solo so much of the game is put into listening to the well-made holotapes and finding key components to continue upgrading your equipment or crafting new guns. A lot of which you have to find plans for before you can really start upgrading them yourself. A gameplay element that made a lot of players again furious, but I’m the odd one out. I feel this did something special to the game.

You actually end up using different guns as you level and progress. From having a favorite hunting rifle you slowly build into a sniper or finding a homemade rifle that you really make into your own. It is actually called the homemade rifle (See gun in images). In fact, when I started progressing I was so focused on rifles that I was able to help pass on things for shotguns to one friend and pistols to the next. I can’t forget to mention how important it was to trade for ammo as well. You go from, “I have a thousand rounds” to “I’m almost out” every session it seems.

Although last night was more of a let’s see where things lie now than anything else it went good. Hunting down missions that were left untouched for months and helping some friends catch up on some much-needed achievements. The last whole hour hiking through the Cranberry Bog before stopping right outside the Fissure Prime site for a long dungeon experience we planned to play on another night soon.

What the bog loos like in some areas. With ravines running just below the surface.Fallout 76 (6).png

Before letting up on it, I want to mention that this game also does a great job at not giving you too much to go off of. In fact, a good ten hours were spent with a friend hunting down the illusive Mothman. Getting hints off of terminals deep in swamps and off dead bodies. At one point leading to a campground where blood-curdling screams and random earthquakes happened. Until someone pointed out that there were eyes behind me…

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There are so many of these cryptids in the game that one I only saw for five seconds before it teleported away. It has many different well-made enemies that I always see something new. Even when there are literally hundreds of scorched around everywhere you go, there are many more enemies to whet your appetite for railway gun carnage.

In fact, the scorched are really just a very basic replacement for raiders in this one versus the other games in the franchise. A replacement that makes lots of sense if you get into the story. One where I hear people say they hate that there are no human NPC characters in the game. I always reply with, “Well you know why right?”

Regardless the story is there if you are willing to dive in.

Last bit before I call it good in this small segment of 76.

I think it was awesome that the developers were willing to take a chance. To make a game that is absolutely ginormous. To make the weather systems able to be seen from across the map and the lighting to look great as you walk through the mire. I think that most great games have to come from something first. A game that has free content added into the players’ worlds all paid for by an in-game shop that players never need to spend a dime on.

I think that it can help build into something amazing going forward later on. That too often people get punished for trying something big. Even though some of my favorite memories in games are big moments no one dared to try before. Things like the fight with psycho mantis where you have to switch controller ports. Things like the first time you played a great FPS with RPG elements. This like pulling the Master Sword out and going forward in time for the first time. Or watching as The Last of Us dared to take it all away in one moment of gameplay.

So I’ll check in on this game from time to time. I like being the rifleman in the party. I like screaming how I need screws and a friend saying, ” Well how many caps do you have on ya?” I like finding a location in the distance from a high mountain

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And making it not so distant

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Really, in the end, I just like Fallout

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