Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Game Review: Conan Exiles


By Bixyl Shuftan

"Conan the Barbarian," the tale of a heroic warrior in a fictitious and ancient time and place when people were terrorized by monsters and warlords, the "Hyborian Age" described as being sometime between the destruction of Atlantis and recorded history, made for many stories since the 1930s, and would eventually make it's way to television and movies, notably the movie made in 1982 starring Arnold Scwartzenegger. Video games of the character and story universe began appearing in the 1980s. In 2008 came the first MMORPG: "Age of Conan," Developed by Funcom and published in cooperation with Eidos Interactive. The player controls an ex-slave, whom after escaping the beginning quests lead to him or her killing the master then goes on to further adventures. The game received "generally favorable reviews," but suffered from a number of bugs and other problems that resulted in a number of complaints. Funcom did eventually respond to the feedback with bug fixes and new zones.

In January, Funcom released a new Conan MMORPG: Conan Exiles. This is an open-ended survival game in which players start with nothing and use the resources they find around them to make basic clothes and tools while fighting hazards around them, which may or may not include other players depending on the server, and soon building a base, either alone or in cooperation with friends. The player controls an "Exile" sentenced to death, and after being freed by Conan tries to survive in the Exiled Lands, the goals described by the makers of the game as "Survive, Build, Dominate."

The first step is choosing a server. They are categorized into PvP in which players can attack one another or their buildings, PvP Blitz, in which players have only a limited amount of time before the servers are wiped and everything has to start all over, and PvE, where players don't have to worry about being attacked by other players but can't attack them or their structures either. Each has servers in five different categories from purist, to roleplaying, the sixth option being to list everything available. Choosing the later reveals many hundreds of servers, including some "official" ones and numerous ones hosted by others, some of which need a password to enter.

Upon choosing the server is the character creation process. Characters can be either male or female and can be Cimmerian, Hyborian, or several other races in the Conan universe. Players chose one of four Hyborian Age gods the player follows, three of which allow you to build temples of the chosen deity from the start. Besides choosing skin color and facial features, one can also choose the size of breasts for females, and "endowment" or penis size for males. This feature has gotten the game some chuckles in some low humor conversations. When the character is complete, he or she is hung on a cross with a proclamation stating the character is condemned to death for crimes including three listed that are apparently picked at random. These crimes can consist of anything from "unlawful dismemberment" to gambling to deflowering a virgin to "impersonating a priestess."

Following the cutscene where the character is rescued by Conan, the player appears in the middle of a desert with the remains of a stone road ahead. Nearby is a stone sign warning the civilized away from the Exiled Lands "where savages make war upon one another" and on a rock is a waterskin with a little water and a message from another condemned man who choses to leave his water for the next person to find it and allow himself to die. Going along the road, one can gather plant fibers, seeds, and insects from bushes, and stones and sticks on the ground (press E button). Fibers can be used to make simple clothes, and sticks and stones into a simple axe and pick. Gathering these resources, and making items, will get you a small number of experience points. By the time the player reaches the end of the road, they should see signs of small mountains and greenery in the distance, and you should have leveled up once.

Leveling up gets you points that can be used to raise your attributes, such as vitality which determines how much damage you can take before croaking, strength whch determins how much force you can deliver with melee weapons, agility which helps you avoid blows as you wear heavier armor, encumbrance with allows you to carry more, etc. Leveling up also gets you skill points which are used for crafting skills. You start out with just a few, but need more such as "Experienced Survivalist" to make campires and waterskins, stonemason to make bases, walls, door frames, ceilings, and doors for basic structures, "Mercenary" to make stone swords and wooden shields, etc. Some skills are locked unless you know all the prerequisites, such as "Apprentice Craftsman" which does nothing by itself but makes available a number of other skills. All but the first few skills have a minimum level requirement to reach.

At first, you'll be only able to take on the weakest of creatures, such as rabbits and baby shellbacks. Imps, which look like short and stocky severly mutated humans, are the toughest thing you can take on with an axe and expect to live, and if your computer is being slow you may want to level up a bit first. Melee fighting inevitably means your health goes down, which will heal slowly when you're not fighting. It also means damage to your weapons and clothes, which can be repaired if you have the materials on hand. Antelope and gazelles do not fight back, but will run when struck. Unless they're cornered or somehow get stuck, taking them down with a melee weapon can be very difficult. You'll need a bow and arrows for them. Taking on mature shellbacks, crocidiles, and NPC hostiles is not recommended unless you have leveled up several times, and without iron weapons and leather armor you can expect even successful encounters to leave you hurting bad. Unlike Conan, don't be afraid to turn tail and run (press and hold the shift button).

If you get clobbered, you'll respawn back outside the Exiled Lands. So eventually you'll want to craft and place a mat. You will also get hungry and thirsty. And once either your hunger or thirst points run out, your vitality begins to drop. While eating raw meat can satisfy your hunger for a short time, it means food poisoning which will reduce your hit points a little, so this should be done as a last resort.

You can eat the bugs you've collected from bushes, and the fat grubs that can be gathered in places, but nothing satisfies like cooked meat. To cook the raw meat you find from monsters and animals, you'll need to make a campfire, or bonfire later on, and place it and some fuel in and start burning. To get water, go to a stream or pond and press "E," or the button where your waterskin is on your hotbar. Meat will eventually spoil if it is not eaten, and is not good for anything.

Logging out in the middle of nowhere is sure to get your body killed by a passing critter, or another player in a PvP server. You'll also want to make a place to store your stuff and stations to help you make things. So you'll need to build a base eventually. At first you'll only be able to make simple stone structures, but one has to start somewhere. You'll need to make an armorer's bench to make light armor and wooden targes (reinforced wooden shields), which later you can make heavier armor from. To make iron and bricks, and later on steel, you'll need to make a furnace. To make iron weapons and tools, and then steel weapons and tools, you'll need a blacksmith's bench. To make leather from hides, you'll need a tannery. To make aloe extract and potions, and later steelfire and other items, you'll need a firebowl cauldron. Iron can occasionally be found in the rocks in the south of the Exiled Lands, but its uncommon. To get a lot of iron, you'll need to head north, but the further north you go, the tougher the creatures, and NPCs, can get. So you will be needing the iron weapons and armor.

Sandstorms are another reason for shelter. If you're caught in the open, your hunger and thirst will rapidly rise until your water and food levels are gone, at which point you'll soon expire. Ducking in cover such as between rocks or next to a cliff face will help when there's no building nearby, but it's not ideal.

Combat in Conan is a bit bloodier than some other survival games such as Rust and Ark. Blood splatters, your weapon gets bloody, and the looser ends up in a puddle of his or her blood, often with limbs missing. Given the setting of the story universe, this is not a real surprise. One can chop up a human body like they would an animal or monster for it's flesh. And after combat I've often found human flesh in my inventory. As one of the dieties in the game is a god of canibals, this may have been for roleplaying.

But another aspect of Conan Exiles is likely to be more controversial than human flesh. The game allows for the capture and willbreaking of NPC humans for use as slaves, or what the game refers to as "Thralls." Using a wooden club, you knock out attackers and drag them back to your camp to put on a "Wheel of Pain" until they submit. The tougher the NPC, the longer it takes them to submit. Thralls can make things more convenient for characters, such as blacksmiths allowing for the faster construction of weapons, dancing girls giving a health boost, fighters guarding your camp, etc. One condition you can get from caves, corruption, will lower your stats unless you get healed from a dancer thrall.

So do you take on slaves, or not? Every NPC human in the game is hostile to you, so in a sense you're sparing their lives. And slavery is a part of the Conan story universe, in addition to others. Even "Star Wars" had slavery. Still, it's a touchy subject to some. When Bree Royce of "Massively Overpowered" wrote on the subject, she admitted to finding the subject "unsettling," even though she knew of people who roleplayed as slaves in Star Wars games. Her article drew over 200 responses from people whom either supported the designers' decision, opposed it, or were of mixed feelings.

Perhaps later on, Funcom will update the game so no everyone is hostile, and it's possible for NPCs to freely join you, perhaps in return for food and goods (there's no gold in the game, yet). But until then players are left with the delemia.

The game is early release, and I have encountered some glitches and bugs. The most obvious, the game takes a while to load. At least it tells me "may take several minutes," and it does. Longer than Rust or Ark. Not only is this terribly inconvenient, it also means your character is vulnerable for that much longer as some monster or predator may come across it. Unlike Ark or Rust, there's no record of which servers you've been to. This means if you forgot where you were, you'll have to start all over again elsewhere. My experience with the official servers was a disappointment. These places had a lot of builds. One can't build a campfire to cook your meat within a certain distance from another player's build not of one's group. And there were so many in the official PvE servers I looked at, I couldn't find a place to build one. And as the campfires of others were locked so my character, this meant I was existing on bugs and grubs and always hungry until eventually dying of hunger or from being attacked by higher level beasts as I made my way north to search for a spot. When I checked out an official PvP server, it wasn't much better. I found a couple spots I could set up a campfire in locations impractical for building a base near. Unofficial servers were better, at least the ones I checked out. I didn't see many others, and had no problem setting up a campfire or base.

Like in Ark and Rust, the game is easier on a private server. Nydia's friend Mystic Xurina got one, and we've been playing on it a little. So there may be more to say about the game as time goes on.

If you're a fan of the Conan stories, or similar tales, this may be the survival game for you. But with it's longer loading times and the enslavement of NPCs as the only alternative to killing them, I can't recommend this game over others such as Rust and Ark. But the game is still in early release. Perhaps both issues will be improved as time goes on.

Sources:  Massively

image sources: Mystic Xurina, conanexiles.com, gameskinny.com, massively.com

Bixyl Shuftan

Friday, February 3, 2017

Latest Misadventures in Ark Survival Evolved


By Bixyl Shuftan

It's been over a year since I've written about Ark: Survival Evolved, the noted survival game in which players start off with their undies and their wits on a mysterious island populated with dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures, and try to avoid dying from hunger, heat and cold, and the numerous predators whom see players as a snack. I first wrote about the game in July 2015, and did so again in August and September of that year. For those brand new to the game, you can read those articles, or watch this video review by "Nooblets" (link).

One of the game's most important news items over the past year was not an update, but a lawsuit. A former member of the development team had been accused of violating a clause of his contract, and filed suit for $600 million USD. The defendant threatened to have a legal notice to take down the game, which caused concerns the game might not be available for sale, or updated for those who had it, for a while. Eventually, the case was settled out of court for $40 million.

Recently, my friends of the "Furry Gamers" group decided to take another look at it, Nydia starting up her server again. She and her friends had previously made a number of bases across the south and east of the island, some along the coast, some a bit inland. Her main base was in the southwest, in the middle of what the map calls the "Southern Jungle." A year ago, it had been a relatively safe location, the only real problems when the occasional carnotaurus, or "Carno," one of the island's medium sized predators showed up. But the island has changed since then, some of which meant complications for us.

To begin with, the island has a couple new biomes. Swampland now covers some territory in the inland south, and a small part of the midwest coast. As you can probably guess, these are not places for beginners, and midranked ones should proceed with caution. The giant dragonflies and ants will swarm after you, the snakes will try to paralyze and eat you, and in the water are the megaphirana and the bloodsucking leeches. One curious but useful crtter are the giant frogs or beelzebufo. They eat the giant insects which can pester players, and can serve as high-jumping mounts. In the northwest and north central areas are icy areas covered with snow. Fur clothing is needed to survive the cold here for long, which will likely mean lingering on the outskirts to hunt for creatures that drop pelts, such as mammoths and woolly rhinos. This is also the home of dire wolves, canis maxdirus. As they hunt in packs, they can be dangerous predators. But they can also be valuable mounts.

There are new creatures outside these areas too. One is the Therizinosaurus, which my friends have dubbed the "killer turkeys." These medium sized dinos are plant eaters, but highly aggressive ones that will attack anyone getting too close. To make matters worse, these creatures sport long claws that would make Freddy Krueger proud, capable of piercing armor and inflicting serious wounds that can quickly take down a player. A group of two to three can be dangerous or fatal even for a player on a tamed carno mount.

Another problem dinosaur is the Troodon. Somewhat smaller than raptors, they are in some ways more dangerous. They have a venomous bite, and combined with their speed will quickly take down a beginning player, and fighting them while I was around Level 20-25, I would end up lasting just long enough to clobber one before passing out, vulnerable to anything else in the area. And as they sometimes go about in packs, this often means other Troodon, who made quick work of any one unconscious. They are nocturnal, making any night run more dangerous, as you may not notice their glowing eyes, until it's too late. That you can occasionally find eyeglasses on a corpse is a little unnerving.

Between the "killer turkeys" and the "sleepers," life at what had been our main base became more hazardous. A new fish, the sabertooth salmon, was easily avoided by us, but did clobber a critter or two of ours that ventured into the water next to the base. Finally when a few of the former managed to break down a wooden wall and kill several of our dinos before finally being taken down, the decision was made to move. So we began moving our critters to the nearby "Footpaw," settling in the plateau in the middle overlooking the rest known as the "Weathertop." We began building a wall to help keep out unwanted critters, though began noticing a few were spawning inside. The decision was made to persist, taming more critters to replace what was lost and to help patrol the place, a lot of dilos designated as "meat shields" as they were more easily replaced. This "Liberty Ship" strategy, so named as it reminded me of the United States having to replace it's cargo ships blown up by German U-Boats in the early days of WW2 with quickly made Liberty Ships until it could come up with better ways of fighting the enemy, was more than a little frustrating as our plans and building was slowed down. But eventually we had our base and fence.

But not everything new was out to get us. Jasmine found some dung beetles in a cave and tamed a group. This meant a source of fertilizer and oil as long as we kept feeding them droppings from our dinos, the oil saving us trips to the sea and its dangers. There was also a new kind of building available: the greenhouse. Building one provides a place for crops to grow faster.

However the greenhouse parts need crystal. In earlier times, this would have meant a flight over to bypass the dangerous critters on the ground. But there's a new threat in the air now. There's a large bird called Argentavis that while usually a carrion eater is aggressive and will attack nearby players. On the plus side, when tamed it has more stamina than pteranodons, and can be used to grip other players (useful for getting someone unconscious out of danger), or critters that aren't too heavy. A leveled-up Argentavis can be very useful for transportation, or getting smaller creatures you want to tame as they can be dropped into an enclosure until you're ready to tranq and feed them.

Exploring around, our journeys took us to "Herbivore Island" in the southeast. Accessible by raft or air, it's a place where players need not worry about carnivores, though the creatures there will still defend themselves if attacked. To our surprise and delight, we found some metal nodes there. This saved us risky trips to the mountaintops, though we still had to go there for obsidian and crystal, and we set up a refining base where we could make and haul back metal. We discovered that besides placing storage boxes on our wooden rafts, we could also place ramps, foundations, and walls. We turned two in to mobile bases, one which had storage space, a furnace, smithy, and a few mortal and pestles, the other which had large holding areas for luring larger creatures on which we were interested in taming. This included one T-Rex which we started taming on it's journey back, and once finished it was just a short walk from the shore to the case.

We've also tried our hand at raising baby dinos a little. Hatching one took a while and was something of a balancing act as the temperature had to be just right, requiring a heat source nearby to be turned on and off. But eventually, the critter hatched (check about 4:10 into the video). Nydia had to imprint on it, and then feed it a few berries. Later on, a special egg hatching area would be build with both campfires and air conditioners.

One recent change to the game was that hair is no longer static, but will grow over time. And after the update, the men in the server found themselves looking like mountain men with bushy beards, and once the hats were off with mops of hair. The women had long hair, but thankfully their legs were spared. Getting rid of the beards required learning the engram for scissors, and with those equipped, press and hold the right button, and a hairsyling screen comes up, in which men and lower the length of their head hair and beards, or cut everything altogether. Women only have the option to cut head hair. As the hair will still grow over time, don't throw away your scissors as you're likely to need them every day or two. They're also useful for cutting the fleece of a new animal on the island: sheep. So once "ewe" get past the "ba-a-a-a-a-a-ad" jokes, the wool can be used as a substitute for pelts, which can make the making of cold weather clothing a lot easier.

One new thing I've heard of but haven't tried yet is fishing. From what I saw in this "nooblets" video (link), one needs either tree sap or leech blood as bait, the latter which more fish will go after. Besides fish meat, one can apparently get a few other items, but high level players whom aren't risk adverse should be able to get most of them faster by other means except black pearls.

And there are other new critters that I haven't mentioned yet, such as giant beavers which do well at gathering wood, as well as being the only creatures besides players that build something: beaver dams, compys, little dinos that are slightly dangerous in packs, but can be tamed to be a kind of shoulder pet, Procoptodon, a kind of giant kangaroo, Paracers, which look like a giant cross between a horse and rhino, dire bears, woolly rhinos, and moose. There's also new items that I have yet see, such as lances for jousting, and high tech armor, which needs players to beat one of the "boss" creatures just to get one of the needed components. The boots would be very useful as they allow players to avoid taking damage when accidentally falling. The helmets provide unlimited oxygen when underwater and night vision, a GPS, and a targeting system that locates other players nearby. The chestpeice has a jetpack, and so on.

I should also note there's a new map available, "The Center," which would be an interesting change for players whom feel they've been on The Island to the point most every place is familiar. Instead of the dinosaurs being easiest on the beaches and getting more difficult as you go to the interior, it's more east to west on this map. The map started out as a mod, but has become an official part of the game. Another noteable mod that's gotten some attention is the Pokemon-inspired mod called "Pokemon Evolved." But as Pokemon is the property of Nintendo, which has demanded some fanworks be taken down before, it's unknown if the mod will be up indefinitely.

There is also a new version of Ark, "Scorched Earth" which takes place in an arid area where water is difficult to come by, sandstorms can damage outdoor equipment and some structures, electrical storms can shut down electrical equipment and disable firearms. This hostile place has many of the same creatures, such as the raptors and T-Rexes. But there are some new ones such as rock elementals, deathworms, thorny dragons, and others. But not everything is big and out to kill you. The place is also home to jerboas, which are really cute companions and useful as weather detectors. Then there are the whips, flamethrowers, boomerangs, and chainsaws. Sadly the game isn't free for those who already have Ark, but an expansion pack that has to be bought in addition to the game. There are also plans for an "Ark Park" virtual reality similator; an obvious take on "Jurassic Park." Hopefully their lawyers got the okay from Michael Crichton.

Earlier I've commented Nydia and a number of the Furry Gamers will have nothing to do with PvP-enabled servers. While there may be some where most of the players are friendly, going there as it's easier to find a place to build, there are some goons whose primary pleasure in life is making others miserable. "Nooblets" made a video commentary about a recent update that made it easier for high level PvP tribes to jump server to server, so they could potentially settle on a new world, wiping out all the smaller tribes and making themselves the only ones on the place, then once it's clear everyone else has fled going to another PvP server and starting over again, repeating the cycle of wiping everyone else out. This in his opinion would eventually be "The Death of Ark," at least for PvP servers.


<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/HyLhdBCcixY" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Well, that's it for now with the latest misadventures of me and the Furry Gamers in Ark. We'll leave you with this video Nydia did of her ark server. As she would say, "good gaming to you."


Sources: eTeknix, Gamerant,

Bixyl Shuftan

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Game Review: War Thunder


Bixyl Shuftan

Most gamers are familiar with the popular "World of Tanks" game in which players are in two teams with each operating a World War 2 tank and shooting at one another. Less well-known is War Thunder, by Gaijin Entertainment. The game is similar in that it also involves WW2 style combat, but the game is a bit more detailed. Unlike "World of Tanks," players can fly aircraft in addition to driving tanks and other combat vehicles, and there are plans for naval vessels. So the action can take place on land, sea, or air. Like "World of Tanks," the game is free to play, but there is a "Premium" level, but here it allows players to play certain vehicles basic players can't yet.

When the game first came out in 2011-2012, it was an air battle game. Players start out with pre-war fighter biplanes, three among the following nations: United States, Germany, Britain, Soviet Union, and Japan. Unlike "World of Tanks" in which players can only bring one vehicle in the battlefield during the entire battle, players can bring in another if the first is destroyed. After the destruction of all airplanes, the player can only observe or leave. Through capturing areas, destroying opponents, and destroying ground targets, players earn research points and silver lions. Research points are used toward researching both improvements on your vehicles and researching another aircraft on the tech trees of each nation. Eventually, you can get more advanced fighters, fighter-bombers and bombers, and eventually Korean-War era jets. Silver Lions are used to purchase the parts and eventually more aircraft. When you get more aircraft, you have the choice of either getting another vehicle slot or assigning it to one of your existing ones. Assigning it to one of your existing slots cost Silver Lions. Getting another vehicle slot requires Gold Lions, which are difficult to get without buying them with real world currency. Each additional vehicle slot per country is more expensive than the last. Once every 24 hours when the player logs back in, they get a random bonus for either research points or silver eagles that has to be applied within two days. If they log in every day, every five days comes a group of bonuses, or perhaps a chance to try out a premium vehicle for an hour. You can take a plane out for a test flight before buying it to see how it handles.

There are three types of multiplayer battles. The basic one or "Arcade" is the easiest with players able to respawn, using a different plane in your slots. "Realistic" is more difficult as the plane will be a little more difficult to control, such as being easier to stall, and you cannot respawn once shot down. In "Arcade," when your plane runs out of ammunition or bombs, you just need to wait an amount of time before you reload. In "Realistic," you have to go back to your airfield and land to reload. There is also the "Simulator," which I haven't gotten into much. On any level, making tight turns can sometimes cause your vision to black out due to the G-forces on your pilot's brain. Both "Arcade" and "Realistic" have a small"radar" window in the upper right that keeps track of where your teammates and opponents are, as well as the bombing targets. On the upper left is your speed, altitude, engine temperature, and how many bombs how have left. the lower left shows how many small ground targets are left, and when your plane starts to take damage, a small picture of your plane will appear, showing what's been hit and how badly.

 What battle a player is matched into depends on the level of the planes he has in his slots, so one doesn't end up hopelessly outclassed or in a plane that outclasses everyone else. If your plane has one or more gunners in addition to the pilot, the computer will automatically control his firing, unless the player chooses to take control of the gunner himself. Planes do not have hit points the same way tanks in "World of Tanks" or ships in "World of Warships" do. Instead, the engine, wings, body, stabilizers, etc. take damage separately. If a major part is destroyed, the plane is going down.

Each battle has a different kind of mission. Airspace domination battles are simple as it means the planes of one side keep the air space marked clear of the other side's planes. Airfield domination battles are trickier as they involve capturing one to three airfields, doing so by landing one's plane on them and holding it for a minute. Unfortunately for the pilot, the landing and capturing makes them vulnerable to a strafing run by opposing fighters. In bombing missions, you have to take out three enemy factories, and then the enemy airfield. Some missions will have AA guns and convoys of ground vehicles. fighters can, with difficulty, take out the latter and the unarmored ones of the former. Bombers can take both out if the bombs hit close enough. Carrying larger bombs means fewer drops, but each will have an easier time taking out AA guns and vehicles, and cause more damage to factories and airfields. In some missions, there are also enemy ships to contend with. They can be dispatched with bombs, or a torpedo if you have a torpedo bomber. On the top of the screen, a bar with one side red and one blue keeps track of which side is winning, both sides getting shorter depending on the progress in the game. If the line is mostly red, your side is losing.

After the battle, your score and your place on your team's side is displayed, followed by any parts and vehicles you've finished researching. You can choose new priorities of research and purchase researched parts. You also get a number of crew skill points on your aircraft, depending on how well they did (planes that didn't take part get no bonus). These points can be applied to piloting skill, gunnery skill, skill of any other gunners, pilot's G-tolerances, etc.

Different planes have different tactics. The Mistubishi "Zero" fighters are highly manuverable and are best in a circling dogfight. The American "Thunderbolt" in contrast is less so, but can handle steep dives and can climb well. And don't forget to keep an eye out for what's around you. Pilots concentrating on trying to shoot down the plane in front of them can easily not be aware of the guy sneaking up from behind, until it's too late. Bombs can also be given a time delay, which can help a bomber escape a blast when making a low-altitude run, or give an enemy fighter close on their tail a nasty surprise during a chase at treetop level.

In 2014, War Thunder introduced tank combat, starting with Russian and German tanks, and later on adding American and British tanks with Japanese ones currently available only to premium players. The vehicles look more detailed than their "World of Tanks" counter parts, and those with more than one cannon such as the American Lee And Russian T-35 can fire multiples of them. When your gunsight is in front of a friendly, it will turn blue. When targeted on an enemy tank in a spot it has a decent chance of penetrating, it will turn green. When the chances are iffy, it is yellow. And when it's red, the shot has a poor chance of doing damage. The results of hits show in a pop-up display in the upper right.To help players get around, a minimap of the area is in the lower right. The lower left will show if your engine or gun is damaged, and the number of uninjured crewmen. When you score a hit on someone, a brief display appears in the upper right, showing where you hit and if it damaged anything.

With the hills and drops, it's possible for a vehicle to end up upside down. The player can call for assistance for a teammate to try to pull him upright. Hits on a tank can injure crewmen or damage equipment, the former meaning the tank can't shoot or drive until another crewman takes their place, and the latter meaning the tank has to either stop for repairs right away, or move slower and shoot slower and less accurately until the player stops and enacts repairs. Once the number of uninjured crewmen falls to one or zero, the tank is out of action. The tank can also be blown up by a hit to the ammo supply or fuel tank. After three tanks are used up, the player can no longer respawn, even if there's a fourth tank in the country's spaces.

There are also self-propelled anti-aircraft guns, which spit out high rate of fire, but have little chance of stopping all but the most thin of armor of enemy vehicles, such as other anti-aircraft or some tank destroyers. Many tanks also have machine guns. While AA guns and machine guns can't destroy a thickly-armored tank, they do count as making a hit, so if another player destroys the tank later, they get credit as having made an assisted kill. But one other difference from "World of Tanks" is that crew members are clearly visible in  AA vehicles and certain tank destroyers. This means a machine gun attack, or a high explosive round, into an exposed area can really hurt.

At several points in tank battles, players will get the chance to switch to an airplane for a few minutes, either a fighter-bomber which can damage or destroy tanks, or a fighter which can take out opposing planes. Anti-aircraft guns and machine guns that can aim into the air can fire at them when they get close enough. It takes several AA and machinegun hits to destroy a plane, though if it crashes the player who damaged it gets credit for the kill. Taking out a plane with a tank round would be a difficult feat of marksmanship, but most likely end up taking it down. Tank missions, at least in arcade mode, are just one variety, to occupy one or more designated points.

Like the planes, different ground vehicles call for different tactics. Light tanks are built for speed, but not going toe to toe with heavier armor. Heavy tanks are built to take and give punishment, but as the saying goes "there's always someone stronger" and a lucky shot to the turret ring will still hurt, if not take your tank out. Medium tanks can handle both roles. Tank destroyers are best when on the defensive, and when outflanked are vulnerable to blows from the side. Anti-aircraft vehicles are great for taking down enemy planes, and can  damage or knock out enemy vehicles with thinner armor or open areas if they get a lucky shot from behind, but are not built to take much punishment. Both tank destroyers and AA vehicles are at a disadvantage from tanks in city combat. And if a shell hits armor at an angle instead of head on, it's less likely to penetrate.

For certain accomplishments, such as getting a streak of three or more opponents before getting clobbered, blowing up the guy who got you earlier, or capturing an area, you get extra silver eagles and possibly more research points. For destroying a certain number of opponents during the course of your virtual campaign, you will be awarded insignia and artwork, which can be affixed to your vehicle as labels. You can do a little mix and matching with the artwork. It is possible to put a decal meant for an Axis aircraft on an Allied tank.

Naval combat is currently under development, and for now available only to Premium players. But these are not the battleships and cruisers of "World of Warships." All that's available now are small ocean craft, such as American PT boats and German E-Boats.

Although War Thunder is a multiplayer game, and you can fight alongside friends, I've personally found it more difficult to team up with my Second Life friends there. So when we feel like a round of tanks together, we usually hit World of Tanks. This to me is War Thunder's greatest flaw. But once a group of players gets in and can communicate by voice to coordinate their actions, that makes a clear difference in gameplay

It's also notable that War Thunder pulls something every April Fools. Last year, it was a pirate ship battle. Probably their most memorable prank was the "My Little Pony" air battles on April1, 2013, with flying colorful ponies with jets and rockets strapped to them, firing rainbow lasers.

Aside from a lucky picture from when I took a test drive of a T-35, I never could get screenshots of the game. So most of the pictures here are from films on warthunder.com.

Still, if you feel like a good round of air combat, or want a round of tank combat that's a different style than "World of Tanks," War Thunder is certainly worth a try.

Bixyl Shuftan

Friday, December 30, 2016

This And That: WoT's "Tankmas" and Swedish Tanks, War Thunder's Official Release, Rust Junks XP System, WarFrame, and Astroneer


By Bixyl Shuftan


Although my focus has been on Second Life, I've been hearing about a few developments in gaming. Some of my Second Life friends have been playing a new MMO game a lot, a new one in development caught the attention of a few, and there's been some developments in a few old favorites."World of Tanks" is going through it's yearly "Tankmas," with some goodies for it's players. For fun, this includes a tree and a snow tank players can decorate. They can get decorations by performing missions, and can level up their trees and snow tanks, getting a reward for doing so such as discounts on certain tanks or female crew members. There's also a new nation available: Sweden.

The Swedes were neutral in World War Two as neither Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia felt the risks of trying to conquer them were worth the rewards. The nation had it's own line of tanks, originally inspired by German designs but eventually finding it's own path in armor. Players have two lines of tech research: tank destroyers and a mix of light, medium, and heavy tanks. Rita mariner, one of the top tankers that I know of in Second Life, called the Swede tanks a mixed bag, some great, some okay, and some that she felt were just target practice for the opposition. But in addition to the Czech tanks that were introduced a few months ago, they do add to the variety of tanks (and spending more money for garage space).

Source: worldoftanks.com 


War Thunder hasn't gotten quite as much attention among my Second Life friends as it's more difficult to team up, but I've still been hearing about developments. Some months ago, they introduced then expanded the list of, British Combat vehicles. This left Japan as the only nation in the game with airplanes only, but not for long. Japanese tanks are currently in development, currently available to those as part of the "testers team." An update in the mechanics in the game now allows for hydrolic suspension in certain vehicles. Also in development, naval combat. The first vessels won't be the destroyers, cruisers, and battleships of "World of Warships," but small craft such as PT boats. This means the game will eventually cover land, sea, and air.

With these developments, on December 21 the director of the game announced that "we have completed all the goals we set for ourselves in the early stages of development" and the open beta testing of the game was concluding after four years as the game was being officially released.

The road to release for War Thunder has been a fantastic journey, packed with development,  we have from the outset been active in development and content heavy in regular updates to the game. Our commitment to the game has provided players with millions of hours of passion filled gameplay and we have gained many, many players as well as the veterans who have been with us from the very beginning. To all our fans, we sincerely thank you, we are so grateful for the continued support of our project and look forward to your continued support into the release.

We will continue to develop the game we all know and love but you won’t be seeing the same major changes in direction we have all been part of throughout the testing, gameplay and core mechanics can now settle down and we can at last concentrate on giving the game the polish and content it deserves. Additions will continue, there are still many military vehicles that can be included, our mapmakers will still create wonderful vistas and beautiful scenery to wage war in, of course there are still exciting features yet to be added - such as World War mode, new nations, new tournaments and more.

It’s been a pleasure to provide you, our players, with such an already filled out  battle simulator and we look forward to even more happy times together as we continue to tread the path of the warrior.


Source: warthunder.com

When we last looked at the survival game "Rust," they had just introduced their experience, or XP, system. But not only did a number of players complain about it, the development team soon came to the conclusion the system wrecked the feel of the game as an open sandbox with exploring and random encounters and turned it into a grinding slog. So they got rid of it and put in it's place a "component system."

Players are able to build all items from the start. But some things require additional items to make. So when you go around smashing barrels and opening crates, you'll find items such as road signs, pipes, used propane tanks, tarps, and sewing kits. The sewing kits are needed to make clothes beyond the basic burlap coverings, such as pants and t-shirts. For the shoddy armor made from road signs, naturally you'll need a few of the road signs. Pipes are one of the items needed for shotguns, and so on.

You can also recycle the metal and cloth items you find in the recyclers, that one can find in the warehouses across the island. Just put in the items and a little wood, and press the green button. Tarps are made into cloth, metal parts into low quality and high quality metal. It you throw in tools and clothes, you'll get back half the metal it takes to make it.

While you can still find lone barrels around the island, you can also find them, along with crates and food boxes, on new junkpiles, which appear around the landscape. You can also find oil-bearing barrels on them sometimes, which means you don't have to make long treks to the oil storage facility or airport or kill a critter to make a little fuel, or make a trip to and use an oil rig which in itself uses up fuel. 

With players able to get metal and oil easier, I wondered what the catch was. As it turns out, an old nemesis from Rust's earlier days is around a lot more: radiation. It had appeared earlier, but was in a few small areas that could be easily avoided. This time, it's encountered more frequently. While the oil storage area is still rad-free, other places I've been in so far will start the Geiger-counter ticks. At least the water treatment plant was only half-contaminated. There are also small power stations around which while having oil drums around also have radiation hazards. This means the radiation pills you occasionally come across are going to come in handy to avoid poisoning, in addition to the radiation suits you'll occasionally find. The downside, they're not going to provide much protection against bullets and blows. Plus most players will prefer wearing something else. You're going to need to save space in your inventory for your clothes when switching to the suit. Which means your forrays into the ruins have gotten more complicated and less rewarding. On the plus side, in servers with more and hostile players, you may have less competition.

Source: Rust Devblog

So what's new that's gotten the attention of my Second Life friends lately? Two games come to mind. One is Warframe, a first person sci-fi combat MMO game. In the game, the player takes the part of a "Teno," a warrior in a faceless biomechanical suit or "Warframe" whom has been reawoken after ages in hibernation to combat the Grineer, an army of clone soldiers trying to take over the Solar System. Players have a choice of what kind of fighter to be, as well as a choice of ranged and melee weapons. Beyond the turorial mission, from what I have heard missions are all multiplayer with no solo fighting, with some story and plot involved as one goes on.

I personally haven't had much experience with the game as I found it difficult to "get," and before I could meet up with Skylark Lefavre and Pagan Sunburn whom are fans of the game, the game fouled up while updating. My friends have had similar trouble, to the point of occasionally calling the game "Glitchframe." So unless someone does a reader submission, there may not be much more to say about Warframe.

Another game that's gotten attention of my friends is "Astroneer." This game, still in Alpha, is in it's very early stages. Players take the part of an astronaut stranded on an alien planet trying to build a base, trying not to run out of oxygen. The game is somewhat similar to "Space Engineers," but is more cartoony, simpler, and no PvP option so far. Players can get together to work on a single base. Thankfully, some needed materials are slowly renewable, but things are complicated by occasional sandstorms.

"Astroneer" is very new, so if you get it, expect some changes as the game goes on. The game is currently available on Steam.

That's all for now in gaming.

Bixyl Shuftan

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Adventures in Tyria, A Look at Guild Wars 2 And Legendary Weapons


By Grease Coakes

When I bought Guild Wars 2 a few years ago I was pulled in by the immense world that’s Tyria. Being a steady player staying up to 3 or 4am some nights playing pvp or doing dungeons has brought me a long way.

I highly recommend this game as now you just have to pay for the heart of thorns expansion as the base game is free. However the way Guild Wars 2 makes it’s money is with gems and people buying the expansion. Another name for GW2 is fashion wars as you can buy outfits or accessories with gems you purchase with real money. Or you could buy gems with gold earned in game.

The classes you can play as such as Mesmer,Elementist,Necromancer who wear light armor. The medium armor classes are Engineer,Ranger,Thief. The Heavy armor classes are Guardian,Warrior and now with the expansion Reverant which is a mystic warrior which can use the mists to bring him power.

Mesmer can make mirror images as his images attack for you and confuse foes. Elementlists harness the four elements to attack or heal with water. Necromancers use death as magic to bring foes to an early grave.

Engineers use gadgets and guns to blast enemies. Rangers like hunters in wow hunt with bow and arrow and have an animal companion to hunt along with them. Thieves have low hit points but can attack with stealth and do heavy damage with daggers and pistols.

The Heavy classes are Guardian which is like a Paladin smiting with holy powers. The Warrior is the tough mace swinging solider.

Each class can use different weapons such as pistol or sword. Every weapon gives different attacks 1-5 on your keyboard. If you decide to give Guild Wars 2 a try, play around and see what character and weapons work best for you.

Also for the new expansion there are elite classes you have to get hero points to unlock. Chronomancer for Mesmer and Tempest for Elementlist. You have to gain hero points to unlock the elite classes.

In the game there are crafting professions such as Chef, Huntsman, Artficing, Weaponsmithing and more. They can make goods, such as food and dyes for chefs, melee weapons for weaponsmiths. But crafting professions were also needed to help make something which has been a tremendous source of pride for me.


If you've met me in Second Life lately, you might have seen my fliptitle which says “I have Rodgort the Legendary Torch.” You might of wondered what that means. There are legendary weapons you can attain which isn’t just soulbound to one character. However it takes a long time and lots of the in-game gold. There’s a list of them here on the bottom of the page https://wiki.guildwars2.com/wiki/Rodgort. One of them Rodgort happens to be the one I have that Cat Mage now has (my Mesmer).

When you forge a legendary it’s useable by ANY of your account characters. So long as your character can use whatever legendary weapon. For example my Mesmer can use it, but also so can my human ranger.

Another bonus to having a legendary weapon on top of having wonderful visual effects is the fact that so long as you’re out of combat you can change the stats to whatever you choose. If you want more hit points pick solider. If you want more condition damage and precision pick viper. Equipment such as armor and weapons have stat combos. If you want to change stats you have to unequip your legendary weapon and click select stats. It’s fun to experiment to see how Viper or Assassin will change your damage or boost your armor.

You might be asking “Grease how do you get a legendary weapon?” Well it took a LOT of work. And a lot of gold. When you first start the game you might want to start exploring and practice playing at one class or try another class and like that better. One of the things you need for any legendary weapon is the gift of exploration. You get that when you explore all the maps of Tyria. The new legendary weapons such as Nevermore you need to explore the new areas in the Heart of thorns expansion.

 Also dungeons and PvP. You can get free weapons and armor through dungeon tracks. The eight dungeons offer weapons and armor and specific to each dungeon. The weapons and armor have stat combos. So it very possible before you even hit 80 which is the max level to have exotic or orange gear.

PvP is very harsh. Overwatch is a fairy tale compared to how hard and intense Guild Wars 2 PvP can be. HOWEVER. You can get clovers and weapons and armor for free if you stick to it. Mystic clovers you also need for legendary weapons. It’s easier to get them through PvP but slower and cheaper then taking chances with the mystic forge. You also receive tomes of knowledge through PvP.

But don’t throw all your time into PvP though. Once you hit 80 you can do dungeons and get gold along with lots of low level weapons and armor to salvage for magic find. Over time magic find gets higher so you find better armor and weapons and also materials such as vicious claws that you also need for legendary weapons. Dungeons are easy once you get the hang of them.

In order to PvP on the dungeon tracks you have to complete the story mode of whatever dungeon. For example the first dungeon story mode I unlocked was Honor of the waves. When you first start Citadel of Flame is already playable. That offers berserker gear which has power precision and Ferocity. Most players use this gear for the highest damage but it makes your character fragile as well.

Also something you can complete is a title called dungeoneer which offers you ascended (pink) accessories for free. Each dungeon has the weapons and armor sets you can unlock through completing the dungeons giving you tokens for whatever dungeon. When you unlock ALL of them you receive an accessory on the house. Two of them have healing stats. Two of them have assanin’s stats for high damage. The other two are solider’s for tanking. The last two are carrion for condition damage. Such as fire burning an enemy or a sword cutting someone making him/her bleed.
When you finally grunt and get all the dungeons you not only have those eight accessories for free. You also get the title of dungeoneer AND a large treasure chest.

While you get these armor and weapons you might not be using you can salvage them into ectos which (surprise) you need for a legendary weapon AND sell for decent gold. When you get dungeoneer you can keep using tokens for gear just salvage on top anything else you find in dungeons.

Also to get legendries, you have to get gifts from professions. For example for Rodgort I need Chef and Huntsman to create gifts to combine in the mystic forge for your weapon. Not only that it was costly in gold to get the materials for the gifts. You also had to spend gold to bring your crafting profession to a high enough level to create the gift. Sound expensive? Yes it was but worth it as my Mesmer walks around with fire foot prints now.

I hope this helps anyone looking for a new game to play to suck you in to goof off and play on your days off. Also once you pay for the expansion THERE’S NO MONTHLY FEE. Whether you play around for free with limited options or buy the expansion Heart of Thorns of HOT for short. Arena Net doesn’t charge you a subscription fee. Feel free if you see something you like to buy  with gems (from real money) or gold within game traded for gems.

Bring yourself to Tyria for a grand adventure I know I have. There’s also guilds to join to share your adventure with others who might share in your interests and you might get lucky as you might also talk with people also from Second life. In fact I’m working on a second legendary called the Bifrost a rainbow staff. https://wiki.guildwars2.com/wiki/The_Bifrost Who knows you might run into me in this fantasy/steampunk massive RPG.

Grease Coakes

Friday, November 18, 2016

Game Review: Overwatch


By Grease Coakes

Blizzard entertainment has been around for a long time from the days of Warcraft to World of Warcraft and also Starcraft. Not a company to be lazy and bet everything on their cash cow, recently they came out with Overwatch: a first person shooter based on the game Team Fortress 2.

In TF2 you select a player such as a solider or a Heavy to take out the other team. To push forward a payload or capture a point. One team defends while the other attacks. Overwatch is very much the same game however it offers over twenty different roles to play. And unlike TF2 there are also women characters, not just men, to shoot and kill the other team with. Each team red and blue has six characters per side. You’ll see graphics to the side saying that’s there’s no tanks or too many snipers.

The characters are split into four groups to pick what role you wish to play. Attack does heavy damage but can only take a few hits. Defense is excellent at holding a point and slowing down the enemy advancing. Tank is there to take the hits for you so squishy characters don’t die. Healing/support is how is sounds to offer healing to tanks and extra attack. With the exception of the mech D Va, all characters when they hit zero hit points die. D Va gets ejected from her Mecha tank and gets a second chance to keep fighting with a pistol and low hit points.

In addition to brighter graphics and better voices each character has an ultimate that continues charging through death. So if you’re playing as Mcree a wild west gunslinger and die when your ultimate is at 99%. When you revive your ultimate will problary be 100% Over time when you block damage, heal, do damage and kill other player characters your ultimate builds up. An ultimate is something you want to fire off to change the course of battle. Mcree’s ultimate is him saying “It’s High Noon” in a western drawl and everyone he sees he shoots down dead. Mei’s ultimate a Chinese woman in an arctic snow suit is a blizzard which freezes enemy players. She shoots ice shards at long range. Her ice walls keep enemy players away and blocks damage. She’s a good defensive player if you want to play enemies off your point.

The sounds are much better with various voices that sound like professional actors with voices saying things such as “Love D Va!” Or Lucio a music loving healer will yell out “This is my Jam!” Another voice that will stick in your head is Reaper doing his ultimate when he says DIE DIE DIE!
The graphics are cartoonish but also bright and colorful. Even though the game is the same every time you play, each game tends to be different as you play at different locations. There’s also lots of variety in the twenty plus characters.

What the designers changed recently is that in quick play you can no longer have more than one of a certain character. Which means if I grab a D Va character as a tank someone else who wanted to be a tank could be roadhog or pick a Tracer to be offense instead. I guess Blizzard wanted to stop two of the same character so the other team wouldn’t over specialize and beat the other team. So when you master Solider 76,you can always master that defensive player Junk Rat with shoots bombs that bounce around and blow enemy players to dust. Or why not Pharah who flies and shoots rockets?

As you play you gain experience per match which levels you up. It’s not like a RPG though. You don’t get more hit points and new spells. Instead you get a loot box every level. The loot boxes give out skins for the various characters, voice lines, sprays and coins to buy what you want for your favorite characters. For example I bought an earthen skin  which is a deep green for Mei so she looks more masculine and not so girly. So your level of 50 might look impressive on screen. However that won’t stop a level 3 character shooting you down as Hanzo. Hanzo is a defensive player who is a sniper who shoots down foes with his bow and arrow. Level doesn’t mean anything as you play.

For the price of 40$ Overwatch can be yours as an excellent first person shooter. Blizzard has taken the idea of Team Fortress 2 and brought it to the next level of playability with great voice effects, the option of spray painting on walls and more. If you’re new to shooting games there is a tutorial so you’re not thrown into the game and you’re clueless as other players shoot you down. Also an option to fight AI enemies as well as a practice area.

If you’re thinking like Mcree that it’s high noon and you want to shoot some outlaws, Overwatch might be the game for you.

Grease Coakes

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Game Review: Far Cry Primal


Introduction
Until recently the Far Cry games have been set in the present day time sequence. This time, Ubisoft – creator of different games , has decided to set the Far Cry game into the Stone Age.
It’s around 10.000 BC, a time when humankind has just began to settle into the world. In these times, it was survival of the fittest that ruled the world back then.
Story and Gameplay
It’s 10.000 BCE and humankind is on the brink of extinction. It’s the end of the Ice Age and the beginning of the Stone Age. To get higher in the food chain, humans need to find a way to conquer the elements and their surroundings and battle against predators and other animals.
In the game you take on the role of Takkar, a caveman warrior, who will do everything to keep his tribe, the Wenja, from getting attacked by the two other tribes. The Wenja, the tribe that Takkar, the main character is part of , are also known as “Soft Bloods”. They have traveled “many suns” prior to arrival at Oros. The Udam are known to be “Flesh Eaters.” This means they are cannibals, because they think it will make them stronger by doing so. The Izila are known as “Sun Walkers”. They are more of a Aztec-like tribe. They worship their High Priestess called “Batari.”
Takkar needs to find materials in the world to craft his own weaponry and he will need to conquer the other two tribes in order to save his tribe from extinction. Not only for weapons he needs to find resources, also for upgrading his village and to get more villains.
Becoming the Beast Master !
During your quests in Far Cry Primal you will encounter many predators like : wolfs, bears, hyenas, sable tooth tigers and other animals that you can tame when you have the skills.
Taming an animal is not so difficult. You just make bait ( made from meat ) and then throw it near the animal. It will come and eat from the bait and then you must slowly ( really slow ) approach the animal and then keep the button pressed that is indicated to tame the beast. Once the circle is full white, you will have tamed the animal in question.
The first animal that you will be able to tame is a white wolf. Once you have that one, you can tame other animals. For the bigger animals, you will need more skills and more experience.
Once you have the sable tooth tiger, other predators will not attack you any longer. There are up to 17 animals to tame in the game. Once you have all of them, you can move on as well. But once you have the sabretooth tiger, it will give you a lot of power to attack enemies.
Gaining experience points in the game
Every animal or enemy you kill will give you experience points.This will allow you to level up and gain skills. With those skills you can do another ability within the game.
Healing yourself and your beasts
When you get hurt in the game there’s a little health bar under the mini-map. When it gets low you are in danger of dying. To help this you can heal yourself by pressing the assigned button or keystroke. You will see Takkar either eat a piece of meat or stretch his fingers or getting an arrow out of his arm. This will get your health bar full again.
Besides that, when you have tamed animals, you can heal them too, by giving them a piece of meat. It will restore their health as well. You can also pet your animal to make it happy again.
Day and Night Cycle
There is a Day and Night sequence in the game. When you choose to sleep, it will ask you till when you want to sleep : until the sun comes up again or when the sun goes down again.
At night, some predators will be more aggressive then when they are in daytime. Be aware of this fact when hunting down animals! This fact makes it harder for Takkar to hunt animals during night time.
Graphical detail and open world
The graphics of the game are really amazingly realistic. In fact, the whole world is so realistic that you wonder how they could actually recreate it for this game.
It’s a open world, which means you can walk around it and do what you want to do in it.
Oros, the land of The Stone Age
The land you will need to survive in this game is called Oros. It was in the central of Europe and it’s the first time that people will fight for land. Mankind was not necessarily at the top of the food chain and had to fight for survival.
The land of Oros is a vast land in which many animals live. But not only animals live in this land, also two other tribes do. All of the three tribes are going to have to fight for their land and claim it for themselves.
Since Takkar is the Beast Master, he is able to tame animals in the game and use them in advantage for fighting animals and the other tribes. You, the player, will need to play as Takkar and survive in the world of Oros.
Videos :
Far Cry Primal : Behind The Scenes :
Far Cry Primal : King of the Stone Age :
Far Cry Primal : Beast Master Trailer :
Far Cry Primal – Gameplay Trailer :

Conclusion
Far Cry Primal is the most realistic game that I have ever experienced. This is a survival game and it shows, because you can’t just “buy” your weapons, no you need to craft them yourself. This means you need to find the resources in the world itself : wood, slate and other materials can be found in Oros. But you can find plants as well, that you can collect.
Bonfires are places that you can claim to easily travel from one point in the game to another point in the game. This is a good way of fast traveling.
The graphics of the game are amazingly realistic. You are directly thrown into the story and the game itself.
If you are looking for a great game and your laptop or desktop can run the game, buy this game, it’s absolutely worth it !

Wesley Regenbogen