What I’ve been playing: Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines

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I have many games in my Steam library that I have never played, not even once. Occasionally I go through these games and find the real gems I missed out on. This game in particular, has been there for almost a year. I think I had played it for less than thirty minutes when I first got it, and was distracted by other games. I decided to give this game a whirl, and I realized something: I have missed out on a real gem.

Bloodlines is based on the paper-and-pencil RPG, Vampire: The Masquerade. The puts the player as a vampire in modern (2004) Los Angeles. There are different clans of vampire, each having their own advantages and disadvantages. These clans however, make every way you play the game completely different. I am still currently playing the game, but on my first character, I chose Nosferatu as my clan. Nosferatu are an extremely ugly looking vampire, and humans just scream and run away at the sight of them. In this game, you have to uphold something called “The Masquerade”, where you cannot perform supernatural acts in front of humans. Being a Nosferatu, letting most humans see you is a Masquerade violation in itself. If the player receives five Masquerade violations, their games is over. It makes it very interesting, as for most of my quests, I have to take the stealth option. Luckily the Nosferatu have a power that allows them to be completely invisible.

The writing and quests are also something that really sell this game. The dialogue is not the typical video game cheesiness I am used to. I don’t want to spoil any quests here, but some of the endings and character development are really crazy. The combat, unfortunately is nothing to write home about it. Most of it consists of mindless clicking, and the guns generally aren’t worth using, since vampires can stand up to all but shotguns pretty well.

The unfortunate reality though, is that Troika games went out of business shortly after this game was released. Much of the game ended up being rushed during production, and in some places it shows quite clearly. There are numerous bugs in the game, and it even requires an unofficial patch to fix a lot of them and make the game run at all on most modern computers. Some sections seem like they were thrown together quickly, namely the ones that involve you having no choice but to fight through hordes of enemies, despite playing a non-player character. The boss fights have this same problem too. For instance there was one fight that you enter a giant room, and suddenly the boss appears and talks to you. You can try to go invisible and sneak in the room, but it interrupts your invisibility for the speech from the boss. This fight took me many tries to get out of, and many fans of the game say it’s best to just cheat on fights like this, because sometimes they are unwinnable as some clans.

Bloodlines is a flawed gem of a game. I would have loved to see how more time would have improved the game, but still the end result was incredible. This game does not even require that great of a computer to run either, so if you have Steam, I highly recommend giving this game a shot. The fanbase for the game is thriving too, with unofficial patches as well as some nice mods out there.

Nintendo rejects “The Binding of Isaac” for 3DS

This was a story last week that I believe did not get as much attention as it deserved. Ed McMillen, a co-creator of the game, had this to say on Twitter:

“They were fine with the M rating and that content.. somehow,” he added. “As many assumed the reasons were due to the games “questionable religious content”. Thank GOD Steam exists!”

Nintendo blocked the game from being on the 3DS eShop tue to it’s “questionable religious content”, which really makes me question Nintendo’s standards. For one thing, this is a very obvious double standard, as there are Shin Megami Tensei games on Nintendo’s systems. Most of them have a path that involves rebelling against God and trying to kill him. I have also seen the argument that the difference here is that the game mocks fundamentalist Christians. This is true, and I do not see why that should stop the game from being on the 3DS eShop. Without delving too heavily into spoilers, Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor contains a religious group being painted as the enemy (depending on what choices you make). On top of that, I seriously wonder what the Parental Controls feature on the 3DS is for if not for games like The Binding of Isaac. It is possible to make M-rated games unaccessable and unplayable on the system via parental controls. Straight up rejecting this game alienates a lot of gamers from the system already. The team is in talks with Sony about having the game on Vita, so this will certainly be interesting if Sony accepts the game.

For the full story, read here.

Rhythm Heaven Fever mini-review

Rhythm Heaven Fever box art

Rhythm Heaven Fever is the third game in a series that has been on three different Nintendo platforms. The first game only released in Japan and was on the Game Boy Advance, while the second game released everywhere around the globe, and was on the Nintendo DS. The series has always featured wacky rhythm-based games that offer quite a challenge. Rhythm Heaven Fever is no different in this regard.

Everything in the game is based on the music. There are visual cues for the actions in the minigames, however relying on them can be difficult, and the game wants the player to rely more on what they hear than what they see. In most of the games, there are parts where the player’s vision is obscured, and must rely purely on the audio cues. The concepts for the games are completely ridiculous, such as a wrestler answering interview questions or hitting golf balls monkeys throw at you. The game only uses the A button, or the A and B button at the same time. While this does sound extremely simplistic, the game can get quite challenging, especially when going for perfect runs on the minigames.

Rhythm Heaven Fever is also unique for it’s pricing. It is only $29.99 instead of the usual $49.99 for a Wii game, making this game a steal. If you enjoy music games, at the very least rent this game.

Valve sells $100 virtual engagement ring in Team Fortress 2

Valve has been making a killing of virtual hats, and other fashion accessories, but this time they really took it a step further. It is now possible to buy a virtual engagement ring to give to another player in game, all for a measley $100.

First, it’s not tradable, only giftable. When it shows up in your special someone’s backpack, they can click on it to open a menu that will let them accept your proposal. Once the proposal’s been accepted, a message will be broadcast to the entire TF community that will include your name, your special someone’s name, and whatever you decided to call the ring. Then presto, the gift turns into two matching diamond bands you can wear in the rain while you smooch up a storm, you crazy kids.

As silly of an item as this is, it’s hard to really fault Valve for selling it. At the end of the day, it still has no effect on gameplay, so nobody is making you spend the $100 to enjoy the game. Many other free-to-play games have had “pay to win” business models for them. A prime example being what happened to Heroes of Newerth after it went free to play. Part of the point of that game is being able to choose from all of the heroes, so you can pick a balanced team, but instead free players are limited to ten random heroes and have to buy the rest. In Team Fortress 2, while you do have to unlock weapons (whether by earning them in game or paying for them), the stock weapons are made so that you can still hold your own as every class and not be at a disadvantage because of it.

Read more at http://tf2.com/post.php?id=7347

Blizzard Entertainment tries to wrangle “Dota” name away from Valve

1. By this Opposition, Blizzard seeks to prevent registration by its competitor
Valve Corporation (“Valve”) of a trademark, DOTA, that for more than seven years has
been used exclusively by Blizzard and its fan community, under license from Blizzard.
By virtue of that use, the DOTA mark has become firmly associated in the mind of
consumers with Blizzard, including to signify a highly popular scenario or variant of one
of Blizzard’s best-selling computer games, Warcraft III. Over the past seven years, the
mark DOTA has been used exclusively in connection with Blizzard and its products,
namely Warcraft III. Most notably, DOTA has been used as the popular name of a
Warcraft III software “mod” file that has been distributed, marketed, and promoted by
Blizzard and its fans (under license from Blizzard); that utilizes and is built upon the
1 Warcraft III game engine, interface, and gameplay mechanics; that is comprised of
Warcraft III characters, items, spells, artwork, textures, and color palates; that can be
played only using Warcraft III software and via Blizzard’s online service Battle.net ; and
whose name (DOTA, an acronym for “Defense of the Ancients”) is a reference to
Warcraft III characters known as the “Ancients.”

Previously, there was controversy about Valve trademarking the name “Dota”, however it turned out to be that Valve trademarked the word “Dota”, not the acronym “DotA” or “DOTA”. While they refer to the same thing, they are legally different. “DotA” still belongs to the community, and always will, which is why Blizzard DOTA, will be spelled as such.

Blizzard has no right to take the rights to the “Dota” name for themselves though. Valve has two of the three Dota creators (Icefrog and Eul), and the other one, Guinsoo, works for Riot Games and did not wish to use the Dota name. Ethically, I see no problem with Valve copyrighting the name “Dota” for their game. The game’s creators work for Valve and have no problem with it themselves. Either way, Blizzard has no valid claim to the name. While the original DotA did use Warcraft lore, characters, and engine, Dota 2 has it’s own lore for the characters, as well as new designs. The gameplay is still the same, which was the truly unique thing about DotA. Blizzard did not make this themselves and has no right to it. Of course they can still make Blizzard DOTA with no issue, by simply using the “DotA” name which the community will always own.

For more information, visit http://ttabvue.uspto.gov/ttabvue/v?pno=91202572&pty=OPP

Riot Games designer’s opinion on Dota 2′s Invoker

Recently, Valve Software released the Dota 2 version of the hero, Invoker. Invoker is the most difficult hero to learn in Dota, due to the fact that he has a grand total of fourteen different spells. It is not possible to have all fourteen of them at once. Invoker has three basic spells, Quas, Wex, and Exort. These three spells can be combined using his Invoke spell, to create one of ten new spells. Invoker can hold two of these spells at once. Since he has so many spells, all of which have different uses, he can be extremely intimidating to learn, but the payoff is great once a player understands how to use Invoker.

On the Clgaming.net forums, user Bipedal asked if Invoker was the “pinnacle of ‘anti-fun’”. Morello, a designer from Riot Games (the developer of League of Legends), responded with his opinion on the matter.

 

Invoker is the pure extraction of Burden of Knowledge. Obviously, all champions require some knowledge to be interesting, but this is a great example of going way too far. Ask Guinsoo about his thoughts on Invoker sometime – he designed him originally.

 

Guinsoo is another employee of Riot Games, and was one of the members that worked on Dota, as well as designing Invoker. The first version of Invoker had fourty-eight spells, instead of just ten. I disagree with Morello on this. The entire game of Dota is not something one can learn overnight, it takes plenty of practice. Riot Games created League of Legends to be an extremely forgiving game within the same genre as Dota, which is the cause of many of that game’s problems. Removing the depth from the game makes the gameplay shallow and less interesting. In Dota 2, some heroes just take practice to play as, such as Chen, Pudge, Mirana, and Shadow Fiend, while others are easy to pick up the first time you play as them, such as Skeleton King, Crystal Maiden, Windrunner, and Tidehunter. With this wide range of easy and difficult heroes to play as, Dota 2 is always interesting no matter what skill level the players in the game are. This makes high-level play fun to watch, and everyone can be on equal footing.

Read more at http://clgaming.net/redtracker/topic/26518/?p=1