A game is more than just a product

In the comments to my last post Isey of I HAS PC made the interesting point that gamers tend to “put game developers and companies on a pedestal” and wondered why that is when it should be perfectly clear that game companies – at the very least the big, publically traded ones – are like any other business in that they need to prioritize maximizing profits above everything else. Like, say, their customers’ best interests.

At least to me it is absolutely clear. I don’t have to like it though, and I’m not willing to just calmly accept it. To be honest, we as consumers shouldn’t let any company get away with it anymore, no matter which industry they’re working in, because it’s gotten seriously out of hand in recent years.

The effect of greed dictating decision making is especially devastating and heartbreaking in the gaming industry though, at least in my opinion. Today I’d like to talk about why.

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Pictured here: greed

I wouldn’t say that I’ve ever put any company or single developer on a pedestal. There were some, like ‘old’ Bioware and Blizzard, whom I trusted to deliver great games more than others, but I’ve never been a fan or even fanboy of anyone. Well, ok, maybe except for The Bitmap Brothers and Factor 5 a long, long time ago.

That being said, I’m still very passionate about everything gaming-related, as are many others. And I think that’s perfectly ok because games are more than just commodities.

What differentiates games from most, if not all, other products – at least in my mind – is potential. Potential for greatness. Potential to be that one perfect game you’ve been waiting for. Potential to take you on an adventure you’ll never forget. Potential to meet new people and make lifelong friends. Potential to make you feel at home away from home.

Most other products don’t have that. Even the largest TV set is still just a TV set. The most powerful vaccuum cleaner still only sucks up dust. The world’s sharpest knife still only cuts stuff. You may be very satisfied with them, glad that you bought them, even have fun using them. But that’s about it.

The only type of product that comes close to matching the potential games have to be more than what meets the eye are movies and serials, but those can only be consumed passively. You may witness extraordinary adventures, but you don’t experience them yourself.

This is why I can get mad at developers and publishers when their games don’t fulfill my expectations. If you ask me why a certain game disappointed me I’ll probably name some features I deem incomplete, missing or just bad. Or bugs, hackers, whatever. What I’m really mad about though is most likely the wasted potential. I just can’t help but imagine what could have been. What, in my opinion, should have been.

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Pictured here: wasted potential (still a cool game though)

For this reason I’m not satisfied with ‘cost per hours of entertainment’-calculations either. It might be true that a 60 Euro game that I enjoyed for, say, 50 hours before getting bored/pissed/whatever has given me more hours of entertainment per buck than many other hobbies do, but I really don’t think they can be compared like that. Like I said, I expect more from a game, and as such it can’t just be measured in hours of gameplay per Euro spent.

Of course I do make exceptions. I’m perfectly fine with games like Uncharted that tell a coherent, complete story and provide good gameplay – a matter of taste, obviously – for like 15 hours and aren’t designed to do anything more than that in any way. Or gems like Limbo and Inside, that are even shorter but also cost less and are just exceptionally great experiences.

What bugs me are games that actively make me get my hopes up only to smash them. That are specifically designed to make me think there’s much more to them and would like me to play them for hundreds of hours, but where after a much shorter timespan it becomes apparent that, no, there isn’t anything else and I’m now expected to do the same shit over and over and over until the service part finally kicks in and more content is provided. For an additional cost, more often than not.

Which brings me to the second practice the gaming industry has adopted in recent years that I really hate because it is just the destroyer of potential: hacking games to bits and pieces so they can nickel and dime us for every little feature or scrap of content.

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Pictured here: content locked behind a blonde paywall

Want to look cool? Pay for it! Need more inventory space? Pony up! Fancy playing two more hours of story? That’ll be 20 bucks please!

In free to play games some of this is ok, those obviously have to make money somehow. That we find so much of that crap in 60+ dollar games nowadays is sickening though. And I haven’t even adressed the elephant in the room that is lootboxes…

All of this is actively working against any potential a game has to be great. How are we supposed to be immersed, to feel like we’re having an adventure, when big red price tags are slapped right in our faces every five seconds? When we can’t look cool unless we swipe our credit cards some more? When we can’t pick up stuff because we haven’t bought enough inventory space? When we can’t play the character we like because she’s locked behind DLC?

Say whatever you will about AAA games needing to make more than 60 bucks a copy to even recoup its development cost nowadays – if it’s even true – or whatever. This. Shit. Is. Not. Ok.

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Pictured here: NOT OK!

Every product is expected to work, to do what it’s supposed to do. Well, as far as I’m concerned games are supposed to be epic adventures that entertain us in ways no other product can. They have the potential. The big dogs of the industry seem to have forgotten that, but I hope we’ll manage to make them remember.

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Games as a ‘service’, yeah, right

I think many executives currently working in game development need to look up the word service in a dictionary, because they obviously don’t know what it means anymore.

Unless they think what they’re doing is deliver games that are already very good and totally worth their price tag at release, and then continue to refine and expand them for years afterwards.

Problem is, they are not doing that. Not even close.

It’s shocking how many high profile, full-price games that came out during the last couple of years were arguably unfinished and/or disappointing messes at release. Destiny 2, Fallout 76, Anthem, Battlefront II, Sea of Thieves, No Man’s Sky, Mass Effect: Andromeda; to a lesser degree Battlefield V, CoD Black Ops IV and probably some others I’m forgetting right now.

This is not to say there weren’t any good releases at all, quite the contrary. But it’s impossible not to notice a very disturbing trend here. Especially whenever developers or publishers can’t shut up about their fabulous Games as a Service chances are we’ll be getting only half a product for full a price. If we’re lucky.

Of the games mentioned above I can (fortunately) only talk about Destiny 2 from my own experience. I bought it at release and can’t deny that I had quite a bit of fun for a while. Though even at my pace, which seems to be considerably slower than that of most gamers, I reached the point where there wasn’t anything of interest left to do pretty quickly. The first two ‘expansions’ – more like rather meaty content drops, really – were too expensive for what they offered. The first one, Curse of Osiris, even shut out those who didn’t buy it from most endgame content. Bungie only changed that after the playerbase had expressed their outrage quite explicitly.

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With guns. Destiny 2 players solve every conflict with guns. Just kidding of course.

The first ‘real’ expansion, Forsaken, seems to have pretty much fixed the game for many a player, I hear it’s pretty great now. I don’t care though because I had given them too much money already for what they’d offered me in return up to that point. Basically Destiny 2 players who still play today have paid at least 120 bucks – if they bought everything at the time of release or shortly thereafter – to be able to play the finished game. Only now does the service part begin, which – you guessed it – won’t be for free either. No thanks. Fool me once, and all that.

Destiny 2 has yet another problem that’s become a blight in recent years: content that has been developed and could be earned through gameplay – thus making us feel rewarded and, you know, good about the time we spent playing the game – is kept off of loot tables to be sold in the cash shop instead. Gee, thanks, what a great service you’re doing us there after already taking our money for half a game and then some more for the rest of it.

Not all of this is ‘just’ caused by greed either. Sometimes there’s also mind-boggling incompetence to be blamed, as seen in the case of Anthem.

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What are you looking at? Search your feelings, you know it to be true!

On Tuesday Kotaku published an article by Jason Schreier titled ‘How Bioware’s Anthem went wrong’. I highly recommend reading it. It’s pretty long, but if you’re still here at this point I assume you won’t mind. If you’d prefer a video, Angry Joe and friends have summed up their reactions to the piece on their show.

The article is based on interviews with 19 people who either directly or indirectly worked on Anthem and basically boils down to this: while the game was in development for about seven years total, the actual production had to be done in the last 12 to 16 months, crunch time style, because years and years had been wasted flailing around and not knowing what exactly the game was to become. When they showed this ‘gameplay-demo’ at E3 2017 the ground-level developers themselves were like “Oh are we actually doing this? Do we have the tech for that, do we have the tools for that?”

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They were not only lying to us, but basically also to their own developers

How can stuff like this even happen when you have so much developer talent and a massive budget at your disposal?

In my opinion the big publishers and development studios suffer from a development (no pun intended) that Steve Jobs already talked about in fricking 1995. Basically he’d observed that once a company gets big enough the “product people” get driven out of decision making because the “sales and marketing people” become ever more important, get promoted and so on. In the end the company “forgets what it means to make great products”.

This seems to describe spot on what’s been going on with EA, Activision and the like *cough*Apple*cough* for quite some time now, but Schreier’s article proves that not even developer studios who once were hardcore gaming enthusiasts are immune to this.

Now, is there a silver lining at all?

I sure hope so. The Battlefront II disaster has shown that we can fight back, that we can make ourselves heard. It’s critically important that we keep it up now. We need to stop preordering stuff. We need to stop buying games on day one when we don’t know if they’re any good yet (review embargoes anyone?). We need to stop buying season passes when we don’t even know what those will entail. We need to stop buying stuff from the cash shop in full-price games.

I’ll do what it takes, even if I have to miss out on games I’d actually like to play. Who’s with me?

Yo ho, this ain’t no work for landlubbers

I engaged in more of Black Desert Online’s oceanic content during the past week, because of course I did. After all I was eager to take out my new frigate and explore the open sea, brave its dangers and hopefully make some profit in the process.

A quest I had had for quite some time wanted me to visit a settlement quite a distance away, on the other side of the Margorian sea, so that’s where I was headed first. I filled my ship’s cargohold with trade items bought in Port Epheria in hopes of getting a hefty distance bonus, stocked up on cannon balls and ship repair kits, then off I went.

Since map and waypoints can’t be used on the open sea I set a course roughly to the northwest and just hoped for the best. The first obstacle wasn’t long in coming.

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The lighting changed dramatically from one moment to the next and that whirlwind appeared right in front of me. I steered around it and that was that. I took no damage or anything. Looks nice though. I think I’ll sail right through next time, just to see what happens.

A bit further I hit another road…err…seablock.

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Would use that skin for my own ship in a heartbeat

Good thing I had brought those cannon balls. I manned a cannon and opened fire. Two hits was all it took.

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Give my regards to Davy Jones, you scallywags

It didn’t leave any loot behind, but I guess it can’t really be expected for this little effort.

I assume both storms and ghostships indeed serve as roadblocks more than anything, preventing AFK travel. They look pretty cool, I’ll give them that.

After traversing the open sea for maybe 15 minutes total the map flickered to life again. It turned out that I’d veered a bit too far to the west, so I corrected my course and headed due north for the last leg of the journey.

After passing a bunch of islands, some small, some pretty huge, my destination finally came into sight.

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Land, ho!

This beautiful, asian-styled little town is called Port Ratt, and it’s at the time of this writing the first and only settlement of a whole new continent. Unfortunately the continent itself isn’t developed yet, so islands aside the town is the only accessible part of it. Actually it’s not even a proper town, everything but the lowest level is just backdrop, closed off by invisible or actuall walls. All NPCs are located right at the piers you see on the left and right.

I was pretty disappointed to discover this, especially because it’s so atypical of BDO. Until now I’d never hit an invisible wall anywhere. If you can see it, you can reach it had always been the game’s motto. Oh well, I just hope the continent will be developed eventually.

For now I had to be content with advancing the quest and selling my trade goods, which indeed yielded a nice distance bonus. Of course I would have liked to fill my cargo hold with exotic goods for the journey home, but my trading skill level was too low to buy them.

I also took a quest to deliver a special trade item to one of four possible destinations, the reward being a big chunk of sailing XP. I chose to bring it to Altinova, the second farthest option. Since this item doesn’t slow you down like a normal trade item does I figured I’d just sail back to Epheria, then take it the rest of the way on horseback.

I completed a few more quests in the area, then decided to head back towards the mainland – I had some more things to attend to on the way. Before leaving Port Epheria I’d accepted some daily quests to kill various sea monsters and pirate ships for even more sailing XP, which I wanted to try now.

Both monsters and ships are abundant on the open sea, so I didn’t even have to actively look for them. I chose a small pirate ship for my first target.

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Doesn’t look like much, does it?

I did sink it, but it took quite a while, and as you can see my ship took a serious beating too. So much so that it definitely wasn’t viable to fight anything else without fully repairing it first.

Since I didn’t get loot right away I dove after the wreck to check if there really wasn’t any.

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Give me my loot, dammit, you’re not taking it down with you!

It had dropped something after all, albeit only sell-loot. At least it had a cumulative worth of just over three million silver, which ain’t bad. I would find out later that it can only be sold to a guild shop though, so the silver goes to the guild account, not your own. Much of the game’s oceanic content seems to be designed with guild members working together in mind. In a game that’s overall very, very solo-centric this strikes me as a bit odd, but it is what it is.

Then I finally headed back to Port Epheria. The wharf manager repairs even badly damaged ships for chump change, which is nice. I delivered the trade item to Altinova and received a pretty nice sum of sailing XP.

The sea called out to me on the very next day already, and I set sail again.

This time I hunted down an Ocean Stalker. Instead of using a cannon I tried to kill it with the ship’s ramming skill.

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It didn’t like that. Not. One. Bit.

Maneuvering the ship and learning the beast’s movement patterns again took a while, but I prevailed. It too dropped guild-only sell-loot, but also some crafting materials I’ll need for the better ship parts, yay!

This time around I’d also brought my fishing gear because I needed to catch two specific rare specimens for another quest.

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Gone fishin’ instead of just a wishin’

While I managed to catch one of them relatively quickly the other remains elusive for now. I made a killing catching fish close to Port Ratt and selling it in Altinova though, so I’m not complaining (too much).

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On the way back the game’s weather system treated me to this stunning view

If you only have like 30 minutes or an hour to play I wouldn’t recommend tackling BDO’s sea content, but if time isn’t an issue it’s a really great and immersive experience. Another fine example of sandbox gameplay that sure isn’t for everyone, but is exactly my cup of tea.

Time to buckle some serious swash

Huzzah, it is done! Sometime Wednesday morning my workers finished the final construction cycles for my Epheria Frigate in Black Desert Online.

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This was the state of affairs when I went to bed

Construction had started on February 1st. Of course I had to gather and process some of the needed resources beforehand, so all told the project took me just about two months, maybe a bit longer.

I obviously couldn’t wait to register it at the wharf manager in Port Epheria and hoist its sails for the first time.

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No way would I’ve sold it…dat market price though, holy crap

I wanted Lakisa to be there to share the moment, and since she had a quest to explore some islands anyway she was more than happy to oblige.

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A real beauty, isn’t she? The ship’s nice too

In preparation I’d already bought and enhanced the available ship upgrades like better sails and cannons, so I installed those right away.

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For some reason she got a red paintjob in the process

The really good upgrades are player crafted, making those will be my next project. Some of the necessary components only drop from sea monsters though, so starting off with the ones sold by NPCs seemed the way to go.

We began our journey by visiting the islands closest to the mainland so Lakisa could invest contribution points into those fishing nodes like I had already done a while ago.

Whenever she was ashore talking to node managers I seized the opportunity to take tons and tons of screenshots. Obviously the best place for that is the crow’s nest. Not only does it offer a great view – as it should – it even has the option to activate a free-look mode that completely detaches the camera from your character.

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Enabling you to take shots like these. I really need to find out how to turn off those darkened edges though.

Since the first island Lakisa needed to visit for her quest was near Velia, which is also where she got the quest in the first place, we sailed all the way there from Epheria.

The ship isn’t lightning fast, but waaay faster than a fishing boat. With better upgrades and a higher sailing skill on my character (which unlocks the ship’s special abilities) travelling distances like these should become a breeze.

We made a quick detour so that I could pick up the quest too, then off we went to do some island hopping.

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Of course I sported my self-crafted sailor’s clothes for the occasion

And boy, island hop we did. One quest turned into five, into ten, into…I completely lost count on how many isles of various sizes we had to discover.

Day turned into evening…

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…and evening into night. We were still sailing when dawn came.

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It was well worth it though. The final quest rewarded us with tons of XP, silver and some crafting materials, and discovering all those islands showered us with Knowledge. My maximum energy pool went from 241 to 253 due to that.

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Islands as far as the eye can see

Since this took way longer than expected we didn’t have time to also head out into the open sea, as I had originally planned. Just like in the desert the map doesn’t work there, so you have to hone your navigational skills. Additionally storms, ghost ships and sea monsters try to make your voyage difficult. I’m actually looking forward to that, sounds like another adventurous undertaking. I hope we’ll get to that soon.

So is the ship worth the time and effort I poured into its construction? Absolutely!

Not only was working on it mostly fun and only rarely felt like actual work, the freedom it gives us to explore the ocean and engage in its content without the need to join a guild, which we don’t want to do at the moment, is really great and will undoubtedly enrich our experience playing the game. Would do again.

This is how you remake a classic!

Re-releasing older console games for the current hardware generation is a common practice nowadays. Since the machines aren’t backwards-compatible anymore we should be thankful for the opportunity to buy games we’ve already bought once a second time, right?

Most of these games are labeled ‘remastered’ or some such, probably to justify the usual price tag upwards of 30 bucks. But more often than not what we actually get is the result of the lowest possible effort. Upscaled resolution, maybe a wee bit sharper textures, that’s it.

Thankfully there’s another, much better way to do it.

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Holy crap, Capcom, what you pulled off here is nothing short of a miracle: the wet dream of any nostalgia-wallowing oldschool gamer and a great, modern take on survival horror that actually makes the competition look old (pun intended) in one game.

But let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

I’d initially intended to wait a while before buying the Resident Evil 2 remake. I’m still pretty engaged in Black Desert at the moment, and in today’s market waiting just a couple of months often means buying an already discounted game.

But after hearing more and more good things about it I realized that this was a golden opportunity to do something gamers often talk about yet rarely do: vote with my wallet.

I mean, I’ve talked about how much I like good horror games in general and one certain game, also made by Capcom*, in particular. Nothing would make me happier than a high quality remake of Silent Hill, and what better way to entice Capcom to do it than to show them that there’s money to be made with that kind of stuff? Also, Resi 2 happens to be my second favourite horror game of all time, so…

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I went and bought the standard edition at full price. That I also splurged on the classic soundtrack is a given, for just three bucks in the PSN store. Kudos for letting us buy the DLC stuff individually instead of forcing us to also pay for some costumes and weapon skins just to get the soundtrack.

‘But Mail, what about the game itself, is it worth the full price?’ I hear you ask. Absofuckinglutely!

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Click to enlarge…THE DARKNESS

I think the biggest and most appropriate compliment I can give the game is: it looks and feels exactly as I remember it from twenty years ago.

Say what?

Well, you know how we tend to remember only the good aspects of stuff we liked while having completely forgotten about the bad ones? The original Resi 2 had fixed camera angles often denying you a clear view of the action, clunky controls, hilariously bad voice acting and, of course, horrible graphics by today’s standards.

This remake remedies all that and more while keeping everything intact that made the original awesome.

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Including some pretty effective jump scares, obviously

Inventory management, safe rooms with shared storage crate and typewriter for saving the game, different herbs and gunpowder types to combine for different effects, and various puzzles, most of them not overly complex, are all still there.

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What crazy architect designed this building anyway?

Pretty much everything has been made smoother and more convenient though. When an item is no longer needed, for example a key you’ve unlocked all corresponding doors with, it’s marked with a little symbol so you know you can safely throw it away. The game isn’t only saved when you use a typewriter, it also autosaves at certain checkpoints, especially when a harder fight is imminent. There are many such small details that don’t change the game in a fundamental way but make it less tedious and more enjoyable.

The story hasn’t changed much as far as I remember, minor details maybe; the same applies for the police station’s layout and where and when you meet certain enemies or allies.

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Long time no see, you ugly bastard

One change that’s very beneficial to the game’s atmosphere is the fact that most rooms and hallways are pitch-black now. It doesn’t impede the gameplay in any way because Leon pulls out his flashlight and points it in the direction he’s facing completely on his own, he can even use a two-handed weapon like a shotgun at the same time. It doesn’t make the game any harder or less convenient, just spookier and thus better.

The lighting is superb overall, as is the sound design. I wholeheartedly recommend playing with surround sound, you’ll constantly be on the edge of your seat even without any zombies in sight.

What I didn’t expect at all was a high gore factor, but boy, did we get one. I deliberately refrained from using screenshots showing that stuff, but believe you me, there are some brutal scenes in there. Now that I think about it the original wasn’t any less gory, the graphics just weren’t up to the task. The way I see it the violence doesn’t serve an end in itself though, it conveys the dire straits you’re in more than anything.

Of course there are boss fights too.

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You should definitely change your diet, mate

I generally don’t like boss fights in games like this, but the ones I encountered until now didn’t aggravate me too much, which is saying something.

I could go on and on, but I think I’ve made it abundantly clear that I’m really impressed and delighted by the job Capcom has done here.

Whether you loved the original or just like horror games in general, you owe it to yourself and all likeminded gamers to buy this one right fucking now! You won’t regret it.

*Edit: Doh, I just realized that Silent Hill wasn’t actually made by Capcom but by Konami. A shame. I hope someone at Konami is watching this too though!

Playing Whac-A-Boss in Black Desert

I’m still having a lot of fun beating the crap out of Dark Rift bosses in BDO. I guess I was pretty lucky to get almost one spawn per day on average since the feature was introduced, as some folks are reporting that they got a lot less.

I’ve fought most existing bosses at least once by now. Some are basically identical to their daily or weekly scroll counterparts, for example Giath, Bheg or Red Nose, just much stronger. Others were new to me, like this strange centaur-tree-hybrid called Ronin.

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I’d rather not meet his former Shogun then

I also got to fight Ferrid again, the Balrog-like creature I talked about last time. His spawn location was changed since I met him the first time though, apparently because many players weren’t able to find the cave’s entrance he spawned in before. It’s a real shame because that cave looks awesome with its pools of lava and was a perfect fit for that particular boss.

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The new locale has nice lighting in the evening though

I mostly got base grade accessories from the treasure chests, but I did get one PRI Serap’s Necklace, which is cool. Overall the bosses are definitely worth doing, and I’ll probably have amassed enough stuff to seriously get into jewelry-enhancing soon.

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This alt’s inventory would even make Mr. T envious by now

To make it easier for lower geared players the bosses have a power level that degrades over time. They spawn at level five and lose one level every 24 hours, becoming weaker in the process. Lakisa conquered her first Dark Rift boss yesterday after waiting for it to drop to level one. At character level 56 with +10 to +12 gear it still wasn’t easy, but manageable. I assume that most players enhance their gear to a higher grade than that until they reach 56, so I think it’s fair to say that this content doesn’t lock anyone out, which I think is great.

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This is assuming you can even see the boss for the trees though

After having beaten so many Dark Rift bosses, all at level 4 or 5, I finally felt ready to tackle an important part of Black Desert’s PvE-endgame I had chickened out on until now: world bosses.

These spawn about twice a day each on specific timers and are the main source for boss gear. Since the piece I’d really like to have right now is the off-hand dropped by Ancient Kutum I picked that one for my premiere.

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Savouring the calm before the storm

The most important thing to keep in mind about world bosses is that normal PvE death-penalties apply if they kill you, resulting in XP loss and possibly one or more crystals slotted into your equipment being destroyed. Naturally I wasn’t eager to see that happen, so I watched and read some guides to the fight beforehand. I also did a short questchain to get the knowledge about Ancient Kutum, which allegedly improves the chance for more or better loot.

To be safe I had made my way to the spawn location early, and as the minutes ticked down I became a bit nervous. At T minus one I popped my buff-food and elixirs. At that point more and more players arrived or logged in right there.

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Being fashionably late is as cool as ever it seems

Finally the serverwide message announcing the spawning world boss came up, and Ancient Kutum dug itself from the ground.

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Okaaay then…at least there’s no Fremen riding on it

Once the fighting began I immedietely knew I’d made a mistake. My preparations hadn’t included turning off other player’s skill effects.

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“Remember, always stay at the boss’ back!” “…what boss?”

The framerate didn’t actually drop all that much, but I could barely see anything. Despite that I miraculously made it through the fight without dying. Phew.

And thus I’d earned my first few boss auras, a hundred of which can be exchanged for the corresponding piece of gear. The piece can also drop directly, but I assume the chance for that happening is pretty slim.

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Look, I made more money than fits into the window, I’m rich!

To me bossfights in BDO are a welcome diversion from mob grinding and absolutely worthwhile. I defenitely recommend checking them out.

GGOAT: Silent Hill

I realized something about myself: I like columns.

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No, not these. Well, these too, but this ain’t about them

I’m talking about topic categories. My first one was Stay awhile and listen which is about music I like and other musical subjects, then came Memorable Moments where I recount great gaming adventures I had.

Now here’s another one: Greatest Games Of All Time.

This is where I’d like to talk about games that, for me, rank among the best ever made, and what exactly it is that makes them so great.

Here goes.

Reading about the Resident Evil 2 remake, which even Angry Joe really digs (NSFW) and which I’m definitely going to buy as soon as I’ve got the time to play it, made me reminisce about the various horror games I’ve played over time. The greatest of them all, and indeed one of the best games I’ve played period, is Silent Hill.

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It is easily the most scary piece of entertainment I’ve ever consumed. For a game that had to make do with PSone graphics and mostly refrained from utilizing jump scares this is all the more impressive. How did they do it?

One important factor for me is the despair and helplessness the game makes you feel right from the start without actually rendering you totally helpless as a player. I mean, sure, you don’t have any weapons at the beginning, but the first monsters you encounter you can run away from easily, and you find your first weapon, a club or somesuch, relatively soon.

For comparison, The Evil Within, a game that many, myself included, had hoped might bring Silent Hill’s spirit back, pits you against enemies you can neither fight nor escape from all the time. Either you get the sneaking part just right, or you die. To me that was much more aggravating than exciting.

Instead of invincible opponents Silent Hill mostly uses its very unique atmosphere to scare you.

Firstly, the town is pretty huge and you’re wandering around all alone (most of the time anyway). Due to the ubiquitous fog you can’t see very far, so you often have to rely on your hearing to identify threats.

SilentHill1
You don’t actually see much, but your imagination runs amok constantly

The sounds most monsters make send chills down your spine, as does the crackling and squeaking radio alerting you of their presence. Even scarier than that is Akira Yamaoka’s ingenious soundtrack though. Much of it is more soundscape than music, and it’s fucking terrifying. Seriously, just listen to this and imagine playing the game alone in a dark room to that.

Whenever you think it can’t get any worse the game cranks up the horror to 11 by shifting over to the Otherworld, some kind of hellish parallel dimension.

SilentHill2
Not much left to the imagination here

When that happens the ‘music’ also goes all in. If this doesn’t freak you out I don’t know what would. I firmly believe that the game would only be half as great if it didn’t have that soundtrack.

It’s been about 20 years since I played the game, so I don’t remember many details about the story. I do remember that I didn’t get the ‘good’ ending though (if there even is such a thing) and that I was pretty disturbed and sad. It’s definitely not your standard demons invade our dimension, shit happens story, that’s for sure.

Despite all of this I’m afraid that Silent Hill isn’t a game I can wholeheartedly recommend to anyone who hasn’t played it yet. Much time has passed since it was made and gamers’ habits and expectations have changed a lot since then. I had to realize this myself when I started to play Silent Hill 2 for the first time about three years ago. Most fans agree that it’s even greater than the first one, but for some reason I’d never gotten around to playing it before. I gave up only a couple of hours in. I just couldn’t get over the sluggish controls, the stubborn camera, the backtracking and, yes, the blocky graphics anymore.

Now that they’re finished with Resi 2 I really hope Konami will do an equally great remake of Silent Hill. I think no other game deserves it as much. And, Konami, why not also do part 2 while you’re at it?