Thursday, July 23, 2015

By nerfing Destiny's popular weapons, Bungie shows contempt for gamers

The weakening or nerfing of videogame Destiny's favorite weapons by Bungie stinks. It's a middle finger to the fans of the game. I'll discuss some of the nerfs to some of the weapons below. Here's a link to Bungie's future changes. And let me quickly define a couple of terms for you non-gamers. PvP means player versus player. PvE means player versus environment, i.e. fighting against computer controlled enemies.

1. The Thorn

The Thorn is an exotic hand cannon. It's obtained as a special exotic bounty and the process to get it is onerous. The worse part of this seven part bounty is killing fellow Guardians in the Crucible with Void damage for 500 points. Five points per kill but minus two for getting killed. I must have screamed at the television multiple times when I get set back doing the Crucible.

The reward for your hard work is a hand canon with a great perk. It's called the Mark of the Devourer. What happens is when you hit a target, it will suffer damage over time. It's kind of like poisoning it. Think Dark Channel from Mass Effect 3. In the Crucible, it is the dominant weapon because you got cheap kills with it. Hit a guy, run away and he dies from the poison. I got cheap kills with it.

But did it need nerfing? Yes. Too many cheap kills and way too many people using them in the Crucible. Okay, here's where I agree with Bungie but only for PvP, i.e. the Crucible. But you should get a special weapon for your trouble. Instead of weakening it for all phases of the game, Bungie should have made it stronger In PvE. How about making it cut through all elemental shields? Yeah, fat chance. Now, the Thorn will probably sit in everybody's vault.

2. Pulse rifles

If you read Bungie's post, you are going to see a pattern. They are going after weapons that are popular in the Crucible. And when it comes to pulse rifles, we're talking about The Red Death. I use it because it's accurate, got great range, and has nice damage. It's a cross between a scout rifle and auto rifle. That being said, you still need skill to use it.

Bungie's nerf here is to make then less accurate. Base stability is being reduced. They admit it will require more skill to land head shots. Good bye Red Death. Looks like the Oversoul Edict will collect dust.

3. The Gjallarhorn.

The Gjallarhorn is the best rocket launcher in the game. It is because of one thing. The perk called Wolfpack rounds. First, the rocket fired homes in on the target. Then after initial detonation, there is a second round of cluster bombs that track the target and hit it again. Yes, it's a superweapon. However, it is not easy to get. It's obtained as a random drop in Raids, and Nightfall strikes.

Bungie wants to weaken it by reducing the damage of the Wolfpack rounds. I'm going to print their rationale because it demonstrates the ridiculous logic of all the nerfing.

"We definitely intended to have a high damage Heavy Weapon that was ideal for PvE destruction. What we did not intend, and what we unfortunately saw, was pick up Raid and Nightfall groups gating participation based on whether or not players had this weapon. Gjallarhorn was so strong that for many people it had become the only answer to getting through tough encounters, and therefore they were less willing to spend time with other players that didn’t have it. We strive for Destiny to be a place where a single weapon or strategy does not dictate how, or with whom, you spend your time. In the new world Gjallarhorn is still worthy of its legacy as an exotic Heavy Weapon, but we hope it promotes inclusive behavior rather than exclusivity."

Okay, this is just spurious. I've played over a hundred or so Raids and Nightfall strikes. And yes, I've seen people demand Gjllarhorns. However, it was about two times! And all my Destiny friends will say you don't need Gjllarhons to bring down Crota's shields. Now, does it make bringing down bosses easier? Of course. But do we require our Raid or Nightfall squad members to all have the Gjallarhorn? No. That's type of thinking comes from noobs. (rookie players)

4. Ice Breaker.

The Ice Breaker is a fantastic sniper rifle. Easy to use. Quick target acquisition. High impact damage. Solar damage but so powerful it does a pretty good job cutting through Void and Arc shields. But here's the great perk. Does not require ammo drops. Every five seconds or so the magazine adds one bullet for up to six shots. Well, now Bungie wants to make the time for each bullet to eight seconds. And the rationale is absolutely ludicrous. Jon Weisnewski of Bungie who wrote the post should stop working for them and go into comedy. Here's what he says about the nerfing of the Ice Breaker.

"We’ve all done it. Hunker down in the back of the map with your lunch box, picnic table, a sci-fi paperback, and Ice Breaker. Kill all the enemies, wait for more to show up, kill those ones too, put a few shots on the boss, make a sandwich, finish the strike, and then collect your reward-that-isn’t-Hawkmoon and move on. The recharging ammo of Ice Breaker has become a staple for the PvE game. We don’t want to completely destroy that, because a really great thing happens when all of a sudden you need Ice Breaker and you’re still waiting on that next round to show up. In that moment there is an interesting tension at play; you need to think about how you spend your next few seconds while it recharges. We are going to amplify that tension by increasing the recharge duration by a few seconds."

WTF? He's actually saying you're going to have more fun when the game is harder. Yeah, I'm sure we're going to be saying after failing a Prion of Elders game, that was fun waiting for my Ice Breaker to replenish its ammo.

5. Conclusion

There are more nerfs. but it's not all bad. Auto rifles, the Hard Light, and No Land Beyond receive buffs. But the ners are plenty bad. Still, it begs the question, "Why weaken so many popular and hard to get weapons?"

Here's my opinion. Destiny is planned to last for ten years. We don't know when Destiny 2 comes out. So, Bungie has to stretch out Destiny 1. What other way to do so but to slow the progress of players trying to get Etheric Light to level up their gear. Make the game harder. Instead of succeeding at Prison of Elders, level 35, you fail. Try again next time. Sorry, you can't get a squad together because there's no matchmaking for that level. It might take days, weeks. Are you having fun yet?

Destiny gamers should answer the following question.


And the answer should be obvious. It is "no." Bungie's plan to weaken guns does not make the gamer's life easier. It makes Destiny harder and more stressful. Look we can't help it if Bungie made an uninteresting game but don't take it out on the gamers. Next time, don't dumb it down. Don't phone it in when it comes to game design. Because of Bungie's disrespect, I will wait for what the critics say about Destiny 2 before buying it. This fall, I can only hope for Master Chief to save us.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Donald Trump is running for President!!!

Super rich guy, Donald Trump, is running for President. Great comic fodder for Jon Stewart and The Daily Show. Here's his super hilarious video from Tuesday.

Bill Maher destroys the politically correct

In Friday's last New Rule, Bill Maher criticizes politically correct liberals who are too sensitive to comedy. Look, I'm a liberal but a politically incorrect Asian American. So, I agree much here with Bill except I'm not a bad driver. Okay, I'm not good at backing up. Anyway, here's Bill's funny piece and be warned there's cussing in it.

Jurassic World 3D review

I got a feeling of deja vu watching Jurassic World. I've seen the first three Jurassic Park movies in the franchise and there is a formula to making these films. Jurassic World has the um... DNA of the earlier movies. It goes something like this. One, precocious children in danger. Check. Two, stupid humans who believe they can control dinosaurs. Check. Three, A really big bad dinosaur. Check. And of course, dinosaurs chomping on people. Check.

The movie starts out with two brothers, Zach (Nick Robinson) and Gray (Ty Simpkins) Mitchell being sent to spend time with their aunt, Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) who runs Jurassic World. The park is the descendant of Jurassic Park, which was designed to be a theme park where people could see dinosaurs brought to life through cloning. Okay, I have to stop here. In the first film, Jurassic Park (1993), it was clearly a bad idea to finish the park since the dinosaurs ate some of the employees. So why is it still a good idea?

Claire is too busy trying to make the park a success. You see she supports InGen, the corporation that owns the park and their idea to develop a super predator created originally from the DNA of various dinosaurs and animals. The purpose was that since people had gotten use to seeing the dinosaurs, they needed to see something new which is bigger and more spectacular. Is this plot point a metaphor for this sequel? But I digress. The new dinosaur is called Indominus Rex. You didn't think they would call it Barney, did you?

Owen Grady, (Chris Pratt) the park's velociraptor trainer, is brought in to evaluate the Indominus Rex' s security situation. He's also a love interest for Claire because we have to have a romance in here somewhere. Owen's got his own problems with an InGen executive Vic Hoskins, (Vincent D'Onofrio) who wants to militarize the velociraptors. Well during Owen's visit to Indominus Rex's enclosure, it tricks the humans and escapes. It then proceeds to murder all the people in the park, thus ending the movie in five minutes. Okay, that doesn't happen.

The acting performances are very good. Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins are believable as two brothers who have family issues back at home. Bryce Dallas Howard makes her Claire, a cold executive evolve into a caring aunt. It's kind of difficult given the limited exposition she's got to work with. And no, I did not get the feeling she needed a man to become more human as some critics have pointed out as sexist. Unfortunately, Chris Pratt comes off as sort of a stereotype. He's a macho GI Joe model. But it's Vincent D' Onofrio who turns in the best performance of the movie. He's driven, result based, greedy villain. And with any good villain, D'Onofrio shows the motivation behind his character. It's part patriotism and capitalism.

It's the screenplay that holds back Jurassic World from being a great film. Written by Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver, Derek Connolly and director Colin Trevorrow. There are gaps in character development. This could be due to editing and a desire to keep the movie under two hours. It comes in at 2 hours and ten minutes. But it's still a problem. I mean we get a hint that the boys love their aunt but don't know why. It would only take a few lines to develop this. Second, the movie is basically the first one. It's only bigger. Dinosaurs are developed for the theme park. The big monster escapes and eats people. Been there and done that. The militarization of the dinosaurs might be a better movie and perhaps should be in the next one.

However, Jurassic World is not bad movie. It's a good one. Director Trevorrow handles actions sequences beautifully. In all of his shots, you know what is happening. It's also a well lit film. His direction has no confusion and you will sit there being entertained by the exciting action. While the dinosaurs are still rendered as CGI creatures, the're still good enough to make you believe they exist. It would be impractical to build robots. But perhaps the best special effect is the ability of Bryce Dallas Howard to run in high heels. I mean that's got to hurt the poor woman.

As for seeing this movie in 3D, I've got to note that it's a conversion from 2D. So it's not shot with a 3D camera rig. That means you don't get all the nooks and crannies of a shot in 3D. It will be more like a pop up book. First, the movie does not suffer from light issues, i.e., it's not too dark. However, there's no popping effect and very little depth. Nothing in this movie made me think I was watching it in 3D. It's not special in 3D. Save your money and see this movie in 2D.

Jurassic World is a well made but cliched movie. You've got to suspend your disbelief that a company would open a park with predator dinosaurs but it's a good movie for the summer. The grade is B.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Upgrading stinks with Destiny: House of Wolves

I've been playing Destiny: House of Wolves (HoW), the DLC for Destiny. And one thing stands out. The way to upgrade weapons and armor stinks. Bungie has now made their first person shooter a futile effort in gaming.

First, let me go over how upgrading weapons and armor before last week's DLC. The max level for weapons was an attack rating of 331. The max level for a character, that is her overall armor rating was 32. Now to get to 32, you needed four 32 level pieces of Legendary armor which are helmets, chest piece, gauntlets, and leg armor. Now, you can substitute one Exotic piece of armor but only one. There were two ways of getting 32 Legendary armor. One way was to get them in random drops from the Crota's End raid. Armor from the Crota raid were upgraded with Radiant shards from that raid. The other way was to get armor from playing in The Iron Banner, a team player versus player tournament. Those armor pieces were upgraded with Ascendant Shards. Those shards were obtained from the Daily Heroic mission which guaranteed two Ascendant materials at the highest level, playing in the Vault of Glass raid or as a random drop by completing Public Events around the map. While the Crota armor was more difficult to upgrade due to there being one place to obtain Radiant shards, the Iron Banner armor was much easier. A single player could farm Ascendant materials from the Daily Heroic mission and Public Events.

But with the new House of Wolves DLC, one can upgrade all Legendary weapons and armor to a maximum of 365 and level 34 character, respectively. Now you can upgrade Vault of Glass raid gear which only maxed out at 300 and level 30. (Exotic gear can be upgraded to max levels with one Exotic Shard.) To upgrade gear you must "Ascend" them with one Etheric Light piece. (Byf video below) This all sounds good until you see how it's done.

You see, you have to find Etheric Light. You can get them right now from four places. It can be awarded by doing the very difficult Nightfall strike as a random drop. According Byf's video below it's also random in the elite Trials of Osiris, a weekly team deathmatch. It's also guaranteed with the cooperative Prison of Elders at the highest levels of difficulty, levels 34 and 35. Prison of Elders is arena based combat ala Mass Effect 3's multiplayer. Iron Banner is supposed to award Etheric Light at levels three and five but we don't have all the details on that. Plus it rolls around about once a month.

Unlike farming maps for Ascendant materials which you can do by yourself. you are forced to do it in the three ways described above. None of those methods can be reasonably done alone. Trials of Osiris cannot be done alone since you need a three man team. While the Nightfall and Prison of Elders can be attempted alone, they are so difficult that you would be crazy to try. Prisoners of Elders is difficult at the lowest level of 28. I've completed level 32 Prison of Elders, with two very good players. It was painfully hard. So think how hard it is at levels 34 and 35. To show how difficult it was, Forbes reported that Bungie employees could not complete it at level 34.

But there's one more big problem. THERE IS NO MATCHMAKING FOR TRIALS OF OSIRIS, THE NIGHTFALL STRIKE AND THE PRISON OF ELDERS LEVELS 32, 34, 35. You must have friends to play at the time you want to play. That makes it almost impossible for a sole player to upgrade his gear to maximum levels. Under the old system it was possible. One may hold out hope for Iron Banner but will you get enough Etheric Light to upgrade much of your gear and weapons? What's worse, what happens if it is a random drop? Plus, if you don't like The Crucible, Iron Banner's game mode, you will have to suffer through it. I did. That being said, I doubt it will be a random drop but if it's just one piece of Etheric Light at each level three and five, that will make upgrading a painfully slow grind.

I'm continually frustrated with Bungie's micromanaging the way to upgrade weapons and your character. Bungie continually sets goals and puts obstacles in your path. While this may sound like a way to keep you coming and addicted, eventually it will backfire. Bungie better watch out. Players may end Destiny's run at year one.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Destiny: House of Wolves stinks

If you were hoping for redemption for the mediocre but addictive video game Destiny from the new DLC House of Wolves (HoW) , you can forget it. The HoW is very much like the main game. It's okay but has huge flaws.

A. The Good.

Gameplay and gunplay mechanics are excellent. Firing your guns are a blast. And your jump packs add much to the gameplay except for one jumping puzzle which is very difficult for the Hunter class unless she uses the super Bladedancer.

B. The Bad. And boy, is it bad.

1. The Story. IF you were expecting improvements in storytelling such as exposition and meaning, forget about it. The story is told through voice over as you are doing your mission from the two vendors of the new social area called The Reef. Yes, you heard that right. No cut scenes with exposition or action. There's not even characters talking to you directly ala Half LIfe. Heck, the Queen who sent you on these missions doesn't even make an appearance! That just makes the teaser trailer below a con job because the DLC doesn't live up to the hype.

The House of Wolves DLC has an anemic story compared to its trailer below.

So what's this DLC about? Something about Fallen guy Skolas who wants to be king of the Fallen or something like that. You, of course, have to hunt him down. Why? Don't know. Don't care.

2. The game design. In Mass Effect 3's DLC, you went to different places from the normal game maps. In HoW, you are using the same maps from the main game with the exception of the last part of the last mission. Okay, there are some minor differences. Some rooms are open on earth. But it's the same stuff. Ruins of a lost age. The only difference are the bosses. And they are just a variation of other bosses and enemies. This is lazy and cheap mission design. I mean this game had a budget of 500 million dollars!

3. The new leveling up process to the maximum. Before HoW, you could level up Legendary weapons and armor with Ascendant materials and Radiant materials for Crota raid gear. Cap level 32 armor came from the Crota raid and Iron Banner event. Yeah, it was bad for the Crota stuff since you had to play the Crota's End raid. But for all the Legendary you could farm Ascendant material from the Vault of Glass raid, the Daily Heroic mission at level 30 which was guaranteed, dismantling Legendary gear and doing Public Events. So you had multiple paths to get to the level cap of 32.

Now all Legendary and Exotic gear can be leveled up to the maximum. For armor it's 34 and for weapons it's 365. This sounds good until you find out how to do it. The process is called "Ascend." For Exotic gear, you need one Exotic Shard. Those can be bought from Xur at seven strange coins. Sounds good but remember you can only equip one Exotic per class.

That means you are going to have to wear at least three pieces of Legendary gear with an Exotic, assuming you don't get the armor piece from Variks, the Reef vendor. You can also have four Legendary pieces to max out your rank. Don't know if Variks refreshes his stock if it does. To level up any gear, you now need to do two things. Upgrade the gear to the maximum and obtain one Etheric Light.

So how does one get an Etheric Light? They are randomly dropped in Nightfall strikes now set at 32, the player versus player Trials of Osiris, and the cooperative Prisoners of Elders. For Prisoners of Elders, it's guaranteed at levels 34 and 35. Good luck playing at those difficulty levels, they're extremely hard. The Iron Banner tournament allegedly allows Etheric Light at levels three and five. I say "allegedly" as I have yet to see it. (Mashable article) But how much Etheric Light can you get? I've read it's dropped at level three and five. Does that mean that's the only amount for the Banner? Don't know but if you hate the Crucible, you're out of luck here.

I have played completed three Nightfalls, and three Prisoners of Elders matches two at level 28 and one at level 32, all with different characters. I have not received one Etheric Light. That stinks. Unlike using Ascendant material, you really can't farm for Etheric Light. Plus, you can only get one guaranteed Etheric Light drop per character on the harder levels per week. It's a crap shoot. So, again Destiny wants you to grind but punishes you for it.

4. The multiplayer modes. There are two multiplayer games with HoW. The cooperative Prisoner of Elders is an arena map where you face off against five waves of enemies. The difficulty levels are 28, 32, 34 and 35. It's extremely difficult even at level 28. Enemies swarm and flank you. And there are only three to a fireteam. There are no good areas for cover. Get the picture, it's near impossible at 34 and 35. Then there's this. NO MATCHMAKING AT LEVEL 32 AND BEYOND. So if you want to get in a match at your convenience to get Etheric Light without friends, you are out of luck.

Forget about the Trials of Osiris if you're not one of the best players in the world. I kid not. It's a three versus three deathmatch. There are problems not just with its elitist pedigree. (Check out the club for the Best of the Best, nine victories in a row.) One, there's no matchmaking. You must form a squad. Two, it's punishing. You must win nine matches to get the best stuff. Lose three and you're out. Look, I've suffered through Iron Banner and this thing is that but on steroids. Not interested, so no need to play this for the review since I'm not one of the best in the world and neither are many of you. Plus, I'm sure this type of thing will bring out the cheaters such as the lag switchers and modders. I've played many player versus player matches where I've seen them.

C. Conclusion

Destiny: House of Wolves is not an improvement but more of the same. Terrible storytelling. And now a fate based way of leveling up to the maximum levels. The game maybe addictive but is sadistic. The grade is C Plus. For us addicts, it's a B minus.

Destiny jumps the shark

So a couple of weeks ago, I'm playing the video game Destiny, specifically the Wrath of the Queen's bounties. That's where you hunt down targets across the maps. Well, I read the description of one target, Kaliks-12. Here's the quote:

"Kaliks-12 was high Servitor of Skriviks Ketch. It was captured during the Cybele Uprising with its mistress." (Video below)

Hold on. It's a servitor. In Destiny lore, these things are big ball like robots. (Video below) It is not an organic. So how does this affair thing work? I mean the thing has no penis. How does servitor sex work? It's simply ludicrous to write that the thing is having an affair. Folks, Destiny has jumped the shark.