Tuesday, 30 December 2014

2014 Wrap Up

Wow this year has gone really fast. I know we say that nearly every year, but for me 2014 just flew by. It was mostly a good year for gaming too. From ones that snuck up on me like Shadow of Mordor to ones I had been looking forward to for ages like Super Smash Bros 4, this year has seen some really good games.

It's also seen some pretty bad ones, and a lot of them from Ubisoft. I've gotta say, Ubisoft has definitely gone from being one of my favorite publishers to being one of my least favorite over the course of 12 months. Their attitude toward gamers, especially PC gamers, has been pretty offensive. The biggest thing for me this year was the state they chose to release Assassin's Creed Unity in. Even on the consoles it was buggy, poorly optimized and the crowds dropped framerates down to near unplayable levels. I'm a massive fan of the Assassin's Creed games, having played them since the very first one, and to see that series turned into a terrible yearly release by Ubisoft has been hard to enjoy.

Watch_Dogs was another game that really drove home how bad Ubisofts PC ports were becoming. While it's only speculation and will never be proven that Ubisoft deliberately downgraded the graphics for the PC release of Watch_Dogs, there is a lot of evidence to suggest they did. All of the graphical effects from the 2012 E3 demo were there in the games files, and it took some simple tweaks from modder TheWorse to re-enable them. To make matters worse (see what I did there), the mod actually fixed some issues that people had with the game, making it playable for many who previously couldn't. Crazy stuff.

Another crazy trend this year has been indie game developers not handing negative criticism of their games. From TotalBiscuit's Guise of the Wolf videos being copyright claimed by developer FunCreators, Jim Stirling's Slaughtering Grounds video gaining a hilarious response video from the devs, all the way to the guys who made Air Control blaming people's computers for the buggy crap they called a game. This year has been a mixture of hilarious, poorly written responses to criticism, to the angry, juvenile reactions that have done nothing but kill any sales they might have had. The message is clear: Indie devs, don't do your own PR, especially if you can't handle negative criticism.

But it's not all been bad, as I mentioned at the outset. Some developers have completely turned around. CCP has gained my time again with their new development model. Going from a six month development cycle to a six week one has meant that Eve gets new content, content updates, tweaks, and bug fixes regularly. That change has pulled me back into Eve. Adding to that, the removal of the 24 skill queue limit, the clone costs and skill point loss on death, and the awoxing changes have all added up to getting me back into the game in a big way.

In my top ten list, I had Shadow of Mordor as my favorite game this year. I absolutely love SoM. As a fanboy of the Tolkien lore (I read the Hobbit when I was eleven years old, followed quickly by the LotR trilogy), Shadow of Mordor played right into that side of me. But beyond the lore, SoM was a great game, and even better, a great PC game. The PC port was rock solid, had robust options for tweaking it to your liking, and was amazingly optimized. I don't actively search for upcoming games anymore, so it's release was a surprise to me, but damn if I'm not happy I bought it.

Of course, as a fan of space games, Elite: Dangerous has been eating up a lot of my time lately. I have some issues with the current progression, economy and reactionary development that Frontier has made, but the base game is really solid. The flight feels great, and it's amazing just how immersive they have managed to make the title. Unfortunately, like Eve, unless you are good at making your own goals and working toward them, Elite doesn't offer much. There are missions, but they don't have any real story to them or reason to do them beyond getting money. Down the track Frontier is planning on adding a walking in stations and landing on planets component, and I can see this opening a lot more opportunities for rewarding gameplay. I'll be writing more about Elite as I find things to write about.

Limit Theory screenshot from May 2013. Subject to change.

Another space game I've been keeping my eye on is Limit Theory. I only found out about LT six months ago, and have been keeping an eye on the procedural wonder that developer Josh Parnell has been working on. Despite my "don't get hyped" mentality that I've been cultivating over the last 12 months, I'm hyped for this. Josh's development updates show real gameplay, real improvements in each one, and he's extremely open when it comes to any bug fixes he needs to make. I'll be getting LT as soon as it's released, and I'm sure I'll be spending a lot of time with it.

Seriously, go read Extralife. Scott is pretty funny.
2014 was also the year I realised exactly why I prefer Eve over WoW. I really did enjoy my time playing WoW as a holiday from Eve. As a themepark style MMO, the content that is provided for you in WoW is brilliant. Unfortunately, to keep up in that game requires a time commitment I just don't have. As I get older, I've started to enjoy games I can just drop in and out of without needing to spend a lot of time grinding to progress. Eve, while considered by many to be grindy, suits me far better in this regard. I can leave skills training while I'm not playing, and my exploration gameplay keeps me in the black with isk easily. WoW's get rep, do dailies, check auction house, run dungeons, run raids gameplay eats so much time that it no longer feels fun after a while. The lore is the best part of that game for me, and I don't need to be playing to learn it.

That's just a snippet of my 2014. As far as the blog goes, I see numbers of around 25 unique views per week. How many of those are actual people is hard to know, but I like to imagine there are a few of you who enjoy my ramblings on gaming. I'll be continuing to write in 2015, and I hope you'll always continue to read. As always though, have a great new year, and...


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