Monday, 20 October 2014

Destiny

Yes. We're all well aware the game is pretty.

Just over a month after release and I have done it! I have beaten Destiny. I have reached the level cap. I have completed every strike and mission. I have ignored a terrible PvP experience. I have completed The Vault of Glass. I have become legend. I have... run out of things to do.

I'm not going to waste much time talking about what Destiny is as a game; I'm going to assume anyone reading this blog for content will already know what it is. I will, however, point out that Destiny is, by Bungie's own words, an FPSMMORPG (First Person Shooter Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game)... just try saying that and you'll notice it doesn't really roll off the tongue.

MMORPGs (such as World of Warcraft [WoW], Elder Scrolls Online, Final Fantasy 11... and 14, Wildstar, Guild Wars 1 and 2, and many... many... many more) tend to be BIG games. They have loads of 'zones' populated by a variety of enemies and housing themed dungeons all the way up to the level cap which is where the game REALLY starts. Once you hit that level cap there are, usually, a few new 'zones', even bigger and badder enemies, dungeons in which you will earn gear that will ready you for, and Raids (dungeons for lots of people instead of a few people). So the end game content is basically farming enemies for crafting materials, item drops, and cash; followed by farming dungeons for crafting materials, item drops, and cash; followed by farming Raids for item drops which will in turn allow you to access the next tier of Raids.

Because animals falling asleep are officially cute!

Anyone not interested in gaming and MMOs has just fallen asleep and rightly so.

So just to use WoW as an example. In vanilla WoW (that's the game upon release):
  • The level cap was 60.
  • There were 40 zones to explore split between the 2 factions and this does not include the 6 capital cities which were pretty massive in their own rights.
  • There were 20 dungeons, 4 of which were considered endgame and each of those dungeons was split into multiple dungeons.
  • There were 2 Raids, one was a single encounter and one was a 10 encounter terror of an experience.

Lets compare those stats to vanilla Destiny.
  • Level cap is 20 (you can reach effective level of 30 through collection of armour but honestly I have no idea what levels actually do in Destiny).
  • There are 5 zones to explore, one of which is a small town with very little in it.
  • There are 5 strikes / dungeons which can be run on higher levels but none contain specific item drops that are needed for progression.
  • There was no Raid upon release but 1 was released after only a couple of weeks so we'll give them that; it contains 5 encounters.

These are not impressive stats no matter which way you swing them.

So the game is small. That's basically what I'm getting at. Size matters and Destiny has dropped its boxers to reveal little Destiny is... well... little. Just last night my fireteam of 6 intrepid explorers picked up in Vault of Glass where we left off just a few days earlier and attempted the final boss. We died... a lot. Then we caught on to the tactics we needed and we formed a plan. Then we died... a lot.

Our final attempt was going well, we had the rinse and repeat tactics of sending people into the Time Stream to kill the Oracles and gain the damage buff and batter the crap out of the boss. He was close to dead and we were close to victory. Then someone didn't make it out of the time stream. 3 of our team went down. I heard someone shout over the mic:



In a glorious moment of sheer win I slapped a new rocket into my launcher even as my screen started to turn red signalling death was at hand. I launched myself into the air, floating my warlocky ass right above the angry 5 storey-high robot, and fired the rocket directly into his face. The boss collapsed, turned red and faded away. Loot was handed out, we all high-fived (over the internet of course) and we were returned to space... That was it.

High five into the sunset: only for winners.

Now while I had a lot of fun during the encounter, and in fact all the encounters of Vault of Glass, the end left me with a bitter taste and it wasn't just me. My entire fireteam was hanging around in space afterwards asking each other if that was it... had we really just beaten Destiny? Yes. Yes we had. And now we're left with a question: What do we do now? Do we farm the Vault once per week for loot? What do we do in between? I now find no reason to start the game up again and I'm already looking for the next game my friends and I can get to keep our team playing.



This is the crux of the issue and it boils down to one statement:


I have enjoyed the hell out of Destiny despite its many, many flaws but I feel cheated by the devastating lack of content. The game is just TOO small.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Designing Jezzet – What Came First, Chicken or Egg?


A few folk have asked me whether I designed the characters to fit the story or the story to fit the characters; in the case of The Heresy Within (THW) it was very much the latter.

The world of The Ties that Bind was forming nicely and I had already written a full novel set in the Five Kingdoms but I didn't think it was good enough to publish. I hadn't yet found my voice as an author. The witch hunter, Arbiter Thanquil Darkheart had existed for some time, though he was very much bereft of a story to call his own and, though I had toyed around with a few ideas, I decided his story, whatever it would be, needed more leading characters.

The Black Thorn was an easy design for me. I was sat in a coffee shop, staring out the window while waiting for a friend, and I decided that I would create an Arbiter killer. I wanted a nasty killer of a character with seemingly no morals and even less decency and I wanted him to be best known for killing the powerful agents of the Inquisition. With my trusty pen and notepad in hand I hammered out a quick character description (it changed quite a bit from that notepad to THW) and this quote:

“Ya wanna kill an Arbiter do it in their sleep. Fill 'em with arrows before they spot ya. Walk past 'em in the street an' get all stabby. Jus' don't let 'em see ya coming cos if they do... ya fucked.”

I now had 2 characters both without a story.

Jezzet Vel'urn came from a simple walk in the forest and, sat upon a rock while listening to the stream and the birds, I came up with her very first chapter. I wanted her to be strong, nearly unbeatable with a sword, and street-smart, but more than any of those things I wanted her to be willing to do anything and everything in order to survive. With that in mind I came up with her mantra of sorts:

“Fight or fuck.”

Jezzet was going to be the type of character who regularly found her way into trouble, mostly caused by herself, and always thought of only two ways out of it. She was always going to be the type of character who was always at war with herself; thinking one thing and then finding herself doing the opposite. I decided she would have an inner monologue and would refer to herself in it in third person, as though she was actually talking to herself in her head.

Now I had 3 characters without a story and before long I started putting those characters together. The story grew from Jezzet, Thanquil and Betrim and their collision with each other.

Jezzet's core principle remained. As I wrote THW I decided I was going to heap misfortune upon her and every time she would survive it, fight through it, and come out the other side stronger.


For those of you who have already read The Heresy Within, well you already know what I put her through and what she has to do to survive. For those who haven't already read it, well it will be re-released by Ragnarok Publications on November 10th so I suggest you pick up a copy and check it out. You can even pre-order the e-book copy from Amazon right now. :D