Friday, August 24, 2012

Facebook Game Review: Campaign Story

One computer game I remember from my youth was "President Elect," which allowed the player to take on the role of a political candidate for the White House. Since then, election games have continued to come up every four years, though I never did buy another. Recently, one came out for Facebook: "Campaign Story," billed as "the first political Facebook game where you run your own political campaign." It is made by Five One Nine Games.

The selling point of the game is the chance to run for office with the option of "Play Clean or Play Dirty." Indeed when your candidate starts his/her first election, you're greeted by a pol from your party whom expresses hope you'll be a refreshing change from the politician you're up against who's known for his dirty tricks.

Starting out, you're given a selection of several appearances to choose from, male and female. You're also asked your candidate's name, the symbol he/she will be using (Democrat, Republican, or one of several others), and the slogan. You'll also be asked if you'll be playing as a liberal, conservative, or moderate, though I have yet to see how this affects gameplay.

Your first election is one for mayor of a city. You're given some guidance for the first several moves. The map shows your appeal in various places, from welcoming to hostile. Canvassers from your staff can be placed on the map to speak directly to the people about your candidate and make some gains in the polls. Fundraisers can be placed to raise money.

The news board shows events that have an effect on the election, such as reports of declining industry or rising crime rates, as well as statements (lies) by your opponent against you. By spending Influence points, you can act on an issue. You can then have your staff promote your efforts for votes. But your opponent will usually make some response, more often than not by using cheap shots. You can respond by either defending your move, or by going negative yourself. Positive moves are shown as white angel wings while attacks are shown as red devil horns.

Different staff have different roles. Press Secretaries issue press releases and hold press conferences. Researchers dig up facts and figures to fight off attacks from your opponent, or dig up dirt for attacks of your own. Speech writers can help make  your candidate sound more intelligent on issues. Image consultants can help polish an image after an opponents smear campaign, or set up photo-ops to promote your candidate.

Gameplay has your candidate starting out low in the polls, with your actions making the numbers swing to your favor. Once your approval rating reaches 51%, the game declares you the winner on election day. Following your victory as mayor, your next campaign is for state senate. This election is a bit more detailed, taking place across four maps, and four regions of news issues and opponent's responses. As you win, you'll go up the political ladder, with elections for Governor, US Senator, and eventually the Presidency.

Campaign Story is a new game to Facebook, launched only last week, so there may be some changes to it as time goes on. As the real-life election makes the news, it's an interesting way to make gamers think a little about what goes on in winning races in the real world, and what it takes.

Unlike certain Facebook games, it doesn't ask to make posts to your friends (yet). So Facebook has done what to some would seem impossible: make politics a subject less annoying than many others, at least with games.

Bixyl Shuftan

Friday, August 10, 2012

Game Review: Diablo 3

After Diablo 2 came out in the year 2000 along with its expansion, Blizzard the same company that created World of Warcraft kept promising that would create a sequel to Diablo 2. Year after year, Blizzard put it off until this year in May 2012 when they finally released it. My brother bought himself and me a copy to test it out.
Is it a good game? I’d say so yes, but it gets repetitive sometimes. For those not familiar with the Diablo series I can offer a quick synopsis for the third game in the series. The main goal is to defeat the Lord of Hell called Diablo. You choose from five character classes. A barbarian is a slashing warrior with high health and uses heavy armor. Another class is the wizard casting magical attacks. There’s an African witchdoctor shooting blow darts and summoning the undead to fight for him. A demon hunter who fights with a bow and arrow and uses nifty traps. The fifth character class is a monk who fights with marital arts and super natural physical attacks. 
This time around in the series, you are now able to choose the gender of your character. In the first and second game if you played a wizard, that character could only be one set gender. A man in the first game and a woman in the second game. In both the first and second Diablo a barbarian was always a man. Seemed kind of silly that if you wanted to play a wizard you could only play as a woman in the second game. Now both genders are available for every class in the third game. 
The game play is simple using your mouse you left click as your main attack and right as a secondary attack. To move your character around just left click and your character will move there. Your character gets to click and kill lots of zombies and horrible monsters in your way to gain experience and gold. Over time your character levels from one to a maximum level of sixty to become stronger. 
One nifty thing about Diablo 3, as you come across a new enemy you see a pop up on your screen saying "new lore." Click it and you’ll hear an actor’s voice describing the enemy monster to you. For example imps within the game are described to be small, but capable of tearing apart flesh with their needle teeth. Blizzard wanted to accomplish fantasy with a touch of horror and they do a good job of it.
When you pick a character you start out on your adventure going from town to dungeon progressing through the game in four acts each act taking you to a separate location. The fourth and final act you fight Diablo himself, beating the game ... or do you?
In Diablo one and two, there are three levels of difficulty Normal, Nightmare and Hell. When you defeat normal difficulty defeating Diablo at the end of the fourth act you are able to progress to the next difficulty level Nightmare, then Hell. Luckily you have the option of joining your fight against the demon Diablo with fellow players with a limit of four per group. The game gets harder the more people that are in a game or group together. So you can’t make the game easier by ganging up on the game. 
In Diablo 3 there’s a new difficulty called Inferno. In act 3 Hell I was killed a lot, later learning that you needed all resist gear to give you resistance to all elements. If you didn’t have gear like that, well I already knew what would happen. The elements you needed resistance to were fire, arcane, poison, and cold and electricity. Luckily a lady barbarian was nice enough to give me some gear that boosted my resist all. I finally got through to inferno with the correct gear. I was very happy when I defeated the end boss of the first act of Inferno called the butcher. When I defeated the butcher, a giant demon using hooks and floors of fire killing adventuring heroes, I unlocked a banner I wanted: a griffin icon for my banner.  (Yes I like griffins very much.) Something new in the Diablo series is that you get to create your own banner with various colors and sigils. Like a banner you would see with a medieval clan or house or king or queen. As you progress through the game earning achievements you earn various designs for your banner.
 However when I tried act two in Inferno I died fairly quickly despite the fair amount of all resist gear I had on my barbarian character. Blizzard did a good job of making Inferno beyond hard. Instead of blowing gold on repair bills I went back to act one in Inferno to earn gold to buy better equipment.
For those who played World of Warcraft, Blizzard carried over the auction house (called AH for short) over to Diablo 3. Compared to EBay, you can bid on new armor pieces for your character or a new shiny weapon to smite the demons of Hell. Like any RPG or Massively multiplayer online role-playing game or for short MMORPG. The player becomes more powerful by looking for or buying new equipment for his or her character in the game world. The game wouldn’t be much fun if you could only use the same equipment you started with throughout the whole game.
Diablo 3 does have an amazing amount of gear for each character to equip. For example a helmet or helm name could be something like a "masked aurora or a knight’s hunger." A dagger could be called a "grisly point" or a "death abyss." Or the dagger I currently have is a shiv revenge. One neat thing about weaponry is sometimes they come with element damage like poison or fire that add to the graphics and add to the damage you inflict per attack. Another neat thing is that sometimes when your character kills an enemy you see the enemy’s dead body fly across the screen as your character forces it back with the power of your attack. Also if you attack with a certain element it adds to the death of the enemy. Attacking with a poisoned weapon leaves the enemy as a diseased husk with a green sickly aura and poison cloud. Or a fire weapon leaves the enemy as a burning blackened husk.
The gear itself comes as a few colors. White is plain ordinary gear blue is step up offering some boosts. Yellow is a lot better than blue. Green is a set item that comes with 2 or more other items in the set. When you complete or add to the set you get additional bonuses. Orange is legendary and rarely found.
Some enemies by themselves die with graphical bravado. A demon in the fourth act burns dying and leaves behind a skeleton that blackens and turns to black ash. Another demon dies with its head and body erupting with its inner organs bursting through a large tear. The graphics are pretty amazing to the environments you fight in, or as explained before, the enemies dying. Also the magical attacks are neat to look at too. The wizard can blast away demons with a bright beam of magical doom on your screen. The witch doctor can attack with frogs or balls of fire.
For another challenging aspect within the game is the option of hardcore characters available when you reach level 10 of any character class. In the regular gameplay when you die you lose 10% or your gear’s durability which costs gold to repair at npc vendors. When you play as a hardcore character and you die you die like a real life death. No coming back end of your character game over. Before I wrote this article I tried a hardcore character for kicks. Poor Bubbles only made it to level 7 and is now unplayable as she died a horrible death by skeletons.
All in all I’d say Diablo 3 is a fun game to play. It can get repetitive fighting in the same dungeons again and again. The gameplay is fun though and with pretty graphics it’s still fun to play. What’s lacking though, and Blizzard might be working on this, is a pvp option (player vs. player). So you can test your might against fellow players instead of just the demons of Hell. Either way players new to Diablo and those who played Diablo 1 and 2 will still find this an entertaining and challenging game to play.

Grease Coakes

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Agapeo Roleplay Sim

Second Life is indeed a vast realm and recently I found a neat treasure as the roleplay sim Agepeo Seas. It was certainly a new experience. For starters, furry avatars are not allowed. Luckily I invested in a human avatar for my brahma yoga class for a certain class during the week.

When I talked with Agenor Resident, he talked about his sim being a very real role play environment. For example if there was a dispute within the game, it would not be handled by a moderator. Instead the person who felt he or she got the short of the end of the stick can go appeal to the king, which happens to be Agenor Resident. Also to add to the realism IM/s are blocked within the sim. For example when I tried to IM Bixyl, the owner of the SL Newser, from within Agenor’s sim it was blocked by the sim. That way people inside the sim aren’t turned into avatar stiffs standing still in an IM.

The backstory is that a king named Agenor sends his two sons as scouts to search for his daughter Europa. When they do not return, the king and his army discover an island named Agapeo as they search through South Africa. When staying at the island, the king and his men discover there are many different women  of different races living there on the Island, teasing them in their dreams at night.

What do you roleplay in this sim? Basically it is a Gorean environment where women are treated as property and be captured by men. But don’t be fooled. Women have the ability to fight as well the men. One of the times I was knocked out, it was done by women. Also to balance the role play environment: men can be killed, women cannot. However women can become pregnant. But capturing a woman doesn’t mean you automatically get her. She could easily roleplay breaking the leash and run away making the hunter or bull chase her again. I used the example of "Fox and the Hound," the Disney movie, to Agenor and he said that’s a good analogy to describe his sim. But beware the fox can hunt the hound back as I learned in exploring the Agapeo sim.

When you arrive at the sim there’s a large shopping area various adult skins and sex related poseballs and weapon vendors. Being new there was a lot to absorb. Following some steps like buying a HUD and clicking to a free rp meter. Also you have to be using an RLV viewer like Singularity, or else you will not be able to teleport to the main sim.

When I finally got the correct HUD and everything together. One of the steps was joining the group and loading an rp meter. Joining the group itself was free. I was able to teleport down and I thought it would be a bright idea to teleport down without clothes or a weapon. Luckily some women who were ooc (out of character) advised me this was a bad idea as I would get shot down right away. I looked around at the vendors and found an eagle bow package for the price of 600L or so. Next I bought a HUD that I would need to involve myself for sexual roleplay for any woman that I captured via knocking her out with stone arrows for 125L.

When I got my bow and HUD together playing around with it then I teleported down now that I was able to do battle with the bulls and hunters of the sim also to knock out any woman. When you teleport down it looks like a wild forest area with wildflowers and trees the graphics were great adding to the realistic feel of the environment. The men and women were scantily clad or some cases fully nude. I played along wearing pants with my bow but no shirt.

The bow HUD had a radar system that allowed me to track down women which I was having with in this roleplay environment. Later I was chided however for shooting down two women at once and being selfish I got the woman’s meaning. I was new to this so any help was welcome. Eventually I ran into a pair of women equipped with bows and they knocked me out. When you are knocked out you are unable to move and anything you type just comes out in dots like “…” A minute or so later you receive a message that you feel groggy and get back up, but not with full health.

For men only, if a person knocks you out and then attacks you while you’re unconscious, you end up dead. Which has the consequence of being banned from the sim for a half hour. Not like the ban of being banned from a club. Also you lose any women you may have obtained by hunting them. Kind of hard for someone to own something or someone when you no longer live. Also someone could be branded for breaking one of the king’s laws, so the king places a bounty on someone’s head so everyone would want to hunt down the now infamous “Sam resident” for the linden reward. When Sam would be killed he is then banned for a full three days not the usual ½ hour. Everyone could see Sam is branded by a certain tattoo on his body.

Agenor explained the difference between hunters and bulls. Bulls just want to impregnate women; Hunters are more interested in gaining women as property. Another interesting thing about the sim was there was a board offering selling a hunter’s woman for a linden price. I remember seeing one at around 6k. That’s a steep price in my opinion like a tail sale when bidding on a furry.

Agenor’s sim overall is a very unique experience as a whole new world within Second Life. What’s a plus too is when I started people were there to give a hand helping me get started. Agenor also mentioned when his first land owner in SL bankrupted the people who supported him donated 100,000L to get a sim back up so his fellow roleplayers could play in their fave sim once again.

Anyone is welcome to give Agenor’s sim a try, with lots of people to help you get lost. Just don’t get upset if you shoot the wrong person and next thing you know your character is banned for a ½ hour. It’s all part of the roleplaying experience.

Grease Coakes

Editors Note: Hat tip to YT Recreant of Mama Allpa.