Not the most original title in the world, but honest, at least.
So, first of all, I have a 30-day contract with a company here in NYC, starting tomorrow. This will be basically a try-out period; after the contract is up we’ll have an evaluation, and see if I could come on board as a full-time employee. Definitely good news on that front, and also good news in that it’s right back in to game design. And trust me, finding game design work is not exactly the easiest thing to pull off here in NYC. Also handy is that the new place is merely 1 stop further along the F train from my old place of employment. Before, I exited at 23rd street, and now, it’s 34th. This also means that I’ll be working right across the street from the Empire State Building. Sign that I am a New Yorker: I didn’t even realize this at first until I stopped to see what everyone around me were taking pictures of.
The company has headed up the Facebook version of “The Hunger Games,” a property that you “may” have heard about. Actually, from what I have heard, “The Hunger Games” books have now outsold the Harry Potter books, something that is not only impressive, but also reminds me that I really need to get cracking on some original IP tale of my own. In any case, I didn’t know anything about the series, having never read the books or seen the movie. Hence, I picked up the movie from Best Buy during a city excursion, and watched it upon my return home.
I enjoyed the movie quite a bit. I agree with another person’s assessment that the shaky-cam approach, at least in the beginning, was a little on the heavy side, but otherwise I enjoyed a lot about what I saw. I was reminded of “The Running Man” film, “Lord of the Flies” (which, actually, I never have seen), and “The Truman Show,” but not in bad ways. Rather, more like, “Oh, yeah, so it’s like ‘The Truman Show.’ Okay, got it.” I’m also more interested in reading the books now, as there were a number of side characters that I’m willing to bet have even more depth and robustness to them. Some of the things I enjoyed were that the movie doesn’t “talk down” to the audience; a lot of parts of the film are presented in a way that make you understand what’s happening without the need for heavy exposition dialogue. Likewise, the characters act in believable ways, and parts of characters back stories are explained in very simple, quick pieces, so you get the gist of things within a matter of minutes. Even better, the way that the movie is put together hints at more beneath the surface, hence my greater interest in the books. Suffice to say, I was pleased with my purchase.
Finally, after wrapping up the first 2 “Thief” games, I wound spending quite a bit of time playing DOTA 2 — Defense of the Ancients 2. This is a new game from Valve that, while technically free, is also in a closed Beta (of sorts). You can’t get in without an invite, but you can actually buy an invite for like $30. So, either you spend $30 to buy the game, really, or you can play for free. What really makes this weird is that that game already has so many players that they have been holding international tournaments the past month or so, with serious cash prizes to the winning teams. Not many Beta games do that.
This game is, as the name implies, a sequel. The original was actually a mod for the Blizzard game, “WarCraft III,” which was developed by one guy, and then later on picked up and really promoted & maintained by another guy. For like, the past 10 years. Valve then hired him to make this “official” game. This is another weird thing: the game started out in the Blizzard game universe that eventually brought us World of WarCraft: you have tinkering gnomes, tough orcs, water elementals, cat riders — I mean, you can really just look at the 100+ classes that they have and almost trace them all back to a WarCraft base. Yet, this game is being made by Valve. I can only imagine that there is some licensing deal going here, as otherwise, I would suspect that copyright injunctions would be flying.
Anyway, the game is mind-bendingly complex, as you have the aforementioned 100+ classes, plus around 80 different items, each which can give you extra effects, modify your abilities, increase your stats, etc. You earn gold for each “last hit” you get on a NPC or a PC, and then use that gold to spend on items. You also gain XP, and as you grow in level (to a max of 25), your powers increase. Like most spooky deep games, it could take days or weeks to learn the best “build” for just one character; each has their own play style (support, nuker, etc.), and their own quirks that you need to get familiar with before you even worry about the items to get.
So far I’ve played about 15 matches or so, most against a team of bots (you play as part of a 5-man team). I’ve mainly been experimenting with different characters, trying to get a feel for the ones that I enjoy playing, and the ones that I think are just too deep for me to think about yet (like The Invoker (who, by the way, looks a lot like a Blood Elf from WarCraft — funny, that)). I’ve started to experiment more with a couple characters in particular, and once I get them to a spot I’m not embarrassing myself, I’ll probably move on to another one to experiment with.
Finally, something that I’ve really been enjoying in the game has been to little details to the audio, in particular the voice acting of each character (called a “Hero,” in the game, which differentiates them from “creeps,” which are NPCs). Now, it’s not that each character has an array of comments to make when you move, attack, retreat, get coins, buy an item, etc. (as neat as that is), but no, I’m much more impressed with the fine attention to detail that they have put based on which characters are playing, and against whom.
The first is one that backs up the established story of each Hero. In one case, it’s 2 sisters who are magic-users, one who uses fire (the older one, Lina), and one who use ice (The Crystal Maiden). Because both sides pick 1 Hero each, you can easily wind up in a game where the two sisters are playing against each other. Once while playing, I saw The Cyrstal Maiden (with help from others) take down Lina. As Lina fell, instead of giving one of her standard lines of defeat (“My flame… snuffed out!”), she actually said, defiantly, as she fell, “You.. were… adopted!” And The Crystal Maiden, instead of given a standard line of victory, merely said, simply, “Sorry, sis!” I actually laughed when I heard that because suddenly, these Heros became a lot more like characters.
Another example is when I was playing The Crystal Maiden (a support Hero) alongside Juggernaut (a “carry,” as in “you carry them through the early part of the game so they can carry your team to victory at the end). As we were playing, I heard The Crystal Maiden make the comment, “Make them feel the cool of your blade Juggernaut!” So, in this case, the developers deliberately added some special dialogue options for when two players who work well together (support & carry) are fighting alongside each other. It’s little things like that which really tend to sell me on a game, and this one was no different.
I’ll be playing more of it going forward, but for now, I have real work to attend to. And I really mean that: I have “real” work to do which results in a paycheck. Here’s hoping that it easily goes beyond that first 30 days.