Wednesday, July 25, 2012

My first steps into a brave new world.

The other day, I read a claim that League of Legends is currently the most played game on PC. When I looked into it, it seemed entirely credible. Naturally, with Between Continues being such a bastion of the zeitgeist, this meant that I had to finally stop thinking about it, and start doing it. Playing it, that is. I have had the game installed for ages, and was originally hoping to record footage of my first game, but life circumstances have put that on the back burner for a while. So it was that I started the game, and faced the first of MANY decisions that were put my way.

My username in just about everything online is CheekyLee. If you Google that name, then most of what you will find is me. (Apart from some bloke who has done a tumblr and that fetish model, that is.) I should have just tried to use that name in LoL, too, but the game threw a challenge at me. It told me that names containing the word 'Riot' were not allowed, so my first instinct was to try and subvert that. I think, on reflection, that I wasted my time. I couldn't be "Judas Iscariot", and I couldn't be "Chariots Offiah", so I gave up chasing that dream. Instead, I just went with the comedy "Beans". Except that was taken, as was the extension of "Magic Beans". I didn't foresee this, and in a moment of madness I decided to try my luck with a comedy name. I did not expect it to work; otherwise I wouldn't have even tried.

Thus, "Mighty Wang" was born.

The game, rather kindly I might add, offered me the chance to play a tutorial. Yeah, I'll go for that. The tutorial itself was basic stuff, where I was introduced to my Summoner, a Hero named Ashe. She is an ice archer, and if I am honest I didn't really pay an awful lot of attention to the rest of it. It was all about moving cameras and selecting skills, and all that stuff that anybody who has ever played a game on the PC should already be able to get to grips with.

League of Legends looked, and played, very much like a multiplayer Tower Defence game. And I don't really consider Tower Defence to be a genre worth getting excited about. Plenty of people love them, but I have always thought that they are just puzzles that you eventually win by sheer time investment. So, so far I was unthrilled.

Upon completion of the Tutorial, though, I was surprised to be offered ANOTHER Tutorial. This one was for "Battle Training", apparently, which got me wondering what the hell I had just been through. Still, I figured it best to give it a shot, and see what all the fuss is. I am not writing off something so popular without having good reason to sneer, after all!

Battle Training started off by letting me choose from one of three Summoners. There was Ashe, who I already knew, and then there was a fighter guy and a magic guy. I chose the fighter, I think his name was Garen, and really should have stuck with my rules that shout out loud as possible to "ALWAYS GO FOR THE MAGE CLASS, NUMB NUTS!", because the melee is generally such a dull way to play. Especially since in order to hit someone I need to be right in their face. The AI doesn't like to be hit, and runs away as soon as you do hit it, and that means that I got the following interruption at least 100 times during the game:


This Battle Training tutorial taught me the difference between "laning", which is staying in the lanes where the Minions that are automatically spawned go, and "jungling", which seems to be the name for going anywhere else. After a while, I discovered that I much prefer to play using a technique that I call "junglaning", which consists of just going any and everywhere trying to stop that stupid picture from popping up. Also, it didn't help that any time I got anywhere near to the enemy Maphite Bot ran in and slapped me into insta-death. No matter how many Minions I had, or even if Master Yi Bot and Sivir Bot were alongside me, that bastard rock thing took great pleasure in causing me an entire otherworld of pain.

For about the next hour, there was a pattern of my spawning, running towards wherever a fight was taking place, before Rocky came and laid the smackdown on me big time. Every so often, I was told of other things to do in the "jungle" areas, and I quite enjoyed them. But it rally felt like the tutorial would last the REST OF MY GOD DAMN LIFE. So, I quit out of it. "Sod it.", I thought, "Let's take this puppy online.”

This turned out to be a mistake. For two reasons. The first one being that, when it came to the lobby where I got to select my Summoner, a fresh torture was placed in front of me:


WHO IN THE HELL ARE THESE GUYS? Giving me limited time to select from such a wide range of characters that I know nothing about? ARE YOU CRAZY? I need to check stats, to see who is cool, and to make sure that I avoid the melee class at all costs. But, the clock was ticking, so I went with faith and clicked on the pirate guy. I figured with his having guns, he was bound to be ranged.

I figured wrong. I don't actually know WHAT Gangplank is meant to be, but I know that he is not for me. One of his skills is the ability to remove debuffs from himself. Great. I'm sure that would be useful if I had any clue as to what was going on. Now, I KNOW that Gangplank can be useful, because someone on the other team was playing as him. That guy killed me no less than 10 times during the match. My 2 partners must have realised that we were on a hiding to nothing, as after about 5 minutes they just stood at the spawn point. I just kept on running between lanes, "junglaning" my way about, before the other Gangplank inevitably came to release me from the tedious business of living.

By the time the match ended, I was sure of one thing; that I SUCK at League of Legends. However, despite my repeated batterings, I also saw more of the potential in the title. It turns out that I was correct in thinking it is a multiplayer Tower Defence game, but that does not mean it is not fun. The moment when I killed one of the other Summoners, Annie, I realised that even though my pirate guy was a bit non-fun, he still had stuff he could do as he levelled up a bit.

I headed back to the Battle Training tutorial next, this time determined to finish it. I tried with the Mage guy, but didn't really gel with him at all, so I went and gave Ashe another shot. And I discovered that I liked her, and it didn't take long to realise that if I only targeted Minions when near enemy Turrets that I wouldn't get dragged into the Turret's range. It didn't take long to win the match.

And that is where I currently stand. I still have no freaking idea what the hell "Masteries" are, or why I have no Runes of any description, or even if all the crap I bought during my games stays with me between games. But, I have some kind of concept as to what I am meant to be doing now, which is more than half the battle. And, I took a look into the store and saw that there are literally more Heroes to play as than there are atoms in the Universe. Give or take. I am sure that somewhere amongst them will be one that matches my own playstyle, which could best be described as "Reckless" but would be more accurately titled "Suicidal".

I will play more. I will learn. I will suck less. I will eventually be on a winning side, even if they win despite having me. And, eventually, I am sure that I will pick up DOTA 2. Thanks to my new-found experience with the MOBA genre (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena, because Multiplayer Tower Defence would require MuToDe as an acronym and even internet nerds like to sound cool), I may even LIKE DOTA 2, and might even play it TWICE! But, for now, I am quite happy to be a small fish in an immense pond, and I would honestly suggest you give it a try as well.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Surviving the Steam Summer Sale

"Rejoice, cheer. The day is here!
The day your wallet knows to fear.
Affordable gaming will prevail,
In the face of the latest STEAM SUMMER SALE."

Oh dear. Times are hard, and if you are anything like me then your expenditure on games this year has been decimated somewhat. Admittedly, a large part of this is due to just how few games released are inspiring in any way, at least in the AAA realm. The HD consoles have been fed a diet of so much more of the same that they are now to all intents and purposes bloated twins, with only the existence of downloadable titles to save them. PC gaming has been increasingly aiming towards digital only for a long time already, and Steam has been so far ahead of the curve for so long that the curve now resembles a flat line with a dot several miles above it.

Part of Steam's success is down to how bloody useful it is. Digital Rights Management may be universally hated, yet nobody minds the Steam version. Because it has a friends list, achievements, and facilities that allow your titles to be automatically updated. You can log in on any machine, and your entire account exists in "The Cloud", which means that even your save files can be stored there. This may seem like magic if you are a console-only player, but it is the reality that has been around for the last few years.

By far the best thing about Steam, though, is the sales. Twice a year at least, the entire catalogue gets discounted to almost obscene levels. Big titles are frequently sold at 75% off. The general format is that everything is discounted, but every day a selection get highlighted with further discounts. This year, they have added some new ideas in to the mix. We now get to vote on which title from a selection of 3 gets featured, as well as the new "Flash Sales". These are available for 8-12 hours, which means that as well as checking the store at the start of the day (6pm GMT), WE NOW NEED TO BE LOOKING SEVERAL TIMES A DAY! The obvious effect of this is that more people look, which means more people buy, and everyone makes more money.

Cheaper games leads to better sales. PLEASE read that sentence, games publishers everywhere. (Particularly YOU, EA!)

Of course, seasoned customers have learned to worry. This is because when we see some of the incredible bargains that are available, we just can't resist. Impulse purchases are probably responsible for three-quarters of the titles in my own Steam library. I can get a bit silly, and because of this I feel I need to help my fellow gamers. So, with that in mind, here are my 5 rules for making the most of a Steam Sale.


Most of the entire catalogue is discounted. However, some of them are discounted even more during any given day. The new votes and Flash Sales mean that there are even more opportunities to get a game cheaper than it costs RIGHT NOW. Which means that the wise person will not buy a game unless it happens to be featured as a Daily Deal or a Flash Sale. If it never reaches this state, then simply buy it on the last day. You lost nothing but a few days.


Often, a game is available at a frankly unbelievable price. If you see it, GET IT IMMEDIATELY. It has been known in the past for games to go on sale, only for the price to rise during the day. Perhaps it was incorrectly priced, perhaps the publishers got greedy. The reason is irrelevant. You pay the price on the screen, and if it changes later you won't be charged the extra. So there is no reason to delay, provided of course that you are following Rule 1.


There are many games that you have looked at and thought "I like the looks of that one, but can't afford it today." Well, here is your chance. Set yourself a pricepoint, and look at EVERYTHING that it includes. There are some gems on Steam that don't get the attention they deserve. When they cost £1.49, you owe it to yourself to try it out.


Conversely, there are many games out there that you have already written off as "Not my kind of thing." and have therefore not even looked at the price. Well, keep that mindset. No matter how cheap Railworks gets, if you already know you'll never play it, DON'T BUY IT. Stick to your guns, even if it goes down to £0.01. That's money you don't need to spend, and money you may need by the last day.


One of the beautiful things about Steam is the friend integration. If you buy a game, all your friends will see this. It also has a Wishlist feature, and when looking at a game's product page, you can see which of your friends want it. Multiplayer games, in particular, are generally sold in packs of 2 or 4, so that you can give a "Gift" copy to anyone with a Steam account. (Or even just an email address if they don't have one.) Which means that, should you be able to afford it, you can make someone very happy. This is behaviour that should be encouraged, because it ALWAYS comes back to you. I frequently gift my friends, and they gift back. Make sure your wishlist is full, as well, because there are usually promotions taking place that allow you to win games from your wishlist. And there are sites that allow you to talk to others looking to trade Steam Gifts. So, take advantage. You might spend £2 on something today only to get something much more valuable to you in the future.

So, go forth. Consume. Multiply! Most of all, have fun. There is a world of gaming out there that you may not be utilising to its fullest. (Most importantly of all, remember the Wishlist thing!)

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Day 1 in Day Z.

My error was one that could be referred to as "A rookie mistake".

Until then, everything had been going so well. I found myself on a beach, quite near to the city of Elektrozavodsk. This is one of the two largest population centres in Chernarus, which means that it is where I am most likely to find supplies. Food, tools, and weapons; none of which my backpack currently held. My friend was also fairly near to the city, and he had managed to find a gun. We decided to meet up, as the likelihood of surviving in this place was much greater if we pooled our resources.

Of course, actually getting to my friend was not altogether easy. For a start, neither of us knew the area at all, both being new. We communicated by way of describing various nearby landmarks. "Can you see a lighthouse?" "I'm heading towards three cranes." Several times he asked me if that was me he saw, going into a building, or crawling past a wrecked vehicle. At one point, he only realised that he was watching somebody else when I was able to confirm that I hadn't in fact just been killed.

Slowly, but surely, I made way to the docks. There were some big buildings there, and I felt sure that this would offer more safety. I had to freeze once or twice, not wanting to risk being seen in such a vulnerable state. If they see you, they come for you. You do not want this. For they are fast, angry, and they simply never give up. I also saw at least two other survivors, but they either didn't see me, or decided to ingore me. It is possible that they just hoped that I didn't see them. For, they were as in the dark about me as I was them. At a time when everybody is potentially a great ally or a deadly enemy, it pays not to be too ready to trust.

Slowly, carefully, and as quietly as possible, I ventured into the large disused warehouse. I still had no weapon, but I at least had cover now. There was only one direction that I needed to watch, because even though those ... things ... are dangerous, at least they don't break through walls.  I decided to check out the rest of the building, to head upstairs in the hopes of finding something, anything, that I could use. In one of the siderooms I saw a sight that filled me with joy. A hatchet, right there in the middle of the floor! Immediately, I grabbed hold of it. This was no longer just a mere tool, this was now a conduit for life itself. Finally, able to defend myself, I decided to head back to the door.

Almost immediately, as if to prove to me that the very thought of happiness was a crime here, I heard the telltale growl which indicates that one of THEM has discovered you. It is a sound that fills you with a singular dread, and leaves you hoping that you can stop it quickly. Noise is folly, too much noise is suicide. But, I have caught a break. He is shambling towards me, and I manage to end it with one clean and precise blow to the head.

I think better of going back out. After all, I still have a friend to find somewhere around here. Logic tells me to go to the roof, where I will have a better view of my surroundings. So, up I go. Just as soon as I step onto the roof, my friend asks me "Did you just go out onto the roof?"

He is on the building opposite me. He had had the same plan. Against the odds, we had managed to find each other.

He tells me to wait there, he is coming over to me. I can't let him do that alone, so I go down to help him. We have one encounter, but short work is made of it. We head back up to the roof, in order to make our plans. We are safe up there.

We thought.

See, the mistake we made was in assuming that they can't climb ladders. It turns out that they can. And, not only can they climb ladders, but they can climb them en masse if they want to. Without our even knowing it, there are 4 of them heading towards us right now. By the time we realise it, they are right on top of us. I stand at the top of the ladder, swinging wildly. My friend is shooting. Perhaps he shoots me, I honestly don't know. What I do know is that by the time they are dead I am bleeding. I bandage myself up, and we change our plan to "Let's go somewhere else, see if we can find another gun and some more ammo." Unfortunately, the 4 that attacked us are not the only 4 in the building. Another encounter leaves him without ammo, and the two of us bleeding to death without any way to bandage ourselves. At this point, it is just a matter of time before we die. I do the only thing left open to me.

I bury my hatchet in his head, and he drops down dead. With the dissipating strength that remains to me, I go back up to the roof. Taking a look around, I allow the power of this place to sink in. And then I throw myself off the edge. It is a far, far better thing that I do now, ending it when it is still my choice, than it would be to let one of THEM finish me off.