Thursday, April 19, 2012

NEStalgia: 8bit meets MMO

This is an article I wrote for a contest and was published. I've already spoke of NEStalgia in guide posts and in passing, but here is an actual over-view of the game.

Article published here.

For video game fanatics who miss the classic games of the past, NEStalgia is the online game for you.
A mix of Dragon Warrior and MMOs, NEStalgia is an 8-bit online RPG filled with older RPG references while having its own original content. From fighting a classic slime monster, helping random town-folks with their stupid problems, to saving the world for reasons you are not quite sure about yet, you’ll find the many classic gaming clichés with a modern appeal. The difficulty tries to emulate the olden times as well, so expect to grind a fair amount. Expect turn-based combat, random encounters, and a choice of playing on a PvP (Player Vs Player) server or PvE (Player Vs Environment) server.

The game is currently hosted on BYOND (Build Your Own Net Dream), a website and community that is devoted to people creating games, and sharing them to the public. NEStalgia is free to play, but you can unlock additional content by becoming a subscriber. 

Now, I know there are some people that when they hear you pay to unlock additional content, that the paying people will somehow be stronger or better than free players (I was one of those skeptics at first as well). This is not true; the developer has made an effort so that subscriber does not automatically mean you are superior or should be better in any way. The main only benefits a subscriber has are: 

  • Access to four other classes, which are neither better nor worse than the “free” four.
  •  A special “shared” storage that allows a player to easily hand off items to their other characters, including “soul bound” items (items that, once equipped, cannot be normally traded to other players or characters). Note that the sharing of soul-bound items is rumored to be discontinued in a future update as well. 
  • Special portals that a subscriber can use to warp to different towns with ease (for a healthy amount of gold).
  •  Use of color dyes or masks to change a player’s appearance. This also extends to “Appearance Rods” that can transform you into animals or monsters (such as a slime, bunny, or cat).
  • Special “crystals” that can mimic utility spells normally learned by certain classes. One example, the “Recall” spell, which returns you to the last town you entered, or “Outside,” a spell that lets you exit a dungeon or cave.
  • Able to create your own guild. You can still join a guild without being a subscriber, though!
The benefits mainly are superficial, time-saving, or general perks that do not have a real impact on balance; other than different class’s abilities, anything a subscriber can do, a free user can too.
You have a choice of 4 different classes from the start; Soldier, Ranger, Cleric, and Wizard, aka the “free” classes. Despite them not being paid for, they happen to be the most specialized classes in the field. 

  • Soldier is the best physical tank in the game, and has the highest base attack power. However, it is quite vulnerable to magical attacks.
  • Cleric is your specialized heal-and-support character with capabilities to becoming a decent fighter.
  • Wizard is your typical frail, multi-targeting caster with some small buffs and debuff spells.
  • Ranger is a mix of the three, having a fair amount of heal spells (but not as many or potent as a cleric), able to cast multi-target spells (but only one element type compared to the three elements a wizard has), and can put into becoming a tank or fair physical attacker. It also happens to be the second fastest class in the game (naturally anyway).
If you become a subscriber, you have access to four other classes, Ninja, Merchant, Warlock, or Conjurer. 
  • Ninja, the fastest class in the game and comparable to a monk or martial artist type, is very strong physically, but has low hp and mp, and can only wear light to medium armor equipment. It also has some supportive skills, such as slowing down an enemy, or burst damage that occurs in 5 turns.
  • Merchants can have its party gain more gold per battle and increases its own item drop chances. It also is the second strongest class in the game (possible to become stronger than Soldier depending builds), decent tanking abilities, and has pretty average speed. It also can take magical damage better than a Soldier would, but still is a bit vulnerable to them. It also has a small array of supportive moves, such as able to check an enemy’s stats in battle, confusing enemies, or self healing.
  • Warlocks attack by using skills that cost them their health. Most of their attacks will heal them as they cast, but they also are capable of healing their party mates. While they have a bit of a magey stat and equipment build, they can become decent tanks since their attacks heal the damage off them. Two iconic abilities they can use involve sending the damage it takes back at all enemies, and sacrificing itself to revive its allies.
  • Conjurers are similar to sages; they have healing and offensive magic. However, it’s in a different style compared to clerics or wizard; their spells are base over time. When cast, their target will either be healed or damaged by a certain amount each turn for three turns, freeing them to do anything else they may need to do for awhile. If specialized, they can become quite powerful, offensively or healing. However, they also have the lowest hp and defense in the game, and their spells are fairly expensive, so they aren’t some sort of omnipotent caster class.
Characters are also very unique, in that you use a skill tree to form what sort of build your character will be. While you can obtain skills from the tree, rest assured you also come with certain skills automatically. For instance, no cleric can be without a basic heal spell, or wizard without a basic attack spell. You also can allocate up to 9 seeds to boost certain aspects of you character (more intelligence on wizard for spell power, extra healing power for clerics, and so on), and use a variety of different equipment to not just be a cookie-cutter type of character.

Example of a Skill tree
 As mentioned before, the game’s battles are turn-based. For those who might not actually know what “turn-based” is… Really? It means that you and your party picks its actions at start of battle, and then the battle plays out, often using a (r)andom (n)umber (g)enerator. As with most RPGs, you have typical battles you fight in random encounters found on the world map or in dungeons or caves, and you also have boss battles, both mini or main types. Often with boss battles, you will need the help of party mates, but it’s not entirely impossible to solo most the game, though it’s a heck of a challenge. You can have a party of up to three other players, though coming soon, you will be able to catch and use monsters as part of you party to help you out. You know, just in case your friends aren’t on, or otherwise can’t find any party-mates.

Also, PvP tournaments are held on all servers every now and then. Unfortunately, at the time of this post, tournaments are mostly halted due to an automatic tournament system in the works. However, I hear that the auto-tournament system is nearly completed, so scheduled tournaments will become a staple in game. The benefit of participating or even simply observing the tournament is being able to win colosseum badges. These badges have a small store of equipment meant for pvp battles, but also some special dyes or masks for subscribers. This is especially beneficial for those on a PvP server, but also good for anyone’s future tournament endeavors. 

While playing the game, you also get an opportunity to talk to the game creator and his staff. SilkWizard, the creator of the game, takes suggestions and feedback in the game forums, often giving a personal response. He and his staff also go in game often. I’d estimate at least once a day, but not necessarily every day. Usually, they’ll give a response to questions, unless they may be busy at the time, but that’s what the forums are for.

NEStalgia is still a game in progress. At the time of this article, the max level is 32, there are only 8 classes, and there are only two servers. However, updates that are on the way include the already mentioned monster companion system to help party-starved players obtain full parties, and the content expansion is planned to be worked on afterwards. In the content expansion, the max level will be boosted to 45, new places to explore, and rumors of being able to buy your own boat. The game will not likely be “complete” for years, but will be on-going. In the works is a standalone client, so one does not need to download BYOND’s program in order to play. There are special events that are planned around the year (such as Easter and 4th of July specials) to give you a change of pace from the main story line. With monster companions coming soon, one could also spend their time “catching them all” and training all the possible monsters, if that is your thing. 

Why not give it a try? If you like 8 bit rpgs, and playing with people online, this game may be for you. If you do not want to play it… I only have this to say to you.


Monday, April 9, 2012

Video Games: Better Played Later Than Sooner?

This was one of the articles I had published for a contest. I edited out link I originally had in this article because the links lose a bit of value when mentioned on my blog rather than the website the article originally was entered.

Article was published here.

Video Games: Better Played Later Than Sooner?

I think I might be in the minority, but I seem to very rarely play a game when it first comes out. Usually, money is the issue that keeps me from buying new games, but sometimes, I am just not ready to get the game. 

One reason is sometimes life just gets in the way of playing the games bought previously, or another game garnered attention. For instance, I still have not beaten the original Kingdom Hearts, though half way through it. It was because I had gotten into another game that I have already forgotten about. And of course, when I tried to get back into Kingdom Hearts, I was completely lost with what I was doing. As it is, I plan to start from the beginning whenever I manage to get back into it. Because of that, and numerous other games in my library, how can I think of buying a new game when there are so many others ready to be played (or other cases, replayed)? 

Sometimes, there is a game I’d consider buying, despite numerous ones already in my playing queue… but it is much too expensive to be purchased at the time. People are tight on cash these days, how can one afford some of these outrageous prices? Some resort to trading in their old games, but I have found trading in games is never worth it. Instead, I choose to buy them used. It means waiting on the game for awhile, but getting it at a reasonable price can make playing the game a bit sweeter! Thus, another game played when not new.

And of course, there are games you never heard of until way after they came out. My greatest example would be the .Hack series. I originally saw the anime play late night on Cartoon Network (MANY years ago, Toonami Midnight era). Thought it was pretty interesting and looked to see if there was a game for it! Lo and behold, there were four games in the series! Unfortunately, they had been out for awhile, and hardly anyone carried it. This was before Amazon was an internet-household name, so I spent my days searching in various gaming stores, and even in those electronics stores that just happen to carry games. Eventually, the collection was complete, and so I started the game. But after I beat the third game, I was going nutty trying to get every possible item before moving to the next disc, lost interest… and only last year was I able to go back, RESTART the game, and complete the series. But then I found a part 2 to the series, GU, where the hunt for this series began once more! Because I must complete the game’s entire series before moving on, of course!

Overall, I find playing these old games makes me appreciate them more than playing a game when it first comes out. I still do buy a game or two when it is still new if I really, REALLY like the game series, but it isn’t too often. Whenever I do, I end up playing the new game right away, streaming through it so fast that I find myself not enjoying it as much. Maybe I also just never was easily swayed by graphics, so old technology seems appealing enough to play again too. In either case, take this lesson when gaming: take the time to stop and smell the roses.

Friday, April 6, 2012

NEStalgia: Holiday Events

Decided to make this a new page for a NEStalgia Mini guide. I'll be putting all holiday-related event guides for NEStalgia on here. It's going to start out small, but as more events go on, we'll have more and more to add. Just like my other guides, this will be image heavy.

CONTENT: If this post gets too long or you are impatient, you should be able to simply use ctrl+f (or whatever function your browser uses to search a page) the title of the content you are looking for to find it.
  • Easter Event
    • Choco Bunnies
    • Easter Egg Hunt
    • Ether Bunny
    • Easter Prizes
  • Steamonia
    • Green Light Monsters
    • QUEST: Infringement
    • QUEST: Green Lights
    • Steamonia Tower Map
    • QUEST: A Battle For Recognition

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Trading in Games: A Complete scam.

Firstly, I'd like to apologize about the lack of normal updates, but recently, I had some articles about gaming placed on a website for a contest. So of course, I must share my views with everyone, because it's my blog dammit!

Article published here.


Trading in Games: A Complete Scam

                I see it all the time; a little kid gets tired of his games, but wants a new one.  His parents suggest trading in his games for that new one. Maybe there is an argument between them, such as the kid wanting to keep his old games still, maybe there is not, but eventually, they all end up at a video game store that has trade-in deals. The family attempts to trade it in, only get a meager amount of money that is hardly enough to get the child his new game, so they end up putting money down anyway. They just lost some games AND some money for the new game under the guise that they just got a deal. Thus, another group falls into the trade-in scam.

                I am not sure about other countries, but here in the USA, one popular trade-in store is infamous for ripping people off with their trade-in policies; GameStop. Now, there is a lot to hate about GameStop; their employees pretend to know games when they have no clue, taking the games out of cases so the game comes opened even when new, employees “sampling” the “new” games thus ruining the quality of the products… But nothing infuriates me more than their shitty trade-in deals.  “Trade x amount of games for a new one free! (But only games we specify)” And their buy-back is almost always less than half of what you paid for, to which then they jack up the price when selling it in the store. Though, to their credit, GameStop can be good for BUYING used games when they are particularly old, but that can take quite some time. 

                As luck would have it, I just got an e-mail about GameStop’s “biggest Trade-In event ever,” where they say EVERY GAME gets 50% trade in bonus.              

  And, if you can’t read the small print, depending how the image uploads, it reads:
Trades must be in full working condition to receive full value. Cannot be combined with any other offer. Trade-ins subject to manager approval. Offer valid only toward games normally accepted in trade. See store associate for details. No dealers. Offer valid in the United States, Puerto Rico and Guam only. Void where prohibited. GameStop, Inc. reserves the right to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend the offer for any reason without notice.
Some might ask, “But Tal, what can we do with the old games we no longer play with anymore?” To that I say… Think for yourself! Sell it! There are other options than the stores. My particular favorite place to sell stuff is Amazon. Only there can you sell a game you never opened for a lot of money. I once sold a Pokémon: Fire Red that I had unopened and in shrink-wrap for 120 dollars (To my defense, I already had Leaf Green, thus why it was unopened). Now, Amazon does take a commission, so in this case they got about 30 dollars. Still, it was quite a profit! I got the game as a gift, and imagine my gifter paid about 20 dollars, so really, 90 bucks profit to me, $70 value increase. 

Now, I do not sell too many games on Amazon, I mainly sell books, so there might be some trouble I do not know about. I do know that with all products comes the enemy of all other sellers; the penny sellers. These are the people that have some sort of good deal going with shipping and handling (on their side) so that they sell old items for only a penny, making money off of Amazon’s shipping credit that sellers get. Sometimes, normal sellers can get past the penny guys by having all the inserts and case with a game; condition of the product and the things it came with help out your prices. But, you also then have the people that try to undercut your price or just have better seller rating than you… When you first start out selling, people might not trust you. Also, there can be douchebag buyers too, which means some risk, so there are cases where Amazon might not be a great place to sell used games. You can turn to eBay, but I heard they charge you just to put up an auction…

There is one good thing about Penny sellers on Amazon and GameStop; you can sometimes buy from the penny sellers and use the cheap-ass game as fodder for a cheaper trade-In. This, however, can become rather complicated as you need to see what games are eligible for trade-in, find said games from penny dealers, do the math and see if paying the shipping & handling costs don’t outweigh the money you’d buy the new game for, and then wait for the games to arrive. Plus, I believe GameStop has gotten pretty smart, and is buying from penny sellers too. It is still worth looking into if you don’t mind spending some money and time to get a game cheaper.

So let’s say you have exhausted selling the game online… I suppose you could try a garage sale or flea market if you live in an area that has them. After trying everything that you could to get that better deal, but ended with no luck with a game or two, you could trade the game in to the store. Just make sure it seems worth it; do not fall for their sales pitches. If they are only going to give you under five dollars for a game you spent fifty bucks on rather recently, don’t give it to them. Hold out and see if the penny sellers on Amazon let up. If you just want to get rid of the game, try giving it to a friend who might like it, or donate it to Salvation Army (to those who do not have such a thing, try a charity that accepts video games. Example: Do not support the scamming game stores and their fake deals.