Monday, October 27, 2014

Extra Life 2014

For the last few years I have been joining some good friends over at Team Bombshelter as they participate in the Extra Life 24 hour gaming event.  For those who don't know Extra Life it is a 24 hour gaming marathon run once a year and proceeds are raised to directly support a local Childrens Hospital.  As we are from Ottawa, we choose the great Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO), a fantastic facility that always needs support.

I have not participated as a team member as with my own kids and schedule it is hard to commit for the entire 24 hour period.  I do donate, bring food and join in the festivities and will look to participate a little more directly as a team member next year.

The event is absolutely amazing and the Team truly outdid themselves this year in scale and donations.  This team of dedicated gamers managed to raise far more than double their $2000 goal and is sitting at $4684 and counting (some late donations are trickling in).  It is a great accomplishment and one I was proud to be a part of in my way.

The event is staged at one of the team members house (@boozysmurf on twitter) and it was a doozy this year.  The goal was to have multiple gaming options.  Tabletop in the top floor, console gaming on the main floor and PC gaming/Rockband in the basement.

The Basement is always the epicenter of fun as the truly Epic Rock Band setup is down there along with the PC gamers.  The person who curates the Rock Band environment is a true fan and will never forget this sadly lost genre of band games.  He has a true drum and keyboard setup, 4 mics for harmonizing lyrics and 3-4 guitars.  The game is displayed with a projector on a huge wall (100+ inch screen in essence) and this lets us Rock out to the over 1700 songs he has collected.  Always a crowd pleaser even with my warbling singing voice.

The PC Gamers are also in the basement and bled out to the upper floor as well.  I was banished up there as I arrived late, but it was all good, I was surrounded by good folks and lost myself into the worlds of Middle Earth, Elpis and Alien.

The biggest and most impressive section was the console gaming section, these dedicated and charitable folks brought their consoles and TV's along for the party.  The end result was one room with 5 units setup and the other main room had an astounding 8 units setup!!  This was truly amazing with some folks doing essentially local fireteams in Destiny, others doing co-op Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel and still others playing a truly marathon session of Forza.  The benefit of this environment is that around midnight we had an old school and epic hour or two of Halo 3 local Multiplayer with 9 players.  Great fun at anytime.

Of course there was tons of food as this acted as a potluck, with meatballs, piri piri chicken, three meat lasagna and dozens of cookies were on offer and consumed.  Add that to the copious amounts of coffee, energy drinks and mountain dew consumed you had a haze of gaming Nirvana.

The best thing about this event is the constant remembrance that this is for the kids, CHEO has touched probably everyones life in Ottawa directly and indirectly and it is a really worthwhile institution.  What amazes me every year is the generosity of the gamers here, everyone is welcome from kids and casual players to the truly hardcore gamers.  We were all there to have fun and support a worthy cause.  We did both and cannot wait to do it again next year.

Friday, October 24, 2014

My continuing thoughts on Destiny.

I have a lot of games, I mean A LOT!  Far too many really.  I would say I am midpoint through playing at least 40 excellent titles and have about 10-15 more I just haven't even started...plus older ones I want to get back to.  Just recently many amazing games have been released, Wasteland 2, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, Middle Earth Shadow of Mordor and Alien: Isolation to name a few.  But Destiny is one game I cannot stop playing, and it is actually really astonishing as that kind of multiplayer focused re-play style of game is something I tend not to enjoy or stick around for.

I often play a story mission, a strike, a few patrols and a couple of multiplayer matches a night.  Right now my focus is strictly on levelling my vanguard rank and taking out Guardians in the crucible just to unlock this exotic weapon:

I am working through a really tough exotic bounty to get this weapon, currently I have to get 500 points by killing Guardians in the crucible using only void damage.  The catch is that any deaths set you back so you need to have a good kill/death ratio.  I am being really strategic when I play and have a void shotgun and heavy weapn but it is still a grind.  So why do I do it? Why do I keep playing when all other games that forced my hand in such a way turned me off?  Part of the answer is in my review for Destiny:

Destiny Review on Blogcritics

But deeper than than the fact that the game is slick, has great controls and plays buttery smooth, the game allows you to interconnect tasks that makes grinding completely addicting.  You have ranks you can get in certain factions, the base vanguard faction, a clan faction and when events like Queens Bounty and Iron Banner arrive you can also level in there as well.  The trick is you can only accrue experience in one at a time.  If you equip a standard cloak (or whatever the equivalent is for Warlock/Titan) you rank Vanguard, if you wear the Queens cloak or Iron Banner or Future War Cult colors then you rank with them.  You care about this because each of them have somewhat unique legendary items you can buy, but only if you achieve a certain rank!  This inspires you to level up so you can buy Legendary items which is much easier then waiting for them as drops.  I am currently Rank 2 in FWC and nearly rank 2 in Vanguard.  The goal being having all Legendary items equipped.  Why?  So I can level up.   Past level 20 you can only level by equipping items with light points, the Blues have decent points, but Purple Legendaries are better and Yellow exotics obviously the best.  To achieve level 30 you need the killer gear.

So Levelling is one reason to grind/play, but that would not be enough.  In order to make me want to do it Destiny has bounties which to me ties everything together.  I know I have to grind crucible matches to get my exotic Hand Cannon unlocked, so I take Crucible bounties as well, these could be melee 10 people from behind or kill 10 warlocks or take over 10 control points.  All of this reward me with experience (which convert to Motes of Light, which equals additional levelling and a currency).  By layering these bounties on what I already want to do personally it gives me that extra incentive to play match after match.  There are bounties for Strikes, patrols and other actions that make playing through the game sequences over and over rewarding on a continual basis.

Having all of these different goals, bounties are a way to keep me interested but Bungie also has daily story missions with extra rewards as well as weekly strikes and crucible matches with bonuses that sweeten the pot.  Plus the gameplay is just so damn fun.  I mean really flawless.  I have not enjoyed a shooter so much in ages, so much so that the gunplay in Borderlands: TPS seems frankly subpar.  Bungie has said that they will continue to grow Destiny and I see it in the content patches and Public Events.  I am hopelessly addicted to this game and frankly I don;t care, it is pure fun to me and I wish I was home playing it right now.