Thursday, 26 May 2016

Playing #Overwatch? My experiences: Day 2

Greetings friends!

So yesterday I shared my experiences about playing Overwatch on Day 1 of launch. As you may have read, it was not the most enjoyable of experiences.

Last night, as I promised I gave it another go. This time vs AI bots set to medium difficulty.
- The reason behind this was moral based. I was still feeling pretty defeated from the night before, and I knew that if I went back into full PvP and got my ass handed to me, then there was a chance of me nerd raging and never playing the game again.

The game was so easy! As the sniper woman I was holding off the entire team at once. I even got play of the game. But it felt too easy.

So I finished the game and loaded up a new one, this time on Hard Difficulty.

This game was harder, there was a clear challenge to play it, but I still held my own and we won the match still with relative ease. One thing I did notice, all the AI bots on the opposition had names that were tied to their characters such as "Soldier-47 2" or "Winston 1". All of those on my team had weird names like Wizziwig, and Bobnuts. This made me wonder, in VS AI mode, are the people on your team other players? I have no idea, and didn't want to ask at risk of sounding like a nub.

Anyway, following on from this, I then went online again.

By now I was level 5, and the matchups were still giving me level 11-18 opponents (and team mates) but the experience was a lot more positive. Not once did I get head-shotted without knowing where the attack came from, and my own kill ratio was a lot higher. Once, while playing Mercy I even managed to 'out snipe' a sniper lady.
- She was perched atop a building. She shot at a teammate, and I popped out from cover with pistol in hand and landed a few head shots on her taking her out of the action, before spinning on the spot and rezzing the team mate who had died. While it may not have 'officially' been one, that sure felt like a Play of the Game.

I still got gunned down a tonne. My team mates were still trying to Rambo around and provided me with no protection whatsoever, but things felt more balanced.

And I enjoyed myself.

The thing is, it is impossible for me to quantitively explain why or how this happened. There are just too many variables.

- Could it have been that the 'elite players' had all levelled past 20 and therefore in a different bracket to me?
- Could it have been that after playing for this time I have begun to remember how to play the classes and maps?
- Could it have been that I was just in a better frame of mind last night compared to launch?

These are just 3 possibilities which could have equally been the entire reasons, or partial, or not at all. It's impossible to tell.

One thing that I did figure out however. After a discussion with my friend Stuart yesterday, you do the D.VA Self-Destruct Catapult by using your jump jets, and then pressing your self destruct ultimate. This causes your mech to launch itself in the direction you were facing and then explode, while you the player are ejected back at where you began the jump, nicely safe from the mini nuke!

Seriously, I can not stress just how much Jun it was using this ability and watching the enemy team to scatter, while I fire volleys of pistol shots at them!

Anyway! That's it for today! Stay safe, and be excellent to each other!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Playing #Overwatch? My experiences: Night 1

Greetings friends!

So yesterday saw the official launch of Overwatch by Blizzard.

So I waited for my game to arrive from Amazon (Origins edition for ~£10 less than off battle net).

It arrived on time, I activated the keys included and started playing.

Now a bit of a disclaimer, I wasn't in the alpha, and I wasn't in the closed beta (I think I must have been the only one, as pretty much everyone I know was had access to that, even people who didn't want to play it), but I did get to play a few nights in the open beta).

I remember when playing the beta, the match maker was very good at putting me in line with people with around the same 'skill'.

This was done I believe based on your level where you start off at lvl1 and earn XP in each game to level and get unlock boxes.

Now levels don't really do anything. Unlock boxes are purely cosmetic, new skins, new emotes, no stats or abilities. But a lot of the maps in Overwatch are quite complicated, plus there are a LOT of characters to get to grips with. So the higher your level the more times you should have played each map, and the more experience you should have had with each character. Yes I played the open beta to level 10, but it's been nearly a month since that, I am out of practice and have forgotten almost everything.

So I start playing at level 1, and to my horror I find myself matched with a team of level 11+!


Here we have people who probably got level 10+ in the beta (if not a LOT higher) and in less than 24 hours have got another 11+ levels!

So I start off as Widdowwatcher or weaver or whatever her name is (the one with the sniper rifle). She was great fun to play in the beta, plus I enjoy being a sniper. My team is defending a spot, so it makes sense to defend it via sniping.

I poke my head out to take a shot and BAM dead. I watch a replay and it's the dude with the bow, somehow knowing exactly where I was going to be before I was going to be there.

Oh well, I respawn, run a different way, before I even get where I wanted to go BAM dead from a turret that I didn't even know was there.

Ok, well the team seems to be heavy on tanks, light on healers, so I bring out Mercy, a character I was REALLY good at playing in the beta, able to keep the entire team alive against overwhelming odds! Never got a play of the game mind.

So out I come, I'm catapulting myself out into the action to heal my team members, next thing I know I've been flanked by someone (can't remember who) and I'm getting shot up. In the time it takes for me to spin around and pull m my pistol, I'm already dead.


I mean seriously, wtf?!?

Game ends and it's a loss.

Repeat for about 6 games with different teams.

This isn't about then killing me so easily, because I know what is happening, the opposition know all the side roads and shortcuts, while I'm flouncing around in open space having no freaking clue where to go other than 'follow the team'.

But then you had the team themselves, comprised almost entirely of damage dealers, few tanks and other than me, no healers.

It was quite literally a horrible experience.

I'm going to try again tonight, and I hope my experiences will be more like those from the beta where I can actually get 1 shot off before being killed by someone I didn't even know was there.

- On the plus, it looks like the dude with the bow & arrows has had his ultimate reduced in size, so the insanely big (almost) auto kill dragon, is no longer such a problem.
- On the negative, how come everyone knows how to launch the mech? I have no idea how to do that!

Until next time, stay safe, and be excellent to each other!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Monday, 23 May 2016

Praise the sun! #DarkSouls

Greetings friends!

So I mentioned previously how I have started playing Dark Souls 3. Well about a week ago I had the absolute pleasure of defeating the last boss. I was level 91 and had ground and crawled my way through more areas and boss fights than I could imagine.

Dragons and monstrous demons had fallen by my hand, and I had died more times than I thought possible to keep on going.

But I had kept on, I had dragged myself out of the ash, the bad choices, the 'friendly' AI who turned on me after they ran in front of my attacks, and yes, even that bastard Patches.

I returned to the Firelink Shrine as a hero when the most impossible message floated before me. Telling me that this was but my first journey, and did I want to give it another go on NewGame+? (NG+).

For days I thought long and hard about this. There were lots of reasons to stay where I was, there was a couple of optional bosses I had yet to down, covenants to grind, and levels to nab. OR I could do all of that, but this time go for a different ending! I could complete quest lines that I previously had failed due to bad choices or dick AI.

Ok let's go!

Currently I am level 113, and I have died maybe three times to a real challenge.

My Estus flax is maxed out at 15 charges, my bonfire is maxed at level 11, my weapons are at maximum +level, and I am very familiar with my armour set. I know my dodge speed and distance and I am only getting stronger with every level.

There is an expression in the Dark Souls community, that to beat the games you need to "Git Gud". While I am certainly better at the game than I was when I first picked up the controller, I do feel that a lot of the time it is not skill that has gotten me to this place, but a grim determination, and enjoyment of "the grind".
- You see, I quite enjoy a good ol' grind. Where everyone before talked about how much of a 'grind fest' certain MMO games are, I'm there in the thick of it. I once spent about two full weeks in WoW doing nothing but fishing. The 1st week grinding the sea turtle, followed by Dalaran Coin fishing the week after. It was infuriating, I was pulling my hair out, but it gave me what I loved, those little pushes of the endorphin button, and the exhausted relief when it was over.

So yea I ground my way through Dark Souls 3 and I got to the point where I am now, where my level is high enough compared to where you should be, that I can take the hits from the bosses, and I can hit them back.

Of course there is also knowledge. I've already played these bosses, I've learned when to block, and when to parry. I've learned that the best way to kill the HighLord is to smack his glowing bangles. And that the RottenGreatwood is best downed by slicing up his weird egg things. All of this I have already learned the hard way, so I don't need to make those mistakes again.

But again, is that skill? Is that talent? Did I Git Gud?

I'm still not sure. Yes I have memorised boss encounters, but would I be able to go into a brand new one and '1-shot' it? I honestly don't think I could.

So yeah... I guess I still need to Git Gud...

Until next time, stay safe, and be excellent to each other!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

First Law: Override - CODE BLACK Part 2

Greetings friends!

Ok so following on from yesterday's post, I realised today that there are a few things that I left off. So without too much ado, let's get into the meat!

Encounters, Turns, Rounds, & Belief
So as with many RPGs, combat plays a big part of Code Black. A single situation from where Combat starts, and Combat ends is called an Encounter.

An Encounter is comprised of a number of Rounds.

A Round is comprised of a number of Turns.

A Turn is all the Actions and Reactions for a single character.


Remember our example from yesterday? With Bonney and her team vs the Shadow Jacks? Let's use that again.

Turns are determined by each character's Initiative Stat. Those with the highest Initiative basically go first (it's a little more complicated than that, but that's fine for now).

The team has been ambushed by 3 Shadow Jacks. One of them is right up in Bonney's face.

Bonney has the highest Initiative, so she goes first. Her Belief Pool (BP) is 10.

Bonney backs away quickly, this costs her 2BP taking her total to 8.

The Shadow Jack in front of her Reacts to this action by shooting her as she backs away. He deals 2 Shadow Damage. This takes her BP down to 6, with 2 of the lost unable to regenerate for now.

Bonney then casts the Miracle Exorcism for 2, her party member Nirvan, a Hydan funnels into her cast. Nirvan has a BP of 14, so he uses 4 to increase Bonney's cast by +2 taking her total to 4. Exorcism's damage is double against Shadow Agents, and this kills the Shadow Jack.

One of the other Shadow Jacks react to this by shooting Bonney again. This time it deals only 1 damage taking her to 3BP, of which 3 can't be regenerated.

Bonney ends her turn.

Now it is Nirvan's turn thanks to channel king 4 belief now has 10BP left.

Nirvan charges into melee with one of the nearest Shadow Jacks. The Jack in question reacts by trying to punch Nirvan in melee. This misses and for 1BP Nirvan's superior melee stat does a whopping 4 damage to the Shadow Jack. Nirvan currently has (14 -4 for channel, -2 for charge, -1 for his follow up melee) 7BP and he follows up by casting his miracle of Flurry of Fury for 4BP leaving him with 3BP left, where he spins around with his glaive and causes a tremendous amount of damage. Flurry of Fury can not have a melee follow up, but it can be Reacted to. This deals enough damage to kill the Shadow Jack, to which the 3rd Shadow Jack Reacts to the miracle cast and shoots Nirvan in the face. The shot lands him square in the forehead and takes him down to 0BP and Nirvan is booted from Mantic Space.

It is now the turn of the last surviving Shadow Jack.
NPCs don't have a BP, only a Health Pool, and they can React for free. The counter is that they can only perform 1 Action in their turn.

The Shadow Jack aims his weapon at Bonney and pulls the trigger. The shot hits her in the shoulder and she spins to the ground on 1BP. At this amount, she doesn't want to React as doing so would boot her from Mantic Space.

The Round ends, and Bonney recovers what she can from her BP (she took 5 Shadow Damage, meaning of her 10 total she regenerates 5).

She has the initiative, she knows that she needs to deal with the Shadow Jack in one go, any more Shadow Damage and she is going to be starved of Belief. She pumps 4BP into Exorcism and blasts the Shadow Jack into oblivion.

The Encounter has ended

- Ok so 2BP for a charge and quick back away? Why?
There's 3 types of movement.
1). Casual 1BP - You walk casually somewhere.
2). Urgent 2BP - You are moving quickly
3). Miracle Based - Super Speed, Flight, etc.

- Next, 1BP to respond to a melee attack?
Ok this is something I'm just playing with at the moment. No idea where I'm going, but I want to use the 'persistent melee' of Override. Not sure how it should work truth be told, but I just used 1BP as a number.

- What happened to Nirvan after being Booted? He was out! He rolls for injury (did the disconnect fry his brain or what not) and he can't reconnect until the next game unless a surviving player is able to reach a Stabilising Beacon to pull him back in. These are locations within Mantic Space which can be operated by players (Jacks) to make a note in the fabric of Mantic Space, so when a Jack reconnects, they are pulled to the Becon (think of it as like a static respawner).

- What happened to Bonney after the encounter?
Luckily Shadow Agents (the minions of the Shadow) are rare, and when encountered are normally in the form of small fang-toothed dogs or bugs. Shadow Jacks (other users who have been corrupted by the Shadow) are rarer still, so these two were not only unlucky to encounter 3 at once, but super lucky to survive.
Her Mission was to eradicate the Shadow Agents from the area, and thankfully that did it. She can now safely disconnect from Mantic Space, and in doing so cast off her Shadow-Taint that prevented her from refreshing her BP to full.

- Why can NPCs react for free but PCs need to pay BP to do so? Quite simply, it's a thing of balance and challenge. Players will tend to have higher Initiative than NPCs (remember, they are the 1%) and this stops a party of players alpha striking the NPCs. Plus it makes it easier to remember who has done what. The trade off is that in their own turn, the NPC can only do 1 thing such as move or shoot.

What's Next?

Missions & Agendas
Ok, so we've already seen an example of a Mission. In the above case it was to eradicate all Shadow Agents from an area.

Missions are tasks that are set by the Code Black governing body. They can be anything from escorting a person of interest to a certain location, snuffing out a terrorist hiding in Mantic Space, or even stopping the Shadow from gaining ground in the Human Sector.

Missions can take multiple game sessions to play out, but most should be complete within a couple of hours.

When completed they reward the players with a generous amount of rewards (Notoriety?) to allow them to purchase better stats, better equipment, new miracles etc.

Completed Missions have the best rewards.


In comparison to Missions, Agendas are applicable only to the player they are assigned to.

Unlike Missions, Agendas do not come from Code Black, but from your affiliated organisation such as UEF, Red Claw etc.

Agendas are always resolved at the end of a game session. If a Mission is due to take 3 sessions to play out (3 days) then each player gets a new Agenda every session.

Agendas are randomly allocated from a deck of cards with multiples of each Agenda. At the end of each session the players hand their Agendas back to the GM one at a time, and the GM reveals if it is successful or not. The GM does not reveal what the Agenda is however, that is 100% at the discretion of the player.

In our example, Nirvan who was associated with the Accord Wraiths was assigned the Agenda 'Olive Branch'. His Agenda was to promote good relations with organisation's who are opposed to his. Bonney was a Reaver Raider, and her survival meant Nirvan achieved his Agenda.

Bonney's Agenda however was 'Back Stab'. This Agenda required the rival organisation's to hers to be booted from Mantic Space. Which is exactly what happened to Nirvan.

All that is revealed is that they both achieved their Agendas, and Nirvan was none-the-wiser, that had he survived the Encounter, Bonney was ready to literally shoot him in the back of his head.


So there we go!

I hope you are interested in what I've done so far. I particularly like the Agendas, and I think the Belief Pool idea has legs, it's just no where ready yet.

Until next time, stay safe, and be excellent to each other!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Monday, 9 May 2016

First Law: Override - CODE BLACK

Greetings friends!

A bit of a meander today.

Some of you may remember that last year I tossed around the idea of Code Black, the Pen & Paper RPG set in the First Law: Override universe's Mantic Space.

Well since then I've been brewing on a few ideas.

Note: Some of you may have received an email from me already about a planned Round Table Skype chat I want to host. A lot of these ideas will be coming up in that chat. If you have not received anything from me but you would like to be involved with this project, let me know!


Those who know me know that I write things from a setting first, with rules to follow.
The setting of Code Black is as follows:

Technomantic (Mantic) Space. A version of cyber space that connects across the entire Outer Fringe including such notable places such as Krata-Prime, The Bastion, and Honos.

Mantic Space is a virtual world where a user connects via a physical connection (jacked in) through a neural interface. It is a place where it's laws are fluid. Determined only by what people believe and expect.

If there is a strong enough belief in something, it exists within Mantic Space. However there are certain things that does not exist. The 99% of users (Jacks) have absolutely no special abilities within Mantic Space. Despite the idea that 'superpowers' are awesome, the vast majority of people lack the genuine self belief or imagination to make it a reality.

You however have that self belief, you can imagine what it would be like to fly, to create tools and weapons out of thin air, or to sculpt Mantic Space to your own whim. You are the 1%.

In recent times, certain locations have begun to disappear, replaced by a total lack of substance. A shadow of it's own existence. Any Jacks who were present when the location 'Shadowed', being left in the real world as brain dead vegetables, unable to move or speak. But very recently, the avatars of these Jacks have begun to appear across Mantic Space. Where these Shadow-Jacks appear, it is only a matter of time before the whole area is Shadowed.

To combat this threat, both the Accord and Reavers have formed a coalition, a group to operate within Mantic Space and try to deal with the Shadow before it removes Mantic Space out of existence all together. This group consists of those who are the most sensitive to Mantic Space, they are the 1%. Their very existence is considered a galactic secret. They are Code Black.




So when it comes to rules, I'm a little light on the ground. I want to simulate the basic combat rules of Override (Attack Dice vs Defence Dice), it will be using d10s a P&P standard) but it's primary resource mechanic is not Utility & Interact Actions.

Instead Code Black is using a shared resource with health. Currently it's called Belief (subject to change).

So a character has a set amount of belief, let's say we have Bonney the Kid, she's an elite hacker in the real world with a real affinity for Mantic Space.

Bonney's Belief is 10.

Belief, like I said before is both a resource and a health. To perform an action requires a certain amount of belief. Let's say for example, it takes 2 Belief to shoot a gun.

So Bonney is being attacked by a Shadow Jack, she pulls out her pistol and tries to shoot it. This means that regardless of outcome she only has 8 Belief left.

In our example the Shadow Jack shoots Bonney, it has caused 2 Damage to her. Bonney now only has 6 Belief left.

Bonney didn't expect the Shadow Jack to have a ranged attack, so she has to deal with it before it's too late. Bonney thrusts put her palm, a stream of bright white light emanating and piercing the darkness of the Shadow Jack, peeling away it's shadow and causing it to collapse on the floor. Bonney has used her Exorcism ability, a special power that does an extreme amount of damage to Shadows. Like all Mantic Powers, Exorcism has a Fluid Cost. The more Belief you pump into the ability, the better chance of succeeding it has. Bonney really wants this to succeed so she uses 5 Belief, meaning that Bonney only has 1 more. She can do nothing else for the remainder of the turn.


Another example would be that Bonney casts Exorcism, but it fails to pierce the veil of the Shadow Jack. It reacts by shooting her again. Her Belief has been reduced to Zero and she is booted out of Mantic Space (kind of like being dead, but depending on what has happened, (burned out [delayed reconnect/respawn], brain-fried [requires aid from party members], or cardiac arrest [dead]) Bonney may be back soon.


In our third and final example, Bonney is casting Exorcism, but she isn't sure if it is going to succeed, plus she doesn't want to die if it fails, so she only directs 2 Belief into the ability.

Bonney isn't alone however, in her team there's Johnny and Billy. Johnny and Billy also want to see Bonney succeed, so they funnel their belief into her cast, 4 Each. When funnelling (using yours to boost someone else) for every 2 Belief, it adds 1 Belief to the Cast (rounded down, so no benefit for using 3 over 2). Bonney now has cast 2+2+2 Belief into the cast, meaning Exorcism is now charged to 6Belief!

Using Funnel, players are able to band together to perform acts of true magnitude, but in doing so are reducing their Belief as a whole, leaving themselves open to reaction or surprise attacks.


And that is the basics of the game so far.

Now currently you might be thinking "what about imagination?" Currently you are talking about special powers that would presumably be listed in a book. What if we wanted to do something that isn't listed? This is where the GM comes in, a factor that could never ever be matched in a normal (GM Less) game.

Let's say you want to do something simple but isn't available at the moment in the games, or to your character? (Using Exorcism to blast away at a non-Shadow NPC for example) fine! You cast the same, but reduce your target number by 50% making it more difficult, and this is a minor change. In short there are 3 types: Minor Change, Major Change (75% reduction), and Discovery (something that is not based on modding an existing ability) (75% reduction, and failure causes instant Booting).

Obviously there are certain limitations, you can't make anything 'insta-kill' or anything else that counts as 'auto win the current situation'. This is purely for game mechanic reasons. If the objective is to eradicate all Shadow Jacks within a certain district, you can't just cast a supernova to instantly kill all Shadow Jacks in that district.


So there we have it. The basics of Code Black.

Any thoughts?

Once again, if you want in on the round table discussion/sound board, just let me know via the comments, email or Twitter @doctorloxley or @FLOverride

Until next time, stay safe and be excellent to each other!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Looking in a Mirror (Dark Souls 3)

Greetings friends!

So the past week has been most confusing for me as I've been playing Dark Souls 3, staying up far later than I should as I add to my current 30+hr playthrough knowing I'm not even halfway through.

But this is skipping to the end.

Let's just step back a bit and see how we got here...


This all started the weekend of Salute. I was aware of the Souls Kickstarter coming out from Steamforged and my Twitter feed was overflowing with talk about the latest version of the Souls franchise being released.

On the Sunday evening, as part of our traditional chicken dinner, the wife and I sat down to watch some YouTube namely Jacksfilms and Piewdiepie. One episode consisted of Felix playing Dark Souls 3 (Cathedral of the Deep area to be exact) and I caught myself asking:
What's the big deal? Seriously!?! Where's the fun in dying every 5 seconds to a bog standard mob?
so I thought I'd put my money where my mouth was and try a copy of Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition.

Straight away I was pretty captivated by it. The gameplay was smooth and fluid, the graphics not terrible, and I began to understand the point of the game, but it wasn't truly clear just yet...

The more I played, the more captivated I became with the game.

I read a couple of articles, and found some interesting information. How #3 of the franchise is supposed to be a 'best of' as it were, how they utilised mechanics from the Demon Souls, Dark Souls and even Bloodborne franchises, most importantly it was supposed to be easier than the previous versions.

Seems like an ideal thing for me, so I dropped the cash for a Day One copy to snag up the exclusive soundtrack and got playing.


What a ride!

I can't even begin to count the number of times I've died playing this game, but I learned something very early on. The game itself isn't broken. Every time I died either from a fireball in the face to being slashed to bits by an almost inta-kill boss combo, it wasn't because the game was being beardy, but because I hadn't done something (or had done something) that allowed me to die. The way to progress was not to panic and mash buttons, but to stay cool-headed, learn and reapply whatever I was doing wrong.
- Or to summon help from another player in order to bounce agro around.


I need to say at this point, that coop is a wonderful part of this game. The moment you are joined by another player, the enemies get stronger to compensate, however I was reminded regularly of my game First Law: Override and our pursuit rule. How a character can only face one way at a time, even with the fastest of reflexes, they can only face one direction, so while you are the target, and you're parrying, blocking and dodging for survival, your coop partner can get in behind and smash their face in. Both players working as a team to bring that bastard down!


But now, when I look at myself in the mirror, I don't recognise myself.

This isn't me!

Others have claimed that a videogamer is defined by adversary, that we thrive on defeat and challenge, but that's not me. I like to be told a story, that I can experience and enjoy.

I'm not alone here. It's for this reason games such as 'walking simulators' and story driven adventure games such as the Tell-Tale series exist. It's why I almost exclusively play on easy-mode (less there's a challenge involved, like when I first played Half-Life with the challenge of completing it in a single weekend on normal difficulty - which I did with ease).

In essence, I don't like dying.

It breaks my immersion and pretty much ruins the story to me.

In fact a lot of the time, combat is seen as an obstacle in the way of story. In other words, yes I was a place-holding player in Fighting Fantasy books.

But here I am, playing a game where death is a necessary mechanic, where challenge is something that is celebrated as a critical part of the game.

I'll never start using the 'Git Gud' mantra of the Souls series in a serious way, and I will never see it as some benchmark of a 'Good' player. But it's something that I have been extremely enjoying.

So what's to come?

Well tonight I'm going to try revisiting an older zone of the game and trying my hand at an optional boss. I tried him before and he handed me my ass. Now I'm 15 levels higher, and with hope it'll be his ass that I hand to him!


Until next time, stay safe, and be excellent to each other!

- Your friendly neighbourhood Doctor Loxley