Great Games

Gaming [Last Update: March 26, 2014]

I am a casual gamer as most people know. I have taken some time here to publish some information about some MMO Games (Massively Multiplayer Online) that I play.

My schedule is as follows and I never play during the day any day of the week unless it is a holiday.

Mon - Fri. 5 PM on Star Trek Online, Marvel or DC Online, Occasionally some other solo play game though recently I've levelled off on the online games for a time as I'm very busy with coding and fighting stalkers.

Sat - Sun. 12 PM on Any of a plethora of games if I feel like it. Most of the time I write or code on Saturday. Sunday is usually a cleaning day.

Star Trek Online Identity

Tarax Alrin
 of Starfleet and Jelanine Lalorna of Romulans.

DC Online Identities

Night Style
 (based on the character from the story Heroes Of Our Own)
Dragon Butterfly (also based on the character from the story Heroes Of Our Own with slight differences)
Strawberry Eclipse (an upcoming character in Heroes Of Our Own).

PS: All of the characters from my superhero novella Heroes Of Our Own are created by myself, the author of the story. None of them have been taken in any way from game worlds though such game worlds often prove to be great testing grounds for ideas.

I am a gamer, and have been for many years and am proud to be one. Online gaming has come a long way in the time that I've been alive and has become as much a social experience as it has a learning experience. In recent years it has even entered into the realm of physical activity with dance related titles and the motion tracking Microsoft Kinect.

Video games have definitely come to a level where the effort in research and development into such games and the hardware to run them is reaping huge social rewards in other areas, such as medical visualization, disease and treatment research, distributed computing, architectural visualization, global positioning interfaces, HUD technologies in automobiles (which video games borrowed from real fighter jet designs), traffic timing and management as well as many others.

I generally limit my playing to the occasional evening and occasionally on week ends, kind of like a reward at the end of a day, though there are many people who make a living promoting mixed media content, and games are just a piece of that pie.

Here are some of my recommendations. Keep in mind that most of these games benefit from 3D acceleration (NVidia Geforce and AMD/ATI Radeon), at least 1 GB of RAM:

Gaming And Marketplace Front Ends

These are applications that act as a store front to the various games and software that they sell. Often they will have an ingame interface that bridges players even when the games themselves aren't multiplayer. All of these applications are freely downloadable.

  • Steam - Valve software has been in the business of making games since the  early days and produced the hit game Halflife and their multiplayer addon Team Fortress. Since that time they have been a active force in the world of gaming and developed the first storefront software that I'm aware of calling it Steam. It features its own custom interface for viewing its proprietary web based storefront, giving each game it offers through its store front a channel, that includes forums, statistics tracking, end user content sharing and support. Making purchases is straight forward as is the download process and it even keeps your purchases up to date with the latest software updates. It has a wish list so you can keep a list of your favourite titles, and best of all, they recently started offering application software for media production and design. Steam is like a community unto itself and software that is made available on their storefront is voted on by their users. An excellent place to start if you want to browse their literally thousands of titles.

    Steam has recently changed their pricing scheme to put the pricing into the hands of the publishers and developers. This has resulted in some pricing changes that might lure some gamers back to some more recent and older titles alike. Still a much recommended platform.
  • GameStop - Another great store front package that sells games, downloadable content (DLCs) and soundtracks to games. It is well organized with a huge variety of titles including many titles it sells through links with steam at great prices. The purchasing process is easy and takes a few minutes. It offers the same updates service as does steam, though it stays away from in game consoles and forums making it much more of a store front with the features required to keep your software up to date. Did I mention the great deals? Runs fine alongside steam.
  • Origin - Origin/EA recently added their storefront software which operates much like steam and amalgamates the company's many software publishers under one roof. Not to mention that it provides access to EA latest and greatest sports games, of which EA is renowned for. EA is a pioneer of Mocap (Motion Capture) technology which of course is used in most modern character animation and film productions globally. Shopping is easy and though it is not as feature rich as Steam, what it lacks in variety it makes up for in the great titles offered by these publishers. Keep in mind as well that this is not a replacement for Steam and can run along side steam just as happily as any other package. Recently the company has started offering  games "On The House", meaning full featured games freely downloadable and playable at home through their gaming front end and client software. 

MMO Persistent Worlds

These are games where the gaming world is running even while you aren't in it. You can jump into the game once you have an account and play for as long as you like, while interacting with others as well either competitively or cooperatively. When you leave, others are still in the world and in some cases the world is changed by their actions and your actions.

Perfect World

Perfect World offers many MMOs that run under their 3D engine technology which is constantly maintained, upgraded and very scalable. That means that you can run it on meagerly powered systems and still achieve a reasonable level of quality though it really shines with higher end acceleration.

Some of their titles include:
  • Arc - The new integrated client that merges all of the Perfect World MMO offerings under a single steal-like interface with all of the features that you'd imagine. A web interface that allows account management without opening a browser as well as an ingame browser. This was the missing piece that was needed to tie the Perfect World family together. Very impressive and runs alongside Steam as well.
  • Star Trek Online - Perhaps the best and most faithful adaption to Gene Roddenberry's vision of the Star Trek universe in a playable format. It features the Federation, the Klingon Empire, the Romulan Empire and the locations that you'd find from the series in all of its' incarnations. You play as an officer with whichever empire you create a player under, ultimately running your own star ship, space and away missions. You'll likely come away from each game feeling like you were part of an episode or epic movie.
  • Neverwinter Nights Online - For Dungeons And Dragons fans, the Forgotten Realms city of Neverwinter needs your help. After arriving in the city by ship (just narrowly surviving a ship wreck), you'll be asked to help protect the city from attack by a wide variety of monsters from the pages of D&D. It has many of the races and classes from the third edition ruleset and includes a great system for customizing your character's background which gets the juices flowing if you're a real role player or even a hack and attack player. The game itself focuses on fast paced adventure while maintaining a simplified subset of the third edition rules tailored to the game play. It harbours a great deal of character customization options that will keep you level chasing for a long time.

    Neverwinter Nights has a long multiplayer history first running on Compuserve as a possibly one of the first MMO games under the name Neverwinter Nights. It ran under SSI's Unlimited Adventures engine, an isometric view much like Diablo's with EGA graphics. It ran under the Advanced Dungeons And Dragons first edition ruleset and is still considered a classic despite its graphics, beside the likes of Bard's Tale.

    For long time fans of the Bioware/Atari series, the storyline takes place after the events of Neverwinter Nights 1 (where the player campaigns to fight a plague) and Neverwinter Nights 2 (which involves the player in the midst of a power struggle between Lord Nasher, The Neverwinter Nine, Luskan and the King Of Shadows). The storyline bridges the events of the two prior series to the modern world of MMO gaming. Highly recommended if you are a fan of Dungeons And Dragons. The Nine. Always the Nine.
  • Champions Online - One of the earliest superhero games on the market originating from a paper and pen role playing game back in the old days when the closest thing there was to computer RPGs was Zork on the original Apple computer. This game allows you to pick a hero archetype (or  customize one if you purchase the options to do so) and fight an alien invasion and crime across the city. The options for building your character's costume are astounding, and you'll likely spend a bit of time doing that before you even get in the game itself. Once you are in you'll get to perfect your characters style of dealing with foes as you progress in levels. Many powers to choose from and great missions as well.

Star Wars: The Old Republic lets you play a character from the two main factions from the movies, the Galactic Empire and the Rebellion in their fight for rule of the republic. The action takes place thousands of years before the events of Star Wars Episode IV A New Hope, and allows you to play as Jedi, Sith, Bounty Hunters, Space Pirates, Republic Soldiers and Imperial Agents. Each character type features its own storyline and path, with excellent dialog and plot elements tying it into the overall conflict. The gameplay and graphics are spectacular and the game features new add-ons, locations and missions as it grows. You'll visit some locations from the movies, and some you likely have not seen or heard about unless you've read read the books or played prior game entries. It is based around and similar to the Bioware based engine which powered Knights Of The Old Republic, with improved visuals to match modern hardware and expanded worlds and locations. The great thing with this game is that you can through your choices alter your path from light to dark and vice versa, each of which open new choices that lead you further down which ever path you choose. Good news for those who are fans of the epic space battles from the movies is the upcoming release of Galactic Starfighter, which allows you to pilot your own fighter and fly missions with it.

Star Wars: The Old Republic has recently released its Galactic Starfighter upgrade and next we can await its Galactic Strongholds for all of you aspiring Jabba The Hutt's, or those looking to start their own mystical school of Jedi or Sith Arts.

The Marvel Heroes Online game lets you play all of the front line heroes (and one pseudo villain) from the pages of Marvel's comic book pages. You start with the character of your choice and progress your character in level unlocking their powers or adding to their existing ones as your progress. Along the way you'll encounter many of the supporting role characters as well as the main villains from the comics. With a wide variety of locations and a system for jumping between them most of the gameplay is mission based, with the main base of operations being in the Avengers' Tower. One of the things that really makes this game different from many other MMO games, is the voice talent. Each of the characters (including your hero) will greet other heroes and taunt villains with classic lines and a smattering of new ones. The dialog itself gives the game enough atmosphere to carry it along with the backing music tracks and cutscenes. The game itself is added to regularly and keeps getting better including new content synchronized with the release of movies in the Marvel line up.

In the last year, Marvel Heroes online has released a slew of new and classic characters from the comics and movies along with new costumes and vanity gear. Check it out.

DC Heroes Online offers you the chance to create your own hero and operate under the supervision of the Justice League. The character creation and customization are a great balance between variety and simplicity allowing you to tweak your character to visual perfection. Once in the game, the graphics are astounding as is the control and gameplay. Your hero has a variety of powers to choose from, picking new ones with each level. There is enough variety in this regard that it is rare that any two characters will be similar in terms of gameplay and feel. The combat animations are top notch as is the camera behaviour and gameplay world. It features the regular lineup of DC comic book characters, adding the option to allow you to play as a villain if you so choose.  Each of the support characters is voiced and it shares this attention to detail with its Marvel sibling offering. The action is fast paced, with breathing room and it is free form allowing you go site seeing throughout Metropolis and Gotham, where you'll spot landmarks familiar to readers of the comics. This game as well is constantly updated and added to keeping it in top form.

The most recent update has been for the PS4 release and support including a wide array of content and view scenery available on PC. Check it out.

Looking for an online world that stays true the mythos of J.R.R Tolkien, then look no further than the Lord Of The Rings Online. It allows you to create your own custom character to play as one of the many races of Middle Earth, such as Human, Elven, Dwarven and of course Hobbit along with many of the different sub-races for each. The world is faithful to Tolkien's and takes place in the various ages pertinent to the story telling of each geographic location of Middle Earth and there are many. The race that you select plays a bearing on which location you may start and the story takes off from there. The graphics are very scalable meaning that it can also run on a variety of slower machines as much as it shines on up to date hardware. The gameplay itself is composed of the same quest based training and advancement that most free to play MMO RPGs are based. The character advancement system offers much diversity for your character as there are many skills available that may be acquired from the various trainers in the game world. Be ready to invest some time in this one, though building up over a period of time works just as well. The world itself is humongous and the main map is even an exact replica of the ones that Tolkien penned himself for The Hobbit, Lord Of The Rings and of course the Silmarillion. The history of each location is accurate to that of the books, so if you start an adventure in another area upon reaching the required level, you will encounter situations from those books and characters from the same plot line. All in all an incredible online world and sure to experience in influx of players with the upcoming release of 
The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug.

Much of the content has been augmented to reflect the release of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug keeping it a great RPG for fans of the worlds of Tolkien.

Need For Speed World - Do you like to race and do you like the Fast And The Furious? Look no further for a driving thrill than Need For Speed World, a Free To Play MMO game from EA/Origin. In this game you start out with the funding to buy and soup up your own stock car, tweaking it to peak performance so that you can compete against other drivers to earn reputation and cash for more gear.

Between races you can speed around the huge city with scenery suited to the genre, exploring or taking part in races or mini-games.  The driving mechanics and physics are astounding but not unforgiving yet they don't feel "arcadey" at all. You as a player are rewarded for your driving skill which will undoubtedly get much better as time progresses. The gear you buy for your car(s) will make the car perform better during competitions and result in better performance leaving you to earn more and buy more cars much like Gran Turismo. For any driving aficionado I highly recommend this game as it handles like a dream and keeps you coming back for more. Never mind the races, just driving through the city at night is worth it alone. Not to mention, if you have the coin to spend you can purchase classic cars such as the Mighty Mopars and the European classics and soup them up to your heart's content.

The game also includes a paint shop that is a car owners dream I am sure that there are likely many people who've done design work in their Need For Speed World garage and then taken the design into the real world for application to a real car in terms of vanity and accessory. Maybe in the near future we'll see interfaces that allow this kind of design effort to make its way to the real world through sponsors and service shops. Take a ride.

The Secret World - The world is not what it seems. For every society there are people who work behind the scenes making it tick, or toil. Behind them is the mystery that reaches into places we've never been or even imagined. Danger lurking and the unknown beckoning you to investigate. Dig too far and you might end up buried and forgotten or you might learn what few do. Imagine a world where everything that you thought was not real existed, man and monster. All of those mystical places each with their own calling. Do you join or not and if you do, then who? Enter yourself into The Secret World.

The Secret World is a mature themed MMO right out of a graphic novel. It involves mysteries of the kind that you'd not likely imagine and characters and worlds beyond. Its graphical features are truly amazing as are its cut scenes and dialog, all of course mature rated. The is the MMO that I've been waiting for a long time and it fits the bill perfectly. I cannot give away much more than to say that if you've ever been curious and found that you had a unique calling, you need to experience it. Through the Steam store page and forums you can request a demo key that will allow you access for three days. Beyond that you need to buy the full version for a modest price of $29.99 USD. Do your research and I hope to see you there.

GunZ 2: The Second Duel - If you are a fan of action oriented Anime then you will love this MMO Free To Play offering. With highly stylized 3D characters played in a 3rd person view point the play and feel of this game are great and is very intense in the action department. The game allows you to pick from a cast of five different characters, each one equipped with three different weapons, a close quarters weapon (Katanas, Sledge Hammers, Shields etc), a rapid fire weapon ranged weapon, and a ranged weapon.

The game offers a variety of game play modes including a variety of match types for competitive play and an exciting campaign mode with large maps and multiple missions. Cut scenes are rendered in multi-layered 2D animation and introduce each mission of the campaign.

The online store offers a variety of vanity items that is added to as the game grows. If you are going there for the first time, I would suggest going for the campaign to start as you need to build up your character before you can take part in the ranked matches.

The character animation and moves are fantastic with speed lines and and effects drawn in to really give it that Anime feel when it comes to the action and visuals. The characters themselves too have many of the same qualities you'd find in such art from the genre with sound effects to boot.

If you're looking for a high action low learning curve type game, you should definitely check this one out as it is a fresh action oriented take on the MMO genre.

My Gaming Moments From Some Of My Favourite Characters and some awesome graphics advances as well in modern hardware... 

All of these screens are from in game screen shots

Gran Turismo 4

My Skyrim Crew
Fallout New Vegas

Fallen Earth
Microsoft Flight

Skyrim: Awesome Lady Character
Skyrim: They'll never see it coming...

Copyright © Brian Joseph Johns 2014
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