The Splendor of Gender Pretender

Zyngor | Tuesday, September 23, 2014 0 Comments
Well, I had planned on getting a blog post out a couple days ago, but Trion was so kind as to put out a new server for Archeage. While open PvP is not my cup of tea, free-to-play is, so I figured I'd give the game a least until level 30 or so (which I hear is roughly when the hostile player combat starts to pick up). At that point I'll likely play it by ear...perhaps see how much PvE content I can do while keeping under the radar? My original plan was to just do fishing, but I realized it wasn't quite as easy as picking up a fishing pole from an NPC and heading to a body of water.

While listening to an episode of LOTRO Players News (LPN) a week or so ago, they were talking a bit about how one goes about picking their character's sex, when the choice is available (this mainly would occur in an RPG title, whether it be MMO or single-player). The answers were pretty varied, from some males picking basically males (to others creating mostly females), females mainly creating females; others taking on a more scientific approach by splitting their characters to have a half:half split of male & female.

Some games may make the query a bit more one-sided, thrusting
"you" into one choice even before "you" are created
As for my male-self, I'd say that, when given the choice, my first character in most RPG titles are male - whether or not this character will end up being my main-player character. Perhaps this choice lets me connect a little closer with my playable avatar as I take on my first experience with the unfolding adventure embodied within the game. When/if I decide to roll up another character in that same game, my second character is female probably at least 75% of the time. Some games offer a slightly different set of dialogue, or perhaps the character animations offer something a bit varied based on the gender choice (yes, I said gender...I don't feel like filling my entire post with "sex" a thousand times).

Beyond the second character, I'd probably say that I fall into the mathematical approach of gender choice. My characters in LOTRO probably display the best example of this phenomenon. My toons displayed on the page at the top currently show those characters I am leveling/own - there are six male characters, and five female characters. The Beorning class will hopefully be released Update 15 (which I believe is supposed to be released before the end of the year), and I will likely create a female to even out the selection.

Though I usually try to customize the cosmetic appearance of my role-playing characters to some degree, I will generally not pick certain pieces to flatter the character's sex, male or female. Some game titles will put more effort into displaying certain aspects of character models, and armor alike, so it is sometimes hard not to end up with a rather voluptuous model under your control. However, from a backside perspective (which is how you'll generally see a character during gameplay), most of the games that I play don't really have too big of a difference between choosing male or female. I mean, have you seen elves from the rear in...basically any game?

As such, I suppose my choice to try and split gender choices is so that I can end up with a varied "army" of equal sexes. Whether that is subconsciously my views on the real world (peace, love, nerd hippy power) or not is beyond my current train of thought. Like I mentioned earlier, it's also nice to switch things up a bit, as some games may offer slightly different choices/dialogue based on gender.

Like I always say, gaming is a form of entertainment, and you gotta have fun with what you're doing, or it's time to switch it up. All of the hosts on LPN made solid reasons why they make certain gender choices when it comes to character creation, and I am not opposed to how anyone decides to make those choices. Even if it comes down to wanting some extra...jiggle physics, or perhaps those female beards are just not making the cut, you gotta choose what works best for you. As long as game designers don't create negative effects for selecting one or the other (when the choice is available, of course), we all get to be heroes in our own worlds.

It's a Mod, Mod World

Zyngor | Friday, September 05, 2014 0 Comments
Falskaar is a new lands mod for Skyrim (no DLC required), created by Alexander Velicky. This adds an entirely new map to explore, with additional quests and all that good stuff. I have not put too much time into Falskaar yet, but what I have experienced so far feels very polished. The features list this size of the territory (which is independent from Tamriel, allowing you to port to and back from Skyrim with a boat system) as "roughly the size of 2-3 Skyrim holds." I've spent most of the time within dungeons, which have served to make it feel even more expansive. It also contains new voice-acting and a soundtrack created just for the mod, and boasts at least 20-30 hours of gameplay. Basically, Falskaar is a free content add-on that serves as unofficial DLC, and should probably be on your go-to list if you choose to check out some Skyrim content mods.

Map of Falskaar - still plenty of dungeon delving to do!

Storywise, I wouldn't want to spoil too much, but after accidentally arriving on this land, you are asked to assist the locals with some of the not-so-friendly bandits. I've probably spent most of my time thus far with side quests; helping a boy with the local mudcrab population (as well as investigating why they are suddenly so large), and am currently assisting his parents with separate anniversary present quests. I'm sure the likely bandit attacks can wait, or they'll have to answer to my bow (I suppose they'll eventually need to do so anyways).

In my many hours of Skyrim (don't have an exact number, but I'm sure it's 100+) so far, this is only my second game modification - the first being SkyUI (a nice overhaul to the basic UI, making things more simple and efficient). I am pretty random when it comes to deciding if and what I'd want to find a modification for any given game, though I can likely say it's not all that often (note I am referring to modding, or alteration of the game code...programs like plugins for an MMO do not fall under this umbrella of discussion).

I think the desire to modify my game experience will usually revolve around having played a certain title for a total large amount of time, but not quite yet wanting to put that game on the back burner. As such, if the game allows for mods, and there is a fairly well-known community, I may delve into the all-mighty Google and research what exists out there that will tinker with my gameplay.

As it stands, what I probably love most about modding itself is that it can extend the life of a game on my shelf, without instituting a burden on my wallet. While Skyrim already contains an unquantifiable truckload of things to do, the vanilla experience may eventually become stagnant. If the DLCs do not fall within your budget, there is a free mod like Falskaar that is simple to install, and *poof* hours are now added to explore a new land and hopefully keep the fun clock going for a little while longer. Some types, such as total-conversion mods, serve to almost re-invent the game by replacing nearly all assets with an entirely new coat of paint, so to speak. This may serve as a means to inject a well-known franchise within the walls of a non-related game, such as the Lord of the Rings-inspired Third Age - Total War mod for Medieval II.

Also known as Lake-town, as depicted in Third Age - Total War (LOTR-inspired total conversion mod for Medieval II)

Another neat thing about modding is the possible extension of lore within a game (if applicable). For those lore-junkies, your game of choice may have its own set of lore-enhancing content mods. From what I have seen in a couple games, modders are often a creative bunch that seem to have a good grasp of their project's connecting game world. As such, some mods serve to build a richer lore-appropriate environment.

Similar to the lore, immersion is often a huge boon when it comes to creators producing a more in-depth mod which serves to enhance the gameplay. The realism becomes even more real, the combat becomes even more combative, and the fantasy becomes even more...fanatical? Whether the mod raises the difficulty bar, or creates improved graphical assets (the grass is now even grassier!), immersion mods serve well to root the player deep into the game world, and gives them a reason to keep up the good fight.

OH YEHHHH!! What do you mean, not lore appropriate?
Naturally, not even mod is going to be well-received, and others may gain more of a shock value rather than respect (cult-classic mods, anybody?). Some may create wacky graphical assets that are extremely non-lore appropriate, while others may be geared toward a more mature, adult audience. Please do your research when finding mods online, make sure you are downloading from somwhere reliable, and try to know roughly what you're about to change with your game. You know, for the kids and all?

Additionally, it is very important to read up on the installation. Many mods are often sharing or replacing your vanilla (original) game files, and some may be much more tricky to set up than others, so it's always a good idea to know exactly where you are placing or swapping around when it comes time to set up a mod. It is often recommended to back up your original files somwhere - including any save files. You wouldn't want that 200+ hours of Skyrim to suddenly go poof 'cause some mod decided to go on a corruption spree, would you?

Once set up correctly, game mods can be a pretty awesome experience. Some may really stand out to you, making you wonder how those modders got this shot...make that a keg of creativity, and if you can have a double order. Others may end up being a quick try and uninstall. That's a cool thing with mods - just like the games themselves, some people may prefer different things out of their modded gaming. Perhaps one really wants some new textures, while another would like a different feel to combat. Some play it more aggressively, seeing how many mods they can install in one game before it decides to pick up its belongings, go to the safety of home, and do something that doesn't involve you playing it until you back off (perhaps a relaxing long as it's under 1k pieces and interlocking).

The Just Cause 2 multiplayer mod adds a whole new layer to the game - other people

Some gamers prefer not to mess with mods, whether it possibly be the quantity of titles they have to run through, non-desire to mess with game files, or perhaps they simply don't wish to stay from the original gameplay feel. It's just another of the many freedoms that gamers have. Not all developers create their games with the thought or desire of user modding, while others almost expect their players to express their creativity through additional user-made content. However you float on the modding boat is your decision, though I'd probably recommend that you at least take a look at what adventures may lie out there for mod-friendly titles.

Do you enjoy playing game modifications? Why or why not? Any specific mods you love, or perhaps you feel modding tarnishes the vanilla gameplay? Share in the comments!