Putting the S in team

As part of your modern day group/clan/outfit there is a need to have a central website to allow players to consume information but to also discuss it.There have been various combinations of blog/forum/cms/community software that could be employed to handle the task of managing a group of strangers and their gaming habits.

Historically I used e107 for this purpose, scripting plugins and themes to tweak every last drop out of usefulness from the product. I became so comfortable with using it I designed a cut down version to run my blog.  More recently it’s moved to VBulletin with CMS elements added on for ease of use.

Fast forward a good few years and in the available software front not much has changed for the guild looking for a place to rest their virtual heads. We have however seen a rise of community sites such as Guildlaunch, shivtr,enjin, GuildPortal and more. There has been a jump int he number of these sites around as their services removed the hassle of hosting a community website and come with features that appeal directly to gamer guild needs.

Steam Groups

Driven by experiencing their use with the How To Murder Time, I have looked at how this rather inobtrusive Steam bolt on has the potential to replace the need for guild software.

  • User
    • as these are linked to your steam account the usual account validation doesn’t need applying
    • Messaging is already built into the system
    • What is missing here is the ability to have more member ranks to allow more control over access.
  • Guild
    • Members list is available
    • Each group has it’s own group chat that members can use 
  • Voice
    • The group chat sports the ability to use Steam’s voice systems
  • News
    • Each group has announcements that can be consumed like a blog includes a RSS feed
  • Forums
    • Steams discussions cover this, you have the ability to subscribe to threads to be notified on Steam logon.
    • You can add sub forums as needed and lock forums to different levels of access.
  • Scheduled events
    • For event planners Steam groups allows scheduling of game activities, meetings etc.

Thoughts

Currently I think that Steam groups offer quite a good set of tools for a community, of course this isn’t going to be the solution for everyone. The lack of ability to add customised tool that are unique to certain games may hinder group migrating from guild hosting sites and self hosted software.

That said for smaller or more generic groups or maybe those looking to run on a budget of nothing, Steam Group maybe a good option, even if it’s just a spring board into more traditional hosted solutions in the future.

Roll 2d10 and call me in the morning

Busting the post Christmas blue with some help from strategically placed holidays on DokChaos’s part we cracked open some new board games that were gifts and some that we’ve not got around to playing yet. On the table were Last Night on Earth, Castle Panic! and Once upon a time.

Last night on Earth

LastNightOnEarthWe finally got around to playing Last Night on Earth, which I had picked up from Hula Gaming while we were attending the Cardiff Comic Con last August. A popular game I had been wanting to pick up for quite sometime.

Of course it’s as fun and frustrating as you’d imagine with much zombie antics all around, of the matches we played I think the heroes only one once.

One minor annoyance with the game is that the rules don’t read very well. As new players we often had to refer back to the rules only to have to dance between pages as some of the rules are detached and needed some tracking down. This often broke the flow of the game play at least for us new players.

Castle Panic

castlepanicWe played a few games of Castle Panic, which is fun co-op game that once you have the rules nailed down you can play a game in about 40 minutes. Tower defence in it’s most basic format, orcs are attacking you and your team-mates are defending the castle and it’s walls.
The game needs a little strategy as you generally have to be planning 2 or 3 moves ahead.

Happily we managed to win both round that we played, so I believe that next time we’ll modify the rules to make it a little more challenging.
That said the rules are lightweight and certainly easier to reference when needed. Maybe having some of them printed on the board allows for less lookups.

Gaming group

In February I shall be running a monthly table top club in work. I have about 10 to 12 persons for the first meet up.
I plan on on taking a good mixture of games to introduce new players to games, after trying Castle Panic again I think it could be a good intro for some players. I hope to try some Fluxx, Munchkin, Settlers of Catan and other I decide on.

I’ll let you know how we get on.

Plays [2014 wk4]

The Secret World

Funcom’s modern day MMO remains high in my playlist, not that I’m putting in a massive number of hours but my weekly play sessions are enjoyable and a good laugh.

This week we ran Polaris, but with many of the group still finding their feet with builds, weapons and talismans we didn’t manage to beat Ur-Draug this time around. There is always next time and besides we aren’t really in need of completing the dungeon at this time.

Skyrim

My recent playtime in the ESO beta has spurred on my quest to finish off  as much of Skyrim as possible. I have been progressing the main storylines and ponder getting the remaining DLC that I haven’t picked up yet.

Despite being just over 2 years old the game is just as fun as it was originally. Of course there are some modifications via the Steam Workshop that do help with some of the graphical limitations that the game inherited from it’s console legacy.

Planetside 2

After continual problems post patching, which seems to happen after each patch ( this is likely to get worse as SOE indicate an increased patching/release cycle), I have now unsubscribed from the game.

PS2 is a fun game in the right setting, normally when you overlook the imbalances and enjoy the social side of things. However this is a reflection on the players rather than the game itself.

Planetside 2 still feels like a game that is in beta, the patching that breaks the servers, the balancing that is swept under the carpet by altering something else (Biolab capture timers) rather than fixing the problems or maybe the developer in me sees that game still hasn’t achieved version 1.0 and that’s good enough a sign for me.

It’s a mystery

Playing The Secret World with a static group is a far better experience to delivery measured chunks of content to players. Well better than playing solo, and that isn’t to say you can’t solo it, just that the hive mind is often better at solutionizing and less likely to resort to searching Google for answers. Don’t get me wrong my original time in TSW was very fun, however it wasn’t long until the magic faded for many players and I was playing solo alot of the time. As the mobs got harder getting from A to B took longer and longer.
This started being a chore and ultimately I also left the game for digital pastures shiny.

The Secret World throws some utterly different curve balls at you in the form of investigation missions. Of course if you were to encounter these in a single player adventure title you wouldn’t bat an eyelid. Yet in an MMO setting they truely stand out as a unique feature of the title, I have no doubt that this a side effect of having Ragnar Tørnquist as the game director.

Last night we ran a few “standard” missions as the group entered and started on Savage Coast content. I was awash with memories of the area and had a little smile knowing that I’ll get to see other people experience some of that great storytelling again. To finish the groups evening jaunt we undertook an Investigation mission that I just about remember from over a year ago, but I settled back into the story without too much hardship or spoiler for the rest of the group.

Maybe the modern day setting allows TSW the freedom to think outside the conventional MMO boundaries.
By using old/foreign languages, fake  corporation websites, asking “does anyone in your group have knowledge of Latin” or maybe basic knowledge of musical notation.
The strange part is you half feel that the game is not only testing you but also teaching you.

Rise of the Machines of Steam

One the main news items to come out of CES has been the stories of the Steam Boxes, don’t worry I’m not going to bore you with specifications of them in this post.

As with PC’s there are wild variations of specifications as each manufacturer brings their own designs and configurations to the table.
Of course this has a massive impact on the prices, of the ones that gave a price, they ranged from between $500 to $6000.
I thought about the huge price range and how that could negatively impact the machines, but as with anything PC related you get what you are willing to pay for, it makes sense to allow PC gamers to “customise” their machine by offering choice.

But …

Steamos

Why do I need another high spec machine when what I have is perfectly capable of running the games I want?
The answer is that you shouldn’t (aside from showing off to your console friends ofc).

In the back of my head there was a small voice that screamed “overkill” as I was looking at the specs of the Steam machines. Sure for the games that release with SteamOS compatibility, they will enjoy the best the machine can offer, but it’s not clear how many future titles will run in native SteamOS, initially or long term.

For me the biggest feature that I am keen to get my hands on is the Streaming from my Windows machine.
Since my PC can handle the heavy work of rendering the game, all my Steam Box theoretically needs to do it display that for me to play the game from the living room.

Dual-OS has been pitch on some of them, which would mean you could reduce your PC count if you wanted, but I’m not overly keen on loosing my desktop PC just yet.

Talking of small machines, I originally started looking at hardware back when SteamOS was announced and found this nice video looking at The Cool master Elite 130 case and installing a nice selection of kit. I’d not want that much to begin with but having a case that can handle more in the future isn’t a bad idea.