Wednesday, April 15, 2015


In case you haven't been counting we passed the 300th article on this blog on March 31st.  That may seem like a relatively insignificant number but when you consider that I basically do this for free it gains a bit of weight.

I've also passed the 200 video mark since I relaunched the YouTube channel that accompanies this blog.  Also a small number but considering I had to completely blow up the old channel in late October it's quite a lot of content in 6 months.

I began this exercise ( some would say in futility) with a measure of trepidation as at the time I had the naive belief that I would suddenly be laid bare to the steely eyes of a cruel world.

As it is I've barely crested 50K views in 4 years which sounds like a lot till you realize that the average IGN article will do that in an hour.

It's true, indifference is far more cruel than criticism.

There have been days when I'd have been happy to have a comment section full of trolls.  At least i'd feel like someone was paying attention.

Maybe someday, somebody, will discover my meanderings on the topic and open my ruminations up to a wider world.  

At least that was my equally naive hope when I spent 18 months doing the "Midaged Gamer report" every week.  I thought it might have been the springboard to bigger and better things.

Dare to dream...

Live and learn.  It was a valuable experience but I'd be lying if I told you its failure didn't threaten to let this blog languish into nothingness like so many before it.  I learned my lesson. 

Gamers don't like to read long form news posts.

All is not graves and storm clouds, however.  This blog was my first public writing exercise and it led to dozens of published articles on then legitimate news sites like Technorati and Kupeesh.  

Not exactly fame and fortune but at least I've been published.

So why continue?

I do it because I still feel like I need to.  There's still too much hype and too much BS in gaming and somebody needs to call it out even if nobody wants to listen.

Gaming is at least as important as any other entertainment medium with the industry now rivaling Movies and TV in sheer revenue.  

It's a legitimate entertainment medium with players both revered and reviled.  It's also rockstar, sport and lifestyle. It's a cultural force that even the most stoic Wall Street suit acknowledges.  

It's the best of creativity and the worst of corporate greed and it's worth talking about.

And I will, trust me....

Path of Exile - A Free to play RPG worth playing!

I'm a causal RPG gamer meaning I'm not the type to have some special keyboard with dedicated RPG keys or little Diablo 3 figurines all over my desk.

I don't get into cosplay and I sure as hell don't fantasize about buxom female characters.  

I've had other RPG players come right out in my YouTube channel commenting that, " You're the worst (insert rpg title here) player I've ever seen, this must be your first time playing an RPG..."

No my friend, it is not my first time with an RPG.  If I suffer anything, it's having played too many of them each with their goofy little nuances thrashing around my head like bumper-cars in an amusement park ride.  

So yeah, I might not immediately know how to make all the stuff that just sprayed out of that freshly violated treasure chest show up but I'll get there eventually.  

I'm only a noob for a short time.

Surprisingly (especially to me) of any genre of game I play, the time spent in RPG's always tallies into the hundreds of hours.  The only FPS that ever challenged that was Borderlands 2 coming in around 400 hours and counting.  

In fact if you totaled all the hours I've spent playing FPS's of any kind it would come up far short of that spent in RPG's.

So I suppose it would be a fair statement to say that I primarily play two types of games.  FPS's and RPG's.  Racing games used to be in the mix but it's been a long time since any of them were worth their price tag.

My RPG resume includes such classics as: 

  • 2 of the 3 Dungeon Siege games
  • Titan Quest 
  • Elder Scrolls titles including Skyrim and Oblivion
  • Dragon Age Origins
  • Torchlight 2
  • and a few others I've long since forgotten.  
So I've had some experience...

Now I wouldn't go so far as to say I was an expert even with 1000's of hours invested.  I still fumble with keyboard mappings and character upgrades. 

Still, a good RPG will tend to command my attention above all else.  I tend to get addicted to it with long hours and long grinds just to get to that next level up.

Which is an excellent segue into my latest addiction, Path of Exile.

Path of Exile is a Free to Play RPG very similar to Diablo 3 with one stark difference.  It's in beer.  

The developers claim that it is not a pay to win affair and while there is a "store" You don't have to use it to enjoy the game.

So far I have a bit over 20 hours into it and I'm having as much fun as I did with Dungeon Siege 2 and Torchlight 2.  

In fact, the only other free to play game that I've had this much fun with was Star Trek Online. 

The graphics are on par with the best RPG's currently out there and for the price (free) better looking than many it competes with.  The only game that looked better than this was Dungeon Siege 3 but that one was almost unplayable which is kind of a moot point.

I've actually been streaming my gameplay to my Twitch channel as well as uploading videos to my YouTube channel after a bit of editing.  Even at 720P the game looks good and makes for entertaining watching.  Well, at least so long as I remember to edit out the parts where I'm spending 10 minutes in my Inventory screen...

Playing Path of Exile can be a very solitary gaming experience but it's still an online one much like WoW. 

You don't have to soldier on alone, however.  Every time I go back to town there's always a number of other players milling about.  You could invite any of them to your "party" or join theirs if they send you an invite.  

It's as social as you want it to be.  Of course being a Free to Play title there's also the competitive tie in with "Leagues" and leader boards as well as special events not unlike the "special missions" in Star Trek Online.

If you're the introverted type you should know that I haven't found any offline option to play Path of Exile.  Meaning your Internet  connection better be up to snuff.  Being dependent on the online servers also means if you lose connection to them your game goes offline.  

But no worries about saved games or losing progress, it's all saved in  the cloud.  You may find some irritation, however, in having to vanquish all those baddies you just slogged through all over again when you're reconnected.

As for playing the game....

The inventory system is very similar to Torchlight 2 but the currency system is very different.  There is no gold only "items"  Meaning you're bartering for everything.  

That's OK as there's plenty of lively trade opportunities.  If there's anything that's a disappointment it's the relatively weak loot drops. 

You're going to have to grind through a lot of baddies before you get anything of real value but there are those hidden "gems" if you pardon the pun.  That and you could always take part in the micro transactions in game to get yourself a few goodies without grinding for it.  

You don't need to buy anything to enjoy Path of Exile, however.  So far I see no evidence of it being a "Pay to Win" game like so many seem to be these days.  

There's thoughtful little touches throughout the game that show the developer really cares about the player.  It shows up in features like not having to buy health and mana potions (a staple of any RPG

Instead you get empty bottles and they fill up as you hack through enemies.  Nice...

I ask you, what's more equitable than that?  It's like an RPG HMO! 

Better yet some of the bottles you'll find actually grant you buffs and the best part is you generally find or trade them instead of worrying about having enough gold to continue breathing.  

Speaking of goodies.  I love the fact that you can equip an inventory item with the appropriate "gem" and then remove it for use somewhere else if you so choose.  

Gems primarily hold spells and buffs that only become useful when inserted into the appropriately hued socket.  What's nice is that they operate independent of whatever they're placed in meaning using a gem in a shield instead of a wand won't diminish its power.  Although it may affect certain buffs on whatever you're placing it into.  

You should also learn the difference between an action and a support gem.  As their names imply, skill gems actually do something and support gems make that something better.  

That's a grossly oversimplified discussion and I haven't even got into the importance of "links."  Suffice it to say that making the best use of a gem is a science unto itself. 

Gems were something that drove me nuts in Torchlight 2.  Nothing's worse than to lose a good gem in what later became an inferior piece of equipment because you couldn't remove it.

Another nice aspect of the game is the battle mechanic.  The game includes what I call "area of effect" weapons that allow you to attack multiple enemies.  

It was the lack of such consideration in Titan Quest that annoyed me to no end in that game.  You may have been besieged by a dozen evil doers but you could only deal with one of them at a time!

As with any RPG, at lower levels you're going to die...A LOT.  Thankfully you'll usually spawn nearby with all ills healed.  The same usually can't be said for your enemies as their damage stays constant so long as you remain on the map.  

That means you may have to grind a boss battle or two but at least they're not regenerating health and re-spawning ultimately turning the whole thing into a seemingly endless proposition.  

That's another thing I really don't like in some RPG's.

If you've got a tough boss don't make me do a puzzle and die 45 times to figure it out.  Just give them a million hit points and let me wear them down.  

At least I'll feel like I'm accomplishing something instead of doing the same thing over and over again with seemingly no progress.

If I want puzzle games I'll go play Portal!

Enough about other RPG's, they're in the past now...

So far I've enjoyed this game immensely.  Yes, it can be a maddening grind at times but no more than any other RPG and I'm enjoying  it much more than games that I actually paid full price for.  

If there's any downside its's only minor quibbles.

Finding your friends for a co-op session, for example, isn't as easy as it should be.  Since interaction with the game is an online affair there's no guarantee you will end up in the same "instance" (server) as your friend.  In fact most of the time you won't.  The procedure to find them is to hold down "Control" while clicking the outside (white area) of a town entrance then find their game. 

Default key assignments can have you popping open a social window or an overlay map at the wrong time. So check your keyboard mappings before you start playing! 

As I said earlier the loot drops can be disappointing but that's common in RPG's and after all it is a Free game so you can't expect everything to be handed to you.  Sometimes you get a nice surprise after a particularly heated boss battle but make no mistake,  you will work for it.

If you're a Twitch Streamer there's a TWITCH client built right into the game.  No need for Xsplit or OBS but I use them anyway since I do BRB screens and such and the in-game setup is somewhat limiting to a fussy streamer like me.

I'm only 20 or so hours into the game but I think I'll stick with it.  It's a good game and I don't say that lightly.

It must be because every time I play it I see 3 or 4 hours vanish.  In heated battles I'm literally bouncing in my chair and lurching toward the monitor.  If all that physical activity isn't the mark of game immersion, I don't know what is.

It's worth at least trying if you're any kind of RPG gamer.  It came out in late 2013 and is constantly being updated which keeps it fresh.  In fact veteran players are anxiously awaiting the next "Act" called the Awakening.   It's new enough to still be relevant but mature enough to have worked out most of the teething pains.  

I'll say this of Path of Exile.  I'm fairly certain that when I get toward the end of my time with it I'll do a few micro transactions and maybe purchase something from the dev's store as I did when I finished Star Trek Online.  Good games deserve support just as bad games deserve a refund  (looking at you BF4!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

You #cantkillprogress and I can't stop watching!

So there's this strange TWITCH channel with a twitter hashtag of #cantkillprogress that showed up in my feed today.

I have no idea what it's all about.  Probably some kind of game promotion but whatever it is it's disturbingly fascinating.

Watch live video from CantKillProgress on