Shadowrun Returns


Hi folks,

I wanted to take a moment to show off a game I have been playing recently called Shadowrun Returns. I also wanted to try and play with Fraps and create a video about the game. So here is my best effort on showing off this game and learning how to create movies.

Shadowrun Returns is a turn based RPG in a similar style to Baldur’s Gate. It is set in the Shadowrun IP developed by FASA in the 1980’s. The IP almost died but it looks like the tabletop game has been taken over by Catalyst Game Labs and some new computer games are coming out based on it. I wasn’t able to participate in this game’s kickstarter, but I did help Shadowrun Online‘s kickstarter so hopefully that game will see the light of day as well.

This game was $20 USD on steam and it was well worth the money. I had fun with it and I am glad to support a company that took a beloved IP that was floundering and made a respectable game out of it. I hope Harebrained Schemes can continue to put out content for the game as well as the greater community.


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FFXIV Is The Most Beautiful MMORPG I’ve Played, And I’m Loving It

I was one of the original customers of Final Fantasy XIV, before the tag line ‘A Realm Reborn.  When FFXIV version 1.0 launched, it was a mess.  The uninspired game world consisted of shrub mazes which led from point to point and reused art assets.  While still a good looking game, FFXIV launched unfinished and without focus.  Square made the unprecedented move of pulling FFXIV back into development for a reboot.  The end result of their efforts with the relaunch of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is like night and day.

Photobombed by my pet

FFXIV 1Yeah yeah launch server woes so damn the game to oblivion right?  I’m telling you that would be a mistake.  Final Fantasy XIV deserves at least a look.  If you are in between games, are looking for a fantasy MMO, are a fan of the Final Fantasy series in general, you owe it to yourself to at least spend a day in the game and form your own opinion.


Square has done an absolutely amazing job of breathing new life into FFXIV.  I can’t imagine the undertaking of pulling back an MMORPG already millions in the hole, and relaunching in hopes of saving some face.  The game feels like it has been redesigned almost from scratch,   I firmly believe Square has done so with FFXIV: ARR.  And though as an original launch buyer I felt a little burned, I do not feel so now.  This is the game that people wanted.  Best of all, ARR doesn’t feel outdated.  As a matter of fact, very much the opposite.  ARR looks and runs better than almost any other MMORPG on the market.  The game is absolutely gorgeous with high resolution, sharply detailed avatars, textured armors, amazing lighting effects, and a game world which looks as good as many cutting edge single player RPGs.  Animations are some of the best in the genre, as is the emote system.  For roleplayers, FFXIV:ARR provides a setting and the tools to have a great experience.  The community has been outstanding and one of the better I’ve seen since LOTRO.

ffxiv_09082013_203347When Square went back to the drawing board, they did not simply reskin the game and reuse all of the assets.  From what I can tell, a vast majority of quests have been rewritten, or at least improved upon.  Since the original game world was essentially destroyed in a huge event when Square closed down FFXIV, new lore and a new direction was necessary.  I am happy to say the quality is better than ever.  The game does not feel rushed.  There is plenty to do and see and I find it very enjoyable to do so.

ffxiv_09092013_174009There are a few game design items that did not make it into ARR’s launch.  The PvP system has yet to be implemented for one.  There is the typical issue of players hitting level cap a week after launch but developers will never be able to spit out content fast enough for those folks.  I’m level 17 now and am taking my time to enjoy the game.  I have more content than I know what to do with.  Crafting is a full time job, rewarding and fun.  I’ve started to learn another profession which essentially shoots me back to Level 1.  The good thing is I really don’t have to repeat content to level the new class.  There are three major questing hubs which offer players nice variety when leveling alts or alt classes (you can choose to do either).  The freedom of choice in FFXIV is another aspect of the game I really appreciate, especially after the linear design of SWTOR.

ffxiv_08162013_164357I’m not going to sit here and declare that FFXIV:ARR is the best MMORPG ever made.  I am not going to try and sell you on it’s originality.  But I very much admire what Square has done with this MMORPG.  In my opinion FFXIV: ARR is one of the better overall MMORPGs on the market today.  Despite a rough launch week and the inability to log in, I have had zero issues with the client.  Framerates are great, little to no lag, with fast loading between zones.  The engine Square is using is one of the better ones I’ve seen.

Weather effects are fantastic

FFXIV STORMWhich leads me to one last issue people are having with MMORPGs lately.  FFXIV is a monthly sub MMORPG.  Do I think the game is worth a sub?  Yes.  As long as Square is adding content, which they claim they will do bi-weekly, then I fully believe the game is worth a sub.  Then again I do not have any issue with the subscription model.  I actually prefer it.  I also want Square to recoup their losses.  I know I’m repeating myself but I’m so impressed with what Square has done here, and I sincerely believe they very much deserve to turn a profit with FFXIV.  Sure they could possibly do so with a F2P model.  But I think the community would suffer, and it would take longer to recoup their investment.

I may be in the minority but I will always pay a sub for a game that provides me hours of entertainment and fun.  Guess what?  I’m having fun.



As mentioned the game’s emotes are some of the best in the genre.  Expressions on avatar’s faces probably will only be surpassed by SOE’s EQNext

ffxiv sad

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Robert’s Space Industries Releases Hangar Module: Backers See Their Ships for the First Time

In October of 2012 Chris Roberts of Wing Commander fame threw his dice into the Kickstarter crowdfunding game with a project he called ‘Star Citizen’. Star Citizen funded at a little over 2 million. Today, the crowdfunding total sits at $17.5 million, and Robert’s Space Industries just rewarded their faithful backers with a ‘Hangar Module’ download where players can not only view but have some interaction with their pledge ships in their very own hangars.

StarCitizen 2013-09-02 15-22-28-35

Some ships are still being designed so are not available for preview in the hangar module. Here is a screenshot of one of Pid’s ships, the Cutlass, that only exists as a model in his hangar.


I had posted some images from the hangar reveal which received a lot of attention, so I thought I’d try my hand at taking some in game footage. This is my first attempt at video and narration with no skills in the least, so I apologize in advance. I hope this hangar walkthrough provides some insight into just how incredible Star Citizen is looking to become.

The 300i sits in the dark, waiting for it’s moment.

StarCitizen 2013-09-01 22-51-30-48

– Maric

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The Treek Experiment [SWTOR]

Back in patch 2.3, Star Wars: The Old Republic released a new companion that couldn’t be quested for. It either had to be bought with Cartel Coins (real money) or Credits (in game currency) both of which commanded a steep price. Not having the credits at the time nor wanting to plop down the equivalent of about $20 USD I passed on the idea.

Since that time I have managed to gather the 1 million credits that it takes to purchase the companion and I decided I would finally take the plunge. Boy was pulling the trigger on this transaction a difficult one.

Treek1Unlike the HK-51 companion that was released in patch 1.5, and very much unbeknownst to me, the new companion comes equipped with level 10 gear. The companion uses heavy armor and has Aim as the key stat, so the character I bought the companion on would have had to go and buy a bunch of Level 55 mods. Bummer. So out came the wallet.

Fortunately, my monthly subscription provides a small stipend of Cartel Coins which I proceeded to spend 700 of to unlock Treek on all of my characters. This unlock, to me, seems fairly reasonable considering to buy Treek with only cartel coins costs 2100 and that is for just one character.

So I switched characters from my level 55 Sith Marauder to my level 55 Sniper, paid the fee to unlock Treek on all my characters, and then picked up the little walking throw rug.

treek2At this point I wanted to try out the new companion and run her through her paces. For quite some time now I have been underwhelmed with the performance of Kaliyo as a tanking companion. Since Treek can be either a tank companion or a healer and can wear all the same gear that Kaliyo is currently wearing I thought this would be a good test to see if she can do a better job.

treek4So I removed all the gear from Kaliyo and moved it over to Treek (sorry Kaliyo, I know the ship is rather drafty but you are a tough woman). To test out what Treek could do, I decided to run the CZ -198 dailies with her. They are quick and easy, but they typically gave Kaliyo a run for her money.

treek5    treek3

Well I can say that I was pleasantly surprised. Typically Kaliyo would get into a number of scrapes that would kill her and I would have to finish the fight with the mobs attention being squarely on the player. This time through Treek never died, and I even got into a scrape where I aggroed a gold, a silver, and a bunch of trash and I managed to get through with the little self healing that Treek can do in Tank mode.

All in all I am pleased with the effectiveness of this new companion even though Ewoks are not high on my list of desired species for SWTOR. Fair warning: I have not used Treek extensively yet, but from the little that I did see I think she will be my companion of choice for my sniper at least.


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For a Chuckle

In addition to blogs in my feed reader I subscribe to a number of RSS feeds for comics related to gaming or my life in general. I figured I would share them with you and request that you do the same. Let me know if there are any gaming-type comics out there that I should be paying attention to.

1) Ctrl+Alt+Del by Tim Buckley: This is a humorful sight that has a bit of an edge to it. Most often it is safe for work. Tim covers the gamut of consoles to pen and paper gaming and also publishes a blog about these things to accompany his comics.

2) xkcd by Randall Munroe: This comic has a lot of high brow humor and makes you think a bit. I’ll admit I don’t even get all of the comics but there are a ton that have been pinned up at work.

3) PhD Comics by Jorge Cham: If anyone ever went through grad school this comic will definitely make you laugh and cry. Having attended graduate school, this comic reminds me frequently how much I am glad I have graduated.

4) Order of the Stick by Rich Burlew: This comic is new for me and I am so glad I found it. If you have ever played Dungeons & Dragons, this is the comic for you. If you haven’t PnP’ed then you may still like it, but you may not understand some of the humor. If Belkar isn’t your favorite character then I can’t associate with you. LOL

5) PvP by Scott Kurtz: This is one that used to be on my feed but got lost during the transition from google reader. It has been a while since I read it but from what I remember it was pretty good, so I am happy to have added it back on.

6) Penny Arcade by Mike “Gabe” Krahulik and Jerry “Tycho” Holkins: Everyone knows about these guys and I used to read them often, unfortunately they were making reading their comic at work a little dangerous for a while so I removed them from my reader. Definitely funny, but be careful.

So that is my list. Like I mentioned please suggest more, but please recommend ones I can read at work too.


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Alt-ernative Gaming Habits

Okay I admit the punny headline is a little much, but it really does fit.

As I sit preparing for the first raid I have run in a very long time in SWTOR, I am struck by the distinct difference between the way I am playing the two MMO’s that are on my schedule these days. It really is a night and day difference the way I play SWTOR and the way that I play The Secret World.

Take for example the game that consumes the majority of my gaming time, SWTOR. In this game I have a stable of characters that I am constantly running dailies, weeklies, and monthlies for. (Monthlies now…really?) I have completed all of the new solo content and a couple of the new group flashpoints, but that is pretty much it. These multiple characters really keep me busy.

StableAs it is, I am really only doing the gear grind on three of them and my crafting really isn’t too aggressive, but the amount of time investment to get three characters end game ready is staggering.

Contrast SWTOR with my Monday night vice of The Secret World and you have the exact opposite. I have one character. I don’t even have a low level alt. My loading screen gives me one whole choice. I have advanced this character quite a bit and my guild is running elite mode content. I have accomplished this pretty much playing one day a week and it’s a nice change of pace from the hectic pace over in SWTOR.


The great thing about the way I play TSW is that I don’t really run out of things to do. I play a day a week. At this pace, combined with the rate at which Funcom releases content, I can tackle new content for a couple weeks and then run some progression content while I am waiting for the next issue to be released.

I know that if I played TSW as much as I played SWTOR that I would not be able to keep up with it. I love the game in small doses but when I played it more than once a week, I really got sick of it in a hurry. I think of it more as a weekly TV show or something. If you Netflix a show and watch it nonstop you can burn out after a season or two. If you would have watched it as it released normally, you probably would have watched the whole series.

All things being equal, I am in a good place right now. I have a main game that I enjoy playing and I have a weekly diversion that I really like in small bite size servings. Two great games that I play in two completely different ways. Fun times in both!


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Random Encounters: A Multigaming Blog

Hello and welcome to the first post of an all new blog for gamers of all shapes and sizes written by gamers of all shapes and sizes. They say game blogging is dead but we think people just ran out of interesting things to talk about. We hope that by soliciting a wide group of contributors that we can find gaming topics that interest us from a number of different perspectives.

We would like to use this post as an introduction to the editors and a statement of the vision of this blog, so without further ado we present:

The Random Encounters Blog (REB) edited by Pid and Maric.


I have been avidly playing games since I was kicking my family’s butt at Uno back in 1983. I played a couple early versions of console video games before the family got its first Atari 2600. I progressed through many a board game (Monopoly and Risk were my favorites) and the early consoles (Nintendo Entertainment System, SNES, Playstation 1) before getting involved with PC gaming. In high school I was an avid Shadowrun pen-and-paper gamer and later I ran a small campaign with D&D 3rd edition. I have dabbled in a number of MMORPG’s with the most time spent playing Everquest (started after the platinum edition not from launch) and SW:ToR. I dabble in most new launches but unless they captivate me I don’t stick with them. I started a gaming blog of my own in October of 2009 called The Meat Shield before letting it decline.


I’ll follow Pid’s lead on the introductory presentation.

I started video gaming with the Atari 2600.  My computer gaming began with the Texas Intruments 99 4a.  My career in RP gaming began with Richard Garriot’s Exodus: Ultima III on the Commodore 64 and I never looked back.

I own the original D&D red box.  I played a few PnP RPGs in highschool (Top Secret, RuneQuest, Star Frontiers). I began playing MMORPGs when Ultima Online launched but my first real love was Mythic’s Dark Ages of Camelot.  I absolutely loved the lore behind the game.  The challenge of PvE and the best PvP experience to date made for a fantastic experience.  Like Pid I’ve played most every MMORPG since then with the longest stints in Blizzard’s World of Warcraft and currently Bioware’s flawed but still interesting Star Wars: The Old Republic.

I had a paid position writing for IGN/VNBoard’s Age of Conan Vault for about 18 months and learned quite a bit about the business and politcs of gaming journalism.  It was a great experience and so much fun to be part of an MMO launch.  My only other writing experience is on my own oft ignored blog at

Random Encounters vision:

  • A blog of like-minded individuals that love games of all sorts.

  • A blog that explores interesting aspects of games and the gaming world.

  • A blog that incorporates a number of contributors to maximize different perspectives on gaming.

  • A blog to share gaming experiences and show how games can bring people together.

  • A blog to highlight good games regardless of the medium or genre.
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Carbine Stuns Community By Announcing Subscription Based Payment Plan for WildStar, Chaos Ensues

Game developer Carbine did something somewhat surprising in the MMORPG world today. They announced that their upcoming online game WildStar will not launch with a Free to Play (F2P) business model as expected. As a matter of fact, Carbine is actually (gasp!) charging $59.99 for the retail box on top of the sub requirement. What madness is this?!

wildstar 1Honestly I didn’t think anything of the announcement. Being an old school MMO player, I’m used to spending $79 plus for a Collector’s edition box and paying a monthly sub. Heck, I’ve paid lifetimer fees of $199.99 and still had to purchase a retail box.

After watching my Twitter feed blow up this morning it appears that I’m in the minority when it comes to preferring the old fashioned monthly sub. I find it fascinating that the F2P model is now regarded by a large percentage of gamers as the norm, even though the business model is relatively new. The reaction in social media and game industry news sites to Carbine’s business model announcement seems to support this theory. The subscription MMORPG which has been prevalent for decades has quickly been shoved aside since F2P became an option just a few of years ago. It is quickly becoming apparent that a return to subscription based business models may not be viable, or at least not easily sold to today’s gamer.

After a plethora of games either launched F2P or went F2P shortly after launch (SWTOR, The Secret World, Tera) the mantra in the gaming press and forums is that the FTP model is the only path to survivability for the genre. But companies like Carbine, Paizo (Pathfinder Online) and Mark Jacob’s City State Entertainment (Camelot Unchained) seem to disagree. Like Carbine, both Paizo and CSE have stated plans to launch subscription based games. In a recent interview Mark Jacobs actually alluded to a coming ‘Free to Play Apocalypse’ in 3 to 5 years time stating:

free-to-play is just another model, and just like every other model in the industry, it will hold its special little place for a while but then there will be consequences. Those consequences in a few years will be a bit of an apocalypse.

You’re going to see a lot of developers shutting down, and you’re going to see a lot of publishers going, oh yeah maybe spending $20 million on a free-to-play game wasn’t the best idea ever. That’s part of the reason, but the other reason is equally as important, that if you go free-to-play, you really have to compete with every other free-to-play game out there.”

Whether or not Jacob’s prophecy comes true remains to be seen, but it’s an opinion not many people have dared to say openly. While Turbine’s Lord of the Rings Online is often used as the poster child for F2P success, as far as I can tell it’s been years since we’ve seen a celebratory press release about their numbers. (This is not a slight on LOTRO, I love the game).

Secondly, all F2P models are not created equally. Star Wars: The Old Republic’s F2P model is so bad it almost forces you to sub just to get rid of the headaches that it brings. While The Secret World and Trion’s RIFT are really very generous and set the bar as far as I’m concerned for future F2P models.

Lastly, I’m not sure I believe F2P is always the best option, or should always be an option. I’ve personally watched a few roleplaying communities detrimentally impacted by F2P players who have no investment in the game and no respect for the existing community.

Personally I think the most ideal model would offer both subscription and F2P servers. It’s not that I do not want to play with F2P customers. I’ve been a F2P customer. I have friends who are F2P customers. But I really don’t like the implementation of F2P money grabs that are necessary to utilize to enjoy the game. For me Cartel Coins and cash shops are another distraction which take me out of the game. They break the illusion of the world I’m in and make gaming for me a little less enjoyable. That may be my biggest issue with the F2P models we have currently. I guess if SOE implemented a cash shop in EverQuestNext which felt no different than dealing with an in game vendor I’d be all for it. However, current models often bombard the player with TV-like sales ads which I find irritating and cheapen the experience. When I play an MMORPG I want to be lost in the world. I do not want to be ping ponged back and forth into the real world to unlock content or buy a new sword.

So I’m fine with Carbine’s decision. I’m happy to support developers I believe in. I have no doubts that at some point WildStar will offer a F2P option. Just keep schmaltzy cash shops out of my face, and I’ll just keep my sub thank you very much!

-Maric aka PaganRites

Source for Mark Jacob’s quote:

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