The Chromebook ‘All In One’ project: Pixel pros and cons wrap-up

Well, I sent my loaner Chromebook Pixel back to Google today. I did it with a heavy heart, simply because the device is such a pleasure to look at. The Pixel is named for its amazing screen, a 12.85 “, 2560 x 1700, 239 PPI, 400 nit brightness screen with 4.3 million pixels. It’s also a touchscreen, and proves very responsive. I thought today would be a perfect day to write a wrap-up of my weeks with the device and to compare it to the much cheaper (yet still amazing) Samsung Chromebook.

Before I get started, be sure to follow my All-In-One tags both on this site and on Massively.com. That tag sums up all of my experiences with the high and low end of the Chromebook spectrum. This site covers the techier side of things and Massively.com covers gaming — MMO gaming — on the Chromebook. Yes, I said gaming. There are a ton of wonderful browser-based games out there. So much so that I dedicate an entire column to them.

You have those bookmarked? Great. I’m going to go down the list of the good and bad of the Pixel and will also compare it to the Samsung Chromebook. For the record, I bought my Samsung Chromebook for 249$ US and the Pixel that was on loan to me was the 4G LTE model that goes for 1449.00$ US. I’ve compared these two before so some of this might be a repeat for you, but I knew I needed to write this up after spending more time with both.

Display

Good golly, the Pixel’s screen is wonderful. So bright, so touchable, so… just nice. It really did spoil me to the point that I would open other devices and go “Ugh.. so DARK.” I imagine that the screen accounts for much of the cost of this device because it packs in so many pixels and responds so nicely to touch. It’s a glossy screen, however, and compared to the matte finish of the Samsung, I prefer the matte look and feel. However, there is no comparison between the Samsung’s screen and the Pixel’s. I’ll probably say this several times, but the Samsung is a wonderful device. The Pixel has just taken that device and ramped it waaaaay up.

The Pixel’s display is also squarish, having a 3:2 resolution. That might sound odd, but remember that the idea behind a Chromebook is “living on the web.” The boxier shape shows you to see more of that web in striking color and clarity. The Samsung has a typical 1366 x 768 resolution on a 11.6 ” display. Still not bad, but no Pixel.

Keyboard

The keyboard on both devices is awesome. I really didn’t feel much of a difference between the two devices, but that speaks more to the quality of the Samsung. Where the real difference comes in is in the quality of the touchpad. The Samsung’s is nice for the price, but the glass touchpad of the Pixel is smooth as silk. It’s large, very responsive and does not pick up dirt or fingerprints like you might think. That trackpad is another part of the Pixel where you can see where your money went. The Pixel’s keyboard is backlit, something I used way more than I thought I would. I don’t spent my time in the dark, but sitting on the couch while watching TV is not exactly a great situation for typing on a notebook, but the backlit keyboard made it easy.

Touchscreen

There is no touchscreen on the Samsung, so I wasn’t sure how much I would use it on the Pixel. I have tablets and phones in this house and so my life is spent interacting with my devices through touch, but how much would I need to pinch and zoom on the web? A lot, actually. I found myself reaching to touch the screen as part as my normal web surfing or viewing videos. Although I would like to see some buttons increase in size, the Pixel felt almost magical in the way it knew which link I was going for or which button I wanted to press. (Must be a Chrome thing.) I used the touchscreen during gaming a ton, which could be expected. It really depends on the game and the website, but touch is surprisingly fun and useful. My only complaint is that the Pixel’s screen sort of bounced a bit as I touched it, so gaming or touching several times in a row was sometimes a bit… squishy. I’m not sure how to remedy the spring situation, but it would be nice to see a more solid screen when touching.

Connectivity

The Samsung does come with a 3G option but mine does not have it. I use a 3G connected Nexus 7 tablet constantly for directions or for on-the-road posting. I wasn’t sure how the 4G LTE option on the Pixel would work but when I could connect it absolutely flew through pages, videos and games. Sometimes I had to double-check to make sure I wasn’t on someone’s wifi because the connection felt as solid as my home network. (I have a 150/65 mbps Fios network.) In an example, I drove to Oklahoma to visit some friends overnight. The Nexus 7 tablet stayed connected constantly but I could not connect with the Pixel until I found my way into a pretty major town. Needless to say, I was rarely connected on the Pixel until I got into Norman, Oklahoma, a major city.

Overall design

The Pixel is a beautiful machine, for sure. It’s heavier than the Samsung but remains light. There are no visible screws and no vents or fan outlets, so heat does become a bit of an issue. The device becomes downright hot (but not dangerously) when playing a lot of videos or games. I asked Google about this and was told that “the device was designed with heat sinks while balancing seamless exterior aesthetics.” It makes sense, really. The lack of joints and fan vents means that the actual aluminum body of the device helps to push off heat, acting as a heat sink. It’s odd but I can see what they were trying to do. At the same time, some vents or other heat saps might not have been that hideous to look at.

In all honesty, the Pixel is just a beefed-up Samsung. You get the exact same experience, essentially, between both devices. So, why get a Pixel? Well, that’s like asking why someone buys a sports car when they can drive a basic Honda. There is a lot to be said for the amazing screen, better processor (there’s a core i5 in the Pixel, as well as more RAM,) touchscreen and backlit keyboard. So, if you have the money and need the extra-beautiful web experience, go for the Pixel. You will get what you paid for: superior build quality and an amazing interface with the web.

The Samsung is still my favorite, however. It’s cheap enough to grab several for the whole family. It’s perfect for a college student (as long as they understand what a Chromebook is for) and is great for a Grandmother or father. I fantasize that Google will make the Samsung its flagship device and maybe beef its stats. Maybe a backlit keyboard, a slightly nicer screen or maybe a better processor? After using my Nexus 7 on the road, as well as the Pixel, I am sure that I want a 3G Samsung.

The Pixel is an amazing Chromebook, for sure. But it’s a luxury Chromebook. It’s a sports car. The whole experience has taught me what a wonderful, versatile device the Samsung model is, ironically, but don’t let that convince you to avoid the Pixel. It’s just a beautiful machine and makes the web even better.

 

Beau

 

The Chromebook ‘All-In-One’ project pt. 2: The Pixel versus the Samsung

Pixel_front_whiteI’ve been loaned a Chromebook Pixel for the next several weeks, (from Google) so I am going to be giving it the same treatment I did with the Samsung model. For a month I used the Samsung almost exclusively (or at least for a great deal of work) and reported on what I found. If you didn’t know, I cover games for a living so I had to find browser-based MMORPGs and other games that worked on the smaller device that is essentially a non-touchscreen tablet with a keyboard. In the end, I found the Samsung model to be a joy to work with and still use it daily. I cannot recommend it enough. Once you get one, you will see why Google has advertised it so heavily.

But, what about the Chromebook Pixel? This newer device is definitely a concept vehicle, but it is also definitely worth the price of 1200 – 1500 US dollars. I only say that IF you live in the Google environment as it is now, and if you need a machine that does what a Chromebook does (as well as what it does not do.) I’m not going to try and go over everything that the ‘Books are good for, and instead I will be comparing the cheaper Samsung model ($249) with the much more expensive Pixel.

First of all, the Pixel is the superior machine. No one will argue that. Its screen is amazing (why they called it the Pixel) and offers resolutions and pixel density that you will not find anywhere else. So far, that is. I’m fully aware that one day we will look back on its stats and giggle, but for now it’s an amazing piece of machinery. Not only does it offer an amazing screen with 4.3 million pixels at 2560 x 1700 on a 12.85″ screen, making the sight of a pixel impossible, but it’s fully touchable and works wonderfully. It’s powered by a core i5 processor and 4 gigs of RAM, so everything runs smoothly.

It offers a few different slots, from two USB 2 slots, a SIM card slot and — oddly enough — a mini display port. On the Samsung model I get a full HDMI slot that easily plugs into my big screen TV and allows for desktop sharing. I’m guessing that the idea is that users of the Pixel will love the display so much that they will not need to plug into a larger display as much, but I beg to differ. One of the best abilities of the Chromebook series — or really any light laptop — is to plug into a large display to watch NetFlix or to share photos or videos for the whole family during the holidays.

So, while the Pixel is definitely the better device and I would be happy to have one, the Samsung is the better deal pound for pound. For $249 you get a very light, portable and capable multimedia internet machine with a pretty good screen and decent speakers. I am rarely away from WiFi, but there is a 3G model available for $329. My experience with the 7″ Google Nexus 3G/H tablet has convinced me that the speeds are perfectly suited to doing stuff while on the road. We use the Nexus tablet all the time, so I can only imagine how much I would us a Chromebook with the same option.

So, while the Samsung is easily the best little web machine you can get, the Pixel is a pleasure to use. It’s just a beautiful screen and if you are a Google fan (as I am) then you will find everything you need in the device. The price is hefty, but I imagine that you are paying for the incredible screen more than anything.

I’d like to warn that the Pixel does get very hot, quite often. There is a fan but it’s not as loud as other reviewers would make it out to be, but the fact that it sits flat and has no visible vents means that the sucker will start to burn up quickly. It’s not uncomfortable but it’s definitely not something you’d expect from a device that costs between 1200 – 1500 dollars.

The touchscreen is not enabled by default as well, which is odd. I had to go the settings and enable it. When do you use a touchscreen? I can only speak for myself, but I use the pinch and zoom to quickly increase the size of text or to look at a picture or detail. As you zoom in you’ll see just how much the Pixel rules in the reading department. I live on websites, so the pinch and zoom works well. Otherwise, I use the touch when playing games and to push big, obvious buttons. It’s hard to explain but you’ll find yourself using the touchscreen more on certain sites than on others. The screen does wobble a bit when you touch, so you won’t be pounding on it by any means.

I’m going to do some more comparing but the lighter, cheaper and in many ways comparable Samsung Chromebook is the better device. Now, I won’t lie to you and say that I would pick a free Samsung over a free Pixel, but if we’re talking value, the Samsung is the best. The Pixel is a pleasure to use and surf on, and to do many of the things like gaming and watching videos on, but the excess heat and price point make it only for those who want an incredible build and screen.

I’m a bit torn, both devices are wonderful. Be warned that I am a Google fan boy and use Google products like crazy. I live within the Google universe and use all of their products every single day. The Pixel makes that experience amazing if not for the heat.

Want to buy an extra laptop or three for your household, even for those power users? Get a few Samsungs.

Want a laptop with a beautiful quality build and a screen that will make it an immense pleasure to work with, get the Pixel.

Then again, I need a few more weeks with this.

Be sure to follow my Massively.com blogs to check out how gaming works on the device. See you soon!

Beau

The most incredibly annoying type of comment

Look, I get my share of comments. A lot of them. Hundreds and hundreds. If you write a decent amount, you probably do as well. Of all the type of comments, there is one that is really the most annoying. No I’m not talking about troll comments… those are easy to see and sometimes quite funny. They’re also easy to take care of. They can be deleted within seconds and if they’re bad enough the commenter can be banned forever. (For the record, I do not have the ability to ban anyone on the sites I work for, only here.)

There are comments that point out when I use the wrong words, or comments that point out that “Technically, it’s a solid state drive, NOT a hard drive.” While annoying, those comments are actually doing me a favor.

No, the worst comment of all is easy to illustrate. I’ll use one of my latest articles to show you. If you read my MMObility: The Chromebook ‘All in One’ Project: Introduction piece, then you’ll see this comment. Now, for the record, I don’t think the guy is trying to be a troll or anything. That would be easy. And, if you look at how many views on the video I have so far you’ll see just how few people digest ALL of the column. (There are hundreds of video views at the time of this writing, but thousands and thousands of reads. I even ask people to view the video to prevent comments like the one I am talking about.)

Here’s the comment:

“Hi Beau,

I purchased the Samsung 3 series Chromebook for price as well as the possibilities of productivity and gaming. It was a choice between this and the nexus 10. The question I have is regarding your current topic. Can you list the type of games (including MMOs) that is compatible with Samsung 3 series. the chrome app store have games but it is not compatible with this Chromebook. It is either it requires Unity’s 3d player or extensions or something related.

KL”

Let me break it down really fast. The Samsung series 3 is the Chromebook I am talking about. Check. The “possibilities of productivity and gaming” is pretty much THE topic of my series which will run over the course of an entire MONTH. CHECK. The “current topic” he/she is asking about? GAMING AND PRODUCTIVITY ON THE CHROMEBOOK SERIES 3. CHECK.

Can I list THE TYPE OF GAMES that is compatible with THE CHROMEBOOK WE HAVE BOTH AGREED ON THAT WOULD MAKE A GOOD TOPIC BECAUSE I AM TALKING ABOUT IT RIGHT NOW IN THIS VERY COLUMN?

Now at  this point I think this is either some smart spam or a troll. I hope so because my brain could wrap around it easier. But it still points to the worst kind of comment: the one coming from the person who literally did not read a single sentence of your writing. They read the title, got excited and posted a comment.

I’ve had several people ask me to list games for them. I get an email or two a month from someone asking me to recommend a game for them. I get comments like this one ALL THE TIME. Why does it bother me? It bothers me because it’s like going up to a guitar player who JUST played a song in front of your face and going “Do you play music?” It doesn’t hurt my feelings, but it wastes my time. I’m not trying to sound important or stuck-up, but over the course of a month any writer like me can receive literally hundreds of comments. I suffer from migraines, but even then I literally do not have time to read all of those comments. Also, it’s a bit insulting when my work is literally skipped over.

Look, I know my writing might be boring, and my videos might not be as exciting as watching Simon’s Cat. But, I’ve done this long enough to know to cover my ass mostly. When I write I give myself coverage. For example, I might say “I loved this game, but I only played it for 6 hours…” or something. That stops the dorks who accuse me of lying because I didn’t get to the “end game.” Or I might say “The community was nice, but I only played with a guild for a week.” The video in my Chromebook columns will act as this coverage. I cannot just hand out game lists… that’s stupid and boring, and I have an entire month to cover the device.

For all that is holy, please READ or use SEARCH before making a comment. Every comment read means time away from writing, and some of us can barely stare at the screen for that long.

Beau

 

Keep your hipster out of my indie (MMO)

In one of my recent article’s comments section, I received a normal variety of comments. In this particular article I got a (laughable) much lower number of comments when compared to most of my other articles, but plenty of people visited. It’s possible that Illarion, the game I covered for this particular post, was just uncommentable. (Yay! New word!)

More likely is the fact that I did not get much from the game, something I explained and have talked about before, and this effected (affected?) the reader’s want for commentin’. This happened with this particular game because I have had to abandon my normal practice of picking out MMOs at random for two reasons:

1) I’ve covered so many that I am to the point that I might be grabbing a game that does not work, literally

2) My newbie first impressions already do not cover much of the games I find, but in some titles I will literally barely get past a tutorial in a week/10 hours of play. So, I start playing the game — if I can — the week before.

— but in this case (Illarion) I literally started playing the game the same week. If I would have buffered it, I would have saved myself an article.

Basically, I buffer and overlap my games now. I have to. Sure, I can name 200 titles I have never covered, but of those 50 percent would be (I know MMOs, trust me) the same, grindy crap I’ve talked about before and much of the rest would be in some unplayable state. So, the first comment was off because it showed that not only did the reader NOT read my article, but was completely unfamiliar with the post series:

You know, you sure have a way of making a really simple short story long and drawn out. This whole article could be summed up in one paragraph and the video could of been a minute long but you some how make it 31 minutes long.

He was basically telling me that, somehow, I should have written 20 words and expected to have my editors go “That’s cool, Beau.” If anything, he’s sort of off-hand complimenting me for my story-telling abilities. More likely is he just wanted to insult me. Don’r worry, it never works. I critique myself harder than any comment can, and the only real stinging comment is one that makes no sense. Which brings me to the next comment…

Beau is his number one fan; it would be cruel and unusual punishment, (in his mind),  for the rest of us plebs, if we weren’t regaled with his indie hipster awesomeness.

Ta-DAH! Now, I only bring this up because I am officially lost when it comes to what a hipster is. We’ve talked about it in gaming and general conversation a lot. I thought it meant, essentially, someone who chose a certain fashion: knit caps in Summer, those super-tight jeans, someone who uses Instagram and who hates everything. If this is the case, then why have I heard the word “hipster” being used to describe myself lately?

Look, seriously — this is a scientific pursuit. I am no more hurt when someone calls me a hipster than when someone says I have a second nose growing off of my back — it’s just not reality. I think.

I do not own a single pair of tight jeans, do not use Instagram (the one photo I have that looks like I used it was a legitimate mistake with the lighting. Yes, I’m explaining this.) I do own a knit cap but wear it when it’s, you know, cold and….

…wait a minute….I DO HATE EVERYTHING.

OK, I don’t, actually but let’s set the record straight here.

First, I know it might have to do with my big, black glasses. Don’t hipsters wear big, black glasses? The difference? Mine are the result of the fact that I have terrible, terrible, vision. Cheap frames are (ask the military) big and black. If I get big and black frames, they can hold my massively thick lenses…the lenses are the true cost with glasses. With my poor vision, a pair can cost several hundred dollars if I went fancy. So, that can’t be it.

It must be my apparent hate for “AAA” gaming. That’s gotta’ be it. I hate “AAA” games. That’s hipster, to hate corporate…something something. (Yet, I work for AOL.)

Of course, this is so far from the truth it is laughable, but — to be fair — you would have to have known me before my job description read “covers indie, free-to-play and browser MMOs” to know that most of my time online so far was spent playing and later covering “AAA,” “mainstream” MMOs. Hell, I STILL cover them.

People take their games seriously. They do. They see my dislike of RIFT (I never said I hated it, and admitted to what it did correctly in my opinion) or laughter at a 200 million dollar game like SW:TOR coming out as blandly as it did and they think that I am trying to cover indie games because, you know, I’m a hipster and AAA games aren’t as cool because everyone likes them and I only cover games that no one likes. I guess? Again I reference the games I cover and the thousands — or millions — of other fans of those games.

I’m only curious about this because I wonder if others think “he uses the word indie because he thinks it’s cool.”? Do people really think that games are covered by people who hate the games they cover? I know that there is a large number of dipshits who think I get paid directly from game companies (yes, even the companies I hate on) but why would I use the word INDIE over and over? Why? Why DO I cover indie games?

Because I am a gamer, and they are games. And, reason number one: find me another person who covers indie MMOs (a tiny group within a group) as much as I do and I will buy you a burger and fries. It’s just not that common. That’s why indies stay indies, and I simply enjoy giving them a chance at some coverage. Ask your favorite indie MMO dev about coverage and how much they get, much less on a major site. Hell, even sites like indiegames.com hardly cover indie MMOs!

Remember, it’s in my job title to cover indie titles. It has been for quite a while now. Yes, hanging out with indie MMOs does rub off on me like hanging out with a certain styled group might run their style off on me a bit, but I am almost 40 years old, I think I can write about what I like simply because the subject matter thrills me.

I am — and this is the god’s honest truth — more thrilled when I find some indie gem than when yet another “AAA” game comes out and promises to change all of MMOdom. Big, bloated games that require big, bloated machines to run just do not pull my chain anymore. I’m done, it’s over.

Of course I can enjoy big-budget entertainment and have favorite movies, bands and games that are definitely “AAA.”

The point is that this is what turns me on: indie. Browser. Tiny. A bit busted. Rough.

I can’t explain it, but I love to cover those games.

Of course I know that trolls just be trollin’…but I am now lost when it comes to what “hipster” means and am a bit sad that “hipster” is now, in the opinions of some people, the same as “indie.” That’s so….odd. Just another way that indie games might be overlooked. Yes, I’m serious.

Hipster is bad. Indie is good. Right? I thought that supporting cool, new ideas and independent games, music, art and whatever else you got was a good thing. It’s not cool — it just is what some people like to do. And, contrary to seemingly popular gamer belief, you can have “AAA” games on your PC alongside indie darlings. It is possible, I promise. How odd that gamers see many of their choices as a political statement, still. How incredibly oddball. (Of course, many of those “gamers” should actually be called “____ Online fan”, not a fan of multiple games.)

So, anyway, don’t call me a hipster. It’s just so funny because the only thing that gets me close to the definition of a hipster is the fact that I do hate so much in gaming. It’s a very bland, stupid landscape of shit a lot of the time. A LOT of the time. (see: E3.) But I wouldn’t be so immersed in the world of gaming if I hated more than I loved. That’s just common sense. And I talk about indies because, well, it’s my job.

Anyway, I couldn’t sleep. I need to ask one of those kids I follow who do nothing but post memes all day what a hipster is supposed to be. Surely they know.

Beau

Could Windows 8 really make that much of a difference?

I’ve been playing with the Windows 8 preview for a while now. I mainly got it for my little Inspiron Duo netbook, which is basically a full netbook with a flip-around screen. Not only did it speed the device up, but it made it fun as Hell. When it originally came to me it ran like molasses, mainly because they fit an entire pro installation onto a netbook with 2 gigs of RAM. It was cool, but felt like a tiny, slow PC. That wasn’t fun.

Windows 8 is meant for a touch device. Sure, it works great on a desktop or non-touch device, but I think it’s obvious that Microsoft is making a real attempt at the tablet market. A REAL attempt.

What I love about this is that tablets are easy to carry, growing more powerful and making it possible for people who could not afford anything near a 600 dollar notebook to get a 200 tablet that covers all the bases, easily.

I am in a cutting phase. I am simplifying almost every aspect of my life, albeit slowly. I am sick of bloated, heavy machines. If I ran the military I would cut it in half and use a shit ton of robots. Simple. Fast. Cutting. Cheaper.

My gaming is even getting simplified, so I am looking for games that will run on weaker devices. I want to drive tech backwards, or at least keep it around the level it is at now. Sure, we could use faster internet, but how much faster can we get an email? Windows 8 is a great attempt to make things faster and simpler. I think many PC fans hate it first because it is new, and second because it is so simple. If they can release it with more connectivity across all types of accounts (like connecting all emails together and social media accounts) I will buy it asap.

I think it will be a game changer, but mainly because the market is slowly moving to portable, personal and all-in-one devices. That’s fine to me. I want to be able to pick up and go anywhere with one simple device to do my work, and one credit card to pay my way. No paper. No plastic bags. No bullshit.

Windows 8 appears to be cutting out a lot of the bullshit. I don’t trust Microsoft at all, though, so I won’t be surprised if they find a way to slow it down, bloat it up and send it on its way on tablets that are packed with preinstalled software. Shit…let me pick the programs.

I am using it on this laptop and on my touchscreen netbook. Windows 8 is a pleasure to play with and flows well. Will it stay that way once it is released? I don’t know. Will it make that much of a difference? It’s definitely a step closer.

 

Beau

 

Roleplaying the MMORPG columnist

When people ask me what I do for a living, I beam and tell them “I write about games.” It usually takes a bit of explaining, but to be honest it feels good to tell someone that I get to stay at home and play games all day. Of course that’s not all there is to it, and I’m not exactly a millionaire because of it…but the point is that I even feel as though I am bragging about it much of the time. Of course, the person on the other end of the conversation probably does not give a poo about what I do for a living, but I enjoy it enough that it feels like it should be bragged about or said with pride. I mean, it’s not as though I need their approval or want to act like some sort of bigshot (mainly because me or the job are both nothing like that) but I just enjoy telling people about why I like the job and the industry.

Continue reading “Roleplaying the MMORPG columnist”

Free for All: Going on a hot date with Lucent Heart

We were lucky enough to hang out with Product Manager Mark from Lucent Heart recently. He showed me some of the social systems and took me through a quick trip in a dungeon.

Lucent Heart is a neat game with a lot of potential, and a lot of systems to explore!

Going on a hot date with Lucent Heart

First of all, I need to compliment the team on the game’s art style. While it might look like any other Anime-inspired MMO to the untrained eye (I recently graduated to a “trained eye”), the character models are some of my favorites. They feel chunky and tough, but they remain flexible. As you can see in the video, the animations can be wonderful. I’m a sucker for neat animations, the type lovingly crafted by a very dedicated animator, and Lucent Heart is filled with them.
After a while, it starts to look like you are playing within an animated movie. I think our gamer eyes have really started to take for granted the amazing graphics that come bundled with these free bits of entertainment, so I try to stop and notice when I can. I’ve said it before, but my character in Lucent Heart would make an amazing hobbit in Lord of the Rings Online.

Mark wanted to show me the Cupid system, a cool social tool that allows players to meet each other by filling out a small yet thorough set of questions. Yes, some of the players do use it as a virtual dating service, but in my experience, gamers who want that sort of connection will find it any way they can. The Cupid system makes meeting other players fun but also gives real combat (and other) benefits to the participants. For example, a couple that has reached a certain level together can earn particular animations that, once used, give a combat buff to both players.

This means that Billy can snuggle with his virtual significant other and be more combat-ready afterwards. The relationship animations are kept pretty much PG and are quite beautiful to watch. The slow dance animation in particular is lovely. It’s good to note that the team is handcrafting same-sex animations for players who want them.

I’ve seen match-making systems in games before, but they were generally centered around grouping for combat. Lucent Heart is the first one that seems to combine all of the possible uses of a social system into one. There are benefits for all parties involved, and the system would be perfect for roleplay. No, not that kind.

As I played along with my character and watched the other players bound around, chat, and generally have a good time in the middle of the city I was in, I was taken back to when I first started playing MMOs, around ’99. We were fascinated with the fact that you could chat with people from all over the world, and so we did, often for hours at a time while hanging out under the Atlas statue in City of Heroes or in front of the bank in Ultima Online.

Seeing those players in Lucent Heart made me envious of someone who is growing up or first discovering MMO gaming in these amazing times. Yes, one day we will surely laugh at the current technology, just like we laugh at computers that were once the size of entire rooms. Until then, though, games like Lucent Heart are embracing the social aspect of MMOs more than most, and I can truly appreciate that.

Combat is not something that is just tossed into the game, however. A player gains levels and abilities in fairly standard ways, but dungeon-crawling is a sort of customizable experience. A player can obtain differently colored gems that fit into one of three different slots at what looks like a dungeon-o-matic inside the town.

Once those gems are placed, an imposing door rises from the ground, beckoning players inside. Depending on which gems were used, the monsters inside can be from dozens of varieties. Of course, once Mark and I went inside, even all of his god-like GM powers could not save me from my very own my Leroy Jenkins moment. I think I died four times before we decided to call it a day.

Even after meeting with an official representative from Gamania and having the game explained to me some more, I am aware that I am still missing a lot. Luckily the game is free, so it resides on my hard drive for me to explore. I have found that combat is, as Mark explains in the video, pretty tough if you just run into it. Do not trust the auto-walking feature; it is handy, but if you go AFK while running to a destination, you just might find a dead body when you come back.

Keep an eye out for tons of new content. As I mentioned above, the Western version of the game is around two years behind the Japanese version. This means that our new content is the older, refined content of the Japanese playerbase. When it makes its way here, it will have already been adjusted and tweaked. I can’t wait.

Now, if you don’t mind, I have not yet found a partner in-game, and that bothers me. I refuse to adjust my parameters and will still include my description as a “37-year-old happily married man” in the form. I can only imagine the horror as some random player is unlucky enough to pull my card. Perhaps I am doomed to be alone?

In the meantime, you can check out the official site for Lucent Heart and like the game on Facebook right here. Thanks again to Mark and the Gamania team for taking the time out to explain Lucent Heart to me!

Each week, Free for All brings you ideas, news, and reviews from the world of free-to-play, indie, and import games — a world that is often overlooked by gamers. Leave it to Beau Hindman to talk about the games you didn’t know you wanted! Have an idea for a subject or a killer new game that no one has heard of? Send it to beau@massively.com!

Giving impressions in a review, not details

Before I even begin with this blog post, I want to clarify the reason I do not give “reviews” over at Massively.com. First of all, it should be understood (it is pointed out in my signature in my columns) that I do not spend enough time with a game to give it a “proper” review. Pretend that I am given the task of writing about a movie, but spend only 30 minutes with it. Second, it shouldn’t matter what I call it. Essentially it is your job, as the reader, to make up your own mind. I have to be honest and say that I cringe every time someone asks me to give them a recommendation for a game, especially since I cover free-to-play titles — titles that can be tried and played for free until anyone can find their favorite. I do understand that people feel I might be able to save them some time, so they ask “What is a good sci-fi game?” but even then it is important to note that I have no clue as to what you consider “good.”

This is why I try to express emotion in any of my writings, and not detail.

Let me explain it to you by giving you two examples of my favorite writers, and show how they use impression to pass along their message, without spoiling too much. First I want to point to Billy Collins, one of my favorite poets. He was appointed poet laureate from 2001-2003, and you can see why. In my opinion, his stuff is near perfect. One of my favorite poems of his, “Osso Buco” is absolutely brilliant, but subtle. Here is my favorite set of lines from the poem:

But tonight, the lion of contentment

has placed a warm heavy paw on my chest,

and I can only close my eyes and listen

to the drums of woe throbbing in the distance

and the sound of my wife’s laughter

on the telephone in the next room,

Continue reading “Giving impressions in a review, not details”