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Nightmare Mode Is Relaunching

Preface: Nightmare Mode is officially relaunching sometime on Friday night (at which point we will go down for about 24 hours). What follows is the context as well as a detailing of the many upcoming changes that you can expect to see in the near future.

Ah, welcome. It’s been slightly over a year since Nightmare Mode’s inception, and, in that time, we’ve gone through a lot of change. Writers have come and gone, we’ve changed templates more times than I care to count and, my level of involvement and dedication has varied.

Fast forward to about a month ago. Remember this post? Also, this one? Posts thinking about my future, essentially. April and May have been months of much personal turmoil, as I gear up for life beyond college and start thinking about my career. In ‘Resolve’ I mentioned “I would be happiest (and poorest, most likely) writing about games.” In ‘Final Year Thesis’ I mentioned my plans for a paper revolving my senior project at Hampshire College. My old one, anyway.

The more I thought about what I wanted to do with my life, the more I started to panic about how inadequate my skills would be in facilitating that career. Hampshire College does not offer either of the things I am studying–marketing and video game design. Most of my studies have been self-directed and, while that’s taught me a good deal that could not be captured in a classroom…it has piqued a degree of uncertainty in myself. At one point I even considered–seriously considered–transferring schools. At the end of my third year of college, I was considering starting over someplace else, someplace that actually offered what I was interested in studying.

I tried pitching this idea to the people around me, and was met with a lot of resistance. Starting over, with just one year left? Really? I suppose that is the level of insecure I had become; I did not believe that just finishing my degree would be worth it if I wasn’t going to attain concrete skills out of it. I wasn’t sure what to do. The thought of writing a ‘useless’ paper for my final year was deeply troubling, and yet, it was the only thing I realistically could do.

Or so I thought. Talking to people–writers on this site and mentors from First Graduate, my scholarship program–about the issue, one thing kept coming back up. The site. THIS site. I could do something with it. I SHOULD do something with it; devise my final year project around it. Fix it up, make it bigger, better…make it profitable, or at least self-sustaining. Y’know–make it a ‘real’ site? Even if I could not fulfill a business plan to specification in a year’s time, I will have still gained many skills that would be readily applicable to the real world. So that’s the plan, it seems like. Tackling the site seriously. Getting us out there. All that cool jazz.

Now, there are a number of changes that will be up and coming over the next year. The most evident one will have been our relaunch, here. Prior to this, we had been attached to WordPress. This severely limited our options both in terms of template (if my dissatisfaction with the templates wasn’t clear enough with our 5 or 6 changes in the past year), but also in terms of possible sponsorships, partnerships, what have you; things that can only occur if we detached ourselves from WordPress. And, the most ridiculous thing of all: sticking to wordpress meant having to pay to change basic HTML or CSS. That’s…just not happening. Thus the first move seems obvious: detaching from WordPress, going onto self-hosting. We’ve wanted to do this for a long time, but it wasn’t until I actively decided to take the site seriously this April that we actually started setting this in motion. In that regards, many thanks to Grant, Patrick and Greg for lending their hand in re-launching the site.

Aside from this, you may have noticed a few other changes, as well. We have a full-fledged logo now. Fancy, ennit? We’ll have to get business cards next, I imagine. Hell, we have a Favicon now. That shows we’re serious, right? You may have also noticed a plethora of new names. Yes, we’ve grown quite a bit now. You should read our About page to see the full list of people currently on board now. That list is by no means final. I’ve still got about a dozen more applicants to sort through (we have applicants now! Wow!), so do not be surprised if you see even more new names. Hopefully our new writers stick around for a while! Relatedly, you may have noticed a higher level of production unlike anything we’ve done before. As a result, our readership has absolutely exploded in the last month. It’s…frightening but exciting at the same time. Thus I can’t give enough thanks to my writers and the level of dedication they are putting onto the site. They have to put up with very high demands and they workshop their writing as if this was a part-time job. I hope it shows.

I just have to reiterate how amazing the people I’m working with are. Really, you guys are great, and I don’t know why you put up with me. ❤

Lastly, there are a bevy of partnerships, collaborations and affiliations that will be upcoming. We’re republishing material from a few friends and sites, with the intent of widening the subjects we cover. I am happy to announce, for example, our partnership with the soon-to-be-launched Nerd Vice; helmed by the ferocious Viragunn. Aside from crossposting material and promotions, Nerd Vice shall be teaming up with Nightmare Mode to providing you with a great podcasting show. More details on that later this week, I imagine. The other partnership (which you may have already noted!) aiming to bring the more philosophical approach to video game criticism is The Game Saver. There are talks of other partnerships and collaborations with other friends of the site, hopefully great things will come of it. We’ll see!

We’re also in talks with developers and the like to bring you more great material–you may have noted this by virtue of the increase of interviews we have conducted. There are other changes, I’m sure, that either I’m forgetting right now, or simply haven’t planned just yet.

So, yeah. That’s where we stand right now: in a vortex of exciting change. Here’s to another year of the new, soon-to-be improved Nightmare Mode!

Resolve

It’s been months since I’ve written anything here–honestly, I’ve been a terrible editor lately. I admit it. I’ve been almost ashamed to look at the site (though I have been!); it feels like I’m letting my baby die. I couldn’t look it in the eye.

Cue email reminding me to renew my hosting and domain for the site. I couldn’t just keep pretending the site didn’t exist, I had to take responsibility for it and make a decision. As you may have noted, the site is…still here. Witchcraft, truly.

The past year has seen the site grow more than I expected it to. Honestly, I’m surprised that we get the number of hits we do on a daily basis. That’s what makes the idea of abandoning it all the more heartbreaking. I can’t do that. You’re still reading, and that counts for something. And so the upcoming year I plan to ramp Nightmare Mode’s production/output to the nth degree. This is a public promise, so it’ll be particularly humiliating if I  fail to keep it. I’m convinced we can go places with the site given the proper care and treatment, though.

More importantly…well, some context. The last however months that I’ve been gone, a number of things have happened. I haven’t been writing about games for two primary reasons: I’ve been playing games (this is a luxury, believe it or not, ) and I’ve been…making games. I’ve had my hand at three different projects, and my roles have ranged from UI, to designer, to producer and now, marketer. I’ve learned many a thing during these projects and their associated crises, the chief thing being that I really, really don’t want to design games. I thought I did, but it’s become clear to me that I’m much better at managing projects (*laughs nervously at the current state of the site*) or marketing than I am at the development side of things. I’m still not convinced, however, that I want to be involved with making games.

Will I still pursue it? Naturally: game development and marketing is what I’m studying, and I’m not about to throw that away. I do, however, think that I would be happiest (and poorest, most likely) writing about games. Hell right now my senior thesis is slated to be on games as cultural artifacts (thank god Ian Bogost exists, by the way). In any case, I can’t make my passion happen if I don’t work toward it. This probably seems like an obvious notion, and it is, but as I’m wading through my current career-crisis, it’s a become a great epiphany for me. And that’s what Nightmare Mode will enable me to work toward. The tools for getting us out there (this site isn’t just me/mine!) are all in place. All that’s left is the talent and resolve, and I think we have it.

With that, I look forward to another year of Nightmare Mode. Bigger, better and uh…insert some third cliche adjective here. I hope you stick with us, dear readers.

Dragon Age: Golems of Amgarrak DLC

Is it challenging? Bioware says it was made for the experienced player.

I finished Golems of Amgarrak up on Wednesday night. It is an easy 90 minute adventure. How easy? Well, any veteran Dragon Age player might be disappointed. Here’s a sample.

Despite my conclusions and findings in that short clip, the final boss is very, VERY difficult. So it would seem the game is unbalanced, an easy adventure and an insanely hard boss. It’s one of those bosses that are so hard and cheap you have to be lucky to win. I have the feeling a lot of veterans will be turning down the difficulty at the end. I was able to defeat the final boss after over an hour of trying, and only with enough curse words to make my mother shove a bar of soap down my throat.

Come back tomorrow for my final thoughts.

Dragon Age Nightmare Mode Strategy Guide: Mage Class

This post is a part of an ongoing feature here at Nightmare Mode to provide you with an expert’s strategy guide on playing Dragon Age. This time, we’ll be going over the mage class.

In Dragon Age, you learn the value and awesome power the mage holds early in the game. Of course, let us not forget that Morrigan (voiced by Claudia Black of Farscape), is Dragon Age’s entertaining, mysterious, yet incredibly sexy mage. Venturing away from Ostagar, equipped with only the most basic of magic spells, you see that Morrigan is a force unto herself. She proves to be such a valuable asset, that no darkspawn-kicking party would be complete without her.

Wynne is the other mage, and her great power comes in healing spells–quietly hiding in the background and preventing your demise on the front lines. We aren’t sure how she does it exactly, but she keeps everyone alive and well so nobody asks any questions. All you have to do in return is make sure nobody with a blade gets anywhere near her.

There are other benefits to being a mage. One being you get access to the blood mage specialization, and if you don’t have it, you have the chance to unlock it. Another benefit being the sheer joy of unleashing powerful spells on enemies and annihilating them.

I made what is perhaps an unorthodox choice. With my mage playthrough, I chose to build a healing mage–leaving Wynne behind at the Circle Tower, and taking Morrigan with me. This means that my character took the place of Wynne. It’s a bit of a challenge playing the healer. It isn’t exactly something that is common in RPGs, since you usually play a character that deals damage. If you’re reading this to find out how to build an awesome mage, don’t worry. I’ve played the game enough times to know how to do it anyway…especially given that each time I play, including this time around as a healing mage, I take Morrigan with me.

As always, raise your cunning to at least 20 so you can manipulate conversations in your favour. Otherwise, guiding the development of the mage is the easiest of all. You don’t need strength. You don’t need dexterity, because staff hits never miss. You don’t need cunning beyond 20, there is no point. You don’t need constitution either, since you are banking on never getting hacked down. All you need to worry about, are willpower, and magic.

A general rule of thumb I use for building Morrigan, is a 2:1 ratio of magic:willpower. This ensures she is very powerful by the end of the game, and also ensures that she won’t run out of mana for spells in your run of the mill battles. On occasion I’ll pump all 3 points into magic. Again, as a general rule, I also give the herbal skill set to Morrigan. One thing that is absolutely useless is the shapeshifter talent tree. Don’t waste your talent points on this, go for something a little more useful.

Read on to read the rest of the strategy guide!

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