Rants tag

Rants, ruminations, and rambling remarks from my mad, muddled, meandering mind.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Wrapping up DAW4: Scarybooster

For a full list of bloggers and posts from this year's Developer's Appreciation Week, head on over to Scary Worlds.
My friend has gone through a rough patch with the community this winter, almost stopped blogging. His naturally upbeat personality broke through though, and here he is again heading up a week of simple appreciation for a group of people that make our lives better. They're not curing cancer or feeding the hungry, but game developers are striving to make the world a funner place to be in. And their fans often dump on their efforts with extreme prejudice, making many others flee the forums in droves. But the devs have to put up with it, and figure out how to filter any good information from the vitriol.

But this post isn't actually about the devs. It's about a man who appreciates them. I've never met him, but I consider Scarybooster one of my best friends. He always makes me laugh. And despite being pretty foul-mouthed on his blog in the past, he frequently shows immense wisdom and even-handedness—without the cynicism of so many others. His parables and metaphors always make me think, reminding me that gaming is about having fun, not about having the biggest e-sword or whether the devs' design is flawed.

And he's always trying to improve. Trying to be a better father, a better player, a better blogger, a better writer. Scarybooster inspires me to do better, and I am far better for having known him and read his work, even if we have never met. We need more people like him in this community of gamers and bloggers.

So on this last day of DAW4, organized once again by an outstanding blogger—an outstanding person—he is the one I appreciate. Thank you, Scarybooster.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

DAW4: ArenaNet

About a year and a half after Blizzard released the juggernaut World of Warcraft into the wild, some former Blizzard senior devs set free "a game which took risks with game design and business model." ArenaNet's Guild Wars didn't require a subscription, only a box purchase. The plan was to provide purchasable "expansions" at a rapid pace and minimize bandwidth requirements to turn a profit. The devs correctly projected that a subscription leads to a lifestyle/commitment to one (maybe two) MMORPGs, rather than the previous player practice of skipping around from game to game. Two more campaigns, independently playable (no need to purchase the original), were released in the same game-world of Tyria, plus an expac that required at least one of the other three to play. I believe they introduced a cash shop for cosmetic items a little later.
The universe at your fingertips.
I never played Guild Wars. As assessed by ArenaNet, I was locked into WoW by my subscription, and only broke out of that mindset as a result of my BNet account getting hacked and Star Trek Online being released at almost the same time. But the little-developer-that-could chugged on, proved their business model was viable, and began developing Guilds Wars 2.
Killing it with fire!
Fast forward to August 28, 2012—seven months ago today. As Scarybooster put it, the yellow and red logs had kicked the futuristic hype-train of GW2 into overdrive and millions of players were aboard, including Sctrz and me. GW2 probably surpassed everyone's expectations sales-wise, and even through the hiccups in the first month or so, was an immensely playable game.
OMG, the windmill is a tall ship!
It's still a ton of fun (the most important thing in a game), easy to jump into and play for a few minutes or a few hours. The game has a good skill/progression system, gorgeous graphics, plenty of lore, and just a touch of whimsy—without going overboard. The cities feel truly alive and—well, Divinity's Reach & Lion's Arch, at least—livable, something I haven't really experienced in any other game. My main, which I play in a "spousal leveling contract" with Sctrz, is at the max level of 80. I have several others that are lower levels.
In-Game and IRL, Sctrz has my back, and I hers.
I wanted to single out the Guild Wars 2 Social Media Coordinator, Rubi_, a.k.a. RB2, and the rest of the ArenaNet community team. You could say Rubi is an ascended fan, a leader in the community that ArenaNet was wise enough to bring into the fold. (Also a quick DAW shout-out to Stephen Reed, ersatz CM for SWTOR, currently working with Marvel Heroes.) The job of the MMO community manger is a thankless task, sometimes even from the devs themselves. But I thank you.

I appreciate ArenaNet for going out on a limb with game mechanics and pricing models. Besides the box, I've thrown a few tens of dollars into the gem store. But I don't feel that dragging commitment I did with subscription games, like I have to get my money's worth. I already have, and can go back any time I want. And ArenaNet is OK with that.

It's worth it.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

DAW4: Funcom Oslo

In 2009, my friend told me about a new game he'd heard was being developed. It was going to be set in the modern era, include secret cabals, fighting demons and each other for control of the world. There weren't going to be classes or levels; players' spells or moves would be based on skills and the weapons they wield. It sounded pretty, cool since we'd discussed that sort of "natural" progression— somewhat like Tabula Rasa, where PCs started out as generic soldiers and specialized from there—would be ideal.
Flash forward to Spring, 2012. My friend has gotten into a couple of the beta events and likes the game well enough, I'm hot in to SWTOR, and don't care much about The Secret World, yet. Ragnar Tørnquist and his team have worked hard and long to develop the game, which is released on July 3, 2012. Mixed reviews and competition from two highly anticipated games, Diablo 3 and Guild Wars 2, lead to disappointing sales and subscriptions. Rather than fold up, Funcom transitions TSW to a buy-to-play, with an optional subscription.
Fast forward again, to this month and Issue #6: "The Last Train to Cairo." Granted that it is a $10 DLC, Issue #6 is a fantastic story and worth every penny. The last mission alone is a heck of an E-ticket ride. It's helped my lovely bride get enthusiastic about the game again. A game I love to play.

And for that, I appreciate the team in Oslo.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

All Aboard the Last Train to Cairo

So you wanna hear about my adventure on the Last Train to Cairo? How my fellow Templars and I prevented another Tokyo? We had to do it ourselves. The Illuminati were no help of course, and who knows if the Dragon may have actually been behind it. But let me tell you the tale. . .
Visual & Textual SPOILERS after the jump . . .

Monday, March 25, 2013

DAW4: Give a Dev a Hug

Developers. It's almost a four letter word, if you believe certain gaming blogs out there. And while I have had issues with certain game Publishers, and sometimes questioned the design decisions that Developers make, I always appreciate the effort these wonderful people put forth for my entertainment. Let's face it, if you're mostly an MMO player like me—other than the cost of an internet connection you're probably going to spend anyway—the monthly subscription you might be paying is probably the most economical form of entertainment available, besides going outside and kicking an old soup can around the yard. If you're playing F2P or box-only games, it's even better.

WHO MAKES ALL THIS POSSIBLE? The Devs: the designers, the code monkeys, the modelers, the lore masters, the quality assurance testers, the community managers, etc. One week a year, we the blogging community get together to show our appreciation to these often unsung heroes of our leisure time. That's this week. I encourage you to post at least one post this week thanking the people that make possible our MMOs, MOBAS, etc. You can be generic in your appreciation, or specific in thanking an individual Developer that really touched you in some way.
planb23 on deviantART
If you do, the legendary Scarybooster is collecting the posts to make into a list later this week. Be sure to send a quick email (scarybooster at gmail dot com) with a link to your post, so he can include it in his master list.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Developer Appreciation Week 4 is Coming!

From Scarybooster, the founder of DAW:
It's Developer Appreciation Week next week. From Monday-Friday will be all developer love. If you're new to DAW, here are a couple things to remember:

1. Tell the blogsphere about your favorite developer(s) in at least 1 post next week. You can write just 1 or write as many as you want all week.

2. You'll get lots of link love from other blogs. DAW usually has about 20-30 bloggers dedicated to sharing their love for developers. Most of them will link you several times and even post on other social networks.

3. Be positive! Don't trash another developer to make your point as to why your developer is better. DAW is about being positive and thanking all developers for their hard work.

4. Just enjoy yourself. The whole point is to have fun. No developer is going to pat you on the back for you patting them on the back. They might see your post, the might not, meh who cares? At least you had fun.

5. This event gets bigger every year, please take the time to retweet other people and throw down a comment or 2 if you agree. It's nice to know we write for an audience sometimes.

6. [Added by me] Use "#DAW" for any Tweets (or G+ posts) you make related to DAW.

That's about it. Just have fun and spread the word. This is the 4th year I've been doing this and every year gets better and better.

Thank you all!
Scary went through a bit of a blogging/gaming funk this winter, and I thought I might have to carry this great community-building event. Luckily, he's back—and stronger than ever—so I can sit back and be lazy (while writing my own DAW posts).

What's In a Name?

Harbinger Zero is lamenting the loss of his Sith Sorcerer's name in SWTOR. "Lamenting" may not be the right word; he's mad as hell, and he's not going to take it anymore.

I totally sympathize, having lost a couple of my characters' names in the forced mergers this past summer. It sucks to lose a name you're attached to and that you feel helps define your character. Too many game developers don't seem to understand what a character name means to the player. For many, it's a game breaker.

Holding names kind of sucks for new players, though, because a name you really like may be tied up by some other player who hasn't logged in for months or even years, and their level-1 placeholder character still has the name you want.
I've been burned by both situations. That's a major reason I love Cryptic's @ handles. They distinguish me as a player from my characters. The idea of unique names for every player character is incompatible with the goal of having millions of players logging into your game. Player ID is one thing, character ID is totally different.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

When Somethin's Goin' Wrong . . .

You must Whip it!
So I was logging into The Secret World yesterday to mess around on an alt while Sctrz finished up some work. Lo and Behold, there was an update to download. Curious about whatever hotfixes they may have made, I looked at the patch notes—something I do not do often, to be honest. I am glad I did, because one of the fixes was that they eliminated the 68-hour cooldown on entering the Excavation below the city of Al-Merayah. I got on Twitter and told all my buddies in Mercy Gaming that had missed out on the Whip Auxiliary Weapon because of that lockout. Pretty much everyone jumped on and got their Whip and there was much rejoicing.
Whip it good!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

I'll Meet You at the Station

More Explicit TSW Issue #6 SPOILERS in this one:
It's So Beauuutiful. . .
Sctrz and I ran the last three quests in "The Last Train to Cairo" questline last night. We got on a little earlier than the rest of the guild, figuring on getting done with the fourth and fifth quests before calling it a night. "The City Beneath Us" and "The City Before Us" are two fascinating adventures below the desert and back in time, respectively. Much like the Caverns of Time in WoW, the time travel quests in TSW let you see how things used to be.

I don't know if Issue #5 "The Vanishing of Tyler Freeborn" does anything similar, but it would be very interesting to see Solomon Island before the Fog. Now that I think about it, I want to go back to "The Darkness War" instance in Blue Mountain and recheck the geography there, too. Anyway, it's a great way show off the landscapers' skills a bit. And that it has a "past" really gives the game a sense of presence.
An Old Friend
The Excavation of "Beneath" was more about solving puzzles than fighting, and the mobs were soloable, though we ran it together. The Temple of "Before"was all about the puzzles—most NPCs were friendly, in fact—though there was one case where I kited a big mob while Sctrz solved a puzzle to open a door. There were echos of "Indy" throughout, much to the delight of my lovely bride. We had a blast with "figuring out" the puzzles, quotes here because often it was dumb luck that got us through.
[EDIT] Another thing I noticed during the play-through—but failed to mention before—was the large number of objects stuck in causality loops in these missions. By that, I mean objects received by the player character in the present, taken into the past and left, only to be received by the player in the present, with no explanation of their manufacture. For an non-game version, think of the pocket watch in Somewhere in Time. Where this would annoy me in a story or movie, it's endearing here.[/EDIT]

We got through those missions and decided to try the the final one: "The Last Train to Cairo."
"Have fun stormin' the train! Think it'll work?" "It'll take a miracle."
Holy COW! what a ride! I've never had quite that feeling in an MMO, very cinematic. The train really does feel like it's speeding down the track: scenery whizzing by, slight rocking of the cars. I liked the various mechanics of moving along the train, sometimes on top, sometimes inside the cars, sometimes on the side of the cars.
Train SurfingSlide On By
I don't think we actually got very far before encountering a group or succession of mobs we couldn't handle in our current gear, a mix of QL7s and QL8s. On the plus side, it is not a solo instance as we had been led to believe. We had guildies online who were in a bigger group and had better gear that managed to finish the mission together. They'll be able to help later if we need it.
Train Spotting
Unfortunately, we did not get the whip, which was our main goal last night. This was not a matter of completing the final mission, but doing a side bit during "Beneath" and "Before." While exploring the Excavation in the present, you have to loot a whip from one of the mobs. Then in the past there is a side room that you have to enter get past a puzzle and leave the whip in a case (an "Anima Infuser"). Then once you return to the present you have to retrieve the whip. Guess what no one in the guild remembered to do last night? And now the quest and the instance are locked out till Friday evening, for which I have a commitment I cannot (nor do I want to) shirk. You can ask my unfortunate guildmates: I was thoroughly pissed off, last night, and cussed up a blue streak on TS. I apologize to them for my lapse. So we'll probably get the whip on Saturday. That's OK, I want to get some better pics while we're in there.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Time Travel, Ancient Artifacts, Dapper Mummies, Oh My!

So my lovely bride and I got together in TSW with guildies from the Knights of Mercy to run as much of the Issue #6 content we could. We got through the first three of six main/sabotage missions, plus a few side missions.
Why, yes. There are fireworks on my shirt.
I'm not sure how much to spoil here. Besides, it was a little confusing, with the cross-talk on TeamSpeak. One of the Marya was talking about wanting to be a taxi driver in America when the conflict in Egypt ends, something safe. But he probably won't get a chance, since it seems unending. Then we ran around killing stuff. I think I may need to do this story solo or just me and Sctrz, LOL. Then I remember we had to track down some bad guys and get message fragments from them. This was a situation where the chaos of running with eight people meant some people didn't get everything at the same time, so we had to kill far more than the basic four needed for the quest. It was fun though.

Next, we headed toward an instanced dungeon (no really, there were cells and prisoners), Our bee-given weapons were taken away. We're still pretty tough though, and fought our way out with bare-knuckle fisticuffs.
Yes, they're registered.
At that point, we headed over to Saïd, the Dapper Mummy from my title. He sent us on an errand through a time portal to a nearby ancient Roman settlement. This is where being in a large group got really hairy, as we were unable to plow through the enemy as we had previously. So there were many resets of the instance. We all got through it, though, and delivered the artifact to Saïd, who then sent us on a mission to Cairo. This is where we called it a night.
Karl and Dexy, lost in time.
A word on the side missions. We were coordinating over TeamSpeak but the somewhat chaotic cross-chatter meant that sometimes people missed verbal ready-checks and were on different stages of the quest. At least once, someone jumped the gun, so that the others couldn't finish the precisely designed quest at all. I am not laying blame, but I officially suggest we come up with something to make sure everyone is ready to move on before we do. I don't know if TSW has a formal Ready-Check system like WoW, does, but it would be nice. I'm sure we'll be repeating these, as the "Indy" outfit is only available through currency earned by completing the Issue #6 missions.
We meet again Herr Eichenherz.
I am of two minds on this sort of Guild activity. Knowing what we needed to do and how to do it efficiently might have helped. But I don't want to read some guide ahead of time and spoil the story as it unfolds. While I think we could stand some more organization during the event, I love the spontaneity. I don't want to turn it into a raid-style chore. I had a blast running around with buddies—can't wait to do it again.

Friday, March 15, 2013

QOTD: Stop and Look Around

Life moves pretty fast, if you don't stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.
~Ferris Bueller
I was crossing a rippling brook [in GW2]. I stopped for a minute to appreciate how good it looked in its simplicity: water flowing over stones. I walked in the water and imagined being there. The details are good to notice.
~Syp, Geocaching Quote of the Day
Make sure you stop and look around this weekend.

TSW: Issue 6 Is Out!

I got official word from Funcom:
On the game patcher splash, it says Issue 6 will be available for purchase on Sunday, 17 March, at 2 p.m. GMT. Subscribed members can already access it, though I don't know those details.

[EDIT] Last night, both Sctrz and I discovered that Issue 5, "The Vanishing of Tyler Freeborn" was avaible to us in the item shop for free (0 Funcom Points). So we went ahead and got it. If this is universally the case, then Issue 6, "The Last Train to Cairo," is the first update that will cost money: 1200 FP or $10 for "non-members." Members get a 10-20% discount, making it 960-1080 FP, which they can spend out of their monthly 1200 FP allowance. [/EDIT]

When Sctrz was describing her character, Dexrina "Dex-y" Sunfleur—before she found out about of the theme for Issue 6, but after I had—she said, "She's an Archaeologist." "Like Lara Croft?" "No, more like Indiana Jones." Crack that whip!

I think this is what's behind my lovely bride's renewed enthusiasm for TSW, and I'm happy to ride that train.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

TSW: Pic Dump

I have been taking bazillions of pictures in TSW (and GW2), but haven't posted too many, perhaps thinking I'd get a vignette or something out of them. I may yet do that. but thought I'd share, especially since some of these include fellow members of Knights of Mercy, the TSW branch of Mercy Gaming. We run stuff on Monday evenings when about eight to ten people are on, not too bad for a relatively small community spread across several games.

We'll start with a series of group shots from last week's "Inferno" run. I kinda wish we could include more guildies in these groups, but then we run the risk of not having enough people. It's gettin' hot in here: Sctrz' "Dex-y" pulling rear guard, Tententacles' "Chucho" providing pistol whipping services, "Thermic" (aka. Mr. MMOGC) keeping us all bloody healthy, my own "Poppyshock" with her electric personality, and MMOGC's "Laeyn" in the vanguard:
Just before the final fight, Thermic says, "Guys, are you sure about this?":
Back in our own dimension, after beating the Boss. We bad, we bad:

So I got all the Starter Decks and completed the inner ring of the Ability Wheel on "LoneStarBelle." Here, she poses in Agartha, wielding a Shotgun and Dual Pistols. I decided I like the "Maverick" outfit the best. It works well with Sam's "New West" cowgirl hat:
Don't mess with Texas:

Here's low-angle of "Poppyshock" in Savage Coast, highlighting her Elementalism Focus. I love that the "doll" is made up of electrical plugs and a ceramic insulator:

And finally, Sctrz' "Dex-y" smiling in Egypt with a jackass (not me). It's very sunny in Egypt, but this was in the late evening TST (TSW standard time):

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

QOTD: Nightmares in SimCity

Electronic Arts has finally created something that has captivated the world with an intoxicating melange of drama, tragedy and sick humor. Too bad all of these elements emerge from EA’s project management, not the game itself.
. . .
The SimCity saga is evolving into a mesmerizing example of mismanaging a highly ambitious project in several ways. Forcing consumers to opt for an always-on Internet connection; underestimating server loads; insisting on the unnecessary and destructive goal of having “real people” populating the simulation; capping the size of the cities at a level that obviously alienates long-time fans; and deciding to go ahead with the game launch even with clearly inadequate pathfinding algorithms.
~Tero Kuittinen, FOX NEWS

I feel bad for my fellow gamers who purchased SimCity based on the awesomeness has been the franchise since the late 80s—not to mention impressive reviews from the likes of Slate's Farhad Manjoo. I don't blame the reviewers here. They were able to play with exclusive connections to servers prior to the game's release, I am sure, if not at Maxis headquarters itself. In particular, Manjoo raved about the "individual" Sims behaving somewhat willy-nilly. I'm guessing it is even more erratic than he realized.

I might purchase SimCity in in the future. But for now, I'll stick to my MMORPGs.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Videos! Much Ado About Nothing? or Maybe Something More Serious

So a couple of great videos dropped in the last couple days, and if I had not been awake at 4:30 this morning, I might still have missed them both.

The first video is the first installment of Anita Sarkeesian's Tropes vs Women in Video Games series that generated so much froth during its Kickstarter. Seriously, just for making the observation that there are several common tropes in videos (and other storytelling media) that are sexist, Ms. Sarkeesian had her Wikipedia page vandalized, had an atrocious video game made of her, received misogynistic comments, and threats of rape and murder, along with attempts to publish her home address on the Internet, enabling any truly demented individual to make good on the threats. It's ridiculous, not the least because she's correct.
The turbulence surrounding Tropes vs Women in Video Games is one of the incidents that inspired some of my editorials about sexism this past summer, and culminated in the questions about online insults the gamer survey Sctrz and I conducted. I watched the video this morning. Nothing really surprising in Ms Sarkeesian's analysis, but I hope that calling attention to it will create some change in the game field. A really kickass Zelda or Peach who can rescue herself would be awesome.

In lighter news, Joss Whedon has apparently helmed an new film of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. It's been shown at a few film festivals, but this morning was the first I'd heard of it, thanks to Dusty Monk on G+. Y'know? Thinking about it, this is an interesting juxtaposition of videos, since MAAD is basically about the value of the virginity of Hero, a Damsel in Distress who must be "rescued" from her alleged dishonor. Hmm.
As you may guess from my chosen avatar in the column to the right, I am very excited to see this when it gets general release. I just hope it is as good as Branagh's version—if which you have not seen, I'm afraid we can no longer be friends.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Fishing for Advice, a Novel Approach

from zazzle
So another person has told me how much they enjoy my writing. It makes me wonder, though. Could I ever make a real go at being an author? I seem to be creative in bursts. Sometimes, ideas and words come to me fully formed, and I simply need to write them down. Other times, I struggle to even get a paragraph in. I'd love to write a full book, maybe even a start a new career. I'd like to think it's something I would enjoy more than what I'm doing now.

Many of my characters are fully developed, some could use more work. Unfortunately, they also depend on worlds not of my creation, and that I am unlikely to be able to write about professionally. So I have to figure out whether to write a story set in, say Azeroth, and then adapt it away from the fan fiction that it is. (Don't knock that, some authors are making bundles writing adapted fanfics.) Or do I try to adapt it as I go; even though in my head, I'm still picturing Tyria, or the factions of The Secret World? And how much . . . um, smut  . . . do I put in it? I've been known to write some juicy stuff, not that you'll ever see it here. That opens some doors and closes others. Then again, every audience you write for has its limits, no matter the genre.

I haven't done much with my project from NaNoWriMo; never purchased the full version of Scrivener; have only opened it once or twice since November. Would I open it and work on stuff more if I'd made the investment? Or would I not use it enough to warrant the investment?

Who knows, I could be the next Joanne Rowling—one can dream, no?—or at least the next (insert some author who makes a middle class living here). But I have to get something "on paper" first.

Any authors out there—struggling or successful—with any advice?