Rants tag

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

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Pics of the Day: Polaris Elite

The Knights of Mercy sent a contingent into the wreckage of the Polaris after it was discovered the Draug had escalated their activity there. Laeyn, Chucho, Dortmunder, Dex-y, and Thermic:
We cut through the first several Draug leaders without tooooo much trouble:
The Primordial Dweller was a grueling opponent, but we finally got him down and got onto the Orochi Helicopter, exhausted:
But the Ur-Draug was not through with us:
I wish I had more pics, but we were busy getting schooled in our inadequacies. Back at Templar Hall, we plan to re-strategize, re-equip, and return another day:

Monday, April 29, 2013

Pics of the Day: Team Haruspex

One of the fun things about the Starter Decks in The Secret World is the fact that they are available regardless of faction (more on cross-faction awesomeness in a near-future post). On Saturday afternoon, I was playing with friends from Beyond the Veil. Someone—I can't remember who—brought out their Haruspex outfit, gained from a combination of Blood and Elementalist abilities. Before long, we were all running around in oxblood leather ritual coats. I kind of wonder what other players thought of us as we ran through various populated areas doing our thing.

We look like a crazy version of ABBA. That's LoneStarBelle (me) on the left, with Maiastas (who finally has a Twitter feed), Exceeder (a.k.a. Galactrix), and Antida, who looks ready to lop off a locust limb.
Here, we have Team Haruspex in action. Ironically, Exceeder is the only one sporting a Blood Focus, so all that spatter you see is from him. It does make us look like a gory lot though, doesn't it.
That doesn't mean there isn't time for some clowning, or as Maiastas put it, "a delicate re-tuning of the universe via meditation." Meanwhile, Saïd was a bit too cheeky with Antida apparently, as her sword is drawn like she's ready to relieve him of his liver or some other vital part.
Our new album will be in stores soon, featuring the smash hits "My Bowels Move For You" and "That's Just Gross." We open for the Wyrd Systers this summer.
Thanks to Maiastas for the album cover portrait.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Beyond the Veil Take-37: Enter the Rowan!!

Beyond the Veil Take 37 is currently available for download. You can also subscribe through Holosuite Magazine's RSS feed or through iTunes.
You can also catch the live show Thursdays at about 7p.m. EDT(4p.m.PDT) on Holosuite Excess

Monday, April 22, 2013

And the Light Shall Drive Away the Darkness: TSW

Playing as Samantha "LoneStarBelle" Hawthorne yesterday (Sunday), I got together with some of the Beyond the Veil crew to run through the Dream of the Darkness War, the "Dungeon" in Blue Mountain, where the players go on a Wabanaki-guided vision quest to defeat invading Filth-worshipping Mayans. I've key-mapped my screencap function (F11 for TSW) to one of my Nostromo buttons; so as I'm button mashing, I sometimes get some interesting shots. In this one, Sam is in the middle foreground, Antida, our tank, is obscured by the pyrotechnics of Maiastas' Quantum Brace, and Zander provides AR support. Exceeder is off camera, weaving his healing voodoo all over the place.
We had tried to finish the last boss last Saturday, but another player and I had to bow out for RL commitments, and the group collapsed. Yesterday, we stuck it out—even though it was really late for Antida (and Exceeder I think)—got the timing right, and downed the boss. Honestly, in my limited experience with TSW, this final boss fight against Wayeb-Xul, the Hound of the Nameless Days, seems to be the hardest: lots of moving pieces and ways to die in what seems like a fairly confined space.

As we careen toward the end of the vision, a giant Dream Catcher appears to catch us and transport us back to the waking world. Below (l-r): Maiastas, Exceeder, Zander, Antida, and LoneStarBelle.
I must say, that while the giant swirly instance gate has become an MMO trope (which inspired B.J.Keeton's Birthright), I like that the instance gates in TSW are objects; like the portkeys from Harry Potter, only not so random. The first instance, known as "Polaris," is reached by "boarding" a helicopter; the second, "Inferno," literally through a door to Hell. "The Dream of the Darkness War"? Reached through a sleeping bag next to a campfire.
As promised, Sam the Vaquera is traipsing through the Scorched Desert in her new "Dawn Leathers" and matching boots, brandishing her street cannon and six-shooters at any cultists who get in her way.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Party Time "Beyond the Veil"

A bunch of folks joined the Samba line last night as we Livestreamed Episode 37 of "Beyond the Veil." A buddy that listened in said I did a good job, so I'm happy. If you missed the live show, the digitally remastered version will be available soon™.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

A New Venture "Beyond the Veil"

I'm excited to announce that I will be joining the cast of Holosuite Magazine's TSW Livestream podcast "Beyond the Veil" THIS EVENING. Join me, Xander, Antida, and the rest of the cast at 7 p.m. EDT, as we discuss the latest news and information on The Secret World.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

TSW: Monday Night Fights

Lest you think we're just running Polaris every week just for fun, we actually have gotten a few lowbie fellow cabalists through the first "dungeon" run. It is fun, though, and they get good rewards useful as they head into the Savage Coast. Below, we have Adaram in the foreground, then Dexy, Dormunder (me), Chucho, and JayCal silhouetted in the back. I wish I had a better pic of all of us, but it's hectic being the tank.
Dexy is really proud of her second Deck outfit, "Crusader." I like the pistol holster, but I think it should have matching pistols in it.
Chucho thinks it looks good, too.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Steeped in Lore, or Heroes and Dragons

Syl, the MMO Gypsy, held forth last week on the proper place for storytelling, and that MMOs aren't it. I was all set to disagree, but she's right on this one. But it's a matter of semantics. There's a difference between story, narrative, and lore. Stories that don't end are problems in other media, like television, where for the sake of making more money, producers drag out a story until it feels stretched as thin as a ship on the edge of a singularity. Stories necessarily come to an end, something that is detrimental to the persistent world of an MMO. Lore on the other hand, is something that can be discovered, something that determines the architecture of a city, the costume of a people, the music of a tavern, the gossip of an innkeeper.

An MMO should be steeped in lore, and scant on overarching story. Vanilla WoW felt perfect in that what was going on at endgame wasn't necessarily world shattering or saving. Sure there was some palace intrigue, but then you went off to kill the dragon in her lair, and that was that. Although there are some that say even that didn't work because the Dragon was still in the palace in Human form, poisoning the minds of the Regent and the Prince.
Adventuring in Elwynn
I could be wrong, maybe all those endgame raids and the quests leading up to them were epic in the sense of being World Changing Events—that didn't change the world at all. I liked the little "stories" in Dun Morogh and Elwynn Forest, back when I was just an adventurer and not a Hero. Get you some boar ribs and you'll teach me to cook stuff? Sure thing! Help a Juliet meet with her Romeo? No problem, sounds romantic. Blizzard painted themselves into a corner with all the epicness of WotLK and beyond, and I haven't really enjoyed since it just before Cataclysm. (Stopped playing long ago.)
She's an Engineer, what's with the magic glow?
I would much prefer a game where I am simply an adventurer that may help out the locals with a gang problem or a nasty ogre. GW2 does an OK job of this outside the personal story, though the first act is pretty good with the PC helping get friends out of trouble, winning a competition, or going on a spiritual journey. Only later when it turns all epic, and we defeat the BIG Dragon at the End of the World, does it get kind of flat. Tyria definitely has a sense of history though. Even if I never played the original Guild Wars, I can still see the effects of that history in the ruins of Ascalon and other areas of that world, much like Azeroth bears the scars of previous incarnations of the RTS Warcraft.
U.S.S. Templar, escort for the U.S.S. Peregrine
STO did pretty well, too I think. Even though my "stature" as a Starship Captain was a little higher in that universe, I still was only one of many. My superior officer gave me assignments, and I fulfilled them, much like Captains Kirk, Picard, et al. This may change a bit in the upper ranks, but I don't think it does. But talk about lore! STO is definitely steeped in it.
Sneaky, sneaky
I think TSW does this, too, though YMMV. :) As you may know, most of the missions start out with cutscenes. Most of these though, offer a little background by way of conversation with an NPC without directly saying, "I need you to go kill 10 rats and bring back their tails." My favorite set-ups have been those where my character eavesdrops on a conversation and then acts to counter the intentions of the bad guys.

My lovely bride and I made it into Milosh's camp of Draculești last night in the Shadowy Forest. He mockingly greeted each of us with:
You're not that special, but we appreciate your help.
"Hah! At last the Chosen One is here. . . You aren't the first to come here seeking glory and riches, and you will not be the last."
TSW is full of reminders that the player character is simply an agent of their faction, one of many. I'm OK with that.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Pics of the Day: Polaris Hijinks

Thanks to my fellow ROFL-Stompers in the Knights of Mercy: @sctrz, @Wininoid, @ShaxorZachal, and especially @tententacles who provided some of these screencaps. As MMOGamerChick pointed out, we're small, but growing, in TSW.

It all started out seriously enough. The Ealdwich ROFL-Stompers were clearing out the wreck of the Polaris. Dortmunder took point in his hazmat suit (you never know what crap is in that water). Chucho, playing the pirate on this ship, spun chaos in his wake. Dexy, ever the soldier, was providing auxiliary healing, as well as substantial damage of her own. Winin was kicking ass and taking names, and Haleola simply dispensed with the name-taking altogether.
Asses kicked and names taken, they all boarded the Orochi helicopter for Kingsmouth. There is some confusion as to what happened next:
"Dude, are you checking out my butt?"
"No, I totally wasn't. Not that you could blame me. Hey! Was that a creepy Lovecraftian sea monster out there in the fog??"
"I didn't see any creeps. Out there."
No, no, no! Rewind!

It went down like this:

"Dexy was the one checking out Haleola's butt. And can you blame her?"
"What? I never..."
"Hey! Is that Cthulhu?"
"It doesn't matter! We are safe on the ground in front of the totally-not-a-sinister-corpocracy Orochi Group rescue base!" said Chucho the Tropicana-Cabana boy. "Dance the samba with me!"
"Naw, dude. We're good."

Finding a Voice: the Player Characters of TSW

While I consider The Secret World to be one of the best (if not the best, period) storytelling engine that I’ve seen in MMOs, it’s a little strange how my character has yet to say a single word in the entirety of her adventures... This game world and its inhabitants are so incredibly interesting, but I still don’t quite know who I am.
~Syp, When My Death Comes
Syp is wishing that his character could speak for herself. Seems that many—though not all—of his readers disagree; I happen to be one of them.

My characters' voices are different than whatever the devs and artists would think of. A perhaps ironic  example: I "pictured" Zen Rafell, my Smuggler in SWTOR, as having a gravelly voice like the guy in the SWTOR cinematic trailer, "The Return":
Contrast that with the actual smuggler voice in the game. He sounds reasonably tough in this trailer, but trust me when I say his milquetoast voice and tone made him practically unplayable for me:
I felt sidelined by some of my characters' voices in SWTOR, and even more so in GW2, where I can't even decide what they say. There is reasonable storytelling in both games (YMMV), but I don't feel personally involved. The less my character speaks, the more I can put my own reactions into the game. This may be why I feel such an attachment, even now, to my STO captains and crews.

I know exactly who my TSW characters are. Well, maybe not exactly. But we've settled into a comfortable relationship. And I hear their voices in my head. (That's sounds creepy, doesn't it.) I can imagine their voices clearly.
I hear my sister-in-law's low-toned Japanese when Poppyshock "speaks." Dortmunder has a baritone German accent (probably a Bavarian lilt, to be honest, since that's the region I have most experience with). And Lone Star Belle pronounces her words with a slight Central Texas drawl.
Some of this sense of my characters happened almost immediately. Other parts have developed over time, due to circumstances in the game or seeing their expressions. LSB, for instance, while always a strong female character, didn't start out a tough-as-nails gunslinger. But that came as I have played and shifted her weapons.
So in the end, while I have enjoyed those other games where my characters have voices bestowed by the developers, I personally prefer the times when I can interpret them my way. It makes them more real to me, not less. Maybe someday our games will be sophisticated enough for us to customize character voices the way we now customize their faces. Until then, I prefer that they remain the strong, silent type.

DAW Links

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Roll vs. Role

I've ranted before about people who are all about the stats, rather than getting into the rather immersive experience of Online RPGs. In tabletop gaming, these folks are (or were) referred to as "Munchkins," but they seem to have taken over much of the community. Developers like Blizzard seem to cater to these sorts of people, putting tiers of gear that are ever slightly better than the previous tier, provoking a frenzy of activity in their games. Then again, "computers" are called that for a reason, their strength lies in doing arcane calculations, despite the fact that we use them for many other things, like making pretty pictures and chatting with friends. I'm not above trying to maximize my stats, but for me it's more about surviving an encounter or area, than squeezing that last bit of DPS out my stuff.
Used under CC.
Two conversations I had on Twitter this week coalesced into this poster I made using Creative Commons photos from Wil Wheaton and Lisa Brewster. In the first, @Baybdoli and @theeriver were debating the merits (or demerits) of WoW's 5.3 patch, and stat changes to PvP gear. Now having special stats (resilience) on gear for different aspects of the game rubs me completely the wrong way in the first place; but apparently, the PvE Raiders think the PvPers don't "work as hard" to get their gear and therefore shouldn't be able to stroll into Raids in that shit. Really? I'm guessing truly hard-core raiders don't ever see people trying to get into their groups in PvP gear anyway, so what does it matter?

This reminds me of the rant I heard from a raid leader about people getting the Violet Proto-Drake from doing all the Holiday Achievements. "They don't really earn it because it's not like they're raid rewards like the Black Proto-Drake." He still hadn't gotten a Proto-Drake at the time, because he was stuck with us scrubs, second or third tier raiding. Meanwhile . . .
Yep! That's my WoW main and namesake "Rowanblaze." Isn't she cute on her Proto-Drake? It took over a year of patience and work, doing things I wasn't normally inclined to do, like PvP. You bet I earned it. I don't think my raid leader ever got a +310% mount in WotLK. When Cataclysm came out, I was sitting pretty, automatically getting the Master Riding skill thanks to my violet friend. Of course, I no longer play WoW, so a lot of good it really did me in the long run.

The second conversation happened just this morning. @FerrelES was lamenting his lack of prowess in the combat side of the Tabletop RPG sessions he serves as the Game Master. He favors "story and intrigue." He worries that his combat interaction with the players isn't up to snuff, though. I think his players keep coming back because they like his style. He has nothing to worry about. It is, after all, a Role-playing game, not a Roll-playing game.

Friday, April 5, 2013

A Seat in the Balcony

I occasionally write about movies on this blog; some folks only know me for my movie reviews. But I am less than a rank amateur.

On Saturdays back in the '80s, after the cartoons were over, we often turned to some local L.A. channel and learned about shows that were coming soon or had just been released "At the Movies." "Two thumbs way up" or maybe not. Siskel&Ebert were a fixture in our home.

"No good movie is too long and no bad movie is short enough."
As I got older, I realized that not all movie critics are created equal. As I've gotten older, this has only been reinforced  when I see reviewer after reviewer pan movies I love, while singing high praises for films I would consider either highly pretentious or utter dreck, or both. Roger Ebert was that rare—if not unique—critic that seemed to understand the intended audience of each film, and reviewed them accordingly, rather than according to his film school predilections. Yesterday, I learned this was likely because he was a journalist first, and a film aficionado rather than a film student.

"Your intellect may be confused, but your emotions never lie to you."
I could trust Mr. Ebert not to tell me whether I should like a film, but whether I would like the film. And he was rarely wrong, from my perspective; though I did disagree occasionally. Mr. Ebert reviewed films for over 45 years. I discovered yesterday that he had a Twitter account. I wish I had known. I would followed the hell out if that feed.

But now, the balcony is finally closed.