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Decomposition, Creation, and Upgades

Well, looks like my vacation is winding to a close. Starting Monday, I'm a university man, having recently completed my AA and going for a bachelors in Digital Technology and Culture - a liberal arts approach to computers. Everyone seems to agree that's probably a good angle for me, as I enjoy using computers but only have a passing fancy towards the more technical aspects.

Still, here I just turned age 30 and I'm still a gamer. Hitting the big three-oh was enough to make me reconsider my position in life.  The whole thing has me realizing that I'm probably going to be putting a lot of importance on getting my 4-year degree finished. I'm not yet certain just how much my new university life, not to mention my apparent quarter-life crisis, will divert my attentions away from my lifelong passion: gaming.

As Lum used to say (and, for all I know, still does say) "Change is hard."

--- Neverwinter Nights 2 Module Completed: The Gauntlet ---

Neverwinter Nights 2 took up much of my last week of freedom. Earlier in the week, I played quite a bit of the Single Player campaign with a friend of mine. In the last 2-3 days, I managed to complete my first NWN2 mod which I call The Gauntlet. This is version 1.0, not entirely complete but acceptably playable. All it's really missing is protracted balancing, further beautification, henchmen, and a story. If it generates interest I might come out with a version 2.0 that includes this.

"The Gauntlet" was developed with the goal of creating a story-light module (to counterbalance the story-heavy module NWN2 is included with) and as a means to familiarize myself with the toolkit. The goal behind "The Gauntlet" is simply to go around and around the gauntlet as many times as you can without resting, gaining levels and gold as you go. It's a fully scaling (across all player levels) action module suitable for any number of players, suitable for power leveling your hero without directly cheating... and that's about where its merit ends.

[The download of my NWN2 Module, "The Gauntlet" version 1.0 is no longer available, sorry]

--- Next generation MMORPGs ---

In my last day or two of freedom, I'm playing around with the recently NDA declassified Vanguard and another still NDA classified game I can't talk about much. They're both highly reminiscent of World of Warcraft in the central GUI interface, but hide something completely different under the surface.

I hear Vanguard has problems, and in about 3 hours of play I can see where it's generating that impression. My first character, a human bard of the first continent, encountered vastly over-camped newbie grounds - hardly surprising, as humans on the first continent are likely the most popular choice. My second character, an ogre monk, managed to get stuck trying to climb a 45 degree angle wall less than 20 yards from where he started. Then the zone crashed. (Thank goodness the /stuck command was implemented.) My last character, a gnomish Psionicist, dealt with an hour wait for the necessary mobs to spawn for him to complete his third newbie quest. Then the zone crashed. The developers are working like madmen to get the game polished and released by the end of the month, rolling no less than three (3!) fairly substantial patches just today, but have acknowledged that the release will likely be buggy.

Regardless, I think the game has potential. Sure, it's EQ++ hidden behind a WoW-inspired interface, but I have to say that I like the atmosphere that the game exudes. The background music and artwork really exudes a genuine fantasy worldly feeling. (Even though the character models feel a tad amateur.) Of course, atmosphere and adequate gameplay only goes so far, so we'll see if I'm still feeling the game has "potential" as I continue to slog my way through the beta.

--- SATA'l Up ---

The installation process of the Vanguard beta took a very long time. About 3 1/2 hours to download it with my cable modem. Another half hour to unzip it. Another two hours to install from the unzipped setup program. That long installation process has me thinking about a hard drive upgrade.

Facing facts, my motherboard has Serial ATA (SATA) support. A little digging reveals that the difference between IDE and first generation SATA is something like 133 MB/sec versus 1.5 GB/sec. Currently, I'm running with two IDE hard drives: one at about 200 gigabytes and one at 30. I'm considering replacing the 30 GB IDE with two 150ish GB SATA drives running in Raid 0. Raid 0 is apparently a mode they can operate in that isn't redundant but uses both drives for speed. The result should be very fast, although the benefit of Raid 0 on a gaming machine is a matter of debate.

If I can afford it, and I've enough time outside of my class responsibilities to do it, I'll probably go for this Raid 0 configuration upgrade. I know my new 550 Watt power supply has the necessary power plugs for it. That brings the estimated cost to a paltry (as far as computer purchases go) $150 for the hard drives alone (which likely include the necessary SATA cords to connect them to the board with). The only sticking point is a matter of compatibility, but that's probably an irrational fear born from never having hooked up an SATA configuration before.
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