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Showing posts from February, 2008

Designing Real Life

Lately, if I give my mind sufficient idle cycles, it may meander over to matters of social commentary in ways that only high gas prices and an upcoming presidential election can.

Considering how hopeless it would be to assume that a humble layman (let alone a computer game addict) such as myself could ever have any chance of understanding the U.S. political landscape, I instead have had fun with this thought instead: "What if we frame designing our societies in real life in much the same way as if were designing a MMORPG?"

Real life could be said to be more complicated than designing games in that the creator of the rule system has a whole lot less freedom over governing the nature of reality. If we wanted people to stop killing themselves in "Middle East Conflict: The MMORPG," we just code it so players can't attack players. No such luck for reality.

That said, the comparison still works in a certain level. The laws and other functions we adopt as a society…

CoH Binge: Fun > Functionality

Just when I think I'm out, it fishes me back in again: I had another major City of Heroes' binge over the weekend. It's been said before that a MMORPG character needs to be both fun and functional. However, this weekend I decided to prioritize the fun. The result was a renewed interest in the game.

My "prioritize the fun over functionality" character ended up being a Kinetic/Energy Blast Defender. The fun part about Kinetic heroes is that they pretty much double the speed of the entire team operates while increasing their damage by as much as 400%. I wouldn't have chosen Kinetics with a greater functionality-based priority because it has very little in the way of active damage mitigation, making it a strangely offensive choice for the Defender archetype. As for the Energy Blast Secondary, in my evaluation it's genuinely inferior to Sonic Blast, but it looks prettier and the random chance of knocking things down is fun.

Somebody else's video that …

"City of Heroes 2" Announced

Okay, it's actually called Champions Online, but it's functionally everything Cryptic wanted to do with City of Heroes if they were remaking it. From their features page:

"Hi-Octane Excitement: Champions Online delivers furious, fast-paced encounters previously reserved for action and fighting games. No more boring auto attacks and lengthy recharge times. Champions Online combat is instantaneous — and electrifying!"

In my opinion, City of Heroes already more than half-way here, but apparently Cryptic isn't satisfied with it being fast enough because they're getting rid of "lengthy recharge times," which are certainly present in City of Heroes. They might be leveraging some of their Marvel heroes development experience here to create a sort of an online fast fighting game.

"Brains required: Every enemy and super-powered threat in Champions Online has its own unique abilities and combat specialties. Use your head — or wind up dead!"

Wait, th…

Exposition abortion: An unfortunate disconnect

We're reading Writing for Multimedia and the Web in class, and suddenly it's all about computer games. Holy crap, I can hardly believe this, this well-rounded liberal education I'm paying for has actually gotten around to discussing the field I'm interested in!

The current topic is out of chapter 17-18 of that book: Games are bigger than Hollywood but seem to be lacking compelling story/narrative development. Shoot, isn't that what I've just been saying? Maybe I know what I'm talking about, after all, and if so that would explain why we hate the grind...

As human beings, we've spent thousands of years telling stories, it's become a fundamental mechanic of our being. It's no wonder we've learned to "hate the grind" when your average MMORPG is not concerned with progressing a story. It's no wonder games get boring: this story goes nowhere; nothing ever happens.

Personally, I think the reason why this happens isn't becau…

An Only Vaguely Interesting Weekend Recap

Well, that wasn't a very productive weekend. Sometimes, no matter how much I think I should get something done, the fundamental problem remains that I really don't want to, on some kind of vital subconscious level. So, instead, I spent the weekend doing these things:

1) I finally bored of Cabal Online. I've long known that, in every game, there's a certain limit of how much entertainment you can get out of a given gameplay mechanic. That time, it seems, has come for Cabal Online's combo system. I've found that, at level 40, I just can't enjoy the game anymore -- too much repetitive quest grind, too little game. Maybe I would have been interested in it a little longer if the Auras and Battle Modes, essentially powerful emergency buffs, did not prevent comboing. Besides, the combat balance is disappointingly trivial, with the mobs you are assigned to kill via quests needing to gang up on you by as much as 10 to 1 to be a threat.

2) I was granted the op…

More Evasion

Some days, it's clearer than others that the boredom being digitally staved off here is my own.

Today is a weekend of writing up a lovely research paper about Maggie, a Girl of the Streets with a bit of pontification about Stephen Crane, Naturalism, and discussion of the horse-drawn buggy that I hope will convince my instructor I'm able to acceptably grok a subject matter.

As for me, I'm such an existentialist that I'm not satisfied with the extent in which I can grok the man I see in the mirror, let alone a young writer of over a hundred years ago other than to say he seemed to care about writing to meaningfully convey feeling and emotion, only to pass away too young:

"In the desert I saw a creature // naked, bestial, who, squatting upon the ground // Held his heart in his hands, And ate of it. // I said, "Is it good, friend?" // "It is bitter -- bitter," he answered; // "But I like it Because it is bitter, And because it is my heart."…

Three Bits

True to their promise to do it before Valentines, a patch has rolled on City of Heroes that made the increased experience amounts off mobs available. Testing it a bit last night, it seems to be a pretty generous portion, in some cases by over double, but it depends on what level you're at.

The patch includes a statistic tracker function that gives you a very accurate readout of what part of your character is enhanced in what way, excellent for determining what your set enhancements are doing and seeing when you've hit a cap somewhere. This is an interesting innovation in that it's taken the stance that players should understand what everything about their character does where many RPGs feel that this distracts from the immersion and so deliberately keep the players in the dark.

Another thing I wanted to mention is that Mass Effect is coming to PC. Definately something for PC users to look forward to. I already finished the game on the XBox 360, but it'd fish me in…

The Cake and Cabal Online

Somehow, a chronic alt-a-holic like me has managed a level 38 Wizard in Cabal Online, less than 2 weeks after the the open beta had begun (Feb 1st). I've also a level 32 Force Blader. The game loves alts, right down to giving the players 6 character slots per server (the same number as there are classes) and a the shared warehouse to distribute gear between them.

A full quest list: the adventurer's job is never done.

The grind seems fast. By level 50, one gains the "battle mode 2" that fairly defines their class, and I don't have that much further to go. However, there's actually over 160 levels in Cabal Online. There might be a "soft level limit" meaning there is no actual maximum level.

The skill rank takes awhile. Using sword skills and magic skills leads to new skill ranks, the only way to get your hands on upgraded versions of your bread-and-butter abilities. My level 36 Wizard, a speciaized caster, is a "regular" in Magic: 2 ra…

Double your misery, double your fun

Though there's still another 12 hours of it, Double Experience Weekend was a bit of a bust for me. I caught a nasty cold and have been transversing stuffy-headed, post-nasal drip misery the whole time. However, I did make some progress regardless, by focusing on trying out higher level powers on mostly retired alts.

The Nanites is a pretty cool looking hero, in my opinion.

First, I took Max Overkill, an Assault/Electric Blaster, from 26 to 33 so I could try out the Full Auto cone attack power. By itself, I wasn't too impressed - the Flamethrower I gained at level 18 was more effective in terms of cone size and damage-per-second output. However, few minions will be left standing when both powers are combined.

Then, I took Nanites, a retired Spines/Dark I could never bring myself to delete for sentimental reasons, from 34 to 35 in order to try out Oppressive Gloom. Disorienting half the minions around him definitely improved his survivability, but Spines remains a very slow,…

Dancing the Knuckle Macarena

A deliberately misleading title about how my exploits in Cabal Online forge forward with reckless abandon. Herein, I levy sideways blame in brain atrophy from other MMORPGs' play for making it hard for me to combo over 12 attacks and look forward to City of Heroes' approaching double experience weekend ever-increasing apathy.

To give the in-game Jukebox something to chew on, I've taken Dark Side of Phobos to .ogg format. As 24 free Doom parody tracks of hard-hitting guitar and techno, it's a surprisingly good mesh for Cabal Online, but I need more. I'm thinking I might use Pandora (thanks once again for recommending that, Grimwell) to track down some good artists and then use the "buy from Amazon/iTunes" link.

For the time being, I've settled on the incredible power of the Wizard for my choice in Cabal Online poison. The difficulty of comboing targets that die so fast may drive me elsewhere in time.

I'm still mostly playing Cabal Online simply f…

Much ado digitally

Three topics today: I got a new monitor, City of Heroes' "Double Experience Weekend" is coming up, and some Cabal Online features. Of course, I elaborated extensively. Of particular value is coverage of the PK system... aside from that, the rest should have been cut. (Honestly, who gives a damn that I got a new monitor but me?)

Suddenly, my eyes are open.

I purchased a new LG L1953S-BF monitor to replace my Viewsonic VA1912W which is starting to burn out. They say you shouldn't judge a monitor on it's 1:5000 contrast ratio, and maybe it's that I've been looking at games through a washed out foggy view for the past few weeks, but this new monitor is easily the crispest looking display I have ever seen. The graphics in just about every one of my games I've been playing lately suddenly look fantastic.

Part of that might be because I opted not to go widescreen this time. Many games (especially the older ones on GameTap) have compatibility issue…

Cabal Online: A Gamer's MMORPG?

Now that the North American open beta has started, I spent quite a bit of time in Cabal Online over the weekend. I'm surprised to say that a game hailing from Korea has earned a place amongst in the top three MMORPGs of all time for me. That's not racism, it's just that so many Korean MMORPGs I've played are revolting grinds and this is the opposite.

What follows is not exactly a review of Cabal Online so much as an explanation as to why it has earned this acclaim for me. However, if you're curious about the game, details, screenshots, and instructions on how to access this free-to-play game are included.

First impressions of Cabal Online will invoke whatever feelings you have for a MMORPG: Hitpoint and mana bars in the upper left, a hotkey panel, and that infernal experience bar. This is the interface rightfully belonging to doomed games such as Asheron's Call 2, Auto Assault, and Earth and Beyond. This is also the interface found in incredible products s…