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Showing posts from May, 2008

Victory of the Roboincarnate

Nature was twisted, dragged upright into humanoid-shaped monsters, out for blood.

This was the Devouring Earth, commonly found throughout parts of Paragon City and the Rogue Isles: walking figures of stone, spindly tree men, large fungal marauders, and (worst of all) the mutated human beings, unrecognizably Cthulian, known as the Devoured. Their mission, brought about by the giant oozing single-celled monstrosity known as the Hamidon, was to reclaim the Earth from society, dragging everyone screaming to an unnaturally natural state.

The distant approaching sound of many mechanical feet heralded the opposite: today, it would be technology, not nature that would be striking back. Over the wartorn hill forged seven robotic war machines. Three were the robodrones, trusty mechanical foot troopers armed with light laser cannons. Short. Squat. Disposable. Two were the roboguards, taller and thicker than the robodrones, dispensing protective force shield bubbles where needed. Standing …

High Stakes Procrastination

My "plan," such as it is, has gone relatively well. Lots of progress in City of Heroes, with Age of Conan looming in the immediate future. Granted, any peripheral progress has been downright lousy.

In City of Heroes, I achieved a level a day Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Level 46 appears to be the magic level in which everybody wants you in your group, because I found a number of excellent groups Thursday (Today) that (followed by a little soling) earned me three more levels. The Roboincarnate, my level 49 Mastermind, will soon reach the end of his advancement.

Upon reaching 50, I'd have brought both a hero and a villain to the maximum level in that game. I'll then be ready to allow my City of Heroes subscription to lapse - it's already canceled and due to expire June 9th. Will this be temporary or permanent retirement? Even I don't know where my whims will go, but I theorize I'll come back to CoH some time in the future and feel relieved I no…

Idle Plans

Now on my four week of being both out of school (although scheduled to resume it in August) and unemployed, I'm starting to take my dispossessed state rather seriously. My plan until I land some scratch is going to involve a lot of job hunting. However, I've also developed a bit of a plan for my time I'm not spending job hunting.
Get one level a day in City of Heroes until my Robot/Mastermind is level 50. (Currently he's level 43 and I hope to have 44 by the end of the day. So, if I stick to my plan, that shouldn't take more than a week.)Spend remaining free time in Age of Conan.Hit the sack before 10:30pm so I can get up by 8am for more job hunting.It's a good plan because it keeps both games interesting through variety. Playing just one or the other be boring for me.

Either option, City of Heroes or Age of Conan, is quite uncomfortable. The trouble is a matter of framerate. I run both games at about 10-20 frames per second, and that's when there's…

eBay Distractions

Lately, I've been playing Age of Conan, City of Heroes, and Sonic Rush Adventure.

Age of Conan: Day 3: A Different Kind Of Catastrophe

Day 3 of the Age of Conan early access was largely spent down. It began with a 5 hour maintenance period at 2pm PST. That was extended by 2 additional hours... then another additional hour... well, it was about 10:39pm PST before I was actually able to play the game again. Eight and a half hours locked out of the game in preparation for its release tomorrow.

By the end of the day, I'd have learned that Age of Conan was possibly irreversibly sabotaged from within.

When I did get into the game again, I found four other guildmates were online and ready to settle their Age of Conan withdrawals. On our mind was quick leveling prior to the release-day floodgates opening tomorrow.

Video Caption: Between ineffective walls or simple memory hacks, Age of Conan has found itself weakly enforced against exploits. Could this be the critical flaw that prevents it from reaching World of Warcraft fame?

To these ends, we formed a group and hit some dungeons. We were about level 23-27, we hit …

Age of Conan: Day 2

My progress in the Age of Conan Pre-Release has gone well. It's only due to the servers going down on Day 3 for yet another several-hours-long maintenance previod that I've the time to Blog about it. Apparently, not only did Funcom not make room for all pre-order customers to play the pre-release, they also decided that those who were in the pre-release would be shorted at least 10 hours for maintenance time.

Oh well, I'm having fun anyway.

Day 2

Despite the "traders" (NPCs that perform a combination of mail, auction, and bank services) going offline, day 2 went well. I started at about level 16 with only the last battle left in my single player "Tortage Night" content. I needed level 19, so I turned to the "Tortage Day" multiplayer content, performing quests and avoiding the PvP zones. By evening, my Herald of Xolti was ready to finish Tortage, wrapping it up somewhat anticlimatically by killing poor Strom (the supposed main boss of Tort…

Age of Conan: Day 1

After a four hour delay, Age of Conan finally opened to the early access players.

Therein, I rapidly discovered that there was actually a reasonably improved client awaiting. It was mostly the content aspects - the many game-stopping bugs that had manifested during beta in Tortage were solved. They did manage to solve the issues with stuttering and long loading times in the client, it still suffers from a minor leak that degrades performance over the period of an hour or two. (Though, I'm using ancient hardware that has about a fourth of the framerate the average system should be getting these days, so the leak bothers me more than most.)

Nonetheless, even short on sleep as I was due to anticipation of the game, I had fun. At the urging the guild, I stated with a Demonologist. However, by about 3 hours and level 10, I was not very satisfied. I really missed the up close and personal hack and slash from the Herald of Xotli I favored back in beta. So it is that I played one…

The Great Hyborian Waiting Game

"Originally there was enough early access for everybody. Then came Conan, foreign king of the Aquilonians. With his great muscles and legendary swordsmanship, he cleaved the early access in twain, bellowing, 'Hyboria's Full! Go away!' Of the tiny sliver that remained, Funcom gave it to Germany and France, as only quality beer, wine, bratwurst, and cheese could soothe the rage within the savage barbarian."

It seems Funcom greatly underestimated the number of people who are sick of World of Warcraft. They've both had over 1,000,000 open beta registrations (which would be a highly unusual number of subscribers) and have closed their early access registration. Many (most?) people, regardless of if they pre-ordered or not, are going to be waiting until the 20th.

The Conan the Adventurer cartoon series was relatively good at maintaining the spirit of the books, except for the lack of gore and sex, and Needle who is essentially the phoenix equivalent of Jar Jar …

Hyboria or/and Bust

City of Heroes, despite having the comfort of a familiar haunt, is something I'm extremely burnt out from. The archetype system was flexible enough to hold me for perhaps 2000 hours -- a truly astounding feat for any game -- but that flexibility has come to an end. Even the addition of issue 12, which I briefly played with on the test server, could not restore my zeal for the game.

I need a new MMORPG to play, and Champions Online is still quite awhile away. So it is that I've decided to take Age of Conan seriously as my new MMORPG for awhile. Sure, I said I was broke and couldn't afford it, but I think I can borrow the neccessary money to make the preorder head start deadline.

As I detailed extensively over the last few entires, Age of Conan isn't perfect, and a patient player would benefit from waiting a few months while they patch what's wrong with it. Nonetheless, the gameplay is just barely innovative enough to interest me.

Besides, there's a certain …

After Tortage: final word on the Age of Conan open beta

Age of Conan's open beta is grounding to a halt tomorrow, May 11th.

As I mentioned a few times before, today (May 10th) the characters were were bumped from level 13 to 20, the level cap was removed, and the world was open for exploration. Also, the servers were all set to be PvP servers.

I spent a few hours of playing with my Herald of Xolti today, Though (deliberately or not) the ganking players were a kind of obstacle to prevent the open beta players from really getting a good look at the game, I think I managed to good feel for the post-Tortage (lvl 20) game.

The benefits of an imaginary chemical dependancy

Like any minor torture, one becomes desensitized to the pain inflicted by the various bugs in game being rushed to market. So it is that I, like many established Age of Conan players, found myself looking forward to the release despite its many flaws.

However, in many ways, desensitization is a problem. People need to pay attention more in all aspects of their life of they are to live it well. Take my class expectations in MMORPGs as they were overgeneralized to Age of Conan, for example.

I want a character who is fun to play but has some powerful choices to pull out when the going gets tough. Perhaps the primary reason I enjoyed City of Heroes' was because of the inspiration tray (which allowed a great deal of emergency flexibility) and a power balance that would often result in a good deal of choice in a given character.

Influential choices are a main thing I want from any MMORPG's game balance, and my expectations of Age of Conan were no different. Unfortunately, dur…

Escaping the black hole

Fabulous news: I finished Darkstar One. Why is that so fabulous? Because games rarely hold me long enough to finish them. Well done, Ascaron, you've produced a game capable of dragging this jaded gamer's attention back so he can finish it in under 30 hours. That's an incredible feat, no sarcasm intended.

Currently, I'm fundamentally an unemployed drain on society with three months off until finishing up my Bachelors. Maybe after I start dropping some applications and getting calls from employers, that situation will change.

In the meanwhile, I'm considering how to bide my free time. Two immediate possibilities spring to mind:
Continue what I started in going into business for myself. In short, I'm talking about that other Blog of mine, [Edit 11/4/10: now defunct] where I'm going about improving the state of games like a code-slinging vigilante: largely tweaking existing games where my gamer senses say they need tweaking. T hat wouldn't be someth…

Tabula Abicio (Slate Discarded)

As I was invited to give it a spin for free, I went ahead and logged into Tabula Rasa today. Apparently, the patches since I last played required my characters were reset, keeping their levels and equipment but leaving the skill and attribute points uninvested. Having not played the game for months, I misspent them. However, this common snafu aside, what could be said about the game now that it's been out 6-7 months?

Though it plays pretty identically on the surface, Tabula Rasa has definitely improved since release. The areas that I visited (the Divide and Palisades) were granted a ton of new quests and otherwise refined to a smooth experience of quest grinding with guns. The balance has improved as well, leaving me quite satisfied with the interplay of my Sapper's firearms and proximity mines against the (at times annoyingly) tenacious Bane horde. This is the game Tabula Rasa should have been when it was released.

Picture Caption: Defending a base against the Bane while …

Age of Conan and other related half-finished endeavors

I played a couple more classes in Age of Conan, but by the time I reached the Assassin, my earlier worries were confirmed. Normally, I can pick up a pretty good vibe of a class based on the first 10 levels alone. However, due to the fundamental way in which Age of Conan was designed, this level 10 comparison really wasn't going to work.

Thus, much like Age of Conan itself, my class comparison project will be left half-done before release. Too subtle? Let me say that again: Age of Conan's release should be delayed to fix this and other problems. A list of reasons follow.

Why the 10th level class comparison didn't work

The trouble is that Age of Conan's character progression has mutated, and the artifacts of the previous system are still in place. In 2006, their plan was to have a tiered system similar to old school EverQuest 2: choose a basic class type at level 5, and then choose your final class at level 20. Also like EQ2, they eventually abandoned that idea, …

Age of Conan Class Comparision: First 3 of 12

This weekend, I've taken it upon myself to give Age of Conan's classes a good test run, at least up to level 10. I know there's purists out there who feel it's their obligation to point out that you won't know what a given character class is capable of until you've played them all the way to the end. While I respect that opinion, I think it's also accurate to say that level 10 is far enough to see which direction the class is going in the broad scope of all the classes.

Today, whilst coping with unoptimized load times and frequent staggering relating to on-the-fly shader optimization, I've given the Barbarian, Priest of Mitra, and Herald of Xolti a good spin. So, without further ado:

Primary Function: Melee-range offense (slashing DoT "bleeding", PBAOE attack)
Secondary Function: Mitigation (stuns) and Scouting (stealth)
Short Description: The ferocious Barbarian's animal cunning is not suited for direct fights against discip…

Grand Theft Shenmue

Grand Theft Auto 4 has created quite a bunch of hype, and I suppose that's relatively justified, as it is indeed a thoroughly entertaining game. However, contrary to it being a GTA thing, I'm thinking it's more of a Shenmue thing.

Like Shenmue, there's a great deal of focus on detail to simulate the environment, bringing about a "living city" feel. This is evident in GTA4 much more than the previous GTAs.

The main character, sort of a endearing Russian vagrant, is a necessary part of this. Without that interplay between flawed-but-likable main character and the individual elements of the city, this wouldn't have felt half as real.

It's the realism - not "arbitrary inclusion of ballistics test data" realism but rather "great feeling interactive story" realism - that is causing reviewers to give this game a 9.5 - 10. It has to be: the game mechanics themselves haven't improved that much. Sure, you can use cover, the ph…

Vice City

The inner procrastination drive is still going strong - curbing this tendency is a large reason why I'm looking to get a job this summer. Rather than work exclusively on my animation class work today, I found myself fished in by Vice City. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, that is. Oh well, I've still all day tomorrow to get my animation project together.

As a May 2003 game, GTA: VC is nearly 5 years old. On newer drivers, it seems to have developed a glitch that causes it to crash when changing resolution, but using any third party app to force windowed mode seems to resolve that problem. Yet, even on the 640x480 default, I have to appreciate the style that went into this game.

Of course, the reason I was driven to reinstall it in the first place was due to anticipation for GTA4, which will not only be a graphical and feature upgrade but also a storyline upgrade. Stylish or no, it's hard to sympathize with the characters in Vice City, they're larger than life cari…