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:
  1. Continue what I started in going into business for myself.
  2. 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 something I do to support myself because (as these products belong to other people) I can't legally sell mods to them. Though I believe I can legally receive donations as a sort of general token of unrelated appreciation, I don't think I can count on the generosity of the relieved droves of PC gamers to make ends meet. However, simply going through the motions is valuable practice that fosters my inner digital artist's capabilities. That is what makes doing that a viable possibility. I've a few specific projects in mind. There's not much I can do for Darkstar One -- too much of what I dislike about the game is sealed behind hardcode -- but I can at least write up a case study on it. Perhaps a bit of Neverwinter Nights 2 or Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion meddling is in order, as both games are quite flexible in what the developers allow the players to change. I never did finish the NWN2 campaign... but then, improvement using a fixed D20 mechanic would mostly be a storytelling endeavor. The trouble with Neverwinter Nights is that it was made to play Dungeons and Dragons, a pencil and paper game, and unfortunately the translation is so far from gaming nirvana that I think it's better to tell a good story to distract the players from it.
    Really, from a gaming perspective, the whole D20 system is kinda screwed up in that it removes too much control from the players. One lousy string of rolls sends a completely undeserving hero into a dirt nap. What happens is the Game Master either starts fudging rolls without the players knowing (this is what the GM screen is there to hide) or the players think it's cool that their characters die in silly ways as dumb luck asserts itself. As I said, the randomness is problematic from a "gaming" perspective, a perspective where the player is expected to play the game well. However, this randomness is great from a spontaneous storytelling perspective, where not even the GM knows what'll happen next for sure.
  3. Delve further into Age of Conan open beta.
  4. Funcom sent me a very interesting email. The meat of it is that, on the 10th of May, everybody's 13th level capped characters get boosted to the 20th, the level cap is removed, all maps are made available, and all servers will be set to full PvP. What a brilliant marketing move, 10 days of barbaric carnage leading up to the character wipe and pre-order head start on the 20th! Of course, I'll be eagerly there to see if the rest of the game is any better after the first 13 levels (though levels 14 to 19 are mysteriously missing). As for now, I'm just trying to figure out who I want at 13. I'll probably take 2 to 3 characters there, or even four (one from each archetype). The thing is, my criteria has always been classes that offer me a good variety of choices while being fun on an immediate level. Age of Conan's melee is fun, but it seems the casters get more choices. I'll probably have to settle for a Hybrid, such as the Herald of Xotli or a Dark Templar. It'd be nice if one of the more pure melee characters, such one of the rogues, proved to be an interesting choice-based character as well.

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