Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Quest For Fun

I readily admit I've been adrift, looking for a game which will hold my attention. If you've been following this blog that message will have undoubtedly been coming through loud, and often. On Saturday I was foiled by She Who Will Be Named Later and was left visa-less, and alone. Like some kind of evil super villain I posted my plans on world (visa) domination prior to her leaving and the card went with her (well Mr.Bond, let me explain the genius of my plan so you can shortly foil it).

I therefore turned my attention to the only thing a cashless, restless gamer can do- downloading piles of free-to-play, open beta, and demo games. My mood was not improved throughout the day. I always find this to be a bit frustrating: failed downloads, crashes, and general time wastage. Luckily only the dogs were here to suffer through my rages. The Sultan of Smart (the older, smarter dog), well used to me by now, approaching apprehensively to offer support. The Duchess of Dumb (new lab puppy) seemed unfazed and continued to chew various bits of textiles.

The New Face of Dumb

I decided I was rather like Clark Griswald and my search for a game which would hold my attention was like a quest. A quest for fun. No matter what the cost I was going to have fun, dammit! I debated adding a monthly section to the blog called The Quest For Fun in which I discussed the various games I played, no matter how briefly, and my thoughts on them. I still might do just that, but there will be a slight delay due to the fact that I seem to have hit the jackpot first time out:

World of Tanks

I feel very much like SynCaine did when he proclaimed his blog no more! Goodbye Gankalicious: Confessions of an Online Altoholic, hello All Tanks, All The Time. This is a great game, apparently designed with me in mind. The beta just went open yesterday, and I'm too excited to care if there is an NDA in place. I'm not going to devote a lot of time to it, in any case, because I have to go and play it again. Time is short, my virtual friends, there is no time to waste.

I first heard about this game a few days ago when I was listening to Kiasa's podcast (#8 I think, and for the love of god if you haven't heard these guys yet, go listen! "I found Pong to be a bit grindy, and the character's were rubbish" lol....they are brilliant). I regularly read MMORPG (but not regularly enough to see the bloody Earthrise Beta giveaway in time unfortunately) and saw the World of Tanks open beta notice. I added it to the long list of games downloading in the que and forgot about it. I finally got around to it fairly late and after the mysterious disappearance of a bottle of wine that I had opened earlier. Hmmmmm, can you be arrested for driving a virtual tank while intoxicated? Probably.

The point I'd like to make is that with a hard-drive brimming full of games (both tried and untried), and access to more than a few online games (including the Alpha testing of a much-hyped theme park MMO soon to be released) all I wanted to do was run around (very slowly) in a small, underpowered, under-armored Russian tank and get blown up. A lot.

I even tried the Germans. Boy they used to be great, didn't they? Whatever happened with all that world domination stuff anyway?

Victory: Me! Huzzah!

How I spent most of the night.

This became very familiar.

I'm going to abandon all efforts at prose and go bullet point here to wrap this up as I need to stop focusing on anything real for a little while (did I mention that whoever stole that bottle of wine also took three bottles of beer from me as well) and get some kind of meat-based sandwich into me- Bacon Buttie, Great Mother of us all, is there nothing you can't cure?

This game is ideal for me because:

  • Its free to play with a cash-store which means I can buy my way to the top (I have more money than both time and sense so I am not ashamed of this).
  • Its all pvp, all the time. No quests, no pve, no running back and forth at the behest of some ridiculous NPC who can't be bothered to go and collect his own f*****g mushrooms.
  • When your tank becomes a steaming pile of wreckage on the battlefield you can grab a spare and jump into another battle- No waiting!
  • It looks nice.
  • It plays nice.
  • It's got tanks
Get in!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Fortuitous Friday: Fighting The Funk Revisited- The FPS Edition

That’s right: last Friday I was Fighting the Funk, and now I’m Fighting the Low FPS Blues. Maybe Fortuitous Friday should be transformed into Fighting Friday! Alternatively, maybe next week I’ll be ‘Feeling Fine’ and we can push this whole alliteration thing as far as it can possibly go. I’d be somewhat scared of a reader revolt if I was to do that, so I think I’ll likely lay off that particular prose for future posts.

As previously mentioned I sacrificed a Saturday (I can’t help myself, I’m addicted to alliteration) and toiled at the Flint Knapping Site in order to get a bit of extra cash to upgrade my aging computer system. I have a very reasonable list of what needs to be done (CPU, RAM, and Graphics) and I made the choice to tackle my CPU first. I went from an AMD II 2.8gz to an AMD IIX4 3.0gz. Bring on the quad core! I expected some blazing fast speeds, let me tell you, and I was also anticipating a huge jump in my game-related performance (but in fairness why the hell else would I upgrade my computer if not for game-performance). I had anticipated Christopher Lloyd to deliver it in from some time far in the future and all my FPS woes to be a thing of the past. But it was not to be so.

I couldn’t, of course (having unsubbed), test the new CPU with Warhammer which has been my benchmark for some time. It usually provides a steady 40-50 FPS on medium setting and 20ish on ultra. Unfortunately, the game I can not mention because I am bound by a non-disclosure agreement, is the only other game that I was playing in which I knew my previous (low) FPS. 

I couldn’t write about that one, however, so instead I downloaded and installed a game called RAFT. Now RAFT is a fairly new game in which your avatar is a raft, sailing on an ocean. This ocean has certain fissures appearing from time to time spewing forth angry sea creatures you have to kill. Your raft has the ability to mix and match three different types of sails to help you through this dangerous world however.......

Point: I noted that RAFT was taxing my old system quite badly. My FPS on ultra settings was between 4 and 9. Yes, that’s FOUR and NINE, not forty-nine. On low detail I was pulling in a shameful twenty.

I disassembled the computer, popped in the new CPU, reassembled without a hitch (a major accomplishment, trust me) and away I went. I loaded up RAFT, eager and giddy, to be greeted with soul-crushing (pardon the pun) disappointment. Net gain in FPS? Zero. Not a bit of difference even though my computer, technically speaking, should be what, four times as fast as it was? Bugger. I have not heeded the Grail Knight, and have chosen unwisely. I have chosen the false grail and will be turned to dust.

I  have three megs of RAM and an Nvidea Geoforce 9400 with 512MB which I only put in last year. (I’m usually behind in components due to budgetary constraints). I admit I don’t know a heck of a lot about these technical things but I had assumed upgrading my CPU, even with those older bits still in, would result in some fairly noticeable increases in FPS performance.

Disappointed as I am there is still hope. The overtime, unfortunately, is no more, but it has recently come to my attention that She Who Will Be Named Later is earning slightly more than we had anticipated at her new job in The Sweat Shop where she ensures the children don’t take bathroom breaks. It has also come to my attention that she will be leaving this weekend to visit some friends in a far away, dusty land (or just up the road a few hours, I’m not sure which). Should the magical visa card somehow leave her wallet and land deeply- comfortable and hidden- in my pocket, then by next Friday you may indeed be able to read:

Fortuitous Friday: Feeling Fine with FPS Fix.

In the meantime I am left to peruse and research what combination of video card and/or RAM will work best for me. In reality I should skip all that and buy a comfortable computer chair and desk which would be kinder on my aging body than the second-hand crap I am using at the moment. Maybe that should be the determination of your play style: hardcore is not dependent on what type of game you play, or how often you play it, but what you play it on. Comfy, sensible chair, with ergonomic set up to ease your aching back, shoulder, and neck? Baby! Go suckle your momma’s teat, nub. Me, I’m hardcore: broken chair with no padding and a crappy antique desk you can’t fit your feet under, and my mouse? Ha! It’s a real, dead mouse that my dog dragged in with a string of dubious origin attached to it. Stick that in your usb port.
Like 99% of aquarium stands I see, the standard computer desk is a hideous and horrible looking thing. We’re not in our mother’s basement anymore, dammit! We demand fashionable furniture for our gaming devices. By god, I’m an adult now! I did a quick Google search and found some interesting gaming set-ups but since our computer area is multi-use none of these are feasible for me I’m afraid.....although with the visa safely in my pocket, who knows what might get delivered in the next week or so?

Do you think I could convince She Who Will Be Named Later that this is, actually, the perfect set up with which to watch the latest BBC I-Player costume drama? You'll be safe from the clutches of Mr. Darcy in this, my dear.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

In Which I Lash Out at Ineffectual Archaeological Academia But Disguise it as a Gaming Blog Because I'm Sneaky Like That

Despite the title, this is actually the 1st in my new serial killing, er blogging, series so bear with me....this will eventually turn back into a post about gaming.

There were a couple schools of thought in archaeological theory with regards to conducting research into past, or present, peoples and cultures. There were, now that I think about it, likely a lot more than two schools of thought but I can’t remember that far back, and more recently I was too busy actually working to do much theoretical pontificating, unlike my counterparts who skulked in their ivory towers, leering at their students, and stressing about their next presumptuous publication.........can you taste that bitterness folks, can you? It's hanging in the air like smoke I’d say, but please don't mistake it for jealousy because it's really just contempt, I assure you. Oh, and if you are a professor, working in a University or College I of course don't mean're different, I'm sure, and thanks for reading my blog.

Anyhoooo, back to theories and such......

One of the inherent problems in archaeology and anthropology is that people have different ways of looking at the same thing (subjective little buggers, aren’t we?). One school of thought suggested that we should rise above our subjective natures and look at different peoples and their culture from a purely scientific point of view. Data collection should be free of our own biases and opinions. The other school of thought stated that it was not possible to do this, and that our own beliefs, mores, and cultural norms will always be a lens through which we interpret everything. The best we can do then, is to understand that, state our biases, and then do the best we can.

Never a purist (nor one to believe in a load of bollocks) I fell into the second camp. I think that approach holds true not only for archaeology (and its associated hunt for treasure and/or cute, gullible grad students who think you're great because you've traveled all over the world stealing the cultural treasures of other nations, right Mr. Jones?) but with a lot of things. I'm sure, by now, you're wondering what my bloody point is, what it has to do with games, and (if you’re working at a university) if you should alert security to seal off the roof. Right, so here it comes:

Xsyon is a game I want to like.

I posted about this previously and stated some of the things that really interest me: Its sandbox approach, its focus on a primitive start up, the involvement of an archaeologist in the project, the social experiment that will allow (force) players into creating an entire world which will evolve both technologically and physically- all at the players initiative- really does fascinate me in an intellectual way. The end result of all that is I really want to like this game. The following review, and those to come, must be read and understood with this in mind as per the Post-Processual intellectual egg-heads mentioned previously (see, I had a point that went beyond insulting academics). I can’t promise you I’ll be fair, but at the very least you’ve been warned.

Xsyon (P)reviewed: Installment The First

In the beginning God (that being me in this case) created a character and sent them forth into the world. And they were frightened. Petrified really. The opening music caught me off guard and scared the daylights out of me. I've played Left 4 Dead, and at one time I'd watch anything labeled 'horror’, so I'm not easily scared but that intro music is something else. I thought I was going to be mobbed by a pack of angry beasts. I looked left, then right, then behind me. Then up.  I prepared for imminent attack, but no, nothing. Thankfully the music fades after a few minutes, your adrenaline recedes and with shaky hands you can get back to the game.

I was alone, with only my axe, a bag with my crafting tools, a fishing rod, and the clothes on my back. That's it. Tutorial? Bah! They had one but the scary animals from the music track killed it. Make your own way. Oh, and I was hungry, and thirsty, and I had no food. No quest guy? What the hell.......

This is one of the reasons that I want to like Xsyon. It is a great idea which treats the player like they may have the ability to think for themselves (me human, me use brain). It's going to be a difficult balance for any game like this, I think, to get that right and attract a decent payer base. A lot of these, what should we call them- Sandbox? Niche market? Indie?- games can suffer from the 'take-it or leave-it because-we're-different-syndrome'. I felt Darkfall was a bit like that.   
Xsyon features a skill-based character progression system with some leveling as well. I'm not sure how that works, and I’ve yet to gain a level, but we'll see soon enough. I've only 'rolled' two different characters to see the difference in starting crafting specialties, and the equipment they provide, but be warned- and this may make fellow altoholics a bit weak at the knees- you can have only one character. Or, if you prefer it in the form of an 80's movie quote:

There can be only one.

You are free to call him Highlander, if you wish, but there are no alts allowed. And as an aside, now that I've lived in Scotland, I think I can say that might be the worst Scottish accent ever, so rest easy Mr. Gibson you won't get that title (although Racist Of The Year is still up for grabs, so have another drink and get talking! Oh, look, Mel, it's a half Nigerian-Muslim, half Polish-Jewish woman working as a police officer: What do you make of that?).

Getting back to the actual gaming experience I have to say, in fairness (and despite my bias), it isn't exactly polished. It kind of reminds me of Fallen Earth which had very disappointing, amateurish graphics (at release). Xsyon is better than the Fallen Earth of a year ago (when I played it) but I would say it’s of a similar standard. I am not bound by an NDA so I'm ending this installment with some screenies for you to see, but remember, it is beta, and these were taken prior to the latest 1.8 gb patch which has upgraded the textures, or so I'm told:

Rivers: They helped early civilizations flourish, and as an added bonus, my dogs love them!

Scavenging a Garbage Heap.

I look very angry, and rightfully so. It took me ages to craft that club. I lost my hair due to the stress involved.

FIRE! Who's you're (warm) daddy now!

A look at the backpack and grass pouch (which I made, thank you very much) contents, and the skill (crafting) bar in the upper right.

For man is not an animal, and he must bathe. Or at least drink or he will die in this game.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Serial: It's Not Just For Killing Or Uneducated Breakfast Eaters Anymore

Much like the great writers of long ago (make what you will of that comparison) I have decided that I will serialize some of my blog posts. A few of my ideas, such as reviews on games that I am playing, or various other brilliant (I think) ideas, are a bit long, or just unfinished. Like Dickens I will write some of them as I go because there are times I haven't played through certain aspects of a game, but would like to get some of the information down while it's fresh in my mind. It will also allow me to play whilst blogging and so long as I can continue gaming, I am a happy Gankalicious.

At the moment I am actually doing a lot of gaming. Maybe too much. Wait, who said that? How dare you, sir, suggest that it's possible to do too much gaming. Pistols at dawn, or at the very least a duel in Praag- no Gutter Runners allowed.

I do have a full gaming-plate: I'm currently Alpha testing RIFT, toying with testing a game called Gods and Heroes: Rome Rising, trying to learn the basics of Xsyon, debating playing Earthrise when it launches (February 1st I believe), and then there is still poor old Mount and Blade: Warband, which I bought a week ago and has been languishing on my shelf (or in my Western Digital external hard drive) ever since. Plaaaaay meeee, it beckons. I'm literally swamped with gaming which is 'happy days' as far as I'm concerned, although She Who Will Be Named Later may or may not be losing patience with the whole 'gaming thing'. That's a small (enormous) lie really. She's well used to it by now. We are very much a couple who communicates and expresses our views openly, and honestly, and besides which, we agreed: If I gave up smoking heroin during the week I would be allowed to keep playing games. Everybody wins! Huzzah!

So stay tuned for the 1st installment (due tomorrow) when I will begin talking about Xsyon: Earth 2012 (which better release on time or its in danger of being historical rather than futuristic). Until then, whet your appetite on a serial that I co-wrote with 'ole Chucky in 1837.

Oliver Twist Meets Gankalicious

The evening arrived; the readers took their places. Gankalicious, in his cook's uniform, stationed himself at the copper; his pauper assistants ranged themselves behind him; the gruel was served out; and a long blog post was said over the short commons. The gruel disappeared; the boys whispered each other, and winked at Oliver; while his next neighbours nudged him. Child as he was, he was desperate with hunger, and reckless with misery. He rose from the table; and advancing to Gankalicious, basin and spoon in hand, said: somewhat alarmed at his own temerity: 

'Please, sir, I want some more.'

Gankalicious was an incredibly handsome, funny man; but he turned very pale. He gazed in stupified astonishment on the small rebel for some seconds, and then clung for support to the copper. The assistants were paralysed with wonder; the boys with fear.

'What!' said Gankalicous at length, in a faint voice.

'Please, sir,' replied Oliver, 'I want some more.'

Gankalicious aimed a blow at Oliver's head with the ladle; pinioned him in his arm; and shrieked aloud for the beadle.

The board were sitting in solemn conclave, when Mr. Bumble rushed into the room in great excitement, and addressing the gentleman in the high chair, said, 

'Mr. Limbkins, I beg your pardon, sir! Oliver Twist has asked for more!'
There was a general start. Horror was depicted on every countenance.

'For MORE!' said Mr. Limbkins. 'Compose yourself, Bumble, and answer me distinctly. Do I understand that he asked for more, after he had eaten the supper allotted by Gankalicious?'

'He did, sir,' replied Bumble.

Cheeky bastard, thought Limbkins. 'Send him to Gorfang,' he said finally 'If Taransula doesn't get him then Mythic's lethal customer service will surely finish him off.'

Monday, January 24, 2011

EA Invoice

Electronic Arts Video Games,
Mythic Entertainment Division
Accounts Payable Department

Re: Invoice For Services September 2008-January 2011.

You will note that our contract has now ended, and that I have fulfilled the terms and conditions as discussed at the beginning of the project with your counterpart GOA (now defunct). I have calculated the time worked in your virtual world by my employees as per the Tome Of Knowledge which was provided by you as a time-keeping record management tool. I remind you that the terms are payment upon receipt and late payments after Friday, January 28, 2011 are subject to a 5% late fee payable weekly. As the project was started in the EU I will be charging V.A.T.

Thank you for your attention in this matter,


Director, Ganked-Ya! Entertainment Ltd.
Ice Street,
Cold Town,

Tome of Knowledge Game Time
Real Life Hours
Rate /hour
Amount Due in Euro
45 Healer
14 days, 19 hours
40 Engineer
10 days, 21 hours
35 Witch Hunter
10 days, 12 hours
22 Bright Wizard
1 day, 20 hours
16 Disciple of Khaine
1 day, 1 hour


39 days


Vat @ 21%
Amount Due

38, 429.00

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Rated M For Mature

I don't tend to use 'bad' language in my blog posts as it just seems out of place, and a bit unecessary. In real life I actually swear like a seaman, (although I do know an ex-navy guy who doesn't swear at all, so maybe that's a bit of a myth, like Mermaids or Fair Elections), and I once had someone tell me they had never head anyone use a particular expletive as much, or as casually as I do. It was a proud moment.

It has occurred to me of late that I am not very happy with Warhammer. I am having fun, yes, but overall I just can't help feeling like everytime I log in, Mythic is giving me a big middle finger (or two fingers if you're in the UK). This morning I awoke to remember I had posted this on the topic of Mythic and their recent silence regarding the state of the game:

I logged in to find a Live Event had started so I suppose someone is still alive over there, but that’s hardly a show of good faith. I feel sorry for them, really, as I suppose most of them are just doing their job. The WAR employees who likely read the forums and listen to the players are likely as frustrated as we are. It’s been my experience that in any large-ish company those who make most of the decisions (ie lets not tell the players anything and watch them leave in droves) are not the ones with the greatest understanding of what’s going on. They are usually not the ones to bear the brunt of the customer/client frustration either. 

I’ve stayed out of the whole ‘where are they debate’ and have tried to take a ‘meh’ attitude, but in fairness it’s getting a bit ridiculous. All I can do is vote with my money and unsub. It’s a shame because I still do manage to have some fun, but there are too many games (run by companies who at least pretend to give a shit) that look like they may be fun to.

The ethics of posting responses on other people's blogs after coming in from the pub aside, I do make a point, I think. I have also kind of laid down the gauntlet (for myself) regarding my commitment to Warhammer Online. I don't mind playing a game that has some flaws but I really dislike poor customer service. I do tend to set the bar quite high in that regard but judging by the amount of other WAR bloggers leaving the game I don't think its a case of my incredibly high standards being out of reach for Mythic.

I also really liked Bootaes recent video post: very funny. My video response is not as witty, and definitely not as subtle but I'm in North America now! We're supposed to be a bit more brash 'cause we're so young:) The lyrics don't, or course, relate to gaming, but I think the spirit of the song represents Mythic's current view towards their player base and also encapsulates my own feelings towards them.

Oh, and I've canceled my subscription. I'll be back when Mythic starts 'at least pretending to give a shit' as I said. And that, is my middle finger to them.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

My (RIFT) Lips Are Sealed

Shamelessly shrugging off my proclamation to 'Fight the Funk' last night, I was aimlessly sifting through various forums, and game sites, not wanting to commit to any one particular game. I was, despite my blogging bravado, and the best efforts of Evil Nine, a bit listless. The ice hadn't set in the freezer so I was having to wait for my gin and tonic which is always either rage inducing, or depression enhancing (both the waiting and the gin, in fact). I think it might actually be a crime in certain parts of the world to make a man (or woman) wait for a gin and tonic. If it was good enough for the orphans in England at tea-time, it's good enough for everyone I say.

I narrowly missed a beta invite for Earthrise  (too slow to log in and grab the free key) and was considering giving up for the night and going to bed (with the bottle of gin, of course). I checked my hotmail account to do the weekly spam delete- oh look, my non-existent World of Warcraft account has been hacked! I need to click that link to confirm it's still okay! Oooh, and look at this- my ancestors (from Nigeria) have left me some money and all I have to do is forward my bank account details. Maybe things are looking up?
And what's this, idling away in my inbox since yesterday? A wee message from Trion Worlds. You are invited to the beta test, blah, blah, blah......Yes, I know, all of us who pre-ordered have been and it starts on Monday. Can't wait, really, cheers.......Hey, wait a minute.....that says Alpha, not Beta. What the hell is a Closed Alpha Test....oh.....I see.....nice one.

Winner: Me! Huzzah!

I Can Has Dumb Luck?

I find it ever so slightly amusing since I haven't thought much about the game since my 'It's not working out' post in which I may, or may not, have said I thought it looked a little, em, graphically challenged (or that it looked like shit- one or the other). That's not to say it matters to Trion, I'm sure its just random luck that I was selected, but there you go. I've been wondering if I was going to like the game and now, it seems, I have the chance to give it a really good test.

I don't think my 'meh' attitude really has anything to do with RIFT itself, so much, as the idea of learning something new, and having to interact with a new community. I am a bit of a social-recluse in real life, and most of my fun involves, well, me............and that's all (excluding She Who Will Be Named Later, and my precious alcohol, of course). When you feel a bit down, due to the weather or what-have-you, its hard to work up the motivation for much of anything really, but here we go: Alpha invite. I can hardly say no. The game does have a lot of potential, I realize that, and it's currently shaping up to be 'The Next Big Thing' or at least 'The Biggest Thing At The Moment' and I freely admit that has me interested as well. I usually avoid hype, and especially crowds (even virtual ones) but I've been swept along this time so why fight it?

I also notice that my single RIFT blog has had the most views (at a whopping 15) of all my posts. Maybe this is how I can Win Virtual Friends and Influence People. Is it a coincidence that that book has sold 15 million copies and my blog page has 15 hits? I think not! This could be it, this could be the beginning of a new me, a popular me, a me with loads of friends. Who knows, maybe my own guild with plenty of minions to do gather my crafting resources and to inflate my ego. Then I can use guild chat to post messages like this:

<Guild><Gankalicious>I will not suffer your insubordination! There has been a shocking decline in the quality and quantity of your toadying, Guildies. And you will fall into line now!

Alternatively I could play test the game and have some fun. At the very least it will give me something to focus on and give me a chance to really sink my teeth into the game and decide if it's for me. Unfortunately for you, I am bound by a NDA in this one so:


Can you hear them?
They talk about RIFT
  Posting lies
Well that's a surprise

Can you see them
See right through them
They have no Alpha invite
No secrets to reveal

It doesn't matter what they say
In the MMO games people play
Our lips are sealed

There's an invite
That we must use
In our defense
Silence reveals

When you play it
Try a Stealth Rogue
That's when you'll disappear
That's when we'll be feared

It doesn't matter what they say
In the MMO games people play
Our lips are sealed

Give no mind to what they play
It doesn't matter anyway
Our lips are sealed

Hush, my playtester
Don't you cry
Quiet, Gankalicious
Forget their lies

Can you hear them
They talk about RIFT
Telling lies
Well, that's no surprise
Can you see them
See right through them
They have no Alpha invite
No secrets to reveal

It doesn't matter what they say
In the MMO games people play
Our lips are sealed

Pay no mind to what they say
It doesn't matter anyway
Our lips are sealed
Our lips are sealed
Our lips are sealed

Friday, January 21, 2011

Fortuitous Fridays: Fight the Funk!

If you live in a northern, temperate zone you know that this can be one of the most difficult times of the year. Christmas is over and all the excess of food and drink has taken its toll. Its cold, its dark, and you can't be bothered with much of anything. SAD has set in and there are months this cold, dark, inhospitable climate yet to survive.

If you live in a sunny, warm climate, close your ears because you might not like what I'm about to call you! The weather here is getting decidedly worse but at we are over the hurdle and the sun is up by 9:00 am and doesn't disappear completely until 5:00 pm. Its kind of an office-based working day for the sun here. At the height of winter its dark from half four in the afternoon until half nine in the morming. Our temperatures, thanks to global warming, are all over the place on the whole, but we are usually guaranteed a week of sub 30 C temperatures. In addition we have also set the record for snow fall at 4'- yes four feet (that's 1.21 meters)- and they also tell us (in the same breath the sadistic bastards) that at this time of the year we have usually only received half of the total snow fall for the winter. Really? Eight feet of snow expected? Good god.

I've actually run out of space to put it. I have snow piled up as high as my garage. I can't actually throw any more up there because I can't physically reach that far above my head. Ridiculous. I know these things can be a little hard to believe, especially if you live in sunny-fun-land so I grabbed a screen shot of the local weather. Unfortunately I didn't have time to get one first thing so this was taken after it had warmed up, if you can believe that:

This was taken after it had warmed up. Upon waking it was -34 but the wind made it feel like -46.

So I find myself in a bit of a funk. I've been back two years, but to be honest, you never get used to it, no matter what those of us who live here might say. You can come to bear it, obviously, but you never get used to it. Anyone who says otherwise is a liar and you can direct them to me if they say otherwise. I'm too cold and cranky to care.

I am doing my best because I realize what's happening. I'm trying to keep the exercise regime going, attempting to drink less (that's obviously a lie), and trying to stay positive (ish). It has had an affect on my gaming and I just can't be arsed to take anything very seriously. Nothing seems to be very much fun or terribly interesting. I was yawing last night whilst dueling in Warhammer (mostly because I was bored with getting killed by that damned Squig Herder). It definitely isn't the best time to be making decisions about anything- gaming included- and that is likely why I've signed up for, and played a pile of games lately. I'm restless, frustrated, and vitamin D-deprived. Rickets can't be far behind.

But never fear! This post is, after all, about fighting the funk, not giving in to it. There is a plus side (almost literally) in that they predict the temperature by Sunday will be 0 Celsius. Can you imagine a 43 degree difference inside of three days? Its crazy especially when you consider we usually get up to +30 degrees Celsius in the summer with a day or two of close to +40 thrown in for good measure. 80 degrees of fluctuation. No wonder we northern peoples drink so damn much- its just not right!

So here we are on Friday with the weekend stretching ahead. Despite the weather its been a pretty good week for me. A great night of RVR in Warhammer, a new game to try (Xsyon- update coming soon), and I've ordered my new CPU with the money doled out by the Overseers for my toils last Saturday. It will be here in time for the next RIFT beta (I hope) so I can see what the game is like with high settings.

So for my Fortuitous Friday Feature I present you with a couple of tunes that I fell in love with many years ago. And really, what better way to Fight the Funk than with music?

First up (while I still have your attention): The Stanton Warriors Remix of 'High Score' with The Nextmen featuring Dynamite M.C. Even if breakbeats aren't your thing, give it a go: it's just a song about a guy playing a video game. Classic arcade sounds in the background ftw!

Next: an oldie but definitely a goodie. Evil Nine are absolutely a class act. They continue to change their sound as they go, and remain fresh and on top of their game. This track is from their You Can Be Special Too album from 2004. I didn't hook into them until I moved to Ireland and a mate played their Fabric Live set for me, and what a cracker that one is.

Buy it.

Their 2006 BBC essential mix is, without a doubt, one of the sets I absolutely couldn't live without- a desert Island Disc, if you will. I've mixed it up a bit over the years to suit my own needs and use it as my running track when I hit the gym. I'm not posting the whole two hour set (yet), but here is Crooked- a great track and a funnny video all in one. These guys are absolute gold! Happy Friday everyone, and happy gaming!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Chasing the (Warhammer) Dragon

If you read the current Warhammer blogs (which seem to be dwindling), and forum posts you can’t help but notice two main themes:

1. Long term players are unhappy.
2. Long term players are leaving.

I am firmly in the 1st category and it won’t take much for me to slip into the second. It is with great pleasure, then, that I announce that last night, while playing my beloved Warhammer, I had fun. I know, I know. I’m as shocked as you, but it’s true!

I’ve read a few blogs and forum posts (and I apologize for not remembering exactly who you all are) that have stated what keeps them coming back to Warhammer is the hope that they will find the same excitement, or thrill they had when first playing. Warhammer is a game version of crack it would seem. The early days were an adrenaline-pumping, fun-filled, candy-land of gaming. Now...........not so much.

Last night was both unexpected and enjoyable. Just a quick gank, I said, then I’m off to bed. I logged Gankalicious and headed to High Pass to see who was about. As usual there were destruction resource runners in play so I knew I wasn’t alone. I rode over to the Tavern and noted two destro players at the entrance. Unfortunately they saw me, and their horses (or dinosaurs) must have spooked because they rode off, but never fear, I had a plan. It’s not terribly exciting but it always works: take the b.o.

Simple, but effective. When there are a bunch of destro about and they own all the b.o.’s it doesn’t take a degree in rocket science to figure out they’ll come running when order grabs one. I take the objective and tuck in behind that handy ganking pillar (as I like to think of it) and keep an eye on the door. I barely have time to take a sip of my tea when it in comes a Chosen. Not my first choice of opponents, let me tell you, but I’m not one to run away from a challenge. Winner: Me. Huzzah!

I Can Haz Victory?

Feeling pretty good about myself overall (after managing to take down a rank 33 tank, thank you very much) I decide that it might be the perfect time to log off, happy and content. And then the inevitable “Passwatch Castles Outer Door is Under Attack.” Alright, I’ll just gank one more, I think, then I’m off. Ganking is like eating can't have just one.......Anyone see where this is going? That’s right, fun land! Population: Me, an AM, an ENG, a SW, 200% AAO, and 6 very stubborn destro.

Included among them was a 33 DoK who obligingly let me extract retribution for the other day’s humiliation at the hands of his lesser-ranked kin. Remembering this time to silence him and keep him disabled whenever possible, I managed to down him several times (heals from the AM were a massive bonus of course). He was, I have to admit, not as good a player as the other, and had he just stood his ground instead of running I’m sure it would have turned out differently. As it stands, however, the bragging rights belong to me :)

A good night, over all with my build visible for anyone who cares. Comments welcome.

TIP: In case you haven’t figured this out yet (and I don’t mean this sarcastically) never run from a WE or a WH. They may have tagged you with the ‘run-and-take-damage’ curse immediately after coming out of stealth. In addition they both have skills (which we usually spam) that bypass a portion of your armor if your back is turned. Finally, I equip flanking tactics which increase my damage by 15% when attacking from the sides or rear. Stand your ground dammit! It may go against your gaming instincts to stand there while we twirl about and attack, but you really do have a much better chance at surviving.                     

It was, over all, a classic, old fashioned, back and forth battle. The WE’s would breach the walls, we’d kill them, they’d take out our cannons, we’d destroy the ram. Once they breached the outer door I’d jump on the griffon, bomb the ram, and jump off on the outer wall where I’d stealth, and kill (or be killed) and do it all over again. They eventually took the keep and I would like to salute their determination (if not their organization), and give them a big thanks for not re-zoning to take an easier target. It was, by far, the most fun I’ve had in two months of play, and will keep me subbed for another month at least, just in pass the pipe I’ve got some crack to smoke. No, wait, pass the tinfoil instead, 'cause I gotta get some sleep. White to go up, brown to go down, isn’t it?           

 “Another more metaphorical use of the term "chasing the dragon" refers to the elusive pursuit of the ultimate high in the usage of some particular drug. The term alludes to the feeling that the next ingested dosage of the drug will result in a nirvana that seems and feels imminent and conclusive, yet upon consumption never quite yields the promised experience.”

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

He's Mmmmmmback!

I may actually be the last to realize this, but in case you didn't know, one of the bloggers I pronounced dead a few posts ago is back with a new gaming blog! I've updated my blog roll accordingly. /wb

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Visawraithes Cometh Not, Or How I Got Two New Games

I was walking last night from my room to the hall when I noticed it. I froze. The breath caught in my throat, and I could feel my heart-beat accelerating. I glanced nervously around and looked again. It was still there. Sitting silently on my chest-of-drawers like a shiny gemstone. Beckoning like a Siren’s voice. Tantalizing. It was, The Visa.

I immediately expected a trap, and as my breath came back to me in short, quiet gasps, I looked around. She Who Will Be Named Later? Absent. Work or some such buffoonery. I expected to hear the pounding hooves of the Visawraithes. Surely my proximity to The One Card would fetch them? I listened but could hear nothing. I was alone with the card. My adrenaline began to flow. Later would come the dry mouth, the fatigue, the trembling muscles. For now, there was only the Visa and the gaming possibilities it could provide.

I snatched it from the top of the chest and ran, bowling over the new puppy, too dumb to get out of my way, and narrowly missing the other, smarter dog who scrambled quickly aside. This is madness, I thought, as I slid across the hardwood floor into the computer room. I’m not to be trusted with the Visa. We have an unspoken agreement, and She Who Will Be Named Later is the keeper of the sacred card. Remember the whole RIFT affair, not so long ago? What was she thinking, a small voice in the back of my head whispered? Who cares, came the response, confident and sure. This is your moment, my son, do not fail me. Come over to the dark, wait, that was Star Wars.

The computer, always on during the weekends for obvious gaming-related reasons, was warm and ready. I sat down and took a deep breath. I knew what I had to do, and it involved a great deal of irresponsibility on my part. There was no time to waste.

First on my list: Mount and Blade: Warband. SynCaine is to blame for this. His recent blog posts got me hooked and for the last week I have been playing over and over again, only to be thwarted every time by the 30-game-day limit on (free) play. Blasted developers and their never-ending lust for money! How very dare they insist on getting paid for their efforts.

In reality, this was something I had been planning on doing for awhile. I do enjoy the game, and while there are some gamers I know (which may or may not include me) who would, perhaps, obtain a pirated copy of the full version ‘just to see if they like it’, I decided this one was a keeper. The engrossing game-play, unique medieval setting, and the free-of-constraints sandbox set-up aside, it is produced by a smaller developer. I am a big believer in supporting small business (of all kinds) who make a real effort in innovative design, a quality product, or good customer service. At the very least it makes me feel smug and allows me to complain about how the big guys could be doing better.

My next stop? Crazytown, Canada: population: me! You’d think after the RIFT fiasco (pre-ordering and paying for 6 months in advance) I would have learned a lesson. You wouldn’t be wrong to think that, however, you’d be wrong to think that about me. Captain Impulsive (which should have been my DC Universe Online hero name) when it comes to games I decided that I would extend my philosophy of ‘support the small guy’ and pre-order yet another game: Xsyon.

This could also prove to be a pretty dumb move, but at the very least I get 2 free months of play for my 40-bucks, and access to the beta. In addition there will be a head-start of sorts with a safe-zone to get started in-game without the worry of being annihilated. If you don’t know much about Xsyon, don’t worry, neither do I! I stumbled upon it while reading a post on MMORPG about sandbox games. It’s been awhile since I read something and was immediately drawn to the concept of it before

a) caring what it looked like, and 
b) how it would actually work in real (gaming) life

Let me back up a bit and summarize what I know from a week or so of lurking in the forum and reading the propaganda they have posted on their site. I won’t list the features verbatim as I’m sure you can easily link over and read it yourselves.

It is a sandbox game that promises, as they all do, limitless freedom.......and the eyeballs roll. We’ve all heard that before now haven’t we? Similar to the candy from the man in the white van, it always proves impossible to resist so hear me out. In Xsyon they seem to be taking that quite seriously. There are no NPC’s- none. No stores, no shops, nothing. Just the players and the world they create. That world begins in an area that has been modeled on the Lake Tahoe Basin in the good ‘ole UsofA. They have apparently utilized the US geological survey to make it exact.

I’m not really big on talking about what a game may be like, or what it could end up being. Although I read countless reviews of games, and lurk in the forums trying to understand what it’s pro’s and cons are, I don’t much like guessing how things could work and that's just a combination of my personality, training, and experience: shoulda, coulda, woulda means nothing. In the end what matters is what it actually is. Therefore I’m not going to speculate on the game but rather I will start playing and blogging. With no NDA we can learn together.

I'm interested not only in the game-play which may (or may not) turn out to be engrossing and interesting (must....resist....speculation!) but in the virtual social experiment that will be revealed by the players and their actions. This isn’t part of the game-play, mind you, and definitely not advertised on the box, but consider this: if there no goals save the ones created and acted upon by players what kind of a world will it be? Theoretically speaking there may be no combat what-so-ever. Everyone could cooperate and work together. Utopia here we come. The chances of that? Similar to the temperature here at the moment, I’d imagine (-30 Celsius) but it is possible. Anything’s possible.

I will leave you with some of the things that sold me on the game and that I find interesting enough to risk yet another $40.00 on:

  • Social life will revolve around player formed tribes and their struggle (or cooperation) for resources.
  • All structures will be player built including roads, houses, fortifications. Terra forming will be included in the game.
  • All tools, armor, weapons, food, etc. are player gathered, crafted, and made. Animal taming and breeding are to be included as I understand it.
  • Technology begins in a primitive state and will evolve.
  • Any/all quests will be player written and driven and assigned by the tribes.
  • Resources, including mobs, do not re-spawn. Cut a tree, its gone. Kill a bear, ditto.
  • Skill based advancement with some leveling as well.
  • Open world PVP with NO safe zones.
  • The promise of a Mount and Blade type combat system to come (eventually).

Lastly, and most intriguing to me:

The designer is an Archaeologist and Architect (turned computer whiz) with a stack of degrees from prestigious US Universities. This may not mean much to you, and doesn’t speak to his ability to successfully produce or manage an MMO, but I think its something worth considering. The education and experience that he could potentially bring to the game may make it more interesting, immersive, and realistic. No one can accurately tell us how to properly fling a fireball at an Orc so who’s to know if the physics or ‘realism’ is off in fantasy-based games? How to build a house, construct a stone wall, weave a grass basket, or how small social bands interact, compete, and survive in a world with limited resources? If anyone can make that realistic it will be an Archaeologist/Architect. That doesn’t guarantee he will get it right (and trust me I’ve met many a clueless archaeologist over the years) but he stands a better chance in my book than anyone else.

If it flops I'll try to stay positive and think of it as only having cost me around 20 quid. That seems like less.

He's Using the Power of The Visa, onward.