Tuesday, September 29

The wonderful world we live in

I am back home again. Just a short week away, but it was great. I have managed to see some of the greatest marvels of the world. And I had not even planned any of them! Somehow the way this trip worked out is pretty close to the way I like to play games.

It started off figuring out how to get from Beverwijk (a small town 20 miles north west of Amsterdam) to Paris by train. It started off a bit wrong, but I still managed to roll into Paris Nord by 12:40. Paris is always nice. But I have been there several times already, so nothing new for me. Just the feel of being away from home made it nice. The next day we picked up the rental car from the airport and the journey truly started. The next four days we worked our way down to Barcelona. I only stayed in Barcelona for one night. That was just enough time to know I will have to return there some time later. But what made this journey really wonderful were three places I didn't know (much) about till I reached them. The first was a miracle of nature, the second a miracle of engineering, and the third a miracle of the mind. No pictures or words can properly capture their greatness, but I'll try anyway.

Gouffre de Padirac

This picture doesn't say much. Except that it is a cave. I went down inside with the mentality of "just another cave". The usual damp cold stuff with rocks everywhere. But what I got to see three lifts and a boat ride further went way beyond what I could have imagined. As always my mind converted my visuals into MMO landscapes. But this cave went even further that the most elaborate sceneries I have seen. What nature manage to create over thousands of years in utter darkness is just astounding. If there is one cave you really should see it is this one. We were not allowed to take any pictures. And even google seems to only been given a small peek. So I guess you will need to go and see/explore it for yourselves.

Plenty of pictures and descriptions about this marvel of modern day engineering. But a 240 meter high pillar doesn't really mean much until you are standing right next to it. Then you start wondering how they could have ever managed to build it. Eventhough I read the explanations it still doesn't make sense. 240 meter high up in the sky! After visiting the old city centres of several French cities, and the ugliness in the outskirts I had started to wonder why we can't build anything of beauty anymore. But this viaduct shows modern marvels are still being build. It did give me some hope for our future.

I was already a great admirer of the works of Dalí. His twisted surrealistic paintings really push the right buttons for me. So I was somewhat excited to see some of his paintings for real at his self designed museum. But I was not expected to be this blown away by it. He didn't create a musuem, but a look into his mind. Everything in the building radiated the surrealism. It was not just a nice painting and statue here and there. It felt like I really had stepped into his world. It was a weird sensation that has left a lasting impression on me. The human mind is a strange place to be.

If the world if filled with this kind of hidden treasures I know there are many waiting for me to be discovered. Out there in the real world, but also in the wonderous virtual worlds we visit. I can't wait to go on my next trip. Aion awaits.

Monday, September 28

They don't make 'em like that anymore

Yes, that's a Big Ass Cannon that shoots through a portal, the other end of which your spell controls. Screw the cake!
Planescape Torment, one of those games that keeps getting better and ebtter in our memories than it ever was to most of us who never played through it.
It was pretty awesome though.

Looking back at CO launchday

Windows 7 launch party... Tutorial

Shoot me now, please....

Sunday, September 20

I am impressed so far

At 8pm sharp I clicked my Aion launcher and to my surprise I was allowed to log in and even click on 'play' when I selected my character. After a a lovely intro scene I found my self in game. Although I couldn't really see myself. I am already kinda short, and the hundreds of other players were kinda blocking my view.

So I stepped out of the spawn point and looked around a bit. Everything looked very solid. No lag at all! I think that is quite impressive. It also means big RvR fights will be doable. And as I take my first steps and kill the first 10 rats lovely help icons pop up. Everything seems to be perfect.

They have a nifty feature that blocks people from talking in general chat till they are level 5. The first hour or so was so nice and quiet. By the time I logged out way too many idiots had made it to level 5 already and chat was a disaster. I made it only till level 4 so far. But it looks all pretty good. We'll see what the future holds. But first vacation.

Aion Progress

It is giving me flashbacks to the days when I could tell the difference between a 33K and a 52K modem from the sounds it'd make during handshake, but there is finally progress....
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Thursday, September 17

Small change

Not even worth a post. Might even remove it later. But I just wanted to let you know I changed the two screenshot applets. Now there are three! And I changed Geeky's floating ball thingy to the same slideshow Lani was using. And me too now. I thought it looked a bit more slick like this. The rotating ball thingy is pretty neat, but it only show 10 or 12 images. Now we get to see them all! I left the original hmtl code commented out inside the applet so you can change it back any time.

One of the great mysteries of life

I saw this quote somewhere today. It is a mystery indeed.

Why is it that your typos/spelling errors insist on remaining invisible until after to hit post?

Writers should get over themselves

This article should prove an interesting read.

One of the most effective and perhaps underused narrative tools, Seamster says, is actually worldbuilding and population. The creatures wandering the wilds, road signs, even an overturned cart, they all speak to the story of an environment.
Seamster argued that soap operas would actually be a good model to follow, as their easily-accessible ongoing storylines continually draw in new viewers.
"Everyone is special" is another way of saying no-one is, after all. Danuser argued that this issue is additionally complicated by the importance and draw of player stories, tales that arise from the community itself.
Seeing some echo's of our own discussions in there?
There's more though.

Sunday, September 13

A wonderful gaming weekend

This weekend I found my joy in gaming again. I decided to give up completely on Champions Online, also cancelled my lingering Vanguard subscription, and even removed Age of Conan from my harddisk. It was time to play some great standalone games. Thanks to birthday boy Lani (Happy Birthday!!) I can now be with the force and play KOTOR.

But in stead of stepping into the world of Star Wars I decided to finally install Mass Effect. While it was installing and patching (I saw I could download some upgrades, so I did), I decided to visit Steam as well. And there I saw Braid was on weekend offer. I had heard that is was great game, but didn't really know too much about it. Still I couldn't let it pass so I bought it.

I was sort for thinking Mass Effect will pull me in completely, so let me start with Braid while cooking and fussing about in the house. That didn't work out so well. Braid is brilliant! The atmosphere, the puzzles, the story, the complete new concepts, it is all perfect! Since I got utterly absorbed by Portal earlier this year I haven't seen anything as good. It is that good!

In a near trance I had to finish "World 2". And I did. I could have gone on longer, but I really did want to what Mass Effect was all about. But Braid is great, no, brilliant. It makes the explorer in me jump for joy.

From the enormous positive comments Lani had made about Mass Effect I knew it had be a great game. But I was a bit worried it would be lost on me. But no, it wasn't. Basically from my first action (I got to tell the pilot to shut up!) I was pulled in. The immersion is amazing! Everything feels so real, and so immensely large. The sheer number of people you could talk to on the ship even before you go anywhere is impressive!

Also very impressive is that the facial changes you make at the start are really carried forward to every scene. I am just baffled at the enormopus amount of work it must have taken to make this game. I am probably even the most in awe with that.

Although far and apart it is a FPS game. Which means I have to move around with WASD and look with the mouse. Something I am no fan of at all. But I seem to manage quite well. They must have found the perfect balance somehow. Or the story is just that compelling I don't even notice my own reflexes.

By 2am on Friday night I had almost managed to rescue the beacon, but couldn't find the last bomb. So it was game over and high time for bed. But I was hooked!

So now I have two game going that are both so brilliant it pains me that I am not playing them right now. And I haven't even looked at KOTOR yet. Do I really have to go to back to work tomorrow?

Saturday, September 12

This must feel good

On the one hand you could say "Oh, so he's a national hero and that's why he gets an apology" but Gordon Brown's apology embraces all prosecuted homosexuals in Britain, so I see the Alan Turing case as a step up rather than down.

I am pleased to have the chance to say how deeply sorry I and we all are for what happened to him. Alan and the many thousands of other gay men who were convicted as he was convicted under homophobic laws were treated terribly. Over the years millions more lived in fear of conviction.

I am proud that those days are gone and that in the last 12 years this government has done so much to make life fairer and more equal for our LGBT community. This recognition of Alan's status as one of Britain's most famous victims of homophobia is another step towards equality and long overdue.,

Article source:

For the historically insecure: Who the F* is Alan Turing?
Chemical castration *shudders*.

Wednesday, September 9

MMOs are like Adventure games

Geeky made a comment yesterday

leave those MMO expectations at the door and see how it plays as a game, everything is so solo friendly these days.

And that got me thinking. MMOs might have become a thing of the past. It is a bit like adventure games. Leisure Suit Larry and Space Quest kicked off a brilliant era in gaming. And Monkey Island is still one of the most brilliant games ever made. But as time progressed new features got added to make them more accessible or easier or whatever. But after Monkey Island it all went downhill. Maybe players got other demands, or simply had enough of the concept. Or more likely, developers thought they knew their customers and made bad mistakes. Whatever it was, the genre died out. Mostly because it got dumbed down too far. A few gems got created for a niche market, but the masses had moved on.

I have the feeling the same is happening to the MMO genre. The developers try to make it all too accessable or trying to be innovative in wrong ways, and somehow they kill the essense. Soon some developer will create a whole fresh new genre and we are all going to enjoy it thoroughly. And maybe somebody will make an MMO like the longest journey did for adventure games.

Hopefully that great new genre comes soon. In the meantime I will have to play plain games.

Tuesday, September 8

Champions Online Ramblings

Over the last few days I played some more Champions Online again. My regular COH friends are trying it out, and one of them went even as far as to pay 6 months subscription. That would give him enough motivation to stick it out for a while and really give it a change. It even rubbed off on me a bit. Because if they wouldn't be so committed I probably would have put it aside as another terribly failed MMO.

So far I have created 3 heroines. A tank, a melee attack, and a sorceress. All three look kinda cute, and the character creation does have some decent options. At least I have managed to create something I couldn't already in COH. But they play all three actually exactly the same. They have different animations, but all three start off with a powerful attack that drains your endurance, followed by a low damage auto-repeat attack (which helps rebuilding your endurance). But since there are tons of mobs often attacking from all sides, the combat system works pretty good. I can live with the way it is. And maybe as I level up more variation is possible.

Or at least I thought it would. Once you get out of the tutorial area you visit the powerhouse. That is where you 'buy' your new powers. You get to chose a travel power, two dull stat improvements, and one new power. All three characters could have picked the exact same power. It makes the whole character development as dull and boring as can be. It takes the whole feel of character development away, and turn it into a FOTM thing.

The travel powers didn't get me all excited either. The sometimes clumsy camera control makes some power plain bad. And all of them seem to have to put weird animations at start and stop making my heroines look like fools.

On to my next problem. It is not an MMO at all! I created a special chat tab that only shows what players say. And players don't say anything! Which is not too surprising. Every area you enter you are put into an instance of around 30 people. And those 30 people are the only people you can hear or talk to. There is no global chat where you can ask questions, or recruit people for your team. You are stuck talking to those 30 people. You can switch and talk to 30 other people, but you must be really desperate to go through such lengths. I believe guild chat might work, but I haven't got there yet. Especially since nobody talks I can't imagine any valid guilds being around.

Another bad design is the hero quest. You get one at the end of the tutorial. And I have seen two others beyond that. They are public quest areas where you join in with other 'heroes' to fight a series of tasks (kill 50 mobs, pick up 20 boxes, defend a machine). Once it is over it shows a list which 'hero' did the most damage, and I guess he/she will get some award. So what this means is that you have to compete with other players for kills and loot. Woohoo! 10 minutes of kill stealing to proof you are a bigger e-peen than the other players. This is one of the most horrible designs I can imagine.

Ok, now I have rambled enough. It is time to go home and play some more. I don't want to give up on it yet. But I am looking more and more forward to Aion.

Monday, September 7


Sadly I can't embed so here's the link to the movie

A new species of giant rat has been discovered deep in the jungle of Papua New Guinea.

The rat, which has no fear of humans, measures 82cm long, placing it among the largest species of rat known anywhere in the world.

The creature, which has not yet been formally described, was discovered by an expedition team filming the BBC programme Lost Land of the Volcano.

As a former rat-owner I can't tell you how cute that is. You have to go see it yourself.
It really is a giant version of the grey rat. There's another rat in borneo that's 70 cm but looks distinctly different from the rgeular one we know and love and brought us the plague.
Movements, reactions e.t.c. are identical to that of the tamed rats I used to own and (still) love.

Friday, September 4

Beta opportunity for Secret World

The Secret World website darkdaysarecoming now has a test to see which 'faction?' you belong to, it also states that by supplying your info you enter the draw to participate in beta, I'm intrigued so I signed up and came out as a Dragon.

Wednesday, September 2