Tuesday, December 22

After the apocalypse

It appears Lani's uber cool bear will survive the apocalypse. Well, maybe it is not Lani's bear, but I think it is save to say all uber cool bears of the world will survive!

Finding that little bear sitting there all alone was already sad and yet fitting. But it got even worse when I wandered around some more in the town I was passing through. I was busy brewing some Old Kingman Iced Tea. A good iced tea takes it time. So while it was brewing I decided to walk around the house a bit. Normally houses are empty except for some NPC vendors or quest givers. But when I stepped inside the first floor bathroom of this particular house I found an extremely sad girl sitting in the tub looking utterly desolate. I genuine felt embarrassed. I mumbled some apology, but she didn't even look up. So I quickly left.

The game is just simply perfect for me. It is doing exactly what I am looking for. I think I know a bit more about what Geek means about social play, MMO play, etc. A new post is cooking in my head. It will be ready soon :) Oh, and I made my first ATV too. I think. Last night I learned the last piece. So I started crafting one. But it takes 4 hours to make so I will have to see the result when I get home tonight.

(Final?) move update #3

Tip for moving: If at all possible try not to move house during snowstorms and/or one foot of snow.

Well, that was.... different :-)
We moved on Sunday, well actually we moved 2 out of 2.5 truckloads, the last ride we cancelled due to blizzardlike (to us soft Dutch people anyway) conditions. So I'm still missing some parts of furniture and other little essentials which were left out at the last moment.

Here be pictures:

We'll be trying to move those asap but since there's still a half foot of compacted snow covering just about everything, we'll have to see as to when.

It looked even awesomer when the snow on it was three inches thick, but you couldn't really distinguish it from the background on that picture :-)

2 hours after movers left

24 hours after movers left

Close up of bookcases.
Red insets hide plates, glasses & cutlery as the dining table is opposite that bookcase

The kitchen is also more or less complete (dishwasher needs a pipe so I won't flood the place using it) and the bedroom partially (some of the missing bits include all planks and the doors to my wardrobe). All in all I've moved in and now the settling in must begin. I hope to have those bookcases and not to mention my DVD collection sorted by the end of January.

Sunday, December 20

Postcard from Atlantica

Out of all the F2P games I've tried this one has definitely provided me with the most fun, while containing the staples of a classic MMO it has some significant differences, the most obvious and the one that will be the deciding factor of your enjoyment of this game is the combat.

Combat is turn based, instanced and requires some strategy, especially in PvP. The persistent world contains mobs, unlike classic MMO's these mobs won't go out of their way to attack you, combat is initiated by either running into the mob or by clicking on it. On initiating an encounter you are immediately drawn into an instance to fight, either solo with your mercenaries (more about those later) or as a team with other players. If you initiated the fight then the round starts with your turn, if however the mob snagged you by wondering in to you then they get the first turn. Your group members who can participate in a turn have a green circle, you can select any of these to attack or to perform other tasks such as buff/debuff or heal your group members. The strategy comes in to play when deciding which team member to use and what to do with it, formation of the team is also important, you don't want your squishies on the front line. The combat is highly reminiscent of the combat in Final Fantasy 7 and 8 (if you played and enjoyed those games you'll love it). Your attack turn has a time limit, 15 seconds at the beginning, in which to take all your attacks before the enemy gets it's turn. Each player or mercenary has the option of either a regular attack or magic attack, left click on the mob for regular or right click for magic, if the player has more than one magic attack, left click the skill then the mob or player if its a buff or heal. The default game settings has attack animations and cut scenes switched on, they add a nice visual dynamic to battles but these soon get in the way as they eat up your time limit and get in the way of your view, they can be switched off from the settings tab. If you don't like this style of combat, you won't like the game.

You can choose your class from a range of weapon types which include, Sword, Spear, Axe, Staff, Bow and Gun, the range widens if you already have a high level character to include Cannon and Maniac.

Character creation is extremely limited, you have the choice of gender, 3 or 4 faces, 5 or 6 hairstyles and hair colour, the lack of individuality is also born out through the armour system. If your really bothered about having a unique looking character then your going to be very disappointed. I'm currently visually offended by my characters look, luckily the other aspects of the game are keeping me happy enough to forgive it.

Mercenaries: Your first quests will require you to choose some mercenaries to fight at your side, you need to think about your choice, as you level you get more mercenaries and a wider choice, at around lvl 20 you will also receive quests to obtain different kinds of mercenaries, Viking and Monk, your quota won't be big enough to accept both unless you store another in the mercenary room, the room is obtained through a license and is time limited, the license can be bought at the market or through the cash shop. You are given one free to start with, I have no idea what will happen to my stored gunner when that time runs out, perhaps she goes to gunner heaven? Mercenaries can also be upgraded to increase their stats which requires dropped items of a certain level.

Shadow Dungeon Interior

The armour and weapon system is simple and fun, there are obviously different weapons for the different classes and different armour types for magic, melee and ranged. They are obtained through drops of an 'equipment box' from mobs, these stack in your inventory (space is extremely limited) until you decide to open them, on opening a box you get a random piece of equipment, a small screen pops up and cycles through the possible content until it stops at one. You can't be guaranteed you'll get what you want and may end up with multiples of something you don't want cluttering up your inventory, luckily there is the enchant system to help sort that problem out.

Weapons and Armour can be enchanted to increase their stats, again it's a simple process and relies on the drops of enchantment stones from mobs, the stones are dropped in an enchant box which stacks in your inventory, opening one gives you the choice of an enchant stone for either weapons or armour, you will receive either one or two of the selected stone. Enchanting an item requires multiples of the same item, to get a +1 staff you need two staves and one weapon enchant stone, to get a +2 staff you need two +1 staves and 2 weapon enchant stones, a +3 staff then requires two +2 staves and 3 weapon enchant stones, so to get a +4 staff you will have got through 16 staves and 26 weapon enchant stones. If you don't get enough drops of stones then there's always the Market.

Crafting is a weird one, instead of having armour crafting you learn to craft each armour piece as a seperate craft skill, same goes for weapons. The initial lesson to start crafting is gained from an NPC, most of these NPC's wander around the world so your never sure were they are going to be, it's a pain when you need to level up, however there is an NPC called Livingstone just outside Bucharest who is in the know regarding their current location. Players can also pass on their crafting skills to other players. Mats are dropped from mobs and can also be bought from the Market. Crafting also includes medicine for replenishing health, mana and life potions for reviving dead party members (alchemy in any other game) and foods (cookery), among many others. The crafting process takes place while your fighting, select what you want to craft then enter a battle to get it done, strange way of doing things and hardly immersive but later at lvl 30 you gain the ability to auto craft which can be done while afk. I'm currently crafting the chest armour piece, I can craft lvl 25 items while the drops I get are only lvl 20, it's worth the expence.
Windmills just outside Amsterdam
Getting around is by foot, there are mounts but I believe these are cash shop items, you can travel from outpost to outpost via the Travel Agent, at a cost, in any town as long as you have previously visited the outpost you wish to travel to. Towns are guild owned and have a variety of resources including a Bank (just for money but needed if your selling on the market), Hospitals (replenish mana/health or revive a dead party member, also buy medicines) and Market for selling and buying. The worlds geography is based on ours, today I decided to go find Livingstone near Bucharest and go to Helsinki to get access to the Christmas event dungeon, on the way I passed through Calcutta, London (via the Channel Tunnel), Amsterdam and St Petersburg amongst many other well known locations, it was a nice journey as the graphics changed to reflect the locales quite nicely. The lore hasn't sunk in, I've no idea why the world has changed to have all these fantastical creatures in it.

Somewhere in Southern Europe
The graphics are OK, just below the original GW standard I would say. There are some surprisingly nice details in some places while in other places it looks like they forgot to replace the heavily pixelated test textures, it's easily pleasing enough on the eyes to be playable.

The game is linear, while your always free to go off and explore you are required to complete some quest chains in order to progress, movement is sometimes restricted, there is no jumping, falling off a cliff or diving into water. The game does a great job of teaching you as you progress.

The quest system is great, you have a quest marker to point you in the right direction or you can use auto run to go straight there while you do other stuff, the quest log contains all quests so if you think your stuck for quests or just fancy a change of scenery you can see straight away where to go for more quests.

Music and sound effects are generally horrible and annoying, turn them off! They are exactly like those early Playstation games even the battle music sounds like the one used in FF8.

It may not be a triple A title but for a F2P title there is something unique and a lot to enjoy in this game, it costs you nothing but the download time and 2gb of HD space, if you want something a little different and like the idea of turned based combat, give it a go, I've had hours of fun with this one and it gives PvP a whole new twist. At lvl 28 I feel like I've hardly scratched the surface, there's a lot left still to learn.

If anyone fancies giving it a go you can join me on the Delphi Server playing a staff called MsAnthropy.

Thursday, December 17

Go see Avatar!

I went last night to the premiere of Avatar. In 3D. And I was awestruck. You must go see this movie. It was absolutely one of those masterpieces you simply can't skip. And if at all possible make sure you get to see it in 3D. I was a bit sceptical about the 3D thing. I had to wear one of those funky glasses. But they didn't have a red and green glass, but something about polarization. There were a few previews before the movie started and they had the kind of shoebox with a looking hole feel. Cut-out 2D characters that are standing in front of a 2D background. But Avatar is nothing like that. But you just have to see for yourself. What made it extra fun for me is that James Cameron is clearly a big fan of Anarchy Online. Several creatures and locations could have been copied straight out of the Shadowlands. And even some of the human technology and ideas can be found on Rubi-Ka. So yeah, go see it. I think I will do so again too.

Wednesday, December 16

Tuesday, December 15

Moving update

Oooh! new posts with interesting and heartening titles which I want to peruse in detail but don't have the energy for just now. Good thing I actually still have to work for two days this week and will no doubt have plenty of time and hopefully energy to read and respond.

In the mean time a quick update of what's keeping me offline at the moment:

With the help of this not-so-bold (and adopted) family member we got the carpeting in in both living room and bedroom. Walls and ceilings are painted too and you can see the big TV cupboard which we had to saw in to make my 42" TV fit. Really folks, 38" is all you'll need. Anything above that really is just compensating.
Unless it's my TV of course.

No Geek, it's not a wig. This is where my hair comes from, though not the die-job. The bloke in the back (the one holding a cup and chatting up my Mom, not the one taking out the trash) is my former flatmate who "left" me to live with his girlfriend and came by to do the cabling in my new flat. Luckily without "Let's splice a network cable into phonelines" ideas this time.

Shot of the kitchen to show the foil on the window which allows me to go to the fridge in the buff without proving to my neighbours that I'm in fact not compensating with my TV in the process.
Oh, and that's a lamp, not a UFO hanging from the ceiling.

Thee of the eventual four bookcases placed. The entire wall of books will be eight yards.
Putting together those red insets took an equal amount of time as putting up the big heavy bookcases themselves.

It's not so much that I like plastic vines, I just hate bare piping. You can see the bedroom is fully CAT-6 cabled for gbit network. Windows got the opaque foil treatment too, mostly because there'll be a rather expensive piece of hardware sitting right next to the window that faces the gallery our front doors open unto. There'll also be blinds and even curtains and locks on the window.

I was going to take pictures of my current flat in its 80% packed up state but then I recalled this blog's readership is generally old enough to remember what Beirout looked like during the height of the fighting / bombing and I'd rather not reopen old wounds or trauma's.

New graphics engine for AO still in development

With all the doom and gloom around FunCom I was expecting that any Anarchy Online would have been put on hold indefinitely. But apparently there are still some people working on it at least! I am looking forward to wandering Rubi-Ka once again with the new graphics. It is probably still a year or more away, but there is progress! Maybe they will use AO as a test platform of graphics engine they are going to use in Secret World. If that is the case there might be a real push for it. Not sure though how hard it is to try to put a new engine into a 8 year old game.

I ran into this tidbit of AO news when I learned about the unlimited free trial of Age of Conan. Thanks Geek! You can now run through Tortage over and over without paying a cent. Info and download link can be found at www.ageofconan.com/trial/. And when you play the video clip and right on it a weird AO reference shows up. That triggered me to visit the AO site in search for more info. And that led me to this page.

I hope the move to make Tortage F2P will lure in a lot of players, make Funcom buck loads of money, and AO and Secret World will become the brilliant games I am hoping for. Ok, enough day dreaming now, and back to my AO copy-cat.

Saturday, December 12

Game Mechanic Musings #1

In the interest of keeping this blog active thought it might be an idea to get the ball rolling on discussing game mechanics, talk about one mechanic that's interesting, inspired, confusing, just plain stupid or that you would like to see (get your imagination going and Lani can split his pefect MMO mechanics into bite size chunks). I'll get the ball rolling...

Atlantica Online - Stamina

Within the first few hours of playing I had random people send me money, initialy I was cautious, could this be a sweetener from an RMT company? I put my paranoia aside, accepted and sent my thanks, mostly people don't reply or they send a simple 'yw'. It was only on reading the above stamina information that it became clear that in AO you need to be generous to keep that XP and drop rate. The amounts I have recieved vary, I'm not sure how giving works, if theres a minimum involved or that minimum increases with level or the more you use this one way of getting stamina back? I've not been able to initiate sending a gift, I'm guessing my current low level doesn't allow it. I would think there is a bar on giving to members of your own guild, I also wonder if giving requires you to select a player or the players name is randomly generated, if the former then more care when choosing a name could be beneficial.

Grouping is rewarded by stamina regen, it is also rewarded by significant xp gain, in a world where a lot of MMO companies seem to like punishing grouping it's nice to see it rewarded.

Beyond encouraging grouping, helping, being generous and getting involved in PvP, why limit the XP and drop advantage? I recall at the beginning of this games life in CB loss of stamina meant no XP and no drops, speculation was heavy about stamina items being the biggest possible source of income from the item mall, yet my current search failed to find anything in the mall that restores stamina, the only possible reasons I can fathom are to either get you to play less and/or explore the other options the game has to offer, the options I'm aware of so far just seems to be crafting for a lowbie like myself, although I have discovered nothing more than the fact it exists. It seems a bad idea to limit peoples enjoyment of one aspect of the game, I wonder why they kept it? Further exploration of the game and forums (found no concrete answers on the forum so far) may shed some light on this one but at the moment what I'm seeing doesn't seem to provide any real 'justice' for something so limiting, what is the point ?

Wednesday, December 9

Still playing

It has been too quiet here at Yammob. To some it might look like we have become Yammobbtd. But we can't change the URL any more since it will mess up so many people's bookmarks. So I will try make new updates. It is quite logic the updates are a bit slow lately. Lani has been very busy sorting out real life as the previous post shows. Geeky is very busy beta testing several F2P games, which would make for great updates, but I spoiled it all by telling him he is a fool beta testing free games. Sorry Geeky! Please post your findings. And I am still lost in the wastelands.

The problem with making updates on my adventures is that I am a bit at a loss what to tell. Rehashing that I think it is a swell game doesn't really do much. So maybe I will let some pictures do the talking. I have managed to lure one of my City of Villain static group members to join me. But since she is living on the US West Coast, 8 hours behind, we haven't seen each other yet.

So I have to roast my jackrabbit all by myself. But life in Fallen Earth is not all about solitude. The official forums are bustling affair of ideas, suggestions and problems. It is the first official forum I have seen where I don't run away screaming. The PvP players still have the highest word, but even they are civilized. So I find myself wasting quite a bit of my office hours reading up and posting on them. Then I feeling guilty for not having done enough work, so I work till too late, rush home to actually play, eat, sleep, and repeat.

The same good natured spirit of the forums is also in game. The majority of the talk in game happens on the help channel. Besides clan talk, the help channel is the only global channel available. And there is always a GM active on it. Since it is the only global channel some people try to derail it in futile discussions about WOW sucks, EVE rules. If it gets to weird I zone out, or a GM steps in. But most of the time it is a wonderful place to pick up handy tips, and share my growing knowledge of the game. It is just wonderful to get almost instant replies on any question you throw out there.

One of the discussions on the forums is the need for more OOC global channels. Some people are complaining that the help channel is too heavy handed. They don't want GMs to tell them they should keep help to help, and that they should be allowed say FUCK! all the time. But those are the trial key folks. Some more genuine people argue there should be a global channel for more valid questions. And that is actually an interesting conversation.

Some think added OOC channels will give them a venue to get in touch with the rest of the community. Without a global channel you are just isolated in the big world. Some other refute this. In most MMOs global channels are just rambling screens for ePeens, recruiters and gold sellers. Most people will turn it off. At the same time people will turn away from help and start asking questions on the OOC channel, making the help channel useless, and since the OOC channel is mostly ramblings, most players won't get the help. Thus the community as a whole is actually suffering, not getting better. I think is also the view of the dev team. They have some very specific ideas about their game. I hope all their dreams come true.

The proper place to talk to fellow wastelanders is /region. It is heard by everybody in team-able range. It worked wonders for me a few days back. I had reached the town of Kingman. All quests in that town are group quests. I was standing around a bit contemplating what to do when somebody in /region asked if somebody wanted to help him kill Casta, which is a boss I needed to kill as well. If he had asked that in global he would probably have wasted his time. But in region it worked wonders. Apparently about everybody in town needed to kill him. Within a minute we had a team together and we were on our way to the Kingman Prison. It was the first big scale dungeon crawl I had done. The prison was a lovely maze filled with nooks, corners and plenty of bad guys. It was brilliant! It also showed I am still a serious noob, and I still have a lot to learn before I can make it in the areas ahead.

Monday, December 7

The apartment

I'll explain to Phèdre the differences between emotes, gestures, poses and animations in Second Life soon, but first I want to show the pics of my new apartment. The keys to which I received today:

When you get through the hallway with a toilet and electricity cabinet, all of which was too boring and cramped to take a shot of, this is what you see. Note the top of the birch tree in the window. That's standing in my garden :-D I got a garden. Accessible from stairs leading down from the balcony over there and a backside gate.

Open Kitchen and balding relative:
It's open to the livingroom which is a step down from my current place, but it has a suction cap (Phè help! What are these called in English?) which is a step up.
The balding relative isn't a permanent fixture, well his baldness is ;-P
THe previous owner was willing to leave that fridge standing for 75 Euros. SInce it's 4.5 years old I pounced on that deal.

Livingroom 2:
No, I only have one, but this is the way it looks from the other end.
The wall to the left is 7.90 Meters long and will be covered by bookcases when I'm done.
The little corner you see there has my 1.4mx1.4m dining table written all over it.

This very revealing shot *cough* is of my bedroom. The open door goes to the livingroom and was barely visible in the previous shot. Walls will be repainted less yellow.

Since it was light outside the building my camera's flash decided not to work...
This is the main drawback to this apartment for me. That's the public stairwell right there and residents of the 8 apartments at my level will be walking by my bedroom window to get to their front doors...

Nothing fancy, it has a shower a fountain and to the left room for a washing machine and a dryer. It even has a power-relay so I can use either washing machine or dryer. But since there's only one poweroutlet we're at a loss how that'll work as the relay theoretically switches between 2 outlets....

The apartment also comes with a 2x4m storage at ground level and I'm above the central heating room, providing hot water and heat for the entire building. So essentially I have built in floor-heating and no downstairs neighbours to worry about. Just some to the side and above me.

I've spent the evening bowed over a floorplan with measurements trying to get everything to fit and I realized you're no doubt dieing to see that piece of art so there you go.

Ten Step Plan:
  1. Paint ceiling
  2. Paint walls
  3. Put in carpet
  4. Put in network cabling and other wiring
  5. Put in bookcases
  6. Pack
  7. Move
  8. Drop of unusable stuff at junkyard
  9. Put in better lighting
  10. Clean old apartment
Aftet that, find new employment to be able to pay the rent after month #1 :-(

Lotro anyone?

That title is a very obscure reference to a commercial for Southern Comfort. Actually too sad I even mention it. But since I am such a crappy updater lately I think I can make crappy titles *grin*

So where is this all going? A couple of days ago Zubon over at KillTenRats made a great post about static grouping. He talked how much fun it is to have a fixed weekly time to play with a fixed group of characters. He mentioned how much fun he had with such a group in City of Heroes, and later in Lord of the Rings. The posts that followed the days after that pointed out more of the good bits of City of Heroes, and good bits of Lord of the Rings as well. Especially the post City of Skimishes makes me getting a bit itchy, and really wanting to try out LOTRO.

The problem is time. Playing three MMOs at the same time is just crazy. Last week I played some City of Heroes during the week and had loads of fun with that still. Our Sunday static group feast only made that feeling stronger. And although I had the feeling I got a bit stranded in Fallen Earth I got excited about that too over the weekend. Saving myself and Lifenet was good fun. So LOTRO only makes sense if there is somebody to play with. Maybe something for the new year?

PS. The Ulimate Sandbox MMO

Saturday, December 5

Promotional Video Magic

Now if only the Real Second Life were that lagfree :-/

From the SL webstore Xstreet:

· Animation Bundles (520)
· Animation Override (1470)
· Combat Animations (253)
· Couples Animations (3120)
· Dancing Animations (1466)
· Emotive Animations (227)
· Erotic Animations (4209)
· Gestures (18100)
· Misc. Animations (1756)
· Posing Animations (6253)
· Sitting and Lying Anims (1251)
· Walking Animations (198)

Which shows that after communicating (Gestures) narcicism (Posing Animations) is still #1, followed by cybersex (Erotic animations) with romance (Couples Animations) a close third. Also note the lack of interest in excersize (Walking Animations).

* alternative theory is that (since categories overlap) out of 4209 cybersex animations, 3120 are for couples. The other 1089 probably involve more or less than two avatars...

More promo vids here