Wednesday, June 30

Catching up on single player games

I actually wanted to play The Witcher last week when I was in the States. But either my laptop or the wifi in the hotel were not up to par. After the login intro it crashed. So I had to go with my backup plan, Tomb Raider Anniversary. Supposedly it is the same game as the original Tomb Raider but with better graphics. Since I never really played through the original one I am having a blast. After I got back home I started over on my proper PC, and I am still having fun. It should keep me busy the next two weeks or so. Maybe I'll retry the Witcher after that. And maybe not.

A book review. Are you serious?

Yep, afraid so. And it is about three books I actually finished already a few months back. Normally I am not a very busy reader. It can easily take me 4 or 5 months to finish a book. But the three books I want to say something about, I managed to finish all within a week's time.

Quite a while back I was happily surprised in the bookshop when I saw Fatal Revenant by Stephen R. Donaldson. I didn't know it existed! In my enthusiasm I bought two copies. But only about a year after that I finally opened it up. It is the second book in the third trilogy in the world of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever. The first two trilogies are probably the greatest books I ever read. But with great stories comes great complexity. I had to recall personages from decades ago. And the really wonderfully deep characters made it not an easy read. Half a year later I still had not finished it.

Then the wonderful Lani remained true to his word and Kushiel's Mercy by Jacqueline Carey showed up on my doorstep. The first three books is the series are about the life and times of Phedre Delaunay. They impressed me that much it became my virtual role modal. Her adopted son toke over in the fourth book in the Kushiel series. Kushiel's Mercy is the sixth and last book in the series. The character of Imriel was by far not as impessive as Phedre and the fourth book was a bit disappointing. But that improved quite a bit in the next installment, and I got therefore big hopes for a great finale.

I had put the conclusion of Thomas Covenant's "life" on hold to read up on the adventures in Terre D'Ange, which is much better airplane literature. But what a major disappoint it turned out to be. Each and every character was so boring and flat. Especially Phedre's own appearances were abysmal. I struggled to finish the book as quickly as possible since on every page I was wondering why I am bothering with this. A Steven Segal movie would have more depth.

I probably should have stopped there and never read another Jacqueline Carey book, and savior the joy of her earlier stories. But I never really listen to myself, and in stead bought before I finished Kushiel's End Santa Olivia by Jacqueline Carey. After all the dribble I couldn't go back to Thomas so I started reading Santa Olivia right away. And I was pleasantly surprised. It was a cute story set in a near semi-apocalyptic world. Some interesting characters, since setting, and decent dialogs. The ending left me a bit disappointed, but overall I was glad I read it. It washed away the horrible taste I had.

it also gave me the joy to finish up the Fatal Revenant. It is a great story with such great characters struggling with their own morals and believes. It is one of those book that live on long after you close it. Stephen Donaldson is a literary master.

Sunday, June 20

Countering the GW video's

Not that there's anything wrong with the GW vids, but I really like this STWOR compilation pointing out the very interactive comabit in terms of synchronised animations.
You know the thing we mentioned being not sure about in the GW2 vids whether it was actually existing. The fact that SWTOR is doing it is hoepful. It may mean that A'net's footage isn't carefully choreocrafted (deliberate misspelling) eyecandy but might return in some form for actual gameplay as well.

My main 'concern' reagarding GW2 now is that ArenaNet started on GW2 before Bioware initialised their SWTOR project by about a year. From the released material It feels like Bioware is abotu a year ahead of ArenaNet now. Not sure whether that favours Bioware or AreneNet.

Saturday, June 19

Crossing a crowded marketplace

Nothing good was going to come of this, Bottle knew, but he also recognized the necessity and so walked uncomplaining in Ebron's company as the cut across the round with its heaving, shouting throng locked in a frenzy of buying and selling and consuming - like seabirds flocking to a single rock day after day, reliving the same rituals that built up a life in layers of ... well don't hedge now ... of guano. Of course, one man's shit was another man's... whatever.

There was a hidden privilege in being a solider, he decided. He had been pushed outside normal life, protected from the rigours of meeting most basic needs - food, drink, clothes,shelter: all of these were provided to him in some form or other. And family, don't forget that. All in exchange for the task of delivering terrible violence; only every now and then to be sure, for such things could not be sustained over long periods of time without crushing the capacity for feeling, without devouring a mortal's humanity

In that context, Bottle reconsidered - with a dull spasm of anguish deep inside - maybe the exchange wasn't that reasonable after all. Less a privilege than a burden, a curse. Seeing the faces in this crowd flashing past, a spinning, whirling cascade of masks - each a faintly stunning alternative to his own - he felt himself not simply pushed outside, but estranged. Leaving him bemused, even perturbed, as he witnessed their seemingly mindless, pointless activities, only to find himself envious of these shallow, undramatic lives - wherein the only need was satiation. Possession, stuffed bellies, expanding heaps of coin.

What do any of you know about life?
he wanted to ask. Try stumbling through a burning city. Try cradling a dying friend with blood like tattered shrouds on all sides. Try glancing to an animated face beside you, only to glance a second time and find it empty, lifeless.
A soldier knew what was real and what was ephemeral.
A soldier understood how thin, how fragile, was the fabric of life.

Could one feel envy when looking upon the protected, ignorant lives of others - those people who cloistered faith saw strength in weakness, who found hope in the false assurance of routine? Yes, beacause once you become aware of that fragility, there is no going back. You lose a thousand masks and are left with but one, with its faint lines of contempt, its downturned mouth only a comment away from a sneer, its promise of cold indifference.
Gods, we're just goign for a walk here. I don't need to be thinking any of this.

From: A dust of Dreams (A tale of the Malazan book of the Fallen ) page 262 Book #9 in a 10 part series by Steven Erikson.

For some reason, books classified as Fantasy are automatically classified as something sub-par. Even below big brother Science Fiction. Neither will ever be classified as 'Literature'.
Sometimes you have to wonder why.

Friday, June 18

40 assumptions the dev of your next MMO will make...

Assumptions about your name that is.
As someone with an ö (alt+148) in his surname I feel this author's pain.

40 wrong assumptions programmers make regarding people's names:
  1. People have exactly one canonical full name.
  2. People have exactly one full name which they go by.
  3. People have, at this point in time, exactly one canonical full name.
  4. People have, at this point in time, one full name which they go by.
  5. People have exactly N names, for any value of N.
  6. People’s names fit within a certain defined amount of space.
  7. People’s names do not change.
  8. People’s names change, but only at a certain enumerated set of events.
  9. People’s names are written in ASCII.
  10. People’s names are written in any single character set.
  11. People’s names are all mapped in Unicode code points.
  12. People’s names are case sensitive.
  13. People’s names are case insensitive.
  14. People’s names sometimes have prefixes or suffixes, but you can safely ignore those.
  15. People’s names do not contain numbers.
  16. People’s names are not written in ALL CAPS.
  17. People’s names are not written in all lower case letters.
  18. People’s names have an order to them. Picking any ordering scheme will automatically result in consistent ordering among all systems, as long as both use the same ordering scheme for the same name.
  19. People’s first names and last names are, by necessity, different.
  20. People have last names, family names, or anything else which is shared by folks recognized as their relatives.
  21. People’s names are globally unique.
  22. People’s names are almost globally unique.
  23. Alright alright but surely people’s names are diverse enough such that no million people share the same name.
  24. My system will never have to deal with names from China.
  25. Or Japan.
  26. Or Korea.
  27. Or Ireland, the United Kingdom, the United States, Spain, Mexico, Brazil, Peru, Russia, Sweden, Botswana, South Africa, Trinidad, Haiti, France, or the Klingon Empire, all of which have “weird” naming schemes in common use.
  28. That Klingon Empire thing was a joke, right?
  29. Confound your cultural relativism! People in my society, at least, agree on one commonly accepted standard for names.
  30. There exists an algorithm which transforms names and can be reversed losslessly. (Yes, yes, you can do it if your algorithm returns the input. You get a gold star.)
  31. I can safely assume that this dictionary of bad words contains no people’s names in it.
  32. People’s names are assigned at birth.
  33. OK, maybe not at birth, but at least pretty close to birth.
  34. Alright, alright, within a year or so of birth.
  35. Five years?
  36. You’re kidding me, right?
  37. Two different systems containing data about the same person will use the same name for that person.
  38. Two different data entry operators, given a person’s name, will by necessity enter bitwise equivalent strings on any single system, if the system is well-designed.
  39. People whose names break my system are weird outliers. They should have had solid, acceptable names, like 田中太郎.
  40. People have names.

More SW:TOR stuff

My thoughts:

1) Since about a third of my country is running around in orange shirts with orange hats on and orange warpaint on their faces, we can buy hamburgers with orange sauce and whatnot, people dressing up as Stormtroopers, Jedi's and mandalorians don't seem as silly as they normally would.

2) Still no sign of non-human players. Here's hoping it's just a matter of production timing. Originally people freaked out because in early video's there seemed to be but one hair style. Art departments tend to be rather tyrannical about what's allowed to be shown to the public. Anything not perfect yet is kept under waraps usually.

3) I am very much digging the relatively low nr of items on the hotbar in that video. I hope it doesn't mean a hidden "roller" where you first have to press shift+1-10 to get to the 9 hidden bars full of skills.

3.5) I wonder if they're also intending to make this into a console MMO maybe?

4) Also liking the combat effects on the ground textures. See the clip again if you missed that.

5) Overall, if I were to compare the combat to anything in use in MMO's today I'd say CoX. I think that's a good sign. Lots of moving around, that's a good sign.

6) I do hope they get more combat stances, that jedi we were following started to look a little lame and ineffectual in that "hand forward doing a Jedi mindtrick" pose after a while.

Wednesday, June 9

GW2 - Warrior Class and Traits Overview

Traits Overview

"To give this some context, let's pretend an event has started. A giant boar is marauding through the forest and your party decides to take it on. This build is meant to maximize the damage you and your teammates can deliver against a single target.

Step 1: Pick a weapon. The weapon you're currently wielding is the major determining factor for how your character will play. Let's pick a sword, a versatile weapon which comes standard with a chain of three skills (Sever Artery, Gash, and Final Thrust), a rapid-fire repeating attack that hits a small area (Flurry), and a chase skill to close the distance between you and the enemy (Savage Leap). For my offhand weapon I could take warhorn for damage buffs, but I'll cover that with my utility skills. Instead, I'll dual wield swords to maximize my own damage. In practice, you'd also decide on your alternate weapon for switching in combat - perhaps a longbow for range.

Step 2: Pick a heal skill. Let's go with a basic heal like Healing Surge, which gives you both health and adrenaline when used. Adrenaline gives you damage bonuses and allows you to use your burst skill more often, so it's perfect for our build.

Step 3: Pick your utility skills and elite skill. You choose On My Mark (which lowers an enemy's armor and calls a target out), For Great Justice (which gives allies Fury Boon and Might Boon), and Frenzy (which increases my overall adrenaline gain). For my elite skill, I'm taking the always epic Battle Standard (which puts an array of powerful buffs on your allies).

Step 4: Assign your traits. Here you can start focusing your play style and being clever with what you slot in each trait line.

Power: Let's choose to stack traits that increase your strength attribute so your individual melee attacks do more damage.

Tactics: While kiting the giant boar, switching weapons faster sure would be awesome, so you slot the Weapon Master trait that lowers the cool down on switching weapons. You also slot traits that increase the number of targets your shouts affect, and increase the duration of your banners.

Sword: You choose to slot Swordmastery to further increase the damage you do, as well as the trait that increases the chance you will score a critical strike with Final Thrust.

Longbow: Out of what is available let's keep things simple, more damage.

We want experimentation with traits to be fun and engaging, so we've made the rules for changing traits extremely flexible. With no in-game cost, you can respec at will, outside of combat. This means you are open to experiment with what works and what doesn't work on the fly, without having to go back to town or worry about if you have enough gold.

Whether it's adventuring around Tyria trying to stop dragons or fighting other players in World PvP - the trait system is there to experiment with, to have fun with, and to allow you to feel like you are actively mastering the profession you have chosen. Like Guild Wars, there are countless unique and clever combinations to be found.

To all you would-be heroes out there: go forth and adventure, and use the power of traits not for good or evil, but for awesome.

Stay tuned - in the coming weeks we'll be covering things like achievements, armor and equipment... and maybe even get Colin to talk about his secret moa ranch."

I'm particularly pleased about no cost in changing your spec, the system doesn't sound too different from anything we already know but I think the combination of skills and traits could lead to some fun experimenting, IF the weapon skills can be picked from a library (we know weapon skills can be found as drops) then this system is more complex than I originally thought.

Not a major departure from the warrior in GW, duel wielders will be happy.

Here's the vids of some skills, the game is looking very nice now :)

Sever Artery + Gash + Final Thrust

Arcing Shot

Shield Stance



Sunday, June 6

Sunny Sunday Screenshot Siesta

Genofeva Soaking up the sun in the Barrachan Isles

Nahkti running towards destiny

Looking back at Khemi

Vailare sits anxiously waiting for the Stygian flower seller

Moody blue sky at the Eiglophean Mountains

Bewitched by the moon after a meeting with Zeleta

Xibaluku is a dark, dangerous place

The Dark One

Friday, June 4

Three reasons not to play SW:TOR

1) the absense of playable non-human species
2) the presence of Midichlorians...
3) the presence of Gungans other than in a mission where you exterminate them all.

None of these are confirmed and from what I've been able to tell (as someone trying very hard not to follow the game too closely) only item 1 is a real concern for now.

This in lieu of another Wall of Text which I'd feel compelled to fact-check and would essentially still break down to these three points.

Anything you guys are looking forward to or fearing in SW:TOR?