Thursday, December 30, 2010

Looking back at 2010

**Warning this is a big blog. Grab a cuppa, a mince pie and settle in**

I can’t believe another year has gone whistling by. Nearly 2011 and I’m still playing EQ2 and staring down the barrel of Velious (the expansion I quit EQ1 on). A couple of my Bro’s posts here and here have got me in the nostalgic mood and I really think I should make some attempt at a 2010 review.

I’m pretty sure I’m gonna have to break it down in to subject matter otherwise all my MMO/gaming reviews will get jumbled up with my real life reviews and then we’ll have Valentino Rossi riding a Fierce Battle Hardened Warg in next years MotoGP. Yeah, I get confused easy ;)

So what I ‘ve decided to do is hold my very own little awards ceremony. OK, well that’s a bit of a stretch from the truth as I won’t be holding a ceremony but more a list of things that top my personal list of ‘opinions’. Would be nice to have an awards ceremony, but looking at the lists below, I’m not so sure I could get anyone to attend. As you can see from the title of this post I have decided to call the Awards ‘The Pikeys’. This has absolutely nothing to do with our Irish travelling folk cousins, but more to do with a nickname.


Thought I’d start off with some no-brainers. Of course most of my gaming hours have been ploughed in to Everquest2. As such EQ2 has the honour of having it’s very own awards section here.

Most Played Game: EQ2

Worst EQ2 moment

Nothing real bad, but I think the worst moment I had in EQ2 this year was when I purchased a Master for 120plat. I know it’s not a great deal of money nowadays, but it is if you throw it away. I bought the master after meeting the seller in Sinking Sands, said my thanks and ‘cheerios’, only to find out after I went to scribe it that I already had it. I failed to even notice during the purchase the ‘you have already scribed this ability’. What a complete spanner. I didn’t have the heart to get back in touch with the seller. I just popped it on the broker. In the end I made a 60pp loss. Doofus.

Best EQ2 moment

I think the one of the defining best moments for me this year in EQ2 was the moment I felt I really had achieved something special with Voltaan and his gear. Any who play the game will have their favourite things. One of mine is raiding. I love it, but damn it can be hard work at times. It’s really nice to have a top end toon fully kitted as a result of that commitment and in my case, it’s nice to be changing some opinions where Bruisers are concerned in groups.

BUT. That isn’t my best moment. It came second, but when the votes were in the clear winner by a country mile was my Bro returning to EQ2! Welcome back mate.

Funniest EQ2 moment

Most of the funniest EQ2 moments I had during 2010 were of course with my friends and the general laughs we had. There were so many good times and real ROFLs it’s been very hard to choose indeed. I would say some of the conversations I have had with Jahf over the year on voice have been right up there and would normally take the #1 spot. But, they have been excluded by the adjudicators as mostly the giggles were about real life stuff and this award goes purely to those covering game content.

The winner of the funniest EQ2 moment award are the Acolytes of Valor raids I ran through Ward of Elements during the summer. We really did have an absolute drunken riot pretty much every time we went in there. I still recall the Badger Bum moments with affection.

Most enjoyed ‘non-EQ2’ game of 2010

A tough one. I haven’t played too many other games this year apart from EQ2. I think I could probably list them without taking up too much room. We’ve had Mass Effect, Need for Speed Undercover, Test Drive Unlimited, LoTRO, Rift:Beta, Mount & Blade, Left 4 Dead, Lair, GTA IV, and some others.

The winner is GTAIV. I know it’s been out for a long while now (2008) but aside from EQ2 it’s probably the game I have spent most time on as it’s my ‘pick up’ game. The one when I don’t really know what to do so I head back to the old stalwart. There have been a couple of extremely great additions to GTA IV this year for the PS3. The Lost & the Damned, and The Ballad of Gay Tony. Both absolutely awesome add ons. I love the GTA genre so much, it had no choice but to be #1 when taking EQ2 out of the picture, especially considering the two amazing additions to the GTA IV library this year.

Game I wished I had played more

An easy one this. Mass Effect. An absolute barn stormer of a game and like a naughty school boy not doing my homework, I didn’t spend anywhere near as much time as I would have liked finding out about Shepherds’ story in this superb offering from Bioware. I actually feel guilty about it. I know I should have been playing this more. Something to rectify in 2011 and I also need to get ME2 under my belt before the third episode is released back end of the year.

Biggest disappointment of 2010

I think for me this has to be Mount & Blade:Warband. For months I listened to my buds waxing lyrical about this game in its online format. But man, after 20 minutes I couldn’t gel with it one bit and felt like I was swishing a wet mop around a wetter floor. Achieving absolutely sod all apart from anger and frustration.

Biggest hope for 2011

A real toughy this one. I am looking forward to a fair bit in 2011. But, I reckon, although it’s not confirmed and this statement by Strauss Zelnick (Head of Take Two Interactive) at the start of the year makes it impossible to know for sure;

“We’re not going to announce it. We’re not going to announce when we’re going to announce it. And we’re not going to announce the strategy about announcing it or about when we’re going to announce it either, or about the announcement strategy surrounding the announcement of the strategy. Any other questions?”

But even so most reckon GTA V will be with us by the end of 2011. Yup, that’s what I’m now waiting for.

Well, that’s gaming done for. Time to have a look at some of my opinions concerning real life occurrences. Warning – My strong opinions may be offensive to some. If they are, my apologies to you for any offence, but I do not apologise for my opinion. In addition we may be venturing in to some politics and on the opposite end of the scale a bit of light hearted showbiz.

Real Life

Most wonderfully idiotic statement of the year

"As we work and sightsee on America's largest island, we'll get to view more majestic bears, so now is a good time to draw attention to the political equivalent of the species."

—Sarah Palin on Kodiak Island, off the coast of Alaska.

So what happened to Hawaii Sarah? Methinks we should study the animal that is your political and intellectual equivalent.

This was the only thing I could find that produced as much methane.

Most wonderful statement of the year

I’d like to have used one from our own shores but to be honest I’m not sure any could compete with this.

''In Washington, we know there's a huge difference between a prostitute and a politician. There are some things a prostitute won't do.''

—Sen. Claire McCaskill , 2010 Gridiron Dinner

Biggest disappointment of the year - personal

Valentino Rossi at Mugello, Italy. Breaking his leg and putting pay to an exciting end of the year defending his World title. If this crash hadn’t happened, I’m not so sure the result would have been different, but it would have been a hell of a lot more exciting!

Rossi braking his leg at Mugello. Look at the angle of his right foot
Biggest disappointment of the year – General

I know we are subjected to politicians lying to us pretty much constantly, we get used to it. Some countries rulers just seem not to give a toss at all about how others perceive them. Take Russian Prime Minister Putin and his dealings over the Yukos affair and the subsequent sham of justice they employed. I guess we kinda expect that type of thing from the Kremlin, but when that kind of open dishonesty comes closer to home, it is a real shame and the public degradation of our Government unfolds for all to see in the media. Making us a laughing stock worldwide and our Government totally untrustworthy to the constituents who voted them in. Except in this case, they weren’t voted in. This joker jumped on the Conservative band wagon and by osmosis or some other amazing feat, managed to become involved in the running of our country despite only winning something like 42 seats in Parliament.

Here Nick holds up the pledge he made proudly.
He blatantly and publicly broke it months later.
Yes, I’m talking about Mr Clegg and his amazing turn arounds and the subsequent unrest this caused. I am no supporter of the violent clashes that took place, but what can the Government expect when they quite plainly turn round and say “Yeah, we were lying. We’re actually doing it the opposite way we told you”. You have made a mockery of an already mocked system Mr Clegg. It actually turns out not only did he do a complete U-turn on this signed pledge he made to the students but he was planning to drop the idea before the election even though he had made the pledge. You can read about that debacle here.

My biggest general disappointment of the year by far. It solidified the UKs plummeting reputation on the world stage alongside the scandal of ministers stealing from the public by abusing their expenses allowances. Everyone knew this kinda thing probably went on, but hey, when these kind of issues are broadcast globally, it exposed the UK Government for what it is, a sham. I could go on all day about this. There are just too many issues to cover, the huge debt, the dealing of the financial crisis, the failure to make those responsible pay. Yes, Fat Bankers are getting their HUGE bonuses again, despite the fact they helped put us in the mire in the first place. I’m gonna stop before I get myself all worked up again. But suffice to say, Clegg, and the government in general, you’re the biggest muppets imaginable.

I am aware the Conservative Government has made some steps in the right direction though and their ruthless but gutsy moves to make massive public spending cuts to fight the national debt must be applauded. Oh, er hang on a minute. How come we’re paying for the mess and the Bankers are still getting their multi-million quid paychecks? Nope, I was right the first time. Muppets!

Best Bit!

Time for some cheery stuff, just to stop myself getting all in a rage over the previous award.

There is so much doom and gloom in the world today I couldn’t help, along with millions of others being moved quite dramatically by the scenes we all witnessed in the News when Chilean miners were trapped underground. It was fantastic to see such human compassion and a rallying of folks to assist both physically and financially. I pray the issue and the exposure for these miners only brings them happiness and not all the other nasty things that come with sudden fame.

A fantastic moment that brought out the greater good in folk. Humanity does still exist!

Worst Bit

This category is an easy one to fill and there are many who topped the bill here. Namely all the horrendous natural disasters that occurred this year (and a few not so natural – see BP and oil leaks as an example).

But, I’m mainly thinking here of the hundreds of thousands of lost lives and the terrible aftermath through the Haitian earthquake, the Columbian/Venezuelan floods and mudslides, the Pakistan floods, the Indonesia volcanic eruption/tsunami, the Mexican landslides, and the Philippines Typhoon Megi to name but a few.

Best Movie

On to more cheerful stuff again! The winner is a hugely funny film that had me laughing out loud most of the way through, unlike most comedies nowadays that only make you smirk a couple of times. Yup, congrats to ‘The Hangover’. It also stars one of my fave comedic actors who I first came across in the American Office, Ed Helms.

Best Music

I’m not a huge music fan / buff, but I still have my faves. This year the most played for me must be the Gorillaz new album released in the first quarter of the year, Plastic Beach.

Best Book

This surprisingly enough for me isn’t a novel. The best book I have read all year, so far is BBC News correspondent Martin Sixsmith’s ‘Putins Oil’. I’ve had some pretty heavy involvement with research in to the Russian energy industry this year for my work and the deep set corruption in all levels of official public bodies in Russia is so blatant and open, it’s absolutely astounding. I guess at least they are transparent in their thievery and shenanigans!

Fave TV show

There were a few runners for this category. I’m a big fan of ‘The American Office’, the spin off from the UK series ‘The Office’ by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. The US version is absolutely hilarious and I honestly prefer it to the UK version. This was probably going to be my number one, until I actually sat down and thought about it. I really do love the American Office, but I got to thinking what I would do if both this and my other fave, Top Gear were on at the same time, which would I watch? The answer came immediately and without hesitation as Top Gear. The UK motoring programme, although it’s actually more like a lads mag nowadays, is fantastic. If I could ask for any job, it would probably be as a presenter on Top Gear. The programme is top notch with middle aged idiots, well ok not idiots but certainly laddish in their approach, driving all sorts of top end motors at ridiculous speeds in lavish surroundings. Usually. Their Top Gear specials such as the recent Boxing Day, ‘Three Wise Men’ road trip jaunt from the east (Iraq) to the birthplace of baby Jesus in Bethlehem was simply fantastic fun. As was their US road trip (both of them). In fact all of their specials are amazing. The content of the programme always seems to grab me, the guests they have on the show are a load of fun and to top it all off, it’s for petrol heads. Bliss.

I guess I could go on all day with ‘faves’ and ‘worsts’, but I’m going to leave it there because I have rambled on too much and you have probably finished your cuppa and mince pies a while ago. Only one last thing to cover before 2011, my New Years resolution.

This year I think I am going to have to put continuing to write my novel regularly on top of the list. This year I added some great stuff, but not much when you look back and think, “That’s a years work”. So, yeah. More novel indulgence is the resolution.

Have a great New Year and I’ll see you in 2011.

Be well.

Friday, December 24, 2010

RIFT: Impressions

Well, the NDA has been lifted, so my Bro says. So, here are my thoughts on RIFT following two Beta events over the last few weekends.

The first issue I came across was when downloading the patcher. It really didn’t take long to load up but when I ran the patcher for the first time I kept getting an error message that I have the wrong Direct X. I don’t. Took me a while to sort that. basically in the end I ended up adding DirectX to the second hard drive that RIFT was on. The update wasn’t too bad. Only took about three hours at 8meg connection.

I delved straight in to character selection and found it quite a useful system. I wish there has been a few more face / hair / beard choices and I was disappointed that I couldn’t change my size, only my height. Aside from that a fairly painless process. The graphics were looking ok to me at this point too.

I logged in to the game for the first time, choosing a PvE server, as this is my preferred playstyle. My very first initial impression was that the starting area for the Defiant faction reminded me of the starting area of Baldur’s Gate 2. You know, the bit where you are released from jail (or do you escape?). Anyhow, that’s the area I am talking about. So, within about two minutes I had realised that I was going to have my hand held a lot throughout the platy session and I really didn’t find anything a challenge as I was led gracefully through the initial plot at the starter area. I did definitely notice that for a Beta, this was incredibly stable especially considering the amount of folks in the area. I had the graphics set to just below top and I experienced only one ‘less than a second’ delay in the whole play session.

I kind of liked the idea that the starting area was set in the future and once completed you were sent back to Telara to help stop the horrors of ‘today’ from occurring. You do get some more hinters from some of the NPCs concerning the history and the lore, but to be honest not too much. It was kind of wishy washy the info you were getting. I’m hoping as the levels open up the story will become more involved. Not a massive grabber from the start though.

The UI wasn’t too bad really. I got along with it ok. Especially after I got to grips with adjusting it. Not that this is an issue that is too much of a problem as modders will surely develop their own takes on the UI at some point and there will be a wealth of them to choose from.

I liked the game play. In both Beta sessions. It most definitely is NOT a third generation MMO though, so do not be fooled by the hype. It’s just a normal, run of the mill fantasy MMO, nothing massively innovative, yet interesting enough to kill some time on. I didn’t get enough time (because of Real Life things) to spend on the Betas for my liking though. I only reached level 10 although that is probably down to my lust for exploring and not adventuring as much as anything I guess. I think possibly the only thing about the gameplay I didn’t like was the global cool downs. It really was quite rubbish. Having said that I did notice that the more efficient I got at building skill combos, I started to notice some cooldowns were changing, meaning I could use a good combo and at the end one skill was not in ‘cool down’ and was able to start the next combo seamlessly with that. I’m sure it’s one of those things you will get used to, but at the moment it’s not hitting the spot for me. I’d prefer to see independent cool downs.

The scenery and world look pretty good. I’m not actually sure it is Lotro good, but I definitely had a lot of fun exploring and there are some wonderful little touches if you look for them. I recall having to take a rushed impromptu AFK at one point. Think I was in Silverwood. There were mobs everywhere and I had no place to hide. A quick scan of the area and I saw a hollowed out fallen tree. Made a great bolt hole for a few minutes. How a game looks is one of the main attractions for me as I really need that believable interaction to gel with an MMO properly. I’ve mentioned before it’s why I avoid ‘cartoony’ MMOs. Secondly I like to see that I can interact with the environment properly to assist with that immersion. With Rift, I certainly found the locations attractive and technically decent enough, but interacting with the scenery was not up to standard. The first test of being able to sit in a chair failed miserably. I managed to /laydown on a bench for a rest, but it wasn’t the same.

The character progression using the ‘soultree’ method seemed to work ok I guess. Nothing major to write home about and at the low levels I played a lot of the trees skills were difficult to see the benefit of. They all just seemed a little weak. However, I was thinking to EQ2 and the Alternative Advancements. I have already mentioned somewhere in me blog that I think the soultrees will end up a bit like AAs. Lot’s of choice, but everyone goes for the best setup. I’m sure there will be a best setup for things like tanking, melee dps, ranged dps, heals over time etc etc. But the slowness of the start in the soultrees made me think of low level EQ2 AAs. I mean they can be pretty crap until you get enough points to get to the juicy stuff later on. Maybe the soultrees will be the same?

My overall impression is of a stable current generation fantasy MMO which brings some new stuff, but nothing completely innovative, with a couple of major hiccups that could ruin it for many (GCD). I actually mentioned this to someone else and they were like “What? What about Rifts and Invasions?”. Yeah, they are cool (I had a load of fun with a couple of invasions I must admit), but looking at the basics of what they are, they are simply fancy ring events used in a fair few MMOs. Yes, it’s cool anyone nearby can join in, but not really a groundbreaking idea, even if they are a lot of fun.

Will I be subbing to RIFT? It’s a maybe at the moment. I really don’t know for sure. I see potential there and cannot help but think of EQ2 when it was first released. It really wasn’t all that. EQ2 as a game has developed and changed massively from when it was released to the great MMO it is today. With time one must remember that maturity comes and a game finds it’s ‘path’. Sometimes it works, sometimes it nearly works but doesn’t get the interest and sometimes it fails miserably. I think Rift has promise as long it continues to develop and listen to the playerbase. GCDs need to go, or need to be adapted so they are not so ‘G’. Soultrees need to be a little more interesting at lower levels and gain the ability to be truly beneficial in choosing your own play type tree instead of what I predict will happen, which is for everyone to stick to the same setup depending on role. So, yeah. It’s a maybe at the moment. I’m sitting on the fence and not forgetting about baby EQ2 and how it grew to be a big bouncing healthy baby. We’ll see, time will tell.

Finally, a quick but sincere HAPPY CHRISTMAS! To those who follow it and to those who don’t, enjoy your weekend. Now, where are me Mince Pies? Seasons Greetings all. In addition a very special Happy Chrimbo to my online friends. I really wish I could have the pleasure of your company in person this holiday season, but as it stands I'll raise a glass to ye. Salut!

Be well.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Vamp it up!

Some interesting things going on in EQ2 at the moment. We’ve had some guild drama, always a necessity for the festive season. That seems all sorted out now though, thank goodness. Then we have the big news, the introduction of Vampires as a playable race in EQ2. Obviously the upcoming Velious hype is getting everyone talking too.

I’m not going to go into the guild drama issue again. It’s going to happen occasionally and as usual there is pretty much always someone at the centre of it who speaks without engaging brain. It’s just one of those things that in a large guild is unavoidable in my opinion. The reason why, is because you have factored in one of the most annoying creatures around to stir the pot. Yes, human beings just can’t help themselves. We love problems & gossip, we love causing problems and gossip. As a race that is, not necessarily all individuals. Some individuals are impervious to the need to cause trouble or join in the gossip. Anyhow, thankfully it is all over now and things can return to normal for the holiday season. All is now calm again.

So. Vampires. Check the SoE screenies and info on the new Freeblood Vamp race here. I surely can’t be the only one to see that SoE are cashing in on the Twilight / Vampire Diaries / Trueblood band wagon? It’s quite obvious to me. So, I got to thinking why. Well obviously there are enough folks infatuated enough with the idea of Vampirism to make these things sell big style. The folks who seem to get involved with the ‘movement’ really get in there hook, line and sinker. They just love it! Can’t get enough of it. I myself, well, I don’t understand it. Emarald my wife, she’s infatuated. She even asked me for a ‘Damon’ clutch pillow for Christmas (I ‘think’ she was joking). She also seems to believe that Vampires exist. Of course I’m not saying they don’t exist, how would I know? But I certainly have no evidence to state they are ‘amongst us’. Well, we do have Vampires ‘amongst us’ of course, except they wear suits and are involved in politics. Anyhow, none of this has anything to do with where I’m heading with this.

The first thing that makes me think they are cashing in on this, because SoE really are cashing in on this band wagon. I know this because the Vampire Race is only available if you buy it at the moment. Yup, you don’t get it for free (yet) even on the EQ2Live servers where we pay a monthly sub. Yes, it will probably become free when and if you buy the new expansion in Feb 2011, but until then it’ll cost ye! SoE did this knowing that there would be a fair few folks interested in grabbing and playing one right away without waiting. Not that there is anything wrong with this, it’s why SoE exists, to make money. But they’re definitely cashing in on this.

Will I be playing a Vampire? Unless they get some amazing racial abilities that I can’t do without, the answer will be a most definite, No. I just don’t subscribe to the whole thing. Yes, I enjoyed Bram Stokers ‘Dracula’. It was a pretty good read, a bit slow maybe, but not too bad. But this modern thing especially when done without humour attached, I just can’t get to grips with. It’s all just a little too emo for me. Add some humour and fun, a la Buffy (first three series) / Angel (early), then yeah I enjoy the genre. Those were some finely scripted shows. I guess I just don’t ‘get it’. Smouldering looks, pasty skin, buff bods, piercing eyes, make up. I guess from a lot of discussion I have heard from ladies over this subject, it must be a female attraction thing. I’m sure there are blokes out there in to this genre too though, although I must admit I haven’t found any yet.

Just as a side note, I wonder how SoE will work this. I mean surely your drink spot should now only allow blood to be put in there and no food slot (if we are to believe and subscribe to the myth). Will Vampires burst in to flames if they venture out in to the light of day? How on earth will the Vamps navigate most zones, like Nektulos, when they are not allowed to cross flowing water? In PvP will using a stake kill them? One last point, I haven’t seen any vendors selling hair grease. They’ll need a fair amount to keep that Bela Lugosi look going .

Oh, and the names. I have already seen an Edward running around..looking for the Stefan, Damons now.

After saying all that....It does not mean I am impervious to Vampiric tendancies (this was a last minute quickly thrown together costume for a New Years Eve fancy dress party).

Added for your enjoyment and to give ammo to take the piss ;)

Geeks Vamps R Us!

Happy Vamp Hunting.

Be well.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Raiding, the Bank.

Raiding was OK last night, but to be honest my heart wasn’t in it. Nothing to do with the game though, I’d just had a hard day at work and the last thing I wanted to do was anything ‘organised’. Ever feel that way, when you just want to chill? I think it was obvious a few were feeling the same way as we had some silly wipes, the last two I was involved in and were to do with the pulls on the Three Sages in Palace. First pull went fine until I died, then second pull someone pulled before I had finished my countdown so my Sage ran off, then third pull I clicked my taunt a second or so too early and with a bit of delay on the countdown over voice too this meant I got all three sages on the pull. Lazy mistakes really. These are easy fights and we have done them what seems like a million times with no issue at all. I honestly think we were all a bit lethargic with it yesterday. But, it’s the Christmas break from our raids and they won’t now resume until January, so I’m reckoning everyone, including myself will turn up at the start of the New Year all refreshed and ready to rumble. We are going to be running a few raids just for alt loots, but those will be run of the mill farming missions.

Of course the New Year will bring a new expansion too, and with that comes more raid loot. We know it’s always the same, the next expansions kits is usually far far better than the old exiting expansions stuff. Which got me to thinking. The kit at end game currently is ridiculously tough stuff, so goodness knows what the new stuff will be like. We will all be soloing Nagafen before we know it. One thing that is quite interesting about the new expansion is the announcement that they are not just going to be regurgitating the old armour looks. There have been some pretty cool looking sets recently (mainly on the marketplace) and those are the Heritage Armour sets. SoE have announced that instead of just changing the texture to old armour layouts like they normally do, they will be designing new kit from scratch with some (apparently) great looks. EQ2 Wire has a piece on this and there is comment here from Covic on what he plans to put in place. Sounds quite interesting. Now if only they could spend the same amount of time trying to get my toon to sit in a chair or lie down..

Nasty stuff this week in Guild. One of our leaders defunct accounts was reactivated by someone who stole it, they logged in with an alt, then one of our other leaders saw the alt, thought, ‘Oh, there’s....’, and promptly promoted the alt to leader and all the privileges that go with the rank, like bank 4 access. The person who had stolen the account then went and cleared the hundreds of plat from our guild bank. Now I know the dude who owns this account and I think it extremely unlikely it is him. For one, I have had a lot of conversations with this dude and from his general demeanour, I am confident that theft is something he would dislike immensely. Unless of course he has the most amazing scheming mind ever and has been planning this mini heist for years, lol. Not likely. I know you can never know for sure whether someone is responsible or not. But, unless someone is actually caught with their hands in the till it’s hard to say for sure. I confident it’s not the actual owner of the account and certainly haven’t had any of the warning signals at all from this particular leader, in fact far from it and the opposite. Secondly, he has the kit and toons to fund his own game play. It wouldn’t be hard for him to make lots of plat legitimately. I like the guy a huge load but even so if putting my like for him aside, I really do not think he would do something like that. So that leaves us with hackers. Now I don’t know enough about this to comment really, but I do know it’s happened plenty of times before. Some from real hackers, others coz folks are lax with their account security.

Our Guild changed its access rights to the main guild bank for this very reason. It was only about 18 months ago that one of the junior officers (who back then had access to the Guild Bank) logged in and stole all the money from the guild bank. The rights they had back then gave them full access as an officer. Those got changed very quickly after that and SoE reimbursed us. But the problem still remains really. We have a system where you have to let someone have access, and currently it is only leaders in our guild, which I think is as it should be. That doesn’t avoid however, when one of the leaders gets hacked. I guess it’s a vulnerability we have to live with. There are some changes I think needs putting in place. For example, one of our leaders is such a warm trusting fellow that I know he would pass his log in details to someone he ‘trusted’. That kinda thing can come back to bite you on the arse. Not because necessarily the person you trusted is going to shaft you. But what about their roommate who we don’t know but can quite clearly see the notepad with the log in details on, or their brother, or sister, or bent uncle? You pass your log in details to someone and you could be leaving yourself open. But a few of our leaders could be that trusting, they are all so nice.

Anyhow, it’s over and done with now, and to be honest it’s nowhere near as bad as last time where one of our own stole from us and we never found out who it was. SoE wouldn’t tell us but they did suspend the persons account for three days. Problem is with such a large guild there were many who weren’t on during those days, so we still never found out who did that. For all we know they could still be with us today. That created quite a bit of bad feeling really. At least this time it looks like it’s not a guildy but hacker ‘fun’ that’s been responsible. Still not nice but we move on. We have already done one PR plat raid to help replenish the lost plat. A few more runs and we should have enough to cover our rent for a while anyhow!

As for your own account security, personally I would only ever pass my log in details to two people. That’s because I know those particular two would treat the information with the same care I do and my details would be safe. I haven’t though and no one has my details apart from me as I haven’t yet had the need to pass them to one of those two folks. Aside from that, even folks I know well in the guild I wouldn’t give me details to. Not because I don’t trust them, just because I don’t know the folks they hang with, or how tight their security is. Oh, the two I would share my details with, well, let’s just say one of them is not my wife. She leaves her handbag on the table when she goes to the loo in a bar for goodness sake! I wouldn’t trust Ema with important stuff like that. It would end up on the forums or Facebook within a week ;)

Keep your accounts safe. Take a moment to go change your passwords

Be well.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Unknown Truth

Yet another installment! If you haven't read the post before this one \/ \/ \/  you need to before progressing with this..enjoy!!

The Unknown Truth

Udrath sat patiently, the huge red skinned Troll snoring loudly at his side. It marvelled Uddy how Killzum could sleep whenever and wherever he wished. No stranger to hardship, Udrath still required a comfy bed to sleep with such fitfulness. Turning his attention back to the room in which he waited, he took in the richness of the place. Expensive tapestries, colourful inch thick carpets, exquisite vases and chandeliers. His old tutor had certainly done well for herself. So, he sat and waited. The butler had told him it would perhaps be a few hours before she would return and despite the heat of the Maj'Dul afternoon, even here in one of the many cooler ante chamber’s of the Palace it was still extremely uncomfortable sat waiting in armour.

It so happened that Udrath and Killzum didn’t have to wait long. A scant five minutes later the butler returned with a curt nod and indicated that they follow him. Udrath looked at the still sleeping Troll. “We best leave him here Laddy. Unless you want to wake him?” he offered to the butler. Smiling in acknowledgement to Udraths point, the butler shook his head. One would have to be quite deranged to disturb a Troll. Especially one so terrifying to behold as Killzum Brakkarg. As they strolled through the courtyards and past the fountains and open gardens at the centre of the Palace, the Butler looked over his shoulder at the short Dwarf and spoke. “I recognise him you know. I saw him at the Arena some years ago. That’s The Warg Wrestler isn’t it?”. Simply nodding in agreement, seemingly off in his own world, Udrath brushed the question aside and returned to his thoughts. It could be damn tough convincing the Lady Bovich to leave behind these trappings of wealth and success to engage on a crazy hairbrained quest with her old student, but Udrath knew he had the bargaining to get her to agree. Getting her to see things his way may be a little bit of a challenge though. Even more so considering that Udrath had been an extremely poor student in magicks. It wasn’t as if he needed to know the stuff. It was simply that as a consummate Warrior, he understood that there were many types of adversary and it really wouldn’t hurt to study magicks a little so he could better know his foes in battle. Foes of all kinds. Of course, this was not the only reason he had chosen to be tutored by the Lady Bovich. Duty had been his main reason. A duty of care.

But being a typical Dwarf, beyond a small amount of knowledge in healing powers mostly gained from long talks with Merecraft, Udraths expertise was entirely marshall. Hence he was an extremely poor student. He would be relying on the good relationship he had forged with the Lady and the apparent liking she had taken to his cheeky demeanour to get him through this meeting and of course the last truth hidden up his sleeve. His thoughts were cut short as the butler hammered his staff on the marble floor, stating imperiously, “Lady Bovich, I present Udrath Storm..”. The butler never got to finish his statement as Udrath pushed past him with a gruff “The Lass knows who I am sunshine”, and then as he approached the beautiful pale skinned Half Elf, the Lady Bovich sitting on an ornate chair at the head of the long hall, Udrath bowed his head, “Viota. It’s nice to see you lass. Still beautiful as ever I see”.

“And you good Dwarf. I also see you have changed little,” she said with a smile. “Aye Lass. Older and slower, but still the same me. You should still grow a beard though. Hide those thin cheeks” Udrath stated, mischief dancing in his eyes. The Lady Bovich laughed and the sound itself was magical. “Thornton, thank you. Please leave us and bring refreshments” the Elven woman asked of her butler. Looking back to Udrath, she asked “Ale is good for you brave Stormheart?”. Udrath shook his head at the butler, and looking back to the Half Elf he added, “I’ll not be staying long." The butler nodded and quietly left. When they were alone, the Lady spoke again.

“So what brings my court the pleasure of your company good Dwarf? I can sense already that something concerns you. A friend is in need?” she asked. “Bah Lass. I’ll never get used to that” he stated in reply, tapping the side of his temple he added, “and I’d thank you kindly to stay out of here. But yes, you’re right as ever. A dear and old friend. One lost to me for many centuries, and recently reacquainted. He quests for justice and freedom. Both from his own past and for future good folks of Norrath. Problem is ye see Lassy, he’s chosen old Uddy here as his companion on this quest. I’m duty bound to help him and would walk the fires of broken Luclin to do so.” Holding out his bare arms, looking thin and wiry as they protruded from either side of his breastplate, he continued. “It pains me to admit it, but I’m not once what I was and I’m not sure I’m up to the task. Alone that is,” he finished with a wry smile as he turned his gaze toward his old tutor. “I already have one helping me. He’s waiting outside, and the harnessed power of your great magick finger wagglin’ would help us immensely. Simply, we need you, and I think you'll come.” he finished.

The Lady Bovich eyes glazed for a second, then focussed again on Udrath. “Ahh, you bring the Warg Wrester on your quest. A mighty companion indeed.” Indicating the finery around her, she continued. “So why would I give all this up to assist you,one of my worst students I might add, and your friend,“ she stated bluntly, her expression becoming a little more harsh at the presumption of her visitor.

“A fine question Lass. I’m glad you asked it.” Udrath stated back in just as gruff a manner. Pausing to make sure the next part of the information sank in. Looking her straight in the eyes, he added, “Because it’s ye very own Father who needs a helpin’! Pack ye stuff Lass. We leave within the hour”, Udrath finished and standing he left the way he had come, leaving the stunned and beautiful Half Elf behind him. The Lady Viota Bovich had never known her Father, nor knew nothing about him, assuming he was an unknown stranger to her Mother, who at best was known as promiscuous. Shaking her head and using her considerable mental ability to calm her mind, she took a deep breath and called her butler to prepare her cases.
Be well.


It's time for another installment. I hope this doesn't mess up my Bro's next chapter, but sometimes I struggle to stop the fingers from tapping. Here it is, enjoy!


He just couldn’t get the problems they would have out of his head. Udrath knew he was always blinded where Merecraft was concerned. As far as Udrath saw it, it really wouldn’t matter if Mere told him they were going to go slay Nagafen himself, knowing what the ghastly result would be would not stop Udrath strolling up to the ancient Red Dragon and giving the little puppy a smack on the nose! He knew he wasn’t invincible, far far from it, especially now. Death was not a consideration for Uddy either. Death only brought him back closer to his beloved Megan and would be an embrace, not something to fear and knowing his time was near was actually o some comfort to the aged Dwarf. But regardless, Uddy did fear death. He feared it with a passion for his oldest friend.

Merecraft was barely older than when Udrath had last seen him. Being transported half a millennium in to the future had a distinctly less harsh effect on ones age than actually having to live those years. Merecraft was still relatively young and Udrath was painfully aware he was not. No. For Udrath to guarantee his oldest friends safety in Merecrafts sometimes blind quest for honour and valour against Carinus Dhrak, he would need help and he thought he knew just the person. The problem would be convincing Mere that this particular individual would be of help and even that they needed help at all. Known for his brashness, Udrath knew that was no match for Merecrafts confidence in his own abilities, and doubtless that confidence was very well founded indeed. But sometimes the Dwarf knew, a little extra was required.


The rain fell steadily on the cobbled streets of South Qeynos, the light from recently lit lamp posts reflecting from the stones in what seemed like a complicated orange tainted mosaic. Strolling between the tall timber framed buildings, his hood pulled high Udrath moved slowly towards his destination. Never having been one to rush and now with his aging knees protesting from the long walk in the cold rain his progress was slow. Crowds were making their way to their homes and a warm hearth and shuttered windows or indeed to the Lions Mane Tavern, just as Udrath was now. He had no idea if he would find him there, but looking back on their last meeting he couldn’t believe that his old friend from The Fellowship of the Dragon would be anywhere else. Laughing inwardly, Udrath smiled. Where else would you find an insufferable drunk?

As Udrath approached the Tavern he was greeted by the warm but muffled sounds of a drinking hall. Comforting sounds that purveyed friendship, camaraderie and general jolly fun became louder as he pushed open the door and at the same time swept back his hood of his now sodden cloak. Scanning the crowds of folks already ensconced in their flagons he looked for his old acquaintance and spotting him, already his head slumped in his arms, a half empty flagon of ale in front of him, Udrath walked across. Shaking off his cloak, the water droplets spraying across the slumped figure, Udrath sat down opposite him with a loud ‘oomph’.

“So Beast. Still a drunkard eh?” he asked. The huge red skinned Troll lifted its head slightly enough to mutter a guttural and unintelligible response. Nodding his head in acceptance, Udrath slowly pushed himself up from the table and walked back outside in to the pouring rain. Strolling to the side of the Tavern the rain drumming on his scalp, Udrath gathered a bucket from beside the watering trough and scooped up a full load. Never one to be classed as subtle, he promptly walked back in to the Lions Mane tavern and dumped the full bucket of cold water over the head of the Troll.

Killzum Brakkarg reacted in an instant. Bursting upright to his full seven feet tall he knocked the table over as he did so and engulfed Udrath with a roar to shake the Gods in their boots. His rows of sharpened teeth, clearly visible as his lips curled back and he leant down toward the relatively miniscule Dwarf and bellowed again. The crown in the Tavern had gone silent, watching the spectacle, the bouncers slowly edging their way through the crowd.

Udrath looked up at Killzum and waved his hand in front of his face as if to waft away an unwelcome smell. “By Brell Laddy, your breath is a match for Freeports sewers”. Patting the furious monster on the cheek Udrath finished, “Sit down Beast and I’ll buy you another ale. I need to speak with you. Ask you a favour Lad”. Killzum grunted loudly, forcing his rage back down at the promise of a free drink, and righting his chair he sat back down unsteadily. Udrath nodding towards the bouncers in a silent message that all was now calm, righted the table and again sat opposite the huge creature.

“Drinkz furst. Den talkz,” the Troll slurred at Udrath, and Uddy simply nodded in agreement, he really could do with an ale himself after the long jaunt to Qeynos. After a few minutes of silence between the two with Killzum staring malevolently across the table top, still wet from Uddys cloak and the bucket of water, the maid placed two brimming flagons in front of each. Udrath lifted his and took a deep swill then placed it back on the table, never taking his eyes from the Troll. It appeared the Troll wished to drink but he was still trying to figure out how to raise the flagon to his drunken lips without spilling any. Eventually getting his swig and despite his attempts, spilling a goodly amount down his already stained tunic, Killzum placed his flagon back down.

“Okayz. Yuuz wunts wot?”he asked of the Dwarf.

“Well Beast. It’s like this ye see Lad. I need your help. A favour as I have said. A close friend of mine is heading out on a quest. By friendship and as a comrade I am tied to this quest with him. But we need help. That’s where you come in”, he finished.

A strange noise emanated from the Troll and as its shoulders shook, Udrath recognised it as laughter. “No. Meez sits ‘ere und drinkz. Yuuz goz unda qust.” Came the short answer and one that Udrath had been expecting. He knew sobriety was an elusive creature when one liked the ale, as a Dwarf even with his once mighty constitution, Udrath knew this. It would take something more to drag Killzum Brakkarg from his drinking chair.

“Alright Laddy. Alright. So what if I was to tell you that my quest links with one of yours and that by helping me with my quarry, you’d be a hurtin’ yours? What’d you be sayin’ then Lad?” Udrath asked and he saw the Trolls face twist as he tried to slog through the drunken haze to understand what he had said.

“Yuuz knowz meez unlee huz wun qust uld Dorf. Undatz nuvur huppeningz. Meez duntz gnoz wurr shiz iz”. Struggling to understand the Troll at the best of times, let alone through the Beasts induced haze, Udrath paused before he answered, checking he had understood correctly. “That’s the thing right there Lad you see? My quest is likely to find her for you. The one my brethren and I seek would surely know of one like that evil cow Shahlai. If she’s about, my quarry will know of her whereabouts, I’m sure of it”. The reaction of the Troll was instantaneous. His eyes cleared as he shook his head furiously digesting the information the Dwarf had given him and standing he looked down at the Dwarf then stomped off up the stairs of the Tavern without a word. Udrath leant back in his chair and smiled and he took another long draft from his brew and smacked his lips in appreciation. Watching the Troll disappear in to one of the Inn rooms upstairs off the balcony, now only slightly unsteady on its feet, he waited. And he did not have to wait long. A scant ten minutes passed, then he saw the door upstairs open again and where he had seen a dishevelled Troll disappear within, he now saw something quite quite different.

Ducking as he exited the room and walked back down to the main Tavern floor, Killzum Brakkarg, Warg-Wrestler stood in front of Udrath. The ‘Beast’ as Udrath had called him was quite clearly back and even one so experienced and hard skinned as Uddy couldn’t help but shiver at the figure in front of him and as he looked up at Killzum from his chair he took in the spectacle. Fully armoured in inch thick armour, spikes protruding from almost every joint, the seven foot tall Troll was exactly as Udrath had described him, a Beast. The six foot long serrated blade strapped to his shoulders was just as terrifying as the figure itself but the thing most terrifying of all was the look on Killzums face. Row upon row of sharp teeth exposed a snarl as he spoke, “Nuwz weez goz muukz dats bitchuz bleed”. Smiling, Udrath slowly finished his ale, collected his cloak from the back of his chair and leading the Beast out into the rain, he said over his shoulder, “All in good time Laddy. All in good time. We have a couple o’ more stops to make. Then we begin”.
Be well!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Plummeting Stats

Wow. I hadn't checked my stats for a while. I seem to have dropped to almost no readers for the last few weeks. With busy Christmas times a coming I'll be keeping an eye on it, but I reckon if things don't improve in the New Year I may be closing the blog. Maybe some marketing is required!

I know I don't do this for masses upon masses of readers, but no readers means I may as well keep a diary in my bedside drawer. Let's see what happens through Christmas and into the New Year. We'll have to see!

Be well.

Gagg central

I haven’t been doing too much in game recently. Certainly not enough to write about. So this blog today has been fuelled by a conversation I had a work today about a subject very dear to my heart. Practical jokes! I love ‘em. I love carrying them out, I love being the butt of the joke. I just think they’re fun. So, I’ve compiled a short list of my fave practical jokes that I have heard about, instigated, or been the butt of. I’ve cited the source for each which of course may not be the originator of the idea, but it is where I first heard about them.

1. This one I was part of when I was a fresh faced nooby officer. As part of the initial training you have to visit a morgue to witness an autopsy. Not the most pleasant of things I’ll admit. I was a little nervous but had decided to show dedication and arrive early to receive whatever instruction from the Coroner. I was met by one of his assistants, who very quickly recruited me in a scheme to scare the other officers who were obviously not early like myself. I was instructed to lie on one of the large fridge gurneys, covered with a white sheet and then slid in to the fridge. The idea was that when the other officers came, they would open the door, slide me out and I would sit up to scare the other officers. It sounded a little weird and sick, but it was a practical joke and I’m a sucker for those. So as they slid me in to the morgue fridge I realised that even though each gurney was accessed by its own door, the fridge inside was actually totally open. It was a little scary being surrounded by dead bodies but I couldn’t stop giggling at the joke I was about to play. That is until the body next to me leant over and said “Ohh, it’s cold in here”. I jumped up smacked my head on the base of the gurney above me and was absolutely terrified. Yup I’d been the butt of the joke all along.
Source: Crazy coroners assistant.

2. I witnessed this one when I was a young ‘un. One of my friends who was at University had been staying in the same student digs for a couple of years and was due to move out at the end of that term. I turned up for a weekend of drinking and fun and when I arrived, their housemate was mixing a big bowl of unknown urine coloured liquid. Obviously I enquired what the hell was going on and why was the weirdo lass mixing a bowl of piss? It turned out to not be what I thought and actually was a mix of something else and lemon juice. Why?, well in a flash of genius this lass (who had been studying ancient languages or something of that ilk) had decided to fill the walls of the house interior completely with sinister latin text and diagrams with her lemon juice mix. It was all stuff about ancient burial grounds, curses, pentagrams..that kind of thing. No one knew what happened and it’s the type of practical joke you don’t really get to see the result of, but your imagination takes care of that. Imagine what happened the first time the new students who had moved in lit a back light, put a fish tank in, or really any type of neon/ultraviolet light in that room. Fun stuff!
Source: Crazy ancient languages student..still don’t know her name.

3. This is an office practical joke and I have never personally seen it done for real, but I like it and I really reckon it could work with enough dedication. It is based on the idea that you can train things by using distinctive sounds. We already know it works on dogs, monkeys etc, so why not humans? Basically what you do is this. Ensure your computer has speakers and that the person(s) you wish to pick on are nearby. Everyone who works at a computer will be familiar with the Windows basic sounds used so open the sounds tab in the control panel and find one you like that is distinctive and easily recognisable. Then every so often, play this sound. I would have thought a couple of times a day, three times max would be sufficient. Immediately follow this by offering a mint to your prey (or sweet or whatever you know they like). Do this for a few weeks, the longer the better depending on how patient you are. At worst they will think that you think they have bad breath. Once you have done it enough (use your judgement here) play with the sound as often as you like and watch them salivate and hold their hand out in expectation without even knowing what they are doing.
Source: The American Office, TV comedy show

4. The final one comes from Everquest2. Of course there had to be an EQ2 one in here. When druid portals first came about, if you can recall each and every one had a specific location, and not the ‘drop down list’ that you get today. In addition to this if you clicked on the portal, it did not ask you if you wished to take the port, it just ported you. Now add in the fact that back then world travel was much more difficult and there were no ‘worldwide portals’. So, my wife Emarald, Drood extraordinaire started this craze as far as I am aware. I never heard of it done before she did it. So, she would lie in wait next to a broker, say in East Freeport, wait until a sufficient number of folks surrounded the broker, then she would pop up a portal to somewhere extremely distant right in front of the broker, and bingo! Folks would disappear in droves. It never happened to me, but I saw her do it plenty of times. Imagine the chagrin of the folks who suddenly found themselves sat in Steamfont. Fun fun fun!
Source: My wife, Emarald Green

Be well.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

It's all getting a little bit like work.

Raiding was fun last night. We had an old raider join back with us on his Monk, so I switched to Adurj to assist with support. It was quite fun. It’s been an absolute age since I have played Adurj in anger. I even had to re-sub the account he is on. It took a bit of time to get back in to things and it looks like I’m going to have to look at his AA tree as Virtuous Concerto seems all the rage these days. For those who don’t know what that is, it’s a funny little ability. Basically you stack up all ye buffs on the Dirge, let them DPS for 10 seconds like crazy and their VC records it. Or is it RO, Rhythmic Overture..I forget. Anyhow, one of those records the DPS then when you cast its sister skill (RO or VC, as I say I forget which way round they go), then during the toughy named fight the Dirge releases the RO or VC after announcing it and the rest of the raid get the benefit of the results of the totted up DPS from when the Dirge recorded it. Makes sense? I’m still finding my way round this seeing as it’s been a while since I played Adurj.

Kinda of a quirky idea, kinda fun, but on our raid forums a discussion has started about this very subject where an extremely experienced Dirge who raids with one of the top end raid guilds is offering some great advice. It’s all very helpful stuff from a lovely fella (thanks Aik!). But, after a page of posts and discussions I really must say I’m starting to feel like I’m back in a maths lesson. I hated Maths. Took ‘A’ level Mathematics and dropped out in the first month, with my tutor agreeing as I walked back out of his office as he was saying, “Yeah, it’s probably for the best eh?”. It links with a discussion I had in a previous post concerning third party software and how it can end up detracting from the game and that it is a personal choice if you opt into it or not. Personally when things start looking too much like work and less like a game, I start to get disinterested. I already have an intense yet good job with long hours. I don’t want to come home and start researching the exact time to use a skill or heading deep in to the maths of the Advanced Combat Tracker. I just want to play the game and enjoy it. Yeah I’ll use ACT to see which of my skills are doing the most DPS to ensure I utilise those correctly but I don’t really want to dig any deeper than that.

This brings us on to the question that has been asked recently within our raid force and actually prompted perhaps the leaving of some of our members. What sort of raid force are we? I would say we are casual interested in progression at our own rate. Now don’t get me wrong, I am fully aware that to get places in SF raiding, especially past easy mode and in to hard mode, you all need to be on top of your game and at the very least be trying when you raid, which our raid force does. But going that bit further in to the exact science of the stuff, well that’s just a little too far for me. Yeah, I’ll be playing with VC/RO when I play my Dirge but until I get the hang of it, it’s gonna be hit and miss for me I guess. I certainly don’t have the time or energy to research it that in depth. Maybe that means I am not worthy of my spot on the raid force, if all other Dirges are putting the effort in and I am not it will soon show up I would have thought.

Maybe that’s why I prefer the off tank role. It’s an easier role that doesn’t require as much time commitment. I became ok at playing a Bruiser because I play one a lot, not because I researched everything to do with it and gaining and keeping aggro, although a challenge against such relatively high dps in our raid force is actually not that difficult a task. Well, I don’t have to do homework to perform the role, put it that way.

On to other news, I have been playing Udrath quite a bit with my Bros Warden Merecraft, Jahfs Inquisitor, and at times Brynnethe, (Bro’s wife) and Livvy one of Emaralds alts. We have been systematically heading around picking up HQs and levelling that way, pretty much because those are some of the most fun questlines. We completed the Zek ones ending in DFC as previously mentioned and the other night we hit and cleared the Missing Mask HQ in Nektropos Castle, which is still to this day one of my favourite zones in the game. If only the house given for free in the seven year reward was based on that place instead of Castle Mistmoore’s interior. Mere and I have to finish Haddens Earring by heading in to the Ruins of Varsoon and then that’s another HQ completed. I know it’s lower level stuff, but the company makes the game and I have been having such a blast playing with this tight knit group of my friends. Many thanks to you all for the laughs and good times!

Be well.

Friday, December 3, 2010

It's life Jim, but not as we know it.

A bit of a departure from the norm today. Whilst we were raiding last night, one of our raid force expressed an interest in the recent findings by NASA scientists concerning life forms being found to exist in an environment predominantly of arsenic. This is unusual as even though we know some life forms do exist in extremely toxic environments, most of those toxic environments consist of chemicals that are attributed to the basic building blocks of life, for example nitrogen and sulphur.

Part of the hullabaloo is the fact that if life can exist in such inhospitable conditions and not in one of the chemicals forming the basic building blocks, such as arsenic, then this could mean the existence of life forms on other planets, even ones where we thought life would be completely unsustainable. A very interesting and compelling argument for sure. However, what I have to say is this, why are we surprised? Yes, I know it is a step forward in scientific research and it somewhat confirms what some scientists have theorised for a long time, but I like to look at such things from a slightly different angle.

Now for one who has a background where proof and evidence is King, this may seem like a bit of a weird point of view. But I like to look at the probability of such things. Before I continue, I guess it’s prudent to state that I absolutely believe that without a doubt that there is other life forms out there in our Universe and beyond and possible even in our own Solar System. Just look at Simon Cowell! No, that was cruel and unnecessary, but I couldn’t help it!

The first part of my understanding is simple. It is to do with the size of the universe ‘as we know it’. You only have to look at the unfathomable size and things start to look likely. If ye like a bit of science with your sauce, check out The Drake Equation. You’ll notice above I placed ‘as we know it’ in apostrophes. The reason for this is I believe it forms a huge part of my belief. Throughout history and also in modern day it is more than apparent that we can only state for certain what we know. The rest is educated guesses some perhaps based on scientific evidence and hypothesis. I feel this is immensely important and links in with the old, “To assume, makes an ass, out of (yo)u and me” statement. What we don’t know we can only guess at and yes those guesses may be backed up by something stronger, but that’s what they still are, guesses.

Look at what happens when North Koreans escape to the South. They have to undergo training to fully understand how real societies within our world work. They ‘assumed’ under their old regime that they knew how things worked. Moving to South Korea showed them that they really did not. As a race and a planet we are the same. How can we possibly be so arrogant as to assume that we know it all? Of course we cannot and do not.

So what are we left with is probability and perspective of evidence. Perspective of evidence is an interesting one. For example, take the fact that daily we are passed information in different formats by our Governments. On the whole we believe what they tell us. Why would we not? But time and time again we have evidence provided to us that Government keep secrets and tell us at times a bunch of porky pies. This in itself makes it impossible to put any stead in what we are told. How do we know which it is? The truth or lies? I’m no great Government debunker, but I rarely take what we are told at face value as we have experience and evidence that we cannot always trust what they say. As a child if you put your hand in the fire, it burns. You do not do it again. Lesson learnt. Same thing. They have shown their propensity for lies and spin time and time again and although I’m prepared to admit mostly they probably do tell us the truth, there is no way to differentiate between the two. So erring on the side of caution is always advisable when looking at the information they provide.

Now take this perspective of evidence. Look at the information passed to us by respected professionals such as Aldrin, Wolfe, Collins. Both Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins tell us they have seen UFOs. I have no evidence of them lying to me before, but the Government debunks this information. Why believe the hot fire? It burns. Why would such folks risk their careers and good reputation by coming up with crazy stories of UFOs or structures seen on the dark side of the moon? I don’t know what they are telling us is the truth. But it’s more probable that they are telling the truth than the Government is.

Go back further in history and perspective of evidence gets a little shadier. What do we believe when met with such supposedly proven evidence such as the Piri Reis Map. A map showing the coast of the Americas and coast of Africa but also surprisingly Queen Maud Land , part of Antarctica seemingly without ice. The map was from the 16th century. The last time that part of Antarctica had no ice was over 9000 yrs ago. So how the hell did they know? Then you get stories of tribes in Meso-S America stating their Gods used to visit them and the knowledge for the drawing up of the map came from these Gods. Are we talking aliens here? The technology to map the land beneath Antarctica ice has only been available in our life time. Some scientists call this pseudoscience or psuedoarchaeology, but others state it is wrong to think we always have known what is right and old evidence should be re-evaluated. Who to believe?

Not knowing the answer of course, I come back to what I personally feel is probable. Link that with humans astonishing ability to be blinkered in to believing that we know more than we do and deciding the answers before we even have enough supporting evidence to do more than hypothesise, and I cite for example a lot of scientists’ belief that all life is carbon based. How do we know for sure? Yes, on this planet it’s very likely, but how can one apply that to the whole of a massive area we know little about such as the Universe? Of course, we cannot.

So, life as we know it? Is that it? I personally believe not. There has to be more out there and I think we’d be extremely arrogant to think otherwise.

Phew! A bit of a departure from the norm indeed. Fun though. Gets the old brain working. Normal gaming fun will hopefully be back with us after the weekend.

Be well.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Work Immersion

Apologies it's been quiet here for a little is crazy busy at the moment with many deadlines. I don't think I have had a lunch break this week!

Normal service will be resumed soon.

Be well.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Lagging Behind

Raiding last night was not so much fun. We hit Underfoot Depths again which was cool, but the thing that made it not fun? Well, the lag and delays and freezes were simply unbearable. To start, Ema couldn’t even get in the game. It took her about 15 or so tries before getting in. Then throughout the night we had problems, but they got steadily worse until we both decided to reboot our comps and reset our router. This, as it happens was not the best idea as the problems were not fixed and it took me about 20 tries to log in just to let our raid leader know it was not going to be happening for Ema and I. A shame indeed as I always hate letting down those we raid with. Sadly Rathgar didn’t go down to our attempts this time either, even though we have got him down a couple of times before. It was an amalgamation of issues, of which bad lag for a fair few was one.

Only playing one MMO really, I don’t know if other MMOs have the same problem with lag. I’m thinking that perhaps they don’t to the same extent as EQ2. It’s kind of linked to one of the things my Bro has commented on previously concerning the graphics engine still being a bit dodgy and memory intensive with leaks all over the place. It got me to wondering why EQ2 suffers from problems such as this. I mean I personally think EQ2 is an amazing game. Of course I would say that with 6 years of my life invested in to it. But, even though the graphics do look really cool and in my opinion still some of the best MMOs have to offer out there, the engine can be very sluggish and anomalies do still occur.

I recall when EQ2 first came out and there was talk that the graphics engine was made to be able to be upgraded many times to utilise technology concerning computers and graphics cards for many years to come with the ability to make best use of such technology. Even so, 6 years on and although things have got a little better all the problems have not yet been solved. I guess it’s not a problem I have too often, and I can certainly live with it. Unless it’s on raid night!

Sunday night saw a great session online. I played Udrath and no longer had I switched to him after doing a bit of broker mashing on Volt, I got a tell from Jahf on his mini Inquisitor asking if me and Mere had room in our group. Of course we did, and we all met up on the docks at Zek, The Orcish Wastes to indulge in a bit of HQ fun. My Bro and Jahf had already done the first part of the pre-requisite quest for Rescue of the Greenhoods HQ, called Operation Greenhood, so I quickly got myself caught up. I think its worth saying here that the very first fight we had was crazy. In typical style when tanking I ran straight through a huge amount of Orcs with the knowledge that I had two proficient healers with me. Sadly, I did kinda forget Uddy was still in his level 20 armour and as such what started as a fun pull very quickly turned in to an epic battle. Just for a bit more fun we picked up a ^^^ who wandered past too. But we lived, and after my Brothers exclamations of ‘typical Udrath’, we went to talk to that sneaky dude behind that Orc hut, then back to the docks and on to the Glademaster.

When we reached the part of the quest where you have to complete a sub quest for the Glademaster (Into the Vallon Foundry) we decided to start the Training is a Shield HQ also. Seeing as we were heading in to the Orcish Quarry anyhow, we thought we may as well. And it’s a good job too, as we were completing the quest for the Glademaster, none of us really noticed that Jahfs inquisitor had levelled, then when we killed that annoying Gnome, Nixam Duxdiggle (or whatever he is called) and his mini evil eye, Mere and Jahf got the update but Uddy didn’t as he was too low. We checked the respawn timer and it was an hour. This worked out quite well really as it gave us a chance to run through the remainder of the Training is a Shield trials given by Grozmog just outside the quarry. When we had got to the stage that Grozmog tells you to go kill Emporer Fyst in Deathfyst Citadel (“DFC”), it was back down the quarry to finish off the Gnome again. Just prior to doing that though, I nipped back to the guild hall to upgrade my kit and armour. When we resumed we only had to wait a couple of minutes and there he was. I got my update and it was back to the Glade to speak to Sasha (I think that’s the Elfs name. He’s just outside the Glademasters hut) and all three of us picked up the Rescue of the Greenhoods HQ. That was where we left it for that night, but I’m hoping we can head back there tonight to get cracking on that quest and then in to DFC itself. I really really love that zone. I don’t particularly think it is as good as it was originally when Fyst used to be an Epic x2 in the arena dungeon thingy, but it is still a quality instance. So, if all goes well I’m hoping to have some fun in there tonight.

On to other subjects, I already have the next instalment of Udrath and Mere’s adventures penned, but I won’t release it until I have seen Meres next one or spoken to him about it as I don’t want to step on his creative toes. If you are interested, my next instalment will introduce a new character to our tale and you can find some previously penned stories by me about him here if you feel like a bit of background reading. I’m not sure when my Bro will get time to get his next update up, as I know he is hugely mega busy with work at the moment and slogging his guts out most of the day and night. I hope things lighten up for you soon buddy! Oh, and I watched the weather forecast for the UK Bro, and knowing you do a huge amount of miles on the road, be careful and good luck in the snow drifts. I recall last year (or was it the year before?) when you got stuck for an eternity on the A17 I think. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen again. Even so don’t forget your bag of salt in the car, a shovel and a nice flask of mommas hot brew too :) Oh, and most importantly, make sure your Ipod is fully stocked with groovy tunes !

Still nothing from Trion about BETA, I think it’s the 2nd or 3rd December. We’ll know if our Beta keys come good. Lots of crossed fingers all round for that one!

Be well.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Third Party Software and MMOs

There’s an interesting discussion going on in our raid syndicate at the moment. It concerns the use of an external program called Guild Connect. This is a package that from how I understand it, allows one person to be the admin and they have timers for spells etc that are then shared with the whole raid (if they are logged into Guild Connect). These can be used to call jousts, or really any instruction you wish without the raid leader having to worry about it. The call out is in a digital voice and is easy to understand. Basically it takes away some of the worry for the raid and the raid leader and allows for an accurate verbal notification system. That’s its purpose.

The discussion that has arisen is the one of gameplay and what people want out of the game. We recently had some discussions kind of touched on what sort of raid force we are, and quite simply, we are not hardcore, we’re just a group of friends raiding together to experience the content. Not to say we aren’t progressing, we are and quite nicely too. But the use of this new software has raised some of the old questions that raised their heads when Advanced Combat Tracker and parses first came out.

To raid hardcore, you either need a mega dedicated and extremely proficient raid force, or the help of systems like ACT and Guild Connect, or both. It basically can help transfer fights in to what I refer to as ‘hand holding’ encounters. Where you are simply following a prescribed script given to you by a third party system that assesses when you should joust, what detrimental are coming, when to stop attacking and so on. All the things that a raid leader usually does and also expects the raid members to pay attention to.

This has stimulated a couple of opposing opinions. On one side there is the idea that such technology and its use in the game turns it from a game where human interaction and the overcoming of adversity to progress as a team is paramount alongside enjoyment, to a program that really is no longer a game anymore, simply a physical reaction to digital instructions. Or put simply, it holds your hand through the content and lets you decipher the encounters secrets automatically, thereby removing the enjoyment and challenge aspect. Effectively turning it from a casual bunch of friends enjoying content together to a different game of hotbar whacka mole.

I can see both sides of the argument, and I’ll state from the off that if I absolutely had to choose, I would choose not to use the technology. The level of satisfaction is higher when achieving stuff with friends, doing it the ‘hard way’ or so to speak. You get to sit back when an encounter is finally beaten and enjoy the fact that you achieved something using your skill and understanding, not simply by following instructions.

However, to think that assumes that using such software completely removes all human interaction. It of course does not. I can still choose to ignore the instructions if, owing to other information I am aware of I know it is not relevant. I still have the choice to follow the instructions or not. For example, we tried this system out last night. On one of the encounters at one point you cannot attack the mob at all or he reflects the damage back on the raid. At the same time there are a lot of heroic adds that spawn and unless you kill them quick they get tougher and tougher until you wipe. I was tanking the adds. Being a Bruiser I do quite a bit of AoE damage, some of which is automatic when a normal hit connects, it stimulates AoE damage also. At one stage Guild Connect had told us to stop attacking him, BUT there were still adds around the named. I knew if we did not target and kill them fast they would get stronger until we could not cope, another set of adds would spawn and the adds we didn’t kill before would wipe us. By the same token, I knew if I headed in to attack the adds, there was a chance my auto AoE would hit the mob when I wasn’t supposed to and reflect that damage back on the raid. I quickly ignored the instruction from Guild Connect and ran in to grab the adds. Yes my AoE did hit the mob, so why did I do it? Why did I ignore the instructions of a machine and risk wiping the raid? Well, the reason is because of that, reason. I am a human with the ability to reason. I had assessed how many healers we had, watched the health bars in that split second checked there were no spikes to the raids health and surmised the danger of the adds becoming stronger (it happens quite quickly, you have to be fast at getting the adds down), was greater and less manageable for the raid force than the fact some spike damage may need to be healed from my accidental AoE on the named as I was grabbing the adds. I refuse to be dictated to by technology. I will use it, but with my reasoning abilities intact. I will never be the person who drives in to a lake just because my Sat Nav told me to.

And that’s the point. I will not shy away from using such technology to assist, only when required and even then with my ability to reason surpassing it. But that’s it, I will only allow it to assist what I am already doing. Using the previous example, the point when you are not allowed to attack is communicated to the raid by red text appearing on your screen telling you that the mob is putting up a barrier. Even though the Guild Connect system was telling me to ‘stop’, I was watching the screen and would have stopped anyway when I saw the red text. Yes it worked admirably in its function there but to be honest, I was aware I didn’t really need it for that as I was watching for the red text warnings. But, I am very willing to accede that there are times when such a system would be invaluable to me as an offtank. Take the first named fight in Underfoot depths. The adds in that fight seem to constantly memwipe and as a tank I am constantly running around trying to grab aggro back off the squishies. In a situation like that I am honest enough to admit, my focus gets diverted to monitoring my snap aggro tools, my aggro meter and simple things like moving around to the right spots to grab aggro constantly. In a situation like that if red writing appeared on my screen, I may well miss it.

The argument is much bigger than this though. It nudges in to the realms of suspense of belief, the reason why a lot of people play this game to escape from the responsibilities of real life, the horrendous things we see on the news, the problems we have in our own lives and the stresses that come with those. The game offers relief from all that, a safe place to ‘play’ with your friends and make new acquaintances and the use of such software as Guild Connect could detract from this. Imagine you are a systems analyst in real life. You spend all day working at your workstation reacting to analytical data tools, then you go home to relax, hop on EQ2, load up Guild Connect, and do it all over again but this time with pretty pictures on the screen alongside the data. Of course, you may find some saying guild connect is going to far, as they then switch to ACT to analyse their data, seemingly accepting one set of software but not the other.

I guess at the end of the day, use of such software to assist you through the game is a personal choice. All I would suggest is to remind yourself what it is you want from the game before using it or indeed ACT or special UI mods, or whatever. Think about what you want and what the use of these software packages would mean to you. Would it mean becoming more hardcore when you like casual? If it is going to detract from what you want from the game, don’t do it. If like me you can find a happy middle ground, then do that, but most importantly, remember it is a game, and the main reason for playing it is enjoyment and the fact you as an individual get something from it that is good for you personally.

Be well.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

RIFT: Anticipation

RIFT. I’m pretty darn excited about this game. I’m trying to temper my enthusiasm though a la Vanguard issues for obvious reasons. It’s about time I gave you my take on the new game and what I understand it to be. You can of course visit the official website here, but if you want to see my thoughts on the matter just keep reading.

When assessing an MMO, I first look at the graphics of the game. Most important to me is the ‘feel’ that I’m going to be able to immerse myself in the game and the surroundings. It needs to be believable. I know that sounds kinda weird about a fantasy MMO but I need it to be that way or I won’t connect with the game. To give you some sort of indication here’s a rundown of a few MMOs and what I think of the graphics. WoW: Too Cartoony, EQ2: About spot on, WAR: Nice scenery but characters lack individuality, Guild Wars: Looks pretty, perhaps a little too ‘fairyland’, LoTRO: About spot on, although character graphics could do with a little more customisation, EQ1: great when released, now I can’t help thinking, Udraths a polygon! From the screenshots I have seen and the avatar graphics on the classes pages on the RIFT official website, I don’t think I will be disappointed. The scenery really seems to create an emotive response from me and the avatars seem realistic enough. Hopefully Beta will let me see what the customisation is like, but I’m hopeful.

The second most important thing to me in an MMO is the Class / Race System. If I am to play an avatar, I want to be able to create one that does what I want it to and one that adds to the immersion in to the game for me. Pretty much that means I need to be able to connect and relate to my toon. I am pretty traditional in this. I like the old Fighter, Mage, Scout, Priest basic archetypes with subclasses underneath. OK so it may not be a big departure from what is already out there, but it looks like Rift has a bit of a different take on them with the ability to utilise souls of past heroes to gain your skills. By the time you are max level, you will be able to utilise skills from three different souls. In addition to this each soul tree has branches and roots. So let’s say if I chose the Ranger soul tree initially, I can specialise it as much as I like and as I level I will get more points to spend in branches and roots. Then when I get high enough I will be able to have another soul tree, say I went for Nightblade and then I could assign my points between the two trees, effectively uniquely customising my character. And then when the third tree opens up to me, I could customise more.

I do like this idea. It steps away from the standard skill sets you would have if you had a certain class and effectively enables you to be multi class. Either a jack of all trades/master of none, or a master in one if I preferred. However, I can perhaps predict what may happen with this. I draw this example from my experience with EQ2 and the Alternative Advancement trees. Yes with EQ2 AAs you can customise to how you like to play your toon to your preferred play style. However, go on to EQ2 Flames and you will be able to find the ‘ideal’ setup for certain circumstances depending on class. This is how I see the soul trees going with RIFT. Initially yes it will be a world full of differently skilled toons, but give it a year and there will be the ideal tank setup, the ideal HoT healer setup, the ideal melee dps setup, and so on. I have to wonder how individual the classes will be after a couple of years live. I initially like this idea very much and I hope what I suggest does not come to fruition. I think this is one of the areas I will reserve judgment on, but I’m holding out hope it will be a good setup. I certainly like the amount of classes (soul trees) that are available.

RIFT Class system..there may yet be more classes added.
The Third thing I look at when deciding on an MMO is the play style. I am a PvE player. Although I do like PvP in the right circumstances. Ironically enough one of the most attractive PVE/P systems I have seen is in a game I have never played, and that is Dark Age of Camelot. If RIFT turns out to be like that I will be happy. It certainly seems we have two opposing factions, The Guardians (Dwarves, High Elves, Mathosian) and The Defiant (Bahmi, Eth, Kelari). I guess I’ll just have to see what it is like and how it develops.

The fourth thing I look at in MMOs is the community. I’d be remiss if I failed to say I would not wish to be a part of a community such as in WoW. It is the one community that lets MMOs down in my opinion. Yes, there are surely nice folks there of course, but it seems their voices are drowned out by the idiots. I did play WoW a long time ago and even back then I had to pull out some old one liners to stem the flow of crap abuse I was getting. I recall telling some American youth no older than my new shoes after he pestered me for what seemed like hours for cash that “I wouldn’t give ye the droppings off my nose on a frosty morning sunshine”. I received the educated reply of “WTF you talkin ‘bout bitch”. Just my experiences. Some may enjoy the community there. But not me. From looking at the forums on the Trion Worlds website for Rift, it seems the community is probably going to be ok. There have been a few ‘remove brain’ moments there, but on the whole most seem to be approaching the game with a mature and interested attitude. Again, I hold out hope for this area.

I seem to be saying that a lot. “I hold out hope..I’m hopeful” and so on. I guess the only way for me to see for sure is to get started.

C’mon..gimme my BETA!

Be well.