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Showing posts from February, 2008

Noooo. It is about the story.

At GDC 2008 Ken Levin made the provocative comment that "Nobody cares about your stupid story". A subsequent post on Gamers with Jobs has many respondents most of whom assert that gameplay is far more important than story. In fairness to Mr. Levine he did elaborate and he does recognise that immersion is vital. He is really talking about the tacked on story lines that come with many games. I am worried though that this theme taken together with the well publicised success of casual games from companies like PopCap will interpreted to mean that game play is everything and immersion can be abandoned. I am worried that immersive games will disappear to be replaced with a million versions of Peggle. Therefore I feel obliged to offer a rebuttal: It is about the story. It is all about the story. Mind you, I am not talking about the shoddily scripted, confusing excuse for a plot that you choose to tack onto your game. No I mean it is about my story. They story I create for mysel

Are you really anonymous?

My last post got me thinking about blogging under a pseudonym and the separation this allows me to keep between my online personality and my "real life". Most of the blogs I read use some kind of pseudonym although quite a few use a real name. That led me to the question - do pseudonyms really protect our identity? How easy would it be for someone to dig behind the avatars we use on chat sites, forums, blogs and so on to discover who we really are. I am no detective, nor do I possess any special web skills but after a few minutes searching I have come to the conclusion that the answer, for most of us is: Pretty easy indeed. Let me clarify. I believe the internet offers tremendous anonymity to some people. If you are a l33t haxxor who is paranoid about security and has the ability legal or otherwise to make computers half way around the world jump to your command then I think you can probably hide your identity pretty effectively. I also suspect that some kid logging into Yah

Currently Reading....

Recently I have found it easier to blog about the books I am reading that the games I am playing so I have decided to add a "Currently Reading" sidebar. I hesitated for a while. Somehow, telling the world about books I enjoy reading feels like a more intimate revelation than writing about my gaming hobby. I guess all bloggers have a certain exhibitionist tendency, putting our innermost thoughts out on the internet for all to see. Nevertheless a huge advantage of blogging over other public media is the fact that you get to keep your privacy. I can write about gaming in my blog without telling you anything about all the other stuff that goes on in my life but writing about what I am reading exposes a little bit more of my soul. Anyone reading this blog in which I describe the fantasy/sci-fi novels I read and the fantasy computer games I play will probably deduce that I am a pretty one dimensional character. I hope that that is not true. I don't think it is anyway. Anyway f

Lotro: Sweet Dreams Throg

Throg joined a pick up group Raid to slay the spider queen Bogbereth. It is a very easy raid, no great tactics are involved and everyone just DPSes away. This random group of 12 players killed her very quickly. Lady luck was smiling on our dwarven friend and he won the roll for the beasts head. He brought it home and mounted it in a favourite spot (click for full size): Hmmm....I think he should probably donate it to his kinhouse. What do you think?

Lotro: Say Hello to Ceoldir my new Loremaster

Historically I have an appalling record with alts. I generally tire of them before leaving the newbie zone. Such was the fate of my elf minstrel (abandoned at level 6), hobbit burglar (level 8) and human captain (level 8). Ceoldir, my new human lore master, has managed to buck the trend. I have levelled him up to 14 and am still enjoying it very much. While my champion Throg is a fairly one dimensional character (he hits things hard) Ceoldir has a a varied set of abilities: 1. He can crowd control mobs to remove them from the fight. 2. He has a number of powerful area of effect debuffs which reduce the damage dealt by melee or ranged foes. 3. He has a pet which can provide extra dps or further debuff mobs, or provide a limited tanking role. 4. He has a limited healing ability 5. He can replenish his power by stealing from a mob 5. He can rain fire down on his foes doing both instant damage and damage over time. He also has a big stick to hit things with but given Ceoldir's light

The Hacker Inside

In my college years I watched as technically minded friends fell under the spell of computers. They became Weizenbaum's "bright young men of dishevelled appearance". I watched as they immersed themselves ever more deeply in the world of monochrome terminals and multiuser operating systems. They dropped out of classes, they dropped out of social interaction, they dropped out of everything that was not connected to their obsession with thinking machines. I dallied with this obsession for a while. The proto-internet of EARN-BITNET offered undreamed of possibilities for exploration. I stood on the brink and in truth I nearly fell in but some instinct of self preservation held me back from total commitment. I re-engaged with the physical analog world, I graduated I socialised, I got a job. Now I use computers in my job and at home just as millions of other do. I install software and run it without really comprehending what goes on behind the scenes. Sure I know a little b

Buildabearville: Club Penguin has a rival

My kids have abandoned Club Penguin for a new child friendly MMO called Buildabearville . Bearville has a lot in common with Club penguin. Kids can create avatars, dress them up, interact with their online friends and play mini-games. Just like Club Penguin you can join for free but in order to access everything you have to spend some real money. In Club Penguin that means paying for a monthly subscription but in Bearville all you need to do is purchase a bear from the Build a Bear Workshop. Given that just about every child under 10 in the western world already has several of these build it yourself bears that makes a pretty big potential market for Bearville. The really big news though is that in the opinion of my resident child experts Bearville is better than Club Penguin. It looks better and seems to offer more things to do. Player housing and items are a big feature of this type of game and Bearville stuff just seems better and more desirable than Penguin's. Unlike Pengu

Verner Vinge: Across Real Time

Across Real time contains two linked novels that were originally published separately. It's a bit late to offer a review of novels published more than 20 years ago but I will share my thoughts on reading the compilation last week. The first novel "The Peace War" is an enjoyable adventure yarn that introduces a few big ideas without really exploring them. In the second novel "Marooned in Real Time" the themes and ideas are explored more thoroughly. "Marooned" gives an early glimpse of Vinge's ability to think through a big idea and follow it to logical but surprising conclusions. Sadly the plot that ties "Marooned" together is a poorly executed detective story. Rabbits pulled from hats, Deus ex Machina and and a clumsy detective dénouement are used to wrap up the story in an entirely unsatisfactory fashion. Still the two books complement each other well and the presentation of both in a combined volume makes a lot of sense. When I read

This game is HARD

I am huddled against a wall in the pitch black of a Chernobyl night. I cannot see a thing but I hear everything and everything scares the sh*t out of me. The night is full of malevolence, weird radiation scourged malevolence that offers many kinds of unpleasant death. I have a torch but if I turn it on it will expose my location to the bandits camped on the far side of the wall. They are crack shots armed with sub machine guns. I am a klutz armed with a broken peashooter that is running low on ammunition. It's 3:00am. I am seriously thinking of waiting it out until sunrise. Three hours is a long wait but at least then I might be able to see enough to sneak my way out, or fight my way out God help me. I have said before that I value atmosphere over game play. The fact that I am still playing S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl proves it. The game is as frustrating as ever and maddeningly hard but I am getting sucked in. I want to survive this hell zone.

The Dreamer

Twenty five is a magical number. So is fifty two. I never realised this until my daughter, the dreamer, pointed it out to me. You see when a two and a five appear side by side on a digital clock the lines of the digits form a tree pattern. For twenty five the tree is upside down but I am assured that this only increases its mystical significance. It can be frustrating living with a dreamer. I have to get up half an hour earlier every morning to help my dreamer get ready for school. Her (younger) sister manages to get dressed, washed and brushed all in the space of ten minutes but the dreamer needs about forty minutes to accomplish the same. Even then regular gentle reminders are required to prevent the dreamer from getting distracted by the many magical things around her. It can be frustrating but when all is said and done a half an hour's sleep every morning is a small price to pay for the joy of living with someone who can discover magic in an alarm clock.

Stalker: Shadow of Chernobyl. €8 from the bargain bin.

This game is trying really hard to make me dislike it. It is confusing, laggy, buggy and the story is told in Babelfish translation that is borderline incomprehensible. It is also bloody hard - shootouts are an exercise in luck and desperation rather than fluid skill with the stark "Game Over" message a regular outcome. Just when I thought that I was getting the hang of things I suffered the frustration of a mission failing to complete. Apparently some passing wild dogs ate the last of the mutants I had been tasked to kill. Google uncovered a patch and joy of joys this very quest bug was mentioned in the patch notes. I dutifully downloaded and installed the patch and ... $%@&&%*@ ..."Cannot load save game because of incompatible version number" Of all the crimes a game developer can commit surely producing a patch that invalidates a player's saved games is the most heinous. I have struggled through some ponderous buggy games before because the atmosph