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Showing posts from December, 2008

Far Cry 2 aka Grand Theft Auto Somalia

I am currently playing Far Cry 2, bought to test my shiny new 1Gb HD4850 grapics card. I still amn't sure about the game. It feels more like a GTA game than a true sequel to Far Cry. The only open ended sand box game that really sucked me in was Mafia. It had a compelling storyline set in a seductively beautiful entirely credible 1920's prohibition era city. GTA 3 was set in an ugly city and had a poor story, I hated it. Far Cry 2 is set in a lush jungle setting but it lacks the Tropical beauty of the original Far Cry. Even more importantly there are no civillians in this world. Every one you meet totes a gun and 99% of them try to kill you. I guess it is understandable that Crytek choose not to populate their game with the starving victims of conflict but the world feels much shallower for lack of ordinary people. An engrossing storyline could save the game for me but so far I have seen no sign of it. I am only a few hours in however so things could improve yet. Far Cry 2

Man Stuff

My brother in law bought a 40 year old combine harvester . His wife (my sister in law) doesn't understand. His sister (my wife) doesn't understand. His mother (my mother in law) doesn't understand. He has a few cattle but he is not a tillage farmer and this is in reality an entirely superfluous purchase. They shake their heads at the foolishness of it all. His mumbled attempts to justify his purchase by calculating its value in scrap metal are unconvincing. I can understand though. It makes sense to me when I see the glint is his eye as he describes the combine. It makes sense when he tells me about a 1970's documentary film which spawned an unfulfilled ambition to join the contractors who drive their great harvesters on the annual trail from Texas all the way to Canada. Most of all though it makes sense when I climb on top of this great smoking, grinding whirring, clanking machine, gloriously uninhibited by today's mandatory safety features and trundle across

Lotro: In search of the mythical female dwarf.

If Throg sometimes appears to be a bit grumpy then consider the fact that our poor hero seems destined to live a lonely life without the comforts of the (slightly) fairer sex. Ever since the flood of of adolescent hormones first hit his bloodstream in his mid 50's he has been hoping to meet a sturdy young lady with a neatly trimmed beard but his success with the ladies to date has been non-existent. It is not for want of dwarfly charm that our hero's passions have been unrequited. It is a simple matter of never having found the right woman. Or rather it is a fact of never having found any woman at all. Throg has searched and searched but in all his travels around Middle Earth he has yet to meet a single dwarf of the opposite sex. It would seem that dwarven women are fabulously rare and are those that do exist are highly protected by their fathers (who were young themselves once and know exactly the sort intentions a young dwarf is likely to have towards their beloved daughters

Lotro: The Forges

Throg just dinged 57 when he got a request to join a kinship group doing the Forges instance. This is one of the progression instances that needs to be farmed in order to get the end game radiance gear that is a prerequisite for raiding in MoM. The quests for this place are level 58 up so Throg wasn't really eligible but the group was short a body and Throg is not a dwarf to turn down the chance of a bit of axe swinging so I signed him up. The forges themselves are very impressive. We are in the heart of the mountain where massive trolls toil away in the glowing lava pits. I didn't have much time to admire the scenery though because we were trying for "hard mode" which means running the instance within a very tight time window. Hard mode gets one radiant armour drop as far as I can tell. We got the first two bosses down but wiped on the third and had to give up because one of our party had a dodgy internet connection and kept getting cut off. I think Throg acquitted

EVE: 5 free Days and Thoughts on Microtransactions

EVE have offered me and other lapsed players 5 free days in an attempt to encourage us back to the game. This is fairly standard business practice for mmos and I am sure they get a few returnees from such schemes. The message set me thinking however. First of all I probably won't be availing of the 5 day offer, not because I don't like EVE (I think it is superb) but because I know that you cannot really achieve anything in an mmo in 5 days. It is just enough to whet your appetite for more and I simply do not have the time to play EVE seriously at the moment and I am not prepared to take on a monthly subscripton for a game I would only play sporadically. Recent announcements from EA and SOE have riled a bunch of bloggers about the whole subject of microtransactions in games. I agree that there is a huge moral hazard that games will suffer as developers start designing in such a way that they can screw more cash from players using microtransactions. However I could envisag

EVE Online: May we Ambush You at 10:00am tomorrow Please?

EVE online thrives on truly massive space battles and CCP are doing their best to ensure that such large concentrations of players do not cause undue server lag. Even still I am a bit taken aback by a request in the latest newsletter for players to notify CCP in advance if they are planning a large fleet engagement. The announcement contains dire warnings about abuse of the system but I am still not sure. To quote Sun Tsu: In conflict, direct confrontation will lead to engagement and surprise will lead to victory. So if you are planning a surprise ambush on the heartland of Band of Brothers so you really think it would be a good idea to notify CCP in advance?

Lotro: Help I'm Levelling up too fast.

I have been doggedly trying to do every quest in each region before I move on. I pretty much cleared out Eregion, The Great Delving, Sivertine Lodes, Durins Way and now I have moved into Zelem Melek (a region who's geography still completely baffles me by the way). It is not compulsory to finish every quest but there is something very satisfying about clearing out an area plus you usually get a nice title and trait rewards for doing so. The only problem is that I am levelling up faster than I can complete quests. As a consequence of my completionist policy I spend a lot of my time doing quests which are a fair bit below below my level. Throg is now level 56 fast approaching 57 and still has a lot to do before finishing Zelem Melek. It's not really a problem but Throg is probably a little under-geared because the rewards from these quests are generally below his level. At least with the Christmas season coming up I should have time to run a few more fellowship instances whi

Lotro: Second Moria Patch Delayed due to Exploit

The second MoM patch was supposed to be deployed to European servers yesterday but was pulled at the last minute. Codemasters support forums say that an exploit was discovered and the deployment was put off till today. Servers are still down so I guess the update is still in progress. The interesting thing about this is that the US got the patch 4 days ago on the 15th. My guess is the exploit was discovered on US servers and they decided to delay deployment in Europe until it is fixed. I wonder if they are hot-fixing the US servers too. Anyone finding that you can now vendor beginner level light hides for 100G a piece in the US please let me know.

Lotro: The Forgotten Treasury

Throg joined a Kinship group for the Forgotten Treasury instance last night. It was an enjoyable change from the solo questing that the now level 55 dwarf champion has been mostly doing so far in Moria. Some members of the group had tried and failed to clear the Treasury before so we knew it would be challenging but we were lucky enough to have a well balanced group with Guardian, Minstrel, Lore Master, Hunter, Burglar and Champion (Throg). Throg (level 55) and the minstrel (53) were both below the 56ish level of the instance but the others were all higher so it more or less balanced out. [SPOILERs ahead] It is a well designed enjoyable instance set in a circular chamber with balcony around. As you enter, a boss absconds to a locked side chamber with his treasure leaving the fellowship to clear trash ringed around the balcony. Once the trash are cleared you have access to a puzzle which must be solved in order to open the locked door. Clearing the (including six mini bosses) also

Recycling mmo content

The first raid of World of Warcraft's Wrath of the Lich King expansion is Naxxramas. The same Naxxramas that was the toughest most challenging raid of vanilla WoW several years ago. What an interesting way to overcome two challenges of mmo development: the problem of obsolescence of older end game content and the high cost of new content development. I haven't played WoW in quite some time so all my info is second hand but from reading a few WoW blogs it appears that the new Naxxramas is very similar to the old Naxxramas. Monster levels have been increased of course, loot tables have been revised and the location of the encounter has been moved but it seems that the old tactics still work. Clearly this is the new environmentally friendly face of mmorpging: content recycling. Perhaps the most surprising thing is that there doesn't seem to be many complaints. Most people seem happy with the idea. The few complaints I have seen come from the very hardcore who managed to clea

Lotro: Thought about End Game Progression

Several members of Throg's kin have hit the level cap and more are fast approaching it. At level 54 it seems that I am among the most casual of the active players in this casual friendly kinship. In kin chat I can see that much of the talk has turned to those instances that must be run in order to gear up for the "Watcher" raid instance. My understanding of the Watcher is that an extension of the hope/dread mechanic is being applied to create a gear check . Effectively a special "radiance" armour set is required to prvent your character from constantly cowering in fear. Radiance armour is got from repeated runs of a set of preparatory instances in so called "hard mode". This is the first real gear check in Lotro. Previously end game raiding (in the Rift and Helegorod) was open to any max level character and it was quite possible for a very casual player to go along on an occasional Raid as a tourist. Turbine's new approach offers advantages and di

Lotro: Throg Moves into Moria

Throg moved into Moria on Friday after completing almost every quest in Eregion. I am happy to say that after a weekend of adventuring in the Great Delving I am still enjoying exploring the crumbling ruins of Durin's kingdom. Despite being entirely subterranean it is not claustrophobic. The caverns are huge but they are also dark and ominous. Indeed the most common cause of death for new entrants like me is plunging into chasms through one of the many cracks in the paths. Just as in Eregion it is mostly solo stuff but it somehow seems more appropriate to wander the gloomy tunnels on your own. The darkness and the broken nature of the terrain means that Moria is an explorer's paradise full of nooks and crannies to be ferreted out. Highlights of the weekend included: Heading off on foot through the dangerous Zelem-Melek area in order to get to the 21st hall, the main settlement of Moria and the location of Bank and Auction house. Stumbling across the starter quest for Volume

Does anyone know what happened 3D sound in games?

The oldest part of my gaming PC is the sound system comprising of a 6 year old Soundblaster Audigy and a set of Creative quadrophonic speakers. 3D sound with environmental audio effects used be a big deal. I can still remember the first time while playing an FPS that I heard footsteps behind me and spun around to answer my would be assailant with a shotgun blast. In terms of sheer immersion I can honestly say that high quality sound has always sucked me in far more more than high quality graphics. Yet sound cards and 3D sound seem to have become the forgotten side of computer gaming. Many modern games don't support environmental audio or 3D at all. Those that do often offer half hearted support - the rear channels play ambient musak . Even games that make an effort to support 3D sound sometimes get it wrong. In Bioshock for example there were some shockingly bad examples of positional audio. Certain sound effects actually had a dead spot - they would disappear altogether as you s

Lotro: Volume 1 Completed

I'm not up for a long blog post but I thought I should mark Throg's completion of Volume 1 of the Epic quest. Book 15 Chapter 12 brings Vol 1 to a close and finally wraps up the tragic tale of Laerdan and his daughter. Most of book 15 is a bit tedious consisting mainly of riding up and down the high moor on various errand quests but the final chapter is a doo hickey. Its is a roller coaster ride of excellent instance design that keeps you on the edge of your seat the whole way through. Throg went in with a Kin group equipped with Ventrillo and we still wiped twice on the first boss. Getting our strategy right and killing him was just the beginning though - you begin a dangerous trawl through corridors and rooms filled with challenging encounters and we were on the edge of our seat for the full hour or so that it took us to work out way to the final boss. Terrific stuff. Nice rewards too - a useful piece of armour, a new title that for once actually means something, a few novel

Two reflections about McDonald's

Inspired by Bill Harris's story about bringing his son to McD's for breakfast. Reflection #1 Have you ever noticed that the toys which come with McDonalds happy meals are exceptionally well made, much higher quality than the tat you get in discount shops? In addition they ususally have some trick that immediately grabs your attention like a doll that sings the first three words of the latest hit song or a toy car with working electric windows. However the most amazing thing about McDonalds happy meal toys is that they provide precisely 5 minutes of play value, no more no less. I suppose they are designed to keep kids entertained for as long as it takes to eat a McDonalds meal. Indeed I have found that there is no point in taking these toys home with you. The kids have generally exhausted their play value by the time you are ready to leave. How they engineer such precisely contolled utility into each toy amazes me. A triumph of design, every single one. Reflection #2 A fo

Lotro: Sometimes it's the little things.

On my first foray into Moria I decide to do a bit of exploring. While admiring the cavernous surroundings I missed my footing and fell through a crack in the road en route to a place called Dolven View. I plummeted into the chasm below. Stunned but still alive I stumbled around in the dark trying to find a way back up to the inhabited regions on platforms far above my head. I had nearly given up when I spotted a dwarven guide with a "quest in progress" ring above his head. I had no memory of starting such as quest but I clicked on him anyway. "Are ye trying to get to Dolven View" he asked "Yes, yes" I shouted back "This isn't the right way at all" he said "Turn back and go up that ramp to the South" You'll find another guide there and he'll tell you where to go next." Sure enough there was another guide and sure enough he and further guides directed me back to civilisation complete with helpful warnings abut crack