Monthly Archives: April 2008

The distance doesn’t matter; it is only the first step that is the most difficult.

We’ve all been there in one MMO or another. You stroll up to an NPC and you click on them to initiate a conversation or perhaps to barter with them. I say barter, but of course MMO NPCs are just about the worst entities at bartering in the world.

Adventurer1: “Hello! I’d like to sell this Two-handed Axe of Rawr that I found inside a catfish this morning, please.”

Vendor: “Hello! Very well, I will pay you fifty silver for the axe.”

Adventurer1: “A fair price. It’s a deal.”

Adventurer2: “Hi. I’d like to sell this Two-handed Axe of Rawr that I no longer have any use for. Now, I understand that it’s a bit worn around the edges and it could do with a bit of a clean but…”

Vendor: “Hello! Very well, I will pay you fifty silver for the axe.”

Adventurer2: “Oh. Right. Uh, great! Thanks!”

Adventurer3: “Well met. Here I have the shattered haft of a Two-handed Axe of Rawr that I pulled from the bloodied corpse of your father after I killed him earlier today.”

Vendor: “Hello! Very well, I will pay you fifty silver for the axe.”

Adventurer3: “No. I don’t want to sell it. I’m threatening you with it. It’s broken anyway, because half of it is still buried in your father’s head.”

Vendor: “Hello! I have considered the item more closely, and I will pay you fifty silver for the axe.”

Adventurer3: “Look. Forget the axe, I don’t want to sell it. I’m here to convince you on behalf of the local landlord to pay your rent. You’re massively behind on your payments and he’s had enough. Here’s a pile of papers itemising the rent that you now owe, totalling some five gold pieces. We’re not sure what you’re doing with all your money, Vendor, but pay up soon or…”

Vendor: “Hello! Very well, I will pay you seventy five silver for the pile of papers.”

Anyway, as I was saying, you stroll up to an NPC and click on them to initiate a conversation or what have you, and nothing happens. Well, either nothing happens or you get a message such as:

You are too far away to interact with that object.

I can’t interact with the NPC? Look, I just want to talk to them. I’m standing right next to them for crying out loud! If I drew my sword I could stab them clean-through from where I’m standing; admittedly with the size of epic weapons in some MMOs that could put me anywhere within a radius of about seven miles… But look, I can see them, I can make out the passive guppy fished look on their face that tells me that they’re going to offer me fifty silver for this axe, even though it’s rusted through and covered in marmoset entrails and peanut butter (long story). My character must have the weakest voice in the entire known world! He should be titled Frank the Faintly Spoken and crowned international five hundred metres whispering freestyle champion. He must have a voice so mellifluous that it is deflected and wafted away by the beating of a butterfly’s wing on the other side of the world.


I always panic that one of these days I’m going to get no response, so I move a bit closer and *click*. Still no response. Move a bit closer *click*. No response. A bit closer…

And then the NPC pounces! He grabs my character by the collar and gives him a smackingly wet kiss, flops my character backwards in his arms and cries “Ah, my little darling, it is love at first sight, is it not, no?”

Could happen.

I worry too about the armour that our characters wear in these games, with spikes and blades and all manner of sharp pointy extrusions; you approach the NPC and *click*. No response. So you move a bit closer and *click*. Still no response. A bit closer… and as you try to buy that KitKat or gisarme glaive or Tidyman’s carpet, you impale the vendor on your shoulder spikes. Do you know how hard it is to wash vendor out of your armour? All the high level players don’t bother any more – not enough time what with the raiding and all that – so they just leave the vendors there. So when you see all these high level characters running around with skulls hanging from the spikes on their shoulders, you’ll know they got too close to a vendor whilst trying to start-up a conversation. And those with skulls hanging from their head gear? Let’s just say Monsieur Amour the Vendor got a nasty little surprise when he tried that sloppy wet kiss of his.

And they move away! Damn their ‘very limited circle of about ten yards so people can always find them’ mobility! So you wander up and are told you’re not close enough. So you move closer and try again, and you’re still not close enough. Move closer. Nope. Move closer. Nope. Move closer… success! The vendor window pops open! Then, at that exact moment, whatever weird schedule they’re on, whatever bizarre routine it is that they follow, requires them to move five yards to the left. And off they go. And now the bloody vendor window closes because they’re too far away! So you run up to them and *click*, but you get no response.

They’re either all evil genius bastards, or it’s Monsieur Amour the Vendor slapping a wet kiss on you and then running off shouting “Chase me big boy!”.

But that’s not the worst of it.

The other day I was in World of Warcraft’s Stormwind city and I was trying to get this little kid NPC to give me the next stage of a quest, so I *click* and get no response. So I move a bit closer and *click*. No response. Closer. *Click*. No response. So I’m practically standing in the same space as the kid now, and I’m frantically *clicking* away… Why. Won’t. You. Bloody. Well. Talk. To. Me.

And then sirens.

So I’m writing this now from the Stormwind Stockade, apparently that was the wrong kid. The charges are harrassment of a minor, and worse, apparently.

To top it all off there’s this freakily-bearded dwarf here called Kam, who keeps trying to *click* on me, and I’m running out of room and excuses to move away…

The spry fen.

I awoke this morning and turned to Mrs Melmoth, as one does in these situations if a Mrs Melmoth happens to be laying beside them, and said “Well, I’d better get up before Stephen Fry breaks your piano further”.


“Oh nothing; I was just having a dream where Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie and I were making up comedy sketches. Stephen had attempted to move your old piano so that he could get better access to it, as it was rather cramped in the Queen’s living room where we were trying to recreate an Irish folk song of some kind, and the top of it had just fallen off like it always used to do”.


“Well, I know, but it is me we’re talking about, and it was a dream, not something I have much control over. Stupid subconscious.”

“No. The ‘huh’ was because I had a dream about Stephen Fry last night too.”

“Really? How strange!”

“Most strange.”

And the thing is that neither of us had watched or seen anything to do with Stephen Fry the previous evening. Admittedly I have a Stephen Fry as Jeeves alarm clock, but I don’t have a Stephen Fry bedspread or wallpaper or posable action figure (although that’s only because they don’t make one), and the alarm clock is switched off over the weekend anyway.

I post this because I’m concerned that Stephen Fry isn’t the loveable and affable English comedian, writer and font of all knowledge that we think him to be. I fear that this is actually a ruse, a Marvelian (not Marvellian) super villain’s disguise, while he works on his secret project: a doomsday device which will allow him to enter the minds of all who have seen his likeness, and to control them as an army of mindless slaves, reigning terror and Quite Interesting facts upon all those who stand in their way.

It’s quite a frightning thought! And it really puts me into two minds as to whether I should continue listening to his podgrams, lest they contain some form of subliminal message. On the other hand, they are exceedingly good. Such a dilemma: mindless zombie slave or give up an excellent podcast?

I’ll have to think about that while I have a nice cup of tea and DESTROY ALL HUMANKIND, YES MR FRY…

Wii Fitter, Wii Happier, More Wiiproductive

I’ve been meaning to get in slightly better shape for a while, though without enough motivation to do anything radical like joining a gym, or indeed leaving the house at all, so OK, I went out and got Wii Fit. Hardcore gamer me, oh yes, though to balance (LIKE A BALANCE BOARD!) things up, I’ll get Grand Theft Auto IV as soon as it comes out on the PC (presuming it does come out on the PC).

I’m not entirely svelte, as Wii Fit confirmed by chanting “you fat bastard, you fat bastard, you fat bastard oi!” when I stepped on the balance board, and it then proceeded to more-or-less constantly insult me about my inability to perform complex yogic movements like “standing there” and “swaying a bit”. Not one for those with low self-esteem, this. (OK, I exaggerate slightly for comic effect, but I didn’t come out the initial tests terribly well…)

The bulk of the “game” consists of four areas, Yoga, Muscle Training, Aerobic Exercise and Balance Games. I had a quick look at Yoga, but when it told me to do a stance called “The Warrior” I couldn’t find a taunt button to spam, so skipped over that. Muscle Training is a variety of stretches, lunges and the like, which our living room isn’t ideally configured for, resulting in a few collisions with sofas, chairs, lampshades and the like. Aerobic Exercises include jogging (not on the balance board, you stick the Wiimote in your pocket as a sort of pedometer) around a pleasing virtual environment populated by other Miis from your console (missing out on a golden opportunity to use a second Wiimote and nunchuck for swift boxing manoeuvres as the flash gits speed past you), a sort of cross between step aerobics and dance matting which I fear will be hampered by the lack of variety in the soundtrack (another golden opportunity missed, for a Guitar Hero crossover), and hula-hooping, which is rather pelvis-swivellingly fun. Balance Games, as the name suggests, are the game-iest options, including slalom and ski jumping. The use of balance is really rather interesting, none of the games are exactly in-depth, but like Wii Sports, it’s more the control mechanism that’s intriguing.

So, that’s a good bit of exercise done, I’m feeling pretty buff. Time for a pie and some chips!

Asses are made to bear, and so are you.

The age of Conan approacheth! I’ve been trying not to post too much about Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures, ‘Hyborian’ being based upon the Ancient Greek word ‘hyperborean’, which we all know is made up from the word hyper meaning “I am very”, and borean meaning “Bored”. So a fine setting for an MMO then!

Both Zoso and I are trying to ignore AoC as its release creeps up on us. I say ‘creeps up on us’, but of course it has arrived with all the subtlety of a rabid fox in a tuxedo filled with fire ants, making his grand entrance at the March Hare’s summer ball by bursting out of the giant cake and attempting to sing Happy Birthday Mr President while stamping on his tail which has caught fire from all the candles.

And like the barbarian of the title, the Funcom marketing department has launched itself into the midst of its sworn enemy – we consumers – and whipped, bludgeoned and smote them with the vorpal sword of AoC, although not fuelled by an unquenchable rage in this case, but instead by a soul wrenching outpour of unadulterated venomous hype.

We try to pretend here at kiasa that the game is not going to affect us; it’s an honest and stalwartly British attempt to not be bothered by something that is clearly doing its very best to push us right to the extreme limit of being really rather annoyed indeed, in a manner more often applied to that great British past time of queuing. It is a little known fact that the average British person is actually born with a secondary nervous system that allows them to sense queue dynamics in real time; such a system allows them to not only calculate exactly which queue will be the fastest to move forward (and then fail utterly to take that queue due to some unknown inherited sense of Edwardian etiquette), but also fully equips them to deal with a lack of queue etiquette by others. We, the great British queuers (that’s queuers), watch very carefully as the queue dodger makes their way up the outside of the line, ducking under the clearly marked barriers that delineate the correct formation. We observe them reach that point, usually just in front of us, where they have to decide whether to push in or make their way to the back of the queue again while feigning an interest in the geometry of the local architecture. We wait patiently as our secondary nervous system detects the minute variations in their body temperature and heart rate. We pay no direct attention to them, and give off on air of not being bothered at all “it’s just one place in the queue, we’re in no tearing hurry”. And then our quarry makes their move, and side steps into the small gap we’ve left for them, and the trap is set: our space has been invaded, our rights have been trampled upon, and if they had bothered to bring a flag it would have practically been a declaration of war. With our inherent advantage of generations upon generations of Darwinian queuevolution behind us, we wait with a quiet and studied confidence. Biding our time. Until the moment… is just… right. And then we rear-up to our full height, our leonine presence commanding all to observe us in awe. And then we let out a really, really loud *tut*.

The grand old masters of many queuing session may even roll their eyes skywards, just to really show them.

Where was I? Oh yes, bear shaman! Because bears… like queuing. Yes.

I’ve decided from the small snippets of information that have managed to pierce my hype shield that I like the look of the bear shaman best out of all the classes in AoC, they seem to tick all the boxes on my character suitability survey. Primarily these boxes consist of: the ability to heal and or support other classes; the ability to get into melee a bit and not have to stand at the back looking like you’re trying to sneak out to go to the toilet; and the ability to assume the form of, or have some connection to, a sodding great ursus arctos horribilis or the like. These are the same reasons why I will probably try a Warrior Priest in Warhyper: Age of Rodomontade. I intend for the lack of bearness about the Warrior Priest to be made up for by an overabundance of bareness instead. So if you want to find me in WAR, look for the naked Warrior Priest bludgeoning the enemy with his ‘weapon of the gods’.

I’ve certainly not looked at any forums or wikis or twenty five page magazine spreads about how much damage the assassin does, or how cool the Herald of Xotli looks when they’ve turned into a sodding great demon, because with my well documented altitus it would be an utter disaster.

Hmm, Stygian Herald of Xotli eh?

No! No no no. Bear shaman. That’s what I’m going to play.

Assuming nobody else is.

Aye, and there’s the rub. You see I, like many others I’m sure, like to be somewhat unique within my close party of like-minded grind monkeys. I understand that there will be a thousand or more clones of my character all identical barring a slight change in the style of facial hair, and perhaps an unsightly birth mark which is in a place that will never see the light of day in a family MMO or otherwise. This is the way of all MMOs to date, other than City of Heroes, where I can create a sentient atomic pea, controller of the very earth itself, who was grafted on to the body of a recently decapitated therapist, and who is called Terra Pea. I’m fairly sure that that guy is unique. Special. Like me. In the straight-jacket sense.

However, within my small circle of friends, those whom I will be playing with on a regular basis, I like to play a class that nobody else is. Which is quite tricky when – and Zoso may back me up on this if he’s feeling generous – I seem to have an extraordinary ability to pick the class that someone else has decided that they want to play too. I remember my fantastic start to World of Warcraft. I was playing a dwarf paladin, and that was that. I’d planned his talents, worked out his look, calculated optimal dungeon runs for best gear distribution. I was set. When I turned up on day one of the WoW release, another in our party had decided to play a paladin. Of all the classes we had to pick from, and there were only five of us, we’d got two people already playing the same class, thus fighting for the same loot, and the same role in the group. We even had the same embarrassing birthmark damn it! So I rolled a priest. But the priest wasn’t really what I wanted to play, I convinced myself that it was at the time, but really it was just me trying to justify my stupid desire to be playing a different class to the others, to add a new dynamic to our group, and not just be the guy ‘playing the other paladin’.

Long story shor… uh… quite long, actually, I eventually got my paladin to level 70 in WoW. After my druid though, who I settled on mainly, if for no other reason, because with a little effort I could be a reasonable rogue or tank or nuker or healer, and therefore fill a role that wasn’t already filled by somebody else. It worked rather well, for me at least, and sated my altitus enough that I didn’t roll a new character for quite some time, and it’s the main reason why I love true hybrid characters so much; I don’t need to be the best player that ever lived, or have the most powerful character, if I can do a little to help in an area of play that otherwise wouldn’t be covered by others, then consider me deeply satisfied.

> Open the can of worms

If you subscribe to any gaming-type-news feeds, I imagine you saw that some work on the sequel to Infocom’s Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy text adventure had been unearthed. While Quite Interesting in and of itself, the rest of the world had already re-blogged it more than adequately.

As RPS pointed out on Sunday, though, things got more interesting still with the comments it attracted, from pretty much all the (living) dramatis personæ (Douglas Adams sadly failed to chip in… FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE), opening the titular can of worms slightly, though everyone seems happy enough by the end of it. Easy to miss in the ruckus is a comment from Yoz containing a link to an excellent audio file of Steve Meretzky and Michael Bywater that’s well worth a listen (at least, it’s excellent as far as I’ve got, I apologise if the end turns out to be rubbish, but I doubt it).

In one of those “t’ch, small world, eh?” coincidences, I presume it’s the same Yoz who I recall from playing Mornington Crescent on the Delphi server while I should’ve been doing university assignments. T’ch, small world, eh?

Things I shouldn’t be left alone with (part one of a series)

Hello, and welcome to “Things I shouldn’t be left alone with”. Tonight’s “Things I shouldn’t be left alone with” are:

  • A nagging feeling of not really being into any other games
  • Warhammer 40,000 nostalgia
  • A credit card
  • Steam
  • A strong pound-to-dollar exchange rate

I now seem to have the Platinum Edition of Dawn of War…

I bought the original Dawn of War sometime around release, but never finished the campaign. RTS games are fun and all, but the gameplay hasn’t really changed that much since Dune II however many years ago that was… Still, with news of Dawn of War 2 piquing my interest and fond memories of the original release of Warhammer 40,000 (getting on for 20 years now? Wikipedia says… 21, good grief), I poked around a bit, and read that the second expansion, Dark Crusade, had a more dynamic campaign allowing you to play any one of the seven races. Well, let’s give it a shot!

*a swift 6Gb download later, and mid-way through a gruelling Eldar vs Space Marine battle that looked to be going swimmingly until the mop-up-the-enemy skirmishers ran into a massive troop concentration*

Yup, it’s quite fun. I really should’ve gone to bed two hours ago…

The tide is high (but I’m holding on)

I was listening to the ever-splendid VanHemlockAndJonCast last night, and they were talking about SirBruce’s MMOGCharts. I like a good graph, me, so I grabbed the Excel version for some hot spreadsheet action (with the added bonus that columns of numbers look a bit like work).

As suggested in the podcast, the “rising tide lifts all boats” theory doesn’t quite seem to have panned out for games launched since WoW. It’s more like the rising tide caused a TIDAL WAVE of TERROR, SWAMPING small boats in a FEARSOME WALL of DESTRUCTION, leaving behind only the DREADNOUGHT of HMS WARCRAFT. Since 2005 the charts show The Matrix Online, Dungeons and Dragons Online, Auto Assault and Vanguard launching, then dropping off rapidly to half the early peak number of subscribers, and unless I’m more vastly mistaken than a man who thinks Hillaire Belloc is still alive, they’ve all gone through server merges, The Matrix and Vanguard were sold off to SOE, and Auto Assault sadly shut down. Tabula Rasa and Pirates of the Burning Sea have few points of data since their recent launches, but the recent Pirates news doesn’t sound terribly positive. Then there’s stuff that didn’t even make it to launch, like Gods & Heroes. The biggest post-WoW success is Lord of the Rings Online, and the most similar game to World of Warcraft out of that lot is… Lord of the Rings Online. Hrm. Coincidence? Not sure it’s just the IP, with Dungeons and Dragons and The Matrix not faring nearly as well.