Monthly Archives: November 2008

The frets! The frets! The frets are on fire!

After suggesting Van Hemlock try Frets on Fire in the absence of frankly ludicrous quantities of plastic instrumentation for a console, I took another look at it myself. I’d had a bit of a play a year ago, but after getting Guitar Hero III for the Wii hadn’t particularly bothered, and it’s come on quite a lot since then. There’s a fork, Frets on Fire X, with all sorts of extra fun like optional Rock Band or Guitar Hero-type configurations and support for drums and scrolling lyrics, so after getting that going I had another tinker with pairing a Wiimote with the PC to use the Wii guitar, and that worked an awful lot better than before as well, some hunting around for native drivers for my bluetooth dongle eliminated the need for any extra software past GlovePIE to map Wiimote inputs to keys, and either the new drivers or new version of Frets on Fire picked up the inputs much more smoothly. Next stop, fiddling around with the drums to see if they work as well, then maybe multiple inputs, and if I ever get bored of the World Tour songlist I’ll have no shortage of other stuff to play through. Nifty!

I am a part of all that I have met.

Just a quick post to let readers know that there is now a KiaSA group on Steam for those of you who expressed an interest in joining Zoso, myself and other KiaSA readers in playing Left 4 Dead and any other games that might take our collective fancy.

You mad buggers.

The group is called Soupy Twist (tag: ST) and it’s public for the time being, so feel free to join, say hello and then join hands in a joyous skip down winding country lanes as we slaughter the undead with wild uncaring abandon, while singing the Admiral’s song from Pinafore.

Now landsmen all, whoever you may be,
If you want to rise to the top of the tree,
If your soul isn’t fettered to an office stool,
Be careful to be guided by this golden rule–
Stick close to your desks and never go to sea,
And you all may be rulers of the Queen’s Navee!

Contributor? I hardly know ‘or!

There are rumblings in the MMOG-o-blog-o-sphere over the “contribution” system in Warhammer’s Public Quests and keep capture. I really don’t know what actually happens in the depths of the code; having run through pretty much all the public quests in a zone with a guild group before I can’t say I noticed everyone having the same contribution time after time, though I wasn’t really paying that much attention. Keep sieges, on the other hand, there does seem to be a weight of anecdotal evidence of people arriving just as keep lords are killed, or guarding postern gates or similar, and getting top five contribution scores, suggesting it’s either horribly broken or random. Is random a problem, though?

I think it’s a brilliant idea. As discussed previously, in an incentive scheme based on measuring performance “what you measure is inevitably a proxy for the outcome you want”; as widely observed, how can you put a numerical figure on the relative contributions of someone tanking the keep lord, someone guarding the doors to stop the enemy crashing the party, someone who’s had to go AFK, someone who’s really trying their best but is getting a 0.1fps lagfest and the keep lord doesn’t even turn up on their screen ’til it’s at 25% health? So instead have an illusory “incentive” scheme, everyone will play as best they can in an attempt to influence their score upwards, and the final result is all random anyway. Perfect!

Well, no, obviously it’s horribly flawed; apart from anything else, wherever numbers exist in an MMO, players will pick away until they expose the mechanics. The best case scenario is the numbers are laid bare, more likely there’ll be a period of half-developed theories and suggestions, violent argument, and those weird urban game myths that pop up (“if you re-map your abilities so you only push prime numbered hot-keys during a keep siege you’ll *definitely* get top contribution!!1!”) It’s also quite hard to disguise an entirely random system when the top-contributing loot winner pipes up with “LOL I was AFK the whole time!!1!”, and puts a bit of a crimp on the next siege when a massed force turns up, stands poised ready to launch the assault, then go AFK en masse as that’s the way to top the chart. If you’re totally open and stick the precise formula up on the web, though, whether it’s random or whether it’s an incredibly intricate formula involving the phase of the moon and average rainfall of the past three days in Swindon (if you arrived here via a Google search for “average rainfall of the past three days in Swindon”, I’m awfully sorry but you’re probably going to be very disappointed), you’re back to the problem of a system open to exploitation (if random, just standing near a quest/keep and naffing off for coffee) or manipulation, and players being angry that you’re screwing over tanks/healers/melee/DPS/everyone. Damned either way, as per usual. My solution: I think they should’ve shipped a set of USB scales in the box with a built-in feather of Ma’at, and when rewards are to be determined all eligible players place their souls on the device and upload the results. Simple! Never let it be said I don’t offer practical suggestions…

Have I Got MMOnews For You

Host: And the final round is “Continue the Headline”. This week, teams, it’s from old Aunty: Ninety per cent of the young people who seek treatment for compulsive computer gaming are not addicted. So says Keith Bakker the founder and head of Europe’s first and only clinic to treat gaming addicts… “

Zoso: “…who was speaking to us from the depths of Naxxramas via his level 80 warlock accompanied by 24 non-addicted players, who had undergone the rigorous testing process whereby their physiological reactions were measured as they were set a number of tasks, such as farming primals, sending crafting materials to the testing team, running five mans until he was fully kitted out, and… HEAL ME, FFS!”

Melmoth: “However, doctors at the clinic are still at a loss to explain the phenomenon that every member of the ninety per cent group of visitors, upon leaving the clinic, came straight back in, re-paid the examination fee and tried again.”

Host: Goodnight!

Studio lights dim, theme tune plays.

Bonekickers is no Survivor

Alas, poor Bonekickers; I knew it, Horatio. A programme of infinite jest, how abhorred in my imagination it is! Where be your gibes now? Your gambols? Your songs? Your crowbarring of Excalibur into wildly inappropriate historical settings?

Well, a quarter of it, in the form of Julie Graham, is in Survivors, which kicked off on Sunday for a bit of light-hearted post-apocalyptic fun. I’m not sure if it’s just the taint of Bonekickers, but I don’t think it’s a good sign if you’re willing the focal character of the first episode to die of the plague and being terribly disappointed when she doesn’t. Graham was clearly channelling Bonekickers at one point as, pulling up to a hospital and finding the automatic doors at the entrance jammed and unpowered, she used her archaeological imagination to figure out that rather than going to find another door (hospitals are notorious for only having one entrance, aren’t they?), the best course of action would be to ram through the automatic doors in her car.

Still, on the whole it wasn’t too bad, 99.9% of the population died off over the course of the episode, and our titular survivors conveniently all met up in about ten minutes at the end. We didn’t get to see as much of the others, so have fairly broad-brush introductions so far (doctor, sociopath, playboy etc.), with any luck they’ll come to the fore from tonight on and we can banish the spirit of Bonekickers into some ancient crypt for a couple of thousand year. Then set fire to it.

Reviewlet: Left 4 Dead

This year’s insane release schedule of “wait ten months then shove all the good stuff out at once” is well documented around the place; my original plan was to complement WAR with Far Cry 2, Fallout 3, Grand Theft Auto IV and Guitar Hero World Tour, leaving Saints Row 2, Call of Duty: World at War and a bunch of MMO expansions, amongst others, for the Great Gaming Drought presumably due for the first ten months of next year. So far, WAR’s still ticking over nicely, I’m rocking away in Guitar Hero World Tour when I get the chance, and Far Cry 2 has generally been satisfying any machine-gun toting cravings, leaving Fallout 3 still in its shrinkwrap, and only the delay of Grand Theft Auto IV into December has saved it from the same fate. I really don’t need any other games competing for my time, that’s for sure. No other games, definitely not, no siree bob.

So obviously I just got Left 4 Dead. I’d been filing it under “looks good, will pick it up sometime”, but then with all the Rock Paper Shotgun coverage and their podcast with Erik Wolpaw I started getting tempted, and a bunch o’ people from my old City of Heroes supergroup were having a bunch o’ fun with the demo, and Far Cry 2 bogged down a bit (good game and all, but gets slightly samey), and when Melmoth finally waged a sustained campaign of brainwashing and intimidation (I think his exact words might’ve been “it’s quite good you should try it”) I caved in and grabbed it from Steam. Single player is a fun quick blast, helped by some half decent NPC AI, but of course it’s the co-operative mode that really shines, putting you and your friends in your own zombie film. The AI director makes every game slightly different, though even with that I’m not sure the built in missions have the greatest potential for longevity (although mods do offer some really great future possibilities). Versus mode is what takes it up a notch even from that, with fantastic asymmetric gameplay as you alternate between the heavily armed and vastly outnumbered survivors and the “boss” zombies, with greater powers than the normal shamblers, but still incredibly vulnerable. Believe the hype, it’s great!

Richard Garriott’s Res Ipsa Loquitur.

So, apparently Richard Garriott’s House™ has, among other rooms, a multi-million dollar secret underground bunker where fellow genius MMO designer extraordinaire Brad McQuaid has been hiding all this time.

When asked to comment on the closure of Tabula Rasa Mr Garriott was heard to hiss, flick his cape around his shoulders and laugh as he disappeared in a cloud of smoke.

When the smoke cleared, an embarrassed Mr Garriott looked around sheepishly and was last seen running down a flight of stairs marked Richard Gariott’s Secret Genius Hideout for Geniuses™.

Questions as to whether Mark Jacobs will be joining the dynamic duo in their special sanctuary went unconfirmed, as were rumours that he was seen carrying a folder marked Richard Garriott’s Extraplanetary Emigration Plan™.

Heavy Metal Farmer

Here in Europe we’re just starting on Day 3 of the Heavy Metal event in WAR, and it’s going pretty well after getting over the initial disappointment of logging in to find it wasn’t really a massive Black Sabbath concert with an RvR lake of a mosh pit (turns out Ozzy’s really more of a WoW man. Though after watching the advert, I’m not entirely sure he’s fully aware of what WoW is. Or where he is. Or what year it is. No change there, then.) Still, there’s Guitar Hero World Tour for that which continues to be excellent, though after really looking forward to Love Me Two Times I promptly failed when it came up, those guitar trills are tricky! But anyway…

After a bit of a grindfest in the last event, I was slightly worried about what sort of tasks we might be faced with, but day 1: “take part in the new Reikland Factory scenario” was easy enough, the only obstacle being the length of time in a queue for it. I suspect something might not have quite been working as intended, as I’m sure both sides would have been signing up for it in numbers, but unfortunately a couple of guildmates never saw it pop at all over the course of an evening. Day 2, complete three stages of a public quest (any public quest) was also straightforward. Seems like a good idea to encourage people back into PQs, though I slightly went against the spirit of things as I didn’t have too much time by zapping back to Tier 1 and soloing a PQ there. From the list of forthcoming tasks over at Waaagh!, it doesn’t seem to get much more time consuming, either. Not that it really matters, as I’m not too fussed about starting a Knight a week early, so just two thirds of the tasks should be enough for the shiny cloak reward, but it doesn’t look like too much farming will be needed after all. I couldn’t miss the opportunity of getting a Bad News song in the title, though, all together now: “I’m a heavy metal farmer, I’ve got lots of heavy metal animals…” (Note to Activision/Harmonix: Bad News downloadable content, sure fire winner!)

Have I Got MMOnews For You

Host: And the final round is “Continue the Headline”. This week, teams, it’s some rugby news: “Northampton Saints have completed the signing of hooker Brett Sharman from South African side Blue Bulls.”

Zoso: “Northampton director of rugby Jim Mallinder said: “we felt we really needed to get that Windfury buff on the melee DPS group in… wait, Sharman? Dammit.””

Melmoth: “… it took WoW fanfic aficionados several moments to realise that Google’s “Did you mean?” suggestion was a little off the mark from their original ‘half-breed Draenei/Tauren shaman prostitutes’ search.”

Host: Goodnight!

Studio lights dim, theme tune plays.

Doctor Who’s on First

The BBC Archive has just released a collection of documents and images from around the time of the creation of Doctor Who. They’re really rather interesting, if you like that kind of thing; the original concept and background notes, a Radio Times preview and audience reactions (“a police box with flashing beacon travelling through interstellar space – what claptrap!”). Also, from 1962 and 63, two reports looking at the whole idea of science fiction drama on the BBC.

It reminded me of a couple of other recent posts about “gaming archaeology” for Origin Systems and MUD; like the BBC, some things may have been lost over time, but others are being preserved for the future. So long as the Bonekickers team don’t turn up and set fire to everything.