Monthly Archives: February 2009

The musical growth of this band cannot even be charted.

I’m in a bit of a memey mood at the moment – that’s a mood for memes, not a mood for “Me! Me!”, which is a given – and I saw this fun one over on Greenspeak which I couldn’t resist trying.

So here is my randomly generated band’s randomly generated album cover:

Rock on!

Head on over to Greenspeak to find out how, and leave a link in the comments here if you decide to give it a go yourself, I’m excited to see other efforts.

Shine on, you crazy diamonds.

Let’s go to Darkfall

There’s a short story that sticks in my mind, Google suggests it was “Let’s go to Golgotha” by Garry Kilworth (danger, spoilers coming up!). In it, time travel is possible and tourists can book holidays including a “Crucifixion Tour”. They’re togged up appropriately and sternly warned that they mustn’t change the course of history, so when the crowd are asked whether Jesus or Barrabas should be spared they have to shout in favour of Barrabas. The twist at the end comes when a tourist realises the bulk of the crowd are time travellers, all shouting for Barrabas, drowning out the few locals.

So, I gather Darkfall is released today (possibly, the website doesn’t say much and the forums appear to have melted as everyone looks for news). I wasn’t planning on playing it; it’s nice to see alternatives to the Diku-esque model of most recent major MMOGs, but I don’t think Darkfall is for me. Apart from anything else, the community have something of a reputation for being eager to engage in a full and frank exchange of views over the game. Seeing a quote from Ten Ton Hammer: “… what I experienced in the world is still the worst example of an online community I’ve ever encountered, without question.”, though… I’m a bit morbidly tempted to go in and see what it’s actually like. With the forewarning of the article, and the expectation that everybody would be out to get me, I imagine I’d adopt the persona of a paranoid sociopath, doing unto others before they got a chance to do anything unto me and generally being a bit of a git.

At this point you might realise that first paragraph is actually vaguely relevant rather than being a random copy/paste mishap. Perhaps the true Darkfall community is a model of politeness, courtesy and restraint but somehow it’s attracted a ferocious reputation, so the tourists come in and snarl and gank and teabag, believing it’s the done thing, while the locals roll their eyes and get on with a spot of topiary, or an honourable duel to the cries of “well played sirrah!” from an appreciative crowd. Perhaps…

Rivalry is the life of trade, and the death of the trader.

Looking at release schedules you’d think that World of Warcraft was the younger sibling to Warhammer Online and not the other way around, as soon as WAR got a chance to be front and centre with their initial game release, WoW came bursting in to the room and shoved WAR aside with its Wrath of the Lich King “Look at me, look at me, I’m the special one! Look at me!” routine.

So WAR patiently takes a back seat as bemused parents watch WoW perform its new expansion routine, in that sickeningly over-cutesy way that only younger siblings can. Once WoW has burned itself out on being the entertaining centre of attention and crawled off to the corner for a nap, WAR steps forward again to gentle smiles from the adoring parental audience and announces that it will now perform patch 1.2 for them. But just as WAR opens its mouth to begin a delightful recital of new classes and dungeons and such, WoW wakes from its slumber, realises that someone else might be getting some attention and charges back in front of everyone, shoving WAR out of the way yet again and announces with puffed-out chest that it is now going to perform patch 3.1 for all and sundry.

Once or twice is a coincidence, but Blizzard’s uncanny ability to release next to no content until one of its competitors does is coming across as quite childish to my mind. Not only that but it shows their lack of respect for their customer base, because we all know that one uses ‘competition’ with respect to World of Warcraft in the very loosest sense of the word because nothing can really compete at this stage of the game, so while their player base clamours for more content for their subscription fee, Blizzard seem to be holding it back until such a time as it is useful to stamp on the release schedules of other companies.

Quite frankly Blizzard you won this generation of gaming a long, long time ago, and one would expect a more mature and perhaps even benevolent attitude from such an unsurpassable behemoth as yourselves.

Fallout: Total Empire of War II

I’m really hooked on Fallout 3 at the moment, exploring away, roaming the wasteland, meeting interesting new people, shooting them with interesting new weapons and nicking their stuff. Like many CRPGs it follows the familiar Main Quest / Side Quests model, and as per usual I’m doing as many side quests I can find and generally exploring the world. Fallout 3 manages a nice balancing act in this respect; some games, Mass Effect and Oblivion being a couple of examples that spring to mind, make the main quest a Big Deal. The world/galaxy/universe is under MORTAL THREAT! You must ACT NOW, with ALL SPEED to SAVE HUMANITY! And you say “sure!”, and you have a little potter around the local town/starbase, browse the shops for souvenirs, postcards and weaponry, then talk to someone in the pub/space pub who’s a bit miffed because they lost their favourite teaspoon. “No worries!” you say, recognising a side quest when you see it, “I’ll spend a couple of hours searching for it, it’s bound to be a teaspoon of insane death which you’ll offer me as a reward at the end of it.” Now really the moment you start to do a bit of shopping, the village elder/starbase commander should be running after you shouting “What the fuck? Weren’t you listening just then? MORTAL THREAT? GET OUT THERE AND KILL THE DEMONS/ALIENS!”, and the bloke down the pub should say “yes, I’ve lost my favourite teaspoon, NOT THAT IT MATTERS BECAUSE OF ALL THAT MORTAL PERIL AND EVERYTHING”, to which of course you reply “yo, chill dude/space dude, nothing’s going to happen on the main quest until I go to The Dungeon/Planet of Zarg, then a cut scene kicks in and we’re on to Chapter 2”, which doesn’t really help with immersion.

Fallout 3, at least so far, has a nicely structured main quest that’s clearly important, but not so GALAXY THREATENINGLY VITAL that you feel guilty when poking around some interesting ruins instead of saving the universe. It’s got that “tight but loose” vibe, enough structure that it never feels aimless, but bags of freedom as well.

One thing that’s managed to drag me away from Fallout is a good bit of War. Not Warhammer Online so much (jumping in now and again, especially if there’s some big RvR going on, but otherwise waiting for 1.2 there really), or indeed slightly different Warhammer, though I’m mightily tempted by all the good things people are saying about Dawn of War II. War of the Month is the demo for Empire: Total War, containing a land battle and naval battle to show off the new game. I loved all the previous Total War games, and the land battle is that familiar Totally War-ish goodness, with lashings of extra gunpowder. Naval battles are new in Empire, and the first thing I was staggered by is the detail of the ships, zooming right in you can marvel at the officers strutting around in their finery, ordering sweating sailors to load cannon and adjust the sails. I’ve only played the naval battle once so haven’t entirely got the hang of it yet, but it promises to be a fine addition to the game. I think I’m going to have to buy the full thing, which means I might be a bit busy for a little while what with the grand campaigns in Total War usually lasting as long as an actual war (and not The Six Day War; if you don’t resort to auto-resolving some battles, we’re talking The Thirty Years War).

Our memories are the only paradise from which we can never be expelled.

How do I explain it? Well, I’ve tried to put it into words before, and here we have a perfect example. Zoso takes the meme tag and follows through with a 10.0, perfect score, meme response. It’s all there: the image, the explanation and the follow on links. Whereas I can’t possibly pick just one picture from a folder, I’m all over the place, drowning under a stream of images that would make Flikr baulk. So what with Zoso responding to the meme in the correct manner that blogiquette necessitates, I’ve decided to do a slightly different take and have selected six of my sixth images from various MMO screenshot folders.

1 2 3
4 5 6

1: Hellgate London. A rare shot of this mob before he was renamed Big Boned Illegitimate Son. Hellgate wasn’t a bad game at all, it just suffered from a similar problem to City of Heroes in that its attempts to randomly generate missions made for bland and repetitive game play, because there’s obviously a limit to how unique you can make a mission when you’re trying to generate it from a limited set of external parameters. A shame, because the combat was quite fun. Well, the guns were fun, the magic was rubbish.

2: World of Warcraft. Another day, another orgy in the Stormwind Cathedral, an ordinary occurrence in the lives of almighty heroes. This is screenshot six of about seven hundred documenting the end of beta event. There were monsters in the streets, parties on every corner, and naked people dancing and posing in compromising positions. Lots and lots of naked people. I’m the dwarf in the centre of the shot, with the naked lady dancing on top of me, and what seems to be some chap grabbing my nose while I look up at said lady’s naughty bits. Oh yes, I can teach the fetish clubs of Brighton a thing or two yet. Zoso and Elf are both in this orgy somewhere, but I couldn’t tell you where, they may be off screen or they may be hidden under a pile of naked bodies, it’s a bit like playing an adult edition of where’s Waldo. Where’s Waldo’s Waldo? There it is, folded between the cleavage of that… ok, what was I talking about again?

3: City of Heroes. There had to be a City of * screenshot in this selection, because it’s a game that has taken so much of my time and money. No matter what MMOs I go off to play, this and World of Warcraft are the two games that I always come crawling back to once I’ve been jilted by the sassy adventurous MMO in the tight leather trousers who only ever intended to toy with my attentions. As a complement to Zoso’s picture, here’s his Fire/Fire Blaster still going strong in the mid-thirties alongside my five hundredth alt, a Fire/Fire Tanker called War Stove. War Stove was the highest level hero I’ve ever had, I say ‘was’ because I re-rolled him in a fit of.. stupidity, quite frankly, and then never got him past level 10. Ask Zoso about it some time, he’ll tell you all about what he has to put up with from me and my altitus.

4: Age of Conan. Now here’s a game I really wanted to love. I liked the setting, the character design, the classes, and those first twenty levels in Tortage were so good I did them several times on different characters to get the various different stories that were available depending on your class. I also did them twice on the same character, because I had to re-roll him due to a poor beard and hair colour choice, but let’s not go there, eh? In the screenshot is the first version of the Bear Shaman I played, the class that still appeals to me on every level: melee combat, healing and buffing, along with bestial shamanistic tendencies. What’s not to like? The only disappointment was the fact that he couldn’t actually turn into a bear, but I can live without the simulated furry sex. I whacked the body size slider all the way to ‘fat’ because I felt that a follower of the Bear was not going to be a scrawny wiry little fellow, hence his slightly overhanging bare belly, or bear belly if you will. He’s still more ripped than Arnold Schwarzenegger though. Welcome to the world of Hyboria, where steroidal stereotypes rule.

5: Dark Age of Camelot. Another AoC, only this one is slightly darker. DAoC was the first MMO I ever played, so there’s some strong nostalgic mojo with this one. After many times seeing the Everquest boxes on the shelves in my local game store and almost purchasing a copy, I finally caved-in and bought DAoC when I saw the playable races available. This game still has the best selection of race design to my mind, and the hulking stone trolls will always be my favourite race in an MMO, at least until Blizzard finally relent and implement the Pandaren as a playable race. I wish I could tell you more about this character, but as well as being my first MMO, DAoC was also where I got my first taste of chronic altitus. I had a Troll Thane, which I think is what Hob is there in the screenshot, then a Troll Shaman, then a Thane again. Then I went and played just about every class on the Hibernian side. Came back to Midgard, played another Troll, and a Kobold. And on and on. The only race I couldn’t play in this game were the dwarves, they were just… creepy looking, as though they spent all their time hiding in your bathroom cabinet just so they could watch you pee.

6: Lord of the Rings Online. Last but by no means least, we have a game that I should still be playing today, but for some reason it just doesn’t press my MMO buttons despite several attempts to get into it. Here you can see my first character, a Dwarf Champion, who is smoking a pipe while Zoso’s character tries to look serene and resplendent in a rather fine hat while blinking smoke out of their eyes. I think I rolled a Minstrel about five minutes after this screenshot was taken. It went downhill from there.

If anyone wasn’t tagged in Zoso’s meme post and would rather like to have been, please feel free to tag yourself in the comments here and I’ll add a link to you just below in this post. It’s quite fun to look back and reminisce over old screenshots, and it makes me glad that I’m a habitual screenshot snapper.

The Screenshot of the Beast

And lo did the sixth screenshot meme sweep the blag-u-spore, like… a meme, sweeping… a lot of blogs. And verily were we tagged, and it’s been a while since the last meme-ing, so for your delectation…

Ah. This has uncovered something of a problem. Firstly, I’ve hardly taken any screenshots in recent games, something I really ought to do. Even if it’s just of hats. Secondly, I’m sure I had a bunch of older screenshots, but with most MMOG data being held on servers I don’t tend to think of saving install folders, so between various PC moves, upgrades etc., I fear I’ve lost a lot, which is slightly depressing. Oh well. Fortunately, in a corner of “My Pictures”, I found a folder labelled “CoH” of a few cleaned up screenshots I had saved, so while not quite an actual screenshot folder, I give you the sixth file therefrom…

Paper beats rock!

Paper beats rock!

My third or fourth City of Heroes character (right), a fire blaster, who I got to level 50 and still play, and one of Melmoth’s early characters (left), a scrapper of some kind.

Speaking of Melmoth, I believe he’ll be along in short order, the combination of the meme and his recent post on nostalgia may have sent him into something of a nostalgic screenshot frenzy. In the meantime, as a joint tagging of other blogs (six is quite enough, to tag six each would just be crazy insane, got no brain), lo do we say unto these people, “go forth and post the sixth screenshot from a folder, yo”: PJH, Welsh Troll, MBP, Aaron at Snark and Fury (opening up the floor to game screenshots, TV screencaps or comic screen… comics), and Van Hemlock and Jon (for textual descriptions of a screenshot each in the next Van Hemlock podcast, that should make pretty compelling listening).

Nostalgia is better than I remembered it to be.

I’m wondering what Bartle type I fall under when I enjoy myself the most these days when I’m running low level quests in old world Azeroth.

I’m finding myself poking at a few daily quests in Northrend in order to try to get Reins of the White Polar Bear and Reins of the Ice Mammoth, because mounts are the only rewards that interest me at the end game: they’re one of the few things that you take with you into the next +10 level expansion and actually remain useful. Other than that, I’m generally wandering through the starter area quests for all of the home factions that I haven’t visited, my aim being the Ambassador of the Alliance achievement, with a vague thought to try for the Loremaster and Seeker achievements.

As I run around all these areas, gleefully one-shotting any enemy that finds itself in the unfortunate position of being part of a quest goal, I find myself genuinely smiling at the fun of it all; I also find myself becoming quite nostalgic when visiting old areas again and discovering, through the joy of the recent Low Level Quest tracking ability, all of those quests that I left behind when I originally levelled my character, either because they were too hard, too out of the way, or even bugged. Yes, Blizzard had bugged quests back when the game was first released, I know this is tantamount to blasphemy to the Fans of Warcraft, but it did happen.

The character that I’m playing was one of the first characters I ever created, and although he was abandoned in the mid-forties when I had switched to my faithful anti-altaholic druid, I did eventually pick him back up and get him to level sixty well before the Burning Crusade expansion was released. So the nostalgia is strong with this one. I’m vanquishing old foes, still finding new places and quests, and generally just enjoying adventuring again.

I guess this sort of play falls somewhere between Achiever and Explorer, I hadn’t thought to revisit many of these places until there was an achievement for it. My sense of joy comes from neither though, it’s very much the nostalgia and the sense of satisfaction that comes from finally putting to rest old demons – places and monsters that have haunted and mocked my character for all these years.

I can’t really see myself getting the Loremaster or Seeker achievements though, the problem being that they tend to turn the happy, light-hearted, simple joy of low level questing into a mundane and tedious grindy job of the sort that is often used to occupy those many players who are at the level cap, because they got there two days after the expansion was released and they’ve completed all the dungeon content.

For now I’m going to keep visiting the Old Places all the while that the happy content feelings remain; I think I’ll classify my Bartle type as Comfortable Pootling Nostalgic.

KiaSA’s Guide to MMOG Etiquette and Online Manners – Chapter 1

After Melmoth’s post about socialising in MMOGs, we’ve had metaphorically hundreds of letters from users enquiring about correct etiquette in games. As Debrett’s have been most remiss in not making a suitable publication available, we at KiaSA have stepped in with the Killed in a Smiling Accident Guide to MMOG Etiquette and Online Manners.

Chapter 1: emote use around town and out questing

– Seeing a member of your guild, whom you haven’t specifically grouped with, around a city
/wave, with the other player specifically targeted. This should be returned where possible, but prior usage of other interfaces such as banks or auction houses may take precedence.

– Seeing a member of your guild, with whom you have grouped, around a city
/hello or /greet, with the other player specifically targeted, returned where possible.

– Seeing multiple members of your guild in one place
/wave or /hello, with no specific target. If you accidentally have a player target when emoting, quickly cycle through the other players applying the same emote. If you have yourself or an inanimate object targeted for the emote, deflect attention from the mistake with a pithy quip.

– Seeing a member of your guild, with whom you frequently group, around a city
/hello or /greet, with the other player specifically targeted, followed by a /tell of “How’s it going?” or “How’s things?” depending on stylistic preference. NOTE! This is a *rhetorical* question. Correct responses: “good, thanks”, “yeah OK” or “not bad, ta”. Incorrect responses: “yeah pretty good we took down that final boss but he mostly dropped trash there was this great ring but I lost the roll for it this other dude got it and I was all like ah come on I really need it and he was all but I can use it on my alt and I totally reported him”, “oh terrible work is really bad at the moment somebody keeps taking my sandwich from the fridge even though it’s clearly labelled and the radiator in the bedroom started leaking”.

– Seeing a companion from a previous drunken evening of nakedly dancing upon a mailbox
Both parties should studiously avoid eye contact and hasten to separate locations as rapidly as possible

– Seeing an attractive female guildmate
Depending on the emote system, /flirt, /kiss or /dance are appropriate so long as a chaperone is present, with /shy, /giggle and /blush being acceptable responses.

– Seeing an attractive female guildmate who turns out to be played by a Scandinavian wrestler called Sven the Terrible
Acceptable emotes include /firmhandshake, /politegreeting_whilemaintainingdistance and /goodheavensisthatthetimeireallymustgo

– Seeing a member of your guild (peerage qualifications)
Note that /wave and /hello should only be used for guild members of the rank of Baron and below. For a Viscount or Earl, substitute /bow, and for a Marquess or Duke use /grovel, and preface all /tells with “The Most Hon.”.

– Seeing a member of your guild while out questing
/wave or /hello, plus application of any buff as appropriate from your character. If they are in combat with a mob and at 50% health or lower, either healing of the player or engagement of the mob, depending on archetype, is considered polite, but under no circumstances attempt to loot the corpse before the original engagee. If you are engaging a mob and this happens, even if you were confident that you would have survived the encounter the correct response is “thank you”, not “wtf kill steeler”

– Seeing a stranger (in a PvE game, or own faction in a PvP game) while out questing
No direct acknowledgement is required, buffing and healing are considered polite, but mob engagement is not suggested unless the other player is at 10% health or lower.

– Seeing a stranger (enemy faction in a PvP game)
You may attack them, but you should wait for them to despatch any mob they are fighting first and indicate via suitable emote your aggresive intent (suggested: /challenge, /battlecry or /comeandhaveagoifyouthinkyourehardenough). If they are climbing a cliff, you should lower a rope, and offer them a chance to rest before engaging in combat, after checking whether they have six fingers on one hand. Stealth classes should observe all the previous, but may forego a formal challenge and open the engagement by stabbing the unprepared enemy player in the back.

– Seeing a stranger (any, where ruleset includes unrestricted PvP and corpse looting)
Train additional mobs upon the enemy player, attack at once while they are most vulnerable, kill them, perform as many rude emotes as are available within the system, steal all their belongings, then lie in wait for them to attempt to recover their belongings and kill them again.

– Seeing a group of strangers when questing in a party
While being initially wary, the two groups should take time to reflect that, at the end of the day, you are all people (or Orcs, or anthropomorphic cat-type-lizard beasts), and, as at Christmas in 1915, take the opportunity to put violence aside for a short time, and /joke, /laugh, /playfootball and /sharecigarettes together, experiencing the camaraderie of fellow soldiers no matter what absurd politics dragged you into this mess. Then your stealthed mate should be able to take out their healer in pretty short order, and the rest of ’em will go down like dominoes.