Monthly Archives: August 2011

What do you call an ad break for the Templars?

Templar ForeverA divine intervention.

Lots of talk on Twitter and elsewhere in the past few days regarding the first rumblings of the beta for The Secret World, which is finally (here’s some preliminary hype from two years ago) getting set to reveal itself to a select number of ‘testers’. Bonus irony points for how quickly the NDA is broken and a wiki with all the secrets of The Secret World is launched.

I’ll be interested to see if they’re honouring the automatic invites for those who were subscribed to Age of Conan way back when; I really should login to my Funcom account at some point and check.

However, a lot of discussion seems to be focussed primarily on deciding which faction to play. There are the Dragons, who look increasingly like the World of Warcraft Alliance of TSW, and the Illuminati, the only group whose name registers as an error with my computer’s spelling checker: a conspiracy I tell you! The Templars seem to be a less popular lot, so for those who may have forgotten, allow me to again perform the minor miracle of being someone who advertises their cause.

Templar exemplar.

Evolution is not a force but a process.

It was the point at which I’d decided upon name, class, race, face and hair style options for my character in Guild Wars 2 when it dawned on me, that despite my better judgement and efforts to the contrary, I’d succumbed and let ArenaNet’s hype seep surreptitiously into my subconscious, like a constrictor snake slowly sliding sub rosa around its prey –which slumbers beneath that thorny shelter in the false supposition of safety– before squeezing, and then devouring it wholly.

It’s a tempered excitement, however, when compared to the hair-tearing bipolar frenzies I exhibited in the lead up to World of Warcraft and Warhammer Online. My current enthusiasm is a mellow yellow, Guild Wars 2 being the electrical banana that I believe ‘is gonna be a sudden craze’. I think this more reserved enthusiasm is, in part, due to the fact that I know that it is baseless: I have no more proof of Guild Wars 2’s qualifications for sustained entertainment than I did with Warhammer Online, and I know that the curriculum vitae presented by the game could be a carefully exaggerated construction in order for it to get its foot in the door of my attentions – mission accomplished, by the way. These days I’m well aware that I need to interview candidates thoroughly before making any commitment, Warhammer Online taught me this lesson well.

Primarily then, the game has me excited because the facts presented thus far appeal to my taste in fantasy fashions. The races are attractive and varied, even though Asura seem set to take over the Irritating Midget crown from World of Warcraft’s Gnome race, what with their short stature, cute faces, afro hairstyle option, and a racial name that invokes materialistic power-seeking Hindu deities.

(QI aside: The Wikipedia entry claims that “[Asura] is also cognate with Old Norse “Æsir”, which implies a common Proto-Indo-European origin for the Asura and the Æsir.” Which leads to interesting potential connections, considering that the Norn in Guild Wars 2 are clearly built on a foundation of Old Norse mythology.)

There certainly seems to be a little something for everyone in the spread of races, with the Charr appealing to furries and the Sylvari catering to the elf/fae/naturalist(and possibly naturist) types.

It’s harder to get excited about the classes without actually having played them, but based on the evidence thus far, I’ve found a couple that I think will interest me. From a purely aesthetic point of view then, it will be the steampunk gunplay that makes or breaks the appeal of many of the classes for me. I don’t mind steampunk, but I’ve expressed before that it’s one of those genre elements that many games fail to treat with any reverence, instead using it as an excuse to attach cogs and watches to clothing, and foist guns and comically inappropriate technology into a fantasy setting. It’s not the technology itself, but the fact that most game worlds don’t reflect the impact of such technology; it seems that no consideration is given to the effect of the technology, and so the juxtaposition of a world where people have access to guns, but many still run around wielding swords, is a jarring one. The famous scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark, where Indiana Jones waits patiently for a mercenary to finish his intricate attempt at an intimidating sword dance, before pulling out his revolver and shooting the mercenary dead, should serve as a basic reminder of the rapid change in natural order that such technology portends.

Then again, consideration rarely seems to be given to the evolution of these worlds in which magic exists either, where the only response to magicians pitching balls of fire seems to be for non-magic users to develop a lack of nerve endings and flame retardant hair, so that they can be set on fire with alarming regularity and continue fighting while also maintaining a perfectly styled coiffeur.

Fast food in Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

I’m currently enjoying the world of Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Like the Old Man Murray walkthrough for the original game, I’m finding plenty of potential for amusement outside of the main storyline.

Mrs Walters, an old dear who’s a bit forgetful, constantly asked for her meal throughout the entirety of our conversation together, somehow mistaking my heavy assault rifle and cyber-enhanced limbs for the Meals on Wheels man – a disguise which never seems to fool security personnel, more’s the pity. Conversation over, and having searched the apartment for ammunition and weapons which I could use (curiously she didn’t have either: I thought it was law that people had military hardware strewn throughout their homes), I was on my way out when I glanced towards her kitchen; seeing as I had super-strength from various body augmentations, I thought I’d try to help with her immediate meal concerns.

She didn’t seem to appreciate it.

What’s big, hairy and sounds like a police car?

I was watching a walkthrough of the current state of character customisation in Guild Wars 2 and I couldn’t help but notice a striking similarity between one of the default male Norn faces and a certain Irish actor.
Liam NeesonA Norn

A hybrid of Liam Neeson and a Norn? I shall dub him ‘Nee-norn’, and you will know of his approaching wrath from the sound he makes:

Nee-norn, nee-norn, nee-norn!

Thought for the day.

Eventually some bright spark in China will work out how to link their factory equipment controls to an MMO interface; then they’ll simply create quests such as ‘Craft 10000 Nike trainers for 30 XP’, and we’ll pay them a monthly fee to let us do it.

The sevens sins of: ‘Go and speak to…’ quests.

Wrath: The standard sin response, instantly triggered once you’ve been on one too many of these quests. Starting with the traditional ‘No, you – you ask them! You two want to talk? Then walk ten paces down the arsing corridor and have a chat!’ moving on to more impotent outbursts of rage as you slowly realise you’re simply shouting at a computer monitor, and that your other half is starting to glance nervously at you from the other side of the room. For NPCs who are not standing ten paces apart but are in fact on the other side of the world, popular rants usually reference the magical instantaneous mailbox system that could be used to send a message and receive a reply in the time it takes your character to mount their horse, let alone ride halfway across the world.

Envy: Gods, it’s like a being back in a primary school classroom around here! You’re passing notes for Jenny Ansell to Matthew Foster again, because you fancy her and hope that she’ll see that you’re really the one for her, not Matthew Bloody Whiteteeth McPerfecthair. Of course she never does. One of these days we’ll start being intercepted by NPCs who grab us by the ear and take the note we’re carrying, and send us to the headmaster’s office. At which point we’ll fill Jenny Ansell’s school bag with earwigs for getting us into trouble for passing messages. Allegedly.

Pride: Envy is shortly followed by the pride response. I’m a bloody hero of the Seventh Age! I have defeated deities, for crying out loud! I’m not Postman Sodding Pat. Nor am I a heavily armoured babysitter, trying to get sulking teenagers to talk to one another by repeating their ‘Well, tell them I said…’ instructions while they’re stood staring into each other’s miserable pimply faces!

Greed: Of course that twinge of greed eventually arrives. That invidious Luke Skywalker voice in the back of your mind that whispers ‘She’s rich…’, whereupon the greed centre of your brain lets out a low mournful Wookie growl, and you hear yourself saying ‘Rich?’ as you raise raise your eyebrows and prick up your ears. The reward never turns out to be more wealth than you can imagine, however.

Sloth: With resignation to the task comes a general level of apathetic ‘Really? I mean, *really*?’ before you slope off on the errand, hands in pockets, dragging your feet and kicking at stones along the way. ‘Go and speak to’ in NPC quest text generally invokes the same response that the words ‘I need you to…’ did from your parents when you were a child, where you instinctively knew that the rest of the sentence would be of the form ‘…do something you’re going to hate because I think it will be character building for you’. And you don’t have any choice in either of these matters.

Gluttony: It’s usually at this point that you start eating (heavy drinking is also an option) as a comfort response to the fact that you’re fully aware that you just pulled the lever for a pellet. Again.

Lust: What can I say? Gaze fixedly at a horse’s bum for hours on end as you travel between destinations, and it begins to look quite attractive. I’ve painted a face on mine and have conversations with it while I wait to get to my next appointment with Geoff ‘Here’s one line of ASCII text, now travel all the way back to where you started’ von PlotExposition the NPC. I’ve booked a nice restaurant for the two of us this evening, in fact. Candles, fine wine, good food; just me and my horse’s bum. I call him Friday.

The Haven.

Once upon a quest line dreary, while I wandered weak and weary,
Over many a mile and bland expanse of forgotten shore,
While I grinded, ardour shearing, suddenly there came a clearing,
And I stood there simply peering, peering at the fort before.
‘Tis some anterior,’ I muttered, sneering at the fort before,
‘Only this, and nothing more.’

But upon that bastion nearing, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no player ever dared to dream before;
`Surely,’ said I, `surely there is treasure in this lordly fortress;
Let me see then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore.
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore –
Alas! Some mobs and nothing more!’

Presently all hope declined; deflated soul at once resigned,
`Dev’ said I, `or designer, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my desire for more,
In that moment I believed you, that this fort I should explore.’
Yet mobs stood there, and nothing more.

Quite distinct the recollection, when hope defeated circumspection,
And fancy dared to conjure bounty in that citadel I saw.
Eagerly I wished for wonder; vainly forth I chose to blunder
On the wild preposterous belief – belief in something to explore.
Yet nought but mobs did I uncover and on this discovery I swore:
No exploring forevermore.

With considerable apologies to Mr Poe

In the future, everyone will be on YouTube for fifteen minutes.

There must be an equivalent of YouTube in Middle Earth, that’s the only way I can explain it. Pray allow me to indulge in a little light exposition.

I’m working on improving my reputation with the various elf factions in Middle Earth. After vadering the goblins of Goblin Town, I quickly achieved kindred with the elves of Rivendell, Elrond transformed from a cold and aloof dignitary into my last homely homie, and where once I faced arrows and barked challenges, I now received fist-bumps and offers to share a spliff.

Next on the checklist of surprisingly hostile elves were the Galadhrim. Ensconced deep within the leafy boughs of Lothlórien, the Galadhrim are the last defenders of snooty, holier-than-thou, tree-hugging elfdom; they’re the sort of people who personally invite you to come and help them fight the forces of darkness, and then on your arrival threaten to pincushion you with arrows unless you prove your worth by running errands for them. It was a couple of these errands which caused me to settle on the YouTube theory stated at the beginning of the post, but although the quests were bizarre in nature, they were also a reliable source of generous (for elves) reputation, and as such I did what any self-respecting MMO player would do: put on a suitable podcast and zoned-out in an attempt to ignore the whole sorry business, even as I repeatedly performed it.

The first quest had me collecting orc poo. That was the first thing they had me do. They did that just to show me what they COULD get me to do, and to instil in me a suitable level of apprehension. So I ran around and gathered five piles of steaming orc dung, brought it back in my inventory because they didn’t provide me with a suitable receptacle (I suspected this was on purpose), and emptied it on the floor at their feet. Degrading enough, I hope you would agree, for one who had battled the Witch King, and turned the orc bastion of The Grand Stair into a frolicking sight-seeing tour. But they weren’t finished yet. Oh no.

“Now we’d like you to take the poo and throw into a fire at one of the orc camps bordering our forest.”
“We think it will send them a suitable message.”

No (orc)shit, it will send them a message! It will send them the ‘message’ that we’re madder than a bag full of rabid badgers. I won’t do it! Of course they nonchalantly wafted a big fat roll of repuation in front of me, and off I ran, Captain of Gondor, hero of Eriador, with a bag full of faeces and a heart full of self-loathing. Over the course of my grind I performed this quest many times, and I could only begin to wonder what the conversation was like at the orc camp each time I turned up.

“Oh god, it’s the mad poo-flinging woman again.”
“Oh not again! Where? I don’t see…”
“No, don’t look! She’ll come over here. Just ignore her, Henry, maybe she’ll go away.”
“I’m sorry, it’s no good Kenneth, I’m going to have to say something. This is totally unacceptable. We’re civilised orcs, this is outrageous!”
“Oh no no no, don’t antagonise her, Henry! Please… don’t make a scene.”
“Oh *really* Kenneth, you are such wet blanket. I’m just going to go over there and have a calm conversation, that’s all. You’ll see, I’m sure she’ll listen to reason.”
“Fine, you trot over to her, but I’m staying here.”
“Excuse me! E–excuse me? Madam? I said ‘excuse me’. Look, if you’d just stop throwing the poo for a second! Thank you. Now, I just wanted to have a calm discussion abou-aaaHHHHhOWWWWWW! SHE STABBED ME KENNETH. HELP! OH OW ARRRGGGGGGGGHHHH!”
“I’M COMING HENRY! I’M-A COMING! Unhand my boyfriend at once, madam! Desist I say, you heathen!”

They always bring a friend when they aggro, don’t they? Still, yet again an MMO causes me to ponder whether the NPCs were, in fact, the good guys.

Next up was fetching arrows. Not such a terrible task, I think you’ll agree. Simply run around collecting five arrows from the corpses of orcs, and bring them back to the other half of the Evil Quest Twins: the two quests were handed out by a pair of NPCs who stood resolutely next to one another, and I couldn’t help but begin to view them as a sort of Mr Wint and Mr Kidd, trying to come up with highly creative ways to bump me off, or at the very least publicly humiliate me.

“The Captain claims that our missions stink, Mr Wint.”
“I do believe it is the Captain that is most malodorous, Mr Kidd. Perhaps the Captain would like to collect some arrows instead?”
“A flight of fancy, Mr Wint?”
“Indubitably, Mr Kidd!”

Where was I? Oh yes, crying into my keyboard. No, wait! Collecting arrows. Right. Having collected the arrows I was then tasked with taking them to an encampment of elves a reasonable distance away. Fair enough: your standard bland MMO quest fare. I hadn’t taken into account the Mr Wint and Mr Kidd factor, however.

Mr Kidd: “Now I’d like you to take these arrows to the encampment far north of here. It is a long perilous journey I’m afraid, and will take you some time.”
Hero: “No problem, I’ll just grab the bundle and throw it over the back of my horse here.”
Mr Kidd: “Horse?”
Hero: “Yes, my horse – Hawthorn. He’s swift and can easily manage the arrows as well as myself.”
Mr Kidd: “Ah, no, you must carry the arrows on foot. You see, it’s an, uh, ancient elven ritual. *snort* Isn’t that right Mr Kidd?”
Mr Wint: “It is the noble nature of sacrifice that we demand, Mr Wint. *chortle*”
Hero: “Fine, I’ll do it.”
Mr Wint: “Y-you will?”
Hero: “Sure. As long as I get the rep, I’m on it like Gandalf riding a Balrog. I’m a hero, don’t you know? Mundane chores are *what we do*.”
Mr Kidd: “Okay, but…”
Hero: “But?”
Mr Kidd: “But… you must also, uhm… run! Yes, run. You need to get there quickly!”
Hero: “So I’m not allowed to use my horse, but it’s a matter of urgency?”
Mr Wint: “Yes, the arrows will melt in the sunlight if you take too long.”
Hero: “Riiiiiight. Are you guys taking the pis–“
Mr Kidd: “Yes. Yes we are.”
Mr Wint: “It’s what *we* do. Now off you go.”
Mr Kidd: “Actually, hold on.”
Hero: “What *now*?!”
Mr Kidd: “D’you mind if we ride alongside and film you? It’s just that we have a popular channel on EruTube.”
Mr Wint: “And Mr Kidd has posted this excellent video of some mad bint throwing orc poo into a fire, then screaming and stabbing some orcs.”
Mr Kidd: “It’s quite spectacular.”
Mr Wint: “Over two and a half a million hits.”
Mr Kidd: “And now, you see, we’re trying to top it.”
Mr Wint: “With something even more stupid.”

Mission Quite Possible.

Your task, should you choose to accept it… and why wouldn’t you? It’s quite easy really, it’s not like I’m asking you to take a ring into Mordor or anything, which we both know you wouldn’t do anyway. Or would you? Would you? You wouldn’t. Fine.

Anyway, your mission (which is quite possible) is to take a high level character and find a low level area in your MMO of choice, and then, while stomping around killing all the grey-con mobs, play the Imperial March (Vader’s Theme) loudly in the background. Look, I’ve even provided you with a link to it; this really is a quite possible mission.

Then, see how long you last before you begin to feel really rather evil. I was slaughtering goblins in Goblin Town earlier, and I started to feel sorry for the little green guys by the end of the song. I even helped them to put up a new fence after I’d kicked down their previous one.

As always, should you or any of your guild by killed trying such an easy mission, the KiaSA Captcha AI will disavow any knowledge of your actions.

This blog post won’t self-destruct in five seconds, that would be daft wouldn’t it? Don’t be so silly, you’re making me nervous about whether you can achieve this mission.

Good luck, readers.


Nah I’m just kidding, it really won’t self-destruct you know.

Discontent is the first step in the progress of a man or a nation.

Channel KiaSA, in association with LotRO, now returns you to the continuing adventures of Captain Completionist in Grindland.

I recently completed levelling my Captain’s crafting profession by grinding materials while listening to various podcasts, with the aptly named How to Murder Time, as well as A Casual Stroll to Mordor, Massively Speaking and Claims of the Normal all helping to distract me away from the ‘game’ that I’m ‘enjoying’. In addition I’ve nearly finished the reputation grind with the crafting guild to become kindred with them, thus opening up a raft of high level recipes that can make some potentially useful items; all of which will become obsolete in the next month or so when the Rise of Isengard expansion arrives and new crafting tiers are introduced. I think I’m doing it wrong.

I also spent time grinding virtue deeds to get the last few that I need to the cap of ten, just before Isengard raises the cap to twelve. Oh dear. Anyway, the last virtue required the killing of two hundred and forty worms anywhere in the depths of Moria, and I was joined on the venture by OG of the Hobbington Cresent massive, Van Hemlock, who is also on a bit of a character completion bender at the moment. It started off simply enough, with the worms conning grey to our level-capped characters, such that my Captain with her dwarf archer herald in tow, and Van Hemlock’s overpowering Guardian, were able to tear through the mobs like cats in a box of catnip-laced tissue paper. I generally turn the ‘gore’ setting off in Bioware’s Dragon Age games because it never seems quite right to have my character sitting down for afternoon tea with the Countess de Snootyknickers, she dressed in immaculate white lace, my character dressed from head to toe in the blood of a hundred orcs, possibly with a piece of severed ogre flesh slowly peeling embarrassingly away from her top lip, eventually landing with a plop in the countess’s best china. Grinding virtues as we were at the time, however, I would have paid for a ‘persistent gore’ setting which I could switch on. There would have been mayhem! Any orcs chasing us would have been in danger of impaling themselves on their own weapons as they slipped and slid their way towards us across a field of gore and entrails, eventually having to invent a new type of skate for use on the blood rink we had created. Other adventurers, possibly looking to muscle in on our territory, would have stepped slowly away in horror as they were drenched in a torrent of blood, while clumps of flesh fell from the ceiling where they had been thrown by our frenetic efforts, slapping down upon the poor adventurers’ heads. It would have been glorious! As it was, the worms fell down dead in the best ham actor tradition, and we looted their perfectly clean and sterile corpses before moving on.

As such we came up with our own form of entertainment, seeing as MMOs remain so obstinate about not providing any themselves. Alternately we launched into tirades about all the well-trod issues with today’s MMOs as we encountered them on our ‘adventures’, like geriatrics complaining about the snow while stubbornly refusing to leave their rocking chairs on the front porch and go inside where it’s warm and hot cocoa awaits. I think it slowly progressed into a sort of grumpy old man’s pranking game, each of us trying to put the other off MMOs altogether by questioning the reasons why we were doing it, what productive ventures we could be otherwise undertaking, and so forth; you know, all those perfectly valid questions which are just not mentioned in polite MMO society, like bringing up third world debt at a banker’s bonus award ceremony.

My virtues complete, the epic quest content was the final major item on my checklist of 100 Things To Do Before The Expansion Comes Along And Makes Them All Obsolete. As such I’ve been staring at virtual horse bums once again, while occasionally performing errands that street urchins would take offence to, even if you offered them a shilling and a sharp clip around the ear. However, I did make good use of the time by performing drive-by buffings on unsuspecting lower level characters who were otherwise minding their own business in the area. I’d forgotten how good a drive-by buffing feels, and I’m not entirely sure why I haven’t done it in recent memory. I usually play buffing/support characters where I can find them (something which Telwyn points out is perhaps more difficult than it should be in these cooperative games of ours); I have fond memories of sitting on the entrance at Perez Park in City of Heroes and doing nothing for an hour but cast Speed Boost on the low level characters there, giving them a short duration run speed and attack speed buff, and transforming them into levelling machines; I like being able to give other players a taste of a more powerful character for a while, a glimpse into the future, if you will. So I’m not sure why I haven’t been doing my drive-by buffings, and I do worry that it’s because I’m letting myself be carried along by the decline in co-operation which the genre seems to be experiencing. Thus it may be that the epic content –which used to be for groups but that I’m now progressing through solo– has reminded me about some of the things that we used to do back in the days when we were young and MMOs were younger. A time when we weren’t quite as jaded as we have become, what with the slow decline in MMO society as huge numbers of people from diverse walks of Real Society ‘invaded’ our world.

As such, I won’t be grinding any content tonight; if you want to find me, look for the level sixty five Captain standing in some random starter area, dropping buffs on the new characters they find there. Behind that character will be sitting a smiling fool, reminiscing happily about friendlier times, trying to work out what he needs to do to return to them.