Tag Archives: zoso

Free like a butterfly, free like a bee

I’m currently juggling an assortment of regular games, quite different at first glance: a combat vehicle simulator, a match-3 puzzle game, an idle dungeon crawler, a collectible card game, and a music trivia game. They’re all free-to-play, though, so share many of the persistent elements that tends to bring – rewards/unlocks, achievements/badges, daily/weekly missions, experience points and resulting ranks/levels. Some combination of those seems to be the key to holding my attention long-term, so I thought I’d do a little compare and contrast.

The oldest faithful is War Thunder, I’ve been regularly playing over nine years now which is pretty staggering. New vehicles are frequently added, now pushing well into the 1980s, but thankfully my Second World War focus means I can happily bimble about the lower tiers where it doesn’t take hundreds of hours to nudge up a progress bar. Each month a set of historical decals are made available with various challenges, typically getting a number of kills or a certain score with appropriate vehicles, and I’m finding those are a perfect hook – achievable in a sensible amount of time, and a nudge to play various different countries and vehicle types to mix things up.

I’ve been ticking along in Marvel Puzzle Quest for four years now, also a pretty decent run for a match-3 game. There’s a regular drumbeat of new character from across the Marvel pantheon to unlock and level up; after a couple of years I worked my way through the whole backlog, and now keep pace with the newcomers. It’s my mobile game of choice for killing five minutes when waiting around, or when half-watching something on television or half-listening to a call. There’s something about matching 3 things that remains strangely compelling, with the powers of the characters to mix things up a little and the ongoing levelling and unlocking for a sense of progress. Characters range from one to five stars in power, and while I’ve unlocked all of them I haven’t got any 4* character up to maximum level let alone a 5*, it’s calibrated to really slow things down in those higher levels so there’s no danger of ‘completing’ it.

Idle Champions of the Forgotten Realms has just passed the one year mark since I started with it. It also has a regular release of a new character per month, with options to acquire older characters, and I’d just finished unlocking everyone before the event that introduced their 100th champion – the Dungeon Master from the old cartoon series. As an idle game it’s well suited to starting up and leaving it to tick along in the background, occasionally popping back to slightly tweak a formation or start a new adventure, and there’s no shortage of additional elements to progress – character levels, achievements and so on that, like MPQ, slow right down at higher levels to ensure there’s always something to progress.

KARDS hasn’t hit the one year mark yet, and slips in and out of rotation a little; it can still be enormously enjoyable, but also enormously frustrating when you hit certain decks and/or have bad luck with your draws. I tend towards flavour-of-the-month decks in ranked battles but it gets a little stale doing the same thing each time; drafts, unranked battles, the PvE campaigns, or training mode allow for much more experimentation, and are better venues to tackle the daily missions that give a small amount of currency for playing with certain nations or using certain unit types.

SongPop is the newest kid on the block in my rotation, though the oldest game as it approaches its tenth birthday; I played the original incarnation on Facebook, then took about nine and a half years off before getting hooked again. It’s very cross-platform, with Android and iOS clients as well as Windows, but it’s not so much of a “kill five minutes” mobile game – tenths of a second can make all the difference to your score, and of course you need to be listening intently.

As well as head-to-head matches there’s a Party Mode that pits you against up to 300 other players in themed parties (60s, 70s, 80s, pop, rock, etc etc) lasting 24 hours. The top player (occasionally top 3) on the leaderboard at the end of the it gets a badge, with tokens, power-ups and XP distributed to everyone else. You compete against other players in brackets based on your level, and as I was starting off only the most popular categories had more than 50 people playing them; the hinterlands of jazz, blues and reggae were very sparsely populated. Joining right at the start of a party I might have been the only player for a while, so even if I couldn’t tell Miley Cyrus from Cyrus Vance I was still racking up bonus points for being in first place every time. I was absolutely smashing it, then levelled up to the final player bracket.

When you pitch up to a well-established MMO there’s often some sort of PvP skirmishing, and it’s often a bit of jolly old knockabout fun as you level up alongside a smattering of other new players and veterans trying out alts. Then you hit the level cap and are confronted with the other 99% of players, including highly co-ordinated teams of lightning-reflexed killers who’ve spent the years since launch honing their skills, characters and optimal positioning to maximise the insult value of particular emotes. SongPop turns out to be the same, except with a nice old lady called Doris who has an encyclopedic knowledge of 60s music and several hours to kill each day. Suddenly every party is full, many times over, and the top scores are in the hundreds of thousands. If you’re strong across every playlist in a party I reckon you can average about 2,000 points per minute, so we’re talking a good hour or three (considerably longer for those who can’t reliably win every round) of hammering the same category time after time. Not ludicrous, in the grand scheme of gaming time expenditure, but hardly a casual dabble any more. I’ve given up my dreams of a full set of badges, not that it was ever the grandest ambition, and have settled back into the basic pleasures of song recognition and the occasional nostalgia rush that evokes.

So there are persistent elements that, alongside the core gameplay, keep me coming back to those games. The publishers are probably more concerned about the other ubiquitous elements of free-to-play: in-game currencies, earned by playing and/or bought with real money; purchasable unlocks; gacha/loot boxes; advertising; premium/VIP status. Do they keep me paying as well as playing?

Premium vehicles in War Thunder are (I presume) one of its main sources of income; instantly available without needing to grind, and slightly more rewarding to use in battles. They’re separate to the standard vehicles obtained by playing and shouldn’t offer a clear advantage in battles, though there’s a bit of a furore now and again when battle ratings seem to be particularly favourable. I bought a few back in the day, particularly bundles of vehicles/currency/etc on sale, though haven’t felt the need for a while now. MPQ and Idle Champions both offer specific heroes for purchase, but in both cases exactly the same heroes can be unlocked by other means so they’re not so tempting in the cash shop; I have bought a couple of bundles, but only when steeply discounted in a sale. KARDS offers PvE campaigns and expansion sets that can be bought with either in-game currency or cash, and come with themed cards that can be very useful; I’ve bought an assortment, but with in-game currency rather than cash. For MPQ, Idle Champions and KARDS, though, specific unlocks take a back seat to random rewards from their various implementations of loot boxes (tokens, chests and card packs).

Personally I’m not a fan of spending real money on random rewards; all three games allow you to earn loot boxes by playing as well, and the results make me even less likely to spend real money. Once you’ve unlocked all the characters and basic equipment in the first two games opening packs is essentially an admin exercise of duplicate items giving incremental improvements with very occasional slightly more useful rewards. It’s most disappointing in KARDS, where booster packs should really be central to the CCG element, but while at first it’s great to be able to slot any sort of upgrade into your starter decks it doesn’t take long at all before you’re constructing specific decks that need specific, often rare, cards. With an ever-expanding pool of cards, the chances of getting something you really want from a random booster get ever-lower; I can’t remember the last time I got a new card from a pack that went straight into action. Fortunately there’s a wildcard system that lets you craft chosen cards, so at least you’re not entirely at the mercy of the randomness. I bought a few Steam bundles including card packs for KARDS at a good discount, and the Epic store giveaway that first tempted me to Idle Champions included a few stacks of chests, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to spend serious money on more. War Thunder also introduced crates requiring premium currency to open, but they seem tacked on, like it’s expected of a free-to-play game so they might as well shove them in, I’ve never bothered with them at all.

The only game that doesn’t sell random loot is SongPop, and it’s also the only one that does include advertising. More of a staple in mobile games, a free player of SongPop gets to enjoy an advert after every round they play. In the Windows Store version this consists of a static screen that can be immediately dismissed, there appears to be a pool of four or five other games that might pop up, none particularly recent; it smacks slightly of a forgotten bus stop still advertising Gods Of Egypt In Cinemas Now!! The Android/iOS versions have more intrusively irritating animated ads, occasionally immediately dismissible, more frequently unskippable. It’s pretty much unplayable on those platforms for any length of time without going slightly mad, whereas the Windows adverts are so easy to skip they might as well not be there; Goldilocks wouldn’t be impressed. The adverts can be avoided by upgrading to a VIP subscription.

Premium/VIP status is on offer in War Thunder, MPQ, and SongPop. In War Thunder it gives a significant boost to mission rewards and research speed, and is all but essential to unlock vehicles in the higher tiers; I kept it up for a few years when playing more, grabbing it at a good discount on a yearly basis, but it’s not really needed when bimbling around the lower tiers. I also took out a VIP sub in MPQ for a couple of months towards the beginning of my run; it gives out a daily bonus of tokens or in-game currency, particularly useful when frequently unlocking new heroes but not so necessary any more. In SongPop it removes adverts, allows you to select any playlist for matches, and has a few other perks; for about £4 a month it wasn’t a bad deal at all. SongPop also offered a Diamond VIP tier for four times the price that didn’t include a whole lot more; whether there to make the regular VIP status look better value, or for those who really loved the game and wanted to chuck more cash at it, it seemed a little odd.

On the whole, then, I much prefer to buy a specific known item or some sort of subscription with defined benefits, and am a dreadful cheapskate who mostly buys things in sales. I presume I’m in a minority, with loot boxes being so prevalent, but I only have a sample size of ‘me’ to work with. I’d hesitate to call any model too generous, but I’ve reached a point in all five games where it doesn’t feel necessary to buy anything; I would have said SongPop had ideal monetisation, no random loot boxes and a cheap VIP subscription as a way of showing support while also gaining a few benefits. Ironically, though, they just announced a new structure, doing away with regular and Diamond VIP in favour of a single SongPop Plus option for twice the price of the old VIP, so £8(ish) per month is steep for a light dabbling game. A two-tier system would seem to make sense, with a cheap option to remove adverts and get a few bonus rewards coupled with a pricier tier to access all playlists as well; I might’ve kept subscribing for a while under a fiver, but I guess it’s back to adverts for Sniper Fury.

KiaSA Top Tips: Guild Wars 2

A list of (hopefully) useful tips and tricks we’ve found while rummaging around in the Guild Wars 2 beta. We’ve only been playing for a short while so far, and not played before, so it’ll be an equally short list of basic tips to start off with, but we’ll add to it as and when we stumble upon tidbits that may be QI to others. Do feel free to add your own tips in the comments and we’ll pop them in the main list with an appropriate attribution.

  • Whether you like it or not – remember it’s still a Beta (you can sing this to the tune of Remember You’re A Womble if it’ll help you at moments of high stress.)

  • Those of you with ATI/AMD graphics cards may find that upon entering the game world you’re faced with a UI and an otherwise black screen. Press Esc, go into the graphics options and disable Depth of Field, which fixed this in my instance. Apparently the game is optimised for NVidia cards only at the moment, so expect slightly more frinky graphical glitches during the beta if you’re part of The Way It’s Also Possible To Be Played set.

  • The music on the login page is indeed on the loud side – although if any game music were going to have to be loud, I’d take the Guild Wars soundtrack any day. There is a cog icon in the top left corner of the login screen which will open the options page and allow you to reduce the audio levels.

  • When you’re on the character selection screen look to the top left and you’ll see a Contacts icon next to the Options icon. You can check which of your friends is online before you login, and then choose which of your characters to play based on who’s on what and where.

  • Helmets and shoulder-pads can be turned off in the Hero sheet (Press H) by right-clicking the appropriate piece of armour. Useful if those Mesmer masks freak you out as much as they do me.

  • Speaking of outfits: the small icons at the top centre of the Hero sheet above your character model allow you to select your town outfit which, for my norn warrior at least, was a rather fetching pirate get-up that matched her bandana rather nicely.

  • Autoloot can be enabled through the options menu (Press Esc) General Options -> Interactions. It does, however, still show you the icons of what you looted in the bottom right of the screen, and you can mouse-over each one for a description of the item. After a short period of time these icons fade out. Don’t panic! Autoloot does not steal the armour from other PCs: they all look that naked with their armour on.

  • Speak to any scouts you see (they have a spyglass icon above their head), they will often give you information about the area, and point out new events and locations on your map. They are not recruiting for X-Factor or Next Top Model, though.

  • You may need to bind Dodge to a key – it was unbound for me, although I may have used the default key for something else. Either way, make sure it’s bound, and use it whenever you can, it will help to keep you alive as much as ‘6’ (the heal key) will.

  • If you’re taking a screenshot, perhaps for sending to ArenaNet, then consider binding a key to Screenshots: High-Res in the options (Press Esc) Control Options.

  • You can merge your inventory into one large bag by unchecking the Bags checkbox at the top on the inventory screen (Press I). You can keep your inventory nice and neat by pressing the Compact icon next to the Bags checkbox. This will move all items up to the top of the inventory, filling in any empty spaces you may have from selling or equipping items – it’s a nice way to keep all the new loot going in at the bottom of your inventory so it’s easy to find.

  • Don’t just chain-run quests, take time to smell the roses. Unless you’re doing the Smell the Roses quest, obviously.


In pre-preparation for April 10th.

So April 10th is the big day we’ve all been waiting for. Yes indeed, on April 10th fans of KiaSA will finally be able to pre-purchase their pre-order for the post-purchase pre-order purchase of KiaSA: The MMO. Be aware that this pre-purchase of the post-purchase pre-order only gives you access to the beta test for the post-purchase pre-test pre-preview phase of the pre-post-purchase-order part of the KiaSA game. To be able to play KiaSA: The MMO upon release, you will need to return to the retailer from where you pre-purchased the post-order post-preview order for the pre-purchase early access post-beta pre-game access and present a valid proof of purchase, whereupon the retailer will give you a code which fully unlocks the pre-post-pending-past-participle-order for the early post-headstart pre-access for KiaSA: The MMO.

This pre-purchase of the post-purchase pre-order includes the following exclusive benefits:

  • access to the beta test for the post-purchase pre-test pre-preview phase of the pre-post-purchase-order part of the KiaSA game
  • access to the month of June from May 17th
  • an exclusive in-game cosmetic “I pre-purchased the post-purchase pre-order and all I got was this lousy tabard” tabard
  • an exclusive out-of-game make your own cosmetic tabard kit [*]
  • Exclusive forum post template, “You should have seen [class/item/ability] back in post-purchase pre-test pre-preview, that was really [overpowered/underpowered/wombling-free-powered]
  • an exclusive lifesize replica of YOU! [**]
  • KiaSA: The MMO – Pre-purchaser’s In-Game Store, where you can pre-purchase items for your character before they’re available for pre-order in the standard in-game store.

[*] kit consists of a felt tip pen and instructions on cutting a hole in the middle of a sheet then writing “I pre-purchased the post-purchase pre-order and all I got was this lousy tabard” with said felt tip.
[**] to access exclusive replica, look in a mirror.

Whatever you do, please make absolutely sure that you DO NOT enter the code for your pre-order post-purchase purchase before you’ve entered the pre-code for your pre-test post-access purchase order, which is the first four digits of the pre-purchase post-code in reverse order; failure to follow these instructions will result in your account being permanently locked and someone from the KiaSA team coming around to your house and pre-kicking your cat.

Thankfully, being an MMO, the launch of the KiaSA game should be smooth and seamless, and therefore the KiaSA team does not foresee any issue with this slightly expanded pre-release schedule for the post-game pre-order release.

Pre-thanks for your post-attention.

The KiaSA team.

KiaSA’s Alternative Guide to Fanfiction.

Via Rock, Paper, Shotgun, news that David Gaider, lead writer at Bioware, recently judged a Dragon Age fanfiction contest and posted a blog entry with some advice for prospective fanfictioneers. All very nice, but for *real* insight you can hardly beat the KiaSA team: Melmoth once talked to someone who was fairly sure they’d once known someone who’d thought about writing some fanfic, and Zoso managed to read almost a paragraph and a half of the Wikipedia entry on fanfiction before he got distracted, clicked on “Star Trek”, and spent the rest of the afternoon looking up Appearances of Tribbles in Popular Culture. With such unrivalled pedigree, we humbly present The KiaSA Guide To Fanfiction.

The first golden rule is to ensure your stories respect any intellectual property they use; Verant banned an EverQuest player, at least partially over a fan fiction story. To avoid legal issues it’s best not to have an established game character engage in atypically perverse or deviant behaviour; if using Bioware’s Hawke or Shepard, for example, for heaven’s sake don’t portray them as abstinent and chiefly concerned about saving the world rather than snogging the face off the rest of their team.

The second golden rule is that, contrary to wider media portrayals, fan fiction isn’t limited to badly written sexual fantasies and borderline pathological wish fulfilment. It’s much easier to get a cheap laugh by pretending it is, though.

A good structure to use for your story is Campbell’s Monomyth, or The Hero’s Journey:

Hero’s Journey Overview

  1. Heroes are introduced in the ORDINARY WORLD
  2. they receive the CALL TO ADVENTURE
  3. They are RELUCTANT at first or REFUSE THE CALL, but
  4. are encouraged by a MENTOR to
  5. CROSS THE THRESHOLD and enter the Special World, where
  6. they encounter TEST, ALLIES, AND ENEMIES.
  7. They APPROACH THE IN-MOST CAVE, cross a second threshold
  8. where they endure the ORDEAL
  9. They take possession of their REWARD and
  10. are pursued on THE ROAD BACK to the Ordinary World.
  11. They cross the third threshold, experience a RESURRECTION, and are transformed by the experience.
  12. They RETURN WITH THE ELIXIR, a boon or treasure to benefit the ORDINARY WORLD.

Although this has been subject to numerous criticisms, it’s easy to copy and paste. It also needs some slight adaptation for proper fanfic:

Stages of the Journey

1. THE ORDINARY WORLD. The hero, uneasy, uncomfortable or unaware, is introduced sympathetically so the audience can identify with the situation or dilemma, generally by making the story a blatant parallel to Harry Potter or Twilight at every opportunity. The hero is shown against a background of environment, heredity, and personal history. Some kind of polarity in the hero’s life is pulling in different directions and causing stress (that’s ‘furious masturbation injuries’ to you and me)

2. THE CALL TO ADVENTURE. Something shakes up the situation, either from external pressures or from something rising up from deep within, so the hero must face the beginnings of change. “Hey, Ma! Pa! I gots them there urges to go a-shagging!”

3. REFUSAL OF THE CALL. The hero feels the fear of the unknown and tries to turn away from the adventure, however briefly. Alternatively, another character may express the uncertainty and danger ahead. “Have you ever, you know… *done it*?” “No, you?” “No” “I’m scared of doing it.” “I’m scared too.” “Hold me” [They shag]

4. MEETING WITH THE MENTOR. The hero comes across a seasoned traveller of the worlds who gives him or her training, equipment, or advice that will help on the journey. “Now, take hold of my equipment, and I shall begin your training”. Or the hero reaches within (their underpants) to a source of courage and wisdom.

5. CROSSING THE THRESHOLD. At the end of Act One, the hero commits to leaving the Ordinary World and entering a new region or condition with unfamiliar rules and values. Let the incestuous inter-species shagging begin!

6. TESTS, ALLIES AND ENEMIES. The hero is tested and sorts out allegiances in the Special World. You wouldn’t believe that there’s a lot of shagging in this part, but there is. Involving both the allies and the enemies. Mostly the enemies, for some reason.

7. APPROACH TO THE IN-MOST CAVE. The hero and newfound allies prepare for the major challenge in the Special world. And when we say ‘prepare’ we mean ‘get naked and shag’. And when we say ‘the major challenge’ we mean ‘turning the evil emo overlord to the side of Good, and then shagging them’. The KiaSA Team thinks that we all know what is meant by “Approach to the in-most cave” – can we get a ‘Giggity Giggity Giggity Goo’?!

8. THE ORDEAL. Near the middle of the story, the hero enters a central space in the Special World (fnarr!) and confronts death or faces his or her greatest fear (wearing clothes, not getting to watch Harry and Ron double-team Hermione, a complete lack of sparkle, no double-hermaphrodite option in Bioware’s character creator, that sort of thing) Out of the moment of death comes a new life (because nobody ever uses a condom in fanfic for some reason).

9. THE REWARD. The hero takes possession of the treasure won by facing death – victory shag! There may be celebration, but there is also danger of losing the treasure again – my character shagged too much and their peepee parts fell off. :( <- 'Peepee parts fell off' sad face.

10. THE ROAD BACK. About three-fourths of the way through the story, the hero is driven to complete the adventure, because the author is bored now that they’ve written out all of their shagging fantasies. Leaving the Special World to be sure the treasure is brought home (although this withdrawal method can work, the KiaSA Team still recommends the use of a condom). Often a chase scene signals the urgency and danger of the mission, although the urgency and danger often quickly disappear once the protagonists have had several rounds of ‘urgent danger’ sex.

11. THE RESURRECTION. At the climax, the hero is severely tested once more on the threshold of home — nnnnn-o, nope, sorry but we’re at a loss to find any innuendo in that previous sentence. He or she is purified by a last sacrifice (by having to choose not to shag at least one major character in the story). Another moment of death and rebirth, but on a higher and more complete level: the hero picks their favourite companion and shags them extra good. By the hero’s action, the polarities that were in conflict at the beginning are finally resolved – i.e. if the hero has any peepee parts left at all, they’re certainly no longer in any condition to allow for furious masturbation.

12. RETURN WITH THE ELIXIR. The hero returns home or continues the journey, bearing some element of the treasure that has the power to transform the world as the hero has been transformed — always leave the hero with some love juice in reserve, in case you get horny again and need to write a sequel.

So there you have it, the KiaSA Team’s basic guide to writing fanfic. We hope you enjoyed this light-hearted spoof, which in no way reflects the realities of fan fiction on the Internet.

And now we’re off to kiss with tongues.

Selectable Narrative Difficulty in Modern Warfare

Reader FraidOfTheLight pointed out an interesting article over at Terra Nova, Dynamic Narrative Difficulty Adjustment: “It would be neat to get a choice when starting a game: Do you want the bare-bones Good v. Evil plot, or do you want Dostoyevsky?”

It seems that someone at Activision read the same piece, as we’ve just fabricated a document that details how Call of Duty 19: Modern Warfare 7 will feature selectable story difficulty, and what effect that will have on the opening scene.

At the normal difficulty level (or “McNab”):

The player and four other troopers are seated behind desks in a hut. The walls are covered in detailed maps and charts. SERGEANT STAN “ICEBALLS” JOHNSON enters and delivers a briefing:

JOHNSON: “All right, listen up. As you know we’ve been pursuing Abdullah Aziz Al-genericterrorist since the squad led by Major “Sperple” Mann foiled his assassination attempt on President McGann earlier this month. At 0400 Zulu, Bravo troop visually confirmed that he’s holed up in a compound in South Khorasan. We need to find out what his links to the North Korean government are so we’re mounting a cross-border snatch operation, obviously it has to be completely deniable so make sure you’re carrying absolutely nothing that might identify you. Let’s go.”

Some players might not want to worry about the narrative and focus more on shooting people with guns, so they can crank the story difficulty down to easy, or “Seuss”:

The player is seated behind a desk in a hut. The walls are covered in brightly coloured posters; A is for ASSAULT RIFLE, B is for BAYONET etc. A human-sized FELINE enters, wearing red and white striped HEADGEAR, and narrates as SERGEANT STAN “ICEBALLS” JOHNSON briefs the player:

Said Sergeant Stan “there is a man
A wicked man, a bad, bad man
The man was in Afghanistan
And had a plan, an evil plan
To poison President McGann
With pecan flan
(McGann is a fan of pecan flan)
But Sergeant Stan and Major Mann
They stopped the man with the pecan flan
And chased him all the way to Iran
Where he’s hiding, under a divan
So you must shoot him if you can.”

If the player really wants a challenge, though, they can ratchet the story difficulty right up to maximum, codenamed ULTRA-BECKETT:

SCENE I. The player is alone in a plain white room with no doors, window or furniture.

From nowhere, SERGEANT STAN “ICEBALLS” JOHNSON appears. He removes his left shoe and places it on his head.

DIRECTOR (OFFSTAGE): No, no, no! A hat, most certainly, not at all!

JOHNSON removes the shoe from his head and hurls it to one side.

JOHNSON: Nothing to be done, nothing to be done.


SCENE II. A ROADSIDE, with two TREES and a STATUE. MAJOR ARTHUR “SPERPLE” MANN stands behind the statue.

MANN: The buzzing, the notion of buzzing, the notion. (Pause) The notion. (Pause) The buzzing. (Pause) I cannot possibly and yet!

ENTER SERGEANT STAN “ICEBALLS” JOHNSON, STAGE LEFT. He wears no right shoe, only the left.

MANN: Well here’s a fine thing.

JOHNSON: (Violently) What is beyond?

MANN: Infinite, but why not a cupboard? (Pause) Perhaps it is still green. (Wearily) And what of the terrorist cell tracked down to South Khorasan?

JOHNSON: (Mumbles) And you’ll give me a sugar-plum?

MANN: (Screams) A sugar-plum? A sugar-plum? A sugar-plum? The very devil!

SCENE III. BARE INTERIOR. ENTER JOHNSON, STAGE RIGHT. He turns to the player. He turns away from the player. EXIT JOHNSON, STAGE RIGHT. ENTER JOHNSON, STAGE LEFT. He turns away from the player. ENTER MANN, STAGE LEFT. He turns to the player. JOHNSON’S TROUSERS fall down. MANN POINTS to something unseen in the distance.


Two things are infinite.

Skyrim director Todd Howard told Wired.com in a phone interview Monday that the game will feature a never-ending stream of procedurally generated content, giving players an infinite number of things to do.

“The vibe of the game is that it’s something that you can play forever,” Howard said”

Unfortunately for players, it turns out that never-ending ‘procedurally generated content’ translates to Kill Infinity Rats.

Unfortunately for Bethesda, it turns out that those beta participants recruited from the MMO playing set completed the Kill Infinity Rats content in only four days, and were outraged that another infinity and half quests were not going to be available until the next expansion.

Heresies are experiments in man’s unsatisfied search for truth.

News today that Microsoft is intending to patent a celebrity shaping system for their search engine Bing.

“A search for an evening dress using the persona of Jessica Lange, explains Microsoft, would return dresses that reflect the actress’s ‘style and/or fashion preferences,’ including ‘color, fit, designer, cut, etc.'”

Which quickly leads us to wonder which MMOs would be turned up when the term was searched for under certain celebrity personas. So we programmed a quick rough’n’ready plug-in for the KiaSA Captcha AI and tried out a few random personas.

Searching for ‘MMO’ when using the Naomi Campbell persona turned up EVE Online, possibly based on the fact that they’re both overly interested in their own appearance, while regularly turning around and biting the hand that feeds them.

World of Warcraft was, predictably, returned in many results. The persona of famed temper-tantrum prone singer Björk being a fine fit for a large section of the game’s populace, and the ‘once young, fun and whacky, but now old, tired and should probably just retire gracefully’ Robin Williams persona also provided a solid hit for the game.

We had to tweak the plug-in slightly when Patrick Stewart’s persona returned Star Wars: The Old Republic, and Mark Hamill’s returned Star Trek Online. Now Stewart returns DC Universe Online, while Hamill’s persona gives Marvel Super Hero Squad Online.

BBC presenter Clare Balding‘s persona returned LotRO as the top result for MMO searches, which we assume was due to her being charming, homely, and fanatically interested in horses to the point of distraction.

A search using the Lady Gaga persona returns City of Heroes as a top hit, probably due to the fact that everyone likes the game, but few people seem to openly admit it. Plus Lady Gaga could probably learn a thing or two from the crazy-mad outfits that can regularly be seen on display in Atlas Park.

The Richard Nixon persona always returned a nostalgia tinted version of EQ that never really existed, no matter how much we tried to refine our search terms.

The George Lucas persona returned the original version of Star Wars Galaxies as expected, but then consistently overwrote its results, first with the SWG Combat Upgrade, then the New Game Experience to cries of “NOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

A Sasha Grey persona? My word, how did that get in there? Regardless, although it’s probably not one that would be used from work, for an MMO search it returns Rift. Associations seem to revolve around a burst of popularity, a sudden realisation that you’re the best (in a sea of mediocrity) at something which is of only passing interest to the fans of your genre, followed by a gentle descent into obscurity.

And the persona for renowned flip-out maniac Christian Bale returned Hello Kitty Online. Hmm, well we’re still ironing out some bugs in the KiaSA Captcha AI Search system, but as a first attempt, we’d say it was an unqualified success.

Thought for the day.

We wondered if part of the issue with Dragon Age 2’s mixed review success was down to the unfulfilled expectations that the game’s title invoked. Reviews might have been more favourable and the Internet outrage less if, instead of Dragon Age 2, Bioware had instead named it ‘Dragon Age: Don’t take it personally, Hawke, it just ain’t your story’

Quote MarkAnd although the combat is fairly frequent and repetitive, it is thankfully quickly dispensed with, and therefore never really gets in the way of this most excellent dating simulator.


TERA Patch Notes.

Having read a little more around the topic of TERA recently, browsed the website and watched some promotional videos, we thought we’d have a quick guess at what the next set of TERA patch notes might say:

o Fixed an issue with the camera not pointing up a female character’s skirt by default.

o Added seven new moody frowns to the male face selection menu.

o Increased female character grunting by 50% while in combat.

o Improved the knicker-elastic physics engine.

o Updated Popori lore description to some half-baked waffle. Removed the ‘See if we can get away with pseudo-bestiality in our Mature Nudge Nudge Wink Wink MMO’ placeholder. Still trying to remember why it seemed like a good idea to name a race after some smelly stuff in a bowl.

o Added six additional cup sizes to the breast slider in character creation (JJJ through Q).

o Added new food buff items: Banana, Cucumber, several varieties of Sausage, Cadbury’s Flake. Characters have a 30 second languorous eating animation when activated.

o Removed unnecessary articles of clothing for female character models.

o Male character jawbones are now 20% more David Coulthard.

o Adjusted female caster animations so that they involve a greater percentage of bending over and touching toes while holding a finger to pursed lips.

o Increased quest diversity. Now only 84% of quests involve saving a damsel in distress who then wishes to “show you her gratitude”.

o NPCs now correctly cry “Oh, Matron!” when female Castanics wield a staff.

o Re-worked crafting tutorial for carpentry as it involved insufficient innuendo about getting wood.

o Seven Year Itch wind physics is now enabled in the latest build.

o Polearms now correctly reclassified as pole-dancing-arms.
  Glaive-glaive-glaive-guisarme-glaive-thong-rack-bardiche is now properly tasselled.

o Introduced action-appropriate music including the main “bow-chikka-wow-wow” theme.

o Tightened-up male character buttocks.

o Removed the Slavering Phallic Tongue Beasts of Tentaclon IV as an NPC race because they were a bit obvious, even for us.

o Male character neck veins should now throb properly when posing and flexing. Players can now turn off leg armour in the options menu in order to show other throbbing vein.

o The bras of female Archers now correctly ping-off every time they draw their bows.

Merry Christmas.

From all here at KiaSA – Melmoth, Zoso, and the train of angry mobstacles that followed them back to the blog one day – we’d like to wish a Merry Christmas to all, and to all some fat loot.

May your PuGs be merry and bright, and may all your instances delight.