mellowtigger: (penguin coder)
I'm definitely spoiled by PowerShell.  I wasn't really a fan of JavaScript anyway, but I spent the weekend in it, and now I'm even less enthusiastic about the language.

My project was the creation of a concise "live" chart that shows all of the spaceship information from the Star Citizen webpage but without all of the extraneous fluff that makes their site too large for easy viewing.  Compare them for yourself to see if it's effective:
I call the same scripts that they do, so in theory my chart should automatically update whenever they change ship stats or add new spaceships.  They were very inconsistent in some of their textual descriptions, so I had to get creative to strip raw numbers from amongst their free-form text.  Hopefully they will standardize their wording in the future.

Anyway... I had fun creating it.  I hope that other would-be players like me will eventually find it useful.
mellowtigger: joystick (gaming)
I tried sleeping tonight, but allergies made the sinus pressure hurt when I laid down.  So I got back up and tried repeatedly to sign in to the Star Citizen space ship hangar module that was published today.

Star Citizen is that crowdfunded game that keeps breaking records.  It's currently at $16.6 million raised.  Today they finally delivered a program that people could use.  It's a "pre-alpha" according to them.  It's very buggy and very slow, but it does show off basic functionality and a few game design assets.  I captured screenshots of each of my ships in the hangar.  Each image file is 3MB or less.  Here's the directory where they're stored:


It's looking good.  They're still about 1.5 years away from releasing the full game.  Lots of work to do, but they're making fine progress.

I've got tissue paper stuffed up my nostrils to keep the sniffling at a minimum tonight.  I wish I could go play my Star Citizen full game until I'm finally too tired to stay awake in spite of the sinus trouble.

wizard 101

Aug. 17th, 2013 08:58 am
mellowtigger: joystick (gaming)
charity llamaI've enjoyed playing pc games for as long as there have been personal computers. I also enjoy online games, and I've been playing Wizard 101 occasionally for a few years already.  It might seem strange that I enjoy playing this pc game designed for kids, but it turns out that a lot of old people do.  Trinity University completed a study of 35,000 players of Wizard 101 where they found a few interesting results:
  • adults over age 50 play more hours per week than the younger crowd
  • two-thirds of players under age 50 were male
  • two-thirds of players over age 50 were female
  • older females were more likely to have high-level characters
What I like about Wizard 101 is the cooperative gameplay, the low stress combat that doesn't require much keyboard or mouse usage, and definitely the not-to-be-missed funny animations. (I laughed out loud the first time I saw the three ninja pigs.)  It has gardening for players who enjoy that sort of thing, and I certainly do.  It has pets and mounts too, for even more adorable animations.  Sometimes they sell special charity pets or mounts.  I bought a Fa-La-La-La-Llama mount for my main character, Keelan the Storm Magic wizard, during last year's Christmas charity event.  You can see us pictured on the right.

The pets even get their own fairground where you can use them to play mini-games that challenge your memory and spatial awareness.  You can also use your pet to play Grub Guardian, a web browser "tower" game.  Honestly, though, the rewards are really weak for the amount of time it takes to complete a web game.  You get better rewards just playing within the main game itself.

Technically, Wizard 101 is a free-to-play game, but you quickly discover that you need to pay for access to most of the game's territories.  I find that it's most economical to wait until they have sales for purchases, then buy online game money to spend on unlocking new territories.  This game is a "card" game where you choose the kinds of action cards that go into your deck.  During combat, the deck is randomly shuffled, then you choose from the available cards which action your character will perform that turn. 

What I dislike about the game, though, is that too many of the kids are greedy little beggars who pester you for all kinds of stuff.  I've had to turn off Friends invites to avoid the spam from players begging for gifts.

And that's why I'm hoping to find other adults who would like to play this game with me.  I've reached a mid-point level of the game where it's too difficult to play solo and too difficult to find groups.  Other players have already advanced to other regions of the game, leaving my play areas comparatively empty.

Does anyone out there want to pick a "game night" to play an easy and fun online card game?  :)
mellowtigger: (MrFusion)
Star Citizen is now officially the largest online crowdfunded project in human history. Its developer is Chris Roberts who created earlier games like Wing Commander, Privateer, and Freelancer. The previous crowdfunding leader was the Pebble watch at $10.2 million in pledge donations. Star Citizen currently stands at $10.6 million raised from individual donors. This weekend marks a major campaign for them, though, so they are sure to go much higher.  It also helps that they keep getting lots of good press coverage.

Take a look at this 2-minute video. It showcases actual game rendering of both people and starships. It is an advertisement produced by Origin, one of the in-game manufacturers of luxury starships. When real companies sell real starships, this video is what their commercials will look like. It's especially pretty in full-screen with HD resolution.


If you have any interest in joining the game, then you should definitely pledge money before July 6th. Any in-game ships that you purchase before that deadline will still be covered by "lifetime insurance". This feature offered great appeal during the crowdfunding last October. Many of us are a little disappointed that it is still being offered to newcomers so much later. But if it brings new donors to the project, then it's all in good fun. :)

The new RSI website goes live on Friday, although you can already see much of the artwork blended into the current display. The publication event will include a special 24-hour podcast. Afterwards, they're giving everyone a 1-week grace period to finalize their ship purchases. You can still buy stuff after July 6th, but lifetime insurance (still available until November) will not be included unless you buy your first ship before July 6th. You can see a few other ship design documents (pdf format) like the Constellation, Hornet, Bengal carrier, and alien fighter.

If you want to list me as a referral, you can use the following address.  I don't think I get anything from a referral.  That bonus passed back in 2012 November.
referral

Yes, I keep mentioning this game again and again, but it really is making history, and for what I consider the right reasons. I'm terrible at these "twitch" games that require fast reaction times, but I'm convinced that funding this project will lead to beneficial changes in the game design industry.
mellowtigger: joystick (gaming)
I think, maybe, that enough gamers like me have stopped buying "secure" games and started buying "unsecure" games that publishers will finally wake up to the fact that they've alienated their own customer base. If game publishers learn this lesson, then maybe the music and film industry would follow suit.  Or maybe I'm just succumbing to too much optimism?

Digital Rights Management (DRM) is security placed on a program in an effort to prevent copying or other unsanctioned use. It sounds good in theory, except that it always introduces a hurdle that even legitimate buyers must jump. It leaves paying customers feeling like criminals. I finally reached the point a few years ago that DRM is essentially a red flag that prevents me from purchasing a game. It's the reason that I didn't buy Diablo 3 or Sim City 5. And, boy, did I dodge the bullet on that one.

Gamers have been complaining for years, but the big distributors keep insisting on adding DRM to game programs anyway. Look at what's happening now, though. Game developers are bypassing distributors to access their fan base directly to ask for funding.  I contributed (too much) money to the fundraising campaign for a space combat game called Star Citizen, and it broke crowdfunding records.  It continues to gain money, and it's over US$8 million now.  The developer promised that the game would be DRM-free.  People responded by giving boatloads of cash.  Similarly, Torment promised to be DRM-free, and it met its crowdfunding goal within hours.  It's already at US$2 million, and it still has a month of fundraising to go.

Distributors, are you listening?  We have money and we'll give it to you, but we don't want your DRM!

One soft-DRM method involves making a game an "online" program instead of just a "pc" program.  You have to be connected to their servers to play at all.  That method can be okay, since it gives you lots of company to interact with during your adventures.  The problem, though, is that some companies use it only as DRM instead of as a useful gameplay element.  Witness the new game Neverwinter.  Previous versions of this title have been pc-only, but this one is online.  I made the mistake of buying my way into the beta test program by getting their founder's pack, and I'm already experiencing buyer's remorse.  It was clearly designed for a console instead of a pc.  Arrow keys do not work at all for movement by default.  Clicking on items will not let you interact in the virtual world.  Something is wrong with the client program, too, because the framerate jitters even while pivoting on a point.  It doesn't quite give me a headache, but it definitely is an unpleasant experience.  Its faults cannot be blamed on DRM directly, but I think it's another sign of game companies writing programs for the wrong audience.  Neverwinter never needed to be a strictly controlled online experience.

I really should stick with buying all of my game entertainment only from Good Old Games.  They promise that all of their products are DRM free.  Over the years, I've been slowly acquiring titles from them for games that I still had original disks sitting on my bookshelf.  GOG has games available from all the way back to the 1980s with Zork.  Here is the list of my favorite pc games.  I still play them.  All of them are available from GOG:

GOG favorites

If I win the lottery (although I'd have to buy a ticket first), programming my own game is one of the many projects that I want to pursue.  Yes, it would be DRM-free so people could copy it and run it whenever they wanted.  I might even make it free and just ask for donations instead of a sale price.
mellowtigger: (Ark II)
I've been downloading massive files in recent weeks.  It all started when I found the fundraising campaign for a space game in development called Star Citizen.  This game is significant because it's being done A) by a small team of game enthusiasts and B) without interference from any big distributor.  It's being funded privately and publicly without involving the big studios!  The guy heading this project is Chris Roberts, the same developer who previously created the Wing Commander series, plus the Freelancer and Privateer spin-offs.  There was even a movie created from the many games, although it wasn't as well liked by audiences.  I enjoyed it because I recognized the images and sound effects from my games.

So I donated (too much) money to the fundraising campaign, hoping to see nice results in 2 years.  So... what to do until then?  I downloaded Privateer, Wing Commander 3, and Wing Commander 4, of course.  I remember the good acting done in these games by big names such as Mark Hamill, John Rhys-Davies, and Malcom McDowell.  I still have my pc disks for Privateer 2 which featured acting by Clive Owens and John Hurt.  That game is still my favorite of the series.  I had no luck installing it on my Windows 7 pc, though.  It couldn't cope with modern large hard disks and kept insisting I didn't have enough room to install the game.

Rediscovering how very bad I am at "twitch" games led me to download a similar game from a different universe. X3: Terran Conflict is much more friendly to merchants and explorers like I prefer playing.  It sounds like the new Star Citizen game aspires to be as flexible as X3, so I expect to enjoy it sometime in 2014 November.

Meanwhile, tonight's bout of insomnia eventually led me to a great sci-fi movie series.  It's called "Clear Skies", and it's quite well done.  I really like the dry humor in it (and it has British accents to go with their humor).  It's probably more meaningful to people like me who have actually played EVE Online which is the same genre as these other games I've mentioned.  The first movie is 39 minutes long, and I found it funny, dramatic, and generally enjoyable.  The second movie is 46 minutes long and even better produced than the first.  Be sure to continue watching to the last few seconds so you see a joke continued from the first film.  The third movie is taking its sweet time downloading, so I'll have to wait another 40 minutes to view it.
mellowtigger: (Terry 2010)
I forgot that today was a holiday break from work!  I had already showered, shaved, and was getting ready to drive (not bicycle) to work.  So now I get the unexpected joy of a "school snow day" in summer.  :)

My former boss has finally located a job.  That's great news.  I had pondered several times posting a recommendation for her on LinkedIn, but I wasn't sure how to write such things.  I even asked once at Bear Coffee about appropriate wording and such, but I never got around to finally doing it.  I don't know if employers actually look at LinkedIn reviews anyway.  At least it turned out well anyway.

TewaTracker.profile.02I've been having a great time playing the new game Guild Wars 2.  Here is a picture of my main character. He's a Norn (a Nordic people) ranger, and he's wearing a full set of the special "Hall Of Monuments" armor that I unlocked by playing Guild Wars 1. They've done really well on every aspect of online gaming.  My few complaints tend to be about crafting, but they are minor issues.  Very well done product!  I recommend this free-to-play game.

I think that my nerve issues have improved.  I'm certain that during the time since my metronidazole medication, I haven't had a single phantom taste or phantom cold sensation.  Yes, I still have muscle twitches, but I'll take improvement anywhere I can get it.  I continue my B12 supplements in hopeful anticipation.

For several months, I've been eyeing those sliding exercise benches like Chuck Norris' Total Gym.  I can't do "push" exercises because they exacerbate my carpel tunnel problems.  My theory, though, is that "pull" exercises are a routine that I could continue without causing myself any undue pain.  I found an online bargain through QVC to get one for only $300, so I ordered it.  I figure it's my investment in healthcare since I can't afford doctor bills or health insurance.  *laugh*  I'll post a review after my wrists have had a few months to try it out.

In the same health-conscious trend, I'm also planning to plant a winter garden this year.  I should have planted seeds a few weeks ago, but I'll get it done this week.  I'm not sure what to use besides broccoli.  It's the only thing I've seen do well in early Minnesota winters before the really cold weather kills everything.  I ordered some more garlic bulbs to plant, but it won't start growing until spring.  Anybody have some favorite edibles to suggest for a winter garden?
mellowtigger: joystick (gaming)
This new game is due for release on August 28th. I've already pre-ordered my copy of GW2. It's the kind of online game that's called "free to play". You pay only for the initial program and the program updates, not for monthly subscription. This kind of "free" is within my affordable price range. This game looks interesting to me because it changes some rules that are common to most MMO (massively multiplayer online) games.

No more competition.
Most MMOs require competition with your fellow players, even on your own team. You destroy enemies so you can collect their "loot" (money and trophies), but the typical game awards that loot only to those players who attacked first or did the most damage. Instead, GW2 assigns loot to everyone who participates. I'm told there's also bonus experience, so everyone benefits faster as more people become involved. The server scales combat to the number of people, so it's always good fun. Everybody wins.

No more quest log. Most MMOs arrange a long set of quests for your character to join. The resulting "quest log" becomes massive. Instead, GW2 keeps only one quest (your primary storyline) visible to you. All of the many secondary quests become visible only temporarily and only when you are already within range of their location. So wherever you happen to be in the world, you may suddenly receive notice of a new opportunity as marauding creatures appear nearby. This simplicity keeps the graphic interface very "clean". Very nice.

No more holy trinity. Most MMOs break down the functions of characters into one of these three: tank, healer, or damage. Instead, GW2 uses the "new trinity" of control, support, and damage. GW2 creates every character profession with the full range of those abilities. Each profession can be built to focus on a particular aspect, but it still has all 3 available. Damage in GW2 seems less focused on immediate harm and more on slow conditions like bleeding, poisoning, and burning. How you manage conditions can dramatically affect the outcome of combat. You can inflict conditions on your foes (control), remove them from your allies (support), and damage. Also, everyone can heal. A good example of this difference is the guardian. It ties for the lowest health in the game, so don't think of it as a traditional "tank". Its defense is amazing for different reasons. Think outside of the old trinity.

I've participated in beta testing a few times, and the game looks nice. I'm not sure which server I'll be on, though. Many of us had decided on Eternal Grove, but then they took away that server name as they decided to increase the number of players per server instead. I've already planned out the kinds of characters that I want to try. To help get GW2 out of my head for a while, I decided to post my intended characters so I can come back to them a month from now.

NameRaceProfessionPvE focusPvP focusCraft1Craft2Weapon1Weapon2
Tewa The TrackerNorn snow leopardrangerpettrapleatherhunterlongbowsword, warhorn
Tewa The StoutHumanwarriordefense armorchefmace, shieldsword, warhorn
Tewa The RecklessAsuraelementalistpbaoe tailorartificescepter, focussummoned shield
Tewa The ScavengerCharrnecromancershroud weaponjewelerstaffdagger, warhorn
Tewa The EntheogenSylvarimesmerclones n/an/ascepter, focusstaff

Oh, and [personal profile] ogam might be amused to learn that the Sylvari territory includes a forest called "Ogham Wilds".

mellowtigger: joystick (gaming)
Both games offered public beta in the same week, so I thought I'd talk about them together.

Diablo 3 was a disappointment.

1) The game has DRM (digital rights management) in the form of login requirements. You have to login at their server in order to use the program that you paid for already. Yes, even if you're playing a solo game, you can't do it on your pc; you have to login at their server. I didn't want to play "cooperative" games with other people. All I wanted was to try out the solo gameplay. I couldn't.

2) This problem exposed the second flaw in the game: no login queue. Their login server was so swamped that it couldn't keep up with requests. I repeatedly tried to login so I could attempt one more time to use the game program... and it repeatedly failed. The experience was frustrating. Once in, the game played nicely enough. Smooth graphics and all that.

3) Right away, though, I noticed another thing that bugged me. It was highly linear. The map guided me down the only possible corridor (with twists and turns to give the illusion of space). Long gone are the days of Diablo open maps and small towns. Now, you have to navigate twists and turns to get anywhere.

4) Eventually, I noticed yet another issue. The RPG (role-playing game) aspect was also gone. I kept leveling up. I leveled up 10 times, and each time I was given either no skill choices or only a single new skill. Each time, I accepted it and continued playing. Never did I get any real "choice" that affected my character in any noticeable way. They took a "you'll take what we give you, and you'll enjoy it" tactic. In theory, at maximum level, the player will have a great many skills to choose from. At low level, though... it's all tedious similarity.

5) I'm a big fan of crafting in games. Diablo 2 tried out a new (for them) crafting system that allows you to disassemble items that you find in game. The process itself seems like a decent one, but I was never able to craft anything actually useful to me. Like most games, it suffers from the bad design flaw where you can produce items only useful to your next character rather than the current one.

I decided not to pre-order the game based on my experience. I was disappointed, since I've been looking forward to the update to Diablo 2 for over a decade. I recommend skipping this game for a few months.

Guild Wars 2 started out eerily similar to Diablo. I was worried, but I eventually grew to enjoy this game.

1) There is no login queue. Once again, their login server got overwhelmed, and I had to repeatedly spam the login screens to attempt playing a character. Not fun. When did online games decide that login queues were a waste of programming resources? Bad decision.

2) This game is also rigid with its character classes. As you gain experience, you learn only the skills they provide for you. Interestingly, though, all you have to do to get a whole new set of skills is to swap to a different kind of weapon. Early characters bring a variety of skills to play just by switching weapons. At higher levels, you also earn skill bonuses called traits that you can assign by your choice. You can decide what style of play you intend to use, then you can focus your assigned traits on that mechanic. Their system combines rigid character skills with freedom of focus. I'm enjoying it.

3) Nobody playtested this thing. Or so it seems. The "tutorial" zone is nothing of the kind.
  • You start out almost immediately facing a busy combat, and you have no preparation at all. I was just mashing buttons hoping that one of them did something useful.
  • Likewise, character death happens with a new and unexplained process. You are first disabled, your skillbar resets, then you have a chance to recover. Again, I was just mashing buttons hoping that one of them did something useful.
  • Another issue is the spelling of words in the game. The many spelling errors are really annoying me. I would bug report them if there was a button for that.
  • A fourth issue is that crafting is not explained. Apparently, you can perform any of the crafts, but there are penalties for switching. You learn this limitation only after you have already chosen crafting professions. You need special tools before you can harvest resources, but nobody explained that point either, so it takes another trip back to town to buy them.
This game will release in a few weeks, and the new player introduction is awful.

4) There are no quest logs. This game style is new to me, but I've come to enjoy it. It offers complete freedom from quest logs with limited entries. There is only 1 quest that is always displayed. It is the personal storyline of your character. In addition, other quests pop up into your display only when you are nearby their location and during their active play in the game world. So an escort quest, for example, might pop into your display when you're near a town and the traveling vendor is preparing to go to the next town. You can choose to participate or ignore. Quests appear no matter where you are or what you're doing... and you never have to track them in any quest log. The framework of your personal quest line is setup during some questions that you answer during character creation. The personal quest works to push you on to other explore regions of the world. I really like this new system.

5) Crafting allows for both disassembly of items and gathering of raw resources. I enjoy this combined approach. As with other games, though, I found that I couldn't produce items that were immediately useful to my current character.

6) Sound is problematic in very specific circumstances. When an NPC is speaking (but not as part of the personal storyline), simply rotating your camera to certain angles will render their voices mute. It's supposed to be part of an echolocation system that helps you distinguish the speaker as being to your left or right, but it fails by entirely muting characters too far from either side.

7) In the game's favor, the world gameplay is so cooperative that I never once found a need to group.  Everyone is helping everyone already.  It's quite nice.

Overall, I like Guild Wars 2. I am proceeding with my pre-order, and I look forward to playing it upon release.
mellowtigger: (Terry 2010)
Video games affect the psychology of their players. I play a lot of computer games, so I like to remain aware of how my hobby might influence my thoughts. The images that we feed our brain can influence our attention bias.  The negative form of this effect means that violent video games can make children more aggressive.  The positive form, however, means that relaxing games can make people less aggressive, and casual games can even reduce depression.

Never before, however, have I seen evidence that violent games can provide the "teachable moment" needed to spark empathic understanding.  Watch this 3-year-old girl become aggressive while earning snickers of amusement from a parent, then see her spark of awareness as she witnesses the in-game consequences of her brash behavior.


"People don't want to be sword," as she declares at the end of the video. An article about the video allows her father to explain even more clearly how she learned from the experience.

But when the adorably traumatic realization set in that the guards were responding to her "swording" by giving her "boo boos," we did ask her what happened. She just sweetly responded "peoples don't like swords, and we don't want swords on the peoples" and she didn't want to play anymore.
- http://kotaku.com/5861090/skyrim-teaches-a-3+year+old-about-bullying

Maybe computer games really can help us to save the world.  :)

I've been enjoying my time in Skyrim this week, although I haven't been playing as much as I'd like because of work obligations.  (I've put in lots of hours beyond my usual work schedule this week.)  I dislike playing pc games that were designed for game consoles.  The interface is annoying because of that design flaw, but otherwise the game has been fun to play and explore.
mellowtigger: (penguin coder)
The wrong kind of segregation limits the sociability of these games. Most of them are designed to encourage people to join their friends in play. They reward you in various ways for having other people accept an in-game invitation. There are a few problems with this model.
  1. G+ does not provide public pages of interest that are populated by G+ users.  There is no "City Of Wonder" G+ page where people can post various topics such as looking for cohorts to play in game.  The G+ Sparks are a step in the right direction, but everything there still has to be hosted outside of google and indexed later.  There need to be G+ game pages where people can post topics.
  2. G+ game feed is a step in the right direction, but it also needs some tweaks.  I'd like to see game companies allowed access only to a required Circle named "Games" in G+, rather than giving them access to my whole circle list.  There's no point in annoying my circles or teasing me by suggesting that I ask these people to join my game since I already know they're not interested.
  3. G+ game feed also needs to be publishable (at user's discretion), so people like me can follow their friend's game feeds to better judge what games they play, how frequently they play, and if the people they're connected to (on the Games circle mentioned in #2) might already be playing the same games that I am.  These public Games circles would allow people like me to go fishing for like-minded people.
  4. Game providers are not hosting their own content for G+ games users.  Instead, they seem locked in to Facebook, where people have access to game-specific pages mentioned in #1 above.  To submit a bug report for "Dragon Age Legends", I had to reactivate my Facebook account just to create a forum account there.  They actually required Facebook and did not allow other kinds of logins.  Similar problems plague the whole collection of Playdom games.
  5. I can't find any way at all of deleting a game that I've given permission to read my Circles.  Do they keep that right forever?
I've been spending lots of time exploring G+ games.  I've been actively avoiding tv and websites since the economics and politics will just depress me.  Games are a nice distraction.

If anyone on G+ plays "City Of Wonder" or "Dragon Age Legends", be sure to throw me a Friend invite in them.  ;)  If you need help in others, I'll be happy to throw you an invite on games that I don't play, too.
mellowtigger: (Terry 2010)
I like my computer games. Yes, I do.  So it bothers me a lot when I hear about humans finding ways to turn my enjoyable diversion into an evil enterprise.

Online games usually have some kind of "money" inside their game world.  People perform tasks inside the game world (kill creatures, solve problems, etc.) to earn this money, which they then spend on rewards that they find valuable.  A generic term for this in-game currency is "gold".  The term comes from a common use of "gold coins" as a generic representation of wealth in a fantasy world.  From this gold comes the new term "gold farming" in reference to people who participate in a game for the sole pursuit of in-game currency that they can then sell in the real world for actual currency.

There's a long history of gold farmers being blamed as Chinese nationals.  The reputation comes from the chopped English often used by gold farmers as they attempt to sell their in-game gold.  Well, the Guardian published an article that says these gold farmers are sometimes involuntarily performing these tasks.  They may actually be Chinese prisoners forced (on pain of assault) to produce these in-game transactions.

Liu says he was one of scores of prisoners forced to play online games to build up credits that prison guards would then trade for real money. The 54-year-old, a former prison guard who was jailed for three years in 2004 for "illegally petitioning" the central government about corruption in his hometown, reckons the operation was even more lucrative than the physical labour that prisoners were also forced to do.

"Prison bosses made more money forcing inmates to play games than they do forcing people to do manual labour," Liu told the Guardian. "There were 300 prisoners forced to play games. We worked 12-hour shifts in the camp. I heard them say they could earn 5,000-6,000rmb [£470-570] a day. We didn't see any of the money. The computers were never turned off."

... "If I couldn't complete my work quota, they would punish me physically. They would make me stand with my hands raised in the air and after I returned to my dormitory they would beat me with plastic pipes. We kept playing until we could barely see things," he said.

- http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/may/25/china-prisoners-internet-gaming-scam

I'm quite confused as to what I want to do about this problem.  First, I want to state clearly that I have never purchased in-game money from gold farmers for any game that I have ever played.  I do not support this activity because of how it distorts the in-game experience, entirely separate from any issues of outright exploitation.

I find that I'm unable to conceive of a second step to pursue.  This level of human depravity for economic gain has caught me quite by surprise.  I'm not sure how to combat it in the environment of my treasured computer gaming.
mellowtigger: (Terry 2010)
One of my Top 10 pc games of all time would be Neverwinter Nights 2.  It's not available at Good Old Games yet (although NWN 1 is available), so I have to play with my cds which are 5 years old.

Imagine my excitement when I discovered that another game in the series is planned for release in 2011!  I'm not a huge fan of Cryptic Studios, but they do well enough that I remain hopeful of the game's potential.

Imagine my disappointment a few minutes later when I discovered that Atari is dropping Cryptic Studios!  Current rumor is that Cryptic is continuing development on Neverwinter anyway, but will the game arrive in 2011 in any condition worthy of its namesake?

Argh!
mellowtigger: (Green Lantern)
As usual, digital rights management (DRM) succeeds only in annoying paying customers while doing nothing whatsoever to eliminate duplication. I fingerpoint at Electronic Arts as being an industry leader in treating customers like thieves.

I do like my computer games. One of my favorites is an oldie from 1999 called "Dungeon Keeper 2" (DK2). It was produced by Bullfrog Productions, famous for the Populous series (which I played many times on the Amiga) and for being co-founded by Peter Molyneux (a famous game designer).  The fun thing about DK2 is that it turned around the traditional dungeon crawl. You play the bad guy, building your dungeon of doom while the annoying "good guys" keep crashing into your dungeon to steal your treasures. Your evil minions have very amusing animations and audio to match their talents.

I pulled the disc down from my bookshelf this morning to install on Windows 7. I couldn't get the patched version to work, and I blame EA.com's usual awful DRM. The game kept freezing when trying to check the cd rom for my disc (which was there). If you check at gog.com, they don't have the game available yet but it has already bubbled up to the Top 10 list for most wanted titles. I searched around online and found that someone posted a free download back in 2008 with a cracked and fully patched executable with bonus packs.

Use the above link then burn the iso to disc. After installation, it works great. No need to keep the disc in the drive. You will need to set Windows 7 compatibility mode, and I succeeded with the "Windows XP SP3" setting. In the game menu, go to graphics options and DISABLE hardware acceleration. You'll still get graphic glitches until you finally load into a game. Afterwards, it remembers the setting and the menu will stop glitching. 

Other helpful hints for program compatibility:
  1. If you have problems navigating the menu using the DISABLE hint above, use regedit to change HKEYCURRENTUSER / Software / Bullfrog Productions Ltd / Dungeon Keeper II / Configuration / Video to set EngineID=4 instead of 2.
  2. Only use 800x600 mode.  It doesn't cause crashes like 1024x768 mode.
  3. It might also help to add "-softwarefilter -32biteverything" to the end of the target information on your shortcut, after DKII.exe(endquote).
  4. Likewise, if sound seems to be the culprit, you can add "-disablegamma -nosound" to the end of the shortcut target info, outside of the quotes.
Fun game, definitely worth your play time. As the game subtitle says, "It's Good to be Bad."

gaming

Feb. 13th, 2011 07:36 pm
mellowtigger: (Terry 2010)
Being ill and having a short attention span led me to spend some of the weekend trying out different online games. None of them is exactly what I'm looking for, but several of them have interesting possibilities.

Copernicus: Throw some of the biggest names in the creative industries at a new game title, and this is what you get.  Imagine R.A. Salvatore (writer of D&D fantasy books and 22 New York Times best sellers), Todd McFarlane (creator of the Spawn comic book), and Ken Rolston (game designer for Elder Scrolls 3 and 4) getting together.  They have a brand new fantasy world called "Kingdoms of Amalur" in which to create their virtual worlds.  They plan to release a single-player game followed by an MMO. This is a title to watch for, but it's apparently still several years away for the MMO version.

EverQuest 2: I paid $5 for a weekend pass and got back online after more than 2 years. It's much too complicated. My backpacks were full of hundreds of items and my skill bars were full of dozens of icons that I had no idea how to use any more. They revamped travel throughout the world, and I found myself stuck in certain zones. I was unable to travel freely to certain areas. I'm not sure why the new travel method was invisible to me. In short, it was very unwelcoming for returning players.

Rift: I've been playing their beta recently and kind of enjoy it. It's a virtual world with potential, anyway. The crafting is much too plain, but at least they've simplified the skill list from what's available in EverQuest 2. The "rift" mechanic essentially brings unplanned dungeon adventures straight to you, instead of you having to travel to them. It's a nice diversion. They're trying out a new way of building "character classes" that allows slightly more variability than most other games.

Xyson
: I dislike full-loot PvP worlds. (Translation: these games allow player characters to kill other player characters at any time and steal all of the belongings on their virtual corpse.) BUT... it has probably the best harvesting system that I've seen in any virtual world so far. The craft system still needs some work, but every item in the world can be crafted. That's the kind of interactivity and world immersion that I have been wanting to see in a game. The full-loot PvP is more or less a barrier that will keep me out of the game, I think, but I like the potential of this game. Oh, and the graphics are awful. Check out my character that I created tonight. Yeah, that's bad. Graphics don't make a game, though, so this deficiency can be overlooked for its wonderful world-interaction mechanisms.

Well, the ibuprofen is wearing off.  Time for another pill.  It's a shame that the weekend was wasted indoors, because it was actually above freezing today!

RIFT game

Jan. 22nd, 2011 12:43 am
mellowtigger: (Green Lantern)
It's been about 2 years since I last paid a monthly fee to play a pc game. I hadn't even heard of RIFT until a few days ago, but I've very quickly become a fan boy. Maybe you've also seen the recent television ad?

I do have a VIP key that I can give out to people who are interested in trying out the beta program.  Reply here, and I'll message you with the key. It requires a large download (~8GB), but the next beta test begins January 25th. Let me know, and I can send you the key which is good for 25 users who sign up for an account.

Some of the great RIFT points that I have been wanting in an MMO for years:
  • although there are still character levels, you suffer few punitive mechanics
    (translation: newbies can fight alongside veterans and everybody gets rewards)
  • although there are still classes, you can choose and rearrange from many skill lines
    (translation: you can have a mage healer or a rogue tank or other interesting combinations)
  • there are landscape-wide invasions with consequences
    (translation: everyone may hear the call to drop what they're doing to help in the defense of their homelands, otherwise player areas may end up scorched and unusable (dunno how long))
  • players can assist random passersby without having to be grouped
    (translation: skill bonuses are usually tied to group members, but skills still have some effect even for non-grouped players)
  • players can heavily specialize with up to 4 totally different character roles
    (translation: each character has 4 "callings" and each calling can have 3 "soul" trees of skills, so you can be a warrior if your group needs it or a mage instead, without logging out and changing characters)

Other unrelated trivia:
  • Scott Hartsman is a former Sony employee from back in the days of EverQuest 1 (and 2).
  • Tradeskills are included at launch, but they are very basic.  Some players like me are hoping for more thorough crafting later.
  • Houses are not included at launch, but Trion drops hints that they want to do a good job before implementing that one.
  • No shared bank at launch, but you can mail items cheaply between characters.
  • I think some land mounts are included at launch, but that system will expand more later.
So... I'll certainly be there at launch.  I've pre-ordered the game, and I'll be joining the Head Start gaming on February 24th.  I haven't yet decided what kind of server (heavy PvP or light PvP) or faction (divine or technology) I'll join.  I'll probably end up sheeping along with the crowd when someone finally chooses the unofficial giblets server.

p.s. Ouch!  My tongue and tonsils are swelling up tonight.  No fever, at least.
mellowtigger: (the more you know)
Pen-and-paper roleplayers are familiar with the idea that games (via trial and error and social interaction) help us learn about our personal strengths and weaknesses. Online gaming is poised to take that notion to a new, data-verifiable level. I mentioned yesterday about 3 sources of user data that were mined and shared back with the source population. Today's post discusses the world of online computer gaming.

Although some sociologists examine the history of their own interaction in a virtual world, others arrange to download the entire database of player interactions from the host company. Either way, there's a lot of information to mine. A third method is to solicit the direct involvement of players by asking permission to download their individual gaming histories on a daily basis.

This third method seems most responsive to the "customer" base, even providing frequent notices about the results obtained.  In this particular case, it's a much smaller sample set of only 1000+ players, but it's nice to see such direct feedback during a sociological project. So far, the data mining has addressed some of the traditional questions that come to mind during online play.
  • Is that sexy female elf really a female player?
  • Do women emote more than men?
  • Are men inclined to follow front-line combat while women follow medicine?
So far, the answer to all of these questions seems to be: Yes.
Read the 3 scenarios with images... )

This new data mining projects intends to release new results every week or two.  The authors write:

As we slowly but surely churn through the data, we ask ahead of time for your patience in that it may take us a while to answer specific questions, but the accumulation of blog posts here will hopefully provide a multi-faceted lens over time.
- http://blogs.parc.com/playon/2010/07/23/welcome-to-playon-2-0/

I really like the idea that playtime helps us learn about ourselves. I enjoy gaming for other reasons, but this kind of observation adds a whole new dimension of interest in the pastime. I hope they add more players to their database to develop a very large population base for study.
mellowtigger: (Default)
I feel the urge to waste countless hours in gameplay to numb my mind.  Anyone here wanna play DDO?  :)  It's free to download (4.4GB) and play, which is well within my price range.  (Bonus: it won a 2009 award for best free game.)

I don't especially have a server preference.  If you have none either, then how about Thalanis?  I want to play a sorcerer, but I could be convinced to splurge and buy the favored soul class.  I need to relearn all the maps and the user interface, so I'm essentially starting at newb level.
mellowtigger: (Default)
I very much enjoy seeing several different companies republishing old computer games.  Those games, I mean, that were made before everything had to have an online component to them.  Creative works had to be complete within themselves.  I miss those days.

Play this music while you read this post.  It helps.  :)
http://home.earthlink.net/~mellowtigger/lj/Arcanum.mp3
Arcanum front game cover
Among my favorites is one game called "Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura".  It's dated by the low resolution and lack of windowed mode, but I still pop in the virtual disc and play this game every once in a while.
 
It was a wonderful steampunk game.  The game had no character types, so you were not limited by anyone else's ideas of what profession you should become.  You could mix-and-match any set of skills available in the game.  Your character, however, did need to choose between emphasizing skills of magic or technology.  Each interfered with the efficacy of the other.  You could, if you wanted, try hard to stay in the middle ground between each extreme.

There was lots of crafting (either technological or magical) and lots of skills (also either technological or magical).  Choices affected later outcomes.  If you were a mage, for instance, the railroad forced you to sit in the caboose to put you as far away from the technological steam engine as possible.  If you were a really powerful mage, you might be denied a ticket altogether.  In which case, it was advantageous to learn the skill tree that would give you teleportation.

There were companions that could join your party, including a dog.  Again, because of the interplay between magic and tech, it was better to build your party using the same focus that your own character followed.

One of the best things about the game, however, is the music.  The title score is hands down the best mood piece for a game that I have ever heard.  Don't believe me?  Listen for yourself at a fansite's soundtrack webpage.  Choose the first song, titled "Arcanum".  (Although the Sierra link seems broken at the moment.)  That's the music you hear as you wander the landscape within the game.  It evokes a wonderful, eerie longing.  The author, Ben Hogue, even spent some time here in Minnesota.  He went to St. Olaf college in the mid 1990's.

Arcanum, I think, was not a big money maker.  Very disappointing.  But now, you too, can enjoy Arcanum for only $6 at Good Old Games.  They released this download today, and I've already bought the online copy as a backup to my hard cd.  :)
mellowtigger: (Default)
... I learned from Sims 3.

There went 2 days of my life in a flash.  I had a few $10 gift cards to Best Buy (from me taking monitors from work there to get recycled, where Best Buy now requires a $10 "deposit" for each monitor), so I cashed them in and got the game.  I never did play Sims1 or Sims2, but I saw online that EA got rid of the draconian anti-copying technology that they used in Spore and went back to plain old id number validation instead.  (It does, however, require a game disc in drive each time you startup the game.)  I figured I should reward their good corporate behavior, so I bought a copy of the Sims 3 game.  :)

Big news (for me) is that Sims 3 allows marriage between any two characters.  So welcome Terry and George, newlyweds!  Each character gets 5 traits.  I gave myself Loner, Bookworm, Green Thumb, Genius, and Computer Whiz.  I gave my hypothetical husband Good Sense of Humor, Handy, Friendly, Brave, and Good.  George ended up looking hispanic, although whenever popup notices appeared with his name "George Tiggun", I kept misreading it as "George Takei" instead.  *laugh*


I apologize for the dark photos.  Some of it is the way the progams are (mis)behaving, and part of it is because all the romantic stuff tended to happen at night, since we were both away at jobs during the daytime hours.  The romance part of the story was sweet, so I'll include the photos for that.  Unlike real life, I got me some WooHoo action with my own husband!  ;)
kisssnuggle 1snuggle 2woohoo
Read the list of life lessons learned... )
Although both of us ended up desiring children together, I could find no way for us to adopt a child.  (And WooHooing together never got George pregnant, no matter how often we tried.  *laugh*)  So I think that Sims 3 same-sex couples will need to start their family life with children already in tow rather than work on their careers first with parenthood later.

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