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Friday, September 29, 2006

EQII: Tip of the Cap






Back in April, I wrote this post on mage skills in EQII. At the time, I said it was an introduction to a post I intended to write concerning the "relative triviality of gear improvement for int-capped max-level mages." I never did write that post. And now I don't have to.

But to briefly summarize my original concern: A big part of an item-centric game like EQII is the thrill of getting new gear. In fact, when you're at max-level and have all your Achievement's, that's pretty much your sole motivation (besides the social aspect). And it's always cool to try on new gear and see how it looks. But as a wizard, I could never get too excited about some super awesome item drop on a raid. Because no matter how good the numbers on the item were, I was already at the cap and it wouldn't really affect my gameplay. I wasn't hitting mobs any harder and my contribution on raids was pretty much exactly the same. Taking away that motivation for gear made the game as a whole less exciting. Obviously, other classes had similar issues. I was giving you an example for the class I'm familiar with.

Because I felt that way, I was pretty excited to see those concerns
being addressed by a variety of changes to the way caps work. Gallenite explains things better than I did and there's definitely more to it then I've discussed so go read it yourself.

As always, I have to see how things work in their final version. And this change will really only affect a small segment of the population. But for those it does affect, I think it is an important and positive step in the right direction.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Field Trip: Nintendo World Store

I heard yesterday that the Nintendo World Store at Rockefeller Center was taking preorders for the Wii. However, I was kind of busy and I didn't feel like waiting on line. But today I figured I'd head on over on my lunch hour and check it out, since I've never been to the Nintendo World Store before. Thus began an exciting journey:
I had to walk, like, almost 10 blocks. When are they going to implement those people moving tubes like in Futurama?
Someone set up this giant mirror at Rockefeller Center. They claim it's art. It spoke to me of the morality of all living things and thus the fleeting nature of console preorders.
I hear that sometimes a rare tree node pops here but it's on a long timer and I wasn't prepared for a camp so I moved on.
Ultimate victory! I have reached the Nintendo World Store. The website says it's at 10 Rockefeller Plaza (and it is) but more helpful directions are 48th Street between Fifth and Sixth.
The Nintendo World Store can be a relaxing place to play Gamecube games in an odd chair.

They had a lot of clothing for sale. Some of it was OMG super exclusive t-shirts that Miyamoto glanced at once while playing the banjo or something.
Pretty much half the store is dedicated to Pokemon. I sat down at a table in the Pokemon Center and looked around menacingly but no one dared to challenge me to a Pokemon battle.
There's kind of a mini-museum set up on the second floor. They had a bunch of old games systems there and R.O.B. the Robot behind plexiglass. They also had these breathtaking cards. The sign said they were called Hanafuda cards and that Nintendo started off as a company which produced handmade Hanafuda cards.
In another display case was this Gameboy that was damaged in the Gulf War but still worked.


There was a ton of other stuff I didn't take pictures of like the DS circle and the GBA bar but you can see those on
the website. I also didn't take any pictures of the Mario/Peach display because every time I see Peach now I think of this creepy webcomic. Thanks, internet!

I eventually asked one of the employees if they were taking Wii preorders.

"We were but we stopped yesterday."
"Wow, it would have been cool if I were here yesterday."
"Yeah. They were going a lot faster than we expected so we put a stop to it until we get official numbers from Nintendo on how many systems we're getting."
"Do you think you'll do more preorders?"
"Definitely. We're going to get way more systems than any other store in the country. We just don't know exactly how many yet."
"How many did you sell yesterday?"
"A few hundred."
"Thanks. Hack the planet!"
"Have a nice day."

In conclusion:

Wii Preorders Successfully Placed by Me: Zero


Nintendo World Store: It's a nice store with every Nintendo item or accessory you can think of. The employees are pleasant and really into Nintendo. However, I imagine the store gets insanely crowded and unpleasant around the holiday season due to its close vicinity to Rockefeller Center.

Things to Remember: Pikachu hates you. With every fiber of his little yellow being. You know he does. Just look at him...






Sunday, September 17, 2006

Art & Music

Sometimes at the start of the work week you need a little relaxation. So why not check out some art or listen to some tunes?

Via EQ2-Daily, I saw that SOE now has a fan art gallery for EQ, EQOA, EQII and Planetside. I always like to see the creative pieces players come up with and it's nice to have them all organized in one place for easy viewing. It's also fun to see how artistic styles vary from game to game. So go ahead and submit some of your own masterpieces.

I also recently noticed that NCSoft has the entire soundtrack of Auto Assault available for free download. I'm not sure if that will net subscribers but it's an interesting idea.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Backgammon





I realize this post might not interest more than a handful of people. But I've been testing out a variety of backgammon software for the past few months, so you're going to hear about it whether you like it or not.

I started by heading over to
Download.com and trying various demos. Most of them had more than adequate graphics and sound and a decent interface. But, in the end, I didn't find the computer to be a particularly strong opponent in any of those programs. It's fun to play a quick game and win a decent amount. But sometimes I want to focus on really improving my game by playing a world class level opponent. Even if that means losing the majority of the time.

So I checked out Jellyfish and Snowie, two famed neural net backgammon programs. But I ran into a hurdle there quite quickly. The full version of Snowie costs $380 and JellyFish is $220. Wow. No way I'm spending that kind of money.

But a little research uncovered an option that's quite a bit cheaper. And by cheaper I mean free. I'm referring to
GNU Backgammon. It's open source and available for Windows, Linux and Mac. From what I can gather, Gnu Backgammon is just as good in terms of pure backgammon strength as any program out there, including the more expensive options mentioned above.

I don't care much for the graphics or sound effects. And the options, while copious, are confusing and not user friendly. But Gnu plays a great game. And you can learn a lot by clicking the hint button, which shows you a chart of your possible moves in recommended order. Make sure you set the evaluation options to look ahead two plies.


Gnu Backgammon is not a polished, commercial piece of software. But it's a beautiful thing.

I am not a Number, I am a Free Man!





I was pursuing my usual pastime of refreshing the PrisonServer webpage over and over when I received the following message:

"Want your voice to be put in the PrisonServer game when it starts?"

Um, only more than anything I've ever wanted in my life.

"Just send us a creative voice clip of the Prison warden welcoming the fishy. You can do it with friends, alone, or come up with any ingenious idea you may have (what about a dialogue between a newcomer and the warden?)"

Ingenious! Check out
the contest page for more details as well as an audio sample in Spanish with a hilarious translation.

The launch date for the game is September 21st. I think every other MMO should just give up and cease operations on that date. Why fight the inevitable?


Sign up before then if you want a free month of what will hopefully be hilarity. Plan your character class
here but be warned that the "Corrupt Politician" is purportedly tough to level.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Links



I messed around with my links list a bit because I use it myself. I removed some dead links and added a few new ones. If I accidentally deleted your link or you decide to start posting again just shoot me an e-mail. Or, if you have a blog that's not on the list and should be, let me know.

I had the links organized into a bunch of different categories but I ended up not liking that idea. There might still be some loose thematic grouping but there's no rational system to the order behind that. I did leave Plaguelands and n3rfed on the list even though they haven't posted in a while because they're great bloggers and I refuse to accept they're not posting any more.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

EQII: Live Update 27

This post will probably be even less informed than usual because I haven't played EQII in a while. That has zero to do with EQII. I just needed a change of pace after well over a year of solid play. I will definitely be back in Norrath though and I still follow the news and forums pretty closely.

Because I like to be difficult, I'm refusing to start calling the Live Updates "Game Updates" now, even though SOE is.

Before we get into
LU27 itself, it's worth noting that SOE recently implemented several anti-gold-spammer measures. There's more I'd like to say about that whole phenomenon but it's beyond the scope of the current post. For now, I'll just point out that these measures were direly needed and I hope they have some degree of success. I'm sure SOE is constantly pursuing other lines of attack against this problem because they know how detrimental it is to players' enjoyment.

As for LU27:

Tradeskill Work Orders

I really like the idea of timed work orders. There's nothing wrong with a little action and excitement while tradeskilling. I saw some complaints about not being able to finish orders on time. But if everyone could always finish all of the time, what would be the point? You need a little drama. I'd want the average success rate to be something like 80%. And it's better to start off on the hard side and make things easier if necessary. Taking the reverse route just doesn't go over well.

Raid XP Increase

I actually like this idea. From 60-68 my leveling speed was something like a level every 3-5 days. But from 68-70 it was one level per month. Why? All of my play time was spent raiding with friends who were already at 70. It would have been nice to have gotten just a few percent xp for each raid. I'm sure my guildmates wouldn't have minded me eventually leveling either.

I might be the only one who had that problem. But since I did, I'm certainly not going to complain about this change (as long as the xp increase is not too big). And I'm guessing most raiders are usually max level anyway, so I'm not sure what the big deal is. I see people on the forums coming up with exploit scenarios but hopefully SOE thought those through already.

Gods Returning

The buildup for the Gods returning to Norrath continues. I don't know the specifics of the quest/event this Update adds, but it definitely sounds like something cool to do.

Profession Hats

I happen to think they look excellent. Plus, I believe you can still keep the "shared" version if you want. Discussion in
this thread along with some really funny parody pics.

On the negative side, it's been a while since KoS launched. If I had to point to the number one flaw in EQII it's the lack of armor model variety and the time it takes to add new armor pieces.

Player vs. Player

There are some tweaks there but I believe SOE needs to add some actual PvP content, preferably soon, if they want EQII PvP to be viable.


You can read about the changes I haven't mentioned here.

While you're checking out the forums you might want to stop by
this thread entitled "Unforgettable Comments" for a laugh. There are definitely some clunkers in there but there's also some great comedy. The thread also contained a link to this Canonical List of Famous Last Words in Roleplaying. I'd never seen that before and I thought it was pretty amusing.

Speaking of the forums, I noticed
the transition for the official forums was indefinitely postponed. I have no idea if this transition will make the forums better, worse, or the same. But I will say this: I've visited the official forums for practically every existing or upcoming MMO. And the EQII ones are easily the best (and that includes the forums for other SOE games). I'm not sure if it's the graphical look, organization, moderation or the posters themselves. It's probably a combination of all those factors. If you disagree, just tell me which official forum you prefer and I'll take another look at it.

Finally, while I'm on the EQII subject, Anskiere recently
notified me that Richie Truxillo has some remastered versions of old songs out. I know I linked his site before, but it was over a year ago. I just listened to a bunch of his tunes today and I'm still a big fan. "If I Had a Billion Platinum" is my personal favorite.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Nerdy New York

Time Out New York magazine recently compiled a list of nerdy things to do in my home town, entitled "New Dork City." Options range from music (an 8-bit music festival, nerdcore rap) to gaming (lightsaber battles, live Pac-Man, playing kickball against people in pirate outfits) to the simply out there (monster wrestling, electrical art, the bizarre but cool sounding Madagascar Institute).

The nice thing is that the article is available online for the moment and it has links to most of the events and groups discussed. So check it out if you're planning a trip to New York and feeling nerdy.