Sunday, December 13, 2009

Ack! Two Months (almost)

You know how the holidays get all busy and stuff? There are all these parties and people want presents. There seems to be some focus on shopping... Well it has been messing with my game time. Plus a healthy dose of real life. I have been keeping up with some good doses of game-therapy. I think we all need our crutches now and then. I have one nagging problem with video game crutches though... they don't seem to help much. You know if you have a real problem, playing games doesn't get your creative energy going to fix them. In fact, I think it may tire you out on problem solving (since that is a major aspect of gaming). Just a theory. So while I have been gaming... I have also been working on dealing with it all too. Thus fewer blogs. But here is a recap...

I kept up with Eve Online and joined an old corp that was reforming. These guys are easy to get along with and still like some adventure. My favorite part of this group though is their active use of a voice server. They talk and joke all the time. It is my own private morning radio show. I rejoined and they moved out to big bad 0.0 space to try out the latest free Eve expansion, Dominion. To the non-Eve player... I couldn't begin to explain what this expansion did. To the experienced Eve player I can say they changed how sovereign space works and that changes everything in Eve. Again I am struck by the sheer slowness of Eve. As my charismatic corp-mate has said, "Nothing in Eve is quick except getting killed." Truth.

In Facebook, I've been totally hooked by Castle Age. It works just like Mafia Wars and other "points for quests" type FB games, but the story line is cooler and it has great art. I'm a sucker for pretty girl art. It gets me every time.

Time has been limited so I haven't been doing any other gaming. See you in space.

Game On!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Holy Cow, a month!

Hey it's been over a month since my last gamey blog. Well it has been busy and I've been back stateside visiting family. Game time is a premium commodity with family in two different hemispheres.

I've been playing Fallout 3 a lot more. It has that family-friendly pause button. I still flip skills in Eve Online and lately I've been reading more about its exciting new features. But Eve seems to always be waiting for a good feature. While I was in the US I did make a couple of choice purchases. I bought the real rules to Savage Worlds and an expansion set to the Battlestar Galactica boardgame. I also picked up a Traveller GM screen for fun. I'll have to write about them soon. I have let Evony die.

I am only playing 3 Facebook games; My Zoo, Mafia Wars, and Tiny Adventures. My Zoo is cute, educational, and super short to maintain. Mafia Wars... well just for the heck of it. Tiny Adventures is almost like D&D and they just packed in new characters which I am trying out. I've already run 18 generations thru the game tho... Might be time to let go.

Hope all is well for you... my 2 or 3 readers! Haha! Cheers, mates!

Game On.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

More solo "social" games

Well I've just not been excited about Eve or WoW lately so I've retreated to Facebook games. I even gave Evony the boot. Really without any hope of having those attractive female avatars to look at it, the game loses appeal. I suppose any game that really only has boobs going for it is not much of a game.

Perfect World is still an interesting idea, but I just can not bring myself to invest the time in it that it surely requires. I still think it is a fantastic free to play game and anyone that really has days of "do nothing" time should be looking at it.

The 3 active games on Facebook I am playing are Mafia Wars, My Zoo, and Tiny Adventures (D&D). I am about to give up on Mafia Wars. It follows what is now a common FB game format. I am not sure what genre to call it, but it works like this. You have a limited amount of "energy" to spend on "tasks" that gain you "resources" like experience points and money. You spend the money you earn on equipment that is required for some tasks. As you gain levels you get "points" to apply to your stats like your total amount of energy. These games require you to recruit other FB friends in to your group--this is also a requirement of many tasks. Mafia Wars has a few twists to it. You can build a core team of friends who boost your abilities by virtue of their level. You can join endless groups of Mafia's (other games often made joining exclusive so you had to leave one team to join another). The upshot of this is that it is much easier to get larger mafia teams. This really only helps in PvP combat. PvP combat is a very basic single blow exchange and who ever does the most "damage" wins. You get a slight bit of money and xp for this. You can assign "Hits" on enemy mafia--basically allowing you to post a bounty on someone you can't kill. I could go on, but really half the fun is figuring out the game yourself.

My Zoo is similar to Mafia Wars but less complex and a nudge more educational as you build your own zoo with a large number of animals. The animals have little stat blocks with them that talk about where they live and how endangered they are. My wife started this first and I started poking at it. This game is fairly new and still a bit raw, but entertaining.

Tiny Adventures was released by Wizards of the Coast probably a year ago. The format is simple, but unique. It is, of course, show casing their pen and paper game by letting you select familiar classes, loot dungeons, and use special powers. They just recently expanded in to new classes for Druid, Barbarian and others. I thought I'd go check them out. You level each character to level 11 and then they retire. You can pick one magic item you acquired to gift to your next character. This game really plays itself which I suppose is its one flaw. You enter a dungeon and encounters are timed. So there really is nothing for you to do aside from wait an hour for your character to complete. You can choose to change gear or use potions between encounters, but this isn't all that compelling.

I suppose the attraction to FB games is this low involvement. You click a few things and come back later to see how you did. This obviously makes it very work friendly. Amazing how we seem to be returning to nearly "MUD-like" games. I do hope they expand the concepts around the "social" part of these games to be truly social. It would be more fun to actively game in a team than just have friends as a "requirement."

It's a gaming lite week. But y'all go crazy. Game On!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Felicia Day and The Guild

Honestly, I can't really imagine a cooler gamer. Game On, Ms. Day. Game On!

Felicia Day, born in Huntsville, Alabama, and now moved to LA to be an actress. Yet she still manages to be a gamer. She is the creative spirit behind the web phenom "The Guild" which can be seen at She has roles on Dollhouse and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I'm sure she is soon to be an icon of legendary women in gaming--if not already.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Perfect World: Day 4

So after a few days of on and off play, I can say that Perfect World is still interesting. I do find myself wanting to figure out more about how the game works. The game is entirely stable and seems to be without bugs. I generally experience a bug or two in WoW on a regular basis. To get an entirely free game without them seems a bit unreal.

I have to admit that I suffer bit of WoW burn out. Now any morg that resembles elves in the woods sort of turns my stomach a little. My ability to enjoy Perfect World is hampered by this burn out. It is a different game, but certainly contains many of the same tropes.

I'll keep it loaded for a while longer and see if maybe it suckers my wife in. Then I can report on the wife factor.

Game On!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Perfect World: Day 1

I spied an ad for something called "Perfect World" on a game forum site yesterday. It appeared to be a morg that was "free to play" originally created in China. I wasn't convinced so I checked out the web site. They did not have an overwhelming amount of info on the game, but it was free and I figured, why not?

The client was a whopping 3.5 gig download. That a big client and on par with other full-sized, full-pay games. After the download was the required patching... then some confusion about account creation and then finally I could log in to play.

The toon creation system is sure to keep the aestetic gamer occupied for hours. There was a lot of detail to faces and body types. There are only 3 races, human, winged elf (mostly human), and untamed (human with animal head). But my wife is sure to enjoy just creating an avatar for hours.

After the few hours it took to download, install, and create a character I only got about 30 minutes to play. I ran a quest and learned a bit about the UI. It was all very well done (especially at the price). Graphics were very tuneable and on par with WoW. Animate was smooth. The game appearance was pleasing. I am intrigued. I'll have to fiddle with it some more as time allows... but no rush, it's free!

Game On!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex

I just finished watching the last 3 episodes of GitS:SAC on DvD. I have the whole series now. I have seen the first movie and read one manga (book). I have enjoyed all of them so far. I'm sure I'll go on to acquire the next 26 episodes of The 2nd Gig.

I think of all anime, GitS might be my favorite so far. I love the cyberpunk feel absent of weird Japanese mysticism. GitS is pure technology. The themes explored are mostly moral, but not usually deeply dark. GitS does dive deep once in a while, but it doesn't wallow in it. All the main characters are likable, honorable and generally free of fatal flaws. I find these qualities fairly rare in anime.

Often a series mixes technology and magic with characters that have glaring flaws. These stories often dwell on death and torture. Protagonists never seem fully deserving of triumph. Sometimes I cheer for the bad guys.

So if you are like me and have really wanted to enjoy anime more, but just struggle to find one that is a bit more intelligent yet fun to watch, definitely consider Ghost in the Shell. It is a wide spread classic for a reason.

I have discovered there is a PlayStation 2 title for GitS. I'll have to check it out, but my first searches for it didn't make it sound appealling. A GitS inspired roleplay would rock on toast...

Game On!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Evony and Ivory

Evony... I don't know about y'all, but this game's ad has been popping up on every game-ish site I have found. Each ad features a buxom model asking "Are you ready to play, My Lord?" The cleavage is massive. The hook is so obvious and ridiculous. So I clicked on it.

Turns out that Evony is a tech-tree medival simulator on par with early versions of Civilization. It just goes to show you how far computer gaming has advanced to make something like Evony completely free to play.

Evony is a web-browser embedded game. I'm guessing it uses Java behind the scenes, but I haven't pulled back the covers to look. None the less, it is a very complete and comprehensive game. You start as Lord of your city and must build up cottages, saw mills, barracks, etc and all the while upgrade various buildings to hit the quest goals. Typical for this sort of game you must manage resources and plan for player aggression--although you are give 7 days of peace to start.

There are ways to establish alliances and declare wars. There is a market system of buying and selling resources. There are wild, unowned valleys to explore with armies and plunder. It seems you can purchase (with real USD) resources directly and this seems to be the intent of the designers. To hook you with a free game and then let the first rube with $50 on Dad's credit card wipe you out with ill-gotten armies. Thus inspiring you to buy in. I don't think I'll be buying. But it is a fun easy diversion to run in the background.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Facebook Farm Town and Social Gaming

While I typically only consider writing about "real" games like morgs and table top games, I have spent a bit of time fooling around with small Facebook games. I realize now that these are having a large impact on game playing in general and so I thought I'd at least give them a mention.

I'll use Farm Town as an example. A simple graphical game designed to kill time and leverage social networks. The idea is to plant various crops, harvest them, and sell the proceeds for "coins" to buy more virtual objects for your farm (including more crops). The game has aesthetic satisfaction as you try to put together both a profitable and visually pleasing farm. It has a nudge of mathematics as you will look for ways to maximize your profits. Even shop-a-holics will enjoy using the “store” and showing off for friends. The game rewards social behaviour by granting more coins to the farm owner when someone else harvests their corps. So if harvesting “corn” got you 180 coins solo, then having someone else harvest gets you 200. The harvester also gets paid (by the game, not the farm owner). Thus there is no downside to asking others to come to your farm and harvest.

These mini-games encourage more game play and may entice more “mainstream” digital users in to gaming. You could call them ‘gateway games.” Hehe! There are now hundreds of them on Facebook and I’m sure hundreds more on other social sites. So far I don’t know of any that cross boundaries between social sites, but I’m sure it could be done. I’m also sure there are a slew of hidden issues in these games regarding privacy, spyware, and other weird things that could happen. But too many folks play them now for them to ever disappear. They are a newish game form loose on the market. It will be interesting to see how far it goes.

By the way… I could use a few more neighbours. If you’re playing Farm Town on Facebook, send me a note!

Game On!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Long Live the MORG!

I have declared that from this day forth... Massively Multi-player Online Role Playing Games shall no longer be referred to by the unpronouncable acronymn "MMORPG", but rather by "MMORG" in the proper sense and "morg" in common vernacular.

I mean if we can tolerate "pwnd" and "lolcatz" then why on earth do we have to stay saddled to MMORPG? Morg, I say!

I love morgs! Long live the morg! Hug your morg today!

Game On!


Monday, June 8, 2009

Clear Skies

Fan fiction has been around probably longer than copyright. While most of it is bad and some of it is really bad, every once in a great while you come across a really good bit. Ian Chisholm has created two episodes of a show called Clear Skies based on the MMORPG, Eve Online. The story takes some liberties with Eve cannon, but delivers where it counts--a great story.

I have no idea how long Ian and crew spent working on this fan project, but the results are worth watching even if you're not an Eve fan. The basic plot is simple, the characters are entertaining and considering it was all "filmed" with in game graphics between Eve Online and Half-Life 2 (Eve has no human avatars or hallway environments), it's pretty awesome!

The files are too big for me to post. But here's a link to the Eve Online forum post that has the links to download and the mirrors.

You can find all the bits of each 40 minute episode on YouTube, but Warner Brothers forced YouTube to audio silence the conclusion of Part 5 / Episode 2 for copyright infringement. So skip youtube and just download off the mirrors. The quality is better and you get to see the whole thing. You'll like it if you just like Sci-Fi. You'll love it if you know Eve Online.

Enjoy! Game On!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Battlestar Galactica: the Boardgame

So at DoG I got to play my first session of Battlestar Galactica. I bought this game a few weeks ago and I've had my eye on it for long time. Search Google/Youtube for video reviews of the game, there are many and they will probably give you a better idea of the game. I wanted to talk about this specific game session on the blog. In a nutshell, I loved it.
Players select characters to play at start up. I went with Giaus Baltar. I was 4th pick. Giaus' special ability is to draw a skill card of any type during a "crisis". This is handy as it guarantees that during my turn I can at least help a little (or hurt). The crisis phase of each player turn is really where all the action is and makes or breaks the final victory. One per game, Giaus can look at any player's loyalty cards to see if they are a Cylon. Giaus gets two of these cards, but in this session, I was not a Cylon.
The game was wicked cool and did a lot to capture the feel of the series. The pilots kicked cylon butt in space. The other characters threw in support in most respects just like their counter-parts in the series would. I even ended up in the Brig for while. The Cylon attacks were probably the most gripping. Attacks don't end at the end of that player's turn. So the next player draws a new crisis that must be dealt with in the midst of the attack. Sometimes second attacks occur on top of the first. The intensity starts to build. The Humans struggle even in the most cooperative game.
In our game the President (Laura) and Starbuck turned out to be Cylons. I actually turned out to be a "Sympathizer" but since the Humans were already fairing poorly, the "sympathizer" doesn't have further negative effect. Having the President turn out to be a Cylon is a pretty rough blow to the Humans. But as it turned out, the Humans just barely squeeked out a victory. We lost a ton of population and morale, but we made the final jump.
We had 6 players in this session. I think the game would play best 4-5. But 6 is quite doable. Really I think you could do even more. 3 players would make it really hard on the Humans. The challenges don't get any easier with 3 and that means the total contribution each player makes must be higher.
The game complexity overall is not too bad. It is far less complex than say Axis and Allies, but certainly several steps above your average boardgame. Avid fans of the series may really like the game, but they will have to absorb some moderately complex rules. Game lovers should have no issue at all. It is a longish game--running 3-4 hours. But unlike other long games that seem "forgone" for the last 30% of the game, BSG is gripping right to the end.
For those Wellington readers... We should plan a game-my house--I may even provide pizza. Game On!

Day of Games (DoG) May 2009

I have several posts mentally queued up. But I'll get this one out first. I went to a mini-con in Wellington (Turnbull House) last Saturday simply dubbed "Day of Games" hosted by Sophie (on those blog links in the side bar).

The format of this con was simply to break up the day in multiple 2-hour sessions and lets players and GM's cut loose on anything they wanted to join. It seemed to work out pretty well. I was happy to show up and just go with it.

My first session was playing 3:16 with Sophie and 2 other americans--oddly enough. We had a good time with this simple format game. 3:16 contains about 5 game mechanics total and so plays very quickly, but still captures the feel of a good roleplay experience. I was Tech SGT "Wrench" Turner. We shot lizards in our first "deployment" and then played drug crazed soldiers in training for the 2nd deployment. It was a lot of fun.

In the second session I got to play the game that I really wanted to try, Battlestar Galactica (boardgame). I'll do a separate post on this game. It was very satisfying.

I also got to try another Final Flight game called "Cosmic Encounter". It was good to squeeze this one in to try it. It probably would not make it in to my collection, but I can see how it would have appeal for some play groups. The central theme of CE is negotiation between players. I would see this game being best played between folks that knew each other at least casually. We only had 3 players and that made the negotiation triangle not all that interesting. It would be best with about 5.

Overall, I think the event was a good success. I was happy to see the gamer crowd in Wellington again and happy to get table time with folks.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Free Willy

Okay, so my major game play has still been Eve Online the last few weeks. One thing that keeps pulling me back to Eve is that it is fairly easy to "play" even when you're not logged in. That is... you can do a lot of things with it offline... I shall dub this Eve Offline. What I'm talking about here are the things that happen with out much online involvement like selling goods, making goods, and skill training.

The market system in Eve is without equal. It easily rivals global economics. There are hundreds of individual markets spread across dozens of regions. Many players make all their in-game credits by simply buying and selling goods without ever moving them. Some buy bulk quantities in one region and then move them to another region at a mark-up.

All the player driven manufacturing is done from stations and complete over time. These "jobs" continue even while you're logged off. Often I'll assemby the materials for a multi-day job and then just kick it off to run. I can wait a couple of days and then go back and fetch the job. Presumably, I then post it on the market and wait for the ISK to roll in.

While I'm logged in for 5 minutes to fetch jobs and post goods to the market, I can also queue up skills to train. Thus while logged off, my characters can happily be making stuff, making ISK, and training for new ships or abilities. I can go off and play WoW or watch TV.

My latest achievement is the Orca. I bought one off a corp-mate who named it "Free Willy"--thus the name of this post. This is a relatively new ship in Eve--offically called an "Industrial Command Ship". It is not a combat vessel in any fashion, but it is a great toy for goofing around in Empire space. The mining bonuses it provides are exceptional. It's hauling capacity is second only to Freighters. But while a Freighter can do nothing beyond haul giant cargo's, the Orca can haul very, very large cargo's, fit various modules, loot cans/wrecks from space, contains a ship maintenance bay, and a corp hanger bay. I am extremely pleased with the ship. In fact, I'm fairly certain that CCP will have to do something to buff up the Freighter now since it is such a complete dog of a ship... dog ship, I say.

I think next I will work on getting better at dealing EM damage--probably T2 Praetor drones. This will allow me to cut through missions for Khanid Royal Navy quicker. Quicker missions means quicker ISK. After this I'm not sure. Maybe I'll work on T2 Rails for more direct damage dealing.

Game On!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Okay… another Eve post. About 2 weeks ago Eve released an update called “Apocrypha” which introduced many new game elements. The most exciting of these was the creation of wormholes. These holes potentially link any system to any other system with an uncontrolled 0.0 system in the middle. The concept is development brilliance. CCP can basically change the game rules inside a wormhole system to experiment with new game elements—more on this later. They also re-vamped Exploring (scan probes) to help find these wormholes. Lastly they introduce a new ship type called a “Strategic Cruiser” based on the lost technology now uncovered in the wormholes. Can you see the theme?

The wormhole systems are populated by new bad guys called Sleepers. The systems themselves are considered null security (no rules PvP), but they lack a Local channel. In Eve all “civilized” systems have a Local chat channel that you are forced to join that lets you chat with everyone in that system. PvP junkies complain that being forced in to Local gives away too much info to other pilots in the system. From the Local channel you can see who is in the system and check each pilot’s history and bio. While this gives no information about the ship the pilot may be flying or the location of said pilot, it does tell you when that pilot was created and what security status they are, and their work history. Since raw pilot potential is a function of time spent training skills, older pilots have more potential to be experienced and deadly. Security status tells you if they’ve been a bad boy. Killing other pilots drops your sec status and generally indicates you are a pirate. So the wormhole allows CCP to see what happens when you take local away. Now it used to be that scanning down a ship was very difficult, but read on…

Scan probes have been completely redone. It used to take a base of 10 minutes to deploy a probe to scan a system. So once you saw a bad guy in Local you knew you had a few minutes to hide, dock, or run. In addition, scanning was hard to do and only light combat ships could do it. But that’s all changed. Now any ship can effectively fit a Core Scanner. This won’t scan down a ship, but it will quickly scan down “cosmic anomalies”. These are what the game calls all the special hidden sights in a system and they are typically where you want to be if you are a non-PvP pilot. These spots will be hidden complexes, archaeology sites, or hidden asteroid belts. They are all places to find a profit. Now any ship and pilot can scan these down in seconds. If you happen to be there, you’re easy pickings. The new scan probes have a scan radius of 32 AU… far exceeding what your normal ship scanner can detect. In short, a bad guy can drop on you inside a cosmic anomaly at any time and you’ll have no warning (in a wormhole). This is less than ideal…

Lastly the bit I now the least about—Strategic Cruisers. Why don’t I know about them? Well, anything new in Eve hits the market at ridiculous prices. These cruisers are selling for about a billion ISK. The special feature of the ship is that they are modular with each containing 4 components. These each modify the appearance of the ship. Each race has its own model, thus we have 16 visual combinations per race. This is completely new flexibility for Eve which already has about 100 ships types. Other ships, however, are static in appearance—some ships are “copies” of other hulls with slightly different colour schemes. The new Strategic Cruisers are thus fairly exciting. But until they get cheaper, I won’t see many of them…

Monday, April 6, 2009

Armageddon Expo

Armageddon Expo was pretty cool. I got ample time to really check out all the booths several times and then make some strategic purchases. This was good for me as I often get to these things and either buy too much or nothing. I walked away with just two comic book volumes—Watchmen and Transmetropolitan.

Watchmen was an obvious pick as it was cheaper (only $40 NZD) than any where else I had found it. Transmetropolitan was an impulse pick as it dealt with advanced digital living and a very cyberpunk vibe. I’ve been looking for additional cyberpunk inspiration to help me write more on a 60k word project I stopped around Christmas. It was fun and I’m glad I picked it up, but no writing has occurred yet.

The Expo was very crowded. It was pretty much always elbow-to-elbow. I really do not like crowds like that. Many of the stalls were hard to even browse for the constant throng of folks in front of them. Many vendors didn’t mark their goods with prices and having to push up to the front and then shout over the crowd noise didn’t make the event more appealing.

I did walk away from some cool buys. I really wanted Ghost in the Shell 2nd Gig, but even at the bargain price of $95 NZD, I just couldn’t justify spending the money on DVD’s. I also passed over some cool tshirts with beat meter LED’s built in to them. I was particularly fond of the version that had Wi-Fi detection. But these were $50 each. Again… I limited my self to just the two purchases.

I like these types of events in Wellington, but I must say, I wish they’d pick a larger venue or organise the layouts better to have more room for the crowds.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Day of Darkness II

A fantastic video... part of the player driven story of Eve that keeps me watching. Watch this video in High Def. The parts with ships in space are "in game" shots with the ship interface hidden.

Minor Facelift

I'm experimenting with blog themes and customization. This seems to be a key area of "differentiation" for blog sites. The end results are your blog chunks on a web site, but the tools you use to get them there are vastly different.

I am using 3 blog sites at the moment. Multiply has almost no layout editing tools, but does use CSS. If you were a web-coder, you could do about anything with this. I am not (yet). Blogspot has easy to use tools that offer quite a bit of flexibility, but there are still limits. Blog spot also lets you edit the code directly. Finally, I'm using Wordpress to capture my writing on a private blog. Wordpress has a huge selection of options. They range from ultra cool to rather puzzling. But it is easy to see that Wordpress has put the most effort in to user tools.

I don't know how you'd qualify which is best. It depends on how much you want to do.

Anyways... I've changed the look. Hope you like it.

Game On!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Guided by the Heart?

A continuation of the adventure of Joshua Spectre and Evelyn Drake on their search for the Pharaoh's Heart.

Spectre and Miss Drake begin to organize for an expedition to the Temple of Isis. The notes recovered from Kinkaid's tomb describe many land marks and directions, but it is difficult to know where to start and the Arizona deserts are yet a wild wilderness. The duo spend the evening talking about how to find the Temple. But after 20 years trapped in a tomb, his memory isn't the best. Plus, he had a guide in 1918 so he wouldn't have to remember. The ghost recalls his friend and co-adventurer, Walking Bear, who used to live in Chicago not terribly far from Hyde Park. Kinkaid can remember the neighborhood, but not exactly where the old native american kept his home.

Early the next day, they grab a company scooter and hit the streets. The cafe owners don't recognize the name "Walking Bear" but most of them seem only too eager to suggest the Liquor stores. With little else to try they decide to wait for them to open. Antsy, Josh can't wait and sneaks inside to steal a phone book. However, no luck--he's not listed.

About lunch time the Bottle Shop opens up and Evelyn chats up the largish, older gentleman running the till. He does know Walking Bear, although he is quick to point out that he's no drunk--he's just very behind on his tab. He directs them to an alley where they can find the guide.

The alley happens to be home to small gang of toughs.

Spectre set to work with punches, kicks and nunchuks. Evy called forth a sand golem. The 5 man gang was quickly "subdued". Josh only lifted the cash off the gang leader and let the weaker punks keep their pay.

Walking Bear's apartment was occupied by his girlfriend, but he has been missing for a couple of day. Ginny seems to be a descent singer, but also suffers from an opium drug addiction. The last few stressful days have left her tired and afraid. But she opens up to Evelyn in the hopes that the two would-be explorers will help find her "Wookie".

Ginny tells them that Wookie has had a bad patch of luck gambling lately and that Nick DeSilva (a pit boss for the mob) might have come to collect the debt. She tells them where the secret casino is run.

Evelyn convinces Ginny to pack a bag and come stay at the Lareux warehouse for a few days while she and Josh sort it out--they will head out the next day.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

OI, Matey! Look who's 80

Over the last weekend I strapped in, had the wife deliver food to my computer (a mere 2 steps from the kitchen), and ground out XP to hit 80th level in World of Warcraft. Melongrim on Nazjatar is now an 80th level Warlock. With some loving help from the guys back home we hit several instances to really speed up the process. 90% of my time on WoW is solo'ing so while I have good "quest gear", I don't have the really good instance gear. Every time I get to go with the guys on a Dungeon run, I invariably get virtually all new kit because at this point any ol' drop is better than what I have.

Millions of players have hit level 80 I'm sure. I am far, far from being in the top 50%, but hey, that was my weekend. I'll post a picutre when I get home.

The MMORPG experience isn't quite as fulfilling as the old table top game, but it is getting better. The scenery in the end zone of Lich King is stunning. Blizzard really put together some great looking content. I liked the story lines and was often motivated to complete quest chains just to see how they ended rather than just to get the gear or XP. That's a good small step forward. With a Ventrillo server, I can talk to all the guys like I'm in the same room. I am 10,000 miles away, but I can still get in a game with the old buddies. Life is pretty good.

Now that my "main" is 80, I'll have to decide where to go next. I may have to run quests for the gold. Completing a quest now coverts the XP reward to money. So a typical quest may offer 20g in rewards. I need to get to about 6-7000 gold to buy the best flying mounts. Right now I'm stuck on my slow ones. I could also go for increasing my Engineering skill to 450. Or I could start in on leveling one of my other 7 characters to 80... not sure about that.

On other gamey news... the Armageddon Con is coming this April 4th. I have another table top RPG game this Sunday--this one is supposed to be a Dune themed game. That sounds pretty jazzy.

Game On!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


I have a shelf full of games that no one in our house has played. I pick up these games thinking maybe some child, spouse, or new gamer friends may want to play something. I used to feel a bit weird about this, but I have sort of given up on that. I like games so I'm ready for about anything.

One of these games sitting on my shelf is a little card game called Munchkin by Steven Jackson. This one finally made it off the shelf to be played by the family. It looked quick and sorta funny and about the right speed for a 9 year old. As it turns out, the game delivered on all 3 points.

Munchkin is a card game where each player is supposed to be representing a player in a goofy version of Dungeons & Dragons. It plays off all the stereotypes and cliches of RPG's and gamers. You start off as a Level 1 Human and by playing drawn "dungeon" cards you can become different classes (like Warrior, Wizard, etc) and races (like Elf, Dwarf, etc). Sometimes you draw monsters you have to defeat with your cards in play and each time you do you "gain a level" so you might become a Level 3 Elf Warrior at some point in the game and then draw other cards that allow you to shift to Dwarf Wizard or other some silliness. Defeating monsters get you treasure cards which will often be items like my favorite, Kneepads of Alluring.

Players can barter with each other for help with monsters or treasure. But sometimes a player can also make your leveling harder through various mishaps/curses.

The game was easy and light hearted. A fun one to try with a "supportive" family if you don't have a "gamer" family.

Game On!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

An Engineer in Warcraft

So I am still riding high on the gifted World of Warcraft timecards from Christmas. The wife and I have graciously agreed to share a single account. She plays pretty rarely anyway and I play in the evenings after dinner.

Last week she told me about an article that basically stated no other developer will ever be able to beat this game. This is not too hard to imagine. At well over 10 million subs and each paying $15 USD per month to play... count up those zeros... $150,000,000 per month or 1.8 billion dollars per year. Blizzard may be putting a measurable dent in our trade deficit. That buys a lot of developers. Blizzard now has a department of full time staff devoted to making flowers prettier. If you consider $$ = quality a valid equation, then no one in the market today can match the investment that Blizzard can.

That said, I don't find Warcraft to be "all that" or even "the best game made." It certainly is a "good" game. I find it frustrating on more and more occasions as I tire of the basic mechanics and never changing themes, but it delivers more of what I want out of a game than other titles. Combined with the fact that even my mother can buy me a game card as an impulse gift and I may well be playing this game until I retire (or longer). I am still hopeful that something else will come along with new themes and all the same qualities of game satisfaction, but I don't see anything on the 2 year horizon.

We bounce back and forth from the Muradin (PvE) and Nazjatar (PvP) servers--but always Horde side. In my New Zealand timezone I am often playing solo so PvP is less satisfying at times, but I have a ton of friend on the Naz server and the game serves as both game entertainment and cherished time with old pals. Pretty much can not beat that.

I have to give Kudos to Blizzard for adding in a multitude of fun widgets to the game over the years. While I think most "hard core" players are all in the game for the power gaming (40 man raids to quest for the most epic gear), I find more enjoyment from the simple goofiness of the Engineering profession. You see, my Warlock, Melongrim, has been an Engineer her whole career. Warcraft uses a sort of "steam punk" version of technology where characters can create mechanical pets and even flying gyro-copters and other fanciful items. The Wrath of the Lich King expansion introduced "tinkering" items that allow you to add bizarre features to your existing armor/items like Hand Pyro-Rockets. This tinker allows you to turn an ordinary pair of gloves in to a damage dealing ranged weapon (fires once a minute). Or you can turn your cloak in to a parachute (so you can jump off cliffs without dying). One of my new favourites is to make "Explosive Decoys". These look like harmless critters that hop innocently around the vast WoW landscape like rabbits, squirrels, rats, etc. They are often killed casually by pedestrial players as a means to level up weapon skills or just out of boredom. But my explosive decoys are hardly innocent. They blast a 5 yard radius for 1700 points of damage--easily killing everything under 30th level. I giggle just imagining the potential.

With Engineering you can also fashion directly useful bombs and grenades. These are usually made 1 or 2 at a time and increase in effectiveness as you level up. But curiously I just trained for the ability to make a "Box of Bombs" that makes something like 30 grenades at a time. I have no idea why this sudden increase was added. These bombs are also listed as doing "light siege damage" and I have no idea what that means either.

The point here is these little gems keep the players interested. With $150 million per month to goof around, I think there may not be a better engineering playground for many years to come.

Game On!

PS: Go ahead... kill the bunny. *snicker* Pay no attention to the snickering warlock behind the tree.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


Hey, I'm so excited! I got to play a real game with real gamers. It has been a couple of months.

Dominion is a boxed game, but it was really a card game with a board game feel. It took a lot of elements that I liked from other card games, but kept them simple yet very flexible. It would be a very different game each time you played.

The general idea is that each player is a monarch out to capture more land (point cards). In order to get land you have to buy it with gold and to get gold you have to play your hands just right and acquire the right resources. When 3 sets of resources are exhausted the game is over and every one counts up how many land/point cards you accumulated.

The game comes with 25 different resource cards and you choose 10 to use in any one game. Since each game could use a different set of 10, you create a huge amount variation in each game. Game style can be tailored to be very player vs. player to be a game where each player is basically free to build their own resources unfettered (making it more of a race). Two to four players can play on a single set, but you could probably expand to more.

I liked it quite a bit. I was really glad to get to play. I'll put it on my wish list.

Game On!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

D-EVE-lopement Delays

I’ve said this before, but in the absence of the actual release I guess I’ll just have to talk about it again. When I first started playing Eve I assumed that there was a human avatar component. Of course, there is not—Eve is all about space ships, pvp combat, industry (crafting), and complex economies. In 2005 they were talking about “walking in stations” and that suckered me in to playing. Usually when a development team is talking about a feature, it usually shows up inside a year. Well here were chugging through 2009 and the Eve dev team is still talking about it.

Granted, they are talking about it more often and in association with such features being released in 2009. We’ll see. I must admit I’m still excited about the notion. CCP doesn’t do things in half-measures—every dial on Eve is set to 11. I expect no less from the human avatar design. The screen shots so far have been very impressive. There is much discussion about “games in the game” which is the ability for players to plonk down at a table and play games. There is even discussion of things like Texas Hold’em. This opens up a whole new avenue of revenue generation via in game gambling for ISK. That would be pretty fabulous. I can see some players jumping in to Eve with no interest in being pilots!

Many things have been discussed. I can only wait until they finally do release. In the mean time, my accounts have both expired again. I can’t afford to pay the online fees in US dollars at the moment, but I’ll be keeping my eye on it.

CCP continues to put other enhancements in to affect. They are releasing a whole new technology tree with new “customizable” T3 cruisers in the next month or so. While these are interesting, I don’t find them compelling… at least not at $30 NZD a month.

To me, Eve Online is the only unique competitor to World of Warcraft. Virtually every other MMORPG is just another fantasy based WoW clone. No one will be able to take on Blizzard and WoW for next 10 years. Blizzard is raking in 70+ million dollars a month in fees… 70 million a month. Just from WoW. That buys a lot of developers. No start-up will be able to challenge that expenditure. In order to pull away WoW players, you’re going to have to offer something that WoW doesn’t. No game can be all things to everyone. Fantasy clones are therefore doomed to fail. Other genre’s will have to rise and take hold of the market. Eve has more years of development under its belt than even WoW. They have easily the most rich and diverse Sci-Fi MMORPG ever created. If they can continue to grow and stay funded, then they may yet steadily gain ground in the MMO market.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Game Blahs

I am hitting a bit of gamer duldrums. My two main online games are Eve and WoW. I can't afford to play Eve at $30 a month and WoW is still just... WoW. Both games are just what they have always been, but after several years on each, I do keep confronting a diminishing return in enjoyment.

The wife and I are working through Season Two of Battlestar Galactica. Definitely a great series and probably the best Sci-Fi series made. I saw a boardgame version at Wargame Supply that looked interesting. Waaay too expensive for me to afford right now, but looks cool.

I haven't checked MMORPG release schedules lately. Probably just more fantasy crap in the pipeline.

I'll have to hit the next Welly RPG meeting (WARG) and see what's shakin'.

Game On!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Gamer Update

The high summer of New Zealand conspires to squeeze out my game time. My folks are visiting from the States and the beaches and other fantastic attractions of the islands keep me away from the game table. I missed out on the big game conference Kapcon 08 and I haven't hit a Wellington Area RPG Group meeting since November. But all is well and I'm sure I'll be in the gamer swing of things by the end of Feb.

I did get some awesome game time cards for Christmas. Thanks John! Woot! I also got a $10 "come back to Eve" special offer which should expire Feb 20th. But until then I have some cheap MMORPG action which is great since I'm not playing these all that much even.

My wonderful oldest son sent me a Lego game for xmas which is still waiting for me to have some extra game time to play with it. It looks cool.

In Eve, I have Porter working on her mission running (aka: combat) skills. She can now fly a Minmatar battleship (Typhoon) well enough to complete Level 4 missions where the real ISK is. This makes Porter a more well-rounded character than my "main" character, Masada (pictured right, hehe). Porter has awesome secondary/production skills and now as basic combat skills where Masada has stellar combat skills, but only poor secondary/production skills. Ah well. At the moment Masada is active (Porter is expired) and I'm training up Recon ships. The Arazu Force Recon Cruiser is great fun.

I hope you are all enjoying your Summer or Winter! Hehe! Game On!