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.