Saturday, April 21, 2012

Force Lightning and Robes With Hoods.

In pure me fashion, I end up playing (relatively) good guys in the Sith Empire.

The game is Star Wars: The Old Republic, and as previously mentioned, I've been playing since just before public launch.  A handful of guildies from WoW were going to form up Imperial-side, but I wasn't sure I was going to play this game at first.  I was busy trying to keep our WoW guild afloat, and failing.  I wanted to be more dedicated to putting in the effort there, not spending time on another game.  Even if it is Star Wars.  And Bioware.

But it is Star Wars.  And it is Bioware.

And friends who played in the beta were sold--so, a couple of days left in the early access launch, I signed up. I made a character on the server (damnit, I hate having to choose servers) that my WoW guildies were talking about--a Sith Inquisitor, a master of the darker, esoteric disciplines of the Dark Side.
Ian McDiarmid as Emperor Palpatine
Palpatine-y! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Think lots of purplish lightning, robes with hoods.  You know.  Emperor Palpatine-y.

The game has a focus on story not seen in most MMORPGs.  Okay, any MMOs I've seen so far.  The story is personal for SWTOR.  Each main character class has a specific background and storyline that lasts through all 50 levels in 4 story arcs, and keeps pace with the more generic content designed for all characters.  As your class's story progresses, you gain access to a handful of companions that can fulfill various roles in combat, and have a range of personalities.  They come with their own quests that unlock as they learn to like and trust your character more--which happens as you make decisions while questing with them (or by giving them nifty gifts).  Oh!  and you make decisions while questing that can align you more-or-less with the Light side or Dark side of the Force!  Beware--evil makes you ugly.

The game content makes it obvious that it's a continuation of Bioware's Knights of the Old Republic games.  If you played those, enjoy a look at the galaxy 300 years later.

But what is this Legacy subsystem I mentioned before?

Well, it's late, but it's here, at least in part.  It's a rewards system, of sorts, for playing.  After your first character finishes Chapter 1 (which includes the Prelude) at around level 30, you gain Legacy XP along with your character's normal XP.  From them on, any character you play on that server also adds to the Legacy XP total.  Legacy XP (finally) unlocks a bunch of features that are either free, or cost in-game currency (credits, or creds if you're cool).  Got a character to level 50?  Congrats--you can now make a character of that race for ANY class in the game, Imperial or Republic side.  Is that level 50 character a human?  Like mine?  Then they give all your characters a bonus to the stat that makes their companion characters more effective.  You can also buy a bunch of convenience items for your starships--mailboxes, repair droids, Trade Network kiosks, etc....  Your characters gain special emote commands and abilities depending on which of your other characters reach certain benchmarks in the game.  Got a Sith Warrior to Chapter 2?  You unlocked the /warrior emote for all characters that makes them roar and flex with the power of the Dark side--and your class-based buffing ability now automatically includes the Sith Warrior buff as well.  Get your Sith Inquisitor to level 50, and now your characters can all summon a storm of Force Lightning  once in a heroic moment.

So, this stuff makes character creation and play more flexible.  Which is awesome if you want to go beyond the original restrictions to make an even more remarkable character.

See, I'm gushing about the game, and I haven't even mentioned how guilty I feel for not being more active in WoW in, like, paragraphs.

But, like WoW and other MMOs, sometimes something happens in the game world (galaxy), and suddenly there is new, special content to deal with the event!  Bioware has been pretty good with introducing more content with updates, but this week the game world (galaxy!) was rocked by an outbreak of a mutant-zombie-esque plague, infecting and killing "tens of thousands," and giving players even more reason to be more active, with new daily quests, world  bosses and rewards that include companion skins, pets and weapon color customizations.

Now, while temporary vaccines are available, some people have embraced (are down with) the sickness spreading throughout the game wor...the galaxy.  Since dying to the plague gives you special currency to use for the event's rewards, people on both sides of the new galactic war are cooperating to infect and reinfect each other using PvP mechanics.

Who knew that such a devastating event could bring the galaxy to a new peace?

Anyway.  I'm thoroughly invested in the game, now.  My characters are, by and large, relatively good guys who happen to be a part of a nasty, evil empire--and I have some characters on another server to explore the Republic side of the story.

I don't care what you've heard.  Get in there.



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Monday, April 16, 2012

Clones Needed.

Do you or someone you know have a cloning lab?  Because I may need one in order to keep up with all the beta tests and game updates hitting my computer all at once.

I'm a long-time World of Warcraft player, but recently I've lapsed from playing.  Cataclysm isn't as interesting to me, now, and many of my guildies have moved on to raiding guilds, other games or are taking a break.  But I've kept my account current for the year-long commitment that would guarantee me a spot in the Mist of Pandaria expansion and a free copy of Diablo III.  I check in from time to time so keep my main active, but that's basically it.

And then Blizzard sent me my Mists beta invitation.

Let's take a step back.  Meanwhile, I've been playing Star Wars: The Old Republic (or SWTOR for short) since, well, two days before the game officially launched--I signed up for the early release kind of late.  I've been frustrated by the lack of, and greatly anticipating the introduction of the game's Legacy system--a way to tie your characters together in-game, and earn rewards for playing a variety of characters.

And I've been stopping in to update my characters' costumes and builds on Champions Online--a supers MMORPG with particularly great character creation.

Last week, Bioware finally updated SWTOR and introduced their Legacy system.  The day after, Cryptic Studios updated CO with a major overhaul to stats, equipment, crafting, and a host of other systems.  The day after that, Blizzard sent me an email inviting me to download and playtest the DIII beta.

Oh, I almost forgot.  After all of this, a Galaxy-wide game event started in SWTOR yesterday.

I'll be posting in the next few days about my thoughts on all of these games and updates.  I just wanted to break the surface and take a deep breath first.



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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Blue Collar, Red Cape.

I'm writing about comics again?  You bet--it's an interesting time to be a DC fan.

I read (the new) Action Comics #1 yesterday!  Also, Detective Comics #1 and Batgirl #1 (and Justice League #1 last week).  I'll want to do a lot more reading, too, to make sense of things.  Finding out where the new DC universe stands in relation to the old one isn't a mystery to be solved by a couple of weeks of reading the most popular titles, sadly.

But it's still fun reading.

The individual books are starting really well--they are really what I want from each.


  • Detective Comics is a story about dirty, ugly crime and conspiracy.  One man won't rest until the current crisis is over--and the current crisis seems to involve a painted psychopath who kills with no significant modus operandi.  On his side is a crazy amount of technology and resources, and a police commissioner who despairs over the ability of law enforcement to get the job done.  It's dark, it's messy, it's clearly well done Batman.  The man under the cowl is Bruce Wayne, not Dick Grayson, and there seems to be other Batmen around the world (I haven't read more than a teaser for Batwing #1) a la Batman Incorporated, there's no Robin appearing so far, and the Joker seems to be a recent demon, if not precisely new.
  • Barbara Gordon's classic Batgirl design drawn ...Image via Wikipedia
    You wouldn't like her when she's angry.
    She's got crazy upper body strength, now.
  • Batgirl I read because I like legs, and I love the character of Barbara Gordon, and I was Bat-curious to see how she got from the wheelchair back to the Bat-cycle.  After reading, I'm still not sure (she mentions a miracle, but there are no details), but the comic does a good deal of focusing on Babs as a person in transition who still suffers from the trauma that put her in the wheelchair.  She's back on the streets/rooftops, and providing a running inner-monologue that analyzes her every move and exults at being back again.  She flashes back to being shot by the Joker, but doesn't think back to being Oracle at all.  She recalls being Batman's star pupil.  I guess we'll get more info on timelines and relationships in future issues.
  • I got Action Comics partially because I don't think of myself as a great Superman fan (besides the two t-shirts, the ringtone...fine, I'm a bit of a fan).  I thought the "reboot" would be a great time to get in on the ground floor.  And it's definitely a ground floor--unlike the other two books this week, Clark is basically just getting started.  There's no painful re-telling of the origin story here.  Superman has been acting around Metropolis in the recent past..stirring up trouble?  This Man of Steel has been using his skills as an investigative reporter to find corruption, and then loses the glasses, dons the cape (no fancy suit yet, he fights the good fight in jeans and the same damn t-shirt design I own!) and goes after white-collar crooks, saves squatters from building being torn down, and generally fights for real truth, and real justice, in an American, middle-class way.  He's a supremely confident, almost smug hero who is proud of his abilities, but is using them to help pull the common man up, and the uncommon criminal down.  He can jump pretty high and pretty far can see an ulcer flaring up, and is often draw with his eyes glowing red, his heat-vision ready to jump out in disgust for the criminals he faces.  His best friend, Jimmy Olsen, works for a rival paper with reporter Lois Lane (who only knows Clark as a rival reporter).  Alexander "Lex" Luthor is a consultant to the military that's trying to figure out what to make of this alien that's shaking things up.  Morrison sticks to basics in this re-introduction, I really enjoyed it.  There is some history here to be explored later--where are Jonathan and Martha?  Is the basic origin the same?  For the most part, Superman is a recent phenomenon.  We'll see how the new Superboy fits in soon, but for now, there's no sign of Supergirl.
  • Justice League started out really well for me, too.  I'm a big Hal Jordan fan, and have enjoyed interactions between Hal and Batman wherever and whenever they pop up--because it always explores themes of courage versus fear.  They don't often get along, Hal and Bruce.  And so it's great to watch them work together.  Green Lantern thinks he can handle anything, and Batman, just a man in a bat costume, never thinks like that--also, he hates all the glowing, green special effects that clearly show where they are.  But these two are the core around which Johns is forming the new Justice League--because, if they can work together, then the hard part is done.  This is happening in a world where authorities don't trust costumed heroes one bit--Gotham PD regularly takes shots at Batman, and Green Lantern seems to have some issues with the police in Coast City--those costumed heroes with special powers have never really organized before, and there's a new powerhouse in Metropolis (they say he's an alien!).
So, those are my thoughts.  Like I said, we'll see how things fit together as we get new books and more issues.  Hopefully the lack of context is simply good storytelling and not lack or organization among the writers--it's critical that DC get that right if they want the "reboot" to appeal at all to older readers, who are likely to be upset at losing a world they know.

Me?  I had fun reading this week.  I think things are looking up.  Wait--is that a bird?  A plane?


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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The New 52 or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the New Superman

Tim Drake-Wayne as Red Robin. Cover from Red R...Image via Wikipedia
If you dress like this, you necessarily have no fear of heights.
DC's renumbering/reboot of the DCU hits stores tomorrow.

I like the old characters--I like the sheer history of the DCU.  It's why I can catch up to some of my favorite characters in "Justice Society of America."  History and legacy are a couple of big hits for me--"Legacy" is actually the subtitle of my 3+ year Nobilis GWB game (probably ending tonight!).  Being mindful of where you come from, who your heroes, mentors, role-models are, and what you may be leaving behind is powerful stuff.

So, when I heard the news this summer that DC would be doing a reboot, my first reaction was great disappointment.  I didn't want new takes on familiar characters and themes, I wanted the history to continue.  I thoroughly enjoyed the Crises and the big crossover events.  I love the big, cosmic stories because I think the writers and editors of DC do them so well--the universe can change seven ways from Sunday, people hurt, and people make it through, and it works for me.

I know Superman is getting a full reboot, but there seem to be series that are getting renumbered but keeping at least some history around--in the GL-related titles, for instance, where the events of "Blackest Night" intact.  But how does this affect continuity and cross-over potential?  Are there two versions of Superman (again)?  How many bat-mantles are out there, now?  I loved the story of the Robins and how Jason Todd and then Tim Drake took on the mantle of Red Robin, originally a character in "Kingdom Come."  It looks like Captain Atom is back...I try not to be confused with that guy, but Grant Morrison hurts my head sometimes...

I need to finish reading "Brightest Day" and "Flashpoint."  I'm going to do some major web-research about The New 52 today.  I need to get prepared for this stuff, because, as DC points out, this could be a great time to start buying comics again.  Same-day digital copies are a huge bonus for me, a guy who games, chats, reads and writes digitally, these days.





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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Social Warfare.

New computer!  New windows machine!

There, excuses list is done.

My cousin asked some family members if Google+ would rival Facebook.  Actually, he asked on Google+.  He might have asked on Facebook, but I haven't check it today....  So I gave my opinion--and I give it to you all.

Google has a serious nerd fanbase already--the trick is to appeal to everyone the way FB has. It's one thing to get everyone to use your search engine--it's a different thing entirely to expand that to getting nearly everyone who has an e-mail address to connect like they already do on another service. FB appealed to a smaller audience at the start, too--but it was a group of socially active, generelly tech-savy people. College students. Making the leap to widespread use was less challenged, too, because there was no serious competition.

G+ has a few things in it's court, though. Right out of the box, they have video integration--both in their Hangouts and in the integrated GChat stuff, which also has voice-only available. G+ also lets you segregate your privacy rules into smaller groups of contacts--something that is POSSIBLE for FB users but un-intuitive and a royal pain. Sparks seem to be an idea similar to StumbleUpon--where the user inputs interests and is shown websites that match up with those interests--though I still haven't played with it much. It's a great way to find stuff to share, though.

One big difficulty I see, though, is in the very way we share on G+ versus FB. There are loads of sites that allow you to easily share content to your feed on FB, as well as third party software that helps you post to multiple feeds (FB, Twitter, LinkedIn, what-have-you) at once. How will this work with the option to share to certain Circles only? Will those apps that allow us to share to FB also allow us to share to G+? Will they ask us what circles to share to? They had better, in order to make any difference in the way we use G+.

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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Ubuntumancy.

A long while ago, I posted about messing around with a Windows installation of Ubuntu.  After the initial romance of the idea had worn off a bit, I didn't really boot to the linux OS very often--I had a handful of posts to write, some Twilight cultists to kill.  You know, important stuff.

Last week, my hard drive failed.

I had warning.  For almost two weeks ahead of time, my computer kept badgering me about how a hard drive failure was imminent, that I should backup my files.  Long before that, I'd been having real problems with my laptop's fan--it was making more and more noise, and the only thing I could do to bring it down to acceptable levels was to poke holes in the grating of the fan and then poke pieces of paper in to manipulate the fan.  I was getting used to the idea that the whole laptop was getting a bit worn down and old (it's about 2 and a half years old, now).  I had a bit of cash, so I sent off to Newegg.com for an external hard drive--something that I'll use even when I get a new computer.  I moved everything from my Win7 library folders--which, sadly, I've recently realized isn't ALL of my personal files (goodbye, unsynched EverNote content).

So, late last week, when the hard drive actually failed as it was promising, I was mostly prepared.  I started to shop around online and at Best Buy, looking at features and prices.  Then, on my (long) way to work one night, I realized something--I have the tools and the know-how to be able to reanimate the remains of my laptop!

Hence the title of today's post.  My fiancĂ© had loaned me her WinXP laptop for the week.  I used it to download and create a bootable copy of Ubuntu 11.04 (code-named "Natty Narwhal") on a flash drive I had sitting around.  With that, I set up another copy of "Natty" on my external hard drive using my "dead" laptop--and presto!  My noisy little computer serves me even in death.


Ubuntu Linux boot Screenshot (english language)Image via Wikipedia
One of these should say "Slay enemies clumsily.
The shopping will continue--Ubuntumancy allows me to still use the other hardware of my laptop over my fiancĂ©'s, but it's definitely not optimal, it's just a better backup plan.  Playing WoW is problematic, and my guild needs their Highlord.  Also, All-in-One computers are really, really cool with the multi-touch screens...but I'm mostly still looking at laptops, for mobility.  I just hope that when I find a replacement, this old noisy thing stays obediently in the corner muttering "...ceepeeyoos...ceepeeyoos..." to itself, and doesn't get jealous, or rise up against me or anything.







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Friday, April 29, 2011

The Power of Objections.

Is there any story more iconic in Nobilis than the courtroom drama?

In the setting, besides a giant wall of blue flame that separates what Is and what Is Not, besides the World Tree of all Creation, somewhere above Hell's corruption at the base of the Tree and Heaven's beauty at the top, there is a Court.

Let's call it the Locust Court--because there are bugs.

Depending on the editions, it gets its name differently, but the main point here is that this is where the Nobilis go if they've screwed up.  "Screwed up" can also mean "pissed off the Evil God that Calls the Shots," Lord Entropy.  It depends on the GM how fair the trials are--they typically aren't at all--and charges range from harming innocents to Loving, or failing to do your part in the whole mishmash.  The books emphasize Lord Entropy's corrupting nature--if he doesn't declare you guilty and set a nasty punishment, it's because it serves him, somehow.

So, I set up events to introduce our two new characters, the Powers of Love and Betrayal, by having a friend of theirs (and of one of our original characters, the Power of the Dead) break some serious rules--he killed his Imperator, his boss.  And so, the PCs are at the Locust Court--called to testify about what they know of the Power of Pain's betrayal of his former Lord (and the former Lord of Love, Betrayal, and Regret).  His defense?  Their former Lord wanted to die.  The Fallen Angel Shemhazai had second thoughts about most things in his existence, from his support of Lucifer's Rebellion to arranging certain life-lessons for his Nobles.  They claim that Shemhazai knew about the plot against him and subtly encouraged it.  He knew that he would be taken back to Heaven after death, and he sought redemption so much that he'd gladly be murdered for it.  It really was serving his will, they say.

Dante and Virgil in HellImage via Wikipedia
Lord Entropy sentenced everyone to mud-wrestling.
The Powers of Love and Betrayal were charged with contempt of court for basically saying things that made Entropy and his Noble, the Power of Scorn, mad--they wanted to punish Pain to make an example of him--to show that killing Imperators is a BIG foul, that noone gets away with that.  They were taken out back and beaten for their insolence.

And the Power of Pain?

They'll make something stick.  It might not be the capital crime of betraying his Lord, but they won't let him get away without scars to make him remember who's in charge.
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