April 14, 2005
WoW for All
The events of last night which brought her to this point are interesting. Here is the story.
After Cameron and I finished working through a couple of quests together, we said goodnight and I returned to the town of Goldshire to get the last of the Leatherworking training from the Journeyman Leatherworker there. Then, I went to Stormwind to become a Journeyman Leatherworker, myself. With this accomplished, I logged off and shut down the computer for the night.
When I entered our bedroom, my wife was sitting on the bed, reading. She asked me what I had done in the game tonight. I told her a little bit about the quests that we had gone on and about becoming a Journeyman Leatherworker. She said, "This game sounds like a lot of fun." I asked if she would like to try playing it.
A minute later, we were booting the computer up and she was logging into the system. I showed her how to start up the game, and how to create her first character (she decided on a Gnome Mage). When she entered the world, I showed her the basics of moving around, talking to Non-Player Characters (NPC) and a little about the combat system. She started working on the first couple of quests and was having fun.
Unfortunately, it was too late in the evening for me to remain awake any longer, so I went off to bed while she continued to learn the basics.
This morning, before I left for work, she arose from bed and told me that she wanted my help in figuring out the quest she was doing in the graveyard. "I don't know what that quest is," I said. You see, I have not created a Gnome character yet, and each race starts in a different place. Though there are similarities between each race's first quests, the details are different.
She also told me that while she had been playing the night before, she had run into these three monsters that were beating her up and then, suddenly, all her food was gone. I asked her, "So, you're saying some bullies stole your lunch money?" Without batting an eye or missing a beat she replied, "Yes. Where can I go to get my food back?" I smiled and told her about some of the food merchants she could find.
Then she said something amazing: "I can hardly believe that I have found another video game that I like to play. This game is lots of fun."
--Lamont R. Peterson
Posted by lamontp at 4:02 PM
April 9, 2005
New Game: World of WarCraft
Both Dax and Cameron (of Guru Labs) have been playing Blizzard Entertainment's World of WarCraft since December (2004). Many days, when they both have been in the office, the rest of us would hear all about their exploits in the World of WarCraft from the night, or weekend, before.
Since the first Massively-Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (or MMORPG) came out, I have not had any interest in them. Why would I want to spend US$50 (or so) to purchase a game that requires me to be connected to their service in order to play? That might not be so bad, except that you have to maintain an account for a monthly subscription fee in order to connect to their service. "No, thank you," I have always said to this scheme...that is, until now.
World of WarCraft is just that compelling.
A longtime friend of mine was part of the beta test for World of WarCraft back in early-mid 2004, so I had the opportunity to see the game several months before it came out. That is when it started grabbing my interest.
One of the main reasons, for me at least, that World of WarCraft is better is that unlike other RPGs (Role-Play(ing) Games) the level up system does not award "attribute points" that you must then decide how best to distribute. Attributes do increase with each level and those attributes do affect the performance of your character, but they do not play a role in deciding whether or not you can equip an item. If you have the "skill" to use an item type, like swords, two-handed swords, maces, guns, bows, mail armor, leather armor, etc. and you meet the level requirement, you can equip and use the item.
Unlike most other MMORPGs, World of WarCraft does leave the decission to fight other player characters up to the "honor system," or in other words, you are not at the mercy of everyone else playing, if you do not want to be. You can engage in PvP (Player v. Player) combat if you choose.
There is also more than one way to gain XP (eXperience Points). Killing monsters is one and you will do a lot of that. But you also gain XP when completing quests. You can also gain levels by participating in PvP [Ed: This has changed. Now, PvP only contributes Honor Points which let you gain Ranks. See the WoW site PvP info page for more details].
The questing system is excellent. There are a wide variety of quests that are well thought out and put together. I have run into a couple of quests that I could not complete because of buggy NPCs (Non-Player Characters) who were "unwilling" to talk to me (and that was the goal at that point). Blizzard is working very hard to find and eradicate all such bugs. The in-game reporting system is very nice and (usually) makes it quite easy to report issues like these.
In addition to XP and levels, your character can learn up to two professions. Some of these professions are closely related (in pairs) and so would make sense to learn together. For example, Skinning & Leatherworking; Mining & either Blacksmithing or Engineering. As you gain skill (up to an ultimate maximum of 300 skill points) in your chosen professions, you can learn how to create more interesting, useful and valuable items.
There is a very complete economic system, including a server managed Auction House, where players can put items up for bid and shop for things they need or can use. Many players create items through the sills afforded by their professions and then sell them in the AH. There are many items in the game that can only be created by players.
In addition to the two primary professions, everyone can also learn all three of the secondary professions: Cooking, First-Aid & Fishing. Cooking allows you to create food items from raw ingredients extracted from monsters killed and/or purchased, some of which can give temporary benefits (known as buffs) when consumed.
Starting when your character reaches level 10, you will receive one Talent Point for each level (up to the current maximum of level 60). Talent Points can be distributed amongst three Talent Trees, which are specific to each character class. You can not earn enough talent points to completely research any one tree from top to bottom (at least, not until Blizzard moves the level cap up). The talents selected make your character more proficient in particular ares and allow you to customize that character's makeup.
As you go on quests in areas of the World of WarCraft, you will gain (or lose) Reputation. As your reputation improves, vendors (which are NPCs) will give you a discount on goods purchased from them.
On top of all that, for PvP there is an Honor System. If you kill people way lower than you in level, weather player characters or NPCs, you will increment your count of dishonorable kills. As honorable kills rack up, you will gain in Rank. As your rank rises, other areas of the game open up, which are only available to players with Rank.
As you can see, it is a very rich and well thought out system. It is very easy to play and yet you can highly customize your experience for the way you like to play. This is not limited merely to the selection of race and class of character, either. For these reasons, among others, I purchased World of WarCraft and truly enjoy playing it.
One word of caution, however: It can be addictive. This game does such a good job of engrossing you in it's many facets that one can quickly & easily lose track of time while playing. I would suggest that when you go out to buy World of WarCraft, you also pick up a small electronic timer or alarm clock to mount next to your monitor while playing and set it for a reasonable amount of time.
Posted by lamontp at 3:51 PM
March 30, 2005
Review: Homeworld 2
I purchased Homeworld 2 about 5 weeks ago. Since then, I have only played it for about 3 hours total. So far, I have to say that this game rocks.
First of all, Homeworld 2 (like Homeworld and Homeworld: Cataclysm) is a 3D RTS (Real-Time Strategy) game. Gameplay takes place in space, in a truly 3D environment; you move and fight in three dimensions.
If you never played the first Homeworld, then you may not be familiar with it's excellent user interface. The challenge of creating a simple, easy to use interface that allows players to move, fight and operate in 3 dimensions, even during times of frantic, "high-stress" activity, is no small matter.
I never thought it would be possible, but Relic actually made the UI in Homeworld 2 better than the original. Not just a little better, either. I have to tip my hat to them.
As for gameplay, the same concept of working with fleets of ships in every size class from small 1-man fighters (and even a few smaller auxiliary devices) all the way up to Super Capital Ships, is present. You can not succeed in the game if you ignore one end of the spectrum or the other. You must build integrated, combined arms fleets in order to win.
The major changes are in just what ships are available. The timeframe of Homeworld 2 is set several generations after the original, so this makes a lot of sense. The technology tree is very interesting as well.
Also, ships that have construction capabilities, use a concept of modules that must be present in order to be able to construct certain classes of ships. There are some really cool new ships, too.
One thing that has disappointed me, though, is that hyperspace jumps in multiplayer games are still WAY too expensive. There are maps that encourage hyperspacing, and the super-capital ships (along with the mother ship and shipyard) are slower moving than in the original, making for painful gaps in the action. Hopefully, this could be "fixed" in an update to the game.
Overall, I am really looking forward to working my way through the single-player campaigns. Multiplayer games with several other people will be a lot of fun.
Posted by lamontp at 5:25 PM
March 13, 2005
Scorched3D & UT2004
I have built version 38 of scorched3d and have it running on my notebook. Unfortunately, the opensource "radeon" driver lacks support for a couple of features of that would allow this game and Unreal Tournament 2004. However, I was able to find the combination of switches (deactivating some rendering features) that allow scorched3d to run nicely on the notebook.
Derek, Stuart and I have played a couple games of Scorched3D between our notebooks. I think I currently hold the award for "Best Self-Destruct Sequence" for the time I wiped them both out in the first 3 turns and then proceeded to launch a Hornet Swarm that crashed into a ridge right next to me, annihilating myself within 1.5 seconds.
On the notebook, UT2004 was barely playable with every rendering related option cranked down and with only minimal activity on screen, which is to say that it really is not playable like this. Dax told me that he had played UT2004 on this notebook in the past using some other drivers and that it ran very well.
Last night, I built scorched3d for AMD64. This afternoon, I installed it and have been trying to get it to run. Unfortunately, it keeps locking up the system before I actually get into the game. The same thing is happening with UT2004. Games like Chromium and TuxRacer run flawlessly (on both systems). Maybe I just need to tweak out the fglrx driver for the 9800Pro.
Posted by lamontp at 6:59 PM