Sunday, August 30, 2009

My Chronicles of Spellborn Photo Album

Typing one-handed while holding a baby is tough. So, here are some screen shots from my time in The Chronicles of Spellborn.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Heartless_ Father

9 months has already come and gone. I'm a father to a happy baby boy.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Recap: TCoS PvP Server Bug

To recap my previous post.
...there is one glaring problem right now: the fucking PvP server is not working and has not been working for the entire god damn weekend. No progress is saved, characters can't be created.
Now, I knew there was an issue earlier in the day, but thought it was only affecting me. Not until last night did I know it had been ongoing for nearly two days affecting all players on the TCoS PvP server.

The sad thing is that it took TCoS support until 2:36 AM this morning to post that they even heard about the issue.
We have received reports of Rollback on PvP Server and many more other bugs. We apologize for the delay and are looking into it. I'll update this post when the bug is fixed.
By 3:57 AM, the server was restored to normal working order. To recap: two days the server was broken, for something that took an hour (give or take) to resolve.

Yes, TCoS is F2P and being redesigned. Yes, I am bitching about it simply because there was no way to even notify the developers that there was a problem and no way to know they even knew there was a problem until way too much ill will was generated for their game.

Contrary to popular belief, I want MMOGs to succeed on all business models. TCoS has a chance to relaunch itself successfully and now is not the time for them to be letting the general player base down.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Acclaim: The Chronicles of Spellborn's PvP Server Has Been Broken For Two Days, Please Fix It

I've started to play The Chronicles of Spellborn (TCoS) recently as it went full free to play (F2P) (with no strings attached until they rebuild the game). I'm actually enjoying myself.

So, the game is completely free right now as the developers figure out how to convert the game into a profitable F2P title. As a free game, TCoS is not that bad. Its not something I would ever consider paying $50 + $15 monthly for, but as a micro-transaction game, I would spend a few dollars here and there.

However, there is one glaring problem right now: the fucking PvP server is not working and has not been working for the entire god damn weekend. No progress is saved, characters can't be created. Every time someone logs in, they are at the same point they were at the last login. Unlucky are the few that logged in unaware, spent hours playing, only to log back in later and find every last second spent logged in previously was erased from the record book.

I am aware that I am paying nothing for this game and the support is going to be lackluster. However, it was not that long ago that people were ACTUALLY PAYING TO PLAY THIS GAME.

All I am asking for is a post or whisper from Acclaim stating that they at least KNOW there is a problem. Right now, there is nothing but confused and angry players re-rolling characters on the PvE server (which is working). There is no known way to contact the TCoS developers to make sure they are aware of the problem.

Please, not for me, but for the people that actually paid for this game previously, post this news and get the word out so Acclaim and the TCoS developers can get this fixed.
UPDATE: 24 Aug, 2009 - I guess a support tech came into work this morning and noticed the network cable to the database server was unplugged, because the PvP server appears to have returned to normal as of 8 AM EST when I was able to successfully create a new character.

New Star Wars:The Old Republic Videos: Same Old Crap Part I

IGN is sporting four new videos for Star Wars: The Old Republic, totaling 20 minutes of footage. Most of the footage is from in-game, showing off SW:ToR's combat and voice acting. Unfortunately, holding the same as every single video Bioware has released for SW:ToR, the developers in the video say one thing and then show something else.

Here is the first video.

What Bioware says:
"the action packed Star Wars combat"
"we want to make sure combat feels heroic from the beginning"

What the Video shows:

A bounty hunter crouching behind a rock and tree blindly shooting blaster bolts and rockets through solid objects at NPCs that stand there and take it like a bitch, all while the NPCs five feet to the left ignore the fact that their comrades are being killed.

From the video footage, their idea of heroic is "fighting two guys at once". I'm not quite sure that fits my idea of heroic. Personally, a heroic situation comes from more than just the number of enemies involved. It comes from the entire sum of the scenario. This could have passed as Heroic if the NPCs around the area reacted to the fact a bounty hunter just walked in and started blasting random members of their team, culminating in maybe a wall mounted blaster cannon taking aim at the bounty hunter, truly forcing the jet pack equipped bounty hunter to take to the sky and unleash a precisely-fired rocket to take down the cannon.

That would be HEROIC. Standing still, shooting NPCs that are also standing still, is not.

Part I score: 2.5 out of 5 stars

The only thing that looks interesting is the voice acting and story driven nature. The combat still looks terribly boring and formulaic. An additional half star for the cover system which looks interesting.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Faith in Humanity: Really Good, Really Big, Really Cheap Book Sale

I just got back from the "Really Good, Really Big, Really Cheap Book Sale". Seeing tens of thousands of people show up to shop through hundreds of thousands of books warms my heart. Reading, in a society so bent on instant gratification, sometimes feels like a lost art. However, today I was reminded that people still read: from little old ladies sorting through the Nora Roberts table, to the throng of geeks grabbing everything off the Sci Fi and Fantasy table.

Enough with the pontificating and on to the books I was able to snag:

Michael Crichton - Sphere, Jurassic Park, & Eaters of the Dead

Isaac Asimov - The Currents of Space (1962 paperback edition), Foundation, Foundation and Empire, & Foundation's Edge

Tad Williams - Shadowmarch, The War of the Flowers, River of Blue Fire (Otherland, Book 2), Mountain of Black Glass (Otherland, Book 3)

Terry Brooks - Sword of Shannara, The Black Unicorn

All for a total of $12, mixed paperback and hardcovers. Most were gently used and in the case of Sword of Shannara and Isaac Asimovs, 1st printing mass market paperback editions from the 70's and 60's respectively.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Next Warcraft Expansion: Cataclysm Confirmed and Detailed

The basics:
Two New Playable Races: Adventure as one of two new races--the cursed worgen with the Alliance or the resourceful goblins with the Horde.

Level Cap Increased to 85: Earn new abilities, tap into new talents, and progress through the path system, a new way for players to improve characters.

Classic Zones Remade: Familiar zones across the original continents of Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms have been altered forever and updated with new content, from the devastated Badlands to the broken Barrens, which has been sundered in two.

New High-Level Zones: Explore newly opened parts of the world, including Uldum, Grim Batol, and the great Sunken City of Vashj'ir beneath the sea.

More Raid Content than Ever Before: Enjoy more high-level raid content than previous expansions, with optional more challenging versions of all encounters.

New Race and Class Combinations: Explore Azeroth as a gnome priest, blood elf warrior, or one of the other never-before-available race and class combinations.

Guild Advancement: Progress as a guild to earn guild levels and guild achievements.

New PvP Zone & Rated Battlegrounds: Take on PvP objectives and daily quests on Tol Barad Island, a new Wintergrasp-like zone, and wage war in all-new rated Battlegrounds.

Archaeology: Master a new secondary profession to unearth valuable artifacts and earn unique rewards.

Flying Mounts in Azeroth: Explore Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms like never before.
Comments to follow at a later date.

Team Fortress 2 Hat Drop Rate

I have to tip my hat to Kill Ten Rats for finding this chart detailing the drop rate of items in Team Fortress 2.

Actually, I can't tip my hat, because there appears to only be a 0.05% chance of actually seeing any single type of hat drop.

Has anyone else found a hat since the latest TF2 updates?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Polar Bears: Guild Wars 2 Looking Good

Guild Wars 2 has a new website and a new trailer. Normally, MMOG previews are full of computer generated cut scenes and movie-like storytelling. Not so with Guild Wars 2: the video is full of in game footage and the game looks absolutely stunning.

I was most intrigued by the Polar Bear people and would be interested to find out if they are an NPC faction or playable race. Unfortunately, I read through the FAQ and they are not exactly a playable race:
Will Guild Wars 2 have non-human playable races?

Absolutely! In addition to humans, players will be able to create, customize, and play a variety of non-human races.

* Charr - Ascalon's conquerors, the charr are ferocious, warmongering creatures--the intractable foes of humanity. Now, as greater dangers threaten their conquests, charr legions and their war machines prepare for battle.
* Norn - The norn are towering brawlers from the frigid northern lands who can shape-shift into mighty bestial forms. Driven from their homeland by a force beyond reckoning, the norn have regrouped among the dwarven ruins of the Shiverpeaks.
* Asura - The asura, who once ruled the caverns and tunnels below Tyria, are an advanced race of small size and great intellect. Now that they have risen from below, the asura aim to rule the surface world with their powerful golems and ingenious plans.
* Sylvari - Not much is known of the sylvari, save that they are a race of sentient plant-beings, newly blossomed into the world. The sylvari are the youngest of the races, bound together by a common dream and awesome power.
But hopefully, Norn, can shape shift into being a polar bear, because that would be cool.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Introduction to the "A Game of Thrones" Card Game

Fantasy Flight games has a neat little tutorial to introduce new players to their card game based on George RR Martin's book A Game of Thrones.

Its a neat time waster for anyone interested in the books in the Song of Ice and Fire series. The introduction covers some lore and the game play that can be found in the game.

The official game page is here.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Breaking News: Brett Favre Signs With Vikings

All the Favre haters can step down for another year. Favre signs a 2-year deal with the Vikings.
The 39-year-old quarterback turned his back on retirement for the second time in as many years, agreeing Tuesday to play for the Minnesota Vikings.

"I felt I did everything I possibly could do to get where I need to be," Favre said Tuesday. "You're 39, your arm may not feel like it did at 21. But the pieces are in place that you don't have to do that much and I agree with that.

"If they were willing to take that chance, I was, too."
My comment: epic! I love Brett Favre.

Scott Jennings in Left Field, Finds Dust

I predicted that in 2009:
8. An MMO project will come out of left field this year and surprise us all. Scott Jennings may or may not be involved, but he’ll blog about it regardless.
Sure enough, Scott Jennings does not disappoint. Read his blog post: CCP comes out of left field, shoots everyone in head. So, he's not involved, but he blogged about. For those keeping count, that's TWO predictions proven true this year.

Personally, I don't feel this has come out of left field. When CCP announced Dust 514, a lot of us suspected it was their fabled and quasi-demonstrated first person avatars addition to EVE Online. Sure enough, they've announced it as such:
The announcement, with the trailer tagline of “one universe, one war”, came at the end of a talk about the history of CCP. It left many GDC Europe keynote attendees — perhaps expecting an announcement for World Of Darkness, CCP’s other rumored project — significantly surprised.

The trailer, with slick in-game graphics, showcased a space station and then impressive first-person shooter gameplay. Petursson said that Dust 514 is “our take on a console MMO”, and was made after the company “looked hard at what people wanted to do on consoles”.

In fact, when Dust 514 launches, the map of EVE, currently divined only by player structures owned in the PC game, will also take into account infantry successes and failures within the console game. Players in the PC MMO can “fund mercenaries and give them goals” in the console title.

CCP’s Petursson hope that “these communities will meld over time”, expecting specific Dust 514 corporations to start with, but eventually social structures that bridge across the two. He quipped of the new game and the relationship between the two titles: “While the fleet does the flying, the infantry does the dying.”
So, I have to disagree that its as far out of "left field" as Jennings makes it out to be. Maybe I can bite on the console and PC interaction, but overall it was pretty much expected.

I'm interested, but I have to see it in action (outside of a developer walk through) before I can give my blessing. I am still not enthused by how CCP treats the EVE community, letting a few gremlins cause a shit-ton of damage for no other reason than CCP can't control their own developers, let alone the community.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Aion Gold, Forgotten

Aion has gone gold. However, it's pretty much forgotten with the rumor mill working overtime for the upcoming Blizzcon and potential World of Warcraft expansion announcement.
Brighton, England - 17 August, 2009. Today, NCsoft, the world's premier publisher and developer of MMOs, confirmed that Aion has been released to manufacturing. Aion is the highly anticipated game that has already taken Asia by storm and has quickly become one of the world’s largest MMO franchises ahead of its release in Europe on 25th September.
Actually, if Blizzard doesn't shock the world and announce that the next WoW expansion will go live in September or October, Aion has fit into a nice slot for release. While I don't believe WoW expansions kill off new games (actually the opposite, it probably helps some), any success is measured against an awfully big stick. Especially for a game like Aion that is so close in terms of potential players with WoW.

Oh, and Aion is available via Steam!

World of Warcraft Is The Best Game I've Ever Played

There has got to be something going on in the universe when I agree with Darren.
First and foremost, I will revisit WoW off and on for as long as it is still active….especially with each expansion. My opinion (…please repeat that word to yourself…heh…) is that you cannot intelligently comment on MMOs unless you’ve played or are playing WoW. Like or not, it is the yardstick and will continue to be so until we all agree that something else is the yardstick.
I'll go one further. World of Warcraft is the best game I've ever played. I don't think you can intelligently comment on the modern gaming market without having played WoW. There are NO other games even close to World of Warcraft in terms of gaming, cultural, and online impact. For jumping sake, Leo Laporte, even plays World of Warcraft. If you haven't played it, and you're opining on the gaming market, your opinion is going to be short-sighted.

Why is World of Warcraft the best game I've ever played? Simple. I sat down to play WoW and it was immediately apparent that the game was a pleasure to play and I couldn't explain for a split second why. Every other game that I've ever played has had some sort of adjustment period or some sort of immersion breaker. I could explain to you how the game could be made better the first time I sat down to play it. I was lost for comment with WoW. The initial game is perfect in my book.

Now, even the best things in life break down at some point (chocolate melts, Star Wars has prequels, etc). WoW eventually turns out to be just another MMOG, but god damn does it hide it well.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Warcraft Cataclysm Expansion: Re-subscribing On A Rumor, Almost

I have complained that Blizzard was ignoring the original world of Azeroth in World of Warcraft in favor of new expansion areas that had increasingly differing rules. I argued that it would be beneficial to update the out-dated world to keep the game fresh and entice players (such as myself) to resubscribe.

I never dreamed that Blizzard would actually do it or that there would be rumors about them doing it. Blizzard has always been adamant about focusing on new content, not retreading old ground. So, here comes the rumor train from MMO-Champion:
New Content

Cataclysm will be the first expansion not to introduce a new continent, instead making use of previously unreleased zones and revamping existing ones.

Classic Azeroth Revamp
A cataclysmic event caused by Deathwing and Azshara will change the face of Azeroth as we know it. Most of the new content for Cataclysm will take the form of a revamped Azeroth, taking advantage of newer additions to WoW such as phasing and daily quests. Most of the quests and mobs in the classic zones will also be redesigned to make leveling less painful. With the revamp, a greater narrative and sense progression will be offered to players. Some zones and dungeons will change drastically to fit this, e.g.,

* The Barrens will be split into two separate zones of two different level bands.
* Azshara will become a low level (~10-20) zone.
* Some of the zones like the Thousand Needles will be flooded.
* Durotar is wrecked and apparently Orgrimmar could be destroyed. A new Orc city is rebuilt over the course of the expansion.
* Gnomeregan will be part of the expansion as well and gnomes might be able to reclaim their capital. (The last part is still unconfirmed)
* Wailing Caverns will be become a lush tropical area as a result of the druid's magic.
* The Blackrock Spire will erupt and a new version of Blackrock Mountains will be available, apparently Ragnaros will be back too.


In the aftermath of the cataclysm, and the new conflicts on the horizon relief efforts can be found in many zones and new open PvP areas similar to Lake Wintergrasp.

Flying in Azeroth
Part of the redesign of the Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor is the introduction of flying to the two continents, allowing access to many new areas and quicker traveling across the large continents.

Classic Dungeon Revamp
Redesigning Onyxia's Lair in Patch 3.2.2 was just the first step. As most of the leveling will take place in revamped areas of Azeroth, so too will the dungeons, allowing players to use them to level from 80 to 85.

Unreleased Zones & Dungeons
With the addition of flying mounts to Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms and the redesign of many zones, most of the previously unreachable or incomplete zones will now be made available to players. This is where most of the new content from 80 to 85 will take place. Some of these are,

* Hyjal (present)
* Gilneas - The Worgen starting Zone.
* Uldum


It is unclear if the old Goblin locations such as Kezan and Undermine will be included in Cataclysm with the revelation of the goblins' plight, but several new islands have also been risen from the seas by the events of Cataclysm, some on the backs of giant sea turtles and whales, with the addition of several underwater zones.
I can't even begin to explain, conceptually, how great of an idea this is, but I will try to outline three major points: live events, theme-park-itis, and player density.

Live Events:

Restructuring the original world will give Blizzard the setting for multiple, great live events. Players love the old world and I have no doubt they would love to participate in live events focused on reshaping the world. To help spread players out, Blizzard could have simultaneous live events across all affected zones.

With the phasing technology of Wrath, Blizzard could do something utterly amazing and unseen in the MMOG market.

Theme-park-itis:

I have to admit, that I've only played up to The Burning Crusade and have not touched Wrath, so this may be unfounded to players that have exhausted Wrath's content. I also waited a long time after TBC's launch to start playing the expansion. I was still running around Eastern Plaguelands when most players were level 70 and parked in Shattrath. When I first started the content in Outlands, it felt very much like a theme park ride. There were bombing runs, very "on rails" quest lines, and a completely foreign landscape.

It felt very different from the vanilla WoW I was coming from. The Burning Crusade felt like a giant theme park. Eventually, this annoyed me as vanilla WoW felt abandoned and far too plain in the wake of TBC's new mechanics (flying, world PvP objectives, bombing runs).

This theme-park-itis, as I like to call it, is common place in Diku-inspired MMOGs. Everquest has lasted ten years on the concept. It eventually makes the game world feel non-contiguous and broken. If these WoW rumors are true, Blizzard could escape creating another theme park and revitalize a portion of the game world that could drive tons of players back to the game.

Also, this would bring the features of Wrath and TBC back to the main land. Flying, phasing, etc. This improves continuity tremendously.

Player Density:

WoW has always been a solo-friendly game. It has never required having a group to advance to the max level. However, with the theme parks of Wrath and TBC, players begin to disappear and the world feels very empty at times. Mixing in new content intended for higher players in the old world will create tons of crossover amongst various levels.

The hallmark of MMOGs has always been the random interaction of two players meeting in a world and these changes to WoW will ensure this tradition lives on.

Conclusion:

If these rumors prove to be true, I'm all over the next World of Warcraft Expansion. Hell, I almost resubscribed and grabbed Wrath based on these rumors!

P.S. It amazes me how MMO-Champion is such a massive site, with great inside scoops, but they still haven't invested in a spellchecker.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Heartless_ Says: Maple Story iTCG Pretty Good

I blogged about the beta of Maple Story's iTCG recently. At the time, the beta servers were down. Since then, I've gotten a chance to play the tutorial and knock out a few games online. While not a perfect overall package, the iTCG puts the browser-based platform to good use and introduces a refreshing new game.

I would describe the basic mechanic of the iTCG as "choice". Every card has two parts: type and skill. Card type's include characters, monsters, items, and tactics. Skills are separate from the card type and are used in conjunction with the character card (Thief, Warrior, Mage, or Bowman). There is only a single character card per deck and this defines the basic skills that players start the game with.

The first part of a turn is "leveling up", which involves choosing a card to play from your hand. During level up, the skill on that card is added to your character. That skill is then available for use if the criteria is met. If a card is used to level up, you gain the skill associated with the card for the rest of the game, but the card is then no longer playable as it is permanently attached to your character as a skill.

If a player chooses to level up, their character gains +10 levels. Leveling can be skipped, allowing players to avoid losing a card they may want to play. Each skill, monster, and tactic has a level requirement. The level requirement must be met through character level or skill before the card or skill can be used. Some skills allow higher level cards to be played.

To make the choices even more interesting, skills have a color requirement. Each skill is of a certain color and requires other skills of the same color above or below it in a character's skill list. A level 70 skill with two black down arrows requires two black skills below it. If the color requirement is not met, the skill can't be used. This prevents the use of decks that use the best skills of each color. Multi-colored decks can work, but take careful planning.

Skills do something immediately or allow a player to play the rest of the card types: tactics, monsters, and items. There are also "one shot" skills, which are usable only on the turn they are played. Normal skills are free to use every turn if the requirements are met. After several turns, the stack of skills available can get quite large.

Item, tactic, and monster cards are straight forward. They can only be played on your turn as the result of a skill or card trigger. Items are attached to your character and have a passive effect on the game or in the case of weapons, can be used against your oppenent. Tactics are immediate effects on the game. Monsters are "spawned" and then can be used to attack. Monsters also serve as a defense for your character. For every monster in play, your character takes -10 damage from enemy monster attacks. Monsters can be targeted and killed.

The hardest part of the game for a new player is understanding the flow of skills and leveling up with the correct cards. My suggestion here is to play slowly at first and think about when and how a card can be used. If the skill has a level 70 and two blue requirement, its probably best saved for the mid-game. It won't be usable right away, but it has to be played early enough to get two blue skills underneath it (to meet the skill requirement of two blues).

The objective of the game is to reduce your opponent to zero life.

With the game mechanics covered, I would like to list a few cons I found with the game:
  • Players can leave games when they know they will lose, preventing them from taking a loss on their record. I currently have 0 wins and 7 losses, but I've played over a dozen games. Every game I've won, the other player left early preventing me from getting a win. This has to be fixed or it will ruin the game. If a player loses and does not return within 60 seconds, they should receive a loss.
  • Server stability was rocky the first day. I continually was disconnected from the tutorial, forcing me to restart it repeatedly to learn the game mechanics. Since then, I've had no issues.
  • A few cards feel way too powerful. For example Energy Bolt is easily played and deals 80 direct damage. Overall, most direct damage skills and abilities are over the top IMHO. The more games I played, the more I felt as though the Thief and Warrior decks were completely unplayable against Mage or Bowman stacked decks.
With cons, come pros:
  • Without a computer to track everything, this would become an unwieldy card game to play. The way skills works demands a computer referee. That is why I stated that the Maple Story iTCG takes good advantage it's platform.
  • The game is browser-based and requires only flash. Click the link and you can play on 95% of the PCs out there. Not a "pure" browser-based game, but flash is a standard of sorts and requires little effort to get running (unlike Quake Live's browser plug-in).
  • The artwork is solid and enjoyable. Again, the iTCG takes advantage of being on a computer and offers great visual animation for attacks, monsters, and when playing a card.
Go ahead and give it a whirl.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Team Fortress 2 Classless Update: That Was Fast

The newest Team Fortress 2 patch is LIVE. Hats, King of the Hill, new maps, revamped old maps, and other Team Fortress 2 goodness can be found here:
New Content:

* Added King Of The Hill game mode.
* Added custom animations played by the losing team during the post-win state. They are moved into third person camera to enjoy them.
* Added lots of new hats.
* Added koth_Viaduct.
* Added ctf_Sawmill
* Added community map Arena_Offblast
* Added community map Cp_Yukon

Additions / Changes:

* Added "Auto Reload" option to the multiplayer advanced options.
* Clip-based weapons that reload a full clip at a time can now have their reloads aborted by firing.
* Pistol now fires at a fixed rate, not based on the speed at which you press the firing button.
* Added a color blind option to add a Jarate icon above enemies who are busy accepting a terrifying existence where they have no dignity.
* Significantly reduced the amount of network traffic being sent.
* Capturing the flag in a CTF game mode gives the entire capturing team 10 seconds of critboost.
* Sappers attached to a teleporter automatically place another Sapper on the other end of the teleporter, if it exists.
* Engineers wrenching a teleporter will repair the other end as well, and remove Sappers from both if they exist.
* Disguised Spies no longer trigger On-Hit effects (like the Blutsauger's heal).
* Removed self-inflicted minicrits. Fixes Jarate'd Soldiers/Demomen having ineffective rocket/grenade jumps.
* Added an item panel to the spectator cam that shows non-standard items being carried by the player you're spectating.
* Added an "Inspect" key that allows you to look at items being carried by your team mates.
* Backpack improvements:
- Added drag & drop to move items around. Item positions are maintained on the backend.
- Added multi-select, allowing you to delete multiple items at once.
- Added a new key to the key binding page that opens your inventory directly to your backpack.
- Fixed mouseover panel being incorrectly position when the backpack first appears.
* Cloaked Spies standing in valid backstab positions no longer raise their knife.
* Added current map name and gametype to the bottom right of scoreboard.
* Added class icons to tips on the loadout and loading screens.
* Improved visuals around flags when they're being carried by a player.
* Improved critboosted visuals, making it much clearer when an enemy has critboost.
* Updated the loading panel to show the game type under the map name during level transition.
* In-game chat dialog now supports full Unicode characters.
* Added BLU main menu background.
* Added response caching for some server queries to help reduce the CPU load from DOS attacks.
* Teammates no longer block friendly radius damage. Prevents nearby teammates causing rocket/grenade jumps to fail.

Map Changes:

* Update PLR_Pipeline
- Increased the starting advantage in the third round if a team has won the first two rounds.
- Fixed carts not continuing to the second round if they're capped at the same time in the first round.
- Fixed being able to shoot pipebombs over the starting gates in the first round.
- Fixed being able to open the doors in the first round before the setup time was finished.
- Fixed players getting stuck in some doors.
- Fixed players being able to get onto rooftops and out of the map boundaries.
- Fixed other minor bugs and exploits.
* Update Arena_Sawmill
- Fixed DirectX8 bug where some models would not be visible.
- Fixed exploit with building teleporters outside of the map.
* Updated CP_Granary
- Made a few changes to improve balance based on competitive community feedback.

Item Reworks:

* The Force of Nature
- The enemy knockback now only `works in close range and behaves more like the Pyro's air blast.
- Enemies cannot be juggled by the FaN's effect.
- The self-knockback has also changed to respect the firer's view angle. Looking up while shooting will no longer propel the enemy upwards.
- Knockback is now scaled by damage done.
* The Sandman
- A Scout will receive 1 point for stunning an enemy and 2 points for a long range stun.
- Stunned players now take 75% of all incoming damage instead of 50%.
- √úbercharged players can no longer be stunned.
- Heavies spinning their mini-guns will continue to spin when stunned (whether the left or right mouse button is pressed).
- The minimum distance to stun a target has been reduced.
- The negative attribute has changed from "no double jump" to "-30 max health".

Fixes:

* Fixed various issues around layout & presentation of items inside the Backpack and "X is carrying" item dialogs.
* Fixed an exploit that allowed players to work around sv_pure.
* Particle files are now protected by sv_pure.
* Fixed critboost effect getting stuck on when you die while critboosted.
* Fixed Timer HUD element backgrounds not being the correct color if you change teams during waiting for players.
* Fixed a couple of issues with the way critboosts affected The Huntsman and the Spy's knife.
* Fixed an exploit where you could reload The Huntsman faster than intended.
* Fixed Heavy "civilian" exploit.
* Fixed a set of exploits using the DXSupport config files.
* Fixed r_screenfademinsize and r_screenfademaxsize exploits.
* Fixed sentries firing at a fully cloaked Spy if they're still the closest target.

Community requests:

* Added a HUD element for hybrid CTF & CP maps.
- Supports 1 or 2 flags, and any number of CPs.
- Mapmakers need to place a "tf_logic_hybrid_ctf_cp" entity in their map to enable it.
* Added custom kill server log text "train" and "saw" for deaths caused by these environmental hazards.
Format: "%s<%i><%s><%s>" committed suicide with "world" (customkill "%s") (attacker_position "%d %d %d")
* Added new "medic_death" event for server logs
Format: "%s<%i><%s><%s>" triggered "medic_death" against "%s<%i><%s><%s>" (healing "%d") (ubercharge "%s")
- healing is the amount the Medic healed in that life
- ubercharge (1/0) is whether they died with a full charge
* Added "func_respawnflag" trigger entity. It will remove & return the flag if a flag carrier touches it, or if the flag falls into it.
Way cool.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Mythos : Something is coming...

All it took was one massive tweet via Redbana's MYTHOSGAME Twitter feed:
Something is coming...
What that is, no one knows. However, Mythos.com is pointed out as the place to go find out.

***WARNING, SLOW LOADING FLASH AHEAD***

My guess is that we'll finally get to see a re-branded Mythos. Hopefully free-to-play, and hopefully minus the Overworld.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Team Fortress 2: FLUFF


A new Team Fortress 2 update has been thrown down the proverbial bowling alley that is the Valve development pipeline:
A surprise new TF2 update has arrived, and it has absolutely no class. In fact, it’s about as daft an update as you could hope for, with Day 1’s offerings giving you eighteen new hats, and a new Arena map. “After setting a new standard for Lack of Class in an FPS with the addition of Jarate (the jar-based Karate),” explains the TF2 blog, “we’ve raised the bar on lowering the tone even further with the first ever Classless Update!”
Hats? Fluff, absolute fluff! Who would have ever guessed that we would be discussing FLUFF for a first person shooter? More importantly, who would've guessed we'd actually like the FLUFF!

*grumbles*

Maple Story iTCG


I am a sucker for trading card games (TCGs). As I've gotten older and more responsibility has cropped up in my life, I've found little to no time to head out to my FLGS (friendly local game store) to play with "real" cards. So, I've been relegated to online versions. I played Free Realms' card game for a bit, but quickly realized it was a massive money sink. I played Magic the Gathering: Online for all of its beta, but scoffed at the idea of paying the same price for virtual cards as I was for real cards. However, every time I hear about a new online TCG, I get interested and click on over to check it out. So, when I caught this story on WarCry about a Maple Story iTCG, I had to investigate.
Nexon America opened a new Web site for its upcoming game, MapleStory iTCG Online, at http://itcg.nexon.net. iTCG Online is an online flash-based, in-browser trading card game using the characters and monsters that occupy the world of MapleStory.
The biggest part that caught my attention was "online flash-based, in-browser". This means players open the web page, log in, and then start playing. An almost "pure" browser game (flash is still a plug-in, albeit a web standard of sorts).

Now, this is where I would insert information on how the iTCG plays, but the servers have been down all morning and I can't give the game a whirl. If the servers come up before the mood passes, I will check it out and maybe report back here on my findings.

NOTE: I understand this iTCG will probably be a money sink, but that's why I am trying to get in on the beta (which I'm hoping unlocks a lot for free)!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Goblin's Playable In Next World of Warcraft Expansion?

WoW.com has the unofficial lowdown on the new races for the fabled Cataclysm expansion for World of Warcraft.
Our sources have told us that the new races of Cataclysm will be:

* Worgen – Alliance
* Goblin – Horde
Personally, I don't believe it. Goblin's are a neutral race within the Warcraft lore. It would cause a ton of lore-based conflicts within the game world. Not to mention how out of place some places of the game world would feel. Goblins joining the Horde would break too many parts of World of Warcraft.

This doesn't mean Blizzard can't make it work. Blizzard could update the entire world and switch all the Goblin content over to Horde content. This would be out of character though, as Blizzard has shown that they'd much rather create new content rather than update or fix old content.

In the rare case that this does prove out to be true, Blizzard will probably just spin off some sort of new Golbin tribe (or whatever Goblin groups are called) and attach it to the Horde. Thus, they have nothing to do with the current Golbins in game. Blizzard is more than free to invent whatever they want. I just don't think it will feel right for WoW.

Worgen? Who the fuck cares about the Alliance.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

George RR Martin Interview: Update on A Dance with Dragons

A new interview with George RR Martin has surfaced and with it, updates to A Dance With Dragons (Book 5 in The Song of Ice and Fire). Listen to the audio/podcast here or catch the notes below.
Key points:

* George has over 1000 finished manuscript pages for his next book, A Dance With Dragons.
* His previous four books in the series have come in between 1100 manuscript pages and 1500 manuscripts pages.
* He thinks the book will be around 1200, although he will not put an expected finish date on the project
* HBO is moving forward with the Ice & Fire pilot. It is going to be shot in October in Ireland.
* Originally, the story of A Dance With Dragons was meant to be the second book of a trilogy, but the first book grew in the telling.
* Sean Bean has been cast as Ned Stark.
* George talks about why Dance is late, due to the complexity of the series and the amount of rewriting he does.
* Listen to the podcast for the rest!
Good news all around.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Vick?

Seriously?
GREEN BAY — Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson’s non-answer to a question about Michael Vick was more than just Ted being Ted.

The team is doing thorough due diligence on the former NFL quarterback and has had legitimate discussions about the idea of signing him, according to sources.
This is a really bad idea and a half way good idea. Aaron Rodgers has more than proven himself as a capable quarterback and given a years experience, I think he's going to start winning more games. So, Vick would be a back up at most.

First, I think Vick is trouble. Green Bay has a tendency to calm even the wildest souls and keep them out of more trouble(Brett Favre was no angel when he arrived in Green Bay). However, Vick's trouble is unlikely to stop following him around anytime soon.

Still, the Packers need a back up for Rodgers and Vick can play. However, his best days are behind him and have since he broke his leg back in 2006. He's never been a great passing quarterback and always relied on his legs to make things happen. I just can't imagine he will get back those youthful legs that impressed everyone in his early years. On the positive side, he could be picked up for a cheap price and quarterbacks are pretty tough to find in today's league.
Once the highest paid-player in the NFL — and now bankrupt — Vick probably wouldn’t cost much financially.

Either way, interesting.

Update: 13 Aug, 2009 - All this Packers/Vick talk and Vick ends up signing a 2-year deal with the Eagles.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Heartless_ View: Casualty of Warhammer

It all started, as so many things do these days, with an Internet news posting.
In 2008, after almost four years reviewing games and covering industry news and events, I lost my job. In my search for new work, I came across a posting for QA/customer service jobs at Mythic Entertainment for Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. I didn't have much of a technical background aside from being a lifelong gamer, but I had a few years of customer service experience, so I shot them a resume. I heard back a month later and started at Mythic a week after that.

I initially thought it might be some type of call center job, but my supervisors explained that I would be working within the game itself. The journalist in me thought it would be a fascinating look behind the curtain at a young MMOG. The gamer in me thought it would be awesome to finally have the powers of a GM. I would be like an agent in The Matrix.
So, for those that read the above article, we get a sad story about the state of a customer service position at a company who's product failed to meet expectations. The article is both revealing of what happened with Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning (WAR) and a bit annoying at whats implied.

First, the article lays heavy blame at Wrath of the Lich King's feet for WARs collapse. Little is said about WAR's own shortcomings. Granted, this was a viewpoint looking out from the inside, so its understandable why they were looking for reasons or excuses that didn't point any fingers back at themselves. I'm not going to say that Wrath had nothing to do with WAR's faltering performance, but it was a minor footprint to where I lay blame: the fundamental design of WAR was a fragmented mess with no continuity.

Secondly, there is too much effort in trying to make everyone feel bad for the people losing their jobs. Wake up, customer service is a cruel mistress in any career field. I have no sympathy for the guy in the article. He set lofty goals in a volatile position. Strip all the names away (EA, Mythic, WAR) and this story can be sung a million times over for failed projects.

Lastly, I can count on my hand the number of game designers/developers that have come from the customer service realm. Big dreams are nice, but they lead to big disappointments. Goals need to be precise, small, written down, and most importantly, must be measurable. Thus, I have no illusions of breaking into the games industry.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Like Section 7, But Better! Section 8!

An article over at Rock, Paper, Shotgun caught my eye; mostly for vague references to "Tribes" and "Planetside", two games I rather enjoyed back in the day. The new game being compared to the latter is Sector 8.
I want to say up front that I’m having great deal of fun with this. It’s the kind of game I go into for five minutes to take a screenshot, and emerge from two hours later. Read onwards for why.

When people were throwing the “Tribes” word around to explain where Section 8 sat in the big scheme of things, I was unconcerned and not particularly inspired. I assumed it would be another vague sci-fi squib that wouldn’t really satisfy anyone. Tribes-alikes have a habit of not quite hitting the best things about multiplayer gun-violence on the head. As much as I respect the original games, their weapons, physics and environments never quite grabbed me in the way they did so many other people. So you can imagine that I was pleased to find that despite some similarities in the sci-fi, jetpacks and vehicles sense, Section 8 is very much its own game.
Just running down my "What makes a good FPS" checklist:

1. It looks good, both UI and atmosphere.
2. It has classes, not just guys with guns that they shoot people with.
3. The maps look BIG.

Now, does that make it worth the price-tag? Probably not. It is an Xbox360 release, which always makes me leery (For example: Halo was great on Xbox, but sucked on PC). Also, without any apparent digital distribution via Steam or another platform, it doesn't appear that the PC is their primary market. I'm not the only one with the digital distribution question either.
I'd be interested to know if Section 8 will be downloadable at launch on Steam - and if so if there will be a preload offer?

*coughs*I won't mind a free weekend and if you offer one you are bound to sell more copies. But yeah, you'll never do that.*coughs*
+1

So where is the response to this post? Purchasing this game on steam would really motivate me to purchase this game. Direct2Drive and all of the other content systems are a joke.

I would consider purchasing this game in store, but lately I have made it a hobby to secure all of my games with steam so that there is no worry of losing cd-keys and such.
I'll be keeping my eye on the game in the meantime.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Google Library's Book Recommendation Gadget = Genius

Logging onto the Internet this morning, I checked my iGoogle homepage and saw a new recommendation topping my Google Library gadget.


Don't get me wrong; I love to read and I've spent some time with the Air Force, but... nevermind. Google, who the hell would want to read a phone book? Google wasn't kidding when they stated the wanted to scan the entirety of the written word onto the Internet.
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