Thursday, 29 November 2007

Runnin' numbers too

After turning on some analysis-type-stat-counter-thingy a while back, this seems like a good opportunity to root through some logs for a bit of crazy statistical hit-counting fun.

World of Warcraft demonstrates its crushing dominance in the most popular post charts; leading the way is The Draenei with no name, almost exclusively from people searching Google for "Draenei name" (and probably going away disappointed; maybe I should append a list of suggested Draenei names to the end of it, starting with "Neville", "Geoff" and "Steve"), and hot on its heels is The Pickup Tourist's Guide to Arathi Basin, mostly coming from Scoot's blog, where people presumably land after searching for an Arathi basin strategy guide. I hope a couple of people have taken away the idea of defending nodes with them, or failing that at least put on a decent interpretive dance version of The Brothers Karamazov. Rounding out the top three, a fair way behind, it's Are You Ready For That Terrible Swift Sword?, which people usually stumble across when searching for one of the specific swords named therein (either "people", or one particular person with terrible memory who keeps landing on that post).

Enough of the dull stuff, though, onto that perennial blog-o-favourite: responding to some of the keyword searches that somehow landed up here.

"captain zep theme tune"
Captain Zep, Captain Zep! (ooo eeee ooo)
Super space detective!
Captain Zep, Captain Zep! (ooo eeee ooo)
Super space detective!

There's something about tyrants falling as well, but basically he's Captain Zep, and he's a super space detective.

blackheart the inciter benny hill music
No, no, no, Ambassador Hellmaw plays the Benny Hill music when he fears you. Actually, come to think of it, Blackheart the Inciter should play it too. Note to Blizzard: just play Yakkety Sax constantly in the Shadow Labyrinth.

blackheart the inciter worst boss ever
Only if you're not playing the Benny Hill music

da na na na na na na na na big chubby checker
That's not Chubby Checker, that's I'm In The Mood For Dancing by the Nolan Sisters!

nolan sisters blogspot
See, told you so! (If that was someone looking for the official blog of the Nolan Sisters, I'm afraid you got to the wrong place.)

daaaaaaaamn graphics
Dammit twice round the car park and back in for a chaser of hellblast, Peter, what's wrong with the graphics? I'll wager Marjorie is behind it somehow...

hat fetish
It's a fair cop, guv.

hey how u get duel blade city of heroes
Hey! yourself, not nearly enough people take the time to greet Google as they search. Dual Blades are a new powerset in Issue 11, so get rolling a new character to make use of them.

how sweet would it be to be an idiot
Very.

i like the look of vindicator's brand
Really? It's a bit purple for me...

mmmmmmf pic
Stop mumbling, I can't make out a word you're saying.

muahahahahahahahaha
Ha! Ho!

stepmania duck billed platypus download
I'm not entirely sure you can download a duck billed platypus, and if you do manage it I really don't think it's going to be very good at Stepmania...

wow alliance suck incompetent afk
Good day in the battlegrounds there?

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Blognaversary

Happy birthday to meeeee, happy birthday to meeeeeeeee, happy birthday dear Musings... Yes, it's exactly one of your earth years since I started this "blogging" business, and my, how times have changed. Why, to think when this blog started the Berlin Wall was still standing, the EU was still the EEC, Patrick Troughton was still playing Doctor Who and nobody had even thought of this "fire" business, let alone the wheel. It's been an eventful twelve months and no mistake.

But what have I been doing? An excellent question, and thankfully part of answer appears to be "keeping a blog", which I can flip back through and go "Ahh, good/bad times, delete as applicable". Exactly a year ago, I was on my second stint of World of Warcraft, picking up the Rogue I'd got to level 60 in the first stint; November through January was largely taken up with running the old end game instances as a team of four and the FREE EPIX!!1! fever of battlegrounds while waiting for the Burning Crusade. Mid-January, I packed up along with the rest of the world (of Warcraft) and headed to the Outlands, and spent three months (punctuated by a few days in Second Life to see what all the fuss was about) happily wandering around the instances, battlegrounds n' stuff found therein (well, I say "happily", going strictly by the blog posts it actually seems I spent three months whining that I hadn't got any "phat" "lewt", WAAAAH, but I remember it as a much happier time than that, especially as the withered husk of the original guild I'd joined the game with was rejuvenated by a few returning players and some new blood as other guilds disbanded). May and June brought Lord of the Rings Online, which only just made it into a second month of playing, and a new issue of City of Heroes, the only game I've remained subscribed to for the whole year. Peace was shattered for a couple of weeks of July by some extreme Guitar Hero rocking, and a free trial of Star Wars Galaxies, then in August I bought my first ever console in the form of a Wii (and I'd just like to congratulate myself on my uncanny prescience in predicting Wii shortages later in the year, even though the cause turned out not to be giant Wii-eating badgers). A few holidays and a dead PC processor later, the gaming highlight of September was Bioshock (the Tabula Rasa beta not really inspiring), October brought the rather splendid Orange Box, and here we are in November, with my hands oddly cramped from over-Guitar Hero IIIing and another issue of City of Heroes due to go live today. There was a chance for a poetic "cycle is complete"-type return to the start, as honeyed words of short queues and well-matched WoW battlegrounds reach my ears (apparently daily quests there have made battlegrounds as popular as they were about a year ago after the revised honour patch) and tempt me back to Arathi Basin, but the combination of Issue 11 of City of Heroes and the extreme rocking of Guitar Hero III have been enough to stop me reaching for that subscription button.

Astute readers may notice a trend, of the games becoming less Massively Multiplayer and more Offlinely Singleplayer over the year, I'm not sure if that's more to do with me, or the wave of MMOG delays and cancellations that's postponed the most likely looking next MMOG candidates to 2008. Let's hope it's the latter, or I really will need to change the title. Anyway, here's to the next year of blogging, and whatever games that holds!

Monday, 26 November 2007

Rock this joint

Guitar Hero 3 was finally released in the UK on Friday, so this weekend featured a not inconsiderable amount of rocking, at least until my hands cramped into twisted claws at which point they weren't much use for anything except raking leaves up in the garden.

The wireless Les Paul controller is most splendid, the song list is generally pretty good, the stuff I didn't know is mostly decent, even the cheesy 80s anthems are quite fun to play (now and again, when nobody's looking). Disappointingly, a couple of the songs I was most looking forward to (Sabotage and Reptilia) only show up in the co-op career, so I had to use the "unlock all songs" cheat to get to them. I could also live without the boss battles, at least against the CPU; another human might convey the idea of duelling guitars better, the computerised Slash and Tom Morello are just implacable automata who hit every note precisely until you happen to "attack" them.

I also hooked up the Wii guitar to Frets On Fire on the PC (as per a previous post, plus a handy GlovePIE script I found on HonkeyKong). The bluetooth connection can be a bit temperamental, and something somewhere along the line randomly beeps on the PC speaker, but that hardly matters when the volume's up to 11. With a little tweaking, that GlovePIE script could be used for inputs to other games too... Hmm; Daley Thompson's Decathlon, with strum up and down as the running buttons and one of the frets for jumping hurdles etc... In fact someone should write a new version, Daley Thompson's Guitar Decathlon, with different coloured hurdles corresponding to the different frets, and your athletic avatar on screen playing crazy riffs as they sprint...

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Capture the 26 minutes I'm in

Valve recently published some play statistics from Half Life 2: Episode Two (Episode One also available). The thing that really jumped out at me was the average session time: 26 minutes (at the time of typing) for Episode Two, 34 minutes for Episode One.

I'm not sure exactly what constitutes a "session" (their definition: "The average length of time that a player played before quitting. This is calculated by dividing the total number of sessions played by the total recorded play time."), whether you need to actually be playing the game, or whether just getting to the initial menu counts. If the latter, then I can see the average being brought down a bit by people who accidentally click on the wrong entry in their Steam "My Games" list (what kind of buffoon would do that, though, ha ha ha yes, all right, I did it myself just last night), and people who are violently repulsed by pictures of people with stopcocks embedded somewhere in their heads who quit the game as soon as they can after the splash screens come up. Then there's the ones who load it up, and are appalled to find it's some kind of disgusting, violent shooting game rather than a simulation of carbon-14 decay as they assumed from the title, they probably bring the average down a bit (presuming they quit after a couple of minutes, rather than waiting 5730 years just to be really sure). On the flip side, unless the stats exclude time when the game is paused, those aberrations are more than offset by people who stick the game on pause and wander off to answer the phone, or cook dinner, or sleep, or mix enough custard powder into the English Channel for it to become a non-Newtonian liquid, become the first person to walk from Dover to Calais and back again (without using some tunnel thing) since the pre-Cambrian era, get home, have a nice shower then resume playing.

Anyway. 26, or 34 minutes. Split the difference, half an hour; what could you do in your MMOG of choice in half an hour? Farm a few mobs, check a few auctions, run a quest or mission or two, fly from one place to another on autopilot while reading the paper? That's got to be one of the major challenges for anyone wanting to make MMOGs more mainstream, serving up content in half-hour chunks. More to the point, being MMOGs, half-hour *multiplayer* chunks, including the time for people to find each other, decide on what they want to do, travel to an appropriate location in-game... The latter aren't (entirely) in-game issues, of course, but perhaps an opportunity for the "ecosystem" NCSoft are talking about, which touches on social networking, and asynchronous play, and all sorts of other goodness dealt with in one of Raph Koster's recent posts...

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Some speak of the future

As Stephen Fry's recent "Dork Talk" column starts, "Gazing into the techno-future can be fun. We all dream of utopias involving benign robots, food for all and fusion power that is free, safe and unlimited, but then there are the cacotopias too – nightmare visions of malevolent machines that turn on mankind."

I'd been thinking about the malevolent machine (or "robot nutters") myself after finishing Portal, with GLaDOS taking her place with the likes of HAL 9000 and Shodan in the upper pantheons of the Robotic Nutter Hall of Fame not least due to "Still Alive", which easily leapfrogs HAL's rendition of Daisy, Daisy to share the number one spot of the Machine Dystopia Top 10 with "Robots" (I would've added spoiler space in case you've still to play Portal and wanted to be totally shocked by the revelation that the nice computerised voice you hear isn't entirely benevolent, but really, has there ever been a case of a synthesised-voice-AI-type-thing not going bonkers in the nut and trying to kill all meatbags? To really subvert expectation, someone should set a game on a spaceship controlled by an AI that never tries to systematically kill all on board. Call it Starship As Much Cake As You Can Eat (No Death), perhaps.)

The mechanised loon is a marvellous staple for a single player game, giving a convenient explanation for the fact The Humans Are Dead (or murderous cyborgs, mutated zombie-fiends or other form of creature not particularly interested in a nice cup of tea and chat about last night's telly). By and large, the less direct human-to-human interaction you can get away with in a single player game, the more immersive it can be; valiant as efforts at NPC AI have been, most still come off second best to ELIZA in terms of stimulating dialogue, so the worlds of Portal and System Shock, where your only contact with humanity comes in the form of corpses, audio logs, scribbled notes or pictures of cake are particularly chilling (and conversely in Half Life 2 it's difficult to build up a rapport with the nameless resistance fighters who join your squad from time to time due to their sub-Doctor-Who-assistant levels of self preservation: "I'll follow you, Doctor Freeman! Right down the middle of the road! Cover? Nope, not ringing any bells, that. Hey, over here, a rare form of beetle, I must take a closer look! Although it seems to be somewhat mechanical, and it just turned red and beeped almost like it was a landmine or something... awww! Doctor Freeman, you didn't have to throw the nice beetle away. Hey, look, down this road, it's a laser show! I can't hear the Pink Floyd, though, I'll just wander a bit closer... oooh, that laser beam is lined up right between my eyes, it's almost like it's attached to a sniper's rifle or something!")

I think there's a great opportunity there for MMOs as well, a scaled up version of the post-machine-apocalypse with all players as fellow-survivors instead of just you vs The Machine. Basically... Terminator (the future-y robot infested bits, not chasing around after a curiously accented cyborg in 1984 LA). Only not exactly the same, to avoid copyright infringement and having to acknowledge the existence of Terminator 3. This would be very much a PvE world, humans vs the machines, with all machines being computer-controlled rather than a playable faction. After all, if you want to log in and repeat a set of mind-numbingly simple tasks over and over again until you log out, you've got plenty of options already (*badum-tish*, thank you, I'll be here all week). You could get PvP in there with a couple of human factions (say, a suitably generic EastBloc and WestBloc, who haven't quite been able to let go of traditional animosities, then you can play entirely PvE, just taking on the machines, or have a zone on the borders of their territory for a bit of PvP as well), but mostly the unending supply of implacable machine opposition would give a slightly more believable and ethically justified framework for your standard PvE quests, rather than "Kill ten spiders. Now kill ten snakes. Now kill ten bears. And vultures. And wolves. ANY WILDLIFE YOU SEE! DESTROY IT! WIPE OUT ALL NATURAL LIFE ON THE PLANET AND BRING ME ITS INTERNAL ORGANS!1!1!!"

Course, for a dystopian machine-ruled future MMO, we've already had The Matrix Online. And I still mean to get around to trying that at some point, only last time I could be bothered to look I couldn't find anything saying "HAY FREE TRIAL THIS WAY!", and I must've searched for at least thirty seconds, maybe even a minute. There's a couple of things that put me off, though, namely The Matrix: Reloaded and The Matrix: Revolutions (I mean, they're not the most appalling films in the history of time, but after the first they're a terrible anticlimax). Also, I gather one of the careers you can follow in The Matrix Online is a programmer, and me, a programmer, on a computer, playing a programmer, who finds out that "life" is an artificial construct, wakes up, hacks back into the matrix... that's getting just a touch meta for me. I'll stick with big guns and robot nutters, I think. I need your clothes, boots and your motorcycle...

Thursday, 15 November 2007

All along this countryside, he opened a many a door

I've been playing Portal in 15 minute chunks every few days, so I s'pose I should've finished after 1.2 sessions, but I just completed it last night, and am therefore now singing that song, which really is superb.

I did have to resort to spoilers once near the end (I was convinced four hydraulic platforms, with one at a slightly different height, were vital to progression somehow when they turned out to be entirely superfluous), but other than that the puzzles continued to be nicely balanced.

The only mystery I'm left with is... what's the the companion cube-mania? Having seen the carved pumpkins, full size costumes, plush toys, freezers etc., I thought at some point there'd be an amazing, cube-defining moment in the game but... erm... no. It's just a box. Isn't it?

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

In one, numbers were burning

I started my MMOG life in City of Heroes, which shaped a few of my ideas about How Things Work. What constitutes a normal encounter, for example; true to CoH's comic book roots, as well as dealing with the odd city/country/world/universe/multiverse-threatening creature of extreme power, you need a bunch of henchmen to wade through accompanied by suitable "BIFF!" and "PAF!" effects. Accordingly, opponents are graded as Minions, Lieutenants and Bosses (with the odd Elite Boss and Archvillain for team challenges). Very broadly, the idea is that one player hero should be challenged by 3 minions, or 1 lieutenant and 1 minion, or 1 boss (or maybe 2/3 of a boss, I start get a bit hazy at this point... possibly 1/2 a boss, 3/4 of a lieutenant and 14/17 of a minion. Something like that. Maybe it's one boss, a squirrel and a weasel that are a challenge for one player hero, a stoat and a badger. Wait, that's not fair, swap the stoat for the weasel, and give the boss a marmoset. And an elephant shrew for the hero. Anyway!) The important thing is that 3 minions are the basic spawn you'll run into, even as a solo player, from the start of the game, and the more players, the more mobs you face, up to the point that a full team of eight will face... erm, hang on... carry the one... then four plus minus one plus ten is fourteen minus one 'cause addition is commutative, right... a full team of eight will face spawns of 243 minions, 12 lieutenants, 3 bosses and a duck-billed platypus. Hrm. I think I shifted a decimal point somewhere. Anyway, that's in the current game; back in the Good Old Days you got the same spawn sizes, only they were such a trifling challenge you'd get your Tanker to go collect the *entire map* and bring them back for the Blaster to annihilate in a single blast, but we don't talk about Those Times or it attracts people whose sense of a fair fight is still calibrated to 2004 settings, and regard anything less than instantaneous defeat of several hundred enemies at no risk to yourself as "UNACCEPTABLE SLAP IN TEH FAEC", a frequent complaint being "I don't feel Super any more" (which I s'pose is difficult to argue with if you're taking Superman as your minimum-power benchmark, but it would be pretty tricky to have a game world with Supermen everywhere.) For any WoW players who haven't experienced CoH... you know Zul'Farrak, when you rescue the prisoners? And you're barrelling down the steps like a pram in Battleship Potemkin, and there's trolls everywhere, and you're AoEing for all you're worth... CoH is like that, with more particle effects.

So! City of Heroes prepared me for three opponents as an absolute minimum, wholesale slaughter arresting as a matter of course, and saving the galaxy a couple of times before breakfast. World of Warcraft took a bit of getting used to after that, with its crazy idea that one mob is a challenge for one player. "I need some murloc eyeballs... and look! A flange[1] of murlocs! ATTACK INDISCRIMINATELY WITH DAMAGING POWERS fireball fireball fireb... oh..." It was at that point that another difference from City of Heroes became apparent, where after level 14 most characters can fly, teleport, leap tall building in a single stride etc. This makes legging it a slightly easier process (so long as you haven't been knocked to the floor, rooted to the spot or otherwise mesmerised) than WoW, where your typical escape attempt consists of running away at almost exactly the same speed as your opponent, before bumping into another flange of murlocs ten feet away and getting killed by them.

[1] I'm not sure if that's the right collective noun.

Neither approach is inherently better, it just takes a bit of time to adjust from one to the other, and I sometimes wonder what it's like to come from the other direction.

In other random happenings, when an ambush last night caused a cry of "Dudes!", I was reminded of Fargo's fantastic Automated Online Role-Player, resulting in much saying of "Dude!" and "Lag", and when flipping through feeds this morning I noticed there's a new xkcd shirt based on a comic that's strangely appropriate for the "how to fit blogging in to work" conversation...

Friday, 9 November 2007

With music in my ears

With an unusually free evening, I went on a bit of gaming rampage last night, kicking off with City of Heroes. After my careful and detailed planning of my blaster's new build, I had a shopping list for invention enhancements to turn the mild-mannered distributor of moderate amounts of flaming peril (causing moderate singing, unless facing opponents whose interior d├ęcor favoured older soft furnishings not compliant with recent stringent non-flammability standards) into a powerhouse inferno of blazing destruction. The only snag in my plan is that somehow everybody else is after those same enhancements (it's almost like they confer some benefit to the character, or something), so I'm left with a bunch of speculatively low bids on stuff in the hope that someone makes a typo when putting an item up for sale, and a few successfully purchased recipes that were doubtless as cheap as they were because they need particularly costly salvage (on which I have some speculatively low bids...)

While on the subject of CoH, I might as well make a brief mention of the news that NCSoft are acquiring Cryptic (plus some more links). You might have noticed I tend not to really bother with MMO News here, as there's at least nine hundred and seventy three other sites covering that stuff, and very roughly 62.432% of them are updated more often than once every when-I-can-be-arsed, but seeing as I'm actually playing CoH at the moment I thought I might be able to offer something slightly more than copy n' pasting a press release and adding such piercing analysis as "CoH is... a... game! And has... some... updates! So this news might affect that in some way." Except I can't, really; ever since it was announced that Cryptic was developing Marvel Universe Online something had to give. Splitting CoH off to NCSoft makes a lot of sense, the whole thing seems to be progressing very smoothly, the CoH team appear to be excited by the future yet slightly regretful at leaving, generally very little drama and thus not nearly as appealing to commentators as the whole Sony/Vanguard business. There's talk of staffing up and vacancy postings, and I get the impression that the second expansion mooted after City of Villains might well be back on the table, though it'll take a while for the dust to settle. Exciting times! The most immediate benefit is a few bonuses being chucked in either now, or shortly after Issue 11: free CoH or CoV access if you had one but not the other (City of Villains wasn't, strictly speaking, an expansion, as you could own either of the games and only play Heroes/Villains if you really wanted, but I believe the majority of the player base have both), a debt wipe, and bonus prestige for supergroups. Nothing to complain about there, right? Course not, unless of course you're one of the tiny, yet oh-so-vocal, minority who manage to display the unerring ability of grabbing the gift horse, prising its jaws open, sticking your head right inside to look at those teeth good n' close then complaining it bit you.

Anyway, the whole "game where the second two words are 'of heroes' and the first one begins with 'c'" business suddenly made me remember I still had Company of Heroes: Opposing Front on the go, I hadn't played it since all the excitement of the Orange Box, so I fired that up for a couple more missions in the Allied Caen campaign. When I left off, I'd just been handed the defence of a key hill. I really though it would be a repeat of Hill 314 from the original game, where you got a handful of infantry and a few crew served weapons against a couple of panzer divisions. I was expecting 25 pounders desperately firing over open sights, heroic attempts to get PIAT attacks in from flanks etc. As it turned out, it ended up with me having an armoured company including several Fireflies, lead by a command tank, charging around the map to wherever a couple of Panzer IVs turned up while the commanders yelled "LOL TANKRUSHZERG KEKEKEKEKEKEKEKE!", helped out by the fact that apparently a slit trench makes five blokes with a Bren gun utterly invulnerable to the attentions of a Panther, which was nice.

After all that calm, considered strategy (KEKEKEKEKE!), I felt the need for some hyperactive twitching, so fired up Team Fortress 2 for a couple of rounds. I haven't really settled on a favourite class yet, I'm flipping around all of them if for nothing else than the achievement of playing a full round as each class. I quite like Medics, apart from the huge frustration of latching on to a Heavy to form a fearsome duo, only for them to wander off (very slowly) to a bizarrely pointless bit of the map to admire the scenery. As an Engineer, I frequently manage to set my sentry gun up somewhere that might, in other times, be strategically vital, but it turns out none of the enemy team come within range of during that round. As a Spy or Sniper, I'll manage an occasional inspired round of dominance, then spend the next ten minutes getting killed without even seeing it coming. Still, it's a bit of twitchy fun. While in Steam, I carried on with a few more rooms of Portal, which continues to nicely balance challenging puzzles, but not to the point that they become mouse-beatingly frustrating. I'm particularly liking the conservation of momentum through portals, flinging yourself from a great height through a portal to emerge in a totally different plane at high speed is brilliant.

To round things off and really wind down into a nice, relaxed state, I finished off with a bit of Rayman Raving Rabbids. My wife and I (several games work quite well co-operatively, with one person pointing/waving the Wiimote while the other furiously waggles the nunchuck (that's not a euphemism, by the way)) completed the "Story Mode", playing through the mini-games sequentially, so they're all unlocked for "Score Mode" now (where the aim is, oddly enough, to get the highest possible score). I think my favourite of the lot is "Bunnies Have A Great Ear For Music", where you're presented with a choir of rabbids singing (in a manner of speaking) "Ode to Joy". One of them, though, is playing up and shouting "blah blah blah blah blah", so you have to point at a rabbid, press "A" on the Wiimote to zoom in, and if that's the one mucking about, slap him with the nunchuck. Once you've found the culprit, another one starts misbehaving, so repeat the process until time's up. To help out, if you zoom in on a tuneful bunny standing next to the miscreant, they'll surreptitiously point in that direction to give you a clue. I've no idea *why* I like it so much, on any rational level it's just bizarre, if any blogger had posted "I've got a brilliant idea for a game, it's all about slapping out-of-tune rabbid-creatures in a choir!", I'd've filed them away with the ones demanding a *realistic* magic system in a fantasy MMO, but somehow it works... La la la la laa la la la laaaa la la la laaaaaaa la la *slap*

Some of us'll wind up to be lawyers and things

MMOG idea of the day: World of Lawcraft. In this exciting, roller-coaster ride you're presented with an incomprehensible end user license agreement, and must work out what it actually means and whether it's legally enforceable. If you accept the EULA in order to get on and play the game, you lose...

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

He's badly built and he walks on stilts

Via a bunch o' blogs, Nick Yee's Daedalus Project has a nice piece on the MMO player life-cycle. It looks like a pretty good description of the path I've followed through City of Heroes (all the way through to "Recovery") and World of Warcraft (once round the block, then back again for the expansion, currently sitting in "Burnout" for the second time; it wouldn't take too much to shift to "Recovery" there, but one game sub's enough really, especially with so many other games around at the moment). Assorted others (Lord of the Rings Online, Dungeons and Dragons Online, Auto Assault off the top of my head) never quite made it past "Practice".

Though City of Heroes is pretty firmly in "Recovery", I had a slight twinge of a "Mastery" flashback last night. I'd dusted off my original hero, a level 50 Blaster, for trick-or-treat badge gathering, and after filling the supergroup storage bins with large inspirations that dropped as treats, ran a few Rikti Warzone missions to make some use of them. After filling up with salvage and picking up a few recipes, well, you've got to hit the auction house, haven't you? With the Halloween event over, I was just checking to see how my sales were going, and all of a sudden felt the need to re-slot my powers and create a bunch of invention enhancements...

I've barely touched my Blaster's build in I don't how long... the last time I respecced was probably a couple of years ago when Enhancement Diversification came in (or "When the sky was rent asunder, and the boards were filled with insane over-reactions not seen since... well, whatever the last change in any MMO was"). In fact I've hardly planned a character at all since then (other than my level 50 villain). When craftable inventions were introduced six months ago I made a few, but didn't seriously investigate the options; firstly, there's a frankly brane-bending array of choice. There are one hundred and eighty two thousand different types of invention enhancement sets, containing no less than six billion and twelve different individual enhancements, with eight frarglillion possible bonuses for your character (note: figures may have been seasonally adjusted). Also, the overnight introduction of an economy meant prices were fluctuating like crazy for a while, especially as heroes with three years worth of influence earnings went on spending sprees (I had a fair amount kicking around myself, but I'd also converted millions into supergroup prestige, back when there wasn't anything to spend influence on after you'd kitted yourself out at level 50).

Now the market has (more or less) settled down, and it's been niggling away at me that I ought to slot up some invention sets for nifty bonuses. What finally pushed me to doing something was picking up a Sting of the Manticore recipe, plus the bits of salvage needed to create it. The Sting of the Manticore set has some pretty spiffy bonuses, like a 7.5% recharge boost, but for that you need five enhancements from the set slotted in a single power, which meant I needed another four enhancements (to the auction house!), and another slot in my sniper power (to the respec-o-meter!). A respec would've been a bit of a waste just to shift one slot, so I did a bit more digging to find out other benefits that can be obtained from invention sets; powers like Health, that used to be a grudgingly taken pre-requisite for Stamina, now offer interesting slotting options for a character without other healing powers, and before I knew it I'd downloaded a post-Issue 9 hero planner and was trying to decide between six-slotting Combat Jumping for the full set of Red Fortune bonuses, or going for Scirocco's Dervish in a PBAoE...

Then I snapped out of it, and switched back to my low level Corruptor, built around the principle of taking whatever power looked most fun at the time. Back to "Recovery" for me!

Friday, 2 November 2007

To dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free

So I got Dance! Online up and running, and it's a bit of a disappointment really. The awesome power of 800x600 graphics means it either runs in a tiny window, or extreme stretch-o-vision fullscreen on a widescreen monitor. Not a major problem, I've never had time to pay attention to graphics in any DDR-type game, being too busy staring intently at arrows moving up the screen, but still. Then there's the interface which, presumably being aimed at those crazy kids rather than gaming codgers, uses plenty of bright colours n' pictures n' stuff, rather than those laughably outdated "word" things that, y'know, convey meaning n' stuff. It's also not terribly responsive, but hey, it's a beta, and none of that stuff would matter too much if the "dancing" itself was up to much. Sadly there's a bit of a problem there; firstly the game, theoretically, supports dance pads, but doesn't let you re-map the buttons, and it obviously wasn't happy with whatever my PlayStation adapter was sending out. A joystick to keyboard emulator lets you play on the keyboard setting, but even on the easiest levels I found the keyboard steps pretty challenging (I'd hope the pad versions are a bit simpler... either that, or I'm just hopeless at dance games).

Anyway, if nothing else it made me dust off the dance pad and plug it back in, so while it was there I fired up Stepmania, and cavorted in a peculiar manner to, amongst other things, the Fight! Kikkoman song.