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Friday, February 9, 2007

Sylvanas Windrunner and the Runnettes!

Verthandi with Sylvanas Windrunner, Royal Quarter, Undercity. 2-9-07 3:13am.

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LotR Online

I got into the early beta for Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar a while ago. I participated in the first stress test, and then played for a while. Then they did a server wipe, and I haven't had the heart (especially post-"Burning Crusade") to start all over again.

If you haven't read up on it - players can be any of the Free Peoples; Elves, Dwarves, Hobbits, and Men. There are various flavors of each of the peoples - for instance, Men consist of both Gondorians and Rohirrim, as well as others like Breelanders. There are variation in each race, and each comes with inherent advantages or disadvantages. Other than racial traits, there are no stats to speak of - and abilities are acquired by leveling in one's profession; minstrel, burglar, captain, guardian, champion, hunter or loremaster. Different races have access to different professions.

Starting quests are a great example of what can be done with something as developed a genre as Middle Earth. As an elf, for instance, you'll help defend a last hold out in Lindon alongside Elrond - and then after the passing of many centuries - return to the vicinity to complete your quest and move on to a new area. They've borrowed a cue from WoW with using quests to usher players from area to area, always remaining level-appropriate. But there are a number of novel concepts, as well.

For instance, there are traits that are earned by accomplishing things in game- my character was known as Angthelion the Wary, for instance, because I made it to Level 4 without dying. Later on, those traits actually confer in-game bonuses, and can be made "official" by telling your story to a bard (and picking the reputation that you want to be known by). Additionally, adventuring parties are known as Fellowships - and classes like minstrels and captains confer advantages to other members of their Fellowship. Guilds are called Companies, and much is done to make not just the environment, but the system as well reflect a very Tolkien feel.

I can't say enough how great an idea it was to have new players interact with elements from the plot of the books in their introductory quests - immediately one is immersed in the Middle Earth-ness of it all, which makes it a stand out property, and distinct from the glut of other MMORPG's. That said, it is done by Turbine, who also did Dungeons and Dragons Online - and the visual engine will look familiar (disappointingly so) to any who, like me - tried DDO and were quickly disenchanted.

I'll write more as my impressions deepen - for now I'd say they succeeded at making something appropriately Middle Earth in quality, but disappointing in terms of game play.

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An SWG Player With No Computer

Hello Folks, This is Kam-RA, aka Faucon Cheerioz... the only "Star Wars Galaxies" player here so far. Yes, I still play SWG. Why? Why, you ask? Well, if it's any consolation, my computer has been down for weeks and I haven't been playing much at all recently.

What's that? You're laughing at me? That's fine. I still enjoy playing the game. It's just like WoW even... you get to walk around forever doing silly quests with friends.

Actually, I don't really play like the walking very much. I prefer to team up with my brother (Nee Cheerioz) and fly in space. Yes, what I love about SWG is that you get to fly in space. Right now, I have a modified version of the same craft that Boba Fett & Jango Fett flew in the movies. I'll get full specs & screen shots when I rebuild my computer this weekend.

Beyond space missions, I'm currently working on the some ground missions on Kashyyyk. When I upgraded to the "Jump to Lightspeed" add-on for SWG, the planet Kashyyyk, along with then entire Galaxy, were made available on my galactic travel map.

The problem really is that I'm a mid-level character who does not get enough grinding love. Luckily though, Nee is a great guide and well, nothing really beats having a master Jedi roll with you. So, I look forward to working hard to level up to 90! Then I'll enter into the PvP realm (and yes... there is PvP space combat!).

So that's that... I plan on adding more this weekend as I get my computer up & running again. With Kunochan's challenge... the incentive to blog is ten-fold stronger!

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Cloud vs. Star

I, like a lot of you, have had a few weeks to play the "Burning Crusade" expansion for "World of Warcraft" now. I've substantially leveled a couple of new characters*, one of each of the new races (Blood Elves and Draenei if you like, have a life or something) and noticed pretty key differences between the two.

It's not really the new abilities or classes that make the difference, but rather the starting areas, and how they relate to quest progression. WoW was an evolutionary step up in MMORPG design in that it had quests that logically flowed by level and race to new areas that were always level-appropriate. Players were not forbidden to go into areas that they're too low level for, but neither did any of their quests necessarily lead them there - exploration was still possible, and even rewarding - but not a part of the leveling chain. Completing quests was substantially more rewarding than just grinding through countless rats and selling their teeth, and also kept you moving from area to area that progressed naturally in terms of both difficulty and reward.

Still, there were many jokes about the "World of Walking" due to a lot of quests involving running back and forth across the same stretch of terrain several times to deliver things. Sure, one could throw the item to be delivered into a sack and complete the quest when it's convenient, but lots of us knocked out one quest at a time. This lead to a lot of wasted time - and by wasted I mean we weren't exploring new areas, or completing quests, or engaging in combat, or even - Light forbid! - doing roleplaying. How many times did you trot across the Crossroads on the Horde side; a vast area that had little to commend itself visually, and less in terms of ease-of-travel?

The developers at Blizzard have learned some lessons, and improved on the design of quests in the expansion, mostly. The starting area for the Draenei resolves this problem; the starting area for the Blood Elves, for the most part, does not. Blood Elves get quests the old-fashioned way; you're given a quest to go to an area and do something (kill things, explore, acquire something, whatever) and then return to complete the quest. Upon completion, another quest opens up, and you head out again - trotting back and forth across the starting zone many times. Sometimes it's possible to pick up several quests and complete them all in one run - but for the most part it's one at a time - the star pattern method. I call it this because your path of travel makes a star, a whole bunch of radial arms emerging from a central point - that central point being the quest giver.

The Draenei, on the other hand, have it easier. You arrive at the area with the quest-givers, and there are many quests to pick up all at once - all of which lead you to the same general geographical area. In that area, there's a cluster of things to do - NPCs to interact with, creeps to slay and loot, stories to advance. It's easy to further a story this way, too - a whole tableau of a situation is presented upon arrival, and through your efforts, the conflict is resolved. Once that cluster of quests is completed, you run back to the central area and turn them all in at once - and either get directed to a new central area, or get a new batch of quests. I call this the cloud method - your path of travel concentrates in a cloud in each place, with a minimum of back-and-forth just traveling.

Now that I've played through most of the starting quests up to level 20 in both starting areas - which they're designed to do with minimum pain and maximum fun - I'd say the cloud method is a lot more appealing. I appreciate the scenery in Azeroth, and WoW's success has a lot to do with how attractive the environment is - but in reality (so to speak!) we're spending a lot of time in the same vicinity, and the novelty of the backdrop wears off after wandering around looking for that fourteenth Mistbat Vampire - or whatever.

This is not to say that the Blood Elves' area is entirely free of anything like quest efficiency - it's just that it's more prevalent, and more carefully laid out for the Draenei. As a result, I just had more fun playing the Draenei character - even if they don't do little spinning moves when they jump up and down. I hope that future releases or content updates for WoW follow more the cloud pattern, and less the star pattern.

*(Draenei - Iri, Blood Elves - Neeky; Both on Korial'strasz. Say hello!)

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Because Sex Sells!

We've all ogled the sexy night-elf dance. I know, you sneer at "naked elf dancing" as a phenomenon as much of any of us, but you still look. And who hasn't had that conversation - about which of the WoW races are the hottest?

Now you can get a closer look. Kotaku Feature has an interview with the makers of a series of hardcore WoW-themed porn movies, called "World of Whorecraft" (totally NSFW!) The interview details producer Dez's struggles with filming porn in full plate armor, of finding stars that are sympathetic to the material (and, according to starlet Hannah Harper, subsequent fascination and addiction), and personal inspiration; Dez has been a gamer for years.

Says Dez, "People play these games and see these sexy elves, but they don't ever get to see the elves have sex," he said. "A lot of people try to roleplay in the game, but I decided to bring it out into the real world and do it right."

Dez claims that the movies are episodic, and include recurring characters - something rare in pornography. They also include bears - something I'm sure equally rare in porn, though entirely too common in Azeroth. I wonder, is there a scene where a character is sent to collect a dozen bear pelts before getting a "reward" of the kind that the average WoW player is quite unlikely to actually collect in or out of the game?

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Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Cosplaying a Blood Elf

I've decided to start going to work on my very first MMO based cosplay costume. I'm so in love with my blood elf that I believe I'm going to become her!

I recently found these great contacts that I think would be PERFECT for the costume.

These actually glow under black light.

The rest of the costume will soon follow. Any ideas, tricks or advice?!

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Award-Winning MMORPG "Pirates of the Burning Sea" UNVEILS NEW WEBSITE!

(Seattle, WA) January 11, 2007 - Flying Lab Software unveiled a website redesign (!) for their award-winning MMORPG Pirates of the Burning Sea, a massively multiplayer online game of swashbuckling adventure on land and sea, set in the Caribbean during the 1720s.

In addition to the brand-new look, the updated Pirates of the Burning Sea website introduced twelve never-before-seen screenshots of breathtaking environments from the game world. The bold site design, launched in tandem with a new Developer Log from Flying Lab Software CEO, Russell Williams, signals the fast approaching June 2007 release date for Pirates of the Burning Sea.

In his Developer Log, Williams writes, "Here at Flying Lab, we're now firmly in the fun part. Our beta releases come out about every 2-3 weeks, and each release dramatically improves the game. This month is a big one for us, as we start rolling in the new avatars into the game, and the Open Sea is about to get a dramatic facelift in both the visuals and in the gameplay. Ship skills are being totally redone, the avatar combat is being finalized, we're adding on yet more richness in our sounds (crew sounds, anybody?) the UI is being (finally!) redone for real, and the art department is kicking ass and taking names. We can't wait till you guys start seeing the new environments, especially the new jungle beach!"

You are invited to check out the new look and see our amazing jungle beach screenshots by visiting our site at!

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Pirates of the Burning Sea Upgrades Avatars

You've all heard Eekabeep rant and rave about "Pirates of the Burning Sea" (releasing in June) for ages, but I really have to share this! "Pirates of the Burning" Sea is undergoing dramatic changes to its look, from the environments, lighting, ships, animation and overall vision. The latest change has been an update to the people of the in-game Caribbean, giving them a much better fashion sense, as well as shapes instead of tubes for their bodies. Aw yeah.

Check out the new vs. the old avatars.

Taken from the Art Director's developer log.

And now.. the man that Eekabeep will marry some day....

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Hey! That Chick's Not Wearing Underwear!

Verthandi at Tranquillien, Ghostlands. 2-7-07 6:47pm PST.

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"Voyage Century" Contest: Win an nVIDIA Graphics Card

There's a "Voyage Century" contest at Win an nVIDIA graphics card or "Voyage Century" point cards.

You have to register with to enter. Link.

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"Myst Online" -- Kuno's First Impressions

Well, I've played "Myst Online" for a total of about an hour, which is definitely no good for a review. But I can at least give some first impressions.

The game begins with a strident disclaimer to the effect that this is a BETA, not a finished product. So be aware that any complaints I have might be repaired before launch. But since that launch is in eight days... I dunno.
  • Playing any game through GameTap is a pain in the ass. The GameTap interface is wholly unnecessary from an end-user standpoint -- just give me a web site, and I'll download my games. It's not the worst interface ever, but it's not very good. I don't like being inconvenienced just to protect someone's intellectual property.
  • "Myst Online" downloaded over 95%, then something went wrong with the download. I restarted GameTap, and it started the download over from the beginning. Niiice.
  • "You can't spell 'URU' without 'you are you." Yeah, I worked pretty hard to make my avatar look like me. I was not too successful.

  • OMG, the control scheme. I hate it hate it hate it. I can tell they're trying to do something intuitive and simple, but this is neither. Which way you move depends on which way your avatar is facing, which is seldom the same way the camera is looking. Seriously, folks, the "World of Warcraft" people figured this all out. Also, your control over which way you are looking is limited, especially when your avatar is up against an object -- which means at certain key points, I could not see what my character was seeing. This gets in the way of solving puzzles. It was infuriating.
  • So far, the environment is not as pretty as the original "Myst." Everything is grainy and coppery. Maybe this has something to do with the game storyline.

  • The first time I played, I got trapped in the bottom of a ravine, unable to examine my environment sufficiently to get out. When I logged in again later, I was back at the starting point, as if I had made no progress at all. I hope that's a bug.
Still, it's a beta, and I plan to check it out after launch. Stay tuned.

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The Coming Pirate MMO Glut

We've got "Voyage Century." "Grenado Espada" is coming, retitled "Sword of the New World." And "Pirates of the Burning Sea" is on the way.

But if you feel your pirate-based MMO needs still aren't being met, don't fret -- "Pirates of the Caribbean Online" is in the pipe.

Just some thoughts:
  • MMOs based on films invariably do great. Like "The Matrix Online." And "Star Wars Galaxies." Oh wait, never mind.
  • Disney's "Virtual Magic Kingdom" solved the potty-mouth problem, not by having a list of words you can't use, but a list of words you can use. It was pretty much impossible to say anything. Will PotCO use the same excellent system?
  • Will Drug-Addled Effeminate Captain be a player class?

PotCO was originally slated to launch at the same time "Dead Man's Chest" opened last summer. They are now promising it before "At World's End" opens in May. (Chow Yun Fat! w00t!)

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If IRL Were An MMO....

Here's a funny column over at
It’s Monday morning an you stroll into work, late as usual, greet your fellow co-workers and head to your desk. Out of nowhere some guy from a different department you’ve never seen before runs up and starts punching you and is quickly joined by two of his buddies. You’ve been working at your job a lot longer so none of the punches land and you easily kill two of them before the other runs off cursing about how you cheated. You squat over your assailants and do the running man dance and throw in a bit of ‘the Robot’ for good measure to insure that they are suitably humiliated. Before heading off you loot them for whatever office supplies they had on them to sell to some of the new guys.


The World of "Whorecraft"

Kotaku has a full-length feature on "Whorecraft," a series of online pr0n shorts based on D&D and "World of Warcraft."

The author interviews "Dez," the series' creator (nice to see an old D&D player make good) and the women who star in the films.

"People play these games and see these sexy elves, but they don't ever get to see the elves have sex," he said. "A lot of people try to roleplay in the game, but I decided to bring it out into the real world and do it right."
Link (sfw)

Thanks to DasWookie!

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