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Friday, February 16, 2007

Good News For Cheaters, Bad News For People Who Actually PLAY

I wrote recently about eBay's bannination of most sales of in-game items. Of course, someone has rushed to fill the vacuum of pure evil.

Sparter bills itself as a "gold escrow service," allowing "gamer 2 gamer" in-game item sales. I suppose if the sales were really gamer to gamer, this would be bad, but not reprehensible -- paying real cash for items in a game like "World of Warcraft" is cheating, but at least it would be small scale cheating between actual gamers.

But you know this is a just a front for the gold farmers. Oh well, it's pretty much impossible to put a stop to activity like this. If idiots want to pay money to cheat, they will do it. And the assholes at Sparter will continue to make money of it.

Via arstechnica.

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A Naked Jedi Is Better Than No Jedi

As I hope you noticed... my screen shots are taken at 1600x900 pixel-resolution. That's a dead-give-away for a large, Wide-screen monitor. I play the game in borderless window mode so that I can surf the web on my 2nd monitor and still see what's going on in the game. If you play MMOs, this is the ideal setup. Two monitors... one larger one for the game, and one smaller screen for ADD-style entertainment. I usually read the news, but I like keeping up with the gaming blog

Click for full size (pops).

So this shot is from the Moenia Starport. My ship is the same as Boba Fett's; in fact, I even named it "Boba's Fete". It's a play on the French word for "party." It's technically a Fire-Spray Class Starship. By SWG standards, it's a heavy fighter. It can hold over 200,000 Mass units of components. I love this ship! It's my 6th ship in the game, and it's the ultimate "Privateer" ship. Privateers are like neutral star-pilots... like Han Solo. Nee and I both roll as neutral pilots, although we tend to help out the Rebel Alliance way more than the Imperials. As I play more during the coming weeks, I'll take more shots of Nee and I in space-combat action.

We had recently flown to Kashyyyk, the Wookies' home planet, to complete a few legacy quests. Here's a cool shot of us riding just beyond the Kachiro gate and then inbetween two large Banthas.

Click for full size (pops).

Click for full size (pops).

I love Nee's speeder. We had zoomed past the Banthas, but I thought it was a neat shot.

The other odd tidbit from last weekends newly revitalized play was that at some point, my character found himself nearly naked. My brother, Nee Cheerioz, is a Jedi Knight. He claims to be so elite that only 3 bounty hunters in the entire Shadowfire server can beat him. I believe him, as I've seen quite a few surprise attacks where n00bish bounty hunters, who may be the same ultimate level as Nee (level 90), suffer the fate that you would expect when attacking a Jedi Knight: death! If only it were permanent (but that's a gripe for a future entry).

So yes, why was I half-naked on Corellia talking to an NPC with Nee standing beside me?

Click for full size (pops).

Well, that's no ordinary NPC. She was a "Profession Counselor." She allowed me to change from the medic profession to the Jedi profession. Yes, I personally felt a calling to the force and have begun my tutelage under the guidance of the Elder Jedi, Nee Cheerioz.

Click for full size (pops).

Nee loves it, of course, because I keep calling him "master." I'm still a mid-level player though, just about to transition to level 44, but I'm much happier now as a Jedi apprentice. I crafted my first lightsabre, which I will show off in the next entry... so stay tuned!

Faucon out.

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A New MMO -- Something Different This Time!?

We have fallen on hard times, my MMO loving friends. Over the past few years it seems that our Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying games have well ... massively sucked! While there is of course the small exceptions (a small exception called "Warcraft"), overall our MMOs have produced rip offs of one another and disappointing game play.

I'm sorry, I don't want to kill an Orc again.
I'm sorry, Mechs are not my friends.

With two new upcoming MMOs - "Pirates of the Burning Sea" and "Sword of the New World" - we finally get new storylines and some innovative game play.

I discovered "Sword of the New World" today and I actually find it to be a very interesting concept.

The buildings are all colonnades, domes, and elaborate staircases -- even the background music is influenced by the period. The characters resemble more of a "Lineage" or FFXI sort of feel than what we have been used to seeing with the more cartoon-like WoW and "City of Heroes."

One of the unique features of
"Sword of the New World" is the Multi-Character Control system. Players will be able to create an entire family of characters to play with. Each family can have up to four members, and the members will carry the family surname. Best of all, you can take up to three family members out in a party at the same time. For people who can't decide on any one class to focus on, now you can level up three at once. While I'm not 100% sure how well I would do trying to level 3 at once, it is definitely an interesting choice!

Now, for those of you who are interested in PVP - how does 3 different levels of PvP sound to you? In SotNW, they introduce not only one on one PvP but Faction PvP and also city/family PvP. Just more people to pwn on your nightly outings.

From the screens that I have seen thus far, the costumes and buildings look amazing. You are also able to get stances for your characters. For example, if I continually practice the healing stance, I will level up healing.

This also makes for some wonderful screenshots and subsequently wonderful Photoshop work! :p

I will be watching this game very closely. At this time, it is slated to launch in summer of 2007. Who knows if this is the game to rival the World of Warcrack ... but I give credit for the uniqueness of this upcoming MMO.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day! Eg Elska Thig!

Click to enlarge (pops).

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RPG Designer hates RPGs

Today in RPG Vault, Jeff Vogel, a game designer who's been making shareware RPG's with his three-nerd crew at Spiderweb Software, lays it out on just why he hates RPG's. It's a long column because he's got a lot of bile; so much so that this is the first of two columns, but here are a couple of snippets -
But the fundamental, unifying quality of pretty much all fantasy RPGs is that you start out as a puny loser, barely able to flush a toilet with both hands, and then you train and practice and work until you are a certifiable badass. And how does the game simulate this learning process? By reaching out and grabbing a gigantic, triple helping of your time.

In a shooter, you start out as a hero, and you do hero things, so you can have a shooter that lasts 10 hours. In a fantasy RPG, you also have to spend all the time learning to be a hero. An RPG that lasted 10 hours wouldn't make sense.

As much as I loves me some RPG's, I can't help but agree with some of his points. And the best RPGs will address exactly that - take for instance one of my personal favorites, Knights of the Old Republic. In it, you start out as a bad-ass space hero, and progress right on up to Jedi, and then on to basically galaxy-shattering powerhouse. And yup, that's what make it fun, in part - in real life I could kick rats and sell their teeth (if anyone would buy them) but that's nowhere near as cool as raising a hand Jedi-style and watching everyone around me go flying like they'd been shot out of a cannon. Plus, I still have a crush on Bastila. (Call me, Babe!)

Fortunately, gaming is an evolving hobby and industry, so we can hope that the current model of developers-first, creatives-second gets turned on its head. Eye-popping graphics are groovy, to be sure - but nowhere near as compelling as a tight narrative that draws the player in and emotionally hooks him on the story. How many times have you seen a witless movie-franchise game that looked great but was zero fun to play? Now name your top five games of all times, and ask yourself if any of them didn't have a great story.

With outspoken developers like Vogel, maybe we'll see the ascendancy of substance over style come to pass sooner, rather than later.

And then maybe your mom will soar overhead riding a flying pig. (Or Bastila will call me.)

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Blizzard Announces "World of Warcraft" Tournaments

Mahmood Ali has the details over at GBT.
Blizzard has announced its inaugural season of the World of Warcraft Arena Tournament, which will pit player-vs-player teams against another in an effort to find the best PVP team in the world.

The tournament is scheduled to begin in just two days time (Feb. 16th) in Europe and North America, and March 3rd in Korea. The best ranked teams from each region will fight it out on private realms and then advance to regional finals, after which they will advance to the Global Finals.

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YellOw Pimps for Blizzard

China's Yu "YellOw" BaoHui, "Warcraft III" cyberathlete for Team MeetYourMakers, has apparently been drafted by Blizzard for a Korean ad campaign promoting "Burning Crusade."

I wonder if he even plays WoW?

Click to enlarge.

See more images at

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Practice Your Rite of Pants -- WoD MMO On The Way!

I am old veteran of the White Wolf "World of Darkness" live action and tabletop roleplaying games. I certainly believe that "Werewolf: The Apocalypse" was one of the best RPGs ever written.

So I was as interested as I was mystified when Icelandic game company CCP, creators of "EVE Online," merged with White Wolf. It just seems like an odd combination. But I want to see what they're going to do.

The first thing, it seems, is the obvious one: a WoD MMO. This could be a fantastic idea if the game is role-play centered rather than combat-centric. Kindred and Garou spend a lot of time fighting, but the real heart of a WoD game is in the politics and the social interaction. If CCP could find a way to recreate the different cities, a la the Camarilla Fan Club, that would be great too.

The World of Darkness is a huge milieu, so we'll have to see what they center on. Unfortunately, I'm sure the MMO will take place in the "new" World of Darkness, not the old setting with which I am familiar. Here's some advice for CCP, which I'm sure you won't take -- pay Mark Rein·Hagen the damn money, and use the old World of Darkness!

My one year of college Icelandic didn't stick with me very well, so here's's translation of the original press release:
The Icelandic game developer CCP will be developing a new massively multiplayer online computer game called World of Darkness. The game will be developed along with White Wolf, the board game company CCP merged with last year.

The setting of the game will be World of Darkness, a world inhabited by vampires and werewolves. White Wolf created said world and has written stories and books that take place there.

Halldór Fannar Guðjónsson, one of CCP's programmers, couldn't give any more details on the game, but said its development will begin in the next few months.

CCP owns an operates the Icelandic massively multiplayer online game "EVE Online" which currently has over 180,000 subscribers.
I'd like to point out that White Wolf has never produced a board game; they make tabletop RPGs, LARPs, video games and novels.

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It's Alive!!! Faucon's Computer Runs Again

Finally, my computer is up and running. It took one hour of power-supply transplant surgery, but my patient, an Athlon 64 3700+ (socket 754 Clawhammer core) mated to a DFI Lanparty UT nForce3 250Gb motherboard with 2GB of CAS Latency 2 (2-3-2-5 1T) PC 3200 Patriot RAM (GO USA!!!), 4 hard drives (1x 74GB Wester Digital Raptor drive; 1 160GB Western Digital PATA drive, and 2x 320GB in a RAID 0), and a GeForce 6800 Ultra (Engineering Sample), is recovering nicely.

The key here was the video card. Since it's an engineering sample, it takes more wattage than the retail 6800 Ultras (350Watt power supply recommended versus 480Watt PSU). My previous power supply was just a regular 430Watt baby-beast. The new one, however, churns out a healthy 520Watts. To complicate matters, the 6800 Ultra requires 2 Molex power connectors with a decent amount of amps supplied to each connector. With my new Corsair PSU (from I get over 50 Amps of juice from a total of 3 independent +12Volt rails!... more than enough for the 4 hard drives, 2 DVD-RW drives, video card and other components. Yay! Computer's alive again!

My parts are dated, though, as they were all top-of-the-line 2 and half years ago. I don't really care... as my computer is quiet and hauls balls (as djRoME would say). I have SWG loaded onto the RAID 0 (that has a combined cache of 32MB). The game loads very quickly, but what's best, is that the transition between levels is about 5 seconds. My computer from 2 & half years ago would take about 40 seconds. The RAM helps too. Anyway... enough of this tech-talk. Let's get down with the game.

As you should know by now, I play SWG (Star Wars Galaxies) with my brother. We are part of the Cheerioz family, with my brother going by Nee and myself going by Faucon. That's French for Falcon. I was inspired by the short story from 1829 by Prosper Mérimée. It's a story that takes place on Corsica, an island to the south of France, that I really loved visiting almost 5 years ago. Anyway, my SWG name comes from Mérimée's "nouvelle".

Click for full size (pops).

Here, you can see a picture of Nee and I at our Cheerioz estate, near Moenia on the planet Naboo. My brother and I are about to head out on a "Legacy" quest.

Click for full size (pops).

Here's another shot of us riding in Nee's 2-person transport. Lots of trees on Naboo, especially around Moenia... which is in a swampy part of the planet.

Anyway, "Legacy" quests are the SWG version of a story-driven arc. They lead you throughout the galaxy and often times require some flying in order to complete the missions. You get a chance to meet many people from the books & movies, which is one of the things that I find so exciting about SWG versus other MMOs out there. Also, as you should know, flying is my favorite part of this game. In my next entry, I'll be explaining more about my ship and will tell you why... for some reason... I have a screenshot of my character with almost no clothes on!

Until then, this is Faucon, logging off.

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Monday, February 12, 2007

The "EVE Online" "Jumpgate" Scandal: Can a Developer Really "Cheat?"

I'm often amazed by the strange, unexpected ways in which MMO virtual worlds mirror the real world, and incite people to exaggerated forms of the behavior we see IRL.

The ongoing(?) "Jumpgate" scandal in "EVE Online" illustrates the most common lesson of modern politics -- the cover up is always worse than the crime.

Without going into the tedious details, it seems that at least one "EVE Online" developer was cheating, using his "powers" as a developer to provide serious advantages for his friends in-game. This, and other alleged misconduct, was discovered by a player who operated as a spy in-game, finding ways to get into private "corporate" and "alliance" message boards, and then selling the information he found to competing corporations.

From what I understand (I am still an EVE n00b), the spy player, who calls himself Kugutsumen after a villain from the tentacle-porn anime "La Blue Girl," performed his espionage activities without cheating, through bribery and social engineering. But all of his accounts were permanently banned when he brought his evidence of cheating to the EVE community.

CCP, the Icelandic company that runs EVE, was reticent to take any action, but their hand was forced by outrage in the community. One core developer called t20 fell on his sword, and admitted to wrongdoing. Now some community members are calling for his firing.

I have a couple of thoughts on this situation.

1.) I don't believe for a second that everyone at CCP didn't know what everyone else was doing. When they got caught, the response should have been honest, straightforward, and immediate. Trying to cover up a scandal never, ever works; and people can be very forgiving when you step up and admit "my bad."

Also, never shoot the messenger. CCP is mad at Kugutsumen because he went straight to the community, instead of privately reporting his suspicions to CCP. Kugutsumen got this email from lead GM Grimmi:
It can be said with some fairness that the posts you made have caused quite the uproar and created an atmosphere that makes all our lives that much more harder. CCP does not condone cheating, for sure, but dealing with matters such as this one is not made any easier with all the ruckus.
Yet it seems clear that without the "ruckus," CCP would not have responded. Besides, Kugutsumen is not a CCP employee. He is a community member, and his loyalty is to the community. He pays (paid) for five different accounts -- CCP works for him, not the other way around.

Banning Kugutsumen is based on two violations of the Terms of Service. He made CCP's lives harder (seriously, that's their claim); and he posted the IRL names of the game devs. On the first count, it's not a player's job to make the game creators' lives easier. Clearly, players should not be allowed to interfere with the operation of the game; but this is to keep players from suffering, not devs. And Kugutsumen was trying to protect players, not inconvenience them. He seems to have correctly believed that inconveniencing the devs was not an issue.

On the second count, players should not try to access or disseminate the IRL info of other players. This is a serious issue. But Kugutsumen did not do this. He posted proof that certain characters were being played by devs. Devs are not private citizens -- they are accountable to the community. Kugutsumen did not post their home addresses or anything like that, just their names. I fail to see the harm in this, except insofar as CCP devs prefer to play EVE anonymously.

2.) Did t20 and/or other CCP devs in fact do anything wrong? It seems that by the specific rules laid down by CCP, they did. EVE devs are supposed to play according to the same rules as everyone else.

But a dev is, for all intents and purposes, a game master. They design and run the game. It seems to me that anything a dev does is just "the game." A dev may do something foolish that decreases the fun of the players, but I don't see how it's "cheating." Maybe t20 actually improved game play through his activities, not just for his friends, but for everybody. I don't know.

But I think if someone pointed out some egregious "injustice," and I discovered that the offender was a dev or a GM, I would just say, "oh, it's a GM," and forget about it.

Maybe this just comes from decades of running tabletop role-playing games. But when I was a game master, I certainly didn't like to be second-guessed.

Even if t20 broke company policy, I don't think he should necessarily lose his job. That's a very serious punishment. I certainly think that decision is up to CCP, and not a mob of angry community members.

MMO players spend a lot of time and money on their hobby, and they need to know that the game company is honest and responsive. CCP's problem here was not the "crime," but how they dealt with it. Players must never be treated like an annoyance (even if they are annoying).

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