Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Judgment Day

 

Today, ArenaNet announced the date for the final instalment of the Icebrood Saga. It's April 27th, next Tuesday.

It's called Judgment and it's described as the "fourth and final chapter of Episode 5 of The Icebrood Saga". Hang on. Wait a moment. Is it the end of the saga or isn't it? How many chapters are there going to be? Is #5 the last or what?

This reporter seems to think so. Let's take her word for it. I want it to be true. Not because I haven't enjoyed the saga. I have, by and large. It's more that if we're finally done with this storyline it means we must be on the cusp of the announcement we're all really waiting for: the release date for the third expansion, End of Dragons

 

With the Living Story going on hiatus this spring, the timing would seem to be auspicious for an autumn launch. That's sooner than I was expecting. Complete radio silence since the initial expansion reveal meant I was about ready to hear we weren't going to see it until 2022. Digging back through my own commentary, though, it seems the very first PR salvo did give a firm 2021 launch window so maybe I was being too pessimistic.

A lot of people on the forum have been speculating on an August/September release. That sounds a little early to me but Path of Fire released at the end of September 2017 after just three months warning of the official date, so maybe not. If I was going to bet, I'd put my money on November, after Halloween ends. Then again, maybe I just want an expansion for my birthday.

Never mind what might be coming six months from now. What are we getting next week?

Scaly Capes!



Glowy Eyes!


And of course... 

Big Fight!

 That's about all that gets picked out in the video. No mention of any Dragon Response Missions for once, although I imagine that could still be the delivery mechanism for the narrative, just like it has been for a while, now. 

Nothing about more allies. or the Eye of the North, either. I do wonder what will happen to that place once the saga's finished. It's hard to see how we're still going to be staging out of the Far Shiverpeaks when the action moves to Cantha. I suspect I'm going to feel quite pleased I never took the trouble to upgrade my facilities there.

I might be less smug about having ignored the Dragon Slayer mastery track. If you finish that, which you'll be able to do with the Mastery points available in this coming episode, it opens up access to rare item drops. That sounds like something that might finally give the otherwise pointless excercise some traction. 

There's one more thing: a new world boss. I like world bosses so that caught my interest right away. Then I remembered the last so-called world boss we got: Drakkar

I did Drakkar once. It was a large scale meta-event but it was not a "world boss". The wiki agrees. The event is not included in the list of world bosses except in a footnote: "Drakkar has been referred to as a world boss by ArenaNet previously, but does not fit on to the main timer". Take that, Drakkar!

We'll see if the next one qualifies. The signs look good. For one thing, it comes in an open-world version that spawns every two hours on a strict timer, which is what all the other world bosses do. For another, there's an instanced version that can be be triggered by squads, which is kind of how Tequatl and Triple-Headed Wurm work. 

That just leaves the story itself. I left that for last because a) I have no idea what happens and b) it looks ridiculous. Or perhaps I should say the trailer makes it look ridiculous.

It appears the conclusion to this eighteen-month storyline comes down to a Hulk vs Thing slugfest between two NPCs. When Ryland sneers "Nice of you clear out the trash, Commander" it sounds altogether too convincing. Too often that's been the player-character's role in all this.

As for Braham taking on the vacant position of Primordus' Champion... yeah, convince me. Maybe it will make sense. Maybe the reason the episode's called Judgment is in reference to Braham and his not having any. Perhaps those Spirits of the Wild (all the minor ones Norns don't really worship any more, let's not forget) know something we don't. Can't see it but perhaps that's just me.

What I'd like to know is where Taimi is in all this. What happened to that big brother/little sister relationship the two of them had for several years? Did they even talk about any of this? And did Braham ever think that Taimi might need him to be... Braham? She has a terminal illness, let's not forget. Not that anyone on the writing team seems to remember.

Ah, well. It wouldn't be Guild Wars 2 if it made any sense, would it? And anyway, does it really matter? Tune in next week for the amazing conclusion of the Icebrood Saga. Then carry on playing for another six months as though none of it ever happened.

That's why we're here, isn't it?

Monday, April 19, 2021

Another Tempest In A Teapot


Less than an hour ago, as we were taking a stroll in the evening sunshine, I mentioned to Mrs. Bhagpuss that I really couldn't think of anything to post about today. 

It wasn't a long walk. We went for one of those this morning. This one was just down to the boring horses. I say boring. I say horses. They aren't even there. They're not back from wherever it is they go in the winter. It wasn't for thrills, anyway. It was so we could get some more excercise, not feel like we'd stayed indoors all day long, which we hadn't. It does get to feel like that, though, when it's bright and sunny out and you're indoors with the curtains half-closed, playing video games. 

I was about ready to skip a day, the first this month, but then I checked Feedly and inspiration struck. If you can call linking a couple of news items with some rambling commentary "inspiration". We set a low bar here at Inventory Full. We also talk about ourselves in the third person. Even though there are only one of us. Is only one of us? (Seriously, is syntax the takeaway here?)

The first item was a report on Pitchfork that a Simpsons episode had aired featuring "a depressed British crooner from the 1980s who becomes Lisa Simpson’s imaginary friend". Big deal. It's been a loooooong time since I cared what happened on The Simpsons.

I did once. I bought a Simpsons T-shirt in Paris before the show had even aired in the U.K. It was too small. Of course it was. I bought it in Paris. I wore it anyway. No-one knew who the cartoon characters on my chest were, for a while, which was the point. 

There's plenty of Simpsons paraphenalia in the house. I have several packs of Simpsons playing cards I bought in Barcelona, an unopened Simpsons shampoo in the shape of Homer that's at least twenty years old, a pair of plastic effigies of Marge and Homer still in their boxes. I've played the Springfield video game, read Nancy Cartwright's autobigraphy, listened to the Simpsons' CD in the car...

The first nine or ten seasons, the Simpsons was something of a religion around here. It was family viewing when the kids were stil at school and I taped every episode on VHS. Still have them. Never going to play them, obviously. The Simpsons just went on longer than any of us was interested in going along with them.

You know what I could set to play over that last paragraph? If you could set music to play softly in the background as someone reads the words? (Can't we do that yet? That would be amazing!). This.

And why would that be? Oh, you must have guessed. Who might that depressed British crooner in last night's episode have been? Why, Morrissey, of course.

Not, sadly - or perhaps thankfully - the real Morrissey. If there is a real Morrissey any more. I often doubt it. I sometimes imagine a pod in the basement of his Califonia mansion, throbbing. Wishful thinking.

No, this was Benedict Cumberbatch, playing Quilloughby, former lead singer of The Snuffs. A veritable roman a clef, isn't it? The episode, featuring songs co-written by parodist extraordinaire Bret McKenzie of Flight of the Conchords, has the bequiffed one (as Smash Hits would have put it) doing time as Lisa's imaginary friend.

I haven't seen the episode yet. I don't think it's been broadcast here and even if it had it would have been on a Channel I don't have access to, I imagine. The Pitchfork post comes with two clips which I also haven't seen because "The uploader has not made the video available in your country". I get altogether too much of that kind of thing.

Fortunately, some kind renegade has put up a clip of one of the songs. And it's pretty damn funny.

The title - Everyone Is Horrid Except Me (And Possibly You) - is just too ironic. Certainly too ironic for Morrissey who was not at all amused. That, of course, is what makes the whole thing so hilarious.

Morrissey rarely needs any help parodying himself these days. I recommend reading his rebuttal post in full. You'll find it on his official Facebook page. I just want to repeat that for clarity: Morrissey has an official Facebook page. And he uses it. 

In case you don't feel strong enough (and who could blame you?) here's the choicest excerpt: "...when a show stoops so low to use harshly hateful tactics like showing the Morrissey character with his belly hanging out of his shirt (when he has never looked like that at any point in his career...)"

The post isn't credited to Morrissey. The byline goes to his manager, Peter Katsis. Not that Morrissey would ever fight shy of expressing an unpopular opinion. If only.

That was one story that made me laugh - in a twisted, bitter fashion that felt entirely appropriate. The other, which made me happy for a much more straightforward reason, was the news that Genshin Impact is adding player housing in its upcoming update on April 28th.


The first half of the video is all action and story stuff. I was amused to see the introduction of a new playable character called Eula. Even more amusingly, she doesn't even seem to be the lawyer of the team. That would be the other new character, Yanfei. At 1.32 in the video you can clearly hear Yanfei shout her battle cry: "Inadmissable Evidence!"

The section on housing starts around 2.10 with the appearance of the Serenity Pot. As we learn at the end it's a teapot. A Teapot To Call Home, no less. And it looks very impressive. The MassivelyOP report says it offers players "a variety of different house and realm styles to choose from" in "a personal realm that they can decorate and build upon as they wish".  


 

I'd live there. I'm planning on it. Customiseable housing is exactly the kind of incentive I needed to start playing again.

There is just one caveat. There's a small codicil overprinted on the housing section of the video that reads "Co-op used to demonstrate effects. The interactive feature for the Serenitea Pot system in single-player is still in development".

That's okay. I can wait. I'm good at that. I had to wait for inspiration to strike before I could write this post, after all.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Who Invented These Lists?

 

Here's what I've been playing this week:

Guild Wars 2 - Every day, two accounts, dailies, World vs World, occasional PvE.

EverQuest II - Every day, one account, Overseer dailies, inventory maintenance, some PvE.

EverQuest - Every day, one account plus another trading offline, Overseer dailies, restocking.

Valheim - Most days, tailing off towards the end of the week, exploring, hunting goblins.

Dragon Nest Origins- Most days, leading to every day towards the end of the week, leveling up, trying to figure out what I'm supposed to be doing and how the game works.

DCUO - One day, checking out new episode, grabbing the freebies, some PvE, playing with my pets.

Occupy White Walls - One day, checking out new update, adding music to my gallery.

Try not to hit the window.


I have a list as long as Plastic Man's arm of games I'm thinking of playing. Or Mr. Fantastic's. Or Elongated Man's. Or even Stretch Armstrong's, I guess. Weird how many times that gimmick's been used considering how peculiar it is. Did any kid ever have fantasies about being able to make their limbs fifty yards long? I mean before they saw it in a comic book? Flying, super strength, invisibility - sure. Stretchiness? I doubt it. 

There's a dysfunctional tradition on this blog where I post lists of games I say I want to be playing or at least that I have some vague idea I might play. I think this might be one of those posts. 

It wasn't going to be. It was going to be all about Dragon Nest Origins but as I was sketching it out in my head I got this nagging feeling a lot of what I was about to say had been said already. By me. On this blog. 

So I took a moment to go back and read all my previous posts about the various versions of Dragon Nest and damned if I wasn't right. See that picture of Dora, right up at the top? I took that yesterday because I was going to say something about how she'd gotten her first costume and how I wasn't convinced it was much of a look. 

Turns out I said that five years ago, the first time she got it. Another Dora, that is. Although it's the same Dora, really. (Is this the metaphysics classroom or is that down the hall?). I could link to the post but what's the point? Just click on the tag for Dragon Nest if you're interested. I'm sure you can find it.

Any chance whoever translated this quest could do all the others?

 

On the subject of the many iterations of Dragon Nest... geez! I had no idea. Or, apparently, I did, because I linked to the wikipedia page in one of those old posts. I even made a sarcastic comment about how comprehensive it was. I looked at it again today. There have been (at least)

  • Four iterations of the base game (Dragon Nest; Dragon Nest 2.0.; Dragon Nest R; Dragon Nest A: Will of the Gods).
  • Seven regional variations, all somewhat different.
  • Nine spin-off titles, mostly mobile games.
  • Two manga spin-off series.
  • Five commercially-released singles featuring songs either from or about the game.
  • A "drama CD" (I think that's an audio book?).
  • Two full-length animated movies (You can watch the whole of the first one here).

That sounds insane until you realize that, in 2013, Dragon Nest had two hundred million players. And I talk about it as if it's some cute little indie game! 

After that, I thought twice about the post I was going to write. I had some nice screenshots of quest text all ready to illustrate the wildly varying quality of translation in the game only I already did that years ago. I was going to make some comments about how I'd just about caught up to where I was last time I played only a) I already did that years ago, too and b) now I've reviewed my posting history on Dragon Nest, I realize I still have some way to go before I get back to my all-time high-water mark.

It seems I did once manage to help Hubert repair his airship. I have been to the big city, Saint's Haven. I even had a farm, once. None of which I can do right now. Dora's done all Hubert's quests and his airship is still grounded. She's level twenty-four, which is when the Saint's Haven questlines begin, but she has no way of getting there and untilshe does she can't go to the farm, even though the game tells her she should.

Not much point pretending I'm all caught up, then. I clearly have some more work to do. That's fine. I'm enjoying it. I am determined to get farther this time than in any of my previous runs. Providing the server stays up, that is. 

I do have something to say about Dragon Nest that I haven't written about before but I think I'll save it. It needs some working up with stuff from other games and I'm still letting it percolate. This picture's a clue :

Pretty sure that's someone's bio from their EQ character page c. 2001.

 

So here we are with another of those list posts about games I'm playing and games I might play. I do them because I like lists. Let's not pretend otherwise. I was even going to get all meta and do a whole post about lists and how suprisingly few of them turn up on mmo blogs considering what a staple of a) the internet and b) nerd culture they are. 

Is it okay to say "nerd culture"? I mean, it's linguistic reappropriation, isn't it? Which would make it fine when used by members of the formerly-oppressed group. Except I never really was a nerd (yes, I'm aware I might be one now...). 

We didn't really have nerds when I was growing up, or we didn't call them that (or geeks or any of the other hyper-Americanized terms that now have global currency). There were plenty of individuals who didn't fit in and got a hard time for it but there wasn't the same configuration of signatures and signs that would suggest any kind of unifying "culture" into which they might fit. 

Looking back, I seem to tick any number of the boxes but my boxes don't seem to have been in the same order or even the same warehouse. I think the particular subset of weirdos I hung with from the late '70s through the mid-90s was altogether too boisterous, loud and arrogant to feel oppressed by pretty much anyone. I'd sure have hated to have to have spent any time in a confined space with us. Not to mention nearly everyone was over six foot tall... I always felt short and I'm five-eleven. Or I was. I've shrunk a lot since then, of course.

I had a lot of ideas for that one (the meta-post about lists), ranging from my personal experience in APAs, where list-making was so predominant at one time there had to be rules about whether or not it counted as minac, to the much-maligned listicles used by commercial websites like Buzzfeed. I was going to extrapolate a thesis whereby the once-exclusive format had been devalued and degraded by abrasion with the mainstream. It was going to be very erudite and insightful but I couldn't be bothered to finish it. It's so much easier just to bang out a list.

Minac? Oh, that's "minimum activity". Since APAs generally had a maximum number of participants and there was often a waitlist, you were required to meet certain basic levels of engagement or you'd be kicked out. Kind of like Blaugust only with tasers. 

Take that, Lord Doljonijiarnimorinar!

 

Anyway, to the list. Well, the next one. These are the games I'm thinking about playing:

Disco Elysium - I accidentally updated it to the final version and the patch notes try to sell it as almost a new game. People said it was supposed to be highly re-playable even before that so maybe...

World of Warcraft - I did all the prep so I could go on playing after I let my sub lapse and then the moment I stopped paying I stopped playing.

Neo Cab - There must be more than half of this one I haven't seen and it should be possible to play it through again with virtually no duplication of content whatsoever. And it's great.

Genshin Impact - Couldn't even tell you why I stopped playing this one. The GI screenshot folder is still my slideshow for desktop backgrounds.

Elder Scrolls Online - I went back and posted about how much I was enjoying it and then I stopped. I guess I just don't enjoy enjoying myself.

Blade and Soul - See ESO.

Neverwinter Online - See Blade and Soul

Star Wars: the Old Republic - See NWO only add a couple of years.

FFXIV (free version) - I think you get the picture...

My Time At Portia - I ought to try and finish it before the beta for My Time At Sandrock arrives.

Yonder - It's like My Time At Portia only even prettier.

Rift - I like Rift. It's pointless to play it but I enjoy it when I do. I could practise that enjoyment thing I was talking about in a risk-free environment.

Why won't it fly?

 

That'll do for now. If I played that lot I'd never have time to eat or sleep. Or work. Not that I'm doing much of that right now.

Of course, if I didn't feel the need to come up with a couple of thousand words of this nonsense every day I'd have time to play at least a few of them. But I'd rather do this.

Self-evidently.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Bad Idea


I don't have any one thing on my mind today, just a clutch of random thoughts drifting around and bumping into one another. I guess that means it's time for one of those portmanteau posts...

When Devs Disagree

Well, that's a terrible name for a web show. I wouldn't watch it. Lucky no-one's made one and called it that, isn't it? If they had, though, and if I was unfortunate enough to get the gig booking guests for it (although how would that happen?)...

What do you call the person who books the guests for a chat show, anyway? The booker? The booking agent? What Janeane Garofalo did in the Larry Sanders Show, that's the thing I mean.  

Well, not that! Not what's happening in the clip. That's where you get fired and your boss takes it as an opportunity to ask you out on a date. 

Is that really a thing that happens? I wouldn't know. I've never been fired. I did hire someone once because I wanted to go out with them. Is that better? Or worse? It was in the 1980s, though. The world was different then. Don't get me started.


Anyway, I just linked that scene because there are no clips on YouTube of Paula actually doing her job. There's just that one of her getting fired for doing her job badly (I'm guessing, although who knows what she was fired for? It was the Larry Sanders show. Could have been anything. Maybe it was so Larry could ask her out. Maybe that was the actual plot...) 

Oh, and there's one of her getting a warning from Artie, telling her not to do her job badly just because she might be... well, I won't go into the details. You should just watch it. Or maybe not. It was on network tv. I guess it's okay...

It seems Paula did her job badly a lot of the time, although I remember the joke being she did it about as well as anyone could in the circumstances. At least, that's what I remember her doing from when I used to watch the show back in the 90s. I ought to watch it again. It was one of my favorites. 

I could. There are plenty of episodes of Larry Sanders online because apparently whoever owns the rights doesn't care enough to get them taken down. Same with Newhart, oddly enough. And Frasier. You'd think someone would notice. I mean, I get why no-one bothers about Boston Common or Bakersfield PD but Frasier? 

Those were two really great shows, though. I downloaded all of Boston Common just in case it vanishes from YouTube some day and I have all of Bakersfield PD on VHS. My friend Tim sent it to me before he died.  

Watching VHS tapes is a lot of fuss these days, though. I have to connect the old VHS recorder I got from my mother to the laptop and they don't really like to talk to each other. I have many hundreds of tapes I'll probably never play again. 

It's a lot easier just to watch whatever's on the tapes online, if someone's uploaded it. I mean, what's the difference, morally or legally? (I know what it is. Don't get me started on that, either). Probably those are uploaded from VHS anyway, judging by the quality. 

I see it as a public service although I don't imagine that's an argument the television companies give much credit. Still, if someone hadn't done it I'd never have seen Boston Common at all. It's not like anyone ever thought it was worth putting out on DVD. Oh, wait...

I suppose I could have gone through some of the Larry Sanders shows for myself and found a better scene. By which  I mean a more appropriate scene, one that's more germane to the point I'm trying to make. I'm hardly going to find a better scene than the ones I did link. Either of them. They're both classics. But I could have found one of Paula booking someone then edited it and re-upped it to my channel and linked to that.  Who has the time, though, amiright? (And who says "amiright"? Am I right?).

Hang on, where was I? Didn't I say I had a point? Anyone know what it was?

Oh yes! I remember. So, over at MassivelyOP they had an item on the latest of Raph Koster's peculiar press-release/fireside talks (Seriously, what are they supposed to be?) in which he says any number of things that I either don't agree with or don't believe make any sense at all. 

The one I really didn't take to was this:

"“Players get bored. It’s natural. It is really rare that a single game holds someone forever. And if you don’t have something else for them to do as a change of pace, well, you’re likely to lose them. Supporting a range of ways to play means that when someone gets bored of one activity, they can do something else, which is the most human thing in the world. What is weird is the idea that someone would spend all their time doing only one thing to the exclusion of all else — even if they love it!”"

It makes me wonder if he's ever played an mmorpg. "Doing one thing to the exclusion of all else" is pretty much the strapline for the genre! 

Players certainly do get bored doing it. He's not wrong there. You can hear them saying it over and over in general chat in every mmo ever made. The thing is, they say it while they're doing the same thing they did yesterday and last week and last year and the year before that because if there's one thing mmo players can be relied upon to do it's  "spend all their time doing only one thing to the exclusion of all else".

Cue Rob Ciccolini, executive producer of Lord of the Rings Online. Here he is, as reported by MassivelyOP again, explaining why he won't be removing the widely-despised Legendary Item grind from LotRO:

"We want players to have things to do while they are leveling. I know that some players are ‘Oh, this is too grindy and sometimes we overdo it,’ but ‘grindy’ doesn’t scare me as much as ‘I don’t have enough to do.’ I don’t have enough to do is worse because players want to play the game but they don’t really have goals to pursue."

And there you have it. One developer believes you keep people playing your game by giving them a whole load of unrelated things to do, even though most players show very little interest in anything outside of their preferred playstyle and get out the tar and feathers any time anyone tries to make them broaden their horizons, while the other thinks the trick is to take one thing people already don't enjoy and stretch it out so it takes literally forever, no matter how much the players claim they hate it, just so they'll always have something to do.

It just screams "celebrity death match", doesn't it? 

Oh, hey! That's what the web show ought to be called! Developer Death Match! We'd all watch that. Although, come to think of it, I never really liked Celebrity Death Match. And judging by the clips I just watched, it hasn't aged well.

So, what else was I going to write about? Um... Dragon Nest Origins and DCUO, I think. Seems a bit pointless now. 

I'll save them for the next time I'm stuck for something to write about.

Friday, April 16, 2021

A Little Appreciation


Here's a quick PSA for anyone currently playing any of Daybreak's games. On Tuesday 20th April you won't be. Not that morning, that afternoon, not that evening. You're going to have to find something else to do instead. 

There's going to be some major backend work (Don't start...) officially described as "a large migration maintenance of our backend" (Really?. What are you? Twelve?) which will "impact all game services". 

Even more ominously, "all servers will be shut down until the work is concluded" and we all know what that means. I'd put a red line through most of Wednesday 21st, too, if I was you. 

There's been a bit of this recently. Last week all of the games went offline for "necessary, but unplanned network maintenance". That was estimated to take "about 6 1/2 hours" but in the event came in closer to ten. It followed a period when the currency/membership token (Krono) couldn't be traded over in EverQuest, which I'm guessing would be a priority issue for all concerned. That was backend-related, apparently.

No-one likes disruption to their online game of choice but if the underlying reason is infrastructure investment it's almost certainly a price worth paying. And Jenn Chan did flag it up in her Producer's Letter last month: "we’re continuing the process of a major hardware upgrade to significantly address a number of lag issues".

She did suggest that wasn't going to happen immediately, saying "It is currently slated later this year" but maybe the current backend work is laying down the foundations for it. 

It's also tempting to speculate how much any of this has to do with the recent change of ownership. EG7 have reportedly completed their buying spree so maybe now they're turning their attention to their new toys, polishing them up and making them all nice and shiny. 

I doubt that has much to do with it. It would be a bit soon. Probably this is work that was already in hand and the most the new owners have done is allow it to continue. But who knows? If we did we wouldn't have to speculate, would we?

One thing I can say for certain is that (paying) players of DBG's portfolio of games can look forward to some compensation for the interruptions to service. Not, obviously, financial compensation. This is hardly the kind of issue that merits something like that. 

EverQuest II players, the subset that specifically interests me, can look forward to some "Downtime Appreciation Bonuses". An odd way of putting it, isn't it? Are we supposed to be appreciating the downtime? Ah, no, it's the other way around: "we'd like to show our appreciation for all your patience."

Well, okay then. And how are you thinking of doing that?

  • Double Overseer Missions – Daily Overseer Missions will be set at 20 for members
     
  • Double Status x2 for members
     
  • Double XP x2 for members  

That'll do nicely. I do indeed feel duly appreciated.

I also feel slightly confused. The double Overseer missions (extremely welcome to me) are clear enough with the helpful gloss but what exactly does "Double Status x2 and Double XP x2" mean? Is that the same as quadruple status and xp? And if it is, why not just say so? 

For a moment I thought it was because we already get double those things as members but we don't. We get "Double ALL alternative currency earned in-game". Xp and status are not currencies.

Oh, wait... not this one!
Oh well, I'll find out when it happens, I guess. And that will be next weekend, from Thursday to Monday. "Bonuses will run from 4/22/2021 12:01:00 AM through 4/26/2021 11:59:00 PM" to be precise. Always assuming the backend's back in action by then, of course.

Like most EQII players these days, I always have a stash of status consumables squirreled away for the next bonus event. I think I also have a guide quest waiting to be done on someone. I try to grab them when the guides are on and hold them for just such an occasion as this. 

I also have two characters I'm supposed to be levelling so for once I should be able to make use of the bonus xp, too. Actually, three, now I think about it. The bonuses are for "All servers", which means Kaladim as well. I just hope I can manage to take advantage of it all for once. I wouldn't want to miss out on all that appreciation.

As yet I can't see any news of similar bonuses on the other games but I notice DCUO players already received a thank-you and a gift for the last outage. I'm sure everyone will get something.

Such is the lot of the online game player.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Climb Up On A Rock


For a few days now I've been meaning to post about how it's going in Valheim but something or other kept coming up. Then Wilhelm put up his take on on life on the plains and it seemed like I might just as well link to it with a "What he said".

Seriously, the post I was going to write would have been all but identical. I guess there are only so many things left to do at this stage of the game.

 

What I have been doing is a lot of exploring, opening up long stretches of coastline to mark the outlines of islands, then criss-crossing them to fill in the blanks.  Wherever I find goblin camps, towers or villages I clean them out. Not because I need anything from them. I have self-sustaining fields of flax and barley and far more black iron than there's currently any use for. No, I clear goblin camps because it's fun.

I have a fairly well-established method. When I find a camp or a village I scout it to get an idea roughly how big it is, how many fulings live there, what classes they are and, if possible, how tough they are. Regular fulings pop like balloons with a single well-placed arrow but put the same arrow in a one or two star goblin and all it does is make them mad.

Once I've got a good idea what I'm up against I find a nice, high place to start picking them off. Ideally I like a steep rock on a flat plain. Goblins can't climb anything steeper than a gentle slope. Hell, they can't even go up and down their own wooden stairs. Odin knows how they get to the top of their towers because they sure as heck can't get down again. Maybe they're cats!

If there's a good rock and it's in range I pot them from there. If it's out of bowshot I move in, snipe one and run back. Sometimes none of the goblins even notice one of their pals exploding right next to them but usually two or three will come running, cackling and waving their spears. Then I pick them off as they mill around the rock like angry chickens.

As I've been roaming further and further I've taken to carrying a portal kit with me. The only times I've died have been when I ranged much too far and got stranded miles from home, at night, deep on the plains. 

I don't bother building a shelter for the portals any more. I put them right on top of the rocks. Nothing can get to them up there and I can see them for miles. In some ways, now I'm at home there, the plains feel safer than the black forest. Trolls, skeletons, greydwarves and even boars will smash anything you leave unprotected.  Lox and deathsquitos never attack structures and even fulings don't seem that interested. Anyway, there are far fewer of them roaming loose. They mostly stick to their camps. 

Sniping goblins is a lot of fun but more surprising to me is how much satisfying it is to meet them in combat face to face. I'm coming round to the opinion that Valheim has my favorite action combat of any game I've played and that's because it manages to be both skilful, tactical and incredibly simple all at the same time.

For me, it's all about movement and weapon selection. The fights, pulling with the bow, swapping to a sword, maybe pulling out the big hammer, feel hugely kinetic. 

Almost from the start I've ignored blocks and dodges. I tried a shield for a short while but it seemed slow and awkward compared to just hitting things really fast. For a long time I used an axe and that worked vey well. Then when I learned to work with silver I made a sword and that worked better still.


The black iron axe is statistically superior to the silver sword so I made that and swapped back for a while but although it does hit harder the sword is so much faster. Crucially, it strikes on both the forehand and the backhand. That's what makes it not just possible but productive to fight three or even four fulings at once.

Monster AI in Valheim is really excellent, I think. All creatures have particular ways of behaving and quite a lot of the behaviors are convincing. Fulings feint and dart and circle out of reach. They're always moving, looking for opportunity. What they can't cope with is being rushed and hacked at and perpetually knocked back but you have to be sure never to let them get you surrounded. It's like EverQuest on meth.

The sword, with its speed and the way it strikes both on the atack and the withdrawal keeps fulings stunned and struggling to respond. The knock-back isn't as great as with other weapons but it happens so often. So long as I make sure my health never drops much below 150 I can reasonably expect to slice up a gang of regular goblins with a one or even a two star thrown in before I get into in any great trouble.  

Shamans are a problem because they have a nasty long-range fireball attack and a very effective ward. If one of those comes out of the camp then I do back off and come back later when they've all calmed down. Then I single the shaman out and put an arrow in him and with luck he doesn't have his ward on so he explodes. 

All of that and a good bit more makes exterminating fulings good entertainment for a couple of hours. Even so, I'd probably have had enough of the plains by now if that was all there was to do. There are lox to hunt for meat, of course, and deathsquitos for their needles, which make the best arrows, but that wouldn't be enough to keep me either.

No, the reason I'm still out there clearing the fog from the map is that even after all this time I still run into things I've never seen before. While I was pushing along a coastline to the east I happened on a henge. It stood out from the golden fields like a sign, which turned out to be just what it was. It had the vegasir for Yagluth's altar. 

With that on my map I had to go take a look, even though I have no intention of summoning him until there's something in it for me. His dias was next to a fuling camp and a fuling tower, at the head of the first river I'd seen on the plains. (I've seen several more streams since then).

Last night, as I was heading south on the biggest of all the islands, I stumbled on what looked eerily like a brutalist blockhouse from some 1960s out of town industrial park. I'd never seen anything in Valheim like it before. As I approached I could hear cackling. Surely goblins couldn't have built this thing?

Whether they built it or not they were using it. It had stone stairs and a chest on the flat roof. Whether it was some religious structure of their own or something they'd re-purposed I couldn't say but it made me very curious. 

And then the mist came down. I hate the mist on the plains so very much. It's far too real. It swirls and billows and hangs there and you can see shapes and hear sounds through it but never well enough. If the mist blows in while I'm clearing a camp I know it's going to be a long, long day.

That's what I've been up to in Valheim this week. Looking forward, I've marked a couple of possible spots for my island getaway. I've cleared a whole medium-sized island of all fixed spawns and I'm thinking of moving there because it's a lot nicer than where I'm living now. I've done so much work on the castle, though, I couldn't bear to tear it down. I'd have to start again from scratch and I don't think I can face all that mining again.

My next project is going to be a trip to the Ashlands. I've ranged so far south now it can only be a short boat-trip away. I just need to set up a base in the far south and call on Moder for a favorable wind. And make some fire resistance potions, of course.

I guess I'm not done with this thing quite yet.



Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Connected To The Sound, Pictures On The Wall

It must have been about six months since I last logged in to Occupy White Walls. I wasn't all that enamored with the direction it had taken and the updates I'd heard about weren't doing much to change my mind.

And then yesterday, while I was on Steam looking at something else, I happened to notice this. I've linked it from the OWW website because linking from Steam is a pain.

The feature that caught my eye was called CloudSound:

CloudSound - Add music from SoundCloud to your gallery

  • 2 unique speakers, 2 Jukeboxes, and a turntable to choose from

  • 4 different animation effects

  • Load songs from SoundCloud to anywhere in your gallery

  • Choose the radius distance of the music

  • Let visitors hear your music all over your gallery with the global setting

  • Place multiple speakers and only hear only closest (great for specific rooms)

That sounded like something worth patching up for.

Cue music!

 

Before I got started on my own gallery I had a wander round the new tutorial space, the Piazza Dei Miracoli. It's impressive. The game's gotten a lot slicker since last I played.

I looked around a couple of the gallery spaces there and listened to the music that was playing but what I really wanted to do was try it for myself. I was mostly curious to find out just what kind of tunes were available on SoundCloud that you could use in the game. 

I thought I vaguely knew what SoundCloud was but I think I must have been confusing it with something else. I remembered it as the place where I got the sound samples from Daria to use for my character in Baldur's Gate but that must have been a different repository altogether. SoundCloud didn't even come into existence until nearly a decade later.

The copyright issue, which was puzzling me a little, seems to be comprehensively covered by SoundCloud's own operating agenda. To link a track in game it has to be flagged as "Public" on SoundCloud and that already means "anyone can listent to it".  

That's how you do in-game help.

 

The platform has just moved to a system of "Fan-Powered Royalties", which is an intriguing concept. How that fits in with the OWW deal isn't mentioned but I notice that if you click on the image of the track in game it takes you to the relevant page on SoundCloud itself so I imagine what you could call active views and listens can be tallied that way. 

Anyway, that's not my concern. I was more interested to know whether there was stuff on SoundCloud that a) I knew b) I liked and c) I'd want playing in my gallery. And the answer to all three questions is a resounding "Yes!". (Hmm... I wonder if they have anything by Yes...)

I always have trouble of thinking of random band names to put into search engines. For some reason the ones that pop into my mind first seem to be Papertiger Sound and Scary Bear Soundtracks. I thought they'd be a good test anyway, what with being more than ordinarily obscure. Plus I love them both and they would be perfect for my gallery.

And there they were. Plenty of tracks by both of them. I spent a good while playing around with the controls in game and on SoundCloud, figuring out how to get something from one into the other. I bought a speaker and put it down then I followed the very clear UI instructions to get a track installed and playing. 

Paola's really into it.

 

It all worked beautifully until I had a couple of speakers placed and tried moving from one to another. Then things went a bit haywire. You can set the distance at which you continue to hear each speaker but the transitions are brutal. Also, OWW has its own (rather good) music, which carries on playing every chance it gets. Your speakers replace it when you're in range but as you move around the gallery the game's music comes back whenever you pass into a dead spot.

After a while I got that sorted but two of the three Papertiger Sound tracks I was using kept breaking for some reason. I'm not sure if the game streams them in real time or uploads them and holds them somewhere but whatever it does it wasn't working very smoothly. 

Eventually I got three speakers installed, each with a track that seemed stable. Then I thought about what I was going to post about it. 

I was always going to post but it seemed nuts to try and describe the whole thing (like I just have...) when I could just make a video and let the music play. So I did and here it is:


There's an official video but honestly I don't think it really shows how it works. And it's a little... well... Isn't it?

The update notes mention jukeboxes. A working jukebox would be A M A Z I N G! (Sorry, still thinking of that official video...). There was a discussion going on in chat while I was there about how to get playlists working (people had seen them in action but no-one knew how it was done). I'm wondering if that's what the jukeboxes do?

I'll have to go in and play around some more. The somewhat annoying thing is that OWW will insist on kinda-sorta being an actual game, so I'll probably have to level up before I can see the advanced options. Like jukeboxes.

I need to do that anyway to earn the right to make a second gallery. I was going to do it when they added the option but I somehow never quite got round to it. Being able to set my own choice of music might just be the motivation I needed.

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