Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Pokémon Mystery Dungeon

I've always been quite fond of the Pokémon franchise and have played all the non-spinoff games (except the latest) and collected many cards. Admittedly I am and was probably always a little older than the supposed target group. When I started playing I was probably 14 or so while everyone else was 6-10. I remember when visiting the Pokémon trading club I was by far the oldest in the room. My first encounter with Pokémon was by managing to get my hands on Pokémon Blue through some scrubby trading (a guy who liked me traded it with some kid for a burned cd with some music and gave it to me as a token of appreciation). I think I had just bought a Game Boy Advance to play it on. And I, just as millions of other children around the world, loved it instantly. The concept of catching and using little monsters to care fora nd fight with was a genious one. Just like with Final Fantasy, Pokémon was never thought to be more than one game but grew into the monster franchise it became and still is to some extent today.

I started collecting cards too. My english wasn't very good then, and those I played with knew even less, so initially we made the rules up. You simply hit the opponent for the given sum and if you killed him you won the card. Since I was the oldest I could make up my own rules as it fitted and most kiddos would believe me. Swell times. Anyhow we started playing by the real rules after a while and I've spent countless time and money on this lovely game. But enough reminiscing.

I haven't played any Pokémon for some time now, and although I still have my old decks I don't really have anyone interested in playing it with me. I think the last Pokémon game I played was the Pokémon Diamond or something. Until yesterday when I tried out Pokémon Mystery Dungeon - Explorers of Time (PMD).

Mystery Dungeon is the game concept of dungeon crawling with ever changing dungeons. Actually my first impression of PMD was that i resembled the old Playstation game Azure Dreams alot. In a Mystery Dungeon game you re-enter a dungeon over and over to collect valuables of different kind. When exiting the dungeon you lose some of what you've collected so that re-entering will always be a challenge. In Azure Dreams this was quite well balanced - the main character (you) always lost all levels but kept any gear or items they had found. If you died you lost everything you had on you (if I remember correctly). The goal was to get to the uppermost level (which was above level 50 I think). Since oneself returned as level 1 everytime you needed the aid from different monsters that you could catch and train inside the tower to do your bidding. These monsters were quite similar to Pokémon in that way that they had their weaknesses and strengths against other monsters in the tower. To get all the way up you needed a full arsenal of diverse monsters to be able to take on whatever evil you could happen to find inside the tower. If you have any kind of interest in Mystery Dungeon games, playing Azure Dreams is a must.

But back to PMD. The Mystery Dungeon part is actually quite fun, dungeon crawling has its own charm. It doesn't really ever grow boring as long as there are items to collect and the enemies don't grow too easy. In PMD there is a cute (?) side story which seems to be meant to give the dungeon crawling some framework and meaning (like you need more motivation than finding items and kill stuff!). Most of the story is harmlessly pokémonishly cute and doesn't disturb gameplay much. The game is overall entertaining and a decent mystery dungeon game. The fighting system and AI all work good enough to make it an entertaining experience. Unfortunately it feels like the game makes didn't believe in the dungeon crawling being able to pull its own weight in providing fun and so forces a horrible little mini game upon the player from time to time. It's called "guess the Pokémon". Here you are supposed to guess the Pokémon based on its footprint. But there is no logical connection between the look of a footprint and the pokémon that owns it, which makes this most of an annoying guessing game. Most footprints are more or less round shaped, sometimes with some toes.

The music is great. I actually feel some tunes deserve to be in a bigger game than this. They are thought through and captivating in a Pokémon way. The fighting system is well designed too. Your companions won't always do what you want them to do, but there is the possibility to set tactics and AI-rules for them which work ok. Some solutions are great like the fact that your companions can pick up stuff too, or that you can give and use items to/on them even if they're far away from you on the map. This means you won't have to watch your less than brainy Pokémon friend die against some foe without being able to do anything about it.

The characters and story are typically pokémonish, with the frightened but brave, evil but kind and yourself who is a human in a Pokémon body, able to see the future and the past. I myself endure the story line because I enjoy the dungeon crawling so much, and like mentioned it isn't bothersome. Like in any Pokémon game it's an excuse to get to the gameplay which usually is highly entertaining. PMD will give some hours of fun and I recommend it if you're, like me, a little of a collecting freak. Gotta catch 'em all!

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Warcraft Pidgin

I am quite interested in languages and the other day I came to think about the language that has evolved in WoW, and probably any other game that consists of a vast community of player. Well any with a small community of players too I'd guess, but those aren't much noticed. I often get to hear, when talking about WoW to non-WoW players, that it sounds like we're talking a whole nother language. So many words are used, that are strange to the non-player, that they can't make sense of the meaning of the discussion. Now this creating of new words would only occur of course if the player is of another mother tongue than the game, like in my case - I am swedish but play a game of english language. This means that when I communicate with other swedish speakers about the game, I will often use terms that are a mish-mash between the english word and a swedish form.

I suppose this form of mish-mashing words would differ from language to language depending on grammar rules special for that language. In swedish for instance, most verbs end with an -a. "Springa" (run), "cykla" (bicycle), "falla" (fall) for example. This means us swedes usually just grab the english verb and put an -a in the end to make it sounds swedish-like. This has created words like pull-a, run-a, roll-a, quest-a and the list could go on with nearly any WoW-related verb. In a language where verbs doesn't end with an -a however, I am assuming this would look completely different. Unfortunately, the only other languages I know - Spanish, German and English, all have the game translated into their languages and don't have the "need" to create these mish-mash words for the game. I therefor haven't got the possibility to compare anything myself.

For the rest of us however, one could talk about the emergance of a "pidgin" language of sorts. A pidgin language is described by as "any simplified or broken form of a language, esp. when used for communication between speakers of different languages." An example of pidgin is the Engrish "spoken" by many chinese businessmen and companies. Usually a pidgin starts out two-way, that is two languages who don't resemble one another much try to meet mid way with words needed for for example trading. A pidgin language will therefor focus much in these kind of words and turn out much less elaborate than a "normal" language.

This could be said about the swedish-english wow-pidgin, which of course focuses on game terms and therefor has no special word for something that doesn't occur in the game, like giving birth. The swedish-english wow-pidgin is one-way however since there is no interest in non-swedish speakers to learn swedish to be able to communicate with swedes. The communicating language of WoW is english after all, and this swedish-wow-pidgin has only sprung into existance to ease communication between swedish-speakers.

It is actually much more simple to have these mish-mash words than trying to convert the words into a "real" swedish word, which one notices at once when trying to explain WoW to someone who doesn't play it. Take the word "kite" for instance. In swedish-wow-pidgin that would be "kita". As far as I know there is no original swedish word for the term, so when trying to explain it one would have to say "making something chase you", or the like. Or "run an instance" which is "instansa". Otherwise explained one would have to say "run a dungeon with a group of people".

Most of these SWP (swedish-wow-pidgin) words are therefor actually needed. They ease up communication greatly, except of course with those who do not understand them. I would really like to know how these kinds of words develop in other languages, like polish, dutch, danish, finnish...

Another kind of words that aren't bound to one single language but to the gaming community as a whole are the gaming-exclusive words. Such words include "kek" or "gib" (of which there also are swedish versions - "öpö" and "gibba" respectively). But I think that is another matter which will need its own post. First I must collect some examples of words, and since I don't have any access to wow for some time that will have to wait. Until then, bai.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Your majesty, the Tank

With the new lfg-tool something that has always been known has become even more obvious. There is a huge lack of tanks. Now if you only ever play one role you won't have much to compare with and might think that whatever time you get to wait is average for any class and role. This is not so, as the wait times differ greatly between tanks, healers and dps.
On my mage I usually get to wait something around 10-15 minutes.
On my priest/shammy healers I usually get to wait around 2-5 minutes.
On my warrior tank I usually get to wait 3-5 seconds.

This says alot about the role distribution in wow, and there isn't much new to that really. The lack of tanks has been a problem since the start of wow. For some reason, playing a tank just isn't as tempting as playing a dps. One could blame this on the simple fact that there are actually less classes capable of playing a tank than a dps. But that is also the fact for healing vs dps, and there are siginificantly more healers than tanks out there. Why don't people want to tank? I have some ideas on that but that is for another post.

In any case here we are with a huge shortage on tanks. This means that when I, after having to wait 15 min on my mage for a group, am extremely greatful when it finally finds a tank (it is nearly always the tank who is the last spot missing). And completely devastated when the tank decides to leave before the instance is completed. Waiting for another one will probably take some extra 15 minutes of just standing around.

The problem is that this thinking rubs off for when I later decide to tank. Then I am the one making it happen! I am the one who people have been waiting for for 15 minutes. I am God! And they should worship me. I know that if I decide to leave to get another group I won't have to wait many seconds, while the rest have to wait for another 15 minutes. I am on the greener grass now bizznitches. I am doing the rest of the group a huge favor by deciding to tank them! Everyone in the group knows this, most people would never hurt the feelings of the tank with fear of making them leave. Sometimes I choose to tank some random heroics just because I know it will make someone happy (yes I am a gentle soul). And a little because I like to tank. And a little more because I like the power in the "ahhh they need me to do this"-feeling.

Of course alot has to happen before I really decide to leave. Usually you can just decide to kick someone if they're underachieving or acting like douche bags. If a majority of the group are douche bags though the best solution is to leave. This has fortunately not happened to me, until today. I was doing ToC and after the jousting I had to switch spec, from dps to tank, switch gear and stance. While I was doing this the Dk decides to pull. Everyone nukes all out, the mobs all over the place, I am still switching stance while trying to pick them up. Mind you I only have one taunt with 6 sec cd (with set). This means it will take 18 sec to get all mobs back from idiots who couldn't tell jack shit apart from a threat table. And as I was doing this one of the dps says "tank wtf are you doing? I have aggro all the time". "Wtf am I doing?" I asked. "Wtf is the dk doing with that moron pull while I am switching spec?". Of course he had aggro! I wasn't even there when he started shooting.
Well of course I couldn't stay in that group. They didn't deserve me, and I felt a warm fuzzy feeling when leaving them, knowing it would only take me 3 sec to find another group and them 15 minutes.

The tankrole is in low supply and high demand. This means when you finally get one you will treat them with utmost respect. They are in fact doing you a favor. You will adapt your dps to function with the tank, and as long as he doesn't suck so madly you wipe on every group of mobs, you keep your mouth shut. People complaining on every little mistake a tank does will -not- encourage people to choose to play a role that is already in limited supply. Especially not when considering how demanding it is to play a tank in comparison to any other class (except healer in some cases).

This will probably be my last post of the year as I am going away for some holidays. I will have some internet access where I'm at though, so if I'm not too busy drinking glögg, eating ham and freezing my ass off I might post some thoughts here before the end of the year.

Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year Everyone!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Deathbringer Saurfang

We've gotten around to kill Saurfang now. We only got one try on him on our first raid, and since no one had read about any tacs we wiped at around 30% or so. On sunday we did a second ID raid where we downed all bosses and yesterday we did a followup on the first raid to finally down this guy. Thanks to some alts I was present on both kills.

Our first kill (guild first) was quite smooth. We had one wipe due to the fact that 8/10 in the raid never had done the fight before. It isn't hard actually but some events just have to be seen to properly know how to handle them. Second try went by the book tho and no deaths. I tanked him that try and our second kill I healed him. As a healer there isn't much to think about, to be honest I think you could manage with only two healers that fight (we had three). You would want one or two pointhealers and/or a cushion healer like a druid. The main thing to keep track of would be the Mark that Saurfang casts on a random raid member after having collected 100 energy, this energy is collected by varying skills. He also from time to time hits quite hard so being ready to pick a tank up from a nasty swing is good (which a healer should be in any raidfight). At 25% he frenzies, doing more damage, but nothing that was too noticeble actually.

Tanking him was a litte more troublesome but still not by much. You basically just have to be alert to taunt off the other tank when he gets the Rune of Blood, and to not get threat from the Blood Beasts that spawn regularly throughout the fights. Using stuns on the Blood Beasts to make it easier for the kiters to kill them is also recommendable.

Melee (and tanks) have to keep track of the Blood Nova he places on a random raid member that hurts nearby players, gives him energy and health. Anyone affected by it must move away from the raid. Having at least two ranged dps is quite essential, and prefferably classes with some ability to kite. Our first kill we had two arcane mages who slowed one target each which made the kiting part really easy, a hunter and a boomkin helped with the killing. The second kill we only had two ranged, on arcane mage and one hunter which meant they basically had to kite throughout the whole fight, as new Blood Beasts spawned as soon as the old ones died. Like the hunter commented "this reminds me quite much of the Gluth fight, where all I get to do is kite". Just having one ranged per Blood Beast wasn't much of an issue though, as long as all the other ranged, in our cases all healers, keep out of the way.
With these simple things in mind;
- Taunt the Runed tank
- Move from the Novad player (or have him move from the rest, whichever is easier)
- Kite Blood Beasts (do not stand in melee range of them ever)
- Constantly heal Marked player
The fight will run smooth as something really smooth.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Star Trek - The Original Series

After having seen the new Star Trek movie, of which I was highly sceptical but positively suprised, I got the urge to see the basis for the movie -the original series. I've been somewhat of a Star Trek fan a long time, and have seen nearly every episode of Next Generation and seen Voyager several times. But I had never thought the Original Series would be any good. Come on, it's from the 60's, how good could it be? The effects must clearly be bad and everything else probably too. Well that is about how my arguments were running through my head. But then I saw Star Trek, I got this emotional connection to the characters, I talked to my mom who said the original series was great and I thought; "I've gotta see it". And here we are, 3 seasons later, 80 times 50 minutes worth of episodes and awesome fun. I can conclude The Original Series in one word and that is "great".

The effects and settings are bad actually, after all we are talking about a series with a relatively low budget, shot in a time when people imagined the computer as only a flashing screen with a mechanic voice. Every planet they land on looks nearly the same (and the skies always have a red/orange/pink glow for some reason) and you can of course tell they're in a studio from miles away. What makes the series so great are the actors. Everyone of the major characters (except maybe Chekov, I never understood what he was supposed to add to the series, and he isn't added until season 2) do their roles great, nay superb. The characters - Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scott etc are also all very good and uniquely interesting, it feels like they all add something special to an episode. Kirk is the key figure who sort of represents a part of all the other. Spock is calmly logical. McCoy emotionally eh... emotional. He often argues with Spock. And Scott is comically scottish. So you've got the calmly serious, the emotionally serious and the not so serious and the one who binds them all together. As a quartet they fit perfectly.

Some episodes are less good than others, and some episodes are just awesome. I thought I'd share my favorites. I actually have 5 episodes that I have voted to be 10/10, that is what I would call a perfect episode after my tastes. Actually none of the episodes of season 1 have gotten a 10 as I think the series picks off in a really good way first in season 2 (season 1 is still great though). What makes them so great are some really funny scenes and great acting, which is the case with all the episodes I have given a 10. The plot usually isn't anything special and they're always quite similar. Kirk and crew face omnipotent being who toys with them for his own pleasure" is probably the plot for 30% or more of the series.

I, Mudd
This is actually the second episode where the character Mudd appears, the first one being in season 1. That episode isn't any fun though and I thought this one wouldn't be either. In this episode however he kidnaps the captain and some of his crew (the interesting ones) to keep them on a planet full of androids that need humans to tend to, to have a purpose in life. Now Kirk and crew must outwit the robots to be allowed to leave!
Best Quote:
McCoy: [talking about the android Norman] There's something wrong about a man who never smiles, whose conversation never varies from the routine of the job, and who won't talk about his background.
Spock: I see.
McCoy: Spock... I mean, that it's, uh... it's odd for a non-Vulcan. Um... the ears make all the difference.

The Trouble With Tribbles
Tribbles is a small very furry creature who emits some sort of "love me"-aura (which even affects Spock!). They actually look like a colorful hairball and they reproduce like bunnies on speed. The Tribbles were such a loved element that they reused them for some later episodes in other Star Trek series, which I haven't seen though. This episode too is full of some really funny scenes.
Best Quote:
Spock: [while holding a tribble] Most curious creature, Captain. It's trilling seems to have a tranquilizing effect on the human nervous system.
[he begins to pet it gently]
Spock: Fortunately, of course, I am immune to it's effect
[realizing what he is doing, he quickly puts the tribble down and excuses himself]

The Pattern of Force
Some of the best TOS episodes are when Kirk and crew travel back in time to "old" earth. In this episode they don't travel to earth, but to a planet that in a freak accident (due to an earthling) has developed a Nazi system exactly like the old germans did. Kirk and Spock roam around, disguising as Nazis and collaborating with the underground resistance to find out what went wrong and how they can fix this mistake.
Best Quote:
Spock: Your uniform, Captain.
Capt. Kirk: Yes, it's a shame yours isn't as attractive as mine. Gestapo, I believe.
Spock: Quite correct. You should make a very convincing Nazi.

A Piece Of The Action
Another one of the "old earth" episodes which is actually very much like Pattern of Force come to think of it. Just like in that episode a planet has been affected by an earthling to develop a governmental system alike one that has existed on earth (past time in the series that is). In this episodes it is the Maffia system that by a freak accident (again) has turned into the planets entire way of doing things. Yet again Kirk and Spock must disguise to find out how they can turn this mistake into something good.
Best Quote:
Spock: Captain, you are an excellent starship commander, but as a taxi driver, you leave something to be desired!

The Tholian Web
The Enterprise enter an area in space that not only is claimed propert by an alien race, but also twists the SpaceTimeContinuum (trademark) in a way that makes stuff vanish into nothingness and get caught in some sort of limbo between this world and... some other place. This happens to Kirk and Spock and crew have to find a way to get him back before the aliens destroy the ship with their ellaborate tholian web (a construction that takes hours to build in space and can only be used against a space ship that is standing completely still for said hours). This episode is interesting as it sets Spock in the center of the action and there is a very good duality between Spock and McCoy here, shown in many episodes but that fully blooms here. If you accept the premise that this Tholian Web is something one would actually use to capture and destroy an enemy vessel, which is higly illogical, this is a great episode.
Best Quote:
Bones: That's right, and in this derivative, mixed with alcohol it merely deadens certain nerve inputs to the brain.
Scott: Oh, well, any decent blend of Scotch'll do that.
Bones: Oh? Well, one good slug of this, and you could hit a man with phaser stun, and he'd never feel it, or even know it.
Scott: Does it make a good mix with Scotch?

Quotes from

Monday, December 14, 2009

R.I.P Luke (070997 - 121209)

I'd like to make a little post about something completely else than I usually do. It's not interesting or funny, but sad. My siamese cat Luke has passed away, 12 years old. Apparently it was due to kidney failure and at the end he was so ill they had to put him away. Rest in peace my crazy little cat.

Luke was an adventurer, he liked to roam the streets and make his mark in the neighbourhood. He could be gone for days but we always knew he'd come back and act like nothing had ever happened. He had constant fights with other cats and came home with spoils of war from time to time (poor little birds). He was a very proud cat but with a soft side. He didn't like to be jerked around but didn't mind showing when he cared for someone. He was a patient cat and waited in the background for the right moment to make his move. He was never in a hurry for anything and never took rash decisions. He never overdid anything, he knew when to draw the line. He had the softest voice, which he never hesitated to use if he wanted something. He was a mystery and deeply loved. You'll be very missed Luke. Spread your coolness easy wherever you are now.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Doomsday (2008)

The movie Doomsday is your average post-apocalyptic semi-end-of-the-world movie. Although I didn't have very high hopes for it it actually turned out pretty decent and in any case quite entertaining.

Scotlands is infected with the über-deadly Reaper Virus which leads Britain to isolating the entire Scotland area and shooting/burning/brutally killing anyone who nears the huge wall spanning across the land, actually along the same path as the old Roman Hadrian Wall. After a while people forgets about the whole incident. After some years however, the Virus re-appears but this time in London. They (the government) have noticed that people have somehow survived in the still isolated Scotland area and assume that is because there is some kind of cure for the virus somewhere. They send in a team to get it in a Scotland that has turned into barbarism and *gasp* cannibalism.

That is basically where the story takes off and there will be alot of action and near splatter like violence along the road. The main character, major Sinclair, is actually a quite interesting and likeable woman who definitely can take care of herself. She is played by Rhona Mitra who is doing the cool-as-ice thing well and you can tell the character is inspired by Snake Plissken as Wikipedia claims. The rest of the team consist of the random bunch of clichés and the movie is mostly about this team going from one major fight to another, always losing some men along the way. They've even tucked in Malcolm McDowell in a small but important role. The story is quite standard but the main character and an average good pace of events keep this movie up. It has an intro as if it really wanted to be about something else, something more serious. After some minutes it feels like the director went "Meh, screw this serious business, let's just let everything be really violent, everyone likes that". That is what this movie is all about. Some scenes are quite grotesque and some parts of the story don't really fit well together. If you watch it with the premise of simply wanting to be entertained by some simplistic violent action you won't be disappointed though.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Black Hole (1979)

I watched a not so well known Disney movie yester day, called The Black Hole. The name says it all as it is actually about a black hole.

Spaceship Palomino and crew travel around space to find new life forms when they encounter a huge black hole. Although that would be fascinating in it self, they also find the long lost earth ship Cygnus, which ended its mission of exploration long ago and was ordered to return, never to be seen again. And there it is, seemingly unharmed right next to a black hole that should've sucked it right in long ago. I won't tell you more about the plot as it takes off around there, when the crew of Palomino attempt to board the Cygnus to find out what has happened to her and her crew.

I can tell you right away it is not a cartoon, although it is a Disney movie. According to Wikipedia The Black Hole was the most expensive movie made by Disney at that time. It also got an Oscar nominee for special effects. However it didn't bring in as much money as Disney had hoped. They did another shot with the non-cartoon Tron, but that didn't work as hoped either so they gave up non-cartoons for a while. If you wanna know more about the special effects there seem to be quite some about it over at Wikipedia. Personally I really like them and none seem badly done or "hey-I-can-see-the-string"ish.

The movie has a good pace and a really peculiar ending. Not bad in any way, but odd. The actors are decent (with a good Anthony Perkins as a devoted scientist) and the slapstick introduced by the robot Vincent are very typical Disney. The music score too, with some action music being just hilarious. Sometimes you wonder if the movie was made for children or for adults. It has no particularly violent scenes and a modest language which indicates it was at least made with children being able to watch it in mind. The intro theme is great though. And it actually has one of the coolest scenes I've ever seen when they...

run on a walkway infront of a huge meteor rolling towards them.


The movie approaches a really interesting theme, that of what a black hole is all about and capable to do. Unfortunately it doesn't explore these themes very much but seems to go in a different direction, that of mad scientists. Also an interesting theme of course. Overall I'd only recommend this movie if you like oldschool space-effects, which can be quite entertaining. Otherwise this movie doesn't provide much of anything "new" or interesting.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Saboteur

Love has played another game, and this time it's The Saboteur by Pandemic Studios.
You play as Devlin the Irish-man (as he will let you know a couple of times during play) who has to choose sides in the war when... well I won't spoil it for ya, but he is drawn into the conflict against his will anyway. The game takes place in Paris during WWII where you help the french resistance against the evil Nazis, also known as Krauts. The ingame Paris is an actual copy of Paris as it looked in those times. I can't validate it's exactness of course, but Pandemic at least claim to have tried.

One could start out with simply saying The Saboteur is a great game. You don't really need to know more than that and should try it right away if you're interested in sand-box-sneaky-games. It's like a cross-breed of Hitman and GTA, mixing the undercover-stealth-disguise-murder part of Hitman with the free-roaming-do-as-I-please from GTA. There are of course missions to work through, but you are always free to run off and do something else, as long as you keep inside Paris city walls.
Devlin is a kick-ass wall-climber/cat-burglar and can with ease get around Paris roof-mileu to get where he wants. The "saboteur" part of the game includes blowing things up, sneaking behind people to stealth-kill them and disguising as nazis. For being a "stealth"-game it's not very stealthy. In some games like Thief, going face-to-face with the baddies could become a real problem. This isn't an issue in The Saboteur and chosing to go right into combat instead of sneaking behind works just as well, if not better in some instances.
The graphics are ok and do what they should to help your sneakiness. The AI isn't bright but not so stupid as to make it boring when you outwit them. You can tell you're playing against a script but since the AI isn't the only obstacle to success the game still offers some challenge. Devlin and the characters around him are believable although the storyline feels more of an excuse to get to blow some tanks and buildings. Nothing wrong with that. Devlin is also not one of them silent types who let everyone else comment the surrounding but has a real persona behind him. Now whether you like that persona or not I (and Love) usually prefer characters with some own life to them (Tidus being a huge exeption).

The game is huge playtime wise but not so big areawise. You've got entire Paris to play in, sure, but it does feel a little crammed after a while. The overall good thing about the game is its lack of flaws. It provides the right amount of challenge without hindering the player due to silly or stupid mechanics. Most importantly the whole wall-climbing-sneaking business works without any troubles. Devlin rarely throws himself out onto a street face-first instead of grabbing that window-sill. The weapons arsenal is good with its standard array of most things from small guns to snipers to grenades. As in every other game in this genre some weapons are better than others, but at least there are plenty to choose from to find one owns favorite.
One really strange thing though is that you can't change game graphics inside the game but have to go into a config file and rewrite the code. It's not difficult but a strange way to have to do it.

Marrowgar, Deathwhisper and the Gunship

So we did the first three bosses in ICC this evening (we actually made a fast attempt on Saurfang too but wiped at 30%ish) and here are my impressions. Here be spoilers by the way.

We did this on normal and this guy wasn't too hard. He does a spike which stuns a random raidmember and does dot damage until the spike is destroyed. He also does some sort of ice that moves along the floor and that needs to be avoided as well as a Bone Storm which means he whirldwinds around the room. Should also be avoided. None of these were any real problem though but we had some issues with his Cleave. It does approximately 50k dmg divided to two targets in front of him (preferrably the tanks). Before we had gotten the moves in with moving from storms and ice and spikes we had some trouble with the tanks taking 25k dmg spikes. Also I was healing the first boss on my less well geared shammy because we had 4 (!) priests in the group. An overall not so interesting and not so difficult fight, quite straight forward.

First time I heard her name I thought she might've had too much garlic in that sandwhich. She has two phases, one where you nuke down her mana (shield) and one where you nuke down her health and effectively ending her. The room she stands in resembles the one Blackheart the Inciter resides in in Shadow Labs, but the mobs aren't as annoying. I remember you basically had to use cc back in those days but that wasn't needed here. She doesn't do anything too hard. She random targets and shoots shadow bolts which are easily healed and puts out a green Death & Decay which is easily avoided. She is untankable in phase one and the tanks should instrad focus on grabbing different adds that spawn. The adds didn't pose much of a problem either except for the Deformed Fanatics that spawn from the dead Cult Fanatics. They hit like "a m-f'n truck" like someone put it on and I agree. Should be kited. Second phase was really easy and we got through it before I realised we'd started it basically.

The GunShip:
After Deathwhisper you'll get teleported to a ledge where the good guys fight the bad guys. A guy in our raid accidentally got into combat with them which teleported anyone close by right into the middle of the fight and most of us got one shotted. This happened a couple of times before we realised what was going on and could collect ourselves. Apparently the fight had bugged out so that we would get instantly teleported as soon as we got close to the fight. Or maybe it is supposed to work that way. I'll notice next reset... We managed when we were ready for it though and worked our way to the Gunship.
I found a good tactic over on Wowhead which worked for us and I'll therefor share it with an important addition. When you start the fight you'll fly alongside with the enemy ship. Have two people working the cannons and everbody else staing on your ship. As soon as the mages appear to freeze your cannons you have one tank jump over to pick up Muradin and the dps jumping over to kill the mage. As soon as the mage is dead, everyone jumps back. If the tank and the healers stand on the ledge the healers can effectively heal both tanks. Important Addition: Muradin stacks a buff on himself that increases his damage done by 10% per swing or so. After 20 stacks his every melee swing will do 30k dmg on a tankgeared char. That is about 30k dmg every 3 sec. The tank must therefor jump back with the others when the mage is dead to reset his stack count. Rinse and repeat. Doing this the fight was very easy, but before we dicovered his dmg buff we had some trouble...

After the Gunship fight is over we didn't really know where to go. Maybe something had bugged out for us but we couldn't speak to anyone or see any portal leading anywhere. We jumped down, giving everyone levitates and landing on the previous ledge that had gotten us to the Gunship. The fights where still going on down there however which means some landed in them and died. They then discovered you needed to be somewhere completely else to find Saurfang. We told everyone to die and teleport to the right place. We still don't know if there is a better way to get to him, but of course there has to be. The same guy who had bugged the event from the start said he had gotten an npc-whisper to jump. No one else got this whisper though... Hmmm.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

First impressions of ICC 5man instances

So here it is, the new patch! Was it all that it claimed to be?

First of all, I love the new lfg system. The whole idea of throwing in people from several servers is genious if you play on a low populated server like me. Now I can get a group even with my dps chars! And I don't even have to wait that long. I agree that most likely more people will be online using it now that it's all new and brand, and it'll settle in the next couple of weeks, but I didn't have to wait more than 5 minutes or so to get a group at 4 o'clock in the morning. That is at least quite promising. Only thing I think they could've changed is the fact that the instance is completely random. Since no one gets to chose, except the AI, it could actually pick something no one wants to do. Like Oculus. Chances are good no one would want to do Oculus. Getting a whole group together for something no one wants to do seems strange for a game that is supposed to entertain. I think you should at least be able to chose 1-3 instances you just don't want to join. That way you'll never get whole groups of people having to do something the evil AI has chosen for them but no one will enjoy.

Second of all (yeah this time I actually have one!) I digg the new instances. I've tanked and healed myself through them and had a pleasant experience both times. Their difficulty level increases quite much from one instance to the next and the last part - Halls of Reflection - is a major pain in the ass, at least on heroic. The first boss, Falric, is really really tough. He does a nasty aoe fear and reduces healing and damage significantly throughout the fight. His last percents of hp you'll hit and heal for puny amounts which can be really frustrating and surely make many people wipe on 1-2% (like we did once). Nothing I would pug really. But I like it! A little something to work with. And although the HoR was horrible to tank, with multiple ranged mobs everywhere, it was really fun to heal (I didn't do it with my main though, but with my resto shammy). But come on blizzard! Don't throw in those lame groups of ranged mobs without giving warriors some more ranged threat skills first! That's just evil...
The event where you run from Arthas is quite fun too, especially if you do it with two tanks like us and have him come nearly face to face by every ice wall. The groups get larger and larget too and I can say it was damn close by the last wall. I could smell Arthas in the end there... great fun ^^ Well that's just because we made it, it wouldn't have been any fun if we had wiped.
The music in there is crazy too, just listen to the rock (?) by the first boss in Forge of Souls.

Haven't tried the raids yet, but I will later today. If they are anything like the 5 man instances in feel and gameplay I'll enjoy myself greatly.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Thoughts on ICC

So it seems the new 3.3 patch is coming tomorrow and with it some changes to the game and a new instance! Well a new area of instances I should say because there will be a set of 5mans, 10mans and 25mans to play through, which all in some way include Arthas, as has most things until now, come to think of it. That is what Northrend is all about after all :P

Anyway, what do we think about this new patch? What do I think about it? First of all, nothing interesting has happened to the class I enjoy the most - healing priests. I play most classes on a regular basis (except rogue actually) so I'm more or less interested in any class changes that happen. But I'm mainly interested in healing priests and unfortunately (or luckily) there hasn't been much action on that front. Last big change was probably with the Soul Warding talent to Disc which made the spec viable, and awesome, for raid healing. For this patch we get two minor buffs, and I mean minor. Divine Hymn gets its cd lowered to 8 from 10. I can't say I'll notice that much, but it's an awesome spell and any lowering of the cd is of course welcome. And secondly we can now cast Power Word: Shield on npcs. Wow, thanks. Unless there is some critical moment in the ICC instances where that will be extremely necessary and useful, I can't say I've ever missed that option. Maybe on Thrall in Old Hillsbrad Foothills or on Arthas in Culling of Stratholme gauntlet run. Maybe. But again, it is a buff and more welcome than nothing.
Somehow this makes me think that Blizzard think that healing priests are at a good place right now, not too good and not too bad, since they don't want to change anything. And I have to agree. Even if not getting any changes could feel a little boring, I can't really say where it would be needed (and still be fair and reasonable of course, I've always wished for an IWIN button though). Right now, both disc and holy work very well.

Ok I can think of one thing; they should change the mechanics of Lightwell. It's a great spell and a great idea of a spell, but no one likes it because of how it works. You have to target it to use it and honestly, how many dps like to retarget? Even for a split second? Even if it saves their lives? Not many. My dream come true would be if they made so it works like the lightwell in Trial of the Champion does. A beacon of sprouting heals. Yeah that would be completely awesome and sooo good from a healer perspective. And not likely to happen. But they could at least make it so that you don't have to re-target it to get heals. The mechanic is there, because you don't have to target the Mage-table or Healthstone-thingy to activate what it does (just click it, which is miles away from targeting it). Maybe it could have an aura of healing? So when you get close to it it heals you automatically? Yeah I wish...

And I know there should be a "secondly" after a "first of all" but I haven't looked into much more than that about this patch. I am of course totally looking forward to the new instances and what the new fights will hold in store for us, and especially us healers. I watched a short intro-video where you got to see some of the bosses in ICC and it looks really promising. Hopefully they've done some interesting fights too. Less Auriaya more Freya. Lots of stuff that happen and to think about is what I like best. I still enjoyed Malacrass the most because he was a serious pain in the ass, but for the right reasons. I hope they have something like that! I think I'll write something about that soon...

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008) Remake

I watched the remake of the great movie The Day The Earth Stood Still yesterday. Of course I didn't think it would be as good, but I tried not to be too prejudice and instead try to enjoy it on it own terms, as if I hadn't already seen the original. It is of course hard to do and I ended up comparing in the end anyway.

On its own terms: A decent movie and the plot is still interesting. Actors are ok but the characters less so. If we start out with Keanu Reeves Klaatu I could see the reason they chose that stone faced actor because they might have wanted Klaatu to act unnatural and inhuman. In that sense Keanu Reeves actually works pretty well in the role. The kid, played by Jaden Smith (Will Smith's son) is actually doing a good job, but with a really annoying character. I don't think there was any scene where I didn't want to slap the kid over the head because of something he did or said. Not so much poor Jadens fault, as the script writers of course who can't throw in a kid without letting him be the bastard of the movie. Bastard as in annoying and stupid. Did I mention annoying? Anyway... Jennifer Connelys character is played well although she too plays an unbelieveable part. Actually the whole thing about the military rounding up civilian science experts because they don't understand jack of what's going on seems strange to me. I am quite sure the US-military and its astronomical budget has fit in their own team of science-people and don't need to semi-kidnap their own citizens. It also seems like a really bad way to keep something a secret. Gort has become a larger role in this movie but is still as untalkative and unempathic as any machine. He works though. John Cleeses role should've been larger because he was probably the most interesting character of the movie. Also the intro to the movie was meaningless, and should have been left out.

I have to admit there were some parts where I thought I should just turn it off and go do something else, so it wasn't extremely bad, but not very entertaining either.

In comparison: I'm not one of them people who thinks a movie based on something (be it another movie or whatever) must be faithful to the original. Of course some aspects have to stay or it wouldn't be based on it, but the most important thing is that it works on screen. The changes Peter Jackson did to The Lord of The Rings were ok for instance, and I also think Resident Evil (the first movie anyway) is a good adaptation of the game to a movie.
Therefor I don't necessarily think changing something from one movie to it's remake has to be a bad thing. But it will be a bad thing if they change something good into something bad. The remake had of course work around the problem that information is instant and hard to hide these days. Where the original Klaatu without trouble could walk around on the streets unrecognized this could be a problem for a more modern Klaatu, where anyone can film anyone and spread the information rapidly to all over the world. The original focuses on Klaatus interest in humans and the way they think, the remake doesn't seem to focus on anything at all. Keanus Klaatu seems completely uninterested in the world he's landed on and doesn't show a single emotion, whereas the original Klaatu (played my Michael Rennie) is highly sympathetic. Every scene, move and word means something in the original and heightens the plot. In the remake it feels like the movie want's something new with every scene, and none of it excites. Moral? Action? Drama?

I've already mentioned that some characters have been changed from something interesting into something boring, Bobby being the biggest victim. Barnhardt is actually more interesting in the remake but gets so little space that nothing ever comes of it. Some awesome scenes have been reduces to ashes, like the one where all the electricity goes off. In the original it is a planned act of demonstrating power, in the remake just something that happens without explanation (one assumes it's the aliens work but no explanation to why they would do something like that. None I can remember anyway, which is bad enough).

The remake biggest flaw is that it isn't memorable. It's just another action/drama/conflict/alien/endoftheworld movie but doesn't leave any marks. My tip would be, watch the original again instead of the remake.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Learning by Imagining

Over at Science Daily they yet again have an interesting post, but this time about how one can learn to complete new tasks, simply by thinking about how to do it.

The experiment in the text is about finding an anomaly in a picture of lines. Apparently the ones who did the actual training, that is look at several pictures with anomalies and find the right ones, did as good as the ones that only did "imaginary training". This second group didn't look at any real stimuli but imagined how they would do to complete the task.

Why is this interesting? Well it could work just as well in WoW of course! Or any other game if you prefer. So if you have an issue, in raid or pvp or just anywhere, you can either train it by doing it, or train it by thinking of it. Say you think you're lousy at healing yourself when raiding (assuming of course you're a healer). Sit down and think about situations where you would need to do that and do it. Think of different settings and situations, what you would do (like mark yourself or unmark, chose the right spell etc.) and how it would work. Apparently, doing this a couple of times will engage nerv cells to build up path ways to actually do it.
I know the teacher told me, when I studied Biological Psychology, that when imagining things, like being hurt somewhere or anything really, the brain actually shoots nerve cells as if it happened. That is why we get "sympathetic pain" when we see someone get hurt or why we get dizzyish when being high up and imagining falling down. So this "imaginary training" doesn't seem far fetched at all!
Here's the post if you wanna see for yourself.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Can I have your loot?

I need to have a talk about this, because it happened again some days ago. A druid claiming to have equal rights to cloth as clothies because this and that. So I thought we'd give "this and that" a work-through to see if there is something valid there or just plain old scrooginess.

First of all, yes I do main a clothie. A healing priest to be precise (disc/holy dual). I agree I might be somewhat biased by this, after all it is some of my loot you're after (I don't care much about the hit-rating loot though). I will try to keep this in consideration for the following arguments and so could you. I also agree simply saying "clothies should have cloth because it's cloth" isn't a wholly worthy argument. More is needed.

1. Ok, so let's look at some arguments pro. Or actually the argument I get to hear. Some of the cloth loot is simply BestInSlot to balance/resto-druids. While I haven't checked into this myself I have simply taken the druids word for it and so for this discussion will assume this is true.
I do think that if something is the besterest you can get your hands on you should have some shot at attaining it. Question is of course, should you have an equal shot as say someone who can't get anything else? So Blizzard have put slightly more/better stats into some cloth-gear. Why? No one knows. Perhaps the druids get punished by having that extra armor in their leather, which they apparently care very little for. This means in cloth, some armor has been turned into say spirit or intellect instead. Maybe most druids think there is too much spirit in the leather gear and want the spirit free cloth loot? There is spirit free leather loot too though so that can't really be it.

I can digg that one would prefer another stat over armor, heck maybe even stamina if you're a caster. So is armor such a worthless stat for caster-druids? Let's keep this to a pve-setting. Neither resto nor balance has any aggro reduce skill which means once they get aggro they have to live it through and wait for someone else to help them. Druids can't use shields either but have been compensated by this by getting extra armor in tree respectively chicken form with the possibility to increase it further with Bark Skin (which actually reduces dmg taken and therefor also works for spells). This would indicate armor is of some matter to druids. Clothies who don't have armor have threat reduce skills of varying quality so it would feel safe to assume Blizzard has planned it to be either armor or threat reduce skill to keep you safe. This is true also for shamans and paladins. Of course this doesn't have to have anything to do with how it works in game. It wouldn't be the first, and surely not the last time, Blizzard thought something would work some way and it definitely didn't in the end.

Is armor too easily frowned upon by druids? Can they play equally well (or better as they would claim) in cloth? This might not be completely impossible. I'd even stretch to say this is a fair argument in the druids advantage. So let's move on to the next argument and issue.

2. "There are way more cloth loot than there is leather with spellpower". I have heard this too and of course, everytime someone says that I have to say "could it possibly have anything to do with the fact that there are three times as many clothies than there are spellpower using leather wearers?".
That's a simple fact. There are three classes sharing approximately the same cloth loot (the only difference being whether you need hit or not) and only one class using spellpower leather. Therefor it should be about 3-1 cloth vs spellpower leather. And again of course, Blizzard most likely plan their loot tables after the assumption that class distribution is somewhat equal, which of course doesn't have to be the truth. Druids are very popular and resto and boomkins more so over ferals (at least on my server). Druids are actually the third-most played class after Paladins and Death Knights. But the differences are still not large enough to claim that there is too much cloth loot in comparison to cloth users. There are still alot of cloth users out there. Over at - you can see for yourself that in November 2009 druids were played by 10,4% of total, while clothies made up 26% of total. Ok not three times as many, but removing the ferals from the pool would make it pretty damn close.

Are the cloth drops really three times as many? Let's look at our most recent instance addition - Trial of the Crusader. Looking at 10-man normal and disregarding anything but cloth- required and leather- required (and only counting one side, in this case horde-drops) one finds 8 cloth items and 3 spellpower leather items. Wow, that really is one third! At 25-man normal the stats look better though (for druids anyway); 11 cloth-items and 5 spellpower leather items. Hmm, half.

Let's add it up; if druids could need on cloth as any other cloth that would be an approximate (just a hip-shot here, I admit) 27% increase in the clothie-population (7% total casterdruids to 26% total clothies assuming one third of the druid population are ferals). Unfortunately my math skills suck so badly any attempts from me to crunch numbers beyond this would make you laugh (actually you probably have already). But in any case we've seen that spellpower leather is more common overall compared to the amount of spellpower leather-user population than cloth is common to the clothie-population. No one in their right mind would say it would be fair to give something to someone that already has more? Would they? This would mean this is an argument against druids being able to roll on cloth.

So to the conclusion.
We've seen two arguments around this issue and they end up in slightly for and slightly against. It appears it differs somewhat between a 10-man and 25-man setting and of course it could differ even more in another raid all together. Also once could take into consideration how many clothies one has in the raid compared to how many caster-druids. In 10-mans this could matter.
The fact that cloth is better itemized for druids than the leather loot in some cases is according to me a pretty strong argument and maybe something Blizzard should look into. Unfortunately I don't think the stat-gains are that huge that it would warrant an extra strain on the clothiedrop-pool as spellpower druids already have their fair share. What are we talking about here anyway, 2 extra spirit? 5 extra haste-rating?
No cloth for the druids in other words!

Friday, December 4, 2009

How do I improve your playing?

We've all met them, the players who play the same class and spec as you but just don't do it right. It could be gear, talents, glyphs, gems, enchants and playstyle.
All of the first ones are quite easily fixed if the person isn't daft and as long as you don't use a totally un-diplomatic approach to tell them what they've done wrong. The last one though - playstyle - is alot trickier.

I don't claim to know much about any class except priest healing (and healing in general to some extent). And when I see a priest that doesn't do it right and if I know the raid/part is suffering by it I just can't keep my mouth shut. The problem is, what am I gonna say? I could simply say "hey, you're not doing it right, use this and that spell instead" or the like. But will it actually improve anything? I am not so sure.

The problem is - what is someone doing when they're stressed out? When they can't think about their next move it has to come naturally to them. This is what pvp is all about for instance, but it is needed in normal raiding too to some part and in heroic raiding to a big part. If I use the wrong spell at the wrong moment, the raid could and most likely will wipe. Every class and spec has to think about this but I think to healers it is even more important. Of course no one can stand in one-shot mechanics without being killed (except for nasty paladins) and therefor have to react quickly to the changes of the environment. The thing about healing is you usually have to think about all these environmental changes for yourself and for the rest of the raid. A dps or tank doesn't have to think about what another tank or dps is doing right now, just hope they're doing it right and do their thing right. But the healers job is to make sure everyone can do their job right. Ok, some dps have to tot/md, some tanks have to taunt but healers have to keep an eye on the mobs, the players and the environment at the same time. This means it is easier to be stressed out as healer than any other class (a tank who has to pick up adds comes to a close second though).

I am sure many won't agree with this. But one can put it into simple numbers. In a 25 man raid a healer has 25 targets to keep track of + not standing in fire. Tank and dps usually has 1 + not standing in fire. Quite the difference. But enough about that and back on track. What do people do when they're stressed?

Usually not the right thing. I remember not so long ago when I started healing I used to fall in nab-traps all the time. Taking your time to choose between slow big heal and fast small heal when the tank is near death. Choosing the wrong one and starting a big slow heal when the tank is near death. AoE-healing when there aren't enough targets to benefit from it and vice versa, not AoE-healing when too many are taking dmg. Not using cooldowns when they're needed and using them when they're not needed. Casting them on the wrong target. One favorite is of course spam healing yourself because you've forgot to mark the tank/whoever needed heals.

The list can go on and on. They usually compile to two issues - using an ui that doesn't aid in healing and not being totally familiar with your healing. Me targeting the wrong target has long since been fixed by using Clique. Using macros and the like to target is also helpful.
But chosing the right spell at the right time has only been helped by practice practice practice and even more practice. First time you encounter a new fight you can apply all your old knowledge all you like, but there still will be moments after a wipe where you think "oh ok, it works like that, well then I have to use this spell even faster".

A good example is Fusion Punch on Iron Council hardmode. Whenever I'm not healing I am telling the assigned healer "Ok, Fusion Punch has to be dispelled asap. I don't care what you do, drop it and dispel. Asap. Ok? Asap. Not like after one second. Start dispelling before it lands". Still it usually doesn't matter how many times I say it, if the healer doesn't see for his own eyes how frickin asap it has to be he won't do it.

And now to why I bring this up at all. We have a great priest healer in my guild who for some reason looks up to me as her healing guru. I mean great as in really nice person and really interested in improving her healing skills. To me it is interesting to see her do all the old mistakes I used to do and try to improve them for her. I have introduced her to clique and other features which really helped my healing. The problem is of course that she might give them a try, but when she's stressed out she will revert back to her old style of healing with the old mistakes. And if I tell her patiently and kindly to do it in another way over and over she will only become more uncertain and stressed about it. If she doesn't think she can improve she never will, no matter how many good ideas I throw at her.
So what is the difference between me and her?
I had no one to look up to when I healed. I did my mistakes but I had no one looking over my shoulder saying I could do it differently. I was for a long time the only active raiding priest in my guild and no one had more knowledge about it to give me any hints about anything. For some reason this turned out to be more good than bad. Having to figure it out all by myself means I can actually say I really know how to heal and know when I do something wrong. My healing is far from perfect and perfecting it is what has kept me going all these years. But the most important thing is I don't expect people to think that I'll do things badly.

I think for healers, letting people learn from their own mistakes, without it resulting in too much hazzle for the rest of the group, is the best way to improve their playing.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Why females live longer than males: is it due to the father's sperm?

Why females live longer than males: is it due to the father's sperm? <-Link to original article
I found an interesting post over at Science Daily about what actually make female live longer than males on average. Apparently that is a phenomenon not just common among humans, but nearly any mammal species as the article will say. They did an experiment where they compared mice who had genes from two mothers to mice who had genes from the "normal" type of setup, one father and one mother, and found that the mother-mice lived significantly longer than the father-mother-mice. This would/could indicate that there is a father-specific gene, or male specific if you like, that makes you live shorter. Or less long.
However the article doesn't discuss the reason for this so I am wondering, what would be the benefits of living shorter? The male gene that supposedly could do this must somehow further some other mechanic that is needed but doesn't make you live long in a germ-free environment where these mice lived. Or of course - living long isn't necessarily optimal seeing from an evolutionary perspective.
I read/heard somewhere long ago that cloned creatures live shorter than their "parents" because they get "used up" genes. That is, genes that already have used for some time and somehow know about it and therefor start the aging process earlier in cloned animals because to the gene (I don't really think the gene thinks anything, it's just the human way to explain stuff :P) think it's about the right time.
It would be really interesting if one could find these genes and see what happens if you remove them? I don't think people could live forever because there are other processes affecting that, like the oxygen decay on the body and such. But I wouldn't think it impossible for people to live for 200 years. I mean afterall, 2000 years ago people didn't live much longer than to 50, today people get to 90 easily! Well in most western countries anyway, I read that in many African countries the average life expectancy is still below 50 years.

The Huntress

I had a dream where I did a raid instance with some people and encountered a boss which I found interesting. It was a hunter boss (named Raziela after a guildie hunter I did heroic daily with yesterday) who was standing on a terrace sort of like Ingvar does in UK. The interesting thing about her, because she was an orc female, was that she had an attack called "Sickle" which oneshotted whoever she targeted. She wasn't tankable and I suppose that healers weren't all necessary either, so all you really had to do was kill her fast enough before that Sickle thingy oneshotted you and ultimately wiped the raid. I think there is a boss similar to that in Black Temple... I only did BT once in wotlk for funsies, so I'm not sure :P

I suppose to make the encounter interesting for non-dps classes you could implement mechanics that would allow healers/tanks to either dps for themselves or run around buffing the dps. Actually I like the second option better since that is what tanks/healers sorta do already, they help dps down the boss by keeping them alive which could be seen as a buff (the buff of life!). Maybe heals would instead of heal (since no healing is needed, you're either at full health or dead at this imaginary boss) they'd buff the dps somehow. Maybe hots (all healers have at least one hot) could give extra dmg done and direct heals give haste or whatever. Similar to what druids do with the birdies on the Anzu boss in Sethekk Halls.
Tanks on the other hand could get into special vehicles or pet or something the like to help the raid.
I really like the idea! Well it's my idea so that might not be so odd...

Have ya ever thought about imaginary bosses and how they could work?

Private Picture

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

I watched a great movie yesterday, The Day the Earth Stood Still from 1951. I've seen some black and white movies and I've liked most of them because of the special feel they give. House on Haunted Hill and some of Ed Woods movies are really entertaining. But I must say The Day the Earth Stood Still (DESS) had some special about it.
First of all it was exciting from the beginning to the end, had great effects (seriously)and good enough acting. Actually I found the little boy to be among the best actors although I usually dislike children-actors for their phoniness or over-achieverness. The story is a good one, without cheesy plot or dialogue. Some scenes are actually amazing like when
Klaatu becomes shot nearly the first thing that happens after he lands (gogo trigger happy USAnians) or when he tries to get an audience with the leaders of all the world and the director guy (don't remember what he was now) tells him that's impossible. Oh and the scene when he shuts down all the electricity and I thought "hey, he said no one would die. But what about the airplanes and hospitals" and immediately after they say "For some reason the hospitals and airplanes still have electricity!".
What I really liked most about this movie was that there was no scene or happening that felt out of place or funny eventhough it wasn't meant to be, which I otherwise see in nearly any other movie, be it new or old. There is always some scene where you think "no, that didn't make sense" or "haha, what is that supposed to be?" or where they say stuff that makes you wish you could punch whoever wrote it. This movie had nothing of that. It's worth every 1,5h of your time, not only because it's a classic referenced in many other places but because it really is good!
Fun Trivia: The Klaatu Birata Niktu phrase is re-used in the movie Evil Dead 3, but there with less success.
Fun Trivia2: The intro-melody (which too is awesome by the way, I love how they used the Theremine in old movies. Why don't they do that anymore? :/) can be reaheard in a really good remix by Timo Maas. The song is named Maas Attacks (couldn't find it on YouTube tho or I would've linked).

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Lies of Locke Lamora

I finished reading a good book yesterday, The Lies of Locke Lamora, written by Scott Lynch (is it just me or are there Lynches everywhere by the way?). It's about Locke Lamora (didn't guess that one did ya?) and his gang of gentleman thieves. It's said to be fantasy (on wikipedia for example) and when Love first recommended it I was a little sceptic about it. I usually don't like fantasy literature much, it's a little over the top for me usually. I soon realized though that the only fantasyish about Locke Lamora is the adding of Alchemy and Black Magic to an otherwise relatively normal mediveal setting. Although there are some strange animals depicted, like huge spiders and extraordinarily fierce sharks, the book is dragon, elves and troll-free, which made me happy. The Alchemy and Black Magic is also quite down to earth-like with some finger-weaving pain-inflicting magic and glow in the dark-balls of glass.

The story is set in Camorr, part of a fantasyworld and a city where criminals and noble-people seem to work together to keep some sort of peace. Here we get to know Locke Lamora and his doings during about half a year. The story is well written with the main frame being the present with "cut scenes" of the past and random info about the world but relevant to the story. The characters are well described and believable. Although the people of Camorr are very violent and prone to criminal behavior there isn't much in the story that feels forced or ludicrous. In my library where I loaned it, it was set in the "youth" corner, but I honestly feel this could come with a "violent content" label. I don't mind harsh language, but some torture scenes are very vivid and I really had to jump some pages at some places (yes I have issues with torture :P).

The flow of the story and the twists (there are always twists, don't dare call this a spoiler) and turns it takes are exciting and well composed. You really think "how the heck is he gonna solve this" at some points and the solution or outcome, be it good or bad, never feels unlikely.
There are only two minor flaws of this book. I wouldn't even wanna call them flaws really, but stuff I reacted to and felt iffy. First of all there is a cut scene of how Locke meets one of his thief freinds. It's so cuddly sweet it made me feel queasy and it didn't feel like real children would behave in such a way. Especially not orphaned children who've only ever got to know adults who are bastards. The second iffy thing is the amount of damage the main characters can take. They take pounding after cutting after beating after drowning and still run around like (almost) nothing happened. It is totally on level with any Jean Luc Van Damme movie. I feel one sucker punch to my belly would keep me in bed for about a week, but then again I'm no mastermind thief of an imaginary world. And I suppose as you accept it in those movies you can accept it in this book.

And overall pleasant reading with a nice character gallery and flow to it and a story that will keep you interested all the way through.
It's planned to be a 7 part series of which only two books have come out so far. I haven't read the second yet but I will start shortly! Maybe I'll give some input about that one later too.

Picture is from Wikipedia

Monday, November 30, 2009

Of Stonehenge & Eternal Earths

I'm gonna mix two subjects here that in some twisted sense could be said to be related, so I'll just pretend they are. Sorta.
First of all I just finished reading an interesting book, a compilation of the worlds greatest archaeological finds (according to the authors) - Unearthing the Past by Douglas Palmer, Pual G. Bahn and Joyce Tyldesley. They've split it up into chapters like "Tombs and Burial Sites", "Cities" and "War" and covers a wide range of finds from the more known ones like Macchu Picchu and Ötzi to less known ones like Sutton Hoo in England and Lake Mungo in Australia (well it wasn't well known to me anyway). It has some nice photographs of each find and each text is well written.
One that especially captivated me was the one about Stonehenge. I mean everyone has heard something about Stonehenge. But have you really ever grasped what it all those stones meant in labor and effort? I hadn't. Well I had in some sense, but still not really.

First of all it's approximately 5000 years old. Some of the stones weigh up to 50 tons, that's just short of what a Sperm Whale weighs! Some of the stones must have been carried (or pulled/pushed) around 300 km to get there. Some think that the great Ice Sheet pulled those stones there but that would mean the people that built Stonehenge used every single of that stone type in a vast area. Which isn't likely. One thinks it has been in continuous use for about 1400 years. Can you think of any one place that has been in use for that long? And that still exists, and is in use in some sense today? I can't, but I would like to hear about it if you can :)

Another thing you really should read more about is Easter Island. Not just because of the really odd habit of putting huge heads all around, but the entire story about how the natives killed the plant life on the island to do it an so destroyed their own civilization. Very fascinating.

On a side note (or totally related!); If you're ever in the need to grind Eternal Earths (dunno why anyone would need that but anyway) I found what seemed to be a good spot to do it. The Maker's Terrace in Scholazar has mobs with a good drop rate of it, they're minable for extra cash and seem to be on a forced respawn. So there's a tip for ya.

Picture is from Wikipedia.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2

Modern Warfare 2 is the sequal to Modern Warfare 1 (duh) but should really be considered more of an expansion. If you're not completely daft with first person shooters you'll play it through in a couple of hours, something around 3-4 or so. Yet again I didn't play this game but Love did.
Although MW2 will provide you with some hours of shooting fun it has some interesting gameplay problems, issues which could have been easily changed to further the experience.

First of all there is no way to mod your weapon, a feature becoming increasingly available and loved in first person shooters. This means that if you want to use a weapon with a silencer you need to find said weapon with a silencer on it on some enemy and pick it up. This really limits your possibility to chose between weapons as you please. For example, at some points you are provided with a weapon with a silencer for a special mission that requires it. This means you can't change that weapon to something else unless you find the exact weapon you want that already has a silencer on it. You are therefor forced to play with a special type of weapon which seems lame for a first person shooter which is all about being able to choose your own shooting experience at least to some part.

Also MW2 offers a choice of game-mechanic which really becomes bothersome and negates any sense of sneakiness and skill you feel you might have. The enemies can do things you can't, which means you have to trick them in order not to die horribly all the time (which you'll do anyway). This could sound like an interesting twist as to make the game more challenging or the AI more intelligent, but it is done in the wrong way. For example, not being able to peek behind corners in a first person shooter seems really odd. This means you have to do trial and error runs to find out where enemies are positioned, which isn't a rewarding type of gameplay. To hurl your entire body into the open in these kind of games usually means instant death. Being forced to do it seems like poor planning or game constructing to me. The enemies can do this however which means you'll often die by some sneak-shot from behind some cover. It is not like in Gears of War where you can just hurl your weapon around or above some cover and blast away some shots, a feature that works well in these kind of games and at least should exist in some form.

Another problem is that missions aren't always well balanced to the difficulty of staying alive. This was now played on easy and still you die in approximately 4 shots or any one burst from an enemy weapon. Yet there are some missions that require you to run through open areas with literal hordes of enemies and few offerings of cover. Yet again you'll need trial and error over and over to run through a room with over 50(!) enemies shooting at you from all places and no chance to duck behind cover to shoot some off before running along. That makes MW2 feel more like an old Mariogame where you have to learn some parts by heart to make it.

Also the whole feel of the game and the attitude to war is sometime so deadly serious it feels someone is about to burst a vein. In games like Red Alert you really feel that this is just a game and we do this because it's fun, it just happens to be in a war setting. MW2 makes clear that this isn't a joking matter, at all. This is dead serious and you better understand it, son! There is an opening mission you actually have to promise not to be offended by before being able to play it. This because it's about killing loads of civilians. But the game has no trouble what so ever with the player killing butt loads of people tagged as "enemies", be it terrorists or confused military of other countries. This means the game developers have put a distinct line between people ok to kill and people not ok to kill and don't care at all what the player might think. All enemies are also of course rabid trigger happy maniacs who need to be killed or they will kill you. This "all or nothing" attitude is sort of perplexing but you need to look behind the american "if you're not with us, you're against us" moralizing and try to enjoy the game for it's gameplay features instead.

These problems don't make the game unplayable though, and it is still short enough not to make it an entire pain to have to live with these problems for a few hours. It just feels kinda sad that they haven't put more effort into something that comes with a pretty solid base and idea. Wouldn't say it's worth full price though.

Picture is from Wikipedia

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Dragon Age Origins

I don't actually play that many different games, although I am very interested in most (except sports games). I am just too... dunno... don't have the patience for most games really. For instance I've played like every Final Fantasy game but only finished one (VII of course). It often feels like when I've fully understood the game-mechanics and gameplay there is nothing much more worth playing for, unless the story is amazingly interesting which rarely is the case. So when I say something about a game it's most likely not played by me but by Love, who plays new games all the time. Dragon Age is such a game.

Dragon Age is a very basic rpg-game with the compulsory dragons (duh), elves, warriors, thieves... well you name any fantasy ingredient and it's there. Bioware has basically distilled the old Dungeon & Dragons theme into a great rpg game. There are awesome amounts of lore and gamestory to read through if you're interested (and you can skip it if you're not). It's always fascinating to think about all the man-hours put into something that's supposed to be just flavor to a game (kinda sad somehow). You can read up on any place or monster you encounter, about different events and about people in the world. Actually there is something written about nearly everything you'll see in the game.
You can play as warrior, caster and thief/rogue and for once the caster option isn't the most difficult/annoying one. Many rpgs suffer from having their gameplay balanced after the warrior-class, or any melee, which makes caster-classes usually much more difficult to play due to unfair and unbalanced game-mechanics. Dragon age is not so. The caster is a viable, even great, option for playing through the game. There are only slight changes to the story depending on which class or race you choose of course, people will call you by your class and race and such.
The story is interesting with some twists which is quite unusual in most rpgs who are pretty straight-forward. Or if they try to implement twists you can see them painted red from a mile away. The actors are good too and don't ruin the mood with crazy Tidus-ish rants. Graphics and music work well to add to the immersion although some of the gear make you look like you fell through the Red Cross clothes-container with glue all over your body or like you lost a bet.

Although Dragon Age has way more ups than downs, it still has some downs (and talking about what's bad is always easier). The fight system, which is turn based, leaves something to be wished for. Actually it sometimes turns a little too turn-based and doesn't flow as neatly as one could hope for. It is quite similar to the fighting system of FFXII where your teammates can run around with standard orders to act by and can be given new orders during combat. This means you can have one team mate set on "heal when needed" and he/she will do so fairly accurately until you tell him/her to do something else. And that is where some issues might arise. If you give someone a new order mid combat they will not smoothly engage in this new action but halt entirely, as if their brain needed rebooting, and then start their new action. This is a loss of valuable time, but fortunately only slightly annoying and nothing one will die from repeated times.
As many other games Dragon Age jumps on the choose-between-evil-and-good-fad-train. Unfortunately being evil isn't really set as a real option to good, as it doesn't bring you anything especially useful to make it worth all the drawbacks (people hating you and being uncooperative and not letting you buy from them and so on). This is a problem all games I've seen who try to implement this game style suffer from. Kotor and Fable and others give the option of being good or evil but reward one side (always good) more. Is it then really an option? Most of the times you don't even have the possibility to be really evil, as to say force someone to help you when they refuse because you're so evil. So the evil-side isn't well worked through and that is a shame.

Dragon Age is all in all a great game, offering about 100 hours of solid gameplay and a great story and very few drawbacks, worth playing through for anyone who likes rpgs (and doesn't suffer from acute antsiness like me).

Picture is from Wikipedia.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Time Bandits

I saw the movie Time Bandits the other day. I had read somewhere that it was a "hilarious movie by Terry Gilliam, starring Sean Connery, John Cleese etc". I thought "hey that's alot of famous names, maybe I should give it a try". So I did and I warn you, it's among the worst spent 1,5h this month. No probably these last 6 months. I didn't have an issue with the actors or the effects, they were all ok considering the movie is from 1982ish. But the plot was really freaky. And not in a cool way like in Being John Malkovich but in a "wtf is going on?".
My "favorite" wtf-is-going-on-moment (here be teensy spoiler) was when the midgets (short people, dwarves, whatever you call em) jumped through a portal, landed in some water (well a sea really) and got fished up into a boat by an ogre who was gonna eat them. But they fooled him and threw him and his wife into the sea. Then suddenly as they thought they were safe they realise the entire boat is the hat of a giant. Who was standing in the sea. And who now walks up on land with the boat on his head.

It's like Monthy Python light all through the movie, but it isn't funny anywhere (well ok, there are actually some funny places) because it's not a comedy. Or is it? Well anyway it isn't wacky enough to be funny, like Monthy Python, or normal enough to be exciting.
I would recommend a movie if it was so bad it still had some entertainment value. I saw Re-Animator 3 some weeks ago and that is such a movie (I loved it tbh).
But Time Bandits is just boring. Unfortunately.

By the way, who would say such a movie was hilarious? Well I snooped around to see where I had read about it and found it - an ad in an ad-paper from a movie store. Figures.

Picture is from Wikipedia.