LootBot3000

May 27, 2009

Steaming up some demos – Update 1: Braid

Filed under: Games — Kilmiina @ 9:33 am

As anyone that’s played an MMO to the level cap, toasting their way through all of the solo and single group content knows, once you get to that point there’s very little to do other than join the raiding scene and loot your way to e-peen greatness.  My Swashbuckler in EverQuest 2 has bumped up against this wall and so while I twiddle my thumbs until my guild’s weekly raiding bonanza, I haven’t really felt like putting in a huge amount of time on this character.

Of course, I have that stable of alts that I’ve been working on.  My level 80 Inquisitor, for example, is most definitely in need of some gear that doesn’t suck.  However, having to grind instances for void shards isn’t tickling my no-no spot the second time around.  Quite simply, I found myself looking for something new.  A new game is needed.

Enter Steam!  While I’m no stranger to digitally delivered games, I’m more than a little behind on the times when it comes to exploiting the sheer uberness that is Valve’s Steam service.  When I first bought Half-Life 2 (way, way back like five years ago) I saw this “Steam” thing install on my computer.

First, I was like: O.o

Next, I was like: O.O

And then, I was like: >.<

The very idea that there was some program ticking away in the background, chewing away at my computing power when my games needed every bit of help they could get was incredible un-awesome to me.  Since, however, I’ve come to learn the error of my ways and have taught myself to appreciate what Steam has to offer.  However, the volume of choices on Steam is enormous.  I felt overwhelmed.  I couldn’t decide.  I panicked.

Well, not really.

In the end, I chose to take a page from Sean Sands’ (of Gamers With Jobs fame) book and broaden my gaming horizons (is it a registered trademark yet?).  There are several types of games that I’ve found that  I either haven’t enjoyed in the past, or am so horrible at that I hate thinking about playing them.  The platformer genre is just one of those.  Determined to defeat my platformer phobia and with Steam … umm … steaming along (/groan), I went demo-shopping!

——————

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Like I said, I don’t like platformers.  In fact, if there’s one genre of game that I can honestly claim that I’ve come to “hate”, it’s platformers.  I do not remember Super Mario Bros. (1, 2 or 3) all that fondly.  Only Super Mario Galaxies has done anything to redeem that franchise in my eyes and that’s only because it’s controls are so wacky that the novelty hasn’t worn off! Why?  Hmm, other than the fact that I feel like I’m being punished by the game-gods for actually playing, forcing me to restart levels after mis-judging a jump, using up another of my precious and limited “lives”, frustrating me to the point to where I have to leave the room for a while in order to save my controller and my TV screen from violent collision, I have no idea why I dislike platformers so much.

…yeah.

Anyways, couple my general dislike for platformers with the fact that this is a console port of a platformer and ports, at least in my experience, (from console to PC or vice versa) can sometimes leave a little something lost in the translation, especially when it comes to controls, meant that I had a few annoying reservations taunting me as I waited the five to six minutes it took to download and install the demo.

But Braid isn’t *just* a platformer, I’ve read.  It’s something more.  Something more “compelling” (take a drink).  Well, durn it, “they” were right.  This is a strangely intresting game.

First of all, Braid has no “lives”.  It seems like the game’s creators got together over cappuccino and donuts (‘cuz that’s what developers do /nod) and some genius shot out of his seat and said, “Hey!  You know what’d be awesome?  If people actually got to see all the interesting things we put into the game and actually finished it!”  The puzzles can take a little time to think through and sometimes you have to take the proverbial one step back to go two steps forward, but with no “lives” and a that handy little rewind feature, all of which made sense in the context of the game itself, I had a ton of fun!

The art-style is oddly appealing, with characters and backgrounds looking like they were inspired by a trip to the  impressionistic area of your local art museum.  The background music is very complimentary and definitely mood-setting, giving the game a soothing atmosphere with a touch of melancholy which is very appropriate given the way that the story is revealed.  Being someone that almost always plays games without the in-game sound turned on, this was especially nice.

The most surprising aspect of the game, however, was the presence of a more mature story.  It was refreshing that the creators of this little gem of a game were able to take what is otherwise a tired cliche of a theme (rescue the princess from the monster!) and turn it into something more accessible to gamers that aren’t 12 years old.  When my wife glanced over my shoulder to have a peak while I read the story revealed between “worlds”, even she too was pulled in saying, “Wow.  That’s some pretty decent writing.”  I had to agree.  I’m a sucker for a good story and while there wasn’t much revealed in the demo, there was certainly enough there to whet the appetite.

Given that I’ve sunk at least an hour or two into the demo so-far, this is definitely one game that I’m going to seriously consider saving some space for a full version of on the ol’ hard drive. And so, Braid gets the Big Shiny Gold Star…of DOOM!

shiny-gold-star-thumb2175714

May 13, 2009

Star Trek for THIS generation?

Filed under: Nerdiness — Kilmiina @ 9:09 am

“Wanna see a film this weekend?” She asked.

“I dunno. What’s playing?” I replied.

“Lemme look…Wolverine’s out.  And there’s that Star Trek movie.”

Rolling my eyes at the idea of suffering through a Star Trek film, “Wolverine, maybe?”

“Reviews are shitty.”

“Alright.  Star Trek, then.”

I’m not a Star Trek fan.  I’d “seen” Star Trek film and while they weren’t terrible, they were all pretty much “meh” in my opinion, heavy on technobabble, light on anything resembling exciting action. I wasn’t expecting much at all, really. Learning that J.J. Abrams was the director didn’t make things any better either.  I don’t care for Lost. Alias was good for the first two seaons and then crapped out.  Cloverfield was a fun film, but it wasn’t a “great film”.  I fully expected to come out saying, “it’s okay.”

I was wrong…and I had a joy-gasm! Yay me!

May 4, 2009

It’s a slippery slope, man. A slippery slope.

Filed under: EQ2, Games, MMOs — Kilmiina @ 11:23 am

<stands>

Hi, I’m Exeter and I’m an alt-aholic.

<sits>

Well, recovering alt-aholic.  Sort of.  Yes, I’m was once one of those guys that bought a Station Pass subscription for an extra $15 bucks a month *just* for the extra character slots and had a second account so that I could experience the nerdy awesomeness of two-boxing. However, once I started to look at and play other games, I swore off my alt-aholism.  Never again, I boldly proclaimed!

However, since doing a backflip-cum-bellyflop return to EQ2 a couple of months ago, I was doing my best to stick to two characters: my swashbuckler (Exeter) and my dirge (Ballads).  That is, until last night where it seemed like everyone and their brother’s pet poodle were playing melee and melee support classes.  I was up to my elbows in assassins, swashbucklers, brigands, dirges, troubadors and rangers and many, unlike me, were able to advertize that they had their epeen “mythical” class weapons.

Tanks and healers, however, appeared to be in short supply.  My hamsters started galloping and the gears started spinning.  Before I knew it, I’d sent a /tell to someone looking for a healer for an Anathema group, “I have an 80 Inquisitor.”

“Kewl. Name?”

“Hellsgard. brb”

While the group was a tragic example of why relying on pick-up-groups is a dicey proposition, I got a buzz from being able to simply switch to another character and fill a role.  So add Hellsgard to the list of toons that I’m going to be playing regularly.  But that’s not all.  Once I started winding down for the night, I started poking around on the character creator, deleting old unplayed toons and re-rolling some others.  Before I knew it, I had a shiny new illusionist and defiler.  I’ve also got a mid-level guardian sitting on my roster, so I’ve got myself a decent stable of characters to goof off with when I’m bored.  So, I’ve not only fallen off the wagon, but am currently being dragged through the mud behind  it.

Now if only I can resist the urge to delete/re-roll and actually see some of these characters through to the end-game, I won’t have to feel silly about my obsession with having as many alts as possible.

April 21, 2009

Here be Dragons!

Filed under: EQ2, Games, MMOs — Kilmiina @ 12:23 pm

When it comes to massively multiplayer games there’re those that dip their toes in the pond and play an hour here or an hour there, and those that dive right in immersing themselves in their games of choice, making it a hobby in its own right.  I’m most definitely in the later category.  Sure, I’ve dabbled in Fallout 3 and I still routinely slaughter Christian Turks with my Hin-Jew Celts in Civilization 4 (the two largest empires in my current campaign), but, by and large, when I’m able to game, I fire up EverQuest 2 and start putting virtual pointy objects into gnolls, orcs, beasts from the void … or dragons.

Ballads, my Ratonga Dirge went on a pre-Tier 8 dragon-slaying spree with a couple of guildies relatively recently and while both of these dragons would have been far too difficult to handle had my cohort not been well geared and mentored down, nevertheless we had an absolute hoot.  After each kill, I decided to take a few screenies to mark the occasion.

First up, Cyenadros, Lord of the Sanctum!

eq2_000006a1Next on the docket, it’s Darathar!

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After bagging, Darathar I returned to my benefactor, the Red Lord, Nagafen who gifted our intrepid adventurer with the Prismatic Swiftblade of Scale!

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Dragons beware, the indefatigable Ballads is taking the hunt to you with his Glowstick of DOOM!

April 20, 2009

Vegas, Baby! Vegas!

Filed under: EQ2, Games, MMOs — Kilmiina @ 1:08 pm

Okay, I’m a total fanboi for pretty much anything set in a post-apocalyptic world and by all accounts (ie. mine), the Fallout franchise can officially be called “the shit” when it comes to games set in a world gone bananas.

Fallout was a winner with me from the moment my water-chip hunting self rolled into Junktown, struck a deal with McGyver and squeezed off a couple of rounds into that lardass, Gizmo.  And when I strolled into New Reno’s Golden Globes in Fallout 2 being offered the opportunity to become a big, bright, shining star, I said, “aww, hell yeah!”  To be honest, I was a little skeptical when Bethesda purchased the rights to make a sequel, but a few annoyances aside, Fallout 3 has delivered and both of the downloadable add-ons have only made me belly up to our new RPG overlords at Bethesda, bowl-in-hand, begging Oliver-style for more.

Bethesda: “More, you say? Vegas good for you?”

Me (channeling my inner Liz Lemon): “I want to go to there.”

While we can apparently expect more of the same, Bethesda itself isn’t going to package this newest addition itself. It’s being farmed out to Obsidian, the folks that seem to make sequels not suck.  Of course, there’s not a whole lot to chew on at the moment other than “Fallout”, “Obsidian” and “Vegas”, but I’m looking forward to this new installment becasue I think that Obsidian has enough talent and experience to tease a good story out of a setting that doesn’t wrap itself up in all kinds of awesomeness only to leave you saying, “Huh…” at the end.  Forum warriors are already proclaiming its “success” or “fail” status.  I love teh internets.

———

On the EQ2 front, void shard harvesting is in full swing and paying off in spades both for my character and myself.  Getting the upgraded gear is sweet, but the best part was a marathon session this weekend where I cobbled together the most awesome pick-up-group ever and did a whirlwind tour of most of the instances from The Shadow Odyssey expansion.  The tanking was groovy, the heals were spot on and the DPS was high.  From Deep Forge to the Anchor of Bazzul to the Caverns of the Afflicted, we had a ball and I had almost 20 void shards to show for it, almost enough to buy my tier 2 chest piece, before we all collapsed for the night.

In fact, I’ve had a lot of success with pick-ups lately who were both competent players and quite nice to have a chin wag with in voice chat.  Here’s to hoping that this week is as successful as the last.

April 7, 2009

Digital animal rights alive and well in WoW!

Filed under: MMOs, TL;DR — Kilmiina @ 9:23 am

Ahem! Friends, Azerothians, countrypersons of a non-gender specific nature.

Every day hundreds1, if not bajillions2, of World of Warcraft’s digital baby seals are senselessly and unnecessarily winked out of existence on the ice fields of Northrend as a result of Blizzard’s so-called “server maintenance”.  However, even more reprehensible are the cruel and barbaric methods employed by Horde clubbers who slaughter seals for “fun”, “???” and “PROFIT”, 95% of whom are “camped” and killed when they are just seconds old!3

If you were to grind your way to level 70 in World of Warcraft, without killing innocent animals of course, and you were able to witness this virtual cruelty, Undead characters notwithstanding, your heart would break.  Newly spawned seals hacked to death by Troll hunters or “dotted” by Blood Elf warlocks and left to die on the ice.4 In the past four months since the release of the Wrath of the Lich King, gadzillions5 of baby seals been clubbed, munched, slashed, hacked, burnt, shot, frozen, /dance’d on and teabagged all subsidized by The Stanglethorn Ripper and Enemy of Nature, Hemet Nesingwary!6

Please help us show Nesingwary and the rest of Azeroth that we will no longer stand for this inexcusable and unnecessary hunt.  Click here for details.

______________

1 Azerothian Wildlife Welfare (A.W.W.) conference. Keynote speech by Ingrid “Cheap Date” Opendrawers.
2 Killinger the Den Watcher’s former ice-tentmate, Crazy Sal.
3 Arch Druid Lathorius’s mum who invited us up for a cup of spiced wine and a bowl of soup, but actually only had cold tea and teething biscuits to give to us. Her cat “Mr. Cuddles” was awfully annoying, rubbing himself on my leg and scooting across the area rug on the floor. Supposing that Mr. Cuddles had an unfortunate and inconvenient disease of the sphincter that could only be cured by a rare salve that was all the way upstairs in the medicine chest, we ended Mr. Cuddles’ suffering by administering a potion, rendering Mr. Cuddles irreversibly unconscious before I wrung his little neck. Arch Druid Lathorius’s mum was grateful for the assistance.
4 Ibid.
5 Teh Interwebz.
6 Screw Nesingwary tbh. I kinda lol’d at the teabagging though.

This posting has been a paid message from the People for Illustrious Treatment of Animals (P.I.T.A.) and the Fishmongers and Fileters Society (F.F.S).

March 3, 2009

EverQuest 2 and the “first love” effect

Filed under: EQ2, Games, MMOs — Kilmiina @ 9:29 am

It’s been nearly two weeks since my last post. Why?  It’s because I’ve fallen back in with my old crew in EQ2 after being on hiatus for the better part of a year.  No doubt, the ease with which I’ve jumped back into things is largely due to the fact that most of the people that were part of the guild before I left are still there.  However, I found myself mucking around on a new character (a ratonga brigand) on a different server and I still find myself enjoying the game.  In fact, after trying nearly every North American title that’s been offered in the past 5 years I can confidently say that  EQ2 satisfies my MMO needs like no other game out there and I’m pretty sure that it’s because EQ2 was my first MMO experience.

When I look back on things, my adventures in Norrath have been among my most memorable gaming experiences, ranking up there with Ultima VII (the first computer game I purchased) and all-night sessions of AD&D.  Returning to the the game after nearly a year long break, I’d half expected to feel like I was so far behind the end-game that I wouldn’t want to play anymore.  Yet despite the fact that a whole expansion (the fourth for EQ2) worth of content has passed me by, I’m still having a great time working through content from the Desert of Flames expansion as I quest and kill my way through the game with my level 61 Dirge.

At the moment, my goal is to run through all of the quests for the Peacock Club to earn my tier six epic weapon, Dark Fury Sabre of Anuk.  For those unfamiliar, the questline is a long one and, at least in the the early stages, involves a lot of ‘clicky harvesting’ to get updates.  It isn’t the most exciting way to earn a decent weapon, but at least the story line is fun to follow.  I would have skipped it, knowing that it’ll be obsolete a few levels after I get it, but I’ve heard that a future patch to the game will introduce appearance slots for weapons!  Now all I have to do is finish this quest, go back and get the tier five epic, Prismatic Swiftblade of the Scale and I’ll have a rave glowstick for every occasion!

February 20, 2009

Ch-ch-changes…

Filed under: EQ2, Life — Kilmiina @ 10:24 pm

I’m experimenting with themes and, of course, the name of the blog has changed.  Why?  The little inside joke in the old title “Expletive Deleted” (hint: I cuss a lot) didn’t make a whole lot of sense to people that didn’t know me and, to be honest, as witty as I thought that it was when I first started, it just comes off as lame now.  The new title, “LootBot” just seems a little more game-related and it’s still relevant to me personally as it comes from the name that my old EQ2 guild-mates gave to my impression of Ned from South Park that became a semi-regular gag in voice chat during raids and dungeon runs.

Speaking of which, I’ve renewed my subscription to EverQuest 2 this week.  Try as I might, I just can’t help but think that a part of me will always be faithful to my first MMO.  I’ve joined, left and rejoined four times now and no matter how much I try to tell myself that I want to try something else, I play another game and think “Boy, I liked this system better in EQ2″. So instead of fighting it, forcing myself to like something different for its own sake, for better or for worse, I’ve succumbed to my unhealthy affection for the game.  I’m not expecting to jump right into things like I did before when I’d spend roughly 15-20 hours per week running dungeons, grinding out quests and raiding, but I hope to experience some of what I’ve been looking for in the other games that I’ve played (AoC and LOTRO) since I last played.

That said though, this weekend is certainly not going to be spent goofing off in-game because I’m going to be slogging it out ferrying box after box of things from my apartment to the new house that my wife and I bought last month.  It’s amazing just how quickly the day has come and while I’m ridiculously excited about getting into our new home, I wish that I’d had another weekend to pack all this stuff.  A couple of weeks simply wasn’t enough.  I’m not looking forward to the 45 minute to 1 hour long commute each morning.  However, one upside to the crawl is that I’ll finally have enough time in the car to listen to all the podcasts and audio books that I’ve let pile up over the last little while.

So it’s a week of new starts and old classics.  Here’s to coming out of it with my brain intact!

Cheers!

EDIT: I should also take the chance to recognize how awesome a job my wife has done in packing practically everything we own! **You get better at being a kiss-ass 323/350**

February 19, 2009

Zoinks, Yo! “Games May Be Too Expensive”?

Filed under: Economics, Games, TL;DR — Kilmiina @ 1:24 pm

Before becoming another cog in the wheel of government in my home province three years ago, I helped pay my way through graduate school by taking on “sessional” positions at the local university teaching, among other things, introductory microeconomics.  For the record, I loved teaching and if it had paid enough so that the poor buggers making a living digging tetra-pack out of dumpsters didn’t give me a sympathetic look, I’d have stuck with it.  However, as sure as the Earth spins about the sun, we’d inch closer to a topic that many students dreaded more than the morning after a Jägermeister binge.

The topic?  Elasticity.  What is elasticity?  Well, I’m so glad you asked.

**RED ALERT!  SKIP AHEAD IMMEDIATELY IF YOU ARE PRONE TO BOREDOM, SUFFER FROM NOSE BLEEDS, ARE PREGNANT OR MAY BECOME PREGNANT**

Elasticity in economics is, put simply, a way to measure the responsiveness of one variable to changes in another variable.  In economics it’s most familiarly encoutered in the context measuring how the quantity of a good demanded changes when prices are altered.  Without getting into the nitty-gritty details and discarding silly academic curiosities such as Giffen goods, it boils down to three results:

  • A good is considered “elastic” if its price is decreased by some percentage and the quantity demanded by consumers increases by more than that percentage
  • We’ve got ourselves a good that is “unit elastic” if a percentage decrease in price results in a percentage increase in the quantity demanded that is of the same magnitude; and
  • The good is “inelastic” if the price is decreased by some percentage and the increase in demand is less than that percentage.

Now, like all good students, you’re probably asking yourself, “Who the hell cares?”.  Well, it’s because price elasticity has important implications for revenue and profit.  And what matters more to a business than it’s bottom line.  Amirite?

When producers of an elastic good increase price they see their revenues drop as people say “it’s too expensive” and trot off to find something else to spend their money on.  Conversely, if producers dock their price, they see revenue rise as a lot of folks that were originally saying “it’s too ‘spensive” open their wallets now that the price is more in line with what they’re willing to pay.

**NERDINESS HAS SUBSIDED! RED ALERT ENDS!**

In Edge there’s a feature titled Are Games Too Expensive? where Gabe Newell, El Presidente of Valve, gives the gaming world a lesson in economics with an example of just how price elasticity of demand works on a luxury good like video games!  As it just so happens, when Steam offered holiday discounts on a whole bunch of games available through Steam, not only did the number of units sold jump through the friggin’ roof, but revenues shot up, too.  Now, there’re all kinds of things that could explain the size of the increases, such as the “holiday effect” and “hurry up and buy before they jack up the price again effect”, but they saw this same phenomenon, albeit to a lesser extent, on other occasions as well.

What does it all mean?

Well, among other things, it means that games are an elastic good (duh!) and that if the change in revenues are reaching ridiculous heights when prices are dropped, then the price point for games is all wrong!  Simply, they’re too expensive.  As long as the higher cost of meeting demand doesn’t outweigh the increased revenues generated, Valve stands to make a few extra bucks.  It’d take a bit of fiddling with prices and such, but somewhere in between what is charged now and giving it away for free, there’re additional profits to be found.  And if one of the industry’s big wigs is saying “games may be too expensive”, perhaps it’s time that pricing were given another look.

February 17, 2009

For the Sake of Science

Filed under: MMOs — Kilmiina @ 1:12 am

If you’ve filled out a survey, ordered movie tickets or done any banking online you’ve likely had to weigh the consequences of knowing that your name, credit card number and even favourite colour is floating around “teh internets”.  You see that little yellow lock icon somewhere on your web browser and feel that Neo himself is keeping your information safe from prying eyes.  However, how many of us take such a security conscious approach to our online conversations and interactions?  How many consider the fact that everything you do in an MMO is recorded and archived?  My guess is that not many.  That might need to change now that Sony Online Entertainment has handed complete server logs for the past four years for over 400,000 EverQuest 2 players over to researchers.

What are the eggheads doing with your data?  All kinds of things it seems.  From perfecting data-mining algorithms to deal with the sheer volume of data (over 60 TB!) to analysing purchases made, social interactions and who you’re spending your time with in-game.  Demographic information was also provided in order to flesh out a profile and the researchers have wasted no time in taking the opportunity to play Freud for the sake of a few research papers.

While I doubt that Sony is peddling credit card information, it makes me wonder if we’ve been too trusting of a company like SOE or, at the very least, that we’ve been far too open in our interactions with other players considering that there’s someone listening in.  I’m also wondering how many other companies are giving away or selling copies of their server logs.  Should we just accept this as part and parcel of living in the internet age or, even if names and financial information are kept confidential, is this a violation of a fundamental expectation of privacy?  Is this behavious ethical?  I am left considering if the possible value of the research is worth the potential impact on the social aspect of online gaming.

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